Monday, October 31, 2005

Heyward; "Take On the Mantel of Prophet"

In Gays and the Future of Anglicanism: Responses to the Windsor Report, Carter Heyward, the Howard Chandler Robbins Professor of Theology at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, offers an essay entitled "Make Us Prophets and Pastors: An Open Letter to Gay and Lesbian Priests." Heyward suggests that events have forced gay and lesbian priests to take on new roles:

We Anglican priests who happen to be lesbian or gay must step forward now to fill the breach created by the Primates' rejection of gay men, lesbians, and our allies. These bishops are barricading the doors against our participation, with them, in any genuine mutual engagement and study of human sexuality. Despite their claims of "care and friendship" toward "homosexual people," the Primates' "bonds of affection" do not, in fact, extend to gay people and our friends, and so we priests must take the place of the bishops in extending pastoral, sacramental, and liturgical care to our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered sisters and brothers. Although few of us would have chosen this vocation, it has been cast upon us by the bishops' abandonment of the whole people of God.
Heyward suggests that the Primates are not sincerely addressing the issues, but are instead responding from their fears:

The Primates, on the whole, seem frightened of women who openly love women and they are probably terrified of men who openly love men. They do not want to get close enough to us to be touched by us, metaphorically or literally. Thus it is up to us, dear brother and sister priests, to work closely enough together and to keep closely enough in touch with one another to help the whole people of God work and pray their way through the fears and hostilities being set in place by the Primates of the Anglican Communion.
The "fear factor," coupled with the "ick factor," seems to me to be the only probable explanation for the extreme visceral response we are witnessing in some parts of the Anglican Communion. For further understanding of the "fear factor," consider Fear of the Feminine, in which Nancy Myer Hopkins suggests that this fear rises from the belief that "same-sex relationships violate the rules laid down by all patriarchal cultures about how men and women should behave in relationship to one another." Thus the argument that such relationships are destroying the fabric of our society.

Heyward states clearly why the condescending words of the Primates are unacceptable:

The message to "homosexual people" from the Primates of the Anglican Communion is that queer people are alien, shameful and wrong: Our lives are wrong - the ways we love, the relational bonds we form, the blessings we seek. Moreover, neither we, nor those who stand in solidarity with us, are welcome in the councils of the Anglican Communion. Still they ask us to "be clear" that we are "deserving of the best (they) can give us pastoral care and friendship." Perhaps this is the best they can give, these Primates of ours. Whatever, it is a far cry from what "homosexual people" either need pastorally or, if we have any self-respect, what we can accept from our bishops or anyone else.
Heyward reminds us that calls for compromise for the sake of the "unity of the church" have historically been a cry against such justice movements as those which advocated for the abolition of slavery, women's rights and civil rights. Authentic unity would be based on mutual respect, formed from an awareness of cultural differences.

Heyward clarifies that there are two possible responses to our current situation:

Oppressed people can either identify with, and mimic, the oppressor or we can commit ourselves, again and again to the struggles for liberation, for others and ourselves. Our choice, as lesbian and gay priests today, is either to make a truce with oppression or to take on the mantel of the prophet.
This is what some parts of the Communion seem to not understand. Peace at any cost never results in real peace. Compromising is not an option. To do so would place the unity of the Church as a higher priority than our duty to be faithful to God and the whole people of God.


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