A series of essays in the Episcopal Church
By Marcia Blake
From: Marcia Blake
Sent: Thursday, April 13, 2006 1:10 PM
To: TEC Bishops
Subject: A Pastoral Letter TO the House of Bishops
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In the Pastoral Letter from the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church March 2006, "The Sin of Racism: A Call to Covenant," we are reminded of our Baptismal Covenant: "Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being? I will with God's help." (BCP p 305)
The same pastoral letter also says, "Jesus came among us to bring an end to that which divides us, as Paul so clearly identifies in Galatians 3:28, 'in Christ there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female.'" The letter further states that "...we, the bishops of the Episcopal Church, invite all members of our Church to join us in this mission of justice, reconciliation, and unity. This is an expression of our commitment to the fundamental covenant each of us entered into at the moment of our baptism."
At the same time, however, I am remembering the Covenant Statement of the House of Bishops, from the House of Bishops' Spring Meeting, Camp Allen, Texas, March 15, 2005. That statement says, "The Windsor Report has invited the Episcopal Church 'to effect a moratorium on the election and consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same gender union until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges' (Windsor Report, para. 134)." It also says, "Those of us having jurisdiction pledge to withhold consent to the consecration of any person elected to the episcopate after the date hereof until the General Convention of 2006, and we encourage the dioceses of our church to delay episcopal elections accordingly."
The March 2006 pastoral letter begins with references to a 1994 pastoral letter, "The Sin of Racism," which "acknowledged the painful reality of the consequences of racism." The 1994 letter stated that "the essence of racism is prejudice coupled with power. It is rooted in the sin of pride and exclusivity which assumes that 'I and my kind are superior to others and therefore deserve special privileges.'"
I submit that the essence of any prejudice is "rooted in the sin of pride and exclusivity," and that it is long past time for the Episcopal Church to acknowledge the painful reality of the consequences of all such prejudices. Homophobia is at least as great a sin as racism or any other prejudice, and we cannot claim to respect the dignity of every human being in a Call to Covenant regarding racism while at the same time denying full relationship with and full communion to people who happen to be homosexual. The Episcopal Church cannot have it both ways.
If we do not love all human beings, if we continue to judge and label and patronize and exclude those whom we designate as "different," we are ignoring the central teaching of Jesus and cannot call ourselves "Christians."
I am a "cradle Episcopalian," baptized on 2 January 1948 and confirmed on 15 December 1957. I am now 61 years old and still an active communicant of the Episcopal Church, a member of St. Bede's in Santa Fe, NM. As a girl and a young woman, I repeatedly experienced deep anguish over the Episcopal Church's exclusion of women from true and full communion. In 1976, I began to believe the church was changing, and I had hope for women, for people of every color and ethnicity, for people of every sexual orientation -- in short, for anyone who wasn't a white male heterosexual citizen of the USA.
All too often since then, however, my hopes have repeatedly been dashed. I have long felt that, because of my profound belief in the essential dignity and equality of all humans, I am standing outside the church, knocking on the door and hoping it will open -- to me and to all of my brothers and sisters.
I have remained a faithful communicant of the Episcopal Church in spite of its repeated failures to follow the teachings of Jesus, and in spite of the crushing disappointments and rejections I have suffered at its hands. Now, however, I feel that if the Episcopal Church does indeed bow to the demands of the Windsor report -- in order to be present at Lambeth or for any other reason -- I must, at last, leave it. I have MS and am in very ill health. When my life ends and Jesus asks if I was faithful to my Baptismal Covenant, I want to be able to answer, "Yes."
These are indeed "pervasive sin[s] that continue to plague our common life in the church." I do lament their corrosive effects on our lives, and I most humbly beg God's grace and forgiveness.
But I have a sad feeling that I am permanently consigned to do my begging from outside the doors of the Episcopal Church.
In Christ's service,
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