Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Looking for Jesus outside the darkness of the church ...

... and not finding him. At least not in what we're getting from Canterbury.

I thought I was done for the night, and then I saw this comment on yesterday's post about the Archbishop of Canterbury's response to our work in Anaheim and I decided I was NOT "done for the night." How could I be?


I have no place in my life anymore for your church, your not-so-good news, nor your judgement about my "choices". I choose to live as a sexually fulfilled, whole human being who feels no guilt about who I am, what I do, or whom I do it with. I do get very upset when people like you try to limit my choices because of your personal beliefs.

The church, Anglican or otherwise, can have its heterosexuals only club. And I bless and admire Susan and Elizabeth and all like them for their witness and choice to serve god as they do despite the daily hostility and hatred they face.

I don't have it in my any more; my life is much better without god and without church and without the hatred and discrimination. I get enough of that at work and when I go shopping.

I once believed in a Jesus who preached love of god and love of neighbor and for better of 40 years I tried to follow him. But his church and many, many of its members and its history blocks my view. If the choice is forced celibacy and misery or a churchless fulfilled life then it really isn't a choice at all, is it? I choose wholeness and happiness.

Perhaps someday I will encounter him again outside the darkness of the church -- I would like that very much. But right now I'm far better off without the whole soul-destroying drama of it all.



What hope can we offer the Priscillas of the world? When will we move beyond "the whole soul-destroying drama of it all" and get on with the "proclaiming the life-giving gospel of it all"?

Pray God that we turned that corner in Anaheim and that we keep on moving forward. If we take our baptismal promise to "proclaim by word and example the Good News of Christ" then we cannot settle for anything less. And if we spend one more ounce of energy wringing our hands about what "track" or "tier" of the Anglican Communion we end up on then shame on us.

Because I'm trying to imagine Jesus looking me in the eye and saying the words: "Inasmuch as you helped the Archbishop of Canterbury keep the Anglican Communion muddling along you did it unto me." But I can't hear him over Priscilla's words, "Perhaps someday I will encounter Jesus again outside the darkness of the church -- I would like that very much."
So would He, Priscilla. So would He.


LGMarshall said...

Self-Realization Fellowship may be a place where Priscilla can feel welcome & confident in expressing who she is... They recognize Jesus Christ as a Divine Teacher, perhaps she can re-group there?

MarkBrunson said...

The Church is supposed to be human and divine. However, what we see in Williams, Benedict, so many others, is that it has become entirely human, masquerading as divine.

IT said...

"These core substantive rights include, most fundamentally, the opportunity of an individual to establish—with the person with whom the individual has chosen to share his or her life—an officially recognized and protected family possessing mutual rights and responsibilities and entitled to the same respect and dignity accorded a union traditionally designated as marriage"
--Supreme Court of California

Dan Beavers said...

Dear Susan,

I left the church after Lambeth 98. I came back, because of Bishop Gene's witness. I won't leave again. There is darkness in the church, but also amazing light. I choose to look at the light right now. Thank you for your work and witness.

Bill Carroll said...

There's a bit of autobiography in one of James Alison's essays, where he was either recently defrocked or about to be defrocked for openly teaching the equivalent of Ed Bacon's "Being gay is a gift from God." He made a retreat with a Jesuit (perhaps the spiritual exercises), where he had the insight that none of the religiously backed violence he was facing had anything to do with God.

In my forthcoming piece on Episcopal Cafe, I argue that one can read C056 as an invitation for bishops (and the rest of us) to do everything in their (our) power to make sure that we do not further scandalize the LGBT faithful. Shame on Rowan Williams for causing even one child of God to stumble. And shame on us if we ever join him in waffling about the truth of the Gospel. I am glad that Jesus Christ can be found both inside and outside the Church, and that he can strengthen the steps of those whom we scandalize by our failed witness. I am praying for Priscilla tonight.

David said...

Priscilla thank-you for your witness; the Church needs to hear this.
Susan thank-you for continuing to care enough that you shared this with us.
In the first 24 hours I'd had four such conversations, three of them with seriously disillusioned straight allies, one of whom reminded me that the saddest things is that these folkd don't even realize what a powerful transformative gift the Holy Spirit is giving the churches through their LGBT faithful.

thank-you Susan


John said...

Priscilla is surely not alone as a Christian. Here are my thoughts on "choice" and "orthodoxy." This is also in response to our own associate rector, who spoke out against us last Sunday.

