After five years and lots of comments, pro and con, I’ve decided to remove an old essay (“On the Gay Issue: Pray”) that ran on this page and update the message: Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Trans people, you are welcome here, and so are Straight people.
God loves you just the way you are.
Whatever your sins might be, they’re not related to your sexual orientation; it’s morally neutral. What each one of us does with our sexuality is certainly worth examination and sometimes repentance, but not the gender of who we love and are attracted to.
God made sexuality and said, with all the rest of creation, “It is good.” So let us rejoice in it.
It is the policy of this website that there will be no Gay-bashing here. Period.
We don’t allow racist comments in our online church; no anti-Semitism, misogyny or homophobia. Those are sinful attitudes.
We also don’t require uniformity of thought on matters of human sexuality or Biblical interpretation; we do agree on the Creed, which makes no mention of sex, so we are in communion with each other here, even if we have different views.
We don’t require you to belong to a political party, either. Indeed, we hope conservatives and progressives all get fed here. We believe the religion of Jesus Christ is worth conserving. We also believe our Christ is very concerned with the poor and the oppressed, as the Parable of the Good Samaritan clearly shows. Empathy with the poor and suffering is a hallmark of Christian personality.
It is obvious that GLBTs suffer persecution, including injustice, violence and death, at the hands of self-proclaimed religious people. The General Convention of The Episcopal Church has declared this oppression to be morally wrong. So we will not perpetuate that oppression here. Anti-Gay comments will be deleted, just like racist and sexist remarks.
A majority of Episcopalians – and increasingly, members of other Churches – believe that God is the Spirit of Liberation, now and always, just as God first led the Israelites out of slavery into freedom.
In recent years The Episcopal Church has slowly, painfully parted the Red Sea on behalf of sexual minorities – at a cost of millions of dollars and several thousand members. (That’s what my old article was about.)
In July 2012, the General Convention of this Church approved liturgies for same-sex unions, nationwide. We don’t call them “church weddings” yet, but that’s what they’ll effectively be.
Thus my headline, “LGBTs Welcome Here.” We ordain Lesbians and Gay men as bishops, priests and deacons.
This doesn’t always make us popular with other Christians, but we do it because we think it’s right; that by doing so we’re obeying God.
As you can see, this is a courageous Church.
We have sinned against GLBTs in the past, but now we are repenting of it.
As a Gay man, this is the only Church where I feel safe, physically and spiritually. As the Vicar of this site, I want you to be safe here too.
Episcopalians rejoice at the liberation movement of the Holy Spirit in other Churches, Protestant, Orthodox and Catholic. We are confident that most Christian Churches will eventually welcome Gay people, because this is already happening in many places. As Episcopalians we are happy to be among the leaders.
A majority of Americans now favor marriage equality. Young adults are most strongly in favor, and older adults are gradually coming to agree: Discrimination is wrong. It’s a sin. And the Church is obligated to say so, once God’s judgment becomes clear.
The teaching of The Episcopal Church on marriage, Straight or Gay, remains strict, strong and clear: monogamy in a lifelong commitment between partners is God’s ideal. Marriage is a covenant, a set of unbreakable promises. Marriage is a symbol of God’s covenant with each one of us in sickness and in health, forever.
A corollary is that abusive relationships are not to be tolerated. Divorce is preferable to domestic violence and abuse. The death of a marriage is something to be mourned, and then it’s something to be survived.
I quote the retired Archbishop of Capetown, Desmond Tutu, who apologized on behalf of the Church to Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender persons in a BBC-Manchester radio interview on December 17, 2007.
“I want to apologise to you and to all those who we in the church have persecuted.
“I’m sorry that we have been part of the persecution of a particular group. For me that is quite un-Christlike and, for that reason, it is unacceptable.
“Maybe, even as a retired Archbishop, I probably have, to some extent, a kind of authority, but apart from anything let me say for myself and anyone who might want to align themselves with me, I’m sorry.
“I’m sorry for the hurt, for the rejection, for the anguish that we have caused to such as yourselves.”
To all LGBT persons who believe in God despite all human provocation, I say: The Episcopal Church apologizes to you also. Now come and see what God has reformed in us.
Come and see why God has chosen this Church, of all others, to part the Red Sea.
The Metropolitan Community Churches first found the opening. The United Church of Christ spread the waters more widely. The Episcopal Church, uniquely Protestant and Catholic, struck the waters so that everyone may get to the other side.
