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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My Chosen Lifestyle

Well, I was a little preoccupied yesterday, so I'm a day late and a dollar short to all the internet buzz about the Archbishop of Canterbury's statement about General Convention, the Communion and The Covenant.

The man has a real gift for talking in circles, doesn't he?

That poor dear! He really, really, really wants to be Pope, doesn't he?

Would that be considered, "Miter envy?"

Or, do you think it's more about the whole infallibility thing?

Personally, I think he's been drinking his own Lambeth Kool-Aid.

Many people have made various brilliant comments which you can read over at Episcopal Cafe.

My favorite quote is, of course, from the Queen of Soundbite, the one, the only, Susan Russell:
"We don't "choose" sexuality but we do "choose" hypocrisy. And at the end of the day, I'm happier facing my Maker claiming the former rather than being accused of the latter."
That's exactly where I got snagged. "Chosen lifestyle."

Here's the full quote, from "Section 8"
And if this is the case, a person living in such a union is in the same case as a heterosexual person living in a sexual relationship outside the marriage bond; whatever the human respect and pastoral sensitivity such persons must be given, their chosen lifestyle is not one that the Church's teaching sanctions, and thus it is hard to see how they can act in the necessarily representative role that the ordained ministry, especially the episcopate, requires.
I know. I know. The man puts a capitol "O" in the word "obtuse."

But, did you catch that? "Chosen lifestyle?"

Are you kidding me? What rock has this man been hiding under?

Let me tell you a little something about my "chosen lifestyle."

One of the pieces of yesterday's anxiety had nothing to do with anything medical.

Thirteen years ago, Ms. Conroy had surgery on the same knee. We were in another hospital, but we might have been in another galaxy far, far away. One that had never heard of patient rights, much less equal rights.

Every other couple in the family waiting area got frequent updates on their family member. I didn't. I went up to the nurse several times to ask. She just said the same thing, "When I have some information, I'll give it to you."

The last time, I pressed her, smiling and being as ingratiating as I know how to be, "Umm . . . Excuse me. I hate to bother you. But, I'm beginning to get a bit worried. Is something wrong? Has something gone wrong? Can you tell me why is it that you have information for all the other family members but not me? I'm really starting to think something bad has happened."

She looked up at me, her demeanor very professional but her voice dripping with contempt and said, "When I have some information, I'll give it to you."

I cleared my throat and said, "May I speak to your supervisor, please?"

She smirked and said, smiling pleasantly, "She's a very busy person. She may not be able to talk to you for hours."

"Fine," I smiled. "I'll go out and find her myself," and turned to walk out of the waiting area.

"Okay, but by the time you get back, there just may be some information for you."

Of course, that's exactly what happened. I found her supervisor and reported what had happened. Her supervisor was not pleased with her, but chose not to do anything about it.

Now, that situation will never make it into the great books of case law on discrimination. It's not even worth whining about. It's the sort of 'low level' discrimination that is designed to stay 'below the radar' but still hit its target in terms of your psyche, with collateral damage to your heart and soul.

So, one of the things I packed with me this time, like the last time Ms. Conroy had surgery five years ago, was our domestic partnership papers. I didn't need them the last time, but well, you never know.

The last thing I needed was to be hassled by a nurse or receptionist with attitude. And, God forbid anything should go wrong and . . .

Thankfully, I didn't need it. Nothing went wrong, Thanks be to God. The staff was professional, competent, warm, caring and supportive - to everyone.

No discrimination - but, no special treatment. Just professional, competent care.

You know. What everyone expects.

I don't know how many married people have to remember to pack their marriage certificates when their loved ones go to the hospital, but I would bet solid money that Rowan Williams doesn't give it a thought when his wife, Jane, is ill.

Chosen lifestyle? Why would anyone CHOOSE to be hassled at critical moments in their life? Why would anyone CHOOSE to have your basic civil rights denied? Why would anyone CHOOSE to be discriminated against in the church - by otherwise intelligent, highly educated, seemingly spiritual people?

How do you CHOOSE the person with whom you fall in love? With whom you wish to start a family? With whom you want to spend the rest of your life?

And, why should that choice condemn you to a life of discrimination?

