Here’s a reflection I sent to various friends in late July about my reactions to The Episcopal Church’s adoptions of Resolution B033. It's the best I can do at articulating my reaction to that hideous, hateful, and cowardly resolution.
Over the past month, I've talked with many folks -- in various ways and in varying degrees -- about how strongly I reacted to our GC's passage of resolution B033 -- how it broke my heart and made me want to throw things against the walls. As most of you know, I haven't been back to my Episcopal parish since that vote on June 21. I've tried with varying success (but mostly less than I would have hoped) to explain why I could not go back into an Episcopal church. I've tried to talk about the sense of hurt and betrayal. I said I was merely taking a sabbatical from the Episcopal Church ... but I never could articulate how long that sabbatical would last, or what its purpose was, or when it might end.
Tonight, I think I finally have some thoughts to offer. But -- of course -- me being who I am, they're going to be l...o...n...g... Hang in here with me, if you can.
One thing has finally come clear to me in the past month: When Gene Robinson's election was confirmed by GC in 2003, it "loosened" something in me, so that I could finally move from being a quiet, anonymous sitter-in-the-pews to being an active member of my parish. In that vote, I finally heard, "Yes, you can be part of us." Those of you who aren't gay probably can't understand the thousand subtle and overt cuts that you endure when you grow up gay ... though I know some of you have listened so closely to gay friends that you really do understand! But something happened on that summer 2003 morning when I learned that our church had consented to Canon Robinson's consecration to the episcopate, and I finally felt like I had permission to dive deeply into the life of my parish. I finally felt that I was not there "on sufferance," but was welcomed as a full member of the Body of Christ in our church. And dive in I did -- as most of you know -- into all sorts of parish activities and responsibilities.[Note to the blog: The activities & responsibilities into which I dived back then included being a crucifer, Eucharistic Minister [a.k.a. chalice bearer], and member of the Vestry, Property Committee, & Adult Education Committee – plus devoting my labors to just about every parish/social event we hosted in the last couple of years. I went very far from being a passive sitter-of-pews.]
But then our church backed-off that welcome last month when it voted for Resolution B033. As I see it, they caved in to pressure, and passed the insidious B033, declaring to all the world that gay folks really aren't fully welcome in our church after all.
So for the past month, I have chewed on that bitterness, anger, and hurt.
As luck ... or Fate ... or the Holy Spirit ... would have it, I had to spend this weekend in St. Louis. As I began finalizing my travel preparations on Friday, I remembered that there's a parish in St. Louis that I have visited twice before, and where I always felt an overpowering sense of the Spirit. It's also an Oasis congregation. (And amusingly, some of the loudest "radicals" there for the inclusion of gay folk are dainty, blue-haired married ladies!)
I thought maybe visiting that parish would heal my wounds from GC06. I thought maybe visiting this parish would help me understand and give me the comfort I needed to be at peace again with The Episcopal Church. And I corresponded with their priest, who assured me of a welcome.
So that's where I went Sunday -- having spent a month "on sabbatical" from The Episcopal Church. And I went expecting that parish would help me to find a way over or past the wounds that B033 had inflicted.
But here's where it gets interesting ... and where I think the Spirit was kicking in.
I went to that parish Sunday expecting to be freed of my hurt and anger. I thought -- in that place -- I would find a way to move beyond what our Church did to wound so many of us.
As always in this parish, the liturgy was well-designed ... poetic and powerful.
For the processional, the priest had chosen "The Church's One Foundation." Flip open your hymnal. Read those lyrics. In this time ... with what is happening in our Episcopal Church ... the words hit me harder than they ever have before. I couldn't even make it through one whole verse without crying. Our church -- our beloved church -- is assaulted, but we have Jesus' promise that the Church will finally prevail. The congregational singing was more powerful than I can describe. They began singing laconically, like good Episcopalians. But as verse followed verse, their voices rose and fell ... in grieving about the storms beset us . . . and in hopes for the church victorious. I don't think I've ever felt such strong and powerful singing ... especially in summer, without a choir! ;) The pain and hopes and fears and hope were so strong in that place!
And that's where the Spirit started doing her work on me.
I went there expecting to be healed. That did not happen. Throughout that liturgy, it seems that every hymn that had been selected – every prayer that was prayed ... the marvelous sermon that was offered ... everything moved toward suffering, but nothing really worked toward healing. And, at the end, that was ok. I was bound up with and carried upward with a whole host of people -- young and old, men and women, gay and straight -- who are in pain about what The Episcopal Church decided to do to us last month. None of us are now "healed" of that pain. But there was something for me in saying those prayers and singing those hymns that said perhaps this is what the Spirit is offering us: Not healing, but comfort. And certainly not victory, but perhaps hope.
I still hurt after that liturgy. I hurt a lot. In fact, in some ways, that liturgy opened me to my hurt in ways that my solitary fumings and rants had not. But I was raised into a place where all of us are hurting together. My wounds were not healed; they weren't even assuaged. But I was hurting and bleeding with others in our church who are hurting and bleeding. My beloved Episcopal Church has decided that they feel comfortable offering-up faithful gay Christians on the altar of "unity." So be it.
We have an Eternal Comforter in the one who was crucified. And the Spirit said to me in that gathering: "All shall be well." I'll keep hurting, and I'll be angry. But I am not alone.
Over the past month, in my hurt and in my anger, I had been looking for a way to "heal" so that I could go back to my parish and serve there with them. I had sought-out some GC deputies and clergy friends, in hopes they might explain that action to me in a way that would assuage my hurt and anger. But nobody could offer any such explanation. And this experience Sunday was not at all the gift or message I expected. But it's the one I have. I see now: I need to go back to my parish. Not healed from those wounds of betrayal and rejection. And certainly not comforted! Still angry, too. But broken, and (in many ways) much more aware of my hurt and brokenness than I was before that day. Maybe that's what I need to bring home to my parish after this month-long sabbatical. But I also am all too vividly aware that – once again – I am merely a member of The Episcopal Church "on sufferance" – tolerated, not really accepted. I feel an almost-overwhelming sense of loss.
I'm grateful to my friends who "got it" and understand how hurt I was by that decision. I'm grateful to the Deputies who have been willing to talk with me about the agonizing decision they had to face on that last day of GC. I'm profoundly grateful to the people of Trinity who ministered to me Sunday by sharing their pain and their hope.
I hope this will help to explain "where I've been" in this past month, for those who have asked. I wish I could think of an articulate ending for this reflection. But I can't. I just move quietly back into my undeserved place in the Body of Christ.A reminder: That was a letter I sent to my friends in my local parish, my diocese, and Episcopal friends I've made throughout the church over the past few years. It was raw and very personal. I'm a bit nervous about posting it here. But if it helps anyone else go back into their parishes After Columbus, it will have been worth posting in this public forum.