SCOTUS has upheld the subsidies in the Affordable Care Act.
The President gave a stirring eulogy for Reverend Clementa C. Pinckney, a victim of the mass shooting at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., which provided a sound theological context in which the oppressed - especially, but all of us - could find hope.
Then... THEN . . . there was SCOTUS on Marriage equality. Obergefell v Hodges. The vote was 5-4.
And, just like that, there was no longer "marriage equality" or "gay marriage" or "traditional marriage". There was just marriage.
I'm still trying to get my head wrapped around that. Seriously.
very first African American man as Presiding Bishop.
Bishop Michael Curry of the Diocese of North Carolina - the self same diocese that flew the Episcopal flag at half mast upon the election of Barbara Clementine Harris, an African American woman who was elected the first woman bishop in The Episcopal Church - was elected on an unprecedented first ballot by a landslide.
Here's a video interview of him here. (http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2015/06/30/video-interview-with-presiding-bishop-elect-michael-curry/
I had just dried my eyes when General Convention did yet anther amazing thing. Something more than 40 years in the makings. Something which has framed my entire adult life and fueled most of my ordained ministry. Something which I really didn't think I'd live long enough to see.
On July 1, in the year of our Lord 2015, The Episcopal Church once again made history, by making marriage for same-sex couples available throughout the church.
Okay, so this is me, taking a deep breath here, clearing my throat and wiping my eyes.
Let me say that again: Marriage for same sex couples is now available throughout The Episcopal Church.
We did provide conservatives the same "pastoral generosity" which liberals asked of them six years ago. Bishops who voted against the canonical change as well as the liturgies for marriage may refrain from offering the sacramental rite of marriage in their dioceses, but . . but . . BUT . . . they must make provision for the couple to be provided with that sacramental rite elsewhere.
Fair is fair and that will be fair enough for some but not fair enough for the seven dioceses where bishops have said they will not allow LGBT people access to the sacrament of marriage, even if they have been granted that civil right by the highest court in the land.
Score one for the Traditional Anglican Via Media.
As Susan Russell wrote:
Carefully and prayerfully crafted, the changes provide as wide a tent as possible for the historic diversity that characterizes the Episcopal Church — guaranteeing access to marriage liturgies to all couples while protecting the conscience of clergy and bishops who dissent theologically.We did what some asked us to do. We "waited at the asterisk" (like the one at the psalm) so that others could catch up with the rest of the church.
The genius of these actions by the Episcopal Church is that the conscience of a dissenting bishop is protected but not at the price of denying same-sex couples access to the sacramental rite of marriage.
I suspect it will take another six years for some bishops to retire and others to "evolve" but I don't think it's going to take that long for full sacramental equality in our church.
In 2015 the challenge from the Queer community (LGBT people and our allies) to the church was framed in Jesus’ words from the Gospel according to Matthew (5:37) “Let your yes be yes.”
I know one thing: My 'yes' is most definitely 'YESSSSSSSS!'
So, I've been thinking these past few days, about how far we've come by faith and all the shoulders of all the Giants on which we've stood to walk above the madding, homophobic crowd to get to this day and this time and this place of celebration. Especially in The Episcopal Church.
Oh, there are the obvious ones: Louie Crew Clay who started Integrity in 1976 when he and his Beloved, Ernest Clay, moved to San Francisco - the gayest city in the U.S. of A. - and were excited to call the Episcopal Cathedral to ask if they, as a gay couple, might find welcome as new members.
They got passed along to several different people who apparently thought it was an absolutely HYSTERICAL question and took turns laughing uproariously each time it was asked.
It wasn't a laughing matter then. It isn't now. But, that derisive laughter sparked a movement in The Episcopal Church that, forty years later, has reached a significant, historic, sacramental moment, but is far from completed.
And, of late, Susan Russell has been front and center, providing important sound bites in an age of 24 hour news cycle as well as sound, accessible liberation theology, all the while being an enthusiastic, seemingly indefatigable evangelist of the Really Good News for absolutely everyone.
Both Susan and Louie would rush to tell you that this movement is more than its stars. Of course they would look to Bishop Gene Robinson as well as Bishop Mary Glasspool as two of our major spiritual leaders, but there are more.
So many, many more.
There are those who sacrificed jobs and the possibility for 'upward mobility' by coming out and being authentically, honestly who God made them to be. They are articulate, intelligent, well educated people who laid the foundation for this journey on their very backs.
It's always a very dangerous thing to start naming names but I have to call the name of Kim Byham, who probably authored 80% of the legislation which paved the way in previous General Conventions for us to travel this road.
I have to call the name of Michael Hopkins, who was the major architect of the theological statement "Claiming The Blessing" of the group by the same name. I should know. I was a member.
Michael listened deeply, took all our thoughts and put them into a magnificent statement that not only provided an articulation of the theological foundation of our work, it sent a message to the conservative/orthodox that there was more than a "nice liberal feeling" to the full inclusion of LGBT people in the church. There was, in fact, a cogent theology.
You didn't have to agree with it. You could pick it apart. But, you couldn't deny its theology.