I could easily conclude that a "2-tier" system is a bad idea. Perhaps I find the label offensive. I could even dismiss that as just a bad choice of words if Williams didn't follow that with a condemnation of 10% of the population as doomed by a "choice of lifestyle." While there isn't enough science to prove conclusively that it is genetic, there is ample science to prove we are rational and intelligent beings. As such, we are well aware that there is no logical basis for "choosing" to be gay when nature clearly gave most of us the equipment to perform perfectly well otherwise. That alone, without all the social pressure to conform and to resist demonization from high school on should be enough to drive any sane person crazy.
The truth is, you will rarely find a gay man or woman who actually can perform 'well' if at all when he or she "chooses" to be heterosexual for the sake of family, society or salvation. Gene Robinson wasn't unique in his struggle. Most of us went through that process. And countless books have been written and scientific studies have been done to document the impact of poor sexual health and well-being on monogamous relationships.
In reading various reactions to the ABC's statemens, one commenter drew a comparison to the division of liberal and orthodox Jews as a reason a tiered system might work. It's sad but an interesting point. There are many subgroups of orthodox belief. A key orthodox view is a painfully rigid heterosexual patriarchy...issues covered in depth (regarding gender at least) in the play/movie, Fiddler On the Roof, and rings true in Catholicism and of course Southern Baptists as well. Orthodox Jews are also anti-homosexual and are not particularly engaged in progressive social issues unless it affects their right to be themselves. They are Biblical literalists rather than 'analysts.' They are exclusivists instead of inclusivists. There are Orthodox Jewish communities in every city. There are reasons for their success that should be at least considered. Here's a few observations I think are true. The decision to be orthodox is personal. They demand the right to be left alone in their belief and recognize the right of progressive Jews to exist and flourish. They recognize that the work of progressive Jews fighting for peace and social justice and full inclusiveness in communities around the country and the world is an act of profound love and they don't try to change that.
Who is harmed? Unlike the African Anglicans or middle eastern Islamic theocracies, they do not kill people for being different or believing differently. They actively try to recognize and remove hypocrisy from their own lives, respect humility and non-judgment, and the golden rule and work with their Rabbi to improve/save themselves, not others. I can respect that even though I see it as willful ignorance. I wish a few more Christians behaved that way. I know I can't be an orthodox Jew and be true to myself at the same time. Nor could I be an orthodox Anglican. Just as Orthodox Jews are still Jews, there is a place at the table for all Anglicans. Otherwise, why not just switch to the Greek Orthodox church? No one who advocates murder should have a voice, whether at the table or not. In following the example of Orthodox Jews, if I can respect your right to mingle as an Orthodox Christian with other Anglicans in dignity and without judgment then I have a right to expect the same. Even the Catholics understand we are all Christians first, and everything else is simply nuance, politics and academics. There is a time and a place for debate. There is no place for anything but love on Sunday morning.

Suzer said...

I hadn't seen Priscilla's comment until this morning, but I'm glad she left it. Because I am feeling exactly the same way, but had neither the heart nor the words yesterday to write anything as eloquent as Priscilla's comment.

I am not, however, glad that Priscilla is feeling this way. I am sad that the message to LGBT people from churches is routinely "you are not welcome here." No matter how welcoming an individual church may be, that message is too often overridden by the larger church's proclamations, like the one from Archbishop Williams.

So I, too, am taking leave from church for the moment. I, too, am tired of soul-destroying messages. It seems more and more that church is not where God is, that church for many people in this country seems to be where a bunch of like-minded people get together to support their own prejudices and rejoice in their own bigotry. (And yes, I do realize that view is skewed by my own negative emotions at the moment.)

SCG said...

At another time in my own journey, I would have been right there with Priscilla. However, I am in a different place; one in which I don't confuse the actions of a church, or a priest, or a bishop, or an archbishop with God.
Nor do I categorically declare that just because the ABC would like to make God in his own image that I should see the whole thing as a lost cause. I am always drawn back to the words in Isaiah 55: "For your thoughts are not my thoughts, nor your ways my ways, says the Lord." All of us, I think, would be wise to consider that, and remember that God is with us... all of us.
I think that was very apparent in Anaheim, and I believe TEC is poised to "get on with it."
I can only hope that, one day, the ABC... as well as my own bishop... can hear that beating heart of the Spirit which is calling, "Mission, mission, mission."

Cameron Partridge said...

Absolutely spot on, Susan.

I think we absolutely did turn a corner at GC, but we have to make sure TEC doesn't start peeking back around it again.

