Although I am somewhat optimistic about the WWAC after the release of the sub-committee’s report on TEC’s reflections and efforts on the Windsor Report, I am left with a little sense of something nagging at me. I’m not even sure if I can put it into words.
Of course, I’m not a great one for fully understanding phrasing and implications of reports so I may be misreading things. My sense, as I read the report and responses to it, is that it may be okay to leave TEC in the WWAC because it has decided not to move forward on the issue of human sexuality. Don’t get me wrong – I really am not an all or nothing type of person. I deal with compromises every day of my life. I am concerned, though, about the possible idea that the only way to stay in the WWAC is to stop forward movement on a matter of justice and human rights. I realize that putting it that way is moving out of the realm of concern for a number of people who think the matter is only scriptural in base and then point to the only relevant scriptures being less than ten texts rather than the Bible as a whole. As far as moral grounds, what is moral about ignoring matters of justice and human rights due to the fact that one perceives they are against a small number of texts of scripture when the a look at the Bible as a whole appears to negate the more traditional understandings of those texts?
Martin Luther King’s letter from the Birmingham jail keeps running through my mind.
“I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection. …
Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with an its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured. …
I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: "An Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth." Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely rational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this 'hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”
I guess that I was one of the few people in the Anglican Church of Canada that felt a small pang of regret when we reached a settlement on the residential school issue. It wasn’t that I really wanted the church as we knew to be dissolved, but it was the possibilities that existed if we did indeed need to rise out of the ashes. What shape would that church take based on lessons learned from the past? I knew it wouldn’t be easy but we also wouldn’t be clinging to the things that made teaching and acting the gospel of love so difficult to do. I didn’t want to throw out the baby with the bath water, but there was a wonderful opportunity to reflect on what being a church really meant and what did we as Anglicans in Canada really want to do as a church.
As I listen to early reflections on the sub-committee’s report, it all seems to uphold the status quo. And for me, as for many of our gay brothers and sisters, the status quo is not acceptable. Where is the justice in maintaining the status quo that would see these brothers and sisters as not fully a part of our church. Although they are welcomed in the doors and at the communion table – both major signs of acceptance – they are not fully welcomed as long as there are aspects of our faith life from which they are barred. As long as we deny them the right to having their marriages blessed or to be ordained while in an active relationship (that is blessed by the church), we are not welcoming them fully into the church.
I applaud TEC’s attempts to respond to the Windsor Report while trying to maintain integrity with their own understanding of how the Spirit is moving them (and others) forward on the issue of human sexuality but it could come at the expense of a number of people and it is that which concerns me.
I end up in a tension. I want dearly for my gay friends to be fully accepted into the life of the church for I see God at work in their lives and God’s blessing in their relationships. But it is hard to move forward out of the wreckage of a past. I do value the WWAC and I do want to be a member for it, in many ways, facilitates carrying out Jesus’ commandment and commission to us all. But to do so at the expense of many that I have come to know and love calls into question what is more important. I remain torn but I have to admit that if I had to choose between maintaining the status quo and moving forward to create a more inclusive church the latter would take precedent.
Of course I need to remind myself that all this is pure speculation and that I am not aware of all that is happening. I do continue to pray.