There was much celebration and rejoicing at the news that the Church of England has finally said, "Yes," to women becoming bishops. However, there is a caveat: if a congregation objects to a female see, they can request oversight from a male bishop. And the seeds of likely schism begin to be sowed. Still, there is something to be joyful about. As the Reverend Elizabeth Kaeton of "Telling Secrets" aptly noted: the Church of England has dipped a big toe into the baptismal font of the 20th century. And those in the Southeastern United States say, "Bless their hearts!"
As you might imagine, this caused much venomous grumbling and declaring the Church of England apostate and all kinds of other nastiness coming from the Anglican Church of North America and their lot. A Facebook friend, and fellow Episcopalian who is attending St. John's in Tallahassee, made the mistake of visiting the ACNA sites and seeing, first-hand, what hate they harbor toward the Episcopal Church, and anyone who believes women... and by extension the LGBT faithful...have a place in the church. He noted that St. John's suffered a very painful schism back in 2005 when the rector marched out on a Sunday with many of the most wealthy and well-connected members of the congregation to start his own church. Seeing the commentary on the CoE vote only served to rip the scab off the wound of that event for him. Like with so much that makes headlines, my friend had seen the ugliness and recalled the pain as if it were yesterday that this split had occurred.
But it wasn't yesterday: it was on October 2, 2005. And, as I responded to him, that was the day that the chains that had barred so many faithful queer people, me and him included, came off the doors of St. John's. Terrible, awful, rotten-to-the-core event that it was, that split had to happen, in my opinion, if St. John's Episcopal Church was going to be saved from its long bath in the sinful waters of homophobia. The place was burning with anger and rage toward the Episcopal Church, and there was an air of suspicion that hung over every conversation in the place. So it was time for the fire to be extinguished. And out of those ashes came new life. It took time but today that parish is doing very well.
Also doing well has been the fight for marriage equality in Florida and elsewhere. A Monroe County Circuit Court judge found Florida's discrimination against lesbian and gay couples getting married is unconstitutional. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals also upheld marriage equality in Oklahoma. But even with these victories, the opponents of marriage equality are still fighting on, appealing the decisions, forcing more delays of the inevitable. The same day that the Florida case happened, the rest of the world had their eyes on the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, en route to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam. A third of the passengers on that flight were activists, scientists and some of the top researchers in the field of HIV/AIDS. The plane was apparently attacked with a ground to air missile launched from just inside the border of Ukraine, an area that has been rocked by the Russian invasion of the country. And as information dribbles out, it appears the Russians are likely responsible for this horrendous act that has killed many engaged in a humanitarian effort to relieve suffering in Africa and Asia.
This evening, as I sat at dinner with friends celebrating a birthday, I happened to go to my phone in search of information about an event on Facebook. I was stunned to read that one of my friends from St. John's had passed away quite suddenly. She had been ill, but this was unexpected. I had to excuse myself from the table to go outside, pray, and cry, before I could head back into a joyful dinner.
Ups and downs. Life and death. Good news and bad news. We all want things to be safe. But even safety is an illusion. Part of our journey of being alive and in the world is that we will experience life in abundance... and that means we're going to have unpleasant stuff happen in our private world. The trick is to remember that no matter what: Good Friday is followed by Easter every year on the calendar. There is a change that comes with that, but not every change is bad... and quite frequently, it's good.
Strap in. The rollercoaster is still moving on the tracks!