I have a hunch that I can use this little blog as a journal now. It's been so long since I last posted anything of substance, pretty much everyone has given up clicking on it. That gives me a freedom maybe I didn't have before.
This is probably going to be long. Very, very long. Much longer than most blog-readers can tolerate. But I'm a southerner in my bones, and we reserve the right to pursue truth through very long and circuitous stories. I claim that right. This will be a very long story.
Since August 9, my nights and weekends have been devoted to work over at The Episcopal Majority
. That grassroots effort is gaining ground very quickly. I do much of the editing that's involved in the essays we post there, surrounded – thanks be to God – by a marvelous team of editors.
Over the last month, several friends and other folks in my parish have remarked that I look tired or seem to be losing weight. They've cautioned me against spending so much time on that effort.
From time to time, I've wondered what was fueling my passion for that work. I had dived into it unquestioningly. Never thought much about the "why." So I started trying to explain it to my friends.
I knew part of my motivation. Working with The Episcopal Majority
, I am surrounded by a marvelous cadre of Episcopalians who care for one another, care deeply for our Church, are smart, and funny, and really smart, and really, really funny, and have a profoundly pastoral care for one another and for everyone who comes onto our website. And they are – as I am – determined that we will succeed in keeping The Episcopal Church a place that can embrace different opinions as we strive to seek and serve Christ together and in one another.
Only this morning did I notice another factor that has fueled my passion for The Episcopal Majority, and why I've spent my time there and neglected this one. But it took sitting through a very uncomfortable Adult Forum to get that insight.
I established this blog After Columbus
. I started writing because I was angry and hurting about what happened during GC06, in the still-infamous B033. Though I managed a few posts here that were light-hearted or analytical, mostly it was about hurt and anger.
Then I hooked up with The Episcopal Majority
. Finally, I had found a group of people who were doing something positive about the attempted coup
. My work there has been restorative. It has been healing. That's how I explained it to friends who were concerned about me. I was turning my hurt and anger into positive steps to reassert the traditional Anglican values and to take back our Church from the right-wing extremists who are funded by people and organizations with a political agenda
It was good. And The Episcopal Majority
is succeeding. We are growing in numbers and influence. I have loved my work over there, and I am not backing-off from it.
But I had a sobering wake-up call this morning during our parish's Adult Forum.
The speaker was one of our diocese's Deputies to GC06. Mike opened by talking about what's involved in serving as a Deputy, what it meant to him spiritually to be involved in the work of the larger Church, and highlighting the positive things that happened during Convention. Then he distributed a handout about GC's specific actions. The first question confronted this gentle man with antagonism, wanting to know why TEC refused to apologize for the consecration of +Robinson … and, by extension, I think he would have wished our Church to strip Bishop Robinson of his office, too.
And I just sat there.
Mike did his best, in his gentle way, to acknowledge the hurt that some have felt, and how our Church is trying to be pastoral with those who are truly hurt. He also made the point that some are not really hurt – but are simply trying to whip up hysteria for their own purposes. Mike was too kind to do so, but I don't mind naming names
and kickin' butt
, because those organizations personify the "whited sepulchres" Jesus condemned.
In the course of responding, Mike observed what I think most Episcopalians would aver: that we don't believe that any one of us alone can possess the whole truth as we sit alone with our Bibles, but we need to seek out others and engage them to move toward real Truth.
Oh my! Did that get a rise!
I must provide some background here: The Sunday after GC, our Bishop wrote a letter that was to be read in all parishes of the diocese. To my great sadness, he supported B033, but in that letter he also gave a sop to the inclusion of faithful gay men and lesbians in the life of our diocese. When that "inclusion" segment of the letter was read, this one couple in our parish rose from their near-front-row seats and walked out! We are Episcopalians. We do not walk out.
We do not behave in unseemly ways. But they walked out.
Back to today's forum: The husband of that couple challenged Mike, claiming that – by God! – he sure is competent to sit with his Bible and know the Truth. Then the wife chimed in, about how she has read the Bible and it seems pretty clear to her that homosexuality is a sin.
And I just sat there.
Mike – smart and good-hearted layman that he is – tried to explain that there are different ways to read Scripture and that we need to read it and discern its meanings together.
