|Rev. Danielle Morris of the diocese of Central Florida. Photo by S. Sheridan, ENS.|
The House of Bishops has approved a resolution calling for a churchwide response to the epidemic of bullying. They've also adopted a resolution to offer anti-discrimination protection for church employees who are transgender and opening ordination to transgender people. And there was a baptism using the fountain outside the Westin Hotel! How cool is that?!
The discussion is underway about same-sex blessings. There were more people who rose to speak in favor of resolution A049--a resolution to authorize liturgical resources for same-sex blessings. The chatter on blogs for weeks has been that this proposal, which is the product of last convention's resolution C056, was almost a "done deal." But I noticed as I scrolled through countless tweets that the opposition to A049 was largely coming from one diocese. More searching and I found out which one: Central Florida... with some additional help from the diocese of Southwest Florida.
Well, at least it wasn't the deputation from Jacksonville. But rather Orlando and Fort Myers. Still two dioceses in this state in which I live. I only wish that the report from the Episcopal News Service had revealed that someone, anyone, testifying in favor of A049 was from the Sunshine State. Miami? Ft. Lauderdale? Unfortunately, if they did, it wasn't in the report.
It seems fitting, then, to have the Gospel of Mark for this Sunday be the passage in which Jesus realizes that he will not be able to make headway with his message in his home town, and so he and his apostles move on. And he sends them out, two by two, to take the good news to the people with these instructions:
He said to them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them."--Mark 6:10-11
It would seem to me that if I were an LGBT Episcopalian living in either of those dioceses I would be ready to shake the dust off my feet as I walk out the door. During the testimony, one of the priests from Central Florida looked at a young gay man from Duke University and told him he would be welcomed in her church, and then went on to implore gay people to be sensitive to the consequences of having the Episcopal Church welcome us as full members. She noted that by pressing for our full inclusion, we were putting Christians living in predominantly Muslim countries at risk. Because Christian would then equal gay and that wouldn't sit well with Muslim leadership.
I have heard this argument before. And I have said in a prior blog entry that the sick part of what is happening with Christians in Muslim countries is that many of those Christians have turned on LGBT people and persecuted my African and Asian brothers and sisters resulting in death, imprisonment and general fear. And let's face it: the divisions between Muslims and Christians, and the dangers of fundamentalist fury in foreign countries, existed long before there was any hope of same-sex blessings in the Episcopal Church. Asking us to continue to live in a crucified place is not OK.
Many of us in the southern United States continue to live in that crucified place in a way that our brothers and sisters in the northern urban areas do not. Even as I celebrate the turning tide toward full justice occurring at General Convention, I am also aware that no matter what happens in Indianapolis, laws and canons in Florida will not change. Church-wide things might be different, but as the old advertising campaign used to say, "Florida: the rules are different here." It seems our church can move forward in many parts of the country, but we refuse to budge from our bygone era in Florida. A049 allows for the trial use of same-sex blessings, but our bishop won't allow our priests to use them. Period.
Shall I simply shake off the dust of this place? The Mark passage is similar to the message delivered to Ezekiel: "I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, 'Thus says the Lord God.' Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them."
I think it's incumbent on all LGBT Episcopalians in this state to not shrink and fold in the face of opposition to our full inclusion. The Spirit is speaking to the church and is calling the larger body to move more in the direction of making all of us in the LGBT community welcomed guests to the party. We must continue to live and love as we do and claim our place in the body of Christ. There is a reason so many of us are coming back to the church. And there is a reason so many of us who want to come back stay away. We must ask the groups such as Integrity to give attention to places such as Florida and equip us with what we need to educate about LGBT inclusion and lessen the fears about us. I, for one, would rather stand in a prophetic place than a crucified place.