Saturday, June 09, 2007

Two Primates Speak

Revised 6.11.07

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori continues to be the Episcopal Church's best ambassador to the wider culture. Watch her appearance Friday night on Bill Moyers Journal. Or read the transcript.

(Read here a timeline detailing the more than thirty years of conversation, teaching, struggle and action as the Episcopal Church struggles to fully include faithful gay and lesbian Christians into our common life.)

Time magazine's David Van Biema and Catharine Mayer have written a cover story on the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams. It appears in this week's European and South Pacific editions. The article will likely become the one piece that readers new to the turmoil in the Angican Communion will want to read for a quick, but fairly comprehensive grasp on the situation. It is followed by an in-depth interview that will probably be of more interest to Communion watchers in which Williams spells out his reasons for inviting neither Bishops Gene Robinson nor Martyn Minns to the Lambeth Conference. Listen to a fuller version of the interview here.

Hat tip to Episcopal Cafe: The Lead for these connections.

Having watched/listened to both of these interviews there are serveral things that stand out. First, both our Presiding Bishop and the Archbishop sound similar notes--images of conversation, listening, communion abound in both their talks. Second, they seem to share both a global and comprehensive perspective. They are both calm, reasoned, and bring an academic sensibility and discipline to their roles.

Which makes their different approaches all the more apparent. Both the Jefferts Schori and Williams understand the various perspectives of the differing sides, and both want deeply to keep all the various groups in the Communion. Yet, Williams has decided that his teaching role as the Archbishop of Canterbury is limited to only what the entire church can agree on--that while he has not recanted his previous writings about human sexuality and the role of glbt folk in the church and the church's responsibility to gay and lesbian folks--he has decided to put them aside because he says he must articulate the tradition of the whole church first and his own views second.

Jefferts Schori, on the other hand, has taken a different approach to the teaching role of the Primate, and that is to hold up the questions and to encourage the discussion. In the Moyers interview, she answers those who would hold up the seven passages of scripture with questions as to context and audience and then poses a new question: in looking at the relationship of David and Jonathan, what would the best scholarship say if given a chance to look closely at that? How does this part of scripture speak to people today who have a different experience than our traditional male-centered, heterosexual perspective?

Rowan has left aside his training and sensibilities as a theologian and teacher in favor of the diplomatic and political. Katharine has built on her experience as a scientist, a convert to this Church, and a woman.

Listening to the two together challenges one to decide which approach to the mission and leadership of the Church--and to the direction of the Communion--before us as we face the challenges of our time: the structural or diplomatic choice of Canterbury or the approach that builds on the lived experience of the church--the theological approach.

After listening to both, I find that I like and respect both people. But I am more than ever drawn to Katharine's theological approach as the way forward for our Communion and our Church. She has put forward what is best about our church, and this will both build up the Church and make the Gospel meaningful to people of our age.


Closed said...

Fr. Gerns,

I agree with you I find our Primate's approach more helpful in the long-run. I think what we need is a cooling off period before going any further with considering how to better serve fellowship and discernment.

In our union rite, the David and Jonathan text was juxtaposed with the Cain and Abel story and the Gospel of John when Jesus gives us a new commandment and calls us friends. These stories have real power and Good News for persons in same-sex couplings and read our lives in Christ. But it seems that we can't even begin to speak of such experiences because listening seems to be in our Communion a one-sided endeavour, and believe me, we've done a lot of listening to a lot of heterosexuals about us, and some of it quite nasty and vicious projection rather than anything that might even look remotely like our lives or approach "greeting the guest as Christ" (Rule of St. Benedict).

The "whole" Church does not agree if we've enough respect for gay and lesbian Christians to be a part of the conversation, if we are a part of the "whole Church", which I'm not sure we are or do (listening tends to be telling us what the whole Church says), and so simply asserting an understanding repeatedly is only likely to drive us away and those who love us and many of the young who don't get the problem to begin with. It may maintain unity at the cost of the Gospel working in these time in these cultures.

Certainly, we can give more time for more engagement and allow time for lgbt persons to fully let the Word read our lives and for others to notice that this is indeed undergoing, but I fear that the political approach will turn this Communion into another confession, and one that is the worst structurally of Rome and the worst theologically of Geneva. I can wait for more conversation, I can wait before proceeding with official rites or any more gay bishops, but I cannot sign on to the structures that seem to be taking shape that would really end our comprehensiveness for the sake of truth and are based in their underpinnings on keeping us silent or out.

My deepest anxiety is that I left the Roman tradition only to find myself in one that will be even worse in the end (Curialistic and Fundamentalist), and that I will have to leave again. I'm not sure I will find my way back to Church if I have to go again. Here I thought I could be catholic, have the space to breath, and have some sense that I mattered as a layman and gayman.

Muthah+ said...

I too respect both of these bishops, but what I find about ++Katharine is that her approach utilizes her strengths, her scientific prowess as well as her theological competence. ++Rowan, on the other hand has thrown away his strength, his academic ability. It is a shame that he has done so. ++Katharine's approach comes across as far more integrated and honest.