One small step for a rector. One giant leap toward transparency and dialogue for one Episcopal parish.
During the 10AM service this morning at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Father Lupton Abshire announced that “For the Bible Tells Me So” would be playing on Saturday, June 28th, at the Mickee Faust “Playhouse” (OK, we call it a Clubhouse…but details, details) in Railroad Square. Father Abshire built up to “the lead” by talking about the controversy that has faced the Episcopal Church around the issue of sexuality. He made a reference back to his sermon topic which (and I’m being very broad here) talked a little bit about those “things” we’re uncomfortable talking about in the Episcopal Church (words like “hell”, “sin”) He mentioned that he knew Bishop Gene Robinson because Fr. Abshire was ordained a priest in the Diocese of New Hampshire by then-Bishop Douglas Theuner, Robinson’s predecessor. He noted that Bishop Robinson’s story is in the film, that he has seen the movie and recommends it, and hopes to show it some day at St. John’s. The more that he spoke about the movie, the quieter it was in the room. In fact, it was silent. And then, when he said it was being shown at Mickee Faust, there were scattered chuckles in the church, a sign that there were a few Faust audience members in the pews this morning. Either that, or it was people who knew of Faust's bawdy and brazen reputation, and thought, "You're joking, right?!"
One of the citizens of Faustlandia, a man who is a Eucharistic Minister, stopped me on the way out of the church and was all smiles.
“Mickee Faust is gonna show that movie? That’s great. I’m going!”
“It’s at eight on Saturday!” I said.
“Eight o’clock. I’ll be there!”
The mother of one of our house band members also talked to me about it. And she wanted to know if Eclectic Acoustic would be playing, and I laughed.
“No, we’ll give them the night off for that event!”
I wish I could take credit for the free publicity in front of an audience full of faithful Episcopalians, but the reason for the announcement is largely because my 81-year-old mother pushed to have him say something, and she wasn’t going to take no for an answer. And you don’t get between my mother and her cause.
Still, the fact that The Rector took the time he did to explain his connection to Bishop Robinson, and put it out there that a secular group was showing this movie, I think, opens a door or three toward bringing those people who are grounded in their faith into contact with a community of people, many of whom are gay or gay-friendly and have suffered abuse at the hands of people who say they are Christian. And I can only hope that such a meeting will reveal to both sides that faithful people and Faustian weirdos can get along and find common ground in wanting to end discrimination against the sexual minorities.
Making an announcement might not seem like much, and it is a small step in the grander scheme of life. But if such an announcement can bring a room to silence and attention….and maybe encourage some folks to go to a movie….then this is also the beginning of undoing the damage wrought under Fr. Eric Dudley and his “Kick a Queer for Christ” brigade. Because by making this announcement, permission is now granted from “the authorities” to talk about sexuality and the different expressions of it in the larger context of what it means to do God’s will “on earth as it is in heaven.” And it means that at St. John’s, on a Sunday in June, there was a moment in which the outside world was allowed to come inside…and be seen as the host for a movie of interest and importance to Christians.
Again, I’ll be very interested to see who the audience will be for this film. How many church-going Christians will attend? How open will they be to hearing the movie’s message? And how many Faustkateers will watch this presentation, or will they decide they have to file their nails on a Saturday night?
Guess we'll know at 8pm on Saturday, June 28th!