A series of essays in the Episcopal Church
By Gordor W. Gritter, MD
Deputy from the Diocese of El Camino Real
In the 60's, when protest against the Vietnam war was increasing, I was on the vestry of Church of Our Saviour, Mill Valley, a suburb of San Francisco. The rector received a letter informing us that a group of young Episcopalians from the Seattle area were planning to participate in an anti-war march in San Francisco during the coming week-end. They asked us to make our parish hall available as lodging for them. The rector promptly called a meeting of the vestry and laid the request before us. The vestry immediately split: half of us said "Yes, of course !", half said "No! Absolutely not !" After some discussion, with no change, the rector said that he was inclined to break the tie by voting "Yes". The member of the vestry who was leading the "No" group said, "If you do, I will immediately file for a court injunction." The rector said, "Bill, I understand your position, but I vote "Yes", and I hope that you won't go to court." Bill went to court. The judge refused his request.
On Sunday morning I was sitting on the aisle, as usual, as the 10 AM service began. The procession came up the aisle, and the rector paused and whispered to me, "We haven't any ushers. Will you get somebody to take up the offering with you ?" I nodded. At the appropriate time, I stepped into the aisle and looked for someone to join me in taking up the offering. Sitting immediately behind me was Bill ! So I whispered, "Bill, will you help take up the offering ?" Bill nodded, we took up the offering, and there we were, side-by-side before the altar, presenting the offering. Everybody in the church knew that I had led the "Yes" position of the vestry and Bill had led the "No" position. Everybody had strong feelings for or against the war.
The rector looked at the two of us and was speechless. There was a long silent moment. We could almost audibly hear the Holy Spirit saying, "OK, you are opponents, but don't forget that you are brothers." The Eucharist continued.
When I now hear that some of the Primates, having declared "broken communion", have refused to share the Eucharists with Bishop Griswold, I have a deep sense of sacrilege. The Lord's table does not belong to them. It does not belong to us. None of us has a right to say "I will not share the Eucharist with someone who has offended me." To do so is a self-excommnication !
Gordon W. Gritter
El Camino Real, L2 '94 - '06
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