Paul T. makes a good and important point about the history of the tradition in which I serve.
As Mr. T. points out, there is a great deal in the history of my tradition about which to be ashamed.
From what I can tell that very history and tradition systematically excluded gays, women and and others from wearing the very robes you wear and fully participating in the church
I regret the past transgressions of the institution in which I work. I acknowledge there are times the church has been exclusive, prejudiced, and aligned with powers that have been destructive to human community.
However, if we abandon every enterprise that has ghosts in its closet, we will soon lack any means of furthering the human community. If we are seeking ethical purity, we would need to give up science. Without science there would have been no Zyklon B for the Nazis to use in the slaughter of millions during the Second World War and no way of delivering the deadly poison in adequate doses to make certain the horrific death toll of the Holocaust. Without science there would have been no atomic bomb, no Agent Orange, no eugenics, no Thalidomide, global warming, or multiple other chemicals and technologies that have been used to horrific effect throughout human history. We do not abandon all science simply because some science has been woefully abused. Why would we abandon all religion simply because some people have used it for harm rather than the good for which it is intended?
At the same time, while institutional religion has been put to ill-effect, there have also been vast amounts of good done in the name of religion. Education and medical care in the western world have their roots in religious institutions. Untold billions of dollars have been unleashed through churches aimed at the well-being of the poor and disadvantaged. Religious institutions, at their best, have consistently worked to connect people with the deep well-spring of compassion, gentleness, and justice that is our true nature as human beings created in the image of God.
It is hard to understand why the good done through religious institutions is not factored into the equation of a person’s assessment of the church.
Mr. T goes on to ask,
Does your church marry gays? That’s a litmus test for me and for many in the ‘transient’ culture that you critique. Come on, there’s a reason why the culture has moved on from the church… I’ll take transience to oppression anyday (while I meditate on the beach in a group of friends).
The church in which I serve does not presently “marry gays.” For many within our community this is a source of great pain. It is a question that is a subject of heated debate in our church at this time. Our position will change. But it takes a long time for institutions to change. And, the larger and more diverse the institution, the more slowly change will come.
We in the Anglican Church value our international relationships in the global community that makes up the worldwide Anglican Communion. We seek to be a cross-cultural expression of human community. This means trying to embrace people who may not fully share our worldview.
For many of our African Anglican brothers and sisters, the question of same-sex relationships is extremely difficult. For the church in the west to impose our western cultural values on our brothers and sisters in less developed countries runs the risk of reverting to the kind of colonialist mentality from which we are seeking to liberate ourselves.
When Paul T. speaks about social justice, we are in absolute agreement. He suggests,
As for social justice, it seems to me that any citizens group is equally as capable to support refugees, or lobby for any number of justice issues. And many do. The Christian church as a whole has been as harmful and regressive (if not more harmful) than good on any of this issues you list. I and many of my friends do work for the good of the earth and other people – we certainly don’t need to be part of your organized religion to do so.
It is certainly true that no one needs the church to be involved in good work for the well-being of the human community. I rejoice in the good that is done by people who have no formal religious affiliation at all. It is difficult for me to understand why people outside the church would not similarly rejoice in the beauty, light, goodness, and compassion that are abundantly present in many religious communities. It is even more difficult for me to understand why church people and non-church people might not come together in a common vision of working for the well-being of the whole human community regardless of their belief or lack of belief.
I know nothing about Paul T. but I respect his desire to live authentically and openly. I only hope that Mr. T. and people who share his worldview might extend to me and others who find in a religious institution meaning and nurture for all that is best in the human enterprise, might extend to us the same degree of acceptance and respect.