from Midwest Conservative Journal by The Editor
The Rt. Rev. Pierre Whalon, Bishop-in-charge of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe, is as good a liberal as the Episcopal Organization has but he is also something else. An honest man.
Admit it, says Pete. The Episcopalians have not made a serious theological case for the innovations of the last six and a half years:
"When I sat with the rest of the bishops in Convention in Minneapolis on the day that our House confirmed the New Hampshire election, I sensed the Spirit was moving. It felt like a holy moment, in other words. But what was the Spirit saying, I asked myself.
"We have not finished unpacking the significance of that moment. One thing that has become clear to me is that the equivocations of our church with respect to our gay and lesbian members were being exposed. While I do believe that a case for the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people that rests on faithful arguments from Scripture, theological anthropology, etc., can be made, the fact is that this church has not officially done so. Not that our official theology is deficient, but in fact, we have none, other than the traditional teaching still theoretically in force that love is to be sexually expressed only within the bonds of Matrimony between husband and wife. Of course, there are plenty of theologians writing theologies, lots of people composing liturgies of same-sex blessings, and partnered gay clergy are fairly commonplace. But while there are General Convention resolutions that anticipate such developments, no official teaching backs these actions."
Whalon believes that a serious theological case for these innovations can be made. He also believes that “because it makes me feel good” isn’t a serious theological case.
"So what was the Spirit doing in Minneapolis on that hot day in late July 2003? In a previous Anglicans Online column, I reviewed the history of the movement from rejection to acceptance of exceptions to full inclusion, working out the implications of the 1976 Convention resolution that affirmed that gay and lesbian people are “children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church” (A-69). The stunning fact is that since Bishop Paul Moore ordained Ellen Barrett to the priesthood in 1977 (and was not censured for it), no work has ever been done in any depth that has received the approval of the General Convention to explain why “love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church” include access to marital rites and ordination.
"It seems to me that the Holy Trinity had had enough of the “don’t ask–don’t tell” policy that was de facto on the church-wide level up until 2003, and therefore the Spirit introduced us all to the new Bishop of New Hampshire. Now we had to deal with the reality of what we doing, and defend it. Not by some appeal to psychology or endocrinology or genetics, or other contested, ephemeral, and finally dehumanizing “scientific answers,” but some honest-to-God theology, a reasoned argument based firmly on Scripture and the other, lesser resources of the Tradition.
"Since 2003, we have as a church done nothing to change the situation. Last summer’s Convention resolution D025 declared what a majority of the deputies and bishops believe, but acknowledged continuing disagreement in the last and rhetorically most significant paragraph. I voted for it because it is primarily a statement of fact (“the majority believes this . . . but . . .”) rather than a theological argument."
The Episcopal Organization is doing no one, least of all homosexuals, any favors by making things up as it goes along.
"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.
"And the Anglican Communion was quite right to ask us to hold off consecrating any other homosexual bishops.
"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."
What’s truly impressive about this piece is that Pierre Whalon seems to be that rarest of all Anglican liberals. Someone who is open to the possibility that he might just be wrong.
"Finally, I am quite aware that changing a part of the church’s teaching may be in error, and that those leaders who lead others astray will fall under God’s judgment. I do not expect to get handed one day a millstone with my initials on it fitted to my neck size, so to speak, but those are the stakes, and we need to own up to it. Moreover, as a matter of justice, not to mention love, it is simply wrong, that is, unjust and unloving, to continue as a church to live into a new teaching without giving clear reasons—carefully argued and officially accepted by our own church—for doing so. While justice delayed is justice denied, the global scope of our actions is in fact hindering the acceptance of gay and lesbian people elsewhere.
"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?"
From the start of the Current Unpleasantness, I’ve said over and over that I would go back to the Episcopal parish I left in 2003 if you would only provide me with a Scriptural case for Gene Robinson.
That offer still stands. But the fact that a liberal like Pierre Whalon thinks that a case has not yet been made after six and a half years suggests that I won’t be dropping by my old joint any time soon.