Thursday, September 06, 2007

Silence

As the September 30th deadline approaches things are getting heated up. More bishops are being consecrated by African provinces, more talk is getting extreme. It’s getting to the point where I have slacked off following events and reading comments on blogs. However, I have been silently watching for too long – and anyone who knows me knows that it is unusual for me to be silent for long periods of time.

Some thoughts:

As much as I have respect for the episcopacy, why are bishops being consecrated. We hear of the bishops but what about the priests. It appears to me that the movement is starting in the wrong place – from the top down. Shouldn’t it be going from the ground up? Shouldn’t there be at least a solid group for the bishops to minister to? It has me very puzzled. Okay, the Africans are setting up missions in the states. From what I remember of my Canadian church history classes – the English did not send over bishops first but rather missionaries. When the need arose for a bishop on Canadian soil, one was consecrated. So why are bishops being consecrated for the States before the need for them arises? What does this say about the intent? What does this say about the motives driving this? In all honesty, to me it says nothing positive or Christian. I shall just leave it at that.

There are reports out of Africa – Nigeria to be specific – of horrible comments made by Bishop Orama of Nigeria. I think of the women and men I have the honour of knowing, especially through Integrity, and shake my head at the rhetoric. “Inhuman” – part of the irony is that not so many years ago people like the African bishop who calls gays and lesbians “inhuman” and not worthy of life were considered those very same things.

It is common that those who were oppressed take on the characteristics of the oppressors when they gain their freedom. We see this so often in the cycles of domestic abuse. We see it when nations gain their independence. And we see it in the very statements made by this African bishop. He has learned his lessons well.

But most astoundingly is the remarkable silence of certain factions of our church regarding the meaning of the statement. A fair amount has been said about the dangers of such a statement, but not much has been said about the wrongness in the meaning. This also puzzles me for I count many among my friends and colleagues who do not have the same understanding of full inclusion of my GLBT brothers and sisters and yet not one of them would ever consider calling GLBTs inhuman or not worthy of life. Why is there such a deafening silence as to the meaning of the statement from the more vocal?

I note that on Father Jake’s there have been some attempts to deflect by pointing out that nothing has ever been done to John Spong (I also note that he (John Spong) has sent a letter to Rowan Williams and I cringe.) What Spong has said or done has no bearing on what Bishop Orama of Nigeria has said. If one wants to question the lack of reining Spong in that is fine. There are times when I almost wish he could be silenced or at least that he would be far more diplomatic in his words and actions. But Bishop Spong has nothing to do with what Bishop Orama said. It is two separate issues and need to be dealt with as two separate issues. It is not okay for Bishop Orama to say what he did just because Bishop Spong has said and done what he has said and done. To try and deflect the words of the Nigerian bishop with such an issue does not address the issue. The issue is that some very damaging statements were made that could lead to bodily harm – painful death at its worst and shunning at the least and there is significant silence from the various leaders throughout the Anglican Communion on the issue. Where is Peter Akinola? Where is Rowan Williams? Where is Katharine (sp) Jefferts Schori? Where is Fred Hiltz? Where are statements made to counteract the statements by Orama to reassure our GLBT brothers and sisters that this statement does not reflect the mind of the Communion or the various provinces?

Of course, we don’t want to make a mountain out of what we perceive as mole hills and our leaders probably believe and hope that this will blow over. But each time something like this is said, another nail pierces the hearts and souls of those being spoken about. We realize that this bishop is not speaking the mind of the majority of the Communion but more noticeable than his words is the silence greeting them. There has to come a time when those in leadership positions stand up and say that this has gone to far. It has happened with TEC and New West. Why is it not happening with statements such as Orama’s?

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Update:
Thoughts from blogland (Some of these are thanks to Father Jake's site):
Elizabeth Keaton
Mark Harris
Anglican Scotist
Susan Russell and this
Davis Mac-Iyalla
Scott Gunn

7 comments:

Doorman-Priest said...

Hi, there is a bit of a debate going on on The World of Doorman-Priest and I am feeling a bit in need of moral support. Care to join me?
Blessings
D.P.

Thomas+ McKenzie said...

Hello,

Happened upon this post on your blog, glad to read it.

I am a priest in the Anglican Mission in America. That means that my archbishop is in Africa, while I am in the U.S. There are scores and scores of priests and deacons in the Anglican Mission, and thousands of lay people, and only five bishops (and only three actively oversee churches). We are in desperate need of more bishops to oversee us.

So, in answer to your question about "why bishops?", I can assure you that the lay people and the priests are already here. The bishops are being consecrated in order to assist the grassroots movement already underway, and we are thankful for them.

