Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A Fast for All

The Rev. Susan Russell and Canon Kendall Harmon were on the MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour tonight. The transcript is here. Note this statement by Susan:

...From my perspective, the American Episcopal Church has now been very strategically and very intentionally painted into a corner by those in the American church who have been advocating for a schism for many years.

And we're now faced with what I would call a Sophie's choice of having to choose our vision of the inclusive gospel over our inclusion in the communion. It's a profoundly un-Anglican way to make decisions, given that historically we have been a people of God who have not required common belief in order to be in communion with each other.

So I think the greater challenge we face has much less to do with gay and lesbian people or bishops or blessings, but how we're going to be church together. I think that is really under attack by the radical religious right, who is willing to split this church if they can't recreate it in their own image...
That's a good summary of the situation, in my opinion.

What I found especially interesting in this interview was Susan's response to the PB's call for a fast for a season:

...If we're going to ask the church to fast for a season and bear each other's burdens, then perhaps we should fast from all ordinations and from all marriages. The two essential sacraments in the church are baptism and holy communion...If we can fast from the rest and let the heterosexual community bear the burden, as well, that would be truly bearing each other's burdens.
Christopher has proposed a similar idea:

...It's time to offer ourselves together queer and straight, single and married and unioned and vowed as a living sacrifice. Not the one-way sacrificing of the centrists, but a full and living offering together that mutually submits and mutually surrenders. I recommend hard "compliance". No more rites of marriage, no union, no celebration of celibacy. No new bishops until 2015.

We pledge to move on down to the LORD together, no longer allowing ourselves to be divided amongst one another across organs devoured piece by piece as others in teh Communion feast on our bones and entrails. We will suffer together and rejoice together as one Body not willing to sacrifice any one organ for the sake of the whole. We end the scapegoating mechinisms now and we do so by mutual kenosis, placing ourselves at the foot of the Cross as we prepare for a holy observance of Lent.

Just as Jesus drew a fence around the Law of Love, walking the extra mile, giving even his undershirt, so do we draw this fence around the Law of Love that none are scapegoated or made to bear the burden any longer...
Your thoughts on such a proposal?



  1. Back in my days in the ELCA - where similar disagreements are also taking place — I remember hearing a heterosexual ally suggest that all those (presumed) heterosexuals seeking to enjoin celibacy involuntarily on their lesbian and gay brothers and sisters, should graciously “go first” and show everyone else how it’s done. Tongue in cheek, but it made a point. It seems somewhat presumptuous to me for any of us to demand a different, more stringent, standard for another than we might be willing to take on for ouselves.

  2. The diocese of Massachusetts floated this idea last fall. It was met with profound misunderstanding and ridicule. It failed at Diocesan Convention.

    The HoB can by themselves agree to not give consent to a non-celibate homosexual candidate for bishop. They can withhold consent within our polity. A simply majority of diocesan bishops can jointly accomplish this.

    They can indeed pass some kind of a resolution urging bishops to not authorize rites for SSB, but they can't enforce it. They need GC to make any kind of an enforcable committment. That's just a fact of our polity.

    It would take *two* sucessive GCs to unauthorize the current rites for marriage. If such a stunt were pulled, I believe it would be routinely ignored and bring the church in for even greater ridicule.

    Usually the first rule of making policy is don't shoot yourself. This proposal is a footbullett of immeasurable proportions.

  3. As a straight man who's hoping to be both ordained and married this year...ouch. But I agree. If we take our baptismal and Eucharistic theology seriously, then we are one body and should fast as one.

    That said, I bloody well hope we take a different route, and not just for personal reasons. Fasting is fine for Lent, but really...injustice and inequality for all? Trying to stop God's blessing for any group is a questionable path. I'd much rather see us get a spine and acknowledge the inclusion of all people in the kingdom, let the global south break away if they must.

    By the way, something has been bugging me since 2003. Global south? Why "global" south? South is always determined by reference to the globe. What other kind of south is there? I suspect it's an American invention to clarify (for those who doubt the existence of a world beyond the U.S. border) that the dispute is not centered on the Mason Dixon Line.