Honor Moore’s article in the New Yorker about her father, the Rt. Rev. Paul Moore, Episcopal Bishop of New York, and the discovery that he was homosexual, has generated quite a buzz in Anglican/Episcopal blogs and websites (such as this and this.) But in reading the piece, it’s hard for me to understand what the big deal is, for everyone else at least.
For many of us, the discovery that one or both of our parents were (or are) homosexual would be a rude awakening. In Honor Moore’s case, however, it’s harder to see, especially in view of her church’s subsequent voyage, a voyage that her father facilitated by, amongst other things, ordaining the first openly homosexual Episcopal minister. Beyond that, the story that she tells is in reality the abandonment of two generations of Episcopalians of the Christian sexual ethic, one homosexual and the other heterosexual. Her own abandonment of that ethic (part and parcel of an era that forms the backdrop for The Ten Weeks) dampens the shock effect one might feel about her father’s posthumous outing.
But there is some agony here, and the agony relates to a defining desire of modernist people, namely authenticity. This is especially poignant with a parent. It’s hard to take when the people who brought us into the world turn out to be vastly different than we thought they were. It’s a betrayal which moral relativism doesn’t quite compensate for. The effect of all this in Honor Moore’s article is to reveal an outburst of feeling that resembles a vacuum: very intense, but totally devoid of content.
For those in the Anglican/Episcopal world, it’s yet another reminder that the whole conflict that is presently unfolding is a day late and a dollar (in the CoE, pound) short. The problems posed by liberal prelates such as Paul Moore should have been tackled then and there, both moral and doctrinal. But they weren’t. Episcopalians in the 1960’s and 1970’s were too busy with "smells and bells" and social action (and Paul Moore was active in both) to understand that a church was defined by what it believed in, not by what it felt. Waiting until Vickie Gene Robinson was consecrated allowed too much damage to be done. The whole breach of the levee of the Christian sexual ethic is not just a "homosexual problem," it’s the problem of all those who equate sexual fulfillment with life fulfilment. And they are legion in TEC and on the left.
Beyond all that, an overriding lesson is that our parents are human. Whether they’ve hidden great secrets or not from us, they’re subject to make mistakes and to fail. Ultimately our focus for authority and ultimate fulfillment must be in God and God alone. To refer to another work of mine, with Scripture citations–and I hope this is recited at my funeral:
But this life is too painful to love it so much. ‘Jesus, in the days of his earthly life, offered prayers and supplications, with earnest cries and with tears, to him who was able to save him from death; and he was heard because of his devout submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from his sufferings; and, being made perfect, he became to all those who obey him the source of eternal Salvation.’ ‘And so Jesus, also, to purify the People by his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go out to him ‘outside the camp,’ bearing the same reproaches as he; for here we have no permanent city, but are looking for the City that is to come.’”