On Good Sportsmanship

June 21, 2006

I knew as a boy that when playing sports there were two things you could do when you were playing an opponent who I clearly had the better of- who I had the skills, gifts, or whatever to just really overpower on the playing field.  I could either 1)  get the advantage and, once I had the advantage and secured victory play at my advantage while allowing the other player the grace to feel enough strength to be able to compete; or 2) get the advantage, keep the advantage, and just really smear the other player all over the place- to wipe him into the ground and show him that I had the superior talent.  I was taught that good sportsmanship dictated that the former is preferable.  I believe it is the former that we are called to practice as members of the Body of Christ. 

I've read a lot of disappointment in the 30 minutes or so since the General Convention announced the moratorium on gay and lesbian bishops.  I've seen voices that wanted, despite the overwhelming "victory" of this convention, to clean up, to wipe the "opponent" out, to eradicate any chance of a comeback.

I'm not so disappointed.  I'm not willing to devalue the rest of the communion in such a way.  It's just not how I was raised, despite my strong disagreements with their teachings.

I think what we are doing helps us to send a clear message to the rest of the communion that we do value them, and that we are willing to give and take in this relationship.  I think the much, much bigger issue is the issue of same-gender marriage, and thank goodness we did not offer that up in this compromise.  Only a few people can be consecrated as bishops, and we have many other bishops willing to act on our behalf.  But we have many, many folks affected by the discrimination against us in the sacrament of marriage.  That is something we can't stand for.

Not that I think the discrimination against us in the consecration of bishops is ok.  But if it is only for a few years– let's say until after Lambeth 2008, or until the next General Convention, then it may be worth the price of waiting so that we can have some more time to work– really work– at listening and discussing our relationship with our brothers and sisters across the divide.  I think like Griswold said sometimes you do have to take one step backwards in order to take two steps forward, and that may be what we have here.

It isn't the end of the world.  It isn't a huge step backwards.  It is a small step backwards while at this convention we have made many, many huge steps forward.  We have a woman PB, who referred to Jesus as Mother Jesus in her opening address.  My, my- did that ruffle some feathers?  We have a resolution calling for benefits for domestic partners and opposing the Federal Marriage Amendment, while many other churches are pushing for it.  We have three resolutions to continue work fighting for HIV and AIDS ministry.  And we have a resolution opposing the criminalization of homosexuality across the globe.  What we have hear, my friends, is a victory.  What we have done is win, and win without rubbing the other player's faces in that victory.  We have proudly said, "We are going to listen to the Holy Spirit, that makes us victors in Christ."  And at the same time we have said, "Our victory in Christ does not make us so proud that we do not have the humility to realize that we are just like you.  We are human.  We are willing to dialogue.  We are open to the process of reconciliation.  We could have lost this 'game.'  We value you and value the relationship we have with you."

We have gotten so much accomplished.  We can't become bitter about one small step backwards when we have taken so many giant steps forward.  What a blessing.  What grace God has bestowed upon our tremendous church.  The Holy Spirit has been with us.  We must remain humble.  We must remember that we are but one small part in this world, interdependent with the rest of it.  No matter how strongly we feel that we have received the truth, we cannot become so proud of that tradition that we would shun others in the world, walk away from the table, and leave them behind.  It is the Gospel imperative that we exert all effort possible to bring them along for the ride.  I've forgotten that over the past few days, with the stress of the convention.  But it is something that I'm beginning to remember.  May the Grace of Jesus Christ be with us all, wherever we are called to go on this great and wonderful journey into the unknown, into the depths of God's love.


14 Responses to “On Good Sportsmanship”

  1. DF in Massachusetts Says:


    I remember legal racial segregation when I was growing up in The South, and now I live in Massachusetts where same-gender marriage is legal. How things have changed!

    And, legal same-gender marriage in Massachusetts has certainly change the perspective of GLBT people here compared to the rest of the country. We know what it takes to get to where we are now, and it certainly doesn’t include backward steps such as the one made today at General Convention. Compromise, yes. Backward steps, no.

    I wouldn’t dream of voting for a resolution that urged restraint to African American Bishops to not use the “White Only” water fountains simply because there are so few African Americans who could become Bishops anyway… all to get entrance to an event where the African American Bishops aren’t going to be invited.

