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ISSUE 120 VOL 14 PUBLISHED 3/9/2007

Ultimatum issued

By Emily Koester
Contributing Writer

Friday, March 9, 2007

I was dismayed to see last week that religion and sexuality are at war again with a new fury. On Feb. 19, closing a conference in Tanzania, the worldwide Anglican church issued an ultimatum to their Episcopalian branch in the United States. They ordered the Episcopalians to stop endorsing gay unions and to refuse ordination of gay priests, or the Anglicans would break away from them entirely. The Episcopalians were given until Sept. 30 to comply.

Plenty of liberal college students would say, “Of course, give gay unions the okay!” And if this were a matter of secular politics, I would completely agree. The problem is, religion has a different set of rules, and though they are often good rules, they aren’t always based upon our 21st-century thinking.

Moreover, there is real scriptural evidence against homosexuality, and while I believe that calls to be inclusive and nonjudgmental reverberate far more clearly in the New Testament than those condemnations, there is no denying that they exist and pose a tangible problem for the church as it moves forward.

The Episcopal Church in America is developing a reputation for being progressive, most notably in its 2003 ordination of the first openly gay and practicing bishop, Gene Robinson. And I say hurrah for them for picking someone they thought worthy of the position, despite what tradition said about homosexuality. But now the issue is not merely whether the ordination of gay bishops or the sanction of gay unions is acceptable. Now the issue is whether those sanctions are worth shattering an entire world church.

Ultimately, Episcopalians will simply have to decide where their values lie; in other words, whether they value the history of Anglican Church tradition and the weight their association carries, or whether they value the current needs of minority constituents within their congregations. It’s an ugly choice to have to make, particularly because they understandably value both those camps. It would be a little like choosing between one’s mother and father or one’s brother and sister.

Being in communion with the Anglican Church means sharing in a worldwide mission with 37 other churches; it means having that support, guidance and shared sense of purpose. However, as wonderful as that is, I think it is important to look at home first. After all, the point of having a large communion is to keep churches thriving all the way down to the ground level of local congregations. What is the point of having such support if you aren’t serving those home churches?

It is clear that gay individuals, like many other groups, are seeking a home within the church world; sending the message that they are somehow unacceptable according to church teachings certainly won’t help the church thrive. Though it is a difficult choice to make, I believe the Episcopalians’ first concern should be how to best serve the churchgoers here in the United States. It seems in the United States this means blessing same-sex couples.

This is not to argue that church doctrine is relative to location, but if the Episcopalians have consciously decided in favor of it, I believe they should continue. Besides, for a truly global church such as the Anglican Communion, doesn’t it seem necessary to include global populations that no doubt include homosexuals?

The issue surrounding homosexuality and religion is an unfortunate one. If the Episcopalians decide to separate from the Anglicans, it will no doubt be a difficult decision. But if they choose schism, it will prevent the division of so many other individuals who are daily forced to choose between spirituality and sexuality. Episcopalians may forsake the larger church abroad, but they will in turn find strength in the church at home.

Staff Writer Emily Koester is a junior from St. Paul, Minn. She majors in English with a concentration in Middle East studies.

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