16 July 2009

A Eucharistic Miracle, appeasement, and family

From The Lead.
At a Chicago Consultation lunch, Bishop Bruce Caldwell of Wyoming used the public narrative model, much in favor at this General Convention, to tell his story of how an “elk-hunting, horse-riding bishop” became a GLBT activist. You can watch his speech here.

In 1998, after Caldwell became bishop of Wyoming the previous year, Matthew Shepard was tortured and killed near Laramie. Shepard, an active Episcopalian, was targeted by his murderers because he was gay. Bishop Caldwell presided at Shepard’s funeral Eucharist in front of, as he recalled, flowers sent by Elton John.

When it was time to distribute the elements, Caldwell went to the furthest corner of the parish hall. Gay and lesbian people came with open hands outstretched, he remembered, “and they came, and they came. “ As he was distributing the bread and wine, he thought, “Why are they here? Why would they have hands outstretched after the way they’ve been treated?”

That moment, at Matthew Shepard’s funeral, is when Caldwell became an activist. He concluded his speech on Sunday by saying, “My question that I pose today, because those hands haunt me: Is it time to fill those hands? Can we fill those hands together with the absolute love of God?”

Miracles do happen at Communion, folks; they really do.

From Issues we read this from Caro Hall:

Last night I had dinner with friend who is just ‘coming out’ and we talked about the reactions of those she has so far told that she is lesbian, and her fears of how most of her family will act. For many LGBT people ‘coming out’ is an act of courage as there are few families who relish the news that a beloved son or daughter is called to a different and often socially unacceptable path. It is not unusual for LGBT people to choose to ‘pass’ as straight – to appease their conventional family and friends by laughing at gay jokes and nodding to homophobic references. Even when the family knows, there is often a period when the LGBT family member doesn’t bring their friends home, carefully talks about neutral things, tries not to upset the applecart any further and even tries extra hard to remember birthdays and to be helpful at family events. A period of appeasement.

Finally the LGBT person says enough is enough, if they can’t accept me as I am I’ll get on with my life and hopefully they’ll get over it. Often after a period of adjustment the family regroups including the LGBT member. Sometimes it doesn’t.

In 1997 there was a move by conservative Primates, led by the then Archbishop of the Southern Cone, to exclude the Episcopal Church from the Lambeth Conference. Why? Because for over a decade our conservative wing had been trying to persuade the church to formally exclude LGBT members. When in 1996 an Ecclesiastical Trial Court declared that there was no ‘core doctrine’ which prevented the ordination of LGBT Episcopalians they took their case to the global south bishops. So for twenty-two years the Episcopal Church has been ‘coming out’ in the Anglican Communion.

Finally, in the passing of D025, we have ended the period of appeasement. Of course we have concerns about how it will be received. But we are no longer looking over our shoulder, moving furtively around, trying to appease the family. Will the Anglican Communion regroup and include the Episcopal Church? I believe so.

Let us not forget that the Episcopal Church existed for almost one hundred years before the first Lambeth Conference, long before the Anglican Communion began to come into existence. Our existence and our flourishing depends on the dancing triune God, not on Canterbury.

Powerful statements.