Thursday, June 15, 2006

Episcopal General Convention - Some Challenges

The triennial convention of the Episcopal Church is underway, and once again the consecration of Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire -- something that happened several years ago -- is still very much at the forefront of the debate.

Larry King is even at this moment devoting an entire broadcast to the debate between hardline traditionalists from the Catholic, Baptist, and Episcopal churches and those who are being placed in the spotlight because of their sexual identities. It's the sort of debate I would expect, although I have to say it is the first time I've heard Bishop Robinson speak, and I am very impressed with the grace he is displaying under all of this pressure. In fact, his answer to King's question about whether Jesus would accept him today was tremendous; he reminded viewers that Jesus spent his entire ministry spending time with those who had been marginalized and pushed to the fringes of society, and in violating ancient Jewish law so often that it brought him into conflict with the authorities and put him in an extremely dangerous position.

One thing I'm intrigued by was Andrew Sullivan (columnist for Time magazine) pointing out to Father Michael Manning that, if you adhere strictly to Old Testament law, then he should -- by virtue of being a homosexual -- be put to death. Father Manning's response was that the death of Jesus atoned for all sins, but he didn't address Sullivan's comment. It also seemed that, in the way he couched his answer -- and I wish I had written it down -- he seemed to wave off the importance of the Old Testament. By doing this, isn't he somehow discounting the importance of our Jewish heritage? I agree that the life and death of Jesus is important to Christians because it is viewed -- the resurrection, particularly -- as the moment where sin and death were conquered. Shouldn't we remember our Jewish heritage before making comments that cast aside the law and the prophets?

And I would hardly think that -- as one of the other guests attested -- 35,000 people each year are saying "no" to Gene Robinson and "no" to the episcopacy of Frank Griswold. How can it be a condemnation of the presiding bishop when Robinson's election as bishop in New Hampshire was done by a sizeable majority in the House of Bishops?

My mother told me a story recently about a couple at the church where she works who said that they were leaving the Episcopal Church because of Robinson's election. However, the very next Sunday, there they were, back in their pew. A lady sitting near them leaned over and asked quite simply, "So, has anything changed here? Is anything different here because of Gene Robinson?"

I think that's a powerful statement, and one that many people should take to heart. Shouldn't we as Episcopalians be concerned first with our relationship with God and Jesus, second with our relationship with our families, and third with the health of our home parish? Shouldn't we worry about about our own household before we worry about someone else's household?

My wife and I have had a big difference of opinion on the Robinson ordination, and she has fallen on the side of the opponents. We haven't had a very deep discussion on it to this point, and the silence between us seems in my mind just an agreement to disagree on the issue. However, in our adult class this past Sunday, one of our fellow parishioners, Dr. Bob McCann, discussed the background and motivation for writing his new book, Justice for Gays and Lesbians. There is so much more to Gene Robinson's background that people either don't know or haven't discussed, and it's one of the reasons I look forward to reading this book.

As Jack Spong has said so often, and as Gene Robinson just concluded, "There is a sign hanging outside of the Episcopal Church that says, 'The Episcopal Church welcomes you.' It doesn't say, 'The Episcopal Church welcomes some of you, or welcomes you if.....'"

I am proud to be an Episcopalian, and I am proud of what my church has done over the years. My wish at this point is that we don't reverse course; I fear that doing so will alienate far more people than it will to keep a minority happy.

2 comments:

julieunplugged said...

Just wanted to thank you for a great post. I commented on it on pomoxian but realized just now that it was you! Can I add you to my blogroll Matt?

Julie

Dad said...

In your posting you state, "My wife and I have had a big difference of opinion on the Robinson ordination, and she has fallen on the side of the opponents." Do you mean on the "side" of those opposed to the ordination?

You state earlier that "we as Episcopalians [should] be concerned first with our relationship with God and Jesus, second with our relationship with our families, and third with the health of our home parish." Be assured, that plan is not limited to Episcopalians. You have the sequence right, of course - God first, family second, everything else after that.

I have had a good friend for many years and there are things we never discuss - raising children, politics, religion - but we have discussed the fact that we will not discuss those items - and we're still friends and have lots to talk about when we see each other. Be careful about the "silence between us" - it may be more important to openly agree to disagree than to interpret silence as an agreement! Believe me, I know about "silence between us."