I have been, thankfully, too busy this last week to get too invested in what is happening at the House of Bishops for the ECUSA or the visit of Akinola to Wheaton, IL. The House of Bishops meeting took place in New Orleans. It meets twice a year and is comprise of all the active Diocesan Bishops in the Episcopal Church. These meetings are an opportunity for the bishops to build community, pray, study scripture, and form a consensus (or not) on the various issues facing the church.
This last week the HOB has meet in New Orleans with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Basically what this means is: the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) grew out of the Church of England after the American Revolution in the late 1700’s (approximately related to the Revolutionary War). The reasons for this may be obvious, the USA broke away from England ergo the Church of England in this country had to break away as well. In a few years the church in this country was able to be established with a Bishop of its own. We are called the Episcopal Church because of our structure of Bishop (Episcopate), Priests, and Deacons and Laity, with the Bishop being the leader of the pack, ergo Episcopal (which means Bishop). Over time our strained relations with England were resolved and we recognized ourselves, the ECUSA, as connected to the Church of England and its primary leader, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Archbishop of Canterbury is an ancient position formed in the 4th century by the Roman Pope. It has traditionally been a position of great influence but little real authority. That remains, I think it is fair to say, true today.
Nonetheless many of us were really excited when Rowan Williams was assigned, by Queen Elizabeth and PM Tony Blair, to the position of Archbishop. Williams is known by his profound theological and spiritual writings. It was certain that he would be a great influence over these difficult times. As a world-wide Christian denomination we have faced great obstacles over our understanding of homosexuality and scripture. These were compounded by the ECUSA’s election of a Bishop who is openly gay and living in a partnered relationship. Some viewed this election as prophetic, others as a gross submission of orthodox Christian faith to culture; a complete misunderstanding of scripture.
The lines of understanding continue to break down along these lines of what is “Orthodox”, and what is the right understanding of scripture. It is a “battle” that cannot be won. It is a battle, I suspect, that will simply die. It will die with this generation, or the next. It will die as people grow up knowing homosexuality to be a normal expression of human sexuality, one of several ways one can be a normally sexual human.
Archbishop Williams, while he has no authority over any of the various Anglican entities (ECUSA and Anglican churches around the world), does have influence. For the last four years he has been guided by the understanding that the ECUSA is greatly divided. That our church is divided 50/50 over the issue of homosexuality and ordained ministry. The reality is, the division is closer to 10/80/10. By this I mean, 10% who are adamantly opposed to the election of partnered gays or lesbians, 10% who are excited and believe it is the work of the Holy Spirit, and 80% who are real tired of being fractured over human sexuality and just want to get on with life and ministry.
Archbishop Williams just spent two days at the ECUSA House of Bishops meeting. The Episcopal News Service describes this a productive time. I hope so. You can read more about it here.
In addition I have worked for the last 6 years at small church. This church, comprised of faithful Christians, has really struggled with homosexuality. Between deaths (14) and losses over the sexuality (12) our small church has lost a lot of members.
We remain a vibrant and growing group of 55 on an average Sunday. Today we had 70. But at least 20 of those were family members here for a baptism. And, in a odd set of synchronicity, the grandparents are members who left over the ordained gay issue. The mother of the baby grew up in this church and still has an affinity for it, and for me, even though I was not her priest when she was growing up. I worked really hard with her parents and feel a great loss that they left. Having them here today for the baptism was very sad and difficult. It brought up so many sad feelings and yet I had to preside and preach at the baptism of the child/grandchild. It wouldn’t hurt so much if I didn’t like them, but I really like this family. I like the grown children and I like the parents (or grandparents) and was heartbroken when they left. I tried so hard to keep them here and help them feel like vital members. But in the end it became apparent that if I was not going to embrace and uphold their view (ie homosexuality is a sin, love the sinner but hate the sin, let’s leave the ECUSA and join the conservative break-away group, etc) – unless I was willing to go that far they could not stay. So. They left. But I baptized their grand baby today. And they thanked me. I went to the reception. I was crying inside and eating finger sandwiches and cake on the outside.
I hate this issue. I really hate it. And I don’t understand how people can give up their friends, their faith community, their Church, just to make a point on what they think is “orthodoxy.” But that is happening over and over again because of the vitriol of people like Akinola. People who spout off and meddle where they don’t belong. People who are backed by big money (really BIG money – uh, you’d think today’s scripture would stir up some guilt, but no…). I hate how they think that they have the only right understanding of the Gospel…
check this out here….
or this summary:
In an impassioned sermon at Edman Memorial Chapel in Wheaton today, Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria spoke against sexual sin, saying unity must come from obedience to God.
“Those who are working for the unity of God’s people lack one thing: the word of God,” Akinola said. “Whoever loves God will obey God.” “Fornication is fornication. Adultery is adultery. … These are the areas of primary evangelism.”
Akinola, who leads the largest church in the worldwide Anglican community, is the fiercest critic of the Episcopal church’s liberal stance on homosexuality. His controversial visit comes at a time when Episcopal bishops are meeting in New Orleans to respond to a demand they stop consecrating gay bishops.”
Well, enough said, for now. It’s been a long day, and I’m tired.