S.C. Gwynne of Texas Monthly has turned in a tour de force article about the current struggles of the Episcopal Church, marred only by a liturgically informed but sneering headline (“Peace be with you. And also with you. Unless you’re gay”).
Gwynne’s article soon enough finds that, even among the most outspoken conservative Episcopalians in Texas, the sentiments aren’t as rough-hewn as in the headline. Gwynne writes this of Bishops James Stanton (Dallas) and Jack Iker (Fort Worth) and of the Rev. Canon David H. Roseberry of Christ Church, Plano (pictured):
It is a common misconception that conservatives like Iker, Stanton, and Roseberry want to exclude gays from the church altogether. This is not what they say, and there is no evidence that it is true. (They are even agreeable to being part of a church that ordains homosexuals, as they have proven for more than two decades.) Their position is that Scripture holds homosexual acts to be unnatural, ungodly, and therefore sinful. The foundation of that belief — necessarily — is that homosexuality is a behavioral choice. Like any behavioral choice, it can be resisted. Like any temptation to sin, it needs to be resisted.
Gwynne writes of Stanton’s cordial but strained pastoral relationship with an openly gay priest. He perfectly captures Episcopalians’ love of ambiguity in these remarks by the Rev. Fred Barber, whom he describes as a conservative rector of a liberal parish, Trinity Church in Fort Worth:
“I am ready to stay ambiguous here,” he says. “I told the congregation in a sermon that if I had been a delegate at General Convention, I would not have voted for Gene Robinson’s consecration. I got applause. Three days later a gay congregation member stood and said how she valued being here. She got applause too. That is ambiguity. I may have lost some parishioners because I said I would not perform same-sex blessings. But I have also said that I have gay people here, and they will continue to be welcome.”
Gwynne overstates conservative bishops’ likelihood to lead their dioceses out of the Episcopal Church. No bishop enjoys clear support in every congregation, and a strict property law functions, even at the congregational level, as a powerful golden handcuff. But Gwynne clearly has talked to many Episcopalians across the theological spectrum, and he writes about them without condescension.