Skip to comments.Bishop Spong On GC2006
Posted on 06/10/2006 7:13:51 PM PDT by sionnsar
[Dear readers, I would like to inject a note of caution before you decide whether or not to read the following. Even when I took on the job as the FR Traditional Anglican chronicler following the late Arlin Adams, I never would have believed I'd ever see (IMHO) such an evil statement emanating from within ECUSA as the following from -Spong. Anglican pinglist members know yours truly rarely comments on "his" postings, but this is an exception. sionnsar]
The Columbus, Ohio, Episcopal Battlefield
I hope my readers will pardon me for spending a second week dealing with issues within my own Episcopal Church. I do not do so out of some presumed hubris that makes me think that this small denomination of less than 2,000,000 members in the United States is deserving of special attention. I do it because this Church, historically connected with the landed gentry who first settled this nation, has always produced a disproportionate share of our national leaders, beginning with the founding fathers.
To this day the National Cathedral in Washington is an Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, of which it is a part, also symbolically stand with one foot in the Catholic tradition and the other in the Protestant reformation, therefore making it representative for all faith communities. These two accidents of history tend to create in this Church a place where the cultural fights that affect Christianity as a whole take place.
The battles to recognize divorce and to allow divorced people to remarry, to affirm family planning and birth control as moral options, and to bring equality to women by making them both pastors and bishops, were first fought out in this Church.
The current cultural debate aimed at opening both church and society to the full inclusion of gay and lesbian members is now also focused in this Church. In this present battle where, despite the fact that decisions have already been made affirming the full acceptance of gay and lesbian people at every level in the life of this Church, the unchangeable diehards continue their negative campaign. They will never be the majority, but they clearly hope to destroy the Church in which they are a minority. So this week my focus is on this Episcopal war.
Church wars are bitter and hardly ever rational. In this struggle the homophobic minority has enlisted the support of Third World Anglicans, who are on this issue about as backward as this nation was in the 19th century. Yet to criticize this uninformed prejudice is said to be a form of racism, as if prejudice were something people of color do not ever possess.
The strategy of those in the minority is to break up the Episcopal Church so that they can be aligned with the Anglican Communion in the Third World where they think their prejudices will continue to be ecclesiastically affirmed. They actually desire the very schism they use as the threat to gain their way.
This battle is thus a last ditch stand to turn the Episcopal Church away from tomorrow and back into yesterday. The field of battle is destined to be the Episcopal Churchs General Convention, held every three years, which will meet this June in Columbus, Ohio.
At this Convention will be gathered all of the Episcopal bishops, including retired ones who still retain seat, voice and vote in the House of Bishops. Many, including this writer, choose not to attend, believing that retired bishops should not vote on issues they have no ability to implement. Right wing church organizations, however, regularly raise money to underwrite the expenses of the most conservative of the retired bishops, enabling this group to constitute a significant percentage of the bishops vote.
Because this church does not vest authority in bishops alone, however, four clergy deputies and four lay deputies, representing each diocese in the Episcopal Church, are elected to the General Convention. Each of these three orders of ministry, the bishops, the clergy and the lay people, have veto power over any Convention legislation. That is, nothing becomes the law of the church, or even the position of the church, unless a resolution carries a majority of the bishops, the clergy, and the lay deputies voting separately. A majority vote in this body is thus far more than a simple majority.
For example, the clergy and lay deputations vote as a unit and their votes are counted as positive only if a minimum of three of the four deputies in each order from each diocese is favorable. A deputation tied at 2-2 is counted as a no vote.
I go into this voting process because it is important for readers to understand that the confirmation of V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay man living in a publicly acknowledged partnership, to be New Hampshires bishop in 2003 was not accomplished by a narrow vote, as some loud critics continue to claim. Robinson received about 60% of the votes of the bishops despite the vote of that block of bought bishops. The clergy deputies and the lay deputies both gave Gene Robinson an even larger majority of approval. It was a popular and celebrated vote coming after twenty-five years of debate and a gradual pushing back of the frontiers of this homophobic prejudice within this Church.
People, including the press, actually said that Gene Robinson was the first gay bishop, which was patently absurd. Gene Robinson was the first honest gay bishop. We have had numerous closeted gay bishops throughout our history. We have them now. They have served in metropolitan areas, in the South, and in under-populated areas of the rural Midwest.
Some have served well and have been elected by their fellow bishops to high positions of leadership. Other closeted gay bishops have, however, actually led the charge in purging gay people from the church, hating in others what they so clearly hated in themselves.
The defeated minority in 2003 set out to destroy this church that had challenged its prejudices, and they were well funded by right wing American foundations. Their claim was that this vote had violated biblical morality and the long sacred tradition of the Church.
They quoted a literal Bible as the source of the unchanging word of God, seemingly oblivious to the revolution in biblical scholarship of the last 200 years and were obviously unaware that sacred tradition included a long history of gay persecution.
