Sunday, 9 July 2006

Sentamu's presidential address

The presidential address given to the General Synod yesterday by the Archbishop of York has been published by Episcopal News Service.

Read the full text here.

Sunday afternoon UPDATE The text is now also online at the Church of England website.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 9 July 2006 at 8:19am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: General Synod

To build bridges and actually use them, we shall have to stop getting all tangled up in the snares that current conservative thinking sets for us. We shall have to be able to conclude that God is so great and so trustworthy that nothing a progressive believer has so far done, prayed, or believed entirely prevents building a bridge and using it. We shall have to be able to conclude that being orthodox means having sufficient good will to be able to agree to disagree, because we still share a common hope of God in Jesus of Nazareth, and because we still share a common vocation to repair and heal the world.

The way it is all set up now, in the realignment campaign, the same folks who defined the crisis into being can just as easily define it out of being, by agreeing that believers thinking differently in entirely good conscience about sex, embodiment, women, reading scripture, and probably about how important it is to read the latest issue of Science or Nature - is not a crisis after all, but rather typical Anglican communion business as usual. Since when is being Anglican defined by conformity and confession, instead of by common prayer, historic yet innovative continuities of sacrament and episcopacy, and common world service?

Thanks to Sentamus for his shining evocation of mercy, good will, and historic Anglican leeway. Now can he just go that little extra step and actually help us correct the mistakes of Windsor? If Epieikeia is as whole and transforming as Sentamu thinks, why not apply it to human sexuality, embodiment, and sexual orientation variance in animals and ourselves?

Can Sentamus bring himself to stop erasing the earthly embodiment and earthly caring relationships of his LGBTQ neighbors? I doubt that he would agree that we can safely ignore his own wife and/or children as best practice occasions, as ethical and religious blessings innate to his lifelong spiritual journey. So why can he so definitively and so deftly erase the daily ethical and religious commitments of care that LGBTQ people are making in just these earthly realities of embodiment, physical intimacy, and relationships? One is left thinking that when Sentamu does earthly things, it is just fine with God, but when LGBTQ people might do them, God says it all stinks. Then of course we will all realize, yet again, in the most orthodox way: We can't build bridges to progressive queer folks because their bodies and their care is really not much more than smelly garbage. Who builds bridges, only to have them trashed and obstructed by smelly garbage people?

Really, his cuckoo feathers are showing a bit. Ah, get a clue, dear Sentamu. If you sit inside the frames of Epieikiea and of legalistic orthodoxy at about the same time, you will find each frame is starting to talk to the other one, and both are starting to transform into something else - probably newish, probably a bit unprecedented, probably a bit tentative and exploratory, probably - well - most familiarly Anglican in the old-fashioned sense that is now supposed to be ruled out of bounds. Instead of interfering unduly with this worldwide Anglican chemistry of conscience, one should let it happen, learn, and discern while we all continue to live together in peace and good will on the same little planet.

Posted by: drdanfee on Sunday, 9 July 2006 at 5:52pm BST

You, Dan et al, I'm not as disturbed by this as I thought I might be. In fact, I was right on line with this, until I got to the description of General Convention. Questioning our process seemed to me second-guessing of a high order, especially from someone who was witness to proceedings.

On the other hand, I did recognize one aspect in which, I had to recognize, he was right. Much of the debate, and much of the effort to respond to the Windsor Report was manipulated by folks who wanted all or nothing at all - either the response they considered "correct," or no response at all. So, the issues were not dealt with fully, not because the General Convention legislative process wouldn't allow it, but because technical procedural actions prevented it. Some seemed actively to pursue failure, feeling there would be something to be gained by having the center - and the process - fall apart.

No, there's plenty in here to appreciate. Unfortunately, like so many "balanced" statements, it can all be used to point to someone else. (I didn't see his acknowledgement of his own position as a question of balance nearly as much as a moment of "full disclosure.") For example, "They know the time when to stand on their rights would unquestionably be legal, and would just as unquestionably be completely unchristian." But, that does cut both ways. We Episcopalians value our autonomy in our interdependence. At the same time, the stance of the Church of Nigeria - Anglican has worked entirely within both canon and civil law in their stance toward GLBT persons and those who wish to support them.

Or, "It is impossible to be graciously-magnanimous when the book of practice and procedures is regarded as the last word." Is he speaking here only about TEC's Constitution and Canons? It seems to apply just as well to creating an idol of historic Christian practice.

Or, "We live in a society where people insist on standing on their legal rights, where they will only do what they are compelled to do, and where they desire to make others do all that they can compel them to do." But, folks at both ends of the spectrum claim they have been victims of social pressures imposing on them someone else's values.

I think Sentamu was really trying to be even-handed, and would say that he was trying to speak to both ends of the spectrum. For good or ill (perhaps for good *and* ill) that simply allows both ends of the spectrum to point away from themselves to say, "Will you listen to what he's telling *you*?"

Posted by: Marshall Scott on Monday, 10 July 2006 at 7:26pm BST

'Gracious magnanimity', as expounded by His Grace, would require those who hold to his form of orthodoxy in relation to 'Issues in Human Sexuality' to practice an openess of heart and mind. But His Grace seems only able to offer a critique of the General Convention of ECUSA and is pathetically silent about the Synod of the Church of Nigeria. Could it be that his own 'gracious magnanimity' has already acquired a narrowness all of its own?

I think he should realise that those who build bridges do so from both sides of the divide. If the General Convention has indeed done 95% of the work it is to be praised for its 'gracious magnanimity' and the Synod of the Church of Nigeria should be castigated for its lack of 'gracious magnanimity'. When will Dr Sentamu awaken to the meaness of spirit which is active in those who share his 'orthodoxy' on this issue?

Posted by: Anglicanus on Monday, 10 July 2006 at 8:27pm BST
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