Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Digression upon Church Politics

This is somewhat late because I didn't have a chance to blog about it when it came out.  Recently the Archbishop of York (Number 2 man in the Church of England) came out against gay marriage.  Juxtaposed with this, the Sunday prior in my own Parish (a theologlically moderate parish in the Northern VA suburbs) our seminarian gave a very well put-together sermon about Christians accepting those who, like the Gentiles in the early church, are cast out by notions of purity and propriety.  Our seminarian is an out lesbian; her partner was watching in the pews. And yet our church is a part of the same Anglican communion as the diocese of York.

There are those in other churches in the Anglican Communion* and some wayward Episcopalians who hide behind the unity of the communion when they argue that the American church should not ordain non-celibate gays, or bless same-sex unions.  The American church cannot act on its own, so the logic goes; being part of the communion, doing things that the rest of the communion doesn't like breaks the communion -- it is an act of theological rebellion.  Put strongly, it negates the legtimacy of the American church; put less strongly, it is out of step with the values of much of the 'global south' and is making life difficult for Anglicans in Africa.

To both of these version of the objection I have the same reply:  if we must leave the communion over our acceptance of LGBT people, so be it.  We were the American church before we were part of an organized 'Anglican Communion' -- we became independent when our nation did.  Later we joined the loose federation that is the Anglican Communion in some burst of ecumenicism/anglophilia, but we are still an autocephlous Chuch.

As the Church of the United States, we must first tend our own flock, and part of that is affirming that LGBT people are children of God.  In a country where gay, lesbian and trans teens are still offing themselves because they feel rejected by family, community and God, this is not just a nice thing to do but a moral duty.  It is a duty that falls on anyone that thinks that God's will is the well-being of God's children, more than adherence to age-old moral precepts.

This is perhaps a heterodox viewpoint -- when we recite the Creed we affirm the 'Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church,' and in so doing acknowledge that the Church is universal.  But I would argue that this means, simply, that all Christians are part of the Body of Christ, not that we must be organizationally one or in theological agreement.  When we make the Church Universal into a organizational principle, we make it a principle of domination, whether the masters are in Rome or Lambeth.  And like all good Americans I detest foreign domination.

*A rather grandiose name for the British Commonwealth of Nations' Christian Auxillary.

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