Saturday, February 2, 2013

Mississippi Goddam? No, Damn Good!

The title of this post may be a bit off-putting unless you know the music of Nina Simone. The artist sang with power and purpose her anger with the state of Mississippi and its deplorable treatment of blacks during the civil rights struggle. Her feelings were justified. They were painful, and understandable.

Mississippi is not one of the nation's progressive leaders. I bear a personal grudge against the state after a trooper pulled his gun on me when he stopped my friend along I-10. Granted, I should never have attempted to approach the man to ask a question, but I was also unarmed. Never was I happier to get over the border into Alabama. And THAT is saying something!

All of this to say that when I saw the headline from Episcopal Cafe that Bishop Duncan Gray of Mississippi announced he would allow the use of the Same-sex Blessing liturgy in his diocese, I was floored. +Gray had voted against the resolution in the House of Bishops. He wrote a long letter to the diocese explaining why he voted the way he did, and emphasized that there would be no blessings there. So, to see that as they meet in their Diocesan Council, he announced he had had a change of heart was.... well, I'm dumbstruck.

The Rt. Rev. Duncan Gray started by announcing that he is seeking a bishop coadjutor. That's the usual step someone takes when they want to retire and pass the reigns of leadership onto another person who learns the ropes with the sitting bishop. Then he told the Diocesan Council, he's prepared to allow clergy and churches to make use of the new rite if they so choose. In a Twitter message, CJ Meaders wrote:"I have chosen to take this step so that the deep emotion can be born by me and not at the outset of new episcopacy" B. Gray

And all I can say is, "Well done, good and faithful servant." I am truly heartened when one who was opposed to the liturgy rite doesn't stop listening and wrestling with the Holy Spirit. And that is what I believe is going on with many of these bishops.

Needless to say, it is a reminder again of Florida's Pharaoh-like stance on this issue. Our diocesan convention came and went last weekend in apparently record time. We celebrated 175 years in high-fashion with pageantry and dinner parties. But when it came to the brass tacks of doing the work that God is calling us to do, it seems that the only concern was for the pension of retired clergy with no discussion or debate of any of the other developments from General Convention... especially the rite for same-sex blessings. That is very disappointing. I've heard that part of the issue for Florida is that during the earlier part of this century, the diocesan conventions were highly contentious and combative affairs. There was an effort afoot to take Florida out of the Episcopal Church, the same way Pittsburgh and others took off.

But all of that was almost a decade ago. And there isn't the same atmosphere any more. Still, the trauma seems to have trapped some into a loop that needs to be short-circuited so that they, and the rest of this diocese, can move forward in Love.

Perhaps Mississippi can serve as an example of hope for those still hiding in the shadows of their fears.


Phoebe McFarlin said...

I hope and pray that the loop of avoidance is cut so that the councils of this diocese can once again work as they should. It is time that we find the 'peace that casts out fear'.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Good news, indeed, and surprising to me. I admire Bishop Duncan for his decision to allow the blessings now and take the first heat, rather than bequeath the immediate after-effects to his successor.

SCG said...

I agree, Mimi! I think his decision to do this, and be responsible and responsive to the diocese, shows a great deal of personal and spiritual maturity. This could not have been easy for him in light of his previous position. He will most definitely be in my prayers as he works through all this with those who are in joy, as well as those in pain, by this decision.

And Phoebe: all I can say is that it is time for this diocese to stop sticking its head into the sand of Jacksonville Beach!