I’m one bishop, one Christian, one person, and I don’t presume to speak for The Episcopal Church I love and serve. I know our Presiding Bishop will make a statement soon about the Primates Meeting in the U.K., and I look forward with eagerness to what I know will be his courageous, wise, and loving words. At the same time, I serve a remarkable diocese that is eternally avant garde, and I feel the responsibility to represent the people I serve.
I received the news of the vote by a majority of the Primates of the Anglican Communion (Archbishops and Presiding Bishops who represent provinces, or regions of a global body of Christians who share a common origin in the Church of England) to sanction The Episcopal Church on the verge of the weekend marking the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King began with a firm commitment to racial justice, which expanded to embrace an interconnected system of justice commitments, like opposition to the Vietnam War and efforts against global poverty. A profound Christian who sacrificed his life because he followed Jesus Christ so closely, I believe Dr. King would have recognized the actions of the primates as antithetical to the way of Christ. Here are some reasons I believe the primates did not express the mind and heart of Christ:
The primates made peace among themselves by scapegoating The Episcopal Church, and even more fundamentally by further marginalizing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people. The political powers who plotted the betrayal and execution of Jesus believed that it was expedient to sacrifice one person for the good of order and “peace.” The followers of Christ have held to the moral core of Jesus’ teaching that gives all for the minority, the marginalized, the vulnerable. The sheep in the Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15.1-7) is not a morally misguided sheep, but a sheep alone and in danger.
The primates acted covertly — not honestly and openly. When the primates meetings were initiated by Archbishop Coggan in the late 1970s they were for “leisurely thought, prayer, and deep consultation.” It is understandable that if intimacy is the goal of the meeting, the meeting should have a degree of privacy. We now see that the privacy allowed their deeds – a vote, a far cry from a prayerful, Spirit led gathering – to be done in the shadows. A hallmark of what came to be known as orthodox Christian believing since the 4th Century has been our commitment to acting in the light rather than in the shadows, which Jesus speaks of in John 3.
The primates acted deviously. How could the faithful of the world have prepared for such an outcome based on the public statements of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who spoke about the possibilities of schism, but did not mention a vote to suspend a member of the Communion?
It is nothing new that Christian leaders are followers of Christ in name but not in deed. I am grateful that our own Presiding Bishop was unequivocal in voicing our constant commitment to solidarity in Christ with LGBT people, and with all who suffer from injustice. On a sad day I will nevertheless be glad to stand at Grace Cathedral on this Sunday at 3 p.m. for an interfaith Evensong and in the midst of civil society gathered in San Francisco on Monday to honor the memory of Dr. King by marching. Faltering as we may be, slowed by our commitment to the continual evolution of being a democratically ordered Church in a democratic society, still I give thanks to God for The Episcopal Church, and for Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.
Dr. King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” an idea built on his belief, which I share, that we are all deeply interconnected. The Episcopal Church’s commitment to justice will inexorably change a system that has veered far into the shadows and away from the light of Christ. We shall overcome – you know what Dr. King said about the arc of history.
+Marc Handley Andrus
This post has been edited and updated stylistically and with the addition of links on the morning of Friday, January 15.