Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Bob Smith's "Been There, Done That"

Here is another paper that has been widely distributed by The Episcopal Majority. Be mindful, this paper was written in January 2005, by an Episcopalian in one of the beleaguered dioceses. Some of the information is now somewhat dated.


Been There, Done That

A MESSAGE BY ONE EPISCOPALIAN TO OTHERS IN THE DIOCESE OF FLORIDA ON WHY WE SHOULD KEEP FAITH WITH THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH USA AND REPUDIATE THE EXTORTIONATE BEHAVIOR OF OUR SEPARATIST CLERGY

ROBERT P. SMITH
TALLAHASSEE AND JACKSONVILLE
JANUARY 2005

1.

His face in the news photo is a mask of stern rebuke. The story describes him as “an imposing figure, tall and graying,” seen in Nigeria as “a ‘big man’ traveling in a chauffeur-driven, bulletproof car,” one who “rubs shoulders with the rich and powerful.” [Note 1] Peter Jasper Akinola is archbishop of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican), 17.5 million members, chairman of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa, 37 million, and the darling of separatists in the Episcopal Church USA who by extortion brought to bear through the Anglican Communion would replace ECUSA’s constitutional governance locally with “alternative” bishops chosen by the separatists and nationally with doctrinal supervision by a curia of foreign primates.

Akinola is a passionate advocate for the Christian faith in a nation now just emerging from ruinous years of civil war and military dictatorship, only to face aggressive Islamic expansion in half the country, threatening a future of sharia as Nigerian law. [Note 2] That the archbishop is an authoritarian befits both the present exigency and Nigeria’s heritage of rule by tribal chieftains. At a meeting with foreign journalists in 2003, “church employees greeted Akinola with a combination of affection and obeisance,” chuckling and kneeling. The archbishop laughingly hailed them as “you bushmen” and “rapped his knuckles on the bowed head of one man who apologized for forgetting a set of master keys to the church.” [Note 3] Peter Akinola is in no doubt that he represents authority and his word is authoritative.

Akinola’s “booming, angry voice . . . suggests his level of fury” that ECUSA’s General Convention consented to Gene Robinson’s election as New Hampshire’s bishop, and authorized U.S. dioceses to develop liturgies for the blessing of monogamous same-sex unions. [Note 4] Homosexual conduct is a crime everywhere in Africa except South Africa, and is punishable in Nigeria by 14 years imprisonment. [Note 5] Such laws are constitutionally void in the United States. Choosing his words, Akinola says homosexuality is “taboo in African culture” [Note 6] – conjuring images of witch doctors and dreadful incantations – and adds that the toleration of homosexuals in western Christendom represents “a satanic attack.” [Note 7]
Citing Leviticus 18.22 RSV as validating (but not as creating) Nigeria’s aboriginal taboo, [Note 8] Akinola declares, ”If the word of God says homosexuality is an abomination, then so be it.” The archbishop stops there in commending Leviticus, not adding “so be it” to the death penalty prescribed for Levite offenders (“they shall be put to death,” Lev.20.13), nor displaying any wonder that in the same voice – “an abomination to you” – the Mosaic law also denounces the eating of shrimp, oysters, crabs and the other shellfish (Lev. 11.10-12). It may be that, in Akinola’s view, the latter abomination was dissolved when a “voice . . . from heaven” speaking to Peter (Acts 11:6-10) extended to finless seafood the pardon that Jesus declared for eating with unwashed hands. Mk 7.5,14-16, Lk. 11.38-41. Akinola plainly does not think Jesus’ broader absolution in John 15:3 (“You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you”) remitted the abomination of homosexuality, though the archbishop surely knows that no gospel reports Jesus having denounced homosexuals or homosexuality.

Biblical interpreters of all stripes, except perhaps the absolutists, are less troubled today by the reality of sexual attraction man-to-man or woman-to-woman among a distinct minority – their “orientation,” we say – than by one of those persons “outing” and defending publicly his or her monogamous union with another of the same sex. True to that distinction, resolution 2004-09 of the 2004 annual convention of the Diocese of Florida holds, first, that homosexuality is a genetic or psychological orientation which, like left-handedness, is exceptional but not abnormal in human life; and second, that “the same Biblical principles” govern homosexuals and heterosexuals alike, i.e., no sex outside of marriage. [Note a] Since the resolution refuses marriage to homosexuals (“celibacy is the appropriate response”), while to heterosexuals the church commends it as blessed or at least “better .. . than to burn with passion” (1 Cor. 7:9 NIV), the pose of evenhandedness in resolution 2004-09 calls to mind Anatole France’s skewering of the law, which “in its majestic equality forbids both the rich and the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”

