Today comes word of what could become a great tragedy. The New York Times reports that the head of the Anglican Communion has proposed a plan that could -- note the "could" -- force The Episcopal Church of the United States to "either renounce gay bishops and same-sex unions or give up full membership in the Communion."
The Times calls this a "a defining moment in the Anglican Communion's civil war over homosexuality." I suspect that may very well be true.
However, the definition the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is writing is one drawn from ignorance and bigotry. Perhaps saddest is the possibly that this may have been prompted by Williams' failure to stand up to political pressure from the conservative wing of his church. I have no idea if that is true, but I can imagine that the pressure on him has been enormous.
According to the Times, it is not yet certain exactly what the archbishop's proposal, which came in a letter, will mean. The paper reports:
For the proposal to be enacted would take at least half a dozen major church meetings spread out over at least the next four years, the Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, said in a telephone interview.The new presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori of Nevada,told The Times "she was heartened by Archbishop Williams's comments in the letter that he would not be able to mend rifts over sexuality single-handedly."
"There were expectations out there that he would intervene or direct various people and provinces to do certain things, and he made it quite clear that it's not his role or responsibility to do that," Bishop Jefferts Schori said.Jefferts Schori, who takes office in November, has been an outspoken supporter of full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the church. However, I find her optimism to be naive.
I am no expert in The Episcopal Church and its politics, but I do know something about the failings of the human heart.
The worldwide Anglican Communion may some day come to understand that lesbians and gays in committed relationships are no threat.
It may one day know that we are the blessed children of God, just as heterosexuals are.
It may understand that sexual orientation itself is morally neutral and that the true focus of morality should be on how a person lives out her or his orientation.
It may one day understand the absurdity of shunning churches for welcoming people in partnered relationships. Remember that these are the people with the intregity to live openly and not to lie.
It may one day know how wrong it is to punish love, loyality and commitment.
But misunderstanding, an inability to see and a fear of differences run deep in the human heart. The Anglican Communion may one day have the clarity of sight and courage to live up to Jesus' teachings. Unfortunately, I doubt if that day is coming anytime soon.
My heart goes out to my lesbian and gay sisters and brothers and to their straight allies in the Episcopal Church.
In This Moment has blogged on this topic numerous times, most recently here and here and here.