Sunday, August 05, 2012

Clarity on SSBs from Bishop Waldo?

In this Sunday's reading from Ephesians 4:1-16, St. Paul uses the power of imagery to help us to better understand God's call to us, and to unity in the Church.

"I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all."
"But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it is said,
‘When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive;
   he gave gifts to his people.’
(When it says, ‘He ascended’, what does it mean but that he had also descended  into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love." (NRSV)
I wonder what Paul would say about the problem that moderate Episcopal bishops find themselves in as they position themselves down-wind of the actions of GC 2012 and the "provisional" authorization of a rite for blessing same sex marriages and relationships, a rite that is creepily similar to the liturgy for Holy Matrimony?

St. Paul would probably reiterate the last six lines of today's reading, and then he would probably write a strongly worded letter kicking some butt.

Speaking of...

In a communication to the clergy of the diocese dated July 26 our Bishop, Andrew Waldo, wrote, “I’ve gotten a number of emails post-General Convention and post-debriefing session (July 21) articulating some confusion about what can and can’t be done while the task force on same-sex blessings does its work. Below, is a bulleted, short-hand version that is offered for the sake of clarity:

• The Task Force will be formed by the end of August.

• No permissions for blessing same-sex unions will be considered until after the work of the task force has been completed and the process for granting such permissions has been identified.

• It will likely take between 6 and 18 months for the work of the task force to be completed. (The task force itself will set the timeframe)

• Policies in this diocese that existed prior to General Convention remain in place
until that work is done.”
Now, why should there be any confusion?

It is clear to me that those parishes that are hoping to have a same-sex blessing service may have to wait a while longer, but it is inevitable that they will, at some point, be able to do so.

Also, it looks like Bishop Waldo is saying to the left, "Hold on, while we work out a 'process,'" and to the right, "Don't worry, we'll have a task force."

Who is he kidding?
It looks like the goal for this self-professed "Radical Centrist" Bishop is to ultimately allow for a "separate but equal" status among his parishes. This will create a diocese in which some parishes will allow same sex blessings and others will not. This might work in the short term for those communities that have several Episcopal churches from which people can choose, but for those of us in more geographically isolated territories, if our local church winds up allowing same-sex blessings, many will opt to move to another denomination altogether because of the considerable pressure of the ever present well meaning invitations that come from friends and neighbors. Believe me, this exit strategy has already been voiced to me by concerned parishioners.

Because Bishop Waldo anticipates dragging this out for one to two more years, I suspect he is hoping to soften the blow as he moves the Diocese of Upper South Carolina to a far more "radical center" than conservative  pewsitters will ever be comfortable with. Radical Centrism just sounds like another word for leftward drift, or in the case of the Episcopal church, downward drift.

Will newcomers feel comfortable coming into a church being allowed to drift in such a manner by its shepherd?

My letter is on his desk, but I just thought of a post script,

"Yes I'm stuck in the middle with you,

And I'm wondering what it is I should do,
It's so hard to keep this smile from my face,
Losing control, yeah, I'm all over the place,
Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right,
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you."
Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan; Stealers Wheel's 1972

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