Anglican Covenant Week: The covenant before us is not the covenant we need

During Anglican Covenant Week at Episcopal Café, we are featuring three essays from The Genius of Anglicanism, a study guide produced by the Chicago Consultation. This is the third of three articles. The full study guide, which includes eight essays, each followed by study questions, is available here Daily Episcopalian will resume after the Memorial Day Weekend.

By Winnie Varghese

I believe in a high, expansive and dreamy ecclesiology. We Anglicans are nothing less than the church of God in the tradition of the ancient Celts and Syrians, less dreamily but importantly--the fragments of the British Empire and all of the continuing national churches in their local expression of God among us. The church stands on earth as a holding place of a glimpse of the eternal city. The institution should be magnificent, egalitarian, lavish with care and justice, sweet smelling, enlivening to the senses, proving to every mortal who encounters it that the kingdom of God is for her or him. Our communion should be the statements of our most extravagant dreams of the holy city and nothing less, this generation’s attempt at building cathedrals. The gift of communion to us is relationships, across borders we might not otherwise cross: I believe that it is in these holy places of unexpected, unnecessary, frivolous, ambitious—difficult to believe we have anything real to offer but awe —conversations that God at work in us, locally, begins to be God at work in the world, globally.

A few years ago, while serving as chaplain at Columbia University, I was asked to entertain the bishop of Madras of the Church of South India (CSI) one Monday morning. I showed the bishop around campus, Union Seminary and Morningside Heights. Over lunch he asked who would be coming to their diocesan convention the following year from New York. He asked because he said he was interested in how we in the Episcopal Church in New York worked with young people to develop self-confidence and self-esteem. He thought we might send some people to offer trainings for teachers at the diocesan schools in Madras. There are wonderful educators in India, but he was interested in bringing people in from far away, people who had no pre-conceived notions about the “place” or opportunities available to certain children, and who therefore might be able to generate a different kind of conversation altogether.

The young people that the bishop was talking about were Dalits, children from what used to be known as the untouchable community, who despite some opportunities for education and economic mobility, still found, particularly in rural communities, that they were subject to prejudice, abuse and violence. The bishop said rates of unemployment, alcoholism and suicide remained high in these areas. Children com- ing to diocesan schools still lived in a society in which their lives had little or no value to those outside of their own communities. These schools gave special priority to educating Dalit children. In some cases, they were the best schools available, and because Dalit students were admitted, those from other groups who enrolled their children were making a public commitment to equality. It sounded quite revolutionary and prophetic to me. Of course, we in New York would be radically changed ourselves if we were able to participate in such a process.

My parents are from South India, far from Madras, yet from a similar kind of community, so this issue had special resonance for me. Madras is a diocese known for stepping boldly forward in support of Dalit people. It has its troubles like any diocese, but, just as the Church in South Africa became known for its leadership in the anti-apartheid movement even without the support of its entire membership, so the Diocese of Madras is famous in India for electing the first Dalit bishop and for its outspoken advocacy for Dalit education and equality. As with race in the U.S., some in India would say it’s an old- fashioned issue, one resolved decades ago, and that in speaking of prejudice against Dalits, one is speaking to old stereotypes of India. That has not been my experience.

For me, conversations such as the one the bishop and I were having that morning are at the heart of what we mean when we speak of an Anglican Communion. The only reason the bishop and I were in conversation was that I was a chaplain at a university under the authority of the Episcopal Bishop of New York, who is the obvious primary relationship in New York for the bishop of Madras of the Church of South India. The conversation would not have happened otherwise.

As the bishop and I had been talking that morning, I remembered that one of the horrors of caste prejudice was that a person who is a Dalit would have no reason to believe that another Indian would not hold caste prejudices. I have friends who have told me stories of being asked to drink water outside, or eat on disposable plates away from the central table in “mixed” company—even in church settings. The bishop had taken a risk, or might have been watching to see what I as a clueless Indian American would do as we came to the time for tea and lunch. I invited him and the priest with him to my apartment for tea; that was when he invited us to Madras. I was granted the privilege of treating my brothers in Christ with dignity, casually, and in doing so illustrated a way of being that the bishop thought might be illustrative in his diocese.
Later that morning, I asked the bishop what he thought of Gene Robinson’s consecration, what the implications had been in Tamil Nadu. I found it hard to ask. I did not want to offend him. Maybe I was inviting him to treat me with the same dignity I was trying to offer him. Even though we were just talking, and he had only been gracious, I was scared.

I must have looked nervous, because he smiled and asked me what I thought. I said that I thought it was a step towards greater justice in the church. He smiled and said, “Why should it matter what I think about how the church in America selects its leaders?”

The conversation in my apartment that morning supported my belief that there is unrealized potential in transformative relationships within our Anglican Communion. It would be quite something if we generated a document that strengthened or organized some of that potential, but I don’t think we’ve seen that document yet.

The proposed covenant we have in front of us does seek to be a foundational document for Anglicans across national borders, specifically the British Commonwealth and the Episcopal Churches in the Americas and Europe. The timing of the covenant project is in conjunction with the Windsor Process and the election and consent to the election of Bishop Robinson in New Hampshire. The idea of a covenant has been around for awhile, but the document we have was created in response to these specific ten- sions. It has been clear for some time that as the new, primarily nationally defined, churches of the former British Empire come into their own, the diversity of practice and polity raised the question of what we hold in common.

In some provinces the Anglican church is the national church, in others it essentially a Protestant denomination or a part of an ecumenical national church. The church in the United States is one of the most developed for the simple reason that the Revolution happened in 1776 and most of the other churches achieved autonomy in relation to independence movements in the 20th Century. In some nations, the Anglican church is a serious player in national politics and holds significant property: schools and hospitals as well as historic buildings, in some places it is associated with those who might claim to miss the good old days of Empire, in some places it is a tiny community of ex pats, in others it is a haven for unmarried mothers, indigenous persons, refugees and others rejected by the Catholic and Evangelical churches. It is this diversity we are attempting to define in the proposed covenant.

A good reason to have a covenant would be to define our communion as something other than the church that trailed the British East India Company’s engorgement of the Queen’s purse. We are, of course, much more than that. The Church in Southern Africa models for the rest of us civic engagement and social transformation from a place of profound spirituality and conviction. The churches in the Americas raise the voice of indigenous people and refugees. The Church in India stands with Dalits, slum dwellers and indigenous people. The churches in Africa raise the spectre of national indebtedness, the under-valuing and stripping of national resources, the implications of international aid tied to transnational corporations and the faces and families of those dying of hunger, thirst and disease as the cost of corporate profit. The church throughout the world, at times, stands with the poorest, those dispossessed of land or identity. The poorest of the poor. I think it is exactly this standing on the side of the least, everywhere, that leads us to the breaking point. But these conflicts are the essence of who we are. They call us to greater honesty and compassion in our personal living. We need a covenant that helps us to stand in those places in which it costs us personally to hear our brothers and sisters and guides us through ways to understand one another.

I have a lot of respect for the difficulty of the task of those who had to generate this document, but I think it has failed to capture, honestly or aspirationally, who we are or hope to become. As troubling as some of our origins are, I don’t think we can afford to lie about them. Truth telling would be step one in creating real relationships. The covenant glosses the truth in claiming that “we claim our heritage” in the UK and Ireland, acknowledging our origins honestly and creating language that moves us towards covenanted relationships could be quite powerful. The Anglican Communion is a legacy of imperialism that decimated the natural resources of a significant portion of what is now the third world where people remain mired in economic slavery to London and New York (and increasingly China) until Jesus returns. A covenant that acknowledged these international realities and worked to generate relationships or structures to overcome, not ignore, these histories would be a document radical and gospel-truth-telling enough to be worthy of calling a covenant.

On the other hand, things being what they are, those living in extreme poverty directly related to patterns of theft and aid are very often served by the local church. As self-serving as it sometimes seems, this is what we often call mission. It would be the work of God to begin to understand that most of our “mission” is about restorative justice. That kind of work would require covenanted relationship.

Standing alongside the poor on the Indian subcontinent or in Africa a good Christian must wonder how and why such profound suffering exists in a world where so many—such as us—live so well. The history of how this came to be is fairly straightforward. The crippling international order of debt, aid and relief remain rooted in the fallacy that developing countries must pay for their freedom from empire. Haiti is a prime example. Haiti’s independence treaty was written as a loss of “property” from France, a property loss the Haitians have been forced to repay. The legacy of empire—our legacy as the Anglican Communion—is filled with contracts like that, private and public that have crippled church, state and civil society internationally creating dependencies through which we can both pity the weakness and corruption of the developing state and build enormous agencies to placate the most pressing current need. Yes, there has always been disparity and suffering on this planet, but isn’t one of our gifts as a communion to open eyes to the effects of historic bigotry, now that we have the distance to consider it as the legacy of a generation past? That seems difficult and worthy enough to require a covenant.

But such a covenant is not on the table.

The Anglican Church in those countries in which the church is closely allied with government wishes for a powerful, testosterone- addled ecclesiology that can compete with Rome or the megachurch movements. The church in those places where it is in opposition to government or is sidelined or insignificant and stands with the poor couldn’t be bothered with this business and seems to sign whatever document appears, assuming the best and understanding the utter impossibility of enforcement locally. We in the U.S. are indignant that anyone would try to tell us what to do, and the chiefs of the Church in England fail to understand that we in the U.S. experience their preferred mode of governance as hypocritical. To most of us, this covenant appears to be an obvious attempt to appease those who see how weak our system is. It is weak. Nostalgia is not holding us together. Yet, those who are attempting to strengthen it by this document, I think, will destroy what little is left in their attempt to create a conformity and a unity where there is none.

We must be very careful. In the North and West we support institutions that crush our brothers and sisters in the South. Some of the corporations that employ our faithful members are stripping away local autonomy and resources in other parts of the world. The list is almost every corporation you can name: Nestle, big oil, Cargill, Monsanto, Dow. We make our money as hard-working Americans and keep our endowments in good shape as faithful vestry and board members in the U.S., but these same corporations are the agents of the defeat of local economies around the world, driving people to refugee camps and urban slums, where we might create an outreach program to serve them or send our children on a mission trip. What the covenant process gets very right is that we are already living in these webs of relationship internationally, and it would be great to figure out how to do it as Jesus might.

So, how do we do this? I’ve missed every deadline on this essay, because I don’t have an alternative proposal, but I can say that I don’t think the answer lies in stating the obvious: the creeds, scripture, the approved interpretation of texts, and governance. We already have these things in place, all of us. These are our least common denominators. If you divide us by them, you’ll get a whole number, we all already agree upon, and it does not make any difference to where we find ourselves today. While essential, these structures and documents offer a defi- nition of communion so minimal as to be almost cynical. They accomplish the purpose of unity, while all but encouraging provinces to seek discipline against one another when they take a prophetic stance on behalf of the least among us. For example, under this covenant, the Episcopal Church could argue for discipline of the Church in Nigeria because Texaco is a well-respected and essential institution in the U.S., and protests by Nigerian Anglicans in response to Texaco oil spills contaminating their rivers and destroying their livelihood is an improperly po- litical use of church authority that threatens the stability of an important U.S.-based institution.

I thought, when I began this essay, that I was going to write something about prayer as the thing that holds us together, but in my experience we actually pray very differently and often mean very different things, even when our words are the same. Prayer, like everything else is local. Though tied to the same foundational texts and creeds, prayer is a profoundly local experience influenced by local imagination, local history, the memory of ancient religious prac- tices and the nuances of language. In prayer I am an American person. The breviary of Episcopal monastic communities does it for me. I was raised on the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, and I love it enough to enjoy experimenting with it to further its imaginative possibilities, but I do not think that it is what holds us together, even in the United States.

The gospels are about so much more than nostalgia and familiarity. I believe the hope in us that these sort of “common” experiences of prayer develop is realized when we stand with the least among us—whether least is defined by mental illness, addiction, poverty, race, hunger, accent, sexual orientation, thoughtfulness, or immigration status. It is in opposing whatever sort of oppression flourishes in our local context, that we are most truly the church in the world. This work unavoidably brings us into conflict with those who believe that the marginalized and their ways of being are not the ways of God. That is the nature of the gospel. The good news, especially when it is good news for those who need a word of liberation, will not be such good news to those who hadn’t yet thought those people should be free. If standing in the place in the world that our prayer calls us to stand as witnesses to God at work among us is a punishable offense by Section Four of the Anglican covenant, I suspect this covenant gets something wrong. And I can guarantee, that we will all find ourselves there, camped out in Section Four, as long as the Spirit is alive in the church.

The Rev. Winnie Varghese is priest-in-charge at St. Mark’s-Church-in-the-Bowery in New York City. She serves on the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church and the board of directors of the Episcopal Service Corps and was the voting secretary of General Convention in 2009.

Anglican Covenant Week: We are ignoring the covenant we've already got

During Anglican Covenant Week at Episcopal Café, we are featuring three essays from The Genius of Anglicanism, a study guide produced by the Chicago Consultation. This is the second of three articles. The full study guide, which includes eight essays, each followed by study questions, is available here.

By Gay Jennings

So, it appears the Anglican Communion already has a covenant!

Resolution D027
The 77th General Convention meeting in Anaheim, California in 2009 adopted Resolution D027 titled “Five Marks of Mission.” 1 (to see the footnotes and appendices, click Read more at the conclusion of this essay)

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 76th General Convention adopt the following “Five Marks of Mission” as articulated by the Anglican Consultative Council and addressed to the Anglican Communion:
- To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
- To teach, baptize and nurture new believers
- To respond to human need by loving service
- To seek to transform unjust strutures of society
- To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention recommend the Five Marks of Mission as the five top strategic priorities for the Episcopal Church, and request Program, Bud- get, and Finance and the Executive Council to center the budget for the 2013-2015
triennium around these strategic priorities; and be it further

Resolved, That Convention recommits The Episcopal Church to mutual responsibility and interdependence in the Body of Christ with the provinces and churches of the Anglican Communion in keeping with “A Covenant for a Communion in Mission” commended by the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC13-2005); and be it further
Resolved, That the Secretary of the General Convention communicate the substance of this resolution to: The Archbishop of Canterbury, the General Secretary of the Anglican Communion, the Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and Primates, and the leadership of the churches and provinces of the Anglican Communion.

Resolution D027 adopted the Five Marks of Mission for The Episcopal Church and recommitted The Episcopal Church to mutual responsibility and interdependence in the Anglican Communion in keeping with the Covenant for Communion in Mission.
So where did this covenant, which seems to have hidden in plain sight, come from, and what would it mean if the Episcopal Church and the rest of the Anglican Communion truly embraced the Five Marks of Mission as their top priorities?

The Five Marks of Mission were developed by the Anglican Consultative Council between 1984 and 1990 and promulgated to the Anglican Communion. 2 The five marks are intended to lay a foundation and promote a common understanding of what it means to participate in God’s mission to a world desperately in need of Good News.

Shortly after the Five Marks of Mission were distributed to the Anglican Communion, MISSIO, the Standing Commission for Mission of the Anglican Communion, which met between 1994 and 1999, reviewed the marks as part of its work. Its report, Anglicans in Mission, urges provinces and dioceses to develop or revise their own scriptural understandings of mission:

“Whatever words or ideas each local expression of our Church uses, MISSIO hopes that they will be informed by three convictions:

• We are united by our commitment to serving the transforming mission of God.
• Mission is the bedrock of all we are, do and say as the people of God.
• Our faithfulness in mission will be expressed in a great diversity of mission models, strategies and practices.” 3

Several years later, in preparation for the 2005 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC-13), the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Mission and Evangelism4 (IASCOME) developed the Covenant for Communion in Mission to build on the Five Marks of Mission. The covenant was commended to the provinces and churches of the Anglican Communion by the Anglican Consultative Council at its meeting5.

The text of the Covenant for Communion in Mission is printed below in bold with IASCOME’s commentary in plain text.

A Covenant for Communion In Mission6 This Covenant signifies our common call to share in God’s healing and reconciling mission for our blessed but broken and hurting world.

In our relationships as Anglican sisters and brothers in Christ, we live in the hope of the unity that God has brought about through Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The preamble recognises that the world is one that has been graced by God but that God’s work through Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, is to seek to heal its hurts and reconcile its brokenness. The preamble reminds us that as Christians we are called to share our relationships in the mission of God to the wider world, bearing witness to the kingdom of love, justice and joy that Jesus inaugurated.

The nine points of the covenant are predicated on Scripture and the Sacraments providing the nourishment, guidance and strength for the journey of the covenant partners together.

Nourished by Scripture and Sacrament, we pledge ourselves to: 1) Recognise Jesus in each other’s contexts and lives

The nine points begin with Jesus Christ, the source and inspiration of our faith and calls for those covenanting for mission to look for, recognise, learn from and rejoice in the presence of Christ at work in the lives and situations of the other.

2) Support one another in our participation in God’s mission

Point two acknowledges that we cannot serve God’s mission in isolation and calls for mutual support and encouragement in our efforts.

3) Encourage expressions of our new life in Christ

Point three asks those who enter into the covenant to encourage one another as we develop new understandings of our identities in Christ.

4) Meet to share common purpose and explore differences and disagreements

Point four provides for face-to-face meetings at which insights and learnings can be shared and difficulties worked through.

5) Be willing to change in response to critique and challenge from others

Point five recognises that as challenges arise changes will be needed as discipleship in Christ is deepened as a result of both experience in mission and encounters with those with whom we are in covenant.

6) Celebrate our strengths and mourn over our failures

Point six calls for honouring and celebrating our successes and acknowledging and naming our sadness and failures in the hopes of restitution and reconciliation.

7) Share equitably our God-given resources

Point seven emphasizes that there are resources to share--not just money and people, but ideas, prayers, excitement, challenge, enthusiasm. It calls for a move to an equitable sharing of such resources particularly when one participant in the covenant has more than the other.

8) Work together for the sustainability of God’s creation

Point eight underscores that God’s concern is for the whole of life--not just people, but the whole created order--and so we are called to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and to sustain and renew the life of the earth.

9) Live into the promise of God’s reconciliation for ourselves and for the world

This last point speaks of the future hope towards which we are living, the hope of a reconciled universe--in which ‘God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ for which Jesus taught us to pray.

We make this covenant in the promise of our mutual responsibility and interdependence in the Body of Christ.

The conclusion provides a strong reminder that we need each other. We are responsible for each other and we are mutually interdependent in the Body of Christ.

Thus, the five marks are not intended to be static, but rather to provide each church of the Anglican Communion with a framework for “developing or revising its own understanding of mission which is faithful to Scripture.”7

In keeping with the Covenant for Communion in Mission, The Anglican Church of Canada did a masterful job in using the Five Marks of Mission as the foundation for its church wide strategic plan, "Dream the Church Vision 2019: A Plan for the Anglican Church of Canada." The Most Rev. Fredrick J. Hiltz, Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, stated “These marks speak to our true vocation as evangelists, storytellers, caregivers, advocates for peace and justice, and good stewards of God’s creation.” 8

The Anglican Church of Canada’s explication of the marks is found in its entirety at the end of this essay, and is offered as an example of how to use the Five Marks of Mission as a frame work for understanding mission that is informed both by the Anglican Communion’s common understanding and the cultural context of a particular church and its people. Congregations, dioceses and provinces can particularly profit from the way in which the Canadian church customized the marks to define mission in a way that encompasses evangelism and service, as well as work for systemic social justice and environmental sustainability.

So, if the Anglican Communion already has a covenant, what are the differences between the existing Covenant for Communion in Mission and the proposed Anglican Covenant currently circulating among the various provinces and churches? First, while the proposed Anglican Covenant has an internal focus, the Covenant for Communion in Mission looks outward to the world:

“We believe that a Covenant enshrining the values of common mission that could be used as a basis for outward-looking relationships among the churches, mission organisations and societies, and networks of the Communion would provide a significant focus of unity in mission for the Anglican Communion.”9

Second, the Covenant for Communion in Mission in based in mutual relationships. In developing the covenant, IASCOME spent significant time deliberating about the nature and characteristics of covenants and contracts. When introducing the covenant, the committee wrote:

IASCOME considered in depth the nature of covenant. We recognised that within our cultures a covenant is a serious and significant agreement. Covenants are fundamentally about relationships to which one gives oneself voluntarily, while contracts can be seen as a legally binding document under a body of governing principle. Covenants are free-will voluntary offerings from one to another while contracts are binding entities whose locus of authority is external to oneself. Covenants are relational: relational between those who are making the covenant and relational with and before God.10

Indeed, IASCOME was bold enough to say, “We believe the Covenant for Communion in Mission can provide a focus for binding the Communion together in a way rather different from that envisaged by the Windsor Report.”11

While the proposed Anglican Covenant formalizes relationships among Anglican
provinces according to tiers of membership and consequences for deviating from rules, the Covenant for Communion in Mission urges Anglican provinces to form relationships through mission partnerships and collaborations. This covenant calls provinces and churches to be equal covenant partners and to have their common life in Christ shaped by joint participation in God’s mission. By recognizing that God’s work in one province may be radically different from God’s work in another, this covenant honors new understandings of our lives in Christ. Most importantly, the Covenant for Communion in Mission eschews uniformity, punitive action and centralized authority in favor of our love for one another as brothers and sisters in Christ and belief that we are all called to do God’s work in the world.

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, associate director of CREDO, is the Episcopal Church’s clergy representative to the Anglican Consultative Council, a eight-time General Convention deputy from the Diocese of Ohio, and a member
of the church’s Executive Council.

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Here I stand

By Howard Anderson

I had trouble writing this. I had trouble because people I love and respect a great deal, people who have served the Church well seem to be placing unity before justice. Now I know that we ordained types are guardians of the institution of the Church. Bishops, especially, are the symbols of unity in the church. I know how hard it is to play that role because I have done it, both in the parish and on diocesan staffs. But I also know my very wise spiritual director often asks me, “Howard, do you love the Church more than you love God?” I always answer an emphatic “NO!” But if I were looking at my track record, my behavior, it would be very hard to tell who I serve, the institution, or The Holy One, whose Christ said, “Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.”

The Rev. Dr. Marilyn McCord Adams, the American priest and Regius Professor of Theology at Christ Church, Oxford, wrote a very thoughtful and challenging (and might I add highly enjoyable) paper for the recent gathering of those committed to the full inclusion of all the Baptized at Seabury-Western Seminary. We are calling ourselves “the Chicago Consultation.” She points out that those of us committed to full inclusion in the life of the church of Gay and Lesbian Christians are so committed to inclusion that we often bend over backward to keep our more conservative brothers and sisters at the table. Some of these folks who cannot accept the full inclusion of GLBT members, use this commitment against us. She speaks of “sex and gender conservatives” who have lost their majority in the Episcopal Church had no problem excluding GLBT members from becoming priests or bishops, but now that they have lost that majority in the voting at General Convention, still exercise a kind of veto power because the majority of General Convention deputies find our commitment to Anglican Comprehensiveness (the biggest possible tent to include all) so absolute that we continue to throw our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters “under the bus” (witness B-033 which urged a moratorium on the consecration of additional gay or lesbian bishops) to try and appease the sex and gender conservative minority. It is not only unjust, it doesn’t work. When my grandson was told that there was a vote (B-033) which would make his Papi’s statement “anyone I baptize could become the Presiding Bishop” untrue, he was shocked. He said, “Yikes! That’s God’s decision.” I guess my talking to him about the Holy Spirit guiding the councils of the Church actually caught hold in his six year old brain.”

Think about it. Has anything the General Convention done prevented the schismatic bishops like Duncan and Schofield from pulling out of TEC? Has anything our successive Presiding Bishops have done appeased the sex and gender conservatives? Has trying to respond to the Windsor Report (simply a report, not a mandate from anyone with any authority in TEC or the Communion) stopped Archbishop Akinola and others from ordaining renegade American priests bishops in their overseas jurisdictions to function here in TEC? When the Archbishop of Canterbury, or conservative American bishops speak of compliance with the Windsor Report, do they EVER say much about the boundary jumping of Archbishop Akinola and company? They have even created out of thin air, new entities they are calling the “instruments of unity,” or as Professor Adams so aptly dubbed them, “The instruments of mischief,” to try and muscle TEC back into the fold of those saying “not yet” to full inclusion.

Professor Adams is right. The tolerance of the majority of General Convention Deputies who have voted strongly for full inclusion of GLBT members of our Church in all orders of ministry, has been used against us. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. So, shame on me. Shame on me for tolerating evil. Dr. Adams points out sharply in her paper that homophobia of the type exhibited by some of the sex and gender conservatives, most particularly, Archbishop Akinola who is advocating Nigerian legislation that would criminalize merely being homosexual, is evil. Period! Evil! Strong words, but who can deny their truth? Adams says “homophobia is a socially constructed sin, one that is built into us as part of our socialization.” She calls boldly for us to root this sin out of the institution and our hearts. Amen! Preach it sister! I am convicted. This sin of homophobia is both institutional sin (sin done in our name) and personal, (those things I have done, and left undone.)

And so I confess that I have been guilty of poor discernment, often sacrificing justice, and following Christ in breaking down the walls of prejudice, in order to keep peace in the family. I confess that I have sometimes allowed others to talk me into “toning it down,” and not pushing the agenda of inclusion of all the baptized quite so hard, so I would leave a place for sex and gender conservatives to stand. I confess this, and I know there are many whom I love and respect that have succumbed to this same demand to “slow down so that the rest will catch up” when it comes to the full inclusion of GLBT members of TEC. I have spoken out, but mainly in safe places where most people agree with me. And so I repent, and speak it here for all to see. I have been guilty of the sin of cowardice in not doing more to root out the sin of homophobia in the Church.

Some would say that the group that gathered as “The Chicago Consultation” were pushing a “gay agenda.” Nonsense. It is nothing less than a Gospel Agenda. No one ever said following Jesus Christ to the edges of society to bring the “least of these” (however each society creates ‘leastness”) to the center would be easy. I have watched friends who are bishops not want to be publicly associated with “The Chicago Consultation.” They fear that their effectiveness, or their ability to function collegially in the House of Bishops would be compromised. They fear that their ability to “guard the faith, unity and discipline of the Church” in their diocese would be compromised. They may be right. But look at the conservative bishops. They organize into “networks and synods, and openly join groups with acronyms galore- CANA, AAC, IRD and more. Perhaps some of their appeal is that they are willing to step up and claim what they believe. However much I disagree with them, you have to give them credit for standing up for beliefs.

Something very predictable happens when we ordained types get together. My mother, when her Alzheimer’s disease had taken away her inhibitions, but not her words, said as she reached up to touch my clerical collar, “Cuts off circulation to the brain!” We get swept up in a wave of camaraderie, we bond with one another, relating effectively to one another becomes a prime goal of the gathering. So often, those outside that circle, (the 99% who are in the lay order) are not factors. But our General Convention’s genius is that lay AND clergy are together and vote. This tempers the “camaraderie effect” of a meeting of the House of Bishops or a clergy conference where the laity are excluded thereby rendering such rarified gatherings less comprehensive of the spirit of the Church than General Convention. I once sat with Michael Peers, the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, as we listened to a debate on the issue of human sexuality in the American House of Bishops. One conservative bishop rose and said, in stentorian tones (and a British accent) “The only sexual activity sanctioned by Holy Scripture is life long, monogamous, matrimony.” In the spirit of brotherhood (pre-Barbara Harris) the other bishops nodded thoughtfully, and the gallery, in which we sat, erupted into gales of laughter. Murmurs of “What about Abraham? Wooo..Solomon” and the chuckling continued. Michael leaned over and said, “We have a single house, and the lay and clergy wouldn’t put up with such foolishness at our Synod.”

I re-read the Prayerbook service “Ordination of a Bishop” today. And like the Baptismal Covenant, the Bishops promise to “be chief priest and pastor, to encourage and support all baptized people.” They also promise to boldly proclaim and interpret the Gospel stir up the conscience” of the people, and to “defend those who have no helper.” This sometimes seems to conflict with guarding the unity of the Church. These people whom the people and the Spirit elect to be our Bishops face a daunting job of discernment on where to come down on these two promises. It seems an irony, but also no mistake, that right next to the “Ordination of a Bishop,” in the Book of Common Prayer, is the Burial Office. Dear me, they face some hard and taxing challenges. We should all be grateful that they are willing to serve. And do, please, prayer for our bishops.

