A Response to the Rev. Dr. Leander Harding
July 6, 2006
I don’t know this man (note that it was not Rev. Harding that sent the email to Susan), but he posted a series of questions here, and then someone else posed the questions to Susan Russell via email. She asked me if I would respond as she is busy with parish life. Since it was sent to her in an email there are a few extra questions at the beginning. And by the way, I, in my own “Fifi” like self (inside joke for those of you that read Susan’s blog), took my very sweet time in answering to make sure that I was clear (but not, maybe, very concise). So it is a rather lengthy response. Here we go:
I would welcome your response to Harding’s assertions below that currently appear on his blog. How could one possibly respond to rhetorical points that implicitly preclude experience and revelation of the Holy Spirit as valid criteria for institutional innovation and renewal? I would hope that you might respond on your blog or at the Integrity website.
Also, have you read Dean Linder’s (Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Columbia, SC) opinion piece (http://www.thestate.com/mld/state/news/opinion/14974617.htm) in which he gratuitously truncates the LGBT community of the Episcopal Church by stating the following:
“…extreme liberals keep pushing the envelope of human sexuality further. It is now not just about gays and lesbians, it is also about bisexuals and transgender persons. Are they asking the church to argue that God creates people as bisexuals as well as of the incorrect sex?”
Jeff’s Response: I believe it has never been just about gays and lesbians, although we frequently use those terms as “shortcuts” which is unfortunate for our bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters. Psychological and medical evidence has repeatedly shown that human sexuality is not a “toggle switch” but is instead a spectrum. In the words of the American Psychological Association, “Sexual orientation exists along a continuum that ranges from exclusive homosexuality to exclusive heterosexuality and includes various forms of bisexuality.” (http://www.apa.org/topics/orientation.html). Therefore God creates us all in a place somewhere along this continuum, and does not always make us excluively straight nor gay, but sometimes somewhere in the middle.
Transgendered issues revolve not around sexual orientation but around sexual identity. In other words, while straight, gay, lesbian, and bisexual orientations identify primarily the person that one is attracted to, transgendered people have a different identity within their core being that differs from the physical manifestation of self (e.g. they “feel” like a woman but may have a man’s body). This is an emerging area of research in the medical and psychological community, but note that just because it is in its infancy in the scientific community does not invalidate the need for a warm, loving, inclusive, and pastoral response to those persons in this position.
All of God’s people, whether straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered, are created in God’s image. I believe the church, at the very least, is asked to include all of God’s children in the full and equal claim to all of the sacraments, rites, and liturgies that she has developed. At most, and ideally, and what Jesus preached, is for the church to bring those on the margins– those who are oppressed, who are least understood, those whom the religious authorities would cast out– to the center of our life. The church, to be true to Jesus’ teachings, must love unconditionally, must not be an instrument of judgement, but an instrument of God’s Grace, and must make room for all at the table of the risen Christ. To do anything less is to recreate the reign of the Pharisees and the Saducees, the Scribes and the Temple Authorities.
Your commentary would be most welcome!
More Reflections On General Convention 2006
Do I understand what you are saying?
An Open Letter to Bishops and Delegates Who Participated In General Convention 2006
I was able to observe the House of Bishops and House of Deputies briefly first hand during the convention and I have followed closely the proceedings on the internet and through the media. Below are some conclusions I have developed as a result of my observation both by following the official deliberations and through more informal conversations. I wonder if I have heard correctly, and I welcome remarks from bishops and delegates about whether I have an accurate take on the center of opinion in the national leadership of The Episcopal Church. What follows are statements that I believe reflect the consensus of opinion in the national leadership of The Episcopal Church, particularly as reflected in the General Convention that just met in Columbus, Ohio. Do I understand correctly? As I hear it you are saying that:
1. God is the author of same-sex attraction by an act of special providence that includes biological and social-psychological secondary causes. Because we know through reports of the spiritual experience of same-sex attracted people that God is the primary author of these experiences, inquiry into the relative contributions of nature and nurture to same-sex attraction is of no significance for the church’s moral teaching or pastoral care.
