Thursday, July 02, 2015
A Full and Equal Claim
Thirty-nine years ago, in 1976 (when I was still in high school), the Episcopal Church said through our General Convention
Resolved, that it is the sense of this General Convention that homosexual persons are children of God and have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church.
For 1976 this was a fairly bold statement, although Episcopal clergy and lay people all over the country had been working toward it for the previous ten to fifteen years. Among them was Dr. Louie Crew, founder of Integrity.
The 1976 resolution was a promissory note to the Church's "homosexual" members. Thirty-nine years later, with the passage yesterday of canons and liturgies that provide for equal marriage, the note has been substantially paid (which should not be taken as the end of the struggle, for there is much work to do after legislation has passed as our African-American and female members have taught us).
Nevertheless, I rejoice today, and John and I rejoice. Many worked hard over these past thirty-nine years. John and I were among them, for the past 30 years. Today we are grateful and humbled.
The only grey side of today for me is a statement by Bishop Dorsey McConnell of Pittsburgh, who said during the debate in the House of Bishops, “We have not been talking about this for 40 years; we have been having a pitched battle."
That statement is political rhetoric; it is not the truth. How has this change occurred? Yes, it has occurred through the democratic processes of the Episcopal Church and some of the exchanges in that process were certainly heated, and some saw them as a battle. But the "political" process would have been impossible without real, sacrificial witness on the part of countless LGBT Episcopalians and our allies during these thirty-nine years. And yes, that included dialogue with those who disagreed. I participated in more of them than I can remember, although I do remember one in which Bishop McConnell (then a humble parish priest) not only participated in but hosted.
These thirty-nine years have been a testimony to some basic biblical principles:
Do not let the foreigner joined to the Lord say, "The Lord will surely separate me from his people"; and do not let the eunuch say, "I am just a dry tree." For thus says the Lord: To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast to my covenant, I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. (Isaiah 56:3-5)
Then Jesus said to them, "The sabbath was made for humankind, not humankind for the sabbath."
[Jesus said,] Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, adn will eat in the kingdom of God. Indeed some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last."
[Peter said,] "I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him."..."If then God gave them the same gift [of the Holy Spirit] that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God" (Acts 10:34-35 & 11:17)
[Paul wrote,] "For in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of youas were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is not longer slave and free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.: (Galatians 3:26-28)
You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus...the only thing that counts is faith working through love." (Galatians 5:4-6)
"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. There is no law against these things. (Galatians 5:22-23).
As many times as I have had the Bible thrown in my face, words such as these have helped me keep my eyes on the prize. And these are not simply proof texts for me, but I have had the exquisite pleasure of living these realities in community with the parishes I have served and the people with whom I have worked and prayed across the country, and, indeed, around the world.
One could say that no the promissory note has not been paid, but it has come due, and the payment due is the unfettered proclamation of the Good News that the God we follow, who we know in Jesus Christ, and who has given each of us a share in the Holy Spirit, is the God of mercy, grace, and love for absolutely everybody. Everyone has a full and equal claim on the love of God.