Monday, July 31, 2006

A Sign of the Times in My Little Corner of the World

As I was driving around town yesterday, I passed one of the larger Southern Baptist churches, and was appalled to see a notice on their marquis that they would be hosting an anti-cloning rally tonight with Alan Keyes as speaker. I thought, “This can’t be true. Surely a National Disgrace of Alan Keyes’ stature is not coming to our little backwater town.” But, alas, he is. I checked it out.

The event was billed as one to rally all Christians against stem cell research. Because our state has a constitutional amendment on the ballot this fall protecting stem cell research. But the right-wingers are trying to frame the debate as one against “human cloning.” Yawn! The so-called Christians are so boringly stupid (but, unfortunately, effective) in their anti-intellectualism.

When I got onto the Web and did a Google search to find more details, I didn’t find much. Except these.

The Missouri Baptist Convention proclaims: Cloning rally to feature Keyes:
Rick Scarborough, founder of Vision America, is organizing five rallies around Missouri to mobilize pastors for the fight against the proposed constitutional amendment promoting embryonic stem cell research, or cloning. . . . Concord Baptist Church will be hosting a rally July 31 that will feature former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Alan Keyes, a powerful pro-life orator and close friend of Scarborough. . . . ‘Alan Keyes is a principled conservative driven by his own love for Christ,’ Scarborough said.
“Principled conservative driven by his love for Christ”??? How about “hypocritical bigot driven by his love for glory and hate for his own lesbian daughter”???

The VisionAmerica website gives details for other rallies in Missouri where Keyes will be speaking.

I don’t know anyone who was aware that Keyes was appearing in my little backwater town. I tried to identify any groups organizing a protest against this bigoted hate-monger appearing here, but I could not find a peep being said. Maybe others around our state will have advance notice and be able to organize protests.

We must not let these narrow-minded Christianists kidnap the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ!

EDIT 08.02.06: Friends you must flip over to the "Comments" section to see ToeWalker's hilarious comment!

Time for Some Humor!

There's a new spin on an old joke making the rounds. It's about a beachcomber who finds a bottle in the sand and opens it, freeing a genie who gratefully grants one wish. The beachcomber asks for peace in the Middle East.

The genie calls that an impossible task and asks for an alternative wish. "Okay," says the beachcomber, "restore harmony to the Anglican Communion." The genie thinks for several seconds and then says, "Let's go back to that Middle East thing."

Happy Anniversary to the Philadelphia 11

When I was setting up this blog Saturday, I was also aware that it was the 32nd anniversary of the ordination of “The Philadelphia 11” – that 1st group of women who were irregularly ordained in Philadelphia.

I was not an Episcopalian back in 1974, but I have long and often felt the reverberations of that action.

One of that group of ordinands was Nancy Wittig. I think she was the youngest member of that group. And she has a special place in my heart. For when my soul was wandering in the desert in the mid-1990s, she and a friend of hers reached out the hand of The Episcopal Church and drew me into this church. They brought me into this church, and probably – literally – saved my life (physical and spiritual) in the process. I think she's the only one of that group who is still involved in parish ministry.

To Nancy, and to the other women ordained that day – and to all the other women ordained since – I raise my hand in your honor and in thanksgiving.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Sunday School Teaching? I Guess Not.

Back in late May -- or maybe it was June -- I had a bizarre experience while sitting in church. I am not in the habit of hearing “the voice of God.” But that’s what felt like happened. It was like the voice of God, whispering in my ear, “Teach Sunday School.” And I felt I knew where I was called: to join in teaching the middle-school kids preparing for Confirmation.

The man who teaches that class is marvelous. In fact, he’s in the ordination process, and our whole parish supports his calling to that vocation.

It hit me like a bolt out of the blue that I should partner with him to teach our middle-school kids as they consider whether to explore or move toward Confirmation.

Now, I know how this “voice of God” thing is. Very often, we claim it’s the “voice of God” when it’s really a voice telling us to do what we already want to do.

But that was not the case for me. I’m a 50-something-year-old broad who has no children. In fact, I’m mildly afraid of children. Their ways are not my ways. I feel quite distant from their culture/mindset. When I’ve had direct dealings with those kids in my parish, I have felt blessed in those exchanges. But – as a group – they intimidate me. So when I felt this “call” to help teach them, I knew it was God’s call, not my desire, which was leading me.

