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Thursday, March 18, 2010

A renewed creation in Christ

I saw this 30 second clip just before the news of the consents to the election of Mary Glasspool's election was released.

I'm obviously very impressed.

Oh, I'm not talking about the technical stuff, although that is impressive - well, to me at least, for whatever that is worth.

I'm talking not about the medium but the message.  And, how timely it is. 

Ancient, but timely.  Words that are centuries old but still ring true.  Still serve as an important reminder about what is at the core of our faith.

I'm struck, in this video, by the clarity of the message of our identity as Christians who are Episcopalians.  It is a timely message in Lent which calls us to return to - or rediscover - our own houses of worship in order to celebration Easter Resurrection in our communities of faith.

There are already those of the "Chicken Little School of 'orthodox' (note: small 'o') Anglican Theology" who are wringing their hands over the Glasspool election and consent process and moaning that the Episcopal part of the Anglican sky is falling - has fallen, and can never again get up.

"We have erred and strayed like lost sheep," they wail. Others make mean-spirited remarks about how The Episcopal Church ought to be punished ("disciplined"). Some continue to work to make that a reality - mostly through the "Anglican Covenant".

What The Episcopal Church did in consenting to the election of Mary Glasspool is to affirm the core values of our faith. We not only affirmed our faith, we put that faith into action.

That's always the hard part, isn't it?

Blah, blah, blah FAITH. Blah, blah, blah LOVE. Blahdiddy, blahdiddy, blah MERCY. . . JUSTICE. . . .PEACE.

Living those values, putting them into action, taking a stand for what we know about ourselves and what we believe about God, always involves risk. Always involves sacrifice. Always involves a journey to what Martin Smith calls "the crucifyingly obscure boundaries of our faith."

In my experience, the paradox of that journey is that it always leads to a clarification process from which we emerge clearer about who we are and whose we are. It's akin to a 'forty days and fourty nights' experience in the wilderness. We understand who our people are and what God is calling us to do.

It's a journey deep into the four foundational cornerstones of spirituality: identity, mortality, intimacy and vocation. The process of 'coming out' out as an LGBT person is a profoundly spiritual process. It is about diving deep, exploring these four corners of our faith and then surfacing.

It is a spiritual baptismal process of water and fire and spirit from which one emerges with the kind of conviction and commitment to continue the journey in faith. By faith. Through faith.

"I am a new creation in Christ" says St. Paul. With all due respect to Himself, I'd like to rephrase that to read "I am a renewed creation in Christ."

When you have come through that kind of clarifying process, you are more of who you always were - who you were created to be - just clearer. Stronger. More authentic. With greater integrity.

Here's what I think: I think The Episcopal Church, as an institution as well as the Body of Christ, is 'coming out' - to itself and to God and to each other and to the world.

LGBT people know this journey well. We have been blessed that we might be a blessing. I do believe it is our gift to the church. It is our particular blessing of and to the church.

And, the church is finally ready to receive it. The sacred covenants we make between ourselves for faithful, lifelong monogamy will, one day, be blessed by the church. But that will only be because the church has finally recognized the gift of our blessing to the church - as well as the blessing of the sacred vows we make to each other before God.

I believe we will emerge from this time clearer, stronger, and better prepared to begin to catch up with God's reconciling mission in the world, which has been going on since before the advent of time.

We are, as an institution, moving through a prolonged season of Lent and into the joy of an Easter celebration.

Oh, it ain't over till it's over, and we've got a few more hurdles to jump before we land on Canaan's side. But, we're on our way.

In 1997, at the Integrity triennial Eucharist in Philadelphia, I was privileged to havepreached the sermon. The Eucharist was held just before the special hearings on the Authorization of Rites of Blessing for Same Sex Couples.

Yes. 1997. It took twenty years, from the founding of Integrity, to get to that point - and, you might have noticed, we didn't win. Indeed, we lost that resolution by one vote. Yup. One.

We've been at this a long, long time. Don't even try to start with me about this being "a new thing" or, "but...but...but we haven't done the theology."

Just. Don't. Start. Okay?

I will never forget the sound of that great church, Christ Church, Philladelphia, filled with close to 1,000 people - and much more than a few bishops - singing with heart and soul, mind and body: "We're gonna keep on walking forward. Keep on walking forward. Keep on walking forward. Never turning back. Never turning back."

Six years later, we elected and consecrated the first honestly, openly LGBT bishop in The Episcopal Church. Seven years after that, we elected, have consented to and will consecrate the second honestly, openly LGBT bishop in The Episcopal Church.

We have set our faces toward Jerusalem and decided to follow Jesus. We haven't arrived, but we are on the journey. We're not out of the woods, but we are on the path. We have won the battle but the war is far from over.

Even so, I believe that it's a great time to be a Christian. It is a privilege and a joy to be alive and to have been part of a movement which has led us to this moment of justice.

Even though I know the 'other shoe' has not yet dropped, I have nothing but hope in my heart and joy in my soul.

It's a great day to be an Episcopalian.

It will be an even greater day when the election and consent process of an LGBT person does not make headline news.

Then we'll know that we are a truly, fully, a renewed creation in Christ Jesus.




Elaine C. said...

Recently, the retired priest, who claims the altar of the parish I serve, as his home, volunteered a spiritual reflection to send to the parish. Seems he'd just read the Living Church article about "we've not done the theology." He wrote that even though he valued and cared for the suffering of lesbian and gay clergy he knew, he had to remind people of this fact.

Thankfully, he is gracious and he submitted this for my approval before distribution. I'm a new rector, so I consulted my bishop, who said he didn't believe in censoring people, and maybe to send it, along with links to diocesan website documents on same-sex blessings. And he said, you know, we haven't really officially approved a theology.

I decided not to distribute it. I remember national church programs developed in the 1990s, or earlier, which were to help congregations have discussions on sexuality. I've been reading theology for years, like Countryman (Dirt, Greed and Sex), etc.

After all, what areas does the Episcopal Church truly produce "official theology for"?

I've read all the books we produced on Women's ordination, and it wasn't the theology that turned the tide. Theology about the ordination of women was first written in the 19th century, and what the Episcopal Church produced on the topic in the 1960s wasn't anything new. What brought about women's ordination were the actions of 11 brave deacons and some courageous bishops (and the work of activists in women's organizations, and a number of outspoken leaders ... its a big group). All were evidence of the wild and free movement of the Holy Spirit.

The core of Anglicanism might be tradition, reason and scripture, but it is also, not peering into each other's hearts, or upholding dogma, it is worshipping and serving God together. And the Christian values that hold us together, are those expressed in Frank Logue's excellent Youtube video here.

Jane Ellen+ said...

Elaine: I wonder how your retired priest (and other like-minded souls in your charge) would receive the theology that *has* been done, if you refer to it. Countryman's book is one; Tobias Haller's Reasonable and Holy is another marvelous example that I've passed along to colleagues here.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

What Elaine C. said!

Doorman-Priest said...

The Chicken-Little" school of churchmanship. What an inspirational name. Quick: get it registered.