Monday, July 6, 2015


Now we know. The last two weeks have shown us for sure. If there is anyone left in the world who thinks the schism in South Carolina and the division in the Anglican Communion is not about homosexuality he or she has only to look at the events of the last couple of weeks. No one can have the least bit of doubt any more. It is about gays. It was always about gays.

Today, anti-homosexual forces are back on their heels following the double whammy of the U.S. Supreme Court's sweeping legalization of same-sex marriage in the nation and the Episcopal Church's overwhelming landslide (80-90%) approval of same-sex marriage in the Church beginning in Advent 2015. These two events occurred within five days.

Although everyone knew these reforms were coming, the opponents maneuvered to oppose them in a last-ditch effort for months beforehand and have been publicly indignant ever since. Last March, the independent diocese (DSC) passed three resolutions strongly supporting heterosexual marriage only. Even though the Supreme Court's ruling of June 26 applied only to the civic state and not to religious institutions, the independent diocese still felt it was important to issue a declaration immediately afterwards to reassert its resolve to maintain "scriptural" marriage. The Anglican Communion Institute, a conservative think tank, campaigned for a long time before the General Convention against marriage equality. Ephraim Radner and Christopher Seitz even put up a "Marriage Pledge"online whereby clergy could sign up and agree not to perform civic marriage in the church. (see "First Things.")

The fallout after the General Convention resolutions has been predictable. The Archbishop of Canterbury, still at odds on what to do with the stubbornly divisive GAFCON, fretted aloud that some provinces of the Communion  might be upset by the American action. ( ). That is a given. Then, of course, Global South, Mark Lawrence's best friends in the AC, blasted the Episcopal Church, yet again, claiming they were "deeply grieved" by the marriage equality resolutions. Again, to be expected. GAFCON is also out with a fierce blast against TEC. It is curious that Global South and GAFCON are so concerned about TEC when they broke off communion with TEC years ago and recognized only the Anglican Church in North America as the legitimate Anglican province in the U.S. Why should they be so upset with TEC now when they have had no relations with TEC for years?

Then, on July 3, we were presented with A.S. Haley's, aka "The Anglican Curmudgeon," "Apologia," in which he indignantly resigned from the Episcopal Church because of its supposed "blasphemy." ( ). As everyone knows, for years attorney Haley has been actively involved in some of the secessionist diocesan court cases against TEC. Vocal too was Robert Gagnon, theology professor in Pittsburgh and longtime academic standard bearer in the religious fight against homosexuality. Right after the Supreme Court decision he fired off an essay "American Tragedy: Now Gird up your Loins,"( ) railing out against the Court and quoting every supporting Bible verse imaginable. The most sensible and reasonable conservative reaction to the Supreme Court decision that I have seen is "First Things. After Obergefell: A First Things Symposium" ( ). I recommend it for a better understanding of the opposition side.

Let's get something straight here about what did and did not happen. The social conservatives' claim that the Court and the Church attacked traditional marriage is not true. Heterosexual marriage continues on as before. There is no change in the law or the Book of Common Prayer concerning opposite-sex marriage. What has happened is that both Court and Church expanded the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. This is not an attack on heterosexual marriage. In fact, it actually strengthens the institution of marriage in society. So, right-wing ranting about the destruction of Biblical marriage is simply wrong.

Actually, both the Supreme Court ruling and the Episcopal Church's resolutions were parts of a historical movement that has been going on for years. They were not really breaking new ground. They were far from the first to do these things. An excellent article in Wikipedia ( ) reveals that twenty nations had already legalized same-sex marriage and numerous others had established some version of it or all of it in certain localities. The first country to legalize same-sex marriage was the Netherlands, in 2001. Two years later  came Belgium and parts of Canada. The first American state to legalize same-sex marriage was Massachusetts in 2004. Following came Spain, all of Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina (Bp Zavala's bailiwick), Denmark, Brazil, France, Uruguay (Zavala), New Zealand, England and Wales, Luxembourg. All of these and many more smaller entities, legalized same-sex marriage before the United States did so on June 26, 2015.

Likewise, the Episcopal Church was not the first religious denomination to recognize marriage equality. According to the Pew Research Center ( ) numerous American religious bodies had already adopted same-sex marriage including the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Reformed Judaism, the Unitarians, and the United Church of Christ. Others are likely to do so in time. The Pew Center also found in a recent survey that 62% of white mainline Protestants now favor same-sex marriage while 33% oppose. Moreover, a clear-cut majority of all Americans now favor marriage equality; and that number is rising quickly. It is almost unanimous among the young.

The issue of homosexuality was certainly the direct cause of the schism in the Episcopal Church. Immediately after the Robinson vote of affirmation in the General Convention of 2003, the Chapman Memo appeared to present a detailed plan for secession from the Episcopal Church. San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, Ft. Worth, and Quincy all voted the leave the Church in 2007 and 2008 as a result of the Robinson affirmation, the failure of foreign intervention, and the election of a woman Presiding Bishop in 2006 who happened to be an outspoken advocate of homosexual rights in the Church. The leadership of the Diocese of South Carolina led its majority out of the Episcopal Church in 2012 on the heels of General Convention of 2012's adoption of liturgy for the blessing of same-sex unions and rights for transgendered clergy.

It was also the direct cause of the division in the Anglican Communion. GAFCON I meeting convened in Jerusalem only a few days before the Lambeth Conference was to meet in England in 2008. It was formed to oppose the rising movement in Anglicanism of rights for homosexuals. Anglican primates from equatorial Africa, countries that traditionally punish homosexuality, have been prominent in GAFCON from the start. When its subsidiary, the Anglican Church in North America started in 2009, GAFCON declared it the new replacement branch of the Anglican Communion in America and ended communion with the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. GAFCON, and its allied groups such as Global South, have split the Anglican Communion into two factions. The division is so bitter that the Archbishop of Canterbury has said it is doubtful that he will call a Lambeth Conference in 2018. He is frantically trying to hold together a loose confederation that in reality has already split apart.

The evidence is overwhelming that there is a worldwide movement to extend human rights to a historically oppressed minority, homosexual persons. Europe and the Americas have led the way while Africa and Asia lag behind (although South Africa has marriage equality). The movement is actually gaining momentum and will no doubt sweep even the most conservative regions eventually. After all, Spain, one of the most conservative societies in Europe was one of the first countries to legalize same-sex marriage. Another historically traditional country, Ireland, recently voted in a landslide for marriage equality. It is sweeping the world.

That will include South Carolina. As time goes by, more and more people will support equal rights for homosexuals. Today's opponents will shrink away. Time and tide are against them. Social conservatives have every reason to be upset about the events of the last two weeks. They are undeniable towering landmarks of that time and tide. There is more, much more to come before this wave of democratic rights runs its course. The U.S. Supreme Court and the Episcopal Church were simply recognizing the reality of that wave, and rightly so.

In the long run, opposition to rights for homosexuals will fade away as did opposition to equality for blacks and for women. We may forget, but these created bitter opposition movements too, and not very long ago. Now those movements seem almost quaint, if ridiculous in hindsight. The world will survive the movement of rights for homosexuals. The Anglican Communion will survive. The Episcopal Church will survive. Once time has passed and tempers have cooled, reconciliation will take place. That too is part of the time and tide of history.