Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Bishop!

(The Bishop was the title of a classic Monty Python sketch, and, in this household, anyway, it's hard to talk about a bishop without getting this in my head!)

A week from today, the Rev. Thomas E. Breidenthal will be consecrated as the ninth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio. I just found out yesterday that I have received a ticket and will be attending the ceremony. It's weird to think how long we have been anticipating a new bishop. Our previous bishop, the Rev. Herbert Thompson, Jr., retired in December or 2005, and died unexpectedly on a trip to Italy in August of 2006. But before he retired in 2005, the diocese had begun the process of selecting his successor, but that process was halted due to a moratorium on electing any new bishops. That moratorium was put in place (as I recall) in reaction to the response of some to the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson as the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church.

I have not yet met our bishop-elect, but I've been learning a bit about him. Some sermons he gave as Dean of Religious Life at Princeton can be found here. I also know that he has written a book: Sacred Unions: A New Guide to Lifelong Commitment

I haven't read it yet, but I'm intrigued by this description

Sacred Unions is a book about true love. By true love—or romance—the author refers to sexual passion that deepens into the permanent union of two persons in heart, body, and mind. The book is therefore addressed to all true lovers: straight or gay, deep into the adventure of a shared life or just contemplating it, or emerging out of a failed attempt. Lifelong union, Breidenthal asserts, is of central importance in all circumstances; and it remains a viable option for all of us, no matter who we are or what our story is.
It occurs to me that there is something a bit...poetic, maybe, about this. The reason we had to wait so long for our new bishop in the first place, is that a moratorium was put in place because of the way some people reacted to Gene Robinson's election and consecration. Just now, I'm reminded of what Bishop Robinson said about the Holy Spirit in his sermon during last summer's General Convention.

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.

The problem is, and the miracle is, and the gift is, God just won't stay put! And God won't let you or me stay put, content to believe what we've always believed, what we've always been taught, what we've always assumed. But change is not just something to be wished upon our enemies, but it is something God requires of us as well.

When the General Convention came to town last summer, I was working days and was thus unable to attend any of the actual convention, but made it to a couple of "off campus events" like the Integrity Eucharist where Gene Robinson gave the sermon I excerpted above and the U2Charist (see Bishop Michael Curry's sermon here.) I knew nothing about the candidates who were being considered for Presiding Bishop, but once Katharine Jefferts Schori was elected and I started to learn more about her, I was quite pleased. That worked out really well, you know? We got a great bishop, who just happens to also be the first woman to become Presiding Bishop of the national church, but, since I wasn't paying close attention *before* the election, I was spared any nailbiting anxiety/anticipation. And, as far as I can tell, something similar happened with the election of Thomas Breidenthal. I even went so far as to download the audio of a forum where all the candidates spoke, so I could learn a bit about them, but never got around to listening to it.

I wryly remarked to someone yesterday that elections seem to turn out better when I don't get emotionally invested in them until after the fact. Nah...I'm not really that superstitious. Maybe it was just the Holy Spirit, doing what the Holy Spirit does. And/or wise, strong people on the search committee, able to resist any pressure to go with a more conservative choice. However these things happen, I'm looking forward to hearing our bishop-elect speak at my church this evening.