Reconciliation and the Transformation of Human Hearts

Our Spring meeting of the House of Bishops here at Camp Allen near Houston began with presentations on plans for the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops to be held this summer in England. The emphasis will be on relationship-building and mission. There will be more time in small groups, little legislation, and opportunity for self-selected seminars on various aspects of mission and ministry. Certainly important topics like human sexuality and the developing Anglican Covenant will be addressed. We will begin with a three-day retreat led by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
We are in the midst of a “reconciliation retreat” now led by Canon Brian Cox (an evangelical Anglican from the Diocese of Los Angeles) and The Hon. Joanne O’Donnell (a judge and partnered lesbian woman from the same diocese). Together they run the Reconciliation Institute in Santa Barbara and have worked together across the country.  
The purpose of their movement “is not to resolve any particular conflict such as ones over human sexuality or The Episcopal Church’s response to the Windsor Report, but to transform the culture of our church to one of faith-based reconciliation and to spread this vision to the world-wide Anglican Communion. By a combination of presentations and small group exercises to explain the core values of faith-based reconciliation, we hope to learn peacebuilding skills in a climate conducive to the divine work of transforming human hearts.” 
Seems like appropriate work for bishops during Lent! 

20 Responses to “Reconciliation and the Transformation of Human Hearts”

  1. thomas bushnell, bsg Says:

    the presiding bishop, in the excerpt from her speech, spoke of sacrifice. i hope that doesn’t mean what it so often has: the willingness of the house of bishops to sacrifice its gay and lesbian brothers and sisters for a greater good.

    i think of paul marshall, as perhaps a lot are this week. he was unwilling to sacrifice his own privilege, and exacted horrible sacrifices from others to maintain his own closet.

  2. thomas bushnell, bsg Says:

    oops, i mean paul moore. not marshall. sorry.

  3. ecubishop Says:

    Yes, while the tragic story of Paul Moore will undoubtedly be used by some to reinforce their depiction of the morally lax, “anything goes” Episcopal Church, the truth is just the opposite.

    Our struggles to be open about the reality of homosexuality and to find ways to bless and support faithful same sex relationships is precisely to provide a “moral alternative” (in addition to celibacy) for gay and lesbian people and avoid the kind of sad, shadow existence Paul Moore (and countless others) have led.

  4. Leonardo Ricardo, San Juan, Puerto Rico Says:

    Reality just takes some getting used to.

    “Love God, Love your neighbor”

  5. Good things happening at Camp Allen | Seven whole days Says:

    […] our bishops down in Texas. ENS hasn’t had much to say yet. Bishop Christopher Epting wrote a quick note on his blog, including this bit: We are in the midst of a “reconciliation retreat” now led by […]

  6. Linda in Iowa Says:

    I heard a powerful line in a sermon a couple of weeks ago: ” God does not want us to repent of the sins of others.”

    I hope the HOB will resist the temptation to sacrifice us gay and lesbian Episcopalians. Sacrificing another to protect one’s own privilege, or in an attempt to appease bullies, is hardly “reconciliation”…

  7. rwk Says:

    I have a Master’s degree in conflict analysis and resolution. I can say with some confidence that reconciliation is nowhere in the near future. I see almost no traditional marks of resolution beginning. Regardless, it is a long, difficult and painful process. As any pastor who has worked an embittered marriage can testify, sometimes reconciliation means separation. Trust has been shattered and it is not something easily rebuilt. I know those are words that +Epting does not like to hear and he has been very gracious in listening, but it remains a reality.

    This conflict has interesting dynamics. Within the US and Canada, progressives hold the upper hand and have the power. It is within their power to make a dramatic gesture. In the Anglican Communion the power of the progressive wing is on the decline and there is something like parity. The old model is falling apart because the old consensus has broken down. Whether progressives like it or not the reality is the overwhelming majority of the world’s Anglicans are evangelical and theologically conservative. We must either adopt a new consensus – the covenant – or a new model – like overlapping Anglican jurisdictions. We cannot stand where we are.

    Also, characterizing others with words like “bigots” and “bullies” will not aid the process anymore than words like “heretics” and “revisionist”. There are no clean hands here. +Epting has heard my stories of sitting in a congregation and hearing the Christian faith as I understand it derided by liberal/progressive priests because they thought they were in a like-minded audience. Linda, I am sure you have your stories as well. I have said on more than one website I’m willing to listen if I am willing to be listened to as well. Listening is not a one way street. If you want to listen and be listened to you may contact me at rwkachur@hotmail.com.

    I’ll end with a question for my progressive counterparts.

    Would you exchange parallel Anglican jurisdictions within North America for the right to same sex marriage within the Episcopal Church and +Robinson at Lambeth?

