September 28, 2007

Where We Are

As I noted in a comment to the previous post, my bishop held a Town Hall meeting yesterday for clergy of the diocese. He and our suffragan bishop both spoke, as well as the vicar bishop and an old friend who although he retired as a diocesan some years ago has probably held more positions since his “retirement” than most bishops do in their entire ministry.

Two of the clergy present spoke very forthrightly about the extent to which the House of Bishops’ statement was a source of considerable pain to gay and lesbian members of their congregations. The bishop seemed at first to be slightly nonplused by this response, but then said some very profound things about the state of our church. I’ve been reflecting on them since.

[Update 10/1/07: a few people, including one reasserter blogger, have misunderstood what follows to be a summary of what the bishops said. This is not the case. The following comments are my personal reflections on the situation, in part in reaction to some of the things the bishops at the Town Hall meeting said.]

In keeping with an effort towards descriptive rather than prescriptive analysis, this is a sobering exercise in considering the state of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. What follows may be hard to hear, but I think these things need to be said. I will frame them simply as bullet points; I welcome commenters who disagree with my assessments to say so — but I am trying to be clearly, if not brutally, honest.

  • It is very easy, in a liberal parish in a liberal diocese to come to think that The Episcopal Church as a whole is much more liberal than it really is. This applies to the Anglican Communion as well.
  • The House of Bishops as a whole — even with the “Network” bishops missing — is not as liberal as its most liberal members. When they gather, something between the Hive Mind and the Stockholm Effect takes place. The whole is often less than the sum of its parts.
  • The idea that gay and lesbian persons are full and equal members of the church is more of a hope than a reality. The ground has shifted considerably from 1979 (when General Convention resolution A053 recommended that bishops and standing committees not allow the ordination of “practicing homosexuals” to any order of ministry) to 2006 (when B033 recommended withholding consent only for the episcopate, for candidates whose manner of life might challenge the wider church) to this week in 2007 when the House of Bishops clarified that yes, this does include partnered gay and lesbian persons.
  • That gay and lesbian persons continue to put up with the church may also be a sign of the Stockholm Effect, or of their great faith. I prefer to think it is the latter.
  • While no one has a right to be ordained, or a right to get married (the hierarchy has veto powers on both matters) still these may have come to be seen as reasonable expectations, to some extent encouraged by a gradual movement towards greater toleration in the desuetude of 1979's A053, and the increasing practice of pastoral provision for same sex blessings in a significant minority of dioceses.
  • This impression was also encouraged by a crucial act in 2003. The consent to the election of Gene Robinson was a “false dawn” — and was not the celebration of gay and lesbian equality it was perceived to be. The consent had more to do with Gene’s superb personal qualities and track-record as an excellent priest than with his sexuality and his partnership. The consent was given in spite of, not in affirmation of, his private life. The consent to his election thus made it appear both to us and to the world that we were moving faster than we actually were.

So, where are we then, speaking practically, and what can be done to encourage gay and lesbian persons that they have not been abandoned? A number of our bishops have already issued letters or commentary on the House of Bishops’ meeting, affirming their personal commitment in their own dioceses to continuing the struggle. That, I think, is the best that can be said at this point.

As I suggested in an earlier post, it is high time to proclaim that Lambeth 1998 1.10 does not represent the consensus of the Anglican Communion — and remind people that fully a third of the bishops present voted against the clause on the compatibility of same-sex relationships with Scripture: so that even if this is a majority view, it cannot by any reasonable definition of the term be called a “consensus.”

Meanwhile, the struggle continues — perhaps made a bit easier by the behavior of the radical right in their essential withdrawal from the process and choice literally to walk apart, both at the national and communion level. I take some hope in this — but it is a hope, not a thing achieved. What I say here may not be of great comfort to those who had come to believe that The Episcopal Church was more welcoming as a whole than it actually is. There are many parishes even in the most liberal dioceses where a gay or lesbian person cannot be honest about who they are. There are many dioceses in which clergy with partners continue to function, faithfully serving their parishes, from the closet. God willing, this will change in my life time. But even if it doesn’t, I know that the theologies of heterosexism are doomed, and that the day will come when the hope to which the bishops referred is realized.

