Friday, January 27, 2006

For the soul of a church

bishop robinson taking a question!
Bishop Eugene Robinson

File this entry under promotion of admired friends' work. Ethan Vesely-Flad's article "For the Soul of the Church" in ColorLines has been nominated in the category Outstanding Magazine Article for the GLAAD media awards.

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) promotes fair, accurate and inclusive depictions of gay issues and individuals in media. ColorLines reminds all that race matters: "in 1903, W.E.B. DuBois wrote, 'The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line.' In the 21st century, the color lines are still drawn.... We read in between the lines. We question the lines. We cross the lines."

My church, the Episcopal Church of the U.S.A, is a party to a controversy that places it squarely in the intersection of those race and gay issues, with the added reality that today, all striving for truth is global, not just local. Using all its own lawful procedures, in 2003 the Episcopalians of New Hampshire chose a faithful, experienced priest as their bishop -- who happens to be a white, "out," partnered gay man. And all hell broke loose.

White conservatives in the U.S. church, supported by right wing money and think tanks, have teamed up with conservative African and Asian clerics to fight off what they experience as akin to blasphemy. And comfortable white U.S. liberals have often dismissed Third World opposition in terms that echo conventional European racism and imperialism. Meanwhile U.S. Episcopalians of color have largely been sidelined as the warring parties toss charges of homophobia and violating Scripture over their heads.

That is, the ECUSA chose to place itself at the nexus of many deep-seated global conflicts. Ethan's article is so thorough, nuanced and thoughtful, it eludes easy excerpting. Here is a little piece:

At this point, all the players are identifying as victims.

...Liberals believe that African bishops hold a level of power -- since, after all, they have risen to the elite status of the episcopacy (the order of bishops).

Conservatives in the U.S. also believe they are being persecuted, since they have lost the trappings of power they once held in the church.

International conservatives feel they lack power, since their explosive numerical growth has not translated into either increased leadership in the global church or financial resources, and they see gays and lesbians as being part of the U.S. power elite.

...Ironically, Anglican conservatives here and abroad differ significantly on war and economic globalization concerns: while U.S. conservatives tend to support American military and corporate interests abroad, many international Anglicans have seen sexuality issues as another form of U.S. imperialism and connect it to the government's foreign policy decisions vis-à-vis Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. They argue that the U.S. church's justification of its recent decisions was 'because we can do it,' the same way that they see the Bush administration's political doctrine.

Within the Episcopal Church, these questions will come to head again this summer at its triennial General Convention. International Anglicanism will grapple with them again in the context of a meeting to be called by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2008.

Kudos to Ethan for trying to capture the situation's numerous complexities. Kudos to ColorLines for printing an article about Christians tripping and falling along a path that leads to unknown ends. Kudos to GLAAD for including an article about Christianity's blundering by-ways in their media awards.


Dave said...

Thanks for the article, Jen. I've been so focused on my own little gay world that I hadn't realized what powerful forces of racism and colonialism and oppression were at play here. This was eye-opening.

Dave said...

Jan. Jan. Your name is Jan. Argh. I plead too early on a Saturday morning.

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