Archbishop Akinola will have none of this parsing of orientation from conduct, and he wants none of the moral quandary that ensues from that parsing. So, when the archbishop declares, “I cannot think of how a man in his senses” would have such a relationship, he means he cannot imagine how a sentient person would think of such a thing. This was the apostle Paul’s position, who in his most accessible reasoning on the subject decried to the young Roman church that the pagan image-worshipers he had heard of in Rome and seen in Corinth “are without excuse” for their homosexuality, because the natural sexual order “has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made” (Rom 1.20 RSV) – “clearly perceived” in nature, that is, quite apart from any exporting of the Levite code to which Paul the Pharisee was culturally attuned. (Paul cannily must have thought to himself, Why would these Romans have any interest whatsoever in hearing about the sexual code of the Levites, let alone in adopting it?).
Paul argued that the image-worshipers he described in Romans 1.20 had willfully corrupted the sexual orientation that was theirs by nature: they had “exchanged natural relations for unnatural” and were “consumed with passion for one another,” men for men and women for women. Rom. 1:26, 27. Here, albeit in this “unnatural” outcropping, Paul spoke of the same fiery passion which, in its “natural” uprising reciprocally in men and women, Paul advised them to flee, to marriage: “It is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Cor. 7:9 NIV). To Paul, the fiery celibacy of anyone beset by “unnatural passion” was merely the cost of obeying natural law.
Archbishop Akinola stands foursquare with Paul’s reading of nature’s evidence and nature’s law. With Paul, the archbishop invokes what he thinks is nature’s law and its irrefutable evidence. Thus spake Akinola: [Note 9]
“I cannot think of how a man in his senses would be having a
sexual relationship with another man. Even in the world of animals, dogs, cows,
lions, we don’t hear of such things.”
Um, come again? You “don’t hear of such things” in nature? Pardon, most reverend Sir, but surely you have heard of the homosexual Bonobo apes nearby you in the Congo River rainforest? (The usage is correct: “homo-“ is from the Greek meaning “same,” not the Latin meaning “man”.) The Bonobo’s repertoire of same-sex genital activity is detailed in Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki.Bonobo.

National Geographic also documents the homosexual behavior of female Japanese macaque birds and, in Central Park Zoo, of Roy and Silo the male chinstrap penguins who “display classic pair-bonding behavior . . . [and] also have sex, while ignoring female mates.” National Geographic News 7/24/2004, http://nationalgeographic.com/news2004/07/0722_040722. “So how far can we go,” Geographic asks, “in using animals to help us understand human homosexuality?,” and for a provisional answer – there are dangers here; a male lion will eat his mate’s newborn, to end lactation and start estrus – Geographic cites Robin Dunbar, evolutionary psychology professor at the University of Liverpool: “The bottom line is that anything that happens in other primates, and particularly in other apes, is likely to have strong evolutionary continuity with what happens in humans.”
Loyalists in the Episcopal Church and defenders of its actions in General Convention 2003 have no reason to ridicule Archbishop Akinola’s blundered play of Paul’s “nature” card against homosexuality. There is plenty of room for Akinola’s church in our communion, even if there is none for ours in his. Despite his vehemence and its baleful influence upon the Anglican fellowship of churches, we in ECUSA must press on to re-examine the habituated antipathies of the church, toward homosexuals, in the light of any revelation we can receive, through work and prayer, by way of evidence, reason and scripture.

It is most instructive, in this quest, to account for Archbishop Akinola’s personal metamorphosis in his attitudes on international church polity, from 2002 to the present. Here we find – strange to say of such a steely persona, but there it is – an undeniable naivete′ in his susceptibility to taking on the extortionist role, within the Communion, that was urged upon him in 2003 and 2004, and continuing, by separatist ECUSA clergy.

The Atlantic Monthly in November 2003 published a richly detailed portrait of Archbishop Akinola entitled “Defender of the Faith.” [Note 10] In this article, author Philip Jenkins reports both the archbishop’s fervent views on the church and homosexuality, and his “reluctan[ce] to speak out of turn”:
He [Akinola] venerates the Anglican idea of autonomous churches under their own
primates and bishops, and feels that a primate has no right to interfere in
another province, except in the direst circumstances. He has been remarkably
moderate toward the North American churches – however difficult this may be to
believe for those who know him only from his recent remarks. In interviews he
has gone out of his way not to condemn the U.S. Episcopal Church, and he makes a
point of praising Bishop Frank Griswold, its leader, and other American
liberals. He refuses to ally himself with American conservatives who want to
break away from their liberal bishops altogether. “You just don’t jump from your
diocese to begin to do whatever you like in another man’s diocese,” he told the
Church of Nigeria News in 2001. “That is not done in our Anglican tradition.”
In April 2004, less than six months after this Atlantic article appeared, updating, in the same spirit, Akinola’s 2001 interview with the Nigerian press, Archbishop Akinola told the Associated Press that he had met in Atlanta for a “two-day caucus” with leaders of the American Anglican Council (AAC) and its affiliated Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes (NACDP), following which he declared to the AP’s Richard Ostling that “the future of true Anglicanism in the United States lies with the conservative minority opposition groups within the Episcopal Church.” [Note 11]

