A mighty fortress is our God
A bulwark never failing;
Our helper he amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing;
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great,
And armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
--Hymn 687 of the 1982 Hymnal, Ein feste Burg
I’ve stopped trying to scrutinize why certain hymns start playing on the jukebox in my brain, but this old familiar tune kicked in at the end of today’s webcast featuring the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church and the Bishop of New York. The camera person focused on a crucifix in the room, zoomed in, and my brain began the soundtrack. The only thing missing were the rolling credits!
The webcast was the opportunity for those of us in Episcopaland to pose questions about the concluded Lambeth Conference to the Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori. Also on hand was Bishop Mark Sisk of the Diocese of New York. Each gave their opening statements, and talked about the deepening of conversations and contacts made with their brothers and sisters from all parts of the globe. And they both reiterated the importance of everyone to finally put a face to a particular name, or a particular province. As Bishop Sisk noted, the conference helped “incarnate the (Anglican) Communion”.
As a lesbian, the issue of the Anglican Covenant…and most especially the Archbishop's strongly-held desire for the moratoria on same-sex blessings, and ordinations of LGBT people has been on my mind (and in this blog). Both Jefferts-Schori and Sisk noted that almost all the bishops at Lambeth desired a co-operative spirit in the Communion, and not very many wanted to push for decisive votes to “kick out” anybody. Again, so much for the schism. But when it comes to this idea that the Episcopal Church here, and the Anglican Church in Canada, should adhere to the moratoria and exercise a period of “gracious restraint”, the Presiding Bishop noted: “We’ve been living in the season of gracious restraint.” She said what seems lost in translation is that the Episcopal Church in the United States has been wrestling with the issues of human sexuality and, specifically, homosexuality for more than forty years, and the conversations are not going to stop. And Bishop Sisk followed up with saying that in his discussions at Lambeth he found the problem was that most of the world was really uninformed….or misinformed….about the Episcopal Church.
Jefferts-Schori noted that one bishop from outside the United States spoke his truth about how difficult the consecration of Gene Robinson had made his job in his country where perhaps homosexuality…and sexuality….is simply not discussed, and dialogue on the topic is taboo. But she said this bishop also told her, “Your job is not to be making my job easier.”
As for part three of the moratoria….which calls for a halt to other Bishops coming in from the outside to ‘pastor’ the disaffected Episcopal Churches…Jefferts-Schori said there was no plan discussed for dealing with these incursions, and she is “not terribly hopeful it will stop.”
So…in summation: Lambeth did nothing to change the status of LGBT people in the church, and yet it did do something that may prove much, much more important in the long run. It gave leaders of the church time to reflect, to study, to pray together, and to see each other as members of the Body of Christ, and not the devil in their midst. A bishop from the Church of North India recently wrote:
"As for me I have decided not to be hasty in judging the gay and the lesbians. I wish to learn more about their life and problems."
Let's hear it for more dialogue and less demonizing!
And what about the Bishop of New Hampshire? Y'know that one, the only one, not allowed to play at Lambeth with his fellow purple-shirts? Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson’s “outsider” status provided something very important to the process as well. Those who made the effort to meet him saw him for who he really is…a bishop with a passion for the Good News as revealed through Jesus Christ…as opposed to whatever warped vision was being presented by people with an agenda to discredit him, and the Episcopal Church. That testimony speaks volumes to me, and I hope other LGBT people of faith; we must continue to present ourselves and not hide who we are...even if it means standing as strangers at the gate.
As the Presiding Bishop notes, “We are converted in incarnational encounters.”
So if we stay away, or if we pretend we’re not gay so we ‘pass’, how do we ever expect anything to ever change? And who do you really think you’re fooling? God knows your heart, and knows your desires. And you can forget about keeping secrets—God’s figured those out, too.
I can not tell anyone to go to church. I certainly can’t make anyone do it. But I will say that if you are a queer and identify as Christian, you can believe that God is not the one keeping you away.
So, what are you doin’ on Sunday morning?