So I told our Christian Education Director about this, and I talked with their current teacher about whether he would be willing to explore with me the possibility of my teaching with them. They were both enthusiastic.

I was scared and enthusiastic, in equal measures.

Then Columbus hit. B033 hit. And it forced me into lots of reflection. This week, I received our Christian Education Director’s mailing to all current and prospective Sunday School teachers, asking for a firm commitment. And I had to enter into still more prayer and reflection.

And I found my answer. This week, I wrote to our Christian Education Director that I cannot take on a teaching assignment at this time in our Episcopal Church. As I wrote to her:

The action our national church took in Columbus has very much affected my thinking about my "provisional status" in our church…. That context had to influence my thinking about teaching Sunday School this year. I cannot do it.
It's too easy imagine that some people within or outside our parish might rise up and attack our parish for having a "queer" teach our children in Sunday School. I can't take that risk ... not for me, but especially not for our parish.

I don't want to be An Issue. But -- given the current climate in the church -- I'm too afraid of that risk.

So, no, I can't teach this year. We'll see what our Church does in 2009. Maybe things will change by then.

I am sorry to have to make this decision. It's hard, when I think that God calls me to one thing, to also hear some other voice saying "no" to that same thing. But I
guess that's how things are in our Church right now. :(

It never would have occurred to me that my life could be An Issue to our church – certainly not that it would have prevented me from teaching Sunday School. But that’s what GC06 did with B033. To me, it really was a red line for our church. There’s life before Columbus. And life After Columbus.

Ah, yes. After Columbus.

A Modest Proposal

I subscribe to the listserv of the House of Bishops/Deputies [HoBD], and I read every word of it. If you have asbestos underwear, you may want to subscribe to it, too. At least two years ago -- in response to a question from one of the so-called "conservatives," I posted this piece to the listserv. I’m proud to say this essay (also reproduced below) was published in Louie Crew's "Do Justice" series. Background to my essay is provided in Louie's italicized section below.

Sadly, my comments are as relevant now as they were two years ago.

In light of the hideous resolution B033, I would still like to pose this challenge to our Bishops, Deputies, and Standing Committees. Why are the gay people the only ones whose "manner of life" is believed to be ipso facto a challenge to the wider Church? Why -- oh why -- are we not scrutinizing the other, heterosexual people whose "manner of life" should pose a challenge to the Gospel of our Lord and Savior?

So far, nobody's been able or willing to answer that question for me. Maybe some of you will.

A Modest Proposal (with apologies to Jonathan Swift)

Background: One priest posted thoughts and questions on the House of Bishops & Deputies listserv on July 11, including the following excerpt:

I count myself among those who have been surprised at the reaction to ordaining Gene Robinson. I have not thought that the Episcopal Church has departed from the essential matters of faith set forth in the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral and further upheld in the Righter trial. But the fact is that the vast majority of the Anglican Communion thinks we have.

We can argue until we are purple, but that is what people think we have done and we have not changed their minds.

Hard Questions: 1) Do we acknowledge that we are in the distinct minority on this one, and while being clear that we support ordaining people who are of the same sex in faithful relationships and that we support blessing such relationships, yet we impose a moratorium on blessing same-sex relationships and ordaining people in same-sex relationships until there is a new consensus in the Anglican Communion, as the Windsor Report suggests?

The following response was offered by Lisa Fox (Grace Episcopal Church, Jefferson City, Mo.), who is not a delegate to General Convention.

Brothers & sisters, I was quite moved by the Dean’s probing, soul-searching question as to whether those of us who proudly supported Bishop Robinson's consecration should take a gentle, Christian step backward for the sake of preserving the Anglican Communion. My heart sang on that weekend morning when I heard of his selection by the diocese of New Hampshire, and my heart soared when I heard that GC03 had approved that consecration. But so too has my heart wept with the nasty, divisive language that has come from the minority in TEC and the (apparent?) majority of the Anglican Communion in the past almost-two years.

Because I take my baptismal vows seriously, and because I value the unity of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, I am tempted to say "yes" to [the Dean’s] proposal. But as I thought further about it, I came to the conclusion that gay/lesbian folks should not be the only ones to "suffer" if we are to cave in to the biblical literalists. It makes no sense to be literal only about their reading of "sodomy" and "homosexuality." Therefore -- speaking as one who has no power in the decisions of GC06 -- I would suggest that his proposal be extended further.

