First, the provisional liturgy entitled “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant” is not authorized for use in the Diocese of Northern Indiana. There will be no exceptions to this policy.And of course, for many of us it brought to mind this recent report
Second, priests of the Diocese of Northern Indiana who, for pastoral reasons, wish to use “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant” may travel to a neighboring diocese to do so. …
[Charles] Wilson and his bride Te'Andrea were to be married at the First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs [MS] on July 21. But after their rehearsal two nights before, the church's pastor sought to move the service, saying some congregants didn't want two black people to get married in the orange-brick sanctuary.The parallel seems obvious, doesn’t it? I'm sure all of us find it reprehensible that a church would deny a couple a wedding based on their race. But the wedding did occur, with the same minister, just in a different church. Does that ameliorate it? Of course not. The pain of rejection is there. And, just so for a gay couple in N. Indiana. That is the same thing.
The Rev. Stan Weatherford married the Wilsons as scheduled in another sanctuary….. Weatherford says the relocation was a request meant to avoid conflict. The Wilsons say it was a demand, with Weatherford saying the congregation would fire him if he married the pair in his church.
(Aside: One commenter at the Lead brought up the fact that being black is not like being gay. To which I would respond, no, it’s not like being gay. Nor is being a woman, or being a Jew. The experience of people in each of these groups is distinct from those in every other, and indeed unique. But at another level, they are the same, in their experience of being treated as “less than” in a variety of contexts. Each group may experience discrimination in a different way, but what is common is that they experience discrimination, based on who they are—whether that is classified by race, sex, orientation, religion.....)
The conversation at the Lead is divided between two factions: those who know Bishop Little, find him to be an honorable man, and consider this a reasonable effort to accommodate (since he allows his priests to travel without sanction), and those who find this a cop-out, so “because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I spit you out”. Let it be noted that both sides include passionate supporters of marriage equality.
Bishop Little goes on (again, via the Lead )
I have attempted in this two-point policy to find a solution that will honor the conscience of all. ….. In recent years, I have been both vocal and quite public about the importance of creating a “safe space” for people of divergent theological convictions. This policy is an attempt to do just that. While the solution is far from perfect, it will – at least in the short term – provide space for everyone to exercise conscience, and will require no one to act in a way that violates the deepest convictions of heart and mind.My initial response was “why not just let the parishes decide if they want to do it?” which is the reasonable solution in many dioceses. But is that really any different? If you are a gay person and your parish and vestry are not willing to use this liturgy, you still must travel elsewhere. The injustice, the rejection continues.
My next response is to think this is an example of via media, and while imperfect, may be inevitable if you are to maintain a big tent and really respect honorable differences. Because I am quite sure there are people (and it seems Bishop Little is one) who agonize over this issue but can’t in good conscience move forward. I happen to think they are wrong, but I can, indeed I MUST respect their conviction firmly held, as long as they do not engage in lies and hate. I must work to educate them, not vilify them. I must keep the conversation open.
I have also thought of this as I’ve seen responses to the Skyline Church event in San Diego, where right-wing Evangelical Jim Garlow hosted a “conversation on marriage”. By most accounts, this wasn’t really a conversation: the anti-marriage equality representatives Robert Gagnon and Jennifer Roback Morse gave the same lectures about the Bible, evil gays and sex, while the pro-equality side of John Corvino and Bishop Gene Robinson focused on real people—the reminder that “we are all beloved children of God”, not pieces on a chessboard. The initial reaction of some advocates is “this was just another opportunity for them to bash us.”
The Blog of St Paul’s Cathedral, aptly called “All Our Voices”, is running a series all week long with individual responses to the event. And, there are strong responses taking on the theology of Robert Gagnon, and rebutting the comments of Roback Morse, as there should be.
But what’s REALLY becoming interesting to me is less what went on up there on the platform, than the fact of people being there in the chairs. Many people have commented that it was significant to be seated in the same room, civilly listening to one another, even if disagreeing passionately. One attendee commented on the concept of hospitality and that this requires something from the host AND from the guest. Indeed, apparently Garlow received threats over the event. (I sure hope those weren’t from “our side”. ) And Bishop Gene was, as ever, gracious and loving. (I put him in the same category of Desmond Tutu – would that more Christians modeled themselves on those two Bishops!)
At the end of the event, Garlow apparently remarked that he didn’t think any minds were changed. Perhaps not. But perhaps some hearts were, simply by virtue of sitting in the same room. And I wish that people like Bishop Little, the lukewarm bishop, could have attended.
And so, although I share the frustration with Bishop Little, I will recognize that his statement is an effort to move forward, one that opens a door where none was before. Even it's a back door. Even if he's lukewarm.
Because a thoughtful host can learn something from a gracious guest.