For the present, a luta continua.

Tobias Haller BSG


Christopher said...

I have no doubt this is where we are, but I feel like I've been wrung dry.

I think something more than encouragement is needed. I'm sure I'm not alone in begin tired of rarara exhortation. That wolf has been cried one too many times, and if I feel that way as a relative youngster, I can only imagine how others feel. Those younger than I will mostly just stay away from TEC.

At a concrete level, what pastoral and ritual care in this church means is that we have a seat in the pews and won't be denied Eucharist--mostly. We're no better than the Lutherans whom we've felt superior on this matter for years. At least on the parish level they have far more flexibility to offer concrete care.

I would say the number of dioceses that allow for blessings or some other form of giving thanks for or honoring our relationships is quite small, not as significant as claimed.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you for this, Tobias. While I agree that this is a fair assessment of where we are, it's decidedly not where we were last March.

Why, do you suppose, that is the case?

THAT, I think is the question that needs to be explored before we can really respond to where we are.

Anonymous said...

Tobias --

Most of the bishops who I would call my friends are more conservative than I -- wanted to minister to gay & Lesbians but putting the "unity of the church" over justice now for gays & lesbians -- and they don't mean just the WWAC -- they mean people in their own parishes who just "aren't there yet."

I still say that the bishops basically affirmed that they had no authority to overturn a decision of General Convention (& rightly so).

Persuading people takes time, but I still believe that Bishop Spong (Godwin alert!) was right about this -- the fight has actually been won & while there will be some rear guard actions, the course will never be changed (sometimes the direction you are facing is more important that far you've gone).

RFSJ said...


Thank you for posting this. Are these bullet points yours, or essentially +Sisk's?

In any case, it's a good wake up call. I don't necessarily feel any better, but I do feel bucked up if you will. These are good reminders for all of us. The fact that in so many dioceses (and I know this has been said, but it bears repeating) there are openly serving GBLT folks at all sub-episcopal levels of ministry means that one day there will be a second GBLT bishop elected *and* consecrated.

I realize that for the laity there is probably more emphasis on SSBs. Newark has a Civil Unions Task Force in place, but they are awaiting word from the Bishop about his intentions in light of the HoB statement. Did +Sisk say anything about that?


Anonymous said...

This is a terrific summary, Tobias. Thank you.

Personally, I think GC2009 will go a long way toward the FULL membership of LGBT Episcopalians, but it won't get there fully, due to the perception that the people in the pews "haven't gotten there yet". I predict GC2012 will be the time and place when gays and lesbians will gain their full status in the church.

Could you have possibly imagined in 1987 that this discussion would be where it is today? I'm sure I could not.

Perhaps those of us in liberal parishes in liberal diocese could take a step back from the brink, and appreciate the historical perspective. The struggle is not over, but we may be at the end of the beginning; maybe even at the beginning of the end. (with apologies to Churchill)

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

I know this has been said before, but I do think there is a light ahead and that we are moving in a positive direction. I don't want to overestimate what the departure of the far-right will mean, but it is bound to have impact both within the church and at the Communion level. But I certainly do think that there is more needed than exhortation to patience, and a clear rebuttal of at least the consensus on "incompatibility" in Lambeth 1.10 would be a very good start. If for no other reason, because it's the truth.

Elizabeth, I think the main difference between March and September was that the March meeting dealt with something really gear and near to the Bishops hearts -- polity and property -- and you will note that in the present statement that is where their strongest language is placed. This was evident in the town hall meeting yesterday: the bishops really want to push back on the incursions. This is something that concerns the moderates as much as the Liberals -- perhaps even more because the more moderate diocese is have a larger percentage of rightward leaning members.

I think we were fooled into thinking that the bishops were headed in a direction that they weren't, and took a bit of false hope from what they said.