To me, the decisions of GC03 were Spirit-filled and courageous as Jesus was courageous. I want our church to choose leaders, clergy, and bishops based on the fruits of the Spirit -- not on the gender of their mate. It pains me deeply to think my church might refuse to ordain/consecrate Spirit-filled, "fruitful" people who happen to be gay or lesbian. But … I might be willing to accept that "conservative" stance if "the other side" would agree to be equally literal on other parts of Scripture, such as these:

§ We will ordain no one who has divorced and remarried, as they are adulterers.

§ We will ordain no one who gossips or commits slander. We will consecrate no man whose wife commits these sins, either, in keeping with I Timothy

§ We will ordain no one who is fat, as they are gluttons. Yes, I know there's conflicting medical research on whether that's genetic or a result of personal choice ... but there's the same debate about homosexual orientation, and "the conservative side" discounts those arguments by saying the gay person should just "exercise more discipline" or "offer it up to Jesus." I propose that they apply the same stricture regarding fat people.

§ We will ordain no one who increases the sufferings of the poor. I think that would include those who benefit from high interest rates on loans, as they are obviously usurers. I suppose that would include those among us who hold stock in the major credit-card companies that charge such usurious interest rates. It should probably also include legislators or voters who act to reduce free lunches for school children, and those who reduce our societal support for the poor. Enforcing this requirement strictly could get pretty complicated, but I expect the literalists could come up with a system for ruling out these sinners.

§ We will ordain no one who has sued another Christian in a civil court. Sadly, I suspect there are many Christians who have sued other Christians in court, in clear contravention of St. Paul's teachings.

No matter how spiritual a postulant or candidate seems to be, we will not ordain/consecrate that person if he or she violates those clear teachings of Scripture, as well as the perceived teachings against homosexuality. Could we all agree to that?

And perhaps we should consider a further step as long as we're cleaning house: Inhibit every deacon, priest, and bishop who is gay. And to ensure the kind of purity the “conservatives” seem to want, perhaps we should also remove all gay Sunday School teachers, altar guild members, acolytes, Eucharistic Ministers, vergers, thurifers, Eucharistic Visitors, organists, and choir members who are gay. After all, these people are exercising the “ministry of the baptized” which is not really so different (except in degree) from the ministry of the ordained.

Then we should do the same for all the "straight" deacons, priests, and bishops who are known to be guilty of sins such as those I have listed here. And clean-house of all the “straight” Sunday School teachers, altar guild members, acolytes, Eucharistic Ministers, vergers, thurifers, Eucharistic Visitors, organists, and choir members who are also living in clear contravention of the Biblical dictates such as I have listed here.

The next logical step, of course, would be for our priests and bishops to be much more conscientious about whom they allow to receive communion – in keeping with these same guidelines. After all, we are not supposed to communicate “notorious sinners,” are we?

Admittedly, this would leave us with a grossly under-staffed church and a very few people at the altar rail at the Eucharist. But would it not be worth it, in order to achieve the kind of Purity that the conservatives in TEC and the Global South seem to desire?

Do you think these measures would placate the conservatives in TEC and the Global South? Or will we need to proceed to stonings to make them truly happy?

In a plan like this, EVERYONE would lose something -- would lose a lot, in fact -- in the compromise.

Modestly proposed,

An Amusing Codicil to the Diocesan De-Briefing

I had been pretty passionate about B033 in the discussions with our Bishop and Deputies in the formal session, and that passion continued when I talked with them one-on-one after the official session ended.

Our Bishop is a slow-talking, earnest, and thoughtful speaker. (He’s also one of the whitest and straightest guys I’ve ever met.) As we talked informally after the debriefing, I was impressed that it seems he is beginning to “get it” as he is hearing from gay and straight people in our diocese profoundly wounded and angry over the passage of B033.

At one point in our one-on-one chat, almost pleading, he said: "Please do not leave! We need you and all the gay people of our church. I need you in our church. Don’t quit reminding me how you feel!" He was so touchingly earnest and sincere -- and I like him so much -- that I couldn't help returning with a quip: "You just say that 'cause you're afraid all the gay guys are going to leave the diocese, and then who'll be left to make your pretty vestments?!"

