Tuesday, July 14, 2009

And move forward we did!

It was an inspiring day in the House of Bishops -- not just because of the final vote to move beyond B033 from the last Convention (declaring an unofficial moratorium on the election and consecration of bishops who happen to be gay and partnered), but because of the gentle, honest and faithful debate that preceded that vote.

As those of you reading this blog know, I've not had a good feeling about my colleagues in the House of Bishops lately. And while this vote has not entirely eased all my concerns, it was a moment (okay, three hours!) when my beloved colleagues rose to speak from their hearts and from their faith about the matters before us. Some of my brothers and sisters spoke and voted in ways that will get them in trouble with many they pastor. Courage comes in many forms, and yesterday, many who had voted FOR the moratorium listened both to the House of Deputies and, I believe, the Holy Spirit, opening their hearts to where God might be moving in the world and in the Church. No doubt, they will pay a price for opening their hearts, much as gay and lesbian people in this Church have paid a price for their exclusion. I applaud them for their courage and will stand with them in the consequences of their vote.

This is the Church I've been telling my gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters to come to, or to come back to. This is the Church that sees the face of Christ in the poor, the despised, the neglected and the marginalized. This is not the "gay Church," but the Church who values those who are gay, women, people of color, those differently abled, as well as the white, male and middle class. It is a Church for ALL of God's children -- all sinners redeemed by a loving God who gave God's self for ALL on the cross. This is a day to rejoice for the Church -- no, let me be more specific, this is a day to rejoice in The Episcopal Church, which once again has stood for the full inclusion of all.

Another difficult and moving experience for me yesterday: One of my brother bishops confronted me about something I had written here on this blog, reminding me that my words weren't just going to the people of my diocese (for whom my blog is primarily written), but to the many people who come to read my reflections. He disagreed with my perceptions of the House of Bishops (even though they were written as MY perceptions), feeling that they fueled the often-heard perception that there was a divide between the Houses of Deputies and Bishops. He felt -- and I seriously listened to and contemplated -- that I had exhibited the kind of arrogance that I had accused my brother bishops of. I have and will continue to contemplate that, searching my soul for the kind of sin I accuse others of. (Jesus had something to say about the mote in someone ELSE'S eye!) But the point I want to make in relating this personal interaction is that he SAID it. What a gift it is when people speak the truth in love to you. There was no question in my mind that he spoke those words in love -- and that is what makes the Church, and yes, the House of Bishops, a holy place. We're all doing the best we can, and being human, we don't always have the full perspective we'd like. And when we err, fellow Christians correct one another in love. As long as THAT commitment persists, we will be all right. No, we will be better than all right. We will be the community of the faithful God would have us be.

Yesterday was exhausting. At the close of the debate, instead of feeling overjoyed at the two-to-one margin of the vote, I felt strangely quiet, pensive and sober. Votes like this (yea or nay?!) always LOOK like there are winners and losers. I wish that weren't so. I was so aware of those who voted no, many of whom are beloved friends, some from my very close group of bishops in my "class" (elected also in 2003), and how they must feel. They will have experienced the Church, which they love every bit as much as I, moving away from what they perceive to be God's will and the course of action to preserve the Anglican Communion. I, on the other hand, found it hard not to take their votes, and their speeches prior to the vote, personally. It sounded as if they were denying my own humanity, and that of my brothers and sisters who have consistently found ourselves on the fringes of the Church. I know they didn't mean it that way, or think that, but still it is hard to sit and listen to such arguments. But that is what this is all about -- speaking the truth as best we can discern it, for the good of God and God's Church.

So, for me, while I find profound joy in the vote for inclusion, I also continue to feel quiet and humble in the face of it, knowing the distress it also causes in other faithful people, in the Episcopal Church and in the Anglican Communion, who are my brothers and sisters in Christ. Today, we move forward, together. Together -- that's the important thing. As long as we hang in there together, with all our flaws and shortcomings, speaking the truth in love and trusting in God's grace, all will be well. If not today, then tomorrow. Thanks be, not to the House of Deputies nor the House of Bishops, but TO GOD.