The Archbishop Speaks

And his text is here. (There’s a summary at the top, the full text is below. Finally–a readable, comprehensible, intellegent statement about the Anglican Communion from the person who is supposed to be at its head.

It’s not a spanking; it’s clear reflection. I appreciate the way that he frames the issues. Speaking as a straight white guy I think that he presents clearly the difference between civil rights and the Church’s support of those civil rights and the theological and biblical status of homosexual partnerships. He also makes specific mention of my own objection to to Bishop Robinson’s consecration–that the US church consecrated a bishop in a sexual relationship outside the bounds of the canons and the liturgy. (And for the record, I’m still annoyed that GC06 didn’t address this.) Some of my brother and sisters who aren’t straight white guys may feel differently about the archbishop’s words here–and if so I’m sure you’ll tell me…

I will say that this paragraph was an opportunity for the archbishop to say something about church support of harshly discriminatory civil laws in Africa–especially Nigeria–and that opportunity was not taken.

The discussion of truth and unity is helpful as well, pointing out the inevitable tension between unity and the *search* for truth. This line in particular caught my eye: “The nature of prophetic action is that you do not have a cast-iron guarantee that you’re right.” I imagine that some people are going to object to this discussion of truth because they are of the mind that the Church doesn’t need to search for truth–it already has it. It has Jesus, it has the Bible and the Sacraments, what further need to search? I would agree with the archbishop: we are still searching. Each sunrise dawns upon a new world and while God’s truth abideth still, we must figure out how to be the incarnate body of Christ each new day in spite of and through our sins and limitations.

The focus throughout the document on local communities was helpful for me. I liked that he kept returning there. Particularly helpful was the comment that local churches have some of the same issues that international bodies do. National church bodies do not and cannot decide everything on behalf and in place of local communities. That’s true across the board whether you’re talking NYC, Plano or Lagos.

The covenant as described here sounds like a good idea. And they whole “opting in” and the whole “constituent” and “associate” thing makes sense . . . except that we have the whole local problem that he just pointed out. Here’s the thing. We are an episcopal church; we do bishops. His talk of local communities would be one thing if we were congregationalists, but we’re not. It would be nice if any given local congregation could decide to either opt in or out, be a constituent or be an associate but I simply don’t see how that could work with our polity. It’s pretty clear that the covenant will be constructed in such a way that TEC will probably fall as an “associate” body. So–on a par with the British Methodist Church. I can’t imagine that the British Methodist Church contributes a whole lot to the Anglican Communion’s operating budget. I’m not saying nor do I want to be understood as saying that TEC’s money should buy its position or that other churches should compromise so we will foot their bill. I’m more noting this as an oddity.

Well, there will be much discussion about this in coming days. My own hope and prayer is that this may be a first signal that the archbishop is coming out of his shell. He has considerable theological and spiritual gifts; that’s why he was appointed to the position. Unfortunately, he has not been using them in a public fashion in dealing with our current crises. We need more statements like this! We need to know what he’s thinking. Thoughtful contributions will help our situation, and are a hell of a lot better than the rhetoric spewing that has characterized the discussion thus far.

Update: A quick survey of what other people are thinking about this is annoyingly predicatble–they’re trying to assess from this who wins and who loses. In doing so, I fear they’re missing the point… But I like Joe’s response.

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About Derek Olsen

I'm a layman within the Episcopal Church with a PhD in New Testament and an interest in most things medieval, monastic, and liturgical. My chief job is keeping up with my priestly wife and our two awesome kids. In addition to that, I earn a living, run the St Bede's Breviary, listen to loud goth/industrial music, and do some stuff for the church. I currently serve as Secretary to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music where I'm also co-chair of the Calendar committee and chair of the Digital Publications committee.
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13 Responses to The Archbishop Speaks

  1. Caelius says:

    “My own hope and prayer is that this may be a first signal that the archbishop is coming out of his shell.”

    Mine too. I also hope that he really wasn’t on the other end of a cell phone with ++Frank or any other of the bishops of this Church on Tuesday or Wednesday, because that would really undermine his ecclesiology here, unless he was inquiring politely about the weather or something.

    The problem with ++Rowan is that he is inevitably right to my eyes, because he and I value the same things and know what they require, so I can’t dismiss him except on the grounds of hypocrisy. In other words, he’s one of the few in this world who teaches me with authority. I feel like the young man in Matthew yesterday.