Then in May 2004, according to the Times of London, Archbishop Akinola led 18 primates of the “Global South” in calling on the Eames Commission to “demand that the US Church (Ecusa) repent and revoke the consecration of Bishop Robinson,” and if it should refuse for as long as three months, Canterbury should then order “the suspension and ultimate expulsion of Ecusa” from the Anglican Communion. [Note 12]

In October 2004, Akinola made another visit to the United States, “exploring ways,” he told the AP’s Rachel Zoll, “to allow American congregations upset over Robinson’s election to realign themselves under his jurisdiction” (emph. added). [Note 13]

When Canterbury’s Eames Commission released its Windsor Report on October 15, 2004, including in ¶¶ 29(3), 123 and 155 a stinging rebuke of Archbishop Akinola and others for this conduct – a counterweight to the Report’s scolding of the Episcopal Church for consenting to Bishop Robinson and blessing same-sex unions without prior approval of the African and other Anglican primates – Archbishop Akinola was plainly flabbergasted and dismayed. Serene as he had been in his sense of rectitude and mission – he is an authoritarian, after all – the archbishop never saw this coming. How could the Commission issue “harsh words of condemnation for those who have reached out a helping hand to friends in need of pastoral and spiritual care?,” he wailed. “We cannot forsake our duty,” he said, “to provide care and protection for those who cry out for our help.” [Note 14]

How was Archbishop Akinola led away, in so short a time, from “refus[ing] to ally himself with American conservatives who want to break away,” a thing “not done in our Anglican tradition,” to this new mission of recruiting Episcopalians “to realign themselves under his jurisdiction”?

Simply put, the man was seduced. The American Anglican Council lobbied him, flattered him, monied him and incited him to inflict banishment or the threat of banishment on ECUSA by the Communion, unless ECUSA agreed to replace its constitutional governance with governance more to the separatists’ liking. The ECUSA clergy who pursued this strategy over the past year – enlisting the Ugandan primate, as well as the Nigerian, as instruments of this extortion – prominently included several clergy of the Episcopal Diocese of Florida.

2.
The Rev. Eric Dudley paused a moment, considering my question.

We were seated alone together in his office as rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Tallahassee, on Monday, December 8, 2003. His secretary had called me the previous Thursday with “Father Eric’s” request for a meeting (“anyplace you want”), and I accepted at once. Now I had another question for him, different from the one I had asked and the St. John’s clergy had refused to answer on November 24 and December 1, in four hours of clergy lectures to the congregation. The earlier question was, “Will you acknowledge that under both secular [Note "b"] and church [Note "c"] law you have no power, even with congregation support, to remove the St. John’s property from the Episcopal Church?” Eric opened our December 8 meeting by asking, “Why do you give a damn?” I had been absent from the parish during his tenure. I said I was now formally leaving, but hoped one day to return, and hoped St. John’s Episcopal church would still be there.

Then I asked my own new question:

“My impression, Eric, is that you and the Anglican Council people have decided to lobby the African primates to pressure the Eames Commission to threaten the Episcopal Church with a greater rather than a lesser sanction, unless ECUSA adopts your slate of approved bishops for “alternative” oversight of American congregations. Is that correct?”

After a moment, Eric turned his palms upward in a shrugging motion and answered unambiguously, “What else can we do?”

There you have it. The St. John’s clergy on November 24 and December 1 refused even to acknowledge to the congregation the Florida court decision and church canons that clearly prohibit their taking the St. John’s property out of ECUSA; they would say only, “It’s being studied,” and “We don’t intend to take the property.” [Note "d"] It is closer to the truth to say that the St. John’s clergy did not yet intend to confront the law directly, but would first, in league with Anglican Council allies nationwide, incite the African primates to intervene in local churches and dioceses, replacing ECUSA and loyal diocesan bishops in influence, and meantime seek to generate new doctrinal controls in the Anglican Communion, through threats by the influential African churches.

