Mary Douglas Glasspool has just been nominated as suffragan Bishop of Los Angeles. There will be a whirlpool about this nomination, both now, during the process of confirmation, and later, since, whether confirmed or not there will be controversy! Why? Mary is a same sex partnered woman. A report is http://www.episcopalchurch.org/79901_117538_ENG_HTM.htm.
Kendall Harmon has commented:
"This decision represents an intransigent embrace of a pattern of life Christians throughout history and the world have rejected as against biblical teaching. It will add further to the Episcopal Church's incoherent witness and chaotic common life, and it will continue to do damage to the Anglican Communion and her relationship with our ecumenical partners."
There are in fact some good things about this decision (assuming, for a moment, that confirmation will be granted). One good thing is that it gives a definitive interpretation on the mind of TEC as expressed at its recent General Convention: this church is not for turning from its resolve to admit no discrimination on any grounds between people inclined heterosexually and people inclined homosexually. Another good thing is that it invites the Communion to carefully consider that Gene Robinson's role as Bishop of New Hampshire within TEC is neither an aberration nor a temporary phenomenon (as in, with enough pressure he could be forced out). Partnered gay and lesbian bishops are here to stay.
The quick response (I guess) is: "Excommunicate TEC. Yesterday. Act quickly, ++Rowan." But there is another response; to think more slowly about whether we might be a Communion in which we have differing standards around clergy and singleness or marriage. This is a scary path because it means attempting to be a Communion united in a determination not to let difference over human dignity divide us. Why might we do this? Here are two reasons.
One, the people we are tempted to divide over are human beings. We may disagree furiously with their choices (e.g. to be in partnership, to offer for episcopacy). We may be aghast at the failure to secure agreement within the Communion on these matters. But that is part of being human: to not agree on all things. Do we walk away or keep talking, respecting who we are in the Lord?
Two, a formal schism in the Anglican Communion changes absolutely nothing about the fact that a bunch of people in the world's eyes call themselves Anglicans (or Episcopalians) and have a significant disagreement. It cuts no ice in mission to say, "We are the Anglicans without error. They are the Anglicans with error."
But this is not to imply that I think Los Angeles has been helpful to the Anglican Communion. It has not, for it is has placed local interest ahead of the global health of the Communion, as More than a Via Media points out. The goodness I see here is the goodness of clarity, not the goodness of shared conviction. The situation is not without possibility for remedial work on how we cope with it; but that is harder work than the situation where we walk together at the pace of the slowest members of the walking group.
Well, nothing said here will stop the whirlpool!