One week before my consecration to the episcopate I was invited to the March meeting of the House of Bishops at Kanuga in North Carolina. At this meeting we were privileged to hear from arguably the most important Old Testament scholar of our time – Walter Brueggemann. Brueggemann possesses perhaps the most prophetic voice on the American religious scene of the past two decades; always preaching truth to power; always challenging “the empire.” He has a commanding voice and an equally commanding presence – imagine George C. Scott in the pulpit.
This current day prophet lead us through two Old Testament stories to demonstrate (surprisingly, considering the speaker) that there is a time in life for the prophet, and there is a time for the scribe. And he suggested that for the Episcopal Church it was time for the scribe. In other words, it is time to do theological work, rather than prophetic work; time, as he said, “to quit being prophetic at each other.” He even went so far as to suggest that it was “time to turn the volume down.” This “pedal to the metal” prophet – who, incidentally, does believe in full inclusion – suggested that it was time to “ease off the gas.”
Even before the meeting at Kanuga, a number of bishops told of their experience at Lambeth, and how they learned at an even deeper level the importance and value of the Anglican Communion. Relationships between bishops from all over the globe were strengthened at Lambeth, and sentiment was growing that caution should be exercised at the meeting of General Convention in Anaheim.
So, given the Lambeth experience and Brueggemann’s remarks, I came away from Kanuga expecting that this General Convention would exercise restraint in crafting resolutions regarding human sexuality.
And despite what the headlines say, I believe we did exercise restraint. A careful reading of the two resolutions shows that nothing was passed that was not in place already. As our Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies write together: “Nothing in the Resolution goes beyond what has already been provided under the Constitution and Canons for many years.” Nothing repeals the moratoria of the previous General Convention.
For the record, I voted for one resolution and against the other. It was my preference (and my vote) to discharge both, as I was concerned that these resolutions would cause confusion – which they have. Undoubtedly, dioceses will interpret these resolutions differently. Admittedly, the resolutions appear to take steps. Having said that, I am confident of the intent of the House of Bishops to craft compassionate resolutions which serve to describe our current reality.
These are challenging times for the Episcopal Church. As one resolution acknowledges, we “are not of one mind, and Christians of good conscience disagree about some of these matters.” I believe, along with Walter Brueggemann, that it is time for the scribe. I am hopeful that these resolutions provide space for such theological work. And, I remain proud to be part of a tradition which engages the difficult ethical challenges of our day with compassion and transparency.