Yes, he lost it!! :-) We had a marvelous laugh together. It was a relief to be able to enjoy a bit of “gay humor” with him. And pretty cool to see his acknowledgement that, without the skills of all those gay-guy seamstresses out there, our church would be poorer.

Sorry if this little anecdote is politically incorrect. But I’ve been in a lot of parishes where the only people who make vestments are the blue-haired ladies and the talented gay men … I just couldn’t resist. (And I envy their skill!)

Diocesan De-Briefing

Our Bishop & some Deputies held one of their post-Columbus debriefings at my parish this week. They’re holding four of them around the diocese.

I had been fairly anxious in advance of this meeting, especially because my parish has never discussed The Gay Issue. Yes, that’s right: Never. Not once. When GC03 consented to +VGR, our beloved priest of (then) some 34 years preached an awesome, supportive sermon. But now he has resigned, and we have an Interim Rector who has not spoken of the issue. In the absence of leadership, I’m not sure where my parish stands. I'm not sure where I stand in this parish.

I worried this Diocesan debriefing might be a “fireworks session” – that I might hear a lot of ugliness that I had never known was living “below the radar” in my parish.

There was some basis for anxiety on my part. Although I have been “on sabbatical” from TEC since GC, I did hear reports of what happened on the first Sunday after GC. Our bishop wrote
this pastoral letter to be read in all parishes after Columbus. Reportedly, when the reading came to this section – “To our lesbian and gay sisters and brothers, I say: Do not despair. I continue to support your full inclusion in the life of this Church.” – one couple that’s been heavily involved in our parish stood in their places and marched out of church in protest.

I feared that couple was merely the tip of the iceberg, and that this debriefing session would reveal all the homophobia and hatred lying just below the surface in this Midwestern, small parish.

But – fortunately -- it did not turn out that way at all in the Diocesan de-briefing we hosted.

We had a pretty good turn-out – about 40 folks in our convocation turned up for the meeting. Most were members of my parish. But there were no fireworks. The diocesan group had come up with a clever controlling strategy: asking people to write their questions on Post It notes before the discussion, and thus carefully discouraging actual discussion.

Very few people bothered to post questions. Maybe they were just there to listen and observe. I don’t know. I do know that most of the attendees were our senior citizens. But -- thank heavens! -- there were no fireworks.

I’ve kept a very low profile in my parish. I have not been “out” or “political” with them. I love those folks! and have often felt nurtured and embraced by them.

I think that’s one of the things that made me angry about B033 and all the publicity attending it. I had been a low-profile lesbian, just going about my life and work in my parish. I had never made a big deal about being gay, and they had dealt with me in a typically Episcopalian way – with that “don’t ask, don’t tell” that we’re so good at.

Maybe, if I’d been in this parish over the past many years and decades of all those battles over gay-related GC resolutions, I would have faced this issue before. But I had not. I had only been a quiet, passive pew-sitter before GC06.

So … to me … it felt like this diocesan “debriefing” was going to be a make-or-break moment. It was nothing of the sort.

The Bishop and Deputies addressed written submissions on topics covering the gamut of GC06 – from how the new Ministry canons will affect people currently in the discernment process … to what it means to begin exploring Eucharistic sharing with the Methodists … to how it felt to be on the floor when +Katharine was elected PB … and so on.

I think I was the only one who wrote a question related to B033. My question (as near as I can recall it) was something like: “Given that GC consented to the election of a woman as PB and consented to the consecration of a thrice-married man as a bishop, exactly whose ‘manner of life’ does TEC intend to be a bar to consecration as a bishop?” Yep! It was a rather polemical rant-masquerading-as-a-question. But the way they structured the session, they did not just read the questions as written. They had a fellow who “redacted” the questions and asked them as he saw fit. So he redacted mine to: “In B033, what does ‘manner of life’ mean?” Obviously, much got lost in that redaction.

I think the Bishop & Deputies must have spent about 10-15 minutes deconstructing that question and dancing around answers to it. But a few things did come out of their answers.

But before I talk about their responses, you also need to know that this is a diocese that – despite being in the generally-conservative Midwest – did give unanimous consent in GC03 to the consecration of then-Canon Gene Robinson to the episcopate and to same-sex blessings. These are not Neanderthals. Most of them would aptly be characterized as “straight but not narrow.” They lean to the left of the Episcopal spectrum.

