Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Archbishop of Canterbury speaks

The Archbishop of Canterbury speaks about the Episcopal Church's General Convention. Of course we had a few hot-button topics, mostly notably, an affirmation of the place of gay and lesbian people in the life of our church.

Rowan Cantaur has interesting comments. Some of it I can agree with totally. Some of it raises eyebrows.

In particular, I am troubled by his concern that persons living in committed, same-sex partnerships are living outside the marriage covenant and are therefore living a life in sin. I read his comments on the "lifestyle choice" as referring more to the decision to not be celibate (cohabiting heterosexual couples as well as homosexual couples), rather than suggesting that homosexuality is chosen (not part of one's innate being). He seems to state that cohabitation is a sin which is unforgivable as long as it is going on. Any sexual relationship outside marriage is an unforgivable sin as long as it is going on. Sorry, but I can't go there with him on that one.

From a purely logical standpoint, if we say that a lesbian couple is living a non-celibate life and is therefore in sin and cannot be fully part of the church, then we must set the standard that all non-celibate couples cannot be part of the church. That would pretty much mean that you wouldn't have any young clergy, since all of us were in at least our mid 20s when first ordained. Knowing what you all learned in high school, what can you surmise about the average 20-something? Oh, pick your jaws up off the floor.

If we set that standard for our gay and lesbian parishoners, then we have to set it for our hetero parishoners. Oh, Lord, could you imagine if we started refusing communion to the notorious sinners who cohabit? There would be lots and lots and lots of people... young people, divorced people, old granny people and seniors (!) who would not be getting communion!!

I think it is clear that our society, and our church, has moved beyond the point where it considers co-habitation and non-celibacy to be a major sin. I can't think of one clergy person who would refuse to marry a cohabiting couple. We've gotten over it. Some people are given the gift of celibacy. For those of us who are not, we are forgiven. And we move on.

From a theological standpoint, it also makes no sense to claim that a person living in a non-celibate relationship is committing such a sin that they cannot serve God. Since we just established that co-habitation is a non-issue for most of the American public (at the least, the public that I live in), are we then saying there is a sin out there that God can't forgive? If I can sin and then reap the rewards of forgiveness, I expect that all my fellow human beings can too.

Finally, there's the question of relevance. We live in a world where children are still starving, cancer is still not cured, and God's children are still not free in every corner of the earth. Is cohabitation really the issue that we are going to let tear apart the body of Christ? Is it really that important? Can you honestly expect me to believe that God will make or break eternity based on who we learn to offer eros love to? I sort of thought God would be more interested in the whole honoring God alone and loving our neighbors as ourselves thing... or perhaps the striving for justice and peace and respecting the dignity of every human being... or seeking and serving Christ in all persons. I must have missed the parts in the Creed where it said that cohabitation is such a big sin.

I know there are plenty of issues and theological bents I have not yet touched on and can't touch on in a simple post. But I hope I have at least expressed my discomfort with the lifestyle-choice language Rowan used.

Celibacy is a gift some people are given. Sexual love is a gift that others are given. We can't claim the gifts that are not ours. We can only seek to live out the wholeness of who we are exactly as God made us. And God made us to grow as a whole community, to love our neighbors as ourselves. So easy, and so impossible.

Monday, July 20, 2009

New Office Pictures!

As promised... things are still slightly disarrayed in these photos. Bear with me! You'll see green walls, warm yellow-beige trim, and curtains with cranberry for a highlight. The cranberry highlight was just me talking crazy talk, but it turned out that it really just nailed the place. So it's not ruffly or overly feminine, but clean and modern-but in keeping with the character of the place. You want my office don't you? That's right...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

New office (pics to follow)

Ah, yes, that last post was depressing, no? On the bright side, I got a couple coffee date offers out of it. Now, if I can just swing a lunch or two, I'll be convinced that melodrama is beneficial.

In the meantime, I have gotten quite creative, found a few names of you under-the-radar clergy, and got permission to invite Lutherans to celebrate if needed. So I'll be hitting up a few resources. It's tough, sometimes, being the small church. Even though I will offer them the standard supply compensation, I can't offer any extra bonuses like a comfy couch, lunch with the Mayor, or a limo to the church. Granted, I remember my own days as supply and the size of the church never mattered. A tiny church not too much larger than Epiphany always made the day worth my while with a scrumptious lunch afterwards (Church of Our Savior, Montpelier, VA. Sweet, sweet little country church whose "coffee hours" are to die for!). A much larger church had dreadful to non-existant coffee hours, but the people were so joyful and happy, and I was a newlywed whose new husband would come with me, so it was always a great day. As a matter of fact, I can't remember a bad supply gig.

So maybe being the small church will be just fine, after all. I mean, I do have an awesome new office to share with them. And our Junior Warden makes the best coffee in town, no contest! (Sorry, Starbucks.)

I will shortly post pictures of the new office, and remember to post more of my happy, upbeat side (at least, after I get a few lunches out of it...) My vacation is coming up in two short weeks, so I'm busy planning some camping and some relaxing. I think it might be great to take a few books with me and spend a whole day at the campsite, sitting around, boiling water for tea, and reading under a sunny sky. I am fairly certain our beat up old popcorn pot will make the trip.

In the meantime, I'm off to visit a few stalwart parishoners who are sick and in hospital. Stop getting sick, everyone! What is it this summer??? But I'm stopping at the New Morning Market first to score some vegetarian sandwiches and ginger ale first! Yummy! M's secret comfort food is fried chicken. I always find him out. Mine is tofu sandwiches. I know, the shame, the shame. But he never seems to find me out... I usually confess first!


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Treading Water

Ah yes, blogging has been slow of late. We are in the middle of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church and I am rather frustrated that I am not there. I'm still irritated with colleagues who won't let me get involved because they think I'm either too young or too involved in my "other job". Damn it, if you want to get certain priests involved, you have to accept that some of us are freakin' bi-vocational and that our ENTIRE WORK AND LIVES is ministry and priest-work. That means that the work in a hospital is ALSO priest work. Meanwhile, I'm treading water here in CT. I've got some vacation coming up in three weeks, and thanks to a clergy shortage, I'm having some trouble finding pastoral emergency coverage and supply. Several parishoners are threatening to leave or at least take their business to a different church for those three weeks in August, and several others are attending a different church for the summer.

News for you, cupcakes. This is what a clergy shortage looks like. It means the clergy have to draw tight and careful boundaries around their time off so we don't burn out. Burned out priests do no one any good. You found that out already. And a clergy shortage means that sometimes, you will want a priest and you won't be able to get one. Yes, it stinks.

It's a symptom of our long, long lack of good stewardship and investment in our spiritual life and our churches. For such a long time, we've been phoning it in, living off endowments and expecting that the church is always there even if we aren't really invested in it.

For so long, we were the church that was comfortable. What happens now? Do we stop being the church that is comfortabe, and become the church that is prophetic?

Or do we just tread water until the tide has gone out and we can walk on the sandbar until the tide comes again to wipe us out?

Sorry if I sound frustrated- I'm a little cranky since I want to go out and bike ride and train for the century, but with a sermon and a shift and phone calls to make that just can't happen this morning. It'll happen tomorrow, my day off. But trying to have this night owl operating on that morning schedule... yech!