Polity & Structure
House of Deputies
House of Bishops
Provinces and dioceses of the Anglican Communion
Data & Analysis
Reports & Events
Tools & Services
News flashes, Announcements
software for writers
377 S. Harrison Street, 12D
East Orange, NJ 07018
Phone: 973-395-1068 h
Married February 2, 1974
Don't repeat the mistake on page 847 of The Prayer Book . Here is what God really requires from the chosen people:
A series of essays in the Episcopal Church
An Open Letter to the Episcopal House of Bishops By Christopher Evans, ObSB
Dear Members of the House of Bishops Theology Committee,
I was heartened to learn of your decision to appoint a panel to study same-sex relationships. Further theological inquiry is always to be encouraged, as the latest work by the Chicago Consultation published in Anglican Theological Review so clearly shows. As I have long said, the problem is not that so-called conservatives are conservative, but that they are not conservative enough. A deeper appreciation of Patristics, Scriptures, nature, and our own Anglican humility prevents easy condemnatory attitudes toward lgbt Christians. I was appalled, however, to learn that the membership of this panel would not be made public, indeed, would operate as if by secret commission. This sort of secrecy represents a real retreat from engagement with real life such as it is, and it further stands out in stark contrast to the openness displayed on the part of similar study groups in the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Secrecy coupled with shame has been a terrible force in the lives of many lgbt Christians at one point or another in our lives. Together these two have been combined all too often, resulting in various forms of bullying to which we may have had little recourse but to endure and survive—or not. I would venture to say that far too many lgbt Christians, including those in this Church (and especially those in Holy Orders), have experienced bullying from fellow Christians within this nexus of secrecy and shame. This bullying can include threats, put downs, silencing, cooption, blackmail, behind-the-doors-deal-making, tokenization, and many other related forms. All of this shows very clearly patterns of mendaciousness at work in the life of the Churches, patterns that heretofore have largely gone unexamined in discussions about lgbt persons and our relationships, as if repentance and conversion were not meant for the whole Church. We who have survived through it and come out on the other side are obligated to speak up for those who cannot yet do so. We who have survived through it and come out on the other side are obligated to insist upon honest, integrity, and transparency as Christ-like virtues by which the habits, behaviors, ideas, and attitudes of this Church are to be shaped at every level of its decision-making processes and life together.
Secrecy, we know well, is deadly—soul-destroying, and all too often conflated with confidentiality in such a way as to blur boundaries and prevent public airing of harmful behaviors on the part of those in authority. Clearly, that history has not been overcome as this latest action demonstrates. That history will not be overcome by nice words. By now, the Churches, both Anglican and non-Anglican, should have learned quite clearly how dangerous secrecy such as this can be. I think of the clergy abuse scandals of this Church and of Anglican Churches throughout this Communion, especially in relation to First Nations peoples. And yet, clearly we have not learned. This latest action demonstrates that we are willing to repeat the pattern, which is an affront to the “Christ-touched dignity” of every lgbt Christian. The Mind of Christ is not found in secrecy or the lack of transparency and the sense of objectification secrecy engenders. Playing politics with our persons is not Christ-like, something secrecy implies. As practical theologian, Adrian Thatcher has commented:
Second, the churches are in danger of using people of homosexual orientation as a ‘site of conflict’ for oppositional politics which have a wider agenda. ‘Liberal’ and ‘conservative’ have little intention of listening to each other; more intention of clobbering each other. So the presence of lesbian and gay Christians in Christian congregations, itself surely a cause of rejoicing (given what Christianity has often had to say about them), and their obedience to the call of God to positions of ministry, has become an ‘issue’, around which there is to be much ‘debate’. Now the danger is that the attitudes of Christians to this ‘issue’ are taken as evidence of their ‘positioning’ over all other matters about which Christians find themselves in disagreement. This is itself to treat homosexual people as means to some other end, like lining up with apparently ‘progressive’ or ‘reactionary’ forces within the church, or the defence of a particular interpretation of the bible. Why should lesbian and gay people be used like this? We who behave this way are in danger of breaking the ninth commandment forbidding false witness against our neighbour (Exodus 20/16), and failing to see the plank in our own eyes before we take the speck from our brother’s.(Matthew 7/4-5)
I would add that this same danger arises in using lgbt Christians in responding to current Anglican tensions. To turn Archbishop Williams’ words back on himself, the rest of this Church, and the Anglican Communion, I would suggest that this recent action on the part of the House of Bishops Theology Committee demonstrates once again that our Churches’ cultures are in need of conversion. Conversion means rejecting “habits, behaviors, ideas, and attitudes” that demonstrate undignified treatment of and hostility toward lgbt members of Christ’s own Body.