Answering my question, one Deputy led the group through the whole process that had led to the defeat of A161, then the debate on and eventual passage of B033. He followed the line that so many have expressed – about how the “diverse center” had finally triumphed over the “extremes” of GC. Others echoed his “take” on things.

Finally, I pulled up my big-girl panties and took ownership of my question, and asked them how gay and lesbian folks could possibly see this as anything but a sell-out.

Another Deputy answered the question somewhat more passionately. I happen to know that she’s the mother of a gay man, the priest of an inclusive parish, and an Oasis member. She explained the conflict that she and others felt when confronted with ++Griswold’s and ++~Schori Jefferts’ pleas, saying that she felt this was what she needed to offer to the Anglican Communion at this time. But, she said, she’s firm that if this doesn’t mollify the people like ++Akinola, then they can just go **** themselves next time ‘round. [No, she didn’t use a four-letter word, but it sure felt implicit in what she expressed.] When I followed up, asking how she felt when ++Akinola hours later described TEC as a “cancerous lump” that needs to be excised from the Anglican Communion, she just hung her head in what looked like genuine, profound grief.

One Deputy’s reply infuriated me. He gave the sell-out party line, concluding with something about how this is going to require blah and blah and blah [I can't remember which hollow words he used] and “sacrifice” from all of us.

Later, I had a chance to talk with him and the other Deputies after the official session concluded. With barely controlled rage, I asked this straight white guy, “Just exactly whose sacrifice is going to be required? Certainly not yours! Whose???” The poor guy didn’t have any answer.

There was much visiting and milling-about after the session ended. To my surprise, many of my fellow parishioners were aware of the “sabbatical” I had declared Since Columbus. Many folks approached me with what seemed genuine concern – even distress – asking me to come back. This was surprising to me. I thought I had made my retreat quite quietly. I certainly had tried to do so! But I guess folks had noticed. These exchanges led to some pretty intense exchanges – even passionate ones. By the time it was all over, I did feel ready to go back to my parish. There are people there whom I love and who love me. I need to be back with them.

The sabbatical is over.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

After Columbus

At Telling Secrets: After Columbus, Elizabeth Kaeton posted a powerful essay that summarized to me much of the pain and hurt we're facing in the aftermath of Columbus. As she said there, there's no telling how people are suffering after GC's passage of resolution B033. In the comments section of her blog, I told this story. I also share it here.

Coming from a most powerful time in the Eucharist and coffee-hour conversations at Trinity on Sunday -- which had helped me to see that I must come back to TEC, whatever the hurt -- this encounter was a sobering, tear-sparking one.

After Columbus, and because of Columbus, I took a sabbatical from TEC. But I found myself in the city after a month, in which was a marvelous Spirit-filled church (and Oasis parish) I had visited a couple of times before. I thought this might be just the moment to return to TEC, and I did -- but wearing my brand-spanking new t-shirt that says, "My manner of life is a challenge to the wider church." It was a good day.

Then I stopped in at a Starbucks, before starting the 2+ hour drive home, and the young man (college-age, I'd guess) at the register saw my shirt as I approached the counter. He didn't even greet me as he obviously, slowly read my t-shirt.

Then he looked up to my face, greeted me, and sadly said, "Episcopalian?" Yes, I returned with similar sadness.

"I had never gone to church, but I just found the Episcopal Church a year ago," he told me quietly. "I thought I'd found a home. But I don't go anymore, after Columbus."

After Columbus.

And I stood there with tears welling up. As was he. But I needed to say something, to encourage him that it is our home. But I couldn't do it with much firm conviction. I simply said, "I know. Today was my first day back. I had to wear this shirt for armor. But it's hard. It's hard."

Then we shook off the tears, he got my latte, and as I left, I said again, "But please try to come back."

This is the way the gays leave.
This is the way the gays leave.
Not with a bang, but a wimper.

My Reaction to B033

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.

Deputies’ Reactions to B033

The most best accounts – and most powerful reactions -- I read about our church’s passage of resolution B033 were

Telling Secrets
Father Jake Stops the World

And I appreciated this from What the Tide Brings In. She explains her vote against B033 in this way:

“I did not vote for it as I felt it was one of those things that offered others as the sacrifice - I am willing to sacrifice but could not come home saying - I was called to the cross but I pick you to go instead. I did not see Jesus asking anyone else to his work for him. (oh hey Peter or Mary - why don't you go to Golgotha today)."

