June 27, 2006

Canterbury's Latest Thoughts

Not bad; not bad at all. Finally a response that begins to make a good bit of sense, and lays out some clear paths for the future. Thank you, +++Rowan.

I, for one, could live with the "second track" solution; maybe even prefer it! After all, what does it really mean in practice to be "second class" in this new Communion: not going to Lambeth, maybe not being part of ACC (which takes a vote of 2/3ds of the primates -- including us and Canada and SA and Mexico etc.) So let's say that's what happens; as my CPE supervisor would say, "And.....?"

In one sense, Lambeth and the ACC and $2 gets you on the subway. We're talking about two weeks of meetings every 3 or 10 years! In the interim is all the good stuff of MISSION, which is what the church is FOR! What a novel idea. As Lear put it, we can be God's spies, and stop worrying about who's in and who's out, and all the intrigue and gilded butterflies of the ecclesiastical "court." And maybe spend more time on the real work of the church.

And that's my point, as I made it at the Convention when I spoke in favor of the process leading to a Covenant: the problem with the contemporary church is we're thinking about ministers instead of ministry: all this focus on personal qualities and manner of life instead of whether they do what Jesus said to do.

Jesus seems to have been completely indifferent to the "manner of life" of those he called to serve, and those who served him -- as long as they served! (Remember the woman who washed his feet with her tears, and Simon's pious reaction?) You know, Jesus never mentions personal holiness at all; it's part of the purity code he rejected. He talked about prophetic righteousness and not judging others. Hmmm... could sure use more of that in the Anglican Communion!

The only downside to Rowan's reflection is his still being mired with this particular sticky matter: "The Church's One Obsession" with its own structure, its being rather than its doing; the tendency to exalt form over function. But I'm hopeful the two-track solution might actually be liberating for us all!

So let's embrace an imperfect communion based on mission instead of a pure one based on the lifestyles of the missionaries!


The Anglican Scotist said...

Excellent post; I agree 100%.

I believe our task now is to keep our ECUSA brothers and sisters from anger, from overreaction. We should accept the (humiliating) second-class status and above all not do anything formally to disassociate ourselves from the CoE or AC.

bearing said...

"Jesus never mentions personal holiness at all"

"Go and sin no more?"

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Dear Bearing,

"Not sinning" is not "holiness." The proper opposite of "sin" is, as I noted, "righteousness." Holiness, which is an attribute of God alone ("For you alone are Holy, you only are the Lord"), is only attributed to people by Jesus as part of the High Priestly prayer: "Sanctify them..." This is not a "personal" holiness, but an attributed holiness shared among a holy people.

bls said...

I agree, too. I have no problem with living Downstairs for awhile; that's where all the action is, anyway. And it's about time we get back to something productive at last.

I do hope that we will continue to work against - both in the Church and at the U.N. - Nigeria's anti-gay laws, and the anti-gay rhetoric of all of our Upstairs neighbors. I personally believe we can work on mission - and be gadflies and thorns-in-the-side at the same time.

Closed said...

Indeed. Fine post, and let the kvetching end and mission begin. There are a lot of folks hungry to know God's love.

Anonymous said...

"the problem with the contemporary church is we're thinking about ministers instead of ministry: all this focus on personal qualities and manner of life instead of whether they do what Jesus said to do."

Amen! Thank you.

Hiram said...

Jesus cared both about the ministry done, and about the ministers themselves: Mt. 7:21-24, "Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. [22] Many will say to me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' [23] Then I will tell them plainly, `I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

Part of the ministry is the personal life of the minister; we reveal God's presence as seek to be more like Jesus, in character and in action -- and part of being like Jesus is being obedient to God's revealed will -- a will which precludes sexual activity outside the bounds of marriage between a man and a woman.

Anonymous said...

