Sunday, September 19, 2010

Prayerful Challenges

It's not easy being a queer. And it's really not easy being a queer Christian. But do we really have to heap it on by asking us to pray for those who are participating in our persecution half way around the world?
During our Anglican Cycle of Prayer portion of Prayers of the People, we offered up petitions for the Anglican Church in Uganda, and I felt a pit forming in my stomach. The Ugandan Church has put out more vitriol about gay people and has been an unofficial partner in the efforts in that country to persecute... and even execute... LGBT people. Ugandan Anglican Archbishop Henri Orombi has visited Tallahassee, not to see St. John's, but to offer his support to the group that left St. John's to form St. Peter's Anglican Church, a founding member of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). During his visit, he reportedly mocked St. John's for (of all things) not having enough parking! Besides that being a lie, in the vernacular of the day: What. Ev. Er. Even as recently as last month, Bishop Orombi affirmed his continued opposition to homosexuality and LGBT people being faithful members of the church.

"Homosexuality is evil, abnormal and unnatural as per the Bible. It is a culturally unacceptable practice. Although there is a lot of pressure, we cannot turn our hands to support it," says Bishop Orombi.( "Uganda: African Bishops Unite to Denounce Homosexuality" August 29, 2010)
With that as the backdrop, to hear my fellow Eucharistic Minister asking us to pray for the Anglican Church of Uganda was asking A LOT of me and all the other LGBT people in the congregation. It gave me great pause, and great sadness. As a member of the harassed and hated sexual minority in parts of the Anglican Communion, I find it extremely difficult to be charitable toward my oppressors. As I've noted before on this blog, Uganda was the companion diocese of New Hampshire, and so I was used to praying for them every week. Note that Uganda was the companion; that relationship has been severed. And the cutting of the ties was from their end.
My feelings really came to a head as we began the Liturgy of the Table. I recalled the words of Los Angeles Bishop Suffragan Mary D. Glasspool, who noted that as long as we can come to the table and break bread together, we are OK. It's when we can't do that, that we're in trouble. I found myself getting emotional, which is never good when you're up in front of the congregation. But I couldn't help it. The table of our Anglican Communion has had a food fight, and the Ugandans and other Africans have declared they don't want to break bread with us. In some cases, they have refused to go to the table because of the presence of our Presiding Bishop. And they refuse to share in the Eucharist with the likes of me.
In reading about our early church founders, it would seem that such behavior would have been classified as a "sin". Regardless of who is at the table with you as a guest, your host is God. Period. And if you do not honor God with the full presence of your being, then you have retained sin which is the division from God.
With that in mind, and the words of my consistent prayer (Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me), I went to our table at St. John's. Because no matter what is being said of me and other gay people in some parts of Africa, they are not the ones inviting me into relationship with God through the Eucharist. That comes through God, and God only. Looking into the faces and the eyes of other members of St. John's over the chalice was the constant reminder that I am fortunate to have a community of believers where I am accepted in a county where we have adopted a progressive Human Rights Ordinance. Christ is present and alive in our congregation.
The Church of Uganda does need prayers. Prayers for deliverance from their fear of faithful people of God who are gay. Maybe then they'll come back to the table.


Anonymous said...

Thoughtfully and well written, Susan.
I think and hope that your new Padre sees this.


SCG said...

Thanks Peggins. The "padre" doesn't know about my blog.

Phoebe said...

But, I do. And I say 'right on'. I only serve at the table of God. I like the invitation from APBA.. "Come, let us take this holy sacrament of the body and blood of Christ...."

Also the breaking of bread... "As this broken bread was once many grains, which have been gathered together and made one bread, so may your church be gathered from the ends of the earth into your kingdom."

SCG said...

Love that language, Phoebe. Welcome home!