Thursday, March 25, 2010

Who is in the room matters

At their just-concluded meeting, the House of Bishops "received" the two reports from the no-longer-secret-committee of theologians about same sex marriage.

Mary Glasspool, bishop suffragan elect of the Diocese of Los Angeles, attended this meeting at Camp Allen near Houston as did Bishop Gene Robinson. For non-Episcopalian readers of this blog, Glasspool is a fine priest and a lesbian living in a long-term committed relationship. Bishop Robinson is a great bishop, and a gay man living in a long-term committed relationship.

Episcopal News Service has a story in which reference in made to a comment by Paul Lambert, bishop suffragan of Dallas, in a posting to the Anglicans United website. I found it revealing and informative.

Here is the statement [emphasis added]:

"It goes without saying that the recent Consent for the Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of Los Angeles has been a topic of discussion among the gathered bishops and how that will impact our relationships with the larger Communion. Although we have not had a plenary discussion on this development we will no doubt do so when the subject of the Anglican Covenant later this week occurs. Of course, her presence at our meeting makes it difficult to discuss this openly and honestly, both for her and the House gathered. I bid your prayers that we may have a spirit of mutual respect and forbearance for all involved. I do believe that we will do so with sensitivity and concern for all."

One might ask, how does the presence of Mary Glasspool make it difficult for bishops to discuss how her election will impact our relationships with the larger Communion openly and honestly?

Would the bishops say things behind her back that they would not say to her face? Apparently so.

It is indeed harder to talk about another human being as an "issue" or a "problem" when he or she is in the room looking you in the face. It is even harder when they are worshipping next to you, taking communion beside you, sharing the Body of Christ.

It is the power of the incarnational experience, and it is exactly why some have fought so hard and long to keep people of color, women and LGBT people out of the rooms where power is wielded and decisions are being made that affect the lives of people of color, women and LGBT people. It is why some primates, bishops, and other individuals have refused to worship with our presiding bishop and have loudly demanded she not be allowed to come to meetings of the primates.

It is why the Archbishop of Canterbury declined to invite Gene Robinson to Lambeth.

But we are an incarnational church. Each of us has been sealed as "Christ's own forever." That includes Bishop elect Glasspool as much as it includes Bishop Lambert. It includes Bishop Gene Robinson and the Communion Partner bishops. It includes every person of color, every woman, every LGBT person in the Anglican Communion.

Yes, it makes it harder for those who have been accustomed to wielding power unchallenged for so long to continue to speak and act as if all these millions of people are somehow "less than" other people.

Yes, this means that when you say LGBT people are "intrinsically disordered" you are going to have to say it to their faces -- and then -- harder still -- listen to their response. You might even have to witness the deep wounds your words and actions have caused and are causing all these people.

But given that we are brothers and sisters in Christ, this new reality in our House of Bishops should be an occasion of rejoicing, not lament. Our bishops are beginning to experience what the House of Deputies began to experience long ago -- who is in the room matters.

Bishop Lambert obviously realizes this, as he writes, "I bid your prayers that we may have a spirit of mutual respect and forbearance for all involved. I do believe that we will do so with sensitivity and concern for all."

I join him in this prayer.

5 comments:

DallasLEMminister said...

Thank you for your thoughtful , prayerful insight..

Lisa Fox said...

Thanks for this, Katie. You nailed the essential issue about his comment.

Fr. Daniel Weir said...

James Alison, in writing about the Resurrection and how the apostles experienced it as forgiveness, has asserted that that means that Jesus is transforming us into a "we" with no need for a "them," for an enemy against who we define our in group.

Elaine C. said...

Thank you -- very, very insightful ...

I work in a parish where the Interim Rector was fabulously gifted, but as an out, partnered lesbian, was not valued by a handful of members. I am appalled by what these folks say about her behind her back. I argue with them over scriptural interpretation, and disagree, but what you've written here -- provides me with richer insights into what to say. Thank you!

David@Montreal said...

Bravo and Katie!
Even at this distance (writing from Montreal) I am once again deeply moved by just what a living gift and blessing you are for our Church.

Thank-you again