It also sent a message - loud and clear - that LGBT people were not going to leave the church, as so many had hoped would happen. We were no longer helpless, hopeless victims who needed to be pitied and taken care of because they "just couldn't help being gay". No.
Avoiding entanglement in that dead end "nature or nurture" conundrum, we were going to keep on walking forward, just like our baptism prayer, in the full stature of Christ.
His was not the first articulated theology of being LGBT - many authors had done that well before him and to whom we also owe a huge debt of gratitude - but it was the first time a theology was written with The Episcopal Church as its primary audience and it was made available to every bishop and deputy attending General Convention.
John Clinton Bradley also set the bar for the Integrity Nerve Center at General Convention - a technological marvel that allowed us to be in communication by riding the beginnings of the wave of electronics and exploration of the architecture of cyberspace.
Sending emails and text messages by smart phones between the visitors gallery, the Nerve Center and the various deputations proved to be absolutely invaluable in terms of developing on-your-toes legislative pivots and shifting strategies.
Even before all of that were folks like Robert Williams , an openly gay man who was ordained by Bishop Jack Spong in a ceremony at All Saint's Church in Hoboken, NJ that was, I have absolutely no doubt - attended by more international press than Episcopalians.
Bishop Spong was also dissociated by his colleagues for his efforts. And, one of his assisting bishops, Walter Righter, was brought up on heresy charges for ordaining Barry Stopfel to the priesthood.
And then there are other straight allies like George Regas who started allowing the blessing of gay and lesbian relationships at All Saints, Pasadena more than 25 years ago. And, Ed Bacon who said on Oprah, "Being gay is a gift from God." And, Bishop Barbara Harris who preached, "How can you initiate someone and then treat them like half-assed baptized?"
There have been so many, many more Giants of Justice, some of whom are not theologians or even leaders - elected or assumed - in the church. I'm thinking of people like Chris Mackey-Mason whose organizational skills are so superior as to have absolutely no comparison. She has organized more group meetings - from Beyond Inclusion to Integrity to Episcopal Women's Caucus to General Convention presence - that it makes my head spin.
And then there are the blessed most chaste spouses of those of us who have trekked all over God's vineyard to labor in the Fields of Justice.
They have made sure the bills were paid on time and done the laundry and mowed the lawn and gone grocery shopping while we were being interviewed on CNN or writing pity Letters to the Editor or on a Conference Call developing a strategy with colleagues or just listening patiently as we ranted about the latest horrible exchange we had with yet another homophobe.
You can get a much better picture of the past 40 years by looking at this wonderful video put together by IntegritTV. It's here.
While you're there, check out the tribute to Louie Crew Clay. That's here.
And, don't miss Bishop Mary Glasspool's sermon at the Integrity Eucharist. I really think her discussion of "home" and "family" begin to build on the liberation theology already articulated and form the foundation for a spiritual life after SCOTUS. You can find that here.
As grateful as I am for all of these amazing Giants of Justice - and, I am, deeply, and there are so many, many more - I can not shake the sense that we would not have come this far by faith without "a great cloud of witnesses" who have been "behind the scenes" but at the soul center of the Spirituality of this Movement.
I'm talking about all those amazing, blazing, shining souls we lost to AIDS in the 80s.
I remember clearly holding the hands of so many who were taking their last breaths and promising them that their death would not be in vain. That their deaths may have been hastened by beurcratic red tape, but their legacy would live on.
Some how. Some way. I said. Not knowing what I was talking about but speaking from a place of absolute truth within me.
I think this is it. I really do.
There's a scene "A Call to the Ancestors" in the movie Amistad. Singbe, the slave, and John Adams, the former President who is defending the slaves of the ship Amistad, are talking just before the trial. Adams is trying to prepare Singbe for what he's about to experience in court.
Singbe says, "We won't be going into there alone."
Adams says, "No, of course not. We have justice and righteousness on our side."
"I have my ancestors. I am calling to the past. Back to the beginning of time. I am begging them to come and help me with this judgment. I will reach back and draw them into me. And, they must come. For at this moment, I am the whole reason they have existed at all."I do believe all those martyrs to the early days of the AIDS pandemic have been with us every step of the way. We may not be 'the whole reason they existed at all', but their young, senseless deaths to a pandemic that could have been avoided have provided the heart and soul of this movement.
So, I want to end by encouraging us to call their name in words of prayer and thanksgiving. They who have brought us to this day.
We are going to need them to walk with us even further, to raise up new leaders, to take on the deeper issues of justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people like housing and employment.
I call their names often. The ones whose names I remember. The ones whose names I never knew.
D.J Jimmy Mac (one of the first but far from the only)May their memories always be a blessing and continue to inspire us to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God.
The Rev. Dennis Dellamalva
Lisa Tisti and her daughter Anasthasia
The Rev Bill Lowry
The Rev Bernie Healy
Bertha "Birdie" Thompson
"Just call me Madam" Jim Ramp
"Tall Paul" Wallace
and the amazing, the unforgettable, the large and lovely Ms. Beula Lamont, who said,
"We're all born naked, honey; everything after that is all drag."
Giants and Ancestors. We celebrate their memories and their continued presence with us as we continue to move forward in faith, stopping just now to celebrate all that has been during most this amazing week.