Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Rocky but sacred ground

Before anything else, a very deep bow to ‘K’, former Zen priest, teacher, partner, father and dear shanga buddy, who complains that the longer he knows me the more Anglican he’s becoming. Many years now, since his first e-mail querying my ‘rather original practice’ ( no bowing to statues, no chanting in languages I didn’t understand). ‘K’ was one of the first to realize, when I was blogging more regularly that most of my posts were about a lot larger things than just the then-current events in the Anglican Communion. He has also graciously, but very persistently reminded me that I have been noticeable for my absence from this space.

A deep bow also to my beloved siblings in Christ Jesus. You know who you are, the kick-ass brothers and sisters who receive and act on my Prayer Calls, the bloggers whose sites I visit and comment on frequently- often on a daily basis. Living blessings each one of you, for me personally you’re also the most real embodiment of the extraordinary blessings of being a member of the Living Body of Christ.

Yes, it’s been a while- July 27 2008 to be exact, the date of my last post.
Lambeth 2008 was drawing to a close, and the title of my previous post was ‘Sad but Confident.’

Yes something happened- yet again the Church, OUR Church broke my heart- ‘shattered’ perhaps a more exact description of what happened this time, because there were pieces, lots of pieces.

It wasn’t just the dis-invitation of the blessed Bishop of New Hampshire.

It wasn’t just the extremely comic but obscene extravagance of the Big Blue Tent, when the C of E remains one of the largest property owners in Great Britain;
nor was it just the obscene expense of all those security fences and the people manning them; the fancy passes, the shuttling back and forth from Cathedral to campus...

It wasn’t just the hypocritical theatrics of a very public walk to end world poverty which lasted but one hour - a lot less time than it took everyone to lunch at ++Rowan’s London palace or to take tea with the Queen.

You don’t need my experience and study in organizational transformation to see what a patently hollow, exercise in passive-aggressive control and avoidance Lambeth 2008 really was.

At one of the most critical and decisive junctures in our Church’s history, the host and seeming episcopal head of our Church not only excused by his silence the very individuals who were levelling threats against our Church, he exiled one of our Church’s most prophetic voices, declared ahead of time that no decisions would be made; and then, just as everyone’s already packed & saying their fond farewells he slams down on the table two papal-like takes on Anglican reality- the latest Windsor-Whatever, and his summation of the exercise.

Give the party a exotic name, build a fancy venue, create a tight programme which leaves everyone overwhelmed but feeling good, and then send them home too exhausted to question what’s just happened, but so very glad they’ve been invited.

Sounds pretty controlling and disingenuous to me, and as I write these words I’m remembering an e-mail from an African priest now living outside. “Rowan and his ilk owe the people of Africa and saint Desmond Tutu a public and heart-felt apology for misappropriating ‘Indaba' and mis-using it to their own hollow ends.’

When it came time in 2008 for me to write my next post, on the outcomes of Lambeth 2008 I wrote it with my tears and prayers, and never posted it.

In the year plus, it has primarily been my beloved siblings in Christ who have essentially been the Living Body of Christ for me.

As I said, earlier you know who you are, and you have no idea of the blessings, the sources of love and grace you’ve been for me personally, and thank-you doesn’t quite cover it.

But failing or declining to meet the opportunities the Holy Spirit was offering our Church in 2008 we’ve come to an even darker, harder place. A chance and calling writ large, the Holy Spirit’s invitation to act like the redeemed people we are; to accept Her transformative gifts implicit in the situation in Uganda; to speak truth to those who inspite of their atrocious acting out are still our brothers in Christ.

I am referring of course to the proposed anti-homosexual legislation in Uganda. Legal insanity which could see imprisonment for ‘suspected homosexuality’ the death penalty for ‘aggrivated homosexuality’, and imprisonment for friends and family who fail to report our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters within 24 hours. Legislation, encouraged, aided and abetted by the leaders of the Anglican Church of Uganda. And shamefully, with only two public exceptions, the leadership of our Church has not found its voice.

On so many levels it should be clear, this IS a defining moment for our Church. And once again the Holy Spirit clearly appears to be ‘leading from the floor’ as she did in Anaheim.

As I have reeled and wept over much that has been reported on this horror, I have also cheered and glowed with pride over the postings, letters and protests by many I am blessed and honoured to call brothers and sisters in Christ. They’ve done some incredible work- and we will keep it up.

And I’m talking about some of the Church’s biggest, most unrecognized defenders, some of it’s hardest workers and most generous; many of whom have paid a very real price for their faith in one context or another and continue to bear the marks of that sacrifice. But they’re also some of the most radiant, loving people I know. I fear for where our Church might be without them.

But its hard and it’s real- and a verrrrry sacred the place in which we stand right now as a Church- absolutely transformative in its possibilities. And after much prayer, silence and tears it’s my sense that it’s those possibilities which may have something to do with the shameful silence from the Churches so-far.

None of our Provinces of the Church have a very good record of wholeheartedly embracing the opportunities of growth, grace and healing the Holy Spirit is offering us by welcoming and celebrating the loves, lives and vocations of our LGBT faithful and those who will follow them back to the Church we are called to be. If Rowan or Katherine speak prophetically on Uganda things can’t possibly remain the same in their own provinces. And perhaps that's what's scaring them the most.

Anyone else see the radically transformative possibilities here?

