Standing at the foot of the cross


I’m not even remotely surprised by the outcome of the deliberations of the House of Bishops of the (US) Episcopal Church:

[Episcopal News Service, New Orleans] After nearly a full day of deliberations, the House of Bishops on September 25 agreed overwhelmingly by voice vote to “exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.”

They also pledged not to authorize public rites for same-gender blessings “until a broader consensus emerges in the Communion, or until General Convention takes further action,” according to the response.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told reporters at a news conference following the conclusion of the meeting that bishops found “common ground to stand on … high ground. Not everyone is 100 percent happy with every word in this document, but we believe we have found a place that all of us can stand together — at the foot of the cross.”

(There’s more here, and the full statement can be found here.)

Of some note is this part of the statement:

Justice and Dignity for Gay and Lesbian Persons

It is of fundamental importance that, as we continue to seek consensus in matters of human sexuality, we also be clear and outspoken in our shared commitment to establish and protect the civil rights of gay and lesbian persons, and to name and oppose at every turn any action or policy that does violence to them, encourages violence towards them, or violates their dignity as children of God. We call all our partners in the Anglican Communion to recommit to this effort. As we stated at the conclusion of our meeting in March 2007: “We proclaim the Gospel of what God has done and is doing in Christ, of the dignity of every human being, and of justice, compassion and peace. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, no male or female, no slave or free. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God’s children, including women, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ’s Church. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God’s children including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ’s Church. We proclaim the Gospel that stands against any violence, including violence done to women and children as well as those who are persecuted because of their differences, often in the name of God.”

Integrity, the US based GLBT Episcopal advocacy group said this:

NEW ORLEANS—The members of Integrity have prayed unceasingly for their bishops as they met this week to consider a response to the primates’ communiqué. The bishops were pressured by the Archbishop of Canterbury and other international guests to comply with the primate’s demands. The bishops struggled mightily amongst themselves to achieve a clear consensus on how to respond. Integrity is gratified that the final response from the House of Bishop declined to succumb to the pressure to go backwards, but rather took some significant steps forward.

We are encouraged by their strong language against the incursions of uninvited bishops into this province, their commendation of the Anglican Listening Process, their unequivocal support that the Bishop of New Hampshire should receive an invitation to the Lambeth Conference, and their affirmation of safety and civil rights for LGBT persons.

Integrity President Susan Russell said, “In response to requests for ‘clarity’ the House of Bishops made it clear today that the Episcopal Church is moving forward in faith. I believe today’s response will be received as a sign of great hope that we are committed to working through the hard ground of our differences. I look forward to taking the support of the House of Bishops for the Listening Process with me when I and other Integrity representatives meet with Anglican colleagues in London next month to prepare for our witness at the Lambeth Conference.”

“Integrity is confident that The Episcopal Church will continue to move forward,” concluded Russell. “Integrity expects General Convention 2009 to be a tipping point for equality. We will be working hard in the months ahead to repeal B033 and to authorize development of a rite for blessing same-sex relationships as steps toward the goal of the full inclusion of all the baptized into the Body of Christ.”

UPDATE: Unsurprisingly, both the Archbishop of Nigeria and the Archbishop of Kenya have rejected the House of Bishops’ statement as inadequate.

I am absolutely torn about this, because although I know there are many more pressing issues in the world as regards human rights and dignity, this one matters too.

Through all of this I can’t help feeling that I and my gay brothers and lesbian sisters are the meat in the sandwich, and that while we wait, and while the Communion listens (to whom, one wonders, as I’ve not been asked to speak, and indeed, my diocesan bishop has made it clear he’s not interested in my voice), our spiritual needs will continue not to be met, in fact, they’ll be rejected and demeaned. Still, unity, whatever that is, may be preserved. One thing is clear: I’ll not be able to serve the institutional church in any official way any more, as it is evident to do so would make me complicit in the denial of care and love for, indeed the rejection of, gay and lesbian people.

On the one hand, the statement from the House of Bishops affirms our dignity. On the other it goes on to violate our dignity. Doing both is offering soothing words whilst kicking us. The bishops write:

We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God’s children, including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ’s Church.

But it is obvious that we are not full and equal participants in the life of Christ’s Church, if our participation can be so easily denied and dismissed. We are denied the basic Christian opportunity to serve, to fulfil our vocation. We are denied the blessing of our relationships – the places where God allows us to grow, to derive blessing, to feel companionship and love. You tell us we are not worth it.

As I said above – I’m not surprised, but I’m profoundly, profoundly sad.

When I am gone from the Anglican Church, and I doubt the day will be far off, I won’t be missed by those who wear episcopal vesture. Certainly not by the Archbishop of Nigeria or the Archbishop of Kenya, to whom I would probably be a source of offence.

There are some other reflections here.


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