Saturday, March 13, 2010

Blast from the past

I climbed up into the attic this morning.

I try to avoid needing anything either stowed or retrieved from our attic until one of my boys is home visiting and I can talk him into climbing up the narrow ladder-that-pulls-down-from-the-ceiling and either stow it or retrieve it. But sometimes a girl's-gotta-do-what-a-girl's-gotta-do -- and so this morning I girded my loins and crawled on up there myself. And here's one the things I climbed down with:

I'm not sure how it came to be in my attic. I was a sophomore in high school in October 1969 and so wasn't paying any attention to Episcopal Church politics. But there ... in the box labelled "Misc Pix/Docs" (note to self: not a very helpful way to label boxes!) along with photos of Easters, Christmases, Ordinations, Birthdays, Graduations and Pride Parades past ... it was: "THE EPISCOPALIAN: Special Convention Issue."

Forty-seven pages covering the events of a special convention called to focus on "Ministry, Mission and Authority" and convened in South Bend, Indiana from August 30-September 5, 1969. And reading through those 47 pages is like taking a time machine back to a world I don't even recognize and yet sounds just like today.

The caption under one photo:

"Hopefully I'm the last woman the House of Deputies refused to seat," says Mrs. Mary E. Oliver, Los Angeles alternate denied a seat by House vote.

And the caption under another:

"Observer from the Diocese of Northern Indiana takes the platform to say Christ was not involved in social action."
And so I'm not sure which one is more of an eye-opener: the fact that TEC managed to move from refusing to seat women deputies to electing women as both HoD President AND Presiding Bishop ... or the fact that we have in our own family album the same kind of rhetoric that made headlines this week when it came from Glenn Beck.

It's partly a "the more things change, the more they stay the same" thing. But only partly.

MOSTLY it's an OMG how proud am I to be part of a church that has actually DONE this hard work -- wrestled through these challenges -- made the progress it has in spite of the challenges it still faces. The Garden of Eden may be a long way from growing green yet, but there have been many, many inches reclaimed toward that goal since the Special Convention of 1969 -- and in those let us rejoice and be glad!

They say that folks who don't know their history are doomed to repeat it. But I want to suggest that folks who don't know their history are also duped into believing the sturm und drang du jour being presented in some quarters about a sky falling, a world ending, a church-as-we-know-it falling apart, rent asunder by difference too great to reconcile, by divisions too deep to bridge, by HISTORIC challenges to its unity, its mission and its ministry.

I have three words for them: Nineteen-Sixty-Nine!

If those who gathered at the '69 Special Convention had drunk that KoolAid we wouldn't be an Episcopal Church still striving to live into God's future as a beacon of justice, love and compassion in 2010. But they labored on and so will we -- in order to hand on to the generations ahead of us the ongoing work we were given ... in a church always becoming and never quite become all that God would have it be.

Here's one last quote -- with a question from South Bend in October 1969 that can equally be asked in -- oh, let's just pick South Carolina in March 2010:

Is the time for reason, for the democratic process, for respect for honest differences and for the Christian virtue of humility over? If so, we can only ask God to have mercy upon us.
AND so, it's a REALLY good thing we belong to a God whose glory is always to have mercy -- isn't it? Or is that too traditional a theology for the self-proclaimed "orothodox?" And if so, then who -- I wonder -- are the revisionists?


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Fabulous, Susan. I'm so glad you went up in the attic today.


Thanks. After the Aleve and the Hot Bath, I will be, too! :)