And I just sat there. I sat there wondering if anyone in my parish – of the people who claim to love me – would say a word.
Knowing this couple's politics, a thought came into my head: I know they are staunch conservatives (politically as well as theologically). I am almost certain they support the death penalty. I believe they are as wrong as wrong can be in that, and I believe I have Jesus' very own explicit words to back me up – not just some Hebrew scriptures and conflicted Pauline words; I believe Jesus' own words support me. But that does not keep me from going to the altar with them. It does not keep me from handing the chalice to them when I'm serving as Eucharistic Minister. It does not lead me to charge them with "doubting the authority of Scripture." It most certainly does not lead me to "convict them of their sin" in the way they seem free to convict me of mine. It does not lead me to invoke trite "I hate the sin, but love the sinner" condemnations. No! While convinced that I am right and they are wrong, I trust the Spirit to lead them and to lead me into all Truth, but probably not this side of the grave. Where is the "disconnect" here? They want to murder people in the name of the state, but I do not doubt their faith. I want to find a faithful loving relationship in which I may grow in the fuller knowledge of Christ and of God, and that makes them doubt mine. I trust the Spirit to lead all of us – eventually – into all Truth. They want to shove their truth down my throat.
And I just sat there.
I had made up my mind before today's session that I was not going to speak. I did everything short of slapping duct-tape across my mouth. It took some effort. But I wanted to know what my parish had to say. Because this is partly what made me take my sabbatical after GC in the first place: my lack of confidence in my Church and in my parish. Anybody who read my early posts in this blog knows that.
Then the word came from a most unexpected source: a guy I've scarcely ever talked with. He made the point that what holds us together is that we pray together and we go to the altar together while we seek the Truth together. He pointed out that this kind of absolutist claim upon "personal truth" is a very recent innovation. [It occurs to me it's not actually recent; it's exactly the claim that the Puritans made, and which led them to burn many of us at the stake. But I digress.]
And when he finished speaking – for the first time in the 8 years I've been in this parish and attending Adult Forum – a goodly number of people responded with spontaneous applause. Of course, good Episcopalians all, they quickly stifled themselves back into decorum. God love 'em!
And the bell rang, and folks moved on to the 10:30 service. But one dear woman did sidle up to me, to tell me about a marvelous story she read today in the NYTimes, about the courtship and marriage of a gay couple. I believe she meant it as a loving gesture of support, and I took it that way. Thank God for her! But other than that, my fellow parishioners just moved on up to the nave for the service. I believe that if this had been a session about any other Old Testament "sin," there would have been a great outpouring of affection toward those who might have felt "attacked." But not here. Not for the queers. Here, I got one brave, eloquent man speaking in public, and one dear friend coming to me in private afterwards.
I guess it's not nice to side with the queers.
And how many people walked up to the nave saying to themselves, "Thank God I am not a queer?"
Me, I'm just glad this was an Adult
Forum. I'm glad our children and young people were upstairs hearing Bible stories about Jesus. I'm glad that no child or young person was there to hear what I heard. For surely some of them know they are one of "those people," and it would break my heart for them to hear what I heard.
I've written this here as a sort of "brain dump." I started it with the title, "I Grow Weary." Because my overwhelming sense after that session was that I am just so tired of the self-satisfied Bible-thumpers. I had already served as crucifer in the 8:00 Rite I service, so I didn't move up to the nave with the bulk of the group. I left. And I've been fairly morose all day since – discouraged about the disconnect between what we are doing at The Episcopal Majority vs. these fellow parishioners who still make it clear that I am a second-class child of God, to be relegated to the "downstairs" of The Episcopal Church – if not to hell fires.
But the exercise of writing here has brought another facet of this morning's Adult Forum into sharper focus: that man who reminded them of our common prayer, and that spontaneous, brief outburst of applause, and the woman who approached me quietly afterwards. Maybe that was the embrace I needed, against the judgment and condemnation I was feeling.
Still, I am weary. I am weary of having my life and heart and soul subject to the votes of General Convention every three years. I am weary of having my life hung out as an "object of discussion" at adult forums every now and then.
Grateful as I am for Mike and those two other voices and those brief moments of affirming applause … my friends, I am weary beyond weary.