Friday, March 31, 2006

Civil Rights and the Church

I want to commend to you a blog started by a fairly new Episcopalian; ePiscoSours, which is subtitled, "Searching for spirituality in the Episcopal Church while still enjoying pisco sours in this world."

Specifically, I wanted to highlight this post, which I reprint here with the author's permission:


Support for LGBT rights are growing faster than churches’ ability or desire to address these issues.

As much as I gripe sometime about the Anglican Communion’s shilly-shallying on the issue, I have to admit that my parish has welcomed me like a—well, I was about to say like a long-lost son, but it’s more like the son they never knew they had, isn’t it? In any event, I noticed in the parking lot yesterday that there were a few cars with rainbow stickers on them, so… it’s not just me. At my parish at least, there’s the recognition that we are members of the Body of Christ.

(As an aside, at yesterday’s service we had to fill out a major survey by the ECUSA about every aspect of our church life. One of the questions asked whether the parish had dealt with homosexuality. I haven’t been here long enough to know, but I’ll eagerly await the results of that question, believe you me.)

And yet, there’s the sense that the Communion ought to be at the forefront of civil-rights issues. I wouldn’t mind so much, I guess, if the church refused to bless same-sex marriages so long as it fought for our civil rights in the world. It’s a bit like my stance on abortion: while I believe it’s a grievous sin and I wouldn’t counsel anybody to get one, ultimately and civilly there’s an actual woman whose body will be forced into service as an incubator. (See the Judith Jarvis Thomson’s violin-player analogy.)

My point is, civil rights and Christian morality are not the same thing and were never meant to be. I could deal with being gay, and being a sinner because I’m gay, so long as that issue is kept between me and my priest and my parish and the Body of which I am a part. But I just can’t see how, for example, my providing health-care benefits to someone else is an issue of morality; if anything, the church should be actively encouraging me to support and provide for another human being, even if it deems the sexual part of our relationship to be sinful.

So yes, to the extent that the church avoids taking a stand on civil rights, and insists on keeping the Communion whole by building that unity on top of my body and flesh, yes, I’m quite disappointed. I think the church is redeemable or else I would never have joined; I look for ways to testify about being openly Christian and openly gay. But do you see now just why I am so frustrated at times?



Keeping in mind the premise that we meet people where they are in their spiritual lives, and avoid the temptation of dragging them to where we think they should be, I ask that we set aside our current frustations, hurts and weariness, and recall the times in our lives when we were compelled to draw closer to the living God; to enter into a relationship rooted in healing love. From that gentle perspective, respond to this post.

I'll start. Advocating for civil rights for all God's people (which, imo, includes everyone, if they know it or not) is taking a moral position. Unfortunately, it seems that today the term "morality" has come to stand for "personal sin", with no new term developed for "corporate sin." The denial of civil rights is symptomatic of a societal sickness; evidence of submission to a power (to use Walter Wink's term) that attempts to block the flow of God's grace intended for all of creation.

I suspect that our preoccupation with personal sins has much to do with the way in which we can fairly easily address this symptom of spiritual illness by repenting and amending our lives. We have a large degree of control over the situation. Corporate sins are much more difficult to confront, but confront them we must.

Your turn. And please, once again, be gentle, kind readers.


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