But as for me, my spiritual director’s question, and Marilyn McCord Adam’s challenge to “root out the sin of homophobia” are foremost in my discernment. Those of us in TEC who are now in the majority of The General Convention deputies, should not be, as Adams suggests, “held hostage" by our commitment to inclusivity so that we give in when conservative threaten to leave if they don’t get their way. For many Conventions the votes went against inclusiveness. I went home, as the first clerical deputy from my diocese and had to say to the GLBT members of the churches, “the Spirit has said not yet.” No conservative ever said to me that the Holy Spirit was not guiding the Councils of the Church when the votes went their way. But all of a sudden, when the Spirit guided the General Convention in the direction of full inclusion, our conservative brothers and sisters changed their tune. “The Spirit of God was not there.”

I beg to differ. The Spirit of God has moved through the Councils of the Episcopal Church. It has taken us to a difficult place. But it is a goodly place. It is a place where Jesus Christ would be more comfortable than those parts of the Church where the gifts and charisms all the baptized cannot be exercised. That’s what I believe. That’s where I will stand, with the much maligned, under fire Episcopal Church. And I stand with her proudly. I’m not going to be blackmailed any more with threats of leaving. I’m not going to let others use my commitment to including all of the Baptized in my Church, at whatever level the Spirit gives them gifts to serve.

When Bishop Duncan said he would try to pull his whole Diocese out of TEC, he quoted Martin Luther. “Here I stand. I can do no other.” Ditto Bishop Duncan, ditto. Me too.

The Rev. Canon Howard Anderson, Ph.D., is president and warden of Cathedral College at Washington National Cathedral.

A new way in the wilderness

A New Way in the Wilderness, a sermon on the Chicago Consultation, among other things, delivered on the Second Sunday of Advent, 2002, by the Very Rev. Tracey Lind, dean of Trinity Cathedral, Cleveland, Ohio.

By Tracey Lind

What did they go out to the wilderness to see: a man in camel’s hair? What did they go out to the wilderness to hear: a voice crying: Prepare the way of the Lord? What did they go out to the wilderness to taste: locusts dipped in wild honey? What did they go out the wilderness to smell: sweet dusty earth? What did they go out to the wilderness to feel: the sun, the wind, and the dry desert air? Why do any of us go to the wilderness? What do we hope to find? I suppose we go to the wilderness to find ourselves, and hopefully, to find and be found by God.

And often when we get there, we are, in the words of Alfred Delp, “shaken and brought to the reality of ourselves.” No wonder, the scriptures take us to the wilderness in Advent, and then again in Lent. God wants to shake and awaken us to the reality of ourselves, and then fill us with hope and expectation for an uncertain but emerging future.

This morning, we hear from two great spiritual guides of the wilderness: Isaiah and John the Baptist. Isaiah, the prophet of the eighth century BCE, spoke of “a shoot from the stump of Jesse” upon which the Spirit of God would rest. He wrote of that branch growing out of a chopped down tree, a remnant people full of hope and promise for the future who would wear the girdle of righteousness and the belt of faithfulness. Some eight hundred years later, the gospels recall another prophet, a righteous and faithful man who lived in the wilderness and wore such a girdle and belt. He spoke of an axe lying at the very root of the tree, cutting it down and throwing its bad fruit into the fire.

Might the shoot of Jesse grow from the stump of this tree? And what message of good news would this shoot bring to those brave souls who venture into the wilderness hoping to find and be found by God?

The message proclaimed in the wilderness is the good news of Shalom: God’s amazing, marvelous, unbelievable, utopian promise of the peaceable kingdom where domestic animals (the lamb, the kid, the calf and the cow) lie together in community with their natural predators (the wolf, the leopard, the lion and the bear). And in the midst of them, a baby is at play and a young child is the leader.

What are we to make of this vision? It’s really quite simple, says the prophet of old. “In the day, the root of Jesse shall stand as an ensign to the peoples.” He shall be an emblem, a sign, a flag that shows whose kingdom this really is – this wonderful realm of God! It is nothing less than God, reconciling all creation to the hopes and dreams of the Eternal One.

This prophecy envisions a new creation and a new way of being in the world. It proposes a new community that is diverse, inclusive and welcoming – a circle of friends who were once strangers and perhaps even once enemies. This prophecy portrays a new realm of peace: creation reorganizing itself around common expectations, hopes and dreams into something wonderfully and radically different where everybody and everything is rooted in the way of justice, love and mercy and kindness. In the darkest of days, this counter-cultural vision of God’s reign proclaimed in the wilderness offered and still offers hope for those who have eyes to see it, ears to hear it, a nose to smell it, a tongue to taste it, a heart to feel it, hands to embrace it, arms to carry it, and feet to walk it around the world.

In the past few weeks, wandering about in the wilderness, hoping to find and be found by God, I have had two glimpses of God’s new realm becoming that I want to briefly share with you this morning. As many of you know, I am one of the conveners of We Believe Ohio, a movement uniting diverse religious voices to achieve justice. At our last Greater Cleveland Steering Committee, we were talking about “Declare Ohio a Political Sleaze-Free Zone” – a petition that I hope every member of Trinity Cathedral will sign and urge their friends and family to sign. This now state-wide (and hopefully national) effort calls for clean, instructive political campaigns that promote democracy and keep the focus on the critical issues of the day, rather than slinging mud at fellow candidates attacking minority groups, and polarizing voters for the purposes political gain. To learn more about this effort and sign the petition, go to the web site

During our discussion, a Muslim member of our steering committee spoke passionately about the anti-Muslim sentiments being expressed by some presidential candidates, and about the hateful, anti-Muslim tirade of radio talk show host Michael Savage. It was an emotional conversation that made some in the room feel uncomfortable and anxious. However, her honesty and passion resulted in what one might say was remarkable action, but what I know is becoming typical of these companions in faith.

Following our meeting, a Jewish member of the Steering Committee convened a conversation with a variety of religious and civil rights leaders that now is organizing itself into an ad hoc coalition to speak out against bigotry in broadcasting. Our Muslim colleague wrote to us about how much it meant to have a rabbi leading this effort. She later told me, that now she had a better understanding of how the LGBT community must have felt in the 2004 presidential campaign when gay marriage was the divisive issue of the day.

Through We Believe, interfaith leaders are being challenged, changed and comforted by one another. And that change – this movement – is contagious. The interfaith landscape of Greater Cleveland is changing. We have been offered a glimpse of the community God intends for us to become, an ensign for the always-emerging realm of shalom-salaam – a new community of peace and reconciliation organized around common expectations, hopes and dreams.

This past week, I returned to the windy city of Chicago to participate in an amazing consultation of Anglicans from around the world: bishops, priests, deacons and laypeople; academics, pastors, and activists; gay and straight; black, white, and Hispanic; Global southerners and northerners.

We came together, in the words of, Dr. Jenny Plane Te Paa (an indigenous, New Zealand, Anglican scholar and activist) to reclaim who we are as “relatives in the Anglican family” and to work toward “a global Anglican communion recovery plan.” We gathered, as what Dr. Te Paa called: “a small portion of the global tribe of God’s imperfect, vulnerable, ambitious, generous spirited, self-serving, sacrificial, complex, contradictory, faith-filled, and to a large extent, indecently obedient Anglicans” to articulate a path through the wilderness crisis in our beloved and broken church. We came together as members in the communion of saints to develop a strategy for moving forward toward the gospel promise of God’s justice, love and mercy for all people with a commitment to nonviolence, story telling and active listening, repentance and restorative justice.

On the first snowy day of winter in Chicago, a group of Anglicans took the first steps of making common cause: setting our hope on Christ, rejecting the theology and practice of scapegoating and pitting one group of oppressed people and concerns against other, and embracing instead a theology and practice of full inclusion and justice for all God’s people.

What will become known as the Chicago Consultation gives me hope for our church. What has become known as We Believe Ohio gives me hope for our state. The conversations, consultations, and gatherings of faithful women, men and children around the globe in what Dr. Te Paa calls the small “c” of communion give me for hope for world, and with that hope expectation for the good news that we can once again proclaim to the world. Perhaps we will become a new voice of the Holy One crying in the wilderness.

In the name of the God who loves us, the Son who gave his life for that love, and the Spirit who breathes that love into the weary and wounded wilderness of our lives. Amen!

The grace of communion, spelled with a small "c"

Some thoughts about Communion was presented by Dean Jenny Te Paa at the Chicago Consultation at Seabury-Western Seminary, December 5, 2007.

By Jenny Te Paa

My friends let me firstly bring you all very warm greetings from the ‘true’ global south! Greetings therefore from those of us who are even more ‘south’ than Sydney and the Southern Cone!!

Seriously though, I am profoundly honoured to be with you all at this timely and significant event. Thank you most sincerely for your very kind invitation.

I am not big on using quotes to reinforce my own voice but by way of demonstrable cultural sensitivity, here is one from Abraham Lincoln which does seem quite apt in the current circumstance.

‘The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate in the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves . . . We cannot escape history . . . We shall nobly save or meanly lose, the last best hope of the earth . . . The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just - a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless.’

Over the past few months I have been with global Anglicans at various meetings and gatherings to do with, the role of the Church in the South Pacific (Sydney, Australia) the future of the Communion; to do with preparing Lambeth Bible Studies material (in London); the Doctrine Commission, (in Malaysia); the Peace and Justice Network (Rwanda, Burundi and in North & South Korea); developing a model for ‘doing hermeneutics the Anglican way’ New Zealand); I have met with Women’s Studies representatives; farewelled a much loved Archbishop (South Africa); and just last week I was with an extraordinary first ever national gathering of Inclusive Church members in Derbyshire in England.

There I participated with so many of God’s good people in sharing and listening, in speaking, in praying, in laughing and weeping, in seeking with urgency and deep sincerity for ways of being even better disciples, for ways of being ever more readily present and attentive to those whom we are called to serve. The theme of the gathering was ‘drenched in grace’ – I continue to find that imagery so evocative, so compelling, so utterly magical in its possibilities? The conference was a stunning success and its parallels with this one are not merely coincidental – they are I believe entirely prophetic.

As I gazed about me at the Derbyshire gathering, I began to think again about communion - I saw men and women who reminded me so much of my own Anglican relatives at home in New Zealand – a people intensely committed to, ‘the church and in particular to advancing God’s mission in and through the Church’; a people somewhat rigidly ordered in their sense of ecclesial propriety; a people utterly devotional, (transported by the sacraments, the hymns, liturgical rituals, by the unique sanctity of Eucharistic worship); a people likely ferociously controlling of their Priest in charge and even more likely, a people ridiculously submissive to their Bishop!

The week before Derbyshire, I was in Seoul, Korea (together with a large peace delegation from the Presiding Bishop’s office) and there in the small inner city house church to which I was taken for Sunday worship were those same Anglican relatives of mine and of yours.

Actually you know, these ‘relatives’ of ours are there in South Africa, in California, in Sri Lanka, in Samoa, in Derbyshire and in Kigali. One of the most precious and privileged insights that one gains from being able to move across the global communion is that no matter the continent, the language, the socio-political or cultural context there is at a profoundly important level, actually very little that really matters, which radically differentiates the ways in which the ordinary, every day Anglican people of God gather in abiding faith and witness.

Actually it occurs to me that if we were capable on any given Sunday of undertaking to do one of those google earth satellite type snapshots of global Anglicans, what we would inevitably see is ourselves as the great earthly cloud of witnesses at our local incarnational best; what we would see at work and at prayer is deeply, profoundly, indissolubly, communion.

Here too are we now gathered, as a small portion of the global tribe of God’s imperfect, vulnerable, ambitious, generous spirited, self-serving, sacrificial, complex, contradictory, faith filled and to the largest extent, indecently obedient Anglicans.

Communion, as I witness it and as I have experienced it throughout my lifetime, is us, embodied in and for each other across the endless chasms of distance and difference. Communion is both noun and verb – it names both who we are and what we do. Communion is thus simultaneously the recognition of our common humanity, and the relationality that that presupposes – it is about us all being created equally of God, equally as it is our responsive embrace of God in each other. It is therefore our way of loving and our responsibility for loving, just as we ourselves are loved so unconditionally by God. Communion is thus us living out in the deepest and most intimate forms of Christlike relationality what we say, even as we pray, that we deeply, truly believe in one God, in one Lord Jesus Christ, in one holy and apostolic church.

Well what then are we to make of all that with which we are currently confronted and which comes to us inscribed beneath the word Communion, capital C if you please?? And to what extent then, if at all, do the current tensions, fights and flights, claims and counter claims, bruising and blaming, petulance and pettiness, bullying and bribing have to do with the other gloriously precious small ‘c’, communion of saints in waiting??

Big C Communion (which is usually the one we talk about and fret over) is rapidly assuming a nebulous and elusive form – even as it purports to be the macro-institutional framework within which all the micro-Provinces reside.

But is there really any difference between the two? Is the distinction I am endeavouring to draw that easily made? Does it even matter? Or is it that big C Communion has been subtly elided with little c communion, thus deftly, but for the purposes of some, very conveniently rendering invisible the cloud of witnesses, readily depersonalizing, in fact, sort of perversely dis-embodying the actual body of Christ.

Now as I followed my own impeccable logic, I began to see how much easier it becomes therefore in a depersonalised context, for some in institutional leadership to speak agressively, to act punitively, and to invoke disciplinary exclusions. In the absence of deep and intimate Christlike relationality, it does become not only possible, but also highly likely that human opportunism with all it’s failings and unfettered ambitions will inevitably arise.

I began then to think of the doom filled schismatic rhetoric and of those who use it most frequently, around, ‘breaking Communion’, about ‘tearing the fabric of Communion’, about ‘the Communion falling apart’, about ‘the irreparable divisions in the Communion’, about ‘breaching Communion’.

Notice how none of this is directly humanized, none of this is language popularly or commonly used to describe people, after all we are not fabric to be torn, anymore than we are irreparable.