Good Prior, the point you raise was raised by Bishop Taylor yesterday -- he had received an angry e-mail from a parishioner who said the church was being too soft on the gays. the reality is, even in the liberal dioceses such as this, bishops have to be pastors to all sorts and conditions. That being said, I agree that the war has been won even though it there will still be a few battles to fight.

RFSJ, the bullet points are mine largely in response to what was said at the town hall meeting. The first bullet point --- about the lack of homogeneity within dioceses is and the wider church --- is close to something that Bishop Sisk said. The reminder that the Lambeth resolution clause on incompatibility was opposed by one third of the bishops present was brought up by Bishop Roskam in response to my challenge about the lack of consensus in the communion.

Thanks again to all for the further comments/

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

And Walt,
To you too -- as your comment and my last crossed in the aether. it is important to remember that it was just in 1991 at the House of Bishops refused to censure one of its members for having ordained an openly gay priest. I was present for that discussion and it was crucial in my determination finally to enter the ordination process -- I refused to participate under a don't ask don't tell regime. It was a moment of great pride to see other bishops standing up one by one and saying, "if you censure him you'll have to censure me too." We will, perhaps, need another such courageous moment; perhaps it will happen in 2009?

klady said...

Thank you, Tobias. This is extremely helpful.

The day the HoB report was issued, I was sick with a fever and my head was pounding, so it was hard for me to grasp what happened. All I could see was a pedestrian rehash of B033. While it recalled the pain of its passage, it nevertheless looked like what I assumed everyone realistically hoped for and expected. With all the pressure from within and outside the church to take a harder line against consecration of GLBT bishops and SSB’s and to allow some kind of alternative structure or primatial oversight for the dissenters, I thought the best hope was to stick with B033, as awful as it may have been. Meanwhile, everything I had read from the progressive side seemed to have counseled just that – stay put until GC2009 can undo B033 – and rely on our polity to resist any further changes or concessions to the conservatives. So when the report was issued, I thought, well, it sure isn’t pretty, but we’ve successfully avoided something far worse.

Of course it didn’t take me long to realize that that was not how it was hitting others, especially GLBTs who were stung by both the reaffirmation of B033 and the changes in wording thought necessary to satisfy Canterbury and the wider AC. Actually, many have described it more like a knife blow. Some have even talked about leaving the church and what seems at best tepid, equivocal support for GLBTs and, at worst, ongoing abuse.

I am deeply sorry about this, but, at the same time, I am still puzzled that so many seem not only hurt but genuinely surprised. The church you describe, Tobias, is precisely the one I have seen. I never in my wildest dreams expected anything much more than what was said in the HoB report, and I actually feared much worse. And if anyone truly believed that the state of the church was other than what you described and expected any result different than what occurred, then I just have to shake my head in wonder. It is still a huge deal that we have +VGR, one which many people in the pews and some priests and bishops are still struggling with. There has been a lot of progress made, and, one hopes, much more will come of GC2009 and perhaps even Lambeth 2008. But the Rainbow church just isn't here yet in other than a few places. I'm sorry that is the case, I will do whatever I can to change that, but for those who want to stay the course, it seems that the only way forward is to first understand the reality of the current situation.

As church people we do believe in and witness miracles. I think +VGR's consecration was one of them, the light that was meant to take us forward, but not necessarily a sign, let alone a guarantee, that the struggle was over and done with. I'm deeply sorry for the pain so many have experienced this week, and I wouldn't blame any one for giving up on the enterprise if it is too much to bear. But I would hope that those who stay will see things more clearly and, in that, help us all work harder and better for success down the road.


(P.S. Love the photo. Indeed it says it all. You're in MP's league now).

Anonymous said...

I will not claim to understand how a gay or lesbian Episcopalian feels this week. But I do have my own experience of alienation from the Church - a feeling and a sense that my Church had rejected me and cast me aside.

In 1991, I relinquished the exercise of my priestly ministry. The details of the story behind that are complicated, and I hold no small culpability myself. But at the time (in the words of friends for I claim no perspective) I was dealt with as a discipline problem and not a pastoral problem.