This is a profound misunderstanding of the issue at hand. We are all products both of our environment and our genetic make-up. It is my firm belief that religious zealotry and fundamentalism are not a religious problem today (that is, they cannot be solved through religious means– although they are religious problems), but instead are sociological and psychological problems with many complex causes. I believe that your belief- your reluctance to believe in a non-judgemental God comes both from a genetic predispotion to certain personality traits (let’s say, stability), combined with environmental reinforcement of an ideology that teaches that God is limited to transactional Grace (you accept me and I’ll give you Grace). I don’t accept that limitation; it is neither in my genetic composition nor in my environmental upbringing to believe that God exists in that way.
Now, that is fine. You believe what you need to believe based on your nature and nurture, and I’ll believe what I need to. The problem is that you don’t seem to be ok with my belief existing separate from your belief.
Similarly, the nature/nurture argument for homosexuality follows. You neither need understand how I was created as gay nor live your life in my shoes as a gay man. You need only walk on a separate, parallel path in your experience of God as you understand yourself to be called to do. There is a big difference between accepting that I can be created as a gay man while you are not and trying to understand what it would be like if you were to have been created as a gay man. I can understand no other reason why the nature/nurture discussion is helpful.
Again, quoting the American Psychological Association, from the same web page as above: “The reality is that homosexuality is not an illness. It does not require treatment and is not changeable.”
2. This recognition of the source of same-sex attraction in the direct intention of God means that the categories of “Gay” and “Lesbian” are part of God’s order of creation in the same way as male and female
3. Bisexuality is also created by God as an act of special providence through a combination of biological and social-psychological secondary causes.
4. It is likewise irrelevant to the church’s moral and pastoral response to this phenomenon to inquire into the relative contributions of nature and nurture in the development of this sexual orientation.
I think you already asked this in question number 1. If you ask in order to understand how to respond pastorally in the healing of the spiritual violence that has been perpetuated on GLBT people, then by all means, ask- although know that the answer is that there is no single answer. It is both. If you are really interested see the APA’s webpage for more info. If you ask in order to try and “change” people, then see my earlier response.
5. The recognition of the source of same-sex desire in the original intention of God for the creation and humanity is a revelation of the Holy Spirit in our time.
Yes, otherwise God would not have created it so- would not have created us so. Again, you do not have to walk in my shoes. You do not have to be gay- in fact you cannot because you were created straight. I think a big misunderstanding here is that many people believe that homosexuality is a behavior. It is not. It is an orientation. Again quoting the American Psychological Association, same web page (http://www.apa.org/topics/orientation.html): “Sexual orientation is different from sexual behavior because it refers to feelings and self-concept. Persons may or may not express their sexual orientation in their behaviors.”
6. The General Conventions of 2003 and 2006 are witnesses to this new revelation of the Holy Spirit.
If you believe that the Holy Spirit is alive today, what choice do you have but to believe it is so? The Holy Spirit moved in the Council of Nicea. The Holy Spirit moved when our church was created with Henry and Elizabeth. The Holy Spirit moves daily. The Holy Spirit moved in both those conventions. And for the record, I believe it moved even when it approved the legislation of B033 and wrote discrimination into our history against LGBT people- an act I have a hard time understanding- but that I also trust, because I know in my soul that the Holy Spirit was moving and has plans. I know that the Holy Spirit always, over time, bends the arc of history towards justice. And I don’t know how that is going to happen yet, but it is going to happen.
I may not be called to win the struggle for justice in my time, but I trust that it will happen, knowing that I am called to play a part in that struggle. And that is the way the Holy Spirit works. I see very little trust on the other side. I see only idolatry of selected “clobber passages” in scripture. I do not see how the Baptismal Covenant, which requires us to strive for justice and peace among all people and to respect the dignity of every human being, is being honored. Trust for me is big, and what I see on the other side is not trust, not faith, but a yearning to hold on to something that is less ambiguos, a willingness to make something clean-cut that is not clean-cut- God doesn’t make everything nice and tidy. God is messy. The Holy Spirit is messy. It just isn’t all cut and dry, and that’s the trust that I believe is required of us- that the “messiness” of life will somehow, through the wonder of the Holy Spirit, all come together in the end to glorify God.
