Friday, October 19, 2007

More on "Humilty, Grace, and Freedom"

I've been thinking about Dr. Cassidy's speech at St. Chad's Durham earlier this week, which I recommended already below. At one point, he says:

I say this because the only good reason I can think of for asking the Episcopal Church to hold back, or to turn back, is if gay members of that church authorise their church to do so, by saying that they are willing as a group to suffer continued exclusion, at least for the time-being. In other words, unless we excommunicate sexually active gay people, they are part of our church: it is not up to us to exclude them from such things as episcopal governance, for they are us -- unless we have classes of membership, say a class for the more righteous and a class for the less righteous. But if we don't segregate people in such ways, it would be for them to decide sacrificially to exclude themselves as the cost of being part of a worldwide communion that cannot or will not change any time soon - if that's the right thing. I realise that even asking the question in such terms is difficult, but that's what is being asked.

This has touched me a bit. I don't know what to say. At what point does the radical nature of the Gospel bump up against the natural fallenness of humanity? St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians, talks about not eating meat sacrificed to idols, even though there's no moral problem with it that he can see, if it will hurt the conscience of another member of the community by doing so. It's an admirable suggestion and in so many ways exhibits the self-sacrifice of the Cross (and Paul's own ode to love in Ch. 13, especially, "Love never insists on its own way"). But Paul is unfortunately silent on how long that should go on, or if there's ever a teaching moment to say to the conscience-burdened brother or sister, "You know, there really no reason for you to be upset. I've been bending over backwards in honor of your conscience for a long time now, but I don't see any movement or even any willingness to explore other ways of thinking about this from you."

Should we have waited for conscience-burdened slaveowners to come around? How about women? "You know, those fallen men just aren't ready to talk about this yet. Could you just wait for a while?" I hear what both Dr. Cassidy and St. Paul are trying to say, and I keep coming back with "justice delayed is justice denied."

And my own situation is of course mixed up completely with this. Should I renounce my orders, or at least abstain from exercising my sacerdotal functions? Granted, that the commotion seems to be about bishops, not priests and deacons at the moment, but still. And what does that mean vis-a-vis the Baptismal Covenant to ask some people, who are called into the Body of Christ just like anyone else, to voluntarily not use some of the gifts that God has given them to build up that body? The ministry of baptized GBL Christians is OK except when they are ordained? They can use all their gifts except if those gifts are in ordained ministry?

I just don't see how, try as I can to "walk a mile in their moccasins," that exclusion of anybody for innate God-created characteristics, based on nebulous passages of Scripture, can be justified.



bls said...

Women did wait many, many years for the right to vote and for other simple rights, in fact.

Susan B. Anthony, the mother of the Women's Suffrage movement in the U.S., never cast a vote herself; she died in 1906, after fighting her whole life for the right to vote. It took another 14 years for it to happen, in fact; that's a total of 62 years after the first American women's rights convention took place in 1858.

The Equal Rights Amendment has still never been voted into law.

Joe Cassidy said...


'not sure whether you'll get to read this since it's so long after the original posting, but I had to write to say that you captured the gist of what I was trying to say. If we'd only ask the victims of our anti-gay attitudes, the conversation would be different. I don't know how long a wait is appropriate, but realising that we're asking victims to undergo more victimization may just knock some sense into the Church. My presumption is that my gay brothers and sisters will say this cross is one too many, and that the tables ought then to be turned, and the Church be asked to bear the cross of inclusiveness. I think we sometimes think that inclusiveness is easy, but it's most painful because it requires that we die to all the ways we try to raise ourselves up in contrast to others.

Lest this become a sermon, I should shut up. Thanks for reading what I wrote orignially, and now (if you do see this).

God bless.

Joe Cassidy