Thursday, June 04, 2009

"Dear Bishop Parsley ..."

Andrew Sorbo copied me on this letter he sent to Bishop Parsley -- the chair of the House of Bishops' Theology Committee -- regarding the "secret study" of the theology of same sex relationships due out in ... 2011. I asked for permission to share it and his gracious answer was, "Feel free to use it if it will help in any way."


June 3, 2009
Dear Bishop Parsley,

I am a parishioner of St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Cheshire, Connecticut, a member of the vestry, an acolyte, a lay eucharistic minister, a volunteer with the prison ministry, a participant in our local group of Education for Ministry, and a gay man who just last month lost his partner/spouse of thirty years to pancreatic cancer.

I am also a bewildered Episcopalian, bewildered that a committee of "distinguished theologians" of our church living in the year 2009 need another TWO YEARS to put together their thoughts on same-sex marriage. Can "distinguished theologians" actually exist in our church who have not yet come to the conclusion that granting full equality to same-sex couples is long, long overdue? Do "distinguished theologians" of our church really need two more years to put together a paper making clear that justice for gay Episcopalians is long, long overdue?

Why the dithering? For that is how it can only be described, not deep contemplation of a complex matter, not further research into scripture or any other scholarly exercise. The church dithered for decades before denouncing slavery. The church dithered for centuries before accepting the equality of women. The church dithered for decades more before insisting on equal rights for African-Americans.

To the shame of our church, and your predecessors as bishops, the secular state had to lead the way in every case! To your shame today, secular leaders are once more leading the way in the latest battle for equality. Further dithering is for cowards, not men and women who were elected to lead us as bishops, bravely forging a path to inclusion for all while being inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Our church has already waited too long for my partner/spouse. Four months before my partner died, just shy of our 30th anniversary, we had to have two minister friends of another faith marry us under Connecticut law in our home because our own church refused to do it. Do you have any idea what an insult that is? Do you understand the human implications of years of cowardly inaction on the part of the church's hierarchy? Do you really expect gay Episcopalians to see this as anything more than another cowardly covering action and delaying tactic by bishops who are afraid to be witnesses to the Holy Spirit's working among us to help us along our church's journey of faith?

How many more gay couples in long-term committed and holy unions will have to see their partners die before you painfully meander your way to calling for justice in our church?

Do not pretend that your committee is charged with making the right decision; you already know what that is. Your true task is to find some way out of the dilemma of choosing between what is right and what is politically expedient. We all know this is about delay to find a way to keep more defections by clergy and parishes from the EPA. Delaying two more years will gain you nothing.

Those opposed to the living church, those opposed to the idea that the Word was not completed 2,000 years ago will continue to oppose equal rights for gay Episcopalians, and nothing you can do will stop them from leaving short of throwing your gay brethren "under the bus." For the opponents of equality for gay Episcopalians, the time will never be right, so why delay the inevitable?

Colin Elliott Atterbury went to his death on May 16, 2009 without having his loving relationship of thirty years recognized by the church as equal to any opposite-sex marriage - no matter how abusive or short-lived those relationship may have been. How many more Colins have to die like this before you are shamed into doing what is right?

Submitted with respect but deep frustration,

Andrew Sorbo
St. Peter's Church
Cheshire, Connecticut


Andrew's story comes from that "diverse center" of the church that is yearning to move on with mission and ministry ... to serve on the parish vestry, to acolyte, to follow our Lord's command to visit those in prison. How long will we let that mission and ministry be held hostage to yet another study on whether or not Andrew's baptism fully includes him in this Body of Christ. Shame on us if we do not have the courage of our convictions and move this church forward in Anaheim.

Either that or maybe it's time for a secret committee to study this proposition: If we're not going to follow the promises we make in our baptismal covenant to respect the dignity of every human being then let's stop making them.


john said...

How long has the Church been "studying" what to do with homosexual Christians - twenty years?; thirty years?

BJ said...

I, too, have written a letter to this committee. Susan, I apologize for not copying you. I did send it to Bishop Scheri. This study is worthless; the church has made promises that it continues to ignore. The first study was in 1994. Delay tactics to further unkept promises are becoming pretty transparent.

Fr. John said...

This has nothing to do with theological reflection or even LGBT people per se. It has to do with Anglican power politics and an attempt to maintain the moratoria called for in the Windsor Report. It the work of bishops who drank the cool-aid, I mean tea, at Lambeth and will do anything to keep TEC as a constituent member of the Communion.