Did Rowan Williams listen to ANY of the LGBT deputies he met when he was at General Convention just a few weeks ago? Did he not see eight Children of God who love Jesus and serve the people of God through the Church?

Was it really that "hard to see how they can act in the necessarily representative role that the ordained ministry, especially the episcopate, requires"?


Here's the thing: I don't have a lifestyle. I have a life.

And, the only choice I have made in the way in which I 'fashion' or 'style' my life is to live honestly, with authenticity and integrity - no matter what it costs, or what assault to my dignity I must endure.

+++Himself can object all he wants to my so-called "chosen lifestyle".

Personally, I have a strong objection to his "chosen leadership style."

Which, near as I can tell, can best be summed up in a very few words, one of which includes a word already used by Our Fabulous Ms. Russell: "Hypocrisy."


Kirkepiscatoid said...

Oh, God, Elizabeth. I thought about that yesterday evening. A couple tears leaked out thinking that you feel like you have to drag around your domestic partnership certificate "just in case."

I played a scene in reverse.

Back in February I got a pretty jarring bump to the head, didn't break the skin or anything, but I have had two fairly serious concussions in my life and it doesn't take much to "ring my bell" anymore. I was sort of "foggy" for the better part of two days.

About 12 hours after the bump, I called a friend and said, "You know, I am probably being a wuss but I probably ought to go to the ER, just to be on the safe side that I don't have a subdural hematoma."

He is not a romantic anything to me, but a sincere friend.

When we got to the ER, the nurse immediately started talking to him as if he was my husband. Then she kind of stops and goes, "Oh, are you her husband?"

(The side story was that we had a little bit of a good-natured fuss about how QUICKLY he admitted he was not, but that is another story, LOL.)

But when I read your earlier post about "bringing your domestic partner certificate along," I thought of my own ER experience and how relationships are just simply assumed, and felt tears for what can't seem to just be "assumed" for you and other LGBT couples. I thought about many male friends in my life, and how it's "assumed" we're secretly sleeping together, or at least have given it a go.

Or, since I live in that world of "straight but somewhat butch", if I am with a woman friend who is not terribly feminine looking, it's assumed I'm a lesbian.

My new work associate and I were laughing about that the other day. I looked at her and said, "You know, it will just be a matter of time in this town that everyone's going to think we're lesbian lovers, even though you have a husband of 20 years."

None of us will ever get anywhere until people will stop thinking of relationships as always being tied to a bedroom. I think about how this cheapens your relationship with Ms. Conroy. I think about how it cheapens the relationship between me, my male friends, and my female friends.

I think about my longtime friend, mentor, and life buddy M., my friend with dementia. When he dies, how will I be mentioned in the obituary? Will I be mentioned at all, despite the fact I was a caregiver of his in many ways for fifteen years? If I am mentioned, what words are there that really say what our friendship was, that don't raise the titillating thought, "Well, did she sleep with him, or not?"

There are very few things I feel hopeless about. But I have to tell you, Elizabeth, this is one I cry so many tears for the world over. I sometimes get on runs of being so upset at the world for not cheering on the forms of love that do not "fit in all the little boxes." Yet they are all from God, and all holy in an amazing way.

Many times, I have yelled at God, "Are people F-ing stupid or what? Can't you DO something about that?"

Oh, sigh.

Jane Priest said...

I have a friend, a priest in the Diocese of VA who is the priest for the Falls Church faithful remnant. He, and I have heard/read this before, says he wants to hear more theology and less emotion before we hold our own on this matter (I remind him this fissure is not really about sexuality). I don't get it. Since before I was born haven't we been talking about theology in matters of sexuality. I wrote 3 papers on it in seminary. Got high marks on all 3. Those were theological arguments or I would not have received the grades and probably would have been told to re-write. Is that a cop-out? From my perspective we have been talking about theology of sexuality so much that I'm a little bored with it. Are we just not sharing with the right people or do others not want to listen?

I have been disappointed with the ABC from the start. Had such high hopes, too. I realize he's in a pickle but Jesus didn't go around trying to please people and make everything alright.

An aside: to my knowledge, there is one gay man in my two rural parishes who is open and he is new and he knows that there are many who would not welcome him. I told him I would go to the mat for him should there be any malcontent. I am so happy he is worshipping with us and is willing to be that incarnational presence.

