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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Meet numbers 1,044 and 1,045

It was, in so many ways, an historic consecration.

Never before in the history of The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Communion, or, I suspect, in all of Western Christendom, has there been two women elected and consecrated from the same diocese on the same day.

Since 1989 when Barbara Clementine Harris was consecrated the first woman to be bishop in The Episcopal Church, there have been 215 bishops consecrated to the episcopacy.

Diane is the 16th woman (and 1,044th bishop) and Mary is the 17th woman (and 1,045 bishop) to be elected and consecrated bishop in The Episcopal Church.

At this rate of "progress" I suspect this piece of 'herstory' will not repeat itself. At least, not in my life time.

Indeed, this was the first election of women to the episcopacy in a diocese which, just 30 years ago, did not ordain women to any of the three orders.

In his sermon, Jon Bruno, bishop of the Diocese of LA, pointed out that in 1895, two women were elected to the Vestry of a parish here in the diocese, but were inhibited from voting because of their gender.

In 1946, the first woman from this diocese was elected as a deputy to General Convention but was not allowed to be seated.

He said, "I have repeatedly made the request that I have at least one woman suffragan during my episcopacy. Look what happened!"

Someone is saying, "We've come a long way, baby."

As Flo Kennedy used to say, "If we had really come a long way, no one would be calling us 'baby'."

And yes, it was historic because Mary Douglas Glasspool is the first lesbian woman to be elected and consecrated to the Episcopacy.

I suspect this is why the arena was not as full as I thought it might have been.  Oh, don't get me wrong. The place was full - but not exactly 'packed'.  I was surprised by the absence of some of the church's luminaries.

Someone suggested that, well, since Mary is the 'second gay bishop' that there wasn't the same energy and excitement as the first.  Others suggested that this is, in fact, a good sign.  We've moved on, they say, and this is now become normal.

Yeah, well, I'd like that to be true, but I'm not buying it.

First of all,  Mary is not the 'second gay bishop'.  She's the first lesbian. 

That may seem like a minor point to you, but it's huge to me as well as many other women,  many of whom are lesbian, bisexual and straight.

I think the fact that this was about two women is the greater reason for the less-than-stellar attendance.

As my ordaining bishop once pointed out, once you've been dismissed as insignficant by the institution, you've been dismissed.

Individual members - male and female - to the contrary, the institution still doesn't value the authority and leadership - much less the contributions - of women in and to the church.

That's evident in the statistics I quoted above as well as the inequality in deployment practices and in pay scales for women.

So, it doesn't matter if Bishop Mary is lesbian or bisexual or prefers to have intimate relations with inanimate objects or alien creatures. 

She's already been dismissed as insignificant by the institution.

Never mind, there was great joy in the room, anyway.

There were two protests from the floor, just as the service was about to begin. A man and his son began shouting about 'the sin of homosexuality'. The Presiding Bishop very calmly offered to have them bring their protests at the appropriate point in the service.

These two were clearly not interested in appropriate behavior. They just wanted to cause a scene. They did, and then they were escorted out.

I really wish the organizers of the service had anticipated this type of thing. It would have been wonderful if the choir had been ready to sing a hymn just to drown them out. I thought a little "Jesus loves me," would have been just perfect.

File this one under "Reasons My Epitaph Will Read, 'No one asked me'."

It's okay. After a bit of unpleasantness and a few grumbles from the gathered community, the service went on with a holy mixture of joy and pageantry and solemnity, marked by the wide, rich diversity that is The Episcopal Church - especially in the Diocese of LA.

Bishop Bruno did point out that there were no protests or objections on the floor from anyone who is an Episcopalian. "They don't understand the inclusive nature of The Episcopal Church."

"They don't understand," he said, "that the world is transformed not by what we do but by how we follow Jesus."

He said, "The Christian journey is marked by transformation evolution and change. Those who don't change, die - and I'm planing on sticking around for awhile. Amen."

He's right, of course.

