Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Eight Years Ago Today ...

... the good people of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire elected themselves a new bishop!

I remember exactly where I was when I got the word that +Gene had been elected: getting a late start on a Saturday morning and brushing my teeth when the phone rang and my friend Peggy Reavey called to say "Are you listening to NPR? They just announced that New Hampshire elected Gene Robinson! How exciting is THAT!"

I also remember that evening when Louise and I went out to dinner to celebrate my birthday a few days early. We were just in the early-dating phase of our relationship and I almost put an abrupt end to that phase because -- as she tells the story -- all I could talk about was what had happened that morning in New Hampshire and what it meant to the church. (Not exactly the romantic dinner she'd had in mind!)

And here we are -- eight years later. Louise and I are living happily ever after and The Episcopal Church is continuing to grow into the full stature of its life as the Body of Christ where the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments is a reality and not just a resolution.

There's been a lot of water under the bridge since that Saturday morning phone call from Peggy Reavey -- and it would be beyond an understatement to say that the last eight years have been full of both opportunity and challenge. I'm sitting here thinking about Minneapolis and Plano ... about GAFCON and Nottingham ... about the Windsor Report and the Lambeth Conference ... about Columbus and Anaheim ... about B033 and C056.

And I'm also recognizing just how far we've come as a particular people of God in this Episcopal Church since June 7, 2003.

The reason Louise and I were having my birthday dinner early that year was that on June 10, 2003 I was scheduled to be at Seabury Western Theological Seminary -- where then-Integrity President Michael Hopkins and I had been granted an audience with the Bishops' Theology Committee as they were finishing up their report on human sexuality. We were summoned to Seabury because we had jumped up and down loudly and long enough about the fact that the bishops had convened a theology committee to "study" homosexuality without actually talking to any ... much less including any ... gay or lesbian people.

So they "included" us. We flew to Chicago. Found our way to Seabury Western. Waited outside in the hallway until we were summoned into a room where about 30 folks sat in a large oval with two empty chairs at one end. We had 90 minutes of conversation and then they thanked us for our time and we were ushered out.

In June 2003 that's what "including the voices of the LGBT baptized" looked like.

Since then +Gene's election was consented to by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, we've elected a woman Presiding Bishop and we've weathered the storm of reports, resolutions and recommendations urging us to turn the clock back. We've produced the Claiming the Blessing Theology Statement, Voices of Witness, To Set Our Hope on Christ and Voices of Witness: Africa.

Other qualified LGBT candidates have come forward and stood for election to the episcopate. +Mary Douglas Glasspool was elected as Bishop Suffragan in the Diocese of Los Angeles. The Chicago Consultation has worked to bring together activists, academics and bishops take the witness to the work of inclusion here in The Episcopal Church to the wider Anglican Communion. And the SCLM has convened a team of task forces to implement Resolution C056 -- AKA "The Blessings Project" -- calling for the collection and development of liturgical and theological resources for the blessing of same-gender unions.
And LGBT voices are at the table ... not waiting outside in the hall.

What a difference eight years makes!

So here's to the Diocese of New Hampshire ... to their Bishop V. Gene Robinson ... to The Episcopal Church that continues to embrace both the challenges and the opportunities of living fully into the resolution it passed 35 years ago promising to its LGBT baptized "full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance and pastoral concern and care of the Church."

We may not be "there yet" ... but we are infinitely closer than we were eight years ago today when my phone rang on a Saturday morning and Peggy Reavey exclaimed, "Are you listening to NPR?" Happy Anniversary, Church!


Ethan said...

Thanks, Susan. This definitely brings me back. Miss y'all. peace, Ethan

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Well said! Cheers to New Hampshire and to us all. We have kept the faith, and are still running the course set before us...

MarkBrunson said...

You know, eight years ago all the way to the present, I've heard from so many of a certain outlook that Gene Robinson was a self-serving publicity hound, determined to make himself a public martyr of conscience and a disgraceful spectacle.

Eight years later, I can tell you I've heard far more from Kunonga, Akinola, Wright, Minns, Armstrong, Seitz, etc., all making absolute pantomime spectacles of their alleged suffering and agony, the Passion of the 'Phobe. Never has there been from them a word of tolerance, forgiveness, sacrifice, or even kindness. The miniscule number of statements in the worldwide mass media by Bp. Robinson, by contrast, have been calls for tolerance, forgiveness, good-humored acceptance, and - at worst - brotherly reproof.

I know which is an embarrassment to my religion.

JCF said...

Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Susan (personal, as well as religious).

What a BLESSING +Gene has been...