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Re: St. XXXXX's in XXXXXX, XX : How do we reconcile?

On Sep 11 1:29pm *************************** wrote:

> Louie,
> Last Thursday, St. ****** Episcopal Church in ************, ******** had an open 
> forum in which members of the parish were invited to express their opinions on 
> the recent turmoil in the Episcopal Church. Each person who wished to speak was 
> asked to keep their comments short, two minutes or less.
> ******* people, including me, made comments in support of the lesbigay community. 
> Each of these folks also stressed the importance of loving those with whom they 
> disagreed. Six people spoke of lesbigays in language that compared them to the 
> spawn of Satan. Each of these folks recommended cutting all ties with ECUSA. 
> (Some of them have already contacted the AMiA.)
> The rector and a majority of the vestry members have taken the stance that 
> homosexual behavior is incompatible with the teachings of Scripture. The actions 
> of people on both sides of this issue threaten the future of our parish. Somewhere 
> (probably nearby), Satan is probably laughing uncontrollably.
> I'm praying (constantly!), and I'm making sure that I don't severe my relationship 
> with anyone in the parish. It's not easy! If you have any suggestions on how to 
> continue to love your neighbor, even when he or she is engaging in destructive 
> and hateful behavior, I'd love to hear them. I'm guessing that you may have some 
> expertise in this area...
> In Christ's Love (sometimes through gritted teeth),
> ******** ******

Gentle XXXXXX,

It sounds to me like you're already going about this in the right way.
There is no route beyond the impasse except to engage it, and yes, the
task is to get beyond it to do ministry together, ministry that is
focused on the needs of the world.

The world will know that you are Christians not by how much you love
the world, but by how much you love one another.

Love is not easy across the barriers you describe.  It was not easy
for the original Christians.  In our intense admiration of Jesus'
passivity through the horrors of Holy Week, we should not forget his
follower who in anger lopped off someone's ear.  In watching the
success of Paul's missionary journey, we should not fail to notice
that he sometimes got all out of sorts with other disciples of Jesus:
"I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves!" Paul told
the Galatians Christians (5:12).

The rancor in your parish pales by comparison to these examples.  I
offer them not to encourage rancor, but to offer hope.  If the
earliest disciples could work their way through their anguish and
disagreements, so might we.

Paul was angry that other Jewish Christians were telling his gentile
converts that they had to be circumcised.  In your parish, some are
angry that others tell gay and lesbian Christians that they must be
subjected to similar traditional restrictions.

All of the original Christians were Jewish, yet Paul won the
argument. By the end of the first century, there were almost no
Jewish Christians, and those who remained, apparently kept their 
mouths shut about requiring circumcision It was not a useful tool for
evangelism -- to put it mildly. Nor do we bring many gay and lesbian
people to understand the liberating love of Christ if we tell them
that it is okay to be a bird but not okay to sing, (='okay to
be sexually attracted but not okay to act on the attraction even
if a monogamous committed relationship').

Not all of the outcome was positive, be any means.  I personally wish
the Jewish Christians had modulated their position enough to remain
integral in the new covenant.  Christianity paid a big price in losing
the more direct connection with the Jewish way of reading scripture.
Christians lost touch with midrash, for example.  And in fairly short
order, Christians became anti-Semitic.  We see some of that even in
the fourth Gospel, written near the end of the century.

I pray for you and your parish in your own struggles.  Hold fast to
that which is good.  Let the work of reconciliation begin in you
personally, and promote others to make the same commitment.  Do not
demonize those who would demonize you.  Do not return evil for evil.
Find ways to nurture and support those who are your 'enemies.'  Love
them as God does, not to justify their opinion and not to justify your
own, but to experience together the mercy and joy which God intends
for us all.

The kingdom of God is very near, and you do not have to wait until
heaven to experience it.


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