A Season of Fasting

“An interim solution that will certainly fall very far short of resolving all the disputes that are before us but will provide a way of moving forward with integrity.” That’s Archbishop Rowan Williams’ take on it. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori described it as “a season of fasting – from authorizing rites for blessing same-sex unions and consecrating bishops in such unions on the one hand, and from transgressing traditional diocesan boundaries on the other.” And from my own Bishop Dorsey Henderson: “The Episcopal Church has been both affirmed and challenged.”

They are all commenting on the The Communiqué Of the Primates Meeting in Dar es Salaam 19th February 2007. During the past week, the Primates of the Anglican Communion (the presiding bishops of the various national churches in communion with the Church of England) have been meeting in Tanzania to wrestle with the future of the Episcopal Church. And in usual Anglican ambiguity, they tried to come to the middle. I am hopeful about their work, but realistic enough to know that it’s just another cease-fire, not a peace treaty.

The Communiqué orders the Episcopal Church to agree with its terms by September 30, though what if happens if it doesn’t is unclear. Those terms include:
· A permanent moratorium on consecrating non-celibate gay bishops
· No Episcopal authorization of Rites of Blessing for same-sex couples
· Establishment of “a primatial vicar” to offer oversight to conservative dioceses under the authority of Presiding Bishop Schori
· Ending civil litigation over property disputes

There are no winners here, but there are two sets of clear losers: Gay and lesbian Episcopalians who hoped that their time for justice and dignity had arrived and conservatives who wanted the Episcopal Church either excommunicated from the Anglican Communion or chopped up into two overlapping Provinces, one “conservative” (though in this case, that would be radical, not conservative, since Anglican polity would be destroyed) and one “liberal.”

Ironically, the Primates, as a part of their meeting went to the site of a former slave trading bazaar in Zanzibar to pray for “forgiveness for the past, mercy for the present, and humility for the future.” That’s because a couple of hundred years ago, the Anglican Communion thought that buying and selling Africans was a perfectly acceptable Christian thing to do. Someday, another group of Anglicans may go back to Dar es Salaam and offer another prayer of forgiveness, this time for the way it treated gay and lesbian people.

We’ve got seven months to bring our Church around, which will require a special convened meeting of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies. They will have to take steps that they could not take seven months ago. This will be a long season of fasting, a Lent in Ordinary Time.

One thought on “A Season of Fasting

  1. Tim – thank you for your thorough and wise analysis. My major concern, as I believe is yours, is that the “fast” that ++Katharine has asked for us to undertake requires LGBT people are the ones who should sacrifice the most during the Lenten season. I infer that conservatives likewise feel that they are bearing the burden of the Communion’s efforts to remain unified.There are at least two theological problems with the fast as it has been offered to us. First, early Christians did not fast for the sake of fasting, they fasted in order to examine their personal iniquities and evaluate their sense of Christian calling. GLBT Christians may have many personal and corporate failings worthy of examination, equal status as baptized members of the Church is not one of those short-falls. Secondly, it seems very inappropriate for the powerful to demand that the marginalized fast for the sake of the institution. This sort of sacrifice is not unlike the sort of tax that the priests of the Temple placed upon Jewish peasants. Those who possessed much took more from those who possessed little. St. Paul in fact ordered that the wealthier Corinthians to share their place at the table with the poorer Corinthians. The Primates are demanding that gays and lesbians, or “othodox” Anglicans (depending upon one’s point of view) must fast for the sake of the majority of Anglicans. This edict seems radically opposite to Jesus’ and St. Paul’s teachings.


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