Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Passing Baton: Will You Take It?

The Passing Baton
The Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall

I was deeply saddened to learn of Bishop Walter Righter's passing, so soon after Pamela Chinnis. Both of these leaders were straight allies at a time when to be an ally was as costly as to be openly LGBT. They both saw that the Body of Christ could not continue to turn its back on its LGBT members, and took risks to champion our cause.

Bishop Righter experienced a deep betrayal when he was accused by ten of his fellow Bishops of heresy for ordaining an openly gay man. Righter was not the only bishop who had taken this risk, but he was chosen by conservatives as the first in what was intended to be a series of ecclesiastical trials to show that the ordination of LGBT people was against church doctrine, even if General Convention would not outlaw it. Many of the best legal minds (straight and gay) combined to create a defense which showed that there is no central doctrinal reason to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

This was the final straw for conservatives who turned to overseas colleagues to try to enforce their ideas on the rest of The Episcopal Church. The Lambeth resolution which declared homosexual activity to be contrary to Scripture and all that has followed from that, grew from conservatives' frustration and theological concern when Righter was exonerated. They continued to believe that LGBT inclusion is against the gospel.

Bishop Righter was one of those, originally anti-gay, who was brave enough to hear the movement of the Spirit and see the need for justice until he became a supporter of full inclusion. Pamela Chinnis was another who encouraged lay and ordained LGBT Episcopalians to step into positions of church leadership. She encouraged us to take our places in the councils of the church and to bring our gifts to the service of the wider Church. In so doing, she too experienced the wrath of those who opposed our inclusion.

And now they are gone.

They opened doors for us, and we will be eternally grateful. But there is still much to be done. The early generations of LGBT people who walked through the doors they opened are also aging and some have already passed into their eternal rest. We cannot rest until every church opens wide its doors to those who are different. We need new leaders, people who will step into leadership in their dioceses and use that experience to inform the leadership of the national Church. We need people who will be leaders in Integrity, who will volunteer as chapter leaders, as diocesan organizers, people who will challenge their parishes to Believe out Loud(er). And, we need valiant straight allies who will step up to the plate to support their LGBT sisters and brothers.

Will you follow in the footsteps of +Walter Righter and Pamela Chinnis?

Will you take the baton?

The Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall serves as  President of the Board of Directors of Inetgrity USA. Caro has a long and distinguished history with Integrity. She was a member of the Integrity Board from 2006-2009, serving as the Director of Anglican Issues. She began her association with Integrity as a Chapter Convenor in the Diocese of El Camino Real. She served as part of Integrity’s General Convention Communication team in both Columbus (2006) and Anaheim (2009) as well as being part of the press teams sent to the Primates Meeting in Dar-Es Salaam and the Lambeth Conference of Bishops in 2008. . She has been a champion for Marriage Equality in California and is the founder and Chair of the Central Coast Coalition of Welcoming Congregations. She is also Priest-in-Charge at St. Benedicts Episcopal Church in Los Osos, CA.

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