Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I Will Not Cease From Mental Fight

Given that I'm not a regular churchgoer, and that most of my appreciation for the Episcopal Church has Anglophilic rather than theological origins, I'm surprised how upset the ongoing saga of the Anglican Communion has made me. I find the whole thing heartbreaking, almost irrationally so. The process has been so blatantly unfair, so unbelievably hypocritical. I'm angry at the various conservative African primates, I'm angry at the crazy Virginia evangelicals, but to be honest, most of my anger is directed at the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, our supposed leader. I have no doubt he is a good man, but his lack of leadership is the real problem at the heart of this. Of course, one of the reasons liberals still cling to him sometimes is that if he leaves, he could be replaced by someone worse.

I don't feel like recapping the whole thing here. Today's Guardian sums up the recent developments fairly, and you'll see what I mean by Williams's failure of leadership. For exhaustive but addicting commentary from a liberal perspective, see The Daily Episcopalian.

Things that make me particularly angry:

*Newspaper articles that refer to the two sides as the "traditionalist" and "liberal" positions. I'm sorry, but the sector of the Episcopal Church that is most opposed to gay ordination and same-sex blessings is not traditional in the least, it's an offshoot of right-wing fundamentalism that grew out of the Moral Majority 1980s. For better or for worse, the white northeastern urban elite that has been traditionally identified with the Episcopal Church for so long is actually the pro-gay element. It's the more recently additions to the Communion that are anti-gay. That obviously reveals some of the more problematic elements of what the Anglican Church is like today, but nevertheless, stop calling them traditionalists!

*So, the crazy wingnut former Episcopalians in Virgina have voted to put themselves under the authority of the Nigerian church. The Nigerian Anglicans support, among other things, the criminalization of sodomy (punishable by death in some cases), the complete subordination of women, and--get this--limited acceptance of polygamy! So desperate are the Virginia evangelicals to escape the terror of co-existing in the same organization with congregations that have gay pastors that they are okay with this!

*Archbishop Williams has not once made any gesture of compromise towards the Americans. No matter how many decidedly un-Christian humiliations and power plays the anti-gay contingent has suffered upon the American church, it is always our fault. The Episcopal Church has bent over backwards to reach reconciliation, and the Virginian-Nigerian axis always responds with pettiness. This, for me, is the heart of the frustration. The Episcopal Church has moved slowly on the gay issue, much slower than its membership would actually have liked. And the energy for these various liberal moves was very much a grassroots, congregational impulse, that only finally caught up to the national church a few years ago. There has been no haste in these decisions, and the fact that a miniscule number of congregations have left over the issue--many fewer than left over the ordination of women--shows how widespread the acceptance is for gay rights in the American church. And then, on the other side, you have people who think that homosexuality should be punished by death. No compromise.

Sometimes I wish we had a pope.


sushipjs said...

I certainly understand your frustrations. Sometimes I am so happy that I was raised as a reform jew. Whenever certain jew get mad that their branch is getting too liberal or accepting, they leave for the conservative or orthodox movement. End of discussion. The reform movement dealt with homosexuality back in the early 1990s, and from what I can tell, it hasn't really been an issue since then. Thank goodness.

Lors said...

I strongly identify as a (very liberal) religious Episcopalian. I've never known anything else(well, other than a period of teenage angst-driven denomination hopping that only solidified how lonely I felt in a church that was anything other than Episcopal).

I have the third-oldest parish in the country and a hundred and fifty years of ancestors who attended it slung around my neck like an albatross. It took almost my whole life to stop wrestling this and embrace it as a blessing.

How could I ever leave them?

If the Episcopal church of America capitulates to the primates' request, how could I possibly stay?

Enormous, close-knit, somewhat crazy family aside, I am incredibly reluctant to break ties with an institution that has been such an enormous part of my identity. As infuriating and as horrendously flawed as my childhood parish is, home is home is home.

However, I can't possibly see myself staying unless all of my brothers and sisters in Christ are embraced equally.

How can I get married in a church that would reject the unions of my best friends?

How can I be the first bride in my family since 1845 to go elsewhere? Am I really prepared to do that to my ninety-one year old grandmother?

Sorry. You touched a (ridiculously emo) nerve with this. Thanks for letting me talk it out.


BBound said...

Thanks for the comments. It is a really emotional issue. It does seem like the American church is going to refuse to obey, don't you think? And although this makes me unhappy in many ways, we did it in 1789, and I see no reason it can't be done again. That first split from the Church of England was temporary until the global church could figure out a way to accomodate diversity. They eventually did, and I like to think that if the Americans split off now, it will be just for a little while--until the rest of the world catches up and more formal ties can be re-established.