They vowed to split the church into the faithful remnant, banishing the faithless majority, and to turn the Anglican Communion into a Third World church where fundamentalism is fueling church growth.
They called on those who had responded to the overwhelming consensus of medical and scientific thought which indicates that sexual orientation is not a choice but a given, to repent of their evil and of the offense and pain that they have caused in anyone who disagreed with them.
They insisted that people can choose their sexual orientation, and thus can choose not to be homosexual.
They must, therefore, be held to be morally responsible for this evil presence in their lives. They urged homosexuals to submit to counseling to enable them to free themselves from this affliction, ignoring the fact that there is no medical evidence anywhere that this tactic has ever worked. Medical science universally regards it as fraudulent.
Operating from these strange premises, this minority group has installed the Unity of the Church as the new icon that must trump both truth and reality. Unity seems to mean, If you do not agree with me, you are splitting the Church. We once called that blackmail!
In a previous era that same argument would have led the church to say we must not stand against the evil of slavery for we want to preserve our unity with those who are slave holders!
Unfortunately, this negative reaction frightened the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, the titular head of this communion, into actions that have been disastrously lacking in integrity. This scholarly man, who is quite open to gay people personally, but who has a backbone consistency of well-boiled spaghetti, displayed an incompetence that was painful to watch.
Instead of addressing the issue head on and calling people to dialogue on the basis of knowledge, Archbishop Williams, accepting unity as the only goal, appointed a task force to study how it could be preserved. He appointed the Archbishop of Ireland, Robin Ames, the quintessential ecclesiastical politician who has always put institutional well-being ahead of faithful witness, to be its chair.
The report of this task force, now called the Windsor Report, suggested that the Episcopal Church in the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada had offended the sensibilities of Third World Anglicans and their conservative First World allies, and therefore should apologize. It was a strange argument. The fact is that polygamy and female genital mutilation in the Third World offend the sensibilities of Western Christians, as does the rampant homophobia engulfing the Christian world from the Vatican to American televangelists. Why do we not request an apology from them?
The Episcopal Church in the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada were called on to repent with the threat of expulsion from the Anglican Communion if they did not do so. It was ecclesiastical guerrilla warfare at its worst.
Middle-of-the-roaders in the Episcopal Church, who never venture far out of their turtle-like protective shells, began to waffle under the pressure. The Bishop of Virginia, Peter Lee, who had finally found the courage with the strong support of his wife to vote for the consecration of Gene Robinson, announced publicly that he would never do so again. It was a breathtaking abdication of leadership.
The excuses I began to hear from some anxious liberal bishops, as they sought to perfume their cowardice with sweet piety, were disillusioning. Only the Bishop of Washington, John Chane, seemed to discern the issues clearly and to speak with clarity. Ordained people are, I fear, the ultimate pulse feelers, a stance they justify under the rubric of being pastoral.
Because California did not elect one of its gay nominees to be its bishop, the issue over which this war will be fought at this convention will be in the choice of a new Presiding Bishop, who is elected by the bishops, but confirmed by the lay and clergy deputies. Four official nominees have been presented. Three of them supported the ordination of Gene Robinson, one opposed it. Other negative nominations have come from the floor.
If this church elects and confirms as its presiding bishop a person not capable of supporting Bishop Robinson, it will indicate that support for this justice cause is deteriorating. To the bishops, clergy and lay leadership of my beloved Episcopal Church, I want to say only this: You have done an audacious thing. Do not now tremble at your own audacity.
John Shelby Spong
Spong is an embarrassment to all Christians.
Here's the thing I would call him on, though. Did you catch his nasty words to the African bishops? Nothing is as racist as a liberal when the colored folk won't do what he wants.
... because it's real hubris, not the merely "presumed" kind.
Why, he's not one of us?
Spong is a fossil of a bygone era whose day is over.
I wish "Christians" like Spong would have enough integrity to leave the church.
I think if there's any doubt whether common ground can be found, bile like this pretty much clarifies the issue. What a petty and spiteful man.
I did. This was far from the first time the ECUSA Left has done that, though.
One would hope... but as regards ECUSA and her ilk, I'm not so sure.
I know. One of the things that steeled us in our resolve to leave after GC 2003 was our former rector saying nasty things about "those African bishops just want polygamy . . . " What an awful man.
This Spong piece somehow reflects very well the perception I acquired of the state of the Diocese of El Camino Real when I went to their annual convention, a quarter-century ago. My wife will never forget how horrified I was when I got home that night -- and knew it wouldn't be long until we left.
Screwtape indeed! Sprong is taking up where Pike left off...it is un-Christian to desire it, but I just wish he'd head out to the Holy Land and wander in the desert like his predecessor.
If he has his way, he and a whole group will be left wandering in the desert -- figuratively...
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