Monday, July 10, 2006

Reflecting on Archbishop Sentamu's Statement

I was in conversation yesterday with my bishop. He had read Archbishop Sentamu's Presidential Address to the current General Synod of the Church of England, delivered a couple of days ago. He found it disturbing. Having heard my bishop out, I read it myself. I commend it for your reading in full.

Having read it, I'm not as disturbed by this as I thought I might be. In fact, I was right on line with this, until I got to the description of General Convention. Questioning our process seemed to me second-guessing of a high order, especially from someone who was witness to proceedings.

On the other hand, I did recognize one aspect in which, I had to recognize, he was right. Much of the debate, and much of the effort to respond to the Windsor Report was manipulated by folks who wanted all or nothing at all - either the response they considered "correct," or no response at all. So, the issues were not dealt with fully, not because the General Convention legislative process wouldn't allow it, but because technical procedural actions prevented it. Some seemed actively to pursue failure, feeling there would be something to be gained by having the center - and the process - fall apart.

No, there's plenty in here to appreciate. Unfortunately, like so many "balanced" statements, it can all be used to point to someone else. (I didn't see his acknowledgement of his own position as a question of balance nearly as much as a moment of "full disclosure.") For example, "They know the time when to stand on their rights would unquestionably be legal, and would just as unquestionably be completely unchristian." But, that does cut both ways. We Episcopalians value our autonomy in our interdependence. At the same time, the stance of the Church of Nigeria - Anglican has worked entirely within both canon and civil law in their stance toward GLBT persons and those who wish to support them.

Or, "It is impossible to be graciously-magnanimous when the book of practice and procedures is regarded as the last word." Is he speaking here only about The Episcopal Church's Constitution and Canons? It seems to apply just as well to creating an idol of historic Christian practice.

Or, "We live in a society where people insist on standing on their legal rights, where they will only do what they are compelled to do, and where they desire to make others do all that they can compel them to do." But, folks at both ends of the spectrum claim they have been victims of social pressures imposing on them someone else's values.

I think Sentamu was really trying to be even-handed, and would say that he was trying to speak to both ends of the spectrum. For good or ill (perhaps for good *and* ill) that simply allows both ends of the spectrum to point away from themselves to say, "Will you listen to what he's telling *you*?"

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