The headline was “Archbishop of Canterbury says Homosexuality is Wound in Church’s Side” -- a response to Rowan Williams’ interview with the Times of London last week.
I was, of course, irate when I read that Williams spoke against endorsing relationships for gay and lesbian clergy and bishops because “the cost to the Church overall was too great to be borne at that point.’" I even sent out a warning that I “felt a Rowan Williams Rant” coming on – but was too busy to write it.
And I’m still too busy to write it. But after the news of the week, I’ve gone from irate to righteously indignant, so here goes:
While Rowan Williams is whining about homosexuality "wounding the side" of the institutional church, he remains blind to the cancer of homophobia that is spreading in the Body of Christ. And it's time somebody pointed out the difference.
I'm remembering my experience on an 8-day Ignatian silent retreat with the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. (Yes, really.) The long-story-short is that in working with the sister assigned as my spiritual director, we entered into conversation about vocation – and she invited me to explore whether or not I had a vocation to the episcopate. (To be a bishop.)
I answered quickly and definitively that I was absolutely clear that I was not called to be a bishop because I believe a bishop is called to guard the unity of the church and I didn’t give a rat’s tail about the unity of the church.
She replied – equally quickly and definitively – by asking me which church was it that I didn’t give a rat’s tail about: the institutional church or the church as the Body of Christ.
And I told her I thought our time was up for the day. Because I was busted.
The truth is I care deeply about the unity of the Body of Christ. I care deeply about those members who have been baptized into Christ’s Body and then isolated, segregated, marginalized, excluded and dismissed because they happen to be gay or lesbian. Paul was right about the whole “one member of the body cannot say to another I have no need of you” thing – and yet that is what is and has been said to the Church’s gay and lesbian members for generations. It's what Rowan Williams says when he calls us a "wound in the side of the church." And it is time for it to stop.
And it’s not just time for it to stop because some gay or lesbian folks are called into both ordained ministry and a covenanted relationship with the love of their life.
It’s time for it to stop because when Rowan Williams says “Homosexuality is a Wound in the Church’s Side” he adds more fuel to the fire of homophobia that drives people – especially young people to self-loathing, to despair and – far too frequently – to suicide.
This week’s news has been a horrifying parade of young lives lost to the cancer of homophobia. Seth Walsh. Asher Brown. Billy Lucas. Tyler Clementi. They all took their own lives after being branded as gay by bullies whose abuse convinced them their lives were not worth living.
And while Rowan Williams is busy worrying about the “unity of the church,” the church he’s so worried about is overtly complicit in the spread of the disease that killed these children – the disease of homophobia.
Because here’s the deal with wounds: they heal. They may take a little time, they make take a little tending, they may leave a little scar … but they heal. And sometimes they even make us stronger for having fought the battles worth fighting. And if homosexuality – or more accurately, the fight to fully include homosexual children of God equally in the work and witness of the church – inflicts a few wounds then they are wounds the church should bear proudly as it lives into its calling to be the Body of Christ on earth.
Even Jesus showed up on Easter Day with a few wounds to show for the work he’d been called to do – why on earth shouldn’t the church that purports to be His body – to follow in His footsteps – expect some of the same? “The cost to the Church overall is too great to be borne at that point?’" Give me a break.
I came out of my 8-day retreat still clear I was not called to the episcopate but also clear about the difference between the institution and the incarnation. And so today I’m yearning for Williams to spend a little time with a Sister of the Sacred Heart of Jesus who might challenge him to figure out the difference between the institutional church and the church as the Body of Christ. And might send him out ready to suck it up and quit whining about wounds and get to work preserving the unity of the Body of Christ by healing it of its homophobia. Because the cost to the Church overall is too great for us to settle for anything less.