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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Eucharist as revolutionary act

There's been a huge flap in some conservative corners (the really dark, dank, dirty ones) over the question of who will be presiding at Sunday's Changing Attitudes/Integrity Eucharist at Lambeth.

The real question is not 'who' will be presiding, but IF Bishop Gene will.

Which is simply ridiculous.

Bishop Gene has been told (by the Archbishop of Canterbury, no less) that he may preach but he can not perform sacramentally while in England.

There is no doubt in anyone's mind that this is exactly what Bishop Gene will do. Well, that's true for those of us who still have minds and actually engage them once in a while.

When I was at Lambeth 10 years ago, I had the enormous pleasure of presiding at Eucharist at Kings College in London for the LGBT gathering which had preceded the opening of Lambeth.

Yes, that's me, there. Quite a few less gray hairs than a decade ago, eh? (And, what was I thinking about those glasses? Big enough for ya?)

It caused a similar stir. I had written to the bishop of London, telling him that I had been invited to preside at Eucharist and had gotten his permission. Women had been allowed ordination to the priesthood for about 4 or years at that time, so it was really no big deal.

Except - no woman had ever presided at the historic chapel at Kings College. And, certainly no woman who was, well, you know, 'known to be homosexual' had presided at Eucharist. I'm sure they had, they just weren't 'known'.

So . . . it was a Very Big Deal. So big that all the news media were there and BBC Channel Four came and broadcast it live.

Imagine! I swear it's true.

The Bishop of London sputtered, "I had no knowledge of this!" I waved my little letter from him in front of the cameras.

He sputtered, "Had I known she was one of . . . (get this) . . .'Spong's girls' (sheesh!) . . I never would have allowed it."

I said, "Excuse me, sir, but Jack Spong doesn't have any 'girls' who are ordained, and I haven't been called 'girl' in so long it makes me blush to admit it."

It was fascinating. "Eucharist as Theater!" one newspaper proclaimed (or, maybe it was a radio program).

Actually, it was "Eucharist as Revolutionary Act." It always has been. It always will be.

Any act that provides the Bread of Heaven and the Cup of Salvation for all - and anyone who comes to the table - will always cause at least a stir.

When one who has been excluded is the one who presides at that Eucharist, or when the one who has been excluded invites absolutely everyone to the Table to be fed, well, it becomes, in and of itself, the revolutionary act which Jesus intended it to be.

That kind of authenticity and integrity is enormously powerful. It is transformative. That's what Love that is Human and Divine does.

Which is why some will try to stop it. Which has been done in Bishop Gene's case.

Bishop Gene has invited everyone to 'come to the Diocese of NH where you'll find what the church looks like once it's gotten over its obsession with sexuality.'

Imagine! Just imagine such a church!

Well, I do. I live in one - and in such a diocese.

And, that's another reason I'm going to Lambeth.

Oh, and by the way. I'm not presiding at Sunday's Eucharist in England. And, I don't know who is.

I just know that it won't be Bishop Gene.

He can't.

Their loss.


Fran said...

Spong's Girls? Oh dear!

I do not know what else to say. Godspeed to you, to all.

marnanel said...

Sometimes I wonder whether Jesus himself would be welcome at the table under the rules some people draw up for inclusion. They say he hangs out with undesirables. They say he doesn't keep all these religious rules. He's not one of our set, you know. Best not to welcome him.

June Butler said...

Elizabeth, what a great story! There you are in the spotlight as a famous first. Who knew that the first would be one of "Spong's girls"? Not the bishop! How naughty of you not to "come out" about that little secret when you asked permission to preside.

I'm rolling on the floor at the thought of you being anyone's "girl". Ah, but then, ten years ago, you were a mere lass.

God bless you, my friend. Keep a-writin'.

JimB said...

Marnanel, Jesus most definitely would not be welcome. And that nut case Paul, with his constant demand for love would be out, along with that James fellow supporting the Millennial Development Goals! I mean really, such people are not appropriate. Don't even get me started on Peter! If God shows no partiality, why Peter Akinola may not be more blessed than an average man!


Rev Elizabeth, those glasses are just amazing.

I am particullarly amused by the sub-thread on the upcoming Eucharist in which the wrong wing's more extreme members are predicting the celebrant will be Dr. Williams. You just cannot make this stuff up.


Kirkepiscatoid said...

Spong's that like "Hill's Angels" on the old Benny Hill show?

JCF said...

My initial reaction: when was Harry Potter ordained? *LOL*

(You ain't getting older, Lisbet, you're getting better!)

it's margaret said...

This is wonderful --I especially like the excluded one presiding and it being a revolutionary act. YES!

Thank you again.
(If you don't mind, I will quote you on my blog.)

Many blessings.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks so much for your comments. You know, when the Bullies pull my last nerve, sometimes they also pull some of my best stuff out of me.

Y'all have permission to quote stuff from this essay - that means you, It's Margaret.

JCF - bless you from the top of your pointy head to the bottoms of your pink feet.

And, yes, I actually started the Harry Potter trend. JKR was at a little cafe near King's Chapel, saw me, and, well, the rest is history (or, in this case, complete fiction).

Lisa Fox said...

Elizabeth, thanks for reminding me of what it was like in '98. Back then, I was still one who hated the church ... saw no relevance ... and thus wasn't following these developments.

I pray others will be drawn into the fold by the events of 2008.

God bless you and keep you, Elizabeth.

Bill said...

marnanel said...
“Sometimes I wonder whether Jesus himself would be welcome at the table under the rules some people draw up for inclusion.”

Absolutely not!
1. Jesus was inclusive, not exclusive.
2. Jesus did not abide with the man-made rules of the priesthood which excluded whole groups of people.
3. Jesus liked and actually talked to women.
4. Jesus wasn’t afraid to touch the unclean.
5. Jesus saw mental illness for what it was, a disease, not possession.
6. Jesus’ favorite word for describing the Sadducees and Pharisees was “Hypocrite”
7. Jesus didn’t condone the misuse of the temple grounds.
8. Jesus upset the “status quo” of local religious authority.
9. Jesus was less concerned with appearance than substance. He didn’t mind sitting down to dinner with a tax collector, allowing a woman to touch Him, or even washing someone else’s feet.

He wasn’t welcome then and He wouldn’t be welcome now. And how sad is that.

Bill said...

A proper caption for Rowan's picture:

They're coming to take me away, HA HA
They're coming to take me away, HO HO HEE HEE HA HA
To the funny farm
Where life is beautiful all the time
And I'll be happy to see
Those nice, young men
In their clean, white coats
And they're coming to take me away, Ha-haaa!

I know, but I couldn't resist.

Lindy said...

Those glasses were very stylish... ten years ago.

You go!

Stephan Clark said...

Great stuff. We have one of "Spong's girls" in this Diocese (Adelaide South Australia)...she's a very good thing and a great priest!