Is there still room for diversity in The Episcopal Church?

Anglicanism has long claimed to be the via media. In its origins, that meant trying to keep a Church united across the divide of Catholic and Protestant. Today there are other issues. In England, for example, there is continuing controversy over the ordination of women to the Episcopate. An attempt by the Church of England’s House of Bishops to offer a compromise for those who cannot accept the ordination of women has failed, and they will try again in three months to find a way forward for the ordination of women to the Episcopacy. More here.

In the US, the debate over women’s ordination ended long ago. However, given that women make up a tiny minority in the House of Bishops today, it’s clear that significant barriers remain. Still the question of keeping the Church together remains. There are significant issues that divide us, not only on matters of sexuality though they may be the most prominent. Given decisions made at this General Convention, The Episcopal Church needs to ask itself whether it continues to seek to be a via media, whether is room in our church for a diversity of theological viewpoints and approaches to scripture.

I hope so. If we value inclusion and diversity, we have to value it for conservatives as well as progressives. Ian Markham, Dean of Virginia Theological Seminary, on the need for genuine diversity in the Episcopal Church:

Living with disagreement is tricky. The desire to make the Church pure is so strong. We are so sure we are right that we don’t welcome conservatives. We are so sure that our progressive stance will be vindicated that we insist that those who want to “move less quickly” are ignorant appeasers.

Let us try to recover our commitment to genuine inclusivity. Let us continue to welcome our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters as an intrinsic part of the Church; but let us also extend a warm and affirming welcome to our conservative brothers and sisters. Let us try something new: Let us try to resist the tendency for purity and separation and instead live in a place that is more ragged and interesting.

Bishop Andrew Waldo (Upper South Carolina) statement following the House of Bishops vote (explaining his vote, and providing text of his statement during the debate).

Anthony Clavier also asks whether there is room for him in the Episcopal Church:

There are, of course, measures which could be taken to encourage those of us who are now on the margins of what was once a generous Catholicity. They would be radical, newfangled, untidy, would break traditions of jurisdiction and authority, but such problems haven’t deterred us from the revisions we have adopted during the past half century. Inclusion means more than a minimal tolerance for those deemed intolerably unenlightened. Inclusion means encouragement, it means refusing to erect barriers to growth and survival.

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2 thoughts on “Is there still room for diversity in The Episcopal Church?

  1. It is not clear what Anthony Clavier means by “barriers to growth and survival.” No one who objects to the liturgy for blessing same-sex relationships can be compelled to participate in it. There are no victims here!
    How does blessing relationships of which traditionalists may disapprove present a barrier to their survival or their growth? The barriers to their spiritual growth lie in their willful ignorance about the nature of human sexual orientation and human nature itself and in their intolerant attitudes, their hardness of heart, toward fellow believers; those are problems of their own making. Nothing is imposed on anyone. What Clavier seems to favor is something akin to the “newfangled, untidy..[form] of jurisdiction and authority” that the Church of England has just rejected as a means to accommodate objections to women in the episcopacy. Would anyone really want to go there?

    While it certainly is reasonable to raise objections to the “theological rationale” presented by the Standing Commission on Liturgy, Bishop Waldo’s objection rings hollow after forty years of debate and discussion. The objections to the new liturgy are not founded on rational, theological arguments. Indeed, it has often been said that the Anglican tradition has never held to any particular theology; so why go there now? In other words, it’s all political!

  2. Pingback: General Convention Day 7 | A Mad City Episcopalian

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