“Any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one already.” – Henry David Thoreau.
It has been argued that an “overwhelming majority of Anglican Primates believe” that the Episcopal Church has erred in its decision this past summer to open the sacrament of marriage to same-sex couples (and in its earlier actions ordaining gay and lesbian persons to the priesthood and presbyterate). However, what the majority of Primates believe, if it is contrary to the gospel, is irrelevant.
It has also been argued that the Episcopal Church has not done the necessary work to show a Scriptural or theological basis for its actions; contrary to that assertion, a great deal of ink has been spilled, and debate had, about the theology of marriage. The leaders of more “conservative” (I use that word advisedly, I don’t actually believe they are conservative in any proper sense of the word) may not agree with the conclusions this church has reached, but to say the work has not been done merely because they disagree with the outcome of the work is disingenuous.
A colleague of mine when I was in the practice of law used to say, “I have no dog in this race.” Although I am not gay, I cannot say that here. While the question of whether the sacraments of ordination and marriage are opened to our LGBT brothers and sisters will not affect me personally, it nonetheless impacts me . . . to quote another philosopher poet, John Donne . . .
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
Just as another’s death diminishes me, so the refusal of justice, the refusal of dignity, the refusal of the sacraments to another member of the church diminishes me.
The Lambeth Conference (decennial gathering of Anglican bishops) of 1988 issued this statement:
“This Conference: 1. Reaffirms the statement of the Lambeth Conference of 1978 on homosexuality, recognising the continuing need in the next decade for “deep and dispassionate study of the question of homosexuality, which would take seriously both the teaching of Scripture and the results of scientific and medical research.” 2. Urges such study and reflection to take account of biological, genetic and psychological research being undertaken by other agencies, and the socio-cultural factors that lead to the different attitudes in the provinces of our Communion. 3. Calls each province to reassess, in the light of such study and because of our concern for human rights, its care for and attitude towards persons of homosexual orientation.” (Resolution 64 of the 1988 Lambeth Conference)
The American Episcopal Church took this statement seriously and has done the required work. We have reassessed our care for and attitude towards the LGBT members of our church and concluded that they should be welcomed to share in all of the church’s sacraments. For this, we are “suspended” from the Anglican Communion for a period of three years, or so say some number of the Primates of the various provinces of the Communion.
We should be fine with that. When did justice, or the gospel, ever come without a price?
I opened with a quotation from Thoreau about the “majority of one.” When push comes to shove in three years’ time, I believe developments will prove that we are not alone. We are not a “majority of one,” although it may feel that way on the currently painful, cutting-edge forward margins of the gospel.