My friend Keith points out in the comments on the blog entry immediately preceding this one that the Archbishop of Canterbury makes a strange rhetorical choice (to our ears) of describing the experience of being gay or lesbian as being, at one level at least, a lifestyle “choice”.
Sam Candler, the Dean of the Cathedral in Atlanta has picked up on this usage of the Archbishop’s and sees in his writing a sign of a more fundamental issue:
“Though descriptive, Archbishop Rowan’s essay also dips into diagnosis and prescription. In some of these matters, he will be open to theological critique. A primary critique will certainly be directed toward his repetition of the common perception that homosexuality is a ‘chosen lifestyle.’ Within two paragraphs, he uses ‘chosen lifestyle’ and ‘choice’ three different times.
The Episcopal Church’s General Convention resolutions concerning homosexuality have never claimed that homosexuality was simply a choice, or, much more, a ‘chosen lifestyle.’ Rather, Episcopal leaders have realized, over time, that being gay or lesbian was definitely not a choice for those members of our Church. Indeed, for many heterosexual persons, the realization that homosexuality is not chosen at all – no more than heterosexual persons choose their heterosexuality—has been the turning point in their ability to recognize God’s grace in homosexual relationships.
Obviously, the most prescriptive of Archbishop Rowan’s remarks is his suggestion, again, that the Anglican Communion of churches might develop a ‘two-tier’, or, less provocatively, a ‘two-way’ structure of formal Anglicanism. One way of being Anglican would stress the values of local faith and theology, and local autonomy; the other way would stress the values of more global, and probably more ordered, forms of the church.
I find it curious that Archbishop Rowan repeats the language of ‘choice’ not only in relation to homosexuality, but also in relation to Anglican Communion matters. He suggests that there may be those who will, in good faith, decline a covenanted structure. He implies that those who ‘elect this model’ will also ‘not take official roles in the ecumenical interchanges and processes in which the ‘covenanted’ body participates.’
It is the way that Archbishop Rowan uses ‘choice’ which is bothersome, as if it would be as easy for someone to choose a homosexual lifestyle as it would be them to choose a certain way of being Anglican. At their deepest levels of identity, neither homosexuality nor Anglicanism is a choice. In particular, Anglicans have claimed that Anglican Christianity is a gift; and part of that gift is a joint realization of local grace and global grace. I understand that certain formal parameters of an Anglican Covenant have yet to be developed, notably any ‘two-way’ system. However, it seems to me a distinctly un-Anglican maneuver to sever local autonomy from global communion. Those very poles, taken together within one orbit, are exactly what define the structure of the wider Anglican tradition.”
Read the full article here.