Wednesday, November 15, 2006

MANY Fort Worth Episcopalians are delighted

Today this ad ran in the local Fort Worth newspaper.
On November 4, Katharine Jefferts Schori was formally invested as Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church. The event was greeted with cheers of joy.
That was not the case in the offices of the Diocese of Fort Worth, whose leadership has requested “alternate primatial oversight.”
But very many Episcopalians in Fort Worth did celebrate Katharine’s investiture. For us, it was a huge gift of hope, something that’s been in short supply around here for a long time.
People who have hope are much more likely to have courage. Hence, the willingness to go public with their joy over Katharine's being Presiding Bishop.
Our diocesan convention is this weekend. Our leadership wants delegates to approve their request for ALPO and to vote to withdraw from Province VII – a move many believe is illegal. All these are actions meant to further disassociate our diocese from The Episcopal Church.
Many of us have been working hard for years to keep our parishes and this diocese in TEC. We are outnumbered on the floor of convention, but increasingly I believe we are gaining numbers in the pews. This always has been a clergy-led movement, and in this diocese clericalism is rampant. People have been trained for decades that “father knows best.” Many of our clergy are really good at stirring up fear and anger at the mean ol’national church.
But people are getting really tired of the constant negativity and whining. They want to get on with the work of the church. They don’t want to bash their gay and lesbian neighbors. Women’s ordination is no longer a big deal with most people here. Parishes are realizing that they are families, worshipping communities in which relationships – with God and with one another -- matter more than scoring political or so-called theological points.
They don’t want to be made “pure” at the cost of losing part of their “family.”
Even so, I predict that the resolutions seeking to distance us from TEC will pass. There’s too big a “lock” on the delegates’ votes. Our leadership is fond of martial images and they’ve been marketing this “war” for a long time. Maybe too long.
I think this will be a case of winning the battle while losing the war.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

God smiled

And the church said, "Amen! Alleluia!"

Is it alright with God?

Last week I explained to my 4-year-old grandson that I was going to be gone for four days to Washington, D.C.
“Why?” he asked.
“I’m going to the investiture of Katharine Jefferts Schori, the first woman presiding bishop and the first woman primate in the Anglican Communion.”
“Oh. Does God know?"
“Yes,” I said, “God knows. God will be there.”
“Is it alright with God?”
“Yes, it is very alright with God,” I said.
“Is it alright with you, GrandMom?” he asked.
“Yes, it is alright with me.”
“Then it’s alright with me!” he exclaimed, and leaped into my arms.
I was tickled by this exchange, as any grandmother would be. It’s nice to know he is interested in what both God and I think.
But it also grieved me that at age 4 he’s already picked up on the fact that God might have a problem with a female presiding bishop.
It’s because he lives in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. Here, even though both his parents and his grandparents think the ordination of women is one of the best things that the Episcopal Church has ever done, topped only by the election, approval and consecration of Gene Robinson, this child already has been infected by the toxic fumes of misogyny.
And why wouldn’t he? He never sees a woman presiding at the altar at our parish except for rare special occasions when we import one. He knows “Father Fred” and “Father Bill” and knows that his beloved Da is “Father Pool.” But he never sees women in clerical garb unless Deacon Janet happens to be about.
He knows that the bishop doesn’t “like” women priests because he’s heard us talk about it. Like most children, he doesn’t miss a thing when adults are in conversation.
He’s four. His brother is two.
They are why I get exasperated when people from elsewhere in the church tell me to be “patient.”
I really don’t what to one day be holding a great grandchild who asks of women in churchly authority, “Is it alright with God?”

Monday, November 06, 2006

Hope has come home

Something new took up residence in the Episcopal Church on Saturday, Nov. 4.
It is Hope, and it’s come home.
It moved in with the wind of the Holy Spirit, filling the National Cathedral with a palpable presence.
You could not only feel it, you could see it. It was in the streamers flying above our heads. It was in the dancing feet. It was in the flames on the candles and in the smoke of the smudgers.
We breathed it in and felt it homesteading our hearts.
I suspect it made its presence felt at different times for different people. For me, it was when Katharine called us all home.
I’ve felt like a homeless child in the church for a long time. Where I live, a lot of people feel that way for very different reasons. But Katharine reminded us that our natural home is our home in God. And there’s a table there we all can share. All we have to do is come to the table.
We don’t have to agree. We don’t have to judge. We don’t have to change each other’s minds. We got our seat at the table when we were baptized. When we go there, they have to take us in.
Katharine also reminded us that at our baptisms we were given a job – to not only come home, but to make a home for everyone else on earth. Everyone, not just those who agree with me or who think like I think or love like I love. Everyone.
“None of us can be fully at home, at rest, enjoying shalom, unless all the world is as well,” Katharine said.
And I thought, it’s no wonder so many in our church feel homeless, uneasy, unhappy. We’ve spent too much energy drawing lines in the sand, arguing over who’s in and who’s out, instead of working to find ways to bring us all in, warts and all.
We seem to be unable to trust God to sort it out.
It’s no wonder we are in pain. We’re wounding each other daily.
What if we stopped?
What if we stopped all the politics, dropped all the resolutions, and silenced the war-like rhetoric? What if we trusted in God to sort it out?
What if we cared more for the “other’s’ health and well being than for our own?
“The ability of any of us to enjoy shalom depends on the health of our neighbors. If some do not have the opportunity for health or wholeness, then none of us can enjoy true and perfect holiness,” Katharine said.
What keeps us from shalom? Apathy and fear. But apathy and fear cannot withstand hope -- hope in God in Jesus.
Katharine said, “If God in Jesus has made captivity captive, has taken fear hostage, it is for the liberation and flourishing of hope.”
She ended her sermon by saying, “God had spoken that dream in us, let us rejoice! Let us join the raucous throngs in creation, the sea creatures and the geological features who leap for joy at the vision of all creation restored, restored to proper relationship, to all creation come home at last. May that scripture be fulfilled in our hearing and in our doing. Shalom, my friends, shalom.” And we all responded, “Shalom.”
After the service was over, my husband and I turned to leave the balcony where we were seated, and he said, “Look!”
There on the stone floor of the north balcony was a ladybug, heading toward the stairs with the rest of us.
He picked her up and handed her to me. We smiled at one another, for we’ve known since childhood that finding a ladybug in your house is good luck. It was a silly little thing, but somehow the presence of that small creature lifted my heart even more. It was as if this small beetle represented “the raucous throngs” of all of God’s creatures present in the Cathedral.
I carried her down the stairs and across to the south door to carefully deposit her on a bush outside.
Then I walked back in to stand in line in hopes of greeting Katherine, who was standing at the font greeting everyone. And the inevitable happened -- after the euphoria of participating in such a wonderful worship service, there came the cold bite of reality. We have to return home to Fort Worth, to a very different church experience.
My heart began its familiar ache.
So I asked her for a blessing to take home.
I carry it with me now, resident in my peaceful heart, alongside hope.