This fight is particularly difficult for those of us who live in the Diocese of South Carolina, headquartered right here in Charleston. Our bishop, Edward Salmon, is a founding member of the Network. Effectively, most every Episcopal Church has had to fall in line with the Network. One of the loudest voices in the AAC is a local theologian, who is constantly denouncing any view not lifted straight from the bible. My family actually fled our nearest church, St. James, when they stopped referring to their membership in the Episcopal Church, substituting the name of the head of the AAC instead of ECUSA Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, and speaking in ever more fundamentalist terms against homosexuality and so-called sin as defined by "Holy Scripture".
We are now very happy members of Grace Episcopal Church, one of only two churches in the Charleston area that actually admit that they are part of the Episcopal Church. Our rector, Donald McPhail, has along with our vestry clung to the notion of the Via Media, a core notion of Anglican faith that there is more than one interpretation of faith.
What I find particulary laughable is the continuing AAC contention that the battle is not about homosexuality. Yet, in nearly every newsletter from them (I pick them up from the various former Episcopal churches that I sing at regularly) they mention Bishop Robinson, ECUSA’s refusal to reverse the actions of the general convention (which I think can only be done by the next convention), and various opinions about homosexuality. A recent issue had a lengthy article about conversions from gay to straight, a practice now denounced as harmful by the American Psychiatric Association!
The net effect for me and my wife has been a serious erosion in faith. Religion appears to be an almost purely man-made creation, with little of actual authority to back it up. As Bill Maher constantly jokes, we put a lot into our belief in an invisible man in the sky. This vaunted "Holy Scripture", the Bible, whichever version that is, doesn’t seem to be much more than a committee driven creation of men over a few thousand years. We end readings from it in church with "The Word of the Lord", or something similar – really? I will be the first to admit that I am no Bible scholar; from what I’ve heard from some of the actual Bible scholars here at the College of Charleston, I’d probably be even more confused if I was.
There have always been multiple ways of understanding and practicing Christianity. The Christian Bible (the New Testament) is a evolving collection of writings from the first few centuries of the church following Christ’s death and resurrection. They are supposedly inspired by God, and may even contain some of the actual words of Christ, the only documented time God has walked among us and talked to us. (I suppose God spoke to Moses, Adam and Abraham, although I’m not sure whether some of those (Adam) aren’t just an invention of some priest.) It’s funny that Christ has nothing to say about homosexuality, although he certainly had lots to say about being judgemental and hewing to the "law" of established religion. "Love one another as God loves us." Oddly enough, many people don’t seem to think that applies to people who are homosexual.
For the record, I am not a homosexual. I am, however, convinced that it is not a "choice", any more than I "choose" to be heterosexual. I’ve had lots of (non-sexual) contact with gay people over the years, particularly in the artistic community. I believe it is simply a part of how God made some people, and is wholely irrelevant to their faith and ability to bring their faith to others. From what I can see, homosexuals are just another group of people who are different from the "majority", and are therefore discriminated against. South Carolina has a particularly rich history in the practice of discrimination! It’s somewhat disgusting to see a whole system of churches, sometimes right next to one another, separating black and white people. In Charleston, there are many Episcopal Churches near African Methodist Episcopal (AME) churches. AME churches are effectively black Episcopalian churches.
Theoretically, much of the "law" of the Old Testament, the Jewish Bible, was reformed by Jesus. Somehow, this didn’t reform the "law" against homosexuality, although it did allow shellfish. It seems that if Jesus didn’t specifically say something, the "leaders" of the churches can pick and choose what we supposedly believe. That, in turn, can be used to enforce "morality".
Personally, I think it’s all a load of crap. You’ll notice I put this entry under the category "News and politics" rather than religion. I don’t see much difference between the two.
I grew up as a Roman Catholic, although I was never won over by the church. I always had a problem with the idea that our faith and values (the rules) were supposed to be rigidly defined by the hierarchy of the church, and yet massive numbers of people would discard those rules when it came to sexuality (birth control, abortion, sex outside of marriage, etc.). Somehow these same people were "good" Catholics. You could, for example, follow the law of the church and practice "natural family planning", aka use the "rythym method". As MAD Magazine put it, Catholics are nice people, but are sometimes a bit off-beat! In a world of exploding population and severely dimished resources, this seems like an irresponsible approach. One day, Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Clark DeLeon pointed out that people who choose their beliefs have a name: Protestant. I found that my new wife, who had grown up Episcopalian and was arguably far more faithful that I, was excluded from communion in the Catholic Church. Then I discovered that Episcopalians had a liberated view of the role of women, with female priests and bishops. They even seemed to believe that the Bible was open to interpretation (imagine that!) Then, I discovered that some of the best church musicians were Episcopalian. I’ve been a "recovering Catholic" ever since as a member of the Episcopal Church.
I’ll probably take a lot of guff for all of the above. You are free to believe what you wish. I am sorry for you if that is not the same as what I believe.