Friday, March 16, 2007

Leaving Church

Posted with permission of the author.

14 March 2007

The Right Reverend Marc Andrus, Bishop of California

Dear Bishop Andrus,

As a member of your diocese, I am writing to I inform you of my decision to leave the Episcopal Church. This decision is precipitated by the recent actions of our Presiding Bishop in Tanzania , resulting in an ill-named "season of fasting" during this Lent, wherein we have been asked to refrain from blessing gay unions as a gesture of regret and repentance. I have written one letter already on this subject and obviously this one will be my last.

When I made the painful decision to leave the church, to my surprise the main thing I felt immediately and thereafter was relief. I was freed from being caught and dragged along in the tortuous machinations of a collapsing, human-built structure as it wrestles in such ungainly fashion with the radical idea of treating gay people like fully enfranchised human beings. I no longer have to construct justifications for my friends and colleagues who ask how I can bring myself to belong to a religious organization that supports the oppression of gay people.

I have always been proud of the historical association of such a wide spectrum of opinion and liturgical practice in the Anglican communion. Unfortunately that association is being rent asunder, and in the process gay members of the church are being cast into the breach as sacrifices, which may delay the inevitable but will not prevent it. This insult to our integrity will not even purchase something of value - it is merely a delaying tactic. How I wish that my personhood was worth more to my church.

I have waited patiently and listened to all of the well-reasoned arguments why I should be patient, and charitable, and turn the other cheek, and indulge my weaker co-religionists, etc. Ironically, no gay spokesperson in the entire communion that I am aware of has ever suggested that any conservative or evangelical group or individual should be removed, or rejected, or limited to auxiliary membership, no matter how strident or tiresome their calls for our persecution. It is only the conservatives who are permitted to indulge in such un-Anglican harassment of others, and are then rewarded for it.

In particular I refuse to be associated with any actions or pronouncements in support of the bigoted campaigns of Peter Akinola, who has spearheaded a legal bill in Nigeria imposing criminal penalties on homosexuals who dare even to associate with one another. While we as a body are making conciliatory gestures of enforced regret about confirming a gay bishop, gay Anglicans in Nigeria have had to go into hiding in fear of their safety. I do not understand why the Episcopal Church and the entire Anglican Communion is not rising up to speak with one voice against this outrage.

One thing is clear to me: I know of no heterosexual who would for one minute align themselves with a church which refused to recognize and bless heterosexual marriage; or, worse, which decreed a period of fasting from blessing heterosexual relationships in order to display a sufficiency of regret about having had the temerity to act in any way as if heterosexuals deserved equal rights.

Thankfully, none of this in any way affects my relationship with God. I am a child of God and loved by God, and my daily communication with the experience of the Sacred both within and without is untarnished by the tragic limitations of human religious structures. I remain a Benedictine Oblate. I continue to pray the psalms. I sing the hymns of my culture and heritage. But I will not submit to bigotry in the room where I pray, and I certainly will not fund the continuance of such bigotry.

I should add that although I have left the Episcopal Church, I will always remain a friend of Church of the Advent of Christ the King in San Francisco, which is a sanctuary for diverse ages, races, opinions, gender identities, and economic brackets, and whose parish priest has my perpetual respect for his eloquent and loving championship of inclusivity and respect for all.

With regret,

Jude Morton

cc: The Reverend Paul Burrows, Rector, Church of the Advent of
Christ the King, San Francisco , California

The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States of


Gray Ghost said...

I couldn't have said it better myself.My Season of Fasting will be spent separating myself from the church that is suffering from a denominational civil war. I, too, felt a sense of relief when I made the decision to move on. A church that cannot stand up for its minority memebers or refuses to speak out to the horrors of discrimination in Nigeria is no church at all.

Seeking to Know said...

Thank you Jude for your prayerful thoughts. Your faith and courage inspire me. I, too, have felt the sting of spiritual hardship and indifference acted out by the chief pastors of the church. My brothers and sisters in the ECUSA continue, through this misguided leadership, continue to turn away from me. My place with God as a child and beloved one cannot be taken away by those who claim to be shepherds. When even one of the flock is sacrificed, the shepherd has failed in his/her duty to gather, protect and lead. The duplicitous message of "sacrifice/fast"(and in our case it is a painful and misguided notion) cannot be a place where I would continue to know the love and mercy of God. The ECUSA has, through its leaders, created an unsafe and shameful place in which GLBT folk cannot be ministered we must stand up and make our way to the place we thought we once knew....where God is mericful, grace-filled and loving....for me it is another denomiation. A place where sisters and brothers seek the love of God and a community of faith in which to serve (not misguided in asking first..are you gay?)
All knowing God, you created me as your loving child...out of your love and grace may we find only that which is good and life-giving. May the leaders to whom I now turn for Light and Truth not lead down a path of doubt and hardship....urging me to wait even longer for your righeousness; but will show me your love today in their humilty and care.
Raymond/ Manchester, NH

Richard Lyon said...

KJS seems to have issued her unfortunate Season of Fasting statement on the assumption that lesbian and gay Episcopalians are a captive population with no place else to go. T'aint necessarily so.

gay news editor said...

I am confused here - Bishop Andrus voted against the infamous measure shoved thru the last General Convention at the last minute. He was one of the first diocesan bishops to oppose the Tanzanian ultimatum. He has continued the work of a diocesan commission which will propose a specific rite for blessing of same gander couples for approval by the Diocesan Convention this fall. While I agree that the idea of a one-sided fast is absurd, and after more than five decades of waiting I am tired of waiting, I don't see why one would (a) resign for a church in the diocese of California or (b) send this letter to Bishop Marc.