As the ordinations of bishops-elect Diane Bruce and Mary Glasspool approach on May 15, I hope we can all celebrate with them, their families, the Diocese of LA and TEC. At this time, it seems to me, we are living into our Baptismal Covenant and the resolutions ratified at the last General Convention; that we are following the Holy Spirit in calling the best people for particular ministries. We are modeling an Easter life for the greater Communion, and this is indeed who we are!
Category : TEC Conflicts: Los Angeles
The Rev. Rev. Gene Robinson says his decision to retire in January 2013 as Bishop of New Hampshire was easier to imagine after the election of the Rt. Rev. Mary D. Glasspool.
Both bishops discussed their sexuality openly before they were elected ”” Robinson in 2003 and Glasspool in 2009.
“I had never really considered retiring until Mary’s election,” Robinson told The Living Church in a telephone interview. “That really gave me permission to consider that possibility.”
A lot can happen in one year.
For the people of St. Luke’s, 365 days has meant a lot of grieving. It has given the church new focus. And, most importantly, it has allowed for a lot of healing to take place. One year ago on Sunday, St. Luke’s held its first service in a small chapel at Glendale Seventh-day Adventist Church, just across Valejo Drive from Glendale Adventist Medical Center, after losing its facilities in a lengthy lawsuit brought by the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. That Sunday’s service was not unlike any other service I’ve been to at St. Luke’s: While there was music, prayer, fellowship and the usual assortment of families with their kids in tow, everyone knew that an important milestone was taking place.
Today, they are still in that chapel. But one could say that St. Luke’s ”” or by its newly incorporated name, Crescenta Valley Anglican Church ”” is spiritually wiser because of what members have gone through. This past weekend I had an opportunity to sit down with the Rev. Rob Holman, rector of St. Luke’s Anglican Church….
In a unanimous decision, the California Supreme Court agreed…to hear St. James Anglican Church’s appeal that it has a constitutional right to continue its property rights battle against The Episcopal Church. By granting the St. James petition, the Court has acknowledged that this property rights dispute is far from over as the Episcopal Church has claimed, and that the Court must decide whether a defendant can be deprived of its property before it has had the opportunity to defend itself with evidence in a court of law.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has described the decision by Lambeth Palace to remove Episcopalians serving on international ecumenical dialogues as “unfortunate … It misrepresents who the Anglican Communion is.”
Jefferts Schori’s comments were made during a June 8 press conference at the Anglican Church of Canada’s General Synod 2010 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Before the sanctions were imposed on the Episcopal Church as a consequence for having consecrated a lesbian bishop, Jefferts Schori said she had written a letter to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams expressing her concern.
“I don’t think it helps dialogue to remove some people from the conversation,” she said shortly after addressing General Synod. “We have a variety of opinions on these issues of human sexuality across the communion … For the archbishop of Canterbury to say to the Methodists or the Lutheran [World] Federation that we only have one position is inaccurate. We have a variety of understandings and no, we don’t have consensus on hot button issues at the moment.”
The Anglican Communion has suspended U.S. Episcopalians from serving on ecumenical bodies because of the election of a lesbian as a bishop in California.
The U.S. church opened a rift in the global communion, and within its own ranks, seven years ago by electing a gay man, V. Gene Robinson, as bishop of New Hampshire. Conservative African Anglicans have taken a lead in opposing moves in the United States and Canada to promote gays and to bless homosexual relationships.
Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, had called for a moratorium on appointing homosexuals to leadership positions. He asked for action against the Episcopal Church after the Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool was made an assistant bishop of Los Angeles.
Now the Archbishop of Canterbury is being hammered from both liberal revisionist and orthodox conservative quarters. At the bottom of all this is a lack of previous leadership effort on his part, so that both revisionist and orthodox Anglicans see much of the present Anglican mess as his fault. Scripture says something about letting your yes be yes and your no be no, and really, when you do that, it is so much easier to remember what you said, and to act on what you said.
Dr. Williams has danced around the issues and we can think of only two reasons for that, and whatever the real reason is in a sense doesn’t matter, since the bottom line is, he has no track record of really leading. He favors the Hegelian approach of letting both sides battle it out, and then the result will be a compromise that represents a best way forward. That could be the reason for what looks like no leadership skills.
Alternatively, he could actually have no leadership skills, and an internal inability to stand up and deliver.
Other than satisfying those of us who always want to know why things work out the way they do, it is really a distinction without a difference; no leadership is no leadership.
