Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Where I Stand

I have not written much here about conflicts in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, although I have commented on other blogs, chiefly conservative ones. I think it may helpful to me – and maybe for others – to share my thinking more completely here than I have been able to do elsewhere. Although the disagreements in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion are interrelated, I find it easier to address the specific issues one at a time.

Sacramental equality: I have come, over more than two decades of study and prayer, to the conviction that the Episcopal Church should widen its understanding of marriage to include same-sex unions. A key contribution to my own journey on this issue was Gray Temple’s Gay Unions. Prior to reading Temple’s book, I was making a distinction between marriage and same-sex unions. After reading it, it was clear to me that that distinction didn’t make sense, especially as I was meeting more same-sex couples who were raising wonderful children and who exhibited the kind of love that I have seen in married couples. More recently Tobias Haller’s Reasonable and Holy and his blog In a Godward Direction and the writings of James Alison have helped me to clarify my own thinking. I continue to read arguments against my position, but I remain unconvinced by them.

The authority of Scripture: Frequently those who disagree with me accuse me of not accepting the authority of Scripture. What is actually true is that I no longer accept what could be called “canonical” interpretations of Scripture. There were times in the Episcopal Church when the “canonical” interpretations of Scripture supported slavery or the barring of women from leadership within the Church. We have discarded interpretations which supported slavery and have been discarding those which supported patriarchy. In this I am glad to be call a revisionist because I believe the Church has to revise its thinking on same-sex unions just as it revised and is revising on these other issues.

The Anglican Church in North America: I am surprisingly pleased that many of those who have left the Episcopal Church have found a new home in ACNA. The isolation of some Anglican congregations was not healthy and I hope that ACNA can provide the kinds of healthy relationships between congregations and dioceses that we enjoy in the Episcopal Church. I think that it is not at all a bad thing for there to be an Anglican alternative to the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in Canada. I have friends, some of very long-standing, who now belong to ACNA congregations and I pray for them and for those congregations. I am not at all sure about what kind of a relationship ACNA will have with the Anglican Communion, nor do I know whether the relationship of the Episcopal Church to other Churches in the Communion will be healed. What I do believe is that the Episcopal Church must be faithful to its own convictions even if that means no longer being a member Church of the Communion.

Property disputes: Living for the past twenty-one years in New York, the question of property disputes has hardly been an issue. State law is quite clear that parishes cannot leave the Episcopal Church. When members of an Episcopal parish want to leave, they can only do so as individuals, joining an existing congregation of some other denomination or forming a new congregation. I am sorry that law is not as clear in other states, but I think that the Canons of the Episcopal Church are clear on this and that, with very few exceptions, those who leave will have to abandon any claim on parish or diocesan property.

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