26 September 2008

The face of hypocritical evangelism

Lambeth has been over for a month, now. We have had time to ruminate what Lambeth means to the ordinary pew-sitting members of The Episcopal Church. Most Episcopalians would say, “not much.” But I believe this Lambeth is the most important Lambeth Conference, in terms of TEC, that has ever happened.

I have read almost every U.S. bishop’s reflection on their experience and I consistently read the same concerning statement. Yesterday’s post of Bishop Whalon’s letter to the Convocation of Churches in Europe, he said that the recent meeting of our bishops began with “debriefing” on the Lambeth experience. He followed that by making the same statement all of the other U.S. Bishops have said.

Each has written about the connectedness they now feel to all the bishops of the Anglican Communion. On face value, that is wonderful. But it is the deeper meaning of that statement that is a matter of immense concern, at least for me.

With Lambeth behind us, well-informed Episcopalians have turned their focus to GC09. (Well this past week a lot of cyber ink has been spilled over the deposition of Robert Duncan.) One of the issues is what to do about the disgraceful B033 that was “clarified” by the bishops into an official moratorium on the consecration of qualified honest gay people.

My concern about the vestiges of Lambeth is that the bishops, still in love with the “warm and fuzzy” Lambeth experience, will oppose any move away from “moratorium. I have already heard a significant number of bishops state a need for “three more years.” Unfortunately, my own bishop is one of those spouting such nonsense. She has not been overly friendly to the GLBT community as it is.

A majority of bishops will fight the change while they watch property being stolen, TEC called apostate and their leader, the presiding bishop, called every possible derogatory name by the same bishops they are trying to appease.

The “Lambeth loving” bishops will attempt another last minute end run to acquire a prize of prince-bishops who are in charge of this church. They have done this in two General Conventions already.

This is so much more than just a matter of polity and justice; it is also a matter of mercy, empathy, honesty, and evangelization.

As the non-churched world increasingly rejects mainline religion as an antediluvian symbol of people out of touch with reality, how can we evangelize anyone, let alone the one segment of the American population who is most searching for something that only the way of Jesus provides? Many studies/surveys indicate that GLBT people are searching for a religious structure that meets their spiritual needs and is relevant to the world in which we live.

How can Episcopalians invite our friends to our church, when we know that our church practices open discrimination?

How can TEC honestly say that all are welcome and yet allow GLBT members to be held hostage by the a desire for "fellowship" with bishops who want TEC dead and replaced by their abhorrent version of Christianity?

The answer to these questions is, “It cannot.” If we wish to evangelize, we must practice what we say we believe. St. Francis of Assisi is supposed to have said, “Preach the gospel at all times; if necessary, use words.” Our words are simply episcopal arrogance unless those words match our actions.

For those outside of the churches, religious dishonesty is transparent particualrly to the young people who can spot duplicity in a second. I hope our bishops agree with Jesus and refuse to sacrifice our members, and property, to appease bishops who have already departed in spirit, if not in fact.

It is not too late, though. We must express to our bishops and delegates how we feel about injustice negating evangelization, and discrimination being counter to Jesus’ teachings. We can reclaim this church for Jesus and the Episcopalians in the pews. We can tell the world that we practice the way of Jesus, and that our actions match our speech.

If we fail, brothers and sisters, in reclaiming the church by the delegates, TEC is dead in the water and our bishops will be holding the smoking gun and we will have supplied the bullets the bishops used.