Brother David said...

Unfortunately Madre Lizabet, in Rowan's eyes we have chosen a lifestyle, to live in sin. According to his statement, to the church, the only acceptable form of relationship, aside from sexless friendships, is heterosexual marriage. If two gay folks choose to live in a committed, monogamous relationship, then they are choosing a lifestyle unacceptable to the church. Currently, according to his statement, the only acceptable lifestyle for us is celibacy.

He knows that we do not choose our sexuality, how we express our sexuality is what he says we choose and for him we have but the one acceptable choice. Anything beyond celibacy disqualifies us for pretty much anything beyond baptism/confirmation.

Of course this flies in the face of all he stood for prior to his elevation to ABC. Hence Madre Susan's statement about hypocrisy.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hey, there, Kirke. Didn't mean to upset you, my friend. I just tells it like it is. But, I do appreciate that you get it. You understand. That's not a statement of surprise but rather, of deep appreciation.

There is something in the human DNA, isn't there, that has this ability to blindly follow cruelty and all in the name of God while professing to follow Jesus.

Thanks for your powerful words. It helps to know that some see. And know. And feel. And think.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Joi - Oh, heavens, and haven't we heard this lament about 'not doing the theology' before? We heard it for years before the ordination of women. Before that, it was about slavery. When I was a kid (which was well after dinosaurs roamed the earth), kids who were left handed were not allowed to serve as altar boys and people with seizure disorder or mental illness were locked up in insane asylums.

As Ed Bacon says, "I'm so glad Mary said 'yes' to God before we had worked out a doctrine of the Incarnation."

If your parishioner needs some 'extra support', just send him my email. But, I know you'll be a loving pastor who will lead her people to embrace and welcome him into the community.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Yes, Dahveed. The only acceptable 'lifestyle' for anyone outside of marriage is celibacy. Why are we so focused on 'extra marital genital activity'? When did the church become the headquarters of the Bedroom Police and when did monitoring sexual behavior become an authentic ministry and mission of the church?

Never mind. I know the answer. It has ever been thus.

Hypocrisy, thy name is Church.

Anonymous said...

Can't hear theology today. Fans are too loud in the free kitchen and cooling center in our parish hall. Got a couple hundred people to feed and an equal number seeking relief from the killer heat here in Oregon. Think +Cantaur would be so kind as to bring my queer self another 15 lbs of ice for the children's punch? Or would that be supporting the terribly sinful lifestyle I've chosen?

susankay said...

How horrible that anyone should ever be grateful that s/he was treated like a human being.

John D Bassett said...

Susan Russell is absolutely right. The problem with us, according to the ABC, is not that we're gay but that we do not lie about it and hide it.

Unlike fundamentalist churches where gays are regularly investigated and expelled, Rowan's church looks like this:

Gay and open about it. OK, as long as you're a lay person. Probably expected if you play more that two keyboards and a pedal section.

Gay and somewhat secretive. Maybe you can be on the PCC and go to synod as a lay representative.

Gay and pretty secretive about it. You can be ordained to the priesthood. Your partner can live in the vicarage only if you pretend that is all about needing more money, etc.

Gay and extremely secretive. You actually lie about it. You can be a bishop.

Bill said...

I'm worried, The Pope and the AOC Agree.


In view of this, States are called to enact policies promoting the centrality and the integrity of the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman, the primary vital cell of society[112], and to assume responsibility for its economic and fiscal needs, while respecting its essentially relational character.

From the AOC: Communion, Covenant and our Anglican Future
So long as the Church Catholic, or even the Communion as a whole does not bless same-sex unions, a person living in such a union cannot without serious incongruity have a representative function in a Church whose public teaching is at odds with their lifestyle.

It is just a little scary to me when I find the Pope and the Archbishop in lockstep over this issue.

Michael Cudney said...

Thank you, Elizabeth. You 'get' the ABC. Unfortunately he just cannot 'get' us. To paraphrase Patrick McGoohan in The Prisoner, I want to yell at Rowan 'I am not a lifestyle! I am a person!'

Freedom Bound said...

