Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Movin' On Up

Psalm 133
Behold, how good and how pleasant [it is] for brethren to dwell together in unity!
[It is] like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, [even] Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;
As the dew of Hermon, [and as the dew] that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, [even] life for evermore.

From +Gene Robinson's Blog

And move forward we did!
It was an inspiring day in the House of Bishops -- not just because of the final vote to move beyond B033 from the last Convention (declaring an unofficial moratorium on the election and consecration of bishops who happen to be gay and partnered), but because of the gentle, honest and faithful debate that preceded that vote.

As those of you reading this blog know, I've not had a good feeling about my colleagues in the House of Bishops lately. And while this vote has not entirely eased all my concerns, it was a moment (okay, three hours!) when my beloved colleagues rose to speak from their hearts and from their faith about the matters before us. Some of my brothers and sisters spoke and voted in ways that will get them in trouble with many they pastor. Courage comes in many forms, and yesterday, many who had voted FOR the moratorium listened both to the House of Deputies and, I believe, the Holy Spirit, opening their hearts to where God might be moving in the world and in the Church. No doubt, they will pay a price for opening their hearts, much as gay and lesbian people in this Church have paid a price for their exclusion. I applaud them for their courage and will stand with them in the consequences of their vote.

This is the Church I've been telling my gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters to come to, or to come back to. This is the Church that sees the face of Christ in the poor, the despised, the neglected and the marginalized. This is not the "gay Church," but the Church who values those who are gay, women, people of color, those differently abled, as well as the white, male and middle class. It is a Church for ALL of God's children -- all sinners redeemed by a loving God who gave God's self for ALL on the cross. This is a day to rejoice for the Church -- no, let me be more specific, this is a day to rejoice in The Episcopal Church, which once again has stood for the full inclusion of all.

Another difficult and moving experience for me yesterday: One of my brother bishops confronted me about something I had written here on this blog, reminding me that my words weren't just going to the people of my diocese (for whom my blog is primarily written), but to the many people who come to read my reflections. He disagreed with my perceptions of the House of Bishops (even though they were written as MY perceptions), feeling that they fueled the often-heard perception that there was a divide between the Houses of Deputies and Bishops. He felt -- and I seriously listened to and contemplated -- that I had exhibited the kind of arrogance that I had accused my brother bishops of. I have and will continue to contemplate that, searching my soul for the kind of sin I accuse others of. (Jesus had something to say about the mote in someone ELSE'S eye!) But the point I want to make in relating this personal interaction is that he SAID it. What a gift it is when people speak the truth in love to you. There was no question in my mind that he spoke those words in love -- and that is what makes the Church, and yes, the House of Bishops, a holy place. We're all doing the best we can, and being human, we don't always have the full perspective we'd like. And when we err, fellow Christians correct one another in love. As long as THAT commitment persists, we will be all right. No, we will be better than all right. We will be the community of the faithful God would have us be.

Yesterday was exhausting. At the close of the debate, instead of feeling overjoyed at the two-to-one margin of the vote, I felt strangely quiet, pensive and sober. Votes like this (yea or nay?!) always LOOK like there are winners and losers. I wish that weren't so. I was so aware of those who voted no, many of whom are beloved friends, some from my very close group of bishops in my "class" (elected also in 2003), and how they must feel. They will have experienced the Church, which they love every bit as much as I, moving away from what they perceive to be God's will and the course of action to preserve the Anglican Communion. I, on the other hand, found it hard not to take their votes, and their speeches prior to the vote, personally. It sounded as if they were denying my own humanity, and that of my brothers and sisters who have consistently found ourselves on the fringes of the Church. I know they didn't mean it that way, or think that, but still it is hard to sit and listen to such arguments. But that is what this is all about -- speaking the truth as best we can discern it, for the good of God and God's Church.

So, for me, while I find profound joy in the vote for inclusion, I also continue to feel quiet and humble in the face of it, knowing the distress it also causes in other faithful people, in the Episcopal Church and in the Anglican Communion, who are my brothers and sisters in Christ. Today, we move forward, together. Together -- that's the important thing. As long as we hang in there together, with all our flaws and shortcomings, speaking the truth in love and trusting in God's grace, all will be well. If not today, then tomorrow. Thanks be, not to the House of Deputies nor the House of Bishops, but TO GOD

COMMENT: Most straight folks just don't get it when they talk about LGBT folk as an issue or a problem they don't realize how personal and how exposed we feel. That which should be intimate and internal has had to be exposed for all to see just to find out if we are WORTHY of their consideration. They think it is just a problem to be solved. For us it is the tender parts of our lives--the ones that we love, our families, our parishioners. Thank you, +Gene. I will always be eternally grateful that you would open your life for the rest of us. Now let's get on with being the Church.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

From the Cloud of Witnesses

From + Gene’s blog:

“ We also had a disturbing private (no one in the gallery) conversation in the House of Bishops that led me to feel discouraged about what lies ahead. That conversation is private, so I can't detail it, but there seems to be a kind of belligerent attitude toward the House of Deputies by some of our bishops. Their vision of the episcopate is way too "high and mighty" for my taste, or my theology, and I am not happy about it. The last thing we bishops need is a larger measure of arrogance. Didn't Jesus save his most serious criticism for the religious powers-that-be of his day who lorded their power and position over others?”

