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Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Voice of Authority Speaks

Well, over at House of Bishops/Deputies List, we got this quote from Kirk Hadaway, staff to the Committee on the State of the Church, who oversees the parochial report information via Deputy Ann Fontaine, c3, Wyoming:

"To my knowledge, this is the first time in the past five years that someone has raised this issue regarding the Parochial Report. Technically, civil unions (allowed in CT, NH, and NJ) are not marriages, so they should not be counted as marriages on the form."

Okay. I get it.

Of course. I understand. It’s logical and reasonable and pragmatic and, God knows, Episcopalians are nothing if we’re not logical and reasonable and pragmatic.

Civil Unions are not Marriage. The Parochial Report computer form asks for Marriages. It’s just a computer form, for pity’s sake, designed to gather data about the work of the church. Marriage is just one of five of the Sacramental Rites of the church. And, we don’t ask about Unction or Reconciliation of a Penitent or Ordinations on that form. It’s not a judgment. It’s just how the church measures the sacramental life and vitality of the church. Just the facts, is all.

C’mon, Elizabeth. Lighten up. Toughen up.

I get it.

I’m not whining. Honest. And, I’m not complaining. Neither am I bitter or angry. I’m too weary, even, to be sad. I should know better about institutional things and forms and the ‘impartiality’ of data collecting.

I get it.

I got it when the state of New Jersey first started talking about Civil Union vs. Marriage which morphed into Civil Union equals Marriage. Which I never believed. Which is why my beloved and I have not entered into a Civil Union and have chosen to stay with our ‘domestic partnership’ until we finally (How long, O Lord, how long?) are allowed the civil right, guaranteed under the Constitution of these United States of America, of marriage,

Why? Our attorney assures us that our domestic partnership, combined with our wills, combined with the ‘present climate of acceptance in this State’ (let the reader hear the word ‘present’), we have everything we need without suffering the emotional humiliation of jumping through yet another legal hoop on our way to the enjoyment of a civil right which is now, was then and will always be available to people who are 'normal', including emotionally and/or intellectually disabled and prisoners who are convicted felons, rapists and murders on death row.

I get it.

I just have a question. It’s not one that you need to answer me – directly or indirectly. I know many of you – a surprising number, as a matter of fact - on this list. You know I love you and I know that you love me, even when you disagree with me or think I’m being – What’s the word? Ah yes, ‘caustic’. That’s what nice, polite white people say when they really mean ‘bitch’ because they really don’t want to hear what I have to say. Imagine! I'm the only one to raise the question - the first time in five whole years.

It’s okay. I get it.

Here’s my question, one that I humbly ask you to take with you into those quiet moments when you reflect on Really Big Questions. Here it is:

How would you – knowing that you are only a teeny-tiny minority in the church, one of only three diocese in The Episcopal Church, representing an estimated 10% of the population, which comprises probably less than 1% of that demographic who are Episcopalian, even so – how would you feel upon hearing that the church doesn’t count your Civil Union and not feel that you don’t count?

Let me ask that once more, without flourish: How might you feel upon hearing that the church doesn't count your Civil Union and not feel that you, yourself, your commitment, your vows before God to each other to keep the values that this very church has said it affirms and values, don't count?

As I said, you don’t have to respond to me. I just hope that, in those quiet moments of reflection that you might offer up a prayer of discernment. I hope that Jesus whispers something in your ear – something that leads you to consider what the gospel might call you to do, and that you are given the wisdom and the courage to do it.

I know there are Really Big Issues which this list considers, Very Important Issues which affect far more people in much more devastating ways. I know there are people who are starving, dying of malaria and plagued by AIDS in the Global South and children who will go to bed hungry this very night in this country. There is trouble in the church and war in Iraq and Afghanistan and genocide in Darfur which rages despite universal prayers for war and famine to cease and prayers and hymns raised to a church 'by schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed.'

Goodness, there are even people who are not baptized or not known to be baptized who are not adequately alerted to the fact that they must be before they are fed at the Table of the Lord! It is even 'common knowledge' - a very scandal! - that some unbaptized people are openly invited to a foretaste of the Heavenly Banquet by men and women who are ordained priests and bishops in the church - a clear breach of the canons of the church!

I get it. How very selfish of me! How dare I speak so caustically of these things?

Even so, of your mercy and kindness, thank you for considering my question.


Ann said...

Blessings of heterosexual Civil Unions don't count in the Marriage stat either. Marriage in places like MA where both opposite sex and same sex marriage is available can be counted on the report.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Ann. I feel so much better now.

Caminante said...

Filling out forms for the CPG on a RSVP fund, they have 'marital status' -- 'single/married.' Well, zut alors, I am neither, I have a legal VT Civil Union (that which everyone disparages today but which got things going and it sure seemed better than nothing in 2000 which is when we got it) and so I draw a little line on the form and mark it with a 'x' the way I do everywhere else that a CU isn't included. A and I go through immigration and customs together and the agent asks us why and we say we're a couple except the feds don't recognise it but as far as we're concerned we're legal. The last one (in Miami) actually nodded affirmatively.

