Sunday, February 02, 2014

Recently, Nigeria and Uganda passed legislation that many perceive to be “anti-gay.”  Since I’m neither Nigerian nor Ugandan, I’ll refrain from commenting on the merits of these laws since doing so would constitute a kind of intrusive, American neo-colonialism.

Both laws prompted an open letter from my gracious lords of Canterbury and York in which What’s-His-Face and The Other Guy declared:

In recent days, questions have been asked about the Church of England’s attitude to new legislation in several countries that penalises people with same-sex attraction. In answer to these questions, we have recalled the common mind of the Primates of the Anglican Communion, as expressed in the Dromantine Communiqué of 2005.

The  Communiqué said;  

“….we wish to make it quite clear that in our discussion and assessment of moral appropriateness of specific human behaviours, we continue unreservedly to be committed to the pastoral support and care of homosexual people. 

The victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us. We assure homosexual people that they are children of God, loved and valued by Him and deserving the best we can give – pastoral care and friendship.”

What’s-His-Face, who will shortly embark on a trip to Africa, should get an earful.  Because, Your Graces, it might be a good idea for both of you to not even think about playing the “mind of the Communion” card any time soon, replied Eliud Wabukala, Archbishop of Kenya and chairman of the GAFCON Primates Council.

This week, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York sought to remind the leadership of the Anglican Communion and the Presidents of Nigeria and Uganda of the importance of friendship and care for homosexual people.

Christians should always show particular care for those who are vulnerable, but this cannot be separated from the whole fabric of biblical moral teaching in which the nature of marriage and family occupy a central place.

The Dromantine Communiqué from which the Archbishops quote also affirmed (Clause 17) the 1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution 1.10 which states that ‘homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture’ and that the conference ‘cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions’.

Yet earlier this week, the English College of Bishops accepted the recommendation of the Pilling Report for two years of ‘facilitated conversation’ because at least some of the bishops could not accept the historic teaching of the Church as reaffirmed in the Lambeth resolution.

Indeed, in making the case for such a debate, the Pilling Report observes ‘In the House of Lords debate on same sex marriage, the Archbishop of York commended that the Church needed to think about the anomalies in a situation where it is willing to bless a tree or a sheep, but not a faithful human relationship.’  The anomaly only exists of course if it really is the case that a committed homosexual union can also be Christian.

The good advice of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York would carry much more weight if they were able to affirm that they hold, personally, as well as in virtue of their office, to the collegial mind of the Anglican Communion. At the moment I fear that we cannot be sure.

While Stanley Ntagali, Uganda’s new primate, actually sounded rather ominous.

The Church of Uganda is encouraged by the work of Uganda’s Parliament in amending the Anti-Homosexuality Bill to remove the death penalty, to reduce sentencing guidelines through a principle of proportionality, and to remove the clause on reporting homosexual behaviour, as we had recommended in our 2010 position statement on the Bill. This frees our clergy and church leaders to fulfill the 2008 resolution of our House of Bishops to “offer counseling, healing and prayer for people with homosexual disorientation, especially in our schools and other institutions of learning. The Church is a safe place for individuals, who are confused about their sexuality or struggling with sexual brokenness, to seek help and healing.”

Accordingly, we are grateful for the reminder of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to fulfill such commitments as stated in the 2005 Communique of the Primates Meeting held in Dromantine, Northern Ireland.

We would further like to remind them, as they lead their own church through the “facilitated conversations” recommended by the Pilling Report, that the teaching of the Anglican Communion from the 1998 Lambeth Conference, from Resolution 1.10, still stands. It states that “homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture,” and the conference “cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions.”

It was the Episcopal Church USA (TEC) and the Anglican Church of Canada’s violations of Lambeth 1.10 which caused the Church of Uganda to break communion with those Provinces more than ten years ago. We sincerely hope the Archbishops and governing bodies of the Church of England will step back from the path they have set themselves on so the Church of Uganda will be able to maintain communion with our own Mother Church.

Mrs. Schori fired back.

The Episcopal Church has been clear about our expectation that every member of the LGBT community is entitled to the same respect and dignity as any other member of the human family.  Our advocacy for oppressed minorities has been vocal and sustained.  The current attempts to criminalize LGBT persons and their supporters are the latest in a series, each stage of which has been condemned by this Church, as well as many other religious communities and nations.  Our advocacy work continues to build support for the full human rights and dignity of all persons, irrespective of gender, race, national origin, creed, sexual orientation, physical and mental ability or inability.  To do less is effectively to repudiate our membership in the human community.  No one of God’s children is worth less or more than another; none is to be discriminated against because of the way in which she or he has been created.  Our common task is to build a society of justice for all, without which there will never be peace on earth. Episcopalians claim that our part in God’s mission is to love God fully, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  That means all our neighbors.

While a guy named John McCann is sick and tired of having to pretend to respect the savages.  Oh, and Hitler and crap.

We are a global faith, even tho there is autonomy, and a variety of voices which we accept as “diversity”. I would like to hear some more Episcopal voices raised in support those particulary in Uganda, being the worst, but in many African countries have draconian laws against LGBT people, and in many African countries, the clergy is complicit in accepting the laws. For those who would say “we have to get our own house in order” should think back to Hitler, when too few in the clergy spoke out against him until it was too late. Thus far, our response on Uganda and other countries with similar policies has been far too timid.

Up to now, I’ve been something of a radical as to what traditionalist Anglicans should do with themselves.  For a long time, I’ve felt that the only way that conservative Anglicanism can save itself by getting clear of the cold, dead hand of Lambeth Palace.

While it’s good to see the rhetoric on both sides heat up, I’m not so sure that a formal split matters all that much any more.  Because as it is presently constituted, the “Anglican tradition” is utterly meaningless.
Anglicans revere the Scriptures except when they don’t; most intellligent people realize that claiming to value the Bible while simultaneously shaking your head at all the stuff God got wrong is a contradiction and that’s putting it as mildly as it can possibly be put.

Anglicans have “teachings” which are supposed to reflect the “mind of the Communion.”  This one, alluded to above, for example.  What results if you fall short of or even deliberately defy one of these “teachings?”

As we have all seen, about the worst thing that can happen to you is to be subjected to the emotional ordeal of the “facilitated conversation.”  But what if that doesn’t change your mind?  No problem, we’ll just schedule another facilitated conversation since you obviously didn’t pay attention to the first one.

And if you decide that you’ve got better things to do with your time and skip that facilitated conversation and all the facilitated conversations that follow it, up to and including Anglicanism’s Big Decennial Facilitated Conversation, what happens to you then?

Absolutely nothing.

You know something funny?  Anglicanism can make a serious case that it is the most successful religion the world has ever known.  According to how Anglicans define themselves and practice their tradition, there is literally nobody in the world who can plausibly claim that they are not an Anglican.

So stay in, go out, it’s up to you.  Call your church “Anglican” or come up with a new title that reflects reality.  Seek “official” recognition from Canterbury or stop caring about such trifles and get on with the work of the Lord, “officially” Anglican or not.

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