Here we are almost a month post GC2006. What an interesting time! Being at GC and being front and center for many of the committee hearings and all of the floor debates, I am constantly shocked by what I hear and read about what we did. So much is inaccurate, so much is subject to wide interpretations. For the most part, I am disheartened by actions taken by various entities and individuals in our church. And I remained amazed at how sexuality completely captures such passion and violent opinions. Would that mission and evanglism, would that love of neighbor, would that the teachings of Christ, like Matthew 5, Matthew 25, Matthew 28, would rule the day.
I have also been struck by how our readings this summer speak so much about reconciliation, about unity, about how our baptism unites us and how we are to be MINISTERS of reconciliation, not ambassadors of division.
I come from the Southern Baptist church. Much of that upbringing still informs me. But one aspect of congregationalist churches is the issue of schism. You get enough people mad at the pastor or upset over the color they painted the walls, and they just leave to start another church. There is no sense of a greater structure, of ecclesial bodies, of Bishops or others in authority. And quite often (I dare say almost without fail), when a church splits in anger, they form an angry church. From that comes, later, another split and another and another. It is a very slippery slope.
As Episcopalians / Anglicans try to figure all this out, I wonder about the long range repurcussions. I wonder about folks wanting to line up under Akinola, until he does something they don’t like. I wonder about people who want to choose their bishop, based on criteria they define today, and what happens in 10 years when the church has new people and there are new bishops, do they just choose again? Is that very Anglican, or catholic, at all? Slippery slope.
I keep hearing from “left” side and “right” side folks of what we did or did not do at GC. The special commission on Windsor, and the legislative committee at GC, worked so very hard. They tried to respond and yet be sensitive to various opinions. They presented to us A161, which addressed (not harshly enough in some opinions) the election of Bishops whose manner of life is a problem for the Communion AND also addressed a moratorium (not those words) on blessing same sex unions. One thing I hear constantly from the “conservatives” is how SSUs were not even addressed. This is wrong. A161 addressed them – taking language from A162 (which was combined with A161) the resolution stated :
” The amended A161 had called for The Episcopal Church to “not proceed to develop or authorize Rites for the Blessings of same-sex unions”; to maintain a “breadth of responses” for the pastoral care of gays and lesbians; to offer its regret to the Anglican Communion for the actions of 74th General Convention; to urge dioceses to “refrain from the nomination, election, consent to, and consecration of bishops whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church”; and to apologize to those “hurt by these decisions.”
The debate on this resolution was fascinating. Those in full support of Gene Robinson and SSUs were adamantly opposed. Those from the right, very surprisingly, also opposed it (saying it did not go far enough). That was an amazing turn. The “right” folks worked together, called for a vote by orders, and really worked to defeat A161 which, IMHO, did address the Windsor Report, offering regret, promising not to develop rites, and urging refraining from electing gay bishops. This was a well done, difficult-to-achieve resolution and, again in my opinion, brought us as close in line with Windsor as possible for our GC. The conservatives fought it tooth and nail. Some of the liberal members of the special committee spoke for passing the resolution, willing to give up what they considered progress for the greater good of unity and the communion.
So it is disingenuous for conservatives to complain about the lack of resolutions on same sex blessings, when it was the conservatives who fought to defeat the one resolution brought forward dealing with it.
The election of Presiding Bishop was the other amazing thing. I have heard from three Bishops now who report that a group of conservative Bishops, including some retired bishops, once they saw “their” candidate, Charles Jenkins, would not win, voted for Jefforts-Schiori intentionally to cause division and schism in the ECUSA and the Anglican Communion. It is their place to name names, but all three reported this as hearing it first hand.
Folks, this is a sad, sad thing to learn. That Bishops of our church would do something to intentionally cause a split in our church, and do so while hiding behind a secret ballot, is unbelievable. Yet, as in the Joseph story, God can make for good that humans intend for ill. I pray that is the case here, but shame on them for lowering to such levels.
I also decry Bishop Chane and others who, following GC, declared they would just ignore what GC had agreed to. This is just as grievous as the conservative plot to defeat all WR resolutions and elect a woman PB, just to cause trouble. Our church should be ashamed.
The good news is this diverse center, many of whom disagree with each other on sexuality issues, yet believe we can still be the church together, that our unity (see John 17) takes priority, that Jesus told us to be as one SO THAT the world will know who he is. The above actions don’t show us as one. Yet many of us believe we can do so.
I also want to come against the way people talk about each other. The stereotypes and really harsh language about those whom which we disagree must stop – we are baptized Christians and should act like it! I am sick of conservatives saying that someone who believes that SSUs could be something that the church can bless, based on their own scriptural and theological reasoning’s and a sense of the Holy Spirit’s presence, that such beliefs equates to that person being anti-Christian, a non-believer, someone who does not agree with the Creeds or the resurrection, etc. This is patently untrue. Those, like Spong, who deny the resurrection, surely they are not Christian. That does not mean all “left” or “liberal” people fall into that camp. And most of the moderates I know profess the Creedal beliefs without hesitation.
I also point out that some in the “liberal” camp put no credence in the Bible or the teachings of the church. They don’t allow for the deep, passionate feelings of those on the “right”. They are unwilling to listen to their deep held beliefs in Scripture and what the authority of the Bible means to them, and how some of the actions of this church shake that to their core. Their feelings of pain, abandonment, confusion, anger are legitimate responses to this shaking up of their core beliefs. To discount that is unfair and of no use for us in this time of strife.
“From now on consider no one from a human point of view”, Paul to Corinth. Paul to Ephesus in this week’s reading says, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.”
Both groups into one, by the blood of Christ. For He is our peace. The wall has already been broken down. We, the church, need to realize that.