We are human beings, those created in the image and likeness of God. This rhetoric is surely all big ‘C’ stuff. None of this is to do with us ordinary Anglicans, loving as we are loved by God. None of this is about ‘us’, it is about ‘it’, the ‘inanimate’ institutional form. It is all abstracted away from my relatives and yours, from men and women, girls and boys, old and young, rich and poor, black and white, pretty and perhaps not so, handsome and wishful, but people nevertheless, Anglican people, me and you, people of God, devoted, committed, controlling and submissive, and yet people who are undeniably at our heart of hearts simply yearning always for that state of God’s grace, that portion given freely to each one of us . . .

Friends we have to recover with real urgency the images, the names and the smiles of those known to us all whose dedication, sacrifice, service and commitment to God’s mission has not altered and will not ever be altered one tiny bit no matter how many threats, no matter how many tantrums are being undertaken at the level of male church leadership struggles.

I am being constantly reminded by these exemplars of witness and mission that none of this bitter infighting can possibly disrupt or compromise their truly servanthood lives given over freely, unquestioningly to the care of the poor, the feeding of the hungry, the release of the captives, the recovery of sight to the blind.

And so from now on when we each speak of ‘communion’ will we have in mind the capital ‘C’ depersonalized institution or will we have in mind the small ‘c’ communion of saints to be - your relatives and mine, people with faces and names, people with hopes and with doubts, people with histories, lives and loves?

None of this is to say that I haven’t listened with profound sadness to so many Anglicans drawn from virtually every autonomous Province and from the Church of England express feelings of powerlessness and despair at the apparently insurmountable odds against the survival of ‘the Communion’.

There is indeed an all-pervasive malaise readily apparent across the entire Communion but I do think there needs also to be a far more realistic sense of proportion developed.

I happen to believe that the vast majority of small ‘c’ Anglicans – our relations drawn from all over God’s world (and coincidentally who happen to comprise the vast majority of global Anglicans by anyone’s calculations) are not in any significant way either directly involved in and nor are they especially willing to become involved in the current tensions/controversies affecting our beloved Church.

It isn’t because they are not interested or indeed because they are unaffected, they are, we all are but it is also true that by far the vast majority of global Anglicans are simply getting on with addressing what they see as their prior call to respond to the myriad demands for God’s mission in the towns and cities, in rural villages, in war zones and in places of poverty and natural disaster, indeed wherever there are God’s people in need.

You too must also have heard the plaintive cry of the women of the Communion, the indigenous people of the Communion, the young people of the Communion, all of whom have at some stage expressed their collective sense of outrage at the way in which mission has been and is now the first casualty of the political struggles swirling around us all.

The cries of these groups are of course less easy to discern for they are not among the Primates, they are not among the powerful moneyed lobby groups at work within the Communion, they are not able to bring to bear critical influence at leadership levels of the global Communion. It is to our collective shame that we fail to hear their cries for priority attention to be paid to the suffering of those who are the least among us all.

As I have listened to the grief, the outrage, the sadness, the bewilderment, the fears being expressed, yet still I have been challenged to think about just who is involved and just what exactly is at stake. It isn’t simple. If for example this were simply a matter of fundamental difference over scriptural interpretation and that therefore the so called precipitate action in New Hampshire could indeed be construed as being of such a profoundly, irrevocably, irreconcilably doctrinally, morally horrific nature (and I do not believe for a moment that it can be), then why is only one gay Bishop being singled out and not all the others? Is his ‘sin’ to be that he told the truth at all or just too publicly?

In a related manner, why single out one so-called ‘moral’ question and not any number of others known to be irrefutably spiritually and physically damaging?

Speaking of hypocrisy why are two Provinces continually being singled out and held to a ‘higher standard’ of accountability than any other member of the ecclesial family by bodies who do not actually even possess the mandated authority to demand such accountabilities in the first place and secondly why is it that some Provinces continue to be able to mask their own practices regarding matters now deemed to be in the realm adiaphora?

And so unavoidably I am being challenged to think beyond the presenting circumstances and to ask about just who or just what exactly is at stake here especially in terms of prevailing power and authority. Who stands to benefit and who is set to lose in the current circumstance?

Even as I acknowledge the political agenda so clearly indicated I do not for a moment want to assert that as a priority for our attention – that would be in so many ways, theologically unfortunate.

As I said last week in Derbyshire, “I like many of you can’t help myself at times when I want so much to cry out in rage, about anyone who dares to ‘fuss’ about who is worthy of participation in the orders and offices of the Church while so many in our shared family are suffering and dying needlessly. I want to rage on about what a travesty of faith this kind of attitude and behaviour represents, about what an abuse of the gift of God’s grace all of this is and then I am reminded that the more I focus upon blaming and judging, anticipating and reacting, the less I am present and able instead to give witness to what Thomas Cahill describes as the narratives of grace, ‘the recountings of those blessed and inexplicable moments when someone did something for someone else, saved a life, bestowed a gift, gave something beyond what was required by the circumstance.’

And this I realize is what being ‘drenched in grace’ is calling me into – is calling us all into. We are being challenged to find within ourselves renewed appreciation of all that is good and true and kind, of all that is life-giving and life-sustaining, of all that is merciful and humbling.

We are I believe being challenged in the current circumstance not so much to focus too intently and singularly on the bad behaviour of the few, but rather to focus anew the very good behaviour of the many whose exemplary regard for the sacredness of all others whom God has created points us all toward that way in which God would probably say that grace is to be truly expressed.

This is not to say we ignore the political struggles swirling all around us, not for a moment, but rather it is to say we need always to pause and to consider whether or not our approach to these matters is primarily one of self-righteous admonition or one of transcendent grace?

If it is true that our new identity in Christ is one utterly transformative of our relationships with one another then it follows that to the largest extent our speaking and our behaving must also be radically reinscribed firstly in our hearts and then and only then, in our minds.
Transcendent grace enables us to hold both to the necessary project of pursuing God’s justice in the face of any and all injustice even as it simultaneously enables us to participate in the immediate and desperately urgent pastoral work of healing and of reconciling.

And so my sisters and brothers what is it that we are to do? Are we to continue to draw our lines in the shifting sands of ecclesial aggression and of blaming, of accusing and judging? Or are we to shift our emphasis to embrace simultaneously and in sufficient measure, grace filled mutual affection and uplift of one another, together with boldly reconciling behaviour?

Can we exemplify the very best of God’s grace even as we continue to name decisively and to act boldly and courageously against all of those things, which we know to be unacceptable in God’s sight?”

Can we begin as global Anglicans to imagine and to discuss ways in which we might stand more confidently together as diverse members of the family of Christ, on the common ground of God’s world, on the basis of a newly apprehended model of unconditionally inclusive relationality?

Now it occurs to me that maybe there are a number of imaginative possibilities, which emerge. Big ‘C’ is clearly in need of radical transformation, it requires to be re-humanized, it requires re-imaging, restoring. It my friends, is nevertheless also us.

If we are to recover our sense of perspective and our mutual confidence we need somehow to firstly pause and refocus.

I am suggesting with greatest humility just the smallest and simplest of steps, first things first.

So how best to recover perspective? Well this has of necessity to do with how we now see, understand and appreciate ourselves both as global Anglicans and local Anglicans, as small ‘c’ communion, as sisters and brothers, as relatives in Christ, inextricably connected across the oceans and homelands which make for space between us, and simultaneously therefore how we see ourselves as God’s people – each created in the divine image, each equally precious, deserving and worthy.

Firstly, I believe we need to invoke a global Anglicanism recovery plan. We need with great urgency to return once again to our ecclesiological roots and to acquaint ourselves far more intimately with the beauty and goodness inherent in so much of our deep shared histories and traditions. Look at what happened yesterday when Stacy Saul’s paper was read and we were all collectively touched by the ‘recall effect’ it had when he made mention of the ‘fundamentals’ of autonomy, toleration and lay participation.

We do have a shared Church history of which we can and should all be mightily proud even as we can continue to delight in the different approaches and regard we each have toward certain resources in common – e.g. the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Discovering something of the reasoning and embedding of these benign differences can yet prove mutually enriching for us all especially in the current circumstances.

We must with urgency strategise ways of intentionally creating and supporting a small cadre of internationally representative scholars of Anglicanism – those who can trace for us with unerring accuracy and sensitive insight the complex trajectories along which the global churches of the Communion have in fact emerged.

These scholars need also to bring to bear the kind of theological critique of so much that is being claimed in the name of Anglicanism and yet which carries little or no resonance with the sacred inclusive ecclesial traditions grounded in the, the Prayer Book, the Sacraments, the Creeds and the historic Episcopate, let alone being grounded in scripture, tradition and reason. I don’t believe we are according our shared ecclesiological history the priority it is due and thus in the current clamour for ascendancy we too, have often turned to ‘street fighting’ as a first line of defense.

It is my contention that Anglican ecclesiology has been the greatest inadvertent casualty, intellectually and spiritually, of the post-colonial era in theological education. And in this I believe both TEC and the CofE have to accept a large measure of culpable responsibility, leading and controlling as you have done for the longest time the best of Anglican theological educational resources seen anywhere in the world.

Fortunately I do see signs that you are both learning that ‘cultural cringe’ is not the most helpful response for you to be making in the current circumstance. You must however learn to see that those of us from the ‘underside’ have a valuable, timely and willing contribution to make to the redemptive project before us all. What is required is increased mutual respect and recognition of the legitimacy of differing ways of knowing but without in any way capitulating to an essentialist paradigm.

Very early on in my time in theological education as an indigenous scholar I saw the warning signs of diminished and or very uneven teaching of ecclesiology and thus missiology, within the academy but I never fully appreciated the global danger it represented. We must now salvage the situation with dignity and with grace so that the integrity of teaching and learning and speaking of what it is to be Anglican can once again be undertaken with confidence and clarity across all of the humanly constructed zones of cultural difference.

So let’s once again across the global Communion find ways of giving radical support to those who we will in future entrust the sacred responsibility of teaching and honouring the genius of Anglicanism; let us teach and celebrate ‘generous orthodoxy’ in our understanding and practice of mission; and let us with courage and honesty take up the unavoidable challenge of interrogating all ‘culturally based’ claims purporting to be Anglican but which are in fact often proving to be nothing more than dangerously destabilizing and personally violent dogmas.

Secondly, just as hermeneutics has recently risen appropriately to the fore as a necessarily urgent collective project, I think as we approach that task there needs also for attention to be given to reclaiming and living out a creation theology which apprehends God’s unconditional delight at all who were and are and all that was and is created, as being not just good, but very, very good.

It is only in this way that I believe we can first gain a necessarily expansive worldview of just how spectacularly diverse we all are across the entire spectrum of God’s beautifully created human difference – geographically, ethnically, sexually, every which way imaginable. Following on from this it would be so good if we could simultaneously begin to explore ways of gaining deeper understanding of who we are as God’s Anglican people across the entire spectrum of global ecclesiological development. Across the Communion I do encounter the most extraordinary naiveté about differences on both counts, from expansive creation theology to global positioning!

It is only in this way that I believe we can begin to confront the current unspeakably cruel inferences being drawn that somehow gay and lesbian people are a less worthy aspect of God’s very good creation. The blatant and indefensible theological contradiction in terms here is simply stunning in its persistence, (as of course are the enduring twin evils of racism and sexism).

Mine may well be an utterly naïve theology. But in my limited understanding, there simply is no lesser category of human being in God’s creation. I am concerned that if the hermeneutics project proceeds from a point of understanding an already differentiated common humanity then it cannot possibly succeed.

I do think we need to make a little more theological fuss about that fact but to do so not as politicians determined to make or worse to score points, but to do so as God’s people in all things with grace filled clarity, with patience and with abundantly dignified charity – remember it is after all, the small ‘c’ we have to keep in mind for it is they/we who look also to those in leadership, for example at every turn.

Inherent in all of this is as I alluded earlier, is the need to participate also in the very contemporary politics of both race and identity. These twin projects have at once boldly and rightly endeavoured to address historic injustice but I suspect they are now both stuck in the secular quagmire of purely intellectual analysis.

Single identity, indeed any identity politics needs theology for its ultimately transcendent solutions and yet our own academy has not ever really taken seriously its responsibility in this regard.

We have only to consider how little attention has been paid to addressing let alone redeeming the complex and enduring systemic issues arising from institutionalised sexism and racism within our own ecclesial environment. Let’s not extend the list endlessly by simply adding sexual identity issues, but instead let us get back to Galatians 3:28 and begin to think critically and afresh about what achieving, appreciating and sustaining this idealised but undeniably prophetic body of Christ will require of us all.

In case you think part of this is simply an opportunistic dig on my part at past colonial imperialism, it is not. Many of those of us unduly affected by that ambivalent past are now all grown up and quite capable of engaging with confidence and charm across virtually any sphere of academic discourse, including theology and we do so now by way of hoping always to redeem that inglorious past which irrefutably, reduced us both.

One of the critical contributions now emerging albeit very tentatively among those of us who happen to be indigenous (and a whole lot of other ‘identities’ besides!) and who are proud to call ourselves theologians, is our insistence that the new and perverse tribalisms emerging across our beloved Church are also seriously in need of ‘outing’ and of solid critique. One of the more obvious and alarming examples of this is ironically the factions and subsequent behaviours emerging within the Primates meetings.

Thirdly, even though I probably would rate this one of the highest priorities, could we please all stop and reconsider the extent to which we are relying on electronic media for so called information and also the ways in which we are now tending also to use this as our first means of so called ‘communicating’ with or about one another. I am not saying desist altogether because that would be impossible and besides, used well and with proper integrity, the internet can be and will continue to prove an invaluable means of transferring data and information.

What I am pleading for is simply a cautionary re-consideration of the extent to which we are allowing it’s unconstrained power to unduly affect our hearts and minds and thus to delimit our previous preference for tangible, tactile relationality instead!

