Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A Message to the Church

In 2003 -- on the eve of the 74th General Convention of the Episcopal Church -- then-Integrity President Michael Hopkins offered this"Message to the Church" as part of the case for the blessing of same-sex relationships. We are reprising it here today for two reasons.

The first is because what Michael said in 2003 is just as true twelve years later in 2015. The second is because his words are an exemplar of the tone and timbre of the discourse that has characterized the advocacy for the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments in the Episcopal Church for at least five General Convention cycles. The narrative that the journey toward full inclusion in the Episcopal Church has been rife with acrimony and animus with threats from “both sides” is -- quite simply -- neither fair nor true.

So yes – by all means – let us call for gracious dialogue and respectful conversation as we move forward to the 78th General Convention and look beyond. And, at the same time, let’s recognize that in so doing we are standing on the shoulders of a generation of leaders who have paved the way for us.

And now: A Message to the Church by Michael Hopkins:

My first message: Liberals and conservatives, progressives and traditionalists, must learn to live together in this Church or there will be no Church in which for us to live. But learning to live together must mean “mutual deference” not moratoriums or some insistence that we all convert to being “moderates.”

My second message to the church at large is that we are not going anywhere. Gay and lesbian Christians make up a significant portion of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America. We will continue to do so after General Convention 2003 no matter what happens. We will not attempt to get our way by threatening to leave. I ask those on all sides of this debate to make this commitment as well.

Now three comments especially for our conservative brothers and sisters.

First, we do not desire for you to go away. Yes, some sympathizers with our movement have said from time to time that it would be just as well if you did. Of course, some of yours have said the same about us. Let us together commit ourselves to finding every way possible to move forward with our debate without threatening either schism or purge. It is simply not necessary for us to do so.

Second, we do not desire to force same-sex blessings on you or anyone. We do desire to enable them in those places where the church is ready to receive them as a blessing but is not able to because of an understandable desire for some level of national recognition. Of course we will continue to work towards local communities desiring to bless same-sex unions. Of course you will work to keep them from doing so. We ought to be able to live with each other’s efforts on that level.

Third, we do challenge you to stop scapegoating lesbian and gay Christians for every contemporary ill in the Church, particularly for our current state of disunity or the potential for the unraveling of the Anglican Communion.

This movement is not about getting our way or else. This movement is a means to further the healthy debate within the Church, to deepen it on a theological level, to begin to articulate how we see the blessing of same-sex unions as a part of the Church’s moving forward in mission rather than hindering mission.

We believe that it is time for the church to claim the blessing found in the lives of its faithful lesbian and gay members and to further empower them for the mission of the Church. We are trying to find a way forward in this endeavor that holds as much of this church we love together as possible. We ask all our fellow-Episcopalians to join us even if they disagree with us.

[Michael Hopkins is a priest in the Diocese of Rochester, a founding member of Claiming the Blessing and was Integrity President from 1997-2003]

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