Sunday, July 20, 2008

They Just Don't Get IT- Do They

I’ve held off writing in this space for a while now.
For a couple of reasons:

With Lambeth upon us, I’ve felt there’s been more than enough ‘talk’ going on- and most of it by better educated, more articulate voices than mine.

I’ve also felt deeply moved to spend this time in practice ,study and confident prayer- most particularly for my lesbian and gay brothers and sisters gathering at St. Stephen’s Church, our radiant cloud of inclusive witness. My awareness of the risks they are taking, of their radiant love for the transformative process we call the Anglican Communion, and the costs several have paid for their lives of embodied faith is almost constantly with me as I go through my days here in Montreal.

Several of those radiant beings are personally precious to me for the contact and mutual support we have shared, and this morning I am particularly mindful of one dear sister who will be boarding a plane for Lambeth later this afternoon.

And if I’m going to be honest, I have to admit there’s been a third reason for my silence. When I hear of fellow LGBT Christians being advised by civil authorities that they have to be measured for kevlar bullet-proof vest before going to meet with other Christians in a public venue, of course I am overcome with fearful concern, and there was one raw week when I was completely incapable of any approximation of ‘trust’ when it came to these dear souls.

Complex. Slightly weird at times. But yes, what an incredibly interesting time to be a gay or lesbian person ‘claiming the blessings’ of Anglican faith and practice!

But they still don’t get it.

And by ‘they’ I’m referring to the vested interests of the Anglican establishment.

A couple of cases to illustrate my point.

1. The current inherent insult:

The media ad nauseam claim it’s all about +Gene, and LGBT folks claiming the infinite blessings of our baptism, but perhaps benefiting from a physical distance from Lambeth I’d like to suggest, with all due love and respect that in the ‘bigger picture’ that dear +Gene New Hampshire, ++Katherine and all my personal LGBT heroes of faith are little more than footnotes to what’s really going on.

As a Church and Communion we constantly pray and strive to remain open to the will of God as revealed in the course of our lives; in our personal prayers and public liturgies we entreat the Holy Spirit to guide us, to sustain us , to make us worthy of embodying Christ’s redemptive love- ‘a love beyond our wildest imagining’ as one dear, radiant brother reminds me by his life and ministry.

We ask for the engaged presence and the gifts of the Holy Spirit in almost everything we do as a Church..... well folks, THIS IS IT.

The gift of the Holy Spirit in these times is the living miracle of thousands of gay and lesbian lives, scorned, rejected, beaten, discriminated against, stepping up and taking our loving, Lord at His word. Opening their lives once more to the possibility of something beyond the fears, lies and violence perpetuated against them. Taking Christ Jesus and those purporting to be His Church at their word, and living lives based on the unfailing gifts of their baptismal promises.

So just Who is really bearing the brunt of this current round of insult due to a lack of faith and imagination, small-mindedness and petty nastiness?

You want gifts?

Well could it be any clearer what the Holy Spirit has sent the living body of Christ Jesus in these times?

Those that that same Church has rejected.

Men and women who have not only born the marks of the Church’s frightened condemnation, but who have trusted enough in Christ’s unfailing love to give the Church another chance, over and over again- every Sunday when they bless your pews, every week-day when they serve on your committees or join you in prayer.

You want miracles and signs that, as our precious Lord promised, the Holy Spirit is present and actively at work in the Living body of Christ?

Look no further than these radiant lives, singing your hymns, praying your prayers, and with hard-won faith and life-altering gratitude kneeling to receive the body and blood of Christ from your anointed hands.

Could the living embodiment of these joyous, grateful, faithful lives be any clearer a sign?

And yet

A precious, radiant embodiment of that same redemptive working of the Holy Spirit is being excluded from the worship & councils of his fellow bishops

A radiant sister whose intelligence and grace, skills and education would be celebrated anywhere but in the councils of our Communion has suffered long months of vitriolic cursing and sneering condemnation

Both radiant individuals called and ordained; elected, duly confirmed, consecrated and sustained by the Holy Spirit to the ministries of service they carry out in our Church.

Elsewhere, and in too many quarters of our Communion, countless, faithful sisters and brothers in faith live in danger for their lives, suffer the discrimination of law, the rejection of their families and damnation from their pulpits, because of a regime of fearful patriarchy the Church- our Church continues to tolerate

The headlines persist in saying this is all about +Gene, but I would suggest that anyone with the courage to accept & use the intelligence our loving, long-suffering God has given us and the unfailing grace we continue to be showered with each day, will realize that nothing short of the presence and active engagement of the Holy Spirit is the real issue here.

