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Don't repeat the mistake on page 847 of The Prayer Book . Here is what God really requires from the chosen people:
A series of essays in the Episcopal Church
Wise men, a Wedding, and Consents
The Last Sunday after the Epiphany, February 14, 2010
Today is the Last Sunday after the Epiphany. On Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, we will begin the observance of a "holy Lent." Every year on this Sunday we read about the Transfiguration of Jesus. This story brings to an end the season after the Epiphany, Epiphanytide, which is marked with Jesus being made known to the world: first to the three wise men or magi, then to others at a wedding party with the turning of water into wine, and then other stories showing forth Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God.
This story figured rather prominently in a meeting I had on Friday at the Diocese of Utah. Let me share it with you. As you may know, last month I was appointed to the Diocesan Standing Committee to fill the unfulfilled term of a priest who had resigned. Friday was my first meeting with the bishop, chancellor, two other clergy and three lay members. I know them all and so it was also a time of reconnecting.
One of the canonical duties of the Standing Committee is to give its consent for the election of a bishop. Every newly elected bishop must receive a majority of consents, votes of approval, from each diocesan Standing Committee and each diocesan bishop. Without those consents, there is no election. The church catholic must concur with the diocese in its selection of a bishop. We will face the same thing this summer following the election of our 11th bishop of Utah.
We had several names to consider, but one in particular was cause for considerable conversation and reflection, the Rev'd Canon Mary Glasspool, elected bishop suffragan (assistant) bishop of Los Angeles. Mary is a gifted and well respected priest who is also a lesbian in a committed relationship. The question before us was: Would Utah give its consent to her election?
In our conversation I noted that in 2003 when Gene Robinson was elected bishop of New Hampshire, a gay man in a relationship that we gave our consent to his election in General Convention, because of the timing of his election. It seemed to me that we crossed the bridge of sexuality in 2003 and here we are now. For me the subject of sexuality is off the table. We crossed that bridge in 2003. Just as in 1988 we crossed the bridge of women as bishops with the election of Barbara Harris in Massachusetts. We have already crossed these bridges. We are here now because we crossed those bridges then.
I told them that in 2003 at General Convention I was at a table each day for Eucharist and reflection with the same people, including the then bishop of Arkansas. One day we had this reading as the Gospel for our daily Eucharist [Transfiguration]. In our conversation the bishop said that he felt uneasy and frightened at what was happening at convention with Gene's election. Things were not settled. Things were very much up in the air. There were threats from several quarters of what would happen if we consented. And actually some of those threats were carried out in some people leaving the church.
But the bishop went on: we have entered into the cloud. We cannot see what is before us or behind us. We are in the cloud and we are all afraid. As we heard today, "a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified." But then he said the cloud will lift. The cloud will lift. Then we will see how Christ is moving in us and among us and we will hear again, "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!" We will hear Christ say to us again for the first time, love God, love one another, love yourself. Christ is with us. We may not always be able to see or sense him through the cloud, but he is with us.
So, our Standing Committee voted unanimously to give its consent to the Rev'd Canon Mary Glasspool, along with about five other priests elected as bishop including a friend of mine who will be bishop of Eastern Oregon. It made me feel good to give my consent to his election.
We live in times of change and times of transition. It can be scary, frightening to hear of schisms and rumors of schisms. But such as been part of our story from the beginning. We do not always have the benefit of seeing things clearly when we are in the cloud. When we are in the cloud we rely on our faith, our understanding of scripture, tradition and reason in discerning the will of God for us. But the cloud will lift as it did for the disciples. And we will see that Christ is in our midst as he is and always will be. We will see Christ in the faces of the men, women and children God has given us to be with as ministers of the Gospel, the good news of Jesus.
I give thanks for this church of ours, the Episcopal Church, St. Stephen's Church, and yes even the broader Anglican Communion. It is through these men, women and children that I see the face of Christ ministering to a hurt and broken world. It is through these men, women and children that Christ is made known to all of us in the breaking of the bread and in the prayers. It is in these men, women and children that Christ touches me and touches you and makes us whole.
Thanks be to God.
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