Not bad; not bad at all.

i'm afraid, dear brother, that i must demurr.

there are two problems with this statement by +++Rowan. first, it tells a lie, and a lie which he should know not to tell. my own blog contains my take on this lie, at http://thomb.livejournal.com/123706.html.

and second, and hanging off of the lie, it fails to say just what this covenant would include. would it include compliance with section 155 of the windsor report, and with the "listening" promise of lambeth 1998 1.10? or are we just supposed to understand that those promises and requests were never serious, that they were just more dishonesty?

i agree that a two-track solution may be the best thing, but i'm a tad confused why it is section 5 of lambeth 1.10 which defines the covenant, and not sections 3 and 4? why is it sections 134 and 144 of the windsor report which define the covenant, and not sections 146 and 155?

of course i know why: it's because sections 3 and 4 of 1.10, and sections 146 and 155 were never really intendend; they were lies. we were never supposed to believe them, we were supposed to be glad that the words were spoken at all, even if they didn't manifest any integrity or intention to bring them into effect.

and +++Rowan has done nothing to push those sections like he has done to push around the episcopal church, and now we have the clear dishonesty right in the latest little musics from lambeth palace, a dishonest which is right there, bound up with the dishonesty of saying wr 146 and 155, and lambeth 1.10.3-4.

if we must be second class, then so be it. i agree with the sentiment expressed in the question "and then...?" but let us at least be honest and clear that we are being lied to, and not go along with the pretense.

Lionel Deimel said...

On first reading, I had two reactions to the Archbishop's thoughts. First, I wondered why he spoke of tradition and (especially) Scripture, but never mentioned reason. Second, I though, wow! Sign us up now as a second-tier church, let someone else pay for the the bureaucracy of the first-tier Communion, and let us get on with our life and mission without having to argue with the other churches of the Communion.

Anonymous said...

Well my friend, Tobias, I'm stunned by your remarks. Jesus most clearly did care about the way people lived, and you know it. Why preach the beatitudes if he didn't care? Why tell the woman to go an sin no more? I agree wholeheartedly that the thrust of being like Jesus isn't primarily about whether one is single or partnered -- gay or straight -- but is about how loving and righteous one is. I'm also stunned by the cavalier indifference to the strictures of catholicity. Mutual submission is quite clearly what we're called to by Jesus. The equality Paul calls for in 2 Corinthians isn't just about giving up material wealth for the poor. I'm pretty sure I don't see how the American province is doing much 'giving up' for the sake of the whole body. Mostly I am talking about wealth and power and privilege, but we are almost always going to run the risk of arrogance and excess here in Corinth. We are also almost certain to be more 'out there on our own' if we no longer require ourselves to be in covenant with the wider church. Tobias, I don't want to be in a small and shrinking American Protestant denomination. It's not about me, it's about what I always thought was catholic, and the costs of discipleship. -- Greg Jones

Anonymous said...

I agree with much of what you said. What resonates for me is this sense that we need to stop playing the victim. We are not the victim of the AAC, ABC, HOB, the English bishops who spoke out before and at GC, etc. We made choices for ourselves as we felt led by the Spirit and we will continue to do so.

I would add, however, that perhaps we should not think of ++Rowan's reflection as a second tier of the Anglican Communion, but using the family image, the Children's Table. Frankly we know at family get-togethers the children's table is where all the fun is. After all how many of us finally make it to the "adults table" to only spend the rest of our lives figuring out how to get back to the children's table. Plus for those who like to throw in a little Scripture (in or out of context), how about, "At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me." (Matt 18:1-4)

On to the work of mission we go, with all of the faith, hope, and love of a child.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

A few responses:

Hiram, you are very sure about the traditional teaching concerning sex outside of mixed-sex marriage. This begs the question. To what extent is the scriptural opposition to same-sex sexuality the "revealed will of God" rather than "revealed cultural biases."

Which brings me to at least one of my brother Thomas' points. I did not mean to imply I agree with everything in Rowan's proposal. I am particularly unconvinced by his inability to name bigotry as such, even when it is ensconced in Scripture. We know that the culture of the time allowed slavery, genocide, and sexism, &c. The inability to name this is indeed a serious flaw in this document, and in the whole discussion. It is, in fact, the nub of the problem. But naming it as such doesn't solve it; since folks like Hiram will not be convinced: they will continue to use the Scripture as a support for their own bigotry.

