Monks of Burma

Updating our story on the protests by the Buddhist monks in Burma (also known as Myanmar). Several Anglican commentators have contrasted the bold Buddhist monks protesting the repressive regime in their country with the self congratulatory statements of unity in concession to anti-gay forces of the world wide Anglican Communion by the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church (TEC).

Mad Priest, blogging at Of Course I Could Be Wrong, salutes a letter in The Guardian (UK):

As an ordained Anglican, I am appalled that while Buddhist monks are taken from their beds, beaten and imprisoned for peacefully protesting in the name of democracy, Anglican bishops can only concern themselves with the obsession of denying gay and lesbian Christians an opportunity to share their spiritual gifts and experience through ordained ministry. For me it is clear in which of these two groups spiritual authenticity resides. I offer my heartfelt prayers on behalf of the monks of Burma.
Rev Mike Catling
Alnwick, Northumberland

Lane Denson, who publishes The Covenant Journal, writes in his Out of Nowhere essay:

I wondered when I read about the monks, What makes a bishop mad? From reflecting on their meeting in New Orleans, I couldn’t tell, if anything. So far as I know, they kept their shoes on. They didn’t march. They never mentioned the government so far as I know, let alone its reckless and immoral lack of stewardship and its false promises about Katrina and New Orleans. They fussed a bit about turf, theirs. Statistics reveal that eleven percent of our nation’s population is gay and lesbian. The PB said the House stood at the foot of the cross on the subject of what to do about that population in the church. She just left the question hanging.

Ekklesia notes:
Pope Benedict XVI added his voice yesterday to calls for Burma's military leaders to peacefully end their crackdown on protesters demanding democracy, as demonstrators took to the streets of several capital cities across the globe to show solidarity.

Comments (13)

I am not sure what concessions are being refered to here. B033 was passed by General Convention. The bishops stated that it was indeed passed by the General Convention. There weren't enough votes to consecrate a gay bishop last month. There are not enough votes now. If something has changed in that regard I have missed it. In regard to the blessing of same-sex relationships, dioceses that permit such blessings are free to continue doing so. Again, if there was a change, I have missed it.

Jim, I think it has more to do with "how others see us vs. the global south," and more a general reference to the state of the Anglican Communion when all the hew and cry is over gay bishops and/or orthodoxy than on actions taken by the American bishops. Indeed, I took "Anglican bishops" in the context of Catling's piece to be referring to the Global South, not our HoB meeting.

Denson's essay does make the connection more directly to the HoB but perhaps a better way of phrasing the question might be "What can incite holy people to fight back?" and, perhaps, the suggestion that we could learn something from Burmese monks with regard to the tyranny that may or may not exist in our own part of the world.

It is perhaps a Modest Proposal, but I'm reminded of Chamberlain's hypothetical musings on right vs. wrong in _The Killer Angels_ (given Shaara's propensity to work from source material, it may be factually based). When I get hold of the text, I'll excerpt the quote; it was powerful to hear it (on audiobook) and immediately connect it with our "right now," with regard to US politics and the Anglican Communion.

OK, but where I come from, working within political systems to change things that you don't like is a form of fighting back.

I think that a major concern is what was not said along with what was said and the reasons for saying it. Of course, B033 can only be reversed by a vote of General Convention. Rather than simply stating that as they had in March, the HoB chose to make the point that non-heterosexuals were specifically included in the interpretation of B033. They didn't need to do that. But they did.

The bishops said absolutely nothing about D005; this was the perfect opportunity to make that statement in a very strong way. They chose not to do that.

They were very clear that no gay bishops-elect would receive consent. This with +Gene in the room. At the same time, they said nothing about bishops-elect who have been most vocal about leading dioceses out of TEC; this with Mark Lawrence in the room. In fact the last time Mark came up for consent, the HoB gave their consent. The inference is that he's worthy of the cathedra; gay bishops are not.

To be so clear about why there will not be ordinations and blessings focused on non-heterosexual Christians and then to turn around and say that these same Christians have full access in the life of our community as members of TEC is hypocrisy at its best. There's no way around that.

They did this under threat of being the ones who are responsible for breaking up the Communion; they did this with some absurd assurance that they could keep the Communion together. Either they are deaf and blind, or they live in the same fantasy land as +Rowan. The Dunacanites and the Akinolites have been very clear about the requirements that the American Church repent and amend their ways, including removing Gene from his see. That has not and will not happen. And as we now are experiencing, the Duncanites are making their moves to separate from TEC.

Would that the HoB had the courage of their convictions to stand up to these ecclesiastical bullies and state clearly that they will not fold to the ABC for this false expectation of unity that he continues to push. It ain't gonna happen and it seems like everyone except our HoB and the ABC know it.

So this has little to do with B033; we all have known that it cannot be reversed until GC09. But perhaps the bishops could have ignored it, just as they seem to be ignoring D005. And they could have been very clear about walking the talk of the faith they claim.

They have chosen not to do that and, among other fallout, we on the local level once again are left holding the question of our non-heterosexuals and their families: "Why should we stay in the Episcopal Church? There is nothing here for us but lies and duplicity." I will certainly stay in the church and fight; but the collateral damage is just so unnecssary and spiritually abusive. That apparently is not important to our bishops -- certainly not as important as giving themselves warm fuzzies for talking to one another as adults.

