Father Waldo Explains His Reference to Excommunication

(This post is slightly revised from the earlier edition, after a couple of editing errors were corrected. We are saved by Grace, not by works, thanks be to God!)

In an effort to become as notorious a false prophet as Balaam and Simon Magus, I decided to predict the relative chances of the candidates for Bishop. In that post, I wrote that Father W. Andrew Waldo had cited the rubrics in the Prayer Book for withholding communion from those “living a notoriously evil life” as one of the range of possible actions that could be taken in response to a priest who blessed a same-sex union. Since that seemed like a position that would comfort conservatives and unnerve liberals, I so noted.

The problem with this entire process has been our (the people of this Diocese) inability to get our minds wrapped around who these candidates are. As a result, opinions are being formed based on what people have written in the past or upon what they said in two minute responses to questions from delegates and interested members. We have had virtually no real interaction with these candidates in the form of thoughtful, nuanced and well-articulated dialogue. Which is a pity, really, since we are going to live with one of them for a very long time.

Fr. John Burwell and now, Fr. Andrew Waldo, have chosen to engage at a deeper level with the people who read this blog. We haven’t been able to hear from the others. But the election is still 11 days away. We have plenty of time. It’s Advent, after all.

Below is Fr. Waldo’s response to my previous post: 



I thought it worth clarifying my walkabout comments about the disciplinary rubrics since, clearly, I failed to make my point fully or accurately in the time allotted.

First, I do not believe the blessing of same sex unions to fit under the rubric of “living a notoriously evil life” in any way, shape or form. The part of the disciplinary rubric in question is in the second paragraph, in which in this theoretical case, by defiance or just unwillingness to engage a sincere and substantive process a priest has “done wrong to his/her neighbors” by willful actions that derail a larger, delicate and fragile process.

Second, my reference to the disciplinary rubric at all assumes the following,

  • that the diocese has embarked on a robust and substantive response to the mutual listening process called for by Windsor, a process too-often ignored or perfunctorily engaged by conservatives and liberals alike
  • that a priest blessing a union has done so as a provocative act in defiance of a dialogic process underway within the larger diocesan community
  • that it sequentially follows item three, and is grounded in item four, below

Third, the disciplinary rubrics are a last resort. Further, my comments assume that Jesus’ process for conflict within the community, found in Matthew’s account—speaking to a person first, then with witnesses, then to a council of elders (Standing Committee, most logically)—has been followed, hopefully prior to the event itself.

Fourth, and critically important, I have never understood the disciplinary rubrics to be a reactive “weapon” in the hands of ecclesiastical authorities but a considered, thoughtful, compassionate, and prayerful response growing out of the community’s understanding of its own health and well-being. It is a fruitless and utterly divisive action if seen or used in any other way. Used thoughtfully, with the compassionate support of the community in question, it is an act of healthful accountability. My interest in engaging a robust mutual listening process grows out of a deeply held belief that that community includes and deeply engages all people—liberal, conservative, gay, straight, white, black, brown—who these days seem to have to learn again how to be and stay in fruitful relationship.

So my comment was not about the raw exercise of Episcopal power and control, but it attempted (misleadingly, it seems) to address how seriously I take process in addressing contentious issues. This includes how leaders under the bishop’s authority either support or undermine processes intended to heal and move forward. Too often in the church, liberals have run rough-shod (to use a word a lesbian colleague of mine used recently) over conservatives, and conservatives have ignored the witness of thoughtful, scripturally-rooted liberals. This has to change, and it can only change if we make covenant with each other actually to engage the subjects and to stay with each other through the process.

The walkabout question was a good, important and understandably provocative one worth asking. I hope this provides a substantive clarification.

Advent blessings,

 Andrew Waldo+

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