On being a part of the human family

June 30, 2006

Community HandsI’ve been really interested to watch the behavior of the progressives and the conservatives in the Episcopal Church (TEC) over the past few years.

Actually, not just in the Episcopal Church, but in the entire Anglican Communion.

First, when the conservatives didn’t get what they wanted in TEC, they threatened to leave.  They said they weren’t really leaving, but in fact were just standing up for what they believed because TEC had “left them.”

Then, a few years later, after the Province of Nigeria didn’t like the way things might work out, they changed their constitution and canons so that they no longer centered around alignment with the See of Canterbury but instead with the “historic Scriptural tradition” or somesuch nonsense (I say nonsense because tradition according to who; whose interpretation of Scripture, etc.).  In other words, they felt like things weren’t going their way, and they decided to prepare to “opt-out” of the Communion.

Now, here we are after General Convention, and the See of Canterbury has taken a very disturbing position about needing to take a process for finding justice more seriously than justice itself- about being more important to ensure that we don’t alienate anyone in the search for justice (except for those who may be oppressed by the injustice we are trying to correct)- and as a result, the folks on the left (my side of the aisle, incidentally) have started rumblings of breaking from the See of Canterbury and walking on their own (since Archbishop Rowan Williams can’t seem to pull his head out of another part of his body long enough to develop a backbone to hold it high and lead instead of capitulate).

Make no doubt, I am disappointed, if you can’t tell, with the See of Canterbury, and I believe Mr. Williams is failing the Communion.  I believe he is falling into the trap of the right into seeing a linear path forward when parallel paths exist.  There is both a place for justice and inclusion AND for communion.  There has to be, and it is the place of the See of Canterbury to ensure that the path forward is forged to ensure this both/and solution is found.

AND maybe he is failing us.  Ok, there is no maybe about it- he is failing us.  All of us, the left, the right, and the middle.

But, for either side to toss about the idea of leaving, is, in my very humble opinion, a load of horsecrap, fudge, spin, and sin.

We live in a country where we are constantly working despite the divide to move forward on issues.  When, for example, we have a Federal Marriage Amendment in front of the legislature of this country, and it fails, the Republicans do not announce succession from America because of the failure of the country to advance their agenda.

When we fail on the progressive side to win marriage rights at the state or federal level, we (most of us, at least) do not pack our things and head for Canada or Europe where our marriages are honored, renouncing our citizenship.

No, we stay.  We stay and we fight for equality.  We fight for justice.  We fight for what we know to be right.  We fight because we are one part of the larger body.  We fight and work together, struggling together to be a part of the family that we know we belong to, even though we may disagree- sometimes even violently disagree- on what it means to be a part of that family.

Paul addresses it repeatedly in the Epistles.  We can’t be one limb of the body and say to the other limb “I have no use of you.”  It takes the full body working in concert together to discern- to move forward.  Without the conservatives, there would be no tradition.  Progressives would be constantly changing everything, making every new thing the new tradition.  It is the job of the conservatives to challenge the progressives, to ensure that new ideas are genuinely of the spirit.  It is the job of the progressives to challenge the conservatives, to ensure that they do not become stagnant- that there is growth despite traditions that are entrenched in static concepts.

It is in this tension that we must find balance.  It is found everywhere in our civic and religious life.  And the discussion doesn’t stop at secular, geopolitical, or religious borders.

In the immigration debate, much has been said of what “we” are giving to “them,” or what “they” are getting from “us.”  Well, we are all children of God.  We are all part of the human family.  What is the difference?  Why are we so entrenched in making these artificial barriers?  These are children of God seeking a better life?  Who cares what side of “the fence” they happened to be born on?  They are part of our human family.  Just as I am.  Just as you are.  Just as “they” are- whoever “they” are for you.

To say that we want to leave that family over a singular issue- no matter how big or how small- is to turn our back on that family.  Even if we feel they have turned their back to us, forgiveness is a Christian resposibility.  We have been forgiven again and again, and we are called to do the same.  Forgive and teach.  Forgive and preach.  We must mold the church, the body, the family, into the thing which it is called to be.

When the marriage bill was passed in California last year that would have given gay couples the right to marry, but was vetoed by the governor, it never occurred to me to renounce my California-ship.

Neither now does it occur to me just because the See of Canterbury can’t see very well should I renounce my Anglican-ness and leave the Communion (note: I had to edit this a few times to get the explitives out for my description of the Archbishop of Canterbury.  He ain’t on my “nice” list right now.).

I stayed in California, just like I stay in the Anglican church.  To leave out of impatience, out of anger, out of defiance, out of lack of control, is to turn out back on our trust of God- our belief that God is big enough to turn this around.  Our understanding that God will overcome this in God’s time, and that God loves us enough to ensure that God will give us the resources we need to get through whatever burdens we must face between now and then while we wait for it, and to help ensure that it happens.


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