A year later, in the parish Proclamation! newsletter for Advent, Eric Dudley authored a synopsis of the Windsor Report, released October 15, 2004. The rector conspicuously omitted from that synopsis the Report’s censure of Archbishop Akinola for his interventions in ECUSA dioceses during 2004. The rector saw no need to inform the St. John’s congregation about the Windsor Report’s censure of Akinola for conduct that the Anglican Council had plainly incited.
Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi of the Church of Uganda (Anglican) is another favorite of the Anglican separatist clergy in ECUSA. Three Episcopal churches in the Diocese of Los Angeles have announced leaving ECUSA and placing themselves under Archbishop Orombi. A spokesman for one of them told the New York Times in October 2004, “We’re not part of the American church anymore. We’re part of Uganda.” Archibishop Orombi said – much the same as Nigeria’s Akinola – “We didn’t look for them or hunt for them. We are responding to a need.” The Los Angeles clergy have been suspended by their bishop, and the diocese is suing for control of the church properties. [Note 15]

During the fall of 2004, Eric Dudley described to the local press his congregation’s relationship with the Ugandan church, and said, “I’m taking the staff of St. John’s to Uganda in February [2005] to develop that relationship further.” [Note 16]

3.
“We are Anglicans.” By the incessant repetition of this mantra from the pulpit, our separatist clergy intend that the people shall become so accustomed to its sound that they no longer notice that the idea is scandalously radical, not “orthodox” at all. We are not Anglicans, not communicants of an “Anglican” church. We are communicants of a corporate member of an Anglican fellowship that coalesced in the 20th century around a tradition of bishops in a common lineage, a Bible in the English language, and the Book of Common Prayer. The Episcopal Church is not a porous membrane through which any priest or congregation may pass with parish resources to another church of that Communion.

The separatist clergy will not have “Anglican” congregations until they follow the example of the Rev. Dennis Ackerson of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit, Tallahassee, who departed the Episcopal Church in February 2004 to form a new congregation with his supporters, leaving behind the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit, its rebirthing congregation, its bishop, and all its physical resources.
Those who do not follow Ackerson’s forthright example remain bound by the secular law referred to above, and by Canon 7.4 of the Episcopal Church, which provides:

Sec. 4. All real and personal property held by or for the benefit of any Parish, Mission or Congregation is held in trust for this Church and the Diocese thereof in which such Parish, Mission or Congregation is located. The existence of this trust, however, shall in no way limit the power and authority of the Parish, Mission or Congregation otherwise existing over such property so long as the particular Parish, Mission or Congregation remains a part of, and subject to, this Church and its Constitution and Canons. (Emph. added.)
Canon 7.5 provides that the trust so existing cannot be waived or compromised by any diocese or diocesan bishop:

Sec. 5. The several Dioceses may, at their election, further confirm the trust declared under the foregoing Section 4 by appropriate action, but no such action shall be necessary for the existence and validity of the trust.
It is a matter of serious doubt whether the clergy of St. John’s, Tallahassee, and a handful of others in the diocese, using their pulpits and parish resources to advance the foreign extortion that Fr. Dudley has acknowledged, have kept the “trust” of which they are trustees, as “part of, and subject to, this Church and its Constitution and Canons.”

The outcry from the American Anglican Council, against their own Church, and from the Akinolas and Orombis of the Anglican Communion, has had its effect, as well, on the Eames Commission and the Windsor Report that was released in October 2004. It appears that the Church of England now considers it to be in its institutional interests, and those of the Anglican Communion as well, for the Archbishop of Canterbury to begin crystallizing, as though it were the legacy of history not an ad hoc initiative, a process aimed at enforcing more doctrinal uniformity among the fellowship churches of the Communion. When the standard that ECUSA allegedly has breached, ¶ 134, is announced by the Windsor Report as one of “dialogue, consultation, discernment and agreement in communion with the fellowship,” ¶ 82 (emph. added), the road ahead looks rocky indeed.

If this initiative continues as the Anglican separatists no doubt fervently wish – since thereby the Episcopal Church may be controlled in a more seemly fashion than through the direct intervention of foreign bishops – then, very soon, Canterbury will find it impossible, because of their sheer weight of numbers, to tolerate anything that Archbishops Akinola and Orombi, and the like, consider unorthodox.

We Americans, we Episcopalians, should of all people know better than to tolerate such goings-on. We’ve been there, done that.
We once were Anglicans in this very sense, for 150 years, in the Colony of Virginia. Our bishops were chosen and controlled by the Church of England, and they controlled the local clergy, who controlled the people. Our religious beliefs were expected to conform to doctrines formulated abroad. All the ambiguities and contradictions in the Christian gospel – there are many, surveying which I do not attempt here – were ironed out authoritatively for our understanding, at our peril, by ordained mortals who collectively thought they had got it all quite right.

