On Juneteenth (June 19), I had an experience of bumper sticker ministry.
I live in the reorganized Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. Because the recent history of our diocese was marked by exclusionary and unwelcoming attitudes on the part of former leaders, the people of the reorganized diocese are working hard to create a diocese in which all are truly welcome – liberal, moderate, conservative, straight, LGBT, male, female, young and old. As we work our way out of the time warp that was our diocese and into the 21st. Century, our goal is to invite everyone into the life and ministries of the Church. In short, we are living out the same struggles in which The Episcopal Church has been engaged for the last several decades, albeit in smaller scale and in a much more compressed time frame.
Nine months after our 2009 reorganizing convention we held our regular annual diocesan convention, and for the first time in diocesan history, Integrity had a booth. The very next day, Provisional Bishop Edwin F. (Ted) Gulick, Jr., ordained Susan Slaughter, the first woman to be ordained to the priesthood in the history of our diocese. At the same service, his successor, Provisional Bishop C. Wallis Ohl, installed her as rector of a parish. We now have 15 priests who are female serving in some capacity in our diocese.
Several of our congregations now proudly state they are welcoming and affirming while others act that out more quietly but just as sincerely. Our present Provisional Bishop, Rayford B. High, Jr., continues the work of full inclusion, having recently issued a statement in support of the vote of the Boy Scouts of America to admit gay Scouts.
In support of this work, like most of the people in our reorganized diocese, I have on the rear window of my car two stickers that say, "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You," one in English and one in Spanish.
Now, back to June 19. I was driving home from my daughter's house. I was on the new entrance ramp to I-30 from Forest Park Blvd., which locals know is now a long stretch through new road construction. As I approached the light at Summit Avenue, it changed to red. I stopped, as did the car next to me. I glanced over casually to see the driver waving frantically at me, mouthing "Lower your window!" Thinking I might have driven over something in the construction zone or that something was wrong with my car, I did so.
What follows is my best memory of an encounter that lasted only a minute or less. The young man said, "Thank you! Thank you!"
I obviously looked puzzled and he said, "Thank you for your support of same sex marriage. Your church is awesome. The Episcopal Church is awesome."
"I said, "Yes, it is," and smiled at him.
"We are getting married in July (not in Texas)," he said. I offered two thumbs up. "Thank your church," he said.
Then the light changed and he turned right. I started forward to merge onto I-30, smiling and lost in gratitude for the decades-long work of so many faithful LGBT Episcopalians and allies who are loving my church into becoming a transforming force in so many lives, both in the wider church, and now, at last, here in my diocese.
I am proud to be an Episcopalian.