"Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.’ When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then he said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ He said further, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
Then the Lord said, ‘I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.’ But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’ He said, ‘I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.’" –Exodus 3:1-12
It was by chance of friendship (or perhaps it was the doing of the Divine) that I read this passage about the burning bush this morning. It’s actually the assigned passage for the noon-day eucharist for Wednesday, and hence was the jumping off point for a sermon by my mentor. Still, it seems like an appropriate read for a day when so many of us who are LGBT Episcopalians are feeling as though God has finally heard our cry for justice. There is no way to accurately articulate what it feels like to be gay in a country where the core of who you are, the very basic and intimate part of you, is constantly up for debate, and votes, and denials of all kinds by the majority. Believe me when I say I feel like an insect under a microscope every time another politician goes off on a rant about the ‘gay agenda’ or the media examines a question like, "Should same-sex marriages be legal?"
Knowing how crappy that is, it becomes compounded when an institution such as the Church decides to open its lens of scrutiny on my being. Suddenly, all those Scriptural readings about God knowing me and consecrating me long before I was born seem good enough for God, but not good enough for the Anglican Communion. The fact that in this country, even in the parish where I worship, the presence of gays has been the excuse for breaking relationship with the Episcopal Church and attempting to take the property has hurt deeply. And these court battles over buildings and land continue to this day.
So the actions in Anaheim, which are far greater than I had expected, have really felt like God has noted the misery of the LGBT faithful… and has, in fact, now delivered us. Don’t know if there’s any milk or honey just yet, but at least I know it’s available on the menu.
And even in my glee, I am reminded that while I am happy, others are not feeling the freedom that I am feeling, and would probably resent the characterization of being like the Egyptians. Where I live, here in the southeastern United States, the vast majority of our dioceses were the ones who voted "No" in the House of Bishops (I don’t have numbers on the House of Deputies). No doubt, the ones who lost on the D025 vote are feeling the same way I felt when a woman became Presiding Bishop… and then aided in passing B033, which put the moratoria on same-sex blessings and allowing LGBT people to be bishops. Or, to use a secular analogy, Obama becomes the first African-American president… and my state votes to write a ban on same-sex marriage into the state constitution.
Many advocated for taking things slower, being more cautious. One deputy from Central Florida, sensing the mood that seems to be pervasive in Anaheim, scoffed: "What Integrity (the LGBT Episcopal Group) wants, Integrity gets!" And I know he wasn’t talking about the desire to spread the Good News. In other words, that kicked in the teeth feeling, and even righteous anger, is something that the LGBT faithful have felt and we understand it. All the more reason for us NOT to walk away from each other. If there’s anybody who is going to know the pain of feeling "unheard", it will be your gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.
Still, I wish it were that people wouldn’t see the gains made by the LGBT community as losses to them. The assumption seems to be that if I get a pork chop, then I must have been given the whole pig. Believe me when I say, "It’s just a pork chop, and there’s plenty of loin and bacon for you, too!" To put it in terms of Scripture, one need only look at the feeding of the five thousand to see that all who come and sit down on the grass will be given exactly what they need, exactly the portion they need… and there still will be left-overs. Do not be afraid.
So, I do understand that not everybody is going to be happy with this result. But I also believe that if we are going to be people of God then we must trust that God has a reason for these results… and that anything that is of God is good. If this means adjusting our relationship, then let’s see how we’ll make it work. I speak only for me as one lone lesbian in the Church when I say that I have been called back into the fold after being in exile, and I have been patient with my straight brothers and sisters in Christ. Remember that I live in your world, and must obey your laws which do not treat me equally. To know that the Church is beginning to resemble St. Paul’s words that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female… and now straight or gay… is really the good news that I would hope we both can enjoy!
This entry began with the burning bush story. A powerful image, a moment where God speaks directly to humankind in the person Moses. And even as that fire is burning, the bush is not consumed, and God promises to be with Moses who has no idea how he’s going to stand up to Pharaoh and lead the Israelites. And so rather than us worrying too much about what’s next with our relationships with the rest of the Anglican Communion, why don’t we remove our sandals and stay still at this moment to hear what God is saying. Perhaps it’s that beating heart our Presiding Bishop described: "Mission. Mission. Mission."