Thursday, February 22, 2007

And on the Third Day...

As I write, it is not yet three full days since the release of the Dar es Salaam communique, but it already seems a familiar feature of the Anglican landscape, almost as if it had always been here.

For the most part, conservatives (those who call themselves "orthodox") are relieved and hopeful (though there are exceptions). Even Matt "Glass Half Empty" Kennedy (OK...I mean that in a playful, friendly way) has given it a thumbs up. I share that view. It may turn out to be a critical hinge on which the history of Anglican Christianity turns. Future seminarians will need to know about it (and when it happened) as they prepare for canonical exams.

Meanwhile, response from liberals (those who call themselves "progressive") is decidedly more diverse--one might even say, more interesting. Some are trying to see the Primates' Meeting in the most favorable (from their perspective) possible light. The Presiding Bishop was seated and present for the entire meeting. She was elected to the Primates' Meeting Standing Committee (which entitles her to a seat on the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates' Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council). Bishop Duncan was not asked to sit in as a "shadow Primate"--he said his piece and was dismissed. The Episcopal Church was not summarily expelled from the Anglican Communion, and no structure for a "replacement" province was set up. One frequent poster on the HoB/D listserv says over and over again that the ACN and AAC and Archbishop Akinola "got nothing of what they wanted," as if multiple repetition makes it true. He apparently hasn't checked with any of the principals.

As analysis and commentary find their way into cyberspace, however, "progressive" opinion is overwhelmingly negative. Most of it is angry, and some verges on bitterness. This very blog has received a "hate comment" in that vein for the post before last. The Bishops of New York, Washington, Connecticut, Bethlehem, Chicago, Minnesota, and California have averred their firm refusal to acquiesce to the Primates' demands that the HOB affirm Bo33 and agree among themselves not to authorize same-sex blessings in their dioceses.

It's not difficult to discern from whence comes the bitterness and defiance. It comes from having enjoyed a juggernaut of political success within TEC--and, to a degree, within the Communion--for a long, long time. The project of "normalizing" homosexual orientation and behavior has been prosecuted with steady success, both in church and society. To have that train now go off the rails at an international level may not be much of a surprise, but it is a huge shock.

But among the community of forces that have successfully--in part, and for the moment, at least--pushed back on what seemed like an unstoppable progression, there is also a distinct element of bitterness--bitterness that has festered and now manifests itself in an impetus toward revenge. For too long have too many Episcopalians prayed the imprecatory Psalms when they come up in the Daily Office rota and thought not of tyrants and oppressive social systems, but leaders of their own church. That, of course, is twisted in its own way, but I flag it not to endorse it but just to name it as part of the reality that's feeding the current dynamics.

Interestingly, some on the liberal side have realized this. Dean Tom Luck of Syracuse Cathedral wrote on HoB/D (and I copy here with his permission):
This is about generosity and the lack of generosity, power and resentment, mainly between heterosexual men as it turns out. TEC has shown more generosity to un-canonical actions by the left (the Philadelphia ordinations, blessing same-sex relationships, changing the words of the BCP to be inclusive, other non-authorized liturgical practices, giving Communion to people who are not baptized (which is still against the Canons)) than has been shown to the right (not allowing the 1928 Prayer Book, requiring or putting pressure on dioceses to ordain women etc.). For the past thirty years eggs have been laid, the chicks have come squarely home to roost, and
schism within The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion is before us. I don't like it and my heart breaks that bishops must choose between pastoral care for faithful glbt parishioners and the Anglican Communion. But during the liberal ascendancy over the past thirty years TEC has treated ecclesiastical disobedience by the left as prophetic and good, and ecclesiastical disobedience by the right as un-catholic and bad, when in fact seeds were being laid that bring us to this time of reckoning. We are in this mess because we have not been willing to be generous witheach other, and our mess is now international news.
The Revd Mike Kinman echoed and expanded these sentiments in the same forum (and, again, I quote with permission):
Certainly there are places where lines have to be drawn, but I believe part of the reason we are in this mess is that we on the liberal side have demonized those on "the other side" and pretty much had free rein doing so since the mid-1970s. Is it any wonder there is a counteroffensive on this scale? As you say, we reap what we sow. ... The difficulty with being an "inclusive, big tent church" is that inclusivity cuts both ways and in doing so creates tensions that sometimes have to be held because they cannot be resolved. That's one of the reasons I believe we need to approach this on all sides with a lot more humility, a lot less certitude. To not be so sure we are right and everybody else is wrong. To remember that nobody is good but God alone.
These are healing words. Can I say it again? These are healing words. I'm saying this from the depth of my own heart. I speak for myself, but I suspect there are others who feel the same thing. Far too seldom in these debates have I felt like those who are my interlocutors have any empathy for my position. The posts I have quoted are among those rare instances. I commend both of these gentlemen for their observations.

And I will not neglect to add that there has been a huge amount of demonization originating from the "reasserter" side as well. I don't control anybody. I don't even know that I influence anybody. But it sure would be nice if that kind of thing stopped.

It's not all "process," of course. There are disagreements on matters of real substance. Communication on these issues should be transparent and in good faith. But we should not overlook how much of the tenor of our rhetoric, from all directions, flows from our woundedness--the wounds we have received from within the household of faith. I don't know what it will take to get past the substantive issues. But I do know what will guarantee that we never do, and that is the extent to which we cannot learn to fight nicely.

No comments: