© 1988, 2004 by Louie Crew
Appeared in Good News [The Newspaper of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut] 88.1 (February-March 1993): 5. and The Evangel 35.9 (Thursday, October 1, 1992): 2.
Our first reunion in 20 years brought on some anxiety for me. My first cousin is a prominent fundamentalist, with a Th.D. from Dallas Theological Seminary. I wrote him that I was coming to his city, and I invited him to a Eucharist for lesbigay Episcopalians at which I would be preaching.
"Louie, I have never been to a `Eucharist' before," he said; "I don't even know what one is. I would like to attend, but I have a service of my own at that same time. May I drop by your motel instead?"
He arrived with a huge bible.
"Uh oh," I thought to myself, "he's going to hit me with that one sooner or later, not as a book of liberation, but as a rock to knock me down in `love.'"
I prayed that I would be gentle and loving should that moment come, that this my cousin would always know that I love and value him.
We talked about his ministry. He works extensively as a marriage counselor and is troubled that even the most fundamentalist partners too often mistake romance for nurture, passion for commitment. Gently he asked whether the rumors of gay male promiscuity are true.
"For too many of us," I acknowledged. It's much easier to remain in good standing at church and in most neighborhoods if you hide, yet you can't nurture much of a relationship in secrecy. Some believe as they have been taught, that they are innately evil. They hate who they are and tell themselves that they don't even want homosex, much less a lesbigay relationship. When they yield to intimacy in desperation, it is usually with strangers, and they repent, again and again and again.
My local chapter of Integrity blesses lesbigay relationships, but we want to increase the likelihood that the couple will stay together. We require a couple to attend 80 percent of our services for at least 6 months and to enter at least 3 months of counseling with a clergy member before we agree to sponsor bless and celebrate their relationships.
Still, I acknowledged to my cousin, we know that we have no guarantee that the couple will anticipate all major glitches. No couple really can. Much of life and relationship is about redemption, not about perfection; but we hold our community accountable for nurture. We insist that couples whom we bless give their relationships this fresh air and scrutiny because we know that they will have damn little fresh air from most other communities.....
Yes, the moment I dreaded did come, near the end of our appointment.
"Louie," my cousin said, holding up the mammoth and tattered copy of the KJV, "I brought this along because it is very special to me in relation to you."
"God, please help me," I prayed.
Then my cousin opened the front cover and I saw: "Louie Crew, Jr.," a version of my name that I abandoned in college in 1957.
"You gave me this," my cousin said, "when you led me to the Lord while I was in high school, and I want you to know how very much I thank you for that gift and for the love you and your family have always given me. As you know, my mother and daddy did not know this book or the redeemer whom it reveals. And you brought me the love of God and God's word, and I love you very much. God has given me eternal life."
Knock me down with the Word of God made flesh one more time! My cousin and I both prayed fervently, together. He knows much more about Eucharist than he thinks he does.
Jesus is indeed alive and well in you and me whenever we put down our cudgels and listen.
Lesbigay pastors and lesbigay laity will not as a matter of course destroy the discipline of the church. While we have at least our share of scoundrels, I am surprised that we do not have more. Expect people to behave like criminals, and you should not be surprised if they live down to your expectations. But by the miracle of grace, God still manages to get across Her love.
As a lesbigay Christian, I agree that we need church discipline. I have been active in supporting the work of our diocesan task force on clergy sexual abuse, and as a member of Diocesan Council I have urged that clergy set much bolder, higher standards for themselves, lest the courts become the main arbiter of our faith community.
I want the church to hold Ernest and me to a high standard of conduct too. Even after almost two decades, our relationship is still fresh and vulnerable. While sexual abuse has never even tempted us, other forms of sin have, most notably selfishness and pride. I want no special favors about these, except at the Last Judgment, which I would never approach without the most marvelous special favor of them all.
All too few heterosexual Christians have any understanding of my people. Many prefer to remain abidingly ignorant and pontifically glad of it. Few have prayed with us or worshipped with us in our catacombs. Fewer still have visited us when we are sick or in prison or in any other kind of need or adversity. Almost no one writes or behaves as if aware that God infinitely loves lesbians and gays, not on our own merits, but on God's.
"Lesbians and gays are children of God and entitled to the full love, care, and pastoral concern of the church": thus the Church spoke at General Convention way back in 1976--but with little commitment to or understanding of what they were saying.
Heterosexuals and lesbigays have so much to share about common struggles in trying to love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly through this pilgrimage: I'll be glad when heterosexuals stop insisting that lesbigays unzip first. These heterosexuals are so much like the first Christians, Jews all--well meaning and anxious to love God properly, but frightfully wrong when they kept peeking to check out the foreskin. The day is coming when the only way that you will recognize a Christian is by our love.
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