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A note from the past
I ran across this while searching old INTEGRITY FORUM issues for
something else. I find it as moving now as when I heard Pittenger
tell it at Integrity's first convention, in 1975 at the Cathedral of
St. James in Chicago.
>From "Part V" of "On Homosexuality" by Coleman McGehee, Jr., Bishop
of Michigan, as part of Bishop McGehee's address to the 142nd Annual
Convention of the Diocese of Michigan, in Detroit, on 24th Oct., 1975.
Reprinted in INTEGRITY FORUM, January 1976.
Let me close with a story the Rev. Dr. Norman Pittenger told recently
[at the INTEGRITY convention], a story which has nothing to do with
homosexuality per se, but which does speak to the rejection and
suffering which so many persons, especially minority groups, have
experienced in their lifetime and which we as Christians must never
minimize, Dr, Pittenger was teaching at General Theological Seminary
in New York. A black student was asked to leave the seminary. He was
told that he could come back if he proved to the authorities that he
was serious about his vocation to Holy Orders, and the Dean of the
seminary sent the young man to see Dr. Pittenger to interpret the
school policy. In the words of Dr. Pittenger, "the young man came to
see me and I, God forgive me, interpreted the policy. And as it came
to an end and the interview was over, authority had had its word and
the word had been interpreted. The young man went to the door and I
went with him and somehow or other, maybe the grace of God brought me
to put my arm around that young man and draw him to me and say, 'I
know it's awful for you now, but maybe one day you'll see, it will
come out all right.' He broke down sobbing. I thought, 'O God, what
have I done now?' And I said, calling him by name, 'I'm sorry, I
apologize for trying to give you the official line. I really think
the line was wrong.' The young man said to me, 'Father, I'm not crying
because of what you said. I'm crying for a reason that you could
never understand.' And I said, 'Well, maybe not, tell me. I'll try.'
He looked me straight in the eye and said, 'Father, you are the first
white man who has ever touched me,' and he grabbed my hand and kissed
it and fled. And then I sat down and wept for more than an hour."
My brothers and sisters in Christ, I am profoundly sensible of the
fact that Church people throughout this diocese have not found it easy
to study and discuss the issue of homosexuality. I am aware that many
of you are still bewildered as to just what the right answer may be
and how we as a Church can prudently and helpfully respond.
Theologically speaking, our approach to this issue, or so it seems to
me, basically should be one of deep Christian concern -- a concern
born out of our understanding of a God who, in His love for the world,
manifested that love in and through our Lord Jesus Christ and showed
His willingness to deal with people where they are and as they are.
If that love, to quote Dr. Pittenger again, "can embrace even such
creatures as you and me, can it not also work through our creaturely,
feeble, defective loving so that God's perfect will of love may be
done in earth as ever it is done ln heaven? To that God who is pure,
unbounded love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, let us give now and
always our worship and thanksgiving and praise.