I have no doubt that we're going to 'pay' for our actions here this weekend.  I'm quite sure that +++Rowan is trying to figure out how to 'spin' this one so that those who are from the Chicken Little School of Theology who see this as yet another piece of the Anglican sky falling in on us won't go into full panic mode.

I'm also certain that we'll be hearing a lot more about the Anglican Covenant as the 'silver-bullet-magic-pill' antidote to 'the troubles' brought on by the 'disobedience' of The Episcopal Church and our 'unwillingness to submit' to the authority of scripture.

At this point, we could write our own scripts, couldn't we?

Never mind.  When I woke up this morning to a rather chilly, foggy day in Long Beach, the street was not littered with pieces of the Anglican sky.

Indeed, far as I know, the Anglican Communion is still intact, if not a little more worn for the wear.

As I entered the arena at the start of the service, I ran into Harvey and Doris Guthrie. Harvey was Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School when I was there.  He interviewed me during the admission process.

I remember it clearly.  I had 20 minutes with the man.  He sat in his chair and he said, "Okay, well, we'd better get right to it.  You've got lots of important, perhaps difficult questions to ask me about how this school will prepare you for ordained ministry.  I've got lots of important, perhaps difficult questions to ask you about how your diocese will support you in this process."

"The world," he said, "is too dark and broken a place for us to play polite games with each other.  So, let's get on with it."

I think those words are just as pertinent and critical now as they were over 25 years ago.

There's another election coming up soon in Utah.

Number 1,046 is waiting, just right around the corner.

The work of the gospel, however, is already at our doorstep.

Let's get on with it.


T.L. Holladay said...

Rev. Elizabeth, in regards to this part of your statement:

I think the fact that this was about two women is the greater reason for the less-than-stellar attendance.

As my ordaining bishop once pointed out, once you've been dismissed as insignficant by the institution, you've been dismissed.

Individual members - male and female - to the contrary, the institution still doesn't value the authority and leadership - much less the contributions - of women in and to the church.

...may I just take a moment and say I agree, 120%. Seriously. And yes, it's one reason I struggle to know where I's because I'm female.

What else can I or a lot of other women say?

Andy Wilkes said...

Dear Elizabeth, thank you for your report on the LA consecrations. It sounds like it was a joyous event and I am looking forward to seeing the video clips tomorrow. Coming from the other side of the 'Pond' I want you to know that many of us would like to wish the new bishops a wonderful fruitful ministry. We have much to learn.

susankay said...

We are passing through Albuquerque and went to church today at St Thomas of Canterbury -- loved the bumper sticker on a car in the parking lot: "Honk if your Bishop is a woman"

She said she didn't get a lot of honks -- especially if one doesn't count the ones accompanied by a flying finger.


Muthah+ said...

I am so glad you could be there. It doesn't matter if she is the first or the 1045th, she is OUR bishop and that is important. What +Mary can do is only what we can do--tell the story of how wonderous God is. She will have her tough times; she will have her glorious times. But it will be because there are those of us (like you) who have done the spade work. She will be able to do her work because of God's grace and the help of all of us who will be praying for her and giving her support.

And besides, the whole church needs to have a party these days and give thanks for our diversity, or openness and our creativity. Alleluia Christa is risen. She has risen, indeed! Alleluia

Caminante said...

I was thinking Laudate Dominum... we were sort of singing over in my corner during the kid screaming (how sad that he is being so used).

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, all y'all for your visits and comments.

I've got a head cold and jet lag this morning, but the memories I hold in my heart make it absolutely worth it all.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Elizabeth, thanks for your lovely account of the joyful occasion. The Anglican world still turns without the sky falling. May God bless Mary and Diane in their ministries.

Babs Marie said...

Thank you, Elizabeth, for your prompt and provocative report. I enjoyed reading it and salute you and the Diocese of Los Angeles. I look forward to the leadership these two new bishops are providing and inspiring.

Malinda said...

I'll use my new favorite text acronym to salute your last few posts:

PMFM (pure MF magic) And I'm guessing you just might know what the MF means.

Those of us who have stood outside the walls still break them, but still pray there will be a day when they are not there.