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“Episcopals Now Second Class Christians”: Anglicans Demote Episcopalians As Global Christianity Gets More Polarized

The Anglican Communion effectively banished its American branch, the Episcopal Church, for three years last week because of disputes about same-sex marriage. That rift is just the surface of a much deeper division, reflecting the polarization of Christian life in the 21st century.

The Anglican Communion, which began as the Church of England under Henry VIII, is now a global network spanning 165 countries. There are about 85 million Anglicans in the world, including about 2 million Episcopalians mostly in the U.S. As of this week, however, those Episcopalians are second-class Anglicans: Members cannot vote in any Anglican Communion decisions on church doctrine and cannot represent the communion in any interfaith bodies. Essentially, for three years, Episcopalians are Anglicans without any standing in their own church.

The suspension took place at a meeting of “Primates,” the archbishops and other leaders representing the 44 constituent Churches of the Anglican Communion. The reason for suspension came last June when the Episcopal Church removed doctrinal language defining marriage as between a man and a woman, and authorized marriage rites for same-sex couples. While it’s still up to individual churches whether to solemnize same-sex unions, but the vote formally allowed them to do so.

According to the Primates, these actions were improper because the Episcopal Church acted on its own. “Such unilateral actions,” the Primates said in their official statement, are “a departure from the mutual accountability and interdependence implied through being in relationship with each other in the Anglican Communion.”

According to some Episcopal leaders, that is bunk. National church bodies routinely make doctrinal decisions on their own. (Some Anglican Churches still do not ordain women, for example.) What this is really about is homosexuality—and what that is really about is what kind of church the Anglican Communion is today.

The answer, for decades now, is a divided one.

Until the 19th century, the Anglican Church was—as the name implies—basically British, and headed officially by the British monarch. With the spread of the British Empire, however, came the spread of Anglicanism to all corners of the world. By the end of the century, the contemporary Anglican Communion came into being, including not only the Churches of England, Scotland, and Ireland, but also the Episcopal Church and churches in “provinces” across the world.

Two major developments created the schism facing the church today: the liberalization of the Episcopal Church, and the growth in power and numbers of African, Asian, and South American ones.

George Washington was an Episcopalian. So were Madison, Monroe, FDR, and seven other presidents—11 in total. And in the 19th and 20th centuries, the Episcopal Church was perhaps the leading Christian denomination in America.

During this time, Episcopalianism embodied American propriety and upper-class values—conservative but reasonable. J.P. Morgan, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush. Prim church services, without the Catholic “smells and bells” but with the decorum and hierarchy. V-neck sweaters, pearls, and country clubs.

That began to change in the civil rights era. African American parishes had been around since the 1850s, but often separate but (un-)equal. In 1958, the Episcopal Church’s General Convention passed a resolution affirming “the natural dignity and value of every man, of whatever color or race, as created in the image of God.” Over the objections of Southern leaders, the church began to take sides in the civil rights struggles of the time.

The change was gradual and uneven, but by the end of 1970s, liberals had the upper hand, and conservatives had mostly left, often to join the newly minted Christian Right, made up largely of evangelicals, Baptists and Catholics. Women were ordained as priests in 1976, and as bishops in 1989. Prim church services started to loosen up. By the 1990s, the Episcopal Church had changed from the starchy denomination of Rockefeller Republicans to a smaller denomination of (mostly) liberals.

At the same time, the rest of the Anglican Communion was changing radically, with adherents in the Global South coming to outnumber those in Europe and North America. The churches in British Commonwealth countries emerged in different social contexts, with different values, and different (often hostile) relationships to liberalism. Moreover, they found themselves competing with evangelical inroads, conservative (until two years ago) Catholicism, and Islam, with the most pious-seeming religious tradition often “winning.” For all these reasons and more, the emergent Anglicanism of the Global South was a far more conservative Anglicanism even than the old Episcopalianism, let alone the new one.