  2. Caelius says:

    But at the same, ++Rowan has to realize that the worst of this for me and him is bad consciences. No one is attacking his household.

  3. Derek the Ænglican says:

    I’m quite sure that he was on the other end of the phone. That will figure in my GC Wrap up and Analysis which will be forthcoming. I don’t want to talk much more about Convention, but I think we need to identify political lessons learned.

  4. bls says:

    Guys, you don’t have to apologize for being straight and white and guys. You will be listened to no matter what, because lots of us like and respect you. In any case, us non-straight, non-white, non-guys can and should learn a few things from you, too, you know.

    Here’s an analogy: A.A. is keen on “ego deflation in depth”; the straight, white guys who founded it were egomaniacs who realized they required this process to stay alive. They were (as they called it in the 30s) “power-drivers” and control-freaks with gigantic egos and a huge sense of self-regard. This didn’t apply so much to the women who came to the program years later; many were depressives instead, and had very low self-esteem.

    But guess what? The process worked for them, too – because these character defects stemmed from the same place: an inability to see oneself right-sized in the universe. We’re all human beings, and coming to health is an “inside job” in many ways. We point fingers exclusively outward to our own detriment. GC did the right thing; “gay Bishops” is not a problem worth throwing oneself under the bus for. We’ll have to see about the rest.

    And, thank God we’re involved in a church that can itself, however slowly at times.

    Hmmm. That’s a bit off-topic, isn’t it? Oh, well. What can I say? I haven’t read the statement.

    😉

  5. Nate says:

    I repeat again what I said on BLS’s blog, that it is easy for her to say that not having gay bishops is not a problem since she does not want to be a bishop and will likely never be called to be a bishop. She clearly does not see the implication that this has for all gay Christians, whether lay or ordained — which is that we are not fit to receive some of the sacraments.

    Derek wrote:

    Speaking as a straight white guy I think that he presents clearly the difference between civil rights and the Church’s support of those civil rights and the theological and biblical status of homosexual partnerships. He also makes specific mention of my own objection to to Bishop Robinson’s consecration–that the US church consecrated a bishop in a sexual relationship outside the bounds of the canons and the liturgy. (And for the record, I’m still annoyed that GC06 didn’t address this.) Some of my brother and sisters who aren’t straight white guys may feel differently about the archbishop’s words here–and if so I’m sure you’ll tell me…

    Yes, he does speak clearly about the difference between civil rights for gay people and the ecclesial status of partnered gay people. Too bad he’s busy not defending either of those, as he lets his good buddy in Nigeria continue to support the government’s legal persecution of GLBT people and their supporters. I guess he, too, is too busy worrying about gay bishops to be worried about human rights.

    Finally, Derek, don’t you think it’s easy for you, as a straight white guy, a guy who can easily live in a sexual relationship that is inside the bounds of the canons and the liturgy, to disagree with the ordination of those who can’t? You, of course, can theoretically be a bishop, because your sexuality has been baptized by the Church. Don’t you think it’s somewhat hypocritical for you who are not affected by the Church’s canons and liturgy on sexuality to reject the ordination of those who are?

  6. Nate says:

    I might add that the Anglican Communion has changed the canons and the liturgy to accomodate heterosexual sexuality many times. In fact, the Church of England exists because Henry VIII didn’t want to abide by the canons and liturgy of the Catholic Church, which said that he could not divorce and remarry. Then, yet again, in the 1930s, the Anglican Communion rejected the traditional procreative understanding of sexuality and the prohibition against artificial birth control.

    It must be easy to talk about staying within the bounds of the canons and liturgy when the majority can change the canons and liturgy to accomodate them whenever they feel like it, while still holding the canons and liturgy over the heads of the minority.

  7. Derek the Ænglican says:

    Nate,
    If you’re going to comment, read what I wrote. I said nothing about ordination; I was talking about consecration. These are two different things. A bishop is the church’s pre-eminent leader for both people inside and outside the church. They are the moral exemplars.

    But since you bring up priests…again, the canons should be obeyed.

