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Re: Akinola Redux
For the life of me I cannot understand this passion for being affirmed
everywhere we go. It's not going to happen for anyone, and it surely is
not going to happen for those of us who have been stigmatized.
I know of no better recipe to set myself up for continual unhappiness than
to expect other people to like me as a prior condition for my having
anything to do with them.
It makes even less sense to demand affirmation of people whom we ourselves
I'd much rather have justice than affirmation.
I didn't ask the homophobic administration of Rutgers to "like" me, not
even when I chaired the University Senate for two terms, serving on the
Board of Governors in that role and spending time with the administration
many times a month. But I did join five other lbg couples to sue Rutgers
for same-sex benefits -- in a suit that has been to the State Supreme
Court once and may yet get there again, because Rutgers' offer is a stingy
substitute for justice.
When I was a young man, I once told my friend Louis Crompton, "When you
see a snake, you must stomp on it." "No, Louie," he replied. "You'll get
foot poisoning." As an old man, I am so grateful for that early counsel.
I have enjoyed a rich and full life living all over the world -- Beijing,
Hong Kong, England, Alabama, Wisconsin, Delaware, Georgia, Texas, South
Carolina, Illinois, New Jersey... -- and I have rarely decided my move
within the culture or within my profession by whether people liked me
enough to affirm my life choices. Why should I do so in the Church?
Whenever I have moved to a new job, I have left a local parish that is
more loving and accepting of gay people than they were when I first went
there -- not because I insisted that they be so, but because I gently,
lovingly, persistently affirmed the one Who had invited us all to the
More words positive about lesbians and gays were said at the Akinola
enthronement at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in that one service
-- by the Dean, by the Presiding Bishop and by the Bishop of New York --
than are said in all parishes of most dioceses in any full year.
It would be hard to name a bishop more supportive of lesbians and gays
than Bishop Cathy Roskam, who left her vacation to be there as support for
her bishop, for me, and for others. She's one of the only ECUSA bishops
that stood up to the rancorous rhetoric while at Lambeth. Year after year
she has celebrated Eucharist with us on the streets of NYC on Pride
Sunday. She is a colleague whom I trust to be absolutely fair and never
patronizing on Executive Council.....
I can understand why many might disagree with the bishops' decision to use
this way to try to bring us closer to the Anglican Church of Nigeria; but
I cannot understand saying to our friends that they are not our friends
because they were nice to someone who has said hateful things about us!
We're no longer babes in Christ, but adults in Christ. We all have the
high calling to return good for evil.
David Virtue is the only one I know fulminating against the service more
than a few people in this forum, and well David might fulminate:
* The Archbishop ate a diet of crow to get a throne.
* Contrary to 1 Corinthians 5, the Archbishop ate with those whom he
* When challenged on remarks that he had made about lesbians and gays, he
The huge peacock in Bishop Sisk's garden must have crowed several times
during the service. The peacock blocked the entrance to the luncheon
until Ernest and Phoebe Griswold shooed the peacock away so we could get
to the door.
Not once did the ECUSA bishops or dean remain silent out of courtesy
regarding their affirmation of lesbians and gays. The Nigerians present
saw their Archbishop honored AND they heard more positive statements about
gays and lesbians than likely any of them have ever heard before.
Imagine for a moment how the Holy Spirit might use that occasion to help
Nigerians to be more open to lesbian and gay Nigerians. Live expectantly.
Why wouldn't you want to take lesbian or gay friends to visit such a
dramatic witness? It's almost the high camp Saint (Gore Vidal's nickname
for Paul) demonstrated when he circumcised Timothy, not because God
requires circumcision, but because Timothy's circumcision reduced the
rancor the Jews in Jerusalem (read: the Lambeth Conference) had whipped
up against Saint. An enthronement is far less painful than circumcision!
I'll be speaking at the national conference of Black and White Men
Together next week in Miami. I will analyze the dynamics of the
enthronement for their subtle mixture of of race, culture, and sexual
issues. I have far better news from the Episcopal Church than I was able
to report 20 years ago when Adrienne Rich and I keynoted one of their
earliest conventions. Many of you will have even much better news to
report 20 years from now.
I took Ernest to Akinola's enthronement precisely because I knew he would
not be subjected to hate. "Come see a hate-filled bishop treated to love
without compromise." (He distrusted the archbishop, but enjoyed the
building. Who could be bored in such a beautiful place?)
I have taken house guests to church with me for decades, and for at least
two decades I could not assure my guests that I would have any others
helping me to return good for evil. A few have later become
Episcopalians, some of those probably initially for the liturgy or the
In the seal of the cross at baptism we have been marked as Christ's own
forever. Just what part of 'forever' is so hard to understand? No one
can separate us from that love, and the bishops and dean in this case
surely weren't even trying to do that.
Sister Eleanor Roosevelt said, "No one can make you feel inferior without
"My very chains and I grew friends, so much a long communion
tends to make us what we are; even I regained my freedom with
a sigh." -- George Gordon Lord Byron, "Prisoner of Chillon"