That doesn’t excuse us, but it means we are all called to do our best. And I don’t think that means that when we have this kind of disagreement that we are best suited by fighting to the death over it. I think what is required is not to judge each other, but to put it aside and say “ok, we don’t agree on that, how about we work together to feed the poor” or “how about we see how we best increase the visibility of our church in the secular public and increase attendance” or whatever. But to wedge further and further apart because of judgement isn’t anywhere in the Baptismal Covenant. Nowhere does it say “go out and crucify for God.” No. It says “resist evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord.” That isn’t a call to crucify or condemn. That is a call for personal accountability. I believe I am personally accountable to God. If my personal accountability doesn’t suit you, nowhere in the Baptismal Covenant does it say that you have the right to come and crucify, coerce, or correct me. It is my relationship with God that is in the Baptismal Covenant, and the communal response is not to whack me on the head, but instead only to strive to ensure that justice and peace, and the dignity of every human being is maintained universally. I am not able to reconcile that with the actions of the orthodox. It is, however, consistent with the actions of the Holy Spirit. It is, however, consistent with the GC03, and of most of 06. I cannot say with surety that I understand all of GC06, but as I say, I trust that it is the Holy Spirit acting in the broadest possible sense to do what is best.
7. The Holy Spirit has not yet revealed what amendments in the church’s received sexual ethic will be necessary to accommodate bisexual and transgendered people but we can expect further leading by the Holy Spirit in this regard. In the meantime such persons should be considered fit candidates for Holy Orders.
Yes. I am not sure why it would be any different from that of straight folks. We need rites for marriage that allow two loving people to marry regardless of gender, but I believe that we (at least most of us) have gotten past that to look at the substance of the relationship as we imagine God might look at it rather than whether or not any specific liturgy has been performed, given that the current liturgical and civil rites are discriminatory.
8. Certainty in moral or theological judgments which is based on an authoritative reading of a text whether that is the text of the Bible or any other part of the dogmatic tradition of the church is inherently an example of over-reaching.
I’m not sure I understand this question or point- it is not worded as a complete sentence- something which often happens to me when I am writing and my mind gets ahead of my hands. If the question has to do with the authority of scripture or other traditional documents and how to interpret them, then my response follows. I believe that the Bible has authority. However, I do not believe that the Bible is the end of the story. I believe the Bible is the beginning of the story. Much like a guidebook should be used when visiting a new city, the Bible should be used on our journey. It is for inspiration. It is not something you pick up and go and try and do line for line, cover to cover. If you did that with a guidebook in a new city you would ruin your whole experience from exhaustion and confusion. The Bible is authoratative in the sense that it is the historical experience of the people of God. God, however, is not contained within it. If anything, we know from it that God started at the beginning of the text to be a rather limited God, and grew threw the old covenant of Abraham, through the journey of Moses and Israel, into the New Covenant and Jesus, and through the Epistle. I say “grew” but it wasn’t God that grew. It was the human understanding of God. There is absolutely no reason to believe that the human understanding of God stopped growing when the canon closed. We know this; church teaching has continued to change over the past 2000 years since Jesus ascended. We have had major movements- the creeds, the reformation, the end of slavery, women’s ordination, etc. We know more about God than Moses did. Than Paul did. To say that the Bible fully explains God is idolatry of the Bible. None of us, and nothing, fully knows God. To hope otherwise, is again that part of us which looks for that “clean-cut answer”- that part which avoids the “messiness” of God. I hope that answers the question.
9. Contemporary reports of personal spiritual experience by same-sex attracted people and their supporters about the spiritual blessedness of same-sex relationships provide a basis for moral and theological certainty on this question which the scriptures and the traditional teaching of the church cannot by virtue of the nature of the documents provide.
