LETTER TO THIS EDITOR - AUGUST 10
Here is a letter to this editor that I received today. It is a timely commentary on Mark Lawrence's recent speaking tour of the diocese:
I'm sure you are already aware of this but the thing that really leaps off the page for me is Lawrence's repeated insistence that the issue at hand is not homosexuality or even same-sex marriage but rather "gender identity" (i.e. transsexuals).
Given his comments this week, one might almost think that he has no problem with homosexuality or same-sex marriage. This is clearly not the case. The pot, already simmering for many years, started bubbling at a rapid pace in 2003, with the ordination of Gene Robinson, at a time when very little, if any, attention was being paid, either in the Church or in mainstream culture at large, to the transsexual movement. Gene Robinson's ordination was about the role(s) non-celibate homosexuals would or would not be allowed to play in the church. Period. And that's very clearly what set things off.
I'm not sure at what point General Convention started discussing inclusion of transgendered people in the life of the Church. It was definitely a hot topic in 2015 and, I am guessing, in 2012, when the SC delegation walked out (except, God bless him, Lonnie Hamilton). But 2012 represented the end of a very long process of SC's outrage at the increasingly "liberal" policies of GC, not the beginning. Even 2003 was not the beginning, of course (far from it), but it was the real flash point, not 2012.
It seems very clear that Lawrence and his posse have calculated that anti-gay and even anti-same-sex-marriage talk just doesn't fly anymore. Even among conservative Episcopalians in SC, the outrage is just not there at this point (that outrage has lost its steam amazingly quickly in just the past few years, even in the years since the schism). Most people realize that painting gay people as devils is just plain foolish. Nearly everyone, including conservative Episcopalians in SC, knows at least one or two gay people and possibly a gay couple in a committed relationship...and they know for a fact that those people are not evil and that God loves them just as much as he does everyone else. (Witness the question at St. James last night about a woman whose friend's daughter was married to a woman. That woman was not open to an old-school homophobic rant and Lawrence knew that, so he pivoted off the ropes, like any good boxer would do, and reset himself for a new offensive attack.)
Consequently, Team Lawrence have substituted the outrage du jour --- the transgender movement. This remains a topic that many people find puzzling, disturbing, repulsive and frightening. In other words, fertile ground in which to spread hate and fear, the fruits of which can in turn be used to bolster ACNA/Lawrence group identity and unquestioning loyalty. Bingo! Note Lawrence's repeated use, over a period of years, of the bogeyman of a transgendered person in charge of child care at your local Episcopal Church, clearly implying that transgendered people are also child molesters (the same patently false accusation that was leveled, for many years and until quite recently, at gay people). This is an image that will get people upset and is thus the one he has chosen, recently, to begin emphasizing.
In short, all of this represents a clearly identifiable and recent pivot on Lawrence's part. He has abandoned the bogeyman of gay priests and same-sex marriage for that of transgender child care workers. Has anyone noticed this rather remarkable tactical change? Do any of is followers find it, um, unquestionable? Have they asked themselves why, all of a sudden, gay people are no longer a problem for Lawrence? Or, for that matter, all of his talk is about the actions and words of a former PB and none of it about the current PB?
Lawrence may be a champion wrestler, but his tactics are those of a skilled boxer: punch, bob, weave, counterpunch, punch some more...and when you get backed into a corner, pivot out and resume your attack from a more advantageous position. Lawrence the losing boxer is doing two things right now: hoping against hope to land a lucky knockout punch. In spite of the fact that he's way behind on points, and preparing a defensive, self-justifying speech for the cameras after he has lost the fight.
One of the most interesting, if not the most interesting, points in Lawrence's repeated talk in his tour was his lengthy attention at every stop to transgender. He said, point blank, that it was that issue that made him leave TEC in 2012. This is a major shift. Up until now, the constant DSC talking point had been that the schism was all about theology. Lawrence finally admitted, what everyone else already knew, that the schism was about sexuality. This landmark turning point should not be missed. Interesting too that Lawrence has changed the focus from homosexuality to transgender. The writer above may well be right that external factors have shifted enough to force a redefinition of the underlying issue of sexuality.
Homosexuality was the wedge issue that the DSC leaders used to lead the majority of communicants out of the Episcopal Church. It was the "hot button" issue that the leaders stoked very cleverly and successfully. It worked the first time. That is, I suspect, why Lawrence has brought sexuality back all these years after the schism. Once again, DSC leaders are using it as the wedge issue, this time, to keep people from going back to TEC. If sexuality worked well the first time, why not use it again? What do they have to lose? The courts have failed them.
Lawrence's speaking tour has given us a mountain of material to ponder. He has certainly stirred up both sides. I am sure everyone has his or her reaction to his talks, as the writer above. Send me your letters to the editor at the email address above. We all want, indeed need, to know what you too think.