Monday, February 13, 2012

Do they even stop to think?

A conversation several days ago, with one of the living blessings who has become very dear to me. We live in different countries: until recently we’d only ever connected through the blogosphere and e-mails. But, as we’ve grown to know each other, and shared several heart-felt telephone conversations, V. has become a treasured partner in the tortured/difficult/exciting transformation our Church is undergoing.

V. is a university academic: literature; with believe it or not a doctoral thesis on Spenser’s Fairie Queen. She is also a ‘convert. Having grown up in a defiantly secular home, where my Dad was a physics researcher, and Mum was a hospital administrator.’

V. fell in love with the Anglican tradition because of our liturgy- ‘its transcendence. It’s only recently I’ve got into the history, issues and theology behind it and the insufficiency for our complicated times of much of the thinking and worldviews which gave us this poetic beauty.’


When V. called she was tears, having read a news story of the on-going antics in the British Synod over the proposed ‘protection’ of the delicate sensitivities of priests and parishes unable to accept the oversight of women bishops in the English Church.

‘Rowan is actually tying the English Church into a legislative straight-jacket to normalize misogyny within the Church.’

I listened.

V. had apparently picked up the story in what I believe is called her ‘news feed’. One of the keywords is Anglican, another is Episcopal Church. Which is actually quite surprising, because four years ago, when everything was gearing up for Lambeth 2008, and it became clear that the Giant of New Hampshire was going to be excluded from the councils under the Great Big Blue circus tent, V. resigned from her post as People’s Warden and had her name removed from the parish lists. When school started that fall V. became a the mainstay at the twice weekly Eucharist at the University where she teaches; eventually becoming a server, ‘ an experience I still find beyond words,’ she’d told me only months earlier when we’d also discussed the possibility she might be discovering a vocation to the priesthood in her own life.


‘You know, I’m actually wondering has Rowan... bumped his head or something?’ she eventually asked. ‘Do he and the Archbishop of York really think they can get away with this? Didn’t they learn anything from the scandal over the appointment of the new Bishop of Southwark?’

I listened.

‘You know what I’m thinking... Something you said, one of the first times I called you- about one of your posts... How sometimes Church can be like a toxic parent.. How even when you leave home, you still try to keep an eye on them- covertly, or at a safe distance.’

'Guess that explains your news feed,' I kidded her.


‘So what do I do?’ she asked. ‘What am I supposed to do with this... latest mess?’

I waited, to see if there might be more before suggesting that the first thing- the only thing really she could do: to essentially unplug- from her news feed at least- to take some time for serious self-care. And perhaps, when she’s ready, to write about it.


‘You know, I used to take real comfort in the fact that the Anglican tradition wasn’t one of those churches that expected you to check your brain at the door... That people could disagree, and still live into something larger- the Living Body of Christ.’

‘But when I see these stunts- there’s no other word for it... I really wonder.’


Our conversation went on a lot longer and on to other topics, but even after more than an hour on the practice bench, I still ached for my friend’s deep existential pain.


Not the first time I have come across it in fellow people of faith, or perhaps most sadly in fellow Anglicans. Sitting there, after we’d hung up, I thought of the manifestations of that same deep trauma and pain expressed in the lives of too many of our poz clients here in Quebec as they faced their approaching deaths in the first two decades of AIDS. Bone-deep, defining pain, yes, most commonly experienced through the excesses of the Church of Rome during its years of excessive power here in Qu├ębec: the madness of the Church at its worst lived out in the agonies, fear and pain of too many gay men- but also in the anger, indifference or bitterness of the current unchurched majority in this province today.

Do they have any idea of the consequences of their actions? I asked myself after V.'s call, thinking most particularly of Canterbury and York? Remembering the scandal of Lambeth 2008, the rejection of Jeffrey John’s vocation to the ecclesia, the insult to +Katherine’s office when she visited Britain, and now this. Frightened old men in purple skirts, with their big rings and pectoral crosses. Only a few days later, a priest I truly cherish shared with me the cheeky theory that perhaps sometimes the shock of consecration is too much for certain individuals, dissolving their backbone during the laying on of hands. I’ve also heard another theory- that it’s the weight of all that big jewellery, the insignias of their office, or perhaps they’re believing all those complimentary headlines they wished someone would write about them?

Whatever, it’s worse than tragic, when one sits with the loss- not even for the Church, but for the individuals who can no longer live with what the church is doing to them, to the people they know and love, or even just in the headlines.

One of the other aspects of the current scandal in the English Synod V. and I went on to discuss is the embarrassing silence from both of our respective provinces on the issue of women bishops in the English Church. In the last several years, as we know only too well Canterbury, York; several African provinces, and un-numbered self-appointed voices of Anglican orthodoxy have flayed the American and Canadian churches with opinion, threats, invective, and most sadly with insults.

Not that I am suggesting that ++Fred or ++Katherine respond in kind. However, with so much of the current scandal in the English Synod making international headlines, it is my sense that both the Canadian Primate and the Presiding Bishop could provide an important public example by publically reassuring the English Church of their prayers in this matter, as our experiences of sisters in the Canadian and American episcopacy have been some of the greatest gifts of the Holy Spirit recently experienced by our provinces. A public message, not only for the English Church, but for the likes of my friend V.

In closing, I want to cite three blog posts of recent days. None of which received the credit they each really deserve. Each of them by individuals of integrity and faith who I cherish. Three women within our Church, who nourish, challenge and bless me on a regular basis.

Two of these cherished sisters are priests- awesome priests, the third is my personal Queen of the South; each of them living gifts to our Church- living proof of the insulting wrong-headedness of the current treatment of women with vocations to the episcopacy within the English Church. Examples of the high price this proposed institutionalized misogyny will continue to inflict on the English Church.

from Wounded Bird
http://thewoundedbird.blogspot.com/2012/02/odds-and-ends-from-press-on-women.html

from Telling Secrets
http://telling-secrets.blogspot.com/2012/02/whats-in-it-for-you.html

from Leave it where Jesus flang it
http://leaveitlay.blogspot.com/2012/02/we-should-make-church-itself-sign-of.html

1 comment:

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Dearheart, I, too, have wondered if a word form ++KJS or perhaps a word from the women who are bishops in TEC might be helpful. I came down on the side of 'I-don't-think-so'. I know this much for certain - there were lots of prayers arising from women in black and purple shirts and headed across The Pond.

Sexism, like all forms of prejudice and bigotry, is a social disease. It destroys brain cells.