Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Primates' Ultimatum

This week is when we begin Lent, the period of reflection before the celebration of Christ's sacrifice for our collective salvation. This is also the week that the Primate Communique from the Anglican Communion Primate Meeting inTanzania has been released like a kick to the teeth and a sucker punch to the kidneys to not only myself, but to LGBT Anglicans everywhere, and especially to LGBT Episcopalians in particular.

It seems to me that the conservative bigots, led by +Peter Akinola, have demanded surrender by the ECUSA or else. The conservatives are supposed to get just about everything they wanted short of the expulsion of the ECUSA from the Anglican Communion. Of course, the not-so-veiled threat of the Primates is that unless the ECUSA does what is demanded and bitch slaps LGBT Episcopalians and tells us we "are not (after all) worthy of full inclusion in the life of the church, because it turns out, Jesus really doesn't particularly care for your sort. We thought He did, but whoops...our bad."

The Key Recommendations of the Primates (or, as I like to call them, Key Ultimata) are even more noxious to my heart, mind, and soul. These two documents articulate the pain and suffering that some Episcopalians are suffering because the Episcopal Church has not fully accepted the Windsor Report. The primates fail to comment upon the pain and suffering of GLBT people across the world, which tells me they simply do not care. This is especially true for Nigeria where legislators are considering it a crime to even APPEAR to be gay. Nigerians convicted of being openly gay, having gay sex, or even hanging out with someone of the same gender suspected to be gay would be sentenced to a five-year conviction in the Christian South and potentially beheaded in the Muslim North.

Father Jake has an excellent analysis of why the the ECUSA should tell the Primates, especially those from the Global South, to buzz off. He points out five strikes against this communique that should doom it to failure:
  1. The "Recommendations" together make up a large ultimatum to the ECUSA, not a recommendation.
  2. The Pastoral Council will empower foreign bishops to make authorizations and take actions that affect the ECUSA which is clear violation of our provincial integrity as a church.
  3. The "Recommendations" make demands of our House of Bishops that not only undermines the General Convention (our highest legal authority in the Church) but also ignores the House of Deputies which is made up of clergy AND lay people.
  4. There is a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth for the poor, abused Conservatives who cannot stand homos in their midst or women in leadership roles, but not a word about the suffering of LGBT Christians or Via Media parishes trapped in reactionary dioceses.
  5. The Archbishops who have actively engaged in plundering assets of the ECUSA by setting up dioceses of their own and consecrating bishops is actively APPROVED unless the ECUSA caves into Global South demands. This kind of interference has never been tolerated in the past, nor should it start now.

Father Richard, of California, has a brilliant analysis, and the key observation for me was this:

Were the situation reversed, would we mirror the demand by requesting that, say, a diocese in Nigeria begin authorizing same-sex blessings, and promising consequences if they didn't? We have not, for better or for worse, done so in other matters, such as in the ordination of women.

He is absolutely correct. Until now, even ordination of women, and the consecration of women bishops did not cause this kind of reaction where boundaries and are violated and the polity of the ECUSA is proposed to be destroyed.

Integrity USA had this to say in a press release entitled, "Primates Choose Bigotry Over Baptism":

“The primates of the Anglican Communion have utterly failed to recognize the faith, relationships, and vocations of the gay and lesbian baptized,” said Integrity President Susan Russell, responding to the communiqué released today from Dar Es Salaam.

“Let us pray it doesn't take another hundred years for yet-unborn primates to gather for a service of repentance for what the church has done to its gay and lesbian members today, as they repented in Zanzibar yesterday for what it did to those the church failed to embrace as full members of the Body of Christ.”

The Rev. Michael Hopkins, immediate past President of Integrity had this
reaction: “Jesus weeps, and so do I. If the House of Bishops (or any other body with actual authority in this church) capitulates to these demands and sacrifices gay and lesbian people to the idol of the Instruments of Unity, it will have become the purveyor of an “anti-Gospel” that will (and should) repel many.”

Integrity encourages its membership and allies to directly contact their bishops—urging them to reject the demands of the primates. Our leadership will seek an immediate meeting with the Presiding Bishop to express our deep concerns and encourage the Executive Council to insist on the inclusion of all orders of ministry in the ongoing process of discernment on Anglican Communion issues.

I am a bit emotional as I have just read this communique and am trying to digest it, but I read English just fine, and it seems clear to me that gauntlet has been thrown down: the ECUSA can either throw LGBT Christians under the bus or there can be schism. The price of "unity" is clearly capitulation to the demands of the conservatives and the subjugation of LGBT Episcopalians. If that is the price of unity, I do not think UNITY is worth it. I was driven from the church of my youth once because I was gay and couldn't stomach the hate and the lies that God did not love because I was gay. I feel like someone is trying to get my new spiritual home to do the same thing...to say that I do not matter, that I am not worthy of Christ's love or mercy, that I am no longer WELCOME in my own church.

As the early reactions clearly show, this fight is not over. We will NOT go quitely into this night.

My spiritual life in the Episcopal Church is extremely important to me, and I will join in the struggle to stop this madness now. If that means we are kicked out of the Anglican Communion, so be it. I won't stand silently by as I did at age 19 when my pastor said from the pulpit, "I could never have love in my heart for a homosexual. If I knew of any in the church right now, I would come down off this pulpit, escort them out the door, and tell them never to return." It was 7 years before I entered a church again for the purposes of worship. I won't be expelled or banished so easily this time.

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