The colonial Governor and Assembly of Virginia enforced, as law, an authoritarian English version of Christian doctrine. What they judged to be blasphemy was punished by pushing a bodkin through the offender’s tongue. Work on Sunday, you are whipped. Protest the Trinity, you may be put to death. Miss church, you will lie in the stocks tonight. “All ministers shall duely read divine service and exercise their ministerial function according to the Ecclesiastical lawes and orders of the churche of Englande.” No one married but by consent of the church. By Act of the Assembly in 1660, any ship’s captain bringing Quakers into Virginia was fined, and the Quakers were expelled. And so on. Gene Garman gives a full account at www.sunnetworks.net/ggarman/princip.html.
All this came to an end when Thomas Jefferson secured adoption of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, January 16, 1786. In due course that Act became embodied in the United States Constitution, as part of its First Amendment.
In 1789, when we founded our new Republic, also at Philadelphia, we founded The Episcopal Church under a Constitution and prayer book revision. We adopted our first set of Canon laws a few years later.
Those who forget this history, or who never learned it, are apt to overlook that the distinct personality of the Episcopal Church, in matters of governance and discipline – and, yes, in “doctrine” insofar as it informs governance and discipline – is the product of the uniquely American experience, and of the spirit that enlivened our founding under a secular Constitution. We can well sympathize, today, with the expressed need of African leaders “to recapture our own needs as Africans,” and to work out “a theology that conforms to the continent’s culture.” [Note 17]

The highest decisional authority in our Church is embodied not in our bishops alone but in the General Convention, composed of the House of Bishops and the House of [lay and clerical] Deputies, which must concur in the affirmative on any matter of great significance. Within the House of Deputies, controversial votes are taken by orders, and a majority in both the clerical and lay orders is necessary to carry the affirmative. Split votes in a diocesan deputation count as a negative. It thus takes a broad, powerful conviction to make an affirmative majority in two orders of the House of Deputies and in the House of Bishops. See Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church (Church Publishing Inc., New York).

Thus we have divided our decisional authority and have hedged it about, much as we have done in the United States Congress and state legislatures, to prevent sectarian or regional majorities from dictating everything to the congregations and dioceses at large, in the fashion of the 18th century Church of England, toward their American colonies.
At General Convention 2003, there were not just 62 bishops voting in the affirmative (43 opposed) on developing diocesan liturgies to bless monogamous same-sex unions; there were also 58 lay deputies (38 opposed) and 62 clerical deputies who voted yes (34 opposed) – not counting split deputations. [Note 18] That’s about 60 percent in the affirmative.

On consenting to New Hampshire’s election of Gene Robinson, 63 lay deputies concurred with 65 clergy deputies to consent, as against 32 and 31 opposed, and 13 and 12 divided votes. Again 60 percent, counting split votes as negative. The 62 bishops who voted to consent to Robinson’s election in New Hampshire oversee 66 percent of ECUSA communicants who had a bishop eligible to vote at the time. It was a landslide.

Tabulated by regional groupings of dioceses (“provinces” in ECUSA), the affirmative carried by clear majorities in deputations from the Midwest, the Mountain States, the Far West, New England, and two provinces encompassing 22 dioceses on the Atlantic Seaboard from New York south to Virginia – in every province of the country, that is, except the states of the old Confederacy south of Virginia. Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri returned divided votes.

Rector Eric Dudley at St. John’s Tallahassee, writing to a parishioner on December 16, 2003, declared that, “as you know,” the General Convention decisions were attributable to “those primarily in the northeastern dioceses of the Church.” We Southerners have long been suckers for false rumors of Yankee plots.

Given their own tribal chieftain heritage and the power that inures to them in their culture, it is not surprising that Archbishops Akinola and Orombi supposed that our Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold, could on their objections cancel the acts of General Convention, were he were of a mind to do so. It is surprising indeed that any informed clergy of this Church would pretend to believe such nonsense.

But on the evening of November 24, 2003, Father Eric advised the St. John’s congregation that the Presiding Bishop “signed a covenant” with the other Anglican primates, at Lambeth, “to prevent” the consecration of Bishop Robinson, but that Griswold immediately repudiated that “covenant” on his return to New York.

Fr. Dudley’s statement was grotesquely untrue, as was the similar statement by Archbishop Malango, Ugandan primate of Central Africa, from whom Dudley may have taken his cue. [Note "e"] True enough, Griswold signed the primates’ “Statement of the Anglican Communion meeting in Lambeth Palace,” 15 October 2003. And true enough, the Statement recited that the actions of General Convention “threaten the unity of our own Communion” and other important relationships, and “as a body we deeply regret the actions [of ECUSA and New Westminster] which appear to a number of provinces to have short-circuited that process [of ongoing study on questions of human sexuality]” ; that those actions “do not express the mind of our Communion as a whole, and [they] jeopardize our sacramental fellowship with each other.” (Emph. added.) Therefore, “if [Robinson’s] consecration proceeds, we recognize that we have reached a crucial and critical point in the life of the Anglican Communion and we have had to conclude that the future of the Communion itself will be put in jeopardy. . . . This will tear the fabric of our communion at its deepest level, and may lead to further division . . . .” [Note 19]

If one is inclined to read this Statement with charity toward Frank Griswold’s wish to acknowledge the reality of his colleagues’ emphatic judgment, and his own humility under the blow of their denunciation, one will find in Griswold’s signing no “covenant” to “prevent” the consecration, only a sorrowful acknowledgment of a reality that is, for now, intractable.

