The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Wrong Side of History

I want this post to be irenic, but that may not be possible. The entity led by the former Episcopal bishop of South Carolina, currently calling itself the Diocese of South Carolina (the right to the name is in litigation--I'm not trying to be snide, just noting that the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina and that led by Bishop Lawrence, who, whatever he may be, is no longer a bishop in the Episcopal Church) is, according to the Post-Courier, accepting primatial oversight from the GAFCON provinces:
Local Anglicans who separated from the Episcopal Church in 2012 approved a resolution Saturday accepting a new provisional oversight that gives them a formal ecclesiastical connection to the global Anglican Communion.

The Diocese of South Carolina will join the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, a worldwide network of theologically orthodox Anglican churches, and enter a relationship with primates from the Anglican Global South. The Global South comprises growing provinces in Africa, southeast Asia and South America.

"This will give us gracious oversight from one of the largest ecclesiastical body in the (Anglican) Communion," Bishop Mark Lawrence said in his address to the annual diocesan convention.

The unanimous vote Saturday became possible after a group of Global South primates formed an oversight council last month in Egypt to "provide pastoral and primatial oversight to dissenting individuals, parishes, and dioceses in order to keep them within the Communion," according to a statement from their steering committee.

They then offered the local diocese oversight under the new council just weeks before its annual convention this weekend at Christ Church in Mount Pleasant. The Most Rev. Dr. Mouneer Anis, primate of Jerusalem and the Middle East and chairman of the Global South steering committee, is a supporter of Lawrence and has traveled to Charleston to speak to local Anglicans.

Diocesan leaders jumped at the opportunity, though it meant notifying clergy and laity shortly before nearly 400 delegates voted.

"This is an unqualified good thing for the diocese, so we really felt the need to respond now," Lewis said. "In many ways, it was serendipitous that we had a diocesan convention already scheduled."
The article quotes Bishop Lawrence as stating that that he hopes Saturday's vote "will not be interpreted, either by those within the Diocese or across the wider Anglican Communion, as a step away from ACNA or any other more permanent provincial affiliation."

OK, I just have to say this, because I believe it is true: You are on the wrong side of history, Bishop Lawrence. Oh, I understand that there are those who hold the view that the biblical proscriptions against same-sex relationship (on the part of men, that is) remain binding and do not hold this position out of homophobia. Peter Ould is one such, who has even rebuked his own side for "not just the cruder forms of language in this discourse that are a sign of no real intent to listen and build relationships," but for refusing to engage with the pastoral realities of same-sex attractions more broadly. (Ould's critique of his own side, to my mind, is as valid now as it was in 2008, when he published it.) But this re-alignment goes beyond that; whether by affiliating with ACNA or the GFCA, South Carolina is embracing the Anglican Churches of Nigeria and their enthusiastic endorsement of statutes criminalizing not just homosexuality but advocacy for equal rights for gays or lesbians--requiring private citizens to function as informers, too. These statutes have led to mob violence in Nigeria and has led to media outing of suspected gays in an invitation to violence in Uganda.

This advocacy of de jure repression and crushing of free speech and association, which have invited and reaped mob and legalized violence--this, in the eyes of the South Carolina secessionists, is acceptable Christian behavior--indeed, exemplary, as it has been done by the religious bodies to whose jurisdiction they will now accede.

There is no kind way to put this; this is to align oneself with the forces of hate and violence. Fred Phelps, who died yesterday, did less actual harm to gays and lesbians, their families and their associates, than have the Archbishops of Nigeria and Uganda; they won in their nations, at least, while he lost, and was increasingly marginalized.

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