At the 1995 memorial service for Bishop John Krumm held at our Cathedral Center in Los Angeles I had the privilege of hearing Bishop George Barrett preach about their 60-year friendship. Climbing into the pulpit, Bishop Barrett stabbed his long, boney finger into the air for emphasis and began, "John Krumm was never disillusioned by the church because John Krumm never had any illusions about the church!”
They are words of wisdom I have had occasion to recall in the decade since I heard them. And the closer we get to Columbus and the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church the more frequently I seem to have occasion to recall them – for there are days when it is very easy indeed to be disillusioned by the church when it disappoints us again. And again. And again.
At this very moment my inbox is full of poignant emails from those hurt one-time-too-many by language that demeans, marginalizes and excludes the LGBT from full inclusion in the Body of Christ coming from the very church they trusted to comfort and nurture them. My mailbox includes countless laments from those discouraged and disheartened by the ongoing experience of having our vocations and relationships used as bargaining chips in the game of global Anglican politics. And my own heart is wearied and wounded by the constant demands of the point-counterpoint debates that dominate our discourse in arenas where the spin is often deemed more important the substance.
“How did John Krumm do it?” I wonder. John Krumm loved this church – and he served it joyfully and well for the nearly 60 years of his ordained ministry. And I’m wondering today if it was because he had no illusions about the institutional church that he was free to focus on the ideal of the incarnational church: the Body of Christ we are called to be. Because he had his feet firmly planted on the rock, the shifting sands did not overwhelm him. I’ve thought a lot about John Krumm in these last few weeks. I thought about his long and faithful life and the many changes he must have seen over the course of it. I thought about his willingness to be an agent of change -- to venture into the unknown future God called him to. And I thought about the many fears he must have overcome in order to respond to that call so bravely and faithfully.
“Doubt is not the opposite of faith,” writes Anglican theologian, Verna Dozier, “Fear is. Fear will not risk that even if I am wrong I will trust that if I move by the light that is given me, knowing that it is only finite and partial I will know more and different things tomorrow than I know today, and I can be open to the new possibility I cannot even imagine today.”
It is that kind of faith that has empowered the leadership Integrity to offer its thirty-plus years of witness and advocacy and it is that kind of faith that will continue to move the church forward until the 1976 resolution becomes a reality; until “full and equal claim on the pastoral care, love and acceptance” of the church will finally be available to all its members. The journey toward that full and equal claim is not a “wind-sprint,” it’s a marathon. And for those who started the race thirty-plus years ago the church we know today represents new possibilities they could not – perhaps dared not – even imagine when they started.
God is clearly not finished with ANY of us yet, but today I would like to offer the advice of a former rector for the work ahead of us: Set audacious goals and celebrate incremental victories. Our audacious goal is nothing less than the full inclusion of all the baptized in the Body of Christ. And in the long, long race toward that prize there have been both incremental victories to celebrate and incremental set backs to absorb. I expect the days ahead will include both.
And so my prayer for all of us as we journey toward Columbus and look beyond is that we might be given the strength to move by the light we have been given – even when it is only finite and partial. That we might be given the courage to speak the words “Fear Not” when someone needs to hear them -- and to thank God when someone is willing to speak them to us. And that we might be given the grace to trust that God has not brought us this far not to have somewhere for us to go next.
We need not fear as we venture into the future because of the promise that God is already there waiting for us. I close with an assurance of that promise, summed up in the words of a blessing attributed to the Bishop of Newark:
O Lord our God,
Send us anywhere you would have us go
Only go there with us.
Place upon us any burden you desire
Only stand by us to sustain us;
Break any tie that binds us,
Except the tie that binds us to you.
And may the blessing of God Almighty
Be with us this day and forevermore.