I have read the archbishop’s statement a few times. There’s much to discuss, and I think it will keep us busy for a few days. But there’s one essential point that I think might easily be missed, and I won’t to focus on it, because, alas, I think he’s got it entirely wrong.
As I read the archbishop, he, like many others, is suggesting that the struggle in the Anglican Communion is not about homosexuality but about how we make decisions in concert. To me that is similar to saying that the American Civil War was not about slavery but about states’ rights. Both arguments allow you to ignore sins against humanity while you debate the nature of polity.
People say that the Communion needs structures to help it handle future controversies, such as the one over lay presidency. Maybe, but the comparison doesn’t shed much light on our current situation.
Ask yourself how some parents react when they find out their children is being taught by a gay man. Now imagine that those same parents have just learned that their child is being taught by a lay person who has presided at the Eucharist?
Lay presidency may inspire disagreement, or even distaste. But it does not inspire panic or revulsion. And it does us no good to pretend that panic and revulsion do not shape this debate. I agree with the Archbishop when he says that an inability to “remain fully in communion with the [Episcopal] Church …should not be automatically seen as some kind of blind bigotry against gay people.”
But the key word there is “automatically.”
If you don’t acknowledge the widespread existence of anti-gay bigotry in the Communion, and in this country, then it is easy to portray the Episcopal Church as an impatient group that broke ranks with its more prudent, but essentially likeminded friends.
But, as the eminent theologian Aretha Franklin once asked, “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?”