For a few years I did I hardly darkened a church door at all. Then (after a change in bishop) for several years, I became much like those we see at Christmas and Easter - the occasional Anglicans.

I knew my priestly vocation was still real, but I was alone. And while I knew where my spiritual home was, I could not go there.

It was a coffee with a (different) former bishop that opened the door for my return home, and the support of a good parish priest that made me comfortable to stay.

And then, some further years down the line, the week before his retirement, the then bishop contacted me to say he wanted to reinstate me before he retired.

Now, I am home and my vocation is restored.

My experience is not the same as my gay brothers and lesbian sisters this week. In particular, my own culpability makes the two quite different.

But this Church is my home. And I hope it is their home too. And I pray that they will not feel the need to leave it in order to miss it.

June Butler said...

Tobias, I agree that you present the rather glum reality of the state of the church today.

SSBs take priority among many church members, because, after all, how many of us will be candidates for bishop?

Keep in mind that in certain dioceses, ordination to the priesthood or to the diaconate is still not a possibility for GLTB persons in partnered relationships.

Thanks for the picture at the bottom. It did make me laugh, although the sentiments are not really funny.

Note to all: I am the token low-brow commenter here. How do I dare to do it?

Anonymous said...

I don't understand the part about fully one third of 1998 Lambeth bishops voting against the clause that says homosexuality is incompatible with Scripture. The vote on the final resolution was 526 to 70 and it includes words to the same effect. What are you referring to? Jennifer

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Tobias. This is the most honest assessment I have read of where we are today. There is never any substitute for dealing frankly with reality. I would only add that many of the radical right will be remaining, and I do not expect them to be silent.

I do wish we could agree to disagree on these issues. Putting aside personal beliefs for a moment, I cannot imagine that it is yet possible for this church to thrive in some areas of the country while speaking of same sex blessings. In other parts of the country, it is not possible for the church to thrive without doing so. This church is polarized because this country is polarized, and in that sense we really do reflect the surrounding culture. It ought to be possible to use those differences to good advantage so that we can minister to both parts of that culture.

Persuasion is good, but it is not sufficient. We must also arrive at the point where we can live with our differences. Those differences will be with us for a while yet.

Paul Martin

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks to all for the feedback and wisdom. I echo the wish that people could hold fast and remain faithful to each other and to the church even as they disagree passionately. My seminarian delivered a fine sermon last week at GTS (his senior sermon) in which he imagined how hard it must have been for Simon the Zealot to sit at the same table as Matthew (Levi) the Tax Gatherer. And Jesus didn't take sides -- he just called them together.

Jennifer, I'm referring to the fact that the clause in question was added to the resolution as an amendment -- and when voted on by itself fully 1/3 of those present voted against it. After it was adopted, a number of the more liberal bishops walked out in despair. Not, I think a wise thing to do, but I can understand their feeling. The final resolution was adopted as you say, many who voted against the individual clause feeling some comfort in the presence of the section about listening and pastoral care. Many of them have now been disappointed at the failure to live up to that portion of the resolution.

Thanks again to all.

Anonymous said...

Tobias: I have waited in hope (and obviously naivete) for 40 years for the Episcopal Church to stop saying "nice things" to try and keep Gayfolk in the church and affirm by deed Gayfolk, ontologically and morally and ecclesially. I see now it will never happen. I am making plans to depart. But I have one thing to "correct" in what you said in your "clear" comments. I am not leaving because I don't have faith, but because I do - faith in a beautiful, loving God who made me a fine Gay man in the Divine Image, WHo seems is not worshipped apparently by the heirarchy of the Episcopal Church.

Brian McHugh, priest

Anonymous said...

One more response...

While I don't doubt the accuracy of your bullet point descriptors, I also have to confess that the church they describe is foreign to me. More importantly, they describe a church I would never have signed on to as a communicant much less as a cleric.

