Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Enough Already!

Readers of this blog, however many and whoever you all are, have seen that the previous two entries were devoted to the story of the McCaffrey family and the saga of their desire to get their adopted baby boy, Jack, baptized at the Cathedral of St. Luke's in Orlando. The cathedral dean canceled the baptism when some members complained about Jack's parents being a married gay couple. This led to an online posting that then led to a massive outcry which eventually brought the couple to meet with Bishop Greg Brewer of the diocese of Central Florida last Thursday evening. All parties seemed to have felt that they had had a frank and honest discussion. Most importantly, the bishop has committed that Jack will receive the sacrament of baptism at the cathedral some time this summer, and Jack's dads have said they really do wish to continue attending the cathedral. And I am grateful that Baby Jack is too young to know what a stir his inclusion into the Body of Christ has caused, and that he obviously has two dads who love him dearly and were willing to stick this out so their son may grow in the faith of Christ. 

For his part, Bishop Brewer issued a statement about the whole affair, acknowledging the injury caused in canceling the baptism. And while the bishop clearly has not changed his mind on the broader questions of full inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in all the sacraments of the church, he made some good theological arguments to the members of his diocese in a pastoral letter on the affair, noting that the sacrament of baptism doesn't happen within just the immediate family of the newly-baptized:

"Congregations often assume, wrongly, that it is the prime responsibility of the parents to raise their baptized children as Christians with the local church only playing a supportive or secondary role. As a result, congregations often consider the baptism service as a welcoming celebration they watch, instead of a corporate act of re-consecration for the entire congregation- including a sacramental baptism that changes the child’s life forever. In a service of baptism, God acts in grace and the congregation acts in prayerful and sacrificial love.

If we are called to “do all in our power to support this person,” that promise implies a level of effort far greater than having a good Sunday school program. Instead, the implication of the baptismal liturgy is that the task of raising that child into the “full stature of Christ” is primarily that of the local congregation, of which the parents and sponsors are coequal members. It assumes that congregations get personally involved in the lives of the newly baptized and their families through their prayers and the building of friendships. Acting in concert for the raising up of children in Christ takes seriously the fact that such children are full members of the Body and worthy of our best efforts of discipleship, love and pastoral care."

As I've said, I give the McCaffreys praise for their willingness to pull out the stops to get their son baptized in the Episcopal Church as practiced in Central Florida. And with that in mind, I can only hope that they were not present for the service yesterday morning at the cathedral where the Canon for Pastoral Care, the Rev. Gary L'Hommedieu, delivered a nearly 17-minute sermon that, once again, attempted to re-cast the events that led to the initial denial of Jack's baptism, and claim that the scandal that enveloped their cathedral was due to "diversity activists" on the west coast. As I listened to what really sounded more like a theological rant than a sermon, I was drawn back to the line that the Canon used at the start of his diatribe:

"I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."--John 15:12.

What did he hear in those words? I'm not sure he heard the same things I did about loving those with whom you agree and disagree, at least not based upon what he said. Based on what he said, I have to wonder if he doesn't see the McCaffreys as being among the thieves and the wolves out to scatter the sheep of the cathedral flock by coming in. He says they weren't "a cause" but a family wishing to join the cathedral. Nobody said they were "a cause," and had the cathedral baptized their baby boy as scheduled, then the "diversity activists" wouldn't have had anything to say now, right? And let's be clear: the cause isn't Jack's two dads. The "cause," if you want to use that term , is the baptism. That denial of baptism was simply one more example to those of us who have heard the stories out of that diocese of how mistreated and spiritually abused gay Episcopalians are in that diocese. Yes, there are those who had hoped the McCaffreys would take on other issues and bones the community has to pick with the bishop. Many of us, however, understand that their one concern is for their child. And you cannot compel anyone to take up other complaints if that's not the passion in their belly. That will be left to others to do the work that is like what the prophet Nathan did with King David and tell the Bishop, "You have not done well by gay people, sir."  

Still, if the Rev. Canon L'Hommedieu's sermon says anything to me, it's that the willingness to attack anyone who questions their status quo in Central Florida is alive and well. And I say, if you believe in those words of Jesus from John's gospel, then enough already! Quit defending an indefensible position and casting it as the good shepherd protecting the sheep. Really, are the LGBTQ+ faithful now "the wolves"? Is this what Love looks like?

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