A series of essays in the Episcopal Church
Dear Most Reverend Eames and Members of the Lambeth Commission on Communion,
As you deliberate on the future of our life together at a time when the lives of LGBTQ persons are too little regarded in our societies-at-large, in our ecclesial structures, and in our quest for Christian unity, I submit two questions for your consideration:
1. “Who shall shape our unity?” Whose voices shall contribute to the overall ecclesial structures that govern our life together? How might past expressions of Anglican Christianity be different had the response of Onesimus on slavery or the responses of the Corinthian women prophets on the roles of women been preserved for posterity? Our leading ancestors in the faith to their detriment and to ours too often failed to solicit or to preserve reports inconsistent with a developing “universal” consensus. As our history shows, the voices shaping our consensus have been incomplete, and often corrections to such omissions have been centuries in the making. I portend trou ble in the refusal of this Commission to hear from any LGBTQ group within our Communion, with +Bishop Michael Ingham, or with +Bishop V. Gene Robinson. This refusal is predicated on the notion that this Commission is concerned with how we shall live together with disagreement, which implies that we who are LGBTQ persons have nothing to say regarding the questions at hand even though we have long suffered ecclesial disagreement and worse. This refusal raises grave doubts as to the actual listening given to LGBTQ persons on the part of leaders in our Communion as was recommended at Lambeth 1998 (now seemingly elevated to the status of an Oecumenical Council), while the condemnation at Lambeth of behavior of LGBTQ persons is everywhere emphasized. This refusal also suggests that we who are LGBTQ persons are an issue to be talked ABOUT rather than baptized brothers and sisters worthy of bei ng conversed WITH. This refusal makes clear that at best our pastoral leaders are comfortable ministering to LGBTQ persons as long as the direction of that ministry is uni-directional (TO/AT) rather than inter-relational (WITH/ALONGSIDE), and an LGBTQ person elevated to a place of power and authority within the structures of our Communion threatens to undo this rather patronizing and non-Trinitarian model for our life together.
2. Who shall bear the burden of our unity? In the history of our “universal” consensus, often “unity” has been the province of we who either find ourselves exercising power and authority in our ecclesial structures or who do not find ourselves actively excluded from exercising such power and authority and of we who are either at ease with or who are too little affected in our persons by the present structuring of our lives together. To date, our unity as it has been constructed and as it is largely being argued for the immediate future greatly falls upon the shoulders of LGBTQ persons among others. This sort of unity needs to be more clearly questioned, and we need to be honest with ourselves should this sort of unity be the unity we as a Communion shall have for the meantime, which, I might add, raises corollary questions for LGBTQ persons who choose to be church in Anglican ecclesial structures in such a mean time. While we are faced with many complexities, cultural and economic, contextual and global, theological and ethical, our unity previously determined by a relatively small group within the Church catholic is no longer sustainable as a multitude of voices rejoice in the knowledge that they too are children of G-D. In this challenging time, I hope and pray that this Commission can find ways for our Communion to continue together without resorting to models of unity that harmonize our cacophony through a mere loss or removal of voices.
Yours in Christ,
The Baptized W. Christopher Evans
Berkeley, California, USA
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