I know, I know: I just said I was done writing for a while. But I have had something on my mind lately and I’ve decided to write this post, so maybe I’m pulling a Barbra Streisand…

What has caught my eye lately is all of the political fuss over Geraldine Ferraro and the Clinton campaign—the allegations of sexism and racism and the furor it has generated. It seems to me that much of the same stuff gets roiled up in church politics: secular advocacy rolls over into the church because we don’t (and shouldn’t) compartmentalize our lives between what happens in the public square and what happens in our houses of worship.

Perhaps what should happen, though, that doesn’t happen as often, is that we should take our gospel values into the public square (keeping the separation of church and state distinct, for reasons I’ve discussed elsewhere). Those values, I think, shed some light on the problems that have been raised in the recent political campaigns. Namely, inequality in power and the resulting injustice cannot be solved by obtaining and using the same kind of power that originally created the inequality. To do so is a little bit like using the military to oust a military dictator in a coup, and then putting another dictator in his place. Perhaps the new dictator has a different face, but he is still a dictator. It does not fundamentally change the dynamic of the power structure. Read the rest of this entry »


Maryology 101 and Pluralism

October 24, 2007

I’ve been focused on Maryology lately– the theology of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

This ENS article reports on a report just released by a joint council between Anglican and Roman officials hoping to bridge differences between our respective Maryologies.

I’ve always been a little resistent to an elevated view of Mary– in that resistance I’ve always thought of the Catholic “Immaculate Conception” which holds Mary out to be perfect.  The linked document does a good job of describing the difference between the Immaculate Conception and Anglican theology while allowing us as Anglicans to get a significant contribution from Mary that is helpful particularly to women, I think, but also to everyone as we see someone chosen by God for a particular task who says “yes.”

One of the most important pieces of this report, though, will not get credit or attention, and that is something I want to lift up for consideration regarding the diversity of theological perspectives within the household of God, also known as pluralism (or even inclusion!!):

  • “Among Anglicans there is a range of beliefs about the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, including acceptance of them.” (In other words, Anglicans do not have to agree to remain Anglican.)
  • “Communion between our churches might better be understood not as uniformity in doctrinal formulations but as an embrace of difference within a common faith.”  (A very Anglican concept– I wonder how the Roman Catholics agreed to this, or whether the Vatican/Pope would agree?)
  • “…the faithful of both our churches may deepen their understanding of the faith we hold in common while also recognizing the different ways we have received and practice that faith.”  (Again, very Anglican.  The last pronouncement from the Vatican sounded nothing like this, and if we submit to that pronouncement we undermine our own Protestant tradition in an effort to capitalize on our orthodox heritage; it is the via media that makes us Anglican.)

It is clear that the recent shift towards defining ecumenicism as unity with Roman Catholicism, diverting our attention away from Protestant and interfaith relations, would be much better served if we would take these three points to heart.

In fact, Anglicanism itself would be well served if we would take these three points to heart!


Here is an article about the internal strife of the HRC in their recent decision not to oppose the watered down ENDA bill on the table in Washington (they decided not to oppose the bill despite the fact that transgendered people have now been dropped from it).

As I wrote here, nobody wins when we go fo the so-called “realist” view of looking to the ends and giving up our principles in the process.

Of course the HRC is not a religious organization, and can hardly be expected to make decisions using theological principles.  But the internal struggle does reflect that the embedded good in each of us gives us a struggle when we try to make trade-offs.


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 »

Phillipians is currently in the readings for the Daily Office.

One of Paul’s concerns in this letter is that the audience be of one mind.

I have heard this used in our current situation to describe a certain requirement for uniformity of doctrine within the church.  What a mistake. Read the rest of this entry »

Yesterday I wrote on the Anglican Communion.

I just watched this wonderful video of Presiding Bishop KJS on the upcoming House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans.  In it, she mentions the reactionary use of the word “schism.”

That got me to thinking that her perspective ties in greatly with what I had to say yesterday about community. Some work really hard to come with very rigid boundaries around community.  In Susan Russell’s words, “feeding on the bread of anxiety.”  I certainly do not hope to feed that hunger.

It is no wonder that for those so insatiable with anxiety the only choice when such a “rigid boundary” of community is violated is to call such a violation “schism.”  One pictures, when using these definitions of Church (ekklesia, democractic assembly, community), that one is bounced outside at the first sign of disagreement with some doctrinal and rigid code.  Some family!  (Feels very much like the kind of family that would bounce you outside the door upon telling them that you are gay…) Read the rest of this entry »

I am reading Constantine’s Sword by James Carroll and it is fascinating.  I’m sure I’ll be unpacking the contents for years, but what’s on my mind today is this:  the connection between the way the early church defined itself and the exclusion of today’s church.  Today’s church is having a very difficult time reclaiming the core teachings of Jesus– the exclusionary and judgemental teachings that the institution has built up around Christianity– which I do not believe are part of the message of Jesus nor of the basic Judaism that he built upon– have gotten in the way of the true teachings of the religion.

Only in the past year or so have I started to put together the connections between the oppression of the Jewish people by the Roman empire, Jesus’ Jewishness, the anti-imperial message of Jesus, and the ironic twist in the plot of Constantine’s conversion to Christianity which gave power to the Church– the same power to the same empire which had persecuted Jesus and his fellow Jews for so many years. Read the rest of this entry »