Well and Truly Listening: Talk of the Nation

NPR : The Episcopal Church and the Rift over Homosexuality

I'm currently listening to today's Talk of the Nation, recorded earlier today.

First guest: Rt. Reverend Catherine Roskam, bishop suffragan of New York. She starts off well by stating clearly that discussing the blessing of same-sex marriage is off the table. She also tries to explain how the Anglican Communion isn't really a top-down, patriarchally governed church.  She stresses that there are more important issues that we ought to be facing in the Communion, such as how women are treated. 

Caller: Jean from Utah is an Episcopalian. Feels strongly that we need to say to the African and Asian bishops that we've made a stance that fits our beliefs and I'm sorry you don't like it. She thinks that they next tell us we can't have women priests.  

+Catherine notes that there wasn't a regularly schedule Primates' Meeting until women were ordained, which didn't start with the US church but in Hong Kong in 1970. She discusses our Episcopal polity and how the primates are arrogantly abrogating power they've never held in the past communion-wide. She goes on to discuss the four instruments of communion. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council, and the Primates Meetings. She notes that the ACC comes to different conclusions than the Primates, because its made up of men, women, clergy and lay. She notes that the church as a whole is made up of mostly women, but are represented by men. 

Guest: Laurie Goodstein, journalist and New York Times religion correspondent, who has been covering the issues. She uses "conservatives" and "liberals" as theological shorthand as she discusses female and gay clergy from the Anglican point of view, from both conservative and liberal points of view.  

Question: How are these issues playing out in your church, mosque or synagogue?

Host Neil Conan asks how things are playing out for +Roskam. She's not crazy about the conservative/liberal labels, but admits that it's useful shorthand. She notes that the ultra-conservatives are what she calls "dissidents" who have a rather un-Anglican biblical fundamentalist point of view and discusses how dissidents have split off over the years to start their own Anglican offshoots because they couldn't gain power in the main Episcopal church. Then it's a discussion of Global North versus Global South and background of how just 7 primates refused communion with our PB

Caller: Michael in Arkansas: why is it all right for the African dioceses that offer pastoral care for schismatic dissident parishesin the US to not criticise African polygamy but they get away with condemning homosexuality? How is that scriptural? Good question, according to +Catherine. The Bible is many voices in dialogue about many things, and she raises the spectre of "proof-texting" to justify the kind of support the fundamentalists require to shore up their position.

Question for Laurie Goodstein: almost all the mainline churches are all struggling with this issue that have dissident conservative wings that seem bent on splitting them (aside from the Southern Baptists). The struggle has gone on for 40 years at their conventions, but they can never come to a conclusion. Meanwhile, the middle is tired of the incessant fighting and want to be done with it and get on with being church already.

Caller: Linda from Michigan. She was drawn to the Episcopalian position from a Lutheran church, over a controversy stemming from a gay music director in her former church. How was she affected? She was taken away from her old church over the political infighting. She thinks that God made everyone and that we should not be fighting. +Roskam notes that there's diversity of practices in her diocese and that the Episcopal church welcomes everyone (at least, welcoming dioceses and parishes do). 

Laurie Goodstein notes that the conservatives want to draw a clear, bright line of orthodoxy and consistency. Most Episcopalians are comfortable with a diversity of thought and belief, but the conservative minority doesn't want to be part of a church that looks like this. She notes that the ultra conservatives call moderate and liberal Episcopalians the dissidents, and our way of church the dissident church. The tiny splinter is asked to go off and make its own church, but refuses to see itself as anything other than a huge tree and the Episcopal Church as the heretical splinter.

+Catherine was disheartened by the Archbishop of Canterbury's statement that Gene Robinson was appointed, but that's not how it works – +Gene was elected by clergy and lay in his diocese and the rest of the Communion always seems to forget this. They also forget that the election was proper and that his election was sustained by a majority of the other bishops in the American Episcopal church. They always forget that lay people have a very strong voice in this choice. We have a highly developed sense of the theology of the baptised.

Laurie found that Episcopalians are proud of their democratic structure. They have a House of Bishops and a House of Deputies comprised of lay and clergy, a mirror of the American democratic system. Other national churches are much more hierarchical and "there is no trickle-up." The lack of the communcation between us, particularly by the bishops of the developing world, is due to their lack of comprehension of our democratic polity. 

Caller: Katherine, a liberal Episcopalian in a very conservative diocese of South Carolina. Boy, is she ever marooned!  She is proud that we at least try to struggle with the issues rather than ignore them. She thinks the next thing on the table will be the African bishops with more than one wife! 

And the show is over, at least for this topic. That was pretty awesome. I'm surprised no one from a more conservative or even ultra-orthodox point of view called in or was a guest, but perhaps they simply didn't want to share microphone fellowship with Bishop Roskam. Foot in mouth

That's an interesting point, though – one I'd read about but forgot. The African bishops are no angels; in addition to turning a blind eye or even seeking Biblical authority for continuing the practice of polygamy, there are bishops with various kinds of scandals hanging over them. Let's see that one the agenda at the next big meeting, why don't we? 






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