A Response to the Primates Communique from Tanzania
For more than thirty years, gay and lesbian folk have been on a trajectory of honesty in the Episcopal Church. An often forgotten event is the ordination of the first openly gay/lesbian person in the Episcopal Church, the Rev. Ellen Barrett, in 1977 by Bishop Paul Moore. This act stirred up the first discussion of “homosexuality” at the Lambeth Conference in 1978 (everybody agreed to study it). The “a” in Anglican also frequently stands for amnesia. The way the current Primates’ Communiqué reads, you would swear that the Episcopal Church came up with this newfangled idea to ordain faithful, otherwise qualified gay and lesbian in 2003. The truth is that the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson is a second generation openly gay Episcopalian!
As I read the Communiqué, one thing is clear to me. It is time for the Episcopal Church to catch up with gay and lesbian folk, to follow our lead even, in the honesty department. For years conservatives have been driven crazy by bishops (especially) who say things are not happening in their dioceses with their authority when they clearly are. Our bishops, and the rest of us, need to come to grips with the fact that a wink and a nod constitute authorization, even if you don’t use the word. You can parse the definitions of “authorize” and “allow,” but I do not believe that game will play anymore. We gay and lesbian folk are getting sick of it too, by the way. It is fundamentally denigrating. If nothing else, it is a flagrant a violation of the last promise of the baptismal covenant.
So let’s try honesty. And a big part of that honesty needs to be telling the truth about where we are as a Communion, and even as the Episcopal Church. We are impaired. We are broken. The Communiqué “invites” the bishops of our church to make certain statements or “the relationship between The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as a whole remains damaged at best, and this has consequences for the full participation of the Church in the life of the Communion.”
Frankly, that’s the truth. It is damaged at best and all of us understand that decisions have consequences. Maybe if we stopped pretending that we can make things better in the short term we could be honest enough about the brokenness to begin the long journey of repair. What the Primates have offered is a short term solution, a quick fix that cannot be made without throwing a whole class of people overboard.
Whatever we do, the game playing must stop for the sake of everyone. The winkin’ and noddin’ days are over. Instead of semantics, let’s try honesty as the way forward.