Thursday, January 15, 2009
On the road again
I am leaving later this morning to drive to Trinity Cathedral in Easton, MD to be part of a panel to discuss the award-winning documentary, "For the Bible Tells Me So."
With me will be the brilliant and amazing Mark Harris, blogger of the distinguished and intelligent Preludium, Ted Mollegen, a dear, long time friend and deputy from Connecticut with whom I worked for five years as part of the New Commandment Task Force. There may be a few others and I apologize if I do not have all the the participants correct.
We will be joined by Bud Shand, bishop of the Diocese of Easton, Heather Cook, canon to the Ordinary, as well as, I suspect, the Dean of the Cathedral.
I am honored and delighted to have been asked to be part of such an important occasion in the life of this diocese.
The Eastern Shore of God's Realm is not exactly a hot bed of liberal theological and political thought. While there are, at least for me, bright and shining spots like Trinity Cathedral, we have anticipated having in the audience at least a few of the sisters and brothers who do not share our view of God's inclusive love of the humankind which that same God created and called into being.
The plan is to show the documentary and then ask the audience, during the intermission, to write down their questions on file cards so that we may then divide them among us and answer each one. Hopefully, it will all be done in 'decent and proper order' as is our wont as Anglicans.
We shall see.
You know, I used to do a lot of this stuff, when I was Canon Missioner for The Oasis. I pretty much lived out of my suitcase, traveling around the Episcopal Church, being "Exhibit A". ("Oh, look, Mildred. There's one of those lesbians. Why, she looks so normal, doesn't she? And she seems so nice. Too bad she's going to hell.")
Bishop Spong used to call me "The Poster Girl for The Episcopal Gay Tribe." Some of my colleagues used to lovingly introduce me as, "The Lesbian Diva of TEC." Thankfully, I passed my tiara to Susan Russell, who is doing a far better job than I ever did. She has taken that crown and re-fashioned it and made it her own. She is, hands down, the "Queen of the Progressive Soundbite."
As I prepare for the long drive and the possibilities that await us tonight, I am awash with memories - many of them happy, but some of them not so pleasant. The death threats. The ugly emails and letters. The posters of Hitler mailed to my office. The conversations with FBI agents and local police.
Ed Bacon, rector of All Saint's Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California, has been on The Oprah Winfrey Show this week. He's been getting some of the same threats because of a comment he made while on the show.
He said, "Being gay is a gift from God." Imagine! Well, you can see it all here.
You can also read some of the correspondence Susan has been dealing with in her blog, "An Inch at a Time."
As Ed points out, the most mean-spirited letters and emails came from people who call themselves "Christian."
He also pointed out that it seems to have unleashed a flood of healing across the nation. That's what happens when you are vehicles of God's unconditional love.
I remember one situation when I was doing a workshop for a gathering of LGBT people for Lucent Technology in Philadelphia. All that was written in the program was, "Homosexuality and the Bible, the Rev'd Canon Elizabeth Kaeton."
Now, there were not a lot of Episcopalians in the bunch. Lots of 'lapsed' RCs and lots of "unchurched" - well, what Jack Spong likes to call "The Church Alumni Society". They had been deeply hurt and were seriously wounded by what the church had done to them, in the precious name of Jesus.
They didn't know me. They had no idea what I was going to say. And yet, the small conference room in that hotel was packed. PACKED! People were sitting on the window sill, on the floor, and there were about 20 people sitting on the floor, just outside the door.
You could feel the spiritual hunger in the air. The room became thick with anticipation and no small amount of anxiety.
At one point, someone asked the question about St. Paul's writing about the sin of men lying with men as if with women, and women lying with women as if with men, which St. Paul named and framed as the sin of 'acting against your nature'.
I pointed out that I had struggled long and hard with that piece of scripture and had come to understand that my 'nature' is to be lesbian; that, in fact, to go against my God-given nature was the sin.
One man, who had previously identified himself as a former RC priest stood up. He took a few moments to try to compose himself. When he opened his mouth, his voice started to crack, but he pushed himself to say, "You mean to say, all these years, all the times I read and studied that verse, I was reading it wrong?"
He started to weep uncontrollably, which set off a wave of emotion and tears in the room.
"Oh, my God," he whispered, hoarsely. "Oh, my God, you have no idea. Something has been unleashed in me."
"Can you say more," I asked gently.
He started sobbing again. I said softly, "Look, if you want, we can talk privately after this session ends. In fact," I said, looking around, "I'll speak with the organizers and see if we can get a private room and I'll speak with anyone here who would like to talk with me privately."
He finally got his composure and croaked out, "Thank you, and I'll take you up on that, but I just want to say this: I think I have finally found a spot in my soul and in my heart where I can begin to heal."
You know, it just doesn't get much better than that.
Suddenly, I understood the emotion - the spiritual hunger - that was in those places described in the Book of Acts when the disciples 'opened the scriptures' and the people rejoiced.
We've come a long, long way since that room in that hotel in Philadelphia oh, 10 or 12 years ago. I don't expect that we'll be having anything quite like that at Trinity Cathedral in Easton, MD.
But, God's children are still hungry and need to be fed. God's 'Rainbow Tribe' still need to hear "Being gay is a gift from God." I hope to carry that message with me tonight.
It's snowing right now, here in the Northeast Corridor of God's Realm, but I suspect, once I get past mid-Jersey, the roads will be clear.
I'm planning to spend the night in Easton, and then travel to our beloved Llangollen in Rehoboth Beach in the morning. It's there I will finish working on my sermon for Sunday. It' the call of Samuel and the call of Andrew - pretty amazing scriptural stuff to frame a sermon about the historic inauguration on Tuesday.
My only question this morning is this: How is it that people can see and know all of these marvelous things happening in these days of our lives - the beginning of the healing of the sin of sexism with the stellar campaign for President of the United States in Hillary Clinton, the inauguration of the healing of the sin of racism that has been unleashed by the election of Barack Obama, the consecration of the healing of the sin of homophobia that has been unleashed by the ordination of V. Gene Robinson - and not believe in a God who brings miracles into our lives?
Who could not see and know all these things and not know of the unconditional love of God in Christ Jesus?
I'm leaving with a part of the prayer we say at the Great Vigil of Easter on my lips: " . . . let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord."
And let the church say, "Amen."