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Orlando Cathedral: They’ll Know We Are Christians by our Vituperation

This seems to be the kind of

This seems to be the kind of “welcome” LGBTs can expect at the Episcopal cathedral in Orlando, Florida.


By now you’ve probably heard about Baby Jack, the child in Orlando whose two fathers hoped to have him baptized in April at their church, St. Luke’s Episcopal Cathedral. They went through the mandatory instruction and preparation, scheduled the service, invited family members in – and three days before it was to happen, the dean of the cathedral, the Very Rev. Anthony P. Clark, called to put it off, saying some people in the parish objected to holding the service because the married dads are Gay.

Anthony P. Clark, dean of the cathedral

Anthony P. Clark, dean of the cathedral

When the dads couldn’t work it out with the dean, one of them posted a statement on Facebook. Their story went viral. A member of a Facebook group called Episcopal Church Chat got up a petition, and in just a few days 20,000 people signed it. I also posted the dean’s photo on The Daily Office site. Soon the story spread further, to The Huffington Post and the Orlando Sentinel, as well as some other church sites. Twitter came alive, Bishop Gene Robinson wrote an article and so did the Rev. Susan Russell, former president of Integrity.

As the pressure grew, someone at the cathedral started firing off angry scripture-quoting tweets, and the Bishop of Central Florida, the Right Rev. Gregory Brewer, was drawn into the controversy; he’s the rector of the cathedral, over the dean. The bishop announced that he would meet with the two dads and try to smooth things over. They would issue a joint statement, he said.

Gregory O. Brewer, the Bishop of Central Florida who's in charge of the cathedral in Orlando

Gregory O. Brewer, the Bishop of Central Florida who’s in charge of the cathedral in Orlando

He met with the dads, apologized and supported the baptism, which he said would take place later this summer. But no joint statement occurred; he issued one and so did the dads, a very thoughtful and gracious acceptance, which nevertheless didn’t back down from acknowledging that a wrong had taken place.

The internet cooled off—until Monday, when the cathedral posted a podcast of the sermon delivered by one of the staff priests, the Rev. J. Gary L’Hommedieu, at the main Sunday service the day before.

Gary L'Hommedieu, an assistant priest at the cathedral, vented his spleen in a sermon after the controversy began to die down.

Gary L’Hommedieu, an assistant priest at the cathedral, vented his spleen in a sermon after the controversy began to die down. His name means “man of God.”

It’s the angriest, most bitter and self-justifying sermon I’ve ever heard – including 40 years’ worth of Christian hate and vitriol from homophobic preachers around the world.

Listen for yourself here.

This is not how Christians should conduct themselves, much less priests. Followers of Jesus are supposed to be known for our love and compassion. When we are wronged, Christ said, we should turn the other cheek.

I guarantee we haven’t heard the last of these guys. They have plunged the Episcopal Church, the diocese and the cathedral – the Gospel of Christ itself – into public scandal.

The bishop will survive this, because he met with the parents, apologized and tried to help.

But Dean Clark and Canon L’Hommedieu are going down in flames.

Their defense all through this has been that they didn’t “deny” the baby baptism – it was merely put off, postponed, pre-empted, suspended, delayed, deferred, adjourned, shelved. They took a rain check, put it on ice, stuck it on the back burner.

What they did not do was reschedule it. And that amounts to denying the sacrament of baptism to an infant who has never sinned one minute of his life.

If you were a judge in a courtroom, and the defendants tried to use semantics to save their necks, would you believe them? Or convict them?

Social media – that is, individual Christians talking to each other – forced the bishop to intervene. Public outrage, however it came to develop, trained a spotlight on injustice at this cathedral. L’Hommedieu can blame “West Coast bloggers” all he likes, but it wasn’t bloggers who committed Conduct Unbecoming a Member of the Clergy.

The baby did nothing wrong. He ought to have been baptized with joy as one of Christ’s own – not used to advance the hateful agenda of anti-Gay priests.++

[UPDATE: I’m taking bets on whether L’Hommedieu was the one who first objected to this baptism.]

10 Responses

  1. Why have these men not been disciplined? If anything qualifies as a sin against the Holy Spirit, their actions do.

  2. Can their egregious actions, have any repercussion, and what is the followup from the Bishop and the two dads. “Baby Jack”remains unbaptized, while this church is fighting the old, tired “culture wars”.
    This cathedral and its leadership do NOT represent the Body of Christ to me!

  3. Thank you. I had not listened to the homily until now. Never have I heard such a thing, and I hope to never hear another like this.

  4. A sad and painful event at our Cathedral and their clergy. Not our best example of Christian community in action.

  5. Do Jack’s parents have a date yet for his baptism? And yes, I’ll take that bet.

  6. The homily is apparently no longer available for our listening pleasure at that link. Maybe it is for the better. I once knew Gary L’Hommedieu and attended a church he pastored. It sounds like he would be disappointed in me to find out that I have transitioned and am now living as a gay man. If this homily is as bad as people are saying here, I must admit to being disappointed in him 😦

  7. Karol, I have a copy of this sermon in my archives and I assure you, it’s every bit as bad as advertised – angry, bitter, full of sarcasm and denunciations, all to cover up the essential dishonesty of his public position, that he was afraid to baptize this baby because of who its parents are. He was more worried about the reaction of his right-wing parishioners than about this child’s immortal soul.

    A priest who refuses to baptize an infant should be deposed. Shame on the Bishop of Central Florida for not bringing charges against him.

  8. I admit, I have read some other writings of his online. They did not seem quite so vituperative, but that said… they do permit me to think it was not the reaction of his right-wing parishioners he was concerned about. It appears he personally views homosexuality as a Biblically unacceptable lifestyle.

  9. That goes without saying; only a homophobic priest could find himself in such a situation. He saw a child of GAY PARENTS, not a child of God.

    He knew he couldn’t refuse to baptize the child of parishioners, and he tried shifting it to the afternoon so he could do it in the closet. Instead the episode exposed his mendacity and hypocrisy to the entire city and the entire Church. No wonder he was so angry about it; terrible publicity in downtown Disney City.

  10. Like I said, I am disappointed. I mean, don’t get me wrong, he always did have evangelical and charismatic leanings, so I’m not surprised that he takes conservative views about the various issues, but I don’t remember him being so vituperative as rector of Church of the Atonement in Morton PA. I’ve been trying to figure out what the hell happened, but information is scarce for sure…

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