June 3, 2009Dear 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,
St. Peter's Church
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.