As we struggle together as members of this beloved church of ours to find our way forward in mission and ministry it seemed a good time -- once again and for the record -- to restate a critical plank of Integrity's "platform" ... a key component of our "agenda." It involves the critical issue of where we stand on diversity of opinion and whether or not we believe there is room in the Episcopal Church for those who disagree with us.
In a word: we do. And in a few more words -- the eloquent, now historic words of our past-president Michael Hopkins posted below -- we always have.
So please -- the next time someone writes or blogs or emails the urban myth that "both sides" are insisting on the expulsion of the other send them this "Message to the Church" -- or have them talk to me. I'll be happy to set the record straight.
All best blessings,
The Reverend Susan Russell
President, Integrity USA
A MESSAGE TO THE CHURCH
We are absolutely committed to this Church and we are absolutely committed to the Continuance of as broad a diversity—including theological—as is possible for us to maintain together. This commitment is, in part, a commitment to continued messiness and frustration … 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.
You know as well as we do that the issues are far deeper than human sexuality. They are issues of scriptural interpretation and authority, including the very different polities that exist in different provinces of the Communion and whether or not local autonomy is a defining characteristic of Anglicanism. Issues of human sexuality are just one tip of that very large iceberg and if sexuality went completely away tomorrow, the iceberg would still be there.
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.
The Reverend Michael Hopkins
Past-president of Integrity USA
Rector of St. Luke and St. Simon Cyrene, Rochester NY
Edited version of a speech first given at the Claiming the Blessing Conference
St. Louis, Missouri, November 8, 2002