Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Anglican update: Rowan Williams asked to stand against homophobia

When last we checked in on Anglican Communion politics, Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury (pictured at right), had suggested a "two track" communion, one inhabited by national churches that adhere to his proposed "Anglican Covenant" and the other track inhabited by those who don't.

The implication has been that the "traditional" national provinces (read those who don't ordain gays or women) will be on the first track, and those who are more inclusive will be on the second track. Since making that suggestion in July, Rowan met with seven American bishops who inquired whether their dioceses could sign onto the covenant, and join the first track, even if the Episcopal Church as a whole did not.

Here is the update: Rowan has replied, politely of course, that while he welcomes support from individual dioceses and parishes, only a national province may decide to sign onto the covenant. In other words, a diocese may not leave its national church. That may seem obvious to most of us, but these days nothing is so obvious.

Rowan also is receiving criticism from his left wing in the Church of England. Dr. Peter Selby, the retired bishop of Worcester (pictured here), recently gave a speech maintaining that Rowan needs to stand up for more than just the preservation of institutions. Selby suggested that the archbishop would better serve the church by devoting his considerable energies to the values of inclusion in our institutions. This story appeared in the British religious journal Ekkelsia earlier this week:
Don't let homophobia set the Anglican agenda, says bishop
Dr Peter Selby, the former Anglican bishop of Worcester, has told a gathering of Christians that anti-gay sentiment should not be setting the tone of discussions about Anglican polity and that the Archbishop of Canterbury has a responsibility to speak up for more than just holding church institutions together.

"If homophobia is contrary to the intentions of those advocating the traditionalist cause", as has often been said, "it has been allowed to provide a good deal of the fuel for the debate, and the Archbishop's personal opposition to homophobia does not exempt him from complicity in the way that energy is being used", Dr Selby told the Inclusive Church residential conference “Word on the Street - reading the Bible inclusively”.
To read the full story, clicking HERE.

Selby's speech is worth reading in its entirety, though it is a bit longish. To read the speech, click HERE. In his conclusion, Selby notes (and this is worth a long quote):
Above all what we need is not to take our eye off the issue, that of the treatment to be accorded to LGBT people and the ways in which they have - over many generations, not just in the last few decades - sought to live lives obedient to the gospel within the cultures in which we all, sexual majorities and minorities alike, seek to do just that. To leave that issue behind in favour of the worthy but secondary issue of how to keep the Anglican Communion together will stunt our discernment - and not keep the Anglican Communion together either. The Archbishop says the enterprise is 'becoming the Church God wants us to be, for the better proclaiming of the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ'; but that means engaging in the search for the truth together, not settling for the stalemate which is what his paper actually advocates.

What is at stake is our faith that God's truth will be discovered. That is, that we shall learn which of the faltering steps we all take in the living of holy lives with our bodies and our passions will form part of the choreography of promise, the one that will prepare us for the marriage supper of the Lamb, where all our human loving will be transformed and celebrated. Towards that vision we look; and nothing less will do.
Meanwhile, the Church of England continues to struggle with whether to ordain women as bishops. Women were allowed into the priesthood in England only recently, and so-called "traditionalists" men clergy are still much resistant. A CofE committee this week called for allowing women to be bishops, but without as much authority in their own dioceses as their men counterparts. To read the full story on this development, click HERE.

In my opinion, Rowan's ambiguity on the issues of inclusion on gays encourages an ambiguous response on women, and vice versa. And while the archbishop regularly criticizes the actions of the Episcopal Church for tearing at the "bonds of affection" through our actions, the bonds will be torn badly should the Church of England decide that women bishops are not fully bishops. A number of my colleagues, myself among them, wonder if it is worth remaining in a club that is so hide-bound, so exclusivist as to be unrecognizable as a loving, caring community that fully embraces all people as fully human.

Finally, those who are new to this blog may want to read the longer commentary I gave on these matters in September. You can read it by clicking HERE.

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