What should be the ecclesial consequences for Anglican churches that have consciously rejected the “mind of the Communion” during this past decade? Many have waited a long time for Archbishop Rowan Williams to spell out his own views. Since 2007 he has openly talked of the costs involved in going one’s own way, however conscientiously, in opposition to the formally stated teachings of the Communion on the matter of sexual behavior and other key matters of doctrine and discipline. But what costs? The archbishop’s Pentecost letter has now begun the formal process of both laying out and setting in motion these consequences. This alone makes the letter significant.
Until this point, the archbishop has steadfastly followed two tracks in responding to the divisions of the Communion. First, he has formally initiated and supported Communion-based processes of consultation and evaluation leading out of the 2004 Windsor Report. By and large, and based on commonly accepted standards of doctrine and discipline around the Communion, these have consistently pressed for Anglican churches around the world to adopt and enforce moratoria on the consecration of partnered homosexual bishops, on the affirmation and permission of same-sex blessings or marriages, and on the cross-jurisdictional interference of bishops in the dioceses or provinces of another church. Through the Instruments of Communion ”” the Primates’ Meeting, the Anglican Consultative Council, and the Lambeth Conference ”” as well as through representative commissions like the Windsor Continuation Group, the acceptability of this track has been reiterated over and over. Yet, for all that, there has never really been stable resolution emerging from these repeated requests for moratoria.
The archbishop’s second track has been to champion the Anglican Covenant….
In essence, [Rowan] Williams and [katharine] Jefferts Schori are having a very old argument over local autonomy and central authority, Butler Bass said ”” two extreme and perhaps irreconcilable interpretations of Anglicanism.
“He’s trying to find coherent Anglican identity and enforce it in a top-down way, and she’s saying we’ve always been democratic, local, grass-roots.”
That argument seems to have reached a breaking point, the historian said.
“Scholars will look back on these letters in 150 years and say, ‘This is it. This is when it all went away,'” [Diana] Butler Bass said. “The Anglican Communion is not going to make it.”
[David] Hein agreed, saying, “A path has been chosen. It seems (Jefferts Schori) has prepared to pack her bags and go off on her own.”
Government leaders in Nigeria have chastised Archbishop Nicholas Okoh and the Church of Nigeria over the consecration of Mary Glasspool in Los Angeles. The Governor of the Rivers State in the Niger Delta this week told the Archbishop that the consecration of a lesbian bishop by the Anglican Communion diminished the moral authority of the Church in Africa and weakened its spiritual and social witness.
Enthroned as Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Communion’s largest province earlier this year, Archbishop Okoh has begun a tour of the national Church, meeting with Diocesan leaders and local officials. During the Archbishop’s meeting in Port Harcount with government officials a spokesman for Governor Rotimi Amaechi said the Glasspool consecration was a symbol of western moral decadence.
The governor told the new Archbishop, “Primate, you have a lot in your hands; the times are not good and the challenges are daunting.” By adopting the standards of the world and turning a blind eye to “moral laxity” the church was in danger of losing its prophetic voice, he said.
Anglicans who flout the wishes of the worldwide Church should be sidelined from official doctrinal committees, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.
In his Pentecost letter to Anglicans worldwide, Rowan Williams says there is still “painful division” in the Church.
He cites the consecration of a lesbian bishop in the US, and Church leaders organising in each others’ areas.
If his call is heeded it would be the first time such sanctions have been imposed on dissident Church members.
The archbishop added that dissident Anglican provinces should not take part in formal dialogues with other Churches.
(Please take the time to read it thoroughly before any response–KSH).
Renewal in the Spirit
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Pentecost letter to the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful of the Anglican Communion
”˜They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to talk in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak’ (Acts 2.4). At Pentecost, we celebrate the gift God gives us of being able to communicate the Good News of Jesus Christ in the various languages of the whole human world. The Gospel is not the property of any one group, any one culture or history, but is what God intends for the salvation of all who will listen and respond.
St Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit is also what God gives us so that we can call God ”˜Abba, Father’ (Rom. 8.15, Gal. 4.6). The Spirit is given not only so that we can speak to the world about God but so that we can speak to God in the words of his own beloved Son. The Good News we share is not just a story about Jesus but the possibility of living in and through the life of Jesus and praying his prayer to the Father.
And so the Holy Spirit is also the Spirit of ”˜communion’ or fellowship (II Cor. 13.13). The Spirit allows us to recognise each other as part of the Body of Christ because we can hear in each other the voice of Jesus praying to the Father. We know, in the Spirit, that we who are baptised into Jesus Christ share one life; so that all the diversity of gifting and service in the Church can be seen as the work of one Spirit (I Cor. 12.4). In the Holy Eucharist, this unity in and through the self-offering of Jesus is reaffirmed and renewed as we pray for the Spirit to transform both the bread and wine and ”˜ourselves, our souls and bodies’.
