Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Like It or Not, Gay Equality is Coming to a Church Near You

It looks like the whole conflict over gay marriage and equality in the Episcopal Church and in the larger Anglican Communion is about to be mooted in the USA by the actions of state legislatures and courts.

Despite protests that the argument is ultimately about Scripture and Authority, it really is about gays and lesbians and if they have a place as full partners, equals, within religious communities. Are they unspeakable willful perversions of the Natural Order, or are they full citizens in the City of God? That's what the argument is really about.
The widening gap between the Christian proclamation of universal love, and institutional segregation of lgbts (and others) threatens to erode the moral authority of Christian institutions in the larger community. The general public and state institutions seem more and more willing to repeal remaining legal sanctions against same sex orientation. As this process continues, ecclesiastical policies of discrimination will look more and more archaic and morally repugnant.

All churches, including all the gay-hostile ones, will be facing a growing and unprecedented pastoral need from their rank and file. Not only will there be openly gay and partnered members of their churches, there will be members with family and friends who are lgbt. This must be dealt with, preferably with love and acceptance. I hope the days when churches would excommunicate family members for sticking up for their gay relatives are coming to an end, though I know that is too optimistic.

Even more, the gay issue, and whether to be open and accepting, will be a growing issue in the ranks of ecclesiastical hierarchies, especially the Roman Catholic Church.

Secularism is the fastest growing religious affiliation in the USA.  They can cry about liberal media and cultural decay all they want, but Christian institutions know that they have only themselves to blame.  That gap between the proclamation and the policy, and the long identification of the Christian religion with right wing politics, has alienated people in droves, decent people whose moral sense is offended by the gap between Christian message and practice.  The situation gets worse as the churches get smaller.  Reasonable healthy people begin to stay away or leave, and the fanatics remain and become more powerful and more fanatic. 

It is an old trope of the right wing religious that the mainline churches like the Episcopal Church are declining in membership.  In fact, churches and denominations across the board are declining, with the Southern Baptists and Roman Catholics suffering some of  the steepest drops (the New York Archdiocese closed 2 parishes next door to my Episcopal church, and reopened them as missions; those churches would have been closed entirely but for continuing immigration).

The idea that's dangled in front of us by fundamentalist and atheist apologists alike, that the only choice we really have is between them, reminds me of the idea that dominated the 1930s that the only real choice was between Hitler or Stalin.  That idea should be rejected on its face for the false dichotomy that it is.  Someone, whether their membership is declining or not, should be around to remind people that the Gospel is supposed to be good news.  That it is not identified with any particular politics or regime whether right or left.  That it is about hope for everyone, and not just for a self-selected few.  The church is supposed to be universal and Christians are supposed to be a priestly people showing God's love for all.  The Church is not supposed to be a Divine Country Club of the elect.  The Good News is not supposed to be a harsh judgment passed upon humankind because it failed a test that it could never hope to pass.  The really Good News is all that is required for our salvation has already been accomplished on our behalf by God Himself.  That salvation is freely given to us, and to all, without any preconditions or small print in any contract.  We will see salvation because God loves us, and only because God loves us.  Our deaths and the catastrophes of our history are not our end.  That's the Good News for humankind.  Someone has to be around to bear witness to that, even if all humankind votes with their feet and marches off to join either the fundamentalists or the atheists.

12 comments:

motheramelia said...

Amen.

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IT said...

Awesome, Doug. You should get a blog. ;-)

Audi and Saab and Subaru remain minor marques in the car world. But they all can get us from point A to point B.

Seriously, when I hear all the prognostications of doom...and then I see the vibrant Episcopal community that my wife is starting to explore....I don't see the end any time soon. And even I think that's a good thing.

Counterlight said...

Sorry about the commercial spam non-comment.

Counterlight said...

Indeed IT, all the forecasts of doom just don't agree with basic empirical experience. My parish thrives, and all the parishes that I've participated in for the last 27 years wear thriving.

Grandmère Mimi said...

And the churches should be the leaders in this fight for justice. How sad that they drag up in the rear.

Counterlight said...

My sentiments exactly Grandmere. It seems like these days when churches want to lead, it's to stop the clock or to roll it back.

Grandmère Mimi said...

It makes me angry, Counterlight, but what good does it do to get angry?

IT said...

And besides, would you rather drive a chevy or an audi? ;-)

Okay, okay just a little irreverence...

Saintly Ramblings said...

Well said and plainly written.

JCF said...

Thought-experiment:

TEC has long given birth to, and been enriched/reshaped by, various caucuses.

IT, would you be willing to lead the Non-Theistic Episcopalian Caucus? (We could probably get you a spot in the "Chicago Consultation"! FWTW ;-/)

JCF, who never tires of plots&schemes to Reel.IT.In! ;-D

Davis said...

A fine post, Doug.