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Re: Don't let gay row divide us, say bishops (Church Times)



> If I understand your comment properly, it seems to say that the "right
> thing" is to support full inclusion of homosexuals in the life of the
> church - even if most Anglicans/Episcopalians don't agree that is what
> God tells them is right.  Am I reading that properly?

You do misunderstand me.

* I am saying that it may be the right thing and that if it is, we would
  miss out on doing it if we waited until everyone else had come to the
  same conclusion.

* I am saying that almost all changes in Church policy begin somewhere
  local and move to the rest of the church.  Pentecost itself is one of
  the only episodes where a change happened all at once for all
  Christians, and presumably those Christians who did not make it to
  that assembly that day did not manifest the same experience of
  hearing foreign tongues as if they were their own.

I personally believe that same-sex unions are the right thing, yet I
insist, as I did in my essay, that we should not be a law unto ourselves,
but should submit innovative insights that we feel we have had from God to
the discernment of the Christian community.  That is what I have always
done.  And when the community would not give its approval, I have always
lived in awareness that I must either desist or take responsibility for my
actions before God, who is our supreme judge.

Ernest and I would still be waiting if we had to have the blessing of the
Anglican Communion before beginning our relationship.  We do not feel that
we have been living in sin for the 28+ years that we have lived out the
marriage vows we took from the Book of Common Prayer, but we are fully
aware that the Church must make its own judgment about that.  We have
willingly subjected ourselves to the church's judgment again, again, and
again.  You would be wise to attend to the reactions of those who know us
best. Two Newark bishops were present when we renewed those vows on
February 2, 1999.  (See http://newark.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/joy16.html.  See
also http://newark.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/bishopscross.html and
http://newark.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/dd.html et al.)

The Communion often takes a long time to come to a common view while
innovation continues apace in various parts of the Communion. For example,
for decades many parts of the Anglican Church in Africa permitted
polygamists to join the church and keep all their wives.  The 1998 Lambeth
Conference approved this policy.

The Church in Africa was already doing that in a number of places, out of
compassion and out of realism:  typically the new convert who had been
forced to abandon all but his first wife would abandon them to poverty and
prostitution:  to make matters worse, often he became their major
customer.

The Lambeth Conference had no legislative authority in this matter, nor
does it in the matter of decisions made by autonomous provinces on issues
of homosexuality.  It lent its MORAL weight to the decisions already
practiced by many, and others began practicing it who had wanted to, but
wanted this additional support.

The Lambeth resolution said that the church should oppose a polygamy after
one becomes a Christian, i.e., that no Christian should take on an
additional wife beyond those he had before marriage.  Not surprisingly,
that part of the resolution is reported to be widely ignored.  Even some
of the African Bishops came to Lambeth 1999 with more than one wife, and
the newspapers have frequently reported Anglican weddings, especially for
those in high authority, for polygamists.

Nor do we look with favor on all decisions of Lambeth.  Most are
embarrassed by its strident objection to birth control early in the 20th
Century.

Lambeth has never had, nor claimed for itself, the status of the Roman
curia.  A hallmark of Anglicanism is its respect for the autonomy of its
provinces.

> There are so many needs in our world today that I really hate to see us
> getting so bound up in the homosexuality issue that it not
> only interferes with God's work in those other areas, but actually
> divides us from each other.

I could not agree with you more. Lesbian and gay Christians do not choose
to be at the center of the Anglican Communion as we are right now, any
more than the uncircumsized Christians chose to be at the center of the
Council of Jerusalem.  We have our own lives to live as faithfully as we
can.  Nor are we really what all the fuss is about:  we are scapegoats for
issues that we only present, such as the role of scriptural authority and
interpretation, the hegemony questions of Anglican polity....

Divorce would present the same issues, but it would be inconvenient, since
it brings in more people, yet the scripture is far clearer about divorce
than it is about homosexuality in  a committed relationship.  Usury would
raise the same questions, but Christians long ago ducked the biblical
injunctions it had held solidly for 1,500 years regarding usury....

Scapegoating is spiritually dangerous for those who practice it.

I am glad that you have written me, and I take your questions as genuine
concerns of a brother Christian.  I urge you to express as much care to
assure that your own personal space if free of the uncharitable malice
that is so freely spoken about lesbigays in our church and in our
community.

I believe that God is putting gay and lesbian people in central focus for
the same reason that he did first with the Samaritan outcasts and then
with the uncircumcised.  God is testing whether we are prepared to make
the church a safe space of his inclusion of absolutely everybody.

Unmerited suffering is always redemptive.  God hangs out with those who
are outcasts.  Pray that we who have so richly experienced God's presence
will live faithfully in telling that Good News to the world.

Joy to you!

L.




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