The Episcopal Church USA’s House of Bishops met in New Orleans and released a statement on Tuesday. They met with the hope of “mending the tear in the fabric” between various factions within the Anglican Communion.
I think it is important to lift this example up as so many denominations struggle with living out an inclusive Gospel. Their statement, and others like it, is religiously, indeed theologically offensive. It denies our humanity and wholeness as people of God.
They concur: As all parties agreed to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and as they pledged as a body to NOT authorize public rites for the blessing of “same sex unions”. They affirm their position from March, “We proclaim the Gospel of what God has done and is doing in Christ, of the dignity of every human being, and of justice, compassion and peace.” And then call for the “unequivocal and active commitment to the civil rights, safety and dignity of gay and lesbian persons.
It is a contradiction to on one hand state that we are one in Christ and we are full and equal participants in the life of the church, and then to state that the church cannot affirm our families. It is a contradiction to “proclaim the justice of Christ” and then to deny it. The theological position that we are all one in Christ but not in Christ’s church is offensive. The position that gay and lesbian people are included in every way in the life of the church as long as we deny who God created us to be is immoral, destructive and spiritually violating.
The House of Bishops call for the justice and dignity of gay and lesbian persons. They state, “It is of fundamental importance that, as we continue to seek consensus in matters of human sexuality, we also be clear and outspoken in our shared commitment to establish and protect the civil rights of gay and lesbian persons, and to name and oppose at every turn any action or policy that does violence to them, encourages violence toward them, or violates their dignity as children of God.”
They oppose any action or policy that does violence to us, except for their own. Committing spiritual violence is more debilitating than physical violence. Do they not see the log in their own eyes? They violate our dignity as children of God and then condemn that position.
So my question is, “What is the pastoral message to the gay and lesbian community?”
I affirm and acknowledge that this is church politics and is not the demeanor of many local congregations. I know there is strong leadership in the Episcopal Church working on behalf of all of us. But I have a deep concern for those Episcopalians who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender AND the people who love them. This sort of verbal and theological abuse is not okay.
The Episcopal Church is not alone. The Presbyterians recently presented a report entitled, “Peace, Unity, and Purity”, which took a similar view. The Lutherans (ELCA) recently voted to defrock a gifted beloved pastor for being who God created him to be. My intent is not to call out the Episcopal church per se. My intent is to challenge us with two questions. The first is always, What is the pastoral response to the LGBTQ community? And next, are we complicit in the abuse if we are not actively doing something to counter it?
For those of us in denominations who are actively working for the full inclusion and equality of all persons, CWC is with you. Our prayers are with you, our support is with you. This is not easy work. And for those congregations who are actively proclaiming inclusive faiths, you go! We stand in solidarity with you and will do whatever we can to lift up your message of love and hope and peace. And for those who are lone beacons modeling the peace of Christ, challenging exclusive policies, providing the prophetic word, know that you are not alone. We are all in this together!
Let us pray for the spiritual protection of all those who may hear the rhetoric of church politics within and outside the church. Let us pray for healing for those who have been wounded. And let us turn our faith into action by actively working for the full inclusion and equality for all. Blessed Be.