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AWAY

Pat and I will be away from home from this weekend until June 15th, staying on Maui. Our younget daughter Megan is here to care for the zoo and the yard/garden. No doubt the church will survive our absence! I’m also on 52 weeks disability leave, although I am permitted to work up to 20% of normal hours!! As a priest is always on duty, it’s hard to figure what 20% of always is! So stay tuned. I will be back.

I’m feeling rather well actually, now that I’ve recovered from the last round of chemo, which was the worst of the lot. My feet and ankles still give some pain and make walking long distances a chore. Of course I can take one of those pain pills I’ve been given but they make me even more gaga than usual.

As a parting shot before leaving, someone named Richard sent me two rude emails about what he perceives my position to be about gay and lesbian people. He seems to blame me for the Bishop of New Hampshire not being invited to Lambeth. I assure him and you that I was not consulted.

One of my peeves about the present atmosphere is that it is toxic with invective from both sides. My second peeve is the inevitable rise of “tribalism”, a direct and frontal denial of the truth contained in Gal. 3: 28. Modern tribalism is a negative result of the use of lobbies and pressure groups to achieve justice for minorities, the marginalized and the oppressed. No doubt the positive results far outweigh the negative, unless imported into the Church.

I deplore personal attacks, spiteful invective and the attribution of ideas to people who have not expressed such ideas. Sure Luther used such invective. As such Luther was a sinner.

My position is that we have no official theological position from which we can conduct a debate about what “blessing” means, even blessings as authorized in wee books by TEC over the last 70 years or so. Blessings, outside the official liturgy were a 19th. century Anglo-Catholic practice, however splendid, slipped into general use without, as far as I can see, any attempt to define what “blessings” do or achieve. I have a copy of the first Book of Offices adopted by TEC, which ironically contains the approval of a very low church Bishop of Virginia, not the sort of chap to throw holy water at images. At best it would seem that a blessing involves the “lifting up” of the object or person(s) blessed in order that it/they may receive grace from God or be dedicated to God. This may involve some kind of a judgment about suitability. Do we bless fox hounds or the fox? At least in Catholic Christianity the authority to bless is given generally to a priest at ordination in all areas not forbidden by Canon Law or reserved to a bishop.

My second position is more a suspicion. I have never been comfortable with the debate about same-sex blessing because I have always suspected that the proposed practice is really short hand for same-sex marriages. At present our church is clear that marriage is confined to qualified males and females. Like it or not, that is both the doctrine and practice of TEC. (Of course the fact that something is established makes it a target for modern iconoclasts looking to smash another idol or tradition, often just for the hell of it. Being a “prophet” is heady stuff.) Certainly most modern reformers don’t fall into this category, but many do. Some of them are bishops. If we believe as I do, that in a precise sense our Faith is given by God, some things with which I disagree or doubt place me in an unequal argument with the Giver! I also know that the church has the habit of discovering the goodnes and utility of some non-essential things swept away by reformers and bringing them back as if they were new.

The trouble is, that with our modern tribalism, to express such doubts is an interpreted as an assault on all gay and lesbian people, individually and collectively. It’s rather like saying that as I question some Muslim beliefs, I dislike all Arabs/Muslims or wish to harm them or exclude them from the human race. Tribalism is the foe of unity simply because tribe is set before loyalty to the whole. Modern Iraq should teach us at least that. There are powerful people among us in TEC who put Cause, Party, Sexual attraction before and above the unity which God has given us in Baptism. They inhabit both ends of our ecclesial structure and they threaten to tear us apart in the quest for purity and justice. Yet there is no pure church on this side of the veil, and because we are forgiven people our justice must always be guided by mercy. The Lord’s Prayer bids us “forgive us our trespasses AS we forgive.” The Righteous at both ends of the spectrum are uneasy with this. They yearn to withhold forgiveness or to doubt the genuine nature of a confession and have no mercy for those who fall off the wagon. One’s convictions and adherence to the party platform must be certain or one is damned.

To me there is one tribe to which I belong, the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church throughout time and space, and locally rooted in this diocese and parish. Therein are individual people, alive and “dead”, marked on their forehead with the seal of the Spirit. I am bidden to honor and reverence these people, not because I or they boast of a tribe, as St. Paul remarks when “boasting” of his background, Phil.3: 1 – 5, but because of our common baptism and recognition that Jesus is Lord and has died for our sins and risen to give us new and unending life. In addition to this “tribalism” I am to honor and care for all people and this earth which God has made. Aloha!

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