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"When the Archbishop -- excludes the gay Bishop - - he is saying two things - - both unfortunate."] -- Tom Ehrich

  • To: Bishops Deputies Discussion <>
  • Subject: "When the Archbishop -- excludes the gay Bishop - - he is saying two things - - both unfortunate."] -- Tom Ehrich
  • From: Louie Crew <>
  • Date: Tue, 29 May 2007 08:20:03 -0400

Juan+, thank you for urging us to look at how people elsewhere come to their
conclusions.  When we look back on this era, I hope that we will see growth
for all of us in moving outside our own narrow prospectives.  That
has always been one of the promises of the idea of a world-wide Communion,
but only with the advances in transportation and communication has personal
encounter across cultures become possible for large numbers of Christians.

I have been blessed to travel in Africa frequently during the last 10 years,
and I rejoice in the hospitality abundantly poured out to me by all (except
a few bishops and archbishops).  I rejoice in the huge crowds showing up to
worship, many times in the open air because there is no building.   Their
faith is strong and inspiring in face of incredible hardships.

Almost no one in African congregations has ever heard about the actions of
our General Convention.  As Bishop Tutu said last week, and as Tom Ehrich
suggests below, their bishops' obsession with sexuality is a major
distraction from the Good News we have to share with the world.

Imagine how embarrassed someone from the first century might feel if blessed
with hindsight from 2000 years later.  Students in my classes on the Bible
as Literature are put off by how much energy first-century Christians wasted
arguing about the importance of the condition of the tips of male penises.

Yet Christians in the first century  had to get past the circumcision
requirement before the church could share the gospel with absolutely
everybody.  Had Christians perpetuated their taboo against the
uncircumcised, Christianity might well have remained, if at all, a small
cult in Judaism.

At times the New Testament writers seemed to become weary of the argument.
As the major missionary Paul knew that requiring circumcision did not
encourage gentiles to become Christians!  Paul argued forcefully against
requiring it, yet he himself required his colleague Timothy to be
circumcised so they could avoid the complaints of other Jewish Christians.

Strong evidence suggests that St. Paul was an Episcopalian, because only an
Episcopalian could have come up with the language that the "circumcision of
the heart" is what is truly important!

Is our PB's heart circumcised?!  No matter.  The language helped them get
past the problem.  First-century Christians got shut of circumcision by
making a metaphor out of it, and the metaphor died when it had outlived its

I hope the wordsmiths of the Anglican Communion will find a similar way to
get us past the current conflict, not by requiring everyone to perpetuate to
ancient taboos, but by getting everyone to unite to love absolutely
everybody, as God already does.

Louie, Newark deputation

On A Journey - Weekly Essay  By Tom Ehrich for Saturday May 26, 2007


When the Archbishop of Canterbury pointedly excludes the gay Bishop
of New Hampshire from the 2008 Lambeth Conference of all active
Anglican bishops, he is saying two things, both of them unfortunate.

He is saying, first, that the long-standing Anglican tradition of
finding the middle ground and humble submission to reality is being
sacrificed to the surging ambitions of Global South prelates. The
so-called doctrine of "adiaphora" -- that some things matter more
than others -- is gone.

Second, Rowan Williams is saying that the escalating and not
insignificant conflict between Third World and First World
Christians, or between Global South and Global North, or between
white-skinned former imperialists and their dark-skinned former
subjects, is really all about sex and the need of African Christians
to combat Islam, not on the basis of ideas, values or beliefs, but by
matching extreme Islam's medieval attitudes toward sexuality.

Never mind the Zimbabwe prelate who is allied with a murderous
dictator. Never mind the long-standing coziness between the Anglican
establishment and the super-wealthy whose single-minded pursuit of
Mammon has far more to do with global suffering than bedroom behavior
does. Never mind the drunks and fools who occupy certain cathedra and
discourage the faithful with their self-indulgence.

Anti-gay activists like to claim "Biblical authority" and to say that
this struggle is about the basics of faith. That is patent nonsense.
Sexuality is a small concern in Scripture, far outweighed by concerns
for justice, mercy, tribal integrity and rituals -- concerns that
rarely enter into today's fulminations -- and it wasn't a concern at
all to Jesus.

The Archbishop's extraordinary rudeness lifts the veil. This is about
sex. He is saying that worldwide Anglicans have no higher cause than
to debate homosexuality. Larger concerns like expanding warfare over
religious extremism, nuclear proliferation, abysmal poverty and
starvation, spreading ignorance and anti-modernism have less place at
the Lambeth table.

In effect, Williams is making a dare to American bishops: stand with
your colleague in New Hampshire and risk losing your place at the
Anglican Communion's deliberations, or abandon your colleague and
risk losing your moral authority.

Someone needs to tell the story of our American Civil War and how the
Episcopal Church handled division. Throughout the war, the House of
Bishops continued to include Southern bishops in the roll call. They
were marked absent during the war, and when the war ended, they
returned to a united church -- the only major American denomination
that survived the Civil War intact.

As we know from our own political misfortunes of recent years,
sexuality has replaced anti-communism as a smokescreen for power
grabs. Some anti-gay and anti-abortion partisans wrap themselves in
Scripture, just as anti-communism wrapped itself in the flag, and
thereby try to put their partisan zeal beyond reasonable argument.

By excluding Gene Robinson from Lambeth, Williams has caved into such
bullying. He has said that the enormous issues that ought to be
occupying Anglican prelates will be overshadowed by the one empty
place. Not that Robinson or any single bishop is critical to the
larger discussions, but that one person was excluded -- scapegoated
-- in order for the many to gather. That is the way of moral bankruptcy.

It also rewards an inept and somewhat deceitful approach to Biblical
scholarship. Reasonable Christians can disagree about many matters,
and they can offer Biblical authority for their points of view. It is
wrong to say that one viewpoint has sole claim to Biblical
affirmation, sole claim to the mind of God, and sole claim to a seat
at the ecclesiastical table.

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