Tuesday, January 19, 2016

When Tea and Sympathy Are No Longer Nearly Enough: A Response to Archbishop Justin Welby's Apology to LGBT Community

On Sunday, at his Winsome, Lose Some blog site, Anglican priest Reverend Richard Haggis published an open letter to Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. Here's its conclusion:

[Y]ou have issued a fulsome apology for the way we have been treated over the years, and continue to be, and will be in the future. 
And we're not very grateful. The reason for this is that we understand a lot more about truth and lies than the hierarchy of our church does. Growing up gay, and eventually coming to terms with it, in a world which because of attitudes like those espoused by the Primates' Meeting last week, is fundamentally hostile, is a costly business. Many of us go through phases of lying to others, family and friends as well as strangers, and even to ourselves, about who we really are. And then the pretence ends, and we take the leap of faith that "the truth shall make you free", and it does. And telling the truth hurts. It can break up friendships, and wreck family love. It is a scary business, and we cannot know its outcome. But telling the truth does make us free. And once the truth has set us free, we are free for the love that casts out fear too.  
This is why the finding of clever forms of words which manage to conceal, or avoid, the truth leave us cold. We've taken the chance, we've been brave, we've risked our lives and happiness, for the sake of the truth, and for love.  
And we do not find you doing so.  
Don't tell us you love us, when your actions show you don't. Don't apologise for past offences against us when you do nothing to stop their being repeated now and in the future.  
If you want to impress us, then telling the truth in word and deed will achieve it. Even if it's not what we want to hear. But we're sick of being lied to, and lied about. We understand lies, and we see right through them.  
Yours sincerely, 
(The Revd) Richard Haggis

formerly a Church of England, but still an Anglican, priest

As The Guardian noted in its editorial response to the decision of the Anglican Communion to heap the mess that Christian churches have made of sexual and marital ethics at this point in history on the backs of LGBT human beings — yet again! The churches continue engaging in this dysfunctional tactic long after a majority of people in the developed sector of the world scorn it as cruel and unfair — the churches of the Anglican Communion do not even themselves live the marital ideal upheld by the primates' recent decision.

The statement of Primates 2016 disciplining the Episcopal Church USA for departing from what the Anglican Communion wishes to see as the traditional understanding of marriage chastises ECUSA for not holding to the definition of marriage as the "lifelong union between a man and a woman." As The Guardian notes, this in a church that has long since recognized the validity of divorce and remarriage — for heterosexual people?!

And one might add, this in a church in which some primates in some parts of the Anglican Communion wink and look the other way at the practice of polygamy — for heterosexual males — or the practice of disciplinary rape for refractory women — by heterosexual males . . . .

Somehow, in all this mess of the real world, in this mess of what that much-vaunted "lifelong union between a man and a woman" is really all about in the practice of even many church members, LGBT people have been selected to be a sacrifical lamb, a bloody offering to an ideal of marriage that those upholding the idealized definition of marriage do not themselves practice. As sacrifical lambs, LGBT people are expected to collude in a wink-nudge show of play-acting in which we willingly accept the blame for other people's failure to uphold the "traditional" ideals about heterosexual marriage, and in which no serious intraecclesial discussion at all is devoted to looking honestly at the disparity between those traditional ideals and the way in which heterosexual marriage is actually lived by Christian people today. 

As Reverend Haggis rightly notes, LGBT folks are simply no longer interested in participating in this dysfunctional charade. As he points out, our own painful life journeys have often predisposed us in the direction of truth-telling rather than play-acting. Our lives have come to depend on being true to ourselves. They've come to depend on affirming that who we are is who we're intended to be, have been made by God to be. 

And we most certainly will not go back. No matter how much tea and sympathy the leaders of the Christian churches try to dish out to us as they use us in ugly political games that ultimately have very little to do with us and everything to do with the appeasement of a bloody idol called "traditional" marriage . . . .

And so the leaders of churches engaging in this disreputable and hateful behavior today may issue apologies and tell us they're sorry we've been hurt by the churches and continue to be hurt by the churches, and those apologies will fall on deaf ears in the LGBT community. For many of us, our spiritual growing process will now have to occur outside the churches, given how the churches have chosen to deal with us and our humanity. 

Many of us are simply tired of being treated as less than human, as the unsolvable problem always to be solved by Christian communities, and so we're increasingly inclined just to walk away from the churches, since they've shown us that Christianity in its institutional form right now is not worth pursuing — so white, so middle-class, so heterosexist (and, often, misogynistic), so spiritually shallow, and so eminently incapable of warmth and welcome. And, as Reverend Haggis notes, so determined not to hear the valuable testimony of LGBT Christians or to recognize the considerable gifts we have to offer the churches, due to the long struggle in which many of us have engaged to find and abide by the truth . . . .

As canon lawyer and Catholic Whistleblowers member Father James Connell observes in a letter his group has just sent to the Vatican Congregation for Bishops about the failure of the U.S. Catholic bishops to follow through on its zero tolerance regarding abusive clergy,

It takes seconds to apologize; it might take years to repair the damage. And reparation is called for in justice.

Though he's talking about the abuse crisis in the Catholic church, that observation might equally well be applied to the tea-and-sympathy apologies of Justin Welby and other church leaders today for the savage way in which they choose to deal with LGBT human beings at this point in history.

The photo of Reverend Richard Haggis is from his Google+ profile page.

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