First the bad news (and it’s really, really bad).
Over the past month at least four American teenagers have committed suicide after being convinced life was impossible because people said they were gay and made them feel less than human because of that. This comes as we approach the twelfth anniversary of the torture and murder of Matthew Shephard
• Asher Brown, age 13
• Tyler Clementi, age 18
• Billy Lucas, age 15
• Seth Walsh, age 13
May light perpetual shine upon them.
This weekend we learned more very bad news. Nine men stand accused of kidnapping and brutally torturing three men because they believed they were gay. Read the story here. I could go on, but thinking about just these stories fills me with anger, sadness, shame and other emotions I can’t name. Part of my shame comes from the fact that my religion – Christianity – bears a heavy burden of guilt for promoting the fear and hatred of people who are “different” because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Christianity has played a key role in shaping American culture and attitudes, whether we go to church or not. Many churches under the Episcopal umbrella and beyond still cultivate fear and hatred for people who are different.
Now for the good news
In the midst of this horrible suffering, which has been going on for untold generations, is the really good news that God is leading many Episcopalians and other Christians to start cleaning up the mess we spent so long making. God is leading many of us to a new realization of the fact that we are all God’s beloved children. In God’s Church, there are no outsiders – “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
As I write this, I sit in a hotel room in Orlando, Florida, after a full day at the Believe Out Loud Power Summit. For a sample of what this has been like listen to a short part of this morning’s sermon (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nl_BiKxtqwo). Together with our colleagues from many other Protestant denominations and other traditions, about forty Integrity members are learning, planning, and becoming more inspired to make God’s love more tangible in the Episcopal Church and throughout the world.
As I work with friends and colleagues here I am often reminded of the prayer that we say at the conclusion of many celebrations of the Holy Eucharist:
you have graciously accepted us as living members
of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ,
and you have fed us with spiritual food
in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood.
Send us now into the world in peace,
and grant us strength and courage
to love and serve you
with gladness and singleness of heart;
through Christ our Lord. Amen.
As you say this prayer in the coming month, I invite you to join me in remembering Asher Brown, Tyler Clementi, Billy Lucas, Matthew Shepard, Seth Walsh, the three men who were recently kidnapped and tortured, and other people who have been killed or brutalized because they are “different.” And I invite you reflect one of the greatest challenges that the Holy Spirit has brought to us: To make all people understand that we are all beloved Children of God.