Greg, I am sorry to say that you too miss the point of what "holiness" is. It is not about "not sinning" or "being a good person." In the Jewish tradition "holiness" is intimately related to the purity code. And I think you've missed my point: submission is exactly what I am proposing: I am willing to accept a second-class seat for the Episcopal Church if that is the cost of remaining true to the Gospel. Rowan seems confused on the truth vs. unity issue. Unity without truth is mere conspiracy. Truth without unity is mere splintering. Unity in fellowship in pilgrimage toward the truth that is yet to be fully revealed: that is where the church ought to be. If it means sitting at the little table for a time, so be it. I am confident that Jesus will be with us, as he always was, with those deemed sinners by those who thought themselves righteous. And that is ultimately what matters.

bearing said...

Tobias said,

Jesus seems to have been completely indifferent to the "manner of life" of those he called to serve, and those who served him -- as long as they served!... You know, Jesus never mentions personal holiness at all; it's part of the purity code he rejected.

That sounds to me like you equate "being indifferent to the manner of life" of people as "never mentioning personal holiness."

This doesn't square with what you wrote in response to "Go and sin no more." You wrote:

"Not sinning" is not "holiness."

Well. Whatever you call it, apparently Jesus was not indifferent to the "manner of life" of the people around him. He exhorted them not to sin. It's hard to get around that.

bearing said...

Do you believe in sin, Tobias?

Anonymous said...

Dear Tobias,

Thank you for your blog and your latest posting. One thought. Are you so sure that Jesus rejected the purity laws (i.e., "it's part of the purity code he rejected")? I used to think that to until I read Paula Fredriksen's article, which can be found here:




Merseymike said...

This is a last attempt to try and hold something together.It won'twork.

Hurry up and re-organise then the many of us here in the UK who like what ECUSA is about can join you and have a church worth being part of

bearing said...

What is the Church's mission?

Anonymous said...

(Dave) Tobias was very careful to say that JESUS never speaks the words that we are to be/live holy lives. Of course, Scripture is replete with that injunction, witness "But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do." Of course, that was the Apostle Peter and not Jesus, but no doubt we know better than did Peter what Jesus thought about holiness.

Anonymous said...

(Dave) Orperhps you might prefer this one from St. Paul: "But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people."

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Again a response to some continued questions:

Bearing, I am not suggesting that Jesus said that it was proper to sin. I am stating that "holiness" is not about sin or the absence of it. Jesus does not call for holiness, but he does give a summary of the law for the avoidance of sin. These are two different things.

So the question becomes: is same sex behavior always sinful. I think not. Scripture has been distorted by those who wish to uphold that view, but it cannot be demonstrably proven that same-sex sexuality is culpable (according to Scripture) in any cases other than idolatry, rape, adultery, or prostitution. Obviously the Law of Moses restricts male same-sex sexuality (with no mention of lesbianism), but this is exactly part of the holiness code, and is explicitly (in the text) not about sin, but impurity. The behavior in question is labeled "to'evah." Ultimately Christians are not bound by these laws.

Dave, you are correct to note I am talking about Jesus, not Paul. Paul, good Pharisee that he was, was torn throughout his ministry between the ideals of Christ and the gravitational force of his own upbringing and culture.

The text from Ephesians which you cite also raises the issue of the extent to which our present heterosexist culture continues to distort the Scripture. The translation of porneia under a broad heading of "sexual immorality" (conveniently thus lumping together anything one wishes to condemn) is unfounded, though sadly common. Porneia means prostitution, and figuratively, idolatry. It is necessary in Jewish law to distinguish from adultery, since under the Law a man did not incur the penalty of adultery against his own wife. There is no instance of the use of porneia or its related words that necessarily implies anything other than these two meanings, though many insist on taking that implication.

Bearing, as I'm sure you know, the mission of the church is to promote the unity of all people in Christ. That is best achieved by following his advice, "Love one another" and "Do not judge." Unfortunately, the church appears to have chosen to ignore the latter commandment, and instead of being a fellowship of sinners all redeemed by one Lord, tends to be an exclusive club of self-approved moral busibodies.

Stephen, Thanks for the link. While it makes some good distinctions between impurity and sin (as I have been trying to do here) I found the article very unconvincing as to the basic premise, and straining at the obvious rejections Jesus makes concerning the purity code. (As well as the questionable assertion that because the apostles were still arguing about food that Jesus didn't really address the matter. We have to deal with the canonical, not historical Jesus, in this regard; the Gospels may well have been framed in response to the experience of the early church, and the epistles.) The ulimate evidence presented, only arrived at after a number of I think quite extraneous arguments, that Jesus ate the Passover and visited the Temple, and therefore must have been in a state of ritual purity is, IMHO, rather weak.

