By all means, believe what you like

So, a frequent reader and occasional commenter (who may or may not be related to me) made me aware of a recent column that appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. (No longer a resident of Missouri, I don't read the P-D with much frequency, so I don't really know the author, Colleen Carroll Campbell.) Ms. Campbell thinks those of us who are ready to be rid of the conservative Anglo-Catholics who choose to align with Rome are demanding a tolerance we do not feel for those who champion so-called "traditional" values. She writes:
Responding to a demand from Anglicans who long have sought a way to join the
Catholic Church without abandoning their Anglican identity, the pope authorized
the creation of a new canonical structure that allows these converts to retain
some liturgical riches of their Anglican heritage while uniting with Rome.

The decision buoyed the spirits of many self-described Anglo-Catholics who feel
marginalized and betrayed by the Anglican Communion's willingness to change
age-old Christian teachings to suit contemporary sexual mores. Recent years
have seen fierce debates between Anglicans who support their church's
ordination of women priests, appointment of openly gay bishops and blessing of
same-sex marriages and those who see such innovations as inconsistent with
Scripture and 2,000 years of Christian tradition.


No sooner had the Vatican's decision been announced than critics began berating
Benedict as a sheep-stealer and the would-be Catholic converts as bigots.
Interpreting the announcement through the lens of contemporary sexual politics,
the vast majority of mainstream media commentaries on the subject suggested
that the only reason the Catholic Church would want these theologically
conservative Anglicans, and the only reason these Anglicans would swim the
Tiber, is because of a shared animus toward gays and women and a contempt for
progress and equality.
To which I reply, what other explanation would Ms. Campbell care to offer?

Let us look at it this way -- let us presume that those who are leaving the Anglican Communion truly view women and gays as fully equal to heterosexual men in the eyes of God, and are inclined to include them fully in the life of the church. In other words, let us presume they have no "shared animus." Rather, let us attribute their objection to ordaining women and gays to a love of tradition above all else, or to a belief that God has spoken, and has been heard and understood correctly and definitively for all time, as recorded by Scripture and as understood by church dogma over the past 2000 years.

While this may not translate perfectly as "contempt" for progress, it certainly implies a lack of belief in it. Further, it suggests that those who would cleave to Rome believe God has made it clear that there is something innately unworthy about women or gays, which precludes their full participation in the life of the church. It presumes that God's will has been enacted inerrantly for thousands of years (during which time, coincidentally, straight men have had an essentially unchallenged hold on power), and that no matter how excluded women or gays may feel, it is God's will that they feel so.

Again, perhaps we who celebrate the ordained ministry of women and gays are mistaken when we attribute conservative objection to a collective "animus" or "contempt." But how would Ms. Campbell choose to describe it? How else are we to understand a love of tradition over a willingness to question it, if by questioning it more people are allowed to not only feel, but actually be full members of the church of God? For all her offended huffing about the "heckling of the mob," how would Ms. Campbell choose to describe her beliefs?

I would posit, of course, that Ms. Campbell probably doesn't really think God likes gays (or, dare I say, women?) very much. I would guess, from her adherence to beliefs that exclude these people from ordained ministry, that she is perfectly happy to see them excluded. I am, of course, happy to let her believe what she likes. But I am also perfectly happy to see people who share her beliefs leave the church I love, because clearly their understanding of the love of God harmonizes poorly with mine.


  1. I like that people who object to changing the ages-old laws of the church regarding women and gays would express their objection by changing the ages-old laws of the church regarding married priests. or, for that matter, find themselves suddenly able to overcome 500 years of doctrinal disagreements. but hey, religion is a living tapestry and we have to adapt to the times, right?

  2. Dan, I understood from your earlier posts that you knew better than to claim the official doctrine of mainstream Christian churches is "G-d hates gays" or "G-d forbids women from leadership." From your fundamentalist background you surely know that the official position is G-d puts homosexual acts in the same prohibited category as adulterous acts. I don't have a dog in this fight, but you ought to be accurate when criticising Christian (and Jewish) doctrine (as in "those who would cleave to Rome", which I take to mean "Rome says" or "the RCC doctrine says.")

    And optic, you are aware that celebacy for priests is based not on Scripture but on Roman Catholic tradition originating centuries after the Christian Scriptures were written? Peter was certainly married, and Orthodox Christianity permits married priests today. Celebacy is a discipline of the RCC priesthood, but not am RCC doctrine. In other words, yes, AIUI the RCC could change the custom of celebacy for priests without changing RCC doctrine one iota.

  3. Dan, Let me bring some reality to the situation regarding celibacy, women, gays and the likes of clerics in Rome. First, Rome allowed women to be bishops as little as 500 years ago.... yikes... women in a priestly role! Popes were married and contrary to the Yes On 1 folks Jesus did not have even one word against gays. The problems with the Rome folks is their hatred of all things not NAZI in nature. Married priests have the wonderful ability to distinguish between fantasy sex and the real thing. I always wondered how a priest that has never had sex can counsel a married person on sex. It would be like me writing an RX for someone with dementia, (JG comes to mind). Come to think of it I would try that for him. OK back to the popes.... There were popes that sat on the papal throne and masturbated to orgies. Now given the above statements it sure seems to me they don't have a great deal of latitude in the holier-than-though department. I have not even touched the church and Jews and the likes of Mel Gibson and the Polish pope who said, "It is as it was". And JG just when did God tell you he hates gays. You telling me the old men that lived in tribes and hid in caves writing things to control their people actually spoke with God? Give me a break. If God did not love gays he would not have made them. Oh wait... from your pontification he probable speaks directly to you.

  4. John, I don't know that one can accurately discuss any "official" doctrine of the fundamentalist Christian church. Some may be organized enough to have official doctrines, but many churches are independent, and have no hierarchy or organization to dictate doctrine.

    That being said, whatever the "official" doctrines of any fundamentalist church about gays, the curdled bile that I heard about gays when I grew up in the church makes the discussion academic. Perhaps there has been a change, but my memories make any distinction between "God hates gays" and what they actually believe so minute and subtle as to be meaningless.

    As for the Catholic church, I am in no position to pronounce on its dogma. But, whatever its stance on women and gays, it seems clear to me that any Anglicans who would join with it are doing so because they object to gays and women being ordained. Campbell may not describe this as antipathy, but I certainly do.

  5. Dan, I conceed that fundamentalist sects' version of 'official' doctrine is "whatever we say at the moment." So yes, the second 'official' is wrong. My religious background was of the "hate the sin, love the sinner" variety, which may explain my natural attraction to the doctrine of apocatastasis.

  6. Well, GJ, I've got to hand it to you. Today I learned a useful new word, which handily describes my own doctrinal belief, to boot!