Monday, May 08, 2006

Is it really about Homosexuality?

I have begun to visit a Blog mainly frequented by Episcopalians who are against the current trend to normalize homosexuality as an acceptable orientation for faithful Christians. It has been enlightening. My life in the diocese of Newark brings me into contact with very many people have already decided that normalizing homosexuality is the correct action for the church. I also follow this discussion in the principal Anglican News sources and am intrigued by the reactions of the global south and the relative silence of the Archbishop of Canterbury and Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church.
It seems to me that a much larger issue to this debate is "how do we do theology?" I hesitate to use the word epistomology because that had an implication of knowledge, in other words, "how do we know?". Some are committed to the Bible in a way that seems to many Anglicans more Reformed not to say Puritanical and even Fundamentalist. Others say they are rooted in the Anglican tradition of Scripture, Tradition and Reason, yet in much of what they do there seems to be little exegesis or exploration of the tradition.
This seems to me to be the much larger issue, because we are a people who do theology in order to make decisions. I think it would be very useful to have an exploration of this subject with an aim to develop a method that we can all agree to. This I think would help us bring clarity to this controversy, and to the ones that will inevitably face the church in the future.
As I work on this project, I intend to post comments to this entry. My starting place will be to look at the Windsor report and the Episcopal Church document responding to the request of that report. I will analyze the method of theology presented in each document.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

I contributed this to Titusonenine, Kendall Harmon's blog

Canon Kendall Harmon is a theologian in South Carolina, and his web-site, "titusonenine" often brings together interesting information from a variety of sources.

I responded, in too many words, to the prospect of the election of a gay or lesbian partnered person to be the bishop of the Diocese of California. This election happens this Saturday.


The Holy Spirit, I suspect, does not always look for the best candidate in the terms we might. In this situation a rather mediocre candidate might be the choice for love (not that any are mediocre).

I personally am one of those "reappraisers", a name I don't like and I'm not sure I can spell, but my desire is that the Diocese of California take a time out and not elect a partnered gay or lesbian person to see if we can have a real discernment in the church.

I find this discussion in the church takes such a polarized character that truly loving, discerning, prayerful dialogue is hard to find. It is happening in some quarters, but in most voices I hear, whether "liberal" or "conservative", and truth be told, in some comments I read here, it seems many folk are acting out of their less holy dispositions.

A true discernment requires deep faith, which means an unwavering commitment to the kind of love God has, a level of engagement with scripture and tradition and reason and prayer that requires real hard work and much time, an openness to listen to people deeply and thoroughly, humility in order to be able to say, "I am not sure", and not to succumb to mean spirited comments, and even more than that, power plays.

There are a lot more issues than homosexuality in the balance. Questions like: what is scripture? What is the authority of the church? What are the timeless truths of God and what different shapes can they take in different places and times? What is human sexuality and what purpose does it play? How do we have discussions on subjects that touch on taboo and purity so that we are appropriately open and not simply prejudiced? How do we deal with deep seated feelings of anger and rejection? How much change can an organization take in a short period of time? There are so many questions, and I do not think the quality of the dialogue we are having in the communion at large reflects very often the kind of faithfulness required to hear God’s voice.

If we do not engage in loving holiness I suspect even if the right decision is made the church has still lost. I feel less and less at home in our church, less over acceptance or rejection of homosexuality, than over the quality of the discussion. Does anyone else every feel the same way?

I would rather California not elect a gay bishop at this time, and hope that time will allow these kind of questions to be deeply and respectfully discussed by a much larger population. I want us to longingly pray that God will make us holy and humble, loving and open. If this would happen in the church I wonder if we would really be that concerned with what is right because we would be so overwhelmed by the graciousness that comes only from God.

But then again, the Holy Spirit, does not chose by our criteria, even mine, and I have no greater witness to that, than that I believe the Holy Spirit has grabbed me in my life, and though I try stubbornly to wrestle free there is no getting away it would seem. Go figure.

Blessings, John