Don't repeat the mistake on page 847 of The Prayer Book .  Here is what God really requires from the chosen people:

Do justice

A series of essays in the Episcopal Church

Presentation to the 75th General Convention

Presentation to the 75th General Convention

Monday, June 19, 2006 at 10:45 AM

By The Rev. Sandye A. Wilson

This presentation was made at the invitation of the President of the House of Deputies, The Very Reverend George Werner, in response to the 74th General Convention request that deputies share faith journeys and stories at the 75th General Convention -- Editor

Good morning, On the first page of the book The Red Tent, it says, "If you want to understand the daughter, ask about the mother, and listen carefully!" I am the product of a long line of strong, proud but humble, God fearing, justice making women. My mother is fond of saying, "If you have anything on the ball, don't worry: someone will make a mistake and find out about it--you will not have to tell them." And so, in that spirit and with my 80 year old mother's admonition ringing in my ear, I will attempt to tell something of my own faith journey, even though by home training I'd rather talk about anything else.

I met Jesus as a young child and for as long as I can remember have felt myself loved and mandated to share that love with absolutely everyone I encountered. I came to understand as a young child that faith is more caught than taught, and I longed to be evangelically contagious in that way.

I was the child who came home from church at age 5, and set up the piano bench with the wine and vinegar cruets, a biscuit cut out of bread, and recited the words of the Holy Communion service from the 1928 Prayer Book. I was the child who would embarrass my family by blessing the priest back in the service, feeling he needed someone to bless him too.

I was the teenager who met Jesus in the faces and eyes of so many different and wonderful people and actively listened to a call to the ordained ministry while working on a mission trip in the Virgin Islands 37 years ago.

I was the young woman blessed by the courage of the women who pushed the church to recognize the gifts of all women and opened the doors for those of us who followed to respond to God's call, and to find jobs/calls.

I was blessed to be ordained 26 years ago and understood that in light of the call of Jesus in my life and the world in which I lived, I was called to point the way to Jesus by saying my prayers, doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with our God.

Through many dangers, toils and snares, I learned that Jesus could make a way out of no way, as I experienced the reality of racism, sexism, ageism and homophobia in the church, with the recognition that "we who have been rejected would never reject others, and that there is a cost for taking a stand in this church and in this world." The cost is often rejection by both friends and enemies, because we so enjoy the pathology of good manners, and the pathology of politics which does not always lead us into all truth.

And so my faith journey continues over the years through wonderful years of service in the church and the world, and my faith development continued with the printing of the Windsor Report. As I read the report through the eyes of a Black woman priest who had rejoiced in the approval of the Bishop of New Hampshire, it was clear that the report has assumed that gay and lesbian persons were going to have to bear the weight of the confusion and shock that followed the ordination of Bishop Robinson.

When the Windsor Report was sent out, and the Special Commission established, I was asked to serve on it. I did so because the Episcopal Church is part of my sense of what the Good News looks line in action, in practice. So I knew that I needed to give back, to respond, by being on the Commission. And so I did.

I served on the committee, making allowances for the range of people serving, and offering to the deliberations the perspective of someone who bore the weight of racism and sexism and homophobia through the years.

But always in the back of my mind as we worked with the Windsor Report materials was the sense that there were echoes of the oppression I have felt in the lives of gay and lesbian people who the Windsor Report claimed to treat with respect, but whose ministry they considered expendable.

It did mean a lot to me to have to walk this path. Was that indeed the suffering of the cross? Or was it simply the suffering at the hands of others AS IF it were the Cross? In other words, one of the largest questions in my soul has been, are gay and lesbian people, like people of color and women, simply being asked to remain as second class citizens and second class church people so that people afraid of diversity, afraid of difference, afraid of color, or sexual identity or sexual orientation, might FEEL better? I've wondered :

Was the path simply a repeat of past paths, or is there something going on that has to do with the future of the Communion and not the past?

I shall always be grateful to God for the opportunity to listen carefully and take the risk of self exposure by insisting in the name of Jesus that we continue to make space for each other at the table in this church - that we sacrifice justice never and that we sacrifice none of our brothers and sisters.

I'm grateful for all the opportunities our life together in the Episcopal Church provides to be reminded of that. Serving on the Special Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, and serving on Special Committee 26 here at General Convention, was that kind of opportunity. A group of people from across the theological diversity of the church gathered around issues that headlines from the conflict-loving press tell us will tear us apart. But over the months of praying with each other, talking about scripture and hearing each other's stories, of disagreeing passionately and coming to the Eucharistic table together, we experienced God's presence with us. We saw and served Christ in each person. And the more we sought to exercise grace toward those with whom we disagreed, the more we were reminded that God's grace is not a limited thing that you can grasp for yourself and that is less for every bit you give to another. It is, like God's justice, an ever-flowing, inexhaustible stream - and like a stream, the more it flows out to others, the more powerful it is.

I am a product of the church in which I first heard this message, of the world that God is redeeming, and of the teachers, mentors, and role models who taught me to love Jesus and to fight oppression of all kinds.

At the risk of sounding trivial, I leave with a story purportedly about Forrest Gump, who when he reached the pearly gates, encountered Peter. "Gee, Forrest, you can't come in yet - there is a little test you have to complete. You need to answer these three questions:

  1. How many days of the week begin with the letter T?
  2. How many seconds are there in a year?
  3. What is God's first name?

That's easy, said, Forrest:

  1. "There are two days of the week that begin with the letter T: Today and Tomorrow."

    St. Peter answers:

    "Well Forrest, that wasn't the answer I was expecting, but it is the RIGHT answer."

  2. "There are 12 seconds in the year," said Forrest: "Jan 2nd, Feb. 2nd, March 2nd, April 2nd, May 2nd."

    St. Peter answers:

    "Well Forrest, that wasn't the answer I was expecting, but it is the RIGHT answer."

  3. "The answer to the third question is easy, said Forrest. "We sing it every week at church - Andy walks with me Andy talks with me."

New winds are blowing in our church and our world.

Today, I am that mid-life adult, grateful to God and to so many people in our life who are willing to give answers that are unexpected, but right.

And finally, from the film Gettysburg, "What we are fighting for, in the end, is each other."

Glory to God, who working through us, who can do so much more than we can ask or imagine; Glory to God in the world, in the church and in us!


You are welcome to submit your essays for consideration for this series. Send them to 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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