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ECUSA: Betrayal of Trust Makes Claims Ring Hollow - by Erik Nelson

ECUSA’s Betrayal of Trust Makes Claims to “Commitment to Discussion” Ring Hollow

COMENTARY

Erik Nelson
March 3, 2004

Dialogue is usually a positive thing. When there is clear disagreement on an issue, dialogue between the opposing parties can usually clarify the points of contention and perhaps even resolve some of the disagreement.

But dialogue is also difficult. It requires that all parties are willing to, essentially, put down their weapons and agree to discuss the issue without continued warfare on other fronts. It is difficult to negotiate borders between warring nations, for instance, when battles are still being fought and facts on the ground are constantly changing.

Which is why it is difficult to take Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold seriously when he said in a February 25 statement on the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) that the Episcopal Church is “committed to continuing discussion and discernment” concerning human sexuality.

Griswold’s statement was in response to the February 24 endorsement of the Federal Marriage Amendment by President George W. Bush. The FMA limits marriage to between one man and one woman, while leaving up to the states any provision for civil unions. Griswold went on to say that he has “concerns about the advisability” of the FMA because “questions of sexuality are far from settled.” He urged caution in such public discourse due to the “personal” nature of these questions, and their ability to “inflame rather than inform.”

Griswold went on to say that he “supports the honoring of differing perspectives within the Episcopal Church.” He does not think a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman is advisable at this time because “a constitutional amendment which was perceived as settling this matter might make it more difficult to engage in civil discourse around this topic.”

For opponents of the consecration of non-celibate homosexual bishop Gene Robinson, and the Episcopal Church General Convention’s endorsing the “local-option” of same-sex blessings, this is quite ironic indeed.

Why didn’t Griswold take his own advice? If he was afraid of forestalling “discussion and discernment” concerning human sexuality, why did he allow General Convention to vote in ways that were “perceived as settling this matter” in his own church? Why did he not prevent these votes from occurring so that the discussion on human sexuality could continue?

One is left with the impression that while the General Convention votes went in a direction he approved (i.e., the endorsing of homosexual behavior) a constitutional amendment banning same-sex unions would go in a direction he opposes. Is his advice simply informed by his own opinions on the issue at hand?

Griswold is partially right, of course. Taking actions perceived as settling matters under discussion does make dialogue more difficult. This was one of the arguments leveled at liberals at General Convention last summer in Minneapolis. But Griswold and other liberal activists ignored it.

General Convention’s actions had effects on other dialogues as well, most notably dialogue with Roman Catholics. Catholics might wonder, with good reasons, how they could continue dialogue with Anglicans when they were unwilling to adhere to past agreements within their own Communion. In the past the Episcopal Church agreed with the rest of the Anglican Communion that no unilateral action would be taken on human sexuality issues. The Episcopal Church has betrayed more than just orthodox Anglicans in America.

Dialogue is impossible when one side refuses to honor its past commitments. If there is any church that has consistently violated such commitments, it has been the Episcopal Church.

In short, dialogue can only be entered into when both sides can trust each other. The Episcopal Church leadership and its liberal lobbies such as Integrity and Claiming the Blessing, have all demonstrated that they are not truly interested in dialogue. They have instead used dialogue as a delay tactic while they changed the facts on the ground. When such groups have advocated dialogue, it appears to be merely a tactic for incremental implementation of their agenda, without any real desire to resolve the issue.

For many mainstream Anglicans in the US and abroad, trust has been so thoroughly betrayted that dialogue is over. That Griswold can still say with a straight face that he “supports the honoring of differing perspectives” while Bishops around the country wage war on those with dissenting opinions, only further confirms this fact.

Unless Griswold and other Episcopal Church leaders are willing to rebuild that trust, its alleged commitment to “discussion and discernment” cannot be taken seriously.

Erik Nelson is research associate for Episcopal Action. EA is a project of the Institute on
Religion and Democracy, a conservative think tank dealing with religious issues based in Washington DC.

END

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