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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Coming Soon to a Church Near You

As, Ed Bacon, one of my favorite Giants of Justice, is of't heard to say in these situations, "My, my, my."

My friend Jim was surfing the net, looking for the latest stats about his favorite sports team and came across this in the Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette
September 14, 2010

W.Va. Episcopalians consider blessing same-gender relationships
By Kathryn Gregory
The Charleston Gazette

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Delegates to the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia's annual convention voted this week to allow the church to bless same-gender relationships.

The resolution was submitted by the Rev. Ann Lovejoy Johnson, associate rector of St. John's Episcopal Church in Charleston. It "urges our Bishop to honor same-gender relationships by supporting public rites for the blessing of same-gender relationships in congregations where such blessings are supported and so desired."
It would appear, however, from what one reads in the paper anyway, that the Bishop is less than pleased.

The newspaper reports this:
The final decision rests with the diocese's bishop, the Rt. Rev. W. Michie Klusmeyer, who responded with a prepared statement when contacted by the Gazette on Tuesday.

"Thank you for your interest, but I wonder where your interest was when wonderful things have happened in the past in the Episcopal Church? And try as you like to make us one, we are not a one issue church," he said in the statement. He would not comment further, and calls to St. John's were not returned Tuesday afternoon.
There is, of course, more to the story, which one gets from reading a report from the action on the floor of convention during the vote on the resolution:
Klusmeyer asked delegates to vote on the resolution's withdrawal, and delegates voted 82-58 to reinstate it, Michelle Walker said. The bishop then asked people who were not in favor of the resolution to stand.

"It was about three dozen people who stood," Walker said. "It was clear ... the resolution passed."

The passed resolution notes that "not all congregations in the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia support the blessing of same-gender relationships," but says, "We pray that our Bishop and representatives to this convention will recognize and honor the desire of those congregations and priests who wish to honor same-gender relationships through sanctioned same-gender blessings."

A six-month task force will be established to develop the procedures, requirements and rites that would allow same-gender blessings to become a reality in "those congregations where such blessings are desired."
A task force. Of course. To study "the issue". Because, of course, the "theology has not been done". You know, like the theology of the ordination of women.

As Ed Bacon has also be heard to say, "I'm so glad Mary said 'yes' to God before the church developed a Doctrine of the Incarnation."

Okay, can I just say? THIS IS HUGE, folks. I mean, last time I checked, the fine State of West Virginia wasn't even close to marriage equality.

We've come to expect this from progressive diocese like Los Angeles, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Newark - all those places which asked General Convention, 2009, in resolution C056 to allow bishops to provide "a generous pastoral response" to meet the needs of members of this Church, including those within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal.

Resolution C056 passed by a large majority.

Even more recently, Bishop Thomas E. Breidenthal of the Diocese of Southern
Ohio, has begun authorizing same-gender blessing as of Easter, 2010, following a six month Task Force he called together in November, 2009, which worked
with him to craft procedures and requirements to make the blessing of same-gender couples a reality in that diocese in 6 short months.

So, you'll excuse me if I express an unabashed, enthusiastic, 'Woo hoo'.

The article about West Virginia, however, ends on a cautionary note:
Retired Rev. Jim Lewis, a previous St. John's rector, said Klusmeyer could go either way in his vote.

"He is either going to go by the will of the convention or he can pull the authority game here and he could play with it," said Lewis, an activist minister who recently had his Episcopal license revoked and then reinstated.

There is no time limit in which the bishop must make a decision, according to the resolution.
I want to be Very Clear: I'm THRILLED for the people of West Virginia. I'm especially pleased to see the leadership of Ann Lovejoy Johnson, a woman I met in Michigan more years ago than I care to remember, when that diocese was looking to start up a chapter of The Oasis (Wait, wait, wait. That had to have been 12 or 14 years ago. Time flies when you're working for justice). That was long before she entered the ordination process, and feared she would never be ordained because she could never be in the closet.

My thoughts keep turning to the bishop and those three dozen or so people in the room who stood in opposition to the resolution. I don't know how many people were in the room, but the clear implication is that the 'faithful opposition' were clearly in the minority.

We all love the idea of "majority rules" - when we're part of the majority. I guess I've been in the minority on so many issues that it's tempting, when the tables turn and "our side wins," to let our rejoicing turn into a form of tyranny.

It's hard to demonstrate a "generous pastoral response" when you feel that your theological toes are being stepped on. It's easy to be stingy when you feel something is being taken away from you - especially when that "something" is one of the foundational beliefs on which you stand.