When the Church is living by the Spirit, what the world will see is a community of people who joyfully and gratefully hear the prayer of Jesus being offered in each other’s words and lives, and are able to recognise the one Christ working through human diversity. And if the world sees this, the Church is a true sign of hope in a world of bitter conflict and rivalry.
From the very first, as the New Testament makes plain, the Church has experienced division and internal hostilities. From the very first, the Church has had to repent of its failure to live fully in the light and truth of the Spirit. Jesus tells us in St John’s gospel that the Spirit of truth will ”˜prove the world wrong’ in respect of sin and righteousness and judgement (Jn 16.8). But if the Spirit is leading us all further into the truth, the Spirit will convict the Church too of its wrongness and lead it into repentance. And if the Church is a community where we serve each other in the name of Christ, it is a community where we can and should call each other to repentance in the name of Christ and his Spirit ”“ not to make the other feel inferior (because we all need to be called to repentance) but to remind them of the glory of Christ’s gift and the promise that we lose sight of when we fail in our common life as a Church.
Our Anglican fellowship continues to experience painful division, and the events of recent months have not brought us nearer to full reconciliation. There are still things being done that the representative bodies of the Communion have repeatedly pleaded should not be done; and this leads to recrimination, confusion and bitterness all round. It is clear that the official bodies of The Episcopal Church have felt in conscience that they cannot go along with what has been asked of them by others, and the consecration of Canon Mary Glasspool on May 15 has been a clear sign of this. And despite attempts to clarify the situation, activity across provincial boundaries still continues ”“ equally dictated by what people have felt they must in conscience do. Some provinces have within them dioceses that are committed to policies that neither the province as a whole nor the Communion has sanctioned. In several places, not only in North America, Anglicans have not hesitated to involve the law courts in settling disputes, often at great expense and at the cost of the Church’s good name.
All are agreed that the disputes arising around these matters threaten to distract us from our main calling as Christ’s Church. The recent Global South encounter in Singapore articulated a strong and welcome plea for the priority of mission in the Communion; and in my own message to that meeting I prayed for a ”˜new Pentecost’ for all of us. This is a good season of the year to pray earnestly for renewal in the Spirit, so that we may indeed do what God asks of us and let all people know that new and forgiven life in Christ is possible and that created men and women may by the Spirit’s power be given the amazing liberty to call God ”˜Abba, Father!’
It is my own passionate hope that our discussion of the Anglican Covenant in its entirety will help us focus on that priority; the Covenant is nothing if not a tool for mission. I want to stress yet again that the Covenant is not envisaged as an instrument of control. And this is perhaps a good place to clarify that the place given in the final text to the Standing Committee of the Communion introduces no novelty: the Committee is identical to the former Joint Standing Committee, fully answerable in all matters to the ACC and the Primates; nor is there any intention to prevent the Primates in the group from meeting separately. The reference to the Standing Committee reflected widespread unease about leaving certain processes only to the ACC or only to the Primates.
But we are constantly reminded that the priorities of mission are experienced differently in different places, and that trying to communicate the Gospel in the diverse tongues of human beings can itself lead to misunderstandings and failures of communication between Christians. The sobering truth is that often our attempts to share the Gospel effectively in our own setting can create problems for those in other settings.
We are at a point in our common life where broken communications and fragile relationships have created a very mistrustful climate. This is not news. But many have a sense that the current risks are greater than ever. Although attitudes to human sexuality have been the presenting cause, I want to underline the fact that what has precipitated the current problem is not simply this issue but the widespread bewilderment and often hurt in different quarters that we have no way of making decisions together so that we are not compromised or undermined by what others are doing. We have not, in other words, found a way of shaping our consciences and convictions as a worldwide body. We have not fully received the Pentecostal gift of mutual understanding for common mission.
It may be said ”“ quite understandably, in one way ”“ that our societies and their assumptions are so diverse that we shall never be able to do this. Yet we are called to seek for mutual harmony and common purpose, and not to lose heart. If the truth of Christ is indeed ultimately one as we all believe, there should be a path of mutual respect and thankfulness that will hold us in union and help us grow in that truth.
