Several weeks (and months) later, it’s still rather astounding to read some of the Presiding Bishop’s more recent public addresses together. Not that this activity encourages virtue, mind you. But it does reveal the confused and chaotic state of American Anglicanism in which our leaders insist not just on forging a dramatic new progressive course for what’s left of the Christian West, but also on demeaning their theological opponents as much as possible.
As critics of the now-departed parishes and dioceses will quickly point out, the “replacement” strategy was quite apparent from the start: conservatives hoped to form a new entity which would rapidly supersede the Episcopal Church as the legitimate Anglican body in North America. At times the rhetoric in this regard implied that this should happen because the Episcopal Church was no longer a legitimate Church, and that her members were simply no longer Christians. Sometimes I wonder how many in the leadership at 815 would be truly bothered by those charges (do they consider us to be a Church? is it particularly important to be Christian over and above being Episcopalian?), but they are nonetheless a real affront to most folks in the pews.
Whether that charge, or that offense, stands in any way parallel to its response, is quite another question. As Jordan Hylden points out over at First Things, a comparison of recent sermons in Curaçao and Charleston suggests a deep cognitive dissonance: one the one hand we are supposed to abide any degree of diversity (even the demonic); on the other hand, in practice, those who disagree with us are so frightening, so other, that we have to put them in the same category (non-human, monstrous, diabolical) as child-murderers.
Plenty of space (probably too much) has been given to the Curaçao sermon already. (See Bishop Dan Martins’ piece here.) But to that and Charleston we should add, I think, a third interesting statement, the one given after the Supreme Court ruling on DOMA. The Living Church has it here. As Bishop Ed Little has recently pointed out, the Presiding Bishop’s statement was refreshing in its graciousness. Amazingly, she acknowledges that there are diverse opinions on sexuality, both in America and in the Episcopal Church.
Here is an excerpt from the end:
Together we can help to build up the whole community, particularly if we have the courage to listen deeply to those who hold a different view. The Episcopal Church has an ancient tradition of attempting to hold divergent views together for the sake of deeper truth.
Whether or not the Episcopal Church has an ancient tradition of attempting to hold divergent views together (I’m not so sure), I think I can say confidently that the current leadership of the Episcopal Church, especially in its executive branch, does not have the courage or the will to listen deeply to those who hold a different view. The Charleston sermon is exceptionally clear in this regard. One does not listen deeply to those in the same category as child murderers and terrorists.
Luckily, I do not feel as a Christian and a priest that my vocation is to be listened to. Nor do I believe, like the Presiding Bishop, that this kind of listening-in-disagreement is “the foundation of life in the Body of Christ.” The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord. If the Episcopal Church, and the Anglican Communion, is ever to survive the current long winter (The Church will survive, even if Anglicanism does not), it will not be because it’s good at listening and being heard in the endless chatter of its various constituents, it will be because it looks to Jesus.