anthills–Episcopalians & the Anglican Communion

May 22, 2006


Filed under: ECUSA, General Convention — anthill @ 10:13 am

Conservatives (I mean evangelicals, traditional anglo-catholics, and just plain conservatives) will lose the battle at General Convention. There never really was any doubt, but some events drive the point home.

And let me say that the connotation of “conservative” to me relates to the root “conserve.” Conservatives are usually slow to change, but the motive is often (not always) to conserve something valuable.

The official Episcopal News Service is easily seen to be an organ for promoting the institutional cause of ECUSA. Significant news highlighting the conservative cause is often ignored, as is news that reflects poorly on the liberal cause. I won’t bother you with my useful definition of “liberal.”

But news and talk that sparkle for the institutional cause of ECUSA go immediately to the “Top Stories” tab on the website. As I write this, the top story is Desmond Tutu receives Union Theological Seminary's highest honor. The subtitle is: “Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town delivers timely message of tolerance.”

More on this, but first, let me note the second feature—'What Witness Will We Make?' (subtitle: “Episcopal Divinity School president looks toward General Convention”). This is not a news item, but a speech given by the Right Rev. Steven Charleston, Episcopal bishop and dean of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was speaking at an alumni function and (as ENS puts it) “raised what he considers the most important question facing the Episcopal Church today.”

I don’t expect to see a verbatim of any speech by an Anglican Communion Network Bishop between now and General Convention.

While Bishop Charleston takes shots at zealots on right and left, the thrust of this eloquent speech is clearly in the direction of the steps taken at General Convention 2003 of full inclusion of all baptized persons in all the liturgical blessings and all orders of ministry of ECUSA.

Now, back to the lead story. Archbishop Tutu is an icon of courage, conviction, and faith. He was affirmed with “thunderous applause" when he was honored with the highest award of Union Theological Seminary (N.Y.). His speech on the occasion moved from the battle over apartheid to the cause of those “oppressed” because of their “sexual orientation.”

A sidenote: Maybe one thing we will learn in the aftermath of our loss at General Convention is that gay advocates don’t agree with us on sexual orientation not being the point. For them, orientation and sexual expression are one piece of cloth. While a relatively small number of people with homosexual inclination remain celibate, the majority say, “It is my nature (orientation and more) and, by God, I will live it out.”

The punch for the Anglican world in Tutu’s speech came with these words, invoking our Lord:

"And if we really believed that our worth is intrinsic, not dependent on extrinsic attributes, would we really get so hot under the collar, threatening to breach communion over sexual orientation, because like ethnicity, like skin color and gender, it is a variable that does not affect the worth of a person?" he asked.

He said he "cannot stand silent when persons are penalized about something I believe they can do nothing about—their sexual orientation."

"I do not believe that the Jesus who was on the side of the weak and the persecuted would accept the treatment generally being meted out by us Christians to an already persecuted minority," Tutu said. "Inasmuch as you have done or not done it to the least of my sisters and brothers, you have done or not done it to me? Who are these least?"

Conservatives will lose the battle at General Convention because speeches like those of Archbishop Tutu and Bishop Charleston will capture the high ground in the hearts of Deputies and Bishops. Conservatives will appear reactionary, narrow, and stuck in the past—trying to conserve an outlook on the Bible and tradition that ECUSA long ago left behind.



  1. […] – WHY CONSERVATIVES WILL LOSE AT GENERAL CONVENTION.. Anthill has some cold water for ya … (anthill) […]

    Pingback by CaNN :: We started it. — May 23, 2006 @ 7:53 pm

  2. It is telling that Archbiship Tutu speaks of what Jesus “would accept” rather than what he “accepts”.

    Comment by Galimzhan — May 23, 2006 @ 11:14 pm

  3. Galimzhan–What is your thought on this?

    Comment by anthill — May 23, 2006 @ 11:35 pm

  4. “Sexual orientation” is not an innate characteristic. It describes feelings. We also should not go along with the use of “gender” to describe our male or female identities. “Gender” is a formerly grammatical term which is used by feminists and queer theorists to allow for the construction of multiple “genders” based on feelings. Its use is intended to and does obscure the way we are created: male and female.

    Comment by Katherine — May 24, 2006 @ 1:04 am

  5. Katherine–Thanks for commenting; sorry it was slow to appear (Your comment got caught in the filter).

    Ever since I became clear about the classic dictionary distinction between “sex” and “gender,” I have been careful to avoid “gender.” But LOL in a crusade to change back.

    On sexual orientation, I think this is another losing battle. We can argue all day long and into the night about this, but it will make no difference to a person who is convinced that they are gay by nature.

    All I know right now is that the science doesn’t prove orientation is genetic. And whatever the cause of homosexuality is, there is not a direct logical connection to say the church must bless homosexual behavior.

    I’d enjoy hearing back from you.

    Comment by anthill — May 24, 2006 @ 10:39 am

  6. Anthill, I agree. Science doesn’t support the idea idea of “orientation” being genetic, and even if it did, we don’t have to accept all genetic conditions as good. “Identity” as male or female is genetic, except in the very few cases of birth defects. We lose if we play the games by the extremists’ rules. But you’re right, it may be too late. That doesn’t mean I’m going to join ’em because I can’t beat ’em.

    Comment by Katherine — May 25, 2006 @ 10:16 pm

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