Wednesday, February 21, 2007

+mark sisk, bishop of new york, on the dar es salaam communique

Well, except the Archbishop of Canterbury now seems as focused on sex as anyone.

[Bishop Mark Sisk] I think the confusion is a result of the primates meeting. I believe that what was desired was a statement that we were wrong to confirm Gene Robinson, the gay bishop of New Hampshire and that we will never do it again. And I do not believe that the majority of [American] bishops believe that. I do believe that they did not adequately confer [with the Anglican Church and also with each other], and that’s what they apologized for. God is working in the community to help us understand that gay and lesbian people can be called to have any role within our community. My view is that [the primates] have in fact upped the ante. I think that what they’re wanting is an affirmation that we will never do this again. My own guess is that we would not respond positively to that request.

It seems like the Episcopal Church is being forced to choose between its gay and lesbian members and its membership in the Anglican Communion.

[Bishop Mark Sisk] The challenge is how far are we prepared to go in working with the communion and squaring that against the relationships we have in our community with members who are gay and lesbian. I would like to think that the communion needs to hear the voice of the Episcopal Church as well. I am prepared to work quite hard to maintain connections in the communion, but if it comes to having to choose between the communion and abandoning my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters—much as I value the Anglican community, I think they will be the losers.

From Newsweek via Titusonenine (emphasis Fr WB's).

The sad irony, of course, is that the Episcopal Church has abandoned our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, by telling them that the destructive patterns of behavior to which they are predisposed, are in fact wholesome and conducive of spiritual health. This is a lie that puts souls in grave danger. The orthodox want nothing but for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to flourish. We want for them reconciliation, peace, and all that God has promised through Christ for his sons and daughters. We want for them that the sun of righteousness should rise with healing in its wings; that they should go forth leaping like calves from the stall (Malachi 4.2).

Saint Anthony the Great said in the third century: "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us'."

Indeed. Now is that time. Christ, have mercy.


J-Tron said...

What I find ironic--though I imagine you won't agree--is that Bishop Sisk's argument for breaking communion, as you have recorded it here, sounds to me exactly the same as the argument made by the Network and others for breaking communion with their brothers and sisters in TEC. For three years now (and longer for those in AMiA, etc) the argument has been that those who in "good conscience" cannot live under bishops and in fellowship with those whom they disagree with about the leading of the Spirit are perfectly justified to seek their leadership and communion elsewhere. Do I disagree with my bishop? No problem. A new bishop will be provided. Presumably if I disagree with the new bishop then another bishop will be provided to save me from the last. And so forth, until everyone has their own personal bishop who will mouth back to them their own personal interpretation of the gospel. The problem with both positions, both Sisk's and the Network's, is that they both leave the Church impotent. Clergy become simply tools, not the guardians of the faith.

Bishop Sisk says nothing different than the Network here. He says that when communion and the gospel come into conflict, the gospel must come first. You may disagree with how he interprets the gospel. But he is nevertheless following his conscience.

You said "The sad irony, of course, is that the Episcopal Church has abandoned our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, by telling them that the destructive patterns of behavior to which they are predisposed, are in fact wholesome and conducive of spiritual health. This is a lie that puts souls in grave danger." And I believe that this is truly your thought on the matter, truly a desire to be compassionate. If you are correct, if embracing and blessing the unions of faithful gay and lesbian people is in fact harboring sin, then TEC has much to answer for. Then we are indeed doing a great injustice to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. I fully acknowledge that, as I wish TEC would, with all trepidation and humility. But what I think it would be nice to hear acknowledged from those who hold your point of view is that the opposite is also true. If in fact God has created gay and lesbian people the way that they are and has called them into faithful unions with each other then telling them that they are disordered is something that does great harm, nearly irreparable harm (save for the mercy of God) to the state of their souls and their ability to hear the gospel message which is meant to lead all of us into salvation in Christ Jesus.

father wb said...


First of all, I have been much more hesitant than many conservatives about the orthodox strategy of crossing into jurisdictions not their own, as well as (and especially) of parishes "breaking away" from their dioceses. I refer you to my (un)employment history as a substantiation of this hesitation.

Second, you say "You may disagree with how he interprets the gospel."

I do indeed disagree with the way Sisk interprets the gospel, and I think that is the heart of the matter: whose interpretation of the gospel is authoritative? Again, you refer to "the leading of the Spirit" with respect to this interpretation. Again I agree: this is exactly the issue. The truth is that the apostles and their heirs, the bishops, were given the Holy Spirit to interpret this sort of thing. Cf. John 17. Also Acts 15:

"And when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem TO THE APOSTLES AND THE ELDERS ABOUT THIS QUESTION."

These kinds of questions are submitted to the Apostles and Elders in aggregation, the heirs of whom in our tradition gather (for example) at the Lambeth Conference. Just as it was not okay for Paul and Barnabas to decide this contentious matter on their own, so is it not enough for General Convention to decide the contentious questions of our day on its own.

The Episcopal Church's intransigence amounts to a refusal to "go up to Jerusalem to the Apostles and the Elders about this question." Or, more accurately, having gone up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, and having received a verdict they don't like, the Episcoopal Church ignores the apostles and elders and keeps doing what it wants to do in the first place.

This is the essence of catholicity: believing that Jesus HAS in fact sent the Apostles to teach what he taught, and believing that he has given the Holy Spirit to them and to their heirs (together) to decide these kinds of questions. That's why there is all this talk about "consensus" and a "until a new consensus emerges" etc. Because we trust that the Holy Spirit works in the "conensus episcoporum" just as he worked with the Twelve, and just as he has always worked with their successors. We MUST submit our own private judgment -- and the judgment of our local dioceses and Provinces -- to this consensus. Becaue THERE is the promise of the Holy Spirit, of Truth, of Unity in the Faith of the Apostles, and indeed of infallibility. This is NOT found in the edicts of General Convention. (Nor, I believe, in the See of Rome by itself.)

DDX said...

Well said Fr. WB,

According to scripture, all have sinned, and do sin and Christ has provided, in Himself, the remedy. Homosexuality and heterosexuality, though not sinful in themselves, can both stir temptations to commit sinful acts. Sex with other than one's lawful spouse is sin whether homo or heterosexual in nature. But since scripture only recognizes marriage with the opposite sex, homosexual activity being outside the bonds of marriage must therefore be sin. Whether it is a greater sin than lying, stealing, blaspheming, coveting, pride, boastfulness, etc. is debatable, but ALL sin leads away from God and TO spiritual death.

Righteousness, sin, marriage and even the church itself only find their existence and meaning from scripture. Otherwise such things are whatever you or I say they are, or some group decides or elects them to be. That would be totally subjective and worthless.

No, the church is founded by and upon the same corpus of scriptures
that so identify extra-marital sex (fornication, adultery) as sin and specifically describes homosexual acts as sin, even "abominable" sin.

The church can not perform legitimate weddings of same-sex partners. Nor can it bless their union if sex is to be involved. Like all sin, homosexual activity (not homosexuality) is under the curse of sin. The church can not bless sin. It can not bless what God has cursed.

The church's legitimacy is established in proclaiming the Gospel which reveals the Son of God who is Himself the "chief cornerstone" (Mat 21:42) of it. It's legitimate function is to invite hetero- and homo-sexual individuals to come into it by "repenting" and "believing" according to scripture. The gospel order is Repent, Believe, be Baptized and that order. There's no getting around repenting of sin by denying it or calling it something else. It comes first.

The "church" that disregards the scripture and blesses what God has cursed can not be THE church but is instead a deceived and deceiving counterfeit.

Let the church remain on it's foundation of scripture as it must by definition. Let it welcome ALL into it's embrace, offering forgiveness for any and all sin through repentence and faith in Christ. But let it not encourage me in my sin. Let it not deceive me by calling my accursed behavior "good". Let it not shield me from my need of repentence and deny me the forgiveness and healing that might otherwise be mine through acknowledging my need, turning in faith to the Healer and Deliverer who loves me the same regardless of my sexuality. If I will repent He promises to cleanse me, to separate and deliver me from my sin. But I must recognize sin AS sin and make it my enemy. (Christ delivers us from our enemies but not our friends.)

The "church" that blesses behavior that God has cursed is no church at all. In my view, Fr. WB, you have put your finger right into the wound!

J-Tron said...


I agree with you about the necessity of consensus and about the necessity of TEC, or indeed any smaller body, submitting and subordinating itself to the wider judgment of the Body of Christ as a whole, particularly and especially to the judgment and counsel of the episcopate as heirs of the apostles.

And I certainly would never accuse you of doing anything but following the Catholic faith, even when it forces you to make painful choices. It's something that I admire about you.

I don't agree with Bishop Sisk. As much as I want to see the Church embracing what I believe is a more holy attitude towards gay and lesbian Christians, I recognize that the Church is bigger than me and that I do not have the authority to simply mold the life of the Church as I wish, nor would such a rampant invidualism be good for anybody.

But this is painful for me because what I see our Anglican corner of the Church doing seems to be an obvious error of epic proportions. I could be wrong. I admit that. And I accept the discipline of the Church, in this matter and all others. But that does not alleviate the very real sense I have, theologically and spiritually, that the Communion is doing something that is ultimately harmful to hundreds of thousands of people.

I suppose I'm rambling at this point. I'm not sure exactly what I'm looking for, other than some acknowledgement that this is a complicated and painful situation for everyone involved, not just those who feel oppressed by the liberalism of TEC's leadership. The whole thing is not so completely black and white as it gets painted by newspapers and angry bloggers.

mmbx said...

J-Tron, I always admire your thoughtfulness and how you articulate your ideas so well. It helps me a great deal to have understanding and compassion for "the other side" to hear your thoughts. It is indeed a difficult time for all of us. I do fully agree with Fr. and DDX, but I know that it is not so clear for everyone. I guess that is precisely the reason we must trust our Apostles and Elders to come to a Holy consensus. We clearly never could. I will add that I have many dear gay friends, one of whom is one of my "best friends." I am only called to love them as Christ loves them.

J-Tron said...


Your words are heartfelt and touching. Thank you for them.