John Shelby Spong, in an article in yesterday's Guardian regarding Archbishop Rowan Williams' leadership around the issue of homosexuality (hereafter referred to as The Issue) and the Anglican Communion, is quoted as saying.
"[Archbishop Williams'] actions have revealed a fatal character flaw. He has no courage, no backbone and no ability to lead. Seldom have I watched a quicker collapse of potential. It was an abdication of leadership so dramatic as to be breathtaking.
"He is now destined to be a long-serving but ineffective and empty man who has been revealed to be incapable of carrying the responsibility placed upon him. Leaders have only one opportunity to make a first impression. Rowan Williams has failed that test miserably."
Wow. Quite a condemnation, especially from a colleague. I guess the Archbishop missed the memo that he was to check with Spong before making any important decisions to make sure that they fell within the exclusive range of liberal fundamentalism.
Maybe it's just me, but I find such remarks such as Spong's, unhelpful to the debate. While it is no mystery as to where Spong stands on The Issue, his black and white, us-against-them, attitude is just as troubling when it comes from a fire-breathing liberal as when it spews from the mouth of a frothing fundamentalist. Too many people are stuck in the middle in The Issue and are being polarized by divisive statements, such as the ones that Spong makes.
In my congregation, like most in the ELCIC, there is a strong diversity of opinion regarding The Issue. While I may vehemently disagree with many folks here at Good Shepherd, I still recognize that they are part of my family of faith, and I am called to love and minister to them as well to one one with whom I agree.
I hear much polarizing rhetoric in my denomination as we struggle to find our way through this controversy. The Issue has been a litmus test for faithfulness for some folks on both sides of the debate. "Where do you stand on The Issue" is not merely a query as to what a person thinks, it now represents a whole host of theological questions most central being Biblical Authority. It grieves me that the conversation we are having is a heated argument between two rival factions rather than a prayerfully discerning dialogue or debate that searches for the heart of God.
I've also heard it said that The Issue is more than homosexuality, but that to become more welcoming to gays and lesbians will put us on a slippery slope toward a liberal theological agenda that will end in our demise as a national church body. I'm not convinced. While many pro-gay advocates certainly are of the liberal persuasion, many that I've talked to are not. In fact, some "pro-gay" advocates believe that the gospel compells them to welcome all people.
As our church struggles with this issue, I'd like to hear more compassion for those caught in the middle and who are honestly searching and discerning where they believe God is leading us. It is my prayer that God will lead us through this difficult time of discernment and at the end make us stronger and more united as a family of faith.