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QCH: Disassocation from Bishop Spong

Bill Lewellis wrote:

> >   Disassociation is not new to Bishop Spong and the Diocese of Newark.
> >   In 1990, at least 75 bishops (including all 26 of the 50 signers of
> >   the new document who were bishops before 1991) voted to dissociate
> >   from Bishop Spong and the Diocese...
> Seems to me that, by characterizing the action of the 50 as disassociation
> *from a person and a diocese,* you're manipulating the question and turning
> up the heat  

Look again.  I did not so characterize the action of these 50. The 1990
disassociation was indeed directed both to the person and to the actions
of the diocese. That's what I said.  I did not say that the new
disassociation goes that far.  The straw man you attack is of your own

> >   There is a much more generous response when another person's faith
> >   challenges our own. Imagine our Lord saying, "Why Thomas, you little
> >   pip-squeak, how dare you ask to see the proof. I disassociate myself
> >   from you in no uncertain terms!"
> Turning up the heat again... this time with ridicule. 

Diassociation turns up the heat.  It is not a polite garden party
disagreement.  It is a conscious act of shaming.  You can't have it both
ways, even though those who signed the statement try hard to do so, in the
next portion that you quote: 

> "We
> respect John Spong's right to his personal opinions," the signers said,
> "but we declare they are clearly outside the realm of Christian discourse,
> and we deplore his use of the office of bishop to propound them."

I.e., we respect his write to speak, but we condemn him for not speaking
like a Christian.

What they give with one hand in terms of respect, they snatch away with
the other.  They do not respect Bp. Spong's understanding of the faithful
way to exercise his office as bishop.  Presumably that is why they're
disassociating from his opinions. At the moment I am not arguing whether
they are right or wrong to do so, but rather am trying to show vividly
what they in fact are doing.

I suspect that many disagree with Bishop Spong (and with your bishop, and
with almost any other bishop) on matters of consequence without feeling
compelled publicly to disassociate themselves.  But when we disassociate
ourselves publicly, surely we need not be naive about what we are doing.
Consider Dr. King when he disassociated himself from the theology of
nullification and compromise when he wrote his public letter from the
Birmingham jail.  His was a public act of shaming, and it still has
enormous efficacy.  It yet remains to be seen whether those who signed the
latest "Declaration" will find their document as enduring as his.  

<For a possible clue as to whether the Declaration will endure, check in
on your memory of an earlier parallel event in your lifetime and mine: at
this point can you name the five most vocal critics of Bishop Pike in the
House of Bishops?  And talk about change!:  Do you know which one's son
invited Bp. Charles to be present at his consecration shortly after Bishop
Charles came out?)

> >   My bishop invited those who disagree with him to debate him. These 50
> >   have taken a much safer response, one that frees them from having to
> >   defend their faith in any of its particulars.
> You seem to have ignored one part of the statement: "The 'challenges' he
> proposes are not new. They have been argued -- and well refuted -- in
> nearly every age since the Resurrection of our Lord. Indeed, they are
> challenges with which most thinking believers have had to wrestle before
> making a  mature commitment to the Christian Faith."

I am reminded of a lay person who said when he heard the same criticism
leveled against my bishop, "If these ideas are so trite, why have I not
heard them before?"  If they are so easily put down, surely the bishops
should welcome the opportunity to give what they take to be better news.

The secular academic world that I inhabit reads very few books about
religion.  Very few bishops these days write books that people read who
don't have to.  Yet my bishop's books appear in every major research
library of the land.  Those who signed the "Declaration" will never reach
those same readers by pronouncing anathema on my bishop's ideas, but they
might hope to enrich the exchange for all us if, like my bishop, they
would challenge us with their own studious reflections on the issues which
Bishop Spong has raised.
> >   Do not be afraid of a Bishop who challenges us to think, and re-think,
> >   and re-think. Beware instead the Bishops of Laodicea, who take no
> >   risks at all.
> More characterizations. More manipulation. You know about risk, Louie, and
> that's not the issue here. Come to think of it, when did outspokenness
> become risky in the Episcopal Church? <g> 

I could write a book listing the price that many Episcopalians have had to
pay for being outspoken, and I suspect that on reflection you could add
several episodes that you have observed as well; but your <g> is not a
prompt for sacred stories

I respect you for not bashing my bishop.  I am not bashing those who have
disassociated from him either.   I am disappointed in the glibness of
their Declaration.


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