  8. ecubishop Says:

    I agree that “reconciliation” is a long way off. Our facilitators made a helpful distinction between being “reconciled” and “reconcilers.” We are not the first, but we can be the latter.

    In answer to rwk’s last question, No, I would not “exchange” parallel Anglican jurisdictions for the “right of same sex marriage within the Episcopal Church and +Robinson at Lambeth.”

    First of all, I have never heard an Episcopal bishop argue for same sex “marriage” in my 20 years in the House. Holy Matrimony is between a man and woman. What I have heard (and what I would endorse) is some kind of blessing for same sex couples which prays for and dignifies their search for a faithful and monogamous relationship…as an alternative to the shadow existence of people like Paul Moore or the promiscous lifestyles of some gay (and straight) people.

    I think we could finally “settle” for parallel jurisdictions — not unlike the ELCA and Missouri and Wisconsin Synod Lutherans. But it would be a failure of the vision “That We All May Be One.” I don’t want to “go there” and don’t think we have to.

  9. rwk Says:

    Thanks for your input. I know people, especially in leadership, don’t like to go on the record on some of these issues. I wavered back and forth between using same sex blessings and gay marriage as terms of reference. I opted for the latter. Clearly the choice made a difference to your response.

  10. Linda in Iowa Says:

    With all due respect to my beloved former bishop (who I’m thrilled will soon be closer to Iowa again!), withholding the Church’s full blessing from same-gender couples making a lifetime commitment of faithfulness and love to each other, while reserving it for mixed-gender couples (which is what you seem to be advocating under some sort of two-tiered arrangement) is NOT ‘dignifying.’ It is not ‘dignifying’ to be banished to the back of the ecclesiastical/liturgical bus, so as to avoid upsetting some folks who want the front of the bus all to themselves. On the contrary, it only serves to perpetuate the system of privilege and oppression, while re-casting the terminology.

    Thanks be to God that although the Church can withhold *its* blessing from us, it cannot withhold *God’s*.

  11. ecubishop Says:

    Linda:

    I believe the Church *should* offer its “full blessing” to same gender couples making a lifetime commitment of faithfulness and love to each other.

    I just don’t think it’s marriage. From my perpective it’s an equally holy, but different thing — like final vows in a religious community…or ordination vows.

  12. Linda in Iowa Says:

    I am pleased to know that you feel the church should offer its full blessing to both same- and mixed-gender coupes. However, separate (or “different”) is not equal. It is still the back of the bus.

    A wise person I know once said about efforts toward gender equity in college athletics: We’ll know we’ve achieved equity when men and women could exchange positions (budgets, facilities, etc.) and neither side would feel slighted.

    I wonder how many committed mixed-gender couples would be willing to exchange “marriage” for the “different thing” you suggest that those of us in committed same-gender relationships should settle for?

  13. ecubishop Says:

    Linda:

    I understand how you feel. But are ordination vows or life vows in a religious community “back of the bus” in your opinion?

  14. Linda in Iowa Says:

    Certainly not! I would also add baptismal promises to the list!

    I simply don’t understand what is seen as being “different” between two people of the same gender, and two people of different genders, making vows to live together for the rest of their days in love and faithfulness. We don’t use “different’ rites for ordination vows, life vows in religious communities, or baptismal promises based on the gender of the person/s involved — the *promise* is what we’re focused on, rather than the gender/s of the people making the promise. Why should that not hold true in all these ‘promise-making’ rites?

  15. ecubishop Says:

    Well, in the short term because the Canons and the Book of Common Prayer (the Doctrine, Discipline and Worship of The Episcopal Church) state that “Christian marriage is a solemn and public covenant between a man and a woman…”

    Until such time as we enter into a sufficiantly persuasive theological, moral, and human discussion which would allow us to change the canons and the prayer book, Episcopal clergy are bound to those rules. We just deposed John-David Schofield and Bill Cox for violating similar rules.

    Over the long term, that discussion will need to deal with such things as the complimentarity between male and female and the procreative possibilities of marriage. (Yes, I know there is complimentarity in same sex relationships and that not all marriages are procreative…and I agree with that…I’m just saying we have to make that case to the wider church.)

    So, I don’t think we’re going to agree here, Linda, at least in the short term. But let’s keep talking together, praying together, and most of all, loving each other in Christ.

  16. Linda in Iowa Says:

    There is certainly work to be done. I would submit that the burden for doing that work falls primarily on those who are currently in the privileged position: Just as it took men to vote to give women the vote, and it is the responsibility of those of us who benefit (willingly or not) from “white” privilege to work to dismantle racism, it must be heterosexuals in the church who move the church forward for the sake of their GLBT sisters and brothers. I believe this is part of what we commit ourselves to do in our baptismal promises.