Thanks again to all for the comments. I fear we are straying from the primary import of my essay, however, which is about how we as a church, in whatever relation to the other churches of the Communion, can continue to do God's mission and ministry, in spite of our differences on matters which, from a Scriptural perspective, are of little importance.

Anonymous said...

Tobias, your invitation to accept being at the second tier/ downstairs/children's table in a spirit of humility and appreciation for the ability to get out and do more of the ministry we really want to do rather than worry so much about the rigths and responsibilities of upper tiers reminds me of some of the dynamics that I and other lgbt folks deal with already in the church. It's that problem of being too queer a priest for any parish other than those that are on the edge. I love being in small, struggling urban parishes because there's more room for all the rough edges of life to celerbated and less expectation of gentility. At the same time I am always aware of and struggle with resentment at the fact that my and other lgbt people's choices are limited by nothing more than sheer anti-queer bias, a bias ultimately on the part of a larger church (on the ground, a diocesan) structure that does not have the will to challenge search committees in larger, more middle and upper class parishes to broaden their seaches. Being in a position of choosing a different vocational trajectory brings with it deep spiritual challenges the first of which involves truly acknowlegding one's different status within the larger structural context and actively dealing with anger about that, not only appreciating the increased freedoms that come with being at a different table (real as those freedoms can be at points). How to deal spiritually with being rendered second-class, with being infantalized, basically? This is a question that out queer priests I know, including myself, deal with on a regular, even daily basis. It seems like TEC is getting to a place where it will have to deal with such questions for itself as a whole. Will this experience cause the various dioceses of TEC to get better at dealing with those who queer the genteel norms of its more 'traditional' parishes?

Anonymous said...

As far as I am concerned, debates of personal choices and preferences can wait while we concentrate on the good ministry of the Episcopal Church. We have yet much to do: teen pregnancy, HIV infection rate, homelessness, the list goes on.

Why are we focusing on what should be left for God to judge, if "judging" of one's holiness is to be executed, while we should be reaching out, carrying out His works?

And if the Episcopal churches in Asia and Africa have such a huge problem, then they are presented an opportunity to deal with it, as we are learning how to deal with their disapproval.

I am from Asia, and there is a reason I am here worshipping within the sanctuary of the US Episcopal Church.

Anonymous said...

(Dave) I don't disagree with your focus, Tobias. It should be about ministry. All of our ministries would be enhanced by putting this conflict behind us but it is not going to go away. And so just as Moses spoke God's word to Pharaoh when Israel was in Egypt land: "let my people go!" And TEC should do as Pharaoh did and give the departing their flocks and belongings. Now personally, I came into the world with nothing and I am happy to leave TEC with nothing but some don't see it that way. Since others are yoked to the buildings and properties, it would free all of us to focus on ministry if this issue could be dealt with fairly. Then all of us could get on with building the Kingdom in the ways we feel called to do.

bearing said...

Bearing, as I'm sure you know, the mission of the church is to promote the unity of all people in Christ.

I thought the mission of the Church was to lead people to Heaven.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Dear Bearing,
I am paraphrasing the language of the Catechism in the Book of Common Prayer. Unity in Christ is the ultimate "meaning" of heaven. We none of us get there under our own power, and no one is allowed in unless carrying someone else or being carried.

Anonymous said...

Personal holiness not important for serving? Aside from the various citations already mentioned above by Jesus, you might try the rest of the Bible. Romans 12 is a good place to start for the basics of servant leadership: "Present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice... Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed.."

Unfortunately, theological liberalism is not only untenable exigetically and contrary to 2000 years of the faith, in purely pragmatic terms it leads to empty, moribund churches.

By the way, the largest and most dynamic of our American Anglican churches--Christ Church Plano--just today left the Episcopal denomination. Many soon will folow.

Anonymous said...

According to TEC's church annual, which uses statistics provided by each parish, Christ Church in Plano, TX is 31st in size nationally based on the number of communicants.

