wise as serpents

I am coming somewhat belatedly to the stream of commentary on (the) TEC’s House of Bishop’s meeting at the start of the week.

The muddle of responses suggests they found a true compromise position: no one happy, no one sure whether to sulk or be glad it wasn’t worse.

I will admit a part of me was disappointed with the response. I wish were were at the point where faithfulness and not sexual orientation was the issue, and we were free to bless those who have found blessing, and consecrate those who are called. But realistically, I think it would have been folly for TEC to go any further than it did.

To go out on a limb right now, and to say ‘we will do what we want, no matter what anyone asks of us’ would have been to devalue the place of communion and to take a step away from Catholicity towards congregationalism. But more than that: it would have marginalized the voice of an inclusive church.

Had TEC walked away boldly — no matter how high the moral high ground — then it would only ever be heard as an extremist church, pleading special interest. All that TEC has to say about blessing and inclusion might have been lost and the communion would be the poorer for it.

Instead, it tried to restate it’s commitment to sharing in the common life of the church. Of course that involves pain, but that is the pain of the whole body of the church, which won’t be helped by cutting a bit off.

But I think, too, that TEC is biding its time. It is clear for all to see that nothing TEC could do — short of betraying all that it believes– would satisfy all voices in the communion. It will surpise no one that the archbishop of Nigeria, inter alia, does not believe TEC has acted in good faith. And inevitably, some congregations, and even some diocese (though not whole diocese, note) will seek to leave TEC and will learn the hard way that foreign provinces are more foreign than they may seem.

But then, the doors start to open again.

TEC has made it clear that it is committed to the full inclusion of gay people in the church, and will work towards its greater reality.

Other churches too may find there is no room left for fear, and will find their voice.

And then the mind of the communion may change faster than we thought possible.

And if it doesn’t? Well, TEC has left itself that nice little get out clause: it will not take further action ‘until a broader consensus emerges in the Communion, or until General Convention takes further action’.

If you need a reminder of what happened at the house of bishop’s meeting, you may as well hear it from the horse’s mouth. The Presiding Bishop’s summary is here (you will need to click on the arrow to play the video).

3 thoughts on “wise as serpents”

  1. I do so understand the anger. I will also be more than interested to see if the conservative side of this battle is able to hear anything said by the liberal side. Past experience makes me doubt it. Not second hand experience, but my own, after a lifetime of hard fought battles over this – albeit waged with what tact and kindness iI could by any means muster to my aid.

    But I think that the besetting sin of the Reformed churches has been schism. Avoiding that always takes a good deal of violence to fine principles.

    After many many debates over the years, I think the essential thing is not to allow others to feel or think one holds convictions one does not. To agree to act in a way that comforts them is one thing. But it is, IMHO, always totally mistaken to let them believe one thinks as they do of one does not.

  2. Thank you, Kimberly, for that wise and balanced overview. I do agree that TEC is being ‘wise as serpents’. It is also, with great judgement and humility, ‘waiting for the Lord’. When one considers how visceral was the opposition to the ordination of women, and contrasts that with where we are now, there is hope that in time wideness and generosity will prevail.

    Chris, I did read Giles Fraser’s article, and I thought that language about homophobia and bullying was over the top. There have been instances of these, but there is no evidence of either in the TEC bishops’ statement.

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