As the dust continues to settle from General Convention 2009, along comes the Archbishop of Canterbury to go kicking it up again with his rather lengthy, numerated missive titled: "Communion, Covenant and our Anglican Future". A good two-thirds of this "pastoral" letter is dedicated to the two resolutions, D025 and C056, that won overwhelming votes of support from both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops in Anaheim. These were the "controversial" resolutions; y'know the gay ones.
And... just to make sure he stirs up the most dust possible... his choice of words about "chosen lifestyle" highlight his complete and utter cluelessness about me and the other "others" in the Anglican Communion. His letter reads in part:
5. In response, it needs to be made absolutely clear that, on the basis of repeated statements at the highest levels of the Communion's life, no Anglican has any business reinforcing prejudice against LGBT people, questioning their human dignity and civil liberties or their place within the Body of Christ. Our overall record as a Communion has not been consistent in this respect and this needs to be acknowledged with penitence.
6. However, the issue is not simply about civil liberties or human dignity or even about pastoral sensitivity to the freedom of individual Christians to form their consciences on this matter. It is about whether the Church is free to recognise same-sex unions by means of public blessings that are seen as being, at the very least, analogous to Christian marriage.
7. In the light of the way in which the Church has consistently read the Bible for the last two thousand years, it is clear that a positive answer to this question would have to be based on the most painstaking biblical exegesis and on a wide acceptance of the results within the Communion, with due account taken of the teachings of ecumenical partners also. A major change naturally needs a strong level of consensus and solid theological grounding.
8. This is not our situation in the Communion. Thus a blessing for a same-sex union cannot have the authority of the Church Catholic, or even of the Communion as a whole. And if this is the case, a person living in such a union is in the same case as a heterosexual person living in a sexual relationship outside the marriage bond; whatever the human respect and pastoral sensitivity such persons must be given, their chosen lifestyle is not one that the Church's teaching sanctions, and thus it is hard to see how they can act in the necessarily representative role that the ordained ministry, especially the episcopate, requires.
9. In other words, the question is not a simple one of human rights or human dignity. It is that a certain choice of lifestyle has certain consequences. So long as the Church Catholic, or even the Communion as a whole does not bless same-sex unions, a person living in such a union cannot without serious incongruity have a representative function in a Church whose public teaching is at odds with their lifestyle. (There is also an unavoidable difficulty over whether someone belonging to a local church in which practice has been changed in respect of same-sex unions is able to represent the Communion's voice and perspective in, for example, international ecumenical encounters.)
Let me respond by simply stating that I have never, never, ever chosen to be a lesbian. I would not ever chose ON PURPOSE to be stared at in bars, refused service in a restaurant, denied a job promotion, or otherwise be treated with less dignity than is afforded anyone else. Choosing to where a T-shirt instead of an oxford to work is a "lifestyle" choice. Choosing to drink coffee instead of tea in the morning is a "lifestyle" choice. Having sexual and affectional desire for a member of the same-sex is a "sexual orientation."
So, what in the world could he mean by "chosen lifestyle"? I think that comes clear in his explanation about why he is opposed to ever blessing same-sex unions. Because same-sex couples might be engaging in same-sex sex. This seems to be the "choice" that would have "certain consequences." Those consequences being that no sexually-active LGBT person should be allowed to "go behind the curtain" and become a deacon, priest or bishop. And, what if the civil authorities have already determined that same-sex marriages are legal? Well, ++Rowan has an answer for that, too! "Since when do we let matters of 'the world' influence 'the Church'?"
Of course, he also acknowledges that violence committed against LGBT people in the name of the Church is wrong and abhorrent and the Church should apologize for such actions (Nigeria! Uganda!). But when does the Archbishop recognize that the tortured language of his letter is yet another form of violence against gay people in the Church? No, he's not physically attacking me. But he is bolstering the bigotry that's out there that says I am a second-class citizen and should be treated as such.
One can take solace in the fact that the Archbishop resides in jolly ol' England... and what he says or does is not binding on The Episcopal Church. At least I hope not!
One can also take solace that God is watching, and notes the prayers of those who truly turn to him:You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your record?