Try hemming IT in with selective quoting Scriptural references which are little more than cultural contexts,

Try delaying IT with chapter and verse of canon law

Try avoiding IT with seemingly necessary diplomatic exclusion and a fearful silence in response to the threats, violence, piracy and cursing coming from some quarters of the Communion

But this is the Body of Christ, the live theatre of the Holy Spirit and you did ask-
for that same Holy Spirit to nourish, teach and sustain us,
to grant us the grace to embody that ‘love beyond our wildest imagining’ as the living Body of Christ.

Each and everyone of them; living, breathing embodiment of Christ’s love, of Christ’s patience and forbearance.

Living Gifts:
redeemed by that same sacrifice on the Cross
sustained by the grace, love and engaged partnership of the Holy Spirit

lives raised in fear, scarred by threats, violence, lies, prejudice & exclusion, but, through God’s unfailing grace embodying in their healing-to-wholeness their joyous faithfulness & the active engagement of that ‘Love beyond our wildest imagining’ the working of God among us.

living breathing gifts of the limitless faithfulness of our Saviours promises and the efficacy of the Holy Spirit in our lives

Gifts of the Holy Spirit & nothing less

God grant Her Church the grace and humility to say ‘thank-you’.

2. Ownership

There’s a lot of print and talk coming out of Lambeth already of the Church’s need to return to its vocation of evangelization. In too many of the documents, blogs and interviews the world continue to wears the implied quotation marks of its Church-assigned otherness.

But excuse me folks. Might we not be forgetting something here?

As any reparative therapy practitioner can tell us, ‘naming’ and ‘ownership’ are necessary prerequisites of any honest exercise in healing or restoration, and I would dare to suggest that any attempts at simply resurrecting old models of evangelizing ‘the world,’ ‘society’ or however you wish to objectify is doomed to be as alienating and inauthentic-sounding as many in the past.

Yes, too many of our pews too often remain empty
Yes, the great majority of humanity goes about their business with the Church little more than an architectural detail or bad memory in their lives
Yes, inspite of the Church’s best efforts to make the language, music and design of many of our liturgies relevant, they just don’t get it.

But I’d suggest that one reason they don’t get it- inspite of all the good intentions and earnest efforts of so many of our younger priests ( a joyously number of them gay or lesbian) is because our Church, and not the world has a rather gigantic breach of its own making to ford before any of them really get it- that ‘love beyond our wildest imagining’, which has become the only standard I personally will any longer accept of anyone claiming to speak as the Living Body of Christ.

Naming it- too simply put for some perhaps, it’s the shamefully long history of violence, condemnation, wars, objectification and expulsion the purity police of Christianity have carried out to shore up the privilege of their seeming authority

It’s the intentional distortion of Holy Scripture and selective mis-representation of Christ’s ministry of unconditional loving inclusion.

It’s the untold suffering, solitude and impoverishment of God’s creation blessed by those same ecclesiastical ‘authorities’

It’s the fear and ugly rancour coming from certain quarters of our beloved Communion which has brothers in Christ scandalously dishonouring the fellowship of the Blessed Sacrament in Tanzania, objectifying and condemning a sister equal, and dealing body blows to the very Church entrusted to their care

It’s the marks of violence, discrimination and otherness too many of my radiant LGBT brothers and sisters of faith bare on their bodies and souls, and the very explicit death threats many of our LGBT brothers and sisters at Lambeth have had to step beyond

It’s the stained glass ceiling still politely weighing down on the spirits and heads of too many radiant sisters called to priesthood and the episcopacy: i.e. the episcopal candidacy of the very reverend Tracey+ Lind

It’s the millions of dollars spent on poaching forays, irregular consecrations, legal disputes, rebel conferences and pronouncements while untold millions exist in the hell of poverty and starvation, go untreated for HIV/AIDS, uneducated & homeless

It’s the pollution, vandalization and impoverishment of God’s radiant jewel- mother earth and the wars being carried out over her resources

It’s the suspicion and wariness our Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist brothers and sisters greet our every effort at rapprochement with

It’s not just the heroic, the lyrical & beautiful parts we inherit as a Church, these too, through the agency of men is our inheritance, and it is only when we stop the posturing and pronouncements to own these too, and speak in the honest, redeemed humanity of that ownership will we as a Church be taken seriously.

