Sunday, July 22, 2012

Three Clerics

Our congregation enjoyed listening to a visiting priest this morning. I happened to attend the "family-friendly" service where she told a story of three clerics:
One who believed that only ones who would get into heaven were those who followed the ancient traditions;
One who believed that only ones who would get into heaven were those who followed the ways of the mega-churches; and 
One who believed that only ones who would get into heaven were those who follow their hearts, respect one another and do the right thing.
The three were friends and often met for conversation, but their meetings always ended in arguments and anger. Despite that they continued to meet throughout their lives.

Ultimately, all three died and found themselves on the threshold of Heaven, where they were met by St. Pete (no relation that I know of ;-). St. Pete welcomed the three.
To the first he said, "Welcome! You may sit with those, over there, who also assiduously followed the ancient traditions." 
To the second he said, "Welcome! You may sit with those, over there, who also assiduously followed the practices of the mega-churches." 
To the third he said, "Welcome! Feel free to wander among the groups and go anywhere you want.
Our visiting priest wrapped the story by describing the third cleric's stroll around Heaven. He found that others strolling around included the saints and Jesus. She pointed out that the genesis of this story dates back to the Roman occupation of Israel. She ended with a description of what she observed at General Convention, that The Episcopal Church had taken a step in the direction of respecting one another.

FWIW. I thought it was interesting and might be to y'all.



BTW, You might be interested in reading the blog by Immediate Past President of the House of Deputies of the General Convention of The Episcopal Church, Bonnie Anderson [holy mackerel, what a title], here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Separate But (un) Equal – Still

At one point General Convention, 2012, Resolution A049, "The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant, Liturgical Resources for Blessing Same-Sex Relationships" had the phrase "same-sex" deleted. I successfully fought for that deletion in committee meetings. The House of Bishops put it back in. The House of Deputies accepted the amendment – primarily, I guess, because we did have a blessing rite for same sex relationships. I even spoke in favor of passage in the House of Deputies. But...

Why do we need, still, to deny some of our brothers and sisters total and complete access to all the rites of our church? Why is there a need for a "Resources for Blessing Same-Sex Relationships?" Why can't we have "Resources for Blessing All Committed, Long Term Relationships" ... period. Better yet, why can't we, The Episcopal Church, have a marriage rite that is open to all couples willing to declare their commitment to each other – regardless of the way members of that couple express their sexuality?

The General Convention, 2012, did take some (other) big strides. The Convention adopted an amendment to the Canons of The Episcopal Church (D002 & D019) to include, in leadership positions and among aspirants for ordination, those among us who express or identify their gender differently from their physiological sex. People who fall into this category are referred to as trans-gender. Because I am just learning about the members of this category, I feel a need to tread gently, so I will leave it to others to elaborate. Suffice it to say, it is a significant step in the inclusion of all in our great church.

I came to my current understanding of inclusiveness late in life. My background is conservative, high church. Sexuality was, for me, an either-or thing. One was either female or male (nothing in between). God, the Father was masculine. Christ was masculine. The Holy Ghost (yes Ghost) was masculine. Men ran the church. Only males were permitted to be acolytes. That was the way it was. That was the way it was supposed to be.

As a consequence of being asked to present a couples' communication workshop at a church where there were a number of same-sex couples (some who, potentially, might attend), I had to confront my bigotry. I wrestled with my fears, prejudices, inaccurate understandings.... Hard! Long! Toss-and-turn nights.

I guess God must have sprayed WD40 on the rusty hinges of my mind and an epiphany occurred. Slowly (way too slowly and way too late) I realized that God's human creatures all (all) contain the image of Christ; that one's understanding of one's gender is just one point on a wide spectrum; and that we all (me, too) must "respect the dignity of every human being."

I have to admit that I am – still – uncomfortable in some situations. I sometimes want to ease that discomfort by reverting to my "them/us" mentality; to exclude those who make me feel uncomfortable. I have to work at overcoming that feeling of discomfort. I give thanks for those who are tolerant and understanding of my discomfort.

Although I am (shall we say) past my prime, I will continue to fight for the rights of all couples to have both the legal protections and Episcopal Church recognition of their marriages no matter what their gender. And I will continue to fight for full inclusion of all in all aspects of our great church. I invite you to join me.

And... I often refer to God as "she." So there!