What, then, is the moral duty of an intelligent person, having a choice to attribute to the signer of a document either of two interpretations of his purpose in signing, one of those interpretations being consistent with the signer’s subsequent conduct, and the other not? Paul the apostle had an expression that seems apt for those who needlessly choose the inconsistent interpretation, whereby the signer is made out a liar and double-crosser by his subsequent conduct. They are “inventors of evil,” Romans 1.30 (RSV).
Why do the people of the Diocese of Florida tolerate such conduct by clergy in this diocese? Why does our Bishop temporize with the perils that daily increase with the unchecked continuation of such conduct?
4.

Not for centuries has the Church professed admiration let alone obeisance for Paul’s dicta on the divine right of kings, as when he wrote to the Romans about “the governing authorities,” 13:1, 2 RSV, that “those that exist have been instituted by God,” and “he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed . . . .” Reinhold Niebuhr, writing during the rise of Hitler’s regime in Germany, opined that “no passage of Scripture has had so fateful an influence upon Christian political thought as this word,” with no support in “the words of Jesus.” An Interpretation of Christian Ethics (1935) ch. 5, Seabury Press ed. p. 94 (1979).
Paul’s view of human slavery also seems to us, today, opposed to the liberation that he found as a prisoner of the Christ Jesus. Necessary as slavery may have seemed to Christians in cultures of that other time and place, Paul’s commendation in Ephesians, “Slaves, be obedient to those who are your earthly masters, with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as to Christ,” Eph. 6:5, and Titus, 2:9, seems here and now to have been an unqualified embarrassment to Paul and to the Church.
The weaning of the Church from the repressive scripture on women did not begin, as the Windsor Report would seem to imply, ¶¶ 12-21, with Hong Kong’s submission of a question of ordaining a woman to the 1968 Lambeth Conference (nor, if that were in fact the case, did Hong Kong’s submissiveness become retrospectively a binding precedent, as at common law, on all other churches in the Communion). The Episcopal Church USA began distancing itself from scripture subordinating women – and did so “unilaterally,” if you wish – in 1944 or before.
The Lectionary in our Prayer Book before 1944 prescribed the whole of 1 Timothy Ch. 2 as the Lesson to be read during the week of Trinity 19. (BCP publ. 1929 and 1936 verified by the author.) Beginning, apparently, in BCP 1944, 1 Tim 2:1-10 was prescribed for Morning Prayer during the week of Trinity 19, and vss. 11-15 were quietly dropped. Those prescriptions famously read:

“[11] Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. [12] I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent. [13] For Adam was formed first, then Eve; [14] and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. [15] Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.”
The pruning of 1 Timothy Ch. 2 continued in BCP 1977, when vss. 9 and 10 were excised from the Daily Office Year Two, Proper 3, for Tuesday after the Sunday after Pentecost closest to May 25:

“. . . [9] also that women should adorn themselves modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly attire [10] but by good deeds, as befits women who profess religion.”
Thus was our liturgical reading of 1 Timothy Ch. 2 shorn of its embarrassing prescriptions for women. [Yes, I know that scholars today think Paul did not write 1 Timothy, that one of his disciples did. Do the orthodox therefore excise the entire book from “the infallible word of God,” so that we need not be troubled further with its error?]
Now in turn, we must call into question Paul’s claim to the Romans that human sexual attraction is, by law of nature, an exclusively heterosexual domain. The evidence and our best sense of the matter is that the homosexual orientation is not unnatural or contrived in the lives of this minority of men and women; and that for this reason the age-old persecution of homosexuals by Western society, and by the Church, must end. [Note that Paul did not confuse, as do some today, homosexual conduct and fornication. Paul in 1 Cor. 6.9 KJV distinguishes “fornicators” from “abusers of themselves with mankind,” and for good reason: “fornication” is universally defined over against marriage, i.e., fornicators are not married to each other, marriage being the gatehouse and regulator of legitimate sex. As a matter of definition, therefore, to say nothing of justice, how can homosexual partners, to whom marriage is denied, be described as "fornicators”?]

