Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Fence-sitting: I won't, with God's help...

Many things in history have occurred because someone didn't want to become "involved" with an issue. Lots of lives were either saved or lost because of someone's action or inaction. And sometimes the someone or someones lost their own life as a result of choosing to not sit on a fence and watch others die or live. They made a conscious choice to become involved as a matter of conscience, as an issue of right versus wrong, humane versus inhumane.


All of these very scenarios play themselves out each day in countries all over the world. In Darfur, Sudan; in Rwanda; Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Israel, Gaza, England, the Netherlands; in America, in a town or city where you live. Someone somewhere is suffering at the hands of another someone, either physically, mentally, or ideologically. In Christianity we call those who step out of the crowd to stop a senseless killing or bombing or, in the old days, a burning or an inquisition, a martyr. Someone who is willing to die for another or an idea. We see the dark side of martyrdom in modern times in the embassy bombings in Africa, or the suicide bombings in Israel, or the bombing of the USS Cole, the senseless kidnapping of some country's soldiers which causes a conflict that ends up destroying a country or a people, or the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 here in our native land.

Christian martyrs died for the right to worship and believe in Christ instead of human beings with unlimited earthly powers because they decided they needed to be gods of--most notably--the Roman Empire. No one is asking for anyone to be a martyr nowadays in America because we have a lot more rights than the folks of that time period. I said more, not all the rights, we should have but we have some rights, both civil and ecclesiastical.

And I say some because even in the Church, especially the Episcopal Church, not every one is equal in the eyes of the Church but we are, as we know, equal in the eyes of God even if some narrow-minded people tell the rest of us that they are somehow better than the rest of us. Here lies the rub.

There is a growing ultra-conservative minority in the Episcopal Church that believe they have the "red phone" to God and the rest of us do not. And who are we to think that we are all equal before God, for pity sake? There are three dioceses in America that refuse to ordain women as priests, 30 years after the fact that made us equal to men in the priesthood. Talk about living in the dark ages. And here we thought we were so modern! And now this very sect, for that is what they are, want to relegate not only women, but gay and straight women, not to mention gay men, to the back of the proverbial bus, or not even the back of the bus, but the luggage compartment instead.

Let's see now. God has said that we are made in Their image, all of us, gay, straight and inbetween. Every human being, past, present and future, are reflections of God in Their creative glory. Who are we to deny the images of God in us to be relegated to the luggage compartment? No one has that right but apparently this sect has the arrogance to try do so. Believe me, I don't want to be them when standing before the judgment Seat of Christ on THAT day! Furthermore, and it has been said so many times, that according to our Baptismal Covenant that we renew in vows every Easter and at every baptism we attend, that we will strive for the justice of all, we will with God's help. So I ask: What part of the Baptismal vows don't the ultra-conservatives get? What part of the Baptismal vows don't the fence-sitters get? How are you going to work for justice when you can't decide what to do? Whose side to be on? That of justice or injustice? For me the choice is crystal clear, and that choice is justice. And yes, it will demand that dirt gets under one's fingernails because obtaining justice and defeating prejudice is a dirty job, and those brave of heart, mind, soul and spirit can and will do it.

The approaches are few. Talking helps but it takes two to listen and understand. Change is necessary and inevitable. There are only two constants in the universe: God and change. It was through Christ that God changed us from a legalistic people to a grace people. To return to legalism would be to negate everything Christ was sent to us to do. He will have died in vain if we even remotely give legalism any quarter.

Recently, the a court in Washington state denied the appeal of many gay and lesbian couples hoping to obtain equal standing in the right to be legally married like their heterosexual counterparts. Everyone asked "Where is an activist judge when we need one?!" when the appeal was struck down by that court. If we want to save the Episcopal Church from a similar fate, we need to become active, not passive and hope something nice will happen while we watch from the fence. I won't be on it with those who choose to take the easy way out but want their equal rights in the Church all the same without working for the justice it will take to get those rights and the God-given equality that was paid for in Christ's body and blood.

I urge, encourage, strongly recommend that Episcopalians, gay or straight, become involved in one or both of the following progressive equality movements that have come out of the 2003 and 2006 General Conventions. Please visit their websites below for more information and how you can become a part of this justice movement in the Episcopal Church. I am not asking anyone to forego caring about and becoming involved in the MDG"s or the ONE Episcopalian Campaign. These are in addition TO those two very worthy and just causes:

The Episcopal Majority at http://episcopalmajority.blogspot.com/2006/08/national-gathering-of-episcopal.html

and

WakeUp Episcopal Organization at http://www.wakeuptec.org/

Thank you for your time and consideration. The outcast community of the Episcopal Church in the luggage compartment thanks you.

7 comments:

Lisa said...

Thanks for your passionate statement, Catherine. As you so well said, the time for fence-sitting is over. I hope folks will indeed pop over to The Episcopal Majority and check us out!

Kate said...

Catherine, thank you very much for expressing your passion so eloquently. Having grown up in a conservative Baptist church, I'm aware of how infuriating it can be to be told you aren't allowed to use the gifts God gave you.

That said, I am a regular-attender at one of the churches in the ECUSA which objects to the ordination of homosexual men and women. The leaders of my church (men and women included) don't believe they have a "red phone" to God, they have simply not been convinced by the arguments that have been offered. They do consider homosexuality a sin (perhaps they're wrong, I'm still struggling through that myself), but they don't believe gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered people should be shoved into the "luggage compartment. Perhaps this seems backward and hateful to you, but I know these men and women and I know that they love and serve people and they love and serve God to the best of their abilities. It's not only ultra-conservatives that struggle with where to stand on this issue, travelling the not-always-easy path to understanding God's will.

Keep speaking out and expressing your hope for what the church could be. I love your blog and will continue reading it.

Kate said...

BTW, I am thoroughly opposed to the current actions of the church of the global south.

Questing Parson said...

And I would affirm everything you have said concerning the Episcopal community applies equally to the United Methodist of which I am a part.

Catherine + said...

To Lisa,

Yes, I hope so too. We have tried compromise and neutrality for the past 30 years and where has it gotten us in the long run?

We need practice prevention before the dis-ease gets so far ingrown that any treatment will be useless. I say the time for action and words is now.

See you in the Episcopal Majority, Lisa!

Catherine + said...

To Kate: Thank you so very much for your honesty and forthrightness, Kate. At least in your disagreement you don't damn the rest of us to hell but you show instead that you are a thinking, feeling woman of faith and of Christ. On behalf of us who are weary of the epithets, curses and damnation, I thank you.

I respect your point of view and thank you for respecting and honoring mine. I think WE will get along just fine! :-)

Catherine + said...

To Questing Parson: Thank you for your support and encouragement. My mom was a Methodist and I respect and honor your spiritual tradition. We all need to work together if we hope to accomplish anything of Christ's kingdom.

Bless you.