Comments: I am so glad to hear that at least one bishop has the same opinion as I. Over the past 15 years I have seen the devolution of the once revered position of bishop in the Episcopal Church. In my opinion, I have watched a singular movement, that of Romanizing of the Anglican catholic movement, take our once well-balanced polity off onto a quasi-Romish path. I see it in TEC and I see it in the Anglican Communion especially in the UK and various former colonies of the UK in Africa.

Now, don’t get me wrong! I am catholic to the core when it comes to the idea of a universal, liturgical, apostolically rooted faith. When I left Rome in the 1970’s I did not leave the catholic church! I came to a reformed catholicism that was current in theology and had a solid grounding in both western and eastern apostolic tradition. It is a type of catholicism that can support newness while understanding its roots. It is the Church that is strongly rooted in Jesus and the Scriptures without becoming mired in the past or in dogma.

The type of anglo-catholicism in TEC is not even really rooted in the Roman tradition either. This kind of anglo-catholicism is the aping of the outward trappings of Roman Catholicism without understanding the interior meanings of what it means to be Roman Catholic. It includes a slavish type of obedience that becomes a characterizing of the role of priest and bishop. It shoves the goodness of the offices into being what it never was—a place where one serves the Church, not rules it. It makes priests pawns and bishops arrogant politicians that care less for their flocks and more for their power. It is not surprising that Clarence Pope came running back from his trip into Roman Catholicism.

In the ‘70’s and early ‘80s bishops knew themselves to be servants of the servants of God. They knew that they had power only if there was a balance among the laity and clergy. They were accountable to the clergy of their dioceses because rectors had not only the right to criticize their bishops when they erred; they had the obligation to do so. It was implied in the kind of respect that clergy had for one another and for their bishop because they had elected him (and in those days it was always a him.)

Even in those areas where Anglo-Catholicism was not the overriding churchmanship, it is interesting that this image of overly powerful bishops has worked itself into the fabric of TEC. Perhaps it has fed the Boomer need for structure and surety. But it has not served TEC well. And even though we have lost many of the arch-Romish bishops such as Iker and Schofield, we still have enough in the House of Bishops who still see their role as ruling over the clergy and laity rather than working with them—being servants of the servants of God. It is not surprising for me to hear that there are those who are degrading of the House of Deputies--it is sort of like those who look down their noses at those who pay their salaries and give them the status they have. But I can understand why +Gene is disheartened.

The role of bishop in TEC is not one of power and entitlement. It is one of influence. It is one in which the leadership is to bring differing ideas together and bring some kind of consensus to the Christian community called a diocese and the House of Bishops. I am thankful for the witness of +Gene to this phenomenon in the HOB. Perhaps his humble presence will be seen as the way to go forward for the future.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

It’s About More Than Justice

Michael Hopkins, past president of Integrity was a colleague of mine in Washington, DC/ I have always appreciated the clarity of his thinking. I offer his words as folks prepare for General Convention.

One of the caricatures of the movement for full inclusion of gay, lesbian,
bisexual and transgender persons in the Episcopal Church is that for us it
is all about justice. It is about justice, of course, but it is also about
far, far more. It is about the very nature of Gospel.

“The Gospel” can be defined in as many ways as there are Christians, of
course. Jesus didn’t give us a neat definition with which to work. He did
say it was about the ability to change one’s mind, one’s sense of direction
(“repent and believe the good news”). But for the content of this good news
he used the metaphor of the kingdom of God and told a lot of stories. In
the end he acted out one great story with his life and his death. Overall,
the good news is about the overcoming of estrangement, reconciliation
between God and humankind and between human beings. We all have to trust in
his death and resurrection for this reconciliation to be the truth that sets
us free. This freedom is grace, as we call it, unmerited favor.

The inclusion of lgbt people in the life of the church is a radical sign of
this grace. People whom the law separates from the faithful are reconciled
by it. And this happens in spite of religious and secular authorities
desiring for it not to be so. They fear the breakdown of society if the
inclusion goes too far too fast, but it has always been thus with the
Church, which at its best has always scandalized the authorities, because
Jesus Christ was and is the greatest scandal of them all.

A well-meaning bishop once said to my then Senior Warden (who was relatively
new to the parish—it was a small parish, rebuilding) that it was great that
she chose to be a member of the parish in spite of the fact that I was gay.
My Senior Warden responded, “No, I’m a member of this parish because he is
gay. Because if God can love him then God can love me.”

That’s what this is about. This is not about a group of people clamoring
for their “rights.” It is about the power of the Gospel to reconcile across
every divide that humankind creates.

As a Christian who happens to be gay, St. Paul’s words that we will hear the
Sunday after General Convention is over (July 19) ring true and strong.

*But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by
the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both
groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the
hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and
ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the
two, thus making peace…*

To this truth, by the grace of God, the lives of glbt Christians bear

The Rev. Michael W. Hopkins