Even based on church attendance they are behind by double digits percentage-wise from the church with the largest attendance.

Me thinks the folks at Christ Church are smokin' something illegal if they think they are the largest.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

I suppose many people take comfort in imagining themeselves to possess a degree of holiness that others lack. Jesus does not appear to be interested in this category. He chose many weak vessels to bear his message: Peter, Paul, the Samaritan woman, and so on.

If nothing else, this discussion shows that obsession with personal holiness (defined primarily in terms of other people's sexuality, it seems) is obviously at the heart of the neo-Puritan movement characterized by the folks at Christ Church Plano. Such movements will always be popular; that they bear little connection with the Gospel is no matter.

I'll take Desmond Tutu over David Roseberry any day.

The Anglican Scotist said...

OK: here is a theory.

At the core of the biblical notion of holiness is our being set apart for the use of God, with the understanding that we are not in our "fallen" state already available to God.

Holiness is not achieved by obeying rules--that is necessarily always insufficeint. The reductionist tendency to read holiness as nothing over and above a set of rules, evident in your critics here, is just the type of legalism so tempting to us in all ages which Jesus protested in the Pharisees of his day.

The holiness code in the OT operates with a background notion of perfection or wholeness, and behind that an inchoate apprehension of ideal types. They may have figured our being set apart for God's use implies an approach to God, entering God's domain as he dwells among us.

Philosophically put, the OT effort to be holy, i.e. obeying the holiness code, implies an effort to become godly or to participate in the nature of divinity.

Thus, holiness an participation in divinity are the linked terms, with the holiness code as the middle, mediating the two for us: we participate achieving holiness via obedience to the Code.

We still as Christians participate in divinity, becoming holy--think of our sacramental life as participation in the Person of God in Christ.

But whereas the Hebrews has the Code as their mediator, from our point of view an exteriorized version of the Logos, we have the very Logos in the Person of Christ. We have no need of the Law in the sense of a Code when we have the very Person of God mediating our particiaption in God. This is what it means to have Christ as our one and only mediator.

That is not good enough for your critics--they want something else in addition. Christ being insufficient, bring back the Law! This is pathetic--quoting Paul to subvert Paul, and getting all huffy and red-faced too.

bearing said...

Do you think it's possible that some might get to Hell under their own power?

The Anglican Scotist said...

No--nobody gets to Hell of their own power. That is absurd. You cannot even breathe, even exist for one second on your own power--how then will you get to Hell that way? Do not try to put yourself in the place of your Creator; you are merely the created.

Anonymous said...

Tobias, Greg again -- OK -- Bearing is driving me nuts. The mission of the Church is the mission of Jesus Christ -- and yes the mission of Jesus Christ is far more expansive than "getting people into heaven." The mission of Jesus Christ appears to be rather plain in all of his teachings, and most of those have to do with loving God, loving neighbor as self. This implies a complete embrace of God's creation, which itself is to be redeemed by the saving work of Jesus Christ. "Heaven" is not the issue -- the New Creation is. It is this new creation which Jesus births - and of which he is the first born. Through him who made the world -- all are made over again. I'm seeing lots of physical earthly justice implications here -- not too much about "getting folk into heaven" presumably after they are buried.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the thoughts. Glad to hear words hopeful for the twin track part. Wrote this earlier on Thinking Anglicans and cross-posting here:

"The form and idea of a covenant is good; but its function is perverted by partisan wrestling of its meanings. I don't think it is possible to sustain the myth of communion by imperialist coercion into a model of being church. Better it is to give space to a koinonia forming from grassroot relationships. A two-tiered structure might just provide an opening for that. I am quite certain that such a simplistic model for an Anglican federation will quickly diversify into different networks of relationships.

I think it augurs well too for the future of our ecumenical connections beyond our parochial provinciality to begin identifying parts of our Anglican provinces as 'like the Methodists'.

I am glad to see our communion moving towards a post-colonial identity."

Anonymous said...

It was great to read in the San Francisco Chronicle about the 4 dioseses today that had the courage to leave TEC and seek refuge under the auspices of more theologically biblical bishops from Africa.

The Episcopal Church is rapidly becoming marginalised and will continue to loose membership until it returns to orthodoxy.

