Facing Change: Gay Clergy, Same-Gender Blessings, and the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act
July 28, 2009, 8:15 am
Filed under: Would Jesus Discriminate?

The writer James Baldwin, describing himself not as an “activist”, but as a “witness” in the world, once said that “not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

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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St. Mark’s Marriage Equality group is proud to announce that at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church (1725 N. New Hope Rd. Raleigh, NC 27604 919-231-6767)on Sunday, August 9, at 9:30 AM, James Joiner, a postulant for Holy Orders in the NC diocese, will speak (in room CLC-1) about his experience at General Convention as an Integrity witness. James will report on where Integrity (a group within the Episcopal church that advocated for inclusion of all people in all sacrements and blessings) stands post-convention, and specifically the group’s stance on Resolution CO56 entitled “Liturgies for Blessings”, and how St. Mark’s can participate in gathering liturgical resources for same-sex blessings.

St. Mark’s Marriage Equality group will sponsor this presentation. (A light breakfast will be offered.)

James has been invited by Lorraine and Jim to preach at both services that day—8:30 and 10:30.

   JulieS 08.04.09 @ 1:09 am

Good day.

It’s the firts time I came across a christian website which I actually like. I’m a gay guy from South Africa, and our churches are still very conservative. Needless to say I do not attend church anymore. I hope that in the near future we’ll see something similiar to what you are doing in South Africa. Believe me I will definitely be a part of the campaign.

Ps: thanks for your website. And whats with Fred Phelps?

Best wishes: Hendrik Prinsloo

   Hendrik Prinsloo 12.04.09 @ 1:43 pm

The scriptures that you believe are so called “affirming” gay couples throughout the bible are misunderstood. These loving relationships are as spiritual brothers and sisters. Have you read Romans 1:18-32 or Leviticus 18:22? Leviticus 18:22 ” You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.” Romans 1:27 “Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of a woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and recieving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.” This site also states that the early church welcomed a gay man in Acts 8:26-40? Well this dicusses Philip teaching Christ in Ethiopia. Yes, we as Christians are not perfect and all sin is seen the same in God’s eyes. You must repent of this sin of homosexuality, just as murderers, adulterers, and liars need to repent. This site is completely out of context. I pray for all that have viewed this site and have been blinded by a politically correct and manipulated text.

   Hannah 04.12.10 @ 8:12 pm

I find it odd that my previous comment against this site has been removed. Homosexuality is a sin and the Bible teaches against it as an abomination. Leviticus 18:22 states that a man should not lie with another man as with a woman and that it is an abomination. If this gets deleted, again, I will only state the truth tomorrow, just as I did yesterday and today.

   Hannah 04.13.10 @ 2:09 pm

Comon people Read your bible , no where does it say God agrees with homosexuality, In many passages its is discribed as hated by God.You CANNOT be a Christian and belive Homosexuality is ok. WAke up!

   Hadleigh 06.14.10 @ 3:30 am

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