Saturday, March 03, 2007

Some thoughts on the "ultimatum"

This morning, Saturday March 3, at Enough About Me Mark suggested that “It might be a good thing to let PB Jefferts Schori know how many of her national flock are displeased about the communique and her handling of its explanation.” and send emails to her.
I think that’s a good idea and I’m going to follow it, even as events move forward -- Executive Council is meeting now and in two weeks the House of Bishops will meet.

Especially since the PB’s webcast this past Wednesday, I have been trying to organize my thoughts and produce a cogent post. Unlike many, I don’t hear ++KJS urging TEC towards an acceptance of what she calls a season of fasting; rather I hear her attempting to be non-directive. But as I said in a comment at the daily episcopalian, she might as well be urging capitulation.

I see this clearly (or maybe I have this distorted view) because not so long ago I myself was trying in a non-directive way to lead an organization as it struggled to make a crucial decision on a question that by its nature was divisive. I feel that I failed the organization, not because of the outcome of the decision, but because in my hands that non-directive style of leadership produced a process that exacerbated rather than ameliorated the divisions. One reason for my failure is that organizationally I was alone. Bishop Katharine is not alone and is not necessarily doomed to failure.

There are deep divisions in TEC and the Anglican Communion – divisions that cannot be ameliorated in the near term. The presenting issue is homosexuality, but I see other and deeper issues – the place of women in the church and ultimately, as +Gene keeps saying, patriarchy.
Tobias, in An Immodest Proposal, says that while no one “has a need or right to be a bishop ... it is unjust to exclude persons or classes of persons without good cause.” That’s of course true, I suggest, however, that such exclusion is more than simply unjust – it is a manifestation of evil. That sounds over the top – but I mean it seriously. The Episcopal Church, as Jim Naughton has documented in Following the Money is under a well funded attack from the right. I tend to think of it as an attack by the “powers,” as delineated by William Stringfellow and Walter Wink. In other terms, I believe it is an attack related to or even part of the “war on America” by “Christian” dominionists –a war that is the subject of the new book by Chris Hedges, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the war on America.

Those within and on the fringes of the Episcopal Church who are influenced by dominionism are among those who have made alliances with some of the Primates. (I’m being cautious here – I don’t have any reason to impugn the motives of any specific person in TEC – even those I most disagree with.)

I am convinced that it is important for TEC not to give in to the demands of the Primates to draw back from its commitment to LGBT folk – whatever the costs in terms of the our relations with other Anglicans. In fact TEC’s commitment to LGBT folk needs strengthening; we should make our decision on rites for blessing same sex unions without regard to other Anglican churches. To do otherwise would be to make an idol of the Anglican Communion.

As I contemplate Bishop Katharine’s public statements since Dar es Salaam, I am becoming convinced that she has had it too easy. Her election as Presiding Bishop was only possible because of a great deal of struggle and sacrifice by women (and men) who came before her. She is standing on the shoulders of giants. I remember, for example, the passion and pain in Carter Heyward’s preaching at St. Mary’s in 1973 and 1974 when she told us of her early realization that she would not be allowed to be a priest because she was a girl. And I remember the vilification Carter and the others endured after their ordination to the priesthood on the feast of SS. Mary and Martha in 1974.

Last week, when MadPriest first posted a picture of Bishop Katharine as Neville Chamberlain returning from Munich, I thought he had gone too far. I’m still don’t think it’s fair to ++KJS, but I am convinced that it is based on an accurate assessment of the extreme position among the Primates. I’m impressed that Jonathan the Mad Priest saw that right off. The other day, I discovered the blog of Fr. Christopher Hofer, who was a seminarian at St. Mary’s, and that evening Christopher posted a pastiche that he and his partner Kerry wrote on Pastor Martin Niemoller’s poem “First they came for the communists.” Christopher and Kerry’s version begins “First they came for the gays.” On page 201 of American Fascists, Chris Hedges reminds us that days after Hitler came to power in 1933 he "imposed a ban on all homosexual and lesbian organizations.” LGBT people make easy targets when the goal is the suppression of dissent and the imposition of authority for authority’s sake. The concentration on homosexuality by certain Primates (and their US allies) should be a danger sign to us and make us want to run as fast as we can in the other direction.

In Future Shock Alvin Toffler wrote “If you don’t have a strategy, you will be permanently reactive and part of someone else’s strategy.” It is time for TEC to be proactive. Marshall, in Brainstorming for Bishops suggests that the bishops of TEC might propose their own draft Covenant and fast from the Lambeth Conference next year. Tobias has put forth An Immodest Proposal. I agree that progressives owe moderates a case that goes beyond the mere assertion “Because it’s right.” I am not willing to suggest that TEC give an inch to the far right in our church. They are playing for keeps and we should play for keeps.

As I was putting the final touches on this, I discovered that today Tobias posted some thoughts on a meditation from last June by Thomas Bushnell on Acts 11:1-18.
I need to reflect on it, but at first glance my thoughts in this post seem consonant with an approach based on the principles Thomas Bushnell derived from this passage in Acts.


fr. christopher said...


You continue to clarify the true situation in our Church. It helps numb the pain for a while - which, in this season of Lent, is ever-so-helpful.

Thanks also for the info on the poem - I did research after seeing what you wrote and had no clue that the Americans in the 50's deleted the first stanza. My blog has been corrected.


Marshall said...


I'm glad you found my thoughts worth noting. I do think we can raise possibilities. In my opinion, it's not about capitulation, and it's certainly not about sacrificing GLBT Christians. Perhaps we can find ways for others to "fast" that meaningfully support all Christians.


Grandmère Mimi said...

Everyone was included in the fasts in the Old Testament. Even the king fasted and wore sackcloth and ashes.

It's hard for me to see how calling for a fast for only a particular group is in any way just.

Mark said...

I hope my suggestion allows us to accomplish something.

Your comments here, Allen, have a coherence and balance that are truly uplifting!