Could we for a start re-consider the places from where we are sourcing our information and what information we are giving high priority to. Following on from the experience of the Lambeth Commission where internet communications became so problematic, so vile actually,

I want to re-urge us all to no longer allow that hideously, spiritually bereft and too often anonymous technological medium to bombard us with predominantly negative, often vitriolic, depressing, sometimes personally violent and often wildly inaccurate material – it isn’t information if it doesn’t better form us for God’s mission and it isn’t critical information if it doesn’t inform us truthfully and yet with appropriate human courtesies such as we expect and enjoy in face to face contact.

I know it is the communication tool of preferred choice and often of professional necessity but we do also have individual control over the keyboards and ‘mice’ before us . . .

Fourthly, I also believe many of the Bishops and Primates need our help and our direction in all of these matters. They are after all – of us and for us – they are not single-handedly, or mindedly, aloof or detached from small ‘c’ communion. Certainly they are needed and they deserve to be treasured within our global communion in a very special way.

I suspect that in the current circumstance we need to assist some in either overcoming or resisting the inevitable and at times crushing institutional pressure many feel as they are either forced or heavily persuaded to conform, to mask, or to act in uncritical solidarity with each other rather than feeling free to act in critically prophetic ways always on the side of justice.

Fifthly, and with the greatest respect, I want to remind us all of the tireless and truly selfless work which is being done on behalf of us all by the only group which does indeed work on behalf of us all across the entire Communion. While their institutional context may well be the ‘macro’ Communion, their professional approach and their pastoral practice is without exception most definitely within a profoundly humble small ‘c’ communion framework.

I am speaking of the staff of the Anglican Communion Office in London, those currently working with such consummate professionalism and dedication under the most extraordinarily difficult of conditions. I am speaking of a group of individuals whose endeavouring is always to be the welcoming, co-coordinating and resourcing base for the entire global Communion even as they are very much often undeservedly caught in the impossible crossfire of the prevailing tensions. I believe the entire ACO office merits far more global appreciation and indeed support than is often currently shown.

These then are just some immediate thoughts. The entire recovery of perspective project is doubtless far more vast and unpredictable than I can begin to imagine but my friends, we are I believe a people of hope and of loving capacity and this is not a time for resiling from the significant and complex challenges before us all. Either we are committed to recovering and upholding the full humanity of each other or we are not and if indeed God’s justice and mercy are to be a feature, let alone to characterise our shared future google earth landscape then I have no doubt we will do what we know we must.

Together right now we are all observing Advent – the time when we come again to the realisation that God is not just at the end, nor simply in the beginning, but is with us for all eternity. If Advent is about living fully in the present and about being active at the edge of expectation of what is yet to come, it is therefore a time for us to reevaluate our commitments to reading the signs of our times particularly those of injustice. It is a time for us to get to work in the tasks of advocacy and compassion for those who are the lesser among us.

In the darker moments of our fears about what to do, who with, what for, surely we must trust in God (and not the internet) to break in with messages of special concern. We can I believe only do this if we can bear to think beyond our own interests, our own selfish needs. We can only do this if we have embedded in our hearts and imprinted in our imaginations an expansive and breathtaking vision of the small ‘c’ communion – a vision at once of incomprehensibly diverse beauty and tradition, and yet simultaneously a vision of mysterious common aspiration and commitment to simply be as God’s good and unconditionally inclusive Anglican people.

It may well be timely for us to be reminded of just who we Anglicans are and as I did last week in Derbyshire I offer this sublime and yet appropriately humorous piece from former Archbishop Richard Holloway, ‘The Anglican Church is a tolerant, faintly detached and amused mother of lazily permissive standards. But she is a real mother nevertheless. She does not hector or bully her children. She expects them to be mature and independent. There are certain house rules she likes observed in her home, a sort of minimal but important standard, but if her children break them she doesn’t go into an operatic tantrum. She merely raises her eyebrows and wishes they had better manners. Anglicans are not persecutors or excommunicators. We tend to agree with Montaigne, that is rating our conjectures too highly to roast people alive for them’.

In Archbishop Rowan’s Christmas sermon from 1999 he quoted Frederick Buechner: ‘Where will our following take us? God only knows, and we can be sure only that it will take us not where we want to go necessarily, but where we are wanted, until by a kind of alchemy, where we are wanted becomes where we want to go and that will be a place of wonder’.

So in all of this I am wondering at the possibilities of us all recommitting not only to imagining the seemingly elusive place of wonder, but to beginning this day in our own spheres of influence to seeing, understanding, living and celebrating communion as being the sum total of all of us as faith filled ordinary Anglican men and women whose lives and whose loves are prescribed by a prior sense of sacred belonging to God and thus to one another. In this we share therefore in an unbreakable commitment to the indisputably inclusive Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Can we do all of this then as people connected as adversaries and as friends, across the villages, towns, cities and nations into which we are blessed to be born – a people who know and are known by the ancestors; who know the rivers and lakes and mountains which shelter and nurture us all; a people committed to the full participation and flourishing of all in God’s world; a people unafraid of simplicity or of suffering, a people instinctively attuned to heartfelt wisdom, to forgiveness, to unconditional belonging, to God’s grace and peace with and for us all? I am confident that we will, we can and we must . . . in Christ’s name. Amen.

Dr. Jenny Te Paa is dean of St. John's College, Auckland, New Zealand.

The wisdom of the Constitution

"Our Constitutional Heritage: Why Polity and Canon Law Matter" by the Rt. Rev. Stacy F. Sauls, Bishop of Lexington, was presented at the Chicago Consultation at Seabury-Western Seminary, December 5, 2007. To read the footnotes of this paper, go to the end of the article and click on Read More

By Stacy F. Sauls

I am pleased beyond measure that this conference has elected to include a consideration of polity along with that most dreaded fifth horseman of the Apocalypse, canon law. Neither is really as mysterious, and certainly not as malevolent, as some would suggest. Neither is arcane nor, despite the fact that they are legal, legalistic. Both are simply applied ecclesiology, which means they are entirely theological in nature. Both are disciplines that may well help us think through our current challenges. Both are relationally and spiritually healthy, as they express the agreed-upon boundaries of our community life. Both are important to our life together because the alternative to the rule of law on this side of the kingdom of heaven is not grace, but the rule of men (and I use the gender-exclusive term quite intentionally), men who equate their prejudices with God’s word, their ambitions with God’s will, and their agendas with the tradition of God’s Church. Polity and canon law are the security of God’s people against the wrongful exercise of power.

With that conviction, I will turn some attention in this paper to our constitutional nature. I will deal more with the “big picture” and less with the written laws, which vary to some extent from Province to Province of the Anglican Communion, because who we are as a constitutional reality is something larger than a legal document. Some attention will be paid to the peculiar, and perhaps unique, constitutional reality of The Episcopal Church (TEC). Finally, I will turn some attention to a few of the constitutional challenges we face in the time leading up to Lambeth 2008 and General Convention 2009.

The constitutional nature of the Church of England, to which all Anglican churches are linked, is traceable to a series of English statutes we know collectively as the Elizabethan Settlement. The constitutional identity of Anglicanism is not in the violent course of the English Reformation itself but in the Elizabethan Settlement that brought that violence to an end by charting a middle way. That Settlement has three key aspects: (1) the principle of autonomy, (2) the principle of toleration, and (3) the principle of lay participation in the governance of the Church.

The Principle of Autonomy

The English Church’s separation from the jurisdiction of the See of Rome was accomplished over time by a series of statutes passed during the reign of Henry VIII. These included most significantly the 1532 Appeals Act, the 1533 Submission of the Clergy Act, and the 1533 Appointment of Bishops Act. The Henrican legislation culminated in the 1534 Supremacy Act, which declared the King the Supreme Head of the English Church. The result was to vest the King with the same power to govern the Church previously vested in the Pope and therefore resting outside the emerging modern English state.(1) The idea of supremacy in Anglicanism has less to do with the inherent rights of royalty than with the inherent importance of nationality.

Henry’s Supremacy Act was repealed at the ascension of Mary but restored under Elizabeth in 1558, although with some modifications of a mostly non-substantive compromise nature. It nevertheless left Elizabeth with all the spiritual and ecclesiastical power that had been previously exercised by her father,(2) and it remains part of English law today.(3)

In a broader context, the supremacy has found expression in Anglican canon law, not so much vesting authority in a hereditary monarch, even a constitutional one, as vesting authority for the government of national churches in national communities. It is a principle we have come to recognize as local autonomy, and it has been considered fundamental to the identity of Anglicanism.(4)

According to Anglican canonist Norman Doe, the principle of local autonomy has been repeatedly affirmed as relating to the very “nature of the Anglican Communion and the nature and location of authority within it.”(5) Thus, the Anglican Communion has traditionally understood its member churches to enjoy full autonomy as to governing themselves within their own canonical systems.(6) That autonomy is recognized (so far) by all the individual institutions of the whole Communion, and (so far) there is no body within the Anglican Communion with the competence to create law for the Communion as a whole,(7) however interdependent we may all be relationally and missionally.

The Principle of Toleration

It is perhaps odd to use the words uniformity and toleration in a way that relates them. Nevertheless, such is the cumulative effect of the 1558 Act of Uniformity together with the publication of the 1559 Book of Common Prayer. It is this tension that yields the Anglican approach to living in communion sacramentally rather than doctrinally.

The compromises of the 1559 Prayer Book, which modified some of the most extreme protestant provisions of its immediate predecessor, are instructive. The words of administration are most revealing. The first Prayer Book in 1549 expressed its catholic theology of the presence of Christ in the consecrated elements of bread and wine (“The body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee” and “The blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for thee”).(8) The second Prayer Book in 1552 expressed a quite different Zwinglian theology of the Eucharist (“Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee” and “Drink this in remembrance that Christ’s blood was shed for thee”).(9) The Elizabethan Prayer Book in 1559 combined the two, doctrinal inconsistency notwithstanding.

The standardization of worship with a toleration of theological diversity has been constitutionally characteristic of Anglicanism ever since. It finds expression, for example, in the recently revised Prayer Books of TEC,(10) New Zealand,(11) and Australia.(12)

The Principle of Lay Participation in Governance

Unlike the principles of autonomy and toleration, which are rooted in particular Acts of Parliament, the principle of the participation of the laity derives from the cumulative effect of several statutes. The Act of Supremacy itself points in this direction, making as it does, the Supreme Governor of the Church a lay office in the person of the monarch. The principle found elaboration and strengthening in other ways in the course and conclusion of the English Reformation. The House of Governors, which exercised authority in cooperation with the monarch, was composed entirely of laypeople. A royal commission composed of 32 persons, half of whom were lay, reviewed church legislation. Church courts were replaced for some purposes by civil courts. The laity thus assumed a very powerful role in the life and governance of the Church of England from the beginning.

The role of the laity remains a fundamental characteristic of Anglicanism. Indeed, there have been successive calls in the instruments of the Anglican Communion for enhancing the role of the laity in the life of the Church,(13) and at all levels of the Church’s life.(14)

The TEC Experience

The experience of TEC deserves some special attention in a consideration of polity. First, TEC is one of the two major venues of controversy in the consideration of the full inclusion of gay and lesbian persons along with the Anglican Church of Canada. Second, it is only with the formation of TEC, that there existed for the first time a Church sharing a common heritage with the Church of England choosing to be related in a cooperative way while still maintaining its independence. The formation of TEC is thus constitutionally important to the existence of the Anglican Communion. Third, to my knowledge, TEC is the only Church in the Anglican Communion that took shape in its formation entirely without the involvement of bishops.
There are consequences of these realities. For one thing, in the emergence of TEC from the crucible of post-revolutionary America, the Anglican constitutional principle of lay participation was amplified by the American revolutionary principle of democratization. For another, in TEC’s origin, securing the historic succession in the former colonies was secondary in importance to uniting the isolated and scattered congregations formerly a part of the Church of England.

The agenda for a unified national church in America, with or without bishops, was set by the Rev. William White, the rector of Christ Church in Philadelphia, the former chaplain to the revolutionary Continental Congress, and the future first Bishop of Pennsylvania, in a pamphlet called “The Case of the Episcopal Churches in the United States Considered,”(15) which was published in 1782, a year before the Treaty of Paris formally ended the Revolution. The “Case” is in part a product of its author’s revolutionary principles inspired by John Locke’s contract theory of government.(16) White began with the premise that the Revolution had broken the former ties that bound the colonial churches through the Bishop of London so that “their future continuance can be provided for only by voluntary associations for union and good government.” (17)

The division of power in the Constitution of TEC is not a matter of independent and sovereign entities delegating powers to a central authority, which may in turn be removed from the central authority, which would be a confederal system, like that of the Articles of Confederation. Nor is it a matter of a division of power between a central government and associated governments, which would be a federal system like that found in the United States Constitution. All power and authority, though it may have once resided, if only briefly and accidentally, at the most local level, was voluntarily ceded to a national governmental structure through the 1789 Constitution. The polity of TEC, like most if not all other Anglican Provinces, is a unitary form of government in which the national government holds legal supremacy over other subordinate levels of government.

The sole expression of the national government in TEC is the General Convention. In this regard the Constitution of TEC resembles the Constitution of England, which vests supreme authority in Parliament. As a unitary system, TEC has chosen to distribute governmental powers to subordinate levels of government as a matter of canon. It remains, however, constitutionally unitary with all of its powers residing originally in the General Convention and subject to recall by it.(18)

For example, the exercise of episcopacy was one area in which the central authority initially delegated power to the states. Each state was to choose its own bishop according to its own rules.(19) Some dioceses even limited their bishops to a seat in their state conventions without the right to preside, and some allowed a bishop to be tried for offenses without the presence of another bishop.(20) The General Convention has reclaimed a great deal of this authority over the years, as is its right.

The Constitutional Challenges We Face

We now face something of a constitutional crisis, both in TEC and in the Anglican Communion, just as Bishop Robert Duncan promised his colleagues he intended to create at the 2002 fall meeting of the House of Bishops in Cleveland. Happily, the antidote is not complicated. It is simply to follow our own rules and be true to our own constitutional principles.

