Friday, June 11, 2010

This is the Communion Speaking. Are You Listening?

It does not get much blunter than this. It does not get much harder to ignore, let alone refute than this, when the voice is out of Africa, South Africa not West or East or North Africa. This is ++Thabo Makgoba speaking at the USPG Conference in Swanwick this week:

"Bishop Katharine, what I am going to say next is painful to me, and I fear it may also be to you – but I would rather say it to your face, than behind your back. And I shall be ready to hear from you also, for I cannot preach listening without doing listening. It sometimes seems to me that, though many have failed to listen adequately to the Spirit at work within The Episcopal Church, at the same time within your Province there has not been enough listening to the rest of the Anglican Communion. I had hoped that those of your Bishops who were at the Lambeth Conference would have grasped how sore and tender our common life is. I had hoped that even those who, after long reflection, are convinced that there is a case for the consecration of individuals in same sex partnerships, might nonetheless have seen how unhelpful it would be to the rest of us, for you to proceed as you have done.

There are times when it seems that your Province, or some within it, despite voicing concern for the rest of us, can nonetheless act in ways that communicate a measure of uncaring at the consequent difficulties for us. And such apparent lack of care for us increases the distress we feel. Much as we understand that you are in all sincerity attempting to discern the best way forward within your own mission context, we ask you to be sensitive to the rest of us.

Let me immediately add that, if there were certain others here, I would speak to them equally frankly. Cross border visitations and other moratoria violations have undermined not only your polity, but wider attempts to handle disagreements in a godly way before the face of the watching world. I will also add that, outside the scope of the moratoria, there are too many other shameful and painful ways that ‘gracious restraint’ has not been exercised by various different individuals and groups from all manner of perspectives. These too destructively exacerbate our attempts to live truly as a Communion, and contribute to the way that disagreements over human sexuality and its handling have come to dominate the life of the Anglican Communion to a disproportionate and debilitating extent. When I am interviewed, when I participate in radio phone-ins, no matter what the ostensible topic, again and again I find myself derailed by questions on this. I have to say this undermines our witness; dissipates energies that ought to be spent on the true priorities of mission; and distorts the focus and agenda of the Communion’s common life to an increasingly detrimental degree."

Is this the authentic voice of the centre of the Communion?

(H/T Thinking Anglicans)


Suem said...

Your man writes,

"And such apparent lack of care for us increases the distress we feel."

I have heard the same words from LGBT people, people who have felt very deep distress at the seeming lack of care from the church, the condemnation, the ostracisation. I have met people and heard of people who have lost their faith or even taken their lives against the background of hostility and condemnation from their churches and Christian families.
TEC has faced a difficult decision, do they leave such people out in the cold, blocking vocations, gifts and ministries, or do they risk causing distress to the worldwide Communion? They have chosen a pastoral - and I think a principled - route rather than one of expedience.I am deeply sorry that it has caused such distress, but I cannot say I am sorry for their decisions.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Suem,
I think one can appreciate all the things re principles and pastoral care that have, so to speak, driven TEC along the path it has taken, while also critiquing TEC for (a) offering a justification which is poor (e.g. talk of a leading of the Spirit which either implies the Spirit is author of confusion, or that the remainder of the Communion is in error), (b) seemingly, in language used, unable to recognise Communion concerns (c) let alone recognise that the wider Communion's understanding of 'Communion' might be incompatible with its own 'autonomy' weighted understanding of 'Communion'.

Further, it is not as though a request for a continuing moratorium on ordination of partnered gays and lesbians to the episcopacy, is intrinsically unreasonable because there is a basic human right to become a bishop independently of what the church teaches.

Nevertheless TEC has taken the route it has taken. I think it fair that the Communion be able to speak frankly in its response, as ++Thabo has done.