    I disagree with you here. But then, I’m from Massachusetts where we’ve made so much more progress in this area.

  2. Jeff Says:

    Yes. I can see that perspective. I live in California, and while I am happy that we have civil same-sex marriages with the same priviliges as opposite-sex marriages I am very unhappy that they are not called Marriage.

    And, I think that steps forward in a state- as rich and culturally diverse as Masachusetts may be- is much different than trying to forge an agreement as complicated as the one we now seek to create in the Communion. We deal with not only different theologies, but different cultures, different perspectives, and the fact is that a “no” vote on this resolution would have prevented the discussion from occurring.

    As I have said elsewhere, we cannot make the same mistake as our orthodox brethren. We cannot have an “our way or no way” mentality. We must show the patience of Christ. This is different than a civil proceeding for marriage in a civil legislature. This is a Christian proceeding. This is about the grace of God. We are obligated to show not only the justice that God has, but also the compassion. Again, we have won. We need not “rub” that in the face of the anyone. We now need look to the other in the spirit of Christ the reconciler to determine how best to deliver that same message of justice around the world. And I don’t think that will be accomplished if we do not even have a relationship with them. To sever the relationship is very short sighted.

  3. Jeff Says:

    One more thing. Legal segregation, while abhorrent now, may have been a necessary step on the way to legal equality. “Separate but equal” was not in and of itself bad during its time. It was a step forward.

    Perhaps this moratorium, just for a few years, is not a bad thing given that we now have so much more to deal with – we do not have a moratorium on same-sex unions, we have a woman primate (I just read an article where a conservative compared the validity of the ordination of a woman to the ordination of a horse), and on, and on.

    We have much to talk about. We had much to talk about during “separate but equal.” It didn’t happen overnight. Marriage in Massachusets didn’t either. I think that is the point of this resolution. Nothing more, nothing less. If it was anything more the house of deputies would have passed it the first time, but they didn’t. They rejected it. Only after the speech of Griswold, which you can find here, did they move forward. Without the words of Griswold and Schori, I’m not sure I’d feel the same. But after reading them, I am convinced.


  4. DF in Massachusetts Says:

    Oh my God! You actually said, “One more thing. Legal segregation, while abhorrent now, may have been a necessary step on the way to legal equality. “Separate but equal” was not in and of itself bad during its time. It was a step forward.”?!?!?

    Legal segregation was a step backwards, my friend. You might want to acquaint yourself with Plessy vs. Ferguson… the Supreme Court ruling that said that laws created in the 1890’s mandating legal segregation were constitutional. After the Civil War African Americans had rights, and segregation was not mandated by law. Plessy vs. Ferguson was a step backwards that kept African Americans second class citizens for over 60 years.

    Please, Jeff, tell me you’re tired and that your comment, “Seperate but equal was not in and of itself bad during its time. It was a step forward”, is just due needing a lot of sleep and that you don’t really believe that.

  5. Jeff Says:

    Look, DF – don’t make the mistake of the fundamentalists. Don’t judge history by the lens of our time.

    My point is this- in a time when African-American people had no rights, separate but equal guaranteed at least some rights. That was a step forward. Of course it was unjust for what we know now.

    The name of this blog is Leaning towards justice. That comes from something my rector says, a quote from somebody else. That we must take the BROADEST view of history, and in that broad view the arc of history always bends towards justice. Plessy v. Ferguson, while disappointing in and of itself, played one small part in a series of events in history which, when viewed as a whole, bend towards inclusion. Who knows what would have happened if it had gone the other way? Perhaps there would have been a backlash and the civil rights movement would have been set back another 50 years. We just don’t know. That is where faith and trust in the Holy Spirit comes in.

    And so we must trust now. We say that we are trusting that the Holy Spirit moved us forward with the Consecration of Gene Robinson. So we must trust that the Holy Spirit is moving us forward with this vote. Either that or we aren’t listening. Again, this is a Christian debate, not a secular one (I happen to believe the Spirit guides both secular and religious affairs, but that’s another discussion).

