An honest Anglicanism

From William Countryman in Witness Magazine:

“Any proposal to create separate, overlapping jurisdictions based on differences of belief and practice will effectively dismantle the Anglican Communion, whatever good face may be put on it. There is no possible purpose for such jurisdictions other than the exclusion of those with whom one disagrees. And this is precisely what Anglican tradition has been so averse to doing.
“Some appear to desire an Anglicanism that is as dogmatically uniform as Roman Catholicism or the more conservative varieties of Presbyterianism. One can only ask why any one would think such a phenomenon could be called ‘Anglican.’ I do not mean to say that there are no limits to Anglican belief and practice. Of course there are! But we cannot rule out the possibility of new perspectives creating new questions in new or changed cultural contexts. This first happened, for us in the United States, when the American Revolution replaced the monarch with an array of elected governments and abolished all religious establishments. It happened again to us because our nation abolished slavery in the nineteenth century and again because our culture insisted that the equality of women be recognized in active and practical ways.
“It is happening again now because our culture no longer categorizes lesbians and gay men as evil monstrosities or even as psychological problem-cases. The Christian Right has responded by arguing that such categories should be reinstituted and enforced. Their failure to persuade the Senate to enact a constitutional amendment against gay marriage suggests that the country is rejecting that argument. The Episcopal Church, on the other hand, has begun to ask rather how gay men and lesbians whom God has called to faith can live lives that accord with it. We believe this is the faithful course in our context.
“If this is of God, the entire Anglican Communion will benefit by our pioneering efforts. If it is not, then we shall benefit by continuing to be part of the same Communion with those who disagree sharply with our decisions and urge us to reconsider them.”

The Rev. Dr. L. William Countryman is the Sherman E. Johnson Professor in Biblical Studies at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, Calif.

the worst of us

Kendall Harmon posted excerpts from an article in the Belfast Telegraph concerning Archbishop Eames and the Windsor Report (from the Lambeth Commission).
I read some of the comments to Kendall’s posting, and present two of them to show the vastly different opinions held by many of us. The second comment, I think, speaks to the worst of us.
Comment #1 –

Overall good article. But Mr. Jensen, like others before him has missed the fact that the issue of “homosexualtiy” has been settled by resolution I.10 of Lamberth 1998 (that item was mentioned in the initial charge to the Commission, by the bye). Hence, theere was no need for +Eames and company to even deal with it.
Yes, I am afraid that most of us citizens of the US can be, and have been, “arrogant” when it comes to our many blessings. Perhaps for Episcopalians this might be a good lesson in the virtues of humility. I can speak only for myself, but I have learned much about that (with much more to learn, as I am sure someone might point out!).
Looking back at 15 months of intense verbiage, both pro and con, I can see where there was an issue of arrogance on both sides of the issue and a real lack of Christian Charity also. I confess that Z have been guilty of such lacks. But this is what we get when we treat the things of God as a matter of political action and maneuvering rather than matters calling for prayer, reflection, confession and meditiation before acting.
MondayÂ’s posting of the Windsor report (another name to keep up with!!) will tell us much about the direction that the Anglican Communion might be headed in. It will definitely be a time calling for sober reflection.
At the risk of sounding “arrogant” myself, might I suggest quite a few moments of silence occur before we all start “speaking” our view of what this report does or does not accomplish?
Veni Creator Spiritus!
Comment by (I removed the name) — 10/16/2004 @ 10:59 am

Comment #2 –

I am tired of all the “we-speak” with such comments “yes, weÂ’ve all been arrogant.” “I can see where there has been an issue of arrogance on both sides.” Speak for yourself Mr. Lewis; if you have been arrogant with regards to your many blessing, confess that and repent. “Perhaps for Episcopalians this might be a good lesson in the virtues of humility.” Translation: “everyoneÂ’s faith and practice must meet my standards.” Stop it! There is one God, the Lord. Obey Him according His Word revealed in scripture. Homosexuality is sin. Homosexuals have no place in the living Body of Christ and therefore should have no place in the visible church. Forget about man-made “higher standards” by modern day pharisees that make “arrogance” a greater sin than homosexuality. “Arrogance” is the religious version of Political Correctness. Arrogance is everything that is not tolerant, not diverse, not a “new work of God”. You want humility? HereÂ’s humility. Let God be the Judge and by God pray for mercy!
Comment by (I removed the name) — 10/16/2004 @ 11:40 am

Comment #2 comes from what I honestly believe is a dangerous form of fundamentalist, whether Anglican or American. I still wonder how this person, and the Church in general, can honestly say that now, today, in the first part of the 21st century, that the Church has it all together and knows all things, when for the past 2,000 years our history is full of getting things wrong. Arrogance? you better believe it!

