Wednesday, January 20, 2016

An Open Letter

An open letter to those concerned about the impact of the decisions reached at the recent meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion at Canterbury England.

So, let’s talk amongst ourselves.  What does the statement of the Primates call on us to do?  Aside from our response to their statement, there is more for us to do as members of Integrity, as members of The Episcopal Church, and as followers of Jesus Christ.

The Primates issued their statement with its “consequences” outlined therein.  As you are aware, we, Integrity USA, responded with what was, for all practical purposes, a somewhat “political” response/portion of the discussion.  Yet we have a more important discussion:  the pastoral implications and needs for ourselves and others.

What will we do to provide pastoral support to each other and to our sisters and brothers in less hospitable provinces of the Anglican Communion?

We will continue to "Love one another as I have loved you."

We will continue to "Forgive your enemies and those who hate you."

We will continue to "Forgive 70 times 7."

Why will we do these things?  These are the words Jesus spoke to His followers.  Jesus calls us over this tumult.

Jesus calls us to forgive those who hurt us, those who hate us and seek to injure us whether in body or mind or soul.  If we claim any authenticity as followers of Jesus we must confess that forgiveness is central to our identity as Christians.  These are some of the things we must do if we are to be Jesus people in a Jesus movement.

This calling is now even more important to us as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people as the result of the release of the statement by the Primates. Their words are painful to all LGBTQ people everywhere who know ourselves as beloved children of God. Their words are also painful to The Episcopal Church which has taken the risk of the Gospel in the full inclusion of all God’s children in the sacramental life of the church.

This is not the first time the Primates have inflicted pain on LGBTQ people and The Episcopal Church. I doubt it will be their last attempt. And yet, we will persevere.  We have been to the foot of the cross before and we will be there again.  That is where we find the strength to endure being there. It is where we find redemption, release and healing and the ability to forgive.

We will find forgiveness – 70 times 7. Such is the cost of discipleship.

We will find healing for our broken hearts, for there is a balm in Gilead.

We will find hope for our weary spirits. Such is the promise of the resurrection.  And, like the first disciples, we will find the courage to open the eyes of our hearts to see the fullness of love in the empty tomb.

More importantly, we will share that hope and continue to be a beacon of the unconditional love of God in Christ to our LGBTQ sisters and brothers in the very provinces where these Primates continue to oppress and persecute them.

The decades of discussion, debate, and attempts to exclude, have given both The Episcopal Church and its LGBTQ members a level of spiritual maturity that allows us to be clear about where we are, who we are, and whose we are.

Our own Primate, the Most Reverend Michael B. Curry has and I suspect will continue to remind us that we are Jesus people and part of a Jesus movement.  The President of our House of Deputies, the Reverend Gay Clark Jennings, has been clear that we will continue to be part of the Anglican Communion and will fulfill our responsibilities on the Anglican Consultative Council, the more legislative of the instruments of communion.  Integrity USA is in full support of the work and the statements of the two individuals who are the presiding officers and the chief pastors of The Episcopal Church.

So, we have and will continue to endure the cost of discipleship that comes with following what the Holy Spirit is calling us to do.  We can take no other stance if we claim to follow Jesus.  It is a price we have paid and are willing to continue to pay.

The struggle continues. We do not struggle alone.

Bruce Garner
President
Integrity USA

2 comments:

alice_g said...

Blessings Brothers and Sisters in Christ. What to do next?

Go and proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Jesus is Lord. We are the living Gospel. We are the hands, eyes, ears, feet, breath, and heart of Jesus Christ on this blessed Earth. We are the living Christ here, now, today. Share, love, breathe, and be.

As a former delegate in the Diocese of Olympia (Washington State) who was privileged to participate in the election of our current bishop, I can testify that this is a very serious prayerful process. I hope this is the case throughout the American Episcopal Church, including the General Convention. If this is so, we are following the guidance of The Holy Spirit in this process - as a church, as a people, as Children of God. We will not be deterred.

As a cradle Piskie since 1947, I have watched our church struggle with issues of race, women, language in the revision of The Book of Common Prayer, and now issues of sexual diversity. We have been at the forefront of these issues and have dealt with criticism at each juncture. We have been consistent in our struggle within our human-ness, in our hearing The Holy Spirit speak, and in living the Gospel.

This is a journey take together, in faith,in prayer, in love, and in forgiveness. We remain at the forefront, as our loving God has chosen us through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in communion with The Holy Spirit today and always. Amen.

Randall Keeney said...

Dear Friends,

I truly appreciate your encouragement to The Episcopal Church and the LGBT community after the events in Canterbury. While I know that we are called to forgiveness, I don't believe that requires acquiescence. Presiding Bishop Curry will, as he should, continue to hold the high ground on this matter.

However, some of the rest of us should be lighting our hair and becoming much more active in our responses. Personally, i believe that we should accept the fact that some leaders within the communion have no intention of listening to calls for recognizing, loving, and celebrating LGBT Anglicans and others. On the contrary, they are doubling down their practices of bigotry and hatred.

If this was simply a process of exclusion or insult, restrained diplomacy might seem reasonable. However, a genocide is happing in parts of Africa, the Middle East, and the Southern Cone. Most Anglican leaders in these areas remain silent or actively support this evil. I don't believe those who are being criminalized, attacked, arrested, imprisoned, or killed can afford the customary polite and pious Episcopal lamentation. "I beg to differ" ain't enough.

I am posting a letter that I just emailed to the Primates of Nigeria & Uganda. My hope is that others will do likewise. My other hope is that we will address the suffering of the LGBT communities in other nations the same way we addressed the Apartheid in South Africa. Please do read what I have written and offer whatever response you might have.

"None of us are free if one of us is chained".

The Rev. Randall J. Keeney
Greensboro, NC

+++

February 6, 2016

Most Reverends Okoh & Ntagali,

I have been concerned about the treatment of the LGBT community in Nigeria, Uganda, and other countries for years. I had hoped that diplomacy, prayer, and conversation might have had a positive effect. It does not seem that it is working. In fact, your recent actions at Canterbury prove this point.

Today, I write to you pleading that you use every resource at your disposal to save the lives of those who have been criminalized, arrested, tortured, imprisoned, and/or executed. In TEC, we take vows in our baptismal covenant to "strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being." I would assume you do the same.

You have tremendous influence in your country. Much of the law is written and sustained by the positions you choose and a variety of matters. Please use that influence to overturn laws that put LGBT lives at risk, to call your people to restraint and tolerance, to put an end to violence and imprisonment, and to begin to offer to these children of God respect and dignity. Any silence on your part in these matters is, in fact, support of the evil that is being perpetrated against them. Like Pontius Pilate, you cannot wash your hands of this.

Please know that I am writing sending this letter to other members of the Anglican Communion where this is happening. As an Anglican priest, I can not ignore this. I have fought for the rights of the LGBT community in the USA. Although we have much more work to do, we have made significant strides in the last few years. Gay and Lesbian persons have equal protection under the law and are consider children of God with all the dignity that this designation by God demands.

I will continue this struggle without regard to national borders. I will plead with our Diocesan Bishops, the Presiding Bishop of TEC, the National Executive Council, the Archbishop of Canterbury and others to intervene in the atrocities that are being committed in Nigeria, Uganda, and other nations.

I look forward to hearing from you.

The Rev. Randall J. Keeney
St. Barnabas Episcopal Church
Greensboro, NC