By now, most have heard the news that The Episcopal Church in both its House of Bishops and House of Deputies at General Convention has adopted resolutions that permit two new trial marriage rites and instructs an understanding of marriage that would include same-gender couples by eliminating the words "man and woman." These votes did not happen willy nilly. There was time for discussion. There was time to file amendments. There was most definitely time for prayer. And then there was time for voting. And the outcome was for marriage equality in the sacraments.
There are some who don't see it as equality. There are some who think this is a rush toward changing centuries of tradition in favor of a minority within the church. They feel as strongly in their righteousness as I feel in my convinction that the righteous act is to include all who are baptized into all the sacraments.
There has been much ink written by people on both sides of the political spectrum of the church about this issue, and I don't need to rehash all that, or engage in arguments about the many definitions of marriage over the centuries, not to mention how marriage came to be a sacramental rite to begin with. I am happy to leave that to others to parse out. Instead, for me, I am interested in the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court presented our country with a new reality, for all of us, where I am afforded the fundemental civil right of marriage in all 50 states. This reality has been recognized by the Episcopal Church as it seeks to minister to the LGBTQ+ community which has been so hurt by the institutional church. Whether any one person or bishop agrees with this reality or not is immaterial; it is the reality. And so where do we go from here?
"The wolf shall lie down with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a child shall lead ." (Is. 11:6)
As one who has been in the minority for a long, long time in the church, both at the intersection of being a lesbian and being a woman, I certainly understand what it feels like to be getting the short end of the stick on any particular matter. So, to the ones who are hurting at the moment, I know you are. And to the ones who hold the longer end of said stick, who continuously feel the need to remind me how to be generous to those who are hurting, thanks, but please stop lecturing me on how to exhibit Christian love. Again, I have had ample opportunity as a lesbian in the church in a much more conservative part of the country to know the pain of those who have experienced being in the minority. I am willing to listen to what pains the more conservative person about this vote. What I am not willing to do is to say that their pain is reason for me to continue being denied my place in the body of Christ. We all are part of this body, the conservative and the liberal, the wolf and the lamb. And in God's economy, everyone is a stockholder and there are no "sides"; only people.
This is why I think the first step for those dioceses where there is still a lot of hurt and division over the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell and the passage of resolutions A054 and A036 is for there to be a listening process across the diocese where everyone who wants to say something is given that opportunity. I believe this may serve two important purposes: one is to allow people the opportunity to give voice to their fears as well as their hopes in the march toward more faith in our risen Christ to guide us toward respecting the dignity of everyone. Some bishops may also take this opportunity to hear the full range of the voice of the Spirit as he or she discerns the best way forward for their diocese. The Holy Spirit dwells within all the faithful; listening to all the faithful of a diocese is one way to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church.
This will take time. It will take effort. And it will be worth it. If people are heard, both in their hurt and their joy, it will make whatever is the final decision of the bishop something more palatable. The only ones who won't be satisfied are the ones who insist it's their way or the highway.
At a pre-convention forum at St. John's Episcopal Church in Tallahassee, someone asked if the resolutions were going to result in people leaving the Episcopal Church. After the rector gave his polite answer, I gave the answer inspired by the words of a crazy Christian, the late Fr. Lee Graham:
"Oh, people have been leaving the Episcopal Church for decades over all kinds of things!" I continued, "We shouldn't be focusing on our fears. We should live into the faith that we have."
"The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder's den. They will not hurt or destroy on my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." (Is. 11: 8-9)
I cannot promise that there will not be attempts to hurt and destroy. It is my hope that, as people of God, we will refrain from attacking one another and instead make a true commitment to the belief that God is working God's purpose out, and put in the time and effort to meet one another and see Christ in each other through honest discussions. In God, as in the Episcopal Church, there are no outcasts. This is my prayer for those dioceses where there is strife and discord.
We're all going to be OK. Really, we're all going to be OK. Trust that the shoot coming from the root of Jesse will only be made stronger if we all commit to making it work.