A series of essays in the Episcopal Church
by The Rev. Robert R. Smith
© 2004 by The Rev. Robert R. Smith
(Scene: The TV studio, set of HARDBALL. CHRIS MATTHEWS, and his guests, BISHOP GENE ROBINSON, and BISHOP ROBERT DUNCAN are seated in their places.)
MATTHEWS: Welcome to HARDBALL. I'm Chris Matthews. In case you have been living in a cave, you know that the unity of the sixty million member Anglican Communion is threatened, because the Episcopal Church has consecrated its first openly gay Bishop, Gene Robinson. Joining us now from our studio in Manchester, New Hampshire, my first guest is Bishop Gene Robinson.
ROBINSON: Good to be with you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Bishop Robinson, you are at the center of the storm. How are you holding up?
ROBINSON: Well, Chris, it hasn't been easy. I have received death threats. Now I travel with a bodyguard who carries a gun.
MATTHEWS: Well, you have nothing to fear from our other guest. He only knows how to shoot himself in the foot!!!...He represents the American Anglican Council, or A-A-C. It's a conservative splinter group that is threatening to split from the Episcopal Church in protest of Bishop Robinson's consecration. Joining us now from our studio in Pittsburgh, is the Episcopal Bishop of Pittsburgh, Bishop Robert Duncan.
DUNCAN: Chris, that remark was uncalled for! The A-A-C is opposed to Bishop Robinson's consecration, but we condemn the death threats he has received. I am appalled that he has to travel with a bodyguard who carries a gun.
ROBINSON: Thank you, Bob. That means a great deal to me.
MATTHEWS: Bishop Duncan, explain what the American Anglican Council stands for?
DUNCAN: The American Anglican Council believes that in consecrating a gay man as bishop, the Episcopal Church has broken from the faith.
ROBINSON: Excuse me, Chris! Could I interrupt here?
MATTHEWS: Yes, Bishop Robinson. Go ahead.
ROBINSON: I just want to say that I am not 'the Gay Bishop.' I am a bishop who happens to be gay. And I am open about it. I have been in a committed relationship with my partner...
DUNCAN: [INTERRUPTING] ...But it's contrary to Scripture...
ROBINSON: Bob, let me finish! I may be the first openly gay bishop, but there have been others who were closeted. In fact, in the world today there are millions of gay people living in closets of fear and repression. Can you dialogue with me on this?
MATTHEWS: Bishop Duncan, as you can see, Bishop Robinson is willing to dialogue with you. Are you willing to dialogue with him?
DUNCAN: Chris, the American Anglican Council is united against Bishop Robinson.
MATTHEWS: Why is Bishop Robinson's sexual orientation so important?
DUNCAN: Homosexuality is not an 'orientation.' It is a chosen life-style.
ROBINSON: Sexual orientation is not a choice. God made each of us the way we are!
DUNCAN: If this is the kind of heresy I'm going to hear, Chris, you can forget about any dialogue with Bishop Robinson!
(DUNCAN starts to get up.)
MATTHEWS: ...Hey, Duncan! You may walk out of a round of HARDBALL! You may walk out of the Episcopal Church! But where will you go when the going gets tough inside the American Anglican Council!?
DUNCAN: [SITTING BACK DOWN] What do you mean 'when the going gets tough inside the American Anglican Council'?
MATTHEWS: Come on, Duncan! Give me a break. At that A-A-C meeting in Dallas, you couldn't even agree among yourselves on what to do for worship. Your high church anglo-catholics wanted to swing holy smoke, and your low church charismatics wanted to speak in tongues and sing 'Kumbaya.'
DUNCAN: [WITH RESIGNATION] Well, yes, Chris. It's true.
MATTHEWS: Don't feel bad. You made history.
DUNCAN: 'Made history'?!
MATTHEWS: Yes. The American Anglican Council is the only splinter group in church history to be united by gays and divided by worship...
MATTHEWS: ...Think of it! Forget the gay controversy. It's time you all got back to the REAL MISSION of the Episcopal Church - arguing about worship!
ROBINSON: Why, Chris, that is SOOOOO true! Whether you're high church or low church - gay or straight - what Episcopalians do best and what unites ALL Episcopalians is THAT ONE THING - arguing about worship!
DUNCAN: Gee! I never thought of that! I guess there is hope for the unity of the entire Anglican Communion after all.
ROBINSON: Right! All we have to do is...
ROBINSON and DUNCAN: [IN GLEEFUL AGREEMENT] ...ARGUE ABOUT WORSHIP!...
(DUNCAN and ROBINSON get into a happy tete a tete.)
MATTHEWS: ...Go for it, guys!...
DUNCAN: ...Yahoo! Gimme that old time religion.
ROBINSON: RIGHT YOU ARE, Bob-a-ree-no! Never mind this human sexuality thing. Us Episcopalians just wouldn't be 'US' if some of us didn't want to worship using MODERN English!!! 'You and Your'!!
DUNCAN ...AND some of us still want the TRADITIONAL English - 'Thee and Thou'! And most of all, I miss that jolly old English word, "Vouchsafe"!
ROBINSON: But we are Anglicans. Can't we have a middle of the road solution?...
DUNCAN: ...Sure! Let's use ALL-INCLUSIVE language...
ROBINSON: ...And let's practice 'VOUCHSAFE SEX'!
(DUNCAN and ROBINSON are laughing uproariously.)
DUNCAN: Ho! Ho! Ho! Very CLEVER!
MATTHEWS: So that's the REAL 'Episcopal Ethos.' The REAL Anglicanism. Better to go to the MAT over worship, than go to the MATTRESSES over sex!
ROBINSON: But if you DO go to the mattresses, make sure you practice VOUCHSAFE SEX!
DUNCAN: Just don't forget the correct order for lighting the candles on the Altar!
ROBINSON: You mean, you HAVE CANDLES!!!
DUNCAN: Well at least we still call it an 'Altar.' Not a 'Holy Table.'
(ROBINSON and DUNCAN continue laughter.)
ROBINSON: You know, Bob! Episcopalians have been arguing about worship for so long, let's give this game a name. I say we call it, "EPISCOPAL HARDBALL."
MATTHEWS: Sounds like there is still hope for dialogue in the Episcopal Church. But we're out of time. Parting shots, Bishop Duncan!
DUNCAN: It's very freeing to finally agree on something with Bishop Robinson. But I'm worried that my constituents aren't going to like it. What should I do?
MATTHEWS: [WITH IRONY] Maybe Bishop Robinson can hide you in the closet that he vacated.
ROBINSON: [WITH IRONY] I can ALWAYS recommend a body guard who carries a gun!
DUNCAN: Very funny! But that's just it! Some of these folks that I'm talking about DO NOT have a sense of humor. Some of them think that they are the 'only true Episcopalians.'
ROBINSON: Come on, Bob! If they really ARE 'true Episcopalians,' you KNOW what to do that will stop 'em in their tracks! Just change the subject and...
ROBINSON and DUNCAN: [IN GLEEFUL DISCOVERY] ...ARGUE ABOUT WORSHIP!...
MATTHEWS: Now, we are really out of time. This is Chris Matthews. Join me again next time for another round of HARDBALL.
T H E E N D
The Rev. Robert R. Smith, Rector
Church of the Holy Communion
Norwood, New Jersey
By the author as an unpublished manuscript.
Permission to circulate and perform this is granted, but please credit the author. (After all, I AM the one
who slaved over it at this keyboard!) I intended it as a gift of laughter for the church I love.
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The Rev. Robert R. Smith
The Church of the Holy Communion
66 Summit Street
Norwood, New Jersey 07648
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