Monday, February 20, 2006

Schism; Natural Evolution?

Maury Johnston, author of the previous essay, has left a comment that I wanted to highlight, as I believe it will further our discussion:

I must say that reading the posts here is quite an education in the labyrinth of Anglican politics. I do not say that disparagingly--every church must have some coherent system of self-goverance--and I am part of the Episcopal Church for better or for worse. But ironically, as the author of the "offending" article, there is little for me to add to many of these posts since I do not have an expertise in the interior mechanizations of Anglican hierarchical and legislative intrigue. I came into the church only a number of years ago because of my affinity for its eucharistic centeredness and the liturgical aesthetics which it has admirably preserved. But reading the posts here, I am impressed by the general tenor of openness and an honest wrestling with the issues in an atmosphere of utmost sincerity and civility, even to the extent that many have bared their own pilgrimage through a personal sense of conflictedness on some of these explosive issues. I respect that, for it speaks to the presence of spiritual genuineness.

By contrast, I wish to draw your attention to another website which many of you are no doubt only too familiar: David Virtue Online, And no, this is not some personal attack on David Virtue. Acutally, before a few days ago, I was not even aware of who he was. I soon found out! He called me as a courtesy to get permission to use my article on his website, and we had a most amiable conversation, all the while respecting and acknowleging our deep differences. Apparently, he received a copy of my article from someone and has proceeded to quote extensively from it in a piece entitled "The Great Divide: Schism is a Reality Says Liberal Leader." (No, I am not the leader to whom he refers). I have read it and found his "take" on things quite interesting, for though he is theologically an "arch-enemy", his treatment of what I had to say was done with respect and considerable fairness (though we disagree on practically everything--well, almost). But what so negatively impressed me were the comments of his readers. It was not that they were ultra-orthodox, or even that they were anti-gay, it was the sense of mean-spirited, doctrinal rigidity which would have made the Pharisees feel proud. We were not gay people, we were the dreaded "sodomites." There was no sense that they had ever done any serious reflection about the possibility they could be wrong, or even slightly misinformed on any issue. No flexibility. In contrast, here I have seen an unspoken tendency to entertain moments of theological elasticity in order to try and accommodate differences, and a willingness to dialogue, but I think that the Virtue website underscores the futility of expending all our energies in trying to keep them happy under an ECUSA umbrella. I just don't think it will work. Their mind is made up: They are right, liberals are wrong; even moderates are suspect. Perhaps that is why I speak out for a solidifying of the stance for affirmation and inclusiveness at GC06 which strives for full acceptance of the GLBT agenda (yes, I admit it is an agenda--for first class church citizenship).

Just thinking out loud (I know that can be dangeous, since such thoughts do not always lend themselves to consistency), but I believe that the most danger lies with the centrists who may wish to compromise what the GLBT community of faith deems essential in order to placate the conservatives like those on Virtue's website. But they have an intolerant streak which will not be placated. And many of them have no intention of staying in ECUSA, anyway. On the other hand, I fully acknowledge that there are legitimate theological conservatives who are not uncaring or homophobic, but who simply feel constrained by their literal understanding of scripture to oppose our stance. But will they be willing to live under the same church rafters with a sexually-affirming GLBT community? I doubt it, in the end. The problem is that the conservative extremists consider the ECUSA, to the extent it is under the sway of forces for inclusivity, to be schismatic. Many of us would in turn accuse them of leaving in a huff. So maybe instead of pointng fingers of blame for schism, we should just accept it as a natural evolution of things, and let it become what it will become, in faith that God can sort out the differences and make of them some kind of coherent pattern within Anglicanism which has yet to be seen by the spiritually discerning.
Would it be better if we quit pointing fingers and accept that schism is inevitable? Could it be possible that it might even be the way that God is moving through all of this, making all things new?


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