The Anglican Covenant

Last year the present Archbishop of Canterbury expressed his concern that the Anglican Communion might, in its current tensions, degenerate into no more than a federation.(21) I was immediately alarmed, as a federation is already a great deal more than I think we are now. According to political scientist James Allen Dator, whose unpublished doctoral dissertation is the most comprehensive analysis of the governmental structure of TEC, a federation is a governmental system manifesting a division of powers between a central government and two or more regional, constituent, or associated governments.(22) To be more than a federation, which the Archbishop seems to desire, is to be a unitary form of government, i.e., having a structure in which all power to govern rests in a central organ. Perhaps what the Archbishop meant when he said federation is confederation. A confederation, according to Dator, is

an association of governments which have agreed to delegate to a common governmental authority the exercise of certain of their governmental powers. The association . . . is characterized by the retention in the associated governments of the right to nullify acts of the common governmental agency, and to secede from the association at will.(23)

In the Anglican Communion, however, no one has much delegated anything to anyone. Confederation does not describe us very well either.

There are proposals, of course, to make us either a federation or a confederation, or God forbid, a unitary governmental structure such as the Roman Catholic Church has. The draft Anglican Covenant is a serious concern in this regard, particularly because it abrogates the constitutional principles that make us Anglicans. It abrogates the principle of lay participation in the governance of the Church by placing disproportionate emphasis on the views of the highest ranking bishops. It abrogates the principle of toleration by imposing a standard, and more frighteningly a mechanism, for judging orthodoxy other than the idea of common worship. Most dangerously of all, it appears merely to compromise the principle of autonomy when, if fact, it virtually destroys it by vesting the right to determine what is a matter of common concern, what the common mind of the Communion is, and what punishment is appropriate for violations of the common mind in the Primates Meeting. It is as if the English Reformation, to say nothing either of the Elizabethan Settlement or the constitutional development over time of independent churches voluntarily cooperating on the basis of a shared heritage, never happened.

I do not believe it is impossible to create an Anglican covenant that is constitutionally consistent with existing Anglican polity. The Inter-Anglican Commission on Mission and Evangelism has proposed one.(24) I do believe the current draft being considered, rather than being an expression of our constitutional identity, would be a complete replacement of it with something far less significant as an experiment in being the Church than is the Elizabethan Settlement.

In truth, the Anglican Communion does not exist with a governmental structure at all. It is, rather, a voluntary association of autonomous churches bound together by a shared heritage from the Church of England and enjoying cooperative relationships for the purpose of mission, nothing more. It is not at all unlike the autocephalous Eastern Orthodox churches in that regard, and they somehow manage to function reasonably well without a central government.
The term Anglican Communion arose, after all, not from an international constitutional convention but from the usage of Horatio Southgate, the American missionary bishop to Turkey in 1847.(25) Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as the Anglican Communion at all in an institutional sense. There are, instead, ways in which Anglican Christians affirm their heritage and further their missional ends by mutual respect for the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury and participation in the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council, and the Primates Meeting, as well as, probably more importantly, countless informal relationships that bring them together across racial, cultural, and geographic barriers for a common purpose in the service of the Gospel of Christ. What the Anglican Communion already is, I would suggest, is quite enough.

Property Disputes

The primary manifestation of our constitutional crisis at the moment within TEC is probably the disputes we are facing regarding church property. The principle of the national church’s trust interest in diocesan and congregational property does not depend on the so-called Dennis Canon. It was, indeed, already the law of TEC prior to the enactment of the Dennis Canon, and it derives from the unitary nature of our church structure. It has always been the law of TEC, and to my knowledge, it is the generally prevailing law of any church that traces its legal heritage to the Church of England. What the Dennis Canon did was to restate existing canon law in a way that it would be recognized by the secular law as being protected by the First Amendment as set out by the Supreme Court in Jones v. Wolfe.(26) It will, for the most part, be controlling in the property disputes before us.

There are many pleas coming from secessionist congregations and dioceses to end the recourse to secular law, a plea that has been adopted recently by the Joint Standing Committee.(27) Since the secessionist case is so weak in secular as well as canon law, the plea, while understandable, is also hollow. The most appropriate, and absolutely effective, way to end all property litigation immediately is for the secessionists and uninvited bishops to stop trying to steal the property.

Shared Fiduciary Responsibilities

The obligation to protect property rights flow from fiduciary responsibilities, but carrying out those responsibilities reveals a polity and governance issue within TEC. A fiduciary duty exists in secular law for an organization’s leadership to guard its property for the good of the whole. It is a duty imposed additionally by vow in the case of the ordained and by canon in the case of others.(28) In TEC, that fiduciary duty rests in particular on the Presiding Bishop as the organization’s chief executive officer, but not solely on the Presiding Bishop. It rests equally on the Executive Council, which is by canon the Church’s board of directors,(29) and as such, has exactly the same fiduciary responsibility as the Presiding Bishop. In other words, the Executive Council cannot discharge the duty it owes the people of the Church by relying on the Presiding Bishop to exercise her judgment just as the Presiding Bishop cannot discharge her duty to the people of the Church by relying on the Executive Council to exercise its judgment. At law, canon and civil, each must exercise judgment, not one or the other.

If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. To carry out its fiduciary responsibility, the Executive Council must balance protecting property rights against a set of other considerations, including its canonical responsibility to carry out the programs of General Convention and the cost of protecting those property rights. The Presiding Bishop must balance protecting property rights against a different set of considerations, including the pastoral discipline of bishops and our relations with others in the Anglican Communion. It is quite possible, and should be, that the Presiding Bishop and the Executive Council could balance their respective portfolios of interests and reach different conclusions as to the protection of property interests. There is no reason that any difference could not be resolved collaboratively and canonically. In the case of conflict otherwise irresolvable, a vote of the Executive Council, of which the Presiding Bishop is ex officio the Chair and President, would prevail.(30)

The only problem is that those who equally share a fiduciary duty do not equally share an ability to discharge their duties independently, as they must for our polity to work as intended. The job of the Presiding Bishop’s Chancellor is appropriately to advise the Presiding Bishop on what the law is and then, within the law, to advocate his or her position—advise and advocate on behalf of the Presiding Bishop. The Chancellor owes no duty to advise and advocate on behalf of the Executive Council, the General Convention, or the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. The Presiding Bishop’s Chancellor cannot ethically both advocate the position of his one and only client, the Presiding Bishop, and advise the Executive Council at the same time because the Presiding Bishop and the Executive Council do not have, and should not have, precisely the same set of interests to consider in exercising their respective legal duties. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the Chancellor to the Presiding Bishop, as the only canonically authorized lawyer at the national level, is de facto seen as the general counsel to the Church as a whole including the Executive Council, even though David Beers, the current Chancellor, frequently reminds various persons that this is not his role.

The expanded role of the Presiding Bishop’s Chancellor has developed understandably, but not canonically. The canons were amended in 1976 to provide that the Presiding Bishop shall have the right to appoint a Chancellor.(31) The intention, however, was more modest than the current reality. “The chancellor appointed under this section deals with the needs of the Presiding Bishop only, not with those of the whole Church or in connection with secular legal matters with which the Presiding Bishop and Executive Council are involved in the course of their work.”(32) Some structural reform to check this unintended development may be necessary in the interest of underlying polity, the need for which is heightened and more apparent in times of controversy.

Foreign Oversight

Another issue that threatens to seduce us into being untrue to the identity we have claimed for ourselves in our constitutional principles is the persistent call to submit TEC to some sort of foreign oversight, jurisdiction, or consultation, not as to matters of interdependence, but as to matters of autonomy. The Windsor Report, the Panel of Reference, and the Anglican Covenant in its current draft are examples. Most recently, the Primates have purported to impose on TEC something called a Pastoral Council to oversee intra-church relations within TEC. The idea was unequivocally rejected by the House of Bishops meeting at Camp Allen in March of this year.(33) The rejection was affirmed by the Executive Council meeting in Parsippany, New Jersey in June of this year.(34) To the horror of at least some, it resurfaced at the House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans in September.

Several in the House argued strongly against such a proposal both because it was not true to our own constitutional identity and because it held the danger of weakening the Church’s position in pending property litigation. I am only one observer, but my read is that any such language had very little support. After a great deal of effort to remove more pernicious versions of the language, the final statement of the House contained this language:

[W]e recognize a useful role for communion-wide consultation with respect to the pastoral needs of those seeking alternative oversight, as well as the pastoral needs of gay and lesbian persons in this and other provinces. We encourage our Presiding Bishop to continue to explore such consultation in a manner that is in accord with our Constitution and Canons.(35)

I find myself deeply concerned about that statement, although relieved that it is not as bad as it might have been. Its saving grace may be 1) that the word consultation, if we have the will, can be a sufficient limitation on the intent to cede anything resembling jurisdiction, and 2) the explicit requirement that any such consultation be consistent with our own Constitution and Canons. Anything else would be a very dangerous abrogation of our constitutional identity. In my opinion, every other Anglican Province should have the same grave concerns about even participating in such an unprecedented consultation out of concern for its own Anglican constitutional integrity in theory and out of concern that it could be next in practice.

Authorizing the Blessings of Same Sex Relationships

Finally, and at the considerable risk of saying something that may be decidedly unpopular in this gathering, let me say a word about the legality of liturgies for blessing same-sex relationships at the current time. First let me say that I believe General Convention, as the legitimate voice of the whole Church, should begin a process to move toward authorizing such liturgies sooner rather than later. In the meantime, though, I think it is incumbent upon the rest of us, particularly bishops—individually and collectively, as something less than the General Convention, to wait on General Convention to act because it is crucial to maintaining our polity that we do.

The only provision possibly authorizing a bishop to provide such liturgies is found in a rubric on page 13 of the Prayer Book: “For special days of fasting or thanksgiving, appointed by civil or church authority, and for other special occasions for which no service or prayer has been provided in this Book, the bishop may set forth such forms as are fitting to the occasion.”(36) The question is whether that rubric gives bishops the required authority.

The most common and straightforward meaning of the word special in the a rubric, however, which has explicit legal ramifications, would suggest an objective understanding of the term, along the lines of exceptional, rare, unusual.(37) The fact that the Church has not left it to the device of bishops acting alone to create appropriate liturgies for marriage, which serve an analogous pastoral purpose and are similar in terms of whether or not they should be considered “special,” suggests that liturgies to bless same-sex relationships do not fall within the grant of authority of the episcopal authorization rubric in any good faith reading of the same.

As tempting as it may be, bishops should be extremely reticent about authorizing liturgies they have not been granted the authority to promulgate by General Convention as a matter of constitutional self-respect. Nor should they relieve General Convention of the pressure to do the right thing for the full inclusion and pastoral care of gay and lesbian persons by providing a surreptitious way to circumvent Convention’s legitimate authority. For now, though, a bishop’s use of his or her power to set forth a liturgy for blessing same-sex unions is, in my judgment, an abuse of power within the understanding of TEC’s polity. As supportive as I am of the conviction that such liturgies are something God’s people need and that God wants done, I am also aware that “what God wants done,” untempered by the rule of the community’s law and its principles, becomes the justification for rule by individuals without any principles at all.


Either we have constitutional principles or we do not. Either we are accountable or we are not. Either the rules apply to everyone or they apply to no one. I hope we will choose to be governed by our rules and by Anglican principles. It might be possible to make an inclusive Church sooner perhaps if we do not, but it will be a Church with an identity different from the Anglican and constitutionally-governed Church we now so value. In the long run, our constitutional principles will serve us all, the goal of inclusion, and the Gospel of justice admirably. Our identity as a constitutionally-governed Church based as the principles of autonomy, toleration, and lay participation is well worth preserving, and it is well worth including others in.

Stacy F. Sauls, a laywer and doctoral student in canon law, is Bishop of the Diocese of Lexington.

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Homophobia is a sin whose end time is now

"Shaking the Foundations: LGBT Bishops and Blessings in the Fullness of Time," a paper delivered by the Rev. Canon Marilyn McCord Adams at the Chicago Consultation, Seabury-Western Seminary, December 5, 2007.

By Marilyn McCord Adams

I. Two-Faced Church!

The Church is a school for Kingdom-heralds. The Church is charged with responsibility for Christian education that grows us up in the knowledge and love of God and sends us out for word-and-deed proclamation of God’s love for a broken and divided world.

The Church is human as well as Divine. At the deepest level, God organizes church and cosmos into Christ’s organic body-politic, whose members are interdependent and united under the direction of Christ their head. The real unity and eventual functional harmony of the Church are not in jeopardy, because they are guaranteed by God. By contrast, visible church institutions--the ways we organize ourselves--are human constructions that have no intrinsic authority. They gain credibility and earn our allegiance only insofar as they prove to be skillful means to Kingdom-ends.

The stark truth is that humans are socially ‘challenged’. That is, we are not very skilled in social organization. Generally speaking, we have a poor understanding of how what we do as a group of individuals gives rise to group propensities and dynamics that we neither aim for nor anticipate. Good intentions regularly spawn systemic evils that are deeply rooted and take on a life of their own.

The human side of the Church--like the text of the bible--cannot escape human fallibility. Her calling--like that of individual members’--is not to boast of being ‘holier than thou’, all the while claiming Divine sanction for her institutional policies. The human side of the Church is no more 99 and 44/100 percent pure than her individual members are. Rather the Church is summoned to vigilance, to institutional circumspection which is ever on the lookout to identify the systemic evils to which it gives rise; to repentance and works meet for repentance that seek to uproot them. Nor is this a temporary and passing assignment. When it comes to social and political arrangements, our institutions will always be riddled with systemic evils. Because it proves so difficult to uproot any one of them, because we can’t dig out all of them at once, we are everywhere-and-always tempted to status-quo acquiescence. Our calling is to the exact opposite: to discern which ones are ripe for uprooting and to take the lead eradicating them, beginning in the garden behind our own house!

II. Homophobia, Individual and Institutional

Homophobia is a sin, whose end-time is now! The trouble is, not everybody thinks so. Many deny that it exists. Others stand prepared to defend it. Conflict presses us to be precise about what we mean.

