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The Pharisee and the Windsor Report

Katie Sherrod


Readings for Pentecost 21, Proper 25, Year C, Oct. 24, 2004
Joel 2:23-32 or Sirach 35:12-17 or Jeremiah 14:7-10, 19-22 Psalm 65 or 84:1-6 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18 Luke 18:9-14

"God, be merciful to me, a sinner!"

God love the tax collector. His prayer should have been posted on the wall of the rooms in which the Lambeth Commission held its deliberations.

This scriptural theme always should be kept in mind by Christians and the church-as-institution. Certainly those of us in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, which obstinately refuses to ordain women, are acutely aware of it. Perhaps that is why I find the Windsor Report released this week another sad example of how we all are "those people who trust in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt."

Otherwise, why would we be taking seriously a document the goal of which appears to be the desire to handcuff the Holy Spirit, put a gag in the mouth of God, and dam the waters of Justice ? all the name of "preserving unity"?

Why would we want to focus on a goal suggested by a document that never once even considers the possibility that what the Episcopal Church did and is doing is a prophetic act that might lead to a new day in the whole of the Communion?

Why would we believe this is a way forward when the report almost totally ignores the largest group of the Baptized -- the laity - and demonstrates an almost willful refusal to understand the workings of the Episcopal Church, the body about which it purports to be so concerned?

Why would we want to use this report as a plan to work on reconciliation and healing when the document itself inflicts wounds without apparent notice?

Why would we take the advice of people who appear to believe that telling us all to quit killing and torturing "homosexual persons" is a step forward?

Why should we listen to yet another group who is willing to tell us what to do with the spiritual lives of "homosexual persons" without talking with these brothers and sisters in Christ?

And why, in the name of God, would we trust the advice of a group willing to produce such a document without ever speaking face to face with the one human being they themselves name as being the presenting cause of the uproar they claim to address?

And why, in the name of God, would we trust the advice of a group willing to produce such a document without ever speaking face to face with the one human being they themselves name as being the presenting cause of the uproar they claim to address?

The tax collector offered to God his most honest appraisal of his spiritual state. He acknowledges his need for God's mercy, for God's help.

It is his cry for help that God answered.

I appreciate the progressive voices in the church who, in the first couple of days since the Report's release, have expressed cautious hopefulness and a willingness to work with the Report's language. But we cannot abdicate our responsibility to preach Christ's gospel of inclusive love and prophetic justice, simply for the sake of unity and ecclesiology.

The Windsor Report purports to be an honest appraisal of the state of the church, but it, like the prayers of the Pharisee, is so steeped in institutional self-righteousness that there's no room left for God.

There is no cry for help here. There is only a deep desire to maintain the status quo.

I see little room in this report for God's grace and the often untidy work of the Holy Spirit.

The Pharisee would have been comfortable on the Lambeth Commission. He is apparently the ideal they want to hold up to us all - the person who follows all the rules and who has no flexibility in his or her approach to life or to the lives of others. These people keep themselves apart the messiness of life so as not to sully their ritual cleanliness.

Is this what we want to become?

It is my prayer that however the Episcopal Church responds, she will emulate the tax collector and trust in a God who can make us all new and lead us into new ways where all the Baptized may seek God's tender mercy.


Katie Sherrod is a freelance writer and television producer based in Fort Worth, Texas, and a contributing editor to The Witness. She may be reached by email at ks1246@aol.com. This essay first appeared in The Witness and is reposted here with permission.

More on the Windsor Report from Episcopal News Service.

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