It is just a delay tactic. There is nothing substantive or meaningful about it. We already know what the result will be of this study: "The Church is not of one mind on marriage equality." We'll, we were not of one mind about slavery and still are not of one mind about women's equality if the truth be told. That is no excuse to countenance injustice.

The whole thing would be insulting if actually treated as something worthy of attention. But it isn't. Name this study for what it is and allow it to pass on into the oblivion that awaits it. We are subjects to be respected, not objects to be studied.

BJ said...

I totally agree, Fr. John. I think, as part of the GLBT community, we need to make effort to stop the study and proceed with the equality that is due. No more delay tactics -- let's move on with what everyone knows in their heart is right.

Jeff @ James Hill said...

Let's put the blame for this on the feet of the two people who have caused the situation - Bishops Griswold and Schorri. Their shenanigans at the last General Convention put the onus of B033 on our church. It was their maneuvering that caused us to go into this limbo. The wishes of our Church had been repeatedly expressed for 33 years to be one wanting the baptism covenant and its' promises to be applied to all. But trying to mollify those other communions that wished us to kowtow to their theological direction has stopped the work of the Spirit that guides our church forward. To believe that God stopped speaking to mankind 2000 years ago is blasphemy in my eyes – and we’re the ones being called heretics and unbelievers.

And now the further silence from Bp. Schorri cannot possibly be helpful. Cannot she as the President Bishop say “we are not delaying the work of the Holy Spirit any longer”? Do not hide behind committees, commissions and conferences any longer. The church has spoken since 1976 that we believe the Baptismal Covenant is adequate – WE will respect the dignity of every human being. Now is the time to put aside legislation. Let the Holy Spirit speak through his people.

Two Auntees said...

What we need is the equivalent of the Philadelphia Eleven. It will take a radical step forward to make this change.

Jeff @ James Hill said...

If the Bishop's Theology Committee is an instrument of General Convention, then maybe someone needs to propose in Anaheim that it be disbanded. You cannot have a subcommittee for a disbanded committee.

Then a TEC Theology Committee should be formed in its place to represent the fullness of our church.

Christopher said...

My response.

Matthew said...

I cannot believe that other members of the HoB don't know who is on the committee. Surely Parsely is not the only Bishop to know. That is why putting pressure on the other Bishops is important.

Maggie said...

Amen, sister and brother in Christ.

MarkBrunson said...

It is very clear that, despite their words, our bishops are not convinced we have a place in "their" church.

I think I understand the Reasserter assumption that this has all been done as a "trendy" exercise in tolerance: the bishops, whom we have unwisely chosen and even more unwisely allowed to represent us, are simply playing a PR game. Few - a fringe few - have any real committment to us.

verification word: sunthund
"sunthund's happenin' here, what it is ain't exactly clear . . . "

Leonardo Ricardo said...

Let's put the blame for this on the feet of the two people who have caused the situation - Bishops Griswold and Schori. Their shenanigans at the last General Convention put the onus of B033 on our church.¨


But, most importantly don´t forget the smudgprints of The Archbishop of Canterbury whose greatest energies have been directed toward punishing LGBT Episcopalian/Anglicans and his denial. Pretending LGBT Anglicans are not being actively persecuted/harmed in Nigeria and Uganda by headstrong Archbishops...Pretending that Dean Jeffery Johns is unworthy of a mitre and by pretending that the Bishop of New Hampshire doesn´t exist...meanwhile he pretends that Presiding Bishop Venables isn´t instigating fear and hate at the Body of Christ by supporting degrading/excluding discrimination against LGBT Christians at TEC.

These people aren´t qualified to lead us on the most important moral issues of our time...cowards and tricksters all.

The Reverend Lisa K. Schoonmaker said...

Doesn't this 2 year study also conveniently derail any action that might have otherwise been taken by General Convention?

BJ said...

I think it is time that every Integrity chapter in the church create a petition and have it signed by as many members of their church as possible calling for the immediate disbandment of the committee named for this latest study. We know it is no more than a delay tactic. We know that the House of Bishops knows what is right and promised. Allow this to move forward; another study will only forbid any resolution for the same-sex blessings at the General Convention as Rev. Lisa stated. 33 years is long enough; four studies are enough. No more apologies from the church -- it is time to do something positive for the LGBT baptized.