Compromise or Contradiction? Episcopal Bishops' Statement Leaves Important Questions Unanswered
Statement from The Rev. Jay Emerson Johnson, PhD, Senior Director, Academic Research & Resources at the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry, Pacific School of Religion, on the Episcopal Church in the U.S. House of Bishop's statement about consecration of openly gay bishops and same-sex union ceremonies.
Berkeley, CA -- The worldwide Anglican Communion has always managed its remarkable diversity with thoughtful and prayerful compromises. The recent statement from the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church, meeting in New Orleans this week, is the latest attempt at a compromise for the sake of unity. It is by no means clear, however, whether this statement will prevent schism.
For both those who embrace and those who reject the election of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire, compromise is unacceptable. This made the task facing the bishops particularly challenging as they sought a way to remain in the Anglican Communion while still supporting the full dignity and participation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Many LGBT Episcopalians will be deeply disappointed by the bishops' decision to "exercise restraint" in any further elections of lesbian and gay people as bishops and their rejection of rites of blessing for same-sex couples. At the same time, they decried the "unwanted incursions" of bishops from other provinces of the Anglican Communion, which have served only to fuel the fires of schism, and they reaffirmed their commitment to LGBT people as full members of this church.
For some this will appear not as a compromise but as a serious contradiction. It also leaves at least two key issues unaddressed: Will (openly gay Episcopal bishop) Gene Robinson participate in the 2008 Lambeth Conference of worldwide bishops? How will individual bishops in this country deal with the acknowledged 'pastoral concern' for same-sex couples seeking a blessing of their relationship?
LGBT Episcopalians, just like many others in this church, deeply value our participation in the worldwide Anglican Communion. Yet many of us worry that the burden of that participation is once again being shouldered by LGBT people and our relationships. In the end, this statement should be seen as a short-term compromise for the sake of respecting the polity of the Episcopal Church . bishops in our church cannot act alone but must deliberate with deacons, priests and laypeople in our general convention, the next meeting of which is not until 2009. Until then, our efforts at CLGS and our partnerships with my other organizations and networks of clergy and congregations will be directed toward the 'listening process,' also reaffirmed in this statement by the bishops. In doing so, I hope that Anglicans the world over will listen very carefully to the stories of their LGBT sisters and brothers and of their faithful and courageous ministry in this church.
Founded in 2000, the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry at Pacific School of Religion is the first seminary-based center for the study of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues in the nation. The Center works to transform faith communities and the wider society by taking a leading role in shaping a new public discourse on religion and sexuality through education, research, community building, and advocacy. For more information about CLGS, please visit: www.clgs.org.