Friday, June 23, 2006

From pride to frustration

With the election of the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori as Presiding Bishop-elect I was overcome with pride and joy for the Episcopal Church. To elect the first woman Presiding Bishop took courage. It was the right thing to do because she was the best candidate and the best person for the job. The Bishop of Arizona, the Rt. Rev. Kirk Stevan Smith, had stated on several occasions prior to the election that she was the best candidate. (See his blog comments at www.episcopal-az.org). Electing the right person for the right time is the best possible action.

The following day the House of Deputies rejected a resolution which would have called for a moratorium and ban on the election of future gay and lesbian bishops. They voted their heart and conscience. It was another day for celebration. The House of Deputies voted with courage. It was the right thing to do.

Then - the next day, Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold called the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies into a special session. At that time the two houses agreed to ask that the election of "any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider Church," be resisted. That tarnished my pride and causes frustration.

How can the Episcopal Church be open and inclusive, "sort of"? It is either open to all or not. It can't offer selective inclusion. Those who have the opportunity to reside in power are the people who are fully included. If the position of bishop is not available to gay and lesbian clergy (or any person or group), then gay and lesbian clergy are not fully included in the full circle of the Church.

Even when the Church passes a resolution which states that gay and lesbians are "children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church," they might doubt it given their limited access to every level of the Church.

Yes, it is complicated when it comes to remaining in full communion with the World Wide Anglican Communion. (See the Rt. Rev. Peter Akinola's open letter to Episcopal Church www.anglicancommunion.org/). And it continues to be a major strain to keep the Episcopal Church USA intact when the Diocese of Fort Worth is seeking to leave the Episcopal Church.
It is complicated, confusing, frustrating and painful. That is understood. But, the question is, who is fully included at the table?

I strongly recommend you check out the Rev. Kate Bradley's blog www.fatherkate.typepad.com and this article in The Witness http://www.thewitness.org/article.php?id=1098. Both give powerful insight and call for strong action within the Episcopal Church. Both call for us to be courageous and stand together as sisters and brothers in the name of Jesus Christ.

It seems to me that now is the time more than ever for us to stand up and be the witness of the inclusive gospel of Jesus Christ. To preach that gospel from the pulpit and to call for action that truly speaks to the inclusion of all at the table.

As the Episcopal Chaplain at Arizona State University, the priest for St. Brigid's Community and one of the conveners of Peregrini, I want to be able to offer the Episcopal Church as a place where all who come are fully welcome and have all the rights, privileges and opportunities that are afforded to everyone else. I want to with a clear conscience offer to any gay or lesbian young adult who is considering vocations or seeking support from me as a priest in any way to know that they will be loved, included and encouraged in every way possible by the Church. They have that love, encouragement and support from me - I want them to have from the Church as well.

I will not stop preaching the inclusive gospel of Jesus Christ and I know that the Church is full of equally minded people who will not stop preaching that gospel either. Jesus Christ calls us to be witnesses of the gospel of love; to love God and to love my neighbor as myself - all my neighbors with all myself.

1 comment:

Martin said...

I think in light of the confusion in the mixed messages of General Convention, it's even more important that those who are inclusive and hospitable speak out boldly for those "liberal" values, and I appreciate your doing so.

I've heard many people in our gay community who are downright angry about the resolution passed at the last minute. Some are simply sad. Others say there isn't a middle ground on this issue, and I agree with that.

But I can't be angry with this resolution, because in my mind it's true it makes nobody happy. My impression is the many inclusive Bishops who voted for it see it as a good-faith effort to take the Windsor Report seriously and stay in dialogue with other Anglican leaders. But the "traditionalists" (as they prefer to be called) see it as a bland compromise and not true repentance. Of course, progressives think it's a frustrating (pseudo?)step backward.

All of these points of view are correct - it all depends on your perspective.

But what's also correct is this: for all of the anger on both sides of the aisle about this, I don't think it's going to change much of anything, because, in good Anglican fashion, it's trying to say "both/and" rather than "either/or".

Trouble is, it's totally pointless to try to find the Via Media here, because, ultimately, my friend is right - there is no middle ground on this issue, and we as a Commuion haven't figured that out yet.

So, I don't disagree with the Bishops who supported this because the resolution is morally incorrect. The resolution is essentially a piece of ecclesiastical administration that isn't going to accomplish what even the best intentioned would like it to, and it will probably be ignored by our more progressive standing committees and bishops (as it should be). Those who want to be inclusive will continue to be inclusive, and those who don't like it will break fellowship with us. It's only a matter of time. But it's only a matter of time before we come back together again, because the truth always wins in the end.

After all is said and done, I'm frustrated that we spent so much time turning around 360 degrees, squandering opportunities to do so much more for Jesus Christ and His whole Church.