A Liturgy of Reconciliation for the Episcopal Church

A Liturgy of Reconciliation for the Episcopal Church

by Waltraut Stein, Ph.D., Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, Atlanta, 404/728-9669 E-mail: trudyjoy@mindspring.com

I do not have any status in the hierarchy of ECUSA or any other church. At the same time, I am a baptized Christian and made a vow at my baptism that I would renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God. In the light of the murder of a gay man in Alabama, I am now imploring God to show me how to renounce the evil powers that have led to such an act.

As I stated in my Appeal to All Christians at http://newark.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/joy10.html, I see that a powerful way for the institutional church to renounce this evil is to develop and publicly celebrate a liturgy of reconciliation with the homosexual people whom we have treated as outcasts. When we as a church stop permitting the persecution of these people, I believe that there is hope that the violence against them will abate.

I have been following the discussion on the Diocese of Newark list for several months now. I see much good will, but I also see so much political dissension over the issue of the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people within ECUSA that I despair of the possibility of such a reconciliation. We straight people of good will must do more than condemn the violence. We must recognize our own complicity in this violence by our unwillingness to speak out in defense of the morality of homosexual relations. As long as we remain complacent in our heterosexism, taking for granted our affectional associations as the only ones morally justified, the violence will continue. This hatred originated in the church with its misreading of the Scriptures. Thus, the church must now renounce this evil.

If not now, when? If not here, where?

Below is a possible liturgy that I have been developing with the help of a number of other people. I associate our hatred of homosexuals with that of the Jews (which is no longer fashionable) to drive home the point that unmerited suffering that results from human beings attacking each other is always wrong.

Thoughts on

A LITURGY OF RECONCILIATION

FOR THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

FIRST SESSION

Collect for Purity

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of Your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love You, and worthily magnify Your holy name; Through Christ our Lord. Amen

Presentation

Dear Friends, we are gathered together here today to celebrate our human solidarity with people everywhere and especially with those whom we have at times treated as outcasts. In particular, we acknowledge our solidarity with people of the Jewish faith and with those of a homosexual orientation. We are gathered in the name of St. Edith Stein who prayed for an end to the persecution of the Jewish people, her people of origin, during World War II. Her martyrdom in the death camps of Auschwitz is a witness to us of the power of the cross of Christ as the Catholic church is now making amends for its centuries of persecution of Jewish people.

We desire to be led by St. Edith's example to acknowledge that we members of the body of Christ are bound together in mystery under the cross. We recognize that, as Edith says, wherever there is unmerited suffering in the world today, Christ is carrying his cross and wants us to help him. We want to discover how we can express our love for God and for one another to bring about God's kingdom in all our hearts. We believe that such actions as a body will be instrumental in ending hatred and violence.

Today we want, in particular, to acknowledge publicly that we as a church have been in error in condemning homosexual expressions of love by people of a homosexual orientation. We recognize that, because of this condemnation, homosexual people have been persecuted both within the church and within the larger society. By not speaking out more forcefully sooner, we acknowledge our own complicity in this persecution and in their suffering.

[Scripture: The great commandment. Luke 10:25-28]

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" He said to him, "What is written in the law? How do you read?" And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." And said to him, "You have answered right; do this, and you will live."

Reflection and Response

Let us take a few moments to reflect quietly on our past actions or inaction in regard to our outcast gay and lesbian neighbors. Let us consider how we have excluded them from our worship, how we have forbidden them to serve as priests in our churches or to have their unions blessed, as though their commitments mean nothing.

Let us recognize how our condemnation of their expressions of love has led the larger society to exclude them from positions of responsibility, such as serving in the military, as teachers or even as parents. We in the larger society have overlooked acts of harassment and physical violence against these neighbors, and thus we have allowed homosexual people to be viewed as evil.

We have remained silent as some of the persecutors of gay men have said that the disease of AIDS is a curse that God is visiting on them for their wickedness. At times we have even gone so far as to permit these homosexual people to be murdered without bringing the perpetrators to justice.

Let us silently consider what God is asking of us now as we listen again to Jesus' great commandment, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." And then, after this silence of about five minutes, I am going to light a candle. I will offer my own reflections and then pass this candle to anyone else who is ready to share his or her thoughts. Please feel free to say as much or as little as you like as often as you like as the candle is passed to you. You may offer a prayer or just talk about your experiences and reflections. I invite everyone here to participate, whatever your sexual orientation.

[Quiet time. No music. Just silence for five minutesa long time for a group.]

[Passing the candle.]

Confession

Kneeling, let us now ask God to forgive us for what we have done and allowed to be done to our fellow human beings.

Let us confess together:

God, forgive us for persecuting our brothers and sisters who are Your children. Give us the courage and strength to ask them for forgiveness and to minister in solidarity with 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 homosexual people that they may embrace these brothers and sisters with the unconditional love that Jesus has commanded us to show toward everyone. Amen.

[Hymn.] Amazing Grace.

Absolution

The Almighty and merciful Lord grant us absolution and remission of the sins we have committed against our homosexual neighbors, true repentance, amendment of life, and the grace and consolation of the Holy Spirit. Amen

[Break]

SECOND SESSION

Amends

[Continue scripture reading with the parable of the good Samaritan. Luke 10:29-37.]

Together, let us now address our homosexual neighbors:

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 God had not wanted you to live as a homosexual. We believe that love and the honest expression of love are never wrong when rooted in Jesus' commandment to love. Thus, we ask you for forgiveness and that we be allowed to minister with 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.

[ Reference: eighth step of AA: Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.]

Now I invite each of you to take a few more minutes to consider quietly more specifically what God is asking you to do to help to heal the wounds you have caused. Bring to mind specific people or events in your life and consider specific courses of action in relation to them. We will have five minutes of quiet and then pass the candle again. If nothing comes to you now, just carry this invitation with you. Everything cannot be done here today. This is the work of a lifetime.

[Five minutes of quiet and passing of the candle.]

[Passing of the peace.] "The peace of the Lord be always with you. Let us greet one another with a sign of peace."

[Hymn:] Jesus Loves Me.

Conclusion

Let us celebrate our reconciliation by saying together the following canticle:

Rejoice with me all you folk who live out your sexuality differently than I do. Rejoice in a God who loves us all, a God who became human and died despised as you have been. Rejoice, for your suffering is now ended.

Rejoice, for you need no longer be afraid. I open wide the door of my heart and of my church to welcome you. Welcome home to the church of the risen Christ, the Christ with holes in his hands from wounds that can heal all our wounds. My love and respect await you in the court of my heart and of my church. Make yourself at home. I invite you to enter freely and warm yourself at my hearth. I will prepare a feast so we can eat together to celebrate your homecoming, the end of your suffering and separation.

Rejoice you folk who have hidden yourselves because you were told that your sexuality is evil. You need no longer be ashamed. I give thanks to the great God who made us, sustains us and loves each of His creations. Let us join together to express our love for this great God and open ourselves to receive Her love more fully. And let us all live out our sexuality joyfully in love.

Come Christians everywhere, rejoice!

[Possibly another break.]

Celebration of the Eucharist (using either a traditional or supplemental text)


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