Thursday, March 22, 2007

On Faith | Another Step Out of the Closet

By Susan Russell

It is an ongoing process, this thing called "coming out." Any gay or lesbian person who has been through it can tell you that we don't just come out once – we do it over and over again.

And they can also tell you that along the way there are times when the temptation to climb back in the closet is a very real one. The pressure of family, cultural, political and religious voices can combine to make us question our own reality – our own experience – our own truth.

Coming out is hard work that takes both faith and courage – and a deep commitment to telling the truth.

And this week all of those elements were in place as the Episcopal Church took another step out of the closet with strongly worded statements issued from the meeting of its House of Bishops in Navasota, Texas.

The bishops faithfully and courageously offered an emphatic "No" to ultimatums issued in February by the Primates of the Anglican Communion that the Episcopal Church "repent" of its inclusion of gay and lesbian people or risk being voted off the Anglican Island.

It can be argued that the Episcopal Church came out in 1976 when it passed a resolution committed to offering its gay and lesbian members "full and equal claim," and again in 1994 when it added sexual orientation to its non-discrimination list, and again in 2003 when it recognized the blessing of unions and consented to the election of a bishop in a partnered relationship.

And now 2007 offers another step out of the closet with our bishops' statement: "We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children, including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participation in the life of Christ's Church."

Coming out is hard work that takes both faith and courage – and a deep commitment to telling the truth. We are stronger as a church for having the courage to tell the truth about who we are as people of God – and for refusing to be blackmailed into bigotry.

That's good news not only for gay and lesbian people but for the church enriched and enlivened by their lives, their vocations and their ministries. The Episcopal Church is out of the closet for good. That's very good news, indeed!

Rev. Susan Russell is senior associate for parish life at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, Calif. Since 2003, she has served as president of Integrity USA. She also is a charter member of the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion Council.

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