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A series of essays toward General Convention 2003 and beyond


God's Buffer

God's Buffer

by J. V. Michael Motes Newgate2000@aol.com

 

Many years ago I learned in a Georgia History class that
Click on the map to enlarge
this, my native state, originally had been established as a “buffer colony” to protect the older and more established settlements in the Carolinas and Virginia from attacks by the Spanish colonists and native Indians in Florida.  When looking at the map showing the results of those voting at the General Convention to confirm the election of Canon Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire, Atlanta repeats history and appears as a buffer diocese to protect the future and inevitable change that I personally believe that God has in store for the Episcopal Church of the Untied States.  To the south, east and west of our diocese, the map shows that the bishops and delegates to the General Convention voted against the confirmation of Bishop-elect Robinson.

 

Cobb County is recognized, ridiculed, condemned and boycotted by many who are supportive of gay rights.  But within this county known for its lack of understanding, intolerance, fear and in far too many instances pure hatred of homosexuals, there has long existed the comforting and welcoming buffer of St. James’.  The historic and enlightened actions of the General Convention have now—for the first time in the eleven years I have been a member here—fostered unexpected and totally unanticipated anxiety concerning my parish.  I know that St. James’ will survive. I know that I will survive. I know that my relationship will survive.  What, then is there to be uneasy about?

 

The answer is simple—nothing, provided that I put my trust in God.  This sounds easy enough, but at times it isn’t.  I remain torn between sitting back and letting others take the reigns of leadership and a desire to become involved myself.  On-going prayer for guidance and an attempt to become better informed on what the Bible says and does not say about homosexuality is the path I am currently following. But I will leave the quoting of scripture to those who are much more qualified than I will ever be, with one exception, a simple statement by Christ,  “Love one another.”   This seems pretty simple to me and I prefer to leave it that way—simple.

 

But I can say what I feel in my heart and in doing so I do become involved: God loves me just as he made me and has shown this love with countless blessings, one of the greatest being leading me to St. James’ and a comforting connection for the first time in many years to a real church home.

 

I have sought the guidance of someone I greatly admire and who was very actively involved with the General Convention in my quest to both sort out my feelings and to help verbalized them.  He has taken the time to point out or reiterate several important truths to me as well as suggest my own obligations to my church community at this time:

 


Bishop-Elect
V. Gene Robinson

 

The real challenge comes from the last obligation, loving those with opposing viewpoints.  Among the disturbing stories I have received from a priest friend in the aftermath of the General Convention have been the account of a parish priest in Texas who led his procession, including young acolytes given no choice but to follow their leader, in trampling the flag of the Episcopal Church as they made their way to the altar, and the dean of an Alabama cathedral who flew a black flag over his church following the convention, causing one observer to astutely comment, “A black flag! As if it were a roach motel with stained glass rather than a place of worship, love and compassion.”

 

Could such atrocities occur here at the buffer of St. James’?  One would hope not. But I personally find it hard to believe that one church within our diocese, in total opposition to the affirmative vote of our bishop, has announced as a method of protest that they are withholding funds from the diocese.  Or, in another case, learn that a rector had in his recent sermon that it was his understanding that decisions made at the convention “led to a shouting match at one Marietta parish last week.”

 

“Love those with opposing viewpoints”?  Perhaps harder than it seems, but it must be done. 

 

“Love one another.”  Simple, yes—easy, no.

 

When the first colonists set foot on Georgia soil at Savannah Bluff in 1733 a buffer began.  When the cornerstone of St. James’ was laid in 1842 a buffer began.  When the Diocese of Atlanta voted in 2003 to support the choice of the people of New Hampshire a buffer began.  The fledging colony survived.  The infant parish survived.  And the Episcopal Church of the United States will survive.

 

But we must all do our individual parts in guaranteeing and nourishing this survival.  Change in all things is inevitable.  Change within our parish, both physical and emotional, is obvious as we look around us. Change within the whole church is ongoing.  I, too, hope to change and perhaps through voicing my opinion this is a beginning.  I support the decision of Bishop Alexander and his majority of delegates to the General Convention, the recent sermon of our rector, and will try, with God’s help, to be  supportive of those who disagree.  May all of us extend the same courtesy to our brothers and sisters in Christ.   – jvmm 27 August 2003            

J. V. Michael Motes Newgate2000@aol.com


You are welcome to submit your essays for consideration for this series. Send them to lcrew@newark.rutgers.edu Identify yourself by name, snail address, parish, and other connections to the Episcopal Church. Please encourage others to do the same.

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