    Here’s the deal: my reading of the Scriptures says that what is a real problem is infidelity andsleeping around. That’s what seems to be at the heart of *porneia* both when used literally but especially when it’s used metaphorically to talk about God’s relationship with Israel and Christ’s relationship with his Church. Because I’m conservative on sex, I’m for same sex unions. That may seem odd or contradictory to some, but it’s not. *All* Christian clergy should be held to the same standards: celibate when single, monogamous when married. I do believe that queer folk were created that way by God and as a result the Church should accept same-sex unions for the same reason that the New Testament allows different-sex unions–for the restraint of immorality and mutual upbuilding. And I believe it needs to be in the canons, and I believe the sexuality canons should be enforced when clergy start screwing around.

    Furthermore, sacraments are not rights. Baptism is entirely dependent upon the confession of faith used in Baptism–the Apostles’ Creed. Eucharist is dependent upon being baptized. Confirmation is dependent upon being ready and willing to take up the covenantal vows that others took up on your behalf. Ordination is dependent upon being called by God, having that call confirmed by the Church which typically means having designated authorites agree that you are called to the proclamation of Word and Sacrament–proclamation of Word necessarily including moral conduct.

    So, no–I don’t think I’m being hypocritical.

  8. bls says:

    Hmmm. Nate, don’t you think it’s just a bit hypocritical to criticize others about “what’s easy for them” – when as a Catholic you’ll never have to actually deal with any of these issues yourself? Isn’t that a bit easy for you?

    I realize you’re upset, but if you want to get involved in this, you need to stop excusing your own inaction. It’s not good enough to say “I don’t make the rules.”

  9. *Christopher says:

    derek,

    First, having seen that monicer “straight white male” used to put down my beloved Dr. A this last week, I think we need to find some other way beyond identity politics which are choking all of us. See my latest post.

    I will say this about the rules. Those who break them should expect consequences. Most liberals don’t like that. But I’m not a liberal in that sense.

    On the other hand, consequences that include supporting civil legislation to prevent even the possibility of conversation and worse is the other end of the spectrum–also breaking Lambeth 1.10 and Windsor, and the Communion has been thoroughly weak on that regard. And lest we forget, the Archbishop of Uganda was interferring before +Robinson was consecrated. Rules have been broken on all sides.

    Like Caelius, I don’t think given some have chosen to treat Lambeth 1998 and The Windsor Report as law, that ++Williams has treated all parts of these laws equally, and that is part of the problem, though not the only one, but it isn’t clear the various componentes were ever going to be treated equally. Perhaps, if we had gotten more on board with Windsor, it might be different, but given the bullying behaviors of some Primates, I’m not so sure.

    On the other hand, given your criteria, ++Cranmer should have been removed from the archbishopric by Henry VIII because he was married (to Margaret Osiander) at a time when Henry forbade clergy to marry (after having allowed them to do so previously). Mary took care of that soon enough, I suppose. As it was, his wife was transported in a coffin when he traveled so that no one would discover the secret in his closet.

    That’s why I think we needed (and failed to find) a new paradigm rather than Reformation, and it seems to me ++Williams was/is trying to find that in the midst of a cantacerous lot, but at a time when we needed someone to actually guide us into listening and prayer with firm authority, he retreated or came out with strong statements about TEC while failing to chastise anyone else, not to mention a subtle “blame the victim” thread that runs through his press releases when talking about queer victims of violence. It made things worse.

    We needed a contemplative listening approach and leader to lead us into it by modeling what it looks like, but I’m afraid that may have been out long ago when 1.10 was forced through and some listened to the first part and others to the second part, and as we know the nuance of recognizing disagreement about partnered relationships like my own with regard to Scripture and theology was not adequately set out in 1.10 in a way that was honest enough to lead to conversations or recognize different ministry contexts or to provide the space to affirm the gifts we bring as members of the Body. It was a “We said, I believe it, that settles” type of “advice”. Obstinancy abounds.

    One might say ++Williams inherited some of ++Carey’s political machinations, and those have done none of us any good.

    I think some honesty about our Reformation history would also be helpful at this time: ++Cranmer and Luther were outlaws in many respects and did help to sunder the Church no matter how we might view that 500 years later. The question becomes for me then being one who is unwilling to dismiss the Reformation, “Are we seeking to get to the Gospel, or are we seeking something else?” Anything less than the Gospel is unacceptable for breakup.

    You once wrote lovingly about the honesty of Luther in recognizing housecleaners of priests as who they really were–wives. You applied that to the kind of situation I live with. I think that pastoral impulse is you best one.

