Thursday, June 3, 2010

Rowan Williams doubles down, and Katharine Jefferts Schori continues to impress

No push-over, she!  In answer to the Archbishop of Canterbury's Pentacost letter to the Anglican Communion, Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori (Primate of the Episcopal Church) basically tells him to go pound sand.

The American province of the Anglican Communion continues to peeve the rest of the Communion by respectfully refusing to acquiesce to a "request" to stop ordaining gay people, in particular elevating gay people to level of bishop.  The most recent refusal came May 15th with the consecration of Los Angeles Bishop Suffragan Mary Douglas Glasspool, now the Church's second out and partnered bishop.  Archbishop Williams doesn't believe that's "cricket" and suggests in his Pentacost letter that, if the American Church will not submit to the wishes of the rest of the Communion, it should not continue to fully participate in ongoing "ecumenical dialogues".

How's that for a rap across the knuckles, eh?

For her part, Jefferts Schori (who, by the mere fact that she is the only Primate who is a she, herself peeves the Communion no end) is unmoved and lobs back a little history lesson to someone who should know better:

We live in great concern that colonial attitudes continue, particularly in attempts to impose a single understanding across widely varying contexts and cultures. We note that the cultural contexts in which The Episcopal Church's decisions have generated the greatest objection and reaction are also often the same contexts where women are barred from full ordained leadership, including the Church of England.

As Episcopalians, we note the troubling push toward centralized authority exemplified in many of the statements of the recent Pentecost letter. Anglicanism as a body began in the repudiation of the control of the Bishop of Rome within an otherwise sovereign nation. Similar concerns over self-determination in the face of colonial control led the Scottish Episcopal Church to consecrate Samuel Seabury for The Episcopal Church in the nascent United States – and so began the Anglican Communion.

Then, twisting the knife, she continues:

We are distressed at the apparent imposition of sanctions on some parts of the Communion. We note that these seem to be limited to those which "have formally, through their Synod or House of Bishops, adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion." We are further distressed that such sanctions do not, apparently, apply to those parts of the Communion that continue to hold one view in public and exhibit other behaviors in private. Why is there no sanction on those who continue with a double standard? In our context bowing to anxiety by ignoring that sort of double-mindedness is usually termed a "failure of nerve." Through many decades of wrestling with our own discomfort about recognizing the full humanity of persons who seem to differ from us, we continue to work at open and transparent communication as well as congruence between word and behavior. We openly admit our failure to achieve perfection!

But this is probably her best line:

We believe that the Body of Christ is only found when such diversity is welcomed with abundant and radical hospitality.

Read the whole letter here; it's worth it.  When you see the now familiar sign saying "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You", you can rest assured that there is no asterisk alerting you to the fine print.  Jefferts Schori is helping us live up to and be worthy of this welcome we profess.  Her continuing ability to demonstrate how uniquely qualified and well-placed she is at this moment to lead the American Church is only further highlighted by Rowan Williams' demonstration of the opposite.