A series of essays in the Episcopal Church
By The Rev. John F. Stanton
St. Matthew's, Paramus, NJ
With all the things Episcopalians might disagree about, we surely will agree on the weather. It's been a terrible winter -- snow storms (even on Sunday morning), temps below freezing for day after day, melting and ice making the doors to our houses hazardous at best. Yep, it's been a hard winter. Spring's coming, right?
Now we find that our beloved Episcopal Church has once again, like Jesus, chosen to be on the side of those who have been excluded by society. This time, it's people who have been made to feel unwelcome even on Sunday mornings -- the gay and lesbian people who are also our friends, our neighbors and our family. In the church, we know that our homosexual friends are welcome with us in our pews and are rectors of several churches in our diocese. Now, with international publicity, we have a bishop who is openly gay and, for some, it's just too much. A topic which has been forbidden except in cutting humor is now a daily part of our TV and our newspapers.
The church has a long history of struggling against the Gospel of love for everyone, but God will not let us go. The church condoned slavery and kept women in second class status. It has often been remarked that the most segregated time in our country is Sunday morning. But we continue to move through these issues until now we can hardly remember them. Can it be that Jesus went to the Cross for everyone, even those who make many of us uncomfortable? Yes, the inclusive love of God for everyone was proclaimed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and new frontiers surely await us.
For now, as our church catches the wind of the Spirit and changes course once again, the temptation is to divide into opposing camps. But, dear sisters and brothers in Christ, we are not bound together by our opinions or by our clever theology; we are joined together by faith in God through Jesus Christ our Lord. We are not a confessional church which decides who is in and who is out by creedal statements. We are a Communion -- the Anglican Communion -- baptized together in the life of Jesus and held together by the Holy Spirit.
We have been through many winters together, some worse than this. Yes, spring is coming. The breath of the Spirit will continue to blow through us and our church, healing our wounds, raising up the fallen, calling back the outcast and proclaiming once more the power of God which binds us together in love.
The Rev. John F. Stanton, Vicar
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