what do I do

This is a very personal post. The Lambeth Commission issues its findings day-after-tomorrow, at 7:00 am Eastern Time. I have no idea what the report will suggest, but angst and worry are ever present. Not so much the kind that ties my stomach into knots, because I have learned that one hour of that kind of worry does not add anything to my life and wellbeing. All I can do is place my trust in my Lord and go forward, nevertheless, my gut still says that during the final moments I will not be ordained – and it speaks a bit louder now.
Of course, I am up writing this on a Saturday morning at 4:00 am, listening to the people going home after a night in the clubs (the seminary is surrounded by a few very large dance clubs and on Saturday and Sunday mornings around this time, the streets become very loud). Revilers are heading home. They will spend all night in clubs, but the Church no longer presents to them – anything. Anyway, here I am at 4:00 am writing about my angst before the report is issued.
I have been reluctant about this whole priest thing from the beginning. I was very up front with my Discernment Committee, my Vestry, my bishops, the Commission on Ministry, the Standing Committee, the Canon to the Ordinary, my psychological evaluator, and everyone I knew, that I really had no desire to be a priest. I began the discernment process because several priests in my diocese kept after me to consider seminary and the priesthood.
I knew very well that ordination was not something I desired while working in the Assemblies of God. Everyone told me I should be ordained. After all, I was doing pastoral work. I was burned by one church organization, and I had no desire for a repeat performance.
As I talked with close friends about all this, they agreed and affirmed my being a priest, being a pastor, doing that kind of work. After all, I lit up and become very passionate when I talked about my faith, God, the Church, and all the ramifications of such things. A few cautioned me, wondering whether I might be running away from life, or something else. They were generally lapsed Roman Catholics who saw too much of that kind of thing in their own priests. My former boss, Dean/V.P for Undergraduate Studies at Kent State where I worked for 9 years before seminary, of whom I have the greatest respect, wrote a fine recommendation for me, but said he thought it a great waste of my talents and abilities to go into the priesthood or church work.
One day at Kent while I was talking to a vivacious graduate student, I suddenly realized that my interest in her, at a base level, was not her academic education or even the realization of her goals (in good Student Development fashion), but it was her soul. It was a sudden and unexpected realization. One Sunday morning while the priests were getting the elements ready on the altar, as the choir sang, sitting in a pew watching, thinking, feeling the warmth of the sunlight streaming through the large, clear windows, I was struck by the feeling and the thought – “I can do that!”
The priestly conspiracy to get me off to seminary reached its apex when the bishop offered me a job at the diocesan office as a means to discerning whether church work and/or the priesthood might be the direction my life should go. It was a very good job, but I turned it down because after much prayer and discernment I felt it just wasnÂ’t the right time. Finally, I relented and agreed to go through the yearlong discernment process. I figured that if it is supposed to be about discernment, then it could only help me decide whether there might be something to all this encouragement.
I passed with flying colors and everyone, everyone, said that the Church really needs someone like me right now. After a year of discernment, prayer, and the prodding of lots of people, it seemed that I would be off to seminary, but it just did not feel right. I told my bishop I needed to wait another year, and he graciously consented – “Just let me know when you are ready and I will declare you a Postulant. I want you to write me Ember Day letters this coming year so I know what you are thinking.”
The process, from beginning to seminary, took four years. In the end, I went to seminary because I felt here was where God wanted me, not just because everyone kept saying I should. I am a reluctant Candidate for Holy Orders!
Then, the day before classes began, I met someone. The previous three years were very difficult, as were other periods in my life. I know what being single is like. I know what loneliness is, even though I had strong friendships, loved the people I worked with, etc. There is a fundamental difference in very close and good friends and someone with whom one can love and be loved. I have not been given the gift of singleness, even as Paul encourages us to live without encumbrances in singleness.
So, I was excited to start seminary, to be in New York, to begin this new chapter of my life. The last thing on my mind was getting into a relationship, despite what I just wrote above. Yet, this person appeared. We have been dating for two years now. Our relationship isnÂ’t as he would like it to be – I just donÂ’t have a lot of time. I told him from the beginning that I am here for a purpose and that he must understand that God always will be a first priority for me as a priest. I still don’t know whether he knows what he has gotten himself into, but I am so blessed.
Now, after six years of discernment, education, trial and tribulation, great joy, and Gene Robinson, it is quite difficult for gay people in relationships to find a “Cure,” a priestly position. What do I do if there is an agreement among the bishops of the Anglican Communion to stop all together, or hold off on ordaining gay people who are in relationships?
In eight months, I am to be ordained a transitional deacon, Lord willing. Many say that the Lord certainly is not willing. That is their opinion, but I stand before my God and am accountable to God alone.
What do I do, though, if such a recommendation, and then decision, comes down? What would happen if the Church told all aspirants that they could no longer have sexual relations with their wives or husbands? It wouldnÂ’t fly. Do I ask my partner to live in a relationship without sexual relations? That is a mighty tall request.
I may be confronted with making a profoundly unfair, unjust, and in my opinion unfounded, decision of ending a relationship, entering back into a loneliness that will only be compounded because of a profession known for loneliness, because the majority considers my relationship a profound sin and abomination. Or, do I forgo my ordination to the priesthood, my calling, for the sake of a relationship?
Despite what anti-gay forces propagate as GodÂ’s will, I do not find in Scripture GodÂ’s forbidding of same-sex relationships that are mutual, adult, loving, and monogamous. Scripture says nothing of such relationships. Our culture and society, throughout history, have certainly condemned such relationships, until more recently as attitudes change. Most in the Church cannot handle such change right now. It will, of course, in the same way that it changed with society to support inter-racial marriage, equality for minorities and woman, etc.
What do I do until that time? What do I do if they say, “ordination or relationship, you cannot have both!” I know my only recourse is my Father in Heavan.