Yet at the moment we face a dilemma. To maintain outward unity at a formal level while we are convinced that the divisions are not only deep but damaging to our local mission is not a good thing. Neither is it a good thing to break away from each other so dramatically that we no longer see Christ in each other and risk trying to create a church of the ”˜perfect’ ”“ people like us. It is significant that there are still very many in The Episcopal Church, bishops, clergy and faithful, who want to be aligned with the Communion’s general commitments and directions, such as those who identify as ”˜Communion Partners’, who disagree strongly with recent decisions, yet want to remain in visible fellowship within TEC so far as they can. And, as has often been pointed out, there are things that Anglicans across the world need and want to do together for the care of God’s poor and vulnerable that can and do go on even when division over doctrine or discipline is sharp.
More and more, Anglicans are aware of living through a time of substantial transition, a time when the structures that have served us need reviewing and refreshing, perhaps radical changing, when the voice and witness in the Communion of Christians from the developing world is more articulate and creative than ever, and when the rapidity of social change in ”˜developed’ nations leaves even some of the most faithful and traditional Christian communities uncertain where to draw the boundaries in controversial matters ”“ not only sexuality but issues of bioethics, for example, or the complexities of morality in the financial world.
A time of transition, by definition, does not allow quick solutions to such questions, and it is a time when, ideally, we need more than ever to stay in conversation. As I have said many times before, whatever happens to our structures, we still need to preserve both working relationships and places for exchange and discussion. New vehicles for conversations across these boundaries are being developed with much energy.
But some decisions cannot be avoided. We began by thinking about Pentecost and the diverse peoples of the earth finding a common voice, recognising that each was speaking a truth recognised by all. However, when some part of that fellowship speaks in ways that others find hard to recognise, and that point in a significantly different direction from what others are saying, we cannot pretend there is no problem.
And when a province through its formal decision-making bodies or its House of Bishops as a body declines to accept requests or advice from the consultative organs of the Communion, it is very hard (as noted in my letter to the Communion last year after the General Convention of TEC) to see how members of that province can be placed in positions where they are required to represent the Communion as a whole. This affects both our ecumenical dialogues, where our partners (as they often say to us) need to know who it is they are talking to, and our internal faith-and-order related groups.
I am therefore proposing that, while these tensions remain unresolved, members of such provinces ”“ provinces that have formally, through their Synod or House of Bishops, adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion and recently reaffirmed by the Standing Committee and the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) ”“ should not be participants in the ecumenical dialogues in which the Communion is formally engaged. I am further proposing that members of such provinces serving on IASCUFO should for the time being have the status only of consultants rather than full members. This is simply to confirm what the Communion as a whole has come to regard as the acceptable limits of diversity in its practice. It does not alter what has been said earlier by the Primates’ Meeting about the nature of the moratoria: the request for restraint does not necessarily imply that the issues involved are of equal weight but recognises that they are ”˜central factors placing strains on our common life’, in the words of the Primates in 2007. Particular provinces will be contacted about the outworking of this in the near future.
I am aware that other bodies have responsibilities in questions concerned with faith and order, notably the Primates’ Meeting, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Standing Committee. The latter two are governed by constitutional provisions which cannot be overturned by any one person’s decision alone, and there will have to be further consultation as to how they are affected. I shall be inviting the views of all members of the Primates’ Meeting on the handling of these matters with a view to the agenda of the next scheduled meeting in January 2011.
In our dealings with other Christian communions, we do not seek to deny our diversity; but there is an obvious problem in putting forward representatives of the Communion who are consciously at odds with what the Communion has formally requested or stipulated. This does not seem fair to them or to our partners. In our dealings with each other, we need to be clear that conscientious decisions may be taken in good faith, even for what are held to be good theological or missional reasons, and yet have a cost when they move away from what is recognisable and acceptable within the Communion. Thus ”“ to take a very different kind of example ”“ there have been and there are Anglicans who have a strong conscientious objection to infant baptism. Their views deserve attention, respect and careful study, they should be engaged in serious dialogue ”“ but it would be eccentric to place such people in a position where their view was implicitly acknowledged as one of a range of equally acceptable convictions, all of which could be taken as representatively Anglican.
Yet no-one should be celebrating such public recognition of divisions and everyone should be reflecting on how to rebuild relations and to move towards a more coherent Anglican identity (which does not mean an Anglican identity with no diversity, a point once again well made by the statement from the Singapore meeting). Some complain that we are condemned to endless meetings that achieve nothing. I believe that in fact we have too few meetings that allow proper mutual exploration. It may well be that such encounters need to take place in a completely different atmosphere from the official meetings of the Communion’s representative bodies, and this needs some imaginative thought and planning. Much work is already going into making this more possible.
