An Open Letter to My Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Brothers and Sisters in Christ

Many of you have been writing to me, in the aftermath of General Convention, to ask what I am thinking, now that the Convention has called upon the Church to deny consent to the consecration of partnered people as bishops. Frankly, like all of you, my thinking is all over the map. But here is where I am, only a few days later.

First, let’s give ourselves some time to recover. In the first few Moments of having the breath knocked out of us, we struggle just to breathe, unable to think about much of anything other than getting some oxygen back into our lungs. We have been dealt a blow that has knocked the wind out of us. Let’s be kind to ourselves, breathe a little, before we try to move on. Nothing has to be decided or done in the next few hours or days. Let’s catch our breath, remembering that breath is a powerful image of the Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments. Let’s allow ourselves to be re-infused with that Holy Spirit which has never abandoned us, no matter what the Church does or doesn’t do.

Let’s remember what DID happen at the General Convention. Faithful gay And lesbian Episcopalians showed up and witnessed to the power of Almighty God working in and through their lives. You would have been SO PROUD of Integrity, Claiming the Blessing, the Episcopal Women’s Caucus, The Witness, and countless other groups speaking on our behalf. Susan Russell, Michael Hopkins, Carol Cole Flanagan, Elizabeth Kaeton, Bonnie Perry and others too numerous to mention put their hearts, souls and every waking moment into representing ALL of us so very well and so faithfully. We owe them such a great debt. Faithful gay and lesbian Episcopalians were EVERYWHERE, witnessing to God’s saving grace in their lives – being so joyful and filled with God’s Spirit, there was no denying God’s love in their lives.

We gathered at Trinity Church to celebrate the Eucharist as the people of God. Not only were the nave and balconies filled, but the basement and sacristy as well, with gay and straight alike proclaiming God’s love for ALL of God’s children. It was a glimpse of heaven, and of the Church as it ought to be. Let’s not forget that we have been given a foretaste of the heavenly banquet where the marginalized are given an honored seat at the table.

The Episcopal Church declared its opposition to any constitutional Amendment – federal or state – which would short circuit gay and lesbian couples seeking the civil right of having their relationships legally acknowledged.

On Sunday, we elected a Presiding Bishop who is committed to the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people into the life and work and leadership of this Church. The Spirit was palpable, once again in Trinity Church, as the election balloting unfolded before our very eyes, pushing forward to the election of the first woman as Primate and Presiding Bishop. If indeed, as I have often said, this fight is really about the end of patriarchy, then that patriarchy was dealt an awesome blow in +Katharine’s election. When the primates next meet, it will be a new day, and at the table will be a representative of the world’s majority – women – incarnate in our primate. Thanks be to God for that! You go, girl!

To our joy, the House of Deputies refused to give in to threats from Within and without our Church, and decisively rejected the call to withhold consent from partnered people elected to the Episcopate. We thought that was the end of it. But alas, it was not.

+Frank Griswold – who, let us remember, has been a sometimes reluctant, But ever faithful champion for us, and who has paid a great price for Presiding at my consecration – brought back the “moratorium” resolution in a heavy-handed and inappropriate way (in my humble opinion). He seemed absolutely intent on getting this resolution through as a way of getting us all to the Lambeth table.

I don’t know whether or not our Presiding Bishop-elect was coerced or merely persuaded to join in this appeal, but it is clear to me that her support for such an action provided the push needed to convince the Deputies to adopt a resolution more prohibitive than the one they had rejected the day before. Gay and lesbian deputies, many in tears, not to mention our straight allies, rose to the microphones to pledge their support of our new primate as she goes off to represent us in unfriendly places, to “give her what she needs” to continue the conversation. The scene of gay and lesbian deputies, willing to fall on their own swords for the presumed good of the Church, voting for this resolution against their own self-interest was an act of self-sacrifice that I won’t soon forget.

Keeping us in conversation with the Anglican Communion was the goal – For which the price was declaring gay and lesbian people unfit material for the episcopate. Only time will tell whether or not even that was accomplished. Within minutes – yes, MINUTES – the conservatives both within our Church and in Africa declared our sacrificial action woefully inadequate. It felt like a kick in the teeth to the ones who had gotten down on their knees to submit to the will of the whole, even though the price of doing so was excruciating. Such a quick, obviously premeditated and patently cruel reaction from the Right can be seen only as the violent and unchristian act it was.

