Sunday, December 21, 2008

moderate conservative

I really didn't know how to classify my new church but according to the newspaper yesterday when it was mentioned in a column, it is rated as "moderate conservative." I know it is quite open to women priests, and I think it is just happenstance that it doesn't have one now. On the recent very bitter separation over same-sex blessing, this church did not split with the diocese.

My former church led the split from the diocese over same sex blessing. At first I was appalled that there was pressure from the bishop for all priests to accept same sex blessing. I was originally in full support of the resistance to same sex blessing and even wrote a letter which was highly supportive of the minister and I know he appreciated it.

I had studied the issue of alternate episcopal oversight for my MA thesis when I wrote about aboriginal churches in Canada and compared that with the church in New Zealand and India. Technically I was against the bishop promoting the acceptance of same sex blessing in this diocese.

However, now I attend a church which did not leave the diocese. Let me explain. This is a very technically complicated business, but what I now understand is that only about 6 parishes have said that they would be happy to have same sex unions blessed in their church. The rest of the churches have simply agreed that we have this policy, but they have not offered to have any same sex ceremonies. The topic largely goes unmentioned in my present church.

There were several reasons for my leaving the Anglican Network church and joining one of the churches which remained in the diocese. I will list them but cannot put them in order of importance.

1. A prominent member of my former church had signed the statement of concern against the Today's New International Version of the Bible. I believe that this document is morally compromised and articles attached to this discussion contain inappropriate language. One example is that some early articles mentioned that the TNIV "neutered" Christ because he was called "human" instead of "man" in some cases where the Greek word was anthropos. It is my view, as someone trained in Greek, that the statement of concern against the TNIV is simply an inappropriate document for any Christian to be associated with.

2. When I first started attending my former church many years ago, women would occasionally speak from the pulpit. Over the years that stopped and there were no more female assistant clergy. Women disappeared from the large ministry team by attrition and no new women joined. Women remained in positions of women's ministry, of course. To my knowledge the ministry team did not follow the inclination of the congregation on this but unilaterally decided that women were not to lead. The Anglican church of Canada has been ordaining women since 1976 so this church had already made the split from the diocese doctrinally before the same sex issue made the split definitive. This is my view from the outside.

3. A few years ago I asked the minister's wife for some resources for an abused woman for "a friend." She answered that she had none because this problem did not exist in this congregation of over 1000 members. At this time the minister was increasingly preaching the submission of women and there was at least one woman in the congregation who suffered violence during this time, probably more. Last summer a sermon was preached on the total submission of the wife, and the preacher made a joke about how women who were married to unreasonable men could line up after the service for "therapy" if they wanted to. This comment was delivered by the preacher with a guffaw. Frankly I cannot imagine anything more crass.

I left that church.

These are my reasons for now attending a church where technically same sex unions are accepted. I personally do not consider sex or marriage a sacrament. I keep church and sex in two separate compartments of my brain and they don't mix. I am pretty much disgusted by what I have seen and I do not want to interact with any man in church in a sexually "complementary" way. Period. The less people talk about sex and gender in church the better, as far as I am concerned. Christians don't have a great track record, so let's just move on to discuss something more profitable. These are my thoughts. Some day I may have more to say on the topic, or maybe not.

The lessons and carols service this morning was exquisite. There was no sermon and this was a huge relief. I am tired of hearing the minister get up and preach an "altar call" sermon just in case someone who only goes to church once a year might be there for Christmas.

The choir was so beautiful that several people were in tears. The children sang like a professional choir and we all sat in soft silence and listened. No clapping, but a few toddlers roamed the aisles freely. A couple of people told me that they had attended the service on Saturday for those in grieving. Many people grieve at this time of year.

Reading through the blogs last night, I read of men who could not pay the bills, couples with young children who were divorcing, older couples going separate ways, each asking what on earth they had done to find themselves alone in life at this stage.

It is a muted time for many. It is a good time to stick to a few traditional routines, not to shop too much, to prepare food that really is food, that is warming and comforting. It is a good time for siblings and parents to keep in touch. It is a good time to phone a friend. It is a good time to sit alone by the window and watch the snow fall silently.


Bob MacDonald said...

Falling snow has neither stridency nor indifference.

Sam said...

Thank you, once again, for sharing, Suzanna. I often read blog posts when in a hurry, but please know that yours are deeply appreciated and continually challenge, as well as encourage.

Donald Johnson said...

I would have made the same choice you did. I appreciate your candor.

G said...

Thank you always for your challenging thoughts.

You said:
"The less people talk about sex and gender in church the better, as far as I am concerned."

This wonderful blog of yours speaks so much of this subject. It is a subject that must be spoken of in the church. Is this blog not in the church or is your concept of the church some corporate ritual that happens in special buildings that tends to have things like crosses on or in it.

I am not sure what you mean by sex and gender. What is the difference of these two words in this sentence?

Peter Kirk said...

Thanks for this honest piece. I am horrified that anyone in church ministry, or married to someone who is, would be in such denial about the issue of abused wives. On this matter alone you did the right thing to leave.

I hope you can have a merry Christmas.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Thank you, Peter, and all, for your comments. The snow and the silence is deafening here. It is amazing.

I appreciated the service of lessons and carols, the non-sermonized gathering together. Curiously it is remininscent of the best of the Brethren breaking of bread where there was no sermon either but simply a reading. Of course, not regulated like the Anglican Church but the intent was the same, to read the word and contemplate without an intervening sermon.

My views on sexuality are shifting considerably and I am happy now to attend this very traditional church, knowing very well that it does not treat homosexual unions as a boundary line or point of exclusion. The Brethren practiced excommunication and it is clear to me from every case, that there is little difference in morality between those within and those without.

I prefer to remember a Christianity in which both men and women were called to think of mission, rather than living out their female or male roles. I am now past the childbearing age, and am more comfortable in the secular academic world where gender is not a matter for inclusion or exclusion.

I don't have all these things worked out so this is enough for now.

Danni said...

I love your blog! I identify with it greatly. I've been lurking for quite awhile.

I have had the same thoughts re: church. I find the attitudes of churches that insist on absolute female subjugation to men to be far more morally repugnant than the issue of same-sex marriage. The first affects far more real people sitting in the pews than the second. Jesus had far more to say about the afflicted than he did about homosexuality... well, He didn't say anything at all about homosexuality. Bit of irony there.

I haven't yet gotten a green light back into a church yet, but the Episcopal church is the only one I can see as an option at this point for exactly this reason.

-- Danni