So here's a quote from comment on titusonenine on a profile article on the new Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in Buffalo --
"To claim that her same-sex partner is “family” is a departure from what God ordained as family and denigrates the word beyond recognition. If hers is a “family”, then my wife and children are something other. I have yet to coin a word for it, but we are not as she is. If the GLBT folks want to use that word, they may certainly do so; but it has now taken on a new meaning. We are of different tribes and the gulf is beyond reconciliation. I think I shall begin using the word “kin” or “kinfolk” when referring to my wife and children."
-- forwarded to me by a parishioner who asked, "Help me understand what it is about her family that threatens his. I really, REALLY don't get it!"
I'll admit I still don't "get it" either -- but the stark pain in this guy's post is clarifying in its own sobering/sad way. "If hers is a "family" then my wife and children are something other." Imagine how terrifying that must be to live with that kind of fear nagging at you – that if “they” get to be “family” then you aren’t anymore! No wonder he’s angry.
Now, the idea that anger is most often generated by fear of a real or imagined threat is not a new one – in fact it is one I have called to mind often during these troubled times in the Episcopal Church. I try to remember that when I experience anger directed at me or my theological position it is often the manifestation of someone’s fear: that if there’s room for me – or my family – or my theology or hermeneutic – then there isn’t room for them and theirs.
When I can get past the anger to the fear then I can find empathy for someone who loves this church as much as I do – who loves the Lord as much as I do -- and who just can’t reconcile what we understand as God’s inclusive vision for what the church should be with their understanding of what the Bible says. Doesn't mean I change my mind -- or my position -- but it does mean I can do a better job of seeing the person behind the polemic; of striving to respect their dignity in spite of our deep differences.
Are our differences reconcilable? Some say no – but I continue to maintain that those insisting that their criteria for inclusion is being agreed with bear the responsibility for whatever schism looms. Try as they might to “spin” it otherwise, those who are choosing to walk apart are those who are choosing to abandon dialogue and discernment with those with whom they disagree – not those who are committed to staying in conversation – in communion – in community – in spite of our differences.
Is there hope that we can get past the fear and the anger – the polarization and the polemic? Clearly the jury is still out on that one – but reading the Acts of the Apostles might just give one a little – hope, that is. The first century church was not exactly of one mind when the issue of baptizing Gentiles was first brought to the floor – the eleventh chapter of Acts preserves for us the “push back” Peter got from his “communion” for baptizing Cornelius et al.
“The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, "You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them." Peter began and explained everything to them precisely as it had happened [and]… when they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, "So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life”[NIV]
“Even” the Gentiles … imagine! And imagine how the outcome might have been different if Peter had held off with the baptisms until “consensus” emerged on the issue – if instead of hearing Peter out about his experience of the Holy Spirit working in these Gentiles they instead put together a Jerusalem Report requiring a moratoria on the Holy Spirit and then compiled a laundry list of proof texts from Hebrew Scriptures supporting the continued exclusion of Gentiles from their numbers.
Were the Jerusalem Christians afraid – threatened – angry that the inclusion of Gentiles into the Body of Christ would depart from what God had ordained and give new meaning to the word “Christian?” I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that were the case. Unfortunately (or maybe it’s “fortunately!”) we don’t have the comments of 1st century bloggers to turn to. What we do have is he example of the 1st century Christians who listened to Peter – and the Holy Spirit.
Let’s pray that this beloved church of ours is given the grace to do likewise.