A series of essays towards General Convention in 2003
By The Rev. Elizabeth Kaeton EMKaeton@aol.com
I have read with great anticipation the booklet 'TRUE UNION in the BODY?' which describes itself as "A contribution to the discussion within the Anglican Communion concerning the public blessing of same-sex unions."
I am appreciative of the obvious effort that went into this work and am personally grateful to Don Armstrong for making sure a copy was mailed to me at my request -- and, absolutely free of charge.
I am, alas, deeply disappointed with the work. Not only is there nothing new written here, it does absolutely nothing to invite the discussion which it proposes to engage. It is the "traditionalist" perspective writ large in a wee bookie.
The language is not easily accessible and the style is not inviting to even an avid reader like me. Rather than open a door to welcome the intellectually and spiritually curious, it sets up a gauntlet and bids one dare enter.
I would have so appreciated the presentation of a position, supported by scripture and tradition as interpreted by that position, and then been invited into questions which would have stimulated discussion from across the theological spectrum.
That did not happen.
In defense of this work, it does make one substantial contribution in that it memorializes the 'traditionalist' position on this particular subject for this generation and all generations to come. When the history of this time in the church is written, that will be its own reward, achieved all on its own merit.
I have spent the better part of the afternoon holding this document along side the theological document produced by CLAIMING THE BLESSING, which takes seriously the Anglican methodology of Scripture, Tradition and Reason and then invites questions for discussion (If you have not received a copy of this paper, it is available to you at www.claimingtheblessing.org and www.integrityusa.org or write to me personally and I promise to have it sent it to you at no charge.).
In my foolishness, perhaps, I have been attempting to allow the two documents to "talk" to each other. It is rapidly becoming, I fear, an exercise in futility.
I do find, however, that I am being led to another point on this spiritual path. It is the one Jesus often took. It is the path of paradox.
Parker Palmer, in his book THE COURAGE TO TEACH quotes Niels Bohr, the Nobel Prize winning physicist, who says, "The opposite of a true statement is a false statement, but the opposite of a profound truth can be another profound truth."
This, says Palmer, is the essence of the concept of paradox. In certain circumstance, Palmer reports, truth is found not by splitting the world into either-or's but by embracing it as both-and. In certain circumstances, truth is a paradoxical joining of apparent opposites, and if we want to know the truth, we must learn to embrace those opposites as one.
Let me quote Parker directly: "Profound truth, rather than empirical fact, is the stuff of which paradoxes are made. But profound need not mean exotic or esoteric. We encounter paradoxical profundities every day simply because we are human, for we ourselves are paradoxes that breathe! Indeed, breathing itself is a form of paradox, requiring inhaling and exhaling to be whole." (pg. 63)
Jesus always took the path of paradox, embraced it and ACTED on it. He told the scholar Nicodemus that in order to have eternal life, you must be born again. He preached that the meek would inherit the earth. He said, "You have heard it said, but I say to you . . .' I could go on, but you catch my drift.
Most importantly, he helped people enter into paradox by telling parables -- stories cut right out of the fabric of people's everyday lives -- and invited them to think about what it meant for them. And then, to repent, to turn their lives around, and follow him on the same paradoxical path which leads straight into the very heart of God.
Lo, I tell you a mystery. I have been in a faithful, loving, monogamous relationship for 27 years, co-parented six children, been a foster parent to six more, and continue to be deeply, passionately in love with the same person I made a commitment to all those many years ago. And, that person happens to be another woman.
I have taken my story to Jesus many, many times. And Jesus has always smiles at me, with deep love in his eyes and joy in his heart and says, "What do Moses and the law and the prophets teach you? Behold! God is doing a new thing. Do you not see it? And, did I not give you a new commandment? Did I not ask you to love one another as I have loved you? Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone."
I invite my brother and sister theologians, from whatever theological perspective you hold, to read "TRUE UNION in the BODY?" and "CLAIMING THE BLESSING". And then, enter deeply into the paradox and the wonder and gift of the mind of Christ.
You will not, I promise, lie fallow "for a season." You will find yourself transported onto the path that leads to crucifixion, yes, but ultimately you will find yourself in the midst of the miracle of the resurrection so that you, too, may receive your full promise and portion of the gift of the spirit to the church.
(the Rev'd) Elizabeth Kaeton
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
200 Main Street
Chatham, NJ 07928
973 635 8085
"Someone died for me today, and I need to either find or make a reason why I am worthy of that sacrifice." Eleanor Roosevelt on being an American during war times.
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