Alex Blaze

Episcopal Church moves forward on same-sex unions

Filed By Alex Blaze | July 20, 2009 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Anglican communion, Episcopal Church, Gene Robinson, Janis Joplin, LGBT, prayer, same-sex blessings, uk, unions, us

Last week the Rev. Irene posted about the Episcopal Church's vote to lift the moratorium on gay clergy, and two pro-trans resolutions passed in this year's conference as well. This last Friday the leaders of the Episcopal Church voted to start consecrating same-sex unions:

(Anaheim, Calif.) Episcopalians on Friday authorized bishops to bless same-sex unions and research an official prayer for the ceremonies, capping a meeting that moved the church closer to accepting gay relationships despite turmoil over the issue in the Anglican family.[...]

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, head of the Episcopal Church, sent Williams a letter, released publicly Friday, saying that the actions of the convention were not meant to offend and did not mean that all - or any - diocese would necessarily consecrate a gay bishop.

"We remain keenly aware of the concerns and sensibilities of our brothers and sisters in other churches across the communion," she wrote. "We believe also that the honesty reflected in this resolution is essential if we are to live into the deep communion that we all profess and earnestly desire."

It'll be interesting to watch the global Communion respond to this one. The consecration of gay clergy is one thing, bless same-sex couplehood is a whole 'nother.

I haven't seen any response from the Church of England or the Archbishop of Canterbury, but a lot of people are talking schism. That seems to be a problem inherent with the way the Anglican Communion set itself up originally with each church able to decide theological issues on its own. Now there's a large gulf on these issues between the American, the African, and the British churches on these issues, although if schism does happen, it'll likely be instigated by conservative churches who will blame liberal churches for making them do it. A conservative in the Times of London said as much, and it's the conservative M.O. - destroy everything in their quest to have everyone agree with them and then shift blame away from themselves.

But Integrity, an LGBT Episcopal group, is interpreting it differently:

The July 15 episode of NPR's Morning Edition quoted a member of the Episcopalian GLBT equality group Integrity, pastor Susan Russell, who said of the vote to end the moratorium, "we did that for a time--for the last three years--and that time is over."

Russell seemed to indicate that had the moratorium actually helped stem the push toward schism, things might have worked out differently; but with parishes leaving the fold over the issue of gay clergy despite the moratorium on gay bishops, the denial of such status within the church to deserving and qualified individuals may have seemed merely wasteful.

As Russell put it, quoting from a popular song, "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

The article quoted Russell further. "I think there's a tremendous sense of freedom and liberation in this church right now," she said.

"The mission of this church will no longer be held hostage to those who are threatening to leave."

Indeed. The Episcopal Church was bleeding members even with the moratorium in place. If the big goal is holding the member churches in and keeping members in the flock, there doesn't seem to be much motivation for keeping a moratorium on gay clergy in place if the conservative churches are going to leave anyway.

While everything I'm finding is from before the Church voted on same-sex unions, I'm guessing will be more extreme. I don't know if people in the Church or the Communion were predicting a vote like this, but it's taking a stand consistent with their principles, and, really, the way the Communion is organized they have the right to do so.


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From a knowledgeable friend: Who attempts to explain the seeming 'fluidity' of current Anglicanism.
"In developing the Lambeth Conference, to meet once every ten years, was to create an honourific association of the national churches embracing Anglicanism in mainly, but not exclusively, the British Empire and later the British Commonwealth.

The term "first among equals" or "primus inter pares" now described the man called "Cantuaris", or the Archbishop of Canterbury. In keeping with the need for lay control of the Church, as in Orthodoxy, the Sovereign is Governor of the Church of England, and worldwide Anglicanism.

Further, the complexity of Anglicanism is rooted in English history beginning with the Tudor, then with the Stuart, and Hanoverian line of sovereigns, the latter, under the name of Windsor, since 1917. There has always been a "dynamic tension" between calvinist and catholic theology within the Communion. Both the Evangelical Party and the Anglo-Catholic parties have had their significant royal champions.

For example, HM, the Queen is an Evangelical, while her great-grandfather, Edward VII, was an Anglo-Catholic. The present Cantuaris is an Evangelical, and the last to embrace Anglo-Catholicism was the 100th of that name in the mid sixties.

In England, and elsewhere, the "Low and High Church" divide devolved into Latitudinarianism or "Broad Church" where significant elements of both traditions would parochially emerge, dependent upon the former strict churchmanship of its clergy and lay founders.

Hypocrisy is alive and well in all Churches. The first implosive schism where the Church remained mostly intact was the ordination of women.
The Church of Hong Kong was the first to ordain women priests. Then, slowly, women were ordered deacons and not "set apart" as deaconnesses (an early neutral state) and then ordained priests.

In the US and Canada, both strict Evangelical and AC bishops remained in their ornate cathedrals and manses, and with their six figure salaries, remained in place, when the US went further than the C of E and consecrated bishops to sit alongside men who did not consider them to be part of the Apostolic Succession episcopacy. In fact, today the Church of England does not consecrate women bishops.

The GLBT issue, however, seemed to have given the most ardent evangelical and anglo-catholic bishops the resolve to either stop +Gene Robinson and the movement, or leave within an extralegal or extracanonical view of Anglicanism, and ask foreign national bishops to incardinate them as " anglican dioceses abroad.", and not part of the Episcopal Church, USA.

The man responsible is not Cantuaris. His actions are mostly passive aggressive toward the liberals that he once embraced. It is the archbishop of Lagos, and Nigerian Primate. Like most of subsaharan Africa, former British colonies are usually populated as half Muslim and half Christian, significantly Anglican or Roman Catholic, as are most former French or Belgian colonies.

Many African nations have strict penalties, including death, where the Shari'a law and Muslims predominate. Fear of losing souls to Islam has made these bishops uberconservative in their interpretation of sexual theology. They do not listen to men like retired archbishop and South African primate Desmond Tutu, in a nation that is one of eight nations who permit same-sex marriages and blessings in the Church.

Schism will occur de facto, rather than de jure, and I see this as both necessary and healthy. Lambeth will react as expected. Cantuaris sees that the largest number of Anglicans are in subsaharan Africa. ECUSA's liberal stance, and this is also for the Anglican Church of Canada, will cause further rift.

When the conference refused to invite Bishop Robinson, one of your bishops, and you have a presiding bishop who is a woman many do not recognise as valid episcopacy, and this occurs once every ten years, then what less than honourific association do you really have?"

Glad to relay questions if you have them.

Rick Elliott | July 21, 2009 2:26 AM

Two comments:
Concerning bleeding membership. If people leave a denomination over an issue, the denomination never really had them as members. In the fifties it was fashionable to belong to a church. Many joined for just such shallow reasons. What we're seeing is the winnowing of who's really Christian and who only pays lip service. Jesus' parable of the Sower remarks that these kind of pseudo-believers are like the seed thrown on rocky ground that died when the sun comes out because it has a shallow root system. A side issue that was alive in the fifties was denominational loyalty and proselytizing members of another church.
When is the church going to realize that unanimity and unity are polar opposites. Paul makes it clear: unity in the Church comes when the Church has enough different parts to be whole. By in large the ecumenical efforts have been going about things "bass ackwards." The emphasis has been on what unanimity of belief can we negotiate to join. An all liberal church isn't the Church. All believing the same is, reflecting Paul's analogy, a human body that's made up only of legs. We welcome differences in cuisine but want everybody believing the same thing.
I wonder if it's not time for another Reformation.