In 2009: Episcopal Church Doors Open Wide for All People

Let’s end this year in review on a positive note. We had some advances and defeats within different Christian denominations in 2009, but none compare to the Episcopal Church’s July 2009 decision to bless lesbian/gay marriages (under whatever name) and consider ordination regardless of orientation. It’s a huge victory for the Church Universal, and they’ve already followed through on the ordination bit, electing Mary Glasspool as their first lesbian bishop (pending consent from the Anglican Communion).

episcopal-shieldLast week after I posted some news coming from the Episcopal Church General Convention, I found out that there would be a whole lot more to come. For the sake of I decided to hold off until it was over rather than posting it piecemeal. Well, it’s over now and the news is just about 100% positive. Here are a few snippets from An Inch at a Time, the blog of Rev. Susan Russell:

We saw those goals realized in the adoption of the following resolutions:

D025 — Ordination
It can – and has – been said that D025 does not “repeal” B033 – and that is, of course, true. There will still be bishops with jurisdiction and standing committees who will choose to “exercise restraint” when consenting the election of a bishop whose “manner of life” would cause concern to the wider Anglican Communion. (And we all know that is code for “partnered gay or lesbian bishop.”) Nevertheless, the inclusive and expansive language of D025 states “this is where we are in 2009” – and frees bishops and standing committees to focus on the theological orientation rather than the sexual orientation of qualified candidates to the episcopate if they choose to.

Furthermore, by stating unequivocally that “God has called and may call any individual in the church to any ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church, in accordance with the discernment process set forth in the Constitution and Canons of the church” – D025 actually states for the first time as an official resolution of the Episcopal Church that the extra-canonical requirement of celibacy of gay and lesbian candidates for ordination is not the mind of this church.

C056 — Blessings
What the Episcopal Church adopted in Resolution C056 is a broad local option for the blessings of the marriages, unions and partnerships of same sex couples and a call to the church to work together toward common liturgical expressions of those blessings.

The Rev. Sam Candler (Atlanta), chair of the committee that presented the resolution, called it “an elegant blend of theological care, ecclesiastical breadth and pastoral generosity.”

In other historic action, the General Convention adopted resolutions supporting the enactment of anti-discrimination [ENDA] and hate crimes legislation protecting transgender people at local, state and federal levels. Both houses also adopted resolutions adding “gender identity and expression” to its nondiscrimination policy for hiring lay employees and calling for the revision of church paper and electronic forms to allow a wider range of gender identifications.

It’s almost impossible to overstate the importance of these decisions. The House of Deputies and House of Bishops gave the Episcopal Church access to powerful new tools that will allow the Church to reach so many people who have been outcast for so long.

And it’s already yielding results. In a later post, Rev. Russell talks about the highlights of her experience at the convention.

The woman who stopped me in the worship hall to thank Integrity for our work and then to share that she had attended the Integrity Eucharist with her 14 year old son — and that afterwards in their hotel room he had come out to her.

“I’ve known he was gay since he was about 4,” she said, her eyes welling up. “And have been waiting for him to figure it out. The fact that he came to himself in the context of a celebration of the Eucharist — that he’s never going to have to wonder if his church or his family will love and accept him as he is — I just can’t thank you enough.”

“He’s a really great kid,” she said, wiping her eyes. “And he’s going to be FABULOUS gay man! “

This is how coming out should be. No anger, no estrangement, no hatred. No fear. Only joy, love, and acceptance. What a gift.

I join this mother in thanking Rev. Russell and IntegrityUSA for their tireless efforts for the Church Universal and the LGBT community.