Thursday, March 01, 2007

Tonight's Special: Tolerance, Smothered in Weak Sauce

In the middle of last month, the Anglican Communion primates met in Africa and issued an ultimatum to the Episcopal Church (its U.S. "branch"), asserting that if the Episcopal Church does not discontinue ordaining gay priests and performing gay marriages by September 30th, 2007, it will essentially be barred from "full participation" in the church. This has been brewing for the last four years or so, since the Episcopals began ordaining gay priests and allowing congregations flexibility to perform gay marriages.

Yesterday, in an act of stupendous cowardice, Kathline Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop, told 2 million Episcopalians that they should comply with this ultimatum. Now I recognize that we all regularly find ourselves in situations where we must tolerate the opinions and actions of others with whom we share common ground. In our personal lives, we may be compelled to tolerate or resign ourselves to the political beliefs of our parents, spouse, boss, etc. In my case, I often find that, to preserve solidarity and coalitions, I have to make peace with incremental reformers and latte liberals in order to remain an active participant in Democratic politics. I imagine that many SEIU members, and perhaps UNITE HERE members as well, have resigned themselves to accepting a somewhat watered-down immigration stance in exchange for a real seat at the table on immigration policy.

So I can understand why a progressive Episcopalian would not resign their membership in the Anglican Church, just as I can understand why a pro-choice woman would decide to take communion (not to mention any number of other examples). What I cannot understand, or for that matter stomach, is arguing that we should change our beliefs to retain our membership. One way or another, the Anglican Communion is trying to expunge the institutions and people that hold progressive views from its ranks. They want to kick you out for your beliefs, and your response is not to assert your right to membership and your beliefs, but rather, to buckle under, degrading both in the process.

With apologies to any Episcopalians out there, that frankly disgusts me. To position a "hunger for clarity" and an "intensity" of feeling as detrimental, as dangerous, in a religious context, simply seems disengenuous. After all, the Anglican primates aren't having any trouble with clarity -- they've made their views, and the intensity of their feeling about them, quite clear. I think it demeans Episcopalians to request from them more patience and less passion in the pursuit of Jesus's teachings. And to say that "We are being asked to pause in the journey, not to go back," is so flagrant a lie that I can't imagine how she kept a straight face. Tell that to the gay and lesbian Episcopalians currently in seminary. Tell that to the ones that have already been ordained, and to their congregations. It'd be like if, in 1967, Congress had come back to black Americans and said: "Look, I know you have voting rights now, but what with all the rioting and racial violence, we want to suspend them for a bit until we figure out a solution. It's not a step back for justice, it's just a pause until we can figure out how to live in harmony."

I admit that I feel rather uncomfortable judging the actions of one of the most progressive church leaders in the United States, and a critical ally in the fight for marriage equality and gay rights. And I don't presume to argue that those LGBT concerns should supercede the integrity and existence of the church. But how long can the church continue if it sacrifices its integrity and betrays its members? History would tell us, "A whole hell of a long time," but I prefer to ignore that. Here's hoping the Episcopal Executive Council and the House of Bishops will do the right thing.

Otherwise, they'll have to change their motto to: "The Episcopal Church [Conditionally] Welcomes You...Now with 50% Weaker Sauce!"

1 comment:

Not a Flaneur, I Just Walk A lot said...

Who are you calling a primate?