In 23 years I've served (as lay and ordained) in six different dioceses and, with only one exception, we've blessed same sex unions with little attention or rancor about it. We've had openly gay clergy and sometimes selected GenCon delegates specifically to "fight the good fight" at the national level. I'm not suggesting those places were monolithic but the bent toward full inclusion was always undeniably dominant. I'd even call it "normative". I would not have chosen to participate if that had not been the case.

If what you say is true (and I think it may well be if speaking about the breadth of TEC) then I do wonder how, with any integrity, we can encourage any LGBT folk to join us.

I've already heard from enough of my own LGBT parishioners and friends who ask, 'Do we ignore all this and continue our work or do we acknowledge it and leave?'

Is there a healthy place somehwere between those two responses?

W said...

I'm not sure if people have read this, but there is an excellent blog post here:

Cecilia gives some advice we should strongly consider. I assume that she's not Episcopalian ("pastor" gives her away), but I find her advice applicable.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Dear Brian,
I never meant to suggest that anyone who doesn't join TEC, or who chooses, as you are choosing, to leave it, in any way lacks faith. Thanks be to God, I've never believed the Episcopal Church to be coterminous with the Kingdom of God, and there are many faithful people outside it. I am sorry to see you leave, but I can well understand the impetus to do so.

RH, I think the problem is that TEC has lived a "double life" for so long that we've forgotten the inherent duplicity. There have been public comments about gays in the church, including as priests and bishops, since at least the 19th century; and many fairly open acknowledgments of this fact in the popular culture. I can recall an issue of National Lampoon from about 1969-70 that had an article about gay teens, suggesting a teen troubled in his conscience might speak to his pastor, "especially if he's an Episcopalian"!!

The major problem, as I see it, is that as we've begun to take off the masks, we run into the spirit of denial and dismay. The movement from don't ask/don't tell is a time when the reality being acknowledged challenges the myth that some would like to continue.

There are only two reasons I can encourage glbt people to come to the church: first, I think we are in the closing phase of the struggle, and they can be a part of it. I believe we are seeing in or time the last sputtering, nasty gasps of heterosexism. Secondly, I hope people would come to the church not simply for what they can get out of it, but for what they can give it; and for the much more that the church can be besides a place of refuge -- not to come "for solace only, and not for strength..." Words from our BCP written by a gay man, who lived in hope, and found a home.

Christopher said...

But is there the nurture for us to remain while heterosexism is passing away, which I very likely doubt it will in my lifetime? From what I've seen, the answer to my question is "no".

We talk and talk about pastoring all kinds, and that's true. But the other kinds can have their relationships acknowledged, given thanks for, celebrated at anniversaries; have their households understood as places of discipleship, and their children are not barred from anything (I've known instances where parishes would deny baptism) and never have to slink around in hush and hush manner always testing the waters and air to see if there full of poisons or not.

I'm tired of the clergy focus on this topic. As a layman, it seems that's all we care about. It is at the level of the pew perhaps even moreso than at the ordination level that it seems to me we're don't ask, don't tell with regard to anything concrete. Our bishops may have wanted to minister to us, but the only ones receiving concrete care are everyone else with regard to the important things in our lives. I'm tired of it.

My partner just yesterday asked me to comb our shelves and the Net for resources on same-sex union rites. His Lutheran parish is preparing a rite for use in his parish. My own Episcopal parish, 80% lg, doesn't even have that sort of thing in any official way or way that makes clear this is a possibility.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

One reality of pastoral care is that it is not limited to clergy (and certainly bishops are not primarily personal pastors to individuals, but pastors to the whole flock).

But as I've noted before, priests are ordained to bless. They do not need a special license from the bishop to do so -- it's part of the package, just like the faculty of preaching or laying on hands for healing. So while there may be only a few dioceses that have "authorized" (by any definition) the blessing of same-sex couples, I believe it to be perfectly within the rights of a parish priest to bless a couple who have exchanged vows -- in whatever context -- as "the church teaches" it is not the church that makes the union but the couple -- and the church is simply blessing. As I've noted in the past, the liturgy for the blessing of a home is already an authorized liturgy, and it includes as an option the blessing of the couple. (As I've also noted, this is the earliest form of the marriage liturgy in Christendom.)

