Article — From the June 2008 issue

Turning Away From Jesus

Gay rights and the war for the Episcopal Church

Do you love me?
—Jesus to Simon Peter, John 21:16

As an American Episcopalian I belong to a family of forty-four autonomous churches[1] called the Anglican Communion, which currently numbers some 80 million members around the globe and which is now close to schism because of a bitter dispute about homosexuality. I must admit that until quite recently I did not pay much attention to what is often called “the crisis in the Anglican Communion”—in spite of, though perhaps also because of, the fact that for many years I worked some hours of each week as the lay vicar and later as the indigenous priest of a small Episcopal church in rural Vermont.[2] I had other things on my mind.

[1] Of the forty-four churches, thirty-eight are large enough to count as provinces (a collection of at least three dioceses).
[2] My ordination was under a special canon of the church that allowed for indigenous clergy in places too small, poor, or remote to have a professional priest. I have never been to seminary.

But while I was making the rounds of my parish, things were afoot in the larger church that were not dissimilar to the zealotry and self-delusion that would mesmerize our national politics and mire us in Iraq. In other words, what might strike you as an irrelevant story about a religious dispute is in some ways your story, whether you are religious or not, and whether you like it or not. The story invites us to ask if what we see happening to the institutions we love is not at least partly the result of our having loved them less attentively than we supposed.

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