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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Integrity Triennial Eucharist 2012

ENS photo - Sharon Sheridan
It was, in a word, glorious.

The liturgy. The music. The colors. The way a hotel ballroom was set up to look like church.

It was the first time we had a lesbian bishop preside and a gay bishop preach.  And, appropriately enough, the focus was on our transgender sisters and brothers and their struggle for full inclusion and full claim to the gospel promise of liberation and justice.

This was made all the more glorious by the previous events of the day.

Both resolutions have to do with transgender issues (D002 - Affirming Access to Discernment Process for Ministry and D019 - Amend Canon 1.17.5) were adopted in both houses.

A049 - Authorizing Resources for the Blessing of Same Gender Relationship - passed the House of Bishops by a vote of 111-41-3.

This, added to the victories on Anti-bullying and Immigration reform affected by DOMA was almost overwhelming in its emotional content.

However, we cannot delude ourselves into thinking that "the strife is o're the battle won". Just the day before, Bishop Gene Robinson had asked for a point of personal privilege in the House of Bishops to talk about how the attacks on him continue - this time, from two of the bishops in the HOB.

If you haven't had a chance to listen to what he said, you can find a link to it here. It may take a while to upload so try to be patient. Integrity will try to get it into a different, more easily accessible format within the next day or two.

If you are able to listen to it now, you won't be able to miss the weariness and pain in his voice. It's simply heartbreaking, but it's also a powerful reminder that the opposition will do whatever they need to do in order to defeat us.

ENS photo: Sharon Sheridan
You can hear the amazing sermon Youtube. Part One is here. Part Two is here.

Oh, please, don't miss it. It is rich nourishment for your soul. We are meant to live in tents.

You can also read about the Integrity Eucharist according to the ENS article, "God calls us forward."

The Eucharist was preceded by a reception in honor of Louie Crew, Integrity's founder.

I was honored to have presented a tribute to Louie, along with Kim Byham.

I told a story about my experience, years ago, when Louie was Ambassador from Samaria to The Episcopal Church.  In that capacity, he would often recruit some of us to be his attache - or, as he would say, "bodyguards".

I remember one of those occasions in Atlanta. I think it was Atlanta but it might have been Texas. It was one of those places where everyone talked a lot like Louie and not like me.

There was one woman who was an undeniable Steel Magnolia - a core of steel all wrapped up in floral print and pink chiffon. She wanted to ask Louie some questions about his "orientation", but her questions were not born of curiosity or a desire to learn. Rather, she was more like an Assistant DA questioning the defendant on the stand, looking for loopholes in his story.

Her real agenda was not to learn but to get Louie to try to "change" - to "turn back" to being "heterosexual" the way she knew God had made him because he was "ruining the church."

Louie was so patient with her. So generous with information. So vulnerable in telling his own story. He was laying down his life for an enemy but he was trying to see her as a friend.

She would not budge. She continued to plummet him with questions the way the Sadducees asked Jesus questions in order to trick him.

Finally, as the night was dragging on and it was way past time to have returned to our rooms because we were all so exhausted, suddenly, Louie got an insight. His whole entire body brightened as he leaned forward to speak to her.

"Let's just say, for sake of argument, that you are right. Let's just assume, for a minute, that I could "change" and become straight."

Integrity Reception with Michael Cudney
"Oh," she gushed at the thought that she had actually begun to have had an effect on him, "that would be wonderful. You would save the church."

"Well," said Louie, let's just say that you are right. Here's my question," he said, as he leaned forward to look into her eyes, "Would you allow me to marry your daughter?"

The woman considered the question for a few seconds, recoiled in horror and said, "Why, NO!"

Louie smiled and looked at her and said, "Indeed." And then, we all said goodnight and went to bed.

I told that story to lift up three things about Louie Crew, things we all know. But, I want to tell you about what I learned that night from Louie that might help us all follow his example.

Louie Crew is, undoubtedly, the best Christian man I know. He is a shining example of the baptismal vows as outlined in The Book of Common Prayer.

Louie is, also, the most generous man I know. He is generous with his time, with his resources, with information, with love, with hospitality. There are no boundaries on his generosity.

Finally, Louie is the most joyful man I know.  He is a man who can take insults and persecution and still say, "Joy Anyway!"

What I learned from Louie that night is the source of that Christianity and generosity and joy. It is this: Louie Crew is a man with a heart that is absolutely brimful with gratitude. He’s so grateful for what Jesus has done in his life … for the people Jesus has brought into his life....especially for his husband, Ernest.

And, I'll tell you what. If Ernest weren't a gay man and I weren't a lesbian, I would give Louie a run for his money with that man.

Caro Hall, Kim Byham, Louie Crew and moi
The heart of being a Christian is a heart filled with gratitude. If we practice gratitude, our lives will flow with generosity. And, a generous life is a life filled with joy.

We can't all be Louie Crew, but if more of us practiced gratitude we could do great things like Louie Crew who has lived a life of servant leadership as an Ambassador from Samaria to The Episcopal Church for almost 40 years.

We can't all be Louie Crew, but if more of us allowed the gratitude that fills our hearts to spill over into our lives, the people of God would continue to be nourished and sustained to be servant leaders.

We can't all be Louie Crew, but if more of us were joyful, generous Christians who were filled with gratitude for all that Jesus has done for us, we could continue to inspire others to do and be the same.

I am deeply grateful to God for bringing Louie Crew into my life.

Because of him, I can go to my grave singing, "Alleluia! Joy Anyway!"


Jane R said...

Thanks, Elizabeth. I wish I'd been there and it is lovely to have a vivid reportage. And I agree with you about Louie - and about Ernest. Meeting them during their trip to Berkeley about a decade ago was one of the high points of my Episcopal life, and life in general. Beautiful, loving men.

My heart was with my sisters and brothers at this celebration. I continue to pledge you my support as an ally, and to be grateful for what I have learned about love -- for that is partly why I am an ally: out of passion for justice, yes, but also because my lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender friends have taught me what it means to love and love well.

Matthew said...

I listened to VGR. The two bishops need to outed and named. That is the only way to deal with such assholes.

it's margaret said...

LOL --that last pic looks like something out of a post-modern art sculpture exhibit!

(PS--I love Louie too. a true example for us all.)