Monday, September 20, 2010

Episcopal elections and the limits of "inclusivity"

Doxy's note: Since the beginning of the summer, I have been dealing with some very difficult and stressful family issues. As a result, I haven't had any emotional energy for blogging myself, and not much for reading other people's blogs or commenting.

But Mimi changed all that. ;-)

For some reason, the election of Fr. Dan Martins as bishop of the Diocese of Springfield has really touched a nerve with me. And when I was reading the comments on Mimi's post about the election, I started writing a long comment in rebuttal and couldn't seem to stop myself.

When it reached blog-post length, I decided I shouldn't clog Mimi's comment box, so I decided to put it here.

So blame Mimi. But I will thank her--it's been a long time since I felt enough energy to write anything more than a comment on Facebook....

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In responding to a comment from Bruce, Mimi wrote:

if we are to be the inclusive church we claim to be, are we not perhaps called to make room even for those who may want to destroy us?

And here is my response to that:

In a word...no.

I can't bring myself to believe that "turn the other cheek" translates to "let someone destroy you." In fact, I will go so far as to say that the urge to destroy that which does not suit you is a sign that you are being tempted to do evil.

(I recognize that temptation in myself far too often, so I am keenly aware of the spiritual dangers it poses....)

I think we, as a church and as people of faith, are called to be inclusive--and that means welcoming all to the table. It means being civil and generous to one another even when we disagree.

And I also think that it's time for us to be honest about who we are as a church:

  • TEC, as a whole, has declared its support for the ordained ministry of women.
  • TEC, as a whole, has declared its support for the ordained ministry of LGBTs--including those who are partnered.

I think if someone honestly believes that either or both of those things are against the will of God, that person needs to ask hirself* two questions:

  1. Do I think that they are first-order issues? (i.e., that salvation depends on them)
  2. If I DO believe they are first-order issues, how can I remain in TEC with any integrity?
For those who do not think they are first-order issues, I think we ought to be able to coexist quite happily in the same church. I have my own opinions about biblical interpretation, atonement, salvation, judgment, etc., with which I'm sure many people would disagree--but that doesn't keep us from worshiping and taking communion together.

And that, to me, is the hallmark of inclusion. We meet at the altar and we feast together--then we scatter to serve in Christ's name.

I am puzzled by those who DO think those are first-order issues, and yet remain in TEC. I believe they are violating their own spiritual and personal integrity by doing so. I understand the feeling of "I've been here all my life, so why should *I* leave?!"--and I'm certainly not advocating that anyone be booted out. Ever. But to continue to stay in a place that causes one to feel such anger and the urge to destroy is not healthy--spiritually or psychologically.

No parish is ever going to be required to hire a female priest or one who is LGBT. But Episcopalians who cannot accept those ministries need to ask themselves if they can remain in TEC without trying to "destroy" it. If they can't, then they should have the integrity to go to a community of faith where they do not feel called to destroy, but instead feel called to build up the Kingdom.

Because if we are truly following Christ, we are called to be co-creators with God of a kingdom where peace and justice reign.

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As for Fr. Martins...I think +Mark Lawrence *is* the precedent. I take some comfort in the fact that Mark Harris+, Michael Russell+, and Tobias Haller are standing up for him. But the fact is that Fr. Martins voted to support thievery and schism. That is not a minor issue--it is an issue of integrity and whether or not he is trustworthy.

+Lawrence said that he had "no intention of leaving the Episcopal Church," but look at what he's been doing ever since they put that pointy hat on his head. Both +Lawrence and Martins+ came out of the same TEC-hating milieu (the Diocese of San Joaquin), and we should not forget that in our rush to be "inclusive."

I don't want to hear any more "I have no intention of..." Those are weasel words, pure and simple. As +Lawrence has so aptly demonstrated....

I want to hear, *unequivocally*:
"I will NOT leave the Episcopal Church--neither will I allow any priest in my diocese to encourage others to do so."
That last point is really important. Given that so much of the ugliness in TEC has been clergy-driven, I want to hear a bishop-elect say that zie* will not put up with schismatic priests, in addition to pledging hir* own commitment to TEC.

Of course, TBTG, I'm neither on the Standing Committee for my diocese, nor am I a bishop--so I don't get to require anything of Fr. Martins. But if you ARE on the SC in your diocese, I encourage you to think long and hard about giving consent without asking for a clear, unambiguous promise.

Not "intention."

Promise.

Commitment.

Vow.

Finally, Fr. Martin's comments at GC09 about our "covering ourselves with shame" for allowing bishops to provide a pastoral response to same-sex couples are deeply troubling--as Jim Naughton rightly points out. As are his comments about refusing to ordain LGBT people.

And this gets back to my point about who we are as a church.

  • Even bishops who themselves are uncomfortable with women priests and LGBT priests must make room for them. Our canons and constitution require them to do so. (Canon III.1.2-3)
  • Even bishops who themselves are uncomfortable with same-sex blessings need to make pastoral provision for those in this church who desire those blessings, and to grant permission to those among their clergy willing to bless.

IMO, if Fr. Martins cannot do those things, he has no business being a bishop in TEC. Because to make him one otherwise is to do something doubly violent. It is to consign this church to having yet another bishop who is not prepared to honor his consecration vows, in some misguided attempt to show how "inclusive" we are.

And it is to participate in helping a man violate his own integrity. Even if he is willing to do that to gain a mitre, we ought not to assist him.

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*From henceforth, I am adopting gender-neutral pronouns when applied to non-specific people. I'm choosing these particular forms because they are often used on most of the feminist blogs I read, especially Shakesville.