I actually do think the HOB had the courage of its convictions. They saw an opportunity to attempt to remain in communion with most of the Anglican provinces in the world without backtracking on issues of full inclusion, and they wordsmithed their way to a basic agreement. If giving Canterbury these reassurances helps to isolate the Duncanites and he Akinolists, rather than isolating the people who argue for full inclusion, then they've done a good thing. And if it doesn't, please explain to me what was lost? What can't the Episcopal Church do for gay and lesbian Christians today that it could do on September 15?

Here is a draft version that our House of Bishops might have adopted
with far less duplicity:

===a rough draft alternative to the statement the HoB adopted:

Our General Convention is the only body authorized to make the policy that
you demand of us. Any change made in that policy must await the next meeting
of General Convention, in 2009. General Convention in 2006 set our current
policy with resolution B033, '....quote it all'

We honor the fact that repeatedly you have shared with us and with the world
your disagreements with The Episcopal Church. It is important for all to
listen to their critics. We will continue to take your criticism
seriously, even when we determine that we disagree. Our final decisions
must be our own, not decisions forced on us.

In times of great tension, it is best to speak within the constraints of our
Constitution. The Constitution of the ACC does not give you the power to
force decisions from any of the provinces of the Communion. Ultimatums and
deadlines are not helpful. Gamaliel offered a much more cogent strategy with
which to respond to novelty.

We deplore the steady demonization of lesbians and gays in many parts of the
Communion. In that regard, ..... [use the part of the New Orleans statement
that asks the ABC to invite +NH]

We deplore the abandon with which most primates have treated their repeated
pledges to listen to lesbians and gays.

[Add here the statement from the New Orleans document regarding invasions of
episcopal boundaries.]

It is no accident that Jesus was known as a wine-bibber and friend of
sinners. TEC may or may not be wrong in our inclusion of lgbts, but we are
absolutely right that God loves the whole world, especially those who are
marginalized and despised. Join us in trying to find fresh ways to share
that ancient Good News.

=======end of the rough draft

The HoB statement in New Orleans went beyond B033 in important particulars.
B033 did not claim that lgbts are equal in the church; the HoB statement
used doublespeak in claiming we are. That false claim is having devastating
impact on lesbians and gays not only in TEC but in the Communion. My
mailbox overflows with mail from people in great anguish over such
duplicity. It is not new or unbearable to treat us as second-class; it is
unconscionable to claim to treat us equally.

The House of Bishops statement sends a much more chilling inhibition to
nominating committees than did B033. I speak as a co-chair of a nominating
committee that worked under B033 before the HoB statement. B033 left wiggle
room as to whose manner of life presents a challenge to the world; the House
of Bishops statement names lgbts.

I was the first on the floor to speak when B033 was introduced, and I
opposed it, noting that B033 is a flagrant sin against the Holy Spirit by
presuming to tell God whom God may or may not choose. The New Orleans
statement makes it even more explicit that lbgts are the direct, indeed the
only named target. The New Orleans statement follows months of even more
intense shaming of lgbts throughout the world.


What leads so many to cynicism about the motives of our bishops? Are they
mere institutionalists trying to appease in order to keep turf and stay in
the Anglican Communion because of the prestige it brings? Could it not be
that they see a reason to work within the system, to use the language of
diplomacy, and (yes) to delay justice for non-heterosexuals without coming
out and saying so? And what could that reason be? Could it not be that by
staying in conservation we can enhance the chances that justice, when it
comes, will be more widely enjoyed in The Episcopal Church and in the
Anglican Communion? An unintended consequence of being blunt and cutting
ourselves off from the communion could be that non-heterosexuals in other
parts of the communion would see justice delayed longer. I could be wrong,
but I do implore us to try putting ourselves in their shoes.

Finally, for me, drawing any kind of parallel between American bishops and
Burmese monks, or Burmese monks and American non-heterosexuals is forced if
not insulting to the monks. We need to get a life. Pray for the monks.

I agree that this sentence is hypocritical given B033. "We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children, including women, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church."

But it isn't clear to me that that sentence is primarily responsibile for the negative response I am hearing from some on the left.

Whoops. Wrong sentence. This one: We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children, including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church.

A friend just pointed out to me that PROCLAIM has a long and rich tradition in proophetic writing of talking about what might be and should be, not about what already is.

I missed that possibility in reading the New Orleans statement many times. It's a subtle point, but I need to think more about it.


Yes, John -- there really is no comparison with the sacrificial protests of the monks. The essays spoke to me of the spiritual power and status of these monks and how that was gained.

Jim, I agree that the Bishops voted their convictions: maintaining the institution is of primary importance. They did it, and were quite ably led in doing so by our Presiding Bishop.

What they also did was to remind us that TEC is irrelevant, if not dangerous, to the lives of queer folk.

Jim, re:
OK, but where I come from, working within political systems to change things that you don't like is a form of fighting back

Oh, don't get me wrong! I agree, and feel incredibly lucky that I have that option (and many others that are privileges of being in Western society). I was just trying to illuminate where the writers are coming from. In the meantime, I agree with John. This isn't really about the bishops. Pray for the monks, and all the people of Burma.

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