Some in the Church believe that homosexuals should be taught to behave as heterosexuals, in the fashion that, years ago, natural lefthanders were taught penmanship as if they were righties, creating a peculiar hand and arm posture and much smeared ink, but no lifetime injury. The same cannot be said of our therapies for homosexuals, intended to reconcile them to their burning lives in celibacy.
Paul was the incomparable apostle for Christ Jesus in nearly all of what he wrote, and when he confessed for us all the human predicament in which we are by Christ redeemed – “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate,” Rom. 7.15 – Paul earned our unceasing devotion as counselor and friend. Among all the admiring and disparaging words that notables have written about Paul, no one spoke of the apostle more wonderfully than did Paul Tillich: [Note 20]
“To the man who longs for God and cannot find him; to the man who wants to be acknowledged by God and cannot even believe that he is; to the man who is striving for a new imperishable meaning of his life and cannot discover it – to this man Paul speaks.”
Even so, the apostle spoke occasionally in another, less authentic voice – proving the poignancy of Romans Ch. 7 and the wisdom of Tillich’s assessment! – and it now is increasingly clear that Paul was never more vulnerable than when he pontificated on natural law.
Since Paul’s word in Romans 1:20-28 appears now to have been mistaken in supposing that “nature” has prescribed heterosexuality as the exclusively ordained sexual experience, we are free to consult both tradition and reason for guidance. The Africans prefer their cultural tradition; most Anglican churches prefer our tradition of homophobia, honored over centuries; and our Episcopal Church, through its fully authorized General Convention, has found certain accommodations of homosexuality to be not inconsistent with the Gospel of the Christ Jesus, and wholly consonant with reason, as today we are given to understand these mysteries.
Jonathan Rauch, author of Gay Marriage: Why It is Good for Gays, Good for Straights and Good for America (2004), says this about growing up with an orientation that he could not understand and acknowledge until he was an adult: [Note 21]

“We grew up taking for granted that to be homosexual was to be alienated and isolated, not just for now but for life, from the culture of marriage and all the blessings it brings. . . . The greatest promise of same-sex marriage is not the tangible improvement it may bring to today’s committed gay couples, but its potential to reinforce the message that marriage is the gold standard for human relationships: that adults and children and gays and straights and society and souls all flourish best when love, sex and marriage go together.”
Episcoplians as a church body do not doubt that “marriage is the gold standard for human relationships.” Such is our heterosexual jealously for marriage that it will be years, if ever in the lives of those now living, before marriage will be privileged to homosexuals. The institution itself (not one’s own marriage) seems to us devalued by the prospect, as if marriage were a scarce commodity which must be rationed out to those who can procreate, rather than wasted on those who seek only lifelong personal bonding.

Meanwhile, we in our General Convention, by powerful majorities in both houses, in both orders, have said that homosexuals need, and we heterosexual Christians surely need, this small step to humanize this historically despised minority. The Episcopal church offers bonded homosexual couples – only those committed to lifelong monogamous unions – the exceedingly modest shelter of a blessing by our humble Church.

Surely one may disagree with this, if one must disagree, without resolving to overthrow the constitutional governance of our Church.

God save the Episcopal Church!

Note 1: AP story by Glenn McKenzie, http://www.thestate.com/ religion today, Nov. 27, 2003.
Note 2: “More than half of Nigeria is Muslim and one third of the country’s 36 states are
governed by Islamic religious law, sharia.” Editorial opinion, The Toronto Star Nov. 24,
2003, p. 15. Akinola wrote to Archbishop Winston N. Ndungane of Cape Town on Sept.
23, 2003, responding to the latter’s criticism of Akinola’s attack on the American and
Canadian churches, saying that he, Akinola, had “called the world’s attention to the
infringement on fundamental human rights that the imposition of the Islamic penal code
portended for freedom-loving peoples. The Church in Nigeria has borne the most brunt
of this unwarranted imposition.” Africa News Service, Sept. 23, 2003, Nairobi, (African
Church Information Service/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX).
Note 3: AP story by Glenn McKenzie, Nov. 27, 2003, ante note 1.
Note 4: Ibid.
Note 5: Story by Elizabeth Bryant for The Toronto Star, Jan. 31, 2004. p. K07., reporting
the illegality of homosexuality in Nigeria, though “sentences are seldom meted out.”
Note 6: AP story by Dulue Mbachu, The Florida Times-Union Oct. 29, 2004, p. A 12.
Note 7: AP story by Rachel Zoll, The Florida Times-Union Oct. 8, 2004, p. 6.
Note 8: Id. at p. 9.
Note 9: AP story by Glenn McKenzie, Nov. 27, 2003, ante note 1.

Note 10: Atlantic Monthly 292 No. 4, pp. 46, 48 (Nov. 2003).
Note 11: Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville), Apr. 4, 2004, p. A-12.
Note 12 : The Times (London) May 19, 2004, byline Ruth Gledhill, Religion
Correspondent, Home News p. 7, “Gay Bishop church ‘must be expelled.’”
Note 13: AP story by Rachel Zoll, ante n. 9, noting that “Each Anglican province is
autonomous, and crossing geographical boundaries as Akinola plans to do is a direct
challenge to Episcopal leaders.”
Note 14: Statement by the Church of Nigeria (Anglican), office of the Archbishop, Oct. 19,
2004, available online at http://www.wpiscopalchurchusa.org/

Note 15: New York Times Oct. 3, 2004, p. 21.