If only more people had thought, and felt, and voted as she did!

My Interpretation of B033

The text of B033 committed our Bishops and Standing Committees [the people who have the power to approve Episcopal elections] to "exercise restraint" in consenting to the election of any bishop whose "manner of life" might "present a challenge to the wider church." It was quite clear to me, from all that I heard and read about that vote: When they said "manner of life," what they really meant was "you queers."

When I read of that resolution’s passage on the morning of June 21, my reactions were all over the map -- but mostly profound hurt and over-the-top anger.

When our Presiding Bishop and PB-Elect went to the House of Deputies to plead for the Deputies to approve this resolution, they begged that this was what was necessary to assure our church would have "a place at the table" within the discussions of the larger Anglican Communion.

But I wonder: Why is it that our church in the U.S. was so careful to couch its language and actions so as not to offend the bullies in Africa and Asia and even within the U.S. ... but doesn't mind using language in that resolution that cuts its gay/lesbian members to the quick? For -- make no mistake -- we all "got it." We heard the message loud and clear: it's only the gay people that our church wants to single-out as an exception or (as the resolution put it) "a challenge to the wider church."

People can -- and some Deputies & Bishops have -- tried to whitewash B033 to say it doesn't single-out gay people. But we heard the message loud and clear: we are the only ones that will be sacrificed. Our church had already voted to elect a woman as primate, whereas most of the Anglican churches don't recognize the validity of female bishops. And within minutes after passing B033, our church consented to the election of a bishop who has been twice divorced and thrice married. People who denude the environment with their SUVs can be bishops. People who wear cotton/polyester blends can be bishops. Apparently, their "manner of life" does not pose a sufficient challenge to the Anglican Communion. But queers do. I got it. The only ones our church will reject are those who are or may be gay.

Beyond my initial anger, this also got me to wondering: Why the hell does our church baptize people, supposedly marking us as Christ's own forever ... if it's then going to reserve the right -- once those babies grow up enough to recognize their sexual orientation -- to say, "Oops! All the others are going to be afforded the full ministry of the Church. But you're not worthy to receive all the sacraments of our church"??

Anger? Yeah, I got anger.

The Episcopal Church’s Adoption of B033

For those not following Episcopal Church politics, here’s the text of resolution B033, which our Church adopted:
Resolved, the 75th General Convention receive and embrace the Windsor Report's invitation to engage in a process of healing and reconciliation; and be it further

Resolved that this convention therefore call upon standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consecrating any bishop whose manner of life poses a challenge to the church and would lead to further strains on communion.
It’s that second “resolved” that has caused such a fury in the many Episcopal blogs I read and in my own reaction.

You Want Background?

Well .. then .. go Google.

Many things have happened in The Episcopal Church which have motivated me to start a blog. I can’t catch you up on all those events. I want to move forward.

But if you want to catch up, these are the progressives blogs I was reading during General Convention. If you want to read on-the-ground reports, I recommend these to you:

Telling Secrets
Father Jake Stops the World

In particular, read through their blog entries during the General Convention, June 12-21.

Coming Back

Tomorrow, I will go back to my parish. I’ll return to my parish for the first time since the Episcopal Church’s General Convention in Columbus. When our Convention passed resolution B033 on the morning of Wednesday, June 21, it was like someone had knocked the breath right out of me ... or, as someone else put it, as if someone had knocked a hole in my heart. On that day, I knew I just could not continue life-as-usual. As I said to some friends, I had to take a “sabbatical” from The Episcopal Church. At that time, I did not know how long it would last or what would finally bring it to an end. The sabbatical has lasted five weeks.

In these first few posts, I’ll try to a quick catch-up on what’s been happening in the very recent past.


It appears that many folks in The Episcopal Church have been spurred to start blogs in the weeks around and following TEC’s General Convention. I’ve been an avid reader of blogs for nearly three years, as I sought more information and analysis than the Episcopal Church’s official news factory can or will provide. Over the next few days, I’ll link to several of my regular information sources over on the right side-bar.

Now it seems I’m moved to take the plunge to committing bloggery myself.

I’ll start slow -- though I don't have it well developed. So please consider this a “blog under construction” for now.