So what now?

It is too soon to strategize, too soon to know what it all means. But Here are a few things I DO know:

The Spirit IS working in the Church. We cannot claim that the Spirit is working in the Church only when we get our way. We must continue to Believe that that Spirit is working even when the Church takes an action which hurts us, when it seems to take us in the wrong direction. We are in this struggle for the long haul, and so is the Spirit. We cannot fathom at the moment how this turn of events serves justice. But God will not be mocked, and God will be our salvation. Let’s not forget that.

We are STILL loved beyond our wildest imagining. That was true the day before Convention; it is still true. This vote does not change that. Just because the Church lost its courage, just because the Church was willing to sacrifice US for access to a conversation with Anglicans around the world (which they hardly seem ready to engage in themselves), it does NOT mean that God has changed. If you listen carefully, God is STILL saying to God’s LGBT children, “You are my beloved. In you I am well pleased.” This vote may say a lot about the Episcopal Church, but it says NOTHING about you and me as gay and lesbian children of God. Blessed Martin Luther King once said, “Pontius Pilate’s sin was not that he didn’t KNOW what was right, but that he lacked the courage to STAND UP for right.” Pray for the Church.

We are in this for the long haul. OF COURSE there are going to be Bumps along the road, perhaps a few places where the road has washed out completely. The journey toward justice is neither a straight line nor easy. Just ask our brothers and sisters who are people of color, and still experiencing the pain of racism. Just ask our sisters who still pay the price of sexism and misogyny, both inside and outside the Church. We follow a savior who dealt with plenty of setbacks and disappointments – not to mention being “done in” by his friends. We are in good company here. But we won’t last for the long haul without Jesus! Let’s keep saying our prayers and listening to the One who knows and shares our burden.

We’ll be watching. Now that the Anglican Communion and the majority of Convention have gotten what they asked for, let’s see if anything changes. Will the rest of the Communion finally be willing to engage in the listening process promised for the last 30 years? Will anything be done in the domestic dioceses of this Church to move us along, or will this only be seen as a “blessed” respite from this debate? Will the Network dioceses and parishes give up their blatant drive to split this church apart and join us in our efforts to be reconciled, or will they only cry “not enough” and demand more? We’ll be watching – and we’ll want the “middle” to give us an accounting of what this Convention vote got them. And we’ll be asking, “Was it worth declaring us less than children of God, marked as Christ’s own forever?”

We are not defeated, for God is still with us. Let’s remember that at Its best, the Church has pushed the “pause” button, not the “stop” or “reverse” buttons. If we continue to make our witness, and if those for whom this sacrifice was made continue to threaten and make one-sided demands, the Episcopal Church will see its mistake and find its prophetic voice again. Maybe it will even repent of the harm done to us in this faithless and fearful act. Time will tell. In the meantime, we are not defeated, nor will we be paralyzed by this sad and woeful action. Dwelling on what happened and why will not serve us or the Church well. We need to turn away from yesterday and focus on tomorrow.

We know how all this is going to end. It is not arrogant to say that We believe we know how all this is going to turn out. It will end with The full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in The life and ministry and leadership of the Church. It will take a long time. Some or all of us may not live to see it. But happen it will! In a strange way, I think the conservatives know it too. All we’re arguing about now is timing. It will be enough for each of us to play her/his own part. Each of us can provide a pair of shoulders for someone else to stand on, just as surely as we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. This is a never-ending march toward justice for ALL, and NO ONE is going to be left behind. In the end, the reign of God will come. And oh what a privilege it is for each of us to play a small part.

We are worthy of God’s love – NOT because of anything we have done, but because God has MADE us worthy to stand before God through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As I said at Convention, the Gay Agenda is JESUS! If we keep that ever before us, in the end all will be well.

I love, respect, appreciate and honor each of you more than you could Ever know. Please keep me in your prayers, as you will be in mine. And to God be the glory!