So what’s going on here, you might well ask.

I don’t believe it’s by chance that it’s our Communion the Holy Spirit is using in these times to collectively call all of humanity out of fear and quaking otherness into lives redeemed and embodying that ‘love beyond our wildest imaging.’

Our unique three-fold practice of honouring Scripture, Tradition and Intelligence, I would suggest find us in a particularly unique and unexpectedly supple place in the on-going redemptive work of the Holy Spirit.

Growing up in a devout Anglican home, in a largely Roman Catholic province, here in Canada, I heard lots of talk of ‘a penitent church’, & together we produced some remarkable & magnificent liturgies, penitential rites and, musical performances. almost all exclusively focussing on Christ’s redemptive sacrifice- honest, earnest reflections of their time.

And yet the poor continue to die of the fruits of our impoverishment
The sick and aged suffer from our indifference-
the cries of the world go unheard as prelates pronounce on the limitation of their own understanding and experience
And mother earth chokes on the effluence of objectifying arrogance

Closer to home... for decades now I have heard talk and read official documents produced by the councils of our Church speaking of a ‘listening process to the lives and witness of our LGBT baptized,’ but I have yet to see one concrete embodiment of this professed will of our Communion- one collective act, one medium wether actual or virtual for LGBT voices to be recognized and heard.

Is it not possible it’s we, the ‘people of faith’ who have got it all wrong- God’s paradigm of redemption?
Could it possibly be it’s the world and not our rites & pronouncements which, through the unfailing grace of God serve as the primary medium and measure of our redemption and transformation?
The same world whose inherent vocation just might be to keep the Church honest
The world, an embodiment of the essential sacrament underlying the seven our Church and tradition celebrate- Life itself.

‘The world’
‘That woman’
‘The gay bishop’
All simplistic objectifications of the embodied, on-going engagement of the Holy Spirit in our very real lives and times

For generations the Apostles, Saints and martyrs have witnessed to us that faith- our faith is essentially all about relationship- with a God who loves us ‘ beyond our wildest imagining,’ and with each other

And yet the breach remains, equally I’d suggest from humanity and the Church’s fear of falling into the hands of the One and Only Living God.

Simplistic as it might sound, I would suggest that what’s essentially going on here is an unfaltering call from the Holy Spirit to come closer.

To step out of the straight-jacketed fear and divisiveness, into an embodied love- the source of all love- that only Love ‘beyond our wildest imagining’

To throw off the shackles of dualistic thinking and to recognize the wondrous seamless redemptive work of the Holy Spirit- as seamless as our Saviours robe at Golgotha

To gratefully own, not only our painful collective and individual pasts, but the redemptive blessedness of our baptism

Inheriting through grace and Christ’s sacrifice & promise to His Church, and the witness of the saints and apostles, a full confidence in the active, on-going engagement with the Holy Spirit in our lives

That’s what’s going on here - we’re called - by nothing less than the very ground of our being. Embodiment, nothing less what’s is expected and promised to those who respond.

3 On a personal note

Last evening, as dusk settled over the small garden which has been such a source of
joy and insight for me, I gave thanks collectively and individually for so many of the radiant LGBT lives of faith who have blessed me personally & so powerfully in these last months and years. Living embodiment of Christ’s unfailing love and mercy towards me, I named them.

Also, especially mindful of a sweet sister who has become inestimably precious to me, leaving for Lambeth this evening; in faith I claimed the sureity and safety of our faithful Redeemer for each of my radiant brothers and sisters witnessing with their lives of at Lambeth.

I don’t know of another time in my life when the blessings and practice have been this redemptively close to the bone- and that’s saying a lot, as those who know me can attest. Equally implicit is both the blessing of my Anglican baptism and faith, and being born a gay man in the image and likeness of the living God. Both of which, with time, I have learned to give thanks for.

Interesting time- indeed.

And so, one breath at a time, though God’s grace alone, we prayerfully proceed; always with an eye out for the wonder of being surprised by joy and with an abiding sense of our blessedness.

Humbly offered by one of the least, but most blessed of you, your brother in Christ Jesus


Towards God’s greater blessing, to God’s greater glory- always & unconditionally!


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