What’s left of unity in the Episcopal Church is at stake heading into a weekend election for bishop of California that sets up a major clash over gays’ role in the church.(Tip of the biretta to Karen).
Three of the seven candidates are openly gay, and choosing one of them to head the Diocese of California would further alienate Episcopal conservatives already feeling betrayed that the church approved a gay bishop three years ago. It could also fracture the strained relationship between America’s 2.3 million Episcopalians and their parent body, the worldwide Anglican Communion.
A vote against a gay bishop would likely preserve the fragile truce.
The Rev. Paul Zahl, dean of the conservative Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pa., likened the election of a gay bishop in California to “a terrorist bomb, which is timed to destroy a peace process"...
This isn't the first time we've heard such militant language from the extremists, and probably won't be the last. You might recall that back in 2003 they described their plan of action as "guerrilla warfare". How such a choice of words can be justified is beyond me.
The Human Rights Campaign was a bit more blunt in their reaction:
...Reverend Zahl should apologize for spouting such harmful rhetoric in the middle of an open and honest conversation happening in the life of the church,” said Human Rights Campaign Religion and Faith Program Director Harry Knox. “To liken the election of an openly gay bishop to a ‘terrorist bomb’ is one of the most outrageous comments made by a radical conservative fringe in the church that has certainly made some outrageous comments in the last few years”...The Rev. Susan Russell did not mince words either:
...“Paul Zahl's comments comparing the election of a gay bishop to a ‘terrorist bomb’ is hate speech that has no place in any faith-based discourse,” said the Rev. Susan Russell, director of Integrity, the national gay and lesbian Episcopal caucus. “Such language does nothing to advance our public discourse, does everything to further polarize and alienate and is antithetical to the love God calls us all to offer each other. I call for Dean Zahl to apologize for this incendiary rhetoric that attacks not only gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people but the very fabric of our historic faith in the Jesus who called us be peacemakers and to love our neighbors as ourselves”...The election will be one worth keeping an eye on. Personally, I trust the Holy Spirit to work through the election process, and that the right person will be selected as the Bishop of California. Why are some anxious about it?
Well, here's one scenario; let's say a same sex partnered nominee is elected (which, for some bizarre reason, will be the only criterion that some will choose to focus on). Very possibly, that act alone could trigger more schismatic declarations from places like Nigeria. Beyond that, if indications are true, there is a good possiblity that the House of Bishops will not give consent to such an election at General Convention, which will undo 30 years of work towards making a clear witness to the world that "in this Church, there will be no outcasts". So, to some, it is a lose/lose deal.
Should that be a consideration for those voting on Saturday? I certainly hope not. They must prayerfully seek God's will, and disregard the powers and principalities of this world.
You can learn more about the nominees here. You can follow the ballots of the election on Saturday here.
Remember to keep the Diocese of California in your prayers.
Almighty God, giver of every good gift: Look graciously on your Church, and so guide the minds of those who shall choose a bishop for the Diocese of California that they may receive a faithful pastor, who will care for your people and equip them for their ministries; through Jesus Christ our Lord.Amen.J.