The Episcopal Diocese: Here We Go Again

Here’s the (shortened version of the) backstory: A few years ago, the former bishop of Pittsburgh left and created his own church in the Anglican Communion over “differences.”  I put differences in quotation marks because, quite simply, he didn’t think certain types of people, namely those in the LGBT community and women, should be bishops, and that’s not a difference, that’s running contrary to Jesus’ call to accept and love everyone.  Jesus never once put limits on his love or who could be his disciples.

His leaving was drawn out and drama-filled, although I guess it actually was easier and shorter than it could have been, so that’s a positive.  We’ve had interim bishops and the diocese finally elected a new bishop after an extended search process.  Our diocese split, but I think became stronger and more focused on outreach and love because of all the drama.

Every three years, the Episcopal Church has their general convention (which includes a whole lot of legislating and more representatives than the Indian Parliament…true story).  Since this was going on (instead of a separate meeting of House of Bishops (as I understand it), our bishop-elect was set to be confirmed and then, if approved, join the House (spoiler alert: he was).

I’ll put the rest after the jump, since I’ll be quoting a large amount of text, and probably most of the readers have tuned out by this point.  Like, I could probably put something here about giving away huge sums of money and no one would notice, because who really is going to read my rantings about local religious politics.  I’m not giving away any money by the way, sorry, but the offer still stands for free drinks if you want to write for Metblogs, though!

About a week before the conference, an e-mail from the (then) bishop-elect was sent out:

During the process that led to my election, I consistently stated my conviction that the Diocese of Pittsburgh needed to have a conversation that would lead to a consensus on how to approach both the blessing of same-sex relationships and the ordination of those in same-sex partnerships. I also said that I would be an active participant in such a conversation, informing it and helping to guide it, but not dictating its outcome. On this basis, I also have refrained from foreclosing the conversation by leading with my own thoughts on these matters. If we, as a diocese, are to arrive at a common mind, a local sensus fidelium, we cannot reach conclusions on these issues before we begin our inquiry.

The liturgies that have been proposed do, in fact, articulate such a set of conclusions. They expound a theology of blessing and implement it through sacramental rites. Since the substance of this theology, and the mode of its expression, are among the questions that belong to our inquiry, for your bishop to license the use of these rites before we have had a chance to open together the questions they conclude, would be to turn a deliberative process into mere talk about things that had already been decided. The question of whether these, or other similar rites, may or may not have a place in our common life needs to be considered as part of our discussion, not made moot before we have even begun.

Yes, conclusions such as that all people deserve love and deserve to have that love recognized by their peers and their church.  This really isn’t something that needs to be questioned.

He continues:

Assuming I am confirmed in Indianapolis, I should be arriving in Pittsburgh in mid-August. In the fall, I would hope to convene a design team to seek input from across the diocese and plan the format and content of this conversation. My hope is that we would launch this process in January 2013 and come to some preliminary recommendations by Pentecost, though if we need more time, we can certainly take it. I hope you will support this by your own voices and prayers. I know some are weary of talking, and only want a decision. But the process out of which such a decision comes is crucially important.

We’ve been through this.  We’re tired.  He does note that he does not wish this to seem stretched out, but I feel as though it is.  Now granted, on the other hand, Pennsylvania and the federal government don’t even recognize same-sex unions (although that’s probably on it’s way to change as well), and from what I understand, it’s a blessing, not actual matrimony (which is the sacrament).

Integrity USA has an amazing blog post about the various testimony:

First, let me say that I embrace a church that allows for respectful dissent to be shared freely before our assembly. Voicing opinion is vital to arriving at a place of right conduct. The person who spoke ahead of me said that we are moving too fast. I couldn’t agree more that we are moving. But it feels like a snail’s pace to me and my partner. Linda and I have been together since 1982. How long would the speaker have us and the millions of our fellow lesbian and gay sisters and brothers wait – people who have stories like ours? How long is enough? What right does she have, by virtue of merely her heterosexuality, to impinge so blithely on our personal experience? It is not like it is a secret that lesbian and gay couples exist and live in loving and committed relationships all over the country, and indeed the world.

I’ve said it time and again, we need to work together, we need to have dialogue to come to better solutions to our problems together.  But when groups of people refuse to see the love that people hold for each other, the dignity that they demand and the basic rights that they shouldn’t have to ask for, and instead keep their heads in the sand, it’s impossible to make the world a better place.

The above probably didn’t make much sense, I’m probably rambling, and strangely, I probably didn’t write enough of my own thoughts.  But I think very often, other’s writings stand much better than what I could write.

We’ll see where this goes, I think we’ll get through this, we always seem to.  I just don’t want to be too beat up on the other side.  I’ve probably been too tough on the new Bishop, we really don’t know how this will all play out, but I guess I get defensive when people have to wait for their rights, and I like to think that our church has been on the forefront of fighting for rights, and I don’t want to see us lose that.

Side Note: I’m travelling once again this summer for work, so I’m posting when I can, sorry for the lack of posts the last few weeks.

2 Comments so far

  1. hushasha40 on July 16th, 2012 @ 5:11 am

    Thanks for this. I think that it is admirable that your new bishop
    is trying to balance the need for a process of integrity with the
    need to let people move on without getting too mired in this long
    drama that has been going on for decades. I was disappointed that
    you are not offering “huge sums of money,” but I kept on reading
    anyway and think you did a truly decent job of expressing your
    point, especially to an Episcopalian from a historically liberal
    diocese (Minnesota, where the loons aren’t crazy and the moose
    don’t hang out with squirrels). Hang in there! Donald Whipple Fox

  2. Mike (psion) on July 17th, 2012 @ 8:07 am

    Thanks for the comment (and thanks for reading). It’s hard, but I
    think we do need to give him some time and work through the
    process, it’s just tough having felt as though we’ve had this
    conversation so many times before. It’s weird too, Pittsburgh
    itself leans more liberal, although the diocese, at least before,
    seemed very conservative.

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