The watershed moment came at an important Anglican conference in 1998, when theological conservatives from Africa, Asia, and Latin America defeated the liberals on a key vote: homosexuality.

Arguably, the split we saw last week is just a later stage of the process begun 18 years ago. Homosexuality is the catalyst but not the only contentious issue. To liberals, the Episcopal Church is moving into the 21st century, setting aside Biblical fundamentalism and responding to how people actually live their lives. But to Anglican conservatives, the Episcopal Church has lost its way, moving toward a mushy universalism that downplays Christian exclusivity in favor of pluralism, and takes liberal positions on abortion, LGBT equality, and other hot-button issues.

Perhaps the great open question in American religion is whether liberal denominations like Episcopalianism have a future or not. (As Jack Jenkins at ThinkProgress noted, Presbyterianism—Donald Trump’s denomination—is even more liberal than the Episcopal Church, and Presbyterian leaders have frequently criticized Trump’s positions on immigration and Islam.) American Christianity in general is in a period of steep decline, and mainline Protestant denominations—plus white, non-Hispanic Catholics—are declining the most.

We are moving toward a religiously polarized America. Thirty percent of Americans between the ages of 18-29 profess “none” as their religious affiliation, while at the other extreme, around 35 percent of Americans subscribe to a resurgent ultra-fundamentalist evangelicalism. (77 percent of those evangelicals believe we’re living in the End Times.) Mainline Protestants, once the dominant religious group in America, are now just 18 percent of the population. Episcopalians are less than 1 percent.

To the extent religion continues to provide a source of inspiration, community, purpose, and ethical motivation in people’s lives, liberal Christianity should have a lot to offer, seeing as it provides those things without preposterous beliefs, divisive social mores, or fire-breathing sermons. And it does, to many. But even though 92 percent of Americans say they believe in God, they seem uninterested in expressing that belief in moderate, reasonable churches.

The American religious landscape, then, resembles the Anglican Communion as a whole. On one end, a shrinking number of religious liberals, and at the other, a fierce religious conservatism. In coming apart at the seams, the Anglican Church looks a lot like us.

 

By: Jay Michaelson, The Daily Beast, January 17, 2016

January 19, 2016 Posted by | American Communion, Marriage Equality, The Episcopal Church | , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“Alabama Chief Justice Screwed 66 Judges”: Side With Roy Moore Or Side With The Law

Defying history, the law, and common sense, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore has issued an order prohibiting Alabama probate judges from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Those judges now face a choice between disobeying the law of the land and disobeying their boss. Moore issued his law not as chief justice, but in his administrative role as head of the Alabama court system.

This is not Justice Moore’s first Hail Mary in the lost cause against gay marriage—and he’s not alone. All over the country, activists and law professors are wasting paper on fatuous proclamations that Obergefell v. Hodges is not really the law of the land, or is illegitimate because it’s so horrible, or is somehow, some way not as binding as the Supreme Court said it was (PDF).

Roy Moore is just the only one who’s a state supreme court justice.

As with Moore’s past efforts to delay the inevitable, today’s order was a mélange of the sensible and the risible.

On the sensible side, Justice Moore does have some law on his side—in fact, three extremely narrow, technical threads on which he hangs his order.

First, technically speaking, Obergefell only bound the five states that were a party to it. Since Alabama was not one of those states, technically its law is caught in limbo. Second, the Alabama Supreme Court upheld its same-sex marriage ban on March 3, 2015.

And third, injunctions stemming from two federal cases challenging the ban are, as gellMoore opined last February (PDF), only binding on the executive branch, not the judicial branch—which includes probate judges. This appears to have been an oversight, the result of a pleading error by one of the parties. But rather than extend them in a common-sense way, Moore chose to restrict them in a nonsensical one.

So, as three hyper-technical matters of law, Obergefell doesn’t govern, the Alabama case stands, and the federal injunction doesn’t apply.

But that’s where it all becomes laughable—if not outright dishonest.