It is also within a priest's power to bless people on their anniversaries, or other significant events. I have officiated at the main Sunday service at the liturgy of thanksgiving for the adoption of a child by a gay couple -- in a church that is NOT predominantly gay in its membership (in fact it's mostly West Indian, Nigerian, and Ghanaian!).

I don't want to focus on the clergy too much (though I think this to be very important) and acknowledge the tragedy that probably most gay and lesbian folk will never enter a church in their lifetimes. That is probably the greatest tragedy of all. All I can say is this shifts the responsibility to the gay and lesbian laity to do the work of evangelism just as strait folks do -- to encourage people to go to the parishes that are "safe"; to hold clergy to account and help get those still in the closet out; and to continue to lobby their bishops and work for change.

Howard Galley, who penned the words of that eucharistic prayer I mentioned above, was a layman. He was also a superb scholar of liturgy and a devoted member of his parish. God bless all people who continue to fight, those who weary of the fight move on or take their rest, those who don't even know there is a place of hope, and those who have given up on hope.

Anonymous said...

John 2007 says

As long as we are dealing with percentages let's not forget that VGR barely passed in the HOB. Had 6 bishops (or therabouts) voted differently he would not have passed.

I think you are honest and trying to be honest by saying the VGR was elected in spite of his private life. But I think some people did elect him to advance The Cause, some voted to give NH their right to choose, and I think some may have voted b/c they have a hard time saying 'No.' For my money, the right thing to do would have been to get The Cause voted on first: Are we willing to consecrate same sex partnered bishops, and to ordain priests for that matter? And are we willing to authorize SSB's? We should have addressed those two issues first as a Church and not, in essence, tried to repeat (and link) the strategy for Women's Ordination-- 'Just do it, and deal with the consequences later!'--in the absence of a true consensus on the material issues.

But, then, I think we're a mess as a denomination, despite some fine people, and fine parishes, and lots of good work.

Paul said...

Dear Brian,
Your faith in the God who made you and loves you is spot on. You are loved on earth as well.
Greetings across the years and miles, Jamie!

Anonymous said...

Tobias, thank you for providing a place where we can have a conversation about this and we can "frankly" about our feelings.

For myself, in spite of all setbacks or stalls or anything else the world (or the church for that matter!) throws our way, I believe that full GLBT inclusion in the life of the Body of Christ is a reality .. just one that a good part of the Body hasn't woken up to as of yet.

I would think that the real road to full inclusion doesn't originate from resolutions at GC or "words to the church" from our House of cannot be mandated, only lived out.

Perhaps I am being naive or overly optimistic.

Jason B. said...

I found Tobias’ assessment of the recent actions of the House of Bishops to be very sobering. I offer my own opinions of the House of Bishops.
• Being part of a liberal diocese with a female bishop who is very open and affirming of gay and lesbians, I assumed that the national church was more liberal than it actually is. Perhaps moderate would be a better description of TEC.
• The notion that gay and lesbians are full and equal members of the church is nothing more than a pretty sounding platitude spoken by well meaning individuals. It makes us all feel good about ourselves when we say this and we can pat ourselves on the back. However, for this to be a true reality of the church there would need to be significant change of heart and mind among many lay and clergy. I have been in a same-sex c0mmitted relationship for seven years now and my rector will not allow a blessing of my relationship in his church. Not only that, but I am convinced that this same rector has dismissed me out of hand when I came to him and expressed my calling to Holy Orders. Full and equal member of the church? Not in my experience.
• It has been suggested that a listening process take place amongst individuals who have differing beliefs and opinions about sexuality. Again, this is another element of polite liberalism. If we listen to one another, then perhaps we can find common ground and thus find a way to live with one another. In theory this is a wonderful idea, but practically speaking it is a waste of time. Recently, Archbishop Peter Akinola was asked about discussing the issues surrounding homosexuality. His response was why would I want to discuss murder? Akinola and others like him (Duncan, Iker, etc.) are convinced that they possess the TRUTH. To accept or compromise anything contrary to their understanding of the TRUTH would be to deny the TRUTH. They are fundamentalist with an insatiable desire for purity and they will not allow fags to be part of their church because doing so would taint this purity. They don’t want to listen to this issue because to do so would be to compromise their salvation.

