House of Bishops – Wednesday Morning

In my last post I said something like “Now, over to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates and the ACC.” And it’s a good thing we can take a deep breath and let other  prayerful and thoughtful people in our Communion consider what we have done.

For those who will do their theology by press release (rather than by prayerful thought) this will be a confusing exercise. A sample of today’s headlines:

NY Times: “Episcopal Bishops Reject Anglican Church’s Orders

LA Times: “Episcopal Bishops Provide Restraint”

Washington Post: “Episcopal  Leaders Try to Avoid Schism”

Boston Globe: “Episcopal Leaders Act to Avert A Schism”

The “world” has never understood Anglicanism “comprehensiveness for the sake of truth.” It is my hope and prayer that the “better angels” of Anglicanism’s nature will prevail, that we will all stay at the table for the sake of mission, and that — together — we will continue to be witnesses for Christ in a confusing and broken world.

(By the way, nearly lost in all this, are the statements we made — in support of the people of Louisiana and Mississippi — critical of the government’s response in the wake of Katrina and our continuing work to speak out against the kind of racism and classicism the storm’s fury revealed. Those statements can also be found on our web site

19 Responses to “House of Bishops – Wednesday Morning”

  1. thomas bushnell, bsg Says:

    By the way, nearly lost in all this, are the statements we made — in support of the people of Louisiana and Mississippi — critical of the government’s response in the wake of Katrina and our continuing work to speak out against the kind of racism and classicism the storm’s fury revealed.

    i found this sentence perplexing, and spoke about it in length here.

  2. CBNYC Says:

    The statements smack as being a tad out of place and self-aggrandizing.

    (1) They are cosmetic only — they serve absolutely no purpose except to loudly trumpet the compassion and goodness (read: self-righteousness) of TEC; and

    (2) They have NOTHING to do with what our brothers and sisters in the wider communion asked the Bishops to address.

    I applaud the positions taken by the Bishops, but why did they shirk their duty to answer their fellow Christians (Will they stop law suits or continue them? remains unaddressed) in order to play to the press?

    Finally, why does TEC endlessly hide behind arguments of polity and justice? This is a betrayal of ALL parties, gays and “Orthodox” included. Why doesn’t the church make biblical and theological arguments? Why do they concede biblical and theological authority to the “Orthodox”? It’s not enough to just throw it over to Archbishop Williams or others to try and make biblical/theological sense of our justice plays. We need to enter this conversation, and yet again, Bishops have been far more interest in platitudes and slogans – “inclusion”, “justice”, etc — without offering vigorous biblical and theological rationale for what they are (rightfully, I believe) claiming to be “inclusion” and “justice”.

  3. ecubishop Says:

    Thomas: I have no idea why ENS has (so far) seemed to ignore some of our statements on racsism, etc. I assume they will be out eventually. Perhaps they thought (and I disagree) that no one would pay any attention to them until the dust clears on the Anglilcan Communion stuff.
    I’m sorry you do not find such statements helpful. The bishops of Louisiana and Mississippi thought they would be extremely so in their ongoing struggle with an unresponsive government.

    CBNYC: I assume you did not find “To Set Our Hope On Christ” particularly persuasive in making the “biblical/ theolgical sense of our justice plays?”

  4. thomas bushnell, bsg Says:

    i don’t think i said they would not be helpful. if they were made, i’m delighted by that. i’m saddened greatly that they are fifty years too late, and worse, that the HoB is repeating the same sins again.

  5. Reverend boy Says:

    To interject, I think the problem with “To Set Our Hope On Christ” is it was not really “received” by the wider Episcopal Church. Unless you are following the back and forth in the Internet newswires and in the blogs, no one really knew about it, at least in my experience.

    For myself, since as a homosexual I am certainly affected by all of these talks, I did make a point to read the book and found that it could be helpful as part of a wider conversation for it addresses things from both social justice and theological points of view.

    That being said, I will say that the book “What God Has Joined Together?” by David Meyers and Lisa Scanzoni is a lot more persuasive and has a lot more “plain talk” and uses many of the same arguments used in “To Set Our Hope On Christ.”

