Bishop Pierre Whalon has written a thoughtful essay for Anglicans Online arguing that while blessing gay and lesbian relationships and consecrating LGBT candidates to the episcopacy may be a good thing, the Episcopal Church has not yet explained why it is a good thing.
It is my conviction that wherever one is on the spectrum of opinion, to have no theology for full inclusion, while more or less practicing it, is worse than having bad theology. Bad theology cries out for better theology. No theology, however, calls the whole enterprise into question. And here the question of justice, to which appeal is routinely made for permitting blessings and ordinations, applies, but much more widely. It is patently unjust to everyone, including partnered gay and lesbian people, to keep on ordaining them and blessing their unions without providing a theological rationale for changing the church's teaching. This has left Bishop Robinson isolated, making the case on his own, as he does so well with, for example, English evangelicals at the 2009 Greenbelt Festival, but without the backing of official teaching of his church.
It is precisely because we then provided no rationale as a church for this change that we were asked to practice "gracious restraint." It is not that the whole rest of the Anglican Communion disagrees with us—that is simply not true. But even those elsewhere who agree with a full inclusion position do not on the whole support how we have gone about it. While General Convention is the final arbiter of what The Episcopal Church believes, simply relying on bald resolutions and election results does not spell out its teaching. And this is inadequate to the task at hand. Not just to rebut critics inside and outside this church, but for the much larger and more important work of the cure of souls, the pastoring of all the church’s members by the church. None of that has been worked out, except in local ad hoc ways that have not received the acceptance of our only churchwide decision-making body.
Some have said that the moratoria will end when we act to end them. Such an action, undefended, would only perpetuate the present anomie, and raise a real question about a “General-Convention fundamentalism”—“the majority voted it, therefore God said it, and that settles it.” Rather, we need to continue to keep "gracious restraint" until we have done the necessary work in order to end it. We do not have to wait for the rest of the Communion to approve our arguments, of course. But it is terrible that we as a church have continued to avoid that work, and all therefore continue to pay a heavy price, both within and without The Episcopal Church. If we go on blessing same-sex unions and consecrating people in those partnered relationships, and yet continue to refuse to do that work, will that mean that we cannot justify our actions? And if we cannot, then what — in God's name — do we think we're doing?
This is an argument worth engaging, however weary one is of being told that no matter how many defenses of LGBT relationships one publishes that theology has not been "done." (In fact, the bishop isn't exactly saying that it hasn't been "done" but that it hasn't been officially embraced and articulated.) It is worth engaging even though arguing that the new theology hasn't been fully developed seems to suggest (if implicitly) that the existing theology (that God either didn't make gay people, and those who think themselves gay are mistaken, or that God intends gay people to be celibate for life) has not been called into serious question. And it is worth engaging even though the attempt in some quarters to establish a fully developed body of academically-wrought and bishop-approved theology as a precursor to legislative action give aid and comfort to the many forces in the Communion eager to distance lay people and their elected representatives from their rightful role in the governance of their church.
All that said, it would be nice to be able to say what we mean in a few concise sentences. How best can we respond to Bishop Whalon's challenge to the Church?