July 6, 2013

Welby Begins, Wilson Continues

There are hopeful signs from the General Synod of the Church of England. In particular, the opening address of Archbishop Welby, with a character of thoughtfulness and honesty, made some very good points, revealing something of his own process of coming better to understand “some issues of sexuality.” For example, he noted

Anyone who listened, as I did, to much of the Same Sex Marriage Bill Second Reading Debate in the House of Lords could not fail to be struck by the overwhelming change of cultural hinterland. Predictable attitudes were no longer there. The opposition to the Bill, which included me and many other bishops, was utterly overwhelmed, with amongst the largest attendance in the House and participation in the debate, and majority, since 1945. There was noticeable hostility to the view of the churches. I am not proposing new policy, but what I felt then and feel now is that some of what was said by those supporting the bill was uncomfortably close to the bone. Lord Alli said that 97% of gay teenagers in this country report homophobic bullying. In the USA suicide as a result of such bullying is the principle cause of death of gay adolescents. One cannot sit and listen to that sort of reality without being appalled. We may or may not like it, but we must accept that there is a revolution in the area of sexuality, and we have not fully heard it.
Powerful testimony, including the closing affirmation that the evidence has not been heard. How revealing that it took the voices of the lay Lords, some of them not Anglicans or Christians, to make a somewhat less than fully convicting impression on the Archbishop. It is also poignant in that it had to be these voices from outside the clerical circle, or outside the church's circle altogether, rather than the voices of his own gay and lesbian clergy — whose souls lie in his cure — who have had to live with the sad effects of not being asked and not telling (or at least not overtly, for fear of the consequences engineered in the system).

Let's hope for more honesty, more openness, less fear, on all sides. Bishop Alan Wilson, God bless him, shows one way forward, modeled on, of all people, Paul of Tarsus. It is the way of charity, honesty, and dialogue — the only way through the times when irreconcilable differences could otherwise separate and divide. It doesn't mean pretending differences don't exist. It means not judging one another on the basis of those differences. Someone more significant than Paul of Tarsus limned out that pattern of behavior for us.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG
Tips of the biretta to Thinking Anglicans and Episcopal Café


thomas bushnell, bsg said...

I am reminded of my exegesis of Acts 11, which you can read at http://reloquus.blogspot.com/2006/06/acts-111.html.

I remember showing this to Kathy Grieb when I was a student at VTS; it was my sample to show that I didn't need the basic "how to write exegesis" part of the elementary NT sequence. She agreed that it showed that point, but she disagreed considerably with my conclusions. I'm not sure why. Brief conversation suggested that she viewed the inclusion of gay people in the church (which she favors) as a question of rights, whereas the story of Cornelius is not about his *right* to anything. I think I remarked that I don't really believe in "rights" at all.

Anyhow, there is considerable scriptural precedent for God's use of outsiders to teach the church lessons such as this.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, Thomas. I look forward to reading your essay. In the meantime, I think it is the norm rather than the exception that it is those outside the church who show the way. I could wish it were otherwise, but it seems that Jesus really meant it when he observed how the wind moves of itself, and whence and whither it goes is not ours to know. I have learned not to expect the church to be avant garde!

Rev. Kurt Huber said...

Reminds me of a comment from the Civil Rights movement when a senior leader of the movement said something to the effect that churches didn't lead, they followed the tail lights of those who led the way.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, Kurt. I'd never heard that saying, but it seems true. There are often individual exceptions, but as institutions the churches seem to follow rather than to lead....