Here are various summations of the recently completed Episcopal General Convention. For anyone who missed it, the big news out of the convention was the overwhelming support for resolutions to allow LGBT persons in all levels of ministry, including the episcopate. This decision was made in the face of conservative resistance at home but especially abroad where the world Anglican communion has expressed strong opposition.
Susan Russell is a lesbian pastor at a parish in Pasadena, California and the president of Integrity USA, the primary LGBT friendly organization within the Episcopal Church. Her personal blog, An Inch at a Time, contains her own remembrances of the convention’s high points. My favorite among her offerings is the story of the 14 year old boy whose mother has known he was gay since he was 4. Mother and son attended the Integrity Eucharist together, and afterwards he confided his orientation to her, which she had known all along.
"I’ve known he was gay since he was about 4," she said, her eyes welling up. "And have been waiting for him to figure it out. The fact that he came to himself in the context of a celebration of the Eucharist — that he’s never going to have to wonder if his church or his family will love and accept him as he is — I just can’t thank you enough."
The official blog of Integrity contains a Monday morning list of news items about the convention.
Pastor Elizabeth Kaeton from New Jersey offers her own remembrances on her blog, Telling Secrets. In her Sunday post, she shared a personal moment reminiscent of the woman with the hemorrhage tugging at Jesus’ robe. One day, participants in the convention demonstrated solidarity with the mostly Hispanic hotel workers who labor without a contract. Pastor Kaeton plunged into the crowd offering an anointing and a blessing.
It didn’t take long before I was surrounded by people – men, women and children – who suddenly seemed to be everywhere: tugging at my blouse and pulling at my skirt. I cannot put into words what it felt like to have people call to me, "Madre, Madre. Unteme! Unteme!"
I could feel people pressing in on my back and sides. I hardly knew where to turn next, but I took my time, looking deep into the eyes of each person – adult women, men and little children – and anointed them, in my faulting Spanish: “En nombre de Dios, de Jesuchristo y de Espirito Santo”.
"Gracias a dios," they said softly, thankfully. Funny how that works. I anointed them, but I was the one who was blessed. And, transformed. And, will never be the same.
John Dart, the news editor of the Christian Century Magazine, offers his summary in the magazine’s blog, Theolog. His perspective is that of an interested observer rather than an insider, and he addresses the issue of possible conservative fallout with links to conservative Episcopal bloggers. One key point made by Dart and others quoted in his blog is that the operative word of the resolutions is “may” and not “must” thereby making the gay ordination decision a local option.
In an interesting twist, Michael Sean Winters writing in the blog of America: the National Catholic Weekly, suggests the problem for the Episcopalians is not their gay affirming resolution and its potential for schism but their democratic ecclesiology that does not have overweening institutional authority to decide for all.
But, for two thousand years, the impulse to keep together, to put ecclesiology at the top of our concern, to take the Lord’s command that all may be one very seriously and to set up structures that facilitate that unity, that impulse has stood us in good stead.
The blog post ends up less about the Episcopalians than a self congratulatory slap on the back for the authority of Rome. Yep, that’s Christendom needs, more 19th century infallible decision-making. Unity and uniformity are more important than justice.
Finally, the USA Today blog of Faith & Reason wonders, “What next” for the conservative congregations within the Episcopal communion, and for the shrinking mainline Protestant denominations.
See you soon at the ELCA convention in August.