by Ms. Waltraut Stein
As I understand it, saints are given to us as examples of heroic virtue that we are to follow. I attended the canonization of Edith Stein who is my great aunt on October 11th. For many years I have been involved with her life and works, first as an academic philosopher and phenomenologist and later as a translator of her spiritual writings.
Edith says that we Christians are called to help Christ carry His cross on the way of the cross wherever we see Him suffering in the world nowadays. She saw Christ suffering in the faces of the Jewish people, the people of her origin. Today I hear her calling me to action where I see Christ suffering in the faces of my homosexual neighbors. I hear her telling me to speak out to end the suffering.
When I returned from Rome, I read of the murder of a young gay man in Wyoming. I read that some Christians were picketing his funeral, presumably seeing Matthew Shepard's sexual orientation as an abomination. I am appalled and enraged that my church that preaches a God of love in the example of Jesus Christ could promulgate such hatred and sanction such violence. These people look to me very much like the Christians who were determined to eliminate the Jews as a final solution under Hitler.
I appeal to other heterosexual Christians who truly believe that God loves all his children to be reconciled with people who happen to have the characteristic of sexual desire for someone of the same sex, which is just one trait among all the other characteristics that make us human. I ask that we, first of all, pray to God to forgive us for what we have allowed to be done to our fellow human beings. For example, we might pray thus, "God, forgive us for persecuting our brothers and sisters and Your children. Give us the courage and strength to ask them for forgiveness and to minister to them now in the time of their great need. We ask that you draw us so near to Jesus, our Savior and our great High Priest, that our love will help to heal the wounds we have caused so we all may be one. We also pray that You will open the minds and hearts of those who continue to persecute homosexuals that they may embrace these brothers and sisters with the unconditional love that Jesus has commanded us to show toward everyone. Amen."
We can then address our homosexual brothers and sisters thus, "We are sorry for what we have done to you and allowed to be done to you. We believe that God loves you and would not have made you homosexual if He had not wanted you to live as a homosexual. We believe that love and the honest expression of love are never wrong when critiqued by Jesus' commandment to love. Thus, we ask you for forgiveness and that we be allowed to minister to you as we can. We will continue to pray for reconciliation with you because we are bound to our compassionate Lord in the sign of the Cross and He commands us to do so."
In this way we as a praying and serving community can begin to reclaim our church from those who hate and say they are doing so as Christians. It will not be easy. We are indeed resurrection people, but we are also people of the cross, of suffering. In praying before the pieta during holy week at a Benedictine monastery in Beuron, Germany Edith wrote a poem addressed to Mary, part of which reads:
"But those whom you have chosen for companions To stand with you 'round the eternal throne, They here must stand with you beneath the Cross, And with the lifeblood of their bitter pains Must purchase heavenly glory for those souls Whom God's own Son entrusted to their care."
In the name of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross--Edith Stein, I ask my church to assume moral leadership now.
In the light of the above appeal, I am beginning to work on a liturgy of reconciliation between homosexual and heterosexual people to be used in the Episcopal church. I envision this liturgy being celebrated (mostly by straight people) at the end of a quiet day of reflection and "examination of conscience." Its purpose would be:
I invite anyone who shares this vision to assist me in developing such a liturgy that I believe must be a "work of the people," many people. If you would like to help, please contact me and I will show you what I have done so far.
Love in Christ,
Waltraut Stein, Ph.D.
Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, Atlanta
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