But if we do conclude that some public marks of ”˜distance’, as the Windsor Continuation Group put it, are unavoidable if our Communion bodies are not to be stripped of credibility and effectiveness, the least Christian thing we can do is to think that this absolves us from prayer and care for each other, or continuing efforts to make sense of each other.
We are praying for a new Pentecost for our Communion. That means above all a vast deepening of our capacity to receive the gift of being adopted sons and daughters of the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It means a deepened capacity to speak of Jesus Christ in the language of our context so that we are heard and the Gospel is made compelling and credible. And it also means a deepened capacity to love and nourish each other within Christ’s Body ”“ especially to love and nourish, as well as to challenge, those whom Christ has given us as neighbours with whom we are in deep and painful dispute.
One remarkable symbol of promise for our Communion is the generous gift received by the Diocese of Jerusalem from His Majesty the King of Jordan, who has provided a site on the banks of the Jordan River, at the traditional site of Our Lord’s Baptism, for the construction of an Anglican church. Earlier this year, I had the privilege of blessing the foundation stone of this church and viewing the plans for its design. It will be a worthy witness at this historic site to the Anglican tradition, a sign of real hope for the long-suffering Christians of the region, and something around which the Communion should gather as a focus of common commitment in Christ and his Spirit. I hope that many in the Communion will give generous support to the project.
”˜We have the mind of Christ’ says St Paul (I Cor. 2.16); and, as the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople has recently written, this means that we must have a ”˜kenotic’, a self-emptying approach to each other in the Church. May the Spirit create this in us daily and lead us into that wholeness of truth which is only to be found in the crucified and risen Lord Jesus.
I wish you all God’s richest blessing at this season.
For myself personally, I rejoiced at Mary and Diane’s election. I would have been happy to get just one more woman bishop in California – but two! It was like Christmas! I knew though that many did not share this joy, and that included people in our partnership and in my diocese. After weeks of prayer and conversation I realized I had an opportunity to make no one particularly happy, but importantly to act in a way where the integrity of everyone’s deeply held beliefs – and their very beings – could be honored so we might remain at the table. In our system, it is consents that allow a bishop to be ordained. I consented to Mary’s election without hesitation. The laying on of hands makes a bishop, and in other provinces where there is no consent process like ours, this is a very key symbol. It took awhile, and as +Michael said, I did not come easily to the decision of not attending on Saturday. But the truth is, Mary and Diane had plenty of bishops to get the job done, and my hands were not needed there on May 15th. They were needed to reach other places and so I did.
As people have emailed me or blogged their anger and concern it seems that people think I was pressured by my partner bishops. Indeed, they made a request – as did many in the Anglican Communion of our entire church – for us not to consent or consecrate Mary. While listening is an important part of our partnership, we respect one another’s autonomy. Hopefully we the body of Christ all make prayerful decisions with one another in mind. You may not like the decision I made, but let me be clear, it was mine to make, not +Michael’s or +Gerard’s.
My gesture of not attending on Saturday was received graciously by both partner bishops, and we will just have to see what the future holds for our unusual and extraordinary relationship.
Such is the fatigue over the Anglican-Episcopal splintering that two weekends ago, when the Episcopal diocese of Los Angeles consecrated the denomination’s second partnered gay bishop, the event didn’t make a blip on many evangelical news websites. Also largely unnoticed was the previous week’s press release from St. James Anglican Church in Newport Beach, California, stating that it would appeal the latest California Supreme Court ruling in its property dispute with the Episcopal Church. Christianity Today reported on St. James’s court case as recently as January, but for embattled congregations, months can feel like years.
St. James broke ties with the Episcopal Church and briefly joined the Anglican Diocese of Luwero, Uganda, in 2004 before becoming a member of the Anglican Church of North America last year. The court case is set to determine who gets its building and other assets.
The difficulty is that the two opposing viewpoints are based on non-compatible reference systems: one is based on human reasoning and feelings, the other on the revealed Word of God. One is right, the other is not, and you can’t compromise and cut the baby in half, so that each belief system has half of what they wanted. The consecration of Mary Glasspool is representative of the determination of TEC to do as it pleases with regard to the faith and morals of the church, and coupled with prior statements by many of the leading bishops of TEC disputing the claims of Jesus to be the only way to the Father, and disputing the claims of authority for Holy Scripture, it is a reconfiguration of what it means to be Christian in the Western world, and an opportunity for an aggressive evangelism of this new gospel to all parts of the world, but especially targeting Africa.
