The news for the LGBT community in 2012 was beyond amazing.
Openly-gay people elected to city councils, state legislatures, and Congress. A presidential administration that finally said there is nothing wrong with marriage equality which caused, what I would describe as, an earth-shifting event in our political discourse that led to LGBT people finally celebrating victories for their relationships at the ballot box.
The Episcopal Church further opened its doors to equality with the adoption of a rite for same-sex blessings, and giving the transgender members of the church the invitation to not only be included through their baptism, but to ascend to leadership, both lay and ordained. Amazing! Truly amazing.
Well, that is, if you live in those places where the truly amazing has been allowed to be the reality.
If you live in Florida, as I do, you can rejoice with your LGBT brothers and sisters and celebrate the advancement in the political arena with the election of two openly-gay members of the state legislature. As one who used to cover the state capital for public radio, I assure you that this development, and advancement, is huge. Some of the more homophobic representatives are gone, and so it is possible to hope and dream that maybe, just maybe, even Florida might see a brighter future for the LGBT community.
But there is still a long way to go, especially within the church.
If I drive across the bridge on Highway 98 into Apalachicola, I will be in the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast. The Episcopal bishop there, Philip Duncan III, is allowing priests and churches to use the new blessing rite in recognition of couples wishing to get the church's approval of their relationship. Go about a half-hour north of Tallahassee into Georgia, Bishop Scott Benhase is allowing a portion of the blessing rite to be used. My partner and I even attended what may well have been the first use of the new rite in Bainbridge, not exactly a hotbed of liberal thinking. Stay put in Tallahassee, the Diocese of Florida and, well.... is that the sound of crickets chirping?
There is definitely a stained-glass ceiling that still exists in parts of the Episcopal Church for LGBT people. The good actions at General Convention don't seem to reach down to the local level, particularly if you happen to live in some parts of the southeastern United States. But glass can, and does, break especially as more pressure mounts against it in the form of a firestorm that I call, "The Holy Spirit." Those bishops and dioceses that refuse to recognize that "equality is godly" are going to find themselves in a similar position that I see occuring in England. Bull-headedness and foot-dragging on entering into the 21st century on "gays and girls" has resulted in many of the churches in England standing empty on a Sunday morning. The vote on the Anglican Covenant in England should have said everything in respect to what the majority there think about the continued petty nonsense and hand-wringing about gays in the episcopate. New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson, only a few days from retiring now, is no longer "the gay bishop" in the United States, and the Episcopal Church hasn't collapsed. If anything, it is the actions happening in those parts of the country that have broken the stained-glass window that are drawing the interest of LGBT people of faith searching for something beyond themselves. Pay attention! Wake up! We are part of the future that God is creating for the church!
As I close out this entry, I am thinking again of the words my late dear friend, Fr. Lee Graham, left for me to ponder:
Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labour is not in vain. --1Cor. 15:58
A new year brings new opportunities for the LGBT community to raise up valleys and bring down mountains so that we all may stand on equal ground. For those of us who hold fast to our faith, it is also a time to light our candles and march them into our dioceses that insist on sitting in darkness. We are Christ's hands, feet, heart in the world today. And we are marching. We are marching. We are marching in the light of God.