I disagree. The “clobber passages” which are so often used to refute homosexuality are the wrong place to start on this issue, and I think that the GLBT lobby has fallen into the trap of the right by allowing it to be framed this way. The more approrpiate theological context in which to view this issue is to first look at the Bible in a more holistic context, using it to build up a theology of inclusion, love, accpetance, and liberation. I’ve done this in small bits and pieces on my blog (https://leaningtowardsjustice.wordpress.com, just click on the “Bible” or “Theology” categories). Once we have that foundation, then we can look at the clobber passages within the much richer context of the full picture of the Bible. As you must know, noone can take the whole Bible completely literally. It contradicts itself over and over again. Jesus says “I come not to abolish the law” and Paul says “We have no need of the law with Jesus.” Jesus says he comes not for the Gentiles, but then much of the Epistle is dedicated to the conversion of the Gentiles. Jesus says “Judge not lest ye be judged” yet Paul has no problem talking on the one hand about judgement and on the other hand about not judging. We all pick and choose. The Bible is complicated. There’s no doubt. We have to decide what we know about God, what we know about Scripture in order to find our path forward. I wholly reject the idea that Scripture does not provide compelling evidence to support inclusion and full acceptance of loving, monagomous, compassionate relationships between two consenting adults.
10. Christians who feel bound by the scriptures should understand that the fact that there are different interpretations of the scriptures which touch on same-sex attraction means that no single interpretation can possibly be authoritative.
Yes and no. There are interpretations which can be authoritative as to the author’s original intent and cultural context. Those are hard to come by, and difficult to agree upon because of the depth of the level of Biblical scholarship needed in order to arrive there. Then there are the broader themes of the Bible, which we must piece together carefully, looking not so much at the individual passages but the overarching movements of God through time and space. Those don’t come as easy and there are multiple interpretations by their very definition. Some arrive at a God of judgement. Some, like me, arrive at a God of grace and love. I don’t believe there is an authoritative answer to this question, and I believe that is on purpose. I believe it is because the answer, the conclusion, which a person comes to- is wholly dependent on trust. Can I trust that God loves me that much? Can I really believe that love is that free? I told a story on my blog the other day- A man put a refrigerator out on the street that he needed to get rid of. He put a sign on it that said “Free”. It sat for days. Frustrated, he put a sign on it that said “$50”. It was gone in an hour. We, as humans, have a hard time trusting that anything valuable is free. We are transactional. We cannot trust. But that is the beauty of God. The beauty of the Scripture is that it is open-ended enough that it allows us to be wherever we are on our journey– and inspires us to continue to move forward.
11. Since the scriptures cannot possibly be authoritative on this issue and since self-reported spiritual experience provides the only reliable certainty on the subject, any objections to same-sex blessings on the basis of scripture are irrelevant a priori.
I think it is an important discussion. I think it is important for dissenters to feel like they have a voice at the table. I don’t think we should confuse having a voice with having control. Particularly when having control means excluding someone. It would be one thing if the GLBT side of the fence was arguing to throw the conservatives out of the church- then I would have a different answer. But it is the opposite that is true- the conservative side is saying that the GLBT side does not have full and equal claim on Christ’s table (a table they don’t own, incidentally). Because of that I think it is important that you have the ability to air your views, but also important that you understand the distinction between living in a balanced tension of loving disagreement rather than hateful schism.
12. Exegetical discussion of specific texts which seem to forbid blessing same-sex erotic behavior can only be for the benefit of quieting the consciences of people who take the bible literally. At the end of the day the inherent uncertainty of the scriptures must give way before the certainty of the personal spiritual experience of the same-sex attracted and their supporters and the felt experience of the presence of the Holy Spirit in two succeeding General Conventions.