Jim said...


I am so sorry we have failed so completely. I wish I could tell you that you are wrong -- you aren't. We have failed you and many others.

By allowing the institutionalists like ABp Williams to dictate the environment and the bullies to push their complete misrepresentation of the Gospel, we have failed to make you and countless others aware of the open armed welcome of Jesus. I read this post and cried.

If there were some magic thing we could do to make it OK, I know I, Rev. E. and many others would do it. We can only continue the battle and do the political 'art of the possible' because it is what we have.

Come to my parish home or those where priests like Rev. E, Fr. Michael and Rev. Susan serve and you will find a radical welcoming place. But no, we cannot promise some evil person like Dr. Williams wont publish hurtful stupid things about you and your love to advance their own agenda. It is not, God help us enough. And I am so sorry.

Wind to your wings and luck in the shadows wherever you and your love journey. We can only regret our failure and wish you well.


My name is Dan said...

Thank you so much for posting this, as painful as it is to read. Dear Susan,
As a gay Episcopalian I have been struggling since the Archbishop's pronouncement with the same feelings that Priscilla expressed so clearly. Is this a church in which I belong? Is Christianity a cruel hypocrisy? I believe in Christ but there is a cognitive dissonance when those who most loudly proclaim their Christianity exude judgment, condemnation, fear and hatred...spirits that directly contradict the core teachings of Jesus.

Even in the Episcopal Church, which claims that we are being led by the Spirit to walk the unpopular path of justice ...there is timidity and equivocation. We seem to fear negative consequences from others in the "worldwide Anglican community" more than we love our Lord.

I share Priscilla's feelings even though I worship in a largely gay parish with a gay priest and a bishop who speaks out for justice. I am struggling to justify remaining in any institutional christianity, including this particular corner of it that I have come to love so much. And, I am waiting for a collective response to Archbishop William's fumblings in the dark.

Where is an unequivocal and loud proclamation of good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, and freedom to the oppressed? And why do we still remain unequally yoked with those, such as Peter Akinola & company, who proclaim fear, hatred and judgment?

IT said...

The sad thing is that it says so strongly that Rowan values strangers rather than his own brothers and sisters.

It really is all about the closet isn't it?

Matthew said...

Very powerful. I have been able at this point to separate the hateful voices of Rowan and other detached leaders. But, where I have left the Episcopal Church and come back has had to do with the hateful dioceses where I have sometimes found myself. Places where homosexuality is railed against almost every Sunday from every pulpit. I was a Lutheran for some years because their diocese was more loving than ours. And, truth be told, I'd be out the door again tomorrow if I had to move again to a place like Cent. florida, South Carolina, etc.

BJ said...

Priscilla’s letter really is disturbing because I have talked to so many LGBT friends who are considering the same action. In honesty, I have felt that on several occasions in the past few weeks. I wonder why I continue to support TEC with my gifts, my service, and my prayers. The ABC’s words of condemnation add to the dilemma. I am a co-convener for an Integrity chapter; I work diligently daily to forward true separation of church and state concerning the marriage issue. Yet there are days I feel like Priscilla. Dan Beavers said, “There is darkness in the church, but also amazing light.” It seems we experience a great deal of the darkness in the church through the words of the ABC and his cohorts. I need Rev. Susan Russell’s positivity every day to realize that I am worthy. My partner and I are blessed by God. Every day in every way, I know that I am a child of God and no one can take that away. He loves me because I am His child. Priscilla, hang onto that amazing light Dan speaks about – you are worthy; you are God’s child and He blesses everything you touch and do.

Sandy said...

My spouse and I have been following the comments here for the past couple of days. Priscilla, I feel so sad to have to admit that your perception/assessment is correct. May the Lord forgive us for not being the hands and voice and heart of God in this world.

My spouse and I were married in the church last year. It was a bold move for a relatively new priest in a sometimes unenlightened parish, to officiate at the marriage of two women. By the time our wedding day came, we were feeling so "special" we barely made it through the day. The priest had felt it necessary to hold a public forum on gay marriage to explain to the congregation the difference between civil marriage and the blessing of a union. A fine educational experience, to be sure, but we are already weary of being the poster children for gay rights. Will we ever just be able to BE who we are?

