Saturday, July 28, 2018

General Convention 2018 - Further Retrospective

The final gavels sounded the end of General Convention 2018 a mere thirteen days ago and I have seen a few post mortem comments on what we accomplished. The overall feeling seems positive as important decisions were reached that are for the good of all... even when some of “all” may not realize that yet.

I urge you to access the activities of General Convention by going to Click on “virtual binder” you can view the resolutions on which actions were taken. A number of resolutions that were passed reflect on how well we are fulfilling our Baptismal Covenant vows to respect the dignity of every human being and to seek and serve Christ in all persons.

Look at the resolutions related to how women have been treated both in our church and in our society.

Guys, and I used that term deliberately, our treatment of women, cis and trans, has been reprehensible for far too long. Women still do not earn the same as men earn for doing the exact same job, although progress has been made, just not enough. How we have ever justified that form of discrimination escapes me.

We have given all sorts of sexual harassment a “wink and a nod” but done nothing to end it. Would any of us have stood silently while our mothers, sisters and other female relatives were treated so poorly? I hope not, but I cannot confirm that just based on history. Yes, many of us were subjected to a role model that condoned, supported or ignored inappropriate behavior and actions taken against women. That is hardly an acceptable excuse.

There is a pop song from a few decades ago by Deborah Cox, entitled “Absolutely Not” that contains the following lyrics:

“If I go to work in a mini skirt am I giving you the right to flirt?
I won’t compromise my point of view. Absolutely not, absolutely not.”

Too many of us grew up when the mistaken attitude of men was that how a woman dressed gave men the right to flirt or behave even more inappropriately. Our work now is to change that mindset and work to reverse the damage done by it. The church is pointing the way. May we have the good sense and courage to follow. We have work to do.

We continued to address our perpetual failings around the issue of racism. We have resolved to work toward repentance, reconciliation and healing as we seek out the Beloved Community. We seem to make “baby steps” but so much remains to be done.

Fellow white folks, it’s time that we threw our hearts, minds, and souls into owning and seeking to rectify what we created. It is a situation, a problem, we created and we have a responsibility to work toward resolving it. I am fully aware that many of us white people do not want to hear these things, but the time is now to insure that all hear what must be said. Owning a problem helps lead to resolving it. The Beloved Community involves us all and our mission is to get there.

Systemic racism takes hard work to eradicate. Are we up to that task?

The Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Testament both give us guidelines about how we are to treat the alien residing among us. Scripture contains no references as to whether such resident aliens are documented or not, legally admitted or not. We are to treat them with dignity and respect and see to their needs as we see to our own.

We found our voice on serious immigration issues that need to be addressed. Seeing the faces and waved hands of those held in jail, separated from their own children, provided a graphic image of how un-Christ-like so many of our immigration policies are. Can we really claim to be a “Christian nation?” I don’t know how... with any sense of morality.

Through painful compromise, we said that all should mean all when it come to marriage in our church. As we move closer to Advent I, we will be able to see if all really is all in the eight dioceses that have not allowed same sex marriages.

I fear that those eight bishops have forgotten that they are to be the chief pastor over their flocks more than anything else. The service for the ordination of a bishop contains the following phrase in the Examination on page 517 of the BCP: “...and to be in all things a faithful pastor and wholesome example to the entire flock of Christ.” On the following page, the fourth question posed to the bishop-elect, begins with “As chief priest and pastor, will you encourage and support all baptized people in their gifts and ministries?”

Some bishops see their primary role as that of teacher, yet I cannot find that as ranking above the role of pastor in the ordination service. Perhaps they need to be taught about their role as pastor. Other bishops whose first careers were as lawyers, might need to be reminded that they are now pastors, not lawyers. I have to wonder what fear drives the thinking of some. We need now to support the work of people at the local level to change hearts and minds through personal testimony and interaction.

Please continue to pray daily for our church and all of her members as we seek to help personify respecting the dignity of all and seeking and serving Christ in all.

Please offer special prayers for healing for our Presiding Bishop as he approaches surgery and recovery from prostate cancer.

Bruce Garner, President
Integrity USA: The Episcopal Rainbow

P.S. - The Reverend Barbara Brown Taylor has written some profound words about where we find ourselves these days. There's a meme posted on Facebook. It's worth your time to read it.

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