Yeah, I get it. I don't shut up about it when I can vociferate (educate?). And, yes, it's sad (or whatever adjective or that sort) that the church won't recognise it.

Mary Clara said...

Elizabeth, I am really looking forward to the day when you and your beloved will be counted. You count in my books, and I promise to work for the changes in both civil law and church canons that will count you in unequivocally, before God and all the people.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you, Mary Clara. And, thank you Ann who wrote to me privately. It seems that Jesus has whispered some words of truth in her ear, as well. It's the words Jesus would save for 'real' Episcopalians:


Muthah+ said...

I want a blank for CU's. I want the Church to know how many of us are out there. For the most part, the Church has no idea how many CU folk are out there.

Anonymous said...

This is the first time writing to your blog which I have been reading for months-former Catholic-former Redeemer member.
The whole issue of gay marriage is so mind boggling to me. I did have a civil union over the summer in Cape May, presided over by a wonderful Republican county clerk. Also had a blessing with a catholic priest and 50 of our family members. However, I now live in NY and the civil union means nothing in the eyes of the law although it means everything to a six year old adopted child who had the honor of standing next to us as we proclaimed our love and commitment to each other and to our family. My twenty year old niece can fly to Vegas tonight and marry someone she has known for twenty minutes and have more protection under the law. ALL I know is that I love my spouse, I love my family and if today I should take my last breath, I will have lived a life full of love and commitment. This I know for sure!!!

Jim said...

Caustic on Rev. E! (I dunno can caustic be a verb?)

The terminally silly may forget that there can be reasons having nothing to do with 'orientation' (MY LORD I HATE THAT WORD!) for a blessing of a civil union. One of my kids was married by the State a good while before he and his bride could come to church. A long and ugly story, about which I shall not write, but their church event was, artfully ambiguous (her family is liturgically illiterate praise heaven) and while technically a blessing of a civil union, was perceived as a wedding. I wonder what was reported.

I would feel put down, and angry. I feel angry that my friends who have to go the 'civil union' route to satisfy the bigotry in our society are put down.

And I feel angry that the church puts up with this stupidity in the face of the damage it does. I suppose this is another 'crucified place.' Where we should all stand is on the crucified place that says the church will bless families and not do the State's bigoted dirty work.


Lindy said...

Thank you for asking the question. If TEC is going to behave so shamefully, make them at least own it.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Elizabeth, I think my short answer is, for ANYTHING in my life that I was told "didn't count" is, "That's the counter's problem, not mine." Now for the long convoluted train of thought:

I realize that what you are talking about is a real biggie compared to the things in my life that didn't count. But I also think about the acute hurt I felt in my own times, and simply recognize that for you, it has to feel like that, only bigger.

I think about things like when I single-handedly raised about $30,000 for a scholarship for a beloved late professor of mine, threw my heart and soul into it. I was told by our chairman, since he had just gotten a bigger estate bequest from another family for a different scholarship, "Well, no offense, but your stuff on this scholarship is a piss in the ocean compared to what I just got from the XYZ family for the XYZ scholarship." You know and I know, "No offense" usually means, "I'm going to offend you here; tough shit."

I think about, how, as a single person, for years I had to endure being accused of "not being a team player" b/c I wouldn't trade call on things like Christmas readily, and was told, "Well, why are you being so selfish? I have a family, can't you respect the needs of my family?" Well, hell, I guess I just crawled out from under a rock or flopped out of the primordial ooze or something.

I think about how those things have acutely, painfully stabbed me. I can only imagine that what you feel is that magnified to a degree that is mindboggling.

But I also know I can't change the world alone or transcend time like magic and make the world all better. All I can do is continue to be privately and publicly supportive of my gay and lesbian friends, and speak up when I think something needs to be said.

But when I have been told I didn't count, I had no other recourse than to decide that the people doing the counting just don't know their ass from a hole in the ground, change what I can change, and accept what I can't. I know I can certainly affirm that I do count. I know plain as day YOU count, on my planet.

I wish I could wrinkle my nose like Samantha of Bewitched and magically make you an equal of married folks in the eyes of the law and of the church. But all I can do is be supportive in the ways I know I can, and I can tell you that I will sit quietly with you in your hurt places in whatever way you need me to sit and be there. I can speak up to injustice. I can live my life in a way that shows I see my gay and lesbian coupled friends as my equals. I wish I could do more.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

K - You have done more than most and all that you can do at this time in our common life. Thank you, dearheart. Thank you.

Kate said...

Elizabeth, in Canada you could be legally married, and the Anglican Church of Canada would still not allow a priest to pronounce a blessing over you.

I get it: It is wrong, wrong, wrong. The Church is wrong. That's all there is to it.