Wednesday, July 11, 2007

From Chuck Blanchard: "Next Steps"

In a contribution that should assist in the continuation of our previous discussion, Chuck Blanchard offers The Anglican Communion: Next Steps.

Before I quote Chuck's steps, I want to mention a couple of concerns that I have. Please note that I'm preaching to myself as well right now. I have no problem with the occasional emotional outburst. I'm pleased that folks find this to be a place that is safe enough for such expressions. Also, I do not mind tangential conversations. I think that is how real conversations unfold. Some of our best discussions have had nothing to do with the post. However, I do hope that we can all keep in mind that those reading our words may see our discussions as an example of what it means to be part of a Christian community. An eccentric and sometimes heretical community, of course, but hopefully still one that is rooted in Christ. We are offering a witness to the world.

Now, regarding Chuck's steps; I don't agree with all of them. Some of you will disagree as well. But, we have to start somewhere. Feel free to voice your disagreements, but try to stay focused on the issues. And, even better, if you disagree, offer an alternative idea.

As a refresher, Nicholas Knisely offers a summation of the points made in our previous discussion, which originated from a comment by Mad Priest:

...If I'm reading this right, it would appear that one of the reasons the Episcopal Church should be willing to stay in the Communion rather than just walking away on its own is that by doing what needs to be done to remain, we would be taking on the role of the loyal opposition.

Being loyal opposition is not something that we Americans have managed to do well - witness the behavior of some conservatives within the Episcopal Church or the behavior of the Episcopal Church within the larger Communion - but I take the "MadPriest's" point and offer it as an additional rationale to those who have called to just pull the plug and walk off without delay.
Chuck suggests four steps that would keep us at the table:

So, in light of this responsibility, what should the Episcopal Church do? I offer the following thoughts:

First, another response by the House of Bishops that speaks of polity and the independence of the Episcopal Church will not be helpful. We have made our points about polity and independence. It is time to offer a way ahead to reconciliation within the Communion.

Second, we need to end our obsession with Archbishop Akinola and the most vocal Global South Primates. They are not the audience for our response. I doubt even defrocking of all gay priests would be enough for them. Instead, our audience includes Anglicans across the world who want to preserve the Communion, members of our own Church for whom the issues of the day are of no import, and yes, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the majority of the Primates. This audience will not demand capitulation, but it will expect a respectful (and yes, compromising) response.

Third, we need to stop talking about the issues of same sex unions as if they were political issues that can be decided by majority votes. These are theological issues, that deserve theological attention. Quite frankly, the TEC has moved in a direction without such a formal theological process--at least not one that gets much attention today. The Canadian Church's St. Michael's Report was quite useful. The House of Bishops should start a serious and open theological discussion and study among Episcopalians on all sides of this issue. If we are to move in the direction of recognizing same sex relationships (which I think we should), we need to do some serious theological work--now. And we should invite Anglicans in other provinces to participate.

Fourth, I think the House of Bishops can offer at least something to the Communion in addition to a willingness to engage in a serious and open theological examination of the issues. The House of Bishops can clarify what we all know what was intended by General Convention in 2006--that at least until the next General Convention, a majority of the House of Bishops will not vote to approve a bishop that would cause angst in other provinces. And, I think that the House of Bishops could agree to wait for the next General Convention, and the results of the theological discussions, before proceeding with official rites for same sex blessings.

If we care only for the Episcopal Church, we need not do any of this. If we are about our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in the rest of the Anglican Communion, we need to take heed of what the Mad Priest has to say.
I agree with steps one and two. I find step three quite frustrating, but understandable. There has been much theological work done. To Set Our Hope on Christ is a serious examination of all the issues. The section that addresses same sex blessings, which begins on page 23, is an excellent summation of how many of us in the Episcopal church view that particular development. But, for some reason, that document, and others, are, for the most part, ignored. So we need more documentation. Fine. We'll develop it.

Step four is going to be where we run into some disagreement. The actions of General Convention 2006 went far beyond what many of us can accept. To go further is asking too much. We cannot continue to ask for a sacrifice from only a segment of our membership.

We have resolution B033 regarding the election of bishops, which some of us, even though we feel it got shoved down our throats and can still taste its bitterness, have accepted as the official statement of TEC. That should be sufficient. Any further clarification would simply be the interpretation of the House of Bishops, and rather than add clarity, will most likely make things even more unclear.

Regarding blessings, we have not authorized rites, and we cannot do so until, at the earliest, General Convention 2009. If stating that fact is what Chuck is suggesting, I'd have no real disagreement with it, as long as bishops are still allowed the freedom to offer pastoral care to all members of their diocese.

Ok, enough from me. Your thoughts?

J.

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