Katharine Grieb addressed the HOB on March 19, 2007 on the Proposed Anglican Covenant and I leave you with her final comments which I believe speak to the current state of TEC.

"…I think we are in the place of all potential disciples of Jesus when some Pharisees come to warn him about Herod. He will go his way today, and the next day, and the day after that, healing and teaching and casting out demons, but eventually he will end up in Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who lose their lives for now on the way to Jerusalem, when things are hard and scary and it feels like death is all around, then we shouldn't be surprised later when the Son of Man says he doesn't want to be seen with us.

Where is that mysterious Son of Man hidden today? What is the cross that we are to take up? This message is especially directed to those of us who are called to ''stand with'' a rejected category of persons. Dietrich Bonhoeffer recognized the hidden Son of Man in the persecuted Jews. Abraham Heschel, who marched with Martin Luther King, Jr., had eyes to see the Son of Man hidden in the rejected separate and unequal ones. Perhaps Mahatma Gandhi caught a glimpse of him in the Dalit, the ''untouchables'' of India. Since we shall have to answer for these things we do on the day of judgment, it may not hurt to ask ourselves ahead of time the question Jesus asks us: What good will it do any of us, even if we gain the whole world, if we forfeit our soul, our life, our self?"

bls said...

Fr. Haller, just FYI: anonymous' comment is spam; s/he left exactly the same one on my blog, word for word.

Michael Cudney said...

Dear Tobias,
Thanks for report on the clergy meeting. It sounds pretty much what I thought it would be.
I genuinely believe that hope and patience are both gifts of Spirit, and we WILL prevail. Our bishops have been a little slow to recognize this, but they're coming around. So we must continue to pray for and with them, and for each other.

Locust-Eater said...

I pray for a world where no one gains or loses votes, stature or legitimacy based on their sexuality. It bothers me to suggest that Gene got some votes sole-ly because of his sexuality. I suspect that that is not true. If Gene was not well equiped for the task, he could do far more damage than good in this role.

I also think that the church IS more gay-positive than it has semed of late. We have been working to hold together that which probably cannot be held. I am suspicious that Lambeth, and its before and aftershocks will only further underline this split, and with no reason to struggle so much against the wind, our church will adopt a much more sensible heading. Getting rid of B033 would (in my opinion) be a good first step.

Anonymous said...

Having tried to discern where the church is, the next step has to be a decision on where we are.

My small village parish has barely heard of the listening process. It has a mixture of very liberal and very conservative members, the general ethos is tolerantly inclusive and welcoming.

I am living openly with my same gender partner, bringing up my two children with her. Although there are other lesbian couples in our village, we are the only in our church.

We have had to "pay" for our openness and are no longer allowed to be Readers here. But we have also had astonishingly warm local support. Our continued presence is generating discussion which would otherwise not have happened. People are beginning to see the gay issue as something concerning real people they know and love, rather than just something being discussed in the papers.

I often feel like giving up and finding an easier life outside the church, but I know that what we do is important for us and important for the church. It's a passive ministry, often very painful. But if the church is to have any chance of becoming inclusive and more Christ-like, we and many more like us have to stay, however hard the rejections can be.

The Patriarch of the West said...

Where we are results from how we got here, which involves a resolute determination not to deal with the issues at hand on the part of most of the church.

The only major change the Episcopal Church has undertaken responsibly in the last 50 years or so was Prayer Book Revision. We took a long time, we let people respond, and we came up with a good product.
Everyone got to share in the pain which comes with change.