  6. thomas bushnell, bsg Says:

    so, my question is unanswered. what is the purpose of this statement? what was it designed to do? what does it do to make the world a better place?

    the reason for asking such questions is to better be able to evaluate its success: whether it successfully accomplishes its goal. we hear that the sacrifice of B033 is supposed to accomplish something. if it fails to accomplish its goal, will we hear an expression of regret and repentance?

  7. Christopher Says:

    I would recommend the work of Eugene Rogers, Sarah Coakley, and Adrian Thatcher as well.

  8. ecubishop Says:


    The purpose of the statement was to answer questions asked of us by the Primates at Dar es Salaam. The purpose of doing that was to seek enough mutual understanding to keep everyone at the table. The purpose of keeping everyone at the table is to continue to make an Anglican witness as the third largest Christian body in the world that there is a “middle way” between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism and a “third kind” of catholic presence in world wide Christianity.

    As far as gay and lesbian people are concerned, it is my hope that we can be at the table so that Nigerian gays and lesbians will have some kind of voice raised on their behalf. Many of us believe that part of our vocation as Anglicans today is to keep this question before the Communion. It’s not our “only” mission, of course. Far from it. But it is part of who we are and what we are called to do in these days. Or so the Presiding Bishop (and I) believe.

  9. thomas bushnell, bsg Says:

    thank you, this is much of what i thought, and it’s very nice to hear it confirmed. i agree that keeping everyone at the table is a very good thing.

    there are many who predict that, best intentions notwithstanding, it won’t work, and they won’t stay at the table. if that sadly comes to pass, then we will have hurt people for nothing. i am convinced that whether there is a schism or not is up to Akinola, Duncan, et. al., and not up to you or the Archbishop of Canterbury or my own bishop. i lament that this statement does not do what they have already said they want to see as a condition of staying at the table, and we will get nothing for our sacrifice.

    is there a good history of the episcopal church standing up for gay people in Nigeria and Zimbabwe? how exactly will that take place?

  10. ecubishop Says:

    I hear you…and you may well prove to be right. Only time (and perhaps a fairly short time at that) will tell.

    I don’t think it’s so much that Episcopalians have been able to stand up “for gay people IN Nigeria.” There is some of that. Louie Crew and others have, I believe, been there some time ago.

    But the fact that there are now organizations for gay (and maybe including lesbian) people there and in parts of Africa who are making a witness against, often government sanctioned, violence against gays, etc. is partly due to our very visible solidarity with this minority.

    For us to make it clear that there are faithful Chrisitans who are gay is absolutely revolutionary in such societies. And, as long as we continue to “make headlines” in the church and secular press about this (as weary as I am of that) means that they cannot continue to ignore this reality.

    John Chane said on the floor of the House that, were we to find ourselves outside the Communion, for whatever reasons, many thousands of people will die. Not just from violence, of course, but from AIDS and other diseases that, he says, government officials have assured him are being combatted on various levels by Anglican Communion- related relief and develpment and other means…i.e. education.

    Somehow, all this gives the consecrations of bishops a rather lower priority for me.

  11. CBNYC Says:

    “To Set Our Hope On Christ” could have been an excellent beginning to a conversation; but no, on its own merits I found it extremely thin. And the heavy emphasis placed on the significance of baptism and all that it confers in the document raises many questions and red flags that deserve to be critiqued. The idea that you publish one biblical/theological treatise, assume you’ve met a requirement and move on is as offensive as the “listening process” as it’s been carried out around the communion. TEC understands this; they would be more persuasive in their outrage over the negligence of the listening process if they hadn’t been so negligent and half-hearted in their attempts to explain the theological rationale for their innovation. And true dialogue, of course, means you have to be willing to open yourself up to critique – to treat the views of others with enough dignity and respect that you answer the concerns, and not simply ignore them, merely repeat earlier assertions, or attempt to change the subject and terms of dialogue.

