This is week of such tragedy – the earthquake in Nepal where the death toll has risen was too high and the rioting in Baltimore after the funeral of Freddie Gray. Our minds reel over the suffering and pain felt by so many. And yet, this is also a week of hope for a Supreme Court judgment favoring marriage equality. Sometimes I find it hard to move back and forth between all the media coverage of these stories. That’s life; isn’t it? With every report of tragedy, we can also find stories that bring us delight and hope.
My first order of business today is to direct you to the website of the Diocese of Singapore which has set up a platform for donations to the relief effort in Nepal. I’m sure that we will find other avenues for collecting contributions but as of this writing, this is the source I found – http://www.anglican.org.sg/index.php/news/item/nepal_earthquake
I will keep you posted on other sites as they become available. Episcopal News Service also shared an article about the earthquake earlier this week – http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2015/04/28/effects-of-earthquake-devastating-reports-anglican-deanery-of-nepal/
My primary goal for this week, however, is to share with you some resources that link the Supreme Court work on marriage equality with our own which will take place at General Convention this summer. According to the Episcopal News Service, our Church’s advocacy for sexual identity equality began in 1976 acknowledging that homosexual persons are also beloved children of God and “have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church” (Resolution A069). A second resolution, Resolution A071, also affirmed that that “homosexual persons are entitled to equal protection of the laws with all other citizens, and calls upon our society to see that such protection is provided in actuality.” That was 39 years ago!
Here’s a link where you can find all the resolutions that address LGBT issues with respect to liturgy, marriage, ordination and civil rights from 1976 to 2012 – http://www.episcopalarchives.org/cgi-bin/acts/acts_topic_search.pl?topic=Homosexuality
We are finally at a place where civil authorities might recognize what our Household has known for a long time – that we are responsible to show respect for all human beings, not just those who look like us, talk like us, behave like us and love like us. In an interview with ENS on April 28th, Bishop Katharine said:
Personally, I continue to give thanks for the way in which Episcopalians and people of good faith in the U.S. and far beyond are learning to see the image of God in all God’s children, whether gay, straight, transgender, short, blonde or anything else. God’s ability to create in diverse ways is a sign that we will never fully know the divine mind and that we have gifts to receive from all that God offers us. The task of the church is to help people live lives of holiness, loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves – all our neighbors.
In question this summer at Convention will be resolutions designed to bring greater clarity in understanding the sacramental rite for all marriages. The Task Force on the Study of Marriage, the standing commission which charged the Task Force, and four dioceses have prepared these resolutions for consideration.
One big question that will be faced at Convention is how to make space for those who disagree. Redefining marriage in civil and/or ecclesial context is likely to leave some feeling alienated. The Rev. Canon Susan Russell, a long-time advocate for full inclusion of gays and lesbians summed it up: “No matter what we do at General Convention, it will be too much for some and too little for others.”
You may recall that when the question of the ordination of women was brought to Convention, those who disagreed stayed for a while but eventually left as the message changed through the years. Initially, the House of Bishops added a “Statement of Conscience” which said that “no Bishop, Priest, or Lay Person should be coerced or penalized in any manner, nor suffer any canonical disabilities as a result of his or her conscientious objection to or support” of women’s ordination. The statement never had any canonical authority because it was not supported by the House of Deputies but it gave some dioceses the ability to deny the ordination of women. This remained in place for 20 years until General Convention passed Resolution A053 in 1997 which removed the option to refuse the ordination of women. Those who continued to hold a more traditional position no longer felt welcome.
In a statement to ENS, Bishop Ed Little of the Diocese of Northern Indiana said: “The issues are significant. They impact the deepest places of our heart, but I hope that all of us will recognize, wherever we come down on these issues, that our commitment to Jesus Christ, our love for him and above all his for us, is what binds us together. We have to recognize that in fractious times Jesus is our only hope. You can’t legislate that, but in the end the only thing that will keep us together is Jesus himself.”
Because Michigan (part of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals) is one of the states still upholding a ban on same-sex marriage, Bishop Gibbs was one of the 2000 clergy and lay signers of a “Friend of the Court” brief brought to the Supreme Court on Monday. The brief affirms that many religious leaders including some Protestant denominations, branches of Judaism and certain Muslim groups are calling for support of marriage equality. You can read the brief here – http://sblog.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/14-556-episcopal-church.pdf
It is clear that this issue does touch the hearts of all those involved. As we work through these questions at Convention, we will need the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit to guide each bishop and deputy. Please continue to pray for Convention and your deputation as we prepare for this important work.
You can find the full text of the Episcopal News Service article here – http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2015/04/28/supreme-court-cases-prelude-to-marriage-debates-at-convention/
Let us pray…
Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our
being: We humbly pray you so to guide and govern us by
your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our
life we may not forget you, but may remember that we are
ever walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
~ Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council