Even in the midst of our rejoicing about the progress made in the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia, I hope we'll keep all the good people there - laity, deacons, priests and bishop - in our prayers.

The graciousness and "generous pastoral response" of those on "our side" will help to form the same kind of response from "their side."

Long time activist and priest, Susan Russell, reminds us in her blog of the words of Sr. Joan Chittister, "We are each called to go through life reclaiming the planet an inch at a time until the Garden of Eden grows green again."

Everyone there - especially the bishop - may not know it quite yet (and may not believe it), but the Diocese of West Virginia helped the church move forward another inch toward living into the vision of the Realm of God which was given to us by Jesus, himself.

Let's keep them all in our prayers. Comfort those who morn. Shield the joyous.

If you are from a state that does not yet embrace marriage equality or live in a diocese that allows the blessing of the covenants made between two people of the same sex, take heart.

It will happen. It may not happen "soon enough," but it will happen. We live in "sure and certain hope" that Blessed Martin Luther King, Jr., was right when he said, "the arc of history is long, but it always bends toward justice."

Mercy. Justice. And, peace. For everyone of God's children.

It has been promised.


Muthah+ said...

Even though WV fought on the side of the North, WV is still southern in its approach to life. It is a real statement that the dio can call forth this kind of committment even if the bp can't.

This is the kind of statement that contradicts S. Haurwaus's "We're all congregationalists" While theology and politics are always local, the message of righteousness (tsedek) is always global.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

While I agree with you, Muthah+, that righteousness (tsedek) is always global, I think this is a perfect example of Haurwaus' statement. If we were truly "episcopal" the bishop would have had his way. In this case, the congregations/people spoke - loud and clear. See what I mean?

Hutch said...

The Bishop of WV wouldn't consider my partner for a position at St. John's unless she got rid of me. No clergy with a same sex partner. Not surprised to hear he isn't supporting this. We worshipped at St. John's when we lived in WV and it is a great church with wonderful people - THE Social Justice church in WV. Wonder how he would feel if he were told he couldn't get a job unless he got rid of his significant other.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this, Elizabeth. Good news indeed! I was received into the Episcopal Church in WV, in the then-bishop’s private chapel on a cold January day many years ago. I had retreated to TEC after being terribly betrayed by my RC priest for being an out and politically active Christian. My former RC priest actually preached against me from the pulpit as I served as lector, cantor, and reader for an evening mass.

Episcopalians welcomed me, as I was, with open arms and this was over 15 years ago -- I’m not at all surprised at their action. Good people all.

Malinda said...

You know West Virginia separated from Virginia in 1863 over another sort of big human rights thing. God let them take us back in the fold now, please!

SCG said...

Wow!!! When you say, "HUGE" you are not joking! Those of us who live in states that are in the southeastern U.S. are very aware that spring and summer have arrived elsewhere in the Episcopal Church while we seem to be stuck in January or February. Knowing that such a move has happened in the the Diocese of West Virginia gives me hope that spring really is just around the corner!
I think it might be time for those bishops who have been digging in their heels and putting their heads in the sand to lift up their eyes and search for what the Spirit is saying to the Church. It is time to stop fighting inclusion.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hutch - OMG. If that's still the bishop's "rule", that's a pretty clear indicator of the kind of uphill battle we've got going on here.

I'm upping my prayer time on this one.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Anonymous - Thanks for leaving your comment. I'm so glad you are part of the Episcopal Church. One thing: If you can, next time, please leave at least your first name.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Malinda - I so a sign recently that said, "VIRGINIA IS (not for same sex) LOVERS".

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

SCG - Let's hope that some hearts and minds are being changed as the bishops meet in AZ this week.

Brother David said...

Madre, if the previous vote to withdraw the resolution failed 82-58, then you know that at least 140 folks should have been there. So the three dozen against the resolution were outnumbered 3 to 1.

Good on Dio West Virginia!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Dahveed, for "doing the math". It's hard for me to count when I'm excited ;~)

Matthew said...

I actually sort of like this model of decision making if the Bishop would affirm it. I live in Nevada. Many years ago certain parishes were doing blessings with permission of the bishop. Then Katharine became our bishop and she asked for a diocesan wide conversation about it that culminated at diocesan convention where the whole diocese voted on the issue. Katharine wanted the diocese to have the conversation not just those parishes that were doing same sex blessings. The vote was 2-1 in favor of blessings and so Katharine gave her endorsement precisely so it was not "her rule."