There is an on-going conversation among some of us in "blogdom" that is trying to weave together, while speaking meaningfully about, probably three different strands. The conversation focuses on issues of homosexuality -- should non-celibate people be ordained and ought the Church to bless same-sex unions -- and the "unity of the Church" -- i.e., what is it for the Church to act, how important is the received teaching of the Church, how free is any group or individual to buck the Church and act in its/his/her own way -- and what is the problem that the conversation seems so difficult to maintain -- i.e., why do we seem always to be talking past one another.
Here I wish simply to provide links to others engaged in this conversation (not in a general way, but engaged by referring to each other's thoughts). That means there won't be many blogs, because none of us -- with the exception of Camassia -- gets around much.
I have tried to address the issue a couple of times: here and here.
My sister Dash, whom I know personally and love dearly, has raised the issue here.
Her great friend Julesrud has posted to Dash's blog here. (By the way, we need to encourage Julesrud to set up her own blog, so she can get her thoughts out more spontaneously and quickly -- and share the vulnerability that some of us experience).
And, last but not least, Camassia has said these things, here.
Follow links, of course, to get to other discussions.
There is an amazing lot of stuff on the Pontificator's blog, but I won't cite particular posts because he hasn't really referenced this particular conversation. Still, I have to say that his blog is one of the most amazing sites I can name.
(Jim has been vocal in the conversation, but I don't know that he has a blog himself. If you do, Jim, give a reference and I'll visit regularly. I appreciate your involvement here.)
We all need input, so here is your golden opportunity.
I'm currently thinking about how to address the issue of why we speak past each other. I am convinced that the reason has to do with some fundamental split in Protestantism (which is, I think, the "tradition" of all the people I mention): We have so come under the spell of frontier evangelicalism. (Frank Senn is the one who really helped me identify this, because of its implications for the liturgical life of the modern church.) Frontier evangelicalism set aside much of the theological heritage of the Church -- many aspects of which Luther, Calvin, Wesley, the Anglican divines, and even Zwingli (I am told) would despair of losing. Among those aspects are several highlighted in the Creed -- specifically, the Church. From a "res" -- that is a living entity "outside of which there is no salvation" or "life within which is salvation," to paraphrase old constructions -- the church became a voluntary association of like-minded and -experienced "christians" who had worked out their individual salvation with the their individual God to their individual satisfaction. The result is that the notion of the "unity of the Church" -- i.e., of the universal oneness of the Body of Christ through all time (its "diachronic," or "through all time," dimension) and all over the globe (its "synchronic," or simultaneous in time," dimension) -- became psychologized and platonized. It ceased to have concrete form or content and became, instead, a matter of "getting along" and "respect."
To think that the universal Church has any ultimate authority over me or my group, then, became nonsense -- it simply didn't fit the scheme of things. (The Reformation, which understood itself as a reform movement within the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, came to be understood as establishing a new approach to religion -- denominationalism, in which one could "attend the church [sic] of his or her choice [sic]", as though religion were a matter of choosing a supermarket.
One of the consequences was the acceptance of the Enlightenment's great proposal that there is no authority over one that is located outside of oneself: We are our own authorities -- which, if you parse it carefully, means that we are our own gods (but I'm not going to go off on the Enlightenment today). That gives rein to all kind of individuals and groups' deciding for themselves how to live consistent with the gospel, as they determine it by "their own lights." Sure, we may read the Bible, but we read it in our own language, through our own filters, with our own worldview -- irrespective of the fact that the Bible is the Church's book and really can't be understood apart from the "institution" that settled its content in the first place.
