Faces of blessing

The passage of the resolution concerning the authorization of same-sex blessing rites marks a significant mile stone in what has been a 30 year conversation for the Episcopal Church. In that process we often get wrapped up in the words, theology, precedence, and scriptural interpretation. The debate was all of that and more in both houses..

Despite the polite tones and the civil phraseology there are and will remain deep differences of opinion on this and other issues dealing with human sexuality and family life.

The idea of debate in ingrained in the democratic process. But after more than 40 years of attending conventions, local and national, I am convinced the the debate does not change any one’s mind, It serves to allow us to express reasons for our vote. But there is one other function that I observed in the debate that was most moving.

The debate allowed people to stand and tell their stories or their family stories.  One youth delegate who had been a lector at the morning Eucharist rose to speak of his own journey as a gay man and how the resolution would put our action behind our words “The Episcopal Church Welcomes you”.  Another deputy rose to say that he come to Convention for two reasons the first being his minor obsession with procedure and order and the other
reason is for his sister who is gay. “I came here for her and now I can call and tell her she and her partner are welcome to receive the blessing of our church.”

Several deputies spoke of other family members, and friends for whom this would be good,life-giving news of great joy.  In speaker after speaker we were offered the ability to put a face on the words. Flesh and bone on the reality of people who no longer had to be that hyphenated species (LGBT- Episcopalian) for whom all of the church’s blessing was not available.

Sitting next to me in the press gallery was a woman whom I have known over the years, an employee of a  church related entity. During the various political and procedural machinations  she grew increasing agitated. At the very end of the session just before the gavel fell on adjournment the Chair announced the vote. The woman turned to me and asked  “Is that it? Is it final?”  As I told her it was approved, she welled up and said to me quite simply “My daughter is gay. There is now an equal  place for her.” I found myself tearing up. As I headed for the exit I saw Bishop Ely of Vermont and Deputy Ruth Meyers of the Standing Liturgical and Music Commission.  I blocked their way and on behalf of my own friends and Episcopal family I said “Thank you so much!”

The words and theologies will still be debated. We have not ended the conversation and there are not just a few under the Episcopal tent who are and will remain unhappy. But the church put a face on blessing. We decided once again as a church by a decisive majority  that the call of the Gospel is to be open, to be pastoral, to err on the side of inclusion if we are to err at all.

And once again I am proud to be a part of this corner of Christianity.

Don

About don

The Rev Don Hill is an Episcopal priest, rail fan and writer. He and his wife the Rev. Dr. Nancy Woodworth-Hill are currently Co-Pastors of St Paul's Episcopal Church, Jeffersonville IN, in the Diocese of Indianapolis. They also work as parish consultants in Appreciative Inquiry, strategic planning and spirituality development for parishes and vestries.
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