From +++Rowan: Challenge and Hope for the Anglican Communion (??!!)

January 29, 2007

As usual, this is my own analysis and not that of any organization I affiliate with. 

From this June, 2006 Press Release, Archbishop of Canterbury:

“It is imperative to give the strongest support to the defence of homosexual people against violence, bigotry and legal disadvantage, to appreciate the role played in the life of the church by people of homosexual orientation…”

Contrasted with this January, 2007 Press Release, regarding the possible adoption in England of broad anti-discrimination laws protecting sexual orientation from discrimination, Archbishop of Canterbury and Archbishop of York:

“It is vitally important that the interests of vulnerable children are not relegated to suit any political interest.”

That was followed by the continuing revelations as reported in the Telegraph this morning that there is at least one person in Lambeth who sees things the way the Rt. Rev. Marshall of Bethlehem, PA sees it:  “I cannot help but anticipate that [++Rowan] will be remembered as having chosen a path that was not courageous or well-defined and actually fostered schism.”

++Rowan has written a lot about culture.  I don’t presume to know enough about English culture to know how to respond to his position against gay adoption– partially because it is written in typically English vaguery (another cultural difference) and partially because I don’t fully get the cultural significance of his comments on the issue.  Of course if it was in the U.S. I would be appalled at the insinuation that GLBT families might have any different considerations than any other families, as it feeds the myth that pedophilia and pederasty occurs more in gay and lesbian people than it does elsewhere.  Of course this is just blatant nonsense, hogwash, rubbish.  We make excellent parents, mediocre parents, even bad parents– just like straight people do.  Our orientation has no effect on our parenting ability.

But I do get that it seems to be in full contradiction with his earlier statement that the church must be in full support of ending legal discrimination.  That I get.

I also get that to make such a divisive statement at a time when the issue itself is so polarizing– both here and in the U.K.–  calls into question all of the issues raised in the Telegraph article.

Further, in Challenge and Hope (the June, 2006 press release) the Archbishop revealed even last summer his true flaw.  He doesn’t seem to get what I wrote about here after learning it as a piddly little first year seminarian: all religion is local.  The Archbishop talks lovingly about the glories of Roman Catholic centralism after talking about the conversation between cultures in a global context:  “We believe we have useful and necessary questions to explore with Roman Catholicism because of its centralised understanding of jurisdiction and some of its historic attitudes to the Bible.” 

He doesn’t seem to get the realities of the postmodern world.  He forgets the devastating effect the Roman Catholic authority has had historically because of its monolithic and narrow view– because of its very centralization.  When one authority dominates, so does one culture, almost necessarily.  I’m reminded of my January term on Mexican American ministry, and our visits to the San Antonio missions:  the Spanish Roman Catholic missioners imposed not only their religion on the native indigenous people, but also their Western European culture.  How often do we hear of missions to other countries doing the same thing?

Isn’t the Nigerian/Ugandan objection to us really a lack of understanding of our culture?  Isn’t the American conservative response to gays and lesbians a lack of ability to respond to the changing culture?  Isn’t that response similar to those who could not respond positively to abolition in the civil war and women’s suffrage after that (generally speaking due to “religious convictions”)?  It seems that the Archbishop, for all his knowledge of it, still has something to learn from history.

The Archbishop quotes history often (check out his long list of speeches and sermons here).  The Telegraph summarizes +Marshall’s position this way: “just because he is ‘so smart’ doesn’t mean his approach is right.”  He repeatedly fails to understand that the reason the Church of England is shrinking is because the Church is trying to maintain an authoritative role over culture, instead of engaging modern culture where it is.  Religion and culture have always been in conversation, not domination, when the church has been most successful.  I have a (rather lengthy) article about how I think we can be more effective in ministry and in the church here.

I’m all for the church catholic– I think that which divides us is our own sin.  But I don’t want a pope.  I don’t want a Roman Catholic global monolithic culture.  I embrace the differences which make us unique.  Conversations about and celebrations of those differences.  THAT is the identity that I seek.  To try and assume we can all assimilate into one “Anglican Identity” culture is a non-starter– once we understand ++Rowan’s perspective of what that seems to mean: authority and assimilation.

It is imperative to give the strongest support to the defence of homosexual people against violence, bigotry and legal disadvantage…

The strongest support?  Is that what it was that he did?

As we in the Episcopal Church try to heed the call to reconciliation AND give the the strongest support to all the baptised, perhaps we will just be able to teach the Archbishop a thing or two about how we can both find Communion and Support.  And hopefully we’ll be able to do it WITHOUT a pope.



