Thursday, July 24, 2008

Anne Writes

More on the Missouri/Lui Relationship

You know that I have ranted and raved since Sudanese Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul issued his written statement and then gave a most damning interview to the press (in part 1 and part 2).

I've also ranted and wept with some friends here in the diocese who are deeply involved in our companion diocese with Lui (in southern Sudan).

One of those with whom I have ranted and wept is Anne Kelsey, rector of Trinity parish, where I worship when I am in St. Louis. I have written about that parish several times. She and that parish have nourished my soul in the most difficult times. They brought me back to TEC after my "sabbatical" following GC06.

Here in our diocese, many words have been flung about in the past 48 hours. Some people want to continue the relationship with Lui despite Archbishop Daniel's hateful vitriol. Some are calling on the diocese and the Companion Diocese Committee (which I chair) to pull out of Sudan completely and immediately, because of what Archbishop Daniel said.

I don't know what I think yet. Remain engaged? Pull out? I don't know. I still need more time to sort it out.

But I was touched, challenged, and encouraged by a letter that came today. It came from Anne, who is priest in my "home-away-from-home" parish.

Anne is a passionate member of our Companion Diocese Committee. She took the bold step of inviting Daniel to preach at her parish on the Sunday of his visit, and hosted Daniel and his wife Deborah in her home along with some 75 other guests.

This is the letter she sent to her parish today, then shared with our Oasis listserv. I post it here with her permission.

I am awed that she's reached this spiritual place today, and I wanted to share it with you too.

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24 July 2008

Dear Friends in Christ,

My heart has been broken these past few days as I have read the statements issuing from the Archbishop of Sudan at the Lambeth Conference. I feel betrayed and angered at the prejudice and bigotry expressed. Those of us who have struggled so long for inclusion and acceptance of all people regardless of sexual orientation are reeling. The ship of the church is foundering in heavy seas today, and many of us feel as if we’re hanging on for dear life.

As the rector who invited Archbishop Daniel to preach on the Sunday of his visit to St. Louis, I am horrified. Here at Trinity, a beloved community of faithful and holy people, the archbishop was warmly welcomed. We extended great hospitality. As the host of the reception in the archbishop’s honor I am deeply wounded; would he have entered my home and eaten at my table if he knew that my lesbian daughter is as loved as my straight daughter? On so many levels his words cause me a tremendous amount of pain in a deeply personal way, as I know they have caused pain to you.

As the rector of an Oasis congregation, a member of the Companion Diocese Committee, and a member of the Oasis Board I experience the news from Lambeth coming so fast that it’s confusing and difficult to process. What’s coming next? What should I do? How should I respond?

On this Thursday morning I share these thoughts with you.

First, this is a crisis, but it is not a crisis of faith. It’s time to fall on my knees, to sit quietly so God can pour some healing balm on my poor angry spirit, and to trust that in the midst the storm there is God’s steady presence. This is a time for prayer, personal and corporate. Ecclesiastes said that there is a time to weep, and this is one of them. Each tear shed is a prayer to God, who is standing among us suffering with us. Go ahead and cry. They are honest prayers.

Since the Lambeth conference will continue for almost another week every day will bring news and opinions, statements and commentary, reports and more blogs, so this isn’t the time for action born of rage. That’s reaction, and in my experience it’s rarely the appropriate solution to any problem. I will wait until Lambeth is concluded, wait to speak with Bishop Smith, wait to meet with the Companion Diocese Committee and the Oasis Board before I consider what is to happen next. There is simply too much we don’t know. We aren’t privy to the important conversations which are taking place between bishops, where they are much more free to express themselves.

As one who cares deeply about the people of Sudan it grieves me to hear talk of cutting off the relationship with the Diocese of Lui. It grieves me to hear talk of giving the resources of the Diocese of Missouri now going to Lui to some other aid agency for relief in Sudan. Our Covenant with Lui isn’t an aid program, it’s a relationship. We have provided crucial material assistance such as wells, and these are good and life giving, but they are not the focus of our agreement. Our work there is primarily relational because we believe that God incarnate in Jesus Christ is alive in each one of us through our baptism. If we break off relationships because of the statements and opinions of some bishops, however nasty and bigoted those statements may be, we are engaging in exactly the same kind of destructive behavior that has brought the Anglican Communion to this crisis.

I have in my mind’s eye two people living a world apart. One is a gay man in the United States rejected by his family, cursed by the church, beaten up by strangers. He is wounded, body and soul. He needs to be bathed in healing love and brought rejoicing into the body of Christ, reassured of God’s love for him. Next to him stands an eight year old child living in Lui who has never known what it is to have enough food to eat, whose parents go to church praying for a peace which is real, fearing that bombs will be dropped on them again. They are wounded, body and soul. They need to be fed not just today but tomorrow and the day after. They need real and lasting peace which will allow them to live fully, rejoicing in the God who gives life.

There is only one child of God. That child looks at the world through the eyes of each human being, created in God’s image.

In the days and weeks to come I pray that each of us will find strength in our community, share grief and sorrows, and help the church grow more and more into greater witness to the power of God in Christ Jesus. I pray that each of us will find the strength to suspend judgment and the courage to continue to be part of the loving body of Christ in the world.

Please continue to pray for all who are attending Lambeth, bishops and spouses. Pray especially for our own bishop Wayne, and for all bishops whose dioceses have relationships in Sudan. They are facing very hard times as they respond to the challenges of this Lambeth conference. Please continue to pray for all GLBT persons throughout the world, those known to us and those whose lives depend on remaining hidden.

May God grant us grace now and always,

Anne

The Rev. Anne Kelsey
Rector, Trinity Episcopal Church

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Anne's letter reminds me of another passionate, pastoral letter I read from another blog-friend. Like Anne, Caminante writes powerfully about the tears that are attendant on Archbishop Daniel's comments.

3 Comments:

Blogger Robert said...

Wow Lisa. Thanks for sharing such a powerful letter. It certainly brings perspective to the issue.

7/25/2008 10:02 AM  
Blogger Cranmer49 said...

Anne has done a fine job helping us figure out where God is in all of this hatred and betrayal. Good for her.

7/28/2008 3:13 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thank you, friends. I have had a hard time deciding how to respond to the Sudanese Archbishop's statements. What the Sudanese bishops wrote was bad enough. But what Archbishop Daniel said in his press conference was devastating. By turn, I have been paralyzed and furious. I think I am finally ready to move. We must be Christ to +Daniel and the Sudanese bishops, even if they are not willing to be Christ to us. We must keep our hands extended to open, even if they will not. I think the Gospel of Jesus Christ requires this of me, however difficult I find it. Time will tell ...

8/09/2008 12:01 AM  

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