Remember, these bishop are Americans, not Africans being "sent over." As the ECUSA continues to unravel, and as laypeople leave it, we will need more and more ordained leaders to pastor them.

As to the comments attributed to Bishop Orama. He has stated that he did not make those statements. The news service that published them has retracted them, and the reporter who reported them has retracted them and apologized. Unfortunately, once a rumor gets started on the internet, it is nearly impossible to stop.

If he had said those things, he would have been in sin. Those things were hateful and evil, and I for one would never want to be associated with them. Of course, I wouldn't want to be associated with some of the things that have come out of the mouths of many bishops through the ages.

I hope that clarifies things a bit. It is a messy time for us down here, and we all need your prayers.

Thanks,

Thomas McKenzie

Tim Chesterton said...

Anne Marie, if you will check my blog and Joe Walker's blog you will see that we both spoke out about this. The silence was not as deafening as you claim. Of course, you were not explicit about what you meant by 'certain factors of our church', so you may not have been meaning the ordinary rank and file priests, I don't know.

Ann Marie said...

Sorry Tim. You're right. I wasn't explicit and I did mean silence from the higher ups. Most of the priests around here, as much as we may differ in many ways, would have spoken against what was said as well

I am also aware that disclaimers have been made as to the accuracy of the reporting on the Bishop Orama statements. But then I am aslo aware of some inconsistencies etc around exactly what is was said in the first place and what was disclaimed. However, one is innocent until proven guilty and therefore I will give him the benefit of the doubt. Suffice it to say that whether or not he said what it was claimed he said there are statements coming out agaisnt gays and lesbians which are downright misinformed and do little to help the present dialogue or living situations.

On the consecrating of bishops, thank you for your clarification Thomas. I will have to reconsider my assumptions. Part of the problem is the lack of concrete and clear information. I know that a number of attempts have been made to do numbers (and in all honesty - I dislike the number game intensely) and that it has been a difficult task. We hear more about bishops than we do layity. It might be a perception that some groups want to check into clearing up.

Tim Chesterton said...

Ann Marie, there may also be a difference between Africa and North America about the role of bishops. I can't remember which African province it was (it might have been Nigeria) which some years ago consecrated 14 missionary bishops to go into the northern region of their country and evangelise and plant churches. This understanding of episcopacy sees bishops as truly apostolic, in the sense of being 'sent as missionaries', rather than our more settled western Christendom tradition. Of course, this has honourable Anglican precedent. Did not the Pope first send Augustine to Britain as a missionary and evangelist?

Ann Marie said...

I can see your point, Tim. And being a descendant of Bertha and her husband (we trace through the female line), Augustine has a special place in my heart. My father also attended St. Augustine's College in Canterbury in the early '60's.

I always run into difficulties, a chronic problem for someone of a "liberal" bent between acknowledging differences in cultures and having respect for those difference while very aware that my ancestors did not have such respect for the cultures they imposed themselves on so what right do I have for decrying interference.

It is not that I'm sitting on the fence on these issues, I know firmly where I stand. It does not mean that I am not aware of inconsitancies as well as pots calling kettles black on both sides. On the one hand, I want us to move ahead on the issue of human sexuality (and I will admit that it is not only about gays and lesbians - I have a huge problem with diocese and provinces that do not recognize my orders soley because I am a woman. I recognize their right to do so but am frustrated by what I see as their blindness which lessens the person I am in their eyes. And no, one cannot say that they respect women and value women and agree that they are created equally and then deny us the chance - notice I do not see it as a right - to serve God in the manner in which God calls us. So for me, the issue is more complicated than full inclusion of GLBT.). I want those in Africa and those in TEC and those in Canada ( we had a portion of a parish break away in this diocese and I have a close friend in another diocese who had a portion of her parish break away as well) to respect the ancient understanding of respect for diocesan boundaries. In other words, I want my cake and eat it too.

I will point out, however, that when Augustine came to England it was not poaching on other ground (since, theoretically, there were no other denominations.) But then my mind gets muddled by the knowledge that the Celtic church was in existence and having a strong resonnance with what we now call Celtic spirituality, I am somewhat resentful of Rome's intrusion.

Tim Chesterton said...

Very little disagreement with you there, Ann Marie.

Actually, as an Anglican with strong roots in the evangelical tradition, I'm somewhat mystified by this new interest in having your bishop on your 'side'. When the evangelical revival started in the eighteenth century, a lot of the bishops were deists! The Bishop of London refused to have his carriage and horses seen publicly outside the rectory in Clapham (home of evangelical rector John Venn)! So I'm not sure why it's suddenly so important to evangelicals to have bishops who agree with them.