But to quote one slightly irrevrant brother ‘and maybe it’s just possible that +Rowan’s grown too comfortable with a picket up his ass, sitting on that proverbial fence?’

Yes, I’ve heard the theorizing about how any comment from ‘the west’ could only incense greater reprisals, wilder insanity inflicted on our brothers and sisters in Uganda and elsewhere in Africa.

Nice theory, but the individuals involved are not only legally responsible adults- parliamentarians, priests and bishops, many of them are baptized Christians who are called to accountability by the same God as you and I. THEY ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR REACTIONS, FOR THEIR REACTIVE BEHAVIOR.

All we can be responsible for is witnessing to the truth as we see it in the two-fold commandment given us by our Savior ‘To love the Lord your God with your whole heart and mind, and your neighbor as yourself.’

Our responsibility is for our words or our silence; our actions or cowering inactivity.

As one beloved sister reminded us powerfully in her recent post SILENCE = DEATH, and in this instance the death won’t just be of our Ugandan brothers and sisters but of the prophetic voice & moral witness of a Church called to be implicitly prophetic by embodying the wisdom, grace and ambiguity in the tension & balance of our model of practice- the three-legged stool.

One voice out of Uganda suffices: this thanks to The Changing Church

I have no doubt that behind the scenes, in a delicate Anglican way, feelers are being put out and contacts made both in the UK and Uganda to discern what might be an appropriate reaction to the Bill, and how Church of England leaders might exert and influence.

One of the reasons advocated for saying nothing in public is that western outsiders, and ex-colonial rulers to boot, have no right to comment on legislation and morality and church teaching in Uganda. Gug, one of Changing Attitude’’s gay Ugandan contacts, begs to differ.

He writes:

Funny, I am a Ugandan, desperately worried because of this Bill in parliament. If it passes, which most likely it will, I and my partner will face life imprisonment, or death, once caught.

Is it surprising that I don’’t mind anyone, even a 'foreigner' speaking out for me? Especially when I cannot speak out myself in my country about this bill? I used to like political correctness until I realised that life does not follow its rules. My country mates plan to kill me, and you fear to say no, because you don’’t think you as a foreigner should comment?

It happened in Nazi Germany, for Jews, and homosexuals; it happened in Rwanda as recently as 20 years ago.

When, I pray, do you as a 'foreigner' plan to challenge my murderers that they have gone beyond the pale of humanity? When I am dead? Do you really think that will help?

I believe it is actually an opportunity for the Archbishop of Canterbury to take back the moral high ground from the Church of Uganda leaders. They have made it abundantly clear that they support the Bill. They support it in its terribleness. And now they have started back peddling. They are in a dilemma. It is almost impossible for them to recant, but the Bill is so terrible that they must recant! These guys have gone too far, and they realise it. They are on the back foot.

Let the Archbishop just be gracious and negotiate with them. I am sure they don’’t have a clue on how to retake their international standing. Besides now not having an 'official' stance on the bill, they are stopping the comments. On the day of the debate, the representative of the Church of Uganda who was supposed to support it did not appear. Yes, the pressure is working. Instead, his place was taken by someone else who was sadly funny. Except, the blood they are baying for is mine. They are not in danger!

Uganda is contemplating gay genocide. And yet, the people who are behind it are also adamant that they love gay people. They are just fearful of the spread of the gay disease. Not AIDS but homosexuality. They fear for themselves, they fear for their children, and their fear has translated into a fight for life, the lives of people like me. And we are losing.

In tears, I first read this powerful witness many hours ago, and it wouldn’t let me go.

Yes, I’ve e-mailed, written letters, signed petitions and prayed my heart into tearful silence- but it’s not enough. Our brothers and sisters in Uganda still live in fear for their very lives; for something not of their making; for a toxic theology; for generations of blood-soaked generations misogeny looking for a new prey.

When, I pray, do you as a 'foreigner' plan to challenge my murderers that they have gone beyond the pale of humanity? When I am dead? Do you really think that will help?

When, I pray, do you as a 'foreigner' plan to challenge my murderers that they have gone beyond the pale of humanity? When I am dead? Do you really think that will help?

When, I pray, do you as a 'foreigner' plan to challenge my murderers that they have gone beyond the pale of humanity? When I am dead? Do you really think that will help?

I can’t forget these words. They won’t leave me alone.

So yes I’ve still not recovered from Lambeth 2008, but our brothers and sisters in Uganda can’t wait for the Bishop of New Hampshire to receive his personal letter of apology from the Archbishop of Canterbury or from the Bishop of Durham either.

So David@Montreal is back, and you’re going to be hearing from me. Count on it!

In closing, a dear brother in Christ who has become a treasure and radiant source of blessing in my life posted a prayer on this matter

A Prayer for Deliverance

O God, your glory blazes with the light of love and justice, your righteousness and your mercy flow together as one mighty stream: May we who beseech deliverance from violence, oppression, and degradation be purged within of their roots--of fear, envy, powerlessness, anger, resentment, the lust for revenge and the desire to hurt--and of the blindness and willfulness which beset our best intentions; that we may not act with violence, neither oppress nor degrade any of your creatures, but may strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being; for Jesus' sake. Amen.

And may the people of God say Amen.

Your brother in Christ



it's margaret said...

Good to find you --and find you here.

blessings dear brother.

Paul said...

All right! The man with the fierce, compassionate voice shares here again. Most excellent, my brother.

Fran said...

Oh this is great news!