    I don’t believe, however, that setting up a different track of some sort for same-gender couples is the right way to go. This is not a path forward, but only an illusion of one.

    Please don’t misunderstand me — I’m not arguing for ecclesiastical/canonical disobedience (at least not yet – smile). Rather, as you point out, the canons and the language of our common prayer need to be changed, just as they needed to be changed to allow ordination of women to the diaconate, priesthood and episcopate. We didn’t get where we are now by setting up a separate set of rites, terminology, etc. in that case. We shouldn’t in this one, either.

    It is indeed critical for us to keep talking and praying with each other, and loving each other as we move forward. Jane and I continue to hold you in our prayers, and we continue to miss you here in Iowa!

  17. rwk Says:

    What has frustrated me over the last 40 years is that when progressives within the church feel there is an injustice and must act as a matter of conscience: women’s ordination, openly gay-celibate priests, same sex blessings, openly gay non-celibate priests, they have regularly acted “extra-canonically” and have not felt much at all in the way of “enforcement of the canons”. Permissive bishops created “facts on the ground” and then presented the church with a “fait a compli” and the church has blinked time and again. Once the Righter trial concluded, it was clear to conservatives that the canons would not be enforced for a progressive violation. Bishop Bruno’s statement that SSB’s take place in his diocese without his knowledge is, to me, the most recent flagrant example. The belief that he is “unaware”, to put it politely, strains credulity.

    On the other hand, now that progressives have full control of the institution actions that are taken as “matters of conscience” to conservatives, especially actions that violate the “polity” of the church are now being enforced to the “letter of the law” and I think it could be argued “beyond” the letter of the law. The most recent effort by the Presiding Bishop to bring Bishop Duncan up again for presentment despite the failure of the first effort could be fairly argued to be a violation of the canons (although I am not a canon lawyer and don’t play one on tv.). Although events have not completely unfolded I doubt she will be challenged on the point and will frankly be flabbergasted if the House of Bishops does challenge her.

    I agree with Linda on several points although maybe not on the substance of the issues. As I’ve said before, I agree that TEC should have come out clearly for or against a rite for gay marriage. I do see SSBs as a “back of the bus” issue. In a different example, it would have been a bold statement to have all the bishops who voted for Bishop Robinson boycott Lambeth in “solidarity” with him — or even to have them boycott and send the Presiding Bishop as the “the voice of the voiceless”. To me, it seems the bishops of TEC want to be “comfortable prophets” proclaiming the “new thing the Spirit is doing” while still living in the palace instead of “crying in the wilderness”. This splitting hairs is at best an effort to “have your cake/crumpet and eat it too”. Linda, honestly, can I ask if you agree with me on this point?

    For the record, in Virginia I voted against the “marriage protection amendment” because I think in the civil sphere it should be permissible as a matter of equal justice under a civil law — what goes on in the church is regulated by a different law and is another matter. I have gay friends and family members and I don’t live in some fundamentalist enclave. We understand and respect our differences — as matters of conscience. I won’t be surprised if I am branded as homophobic or bigoted, but ultimately that is between my conscience and God.

  18. rwk Says:

    I would like to add that my last comment was made before I was aware of any of the “kerfuffle” regarding the possible depositions of Bishops Schofield and Cox and were not meant to address that issue.

  19. Linda in Iowa Says:

    rwk,

    I agree that all of us are required to “walk the walk” as well as “talk the talk”. For me, that means that I can’t just go around saying I’m against racism while resting comfortably in my privilege as a “white” person — it means I have to be willing stand WITH those who are being oppressed, even when that means that I may have to endure (to some degree) some of the same blows that they do. If I am not willing to do that, and — worse yet — if I presume to tell folks who are oppressed by racism that they must “be patient” or accept some sort of half-measure of justice, while I continue to benefit from my position of advantage, I am a hypocrite.

    It is wrong for any of us in privileged positions to make excuses for unjust systems to continue, much less to fail to be *actively* involved in dismantling them, even when that may exact a personal cost for us.

    I write these words aiming them at myself first, and thereafter for our bishops and all my brothers and sisters in Christ. I do not presume to claim that I perfectly live up to this at all times, but I do believe it is what we are called to do, and to be. No excuses.

  20. rwk Says:

    Thank you Linda. This is a very difficult issue. If you would like to engage in a deeper, thoughtful dialog outside the hothouse of a blog, I would be willing to listen. Thank you again for your response and I’ll leave the ball in your court. I won’t see a “no” as anything necessarily negative because I don’t know the details of your story and can’t presume to impose upon you. But I make the offer regardless. rwkachur@hotmail.com

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