The Financial Times: Opinion: Anglican Church Saturday, February 25, 2023
The Church of England can learn from Episcopalians on same-sex marriage:
Divisions currently roiling the global Anglican church may fade in the face of lived reality By: STEVEN PAULIKAS
Episcopalians in the US (and 21 other countries and territories) are watching the latest conflict in the Church of England with deep empathy. Two weeks ago, the General Synod, the Church’s national assembly, authorised blessings of same-sex relationships, a compromise that satisfied neither the conservative nor the progressive wings of the Church. And this week, bishops in 10 of the constituent provinces of the global Anglican communion rejected the Archbishop of Canterbury as the “first among equals” in our shared Anglican family in protest.
These developments occurred amid a somewhat noxious atmosphere in the UK around issues of sexuality — most recently the controversy over Kate Forbes’ statement that she would have voted against the 2014 Scottish same-sex marriage bill in her SNP leadership bid. Nevertheless, we have an encouraging little secret we’d like to share with our cousins in the Church of England. The Episcopal Church ordains openly gay and trans people with no strings attached, officiates same-sex marriages (not just blessings) and unequivocally affirms all trans people, including children.
We still have a long way to go on our mission of full inclusion, but our experience has taught us something fundamental: that LGBTQ Anglicans are pretty boring. In an incendiary environment that demands side-taking, it may be wise to distinguish between the party that is trying to burn down the house and the one that just wants a room on the same floor as everyone else. I’ve been the rector of my parish in Brooklyn, New York, for a decade. I was told before my arrival that my new parishioners, most of whom are originally from the culturally conservative Caribbean, would be hostile because of my sexual orientation. But nothing could have been further from the truth. Instead, it seemed like people relaxed once I arrived, as if they had been unburdened of an unspoken requirement to act against their natural impulse to offer welcome to all God’s people. Parishioners began to speak about gay relatives and mourn the inevitable wounds caused by homophobia. Some young people came out, and all were affirmed by their elders. But the traditional life of the church — Sunday services, weddings and funerals, coffee hour — continued, albeit perhaps more joyfully.
Our church has tripled in membership in the past decade. My husband and I were married in our church by our bishop. Many of my colleagues in the immediate vicinity are also gay. We plan joint liturgies on feast days, are working together to resettle a refugee family and grouse about church business that no one else would care about. It’s all very ordinary church stuff. Sadly, those opposed to people like me having a role like mine would have others believe that we are hellbent on moulding the church in our image by any means necessary. The strategy director of a prominent group representing the Evangelical camp in the Church of England said it fears its clergy will have “a target on their back”, with same sex-couples soon demanding blessings from them. He used this metaphor just a day after Brianna Ghey, a trans girl, was murdered in the north-west of England — which should give us a moment to pause and consider who is truly at risk of being targeted.
As for the global implications of the Synod decision, Episcopalians and other LGBTQ-affirming Anglican churches have withstood hollow threats and cold shoulders for decades. The statement from the 10 renegade provinces regarding the Archbishop of Canterbury sounds familiar insofar as it has no concrete institutional impact on the Anglican communion. And amid all the sabrerattling, one should note who is brandishing the weapon — it’s certainly not the LGBTQ people in the provinces they represent. If the experience of the Episcopal Church is a good predictor, the rather mundane outcome of a Church of England that embraces its LGBTQ members will be one in which sacraments are still celebrated, bake sales still take place and the needy are still served — just with more queer people and their allies present. To be honest, it has made us feel more like a church. Yes, we’ve had our share of painful division and conflict along the way. But today, ours is a fairly peaceable kingdom. Our prayer is that the Church of England’s will soon be peaceable too.
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