    Having my household attacked on a regular basis and the gifts we bring as members of the Body dismissed or the grace in our lives ignored with no possibility of discernment is heartbreaking–though C’s bishop is trying to do just that, find a process. Maybe his tradition can avoid schism if they can find one where we have failed?

    While I respect the good Archbishop, I think he has been very weak on applying the law equally. It isn’t crystal clear that prejudice and violence against queer folk has been straightforwardly condemned as outside the range of pastoral options. And the result is the opposite social justice push forward.

    On the other hand, I think given the role of the episcopate, the rush to consecrate +Robinson was gravely problematic, and I’ve said that all along. We put the cart before horse, and how many lay queer folk are in need of the kind of ritual and pastoral care that having a gay bishop does not solve?

    I would have traded that whole affair for the establishment of a wide-ranging, contemplative discernment process and the wiggle room to provide adequate provisional ritual and pastoral care in local areas and contexts.

    I think neither the push ahead, nor the push to squelch serve Truth. I shudder that some wanted to simply amend our present Marriage rite, for example. I think we can do better than that, but that will take the time of sifting through what same sex relationships mean and signify within the context of our common prayer life.

    At this point, I’m most concerned the Gospel be shared and the Sacraments partaken by the maximal number, and if that means we’ll have a more complexity of relationships as a Body, I think ++Williams is on to something. Did I mention I’m exhausted by all of this?

    Sorry for the lengthy post.

  10. Nate says:

    I may answer these comments in two or three comments, since they were lengthy.

    Derek wrote:

    Nate,
    If you’re going to comment, read what I wrote. I said nothing about ordination; I was talking about consecration. These are two different things. A bishop is the church’s pre-eminent leader for both people inside and outside the church. They are the moral exemplars.

    But since you bring up priests…again, the canons should be obeyed.

    I did read what you wrote; but I have always thought it illogical to oppose the consecration of gay bishops while not opposing the ordination of gay priests, just as I find it illogical to oppose the consecration of female bishops but not the ordination of female priests. Once you’ve ordained a woman or a gay person to the priesthood, doesn’t it follow that a woman or a gay person can be consecrated to the episcopate? (This question isn’t rhetorical — in the Catholic Church, we believe that the sacrament of holy orders is one sacrament with various degrees, the episcopate being the fullest degree, so that anyone who can be ordained a priest can be ordained a bishop; do Anglicans/Episcopalians believe the same thing? If not, I suppose that would explain the distinction between ordaining someone a priest and consecrating him or her a bishop).

    Here’s the deal: my reading of the Scriptures says that what is a real problem is infidelity andsleeping around. That’s what seems to be at the heart of *porneia* both when used literally but especially when it’s used metaphorically to talk about God’s relationship with Israel and Christ’s relationship with his Church. Because I’m conservative on sex, I’m for same sex unions. That may seem odd or contradictory to some, but it’s not. *All* Christian clergy should be held to the same standards: celibate when single, monogamous when married. I do believe that queer folk were created that way by God and as a result the Church should accept same-sex unions for the same reason that the New Testament allows different-sex unions–for the restraint of immorality and mutual upbuilding. And I believe it needs to be in the canons, and I believe the sexuality canons should be enforced when clergy start screwing around.

    There’s nothing here with which I disagree.

    Furthermore, sacraments are not rights. Baptism is entirely dependent upon the confession of faith used in Baptism–the Apostles’ Creed. Eucharist is dependent upon being baptized. Confirmation is dependent upon being ready and willing to take up the covenantal vows that others took up on your behalf. Ordination is dependent upon being called by God, having that call confirmed by the Church which typically means having designated authorites agree that you are called to the proclamation of Word and Sacrament–proclamation of Word necessarily including moral conduct.

    Again, I agree with all of this — which is why I’m not sure what our disagreement is about. You said that you were reluctant about the consecration of +Gene Robinson because his sexuality was outside the bounds of the canons and liturgy; but in this comment, you say that being ordained (and, I assume, being consecrated a bishop?) is dependent upon being called by God and having that call confirmed by the Church. Wasn’t +Robinson called by God, and wasn’t his call confirmed by the Church? If so, then what’s the problem? Didn’t the Episcopal Church judge that +Robinson was not living outside the bounds of the canons and liturgy when they confirmed his call to the episcopate?

