Friday, June 11, 2010

Presiding Bishop Tells Canterbury That Episcopal Church Will Keep on Valuing Gays

The National Catholic Reporter has posted a June 8th article by Daniel Burke of Religion News Service, reporting that Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church USA, has declared that the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion will continue to value gay people, gay priests and gay bishops, and will continue to resist the anti-gay moralizing of the Communion's more conservative national churches.

Bishop Jefferts Schori was especially critical of efforts by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to enforce global uniformity in the Communion's stance toward gay people. She insisted that each national church has the right and the obligation to develop its own moral, pastoral and liturgical guidelines toward gay individuals and same-sex couples--and that the Episcopal position reflects 50 years of discernment and debate from which the church will not retreat.

Schori's position reflects historic characteristics of Anglicanism that I have applauded previously here. Is it time for Catholics who agree more with the Episcopal position than Rome's to consider swearing allegiance to the Episcopal Church, and to bishops who are more open to what the Spirit is doing and saying in the lives of Christian people?

Excerpts from Burke's article follow:

Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has forcefully defended her church's embrace of gays and lesbians, and firmly rejected efforts to centralize power or police uniformity in the Anglican Communion.

Anglicans should be led by local communities rather than powerful clerics, Jefferts Schori argued in a June 2 letter to her church's 2 million members. And, after 50 years of debate, the Episcopal Church is convinced that gays and lesbians are “God's good creation” and “good and healthy exemplars of gifted leadership within the church, as baptized leaders and ordained ones.”

In May, the Episcopal Church consecrated its second openly gay bishop despite warnings the move would increase tensions in the worldwide Anglican Communion, many parts of which view homosexuality as a sin.

Last month, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said Episcopalians, who form the U.S. branch of the 77 million-member communion, are out of step with fellow Anglicans and should not fully participate in ecumenical dialogue and doctrinal discussions.

Jefferts Schori firmly rejected the push to centralize power and discipline, saying that Anglicanism, and the Episcopal Church, were founded by Christians who wished to escape the strong hand of an established hierarchy.

“Unitary control does not characterize Anglicanism; rather, diversity in fellowship and communion does,” she said.

Imposing uniformity on the 77 million Anglicans scattered across the globe runs the risk of repeating the “spiritual violence” and “cultural excesses” of colonial missionaries who built the communion on the back of the British Empire, the presiding bishop added.

“We live in great concern that colonial attitudes continue,” said Jefferts Schori, “particularly in attempts to impose a single understanding across widely varying contexts and cultures.”

The presiding bishop also said that criticism of the Episcopal Church often comes from parts of the communion that bar women from becoming priests or bishops; and charged that other Anglican churches allow gay bishops under an unofficial don't ask/don't tell agreement.

“In our context, bowing to anxiety by ignoring that sort of double-mindedness is usually termed a `failure of nerve,'” Jefferts Schori said.

Liberal Episcopalians applauded Jefferts Schori's letter, which was remarkable for its full-throated defense of Episcopal Church policies.

“It is an understated declaration of independence,” said Jim Naughton, editor of the blog Episcopal Cafe. “The presiding bishop is not going to allow the Archbishop of Canterbury to establish the terms of the debate anymore.”

Jefferts Schori's rehashing of Anglican history may seem innocuous to outside observers, said church historian Diana Butler Bass, but her strong defense of democratic Anglicanism is a “call to arms.”

“Those are fighting words,” Butler Bass said. “She's saying, `this is our tradition and you're violating it.' She is accusing Williams of being an imperialist.”

1 comment:

Andrew said...

Hm...I don't know much about churches, but it was really interesting post! Thanks!