Women's ordination, on the other hand, was done rather quickly (from
a legislative point of view). It might not have seemed this way to some who were involved in moving he issue ahead. Women's ordination was ultimately more momentous than the change in liturgies, but it was passed by reinterpreting an existing canon. It's hard to imagine how we could have done trial versions of a sacrament which conveys an indelible grace, but the whole church somehow missed
sharing in the pain which comes with change on this matter.

From time out of mind GC's have been asking us to talk about human sexuality, and, from time out of mind, most of the church has said, "Let's do that later." As with any number of other things, the world has moved ahead of us and we're haivng to play an uncomfortable game of catch-up.

Gene Robinson's election (or the election of a "Gene Robinson")was inevitable. If he weren't so darned nice (say if he'd been as overbearing and autocratic as some of his hetero colleagues) he might well have not been approved. But we backed into the issue, largely unprepared. My experience is that the average suburban parish has probably spent as much time in church listening "to the experience of homosexual persons" as the average parish in Abuja. What may save us is that the average Episcopalian in the suburbs is having a different experience outside of church.

Our current neuralgia is, if nothing else, a judgment on our inactivity.

Anonymous said...

I haven't checked thoroughly to see if anyone else has noted this, but one other obvious difference between March and September, Elizabeth, is the absence of that shining light, Jim Kelsey. From all reports, he was the true leader/author of the March statement. There was no leader in September. Just lemmings.

Anonymous said...

Many fine comments. I have huge respect for those who are the only out gay people in their parish (and thus bear the load of the "token", even to people of good will), and those who are in more gay-friendly, more open parishes, but are still frustrated at the people who Don't Get It. Those are both ministries - being the token, and being the stubborn one with higher sights.These ministries take a certain amount of strength, as compared with the safer alternative of Metropolitan Community Churches or independent gay-run churches. You do what you CAN do, and if your spiritual state is such that you need to avoid the distractions of The Same Old Harangue Yet Again, then leave for a friendlier clime or just take a vacation from church politics, which after all aren't God's politics. Burnout is no good for anyone.

Christopher has the vacation idea down - thanks for your very perceptive blogs and posts on other blogs. Other people in the Episcoblogosphere have taken vacations for a while, or have left for other churches. As for recommending TEC to gay newbies (non-cradle 'piskys), I'd give a whole range of options in different denominations and congregations. When it's time for them, it's time (God's time).


bls said...

I really don't see why gay people are to be thought of as tender shoots, or babies, when it comes to the church and to reality.

Anybody who's grown up gay in this society can't not have grown a pretty thick skin. We all know what reality is in re this issue, and we all know there's a big argument going on about it. Why baby prospective members about the issue? Perhaps they'd be interested in being part of the conversation themselves.

I know I was - and I still am. There's more to life than arriving someplace by means of the previously-cleared path. Anyway, such a thing doesn't really exist; life is a struggle at all times.

Jake said...

Thanks for this, Tobias.

I've posted most of it over at Jake's, as you have described very well the harsh reality that I have been tip toeing around for a few weeks now.

Anonymous said...

I gave up my ordination after 24 years of service in the United Methodist Church. After a long struggle I could no longer live with integrity as a gay man who just keep it quite. I joined an
Episcopal Church that doesn't hit people over the head with inclusiveness, it just is inclusive of its gay/lebian members in all parts of the church. I worship every Sunday knowing that I am supported in my faith journey by this congregation.
I once told a staff member of my bishop that the average layperson is little effected by or cares about bishops and national church politics. Because of old habits, I have followed this debate in the Epicopal Church with way too much energy. The real work of the church is in the local parish and true change comes from the bottom up for the most part. I grieve that many in the Anglican Communion hurt people like me, in other countries as well as the United States, that is nothing new. I am thankful that I can live by baptismal vows in a parish that supports my faith and my integrity. I am glad to be an Epicopalian, with all of the issues before it, there are gay/lesbian pastors serving openingly and faithful which is not possible in the United Methodist Church. I pray for the day when all of this is just a memory and hope that I live long enough to see it happen. As a gay man I thank the Epicopal Church for giving me a true home.