It is completely obvious that the Obergefell decision does, indeed, govern all 50 states. The logic it applied to Michigan is equally applicable to Alabama. That’s why LGBT activists broke out the champagne last June. It’s also why judges and clerks around the country, with only a handful of exceptions like Kim Davis, have applied the law and granted same-sex marriage licenses for months now.

Even the cases upon which Moore relies, in fact contradict him. For example, Moore cites an Eighth Circuit case decided on Aug. 11 that said “The [Obergefell] Court invalidated laws in Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee—not Nebraska.” But that case affirmed, not rejected, the right to same-sex marriage in Nebraska, and forbade Nebraska from blocking it while the court case wound down to its inevitable conclusion.

This happens all the time. When the Supreme Court rules on an issue, it does not automatically end all the cases that deal with it. But it does make their outcomes obvious. So, while the legal matters are formally resolved, lower courts issue or stay injunctions in light of the Supreme Court ruling.

For example, when the Supreme Court outlawed miscegenation bans in 1967, those bans technically remained on the books in 16 states, and many were not repealed until quite recently. But courts immediately issued injunctions forbidding the enforcement of those laws.

To take another example, many of the sodomy laws at issue in Lawrence v. Texas are technically still on the books. But courts everywhere have prohibited their enforcement.

Obergefell, obviously—laughably obviously—is similar. As the Supreme Court wrote, “the right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty. The Court now holds that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry. No longer may this liberty be denied to them… The State laws challenged by Petitioners in these cases are now held invalid.”

Yes, as Justice Moore italicizes in his order, only “the State laws challenged… in these cases” were invalidated last June. But the rest of that paragraph obviously applies to all same-sex couples everywhere. There is no distinction between those in Alabama and those in Michigan, and so the legal outcome of the Arizona cases is a foregone conclusion. To cherry-pick one clause from the entire paragraph is, at best, facetious.

And it’s not unlike the way Moore cites that Nebraska case: snipping out two words that support his position, and ignoring all of the context.

Where the laughter stops, though, is in Alabama’s 66 probate court offices. These judges and their clerks are, with only a handful of exceptions, loyal public servants who are trying to do their jobs. Many of them personally oppose gay marriage, but recognize that they’ve sworn oaths to enforce the Constitution, not the Bible. What the hell are they supposed to do now?

Perhaps the worst part of Moore’s odious order is when he cites the “confusion” among Alabama judges, as if that confusion simply arose on its own somehow. In fact, he sowed it himself, with his court- and common-sense-defying orders last February, and he has watered those seeds with his absurd hair-splitting today.

Of course, Moore’s order will be rendered null and void, hopefully expeditiously, by a federal court in Alabama formally closing the same-sex marriages cases still pending, or extending the injunctions in them to judicial as well as executive employees. The tide of history will not be turned.

But in the meantime, not only has Moore demeaned every married couple in Alabama, straight and gay, he has also thrown his own employees under the bus. If I were a probate judge in Birmingham, I’m not sure what I would do tomorrow morning.

Roy Moore’s symbolic snatch of demagoguery may play well at the polls someday. But in the meantime, he has disrespected Alabama’s LGBT citizens, disrespected the rule of law, and disrespected all those doing their best to enforce it.

 

By: Jay Michaelson, The Daily Beast, January 7, 2015

January 8, 2016 Posted by | Alabama Supreme Court, Marriage Equality, Roy Moore | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Oh Please!”: Huckabee Peers Up At Cruz In The Polls, Attacks Him For Lack Of Hysteria On Marriage Equality

In one of the more, er, interesting Invisible Primary diversions of the holiday season, on Wednesday Politico‘s Mike Allen tried to win the morning with a breathless report that Texas senator Ted Cruz told a private “moderate” fund-raising audience in sinful New York that rolling back marriage equality would not be a “top-three” priority. Allen found out about this shocking indiscretion via a “secret tape” sent to him by a shocked witness.

Truth is that in the same breath Cruz folded the fight against marriage equality into his “top priority,” which he describes as “defending the Constitution.” He also reminded listeners that he has long favored letting the states set marriage policies, as they generally do subject to constitutional conditions.

