In 21st century parlance, this is a report about a meta-issue and can only distract energy from addressing the real issue. Indeed, the cynic in me wonders whether the next delaying tactic isn't to suggests we need to discuss how to handle disagreement before we address the issue of same sex marriage.
The report says:
"Each side has to be prepared to offer the other a self-reflective account of what is important to it in its actions and reactions."
I can offer a response:
"Each member of the Church shall be entitled to have a) their gender as they define it, b) their marriage if married and c) their ability to wed in church if unmarried, recognised without question or reservation regardless of the gender of the member or their partner."
I still say PCCs and local churches should just ignore the bishops and act on their consciences.
The bishops (and particularly Justin) are out of order to impose a uniformity on a church they know has diverse views and consciences.
These conversations, in a way, can provide cover for those who want to keep the status quo, because they provide the appearance of doing something, while still discriminating in the Church.
I agree that shared conversations themselves can be valuable.
Nevertheless, the question is then what comes next? And at what point people in good conscience revolt (as they should, on behalf of LGBTI people in their local communities)?
It is unconscionable that another generation be allowed to pass, with gay and lesbian people expected to be celibate, and marginalised. More than 'toleration', we need courageous local church communities who are prepared to resist imposed uniformity and publicly affirm and celebrate gay and lesbian relationships, giving good Christian witness to people in their locality who feel alienated from a 'bigot' Church.
The impressive book I've been reading this week, edited by Jayne Ozanne, is evidence of how people can change their minds, but many people won't, and the opposing theological positions may remain irreconcilable and entrenched.
The Church of England may be expert at 'nice' and 'polite' conversations, while its leaders may still practice what Chaucer called 'the smiler with the knife under his cloak' when it comes to theological implementation.
"These conversations, in a way, can provide cover for those who want to keep the status quo, because they provide the appearance of doing something, while still discriminating in the Church."
I can't see any other purpose: both sides know what the other thinks inside out, to the extent they could argue the opposing case scholastic style; and so long as this is dragged out, the status quo remains. "Disagreeing well" equals "stop making a scene and accept inequality."
This is about power, not empathy, and right now, the progressive cause is disempowered.
The Scottish Episcopal Church has just given us a terrific example of Anglican 'Unity in Diversity'. What is really wonderful about this is; they don't jut talk about inclusion they get in with the process. Hooray for our Episcopalian colleagues; SEC & TEC. They don't just speak the Gospel, they set about putting it into practice.
*Each side has to be prepared to offer the other a self-reflective account of what is important to it in its actions and reactions*
Suppose someone tells you that they ideally want to see gay people dead, but might settle for seeing them imprisoned, and certainly want them expelled from the church and from society more widely, and roots that opinion in their reading of scripture and in the culture and tradition of their church. I'm not sure what "self reflection" they can offer which makes that any less unacceptable to a gay person or, indeed, to a civilised person. Does Justin Welby think that people of colour should sit down with racists? Does being told why a racist is a racist make that racism more acceptable? Less, well, racist?
I must agree with the thoughts of Interested Observer. The conservatives will never listen or accept. The recent attempt here in New Zealand merely to allow some churches to bless same-sex marriages went nowhere after 3 days of discussion behind closed doors.
My bishop wrote on his blog.
"What conservatives were being asked for was that they allow, those of us that wished, to perform church blessings for same gender people who had been previously married in a civil ceremony. Performing such blessings would, in some small way, help LGBTI Anglicans who were in faithful committed relationships to have their relationship recognised and celebrated by the church they serve and love. Further, it would allow those LGBTI people who are ordained, and there are a number of them, to have a way of affirming a relationship as rightly ordered, for the purpose of issuing a bishop's license for ministry. The conservatives were not being asked to participate in such blessings. They were not being asked, even, to personally approve of them. But nevertheless the mere fact of their recognised existence somewhere in our church was so offensive that they said they would have no choice but to leave.
The Maori and Polynesian parts of our church, despite their general theological conservatism, were convinced of the need to move ahead on this issue. They recognised that the call of Jesus to unity, which is strongly scriptural, trumps any call to split over matters of sexuality, and despite the misgivings of some of their number, they unanimously and strongly opted for approving the recommendations of the A Way Ahead report; that is, the sanctioning of blessings of same sex marriages. We Pakeha were deeply divided and we were told, ominously, that up to 4,000 people were on the brink of leaving. Their departure would have been difficult for all the church, but especially for a diocese as small as ours or as traumatised as Christchurch, so in the end we agreed to give it a couple more years, and have another shot at it in 2018."
Up until now, he has been very careful in his role of bishop to not antagonise those who disagree with him. Knowing his views, I sometimes became exasperated but even he seems to understand that the conservatives are so entrenched they can only use blackmail now and it worked this time.
"Does being told why a racist is a racist make that racism more acceptable? Less, well, racist?"
You hit the nail on the head, Interested Observer.
"This is about power, not empathy, and right now, the progressive cause is disempowered."
And James Byron his the nail on the head with a sledgehammer.
The only question now is how long the church will be held hostage? We have the examples of TEC and SEC where no priest is required to do inclusive marriage. In TEC, there has been little fuss (since the schismatics decided to make their move over women's ordination and +Gene Robinson). The theological work has been done, so now it is about power. How long is the hierarchy going to continue oppressing the rest of the church?
Justin crowed to the primates in January that CoE sports the most "orthodox" bench of bishops in recent memory. He apparently has provided "guidelines" to the Crown Nominating Committee that effectively weeds out candidates who have been at all sympathetic to LGBTQI people, building in a chasm between the membership and the leadership. So Justin has gone about the work of insuring that the hierarchy can very effectively suppress and oppress its gay members and clergy for a long time - in fact, it will go on until the lay membership and clergy say "no more" and back it up with action.
So yes, have your conversations. Look busy. But much more than conversations are needed. The inclusive crowd needs to know what you're up against, and you needn't look further than the treatment of the three Jeremys. Only an act of power from the people is going to change this (unless Parliament intervenes again).
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