Prior to the Meeting of the Primates in Tanzania
February 6, 2007
I write to you not as a part of any organization or group, but on my own accord as a member of the Episcopal Church and of the Anglican Communion. As a gay man in this great church, I am slowly realizing the mistakes we in the gay and lesbian community have made in our efforts to bring our unique perspective on the Gospel message to our brothers and sisters in Christ within this church. Perhaps in an effort to assimilate into heterosexual society, we have been overly prepared to make apologetic arguments based on similarities with our straight counterparts. We seem to have placed our trust in the established leaders and processes of the church, hoping that if our arguments are strong enough that our case will be heard with a sympathetic ear. Of course history has never, to my knowledge, shown that the oppressed have made much progress by placing hope in the powers of the institutions that oppress them. We cannot make progress with apologetic arguments, attempting to assimilate into institutions held by primarily heterosexual males who have never experienced our oppression. Isn’t that why the high priests rejected the message of Jesus, a fellow Jew? I need not remind Your Grace that the fear of change is a powerful resistance to the prophetic voice, as it was for Caiphus. “What will it do to our institutions?” “What will it do to our own positions?” “How will we be remembered as leaders?” These must have been difficult questions for the Sanhedrin as they conspired against Jesus. Questions with answers that Jesus apparently felt were worthy of martyrdom.
Some argue that the “nature or nurture” discussion has an impact on our fate. I say to them that being “gay” or “lesbian” in the U.S. is a social construct. Sexual attraction is not something we choose, but claiming our identity as “gay” or “lesbian,” is. Just because our identity is a social construct does not de-value it. Gender roles are social constructs. There are, I hope, few that would say that the gender roles of women in the patriarchal society of the Old Testament (or even the New Testament) should be held up in today’s society—although, as Your Grace knows well, exactly which gender roles are appropriate today is still a heated topic in the Communion, depending on the cultural context of the discussion. Just as racism is a social construct with very real consequences, gathering its existence from the brokenness of humanity, those suffering from the oppression of racism must claim their identity and move forward shining light into the blindness of their oppressors that they may see, and in so doing freeing themselves from the chains of oppression