Demonstrating the kind of "openness", "listening", "generosity" and "tolerance" to which Rowan Williams is calling the Anglican Communion -- and for which qualities the Episcopal church is so widely known -- New York's pro-gay bishopess Roskam (without evidence or apparent constructive purpose) accused Anglican bishops in certain countries of wife beating.
She said at the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury that men beat women "because they can." She said: "We have 700 men here. Do you think any of them beat their wives? Chances are they do. The most devout Christians beat their wives... many of our bishops come from places where it is culturally accepted to beat your wife."Comparisons are sure to be made to Spong's description of African bishops, at the last Lambeth Conference, to being little more than superstitious animists and witch-doctors, as well as to the ploy by homosexualist activist MacIyalla who claimed (with a similar lack of any evidence whatsoever) to have been attacked and beaten with the connivance of the Nigerian Church and bishop Akinola.
However, a little on-the-spot investigation by our virtual reporter on the scene at Lambeth, and we actually found one of these wife-beating bishops. He wished to remain anonymous for purposes of this interview.
Q: Bishop, you heard Ms. Roskham's accusation today that some bishops in your region beat their wives... would you care to comment?
A: Why certainly. In fact, wife-beating is a common orientation in my country, and we encourage it in our parishes. I myself beat my wife four or five times a day.
A: Absolutely. We think this practice is essential to the Christian life and so are requiring study of "theories and theologies of wife-beating" in all our seminary curricula, replacing such useless subjects as patristic history or Christology. We have also just passed canon laws saying that no wife-beating postulant may be refused ordination just because he beats his wife, and we are working toward the day when out-of-the-closet wife-beaters will be represented at all levels of our church. After all, we all share the same baptism, therefore wife-beaters have a divine right to be recognized, celebrated and welcomed as deacons, priests and bishops.
Q: Some might suggest that wife-beating is contrary to the teaching of Scripture and Tradition. While Scripture is not explicit in its condemnation of wife-beating -- unlike its condemnation of homosexuality -- it does tell husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. The Scriptural requirements for ordination are clearly incompatible with wife-beating. And under the influence of the Church, wife-beating was actually made grounds for divorce in many late Antique societies (the Eastern Roman Empire, Ireland, etc).
A: Ah, well, the "wife-beating" implicitly or explicitly condemned in Scripture and Tradition is not the same "wife-beating" as we have today. We live in a very different time and culture, and have a deeper understanding of the relationships of wife-beating. So the prohibitions of past days don't apply to our wife-beating at all.
Q: Are you suggesting that the moral law changes over time?
A: Of course. Doesn't everyone know that? Besides, the very fact that there are passages condemning the practice go to show that people were beating their wives even during the patristic and medieval period -- and, since it was going on then, it must be okay now. That was the true church, as intended by Christ, that was beating their wives -- the suppression of the practice simply represents the conspiratorial efforts of an evil, matriarchal culture from which we are only now escaping so as to rediscover our ancient heritage. Wife-beating is an acceptable and wonderful life-style choice, and it is only close-minded bigots and sadophobes such as Ms. Roskam who suggest otherwise.
Q: And so you believe your society and culture has a clearer view of the issue now than the Church did in the past?
A: Absolutely. My contemporary modern culture better understands the practice, and approves it -- so, obviously, we have been given a clear prophetic mandate to reinterpret Scripture and Tradition and to spread Communion-wide this joyful good news of the inclusion and celebration of wife-beaters.
Q: From Roskam's comment, it is clear that this practice and advocacy of wife-beating is straining the bonds of affection within the Communion. Why, some Americans have said that it interferes with their own church's efforts at
evangelizationraising money and suing traditionalists, because of the impression that they are "that wife-beating church".
A: Well, I'm sorry they feel that way, but we can hardly cease beating our wives without our wife-beaters being marginalized, and it would be unfair to sacrifice them to some impersonal agenda being imported from abroad. Besides, if we did, our wife-beaters' feelings would be hurt and they'd think that their gifts are being rejected. We have clearly seen the spirit at work in the lives and ministry of people who beat their wives, proving that they are blessed and approved by God. Thus we can see that God's plan calls for the inclusion (and ordination) of all people, regardless of race, gender... or whether or not they beat their wives.
Q: Some people might suggest that wife-beating is a behavior, not an identity, and so oughtn't be compared to race.
A: Ah, well, these people are obviously not current on the latest research on wife-beating. Studies have shown that it is possible that there is some genetic predisposition to violence. Therefore wife-beating is clearly a part of these people's "human nature" and ought not to be criticized or discriminated against. To forbid or condemn that behavior is tantamount to rejecting their identity and humanity... something Jesus would never do. Especially if it is true, as some studies suggest, that he was a wife-beater himself (in his relationship with Mary Magdalene) and ordained several wife-beaters among his first disciples. This is why I am proud to say that our church is fully supportive and inclusive of wife-beaters.
Q: Criticism has been expressed in recent years over how your church has sent members into America and elsewhere to establish chapters of Hitagirltry, the pro-wife-beating organization based in your country, headed by Crude Lou and Samson Tussle.
A: We feel it is our God-given mission to reach out and support our wife-beating brothers in all parts of the world, especially in those places where they are discriminated against by religious or secular forces. Why, in America it is actually possible to be put into prison for wife-beating! We need to let our wife-beating brothers in other parts of the world know that we hear their voices and share their pain. Part of that ministry is to have a presence on the ground to support and encourage them.
Q: Does it trouble you at all that wife-beating is contrary to the tradition of Christian faith and order, the teaching and practice of centuries of Anglicanism, the explicit statements of previous Lambeth meetings, and the consensus of the majority of the Anglican Communion?
A: Not at all. The spirit is clearly doing a "new thing" in helping us value and celebrate wife-beating. The Church has always been called to push the boundaries... so we need to leave behind the comfortable but dated assumptions and practices of the benightened pre-modern past in order to explore the new places to which God is calling us today. Our church is, in that tradition of radical liminality, encountering God by blazing a new way for others in the Communion to follow.
Q: Are you concerned by rumors that the draft Covenant may call for a moritorium on wife-beating?
A: Of course not. The final form of the Covenant is far from established, and there will be several years yet before a draft is proposed for our church to review. Moreover, the Covenant will, explicitly, have no provision either for enforcement or for penalties, so it's not as if anyone can stop our God-given pursuit of this "new thing". Besides, joining the Covenant sub-group within the Anglican Communion will, by all accounts, be a completely voluntary thing anyway. So, no, I'm not concerned that anything will come of these current resolutions: the Covenant isn't a threat to anyone.
I do think that it is disappointing, however, that so much time and energy is being wasted examining the issue of wife-beating when we ought to be focusing on AIDS and the MDGs. That, after all, is the real ministry and mission of the church -- not concerns over what married couples do in the privacy of their own homes.
Q: Bishop, thanks for your time.
A: Thank you. It was a pleasure bea.. er, meeting you.
Ms. Roskam was unavailable for comment on this interview.