Now, there I go again: assuming lots and explaining little. Let me unpack for a moment: Lutherans especially (because we claim it was Luther's principle) and protestants in general insist that every person can be his or her own interpreter of the Bible. But that is not, for some of us, correct. What we call "Bible" does not comprise everything ever written involving the Lord of Israel and his Son. Instead it is a rather carefully culled, (yeah, yeah: I know there is dispute about this -- not least from Luther on James) settled collection of those works that adequately and accurately "drove Christ." It was an edited collection; it was a pedagogical collection; it was a collection with an agenda determined by the then-powers-that-were, the bishops of the Church. And what was selected by the Church was to be interpreted by the Church. And as the great councils of the Church made clear, "interpretation" was not an individual matter; it was something subject to the veto of the Church meeting in assembly (and once again, that ecumenical council assembly represented both the diachronic and the synchronic consensus of the Church's teachers).
Note that when Luther, for example, attacked Rome and the papacy, he did so not by saying "it seems to me," but by saying, "the Church through its history has said, and now you're changing or damaging things." He understood, contrary to our popular understandings, that the Bible means what the Church says it means, not what Martin Luther or even -- gulp -- Dwight has to say about what it says. (This is the great failing of the Jesus Seminar: It fails to understand -- or it willfully ignores -- the Churchly context of the scriptures. It tries to deal with them as "literature" or "history" or as just another secular book. And that is fraudulent; it misreads the genre of the Bible. And it's probably not a surprise that most of the guiding lights in the Seminar are in secular universities -- where the Bible is often the object of "study" without any reverence.)
I hope I have made my point, because I don't want to belabor something obvious any more than I usually do.
But my point is that one reason the conversation about homosexuality -- or any sexuality -- is so difficult and so evasive is that the participants speak from different worldviews. Our epistemologies don't match. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) We don't learn the same way (and this is more than the Mars/Venus thing, and it certainly is not analyzable according to some gender distinction). We understand the nature of faith differently. We understand the nature of our place in the cosmos differently. We don't agree on authorities -- or on authority.
For my party, obedience to the diachronic and synchronic, if not consensus then, majority teaching is imperative until those who question and challenge that teaching convince the Church that she has been wrong. It was so with other issues -- slavery, for example.
I admit that the Peter story in Acts, in which he expands the mission to Gentiles, raises the issue of "civil disobedience" as a means to effect change in the Church. And Sister Dash insists that Martin Luther King, Jr., encouraged its use in church as well as in society. And there certainly are other instances of people's doing the "wrong thing for the right reason," to put the most negative construction on the matter. And we must certainly talk about that.
But the conversation can only advance when we come to grips with the importance of the Church's tradition -- understood in its most expansive, concrete, and authoritative sense. Thus says my party. I'm not sure what the other party has to say about that. The people with whom my mind "hangs" insist that once we cede obedience to the Church (there's language bound to raise the hackles of most of the people reading this), we may reasonably discuss the forms of that obedience -- and even the faithful employment of disobedience. But my party really can't see beyond this beginning point -- and, frankly, we don't see that we share the same beginning point with the other party.
Now, I must interject that I use the word "party" as a collective for those on one side of a conversation who are engaged in dialogue with "partners," the other "party." So do not read more into the term than I intend. (Anyone who knows me knows that tact is not my prime virtue.)
And to come to terms with the fundamental problem in our conversation, I wonder whether the worldviews are so set that we will have trouble leaving our individual spheres in order to engage the other. I mean this as no insult to the faith, the good intentions, the good faith, the cooperative spirit, or anything else of either party. We must, of course, "come and reason together"; we are simply unable by virtue of the reality of the Church and the Holy Spirit to do anything else. (Those who simply pick up their marbles and go away are making a mistake.) The same has held true in the great ecumenical dialogues of the post-WWII era. The conversations have gone on and on, frustrating to both parties who earnestly desire to get on with the business of bringing the Church back together. It will take time; impatience will result in errors (witness the present conflicts within the ELCA, a direct result of moving too quickly toward merger while ignoring obvious differences in the ways the parties understood "church"), hard feelings, and schism (and, yes, I do fear that schism will grow out of ELCA's action on homosexuality -- whatever it is).
So we shall continue to discuss here, making every effort to overcome the "speaking past each other" of which Sister Julesrud speaks rightly. Be patient with me.