Not to put too fine a gloss on it, Mike Allen manufactured a “controversy” out of this nothing-burger of a quote, presumably because it could get the recently high-flying Cruz in trouble both with Christian Right activists ever alert to their issues sliding down the priority list, and with Republican voters concerned with “authenticity.” Cruz, you see, has always raised suspicions that he’s a sort of an Elmer Gantry figure, a slick Ivy Leaguer pulling the wool over the eyes of the Folks.

Personally, I think such charges have it backwards; if anyone’s getting zoomed by Ted Cruz, it’s the sophisticates who think he would be a regular old-school Republican if elected president. But that’s probably because I’ve spent a lot of time listening to the apocalyptic ravings of his favorite warm-up act and father, the Reverend Ted Cruz.

So far the only fallout from the Cruz/Allen “scandal” is the understandable reaction of Mike Huckabee, who is peering up at Ted Cruz in the poll rankings and wondering how he lost his long-established conservative evangelical base in Iowa to a Cuban-American. According to (naturally) Politico, Huck rose to the occasion:

“Conservatives are being asked to ‘coalesce’ around yet another corporately-funded candidate that says something very different at a big donor fundraiser in Manhattan than at a church in Marshalltown,” Huckabee said in a statement released by his campaign Wednesday afternoon. “Shouldn’t a candidate be expected to have authenticity and consistency, instead of having to look at a map to decide what to believe and what to say?”

Cruz’s answer to the “top-three” question may have struck a chord with Huckabee because the former Arkansas governor has issued his own “top-three” statement, allowing as how he’ll fold his presidential campaign if he doesn’t get one of those legendary three tickets out of Iowa. That will only happen over Ted Cruz’s dead (political) body, so no wonder Huck’s trying to take him down.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, December 24, 2015

December 28, 2015 Posted by | Evangelicals, Marriage Equality, Mike Huckabee | , , , , | 1 Comment

“Current Law, But Not Settled Law”: Rubio Not Done Fighting Against Marriage Equality

For a presidential candidate who’s often preoccupied with his youth and reputation for looking forward, Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) policy vision can be strikingly regressive.

Marriage equality, for example, is already the law of the land in the United States, but Right Wing Watch flagged Rubio’s new interview with Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, where the senator made clear he’s not done fighting against equal marriage rights, calling the status quo “current law,” but “not settled law.”

“If you live in a society where the government creates an avenue and a way for you to peacefully change the law, then you’re called on to participate in that process to try to change it – not ignoring it, but trying to change the law.

 “And that’s what we’re endeavoring to do here. I continue to believe that marriage law should be between one man and one woman.”

For most of the country, there’s a realization that there is no credible proposal to turn back the clock. Rubio didn’t elaborate on how, exactly, he wants to “change the law” to prevent same-sex couples from getting married, and if he tried, he’d likely fail.

But the key here is understanding just how far the Florida senator is willing to go with the culture war. For Rubio, it’s still not too late to bring back discriminatory marriage laws.

And then, of course, there are reproductive rights, where Rubio still intends to be the most far-right major-party presidential nominee of the modern era.

As regular readers know, Rubio’s position on abortion is that it must be outlawed – without exception. If a woman is impregnated by a rapist, for example, Rubio believes the government has the authority to force that woman to take that pregnancy to term, whether she wants to or not.

This came up in a recent interview with the New Yorker.

On several issues, Rubio has taken a position that suits the faithful in the primaries but is guaranteed to repel voters in a general election. His most obvious vulnerability is on abortion. In the first Republican debate, Rubio said that his opposition to abortion extends to cases of rape or incest – a position at odds with that of more than three-quarters of Americans. [Democratic strategist David] Axelrod told me, “No exceptions is a position so extreme that no Republican candidate has ever held it. Presidential races are defined by moments. Maybe he will try to amend that position, but in the age of video it’s hard to extinguish a declarative statement like that.”