Psychological Pathology, or Social Formation? On its psycho-spiritual interpretation, ‘homophobia’ refers to a psychological pathology, to an irrational fear of same-gendered relationships, a fear that is itself traceable to an unstable or fluid sense of gender identity. Jung’s doctrine--that sexual orientation does not come in polar opposites but arranges itself along a spectrum between them--stirs the fear that while I have built my life around one understanding of my sexuality, it may well be false to my truest self. Other people’s claiming homosexual identities on the outside disturbs my peace on the inside. Because ‘acting out’ inchoate urges could easily prove ruinous, the stronger my impulses are the more strident my need to shove them (both my feelings and LGBT people) back into the closet--out of sight, out of mind. The suggestion is that fear of public homosexual coupling signals inner terror that I, too, am LGBT.

When ‘homophobia’ is taken this way, the charge of homophobia has become a politically incorrect pejorative to which sex-and-gender conservatives protest: their convictions are not pathological, but conscientious and theological!

This reaction should not be enough to put the word out of circulation, however. For one thing, ‘pathological versus conscientious’ is not an exclusive dichotomy. We do not have to go all the way with Freud to recognize that our fallen conscience is shaped by pathologies. How often do conservatives warn liberals: just because something (e.g., the genocides in Judges) offends your moral sensibilities doesn’t mean it isn’t normative. ‘Who are we,’ they ask, ‘to say what God will command or do?’ By their own admission, conservatives also participate in ‘fallen’ human fallibility. They cannot consistently claim certainty for their own conscientious promptings instead.

In any event, ‘homophobia’ is no mere expletive, as if a loaded emotive term with no cognitive content. I use it advisedly, with a rather precise meaning: homophobia is the fear that I cannot exist and flourish as who I really am if others come out of the closet about being LGBT. So understood, homophobia is an instance of the false conviction that I cannot be as big as I really am (cannot stand up to full stature) unless others pretend to be smaller than they really are--a thesis that is ancient, dishonorable, and directly counter to the Gospel!

What I mainly want to urge at the moment is that homophobia is a socially constructed sin, one that is built into us as part of our socialization. Part of what makes human beings socially ‘challenged’ is our limited imagination. We feel that we can mount and manage only a limited number of social roles. We are schooled to fill a selection of these from earliest childhood. In how many ways did the powers that be, the adults in charge of us send the message: we will be allowed a share of the common good, if and only if we are perceived to pull our oar. Societies reasonably feel that they have a desperate interest in institutionalizing ‘the means of reproduction’. In Jewish law, commandments orbit around the desideratum of maximizing reproductive potential to secure the perpetuation of Jewish tribes. Bestiality and male homosexual intercourse waste valuable seed. Rape and adultery undermine the common good by stealing fields in which other tribal males are entitled to sow.

Two forms of social implementation may be distinguished. Institutions define and publicize socially useful patterns of relationship, and provide social support for entering into them--both in the form of education and in the form of sanctions and honors. Thus, during the twentieth century, marriage and the ‘religious’ life were ‘institutionalized’--recognized and reinforced by secular and canon law as well as by public opinion and reactions. Children were encouraged imaginatively to ‘try on’ the roles of husband or wife, priest or nun. Their real and story-book worlds were populated by many and various ‘role models’. Social structures were at work to rear them up into these roles. By contrast, homosexual partnerships have only begun to be institutionalized, recognized in civil law and supported by the public. Before that, LGBTs were ‘on their own’, left to invent directions or find guidance in subcultures whose existence and mores remained hidden from public view. Prostitution was different from either and even more ambiguous. In a way, prostitution is and always was entrenched and institutionalized to supply male demand for extra-marital sexual activity (for sexual activity that floats free of more complicated relationship commitments). Because such sexual activity transgresses received social norms, society compensates by denying prostitution and prostitutes the usual social benefits. In many places, prostitution is still illegal, so that prostitutes de facto face dangers without any protection under the law. Whether or not prostitution is legalized, prostitutes cannot expect public honors for contributing to the common good through excellent and heroic job performance. On the contrary, society scapegoats them for its own lack of imagination in providing sexual outlets, and with consummate hypocrisy demands that some enter roles for which they ‘don’t get no respect’!

Taboos are social structures erected to wall out behaviors and conditions that attack the social foundations. Because they aim to make the excluded behaviors or lifestyles unthinkable, they tend not to be rationalized or explained. To ask why, is already to reach the brink of violation. Threats to society may be concrete: e.g., refusal to respect private property or physical safety. But they may also be symbolic. Insofar as the sexual purity of women is a metaphor for social integrity, failure to wear the veil may be seen as a serious violation of the sacred even though it may pose little concrete threat. Conditions that are not seriously disruptive, whether concretely or symbolically, may be set right through fines and rituals. But there is no remedy for taboo violations: such behaviors and conditions make one unfit for polite society. Taboos are readily translated into Divine sanctions. What most societies covertly regard as sacred is their own survival. The job-description for a deity is one who secures the survival and well-being of the group that worships him/her.

For how many centuries has homosexual activity been consigned to the outer darkness of taboo? Not only has it not been institutionalized by the dominant society. It has usually been criminalized. The evolution of mores, the initiation into recognized lifestyle patterns, has had to go subcultural. Homophobia is thus not in the first instance a private neurosis signalling defective sexual integration. Rather homophobia is a psycho-spiritual instrument of taboo-enforcement. It has been schooled into us from earliest childhood as part of our social formation, so that all of us over twenty--LGBT included--are willy nilly homophobic. We have all been taught and--at deep levels--we have learned that homosexual activity is socially traitorous. It symbolizes the shaking of social foundations. Hence the rhetorical effectiveness of the concretely ridiculous accusation: that homosexual activity (by the 10%) is responsible for rising divorce rates (as much as 50% in California) and the instability of heterosexual marriage!

The Church as Homophobic: God alone is able to organize people and cosmos in ways that do not spawn systemic evils. The Spirit of God has enough imagination to be all-inclusive, to ‘organize in’ all of the sorts and conditions of things that God has made. The Spirit of God also has the power and resourcefulness to make good on the worst that we can suffer be or do. Known even as it knows, the Spirit of God casts out fear and so does not guarantee the functional unity and harmony of the Body of Christ with taboos.

By contrast, the human side of the Church, the institutions that we socially construct bear the marks of our fallibility. Willy nilly, her members have been schooled into the systemic evils of the wider society. Entering Church doors, they bring these unconscious habits with them. The result is that--everywhere and always--humanly constructed Church institutions also spawn systemic evils. Willy nilly, the Church always participates in the “spirit of this present age.” What’s worse, because religion is inherently conservative, it participates in the “spirits of past ages” also. Holy scriptures are human as well as Divine. The human authors of the bible bring to their task a variety of cultural presuppositions spanning 1700 years. The sins of the fathers descend to the children beyond the third and fourth generations and get perpetuated by borrowing the authority of Scripture. Like slavery, homophobia and misogyny number among the systemic evils handed down. Current crises in the Anglican communion are exacerbated by this bad use of the bible to appeal to the sins of the fathers to justify repeating them.

These observations bring me to the heart of my diagnosis. In the current controversies over sex and gender, the Church is not primarily called to bring individuals to repentance--whether to convert the homophobic into LGBT-friendly or to subject LGBT Christians to orientation-changing schemes. The Church is always called to the pastoral care and spiritual formation of her individual members. But most parties to the conflict agree, the pastoral care of individual Christians is not what the current crisis is primarily about. At the moment, the Church is called as an institution to recognize and repent of the sin of institutional homophobia, and to do works meet for repentance by overturning her taboos and instigating institutional reforms.

III. ‘The Liberal Agenda’: Paradox and Confusion

I might as well own up to it. My diagnosis overlaps the Gospel agenda with the so-called liberal agenda. The cliché contrast is that liberals focus on what the bible has to say about systemic evils and social injustice, while conservatives focus on individual piety and morality. Liberals point to how Jesus preached the Kingdom of God, a new world order. Jesus was not merely trying to inspire individual devotion. He was trying to ‘change the system’ and to call disciples to such a rooting and grounding in God as would allow us to weather the upheavals of institutional change and work towards the radical reconfiguration of the social frame. Current events prove the cliché misleading, insofar as--inter alia--the Windsor Report, the Windsor Process, and the Gomez draft covenant expose conservatives also as having a political agenda.

Toleration and Inclusion: Ecclesiologically, the ‘L’ label has been a source of confusion for liberals and a manipulative opportunity for conservatives. Politically, so far as institutional structures are concerned, liberals prize tolerance and freedom of conscience. Doubtless, for some liberals, these values are underwritten by an optimistic view of human nature and an exalted view of human capacities. Historically and theologically, however, tolerance and freedom of conscience have been commended by a low estimate of human agency. Thus, pessimistic liberals oppose authoritarian governments because they believe that humans are neither smart enough nor good enough to organize utopia. From this negative estimate, pessimistic liberals conclude that there are limits on the amount of control government should try to exercize and on the kinds of sanctions they should impose on the conscientious beliefs of citizens.

Such reasoning is taken to support toleration for individual conscientious beliefs and an agreement to differ, not simply about matters of indifference, but about issues of deep importance. So far as the state is concerned, people’s conscientious beliefs qua beliefs should not be a bar to individual inclusion in the body politic or to participation in its decision-making procedures. What the state appropriately limits is scope for ‘acting out’ conscientious beliefs when they affect the life or liberty or property of others. Thus, the Ku Klux Klan is allowed to exist, to organize and to foster racist beliefs in its members. But they will be legally prevented from the lynchings, cross-burnings, and fire-bombings that the early and mid-twentieth century saw. Within the Church, liberal estimates of the human condition sponsor loose institutional definition, minimalist membership requirements, and lenient enforcement policies. Liberal polity in state and Church de-emphasizes gate-keeping and fosters inclusiveness where individual members are concerned.

Individual versus Institutional Toleration: Liberal emphasis on tolerance and inclusion sets liberals up for paradox, however, a paradox which pits the liberal’s conscientious procedural beliefs against the liberal’s conscientious content beliefs about the nature of Kingdom-coming. To dissolve it, liberals will have to make and observe an important distinction between toleration that makes conscientious disagreement about important matters no bar to individual participation, and toleration that allows the opponents’ conscientious beliefs to set institutional policy.

Within TEC and the Church of England, liberals and conservatives hold contrasting and incompatible conscientious beliefs about sex and gender issues. Until the mid-twentieth century, sex-and-gender conservatives held a firm majority which allowed their conscientious beliefs to set institutional policies about sex and gender within the Church. They were mostly prepared to tolerate individual difference of opinion, because liberal viewpoints were not able--by the agreed decision-making procedures of TEC/CoE polity--to set institutional policies. (To be sure, some sex-and-gender conservatives would have been happier with stricter membership criteria and tighter enforcement policies. But most conservatives felt no urgent need to do anything about it.)

In the mid-twentieth century, sex-and-gender conservatives in TEC/CoE began to lose their majority, and sex-and-gender liberals were increasingly in a position to give their conscientious beliefs institutional expression instead. This forced conservatives to ‘come out of the closet’ to themselves and others about their commitment to (what I shall call) the ‘Institutional Purity Principle’ [IPP]:

It is contrary to our conscientious beliefs to live within an institution whose institutional policies are incompatible with our conscientious beliefs.

It did not take them very long to turn this exposure into a challenge to liberals with the following arguments:

Arg. 1: Given [IPP], tolerance for our conscientious beliefs requires you to let us set institutional policy whether or not we hold a majority; and/or requires you to complicate the polity of the institution in such a way as to insulate us from close encounters with parts of the institution in which your conscientious beliefs prevail.

Arg. 2: Given [IPP], your commitment to being inclusive requires you to allow our conscientious beliefs to set institutional polity and/or to complicate it whether or not we hold a majority.

In other words, the conservatives have played on liberal propensities for tolerance and inclusiveness to insist that liberals tolerate not only individual beliefs but institutional policies contrary to liberal conscientious beliefs, and to do so no matter who holds the majority.

Instruments of Mischief: Over the last decade and a half, sex-and-gender liberals in TEC/CoE have shown themselves vulnerable to this sort of reasoning. They have conceded sex-and-gender conservatives’ construals of what liberal tolerance and inclusiveness entails, and they have responded by handing sex-and-gender conservatives two (what I shall call) instruments of mischief. The CoE led the way with the Act of Synod which complicated the polity of the CoE to allow for flying bishops: a plan which allowed sex-and-gender conservative parishes to refuse to welcome geographical diocesans who had ordained women, and to request the episcopal offices of another bishop with clean hands. Candidates for ordination are also allowed to request a ‘clean hands’ flying bishop to ordain them. This model has been twice adapted and applied in TEC, with the institution of Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) and now the presiding bishop's scheme for Episcopal Visitors. Once the concept of individual congregations or dioceses not being bound to their duly elected geographical diocesan or PB is introduced and legitimized, it is an easy leap to appealing to bishops and primates of other Anglican provinces as well. The trajectory of +Duncan shows how slippery the slide from parallel ecclesial units within TEC (his diagnosis at the end of General Convention 2006) to schism (the move to form a separate North American Anglican church entirely, and/or to affiliate with some other ‘orthodox’ Anglican province).

The second instrument of mischief is the The Windsor Report-proposed and Archbishop Drexel Gomez-interpreted Anglican covenant, which constructs a wider Anglican body politic in which a conservative majority would be guaranteed for the foreseeable future. Like the PB-sponsored House of Bishops’ ‘pause’ (its resolve to withhold consents to non-celibate LGBT candidates for the episcopacy, and to refrain from authorising rites for the blessing of homosexual partnerships), consent to a Gomez-style Anglican covenant would represent a liberal concession not to implement their conscientious sex-and-gender beliefs at an institutional level. Talk about pastoral care defines the maximum scope within which conscientious liberal sex-and-gender convictions would be allowed to hold sway: to the private sphere, to what goes on individual to individuals, perhaps counter-culturally and covertly. And some Anglican communion primates are insisting on their right to invade privacy and put an end to the blessing of same-sex couples under the rubric of pastoral care.

Liberal concessions and sponsorship of these instruments of mischief represent not only a major political victory, but also a rhetorical triumph for conservatives. If tolerance and inclusiveness always trump, then liberals will never be in a position to press their conscientious content-beliefs about Kingdom-coming in the face of clever ([IPP]-invoking) conservative opposition. No wonder liberals are regularly caricatured as making idols of tolerance and inclusiveness, while betraying the Gospel!

