Thursday, September 3, 2009
Listening to many from the ELCA talk about the momentous decision of their Church Wide Assembly to ordain partnered gay and lesbian clergy, it has been interesting to compare their experience with those of the Episcopal Church (TEC). I watched as that vote came in and heard an audible gasp from the assembly as the report of the vote was given. I don’t think that they expected it to pass. Since then on a list serve I follow, I have listened to many in pain about the decision agonize as to whether they were going to stay in ELCA. But when I ask them, can we meet at the altar, they all say yes. It is Christ where we all meet.
Yet with the Anglican Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury wants to make of us a two-tiered communion. We have Anglicans who cannot meet at the altar. The neo-conservative Anglicans cannot meet at the altar rail with those of us who support gay folk in the Church. This week we are told that there are bishops who cannot join in communion with other TEC folk who are meeting with the ABC in hopes of being chosen to be a part of that “upper” tier. So what the ABC may be doing is allowing individual dioceses to sign on to the Anglican Covenant. Churches like Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya refused to attend Lambeth because the American and Canadian bishops were attending. They have already chosen to walk apart. And yet the ABC chooses to court those who would incite disunion. It is clear that the ABC wants to punish TEC without doing that overtly.
The breaking point may be the Anglican Covenant. The Anglican Covenant in its various manifestations has been met on this side of the pond with such derision that I doubt if TEC could ever be a part of it. It does not take into consideration our polity or our lay-led Church. So we may find ourselves sent to the “second tier.”
Each time I think of a second tier I begin to smile. I am a lover of opera and classical music and love going to concerts. The “second tier” in my mind is the best seat in the house. You can see better, hear better, and you don’t have to dress up.
We can only be ‘second tier’ if we allow others to place us there. But we may be able to see better, hear better and we may not have to dress up to meet at the altar rail.
What the ABC is not paying attention to is the loss of his own church and the split that is happening there. And this ABC will not be here long. He will retire; he will not always direct the Anglican Communion. Meanwhile the Church will continue to emerge all over the world. It will emerge without discrimination for gays; it will emerge without pompous hierarchical trimmings. It will emerge less judgmental, ready to spread the love of God and ready to meet Christ at the altar rail. A two-tier communion will be just a figment of some Hogwartian imagination