I think I’ve already answered this. The only other thing I’ll add besides reminding you that I’ve already said that I think that our continuing experience has broaded our understanding of God quite substantially is that the “clobber passages” you refer to only discuss specific promiscous acts. They do not contemplate loving, caring, same-sex relationships. It is difficult to know what the full cultural or historical context was to which the authors wrote these texts in order to fully understand them. I am sure that homo-normative relationships did not exist nor would they have been blessed by the authors, however I do not think that means that they are excluded by God. We have had continuing revelation of God’s will unfolding since the canon was closed. Slavery is tacitly approved, oppression of women, and so on. This is just one more. I am sure that when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door in Germany there were quite a few exegetical discussions that were had. Have them. There’s nothing wrong with it. Just have them with an open mind. Have them with an open heart. And pray about it. Approach God with your heart truly open and pray for guidance. You don’t need me to tell you what is right and what is wrong when you have a direct pipeline to the “horse’s mouth”, so to speak. But you have to do that in honest humility and openness, or your resoluteness will prevent you from seeing any other path. I don’t mind the honest dialogue because I am trust God enough that I know in time justice will prevail on this issue- for that reason I think the more dialogue we have the better. And you just need to keep yourself attuned to the will of God rather than the will of self. That is what I try to do, anyway. That means being completely open, honest- naked to God in your prayer life, in all of your honest questions, fears, regrets, hopes, dreams, and wishes- even when you hear something you don’t like. Humility is hard.
13. The most meaningful dialogue in which the church can engage is dialogue that allows same-sex attracted people and their supporters to share their perceptions of the ways in which God has blessed individuals and specific Christian communities through covenanted same-sex relationships. Actual argument about scripture or the teaching tradition of the church or the state of the scientific question could never produce any legitimate objections to the new thing the Holy Spirit is doing.
That just isn’t true. I think I’ve already answered this several times above. Again, honest dialogue is always helpful. But you have to come with open hearts and minds. As the Archbishop of Canterbury has rightly mentioned, this dialogue has become politicized in a way that isn’t helpful.
14. The experience of people who describe themselves as having been cured or freed from same-sex attraction is irrelevant and the church should not give such people a serious hearing. They either were never really same-sex attracted to begin with or are deluded about their claim to be freed or cured. The personal religious experiences of such people are not of the same quality and reliability as the experiences of the same-sex attracted in the church. These experiences are not to be seen as legitimate experiences of the power of the Holy Spirit in spite of all claims to the contrary. Likewise scientific reporting of the overcoming of same sex attraction is deeply suspect as ideologically tainted and can with confidence be dismissed without a serious reading.
I’ll refer you again to the scientific community. Here is a quote from the American Psychological Association’s website (http://www.apa.org/topics/orientation.html) again:
” Some therapists who undertake so-called conversion therapy report that they have been able to change their clients’ sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. Close scrutiny of these reports however show several factors that cast doubt on their claims. For example, many of the claims come from organizations with an ideological perspective which condemns homosexuality. Furthermore, their claims are poorly documented. For example, treatment outcome is not followed and reported overtime as would be the standard to test the validity of any mental health intervention.
” The American Psychological Association is concerned about such therapies and their potential harm to patients. In 1997, the Association’s Council of Representatives passed a resolution reaffirming psychology’s opposition to homophobia in treatment and spelling out a client’s right to unbiased treatment and self-determination. Any person who enters into therapy to deal with issues of sexual orientation has a right to expect that such therapy would take place in a professionally neutral environment absent of any social bias. “
Now, I’m fully aware that those on the orthodox, fundamentalist, or whatever side don’t like this information. The fact is that out of the entire GLBT population, very few people have entered reparative therapy, and fewer still have exited it “successfully.” The most likely guess I have that these programs can have any success at all is not that they are successful in changing the orientation of their participants, but that they are successful on capitalizing on the internalized homophobia of their participants. They do this to such a degree that the self-loathing that most “pre-coming out GLBT people” have can make some surface level changes that last for some period of time, long or short.
If you cannot take the APA’s position, I would submit that you are not applying reason in your application of the scientific/medical communities’ view on this issue- do your own research to see the failure rates- independent of what Exodus (a so-called “ex-gay ministry”) and the like publish and you will see for yourself. Again, you do not have to take my word for it, nor the word of the LGBT lobby. You can do it yourself. I think that in and of itself says much of the lack of credibility of so-called “reparative” therapies. (Note: these ministries have “hired guns” that claim to be experts in mental health- they may try to refute specific facts. These “experts” are outliers. Do not mistake them with the greatest bodies of mental health professionals that do not believe in these treatments.) The facts do not lie. Listen to them.
