Monday, April 18, 2011

Why "both, and" isn't always good enough.

EDS is often referred to as a "both, and" institution. Meaning all opinions honored, none discounted, the via media has an active life. Our first week of orientation to the seminary and "Visions" training (an anti-racism, anti-oppression training that all students, faculty, and staff experience) we covenant with each other as to how we will dialogue. We don't dismiss what others say, we take responsibility for our own learning, we try things on before making a judgment, etc. It's very good, and has made a positive change in my life with how I interact with people both on a personal level and in my ministry.

AND... I've been thinking a lot about "both, and" and sometimes it just doesn't cut it. Sometimes I think we need to draw a line and take a stand. Let me tell you what sparked these thoughts for me.

Part of my ministry with the Diocese of Iowa is editing the monthly newspaper, Iowa Connections. This past week I was working on May's issue and was researching a visit 30 years ago by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, to Iowa. Runcie's visit had drawn much media attention, and was a huge event for the diocese. As I was reading about Runcie's accomplishments and theological views, I was struck by an article I read in which he said he is open to the idea of the ordination of women, however he feels it is important for the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches to heal from their division and find new life together, and so he would not support or allow the ordination of women, because it would offend our Roman brothers and sisters.

What I heard from Runcie was a "both, and." Yes, he supports women, AND he is unable to ordain them because he also wants to heal a rift in the wider Church. This is one of those times I have to say "both, and" doesn't cut it. Sometimes you have to take a stand. I don't buy that he really supports women, otherwise he'd really stand up for the rights for them to be ordained.

It sounds all too familiar to the current argument that is made for excluding our GLBTQ brothers and sisters as ministering partners in the Anglican church because of our desire to remain in communion with Anglicans world wide. We say we welcome all, that we're all called to ministry through our baptism... AND we continue to be an exclusive, oppressive Christian community, because we want to preserve unity in the church.

Perhaps I'm bullheaded when it comes to issues of justice, but the neutrality drives me mad. You can't always have your cake and eat it too. It sure is convenient to stand right down the middle and claim both sides of an issue, but is it always the right thing to do?

1 comment:

  1. Dear Lydia,

    I’m with you! As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.”

    I’m sure there were politicians in the 19th century who argued that they supported abolition but couldn’t vote for it because they didn’t want to offend their colleagues from slave-holding states.

    I just finished a paper on Jarena Lee, who argued successfully in the late 18th and early 19th century for a women’s right to preach in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

    Here’s some of what she had to say on the subject:

    "O how careful ought we to be, lest through our by-laws of church government and discipline, we bring into disrepute even the word of life. For as unseemly as it may appear now-a-days for a woman to preach, it should be remembered that nothing is impossible with God. And why should it be thought impossible, heterodox, or improper, for a woman to preach? seeing the Saviour died for the woman as well as the man.

    If a man may preach, because the Saviour died for him, why not the woman? seeing he died for her also. Is he not a whole Saviour, instead of a half one? as those who hold it wrong for a woman to preach, would seem to make it appear.

    Did not Mary first preach the risen Saviour, and is not the doctrine of the resurrection the very climax of Christianity—hangs not all our hope on this, as argued by St. Paul? Then did not Mary, a woman, preach the gospel? for she preached the resurrection of the crucified Son of God….

    [C]an [God] not inspire a female to preach the simple story of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of our Lord, and accompany it too, with power to the sinner’s heart.

    As for me, I am fully persuaded that the Lord called me to labour according to what I have received, in his vineyard. If he has not, how could he consistently bear testimony in favour of my poor labours, in awakening and converting sinners?"

    Thank you for your passion on this subject, your devotion to ministry, all the wonderful work you are doing with young people. It’s been a delight and an honor to be with you in class, and I hope our paths cross soon.

    Love and blessings,