Last night I attended something called "Soup and Study" at my progressive Episcopal church. How progressive? One day last summer, I was talking to two women I hadn't seen there before. This was during coffee-and-donut time after church one day while the General Convention was going on last June, so I asked if that's what they were in town for. One of them responded, no, they had just moved to the area and were looking for a church. They found us by doing a Google search for "gay Episcopal church", and there we were. That made me smile--yep, that would be us. And yet that's now how I think about my church most of the time. It just happens to be one of the bi-products of a church that practices an "open table" where we strive to welcome everyone as they are--doubts, questions, and all, "wherever they are on life's journey".
What they all seem to have experienced was rejection from the churches and communities they grew up in, which explains their mistrust of the Christian right. "Most of them can't handle the truth," one man told Erzen. "If you're in the church and you're a drug addict, murderer, whatever, guys will come up to you and slap you on the ass. But if you state that you struggle with homosexuality, you get the whole pew to yourself." Some of the men at New Hope had asked their fellow congregants for help and prayers, only to be shunned or told they were possessed by demons. Some didn't dare to speak of it at all.It really is sad. And, as I started to write up some of what Dr. Erzen shared last night, I could already imagine what some people might say--well, that's the trouble with organized religion. But it doesn't *have* to be that way. And I can't help but think of the pain that some of these people might have been spared, if only...
With that in mind, I'd like to share part of a sermon I read today. It's by Louis Crew, the founder of Integrity (which, for anyone who is not aware, is the Episcopalian GLBT organization). It ends with this story,
When Ernest Clay and I married thirty-three years ago, I wrote my parents and told them about him. They wrote back saying they were happy for us but asked me not to bring him home to visit. “We are old,” they said, “and while most of our friends would remain our friends, we don’t want to put them to the test. We have to live here, and you don’t. But we hope you will continue to come to visit us on your own.”
I know that's a long excerpt, but there really is a lot more to the sermon, and I recommend reading the whole thing. Especially if you're interested in learning more about the current issues faced by the Epicopal church. But the story above brought tears to my eyes today, and I thought, "This is exactly what it looks like when the Spirit is at work in people's lives.
At the beginning of this post I mentioned the General Convention, which took place in Columbus last June. It was during that week that I attended the Integrity Eucharist, and had the opportunity to hear Bishop Gene Robinson preach. Here's what he had to say about the Holy Spirit
It's that part of God which refuses to be contained and confined to the little boxes we create for God to live in--safely confined to the careful boundaries *we* set for the Holy Spirit.You can read the rest of Bishop Robinson's sermon here.
One thing I've heard a number of times is that the good news Jesus taught was good news for the poor, the outcast, and the disenfranchised. It didn't sound like such good news to the political and religious leaders of the day. Two thousand years later, things don't seem to have changed much in that regard.