15. Same-sex attraction and same-sex relationships should be recommended to our children as entirely equal to and as preferable as marriage between a man and woman. If any young person feels any same-sex attraction it is by God’s express intention and not to act upon it is to dishonor God. To discourage young people to act upon same-sex attraction is to dishonor God’s intention in the creation. The question is not whether young people should act on their same-sex attractions but when and under what circumstances. Young people who are experiencing same-sex attraction can be helped by being mentored by older same-sex attracted adults and the church should be proactive in facilitating these relationships.
There is a myth that gays are pedophiles, so let’s just dispel that right-off. There are more heterosexual pedophiles than homosexual pedophiles. Again, from the APA’s website: “Another myth about homosexuality is the mistaken belief that gay men have more of a tendency than heterosexual men to sexually molest children. There is no evidence to suggest that homosexuals are more likely than heterosexuals to molest children.”
So if this question is asked out of a fear that somehow gay men are dangerous to children, that is incorrect.
Now, if this question is asked out of a concern of how to give genuine pastoral care to GLBT youth, that is a different matter. It should be noted that adolescence is a difficult time anyway, and for GLBT youth it is doubly so. GLBT youth can feel doubly isolated due to their diferences from mainstream society. They may feel like they are the only ones in the world who feel the way they feel, the only ones who have ever gone through what they are going through, and that there is no hope for them to ever fit into society given that God created them to exist in this special way. As a result, the suicide rate among GLBT youth is much higher than it is among their straight counterparts. We are called, therefore, to give special pastoral care to our GLBT youth, to ensure that they have strong role models in the GLBT community- in the church community- for whom they can look up to, aspire to be like, and follow. Note that GLBT role-models have nothing to do with sexual behavior- this is about role-modeling. Just as African-American youth need African-American role models, Latino youth need Latino role models, and so on, so do GLBT youth need GLBT role-models. We are beginning to see them in society. We have gay and lesbian entertainers. We have gay and lesbian leaders in the church. It is not easy to find them, but with an intentional search it can be done. We do need to make it an easier process so that we can give our GLBT youth hope.
16. It is wrong for the Episcopal Church to dictate to any other province of the Anglican Church what its policy on same-sex relationships should be.
Yes. That is not to say, just as I have been saying here, that we should not be in dialogue with the other provinces on matters of sexuality. But it is quid pro quo. They should not tell us who we can consecrate as bishop, and we should do likewise. The essence of healthy relationship begins and ends with open dialogue and trust. The Holy Spirit must have room to work within that context.
17. It is wrong for any other province of the Anglican Communion to interfere with the leading of the Holy Spirit in this province. What the Holy Spirit demands at any particular time must be determined locally.
Yes, as I said, quid pro quo.
18. What the Holy Spirit is demanding must be determined provincially. Those dioceses which are members of the Episcopal Church and which resist the new teaching cannot legitimately be thought to be led by the Holy Spirit and must be resisted with all the canonical and legal means available.
This is a more difficult subject, because it is mitigated by the manner in which those dioceses have resisted. Had they resisted in good conscience, remained at the table, and legitimately tried to work from within to be conscientious objectors they would have my respect. But from what I have gathered, they have withdrawn, acted in anger and vitriol, not participated in common life, and tried as deparately as possible to be seen as victims rather than as working for the good of the church. (I realize that the same could be said of my side of the aisle at times- however, I’m going to ignore it for now.) That makes it much more difficult to have sympathy for them. Again, I think there seems to be a lack of trust to allow the Holy Spirit room to move- it has become political, a quest for power. That makes it difficult to understand how to find a path forward.
