The Ethics of the Communion

September 30, 2007

It occurred to me this morning that the broken ethics that surround the whole debacle in the Anglican Communion are just not getting the attention they deserve.

How can the Archbishop of Canterbury– the focal instrument of unity in the third largest Christian sect in the entire world– have a set of Christian ethics that does this:

Proposes a utilitarian scheme that weighs the “good” of continued relationship with other “like-minded” (although we really mean “similar in worship practices and historical tradition” more than “like-minded”) Christians against the “good” to be gained from holding to justice as as we in the Episcopal Church perceive it relative to our GLBT members?

Of course, if we were working strictly within the Episcopal Church I might have more sympathy for him.  Our polity is set up to make utilitarian debate productive.  We have a hard time in our polity doing anything but coming to a single binary outcome after carefully weighing two sets of polar opposite considerations.

But the Archbishop of Canterbury?  Especially one with his credentials?  Isn’t he supposed to know better?  I mean, come on.  I’m only a second year seminarian and the dangers of utilitarian ethics have already been pounded into my head.

Utilitarian ethics focus on the ends which justify the means; it seeks the most good for the most people in a systematic way (screw the rest).  They are typically opposed in ethical debate to “rule-based” or deontological ethics, where the means (the duty) are the most important no matter what the ends (like our friend the Rt. Rev. Peter Akinola, for whom homosexuality is evil because the Bible says so– it is divine rule; who cares whether it ends in a beautiful relationship).

The better Christian alternative is virtue ethics, where, when considering two alternatives, we are able to call all of that “good divine essence” that is given to us from the divine in our creation and hold up the virtue of Christ in our decision making.  Would Christ have forced a trade-off as ++Rowan did?  When did Christ ever say that “Communion” was more important than justice, or changing the dynamic of the power structure for the disenfranchised?  When did Christ ever prioritize the continuity of the religious establishment over justice? Read the rest of this entry »

Bishop’s Responses

September 27, 2007

The Episcopal Cafe is tracking bishops responses to their New Orleans’ push of GLBT people to the back of the bus.

Read it here.

j

From MSNBC news/AP…

TEHRAN, Iran – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s comment that there are no gays in Iran was cut out of official Farsi transcripts of his appearance at Columbia University Monday.

Read the whole story here.

j

Let California Ring

September 26, 2007

For something a little more uplifting, watch this new promo for a NGLTF campaign in California.

For more information, click here.

j

Life Goes On

September 26, 2007

As we sort through the mess of yesterday we can’t forget tomorrow.

Contact your senator now to urge a yes vote tomorrow on hate crimes legislation.

j

Putting things in perspective

September 26, 2007

I know that I’m still sorting out my feelings this morning– sorting everything out from my response to the HOB to my response to the various responses.

One article that has helped me in that endeavor is this article in the Telegraph.  Despite its horrible title, the operative line for me was this:

“Dr Williams is now expected to call the bluff of hardline conservatives who have threatened to boycott next year’s showcase Lambeth Conference in Canterbury if the liberal American bishops are also there.”

Calling the bluff of the conservatives is an important thing to do.  While the hardening of the language of B033 was a disappointing loss (to say the least), we had no real other setbacks.  We had no official rites for same-sex blessings and the bishops know that they couldn’t develop them until GC09 anyway.  When the real deliberative body meets in Anaheim, all bets are off as we move forward on the goals Integrity set out here.  As a colleague of mine set to me yesterday, “bishops are just politicians.  You can’t take them too seriously.”

I agree and disagree. But at any event their words have real impact on our lives.  Whether this is a real political gain or loss is largely an irrelevant question- the House of Bishops cannot enact canon law without the House of Deputies so in one sense their resolutions are largely symbolic.

So it is the symbolism that is important.  It is the effect on people’s lives; our self-perceptions; our identity as it relates to our place at the table, and that is my concern.

Right now my heart goes out to all those who feel slighted, whether they “should” be or not, because they feel disenfranchised, because they feel wounded, they feel crucified.

It is hard to hope in the darkness, but the dark of the tomb always becomes the dark of the womb in our religion, and we have much in this document to indicate a commitment to that transformation, to that new birth and growth.  Right now we may be in the tomb, but someday we still must hope for that transformation– even if that day is not today.

j

And the fat lady sings…

September 25, 2007

The word is in, and you can find Integrity’s official response at Walking With Integrity.

On a different note, I went to a wonderful lecture tonight at my seminary’s lecture series.  Diana Butler-Bass was the speaker (incidentally, she’s not the fat lady, the fat lady is the Big Easy and the HOB mtg).

A metaphor she used in her speech was from a story she was once told of a town which received 100 inches of rain in a few days.  There was a wonderful old bridge in the town spanning a river.  The miracle was that the bridge survived the storm!  It was intact.  Unfortunately, the river, swollen with the 100 inches of rain, moved away from the bridge and no longer ran under it.  The townspeople had a choice.  They could either continue to service the bridge as it was– which was no longer over the river– or figure out how to make it cross the river in its new location.

The bridge represents the church, and the river culture.  The torrent of rain is the rate of change of society in modernity.

Some want to insist that the bridge is fine where it is.  Others insist we do not need a bridge at all because we can use boats.  But most want to continue to use the bridge but to make it relevant given that the river has moved.

It was a wonderful lecture.

It couldn’t have come at a better time for me personally.

Take what you will from it and its relevance today as you will.

If you want to buy her book, you can get Christianity for the Rest of Us here.

j