    So, no–I don’t think I’m being hypocritical.

    Based on this latest comment, I don’t either. The reason I thought you were being hypocritical in the first place was because you were saying (or I thought you were saying) that +Robinson perhaps should not have been consecrated to the episcopate because he lived outside of the canons and liturgy. I found that hypocritical because the Anglican Communion — I think we can all acknowledge this — has relaxed the canons and liturgy to accomodate heterosexual sexuality, so it seems hypocritical to me to apply the canons and liturgy so strictly to homosexuals while changing them frequently for heterosexuals.

    I hope that clarifies what I was saying to begin with, and why I was saying it. As far as most of what you said in this comment, I agree with it. I believe that all of us are called to celibacy while single and monogamy when in relationship, regardless of whether or not we are gay or straight.

  11. Nate says:

    Hmmm. Nate, don’t you think it’s just a bit hypocritical to criticize others about “what’s easy for them” – when as a Catholic you’ll never have to actually deal with any of these issues yourself? Isn’t that a bit easy for you?

    I think it’s outrageous to say that I’ll “never have to actually deal with any of these issues” myself because I’m Catholic. That assumes that the Catholic Church will never have a debate about this, which is an unwarranted assumption; it was not long ago that most would have assumed that none of the churches would have a debate about this. I am certain that there will eventually be a debate about this in the Catholic Church, and then I will have to deal with these issues.

    This is not to mention all of the issues I have to deal with already. Unlike you, BLS, I have to worry about walking into every Catholic church and being unwelcome if I let them know who I am. Unlike you, BLS, I have to worry about being denied Holy Communion because I’m openly gay. Unlike you, BLS, I have to worry about being excommunicated for speaking out against my Church’s persecution of GLBT people; I assume the risk of excommunication every time I publish a blog entry or an article with publications like Whosoever. Unlike you, BLS, I have to worry about the possibility that I will one day adopt children and the Church will refuse to baptize them. Unlike you, BLS, I have to worry that I will be excluded from my ministry as a lector because I’m openly gay. Unlike you, BLS, I know that there will likely never be a Catholic church in which my same-sex union will be blessed. Unlike you, BLS, I know that (at least for the moment) there is a good chance that I could not be ordained a deacon, priest, and certainly not a bishop because of my sexual orientation. Unlike you, BLS, I have to deal with being in a Church that regularly calls upon my government to write discrimination against me into our national Constitution. These are issues that you will never have to deal with, so please don’t talk to me about issues I’ll never have to deal with. Dealing with the issues the Episcopal Church is currently dealing with would be like a vacation for me.

    I realize you’re upset, but if you want to get involved in this, you need to stop excusing your own inaction. It’s not good enough to say “I don’t make the rules.”

    That’s not what I’m saying, but the fact of the matter is that I don’t make the rules. I have no say over what happens in the Catholic Church, nor does any other layperson. Does that mean I get to be inactive? Absolutely not, and I’m not inactive. But let’s be realistic. There is very little chance that the Catholic Church will change in my lifetime, no matter what I do (although this does not stop me from doing anything). On the other hand, change is within reach in the Episcopal Church, but General Convention went back on that change and now their decision to go back to discrimination is being dismissed by many bloggers I’ve read, especially the gay ones. I find that disgusting, appalling.

  12. Nate says:

    On that note, I’ve stopped blogging about GC06, and I’m going to stop commenting about it now too. I’ll respond to anymore comments left for me here, but that’s all.

  13. Derek the Ænglican says:

    Nate,
    Here are some reasons why I make a distinction between oridnation and concecration.

    1. Ordination is a sacrament; consecration isn’t. Liturgical and theologically that does make a difference.

    2. The Eastern Church *does* make a distinction between priests and bishops in terms of church order. Orthodox priests can marry–bishops are required to be celibate. Thus, bishops are held to a higher standard–and that makes sense to me. Working in a parish with spouse and kids is no picnic. I can’t imagine trying to run a diocese with them. (Of course, it’s done all the time; I just imagine that it’s really hard.)

    As for my last bit, it seemed like you were heading towards a ‘rights’ position that insists that everyone has a right to every sacrament. It’s part of the whole open communion discussion in these parts and I’m quite against on on theological and sacramental grounds. Sacraments aren’t rights; there are requirements for participation. That’s all I was getting at.

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