As a gay man who is ordained and openly lives with his partner with a bishop who is thoroughly anti, in the province of Canterbury, these can be scary times...until my boyfriend gets home from work and all this stuff feels so secondary :-)

All the same - when it is scary such voices of solidarity pierce the darkness......Thankyou. xxx

jmcleod76 said...

My favorite part of +++'s "statement" - really, shouldn't a "statement" actually say something - is the part about the CHurch acknowledging that it's sinful to do violence against LGBT folk, and about how the Church must affirm our human dignity. Excuse me? Condemning our love as sinful is the ultimate act of violence. And how, exactly, does denying God's calling in a person's life, based solely on who he or she loves, affirm that person's dignity?

With all due respect to the Archbishop, I suspect he's been sipping a little more than just the Lambeth Kool-Aid ...

Joan said...

No-one *has* to have a sexual relationship, irrespective of their orientation; it is called "self-control". Anyone can have a non-sexual, emotional relationship which is perfectly acceptable within the church.
No-one *needs* sex, anymore than diabetics *need* sugar.

Valerie Leyva said...

Back in the mist of my distant past, I explored a vocation to ordained ministry. Back when it was hard enough to be a woman, let alone a young woman, let alone a lesbian.

I thought "This is hard enough as a woman, it will kill me if I do this as a lesbian."

Fortunately, the Spirit did Her work, and helped me understand that it was already killing me, and the only way I would live was to be who God created me to be.

Through honesty and integrity to God's creation, I was able to discern my vocation in life and serve God's mission in the world.

My experience of God's love and the wholeness I have experienced by living into the person God has created me to be, is why I am so profoundly hurt and outraged at the actions of the ABC. I grieve for my LGBTI brothers and sisters who hear his words and believe them. I grieve for their families and communities, who hear these words as a call to "heal" them of this "chosen lifestyle."

Maybe we should send dear Rowen a copy of Miroslav Volf's Exclusion and Embrace, and remind him what happens when a group of people are targeted for their "choices."

Nigel said...

Elizabeth, Congratulations on your post to HoBD. My amanuensis and I have enjoyed reading the comments. Well done, all!

I have only enjoyed 8 years since knee replacement on my right knee, and I still have hope that I won't need further surgery there before my time in this world is complete. I certainly hope that Barbara Conroy will not need further surgery in another 11 years.

My replacement knee was a standard metal device, inserted a few days before 9/11. This means that I need to go into the "penalty box" every time I want to board a plane. Sometimes the "Male Assist" who checks me out asks me if I've ever gone through the process before. When I reply "About a hundred times", I'm not exaggerating. As my friend typing this for me says "that really sucks".


IT said...

Did anyone mention divorce? I thought not.

This is a helluva post, Elizabeth.

Paul (A.) said...

In what seminary is it taught that theology is somehow best learned by sticking one's fingers in one's ears and saying loudly "Na na na na I can't hear you"?

Unknown said...

I suspect it's the Lambeth Kool-Aid, but frankly all this "Chosen" talk is getting rather old.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Aw, Elizabeth, you didn't upset me, the pain of the world upsets me now and then. I am grateful God gave me a smart brain. I am grateful God gave me perception a little better than the average bear (most of the time, anyway, except of course for the big DUH things in my life). I have been able to serve the human race for almost two decades with 'em, and make a good living for myself, and give to the things that matter in my life.

But damn, it hurts when that smart brain and clever perceptive ability tells me things that, in my gut, and with the part of me that "listens intently", tell me "This is just soooooo wrong on sooooooo many levels." ARRRGH

gerry said...

Would that be considered, "Miter envy?"

Darling, I think Rowan is dreaming of a Tiara encrusted with jewels and pearls -- no mingie miter for the Pope of Anglican Land!!! My God, I feel the ten generations of ancestral Anglican and Episcopal priests and bishops twirling in their graves.

Or, do you think it's more about the whole infallibility thing?

Elizabeth, I think we can rest assured that Rowan already considers his musings ex cathedra to be infallible and binding on the faithful.

Joie, I feel your concern for your parishioner and will add him and others in a like place to my daily prayers.

Those of us in progressive parishes tend to forget that gay partnered wardens, etc. are rare.

