Filed under: Would Jesus Discriminate?
As a witness in the world these days, I want to celebrate three bold changes being faced with courage, authenticity and risk.
In mid-July, the Episcopal Church’s General Convention adopted a resolution lifting the moratorium on ordaining gay clergy and bishops in committed relationships. Part of the statement reads that “The General Convention has come to recognize that the baptized members of the Episcopal Church includes same-sex couples living in lifelong committed relationships ‘characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God.’
It goes on to add, ‘God has called and may call such individuals, to any ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church.” (General Convention Daily Life)
I read of this resolution as I celebrated worship at a regional conference of the Metropolitan Community Churches in Pittsburgh, PA. As a church and movement founded forty years ago, MCC works tirelessly, with our sister denominations, to expand welcome and equality for all, and in particular, persons in the lgbt community.
As a gay clergy, I have witnessed the internal and external struggle of both individuals and communities of faith seeking to be fully and radically inclusive of all people living authentic lives. I left the United Methodist Church when I realized I couldn’t be an openly gay, ordained clergy. Many others face living their authentic calling in secret, or risk being excluded and marginalized because of who they are and who they are called to be.
Communities of faith struggle to weigh the teachings of sacred scripture, with the realities of divine grace and human development, and to find a place where all who seek spiritual community may be welcomed and embraced. For some, the reception of gay clergy has opened the door wide. For others, the door has been slammed shut in fear and isolation, often to protect narrow doctrine and dogma.
At the same General Convention, a resolution was adopted granting permission for clergy to perform same-gender blessings, “particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this church.” It also specifically “honor[s] the theological diversity of this church in regard to matters of human sexuality.” (General Convention Daily Life)
The honor of blessing any loving relationship is a gift. This act empowers clergy in the Episcopal Church to share in this honor.
While these resolutions will surely stir continued, and lively, debate among communities within and beyond the Episcopal Church, I celebrate the courage and risk taken to honor the authentic lives, relationships and callings of people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender.
The third, bold act has been making its way through the halls of congress in Washington, DC. Most recently, the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, was attached as an amendment to the Department of Defense authorization bill, awaiting final vote on the senate floor. Several amendments were attached to the act, some in hopes of derailing it altogether, and others adding types of punishment, including the death penalty, for offenders.
It is a sad irony, that in these United States, where we celebrate freedom, liberty and justice for ALL, we have to legislate protection for people who simply want to live authentic lives, without threat of violence, hatred and death. Because of the unique lives and challenges of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons, this protection is necessary and critical.
I hope that the Senate will adopt the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act as a way to offer federal protection and resources to local communities and individuals facing acts of hatred because of who they are.
As a witness in this world, I will continue to wear the face of change, because it reflects love, authenticity and hope. May we each strive for the same.
Rev. Joe Cobb
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