Being in the Episcopal Church these days means entering a vertiginous journey into the corruption of language. You see language which used to mean x, and in one Episcopal Church setting it is used to mean y, and then in another the same words mean z. One thinks immediately of the scene in Alice Wonderland (written as I hope you know by an Anglican deacon):
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all.”
For a recent example of this manipulation of language to mean what it does not mean consider a piece on chastity by Richard Helmer .
Chastity, technically, is the refraining from sexual activity outside its proper context. For Christians, this has meant abstinence for those who are single and faithfulness for a wife or a husband who is married. This has been the standard for Christians throughout church history and still is for Christians worldwide today. None of this is to suggest that Christians have not struggled with sexuality, or that the understanding of sexuality and its proper use has not gone through interesting developments in the church’s life. It is also not to suggest that a very small minority of contemporary mostly Western Christians have not sought to challenge this standard. The leadership of TEC of course is part of this very small minority.
Richard Helmer is certainly correct to observe that “chastity deserves a thorough study by everyone presently involved in the tired crisis of the Anglican Communion.” It is just my hope that in doing so words are allowed to mean what the words mean and not what we want them to mean, whether in fact they mean what we say they mean or not.
One of the things you will hear in some circles of TEC is “sexuality is a sacrament.” This was actually explicitly said in a national church resource a while back.
It isn’t true, but like a lot of TEC leadership assertions these days, it contains partial truth. You may know that heresy is part of the truth masquerading as the whole truth–which is therefore actually an untruth. This statement about sexuality being “a sacrament” is an example of such a definition of heresy.
The truth is sexuality is like a sacrament and has sacramental dimensions, and it is from this vantage point that an important response to Richard Helmer can emerge.
You may know that in sacramental theology there is sometimes a distinction made between sacramental matter and sacramental form. The matter is the “stuff” or physical material involved in the sacrament, and the form is the words said and (sometimes) the sayer of such words, etc. Thus in baptism the matter is water, and the form is God’s threefold name (it can be by an authorized minister, but it actually doesn’t have to be).
We do not need to veer way off into sacramental theology at this time, the point is that in sacramental theology there is involved a what, as well as a who and how. This is not dissimilar to Thomistic ethical considerations, which tell us that any act’s moral determination comes from considering the act, the intention and the circumstance.
When these kinds of dimensions are considered, and one realizes that sexuality has many sacrament-like qualities, one can argue that sexuality is best understood by considering all its aspects, the what and the who and the how.
Now consider Father Helmer’s essay. Already one grows uneasy when one watches the essay begin without entering into the long stream of christian history in this area. What, one wants to ask, have all the Christians who have gone before us on whose shoulders we now stand, understood by this term chastity? One might have liked some Scriptural study and work as well. Instead we get a reference to chastity which has to do with “fidelity” and then a working definition as follows:
Chastity means setting aside dominance and control and seeking instead a new way to relate to the world and to God. He then goes on, quite revealingly, to say he is concerned about “a failure of chastity” which he then clarifies this way: “…I don’t mean sex outside the marriage. By chastity in marriage I mean the challenge of setting aside the stubborn drive to control or change person we most cherish.”
Now please understand that there is much in this discussion with which I would wholeheartedly agree. My concern here, though, is what this definition of chastity represents. It typifies the gnosticism present is all too much Episcopal Church thinking these days, where the how takes all precedence over the what, where form triumphs over substance. We hear talk of mutuality and faithfulness and encouragement and life enhancement and on and on and on. These are good things. But we cannot allow the how to bypass the what. We cannot allow intention and circumstance to dominate, and not ask about the act itself.
Alas, we are in a church which claims to be sacramental, but which is too often reductionistic.
Look at this paragraph from Father Helmer and see how it is all about the adjectives, is is all a world where how triumphs over what:
Chaste behavior has been in the quiet but transformative story-telling and building up of authentic relationships across the divides of gender, class, race, culture, sexuality, and ideology all across the Communion recently. Chastity allows us to be ourselves by allowing others to be themselves. Chastity makes it known when we are encountering oppression and articulates our needs as they arise. Chastity seeks honest accountability. Chastity sets aside the weapons and metaphors of war for an honest, authentic justice. Chastity endeavors to shed the harbored resentments and unmet wants of our brief lives and move forward in renewed relationship.
And what is the Alice in Wonderland outcome of such reductionism? Helmer asserts:
“Chastity has long been in evidence by those courageous, oft-threatened “firsts” of our faith who inhabit dangerous positions not for power or the quixotic pursuit of perfection, but simply by being who they are and following God’s call as best they can. The consecrations in the Diocese of Los Angeles are some of the most recent examples of this form of chastity.”