When I asked Rubio about it, he said, somewhat confusingly, “Look, I personally believe that all life is worthy of protection, and therefore I don’t ever require, nor have I ever advocated, that I won’t support a law unless it has exceptions.” After some more twists and turns, I sensed that we had reached the line he plans to use in a general election: “My goal is to save as many lives as possible, and I’ll support anything that does that. Even if it has exceptions.”

This led to some confusion, prompting Rubio to clarify matters in an interview yesterday with the Associated Press. “I, as president, will sign a bill that has exceptions,” he said. “I’ve supported bills that have exceptions.” The senator added, “I do not personally require a bill to have exceptions – other than life of the mother – in order for me to support it. But I will sign a bill as president that has exceptions.”

Here’s the bottom line: if a Republican Congress sends President Rubio an anti-abortion bill, he’ll sign it, even if it includes some exceptions he personally disagrees with. When it comes to abortion restrictions, he’ll take what he can get and then fight for more.

But as far as what Rubio actually, personally wants U.S. policy to be, he’s opposed to exceptions, even in cases of rape and incest – a position further to the right than any Republican nominee since Roe was decided more than 40 years ago.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 25, 2015

November 27, 2015 Posted by | Marco Rubio, Marriage Equality, Reproductive Rights | , , , , , | 4 Comments

“The Obvious Remedy”: Why Kentucky’s Kim Davis Won’t Find A Different Job

One of the oddities of the Kim Davis story in Kentucky is the obvious remedy. The Kentucky clerk has a job in which she’s supposed to issue marriage licenses, but Davis doesn’t want to issue licenses to couples she deems morally inadequate. So why doesn’t Davis find some other job in which her responsibilities won’t conflict with her religious views?

Indeed, given her public notoriety, if she asked far-right leaders for a paid position somewhere, Davis probably wouldn’t have much trouble landing another gig – one which her conscience would be comfortable with.

Last night, the clerk explained her perspective.

Kentucky clerk Kim Davis on Wednesday night explained to Fox News’ Megyn Kelly why she has still refused to resign despite numerous failed attempts to receive an accommodation for her religious beliefs.

 “If I resign I lose my voice,” Davis said. “Why should I have to quit a job that I love, that I’m good at?”

I imagine that was a rhetorical question, but the answer isn’t exactly complicated. If you have a job that requires you to do things you consider morally objectionable, you have a choice: meet your professional obligations anyway or find a different job. Davis’ argument is that she should continue to be paid to perform duties she refuses to do – to the point that she’s comfortable defying court rulings, her oath of office, and court orders.

As for Davis’ belief that she’ll lose her “voice” if she gets a different job, I have no idea what that means. She can continue to speak her mind on whatever topics she chooses, whether she’s a county clerk or something else entirely. Davis need not receive taxpayer money in order to have a “voice.”

Meanwhile, in the courts, the Kentucky clerk continues to strike out. The Lexington Herald-Leader reported this morning:

U.S. District Judge David Bunning refused to grant Davis an emergency stay that she requested for the preliminary injunction he issued last month, ordering her to resume issuing marriage licenses. […]

At a hearing Sept. 3 in Ashland, where Bunning sent Davis to jail for five days for contempt of court, the judge expanded his mandate to include all eligible couples in Rowan County, rather than just the couples who sued Davis…. In a five-page order Wednesday, Bunning denied the stay motion that Davis subsequently filed with him. The judge said he had no intention of letting Davis grant marriage licenses to eligible couples who are plaintiffs in the case while denying licenses to others.

Note, the ACLU filed a motion with Judge Bunning this week, accusing Davis of defying a court order from two weeks ago. He did not address that motion yesterday.

As for last night’s interview, Fox’s Megyn Kelly asked Davis, “You’re prepared to go back to jail if that’s what it takes?” The clerk replied, “Whatever the cost.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 24, 2015

September 24, 2015 Posted by | Elected Officials, Kim Davis, Marriage Equality | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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