The church organist, who is a paid employee, refused to play at our wedding. We realize that had he played at the wedding it would not have been as part of his regular paid duties, but we felt that for an employee of the church to be allowed to take such a stand without repercussion, was shameful. Would he have been permitted to refuse to play at the wedding of a couple of color or the wedding of a mixed race couple, without at least an attempt on the part of someone to educate him? Maybe that was our job. For myself, I was too stunned at being slapped in the face yet again, and this time in my own church, to be able to shoulder that responsibility.

If you look at the website our church maintains, you'll see a statement about being open and affirming, but if you walk through the doors on a Sunday morning you won't see it. If my spouse and I are there (and sadly we're not there on most Sundays any more) we'll greet you and invite you to coffee hour, and most everyone will shake your hand during the peace. But if you do come to coffee hour you'll probably be left to sit alone (again, unless we're there) and the following Sunday you're likely to go to the UCC church uptown, if your "welcome" at the Episcopal church hasn't soured you altogether.

Where is God? Where is Christ? Why do I, a cradle Episcopalian and life-long protestant of many colors, have to ask this? Why does my spouse, a self-described recovering Catholic, have to ask this?

Why is every day a struggle to see God? Why do we have to squint our eyes, and strain our ears to filter out the din of condemnation and intolerance, and crane our necks forward to see the face of Christ in the house of God?

We couldn't go to GC every day. My spouse's broken foot, work schedules, and financial constraints limited us to just one day. We chose the day of the Integrity Eucharist. Our priest asked us why it was so important not to miss that day. "Oh. That's right. The Integrity thing." What a blessing it must be not to have to think of such things... to have the freedom, in the world and in the church, to just BE.

I can't even describe what an experience the Integrity Eucharist was. God was there. More than faintly discernible through squinted eyes. Christ was there. Palpable, enveloping, empowering.

Hopefully, that experience, and having witnessed what was done at GC, will sustain us for yet another season as we watch and wait for our church to truly be the hands and voice and heart of God in the world.

May God hold you close, Priscilla.

Matt from Oregon said...

I keep hearing these stories and I cry each time. (I believe that our tender Lord cries even more!)

Priscilla's response makes perfect sense, given the constant insults the Church foists upon the people of God. It's a miracle that anyone sticks around. I plan to, with God's help.

The Church blabbers a lot about mission. Our Mission is simple.
Our work is so basic-- love.

Let's get to work!

rob said...

"What hope can we offer the Priscillas of the world?"

The most loving answer I have seen is in Leanne Payne's "The Healing Presence." It is full of true hope.

Plinx said...

Hi all,
I’m glad I saw this post on Susan’s site, because something’s been bubbling inside of me for the past few months, and only now, after seeing Priscilla’s post, has it crystallized.
First, an introduction: I am a gay man in a 10-year marriage who joined TEC in 2003. My husband is a cradle Episcopalian. I was raised Roman Catholic and have attended several years of RC seminary, and have taken EFM. I studied Latin and Greek in high school and college. My husband and I have worked in local parish ministry. We have taught classes, acted as parish greeters and worked in a host of parish-related activities.
(Although I write this for myself, what I am about to write really applies to both of us): I can longer embrace Christianity, as least as it’s practiced in most contexts. It’s strange, considering the gains made at the last GC, but it’s like realizing you’re not in love with someone anymore: I just can’t do it. My heart’s not in it. I’m tired of the arguing, the geographically-based acceptance and tolerance, the boneheaded comments by persons who are nominally authority figures in the Anglican tradition, and most of all, I’m tired or worrying that my continued presence gives a veneer of sanction and acceptability to an organization that is actually inimical to the existence gay and lesbian humans. I just can’t do it anymore.
All gay and lesbian people know how difficult it is to evangelize in their own communities. I don’t how many times I’ve been asked, “Yes, I know the Episcopalians are better than most, but how can you belong to an organization that still treats you like a non-human/second-class citizen/other?” I now freely admit: I don’t have a good answer. I cannot refute the charge of “collaborator.” If my best plea to the court is “nolo contendere,” it’s time for me to quit.
I recognize, of course, that the best work in GLBT equality within mainline Protestant denominations is being done in TEC, but it feels as if that’s due merely to an accident of polity. The only way I can make my forward is to let go. I’m tired of unsubstantiated truth claims. I’m tired of assigning primacy to a text that is deeply flawed. I’m tired of bowing to a tradition that is stifling. For my own peace of mind, I have to escape. That’s what it feels like: escape.
You’re not alone, Priscilla. In a weird way, I now value my other-sexuality more than ever, because it has led me to see things in a way I might never have glimpsed before. Thanks for your comments.