Monday, August 3, 2009

Elected and Holy

There are several dioceses in the Episcopal Church that are in the process of electing a bishop either to be the one in charge or to serve under and assist the one currently in charge. Two dioceses have announced slates of nominees that include a gay and/or lesbian person. The Diocese of Los Angeles has a slate for suffragan(assisting) bishop that includes a gay man and lesbian each of whom are in an open relationship. Here's a link to their information about the election. The Diocese of Minnesota has information about their search process and the nomination thus far here. DioMinn's slate includes a lesbian in an open relationship.

Mind you, there are other dioceses in their own bishop search processes Georgia and Upper South Carolina are two that come to mind. They are nearby and important to me because of historic ties and current acquaintances. The elections in DioLA and DioMinn. will gather more attention than most because both have nominees in homosexual relationships that are neither closeted or celibate. [Here's a link to news about the news about these elections]

If the aforementioned nominees in LA and Minn were closeted then many of our Anglican Partners would not be paying one bit of attention to the elections. Really, look around, who has blogged or reported about election news in GA and USC? Or who has written about LA's and Minn's elections and NOT made mention of the sexual orientation of some of the nominees. If the nominees were celibate, certainly some conversation/debate would occur regarding the difference that makes in their eligibility. For sure we'd be reading more about that than we would about the nominees in GA.

All our talking about the nominees, regardless of which diocese is in process, is for me just so much like an altar guild arguing about bread recipes. As if somehow we could keep God from making holy that which God choses to make holy by presenting a bread baked from a bad recipe. What priest has not had an discussion with someone about the appropriateness of unleavened bread at the Altar during the Great 50 days. My foil would have equated presenting bread without leaven during Easter to presenting nominees that can't be judged "pure" by a portion of our Communion.

I'm pretty sure those who see only sacramental efficacy thwarted by the nomination of a gay or lesbian will also see a Eucharist undone by the "wrong bread" or a "hapless priest." I'm pretty sure that in that old three part scheme of sacramentality -- regularity, validity, efficacy -- efficacy is that part of the "process" that we can't predetermine or screw-up. Efficacy is God's job. The way I remember the interplay of these parts was that regularity was our part and that God hadn't given us many details about it anyway. K.I.S.S. was the best approximation of how to define our role in making our sacraments regular.

So I guess you could say it is being argued that the presentation/nomination of an openly gay man or lesbian for ordination is a violation or undoing of sacramental regularity or validity. It s in a sense contending that they are incapable of being presented/offered because of their orientation and/or their openness about their it. I've never thought to ask the bread how it felt about its readiness. All Jesus ever did was take whatever bread was available, give thanks, bless it and break it. That approach says to me that regularity is less a tending to the specifics of the recipe and more a result of the extent to which one gives thanks and makes an offering of the element whatever it is. Seems like we do have a expectation to present the best, the first fruits, the tithe of our possessions when we make an offering. but even that points more toward the offering's representative status and less to their "content."

If one were to attempt an argument from the principal of validity, it would necessitate seeing as analogous and equal sexual orientation and/or "practice" to some rejection or pretense during the actual liturgy/election process itself. Perhaps failing to be forthcoming about one's proclivities during interviews and walk-abouts might constitute such an invalidation. I remember when Bob Trache was refused ordination/consecration in Atlanta. It had something to do with his being less than forthcoming about his life during those times set aside exactly for such. Perhaps that is an example.

So . . . are the people of GA or USC concerned about the "recipe of the bread" with which they will make an offering to God so that God can make it holy? I'd say , yes. Go to their web sites and you will say yes with me. Have they done everything to make their part in this sacrament of nomination/election/ordination regular? Sure does look like it! Are they guaranteeing a safe election and therefore valid episcopacy for their respective dioceses? It's to soon to tell. Will the persons they present for ordination be holy? We'll only know after the fact! Efficacy is God's job!

So . . . is it fair to ask the same questions of LA and Minn? Sure it is. If our answers are different than those we gave for GA and USC we have ask ourselves why. It seems to me that as long as a gay man or lesbian is willing to be "bread, blessed and broken," and those who would do that nominating are willing to be forthcoming in their understandings in making an offering of any of the persons listed, then NONE of us has much to say right now about efficacy, the most important of those sacramental principals. That's God's job!

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