I was in the House of Bishops Monday afternoon as the resolution authorizing provisional rites for the blessing of same-sex couples was debated. I looked around mid-way during the debate and there was hardly an empty chair any where. There was an overflow in the media area where there is usually more than a few seats available. But he moment the results of the vote was announced there was rush to the exit, as the Bishops undertook other resolutions.
The House of Deputies yesterday passed the same resolution which means that these rites of same sex blessing have been adopted for use during this triennial. Earlier in the week the Deputies passed canonical changes that add to the list of protections non-discrimination on the basis of sexual identify and expression.
I haven’t seen the TV or papers yet but I suspect the only thing this convention will get noted for on the evening news are these resolutions. It is not that this is all we are doing at Convention but I am almost certain it is about all that will be reported in national media.
Have you noticed how focused and uptight we are as a society about human sexuality? Whether in advertising, news, the church or the reporting on celebrity sex gets attention. Other things not so much.
Well, I would like to call your attention to some other things. In the same afternoon session on Monday the House of Bishops approved a resolution for increased funding for missionaries. These are not the 19th century kinds of missionaries going to impose a faith and culture on others. These are people working with indigenous people in other lands to do the work of being good news to others – of witness by the work they do WITH others. The House also approved funding for a hospital in Gaza in Israel. Other resolutions have passed that address societal issues such as education, health and environmental concerns. (This has been after all the hottest year in US history. Giving a red perspiring face to warming.)
These are many other resolution that this convention will deal with that also will affect many lives positively – but you won’t hear about it on CNN or ABC. The list of things our church does that helps transform lives in breathtaking. Our generous pastoral response to the needs of the LGBT community is only one of a multitude of ways we affirm people and improve the lives of those in our communities, and around the globe
So be prepared when people say to you something about our church only being known for gay rights or same sex blessing. You have an opportunity to talk about these many other ways in which we on the national, diocesan, parish and individual level are involved and life-affirming.
And here’s a historical reminder. About fifty years ago the Episcopal Church broke with other Christian churches and other branches in the Anglican Communion to create a more pastoral response for those who wished to be remarried following a divorce. Few would currently argue that this pastoral response has been bad for people or for the church and we should return to the previous stance.