The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Who I would not like to be

One person I would not like to be is Katherine Jefferts Schori, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. She has the unfortunate, but very important, task of leading the Episcopal Church through the debate that could end up seeing the church break away from the worldwide Anglican Fellowship over the role of gays and lesbians in the church. To her credit, Bishop Schori has been supportive of inclusive polices regarding gays and has said she does not support efforts to remove Bishop Gene Robinson, the openly gay Bishop from New Hampshire, from his post. Now the church faces an ultimatum from the Anglican leaders to unequivocally pledge not to consecrate another partnered gay bishop or authorize prayers for same sex couples. The Anglican Church of Nigeria, leading the way of religious intolerance, in 2006 issued a statement affirming their “commitment to the total rejection of the evil of homosexuality which is a perversion of human dignity…”

The Episcopal Church has a history of social justice, although at times having to play “catch up”, for instance, issuing a condemnation of the Ku Klux Klan in 1979 and declaring the practice of racism a sin in 1991. And they have been a leader in the inclusion of women in all roles in the church, culminating with the election of Schori last year as the first woman to ever hold the position of presiding bishop although there are still dioceses that do not allow women priests. So it is no surprise that the Episcopal Church would be a leader in the inclusion of homosexuals, nor is it a surprise that they can’t just put their foot down and say “No” to the Anglican demands. Episcopals are never quick to do anything, to make decisions, or to develop new policy. And maybe that is as it should be, to prevent knee-jerk decisions and pop-cultural influences.

But this issue has already been decided. In 2000 the Convention affirmed “the variety of human relationships in and outside of marriage,” and in 2006 affirmed “support of gay and lesbian persons and children of God.” In fact, way back in 1975 the Convention declared that homosexuals are “children of God” and are “entitled to full civil rights.” And of course in 2003 The Right Reverend Gene Robinson was consecrated as the first openly gay bishop in the Church.

And if policy is not enough, across the country gay and lesbian persons are serving in numerous positions in the church, from lay leaders to deacons to priests. If one looks at the work that these people do, and the results of their efforts, there is no doubt that God is blessing their work and is pleased with their inclusion. In fact, the very diocese that Robinson is leading continues to be blessed and to bless others. Would God continue to allow His blessings to flow forth from homosexuals if He was not pleased with their work?

Last night Schori led a webcast in which she addressed the issue of homosexuality and the church. Her call for “a season of fasting –from authorizing rites for blessing same sex unions and consecrating bishops in such unions” puts the brakes on full inclusion as she attempts to buy time for reconciliation. This is just putting off the inevitable. No one believes the Nigerians are going to reverse course from calling for criminalization of homosexuality to acceptance and full inclusion. And while Episcopals endure a season of fasting, gay and lesbian parishioners and friends are left hanging. They are the ones suffering, as they are being denied full inclusion and participation. Gene Robinson’s response to Schori’s webcast can be read at He points out that Jesus calls on the greater whole to sacrifice itself for those on the margins. He responds to her call for forbearance by wondering “ How will we explain this “forbearance” to all those gay and lesbian Christians who have come to The Episcopal Church because, for the first time ever, they have believed that there is a place for them AT God’s table, not simply BENEATH it, hoping for fallen scraps? Are THEIR souls not worthy of salvation too? Does anyone relish the notion of trying to explain all this “forbearance” to GOD?”

1995 was The International Year of Tolerance and that year I was asked to submit a Lenten Devotion for a booklet my church was printing. What I said yesterday about tolerance not withstanding, I want to share what I wrote:

The reading was Luke 6:27-37 and the key verse was verse 37: Do not judge
and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned.

Nineteen ninety five has been designated as the International Year of Tolerance. Amara Essy, president of the General Assembly of the United Nations, says that intolerance leads to isolation of individuals, violations of human rights, and ultimately poses a threat to international peace and security. Intolerance is unacceptable.

Birmingham author Lynn Duvall in her book Respecting Our Differences, gives several reasons to become more tolerant. 1) The more one learns about others, the less one has to fear. We can learn about other people, and respect them, even though we may not agree with them. 2) Tolerant people are more self-confident and comfortable in all situations. If we are to effectively share our lives and faith with other people we must be able to relate to them in relaxed ways that do not threaten or in which we do not feel threatened. 3) Tolerance makes life more interesting. Without diversity the human race would be “bo-ring.”

Jesus showed tolerance in his ministry and He shows tolerance with each of us today. He did not limit his teachings to those of one faith, even though He lived in a world of religious intolerance; or only to those of His gender, although He lived in a sexist world; or to those who lived a good life, even thought it was unpopular to associate with sinners. Jesus said to love your enemies, to be merciful, to be non-judgmental and to be forgiving.

My prayer is from a hymn by Sy Miller and Jill Jackson.

Let their be peace on earth, and let it begin with me;
Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be.
With God, our Creator, children all are we.
Let us walk with each other, in perfect harmony.

From 1995 to 2007, and during this season of Lent, this message still holds true. Leaders of the Anglican (and Episcopal) Church, as well as leaders of our nation, need to develop tolerance and understanding. Peace.

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