Thursday, May 31, 2012

Time for the Episcopal Church to Get Off Its Duff

815 Second Avenue, Episcopal Church HQ

In an excellent post, our own Episcopal atheist, IT, throws down the gauntlet and challenges the Episcopal Church as an institution and as a community, to speak out loudly and forcefully against the ferocious hate speech spewing from certain pulpits and going viral online.

... something like this, Pastor Curtis Knapp in Kansas:

It's but a short sharp step from this kind of violent rhetoric to real physical violence (also, it's rhetoric like this that makes me think that it is time to repeal "Godwin's Law").   As the poet Heinrich Heine pointed out, "Those who begin by burning books will end by burning people."  A few generations later, his fellow countrymen forcefully demonstrated the truth of his insight.  Are we going to wait around for Heine's insight to be proven again?

I think that these folks are so round the bend because they know that they've already lost.  The last respectable bigotry will die with them, and they know it.  Their own children are not with them on this issue, and in fact have turned against them (so many of these folks, even Fred Phelps, have offspring who publicly turned against them or came out gay themselves).  Their destiny is to join the racists in remote compounds and on the social margins.  Tomorrow does not belong to them.

That doesn't mean that they can't do a lot of serious damage in the meantime.  I think it more likely that they will strike out violently as they become more marginal and desperate.  Indeed, it may already be happening.  Anti-gay violence spiked last year.

I think IT is right.

It's time for the Episcopal Church to quit dithering and to speak out forcefully against this crap.  Like it or not, the Episcopal Church now plays a leadership role on gay equality.  The Church ordained open and partnered gay and lesbian bishops.  Episcopal bishops, suffragan and diocesan, speak out publicly for marriage equality.  Same sex marriages are becoming more common in Episcopal churches. The Episcopal Church has an army of openly gay and lesbian clergy.  Most of the gay-sympathetic theology out there was pioneered by Episcopal writers.  Episcopal congregations are continuing to prove themselves receptive and supportive of their gay members, and to provide a haven for gays and lesbians expelled from their own churches.  What's more, the Episcopal Church finds itself singled out and held up for scorn by large sections of the Anglican Communion for acting on its conscience.  The original intent of the Windsor Commission and the Anglican Covenant was to punish the Episcopal Church.

It's time for the Episcopal Church in its General Convention, by its leadership, and by its pew sitters, to speak out unequivocally against this verbal violence, not distance itself from it like the Southern Baptists and the Roman Catholic hierarchy, but oppose it in no uncertain terms, and make public that positive alternative it has created and kept secret for 30 years now.

I fear that much of General Convention's energy this July will be spent on responding to the Anglican Covenant (a dead issue as far as I'm concerned since the C of E voted to reject it in its diocesan conventions), and on administrative reorganization.  I'm so afraid that they will miss a golden opportunity to actually do something timely and relevant.  It would require Episcopalians to abandon their nice-at-all-costs reticence, and it might even require them to be rude, but it would be a great service.

In an age where public discussion about religion is dominated by fanatics and suicide bombers, polite thoughtful arguments just don't cut it anymore.

The Episcopal Church needs to make common cause (and be seen making common cause) with these people:

... and not these people (no matter how much we may like their hats and dresses):


Paul (A.) said...

What would you like The Episcopal Church to say?

(I'll email you off-blog on this.)

June Butler said...

Paul (A.), it's good of you to ask.

Counterlight, I doubt that the Anglican Covenant will suck up much energy at GC, but surely restructuring will, and I'm not at all sure that will be a good thing.

David said...

here in Canada we have 'hate speech' laws. don't you have an equivalent in America?
call me naive, but it is my sense that the existence of such legislation acts as a deterrant, and should the unimaginable happen and a Canadian try something similar both the denomination and the law would be on their bigotted ass.

Mary Clara said...

Doug, thanks for this. God Bless IT for keeping our feet to the fire. I would like to see a strong statement from GC and from the PB pushing back against these horrific statements, and also I think we should be working at the diocesan and parish levels.

Here in Maryland we are facing a ballot initiative in November that, if successful, would nullify the legislation permitting same-sex marriage which was passed by our state legislators and signed by our Governor a few months ago. I want Maryland to be the first state to vote YES to same-sex marriage and I want us Episcopalians to do our part. In the process we need to be speaking out unequivocally against the hate speech that falsely claims to represent the Jesus religion. I'm going to get in touch with my clergy and bishops about this. Let's share ideas about how to proceed.

Leonard said...

The Anglican´s dead in Merry Olde...ask York (and a few of his buddies)...

JCF said...

It's time for the Episcopal Church in its General Convention, by its leadership, and by its pew sitters, to speak out unequivocally against this verbal violence, not distance itself from it like the Southern Baptists and the Roman Catholic hierarchy, but oppose it in no uncertain terms

Hear, hear.

As an Episcopal ecumenist, for too long ecumenism, and prophetic calls to justice, have been portrayed as Either/Or.

They are not. A prophetic call to justice is ESSENTIAL to ecumenism (recalling at the same time, the old saw that whenever you point your finger at another, 3 fingers point back at yourself).

I actually want to see a rededication of Episcopal/Roman Catholic ecumenism . . . with calling the RCC to gender/sexuality/(sexual abuse) criminal justice ****TOPIC ONE**** in ecumenical discussions.

Will the Romans refuse such discussions? Likely. That's no ground to not seek them: again, and again, and again, and again.

[Same goes for Episcopal/Eastern Orthodox discussions. I don't have much to say to the Southern Baptists. Perhaps Episcopalians of a low-church/Evangelical bent could take up THAT task! :-/]

Reluctantly, I've come around to the POV that we need to let go of 815. The day of Skyscraper Institutional Power&Respectability are either over, or should be. Now, the persons working IN 815 may be another story...

Counterlight said...

I feel the same way about 815. I think it's become an albatross and it's time to sell the real estate or to lease it out.

Better minds than mine can come up with the exact wording of a public statement. I demand that it be a clear, unequivocal, and forceful statement opposing in no uncertain terms the violent rhetoric spewing out of pulpits these days (and you know there are lots of others out there for every one that gets on the internets).
If we do not do this, or if we waffle on this issue, then our silence or our waffling will be seen as consent.

Ann said...

Write the PB -

IT said...

Wow I think I started something.... thanks Counterlight!

Tristan Alexander said...

Mary Clara, I am in Maryland and I am afraid you are delusional if you think after all the other States voted against my right to marry that Maryland will be any diffrent. And it is ALL the Churchs doing that the ballot will have the question on it and the Church is who is funding and pushing for an anti gay vote! My "Husband" (not legal of course even after 28 years) attends and is very active in the Episcopal church, he even atteneded the convention! And I can tell you I hear a defining silence from the Episcopal Church on fighting those against Gay rights!! I have seen and heard NOTHING in support or defence of legal gay marraige here in Maryland!

Counterlight said...

As of May 24th the latest polling in Maryland shows 57% support FOR gay marriage, and 37% against. We'll see what happens in November.

I can remember when favorable numbers for anything for gay folk anywhere was at best 20%, and that was not all that long ago.

Tristan Alexander said...

Polls mean nothing! Many of the other states that now BAN gay marraige had polls that showed a favorable percentage in favor of gay rights...but when the vote came, WE LOST!