Personally, I would allow dissenting parishes the ability to take their property and leave while encouraging them to stay in love. I know that if my parish did not want to be a part of a new entity emerging from this, I would want to be able to take the church property with me. I would personally accord those who dissent the same respect. But the vitriol and disrepect shown by the dissenting clergy to their bishops as they have left has heightened emotions on all sides, and there are also logical and rational reasons not to do that which I understand.
19. A variety of interpretations of scripture can be tolerated in the church. The canons of the church especially with regard to the territorial integrity of Episcopal jurisdiction allow for no variation in interpretation.
Scriptural interpretation serves a different purpose than canonical law. Canonical law seeks to be the “Robert’s Rules of Order” of our common life together. Anglican life, since the days of Elizabeth, has not been about a uniform theology. She, in her wisdom, brought together the Catholic and the Protestant. Our source of community was in our worship and liturgy, not in our theology. That by definition allows for a variety of interpretations of scripture. The church canons govern how we go about that common life. So yes, canon law by its nature must govern how we act in community, and scriptural interpretation by its nature and by our tradition and history is something we have agreed to live together with differences so long as we do it together.
20. The proposal of the Archbishop of Canterbury for a new Anglican covenant and for churches to choose constituent or associate status in the communion represents a dire threat to capacity of the church to respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit. It represents the prospect of a quenching of the Spirit.
I’m not sure yet. I think the idea as he has proposed it is problematic not for the reasons you have outlined but because it elevates certain members and denigrates others. It is inconsistent with the tradition I have just reviewed of agreeing to live together in community with our differences so long as we do it together.
21. The General Convention of the Episcopal Church has been uniquely privileged to hear from the Holy Spirit in a way that has been denied to the rest of world wide Anglicanism, The Roman Catholic Church, The Orthodox Churches and Protestant Evangelicalism. The Episcopal Church must at all costs maintain its witness to the unique agency of the Holy Spirit in its midst. Those who oppose the new teaching are enemies of the Holy Spirit who are making an idol of the past at the expense of the future to which God is calling us.
While you may be right for Anglicanism proper, it isn’t true of the total experience of the Holy Spirit. At the same time TEC was taking action, the Presbyterian Church was opening ordained ministry to gays and lesbians. Methodists have been struggling with the same issues, and moving closer and closer (although more slowly) towards inclusion. We all know of the loving inclusion that the UCC brings to the table. Lutherans too show movement. The only ones who have not moved at all have been the staunch religious right- the fundamentalists and the Catholics, as well as the Anglicans of the southern hemisphere. I believe that to be for a clear purpose- the place where fundamentalists are on their journey requires a stability of purpose that does not allow change. I respect that – they are where they are. AND I cannot allow that to interfere with me moving forward on my journey. I also believe that I have a call to ensure that the marginalized GLBT people of the world do not suffer at the hands of spiritual violence as a result of someone else’s place on their journey- an “entrenchedness” in a place where change cannot happen.
These numbered observations above are my take on what the dominant party in the leadership of The Episcopal Church is saying. If I have not got it right I would like to know.
The Rev. Leander S. Harding, Ph.D.
July 4, 2006
In closing I would just say this- I know that it is discouraging to see the church turn in a direction that you do not like. That is the same pain that we GLBT folks felt as B033 passed in GC06 – in fact for many years prior to now as we lived our lives in silence, in the dark corners of the world in pain and suffering. The pain of not getting the direction from the church that you want is not an excuse to leave. It is not an excuse to become bitter. God calls us to do two things above all else: Love God, and love our neighbors (Matt 22:34-40). On this everything else hangs. We must always ask ourself what our motivation is for our actions, as Jesus calls us to view everything through this lens. If we cannot trace the motivation of our actions and behaviors- including those to our brothers and sisters within the church- back to love, then we have failed Jesus. There is ample failure all around us in the church. Not failure in theology, not failure in answering this question or that question the right or wrong way, but failure in how we are treating each other as we go through this journey of discovering God together. It is there that the real quest lies. It is there that we find the real God. It is not in a set of rules about sexual behavior. It is not in our bedrooms. It lies in our hearts.