The T-shirts worn by these two beautiful models were worn by many supporters of full inclusion at yesterday's eucharist, with the Archbishop of Canterbury preaching. They say, "Here I am, Send Me! I am a witness to God's inclusive love." As usual, the worship was spirited and lively -- reminding us all that it is in the worship of the God who made us, the saviour who redeemed us, and the Spirit who leads and guides us, that we find our true unity.
In his sermon, the Archbishop said that God longs for a humanity broken open for intimacy. Indeed! ALL of God's people are to be broken open for intimacy. In my testimony last night on moving past B033 (last convention's moratorium on any more gay bishops and blessing of unions), I suggested that God's longing applies to ALL of God's children, and that God's gay and lesbian children, called to the episcopate, deserve the opportunity for intimacy as well -- noting that I simply could not do the ministry of being Bishop of New Hampshire without the love and support of my partner, Mark. To exclude partnered people from the episcopate is cruel, and not in the Church's interest.
Last night's hearing on moving beyond B033 was inspiring and uplifting. It helped me remember why we do this work. Story after story of how gay and lesbian people have found hope in The Episcopal Church and its proclamation of God's inclusive love, after years of abuse and exclusion by other churches. Most profound of all were the testimonies of numerous young people, who spoke eloquently and movingly about the kind of church THEY want to be a part of, in which there truly are NO outcasts. One young man told of being a counselor at a church camp, who was confronted in the middle of the night, by an 8 year old camper, in tears, saying that he didn't want to BE in a church who would not love his older, gay brother. Another spoke the truth to power: we are not moving forward -- not because it's not right, but because of fear. Our beloved Church will be in good hands with these young stewards of God's message of love. Maybe it's time for us old foggies to just get out of the way!
One alarming thing about last night's hearing was the fact that there were almost NO bishops present. Other than those on the committee (who HAD to be there), there were only five bishops present: Andrus (California), Beckwith (Newark) and myself, arguing for moving forward; Love (Albany) and Lawrence (South Carolina) arguing for continuing B033. Other than these, NO bishop was present to hear the two hours of voices from the Church appealing for progress.
I fear (and I hope I'm not being overly dramatic here) that we are moving toward a train wreck between the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. I sense an unwillingness among the bishops to listen to these voices of the laity and clergy. I hope I'm terribly wrong, but it seems that bishops feel they have some special access to God's will and nothing will persuade them otherwise. I shutter to think of a church where the Bishops are so disconnected from the will of the people they serve. Please God, let me be terribly wrong about this perception, and may the scales fall from my pessimistic eyes and reveal an episcopate who has listened to the Spirit's movement in the people of this Church. Nothing would make me happier than to be wrong about this. Only time will tell.
One last note: In the table conversations using the "public narrative" model for communication, and seated at tables with our own deputations, I listened to our own deputies tell their own stories of conversion and how they came to faith and The Episcopal Church. I was moved almost to tears at the faithfulness expressed by our (your!) deputies to General Convention. I know each of them well, and yet through this process, I learned so much more about our colleagues whom you chose to represent them at Convention. All I can tell you is that you should be oh so proud of your deputation, the deep and abiding faith with which they are representing you, and their experience of the Living God which guides them. I could not be more proud of being from New Hampshire and serving with these exemplary Christians.
Please continue to pray for us. For our stamina and energy, for our witness, for our learning from others gathered here, and for our beloved Church. I keep reminding myself that, in the end, all will be well. It seems a long way between here and there, but in God's time, all WILL be well. Thanks be to God!