The problem here is that a woman in a same sex partnership by definition cannot be chaste, and would never have been considered chaste by our forbears. It flunks the test based on the what, no matter how much Father Helmer wants us to focus on the how. It is not just about the “form” of chastity, to have chastity one needs both form and substance.
In the world where words mean what they were given to mean, this isn’t chaste at all.
One more observation, as a kind of final irony. Even if I were to grant that it is all about form (and I don’t), this flunks the chastity test. Chastity is about “setting aside dominance and control” says Father Helmer. So many see in TEC’s actions exactly those two things, they see American unilateralism writ large.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Tears, jubilation, and muted protest marked the consecration of the AnÂglican Communion’s first openly lesbian bishop in California last SatÂurday, although the event drew swift condemnation from traditionÂalist groups and from the Archbishop of Canterbury.
In a brief statement, Dr Williams described the ceremony as “regretÂtable”, and said that it placed a quesÂtion mark over the place in the ComÂmunion of the Episcopal Church in the United States. The critÂicism was echoed by Evangelical groups in Ireland, among other places.
A press release published jointly by the Church of Ireland Evangelical FelÂlowship and three other bodies argued that the consecration represented “a clear rejection of the many pleas for gracious restraint” set out in the Windsor report and made by the latest Primates’ Meeting.
There are several aspects of Ruth Gledhill’s argument that demand response. In the first place, it is shocking that she asserts with such breathtaking ease that the conservatives in the Anglican Communion ”” those who stand on clear teachings of the Bible, must give way to the liberals. There is no acknowledgment that this means the growing churches of the Anglican Communion surrendering to the agenda of the dying churches.
Second, the argument that an insistence on the importance of biblical sexuality means that these teachings are held to be more important than “the Resurrection, the Crucifixion, the Virgin Birth, and the Trinity,” is nothing less than ludicrous. The issue of homosexuality may now function to place persons “on the Christian spectrum,” but this is only because the liberal churches have forced the issue. Conservative Anglicans from Africa and South American did not raise the issue of sexuality ”” the Episcopal Church did.
One other aspect of this particular issue cries out for acknowledgment. One additional reason that the issue of homosexuality (and biblical authority) now functions so decisively is precisely because the liberal churches have already allowed liberal denials of everything mentioned by Gledhill on her list. It so happens that the churches that hold fast to those theological essentials are, almost without exception, the same churches that maintain biblical teachings on human sexuality. No real surprise there.
Third, the argument that the historic creeds and confessions and liturgies of the church do not mention homosexuality is obvious and simple ”” they did not need to.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has been slower to respond to the consecration of the Rt. Rev. Mary Douglas Glasspool as a bishop suffragan than he was after her Dec. 5, 2009, election.
When the Diocese of Los Angeles elected Glasspool the Archbishop of Canterbury responded the next day.
“The election of Mary Glasspool by the Diocese of Los Angeles as suffragan bishop elect raises very serious questions not just for the Episcopal Church and its place in the Anglican Communion, but for the Communion as a whole,” Archbishop Rowan Williams said then.
Many of the thousands of young people who never go to church in the UK but who are nominally baptised Anglicans cannot remember a time when sodomy was a criminal offence.
These are the people that Church leaders should be trying to attract. In a world facing the well-documented consequences of consumer and materialist greed the Church’s spiritual message is potentially of benefit to millions. If the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives can do it in Britain, surely the liberals and conservatives in the Christian world can form some sort of coalition to bring new leadership to the Anglican morass. They must put their differences behind them, for the sake of God, themselves and the common good.
“We rejoice as we enter a whole new era into the 21st century, rethinking, relooking and reforming who we are as Christian people in the world,” said Canon Randy Kimmler, missioner for vocations in the Los Angeles diocese. “This is like a big first step for us so we rejoice in this.”
Many in the 77 million-member communion, however, are grieving. Bishops, mainly from the Global South, say Glasspool’s ordination shows that U.S. Episcopalians are continuing to go against Scripture and defy the wishes of the wider body.
The Anglican Communion had called for gracious restraint in regards to the ordination of partnered gays and the blessing of same-sex unions.
Dr. Peter Jensen, the Archbishop of Sydney, said many Anglican provinces have given up on The Episcopal Church ”“ the U.S. arm of Anglicanism ”“ and regard themselves as “out of communion” with them, according to the Church of England newspaper.
“They renew the call for repentance but can see that, failing something like the Great Awakening, it will not occur,” he said.