9 Responses to “From +++Rowan: Challenge and Hope for the Anglican Communion (??!!)”

  1. FrMichael Says:

    Interesting that you have written several posts condemning imposing beliefs on people, then write approvingly of the British proposal that will basically take the Catholic Church in Britain out of the adoption business.

    You (and the Laborites) would have a stronger argument if the Catholic Church held a monopoly on adoptions, but since She doesn’t there (or in the US) these strictures are only being proposed out of animus against Catholicism.

  2. FrMichael Says:

    Oops, should have typed that in the next article.

  3. Jeff Says:

    That’s exactly the kind of comment that forsakes the cultural context I’m talking about– it indicates a lack of cultural understanding in the way you framed it. I have been attempting to define an ethical and theological framework that allows conservatives to stay where they are while allowing the rest of us to move forward.

    I have tried to say that inclusion is best; even inclusion of a conservative/anti-inclusionary position (contradictory as it may seem) but the line stops when the anti-inclusionary perspective projects its point of view on others.

    Because the anti-inclusionary point of view (Roman Catholic position against gay adoption, in this case) has such a strong position in the English adoption /social system, I can understand that in a culture where separation of church and state is quite different than the U.S. perspective this move is being embraced by the government.

    In the U.S. it would have been presented differently– it would have been done by legalizing gay adoption, and allowing private adoption agencies to make their own decisions about selection. Because our adoption system does not over-rely on any one private religious agency to serve children without parents this system can work. But this situation wasn’t in the U.S.– this was the U.K.

    Again, its all about the context.


  4. FrMichael Says:

    Jeff: What are you saying?

    The RCC does not hold a monopoly on adoptions in the UK– a distinct minority of adoptions occur through Catholic adoption agencies. There would be no effect on a gay Briton trying to adopt a child except that he couldn’t involve the Catholic Church in doing so.

    Gay adoption is already legal in the UK and British law currently allows private agencies to make their own decisions about selection. The new proposed legislation would end the Catholics’ ability to make their own decision.

  5. Jeff Says:

    From the Guardian:

    “Catholic adoption agencies accounted for around 4% of the 2,900 children put up for adoption last year, many of them older and more difficult to place. Catholics argue that their strong opposition to abortion places a higher moral duty on them to be willing to adopt, or to act as agencies for adoption. They have been willing to place children with single gay parents, but not couples.”

    4% is a pretty high figure for a single institution. Particularly when they are disadvantaged children, and gay men in particular are known for adopting special needs children. How dare the Catholic Church turn any child away from a loving home and let her suffer in an orphanage without the love and support of parents just because of outdated and hateful theological principles.

    That is not a culture of life– that is a culture of oppression.


  6. FrMichael Says:

    “4% is a pretty high figure for a single institution.” ??

    That’s remarkably low in my book: I would have expected a figure much higher. Catholics represent far higher than 4% of the British population (8.5% by a quick Google check). Unless concrete evidence is produced that high needs children are languishing in terrible orphanages because the other 96% of British adoption agencies are unable to do placements, I stand by my statement that this legislation is more aimed at recalcitrant minorities like Catholics rather than the unmet needs of society.

  7. Jeff Says:

    Even if it is, I’m not prepared to make a judgment as I am not immersed in British culture and have no idea what all the possible ramifications of the legislation are.

    The secularization of Europe, for example, most likely has a profound effect on such legislation. The Archbishop of Canterbury has acknowledged that religious attendance, observance, and influence is growing in the rest of the world while it continues to diminish in Europe.

    That could have an impact on the need to administer certain legalities within the context of the social services system.

    Without being completely aware of the cultural context, it is difficult to say.

    How much time have you spent living in England, Fr. Michael?

  8. obadiahslope Says:

    “4% is a pretty high figure for a single institution.”
    There are 12 catholic adoption agencies involved in this dispute.
    It not a major point, i know.

  9. FrMichael Says:

    Jeff, I’ve not spent one minute in the UK. My info comes from online news sources and some English parishioners of mine.

    Everybody’s motives are clear for all to see here. Admirably, unlike the fog American politicians place over everything, the British politicians’ motives are clear. Nobody has claimed that the existing arrangements somehow violate current British or EU law. There will be no change to the status quo in British adoptions save for the departure of Catholic agencies from the scene. That is the only effect and it is the only intended effect.

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