20 February 2007

Anglican Primates issue communique to Episcopal Church

So, the Primates (that means "Archbishops who lead national churches" - keep the ape jokes to yourselves, you unwashed non-Anglican philistines) of the Anglican Communion have issued a communique which, among other things, lays out the way forward if the US Episcopal Church is to maintain its standing as a full member of the Communion. You can read all about it here.

As you may know, I'm a fairly outspoken supporter of gay rights, including within the church. I think the Biblical case for the sinfulness of homosexuality is insufficient to justify treating gay Christians, including those in committed gay sexual relationships, any different than straight Christians, including blessing unions and opening up leadership positions. I don't think it's a sin, but even if it is - you show me a straight Christian who's free of unrepented sin, and I'll show you a big, fat liar. And although the weight of Christian tradition on this topic troubles me, I am convinced that that tradition is as dead wrong on this subject as it was on slavery, before William Wilberforce and others like him began to turn that tradition around.

All that is by way of saying: I agree, on one very important level, with the actions of the Episcopal Church on this issue. I would love to see the acceptance of gay folks expanded within the Church, as TEC has tried to do. On the other hand, it's crystal clear to me that these actions are incompatible with the desire to remain a part of the same organizational hierarchy with a much larger, worldwide Communion, the vast majority of which is currently deeply opposed to this kind of change. So, at this point, my guess would be that TEC is not going to be able, in good conscience, to comply with all of the stipulations of this communique. Which will lead to major changes in TEC's relationship with the worldwide Communion.

But, honestly, that's not what I wanted to blog about. I can't claim to care whether the organizational ties between these bodies remain, or not. I don't think Jesus gives a sh*t either. Just my personal opinion.

What I do think Jesus gives a sh*t about ('cause he said so, in John 13:34-35, among other places) is that Christians love each other. Let me just quote those verses again:

34 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

OK, first of all, this is not a recommendation. It's a command. Says so, right there in v. 34. Secondly, it's not just a command that we love each other, it's a command that we act like it. Did you catch that bit in v. 35, about "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples"? This is not just a "C'mon, guys and gals, you'll be happier if you all just get along." This command is not given for our sake, or for God's sake, or for Christ's sake (for Christ's sake!). It's about the damn mission, people! If we can't love each other, and act like it, then who in their right mind would want to be one of us?

So, on that note, I was glad to see that this bit was part of the communique:

On property disputes

The Primates urge the representatives of The Episcopal Church and of those congregations in property disputes with it to suspend all actions in law arising in this situation. We also urge both parties to give assurances that no steps will be taken to alienate property from The Episcopal Church without its consent or to deny the use of that property to those congregations.

I've hesitated to say anything about this before, because I have dear friends who support the Diocese of Virginia's actions regarding the church buildings associated with the Falls Church, Truro Church, and other Virginia churches which have chosen to break away from the Episcopal Church. I've hesitated, but now I'm gonna say it, because the Primates said it first:

Back the f**k off, will you please? First and foremost, as Christians, we are called to love each other, and act like it. And Christians don't sue their brothers and sisters over stupid damn buildings!

That's all. Sorry if I hurt anybody. But that's how I feel.


UPDATE: I didn't mean to imply that I only applaud the clauses in the "On Property Disputes" section that are directed toward TEC. There's also this:

We also urge both parties to give assurances that no steps will be taken to alienate property from The Episcopal Church without its consent.

To the people of Truro, the Falls Church, etc.: y'all need to back the f**k off too. Those buildings you're using belong to the Episcopal Church. Like I said, I believe that TEC, in love and grace, ought to refrain from legal action or other aggression in order to kick you out, but honestly, if you believe you're answering a genuine call from God (and I'm not disputing that), then why not follow that call into a rented office space or a school gym or something? Do you really think God wants you to squat on your brothers' and sisters' property without their consent? For how long?

My point is: find a way to work this out like Christians. Maybe TEC should sell the buildings to the congregations. I'm not sure what they think they would do with them if they kept them. I don't know what amicable solution might exist, but find one. Or, like the Primates said, sit on it until you can.


susan said...

Yay, DioVa politics! I was about to get all up on my high horse until you handed it to the Truro/TFC camp too. I'm really tired of hearing people say how sad it is that 'the Diocese is suing those churches.' The diocese isn't suing them. They're responding to the legal filings of those churches (to claim the property as their own). Let us not forget that in many cases those parishes have changed the locks on the doors and refused to let the 'Episcopal loyalists' use the space that they too worked and paid for.

Ok, done ranting. Yes. We should be behaving like adults. It's just that I really think the Diocese has tried, and is trying, to do that--without deceit, without malice. And there comes a time when forgiving your neighbor (and loving them) no longer means letting them do whatever they want to you (and their own congregations).

And, thus, for the record, not having read the entire communique or attachment, I think it is really sad that the Primates included that clause about lawsuits. I wish they had the guts to confront the childish behavior of Akinola, rather than trying to hamstring a lawsuit that just isn't going to get solved out of court, short of a miraculous intervention by the Holy Spirit.

All this is why we remember on Ash Wednesday, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

Mike Croghan said...

Thanks, Susan! I was really glad you commented, because I was a little worried that this post might piss you off. The original post was a late night rant, and I just ran out of ire and energy before I got to handing it to the breakaway folks as well, which had been part of my original intention, but I just...sort of...petered...out. And went to sleep. Then I woke up thinking, crap, I need to write the other part of that before Susan sees it! ;-) Actually, that's pretty honestly what happened. Even so, I later thought of revising the part where I said I didn't care whether TEC got (partially?) kicked out of the Communion. I do care, because people I love would hurt if that happened. But I have become convinced over time that the unity of the church that Jesus prayed for has ZERO to do with organizational unity and EVERYTHING to do with active mutual agape and working together in God's mission. Which is something Mennonites can share with Greek Orthodox and with nondenominational post-Evanglicals (for example), while Anglicans can totally fail to share it with Anglicans.

But anyway. I hear what you're saying about the diocese only responding to the legal action on the other parties' part, and I don't imagine any ill will on the part of the diocese folks. But I guess I'm just still praying for that miraculous intervention by the Holy Spirit you mentioned. Why should we settle for less? That's what we're supposed to be about, isn't it? SOMEBODY could decide to give sacrificially for the sake of the real unity of the church. I think there's some precedent for that in our faith's foundational story. The breakaway congregations could decide to walk away from the buildings and worship in an elementary school. The diocese could decide to give the buildings to those who are using them. I feel for the "loyalists" in those churches, but could they really make use of the buildings if the majority breakaway folks left? I just don't feel like anybody has a "right" to those buildings that overshadows the imperative to be loving to our sisters and brothers. The "world", our culture, would say we do. I think Jesus would say, "foxes have holes...."

Anyway, yes, I also agree that it would be nice if the Primates were as courageous in confronting Akinola's childishness despite his power and numbers, as they are in confronting TEC's relatively tiny voice. It's difficult to understand, if it's all about discerning the call of the Spirit, as opposed to politics and pleasing your constituencies. Sorry, my cynicism is showing again.

Thanks again, Susan. This crap is damn hard to navigate in a body of humans of any size or structure, because humans are one effed up collection of creatures. I think it's worth it. Ask me again next week.

I think it's a good time for Lent. Let's hope this season gets into all our hearts.