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Re: Civil Unions Approved



Gentle colleagues,

This is a long post, and I ask for your patient and prayerful
attention to it.

I have long thought the Church put the cart before the horse in
establishing access to ordination before access to blessings of holy
unions.  With lesbigays as with straights, we the Church can be much
clearer about the wholesomeness of those whom we ordain when observe
the wholeness with which they do (or do not) live out their
experiences of intimacy.

Even outside the religious context it is heartening to see people begin to
recognize the human rights dimensions.  However, I think the sources of
support are more basic than a grandiose commitment to human rights.  Once
straights allow themselves to think objectively straight people, whatever
their religious or moral beliefs, don't have to think very hard or long to
recognize that securing for lesbigays the access to stable and committed
unions is in the best self-interest of straight folks as well.  Very few
adults 40 or over do not know at least one couple who should never have
married heterosexually but did so out of the huge pressures and 'rewards'
offered to lesbians and gays who try to pass as straight, often with the
lesbian or gay male fully believing the propaganda that given enough time
and experience she or he might actually become heterosexual. The church
has witnessed the brokenness affecting all the families of hundreds, yes
thousands of such persons -- homosexual persons trying to behave as
heterosexuals, as the church has prescribed.  What parents would wish such
a marriage for their straight child?

When Ernest and I married in 1974 I did not know any lesbians or gays
living in committed relationships. I knew very few gay people at all,
and knew no lesbians before 1973.  Nor did I know personally more
than one straight couple living together across the color line as we
proposed to do.  We were native Southerners, deep behind the Cotton
Curtain.  Yet in courtship, we never doubted for a moment that we
would live out our love in a committed relationship.  I can account
for that faith only as a gift, because I certainly had not escaped my
share of the prevailing education that made anathema of folks like me,
and we had no visible models for what the two of us understood fully
to be our calling.  

Everyone around thought we were making a statement about sexuality,
but we knew that we were responding to a faith commitment. While
integral, sexuality is not definitive nor even an absorbing part of
any stable and healthy ongoing relationship.  We were not seeking a
private sexual liaison, although such liaisons only minimally risk the
loss of heterosexual privilege experienced by lesbigays who openly
commit ourselves to the full range of marriage even to this day. 
Instead, we sought to integrate mind, body, and soul.  Six months
after we married, I founded Integrity. Living for the first time what
'integrity' means, I wanted to share that vision of wholeness with the
whole church.  

Our tiny little town in Middle Georgia had seen and survived furtive
crossings of the color line in the darkness of the night since early
colonial days, but when Ernest and I took out a joint checking account
in the local bank and showed up as explicitly a couple at church and
on campus, most certainly we were not being furtive.  Some thought the
foundations of the place were shaking, even quite literally:  Four
months after I started Integrity, a tornado devastated our town. The
national newspaper of the John Birch Society, published in nearby
Macon with a circulation of 125,000, gave front page coverage with a
banner headlines:  "NATIONAL 'GAY' GROUP ACTIVE IN FORT VALLEY" (Macon
Herald, March 20, 1975. Vol. 5, No. 46)    The article quoted Senators
Sam Nunn and Herman Talmadge, whose letters of support for our civil
rights I had sought and published in Integrity's national newsletter. 
The article also noted:

"James P. Dees, Presiding Bishop, The Anglican Orthodox Church
[another Anglican Southerner, who like Bishop Chuck Murphy fled ECUSA
for its "heresies"], told the Herald that local officials in Fort
Valley '...are very disturbed about the situation....  I would like to
call attention to the tornado which ripped Fort Valley apart
recently,' Rev. Dees continued. 'My immediate reaction to the news of
the tornado was, "This is the voice of God."  The town of Fort Valley
is harboring Solomists [sic].  Would one expect God to keep silent
when homosexuals are tolerated?  We remember what He did to Sodom and
Gomorrah.'"

When the Atlanta Constitution called, I was able to confirm that we
had indeed caused the tornado: "Yes, that's queer power."  

The Herald article appeared 25 years ago next Monday. The new
legislation in Vermont was not even thinkable then. The local hysteria
in Georgia then seems mildly amusing now, but it did not seem so then,
especially when hundreds of our neighbors fantasized and maybe even
believed with Bishop Dees that we possessed such demonic powers.   I
remember the murderous phone calls, the drivers who ran me off the
shoulder of the road as I jogged..., but mostly I remember the
reactions the 'better sort of people.' Within a year the vestry of my
parish had sent me a letter asking me to "find some other place to
worship."   

Even though the priest refused to speak to me and refused to share the
peace, I continued to come as a witness to the invitation by which we
were all at that table;  Knowing the Lord of the feast, I knew that if
I left the church, many would forget whose table it is.  I rejoice
that by 1979, a few months before we left that town, the parish 
publicly voted to withdraw the the vestry's unwelcome.  In October
1999, the current vicar sent a personal invitation from the parish to
Ernest and me to return for the parish's 60th anniversary.   

How many young lesbians and gays growing up right now all over the
world. but especially in the part we inhabit known as ECUSA, will have
the nurture and support of their families and communities as they try
to create loving, stable relationships?  Would you really rather have
them marry your straight sons or daughters, your straight grandsons or
your straight granddaughters?

The step that Vermont has taken is enormously important, and I am very
proud of the Episcopal influences on that decision, especially the
strong leadership of Bishop McLeod and of lay deputy Representative
Tom Little.  At Denver, will we allow the bullies of Singapore and the
hisses of Lambeth to scare us out of doing what is right?

Lutibelle/Louie
Louie Crew, Chair, Diocese of Newark Deputation to GC2000
President of the Standing Committee
377 S. Harrison St., 12D, East Orange, NJ 07018-1225. 973-395-1068
http://newark.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/rel.html  Anglican Pages

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