My greatest dissappointment in Cantuar's pronouncements was the BS about "chosen lifestyles" of our LGBTQ sisters amd brothers, when the church of Cantuar offers no choice.

seraph said...

John Bassett said...

"...Gay and open about it. OK, as long as you're a lay person.

Gay and pretty secretive about it. You can be ordained to the priesthood.

Gay and extremely secretive. You actually lie about it. You can be a bishop..."

Actually and sadly I agree with John! This seems to be the truth in most of the Anglican Communion.

Rowan's statement is merely "descriptive" of reality. No surprises there! Did anyone really expect a different reaction after the conversations and events of the last 3 years?



Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Joan, Clearly, you have NO idea - none whatsoever - of what you are talking about.

I invite you to our home, to see just how much "self control" we have.

I would also invite you to get your mind off my genitals.

Thank you.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

To the rest of all y'all - thanks for such wonderful supportive comments as well as your passion and outrage.

This is one of those times I'm glad I have a blog.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

To the rest of all y'all - thanks for such wonderful supportive comments as well as your passion and outrage.

This is one of those times I'm glad I have a blog.

Caminante said...

May you never have to go through what you did thirteen years ago with Ms Conroy (and hope she is doing OK now).

When I had minor surgery last year (enough to knock me out), it never dawned on me to take our civil union certificate to the hospital with me. Maybe that's because I live in the [socialist] Republic of Vermont. Maybe, too, it's because the operation was at a little hospital just down the road where I'd been many times qua priest.

Now, at the big hospital in a conservative city in Vermont, I would be more apt to carry said certificate... however, if something went wrong and people were nasty to A, I am sure I could say something to a parishioner (VP of something) and he'd get on their case.

For a long time, though, I did carry the certificate and now it is rather worn even though it is only nine years old.

OT: when Vermont's marriage law goes into effect, what do all of us with civil unions do? I think we can 'get married' on the tenth anniversary of our civil union which will make it our twentieth year together (so there, all those people who think that LGBTs are out of control).

Mac Thigpen said...

Dear Elizabeth,
Bless you; bless you; bless you! Bless you - your life and your style.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Ah, Mac, but you are one of my heroes in the church. I am blessed just to be able to call you my friend.

WilliamK said...

No-one *needs* sex, anymore than diabetics *need* sugar.

I'm just left shaking my head in puzzled amusement at the Christian conservatives who make statements like this in direct contradiction to the explicit teachings of Scripture, which tell us that celibacy is a GIFT and NOT something everyone can embrace. Joan, have a look at Matthew 19:10-12 and 1 Corinthians 7 (especially, verses 1-2, 6-7, and 9). In short, Scripture affirms precisely what you have denied: some people do "need" sex. As Paul so memorably put it, "It is better to marry than to burn (with passion)."

By the way, while I am certainly no medical expert, it is my understanding that diabetics, like everyone else, do need sugar, just in smaller and more carefully regulated quantities than non-diabetics. To confirm this, just ask a diabetic what happens when his blood sugar falls below safe levels. Your analogy actually undermines your assertion, not to mention that sexual orientation is not a disease.

IT said...

The problem is whether or not being gay is a pathology, or a normal variant. See my post on this at Friends of Jake.

As summed up by Andrew Sullivan:
The premise used to be that homosexuality was an activity, that gays were people who chose to behave badly; or, if they weren’t choosing to behave badly, were nonetheless suffering from a form of sickness or, in the words of the Vatican, an “objective disorder.” And so the question of whether to permit the acts and activities of such disordered individuals was a legitimate area of legislation and regulation.

But when gays are seen as the same as straights—as individuals; as normal, well-adjusted, human individuals—the argument changes altogether. The question becomes a matter of how we treat a minority with an involuntary, defining characteristic along the lines of gender or race. And when a generation came of age that did not merely grasp this intellectually, but knew it from their own lives and friends and family members, then the logic for full equality became irresistible.

MarkBrunson said...

No-one *needs* sex, anymore than diabetics *need* sugar.

What gets me is the deep level of dysfunction in such a statement. Sex as danger, as an evil necessity, as a sick craving.

Really? Are people that animalistic? Are they really just about the rutting? Hell, I'm uncomfortable about sex and think little of it, but at least I'm aware that's a problem!