Sunday, December 6, 2009

Misplaced Priorities

The Diocese of Los Angeles has elected two new suffragan bishops. Both are women - which would have been controversial once. What's more controversial at the moment is that one of them, the Rev'd Canon Mary Glasspool, is a partnered lesbian.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, within 12 hours, has issued a statement on the election of Canon Glasspool. He makes it very clear he would like this election simply to go away - if necessary by means of having the confirmation process fail. (When a new bishop is elected in the Episcopal Church, the majority of bishops with jurisdiction [diocesan bishops and some others] and the majority of diocesan standing committees must give their consent within a predetermined period of time.)

Now, I can understand the Archbishop's point that the election of Canon Glasspool "raises very serious questions." Clearly it does. If Canon Glasspool is confirmed and in due course consecrated, there are likely to be implications for the whole Communion and the strength of our bonds of affection.

What's galling about this, however, is the comparison between Cantuar's prompt comment on the election of Canon Glasspool when compared with his utter silence about anti-gay legislation in Uganda - legislation tacitly backed by the Anglican heirarchy in Uganda and explicilty backed by Anglican bishops like Joseph Abura of Karamoja.

Several bloggers and others have commented on this disconnect, including the folk at Changing Attitude, and Times of London religion correspondent Ruth Gledhill. Ruth captures the bizarre disconnect quite precisely:

Critics are understandably questioning why speak out on this so forcefully, while showing such restraint on Uganda. It is probably in vain to point out that one concerns a matter of national governance, in which the Archbishop of Canterbury has no authority to speak, and the other a matter of Anglican ecclesial polity, in which he is perfectly justified in taking a stand.

The fact is, whatever the ecclesiological jurisprudence, it looks bad. Very bad indeed.
Changing Attitude does a good job of explaining why.

I wish I could do something, write something, to help the Archbishop get out of this mess.

But it feels impossible. His difficulties I fear are truly manifold.

She is too kind to point out that his difficulties, manifold though they are, are largely of his own making. He has deliberately embarked on a strategy of holding the Communion together by refusing to make the far right accountable for anything at all, ever. Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, Southern Cone and, yes, Uganda routinely ignore the call to "gracious restraint" about crossing provincial boundaries and face no sanction at all. Both the Nigerian and Ugandan heirarchies have actively championed anti-gay legislation that can only be described as satanic, and Rowan is silent.

I fear that Cantuar has lost whatever moral authority he may once have had. One cannot buy unity by treating evil with kit gloves.

Guardian blogger Andrew Brown also writes on Rowan's remarkably misplaced priorities. I'll leave you with his closing comments:

Consider the case of two Anglicans of the same gender who love one another. If they are in the USA, the Anglican church will marry them and may elect one of them to office. If they are in Uganda, the Anglican church will have try to have them jailed for life, and ensure that any priest who did not report them to the authorities within 24 hours would be jailed for three years; anyone who spoke out in their defence might be jailed for seven.

Under Williams, the church that marries two women who love each other is to be thrown out of the Anglican Communion. The church that would jail them both for life, and would
revile and persecute their defenders, stays snugly in his bosom. Not even the Archbishop's remarkable gift for obfuscation can conceal these facts forever.

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