Friday, August 31, 2007

A Tale of Two (Potential) Bishops

The Very Rev. Tracey Lind has gained the media's attention as being an openly lesbian, partnered nominee for bishop of the Diocese of Chicago. But her beliefs about staying in the Anglican Communion bear some examination.

In a 2004 essay in the progressive publication The Witness, Lind argued that if the Anglican Communion were to stand against the "full inclusion" of gays and lesbians, then faithfulness to Jesus might require leaving the Communion:

"My sisters and brothers in this enterprise we call Anglicanism ... if the conversation does not shift to the real issues [and, from Lind's perspective, away from the "scapegoating" of gays and lesbians], then perhaps the words of Jesus about leaving house, fields and families behind might even come to include the Anglican Communion. For in the end, it's not about the church; it's about the Gospel."

Let's see here. Lind at minimum foresaw the possibility of, and arguably advocated for, people leaving the Anglican Communion if the Communion ultimately proved rejecting of the Episcopal Church's stance in favor of "full inclusion."

That leads me to a question: How is Lind's view concerning leaving the Anglican Communion substantially different from the view concerning leaving the Episcopal Church allegedly held by Mark Lawrence at the time of his first election as Bishop of South Carolina -- the view that lead to the smear campaign against Lawrence?

Because at worst, progressives could claim that Lawrence at minimum foresaw the possibility of, and arguably advocated for, people leaving the Episcopal Church if TEC rejected the orthodoxy of the Anglican Communion.

Lawrence, to whom consent was not granted this last spring and who has now been elected by South Carolina a second time, was pilloried for, among other reasons, the supposed threat of leading that diocese out of the Episcopal Church. His greatest "sin," to Episcopal progressives, seemingly consisted of statements like this one: "I shall commit myself to work at least as hard at keeping the Diocese of South Carolina in The Episcopal Church, as my sister and brother bishops work at keeping The Episcopal Church in covenanted relationship with the worldwide Anglican Communion."

Is that any more radical a statement of potential leave-taking than what Lind said? Of course not, particularly when your consider that Lawrence said the following just one paragraph prior: "I would ask you to consider the fact that many of us want to remain in the Anglican Communion as well as The Episcopal Church."

Compare that last statement with how Lind ended her essay: "For now, I'm going to stay at the table [in the Anglican Communion] with walking shoes on my feet."

If Lind made her comments today, would they lead to strong opposition to her candidacy -- or election, if Chicago chooses her -- the way that Lawrence's statements did? Would the Episcopal Church's much proclaimed desire to stay in the Anglican Communion lead individuals, groups, or diocesan standing committees to raise a major brouhaha concerning Lind or any other potential bishop with a similar viewpoint -- to the point of seriously waylaying the potential bishop's consecration?

I think we all know the answers to those questions.

3 comments:

Marshall said...

To answer two of your questions:

Is that any more radical a statement of potential leave-taking than what Lind said? More radical? Well, it is qualitatively different. Lind's statement spoke of individuals exercising their individual consciences. Lawrence spoke of how a diocese might act, and how he might lead it.

If Lind made her comments today, would they lead to strong opposition to her candidacy -- or election, if Chicago chooses her -- the way that Lawrence's statements did? Well, they would certainly be matters of consideration.

Would they result in her not receiving sufficient consents for the election? Perhaps; perhaps not. Remember that Lawrence's statements did not prevent him receiving suffient consents for election. There was never question that he received sufficient consents from the bishops. When procedural issues prevented recognition of consents from some Standing Committees, it was not because there was doubt that those consents could be authentic; but in troublesome times, we are better served by following the official procedures for our actions. (Yes, there have been exceptions in the past, and at this point it doesn't look like they've served us that well.) I certainly expect Lawrence to receive sufficient consents in the second election (a bit anomolous in itself in offering only one candidate).

Please note the conclusions of Dean Lind's sermon: an ecclesial conclusion that we all need to do our best to stay in conversation and in communion; and her personal conclusion that she will do so. And should she decide she needs to leave, she has no expectation of taking the authority, license, or property of the Episcopal Church with her. There are too many at the other pole of the discussion who simply can't say as much.

Rev15:3 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ginny said...

As an ordinary parishioner in the Diocese of Chicago, I'd like to express a couple of thoughts.

First, I hope and pray that the process goes more smoothly for Father Lawrence's consents. South Carolina elected him, he's their choice. Good luck to him and to all the people of the diocese.

Second, I hope that our own process goes smoothly and with the inspiration of the Spirit when we choose from among 5 excellent nominees. Whoever she or he is will be our choice.

Can someone please explain to a mere parishioner how consecrating a bishop "for" Americans "from" another country is not breaking the Windsor guidelines, but simply nominating a gay personfor consideration is? But then I'm naive enough to believe that we are all created in God's image, and our being comes from Him and not by chance or choice.

I agree with Marshall; Lind's statement is one of individual conscience, not of corporate secession.

I'm sure the delegates we elected recently will come up with interesting questions of their own to ask everyone in the "walkabouts" or the one-on-one meetings. I wouldn't presume to pass this one along to ours.