Saturday, May 9, 2015

Who Can Withhold the Water of Baptism?

In the previous entry on this blog, I shared the sad tale of the McCaffrey family and their baby boy named Jack. All they wanted to do was baptize their son at the Cathedral of St. Luke, the Episcopal Cathedral in Orlando. Everything seemed in order for this to occur on April 19th at an evening service, until some unnamed people apparently complained that Jack has two daddies and this would cause a scandal at the church. The Dean, Anthony Clark, told the dads there was a "development." And after getting nowhere for two weeks, one of the dads posted the story to social media...which then was like the shot heard round the world as it was shared and shared and finally ended up in the Orlando Sentinel, a reputable state newspaper. Now the Bishop of the diocese of Central Florida decided to meet with the dads, in the evening, "to get to know them and for them to get to know him" (these are his words, not mine.) The bishop wanted to make sure that these two gentlemen "intended" to raise Jack "in the Christian faith." This all took place on Thursday, and by Friday, the news broke that the bishop and the McCaffreys had come to an agreement that the baptism would take place at some unspecified time this summer at the cathedral. Rich McCaffrey put out a statement on Facebook in appreciation of everyone's support and noted that their family wanted to stay at the cathedral because they believe there is more good in people than bad. And so there is a happy outcome from what was an unnecessarily awful story.

I admire the McCaffreys for standing up for their son, and their willingness to forgive the offense that was committed against him in acknowledging that they have found the cathedral community to be a welcoming place. I am also pleased for so many priests in the Episcopal Church that they have the lesson from the Book of Acts as their backdrop to juxtapose with this story:

On Peter's arrival Cornelius met him, and falling at his feet, worshiped him. But Peter made him get up, saying, "Stand up; I am only a mortal." 

Then Peter began to speak to them: "I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, "Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days. 

It is stunning to me that anyone would ever say no to any child being brought forward for baptism. I find it infuriating that the church spends as much energy as it does attempting to hold back sacraments from people. I get tired of the ways that the people of God attempt to out think God's intent for other people, and substitute their human understanding and claim that it is God's will. 

God's will doesn't seem too complicated to me. It can be summed up in one line out of the Gospel lesson:
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. (John 15:12)

And yet, we continue to operate as if love is a scarce commondity. The theologian Henri Nouwen really nailed this point in a passage from his book, "Bread for the Journey,":
As fearful people we are inclined to develop a mind-set that makes us say:  "There's not enough food for everyone, so I better be sure I save enough for myself in case of emergency," or "There's not enough knowledge for everyone to enjoy; so I'd better keep my knowledge to myself, so no one else will use it" or "There's not enough love to give to everybody, so I'd better keep my friends for myself to prevent others from taking them away from me."   This is a scarcity mentality.  It involves hoarding whatever we have, fearful that we won't have enough to survive.  The tragedy, however, is that what you cling to ends up rotting in your hands.

The behavior exhibited in the intial denial of baptism was definitely rotten. The denial of any sacrament of the church to LGBT people will also continue the decay of the institution that the hoarders of Love want to protect. 

I wish the McCaffreys well and hope their sweet baby boy will be welcomed into the Body of Christ sooner rather than later. And as they become more active in the life of the cathedral, I hope they will be included in all the various levels of ministry, something that has been elusive for other lesbian and gay Episcopalians in that diocese. If God shows no partiality, why should the church?

1 comment:

Phoebe said...

I would like the Dean and Bishop to do a theological reflection on this! Especially focus on the question the Church of the people vs the Church of God.