Note 16: Tallahassee Democrat Sept. 11, 2004, pp. 1D, 2D.

Note 17: AP story by Dulue Mbachu in the Florida Times-Union, Oct. 24, 2004, pp. A
12,13, reporting results of the African primates meeting at Lagos, Nigeria, as related by
Archbishop Akinola and Bishop Joe Seoka of Pretoria, South Africa.

Note 18: Voting as tabulated in The Living Church, Aug. 31, 2003, augmented by details
from Professor Louie Crew’s website, http://newark.rutgers.edu/lcrew.gc.html.

Note 19: The Primates’ Statement is accessible through www.aco.org/acns/articles.

Note 20: This fragment by Tillich and other gems were collected by Malcolm Muggeridge
and Alex Vidler in the preface entitled “Variations on a Theme,” in their book, Paul,
Envoy Extraordinary (Harper & Row, 1972).

Note 21: New York Times, Op-Ed page 11, Aug. 15, 2004, “Imperfect Unions.”
Author’s note: I edited the text at pp. 5 and 27 in March 2005.
Note a: “Homosexuality is an orientation of uncertain origin. Whether it is genetic or psychological or both, makes no difference. Homosexual orientation does not, in and of itself, make a person unacceptable to God any more than does left-handedness or gender. As with heterosexuality, the difference between orientation and behavior is crucial. Homosexual sexual behavior is governed by the same Biblical principals [sic] as heterosexuality. Abstinence from intimate sexual relations, celibacy, is the appropriate response to homosexual orientation.” Res. 2004-09, Diocesan Convention 2004, as reported in The Diocesan newspaper after adjournment.. . ]
Note b: Mills v. Baldwin, 362 So.2d 2 (Fla. 1978), following earlier decisions of both the Florida court and the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court refused further review of Mills v. Baldwin.
Note c: Constitution of The Episcopal Church 1789 as amended, Arts I, II, VIII, XII; Canon 7.4, Canons of the General Convention.
Note d: During the November 24, 2003 congregation meeting, the rector would say only that he did not “intend” to try remove the property from the ECUSA trust, though he might put another sign “out there somewhere,” near “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You.” The several St. John’s clergy wagged their heads in mock bewilderment when I asked the same question again on December 1: “Do you acknowledge you have no power to take the property?” The “retired bishop in residence,” Alden Hathaway of Pittsburgh, said on December 1 that the question “is being studied.” He did not acknowledge the existence of the judicial decisions and church canons cited in fn. c. There has been no further public report of the progress of Bp. Hathaway’s “study.” Bp. Hathaway was mentor 20 years ago to Rev. David Roseberry of Christ Church, Plano, Texas, host in January 2004 to the closed-door organizational meeting of the Network (NACDP) aiming “to produce some sort of church-within-a-church” in ECUSA. AP story in NY Times Jan. 15, 2004, “Religion Today.”
Note e: Archbishop Malango described Griswold’s action as “dishonest, false, and [a] great betrayal.” Commonweal, No. 131 No. 3, pp. 8, 9, Feb. 13, 2004.

1 Comments:

Blogger Patrick said...

HOLY SPIRIT
About 3 years ago I dropped into a black hole – four months of absolute terror. I wanted to end my life, but somehow [Holy Spirit], I reached out to a friend who took me to hospital. I had three visits [hospital] in four months – I actually thought I was in hell. I imagine I was going through some sort of metamorphosis [mental, physical & spiritual]. I had been seeing a therapist [1994] on a regular basis, up until this point in time. I actually thought I would be locked away – but the hospital staff were very supportive [I had no control over my process]. I was released from hospital 16th September 1994, but my fear, pain & shame had only subsided a little. I remember this particular morning waking up [home] & my process would start up again [fear, pain, & shame]. No one could help me, not even my therapist [I was terrified]. I asked Jesus Christ to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. Slowly, all my fear has dissipated & I believe Jesus delivered me from my “psychological prison.” I am a practicing Catholic & the Holy Spirit is my friend & strength; every day since then has been a joy & blessing. I deserve to go to hell for the life I have led, but Jesus through His sacrifice on the cross, delivered me from my inequities. John 3: 8, John 15: 26, are verses I can relate to, organically. He’s a real person who is with me all the time. I have so much joy & peace in my life, today, after a childhood spent in orphanages [England & Australia]. Fear, pain, & shame, are no longer my constant companions. I just wanted to share my experience with you [Luke 8: 16 – 17].
Peace Be With You
Patrick

3/23/2007 3:45 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home