Gene Robinson at the House of Bishops meeting last month in New Orleans. (AP: Judy Bottoni)
Gene Robinson, the openly-Gay Bishop of New Hampshire, has written a letter to the LGBT community in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion on the recent House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans. Episcopal Café has it here.
This is the guidance many of us were looking for, from a Gay guy who was there.
I won’t characterize what Gene said, because (like life itself in the Church) it’s a series of “on the other hand” statements. We need to see both hands. The letter isn’t long, so read it for yourself.
Here’s what I want to add. Last weekend I met with about 20 other Integrity leaders from the Midwest. We met at Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland for two and a half days of worship, discussion and sharing. Integrity is the LGBT caucus in the Episcopal Church. We were trying to figure out how to (re)vitalize Integrity in this region. Our national efforts, directed toward General Convention every three years, are “a well-oiled machine,” but our local and diocesan work basically flounders.
We had an excellent meeting, because we didn’t just strategize, “why don’t we…?” We shared our hopes and frustrations by telling our own stories. As individuals we are in many different spiritual and political places; one guy in Chicago “has held every chapter office except treasurer” for 20 years, and yet he keeps hoping for something good to happen. A woman in Iowa hesitates to take a leadership position because she’s only been an Episcopalian for ten years (!) and “there aren’t many Episcopalians in Iowa.”
We came up with a number of ideas, but we also pledged ourselves to action steps. Too often in the past we’ve failed to follow up our dreams with the work it takes to make them happen. This time I believe we’ll venture further. For instance, I now have three tasks: I am the “network coordinator” for the two dioceses in Indiana, and I will help arrange another Midwestern meeting next year, probably in Chicago, after the bishops return from the Lambeth Conference, where all the Anglican bishops will get together to talk about how to be the Church in the 21st century, with homosexuals and homophobes all in the same communion.
Last week we were graced by having Mark Hollingsworth, the Bishop of Ohio, present to talk about the meeting in New Orleans; he continues to be hopeful that we can be a church that’s both progressive and broad. The fact that he met with us and shared his impressions means that LGBT folk really are an integral part of this family. We want to hear from another bishop next year—and I suspect the post-Lambeth message will be similar. We have every reason to believe in God’s embrace, and to hope for human arms to hold us.
The Dean of Trinity Cathedral, Tracey Lind, also spoke to us in Cleveland. Next month she will face church voters in Chicago electing a new bishop there. She is a partnered Lesbian who has done great things in her present position and most folks agree she’d make a great bishop. But her election, if it happens, would provoke another crisis in the Anglican Communion; she would join Gene Robinson and become the Lesbian poster child. No one knows what will happen. She could lose the election; she could win but fail to get necessary consents from the House of Bishops, which has affirmed current church policy to “exercise restraint” in consecrating Gay/Lesbian bishops. Or she could win, get the consents, be consecrated and join Gene out on a limb.
Meanwhile back in Indiana, our Midwest VP Robert Bennett received an e-mail from a Gay vestryman in Bloomington who’s worried that our bishop will now clamp down on same-sex blessings, because she voted for (and helped write) the final statement from New Orleans. I think he’s wrong, but his letter was a big reminder that lives and souls are hanging in the balance here. This isn’t just politics. Does the Church love Gay people or not? Some LGBTs feel very discouraged and may even leave the Church if it can’t make up its mind.
That’s why Gene Robinson’s letter today is so important. Do read it. Don’t ever doubt that God loves you.
The principal question we all have to ask and answer for ourselves is this: Is our God a judge or a lover?
The God of the Hebrew Scriptures seems at first glance to be a judge; while many people take Jesus for a lover, so they don’t like the Old Testament so much. I think that’s a mistake. The more we let the Spirit of Christ infuse us, the more we come to realize that even the Hebrew LORD is pure lover.
So the challenge becomes to move beyond the old antitheses which WE put on God, in order to discover who God really is.
The way to do that is to pray, and then listen.
Love is built into our bodies, and if we bring that love out of the closet of our physical selves, we discover joy.
Let’s have the courage to bring God out.