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A series of essays towards General Convention in 2003

The storm on the 'High Seas of Anglicanism'

The storm on the 'High Seas of Anglicanism'

by The Rev. Elizabeth Kaeton

Yesterday, I preached about the storm on the "High Seas of Anglicanism" and where God and Jesus are in this tempest in a sacristy pot about blessing relationships which are marked by "fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God." (D039)

I did not once refer to my 27 year relationship with my beloved. I simply laid out for my congregation the three events (New Westminster, England and NH) which have been the major contributing elements in the current 'perfect storm' of controversy.

I should note that in 15 months of being rector there, this is the first sermon I have dedicated to the "issue" of human sexuality.

My main message was that Jesus is not asleep at the stern. He is saying in the midst of us, "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?"

Now, in my community, there is a substantial faithful remnant of 'the Republican Party at Prayer.' One of them, a 72 year old Princeton man, a semiretired engineer and one of my most active Licensed Lay Readers and Eucharistic Ministers came to me at the greeting line.

"Have you and Barbara had your relationship blessed in the church?" he asked.

"No," I answered. "Well," he said, his eyes welling up with tears, "I am not licensed to do this by the church, but I'd be willing to petition the bishop based on the fact that I am the oldest son and the right to bless is given to me scripturally." His eyes twinkled mischievously through his tears as he said this.

He took my hand in his, looked me directly in the eyes and said, "If you and Barbara want, I'd love to gather this entire community and lead us in blessing you, for you both have been a blessing to us."

Around him stood others of his generation, nodding in agreement.

This is me, still weeping as I write his words.

Ultimately, this is about blessing behavior. But, not any behavior. This is about blessing that behavior which conforms to the high standards of Christian behavior set by the church (See D039).

Ultimately, this is about blessing relationships. Not just the relationship between the couple. This is about blessing those relationships which are formed and cherished in the community of faith which the world would mock and scorn.

Ultimately, this is about blessing relationships as vocation. The only two questions we need to ascertain are: Have the couple been called together by God in this relationship? Does their relationship meet the high standards of the Christian community as articulated in D039?

You know, just as we do for marriage.

In my experience blessing hundreds of these relationships (hetero and homo), I would never have participated in the liturgical action if I had not been convinced of the affirmative answer to both those questions. I don't know any other priests who would, either.

Theological consensus has been building all around ECUSA for thirty years. We did not need theological consensus in the Anglican communion to ordain women. Or, abolish slavery. Or decry polygamy. Or begin to minister to people with AIDS while our President as well as those in the Southern Hemisphere denied its existence.

We don't need theological consensus in the Anglican communion to bless what is plainly evident God has brought together. We need what we've always had: patient, loving kindness, the tolerance of our diversity and the spiritual maturity to live out what Martin Smith calls "the crucifyingly obscure boundaries of our faith."

God said to Job out of the whirlwind, "Gird your loins." Or, as bishop-elect Robinson said, "Buckle up. It's going to be a bumpy ride." I have no doubt that General Convention will bear that out as truth. It's important to remember, in the midst of it all, to know that God is there with us.

And, if this is of God, as I have experienced it to be in my own life and my community of faith, it will have out.


(the Rev'd) Elizabeth Kaeton
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
200 Main Street
Chatham, NJ 07928
973 635 8085
CTB Prayer for General Convention: "Holy God, you promised Abraham and Sarah that you would bless them so that their descendants would be a blessing to all humankind. As Jacob wrestled with you throughout the night, refusing to let you go until you blessed him, grant each of us the courage to claim your blessing as our baptismal birthright. Open the ears of our bishops and General Convention deputies so that we can hear what your Holy Spirit is saying to the church. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen." (By JC Bradley)

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