    We are the hands of God. I believe we are being given an opportunity to work with our brothers and sisters in the Communion to show them, in a kind and compassionate way, the inclusiveness of God’s love. That cannot happen if we are not allowed a place at the table to talk to them. We cannot bend the arc of history if we are pushed away from the very people who need the bending.

  6. Sharyn Says:

    Thank you for your perspective. As a newer member of All Saints I have watched what has unfolded at convention with divergent emotions, incredible pride and peace with the choice of the new presiding bishop and then sadness at the final Windsor response resolution. Thank you for your illumination, showing the rest of us the view of a God centered path to continue along.

  7. Jeff Says:

    Sharyn –

    You are most welcome!

    And thanks for the positive feedback! Nice to get some affirmation every once in a while! 🙂


  8. Jeff Says:

    I wrote this on another site where my views were under fire, and I rather liked it so I’m copying it here:

    I think the question is, “How do we go about changing the world?”

    I don’t think it is with an “in your face” attitude of “we’re going to do it our way and “f” you if you don’t like it.”

    That is such the American way- we have been accused of imperialism in this and I think to a certain degree that is valid criticism.

    What is the much harder path- harder because it requires trust that God is working in all things, that it is not necessarily our victory to see but that we may only be players in the larger victory of history- is the path that requires us to have compassion not only for the oppressed but also for the oppressor. That the oppressor is also the victim of his own fear and hatred.

    I believe that is the message of Jesus. Jesus forgave even those who oppressed him. That is where we are. Do we forgive? Do we work for reconciliation? Do we walk forward in Christ’s path?

    Or do we say “f* you”- you don’t see it, dummy- and leave the discussion.

    I don’t think it is the latter.

    But it is certainly the harder road.

  9. Michael Says:


    I started out the afternoon being hurt and angry after reading about today’s actions — especially after the feelings of “finally” that I felt after Sunday and Tuesday. I have been reading every blog available trying to determine what was going on at GC and what might happen next.

    I’m grateful that I found your site. Your words have lessened my anger and are getting me back to feeling proud of my church.


    St. Louis

  10. Jeff Says:

    Michael –

    I’m so glad. I was not feeling to good about it either, at first. But God is with us always!

    And that is very good news indeed.



  11. KJ in Massachussetts Says:


    Go ahead. Just put me on the back of the bus. Tell me it’s for my own good and that we’ll all be better off for it.

    How dare you!

    No matter how you try to sugar coat it, this is a step backwards. My opinion is that you have a chosen a cowardly position in this struggle.

    As Rev. Peter Gomes said at the Pride Interfaith Thanksgiving Service at the Episcopal Cathedral in Boston last November, “Show them no quarter” when referring to those who deny basic rights to those who are gay and lesbian.

    Shame on you!!!

    Shame! Shame! Shame!

  12. Jeff Says:

    KJ –

    If you are in the back of the bus, then I am there with you. So I’m not putting you anywhere that I’m not going myself– in fact I haven’t done anything; I’m neither a deputy nor a bishop.

    And, I think you have missed the point of my post entirely. Emotions are running high today. I’m sorry you are upset, but I take no responsibility for your response to today’s actions, nor for your response to my post.

    In essence, my advice is “take two aspirin and call me in the morning.” As I have said on Susan’s blog, we have already won. The choice before us now is whether to go left or right to take the victory lap. Do we submit to the same voices of exclusion that we hear on the right and pull inwards, reveling in our control of TEC? Or, do we accept with humility that while we have the power to do as we will we are but one part of God’s creation and have the obligation to work with others to spread the good news of God’s inclusive love?

    We can’t do the latter without having a place at the table. We can’t do it without those who won’t hear us without a message from us saying that we have heard them. This isn’t a permanent resolution, as the debate in the House of Deputies made clear. This is a step to ensure that the communion knows we value their relationship with us.

    Nothing more.

  13. David Says:

    Would a unanimous nay-vote on B033 have made God’s love more inclusive? Does the yea-vote on B033 mean that Jesus’ sacrifice, which that Father accepts as complete and total for me and for you, is not a sacrifice for me and for you?

  14. Jeff Says:

    No, David- the vote doesn’t change God- of course not. But it changes the way people perceive God. And that’s important.

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