Thursday, July 19, 2018

What a Difference a Few Years Makes

Turn on your virtual “way back machine.”  Way back in 2012, The Episcopal Church’s General Convention authorized a liturgy for same sex blessings. The move was pretty radical back then.  Now the U.S. has authorized same sex marriage, and The Episcopal Church has moved along. In fact, our Church has moved along so far that all but 8 of our 110 dioceses now offer marriages for all persons in our congregations.

But back in 2012, we couldn’t know all this was coming. Only blessings, not marriage, were available.  Our Bishop offered a way for parishes to offer same sex blessings in our churches. But with a caveat: The vestry and parish had to be supportive. I wrote in anger back then, that my parish was going to talk about whether even to talk about such rites. We held those listening sessions back in May 2013. They broke my heart. I should not have been surprised that the opponents of same sex blessings were the most vocal.  I remember sitting in our church, listening to the old “Adam and Steve” arguments, the Leviticus arguments, the “traditional understanding of marriage” arguments, and I wept quietly and alone in my pew. My parish leadership decided not to pursue the issue. Why would they? I was the only active, gay parishioner in the parish. But I was angry and deeply sad.
Now fast forward to this month’s General Convention. The committee charged to consider same sex marriage [SSM] held hearings, as all committees must. The room was crowded. A parish in Houston had chartered a bus to bring opponents of same sex marriage to speak to the committee.  They and others dug up all those hackneyed arguments.   And you know what?  I didn’t cry. Not a single tear.  I just felt sorry for them. Because I knew we had moved well beyond their arguments. 
And indeed we did.  The House of Bishops and the House Deputies both passed resolutions A086 and B012 . Both make clear that every priest in The Episcopal Church can officiate in their own congregations at same sex marriages, as they do for all other marriages. In the 8 of our 110 dioceses whose bishops are opposed to SSMs, those bishops have agreed to “provide generous pastoral response” to let local congregations celebrate these rites.
As blessed Martin Luther King wrote, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
And God has wiped away my tears.
The Episcopal News Service article on the hearings included this photo.  In the standing room only crowd, I was on the floor. Not crying. Not even worried about the outcome.

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