Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Sudanese Statement: Marriage

Fisking the Sudanese Bishops' Statement: Marriage

This is just one in what will be a series of comments about the Statement of the Sudanese Bishops to the Lambeth Conference on the ECS Position on Human Sexuality.

There are things I have been tempted to write over the past couple of years, have wanted to write, to be honest about the Episcopal Church in the Sudan, but I have held back until now because of my affection for my Sudanese friends.

But with what Archbishop Daniel did today, the gloves are off now. You want to get honest? OK, let's get honest.

Archbishop Daniel writes (on behalf of the bishops of Sudan): "We believe that human sexuality is God’s gift to human beings which is rightly ordered only when expressed within the life-long commitment of marriage between one man and one woman. We require all those in the ministry of the Church to live according to this standard and cannot accept church leaders whose practice is contrary to this."

Many of the priests in Sudan are not married to the women with whom they live and have children. Why? Because they cannot afford the "bride price." To take a woman (and I use that verb advisedly and intentionally), one must be able to offer as many sheep and cattle as she is "worth." And one must be able to afford the cost of the party that tribal customs dictate upon a "wedding." Therefore, many Sudanese priests live "as if" they were married. But they are not – at least not in any sense that we would recognize. Things are very different in Sudan. We have been willing to be quiet and tolerant about this. I (and others who have travelled to Sudan) have been willing to respect that the Sudanese culture is very different from ours. We have honored the marriages that they recognize. I have respected that. Until today. Until the interview that Archbishop Daniel gave, in which he seems to suggest that Sudan has it all right and we have it all wrong. It's time for some honesty.

During one of our mission trips in Sudan, the guys in the jeep began good-naturedly talking about what "bride price" one of our young, attractive, single women could fetch in Sudan. How many cows was she worth? The bantering was good-natured and even funny in that time, in that place. The Missourians understood and accepted that cultural practice. We knew we were not going to sell her off to the highest bidder. But if she had been a Sudanese woman, she would indeed have been sold to the highest bidder.

Is this the view of "Biblical marriage" that Archbishop Daniel wants the Episcopal Church to adopt? Is this the "authority of the Bible" that he wants us to adopt?

How many cattle did it cost you to buy your bride? Archbishop Daniel speaks of "opening the church to ridicule"? OK. Let's talk about ridicule. Women in Sudan are chattle. Let's talk about that.


Blogger Robert said...

Thanks for speaking so honestly Lisa. It is sad that while some people benefit so greatly from our willingness to be culturally sensitive they seem unwilling to grant us the same grace and understanding.

7/22/2008 8:26 PM  
Blogger Tandaina- said...

Thank you! Its about time we started having honest discussions about the hypocrisy flying around right now!

7/23/2008 6:52 AM  
Anonymous BarbieAnn said...

People who live in glass houses....

7/23/2008 10:23 AM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

And thank you all.

I have held my tongue as long as I can hold it.

My diocese has been respectful of the different cultural practices of the Sudanese. We had come to know and love them individually.

But Archbishop Daniel has "torn the fabric" as far as I'm concerned.

I'm writing the unvarnished truth about Sudan now.

The Sudanese version of marriage is not uniformly consistent with what the Archbishop's statement says. I understand why marriage in Sudan is different than in the U.S. I can live with that difference; it bothers me not at all. As Robert put it so well, I'd just like to see them "grant us the same grace and understanding."

7/23/2008 11:11 AM  

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