When Tom Wright gets it totally wrong…
Bishop Tom Wright of Durham is a smart man, much smarter than me. But that doesn’t always mean he’s right. He’s written an op-ed piece in the Times of London that is full of falsehoods, half truths, and distortions. Maybe he didn’t pay enough attention to the Episcopal Church recently? Or maybe he’s trying to sell a particular point of view? He’s clearly intelligent enough to have gotten it right, so I’m baffled.
I encourage you to go read the whole piece. Allow me, here on 7WD, to make a few comments and corrections:
The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church (TEC) in the United States has voted decisively to allow in principle the appointment, to all orders of ministry, of persons in active same-sex relationship.
No, actually. If you read resolution D025 carefully, it says no such thing. We do not have “appointment” to holy orders in this church. We have “discernment” and “call” to holy orders. D025, through our Constitution & Canons, provides plenty of opportunity for people to be challenged in their expressed call to ordained ministry. More to the point, and somewhat disappointing to me, resolution 2006-B033 (the call for restraint on bishops in same-sex partnered relationship) is not explicitly overturned here. So we have both the admission that God will call those whom God chooses (2009-D025), and a remaining call for restraint (2006-B033).
This marks a clear break with the rest of the Anglican Communion.
Not really. If people in your church, Bishop Wright, were honest, you would see that you have many, many GLBT clergy (in all three orders) now serving your church. We have merely been honest, shining the light of truth on ourselves and the whole world. This is, I believe, a Gospel value. If honesty were a break with the rest of the Anglican Communion, I’d stand with honesty. Fortunately, I know from conversations with lay leaders and priests around the Communion, there are a wide constellation of views. Most people (even from some well-known conservative strongholds) with whom I have spoken do not wish to see a break, and they at least respect the openness and honesty of the Episcopal Church, even when they do not share our views on human sexuality. It is only some bishops, eager to be globetrotting speakers and booksellers, who continue to broadcast the idea that there is an inevitable tear in the Communion.
They were telling the Archbishop of Canterbury and the other “instruments of communion” that they were ignoring their plea for a moratorium on consecrating practising homosexuals as bishops. They were rejecting the two things the Archbishop of Canterbury has named as the pathway to the future — the Windsor Report (2004) and the proposed Covenant (whose aim is to provide a modus operandi for the Anglican Communion).
Interesting claim, that. If you study carefully, you will note that there are three moratoria in the Windsor Report. A very good case can be made that the Episcopal Church is one of the only “Windsor Compliant” provinces in the Anglican Communion. The Akinolites and Duncanites have systematically violated the moratorium on parallel jurisdictions, and they have also ignored the Lambeth Conference pleas for a listening process, called for in 1978, 1988, and 1998. Meanwhile, the Episcopal Church has refrained from ordaining further bishops in same-sex partnered relationships since the ordination of Gene Robinson in 2003 (before the Windsor Report was written, by the way).
In Windsor’s language, they have chosen to “walk apart”.
Again, this is breathtaking. It is, in fact, Archbishop Peter Akinola and friends who have done so. They alone have excommunicated themselves from the Archbishop of Canterbury by refusing to share Eucharist with him and others at recent Primates’ Meetings. Many of them have refused to attend the Lambeth Conference. I wish they had not chosen to separate themselves from us, but that is what they have done, especially in creating parallel jurisdictions. And, my English friends, make no mistake about it: soon they will set up parallel jurisdictions in England as well.
Granted, the TEC resolution indicates a strong willingness to remain within the Anglican Communion. But saying “we want to stay in, but we insist on rewriting the rules” is cynical double-think. We should not be fooled.
No, this is neither cynical nor is it double-think. I for one do wish to preserve close relations with my sisters and brothers throughout the Anglican Communion. At the same time, we have a mandate to respond pastorally to the needs of our context. This is not unlike the situation in the Church of England, where thousands upon thousands of same-sex blessings have taken place in churches as clergy have offered pastoral care to their congregations. Some estimates place the number of same-sex blessings in London Diocese alone much higher than the total number of same-sex blessings in the US. (I am hoping to see solid figures here at some point!)
Of course, matters didn’t begin with the consecration of Gene Robinson. The floodgates opened several years before, particularly in 1996 when a church court acquitted a bishop who had ordained active homosexuals.
No, the floodgates of Anglican sects began much earlier, when some people decided they could not abide prayer book revision or women’s ordination. Starting with the Reformed Episcopal Church in the 19th century, people have been breaking off to form their own fiefdoms. Gene Robinson is a convenient excuse for modern schism. Cynical observers think that part of the motivation is so that conservative priests can be created as bishops. I’m not sure I buy that, but one does wonder why this alphabet soup of “Anglican” Christians need so very many bishops.
But Jewish, Christian and Muslim teachers have always insisted that lifelong man-plus-woman marriage is the proper context for sexual intercourse.
Whaaa? One begins to wonder if Bishop Wright ever read the bits before Matthew in his Bible. Or if he is aware of the practice of polygamy in Muslim cultures. Sure, Medieval Christianity decided that lifelong marriage between one man and one woman was the ideal, but those same Christians taught clerical celibacy. I encourage Bishop Wright to read his Hebrew Scriptures before he says that Jewish and Christian teachers have “always” taught his view of marriage. I wonder if he still adheres to Jesus’ teachings on, say, divorce? If you want to look more broadly, I wonder if Bishop Wright sold all his possessions and gave the money to the poor when he became a follower of Christ? Mostly, I’m astounded at anyone who cites a “Biblical view of marriage” as if that settles it. It’s all much more complicated than that. It’s about love, fidelity, and faithfulness, mostly.
Justice never means “treating everybody the same way”, but “treating people appropriately”, which involves making distinctions between different people and situations.
So I guess that would make racism or slavery A-OK. Both racism and slavery are very Biblical, by the way. No, I’m afraid Jesus didn’t put any asterisks on the Great Commandment. It is not “love SOME neighbors” but love all neighbors. I find it fascinating that Bishop Wright here argues for contextual or situational ethics and then pretends to cite timeless cross-cultural values in another sentence.
Ways must be found for all in America who want to be loyal to it, and to scripture, tradition and Jesus, to have that loyalty recognised and affirmed at the highest level.
Ah, now the punchline. This was all a justification for supporting the supposed conservative victims. The problem with the fiction of pastoral provision for conservatives is that they are not, in fact victims. No one has ever asked them to leave. No one has said women priests or straight priests have to be in every congregation. Congregations are free to call lesbians or WASPy men, as God guides them. No one will have to perform same-sex blessings. Seminarians can go to Nashotah House or EDS.
But it’s much more convenient to justify schism if one plays the victim card.
Let’s all be clear about two things. First, the Episcopal Church is (imperfectly, to be sure) trying to answer God’s mission imperatives in this place and in this time. Second, we are committed to our bonds of affection with our sisters and brothers overseas. To say otherwise is to distort the truth and to refuse to listen to what our General Convention and our Presiding Bishop have repeatedly said.