Live: feudal morality

By Jim Naughton

A touching, revealing moment at the press conference just now. The bishops have been talking for several days now about sacrifice. “What are you willing to sacrifice” to keep the communion together?” The clear implication is that Western churches must sacrifice their desire to include gay Christians more fully in the Church.


Katie Sherrod of the Lambeth Witness asked the question I wanted to ask. In sum: who exactly do the bishops think is authorize to negotiate on behalf of gay and lesbian Christians throughout the Communion? The primarily male, exclusively heterosexual delegations from the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada?

The people who are being asked to make a sacrifice are not represented at this conference.

Katherine Ragsdale, also from the Witness, put a finer point on it with her question. It is the essence of Christianity to sacrifice one’s self for others. It is in the inverse of Christianity to ask others to sacrifice themselves for you. The future of the Anglican Communion may rest on the willingness of gay and lesbian Christians to “sacrifice” for it.

And the Communion doesn’t have the good grace to ask them to make that sacrifice directly, preferring to pretend that the Western churches have the moral authority to act as their surrogates.

This is the feudal morality—lords making decisions for their vassals.

At least Bishop Charles Jenkins of Louisiana had the good grace to say that he recognized that gay people had been disenfranchised, and to say that this presented a moral dilemma for him.

Category : The Lead

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5 Comments
  1. Christopher Evans

    That is why I repeatedly said that “spirituality” of Anglicanism at this time is propitiatory sacrificial. That salvation comes by our sacrificing someone else. It is antithetical to the Reformation return to a strong christology of Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice.

    The failure to address lgbt Christians directly on such matters through a heartfelt care has only led to increase in the dividing wall. The only church that has been truly generous toward us, as Arbp. Hilz noted yesterday, is the Canadian church by providing a thoughtful set of guidelines for real pastoral and ritual care that actually have some substance. Not even TEC has done that. They’re not perfect or what we might wish, but they’re something and liveable.

    I keep asking why it is that the generosity our bishops keep having is offering someone else not theirs to offer. I wonder if they would have near the generosity of the Canadian church. If you want to offer us as “your generosity”, what are you willing to put in place to honor and stabilize our lives pastorally and ritually? To-date. Nothing.

  2. Brie Dodson

    What are the homophobic haters willing to sacrifice for the sake of the Anglican communion?

  3. Brie Dodson

    What are the haters – the hysterical homophobics – willing to sacrifice for the sake of the Anglican communion?

  4. Jim, thank you for this report. Thanks to Katie Sherrod and Katherine Ragsdale for asking the right questions. I lifted this whole piece and posted it on my blog, along with my commentary, giving you full credit and a link, of course. If that’s not OK, let me know, and I’ll take it down or redo it.

    June Butler

  5. Bill Carroll

    If you look closely, you can see in the annotations for one of the draft reflections statements (section A, paragraph 17), the idea that the indaba groups were a model of “power coming from the grassroots.” It’s an idea to be fleshed out in the final document.

    In what world is an indaba of bishops representative of the grassroots? More feudal thinking, completely antithetical to the baptismal ecclesiology of the Episcopal Church. Maybe in John Zizioulas you get the idea that a bishop is the sole representative of the people in synod, but that’s not even true of the C of E, let alone the Episcopal Church.

    As I argued in the ATR, power needs to be devolved, away from the communion and into provinces, dioceses, and congregations, away in other words from the colonial centers of power, for which autonomous churches become “provinces.” It also needs to be devolved away from bishops and clergy and toward the whole people of God, in which the clergy have an important teaching role but are not the “grassroots.”

    Until there is real lay participation in governance, including expanded participation in the Episcopal Church, a conversation about a Covenant, even if it were a good idea which it isn’t, would be empty. It certainly won’t be grassroots.

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