Wednesday, 30 July 2008

"End the madness!"

The ups and downs of the past several days in Canterbury have been almost nauseatingly abrupt, like a midway ride out of control. First came the intense anger and disappointment of the Windsor Continuation Group report; about which we reported on below. Then came the Archbishop of Canterbury's second presidential address, which offered real reasons for hope and understanding. Today, further reflection on the address - what wasn't said, as well as what was - has led to renewed anxieties about the future of pastoral care for Canadian LGBT Christians.

Whether or not these anxieties are shared by Canadian bishops here is a matter of speculation, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were. After all, Dr. Williams' comments explicitly painted the issue as one of "sexual ethics," pointedly avoiding any mention of the extra-provincial incursions, which are acting like a knife attempting to cut parishes out of their home dioceses. He also made a point of reiterating his support for an Anglican covenant - and it is more and more apparant that his notion of a covenant is one which includes punishments for those dioceses and provinces which refuse to toe some extra-provincial doctrinal line.

Today I heard an address by Dr. Jenny Te Pa, a former member of the Lambeth Commission, which produced the Windsor Report. About the Windsor Continuation Group, she described their recommendations as coming "out of left field," and asked, "How can you continue something and not even be in conversation with the people who started it?" And about the whole debate in general, she characterised it as not being about sexuality at all, but about "who gets to be the pope of the Anglican Communion." She stressed that the best way to confront "bully bishops" was to "call their bluff," otherwise what she called the Communion's current "tribal politics" would continue.

Perhaps what resonated most with me from Dr. Te Pa's remarks was her obvious exasperation and sorrow over the amount of energy and resources that have been poured into this debate, diverting us from the real mission and ministry of the Church, and thus undermining our credibility in the world. "We just need to end the madness," she said of this protracted debate. "Let's just agree we're all God's children, our baptisms are all valid, and get on with it!" I, too, am often sick at heart with the way our Church has enabled parochial (and I use that in both senses of the word) insularity; and a substitution of power politics for real ministry. There have been times I've been tempted to say, "I don't want to be a member of this debating club anymore," and find some other outlet for my energy and time in what remaining years God may grant me.

The fact is, though, that what we are talking about is not, indeed sexuality - nor even who wants to be the pope of the Anglican Communion. What we struggle and strive for is the full inclusion of the most vulnerable, the most outcast, the most oppressed. Not simply gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people - but the woman beaten, raped, and outcast from her community; the child dying from a disease that could be cured by a simple drug; the religious or political minority imprisoned and tortured. If we sacrifice one person because of who they are, what they experience, or what they believe, we are defying the teachings and commission of Jesus; and making unclean what God has made clean.

Neil Fernyhough

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