27 May 2007

Anglican introversion

Retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu told the BBC that the Anglican communion was spending too much of its time and energy on debating differences over gay priests and same sex marriages - a subject, he said, that had now become "an extraordinary obsession". The crises in Zimbabwe and Darfur, corruption and HIV/Aids were not getting enough attention, said Tutu. To which one might add, for American and British Christians, such things as the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo.

In his blog Journeys in between, Matt Stone remarks that "Consumerism, pluralism, spirituality, collapse of Christian credibility and moral authority in the media and public discourse ... don't these issues deserve some attention? I don't recall Jesus being that sex obsessed."

The Anglican obsession with sex has led to some disturbing changes in the attitudes of the West. As one columnist put it
But the largest adjustments are coming on the religious left. For decades it has preached multiculturalism, but now, on further acquaintance, it doesn't seem to like other cultures very much. Episcopal leaders complain of the threat of "foreign prelates,'' echoing anti-Catholic rhetoric of the 19th century. An activist at one Episcopal meeting urged the African bishops to "go back to the jungle where you came from.'' Not since Victorians hunted tigers on elephants has the condescension been this raw.

Perhaps these are not changes in attitude, though, but rather the multicultural mask being stripped off, and revealing the paternalism and imperialism that was there all along, and had been covered up, as I noted in an earlier posting in this blog: Mission is a two-way street... or is it?.

One of the Anglican blogs that appears quite frequently on blogrolls and is recommended as a good one is Father Jake stops the world. Yet when I read it recently it seemed to be almost entirely concerned with the internal politics of the Anglican Communion. There were older post on other issues, but now sexual politics within the Anglican Communion seem to be the dominant theme. The same seems to be true of other Anglican blogs, and I've seen it in other forums such as Usenet newsgroups. The sexual obsession seems to have rendered many Anglicans incapable of seeing anything else, and to have almost paralysed the Anglican Communion.


Kerry said...

I think it's absolutely the case that the sexuality debate in the Episcopal Church in particular and the Anglican Communion in general is taking up way too much energy, diverting way too much attention from issues the Millennium Development Goals ratified by the UN and endorsed by the Episcopal Church as her top mission priority, and serving as a vehicle for North-South polarisation. Anglican/Episcopalian blogs, written by fellow-Anglicans whom I very much respect, seem to be unable to talk about anything else these days. As you point out, Father Jake Stops the World--which I think any Episcopalian would say is the high-end Episcopalian blog--nearly speaks of nothing else these days. The issue is important (I speak as a proponent of full inclusion), but one also has to wonder if it hasn't become an idee fixe. Some have left the Anglican Communion because of their belief that the Church too condones gay sexuality. In all honesty, I'm about ready to leave because we seem unable to move beyond this debate.

Perhaps it's time to do what my heart has been telling me to do a for a long time...journey on the Orthodox way.

The young fogey said...

Tried to have a conversation with Fr Jake (Terry Martin) and his fans but gave up more or less for the reason you describe. If you agree with them on the war in Iraq or Palestine you're ignored. All they want to talk about is the internal politics of the Anglican churches and homosexuality, 'the love that dare not shut up'.

I'm sure Iraqis, Palestinians and other suffering people worldwide are thrilled to bits that some upper-middle-class Americans are fighting the good fight for that noble cause, gay weddings in church for themselves (and suing congregations that disagree with them out of their church buildings).

From 'mainline' (an American term for large, old Protestant denominations) to oldline to sideline. They've brought it on themselves.

Steve Hayes said...

Young fogey,

Right, looks like they're too busy changing the church the change the world.

By the way, did you see the earler post about score two for the peacemakers? That's more encouraging news.

The young fogey said...

Not until now - thanks!

Bill Carroll said...

I think it would be a mistake to think that what gets posted on blogs represents what is going on in congregations and dioceses. My own witness in the parish I serve has been more focused on environmental and social justice (we're in Appalachian Ohio), though I've certainly been vocal about inclusion. And then there is the enormous energy quite properly spent on the liturgical year, fellowship, Christian education, etc. I tend to see liturgy and diakonia as intrinsically connected.

Until Anglicans move beyond the present conflict, it does seem that energy gets diverted. But I think most of us long to get beyond it and focus on other things. We just can't agree on what an acceptable getting beyond it would look like. Moreover, inclusion does matter. None are free, till all are free. Don't think, however, that because we talk a lot about this one thing, that we aren't doing other things. Attempts to stop the reprocessing of nuclear fuel at Piketon, Ohio have consumed more time than anything else I've done (other than liturgical planning and sermon preparation) since I've gotten here.

Aldon Hynes said...

Steve, et al.

Thank you for highlighting this. It is a subject near and dear to my heart. I attend an Episcopal Church in Connecticut, USA. The priest there is an old friend that I first met at a fairly orthodox Episcopal Church in New York City. For those following the Anglican introversion, Paul Zahl was Curate there when I first met the person who is now the priest at the church I now attend.
The previous rector of this church is gay. I was attending a different nearby church with a gay priest whose partner died of AIDS.
I have come to know and be friends of gay priests. I have also tried to focus not on their relationships, but on the most important relationship in my own life, my relationship with God.
It does seem that many who are so obsessed with sex are stuck focusing on their neighbors relationships, and not on their own relationship with God. Perhaps if we can all return to focusing on our personal relationships with God, we can start addressing issues of war, hunger, and disease the way I believe Christ is calling us to.
At some point soon, I hope to have a much longer blog post up about this.


The young fogey said...

First of all I agree with Fr Carroll that the online version of a church is often very different from 'the real thing'. I'm commented before that online Episcopalianism seems dominated by angry former Roman Catholics and former evangelicals obsessed with promoting homosexuality (and with church politics as it relates to that). Born Anglicans of various churchmanships both in real life and online tend not to sound like that nor be so shrill and uncharitable. I hope that in real life my support for peace in Iraq and justice for Palestine, for example, would not be ignored by liberal Episcopalians who share those beliefs.

As for 'inclusion' and homosexuality I touched on those in this series of comments in another friend's blog. Tolerant conservatism respects people's privacy but Jesus had a thing or two to say about people's relationships: that bit about lust in the heart and all that. So my neighbour's relationship is not my personal business but it is the church's.

david santos said...

Hello, Steve!

How goes Africa of the South?

Thanks for you work and have a good weekend.

Victoria said...

I am an editor for Christian.com which is a social network dedicated to the christian community. As I look through your web site I feel a collaboration is at hand. I would be inclined to acknowledge your website offering it to our users as I'm sure our Pentecostal audience would benefit from what your site has to offer. I look forward to your thoughts or questions regarding the matter.

Vicky Silvers


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