Wednesday, August 08, 2012

My Letter to Bishop Waldo

In his GC2012 report to the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina, Bishop Andrew Waldo wrote the following,
"I ask you to read what follows here—to its end—with care and love, understanding that it is nuanced and partial, and that it comes from the depths of my heart and the ground of my faith.
I am utterly serious when I describe myself as a radical centrist. It means that my very first principle as bishop when it comes to life and change within the community of faith is Jesus’ command to the disciple community to love one another as we have been loved, and to be willing to give up even our very lives for one another (John 15:12-13). To be a disciple is to be disciplined: disciplined in discernment, disciplined in theology, disciplined in action, disciplined in love. In his second letter, Peter writes, 'For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love.'
My discipline is this: to listen deeply to the challenges and questions of all, from my position in that radical—and, I’m discovering, somewhat dangerous—center. My long-held and still-present desire to move forward on same-sex blessings has been given a new discipline upon listening to the questions of those who object to it and the questions of those who support it. Being the bishop of all requires of me an internal discipline that I am not free to ignore."
He goes on, and for that I ask you to click on the link above. He does ask for answers to specific questions, something that seems odd, as if he cannot answer them himself, but I have come to expect this as a standard approach of his: to try to get others to engage in conversation while he sits back and moderates (usually by asking more questions).

Anyway, since he is at least giving the appearance of floundering in a radically central Charybdis of sorts, I decided (at the urging of fellow Upper South Carolinians) to send the following response last week.


To the Rt. Rev. W. Andrew Waldo, Bishop
The Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina

“To be a disciple is to be disciplined: disciplined in discernment, disciplined in theology, disciplined in action, disciplined in love.”

Dear Bishop Waldo,

In your report of July 16, 2012 you ask us to address certain questions. As one who also believes that the theological statement supporting the blessing of same sex relationships is inadequate to lead us to approve of such a rite, I commend you for voting “No” in spite of your “long-held and still-present desire to move forward on same-sex blessings...”.

Let me give you my take on your questions.

  1. You ask: “To those who object to same-sex blessings, my questions are these, among others: How, exactly, is Christian marriage threatened by the blessing of a relationship between two persons of the same sex?
Christian marriage as recognized by millions in the Anglican Communion and other Protestant denominations as well as millions more in the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches is the union of one man and one woman that has been recognized for thousands of years as blessed by God. Such a Christian marriage is not threatened by any innovation that man can create. So, I think your question is a red herring. Christian marriage is threatened by clergy who can no longer clearly articulate and teach just what Christian marriage is. Our failings as a Church to uphold Christian marriage long pre-date the same sex blessing debate. To the extent that the current “provisional” same sex blessing is in form and substance very much like the 1979 BCP Rite for Holy Matrimony, future generations will be raised in a state of theological confusion, and that may further weaken the Church's teaching on Christian marriage.

2a) You ask: “If two persons of the same-sex hold a sacred understanding of their bodies, rooted in St. Paul’s own words about the body being a temple of the Holy Spirit, and they understand and live their lives centered on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as their Lord, and hold traditional values around life-long, monogamous relationships, what, exactly, is the danger to Christian faith and marriage?”

This is just a reiteration of the original question with the addition of a strawman. Unfortunately, the problem lies in the self-justification of the two persons described above, a self justification that you admit is based on an unacceptable theology.

2b) You ask: “Is it not possible for the church to bless such relationships as it seeks a balance between law and grace that errs on the side of grace, and still upholds the core of our biblical and theological inheritance?”

Erring on the side of grace? Since when, Your Grace, is it graceful to lead people using an inadequate, unbiblical, theology that is also contrary to all inherited theology? No, that would be a balance that errs on the side of causing harm to the people of God, and would be a breach of the doctrine and discipline of the Church and of the Bishop's examination during which you were asked,

“My brother, the people have chosen you and have affirmed their trust in you by acclaiming your election. A bishop in God’s holy Church is called to be one with the apostles in proclaiming Christ’s resurrection and interpreting the Gospel, and to testify to Christ’s sovereignty as Lord of lords and King of kings.

You are called to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church; to celebrate and to provide for the administration of the sacraments of the New Covenant; to ordain priests and deacons and to join in ordaining bishops; and to be in all things a faithful pastor and wholesome example for the entire flock of Christ.

With your fellow bishops you will share in the leadership of the Church throughout the world. Your heritage is the faith of patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, and those of every generation who have looked to God in hope. Your joy will be to follow him who came, not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

“Are you persuaded that God has called you to the office of bishop?”

And your answer was,

“I am so persuaded.”

If such a “balance” is to be created in the Diocese of Upper South Carolina, then we will no longer be one with the apostles, the leadership of the Church throughout the world, or the heritage of the patriarchs, prophets, martyrs, or those of every generation who have looked to God in hope.

Lastly you ask,

3)- “Many have said that the sin of homosexuality is in the sexual act itself. How, exactly, is that so, when those same acts are common in heterosexual Christian marriages? A theology of complementarity—that is, the Bible’s description of male-female complementarity—by itself, does not answer this question.”

The fact that heterosexual couples engage in inappropriate sexual activities points again to the failings of the Church in its task of preaching and teaching a scripturally sound theology of marriage. Heterosexual failings cannot be used to justify a blessing of homosexual “intercourse.”

I hope this helps to answer your questions.

Now, you get to tackle mine.

  1. Why does a seminary trained, Bishop of the Church, with years of experience, still need help with this issue?
  2. Your plan to “appoint a task force by the end of August to articulate theologically and practically—in much the way Bishop Doyle of Texas has done—the boundaries within which we might live together, including congregations that will have opened their doors to same-sex blessings, and protecting congregations whose conscience demands standing firmly within the tradition” implies that such a “unity” (wherein some parishes in this diocese will have same sex blessings while others won't) is what we are likely to be faced with in the future. How can God's blessing be conferred in one parish but not another? Which parish is acting contrary to God's will?
  3. How will the promulgation of a theologically unacceptable liturgy alongside traditionalist parishes that disagree help us to engage others in mission and to proclaim God’s salvation in Jesus Christ in a coherent manner?

Your Brother in Christ,

Episcopal Church of Our Saviour
Rock Hill, SC

p.s. Please note the unique way I recycled the paper from my copy of the same sex blessing service. You can find it on the reverse side of this letter.


  1. David B11:30 AM

    Not probing for details, but has +Waldo responded to your letter?


  2. 09/28/2012 Living into the silence...

  3. 10/16/2012 The deafening silence...

  4. 03/05/2012 Twiddling thumbs here...

  5. Oops that shoulda been "2013"

  6. 04/03/2013 The sounds of silence...

  7. Three years and no response. I have been left at the altar like a jilted lover.

  8. Three years and no response. I have been left at the altar like a jilted lover.