I would further suggest that this latest action represents very real and tangible evidence of a failure on the part of at least some bishops in this Church to care for lgbt members of the Body pastorally in the same way any other member of Christ’s Body would be cared for. Would we honestly convene such a secret commission to study persons of other sorts and conditions and not expect offense, even outrage? Yet, it seems acceptable to do so in relation to lgbt Christians?
To not see this latest action as offensive and insulting to lgbt Christians suggests a failure to have truly listened to us and to have learned from us. In some cases, I would suggest it represents a hardness of heart on the part of the leadership of this Church. We have heard many nice words by the House of Bishops at every turn in a seemingly endless drama, even as many actions demonstrated anything but generosity, often implying that our return to secrecy would be better for all—as does this latest action. Indeed, actions such as this latest speak far more clearly than nice words ever will. To be very frank, the bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada, by providing clear guidelines for the very real pastoral and liturgical care of our relationships, have shown far more pastoral sensitivity and courage even if what they have provided for is less than what some would want. To be even more frank, this Committee and those responsible for its actions owe lgbt Christians a sincere apology and acts of repentance for this latest handling.
I would finally suggest that a real and growing breach exists between our House of Bishops and lgbt Christians. Nice words will not overcome this breach. Good faith habits, behaviors, ideas, and attitudes, that is, honesty, integrity, and transparency, on the part of our bishops and the panels and committees overseen by them is a first step to overcoming a breach of trust and increased suspicion that has built up a dividing wall rather than broken down barriers between us. It is the responsibility of our bishops to protect the faith and unity of this Church, and that includes lgbt members of the Body. This latest action represents pastoral failure in this regard, indeed, spoilage and disintegration, to use part of John Calvin's understanding of Sin.
On a personal close, we live in a world devoted to strategies and tactics. Some openly displayed. Others undertaken behind closed doors. As Christians, it is easy for us ourselves to get caught up in such calculations. From a Benedictine perspective, however, strategy and tactic are often times at odds with Christ-like community, means of discernment, and exercise of authority:
These three are not separable in Benedictine understanding of community, discernment, and authority. The life of God in community is not a game of chess.
Secretiveness and guile are equally to be eschewed. Collusion is to be rejected. Deception is to be deplored. "Be it no so among you," Jesus commands us. To get what we want by any of these means is worldly. Even over-exertion of pressure on others is to be set aside in favor of spacious mutual discovery, prayer, and generosity. Does that mean we remain naive? No. Others indeed may be plotting. "Be as wise as serpents, and as innocent as doves," our Lord advises. And yet, their plotting does not justify our own (doing so).
It means, thus, that in the face of collusion, deception, guile, secretiveness, and worldliness, we respond with openness, honesty, integrity, transparency, and compassion to the best of our ability by God's grace. And it means we insist upon these virtues in those given authority over us, even if our insistence gets us in trouble or affects our own future position. Even if that means we may lose the day in getting what we want. Indeed, it requires us to recall the bishop or abbot or minister general or guardian to his or her charge by Christ and the very sacred trust which he or she has been given (a trust that violated, violates obedience):
Will you accept this call and fulfill this trust in obedience to Christ?
Will you be faithful in prayer, and in the study of Holy Scripture, that you may have the mind of Christ?
Will you boldly proclaim and interpret the Gospel of Christ, enlightening the minds and stirring up the conscience of your people?
As a chief priest and pastor, will you encourage and support all baptized people in their gifts and minisitries, nourish them from the riches of GOd's grace, pray for them without ceasing, and celebrate with them the sacraments of our redemption?
Will you guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church?
Will you share with your fellow bishops in the government of the whole Church; will you sustain yoru fellow presbyters and take counsel with them; will you guide and strengthen the deacons and all others who minister in the Church?
Will you be merciful to all, show compassion to the poor and strangers, and defend those who have no helper? ("Ordination: Bishop," BCP, 518)
And he must know that he who has received the ruling of souls, must prepare himself to render an account of them: and whatever the number of brothers under his care, he should know for certain that on the Day of Judgment he must render an account of all these souls to the Lord--and without his own soul as well. (II.37-38, Rule)
This recent business is at heart a matter of how we are with one another, how we discern together, and how we exercise authority. The action may seem small or merely symbolic to others, but within the matrix of a history toward lgbt Christians, such represents a pattern at odds with the Pattern, namely Jesus Christ the Crucified Risen One in Whom only do we have life. In few words, we do not treat one another this way (period). "Be it not so among you." From a Benedictine perspective, this is the Crux of the matter, not strategies or tactics devised on "any side".
pax Christi vobiscum,
All these rely on their hands,
This site has been accessed times since February 14, 1996.
Statistics courtesy of WebCounter.