Windows and Doors

Windows and Doors

Sex Without Relationships

The breaking controversy about the acceptability of things like gayness and the ordination of women in the Anglican Church is important for all of us, whatever we think about these issues and whether or not we are even Anglicans. Why? Because the way this struggle is unfolding, whether at the just concluded Jerusalem conference of Anglican conservatives, here in this country or around the world is about something much larger – something which effects all spiritual communities and also personal relationships. It’s about the importance of recalling that the people in front of us should always be more important than the ideas inside of us.
A quick read of the statements from players on both sides of this conflict show people more interested in power over each other, than in relationships with each other. This isn’t about sex, or ordination, or anything else. It’s about who controls the boundaries of orthodoxy and the terms of membership in the community. If it were otherwise, there would be statements from both sides about how painful the prospect of separation of the factions would be. There would be a process of re-examination of the values which these sides share, even if those shared values translate into different policies on critical issues.
I am not naïve, and I do appreciate that sometimes, different members of a church, community, or family must go their separate ways. But when they do so without taking every opportunity to affirm the dignity of those from whom they are separating, they loose whatever moral edge they think they have.
If each party to this dispute really wants to work it out, they probably can because the emotional pain that each feels is identical. Each side feels abandoned. One side because they are not fully included equals in the church, either because of their gayness or by virtue of being women. And the other side because it feels that their understanding of what it means to be Anglican, has been thrown over, and them with it.
I hope that the coming days see an effort from the Church, not to clarify orthodoxy, but to reaffirm relationships among all those who would call themselves Anglicans. If they did that, they would provide a role model for a world filled with religious folks who would rather fight about who understands God properly, rather than experience how much they share with all those who are making the effort to understand God at all.

  • Marian Neudel

    It’s easy to feel like a victim, no matter which side of a controversy one is on. A friend of mine who recently retired from college teaching told me that one of her students, in his evaluation of her, stated, “She is intolerant of my prejudices.” I was once present at a joint orthodox-conservative kiddush, at which one of our women members led the blessing, much to the distress of some of the orthodox people present, one of whom stated that this had been “rammed down his throat.” Those of us who think of ourselves as open-minded tend not to notice that we may be imposing our standards of openness on others who feel they have a right to do things as they always have, and feel jarred, imposed on, or oppressed when we try to change the rules on them.
    And, on the other hand, some of us who have gotten tired of being excluded may feel that those who object should just “suck it up” the way we have for several hundred years.
    I don’t know how people on both sides of this divide can be reconciled, but I do know that the starting point has to be mutual respect. Gandhi said, in multiple ways, that the point of nonviolent conflict is that people on both sides have to be able to live together afterward. I hope the Anglicans can manage this. I hope we Jews can too. “Causeless hatred,” after all, was what destroyed the Second Temple.


    O for heavens sake!
    We have enough problems of our own to worry about theirs.
    Let them be and let us be. sheeesh.

  • Lucy

    I enjoyed the Rabbi’s post. As he noted, the issues the Anglican church is dealing with are issues almost all of us are facing. He makes a good point that those who are passionately on one side or another of an issue have difficulty understanding the point-of-view of the other. I am certainly no different, especially when it comes to the idea that women should be denied full participation in a synagogue or church. My husband used to attend a modern Orthodox synagogue and the fact that I prefered go exercise and then show up at the end to say “hello” to everyone really upset him. I however, could get nothing out of the service. All it did was make me angry.
    Being angry and calling names does no good, however, and sometimes it is easier to gain insights into your own group’s problems when you are able to see how others deal with them. I hope the Anglicans can compromise and stay together. It will be interesting. I wonder what their founder, Henry the VIII would say if he were here? After all, the church was created when the Pope would not give him an annulment from Catherine of Aragon so that he could marry Anne Boylen. Of course, breaking with the church also meant the money that had gone to Rome would now go to the Crown…

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