Monday, June 26, 2006

For the Times They Are a Changin'

I'm an Episcopalian, a whiskeypalian, (Whenever two or three are gathered together, there will be a fifth among them, I love that...)
I think we got the reputation not because we're all drunks, but because there is a sense of not taking ourselves too seriously, of gathering together for lightweight as well as heavy times, and of having traveled the difficult road of bridging many gaps for as long as we have.

The Episcopal Church that I love has always been welcoming; broad-minded, open to all kinds of people, and inclusive of all of them. So this last General Convention was both an encouraging and a discouraging event.

For the first time, we elected a woman to the post of Presiding Bishop, the new head of the whole Episcopal Church of the United States of America, (ECUSA), and that is a wonderful, celebratory thing.

Almost simultaneously, the ultra-right wing of our church, the so-called Network, denounced the vote and threatened to remove themselves from the church, (Big surprise there...). They asked the Bishop of Canterbury for what I believe they call Primatory Oversight - Meaning that they want to stay within ECUSA but not have to answer to the National Church infrastructure, or the new Presiding Bishop. I don't care what they call it , to be honest - I call it Having Our Cake and Eating It Too, and I think it's a bunch of crap.

A good friend who was there told me that two statements she heard pretty much set the stage for how this whole mess played out: Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, (Yes, that Gene Robinson), said of The Holders of the Opposing View, "Love them anyway." On the other sid e of the aisle, Bishop Andrews of the Network said, "I love a good fight." Now - Pop quiz - Which one of those perspectives sounds loving and inclusive, and which one sounds divisive and confrontory?

Times up!

Sunday, Father Fred preached a darn good sermon, pointing out that we're not called to play politics and push divisive issues, we're called to do the work of the church - To help those who need to be helped, live as we are called to live, be the people that Christians are supposed to be, and love and respect one another in the process. He said that both sides, liberal and conservative, are wrong to push things too hard, wrong to castigate the other, wrong to make this issue paramount over all. Well, in all honesty, I think he got it just right, and dead wrong. Father Fred has said all along that what he hates the most about this whole rift is being forced into one camp or another, and I agree, it sucks. We've managed to ride the rail for so long, it just doesn't feel right to be made to come down on one side or the other... Unfortunately, I don't personally think we have a choice any more. It doesn't feel right, but the lines are drawn, and there really isn't a neutral zone. I've chosen my side: I choose to go with ECUSA, our new Presiding Bishop, and the spirit of welcoming and inclusiveness I've always know. I'm gonna love 'em anyway.

Yes, we are called to do the work of the church, but if we're not one church we can't. We can't be the people God called us to be if we "Love a good fight" too much. We didn't threaten to leave the church, divide the faithful, and create an atmosphere of intolerance and narrow-minded dogma, they did. We didn't push it too hard, we chose to continue the trend we've known our whole lives. We didn't castigate the other side, we invited them to dialogue and understanding, and they didn't want to chat. We didn't carry the issue over everything else for the last few years, they're the ones that wouldn't let it go. They're not calling a spade a spade, they're calling it a fuckin' shovel, and that's the problem - It wasn't ugly 'till they made it ugly...

So there it is - Fact: The voice of the majority of ECUSA has been heard, again, just as it was 3 years ago. Fact: The rules are already there, we followed them. Fact: The framework already exists - Apparently, not all that many folks are interested in having it remade in y'all's image. Fact: You don't get to change it if the vast majority of the people involved don't feel as you do. Fact: For many, it's not a matter of politics and factionalism; it's a matter of heart and soul. Fact: You can posture and threaten and cajole all you want, but it doesn't change anything.

Know what happens when you push too hard? Eventually, the thing you're pushing gets tired of it and stops being malleable. Be careful what y'all wish for, you may well have bitten off way more than you could possibly be ready to chew...

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