Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Archbishop Puts His Foot In It... Again

I received in my inbox the commentary from Integrity's Executive Director Max Niedzwiecki on the latest round of "Rowan, Would You Please Shut Up." The Archbishop is quoted in The Times as saying...

"[T]here's no problem about a gay person who's a bishop. It's about the fact that there are traditionally, historically, standards that the clergy are expected to observe." According to the Archbishop, gay and lesbian people are just fine – but unless they abstain from sex with members of their own sex, they should not be bishops.The Archbishop goes on to say that "The question about gay people is not about their dignity or the respect they deserve as gay people, it's a question about a particular choice of life, a partnership, and what the church has to say about that.”

Niedzwiecki points out the obvious double-standard the Archbishop has set in this statement. Rowan Williams has a particular choice of life, a partnership, with Mrs. Williams. But that relationship isn't questioned because... well, y'know... it's heterosexual... and approved of by the majority. There is something deeply disturbing to me about people who will require the vocation of celibacy of other people, but not put on that burden themselves. Really, Archbishop: how can you be so un-Christlike?

I have talked about reposting my entry, Uniquely Eunuch, from last November. Now would seem to be a good time:

His disciples said to him, "If such such is the case for a man and his wife it is better not to marry." But he said to them, "Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can."--Matthew 19: 9-12

This passage was in yesterday's gospel, and raises an interesting point for me. Eunuchs, who were in many ways "the other" in the First Century world, were the ones who were not to marry but rather to serve as attendants to a harem. They may have been people with same-sex attraction; they may have been people who were asexual. But, as noted above, Jesus' discussion of eunuchs indicates that some were "born that way", some were made eunuchs by others (possibly a physical castration done in war or by force) and then there were those who chose not to marry "for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven" and thus remained celibate. In any case, there are some who see this mention as Jesus talking about the existence of lesbian and gay people and they note that he doesn't dismiss them. I would take this another step to say that Jesus not only observes the existence of lesbian and gays, but this may also be noting the presence of the transgender community of this Greco-Roman world.

All that aside, my attention to this passage was on the last type of eunuch, the one who is celibate, done so for "the sake of the kingdom of Heaven." I suppose this is where the Roman Catholic Church has gotten the idea that priests need to abstain from sexual relations. And in some quarters of the Episcopal Church, this same demand is made on lesbian and gay people in the priesthood. The rationale given for this demand is that we queer people, if we are going to serve God and the People of God, must remain chaste, celibate, asexual, "other-worldly" beings because sexual relations are only permissible within the bonds of a "Christian marriage". And since in some places (Florida!) marriage is now constitutionally-barred by the state, any gay person called to the priesthood must also take a vow of celibacy. And in the eyes of the Church, and lots of other heterosexual human beings, the only way to know that a gay person is celibate is for them to remain single. No living with another person of the same gender or nothing. Single. Alone.
I recently read the thinking of a Presbyterian minister who, after much praying, has come to realize that this effort in his own church to subvert God's will of having gay people in the pulpit is, well, un-Godly. He made a great observation about the beginning of time... aka Genesis... and what was happening in the second version of the creation story. Yes, God made Adam and Eve. And that's been a favorite of all homophobes in the church. But the reason God made Eve was because of a recognition that no human should live alone. God starts by trying to give Adam animals and birds of the air etc., but none of them were quite the partner that Adam needed. And so we get Eve. But the point this man was making is that to expect human beings to live alone without a partner in this world is cruel. God will always be with us to the end of the age, but humans need companionship on earth as well as in heaven! And given the demands placed upon priests and ministers, having a partner in life may be the one thing that helps keep them centered.

To become a eunuch "for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven", from what I read in Christ's words, is a special vocation. So, does that mean that the only gay people God will call to the priesthood are these uniquely eunuch people? I somehow doubt that. I somehow doubt that the same God, who chose a con man like Jacob and whose son claims his lineage to be that of King David, the adulterer, and who had prostitutes saving scores of people from death and destruction in the Old Testament would only pick the "purest of the pure" the "spotless and without blemish" of the LGBT community to become leaders. Certainly, if a person can and is willing to be celibate, that's great and it certainly would make all the straight people much happier. And isn't that what the celibacy demand is all about? Making straight people comfortable?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thoughtful and very interesting. Hope you get more discussion on this.
In the Daily Office and the readings of Hosea there is a great deal about how to please God and how we humans fail. I just think we should try the best we can.