The Limits of Tolerance: Contradiction forces rational choice: one or the other, not both; or some qualification of one or both. So far, liberal Anglicans have acted as if their commitments to tolerance and inclusiveness were unqualified, and have back-pedalled on their conscientious content-commitments (most recently, the PB’s and the New Orleans' Bishops' meeting ‘pause’ in consents to LGBT episcopal candidates and rites for blessing LGBT couples). Contradiction is a teeter-totter. What goes up can come down! My argument is that liberals need to reverse their choice, to ‘teeter’ conscientious content-commitments back up and to recognize limits to liberal tolerance thereby ‘tottering’ it back down.

Put otherwise, confusion about tolerance and inclusiveness has driven us liberals to make fools of ourselves and brought us to the brink of betraying the Gospel. To see what liberal limits to tolerance might look like, let us review the fundamentals once again. Pessimistic liberals have a low estimate of human social competence. Both experience and traditional theology combine to show [IPP] the conservative demand for institutional purity to be irrational and contrary to sound theology. Pessimistic liberals are willing to live within institutions that embody policies to which they do and/or should conscientiously object, because pessimistic liberals don’t believe humans are capable of constructing institutions of any other kind. All humanly constructed institutions spawn systemic evils. Pessimistic liberals see themselves obliged--not to the creation of pure institutions--but to a continuing process of identifying and uprooting systemic evils. In this sense, pessimistic liberals can enthusiastically endorse the evangelical slogan: ecclesia est reformata et semper reformanda!

Liberals do have a disposition to tolerance. Like Locke, liberals are and should be unwilling to coerce individual conservatives into giving up their conscientious beliefs. Liberals have a penchant for inclusiveness. They do not and should not have an interest in gate-keeping that excludes individuals from membership merely on the basis of their controversial conscientious beliefs. Liberals set a high value on democratic procedure. For liberals the end does not justify the means to let content goals overturn democratic process.

Yet, none of this implies that liberals should not take their turn in the majority to let their own conscientious content beliefs set institutional policy. Liberals think conservative embrace of [IPP] is false and irrational. Liberals find the content of many world views false and irrational, if not also immoral. Tolerance of individual beliefs qua beliefs and refusal to excommunicate individuals because of their beliefs does not by itself entail toleration that lets conservative conscientious beliefs set institutional policy, no matter who holds the majority. Liberals are willing to include individuals whose conscientious beliefs liberals find false, irrational, immoral and untheological--include in the sense of not wishing to cancel their memberships or rule them out of the participation accorded to members generally. But this is different from liberal willingness to do whatever it takes to keep conservatives from leaving voluntarily: e.g., in the present crisis, to accede to [IPP] and agree to let conservative content beliefs establish institutional policy, no matter what.

Concrete analogies may help to persuade us. In the United States today, we tolerate people who believe that the earth is flat. The constitution allows them freedom of assembly. Being a member of the Flat Earth Society does not jeopardize a citizen’s voting or property-holding rights. But most Americans find the flat-earthers’ views false and irrational. We would not think of tolerating them to the extent of cancelling the space program. Likewise, individuals are free to hold racist beliefs. The Ku Klux Klan is free to hold meetings to inculcate them. But post-’60’s we would not dream of supposing that tolerance required us to re-segregate schools and public institutions. Thus, liberal tolerance for flat-earther’s and the Ku Klux Klan is and ought to be limited.

Likewise, sex-and-gender liberals have no interest in excommunicating sex-and-gender conservatives or in denying them the institutional access that all members of TEC/CoE enjoy. But in the name of faithfulness to the Gospel, sex-and-gender liberals cannot extend toleration to allowing sex-and-gender conservatives to set institutional policy no matter what. Liberals should not be so desperately committed to inclusiveness as to let themselves be held hostage by conservative threats to leave unless they get their way. Nor should liberals barter conscientious content-commitments away in a panic to be included in the pan-Anglican polity that conservatives are constructing. Time to teeter-totter! Sex-and-gender liberals should repent of the ‘flying bishops’ scheme, of DEPO and EV. Liberals should also refuse to sign a Gomez-style (as opposed to a Lambeth-Quadrilateral-style) covenant. Liberals should work within the established polity of TEC/CoE and use their majority to uproot homophobia. The reason is straight-forward: homophobia is a sin, and its end-time is now!

IV. Institutional Policy: Change and Implementation

When I was first invited to this conference, the topic proposed was summarized in the question, why gay bishops? We might expand to ask, why LGBT bishops and blessings? My answer is that LGBT bishops and blessed couples are participating symbols--in the Tillichian sense, sacraments--of Kingdom-coming. They herald the Gospel in at least three important ways.

First, they are part and parcel of the uprooting process. Systemic evils are by nature deeply rooted. They send out runners that branch out and infiltrate every level of institutional practice. By the same token, they form and shape the individual personalities of members, consciously but--far more effectively and dangerously--unconsciously, in thousands of ways that escape recognition and elude self-control. Systemic evils cannot be eradicated by one swift tug any more than dandelions can be eliminated by surface plucking of leaves and flowers. Clearing our institutions of racism, sexism, and homophobia is a process in which their contradictory opposites have to be ‘acted out’ again and again.

Twentieth-century American bouts with racism furnish us an instructive example, which illustrates the persistent long-term efforts required. Up against the demon racism, Supreme Court rulings and Congressional civil rights legislation were small steps--for mid-twentieth century White America, giant steps--in the right direction. But they were first steps. Rulings and laws had to be implemented. African Americans had to become pupils in formerly white schools. They had to be protected from harrassment enough to be able to study and graduate. Voter registration campaigns had to be mounted and voters accompanied to the polls. Affirmative action had to widen access to colleges and government jobs. Fifty years later, we expect to have an African American postmaster, we are only a little startled to have an African American doctor, we can accept African American secretaries of state if they have privileged pedigrees, but are we ready for an African American president? Up against the demon racism, we are still mini-stepping. But it has taken thousands of African Americans ‘transgressing’, daring to enter previously forbidden roles, not to mention persistent government enforcement, to get this far.

Few would now dare to deny that racism was ‘ripe for uprooting’ in mid-twentieth century White America. African Americans weren’t prepared to put up with it any longer. Enough white Americans were ‘cut to the heart’ when the case was put to them, so that even a not reliably high-minded President from Texas was prepared to spend considerable political capital to push civil rights legislation through. But it is helpful now to notice what ‘ripe for uprooting’ did not mean. It did not mean that southern states were reliably ready for it (remember the showdown between George Wallace and the National Guard on the steps of the University of Alabama). It did not mean that all of the many truly devout Christians who took segregation for granted, suddenly repented of it. Violent resistance met many steps, and many American segregationists were terrified and/or bewildered as enforced desegregation rearranged when it didn’t shatter their lived worlds.

‘Ripe for uprooting’ doesn’t and couldn’t mean--what the CoE would like it to mean--’it won’t upset anyone very much’ or ‘we are now able to get everyone on board in advance’. Uprooting systemic evils tears up the ground and shakes the foundations. Human societies and psyches are inertial. They exert considerable resistance to fundamental restructuring. This means that for many, conversion cannot come in advance, but only after the fact. What brings most of people around eventually is the lived experience that having previously ostracized people in the contested roles doesn’t call down fire from heaven and isn’t medium-run disruptive, that mirabile dictu it sometimes has unmistakeably good effects. Like adolescence, the transition is a storm that is costly but can be weathered, and new faces around the table are enriching as well as challenging. The weeded garden grows more beautiful than before.

So also with sex and gender controversies within our Church. Passing the non-descrimination clause in Title III, Canon 1, Sec.2, was a significant step. But people are prepared to go along with paper changes, so long as they have no impact on what happens day to day. Implementing the canon, not only with diocesan ordinations of ‘out’ LGBT deacons and priests, but with General Convention 2003’s consent to the election of +Gene Robinson was a further significant step. The furor of resistance to it shows just how entrenched systemic homophobia is within the Anglican Communion generally and TEC in particular. For its part, TEC has been intimidated from getting on with the weeding. Despite TEC’s non-discrimination canon, TEC’s PB-elect urged the passage of resolution B033, which seems prima facie incompatible with it. The Diocese of CT has argued that B033 is therefore null and void, while the Executive Committee at least wonders whether B033 doesn’t add to the qualifications for ordination. The PB’s talk of a ‘pause’ in paying our institutional respects to LGBT and the HoB’s seeming acquiescence in it at New Orleans, shows TEC to be inconstant of purpose and lacking in nerve to persevere to the end.

What the Gospel mandate to uproot systemic evils calls for is not a moratorium on consents to the episcopal election of non-celibate LGBT’s and a promise not to authorise rites for blessing LGBT unions, but just the opposite. Eradicating institutional homophobia requires the consecration of more non-celibate LGBT bishops. It demands not only the authorisation of rites but widespread public blessing of LGBT partnerships. Each ordination and each blessing asserts and insists upon the legitimacy of the new policy, and thereby brings to judgment our residual institutional and individual resistance to reform. ‘Repetition teaches donkeys’--in any event, alters our social expectations and gradually converts our sensibilities about the way things should be. Ordaining and blessing LGBT persons and partnerships until it seems obviously normal and normative is the way we uproot institutional homophobia within our Church.

Second, not only are LGBT bishops and blessed couples key to the institutional weeding process, they are essential to outward mission and institutional reconstruction. Every LGBT bishop and blessed partnership is a living, breathing advertisement of what should always have been obvious: that God our Creator loves LGBT’s. Up to now, we have had to plead with LGBTs not to make God guilty by association with the Church. (Yes, I’m afraid to many LGBTs New Orleans continued to ‘speak with forked tongue’.) Every LGBT bishop and blessed partnership at least tentatively suggests what is not at all obvious: that the Church loves LGBTs, too.

Moreover, bringing LGBT partnerships out of the closet, blessing until the publicly exampled variety of LGBT relationships approaches that of heterosexual marriages, will put us all in a better place theologically to rethink what is essential and wholesome in sexual unions. The Church has inherited an institution of marriage that involved buying and selling women--like reproductive livestock--from domination by one male into subservience to another (remember, ‘love, honor, and obey’?). Despite a couple of decades of dialoguing, the Church still joins society in treating marriage as a ‘sacred cow’ that cannot be touched (witness the dogmatic insistence that homosexual marriage is a category mistake), when the whole idea of godly partnership needs radical revision. Modern heterosexual couples involving ‘liberated’ women are left to their own devices to transmogrify the institution from the inside. My suspicion is that uncloseting same-sex partnerships will help us to distinguish dimensions of intimacy--for example, to explore the relationship between friendship and sexual activity. They might also furnish models of equality and illustrate different divisions of labor. Honest reflection on varieties of ‘transgression’--heterosexual and homosexual--would not only move us towards marriage reform but also lead us to fresh conceptions of godly unions that might help the wider society as it evolves new norms.

Third, institutionalizing LGBT bishops and LGBT partnerships will free up our theological thinking about who God is and how God loves. The bible shows, the history of theology proves, liturgical texts testify, human beings conceive of God by mapping social models onto the heavens. The Hebrew bible sometimes imagines God as the bedouin-style abusive husband of an unfaithful wife; other times as a severe but faithful and resourceful patron-king. Some epistles forward God as the pater-familias of a Roman household. John 15, patristic and medieval trinitarian theology conceive of the Trinity using ancient ideals of male friendship. Non-celibate LGBT bishops and partnerships are sacraments that bring out of the closet what is old and what is new. The more we unlearn our homophobia, the more they will remind us of subtle and startling things about God.

V. Concluding Pragmatic Reflections

Some will doubtless think that my reactions to the PB’s pause and HoB’s acquiescence in it are too harsh. Sex-and-gender conservatives have manuveured TEC into a difficult position. These responses were political moves that were meant to signal that we do not wish to break fellowship with the Anglican communion or withdraw our commitments to (what are now labelled) Millenium Development Goals. Our leaders were merely practicing the ‘art of the possible’. Our willingness to compromise was offered as a measure of our commitment to pan-Anglican well-being.

Less involved observers might imagine that they are witnessing an institutional game of ‘chicken’: TWR and primatial pronouncements challenge, ‘whether or not you walk apart is your decision!’; to which TEC responds, ‘we won’t pull out; you’ll have to throw us out!’ Each side wants to shift blame for any potential break-up to the other side.

My response is simple and predictable. TEC is a humanly constructed institution whose only reason for being is word-and-deed Gospel proclamation. The message--that American Anglicans desire to maintain connection with Anglicans world-wide--is good. But the medium--the demanded moratoria, however hedged and qualified--is inappropriate because it accedes to a Gospel-falsehood: that non-celibate LGBT persons are not first class citizens, that ipso facto their manners of life cannot holy before God, that homophobia is not all that bad, that its end-time is later. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it is not right to sacrifice the spiritual dignity and well-being of real and present human beings on the altar of institutional expediency. And it is not right for privileged insiders to pit the interests of one oppressed group (LGBTs) against those of others (the suffering millions around the world), especially when we are not in a position to pay like costs.

Perhaps the Principle of Double Effect will help here. Breaking with our global Anglican partners has not been and should not be TEC’s end or chosen means. Whether or not others make it an unintended side-effect of TEC’s faithfulness to its Gospel mandate is not something for which TEC is primarily responsible and not anything that TEC can control.

I will close with one further observation. Not theologically, but socio-politically, TEC and the CoE are in very different positions. The CoE is an established church, which may still hold itself responsible for the survival of Christianity in England. The CoE is also the colonial mother of most other Anglican churches. The ABC is ex officio colonial god-father, who feels the burden of keeping the Anglican communion together. In the USA, however, TEC should not have such delusions of grandeur. TEC is only a small protestant denomination, whose only reason for being is to proclaim the Gospel. If TEC were not here, the Roman Catholics and the Baptists would keep Christianity going in America for some time to come. To me, this suggests that TEC has a distinctive niche in Kingdom-economy: to be a crucible of Gospel ferment and experimentation, to be a Church that takes risks to celebrate God’s new-fangled sacraments, to hold them up and present them as Kingdom-heralds to our broken and divided world.

The Reverend Canon Marilyn McCord Adams is Regius Professor of Divinity, Christ Church, Oxford.

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