Is any other point of view offered on this issue? Of course not. That would be too complicated.
Does the story even mention any other doctrinal issues facing the Anglican Communion, issues that have been given some ink in ”” to cite one prime setting ”” The New York Times? No, that would be too complicated.
The point of the story, after all, is that this woman should not be defined by her sexuality. That is a great and appropriate journalistic goal. So, what is her stance on other crucial issues, doctrinal issues, that are causing cracks in the Anglican Communion? How would she describe her Christology, her view of the Virgin Birth, the historical reality of the Resurrection, the question of whether salvation can only be found through belief in Jesus, the nature of biblical authority? Issues of gender and liturgy? Or is her sexuality all that matters?
Has she written or said anything on these issues? What about during the selection process in Los Angeles? Are there critics in Maryland or California ”” or in other parts of the world, like England ”” who have studied her life and work and might be able to offer insights, as part of a journalistic process in which the views of both sides are quoted accurately and with empathy?
As members of the Church of Ireland we wish to express sorrow that Mary Glasspool, a person who is living in a same-sex relationship, is to be consecrated as one of two new assistant bishops in Los Angeles on May 15.
The elevation to senior church leadership of a person whose lifestyle is contrary to the will of God revealed in Scripture is both wrong and disappointing.
The decision to elect and confirm Mary Glasspool to the position of suffragan bishop is a clear rejection of the many pleas for gracious restraint made from within the Anglican Communion, not least by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Windsor Report and the most recent Primates’ Meeting. The Episcopal Church (TEC) has taken this provocative step despite knowing the division and difficulties created by Gene Robinson’s consecration in 2003. This shows a deliberate disregard for other members of the Anglican family and suggests that TEC does not greatly value unity within Anglicanism and indeed throughout the universal Church.
[Diane] Bruce and [Mary] Glasspool will be assistants to [Jon] Bruno, a position known as suffragan. They are the 1,044th and 1,045th bishops ordained in the history of the Episcopal Church, but few previous clerical elections have attracted as much attention.
Although both ordinations broke new ground, it was the selection of Glasspool, who is gay, that attracted worldwide attention and no small amount of consternation among more conservative members of the worldwide Anglican Communion, of which the Episcopal Church is a part. The head of the church, Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, said after Glasspool’s election in March that it was “regrettable” and could threaten the unity of the communion.
She becomes the second gay bishop of the Episcopal Church, following Gene Robinson, who was chosen as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003. His selection rocked the church and led to the departure of dozens of its more conservative parishes and four dioceses. In reaction, the church enacted a moratorium on the election of additional gay bishops but overturned that policy at its national convention in Anaheim last summer.
In choosing Glasspool, the Los Angeles Diocese became the first to test the new policy. With some 70,000 members and 147 congregations in six Southern California counties, it is among the largest Episcopal dioceses in the country and is considered among the most liberal.
Mary Glasspool, 56, was ordained yesterday in front of 3,000 supporters ”” and two protesters ”” in the Long Beach Arena, south of Los Angeles.
Calling herself a “reconciling person”, she offered to “reach out and engage with people who believe or think differently than I do”, but her appointment has already tested the Episcopal Church’s ties to the Church of England almost to breaking point.
Hoping to retain the allegiance of conservatives still furious over the ordination of Gene Robinson, the first gay Anglican bishop, in 2003, Dr Williams has said that Canon Glasspool’s ordination “raises very serious questions not just for the Episcopalian Church and its place in the Anglican Communion, but for the Communion as a whole”. He declined to comment on the ordination.
A spokesman for the Church of Ireland called the appointment “both wrong and disappointing”.
The U.S. Episcopal Church has ordained an openly lesbian bishop despite warnings from the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Mary Glasspool, 56, became an assistant bishop at a ceremony attended by 3,000 people in Long Beach, California, on Saturday.
She is only the second openly gay bishop in Anglican church history after Gene Robinson was ordained in November 2003.
Dr Rowan Williams had urged the American Church not to proceed with the ordination, warning that it would further alienate traditionalists who believe active homosexuality to be a sin.
The Episcopal diocese of Los Angeles ordained an openly lesbian bishop on Saturday, a move likely to stoke further tensions between liberals and conservatives in the deeply divided global Anglican Communion.
Mary Douglas Glasspool is now a suffragan, or assistant, bishop in a liberal diocese on America’s famously tolerant West Coast, and she offered to meet with her critics as a “reconciling person”.
Some 3,000 people attended the ceremony, said diocese spokesman Bob Williams. “The event was joyful and well attended,” he said.