    And my frustration is that I don’t hear church leadership referencing that document in their press releases, or confronting the notion – from opposing primates, dissident conservatives or questioning reporters – that TEC has ignored scripture and tradition in making their innovation. I want a vigorous case to be made over and over and over again that it is precisely because of the biblical witness that we must be inclusive in our faith and practice. But

    TEC seems to just ignore those concerns, and instead chooses the lazier, easier route, which is to name-call (homophobe! bigot! patriarchy!), condescend (we’re leading the communion on this, the Spirit is doing a new thing among us that remains unrevealed elsewhere, etc), or simply resort to slogans (radical inclusion, justice, dignity of all baptized, etc) each of which may very well have a rich and persuasive biblical and theological undergirding, but which must be expounded and taught to the people. A case must be made to others; it’s simply not enough for us to be persuaded in our own hearts and minds and talk amongst ourselves in vigorous, head nodding agreement.

  12. ecubishop Says:

    I never said “To Set Our Hope on Christ” should be the end of the conversation. I only mentioned it to get a sense from you as to the kind of resource and theological reflection you look to. Much more work in this area needs to be done. Many bishops (and others) actually have done that theological work — either personally or in local communities. The problem is, nothing is out there in print. I don’t think it should be up to bishops alone to produce these. So — start writing!

  13. CBNYC Says:

    Richard Burridge is publishing a book shortly that uses strong biblical arguments in concert with a shrewd critique of recent historical justice movements, concluding that obedience to Jesus necessarily implies inclusion.

    TEC should not avoid biblical or theological language or arguments; they have nothing to fear from the bible-wielding orthodox who want to beat them down. But I fear the real underlying problem here is the piss-poor quality of TEC seminaries and the uninterested minds they’ve indoctrinated but not educated; generations of poorly-schooled clerics have risen in rank and power so that they now manipulate the dwindling number of ordinands in their charge back to the same hack institutions that failed them, and a vicious cycle is established.

    Again: if TEC would invest as much in reforming their own institutions and in welcoming theological/ideological dissent into their own ranks, their “unity-in-diversity” marketing ploy would have greater believability and persuasion.

  14. ecubishop Says:

    I, for one, will look forward to Burridge’s book.

  15. thomas bushnell, bsg Says:

    there are people whose lives have been saved because they found their way to the episcopal church, and in which only an unequivocal commitment to the dignity of gay people made them know they would be welcome.

    this resolution does not express an unequivocal commitment (if it had, the last clause would have named Nigeria or Zimbabwe, or spoken to actual civil rights issues here in the US); and expresses a willingness to discriminate. as such, it will cost lives.

    our church is more important in the lives of gay people than straight members seem to realize. we have a stunningly good reputation, and that reputation alone saves lives, gives people hope, and brings souls to Christ. this resolution seems to say, “yes, but at what cost?!” as if those things are responsibilities we can shirk.

  16. thomas bushnell, bsg Says:

    John Chane said on the floor of the House that, were we to find ourselves outside the Communion, for whatever reasons, many thousands of people will die.

    let us suppose this is true. now, how is it relevant to the instant resolution? would failure to pass it place us outside the communion? did the archbishop of canterbury say “if you do not pass this, i will disinvite you all from Lambeth”?

    this statement sounds as if there is some crucial information that the rest of the church is not being given.

  17. CBNYC Says:

    Bishop Epting –

    Thank you for taking time to read and make thoughtful responses. It’s a meaningful, gracious gesture, and I appreciate it. I’m sure others on this excellent forum for conversation do, too.

  18. ecubishop Says:

    Thanks. Doing the best I can to keep up in a busy season! Blessings and Peace to all…

  19. Pierre Whalon Says:

    Your blog makes me jealous! Great job…
    If the Anglican Communion no longer functions as a truly global network, and becomes balkanized into competing denominations, the amazing ministries that have resulted from the fact that we are present in 163 countries and can speak to powers that be will be severely impaired, if not halted. What that means is that people will die. Bishop Chane is absolutely right.
    +Pierre Whalon

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