Last week, before Pentecost, I posted on the upcoming Rainbow Sash plans for Pentecost mass at the Cathedral of St Paul (Minnesota). A reader asked what happened at that mass, and here is what I know.
Michael Bayly, in his blog Wild Reed, quotes extensively from Brian McNeill, Rainbow Sash organizer … who disrupted the Pentecost mass?
“Was it the thirty people who quietly and prayerfully were present as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Catholics?” he asks. Or was it Archbishop Nienstedt and Fr. James Adams who “perhaps intentionally opted for the alternative reading from Galatians because it served their sectarian and political purposes . . . [among them to] discredit the wearers of the Rainbow Sash as disruptive protesters?”
Paula Ruddy, in a lengthy and insightful post called “One Archdiocesan Community, Two Mindsets” on The Progressive Catholic Voice goes beyond the issue of GLBT Catholics and suggests there are fundamental differences in the view of “church”:
The Archbishop, as a good leader, wants to maintain order. He is focused on the external behavior of respect and reverence for the sacrament, shown in this case by not drawing attention to the fact that there is disagreement among the communicants. He is concerned for the inner life of the church in that to function well the members should be in agreement on all the basics and obedient to the leaders. The Church is one body, thinking alike, acting reverently, producing a right minded, godly membership. He is speaking like a Communion Catholic.
The Rainbow Sash Alliance, on the other hand, wants to affirm difference. There are many ways we are not alike. Perhaps it would be acceptable to leave differences at the door of the Cathedral when going in to celebrate Mass if there were a forum within the Archdiocese for bringing them up and having them affirmed in another venue. But there is such a high value on uniformity within the Communion leadership, that there is no room for difference. Individuals who do not fit are stifled. GLBT persons do not fit the mold, defined in formulations about sin. People who question do not fit the mold, defined in dogmas and “unchanging truths. [These are Kingdom Catholics.]”
This is a variation on the theme of “polity vs policy”. That is, what is more important … denominational unity, harmony, peace, etc. (polity) or an underlying issue of injustice (principle)? In my own ELCA, there will be a contentious national assembly this summer in Mpls over the issue of gay clergy. Many who resist the movement toward ordination of gays suggest that will be disruptive, schismatic, unsettling, etc., and I suspect they are right. If church unity (polity) is most important, then the ELCA should not ordain gays.
But, did Martin Luther or Martin Luther King worry about the unsettling consequences of their actions as they advocated for change (policy)?