Thursday, 31 July 2008

Costly Generosity

An article from today's Lambeth Witness from Neil and Steve:

In his second presidential address, Archbishop Rowan Williams called people on differing sides of the current debate to a place of “mutual generosity” rooted in their shared commitment to Jesus Christ. The cost of this generosity for the “not so traditional believer,” he stated, might be bearing up under “accusations of sacrificing the needs of an oppressed group for the sake of a false or delusional unity.”

In Canada, the Archbishop’s imagined accusations are not hypothetical but real and immediate. The cost of compromise is abandonment of ministry that is already taking place.

It seems that the Archbishop is asking parishes in the Diocese of New Westminster that currently offer canonically-authorised blessings of same-sex relationships to withdraw from that ministry. Several other Canadian dioceses are also very near to concluding their synodical processes and stand poised to affirm blessings; the Archbishop is asking these dioceses to cease and desist.

In other words, the hand of pastoral care currently being extended in good faith to Canadian LGBT Christians is to be snatched back. The Archbishop is suggesting that the entire Canadian church abandon its decades-long process of pastoral discernment which, ironically, was encouraged by Lambeth Conferences since 1978.

This costly generosity might seem reasonable – as it apparently does for Archbishop Rowan – if one fails to connect the actions of progressive bishops with the needs of people in their care. What was missing from the Archbishop’s address was any reflection on the actual needs of LGBT Christians. He seems to understand the sympathetic convictions of bishops who wish to move forward, but he seems not to understand that their actions are connected to real people with real needs.

It is reported that clergy in some other provinces bless same-sex unions regularly, though quietly (sometimes) and unofficially. Their unholy hypocrisy will now be rewarded – any moratorium will not apply to them. The Canadian Church, which has been honest and transparent about its process and intentions, will now bear the brunt of the Communion’s displeasure, the target of such retrograde attitudes as are maintained by the WCG report.

Canadians therefore wait with hope for words of encouragement from the Lambeth Conference concerning the pastoral care of LGBT Christians. The generosity that some are asking for is unreasonably expensive – what they are asking for is the sacrifice of our integrity.

No comments: