Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Orientation & Ordination:
orienting our vision of spiritual authority

Today is the day that the California State Supreme Court pronounces its decision regarding Proposition 8 and the stance on Marriage and its parameters. At the same time the Church of Scotland appointed by vote its first openly gay minister on Saturday [BBC video report]. At the same time this same General Assembly then voted to no longer ordain anyone who is openly gay and not yet ordained for 2 years, until 2011, thus avoiding having to deal with the problem that they just addressed on Saturday [BBC article].

I think most people in the church (and maybe outside of it too) are tired of this debate, and unsure how much longer the church can handle discussing, debating and being divided by it. Ironically a blog I read had an entry about the surprising fact that most clergy support gay marriage. I finished reading a book this weekend [The Great Emergence by Phyllis Tickle] that talks about the changes we're going through culturally/politically/socially/religiously and the consequential transformations it will bring to the church.

Rather than proclaim a doomsday apocalypse for the "faith-full" (however they define themselves), Tickle believes that we are approaching and beginning to articulate a cyclical re-formation or re-traditioning of the church that will actually lead to more vibrant faith community and experience as opposed to death and destruction. In her analysis the main question of the changes we're going through is the one of authority: who has it? a group of scholars, clergy, scripture; or is it experience, community (local, national, global); or even a dialog between multiple of theses factors. She argues that the discussion about homosexuality will be one of the keys in the conversation of church conversion:

To approach any of the arguments and questions surrounding homosexuality in the closing years of the twentieth century and the opening ones of the twenty-first is to approach a battle to the death. When it is all resolved - and it most surely will be - the Reformation's understanding of Scripture as it had been taught by Protestantism for almost five centuries will be dead. That is not to say that Scripture as the base of authority is dead. Rather it is to say that what the Protestant tradition has taught about the nature of that authority will be either dead or in mortal need of reconfiguration. And that kind of summation is agonizing fo the surrounding culture in general. In particular, it is agonizing for the individual lives that have been built upon it. Such an ending is to be staved off with every means available and resisted with every bit of energy that can be mustered. Of all the fights, the gay one must be - has to be - the bitterest, because once it is lost, there are no more fights to be had. It is finished. Where now is the authority? (p. 101)

So as I start the day I wonder what today's California State Supreme Court decision will have as an impact on this ongoing "fight."

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