Sunday, January 25, 2009
The 'moveable middle' has moved (Or, "There's a whole lotta shakin' goin' on")
The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, meeting in Diocesan Convention ("Annual Council") this past weekend, passed the following resolution:
R4: Blessedness of Covenanted Relationships
Resolved, that it is the mind of the 214th Annual Council of the Diocese of Virginia that “the diocesan model for sexual intimacy,” previously affirmed by the 209th and 199th Annual Councils of this Diocese, which held that “the normative context for sexual intimacy is lifelong, heterosexual, monogamous marriage,” has become limiting in its continuing application in this Diocese, and the changing context of today’s Church has made it increasingly important to respond to the pastoral needs of the Diocese’s faithful gay and lesbian members in an appropriate spirit of love, compassion, respect and justice; and, be it further
Resolved, that accordingly the 214th Annual Council of the Diocese of Virginia affirms and recognizes the inherent blessedness and holiness of all committed covenanted relationships between two adult persons, regardless of whether those relationships are between a man and a woman, a man and a man or a woman and a woman, when those relationships are (as described in Resolution D-39 of the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church) “characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God.”
You can read all of the resolutions, including the full wording and sponsors of the resolution and other resolutions about liturgical rites of blessing and pastoral care for LGBT people here. (NOTE: See updated corrections in the comments section of this post.)
The Washington Times has a story about it here.
The 'orthodites', bless their hearts, are positively apoplectic. "Virginia Goes Over The Brink" is the breathless headline on one of the more notoriously vile blogs. They are ruminating and rumbling - when they aren't blaming +Gene Robinson, of course, or quoting extensively from 'The Lord of the Rings' - over whether or not this would have happened had some of their own not left for African Anglican Provinces. They are wringing their hands while asking questions like: Why Virgina? And: Why now?
A dear friend who is a young clergy person in that diocese sent me a note late last night, alerting me to the action of her diocese. She called it "a watershed moment in our diocese," which is probably known as one of the bastions of 'moderate' theological thought in The Episcopal Church.
I think what's happening in the Diocese of Virginia is reflective of what is happening in this country with this new Administration. Everything has shifted since last Tuesday.
Gitmo is closing. The United States will no longer engage in torture in the name of 'liberty and justice for all'. Reproductive Rights for women will be fiercely guarded. 'Abstinence Only" education will be taken off the curriculum.
DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) will be taken off the table and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," will no longer be policy for the military. And, while this administration does not overtly support "gay marriage" it is fully supportive of full civil rights for LGBT people.
To paraphrase the Queen of the Soundbite, Susan Russell, that ain't the whole enchilada, but there's more than enough guacamole in there for me. We are not where we want to be, but we sure are a heck of a lot farther down the road than we were before last Tuesday.
The center has shifted. The 'moveable middle' has moved. Everyone knows it. The Diocese of Virginia knows it. No one wants to look or sound like the homophobes who supported or funded Proposition 8. We've all heard Rick Warren. We don't ever want our understanding of what it means to be a Christian to be confused with his, no matter how "successful' he is.
Expect a whole lotta shakin' to go on in this country over the next four to eight years. Expect it to deeply affect the church, which is 'not of the world' but is still very much 'in the world.'
The playing field isn't exactly even, but it's a lot more level. We still have many miles to go before we sleep, because no one ever handed anyone social progress without a struggle. Nor should they. We need to work for our full civil rights the way women and people of color have before us.
The Diocese of Virginia has just sounded a bell weather. The baptismal water is rising. Time to get in our boats which have been stuck in the mud of prejudice and mired in bigotry, and set sail for the deep waters and cast our nets.
It's time to do the hard work of addressing the racism, sexism and yes, the flat-out misogyny in our own 'Rainbow Community'. It's time to tell the people who have dwelled in the darkness of the despair which brings about promiscuity and addiction that there is the Light of civil rights of marriage for those whose relationships are “characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God.”
And no, my 'orthodite' friends who hold the view that homosexuality is like an addiction to alcohol or drugs, this is not something that can be 'cured'. Even my sainted father, who once encouraged me to give up my love for Ms. Conroy as he had given up cigarettes, before he died 11 years ago next month, shrugged his shoulders and allowed as how, in the face of a then 23 years of a committed relationship, "Well, I guess it's true that love is blind."
Pray, sisters and brothers, for that 'spiritual blindness' to spread throughout the land - including and especially the church.
It's time to wipe our noses, dry our tears, pick up our socks, roll up our sleeves and get to work. Repeat after me:
Yes We Can!
YES WE CAN!!
YES WE CAN!!!
P.S. Before you leave on this noble mission, do remember to keep the porch light on for those who return. They will be back.
Of this, I have no doubt.