Lisa Fox said...

Tobias, thanks for your reflections. I note the Anonymous comment above that refers to TEC being "marginalized," as if that's a bad thing. Your perspective makes me think maybe it's a good thing, and an effective way to counter our Western imperial tendencies.

I also appreciate what I hear as your thoughts about structure vs. mission. The Archbishop and the ACN/AAC/IRD comitatus seem very, very much concerned with structural issues-- who's in and who's out, who gets the Anglican "franchise," etc. But what does any of that really mean in real life? Our diocese has a companion relationship with the Diocese of Lui in Sudan, and I spent 12 days there this spring. We're doing some very good things together. If they stay at the adult table and we move to the kids' table, I do not believe that will have an iota of impact on the mission and ministry we are doing together, the lives we are changing, the hearts we are changing.

Maybe this whole structural brouhaha is merely Much Ado about Nothing.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thank you Lisa. This is the reality that our anonymous friend fails to "get" -- even if it were true. In fact, the various splinters that have separated themselves from the Episcopal Church over the generations have very little to show for themselves. I am reminded of the old cartoon of the man sitting out on a limb and gleefully sawing it away from the tree.

As for the Episcopal Church, it will continue to thrive since it is following the Gospel and not a Puritan "orthodoxy" which bears little resemblance to the teaching of Christ. My parish had its first liturgy in Igbo this past Sunday, with 36 Nigerians in attendance -- many coming from as far away as Brooklyn and Queens. They are here because we preach the Gospel, not some form of works-righteousness, that will ultimately further splinter and sputter under the burden of its impossible task.

Anonymous said...

Tobias --

Excellent to meet you at General Convention -- I sincerely regret that it was truly no more than that.

Although I generally concur with what you say (nothing surprising in that) I am very suspicious of the notion (touted by Ruth Glendhill) that ++Rowan is planning on throwing us out. I could just as easily see "The Global South" refusing to sign on to a Covenant that insisted on the human dignity & equality of "persons with a same sex orientation" & finding themselves in "the second tier".

But, seriously, as rapidly as things seem to be moving, it appears that the Global South & their neo-Donatist supporters will already have formed an organization apart from Canterbury ages before the years long process envisaged by ++Rowan is even getting started (part of his nefarious plan?)

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

I concur, Prior A., with your assessment that Ruth G. has overestimated +Rowan's devices and desires. Everything is happening so quickly in the Global South, and the various regions of the US that seem hasty to respond. +Rowan is calling for the beginning of a long process, and who knows what the eventual Covenant might say. I'd venture it won't be the language of the Synod of Dort, as some appear to hope.

By the way, has anyone else noticed that the preponderance of fossil fuels in any given area (So. California, Western Pennsylvania, parts of Texas, and Nigeria) and emissions from these regions may be linked with Global South Warming? ;-)

Anonymous said...

I think that poor Rowan is trying to do the best he can to hold together the communion. It is not a bad solution.

ECUSA needs to consider the greater mission of the church and the need for the Episcopal Church to remain faithful to the central gospel truths of love and inclusivity (rather than exclusion). Jesus said that he was the "The Way, the Truth...." and that no man comes to the Father but through Him. ECUSA must indeed follow Christ and arrive at the father through the way of Christ (love, sacrifice and so on). It would be so easy for ECUSA to bow to pressure to remain on the inside and distance itself from what amount to civil rights issues that directly reflect on their following the gospel. ECUSA should be applauded for sticking to what they believe is a living out of the Gospel message.

Some say wait but if so when? If not now to include women in the full life of the Church (eg Primate)...when? If not now to include all who follow the message of Christ (including those whose orientation differs from the majority)...when? If we waited for the most opportune time and acceptance by all, the US would still have slaves.

It takes those of courage to say that there is something fundamentally wrong in our treatment of others and to try and change it. Christ did it. I cannot imagine Christ waiting around for the Sanhedrin (and so on) to come to some acceptance of his mission and message and reach an understanding (possibly putting the whole thing on hold for several years while it was studied). Instead He reached out in the present and regardless of negative reaction to doing what was right. ECUSA is trying to follow the example of Christ. This must be done with dignity, respect and love.