I have another, related announcement. I have banned a New Testament lectionary passage, Titus 2:1-10, from further publication on this site.
I don’t take this action lightly, but soberly, reverently and in the fear of God.
From the very beginning I have proclaimed that “we are a Prayer Book site.” The Prayer Book lectionary includes the passage, the General Convention approved the lectionary, and until now I have taken those decisions as the definitive word on the subject.
But I refuse to do it anymore, so I am in rebellion against the General Convention on this one passage.
It is another of St. Paul’s imprecations to men, women and slaves; there are several such passages scattered throughout his epistles. Today people of faith find them “difficult sayings.” They take more than a grain of salt to swallow.
Of all the iterations, Titus 2:1-10 is the worst of them, because St. Paul failed to balance his warnings to women and slaves with equal warnings to men and slaveowners.
I don’t believe Paul’s intent was evil. He was in prison when he wrote it and may not have had time to develop his thoughts as profoundly as he usually did. But his expression in this case just sounds evil and misogynistic.
I haven’t edited it out of the New Testament; I don’t have that power. I am removing it from further publication on this site, because it is harmful to the Church’s mission and harmful to the human soul.
I know there are arguments for going ahead and conforming to the approved lectionary. There are few people, even in the progressive Episcopal Church, who are willing to join my protest against the inclusion of this passage. It’s scary, even to us, to think about excluding even one line of the New Testament. We end up falling into the same all-or-nothing thinking that fundamentalists engage in – that “the Bible’s either all true or all false, so therefore we proclaim it’s all true, and fight anyone who says otherwise.”
But again, I’m not taking out my scissors here; I’m asking the whole Church to think more deeply about its lectionary, its mission and its humility.
Physicians take an oath to “do no harm.” Churches ought to take that oath too. Titus 2:1-10 harms people, so why are we reading it in church?
Lectionaries are always selective. An arrangement of readings is not the same thing as Bible study. I commend Bible study to everyone here; please, read every word. Spend a lifetime, read the best scholarship and commentaries, and you’ll never get to the bottom of God’s riches. She’s infinite; we aren’t.
The Prayer Book Daily Office, which we promote and publish here, features the Book of Psalms at its heart. The Psalter is God’s magnificent hymnbook. Its themes cover every imaginable human situation, from hunger, anger, hurt and despair to acceptance, joy and spiritual triumph. Yet the Office lectionary leaves out some Psalms altogether, because they’re no longer considered helpful in bringing people closer to God.
I’m saying the same thing about that little bit of Titus; no more, no less. It is not our job to put stumbling-blocks in front of believers.
We never read Psalm 53. It’s printed in the Prayer Book, there for everyone to see – but we never read it in church. The lectionary authors were right to eliminate it; why should we have to explain this every six weeks?
Every one has proved faithless;
all alike have turned bad; *
there is none who does good; no, not one.
Theologically this verse is impeccable. But spiritually it just beats people over the head for no good reason. So the lectionary authors popped it.
We should do the same with that passage from Titus.
Because the harm it does outweighs the good it does for us to reassure ourselves, “We read every word of the New Testament.”
You can only hear, “Slaves, obey your masters” so many times before you just throw up your hands in disgust.
That doesn’t do God’s cause any good.
“Wives, obey your husbands,” even if he’s a big, stupid, violent, vicious oaf? I wouldn’t blame any self-respecting woman for running out of church after she’s heard that 500 times. I’d run out with her!
Paul wrote to Titus hastily. It’s the only time Paul failed to balance his warnings to wives and husbands, slaves and masters. (His balancing is really quite good; too bad the promoters of Southern slavery always managed to skip over their responsibilities so they could make money and live like kings.)
My rebellion against ten verses of Titus is one of those teachable moments, as God gives me to see the light. I cannot in good conscience continue to publish those verses. So I won’t.
Someday I think the editors of the lectionary will come to agree with me. But so far they don’t, so I’ll take the consequences.
We are no longer a 100% Prayer Book site. Here I stand; feel free to comment away.
But remember, this is a safe house for sexual minorities, because it is God’s house.
May 2, 2012
rev. April 6, 2013
P.S. I’m leaving the old comments up for now, until I have time to save and remove them. Meanwhile, check out this joyful video.