I just blogged about an exciting new slogan for the Episcopal Church over at Church Marketing Sucks: “Come Watch Us Argue Over Gay People.”
Considering I attend an Episcopal church, the process of writing the blog entry and the article it links to (an NPR story on the continuing battle over gay bishops) hit close to home. The point I made over at Church Marketing Sucks is that theology comes before marketing.
That’s not exactly what the Episcopal Church is doing (I was writing to warn of that danger in general, not pointing to an explicit example of it). But I think they may be putting procedure before marketing. Granted, I’m not as familiar with all the ins and outs of this debate as I should be (but I’m more familiar than I’d like to be), but here’s what I mean:
The gay bishop debate is all about procedure. At no point did the Episcopal Church sit down and decide theology (that I’m aware of). Instead, they began debating theology through procedure. Should we or should we not ordain gay priests? How about gay bishops? What about blessing same sex marriages? What underlies all these procedural arguments is theology.
So why not just debate the theology? It seems a lot simpler to me to just get to the root of the problem.
Perhaps the issue is that we can’t agree on the theology, but we’ve opted to move ahead with the procedure anyway. As we’re learning, that doesn’t work very well.
That’s my biggest frustration with this whole stupid issue. When my church had a big meeting and this came up, the comments fell primarily in two camps: 1) How horrible it would be to move away from solid biblical principles. 2) How horrible it would be to appear condemning, judgmental or unwelcoming to gay people. Both of those points are based on opposing theological decisions, but rather than talk about that theology, we just argued over the implications. Forget the implications, forget the procedure, forget the marketing. Let’s actually talk about the real issue.
If the Episcopal Church can’t decide where it lands on this issue (though I think it’s landed, as evidenced by the church splitting apart), then maybe ‘Come Watch Us Argue Over Gay People’ is a good slogan. Not that exact wording, but the idea that we’re willing to debate these issues and still get along. I’ve always understood that to be a defining attribute of Anglicanism—that we can agree to disagree. Clearly there are some issues you can’t do that with and still get along, and maybe this is one of them. But in order for that to work, we need to actually debate the theological idea (not the procedures) and we need to still get along. So far we’re failing on both counts.