Tag Archives: Episcopal Church

Rowan Williams Retires with a Muddled Mea Culpa

10 Sep

Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury and symbolic head of the Anglican Communion, has announced his impending retirement after nearly a decade. At 61, he intends to return to academia for the final phase of his public life as master of Magdalene College, Cambridge. Williams’ term as Archbishop has been challenging for him, the Communion, and the faithful around the world as the church has struggled to maintain its relevance and integrity in the modern world.

One of the largest issues facing this (and most protestant denominations) is that of gay rights. Large and vocal diocese in Africa and Latin America are very conservative. Perhaps the wealthiest and most influential sector of the Communion, however, is the Episcopal church in the United States, which took major strides in recognizing same-sex partnerships and transgender rights this year. Navigating this divide has been Williams’ greatest challenge, and his quiet middle ground has frustrated both supporters and opponents of equality.

Dr. Williams offered a final interview to the Telegraph, addressing his challenges and failures as well as those of the church. On the issue of being a public spokesman and a spiritual leader at the same time, he acknowledges, “I don’t think I cracked it.” Describing himself as a “hairy lefty” (I would hardly qualify him as a lefty) and alluding to his personal progressive views, he expresses the frustration of trying to hold together the Communion in the face of major social change. Most tellingly, he offers this analysis of the Communion and its leadership:

We’ve not exactly been on the forefront of pressing for civic equality for homosexual people, and we were wrong about that.

It’s a pleasant change of pace from his usual vague vacillations, but he tempers it with a long discussion of the “tangle” of mixing civil and ecclesiastical demands in the realm of marriage. A thoughtful academic to the core, his final welcome words are muddied by his persistent wandering in the moors of the middle ground.

Sadly, his likely successor is John Sentamu, Archbishop of York. A native of Uganda, where LGBT citizens are threatened with death by the state itself, his position on marriage equality is quite clear. One of only four English bishops to refuse to sign the 1999 Cambridge Accord that affirmed the human rights of the LGBT community, he has said,

Marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman […] We’ve seen dictators [redefine marriage] in different contexts and I don’t want to redefine very clear social structures that have been in existence for a long time.

While this may please the conservatives in the Communion, it hardly serves as good shepherding to the millions of LGBT Anglicans and is likely to further fracture relations between Canterbury and the Episcopals. What a sad and pathetic choice for a successor.

Hero of the Week Award: July 13, the Episcopal Church

13 Jul

Hero of the Week

Thank you to my friend David Jones for inspiring me to write this story. Continuing its tradition of being one of the most supportive mainline Christian denominations, the Episcopal Church took two significant actions this week. The church is holding its 77th General Convention in Indianapolis and addressed both same-sex unions and transgender rights.

As with the President and the nation, the church is still evolving on marriage equality. This week’s action stops short of blessing marriage for same-sex couples. It does, however, create a liturgy for blessing monogamous unions between two people of the same sex, something they have never done before. This is an important step toward embracing full equality in the church. Significantly, over 70% of the Bishops and members of the House of Deputies voted in favor of the measure.

The Convention also overwhelmingly approved two changes to its Nondiscrimination Canons. These add “gender identity  and expression” to the Canons. The action effectively makes it illegal within the church to bar from the priesthood people who were born into one gender and live as another or who do not identify themselves as male or female. The Episcopal Church is now one of a handful the expressly support the ordination of transgender priests.

Whatever one’s individual faith  or lack thereof, the LGBT community needs support from all quarters. Allies of faith are one important community in the larger conversation. Congratulations to the Episcopal Church for this week’s loud shout of support.

My Breakfast with Bishop Gene Robinson

29 Jun

Today I was fortunate to attend a breakfast with Bishop Robinson.  For regular TSM followers, you know we just recently celebrated Bishop Robinson for LGBTQ History Month. This particular breakfast was sponsored by the Equity Foundation, an organization of true do-gooders. While I am not a religious person and do not subscribe to any organized religion, Bishop Robinson was nothing less than amazing and inspiring!

His gentle and compassionate soul can completely change the energy in a room when he enters.  For such a famous man, he is exceedingly humble and gracious.  He approached me shook my hand and introduced himself, “Hi, I’m Gene.”  Really?  As though I might not know who he was–it kind of made me giggle with delight. When it was time for him to speak to our group, he came out to the middle of our gathering, so as to create an intimate setting; it was as if he was speaking to each of us individually.

What really captured me was how he spoke about the future of LGBT rights, equality, and marriage equality.  Bishop Robinson first talked about “the importance of being out” and the “strong political statement” it makes if we are visible.  He also talked about the role of the “Church” and how the “church needs to take responsibility.”  He talked about a learning curve for the church:

People used to use the bible to justify racism, and sexism but people learned and realized they got it wrong.  Now the church needs to look at something else we got wrong…some people believe in the word of God and I believe in the words of God.

While he talks about this learning curve, he speaks with great compassion and optimism.  He really does see the good in people.  Robinson also addressed how Catholics could do a better job leading the fight to end discrimination by creating equality for women and look into ordination of women. Now TSM followers, you know when anyone can talk about misogyny they have won me over!

What really won my heart was how beautifully he spoke to civil rights in general, for he spoke to the very core of TSM blog: Social Justice.  Robinson talked at length about:

…if we are going to talk about marriage equality and LGBT rights, we must also talk about racism and sexism… There is a great deal we can learn from transgender people.

Robinson’s ability to address the interconnectedness between gender, power, race, sexual orientation, and gender identity was incredibly powerful.  For me, this is what a true leader looks like, Gene Robinson.  I look forward to buying his new book when it hits the stands.  Gene, if you read this please give us the title of your new book.

Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 23, V. Gene Robinson

23 Jun

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to V. Gene Robinson.  In 2004, Robinson became the first openly gay Episcopal Bishop.  I applaud Robinson’s courage to be so visible within the Christian community during a time when many right wing purported “Christians” vilified people in the LGBT community.  I find it particularly sad, and very telling, that Robinson’s installation as Bishop has caused a great schism within the Episcopal church.

It is also quite telling that the silence from the Archbishop of Canterbury has been deafening.  Archbishop Rowan Williams, who holds great power and influence, has done little to support the LGBT community and shown a lack of leadership.  In 2010, in regards to gay bishops and marriage equality, Williams said:

There’s no problem about a gay person who’s a bishop. It’s about the fact that there are traditionally, historically, standards that the clergy are expected to observe… I think because the scriptural and traditional approach to this doesn’t give much ground for being positive about it.

I would call this a true lack of leadership and lack of dedication to human rights–rather shameful for a clergyman. In a delightful contrast, Robinson demonstrates amazing courage and devotion to humanity, human rights, and teaching love.

%d bloggers like this: