Sunday, June 18, 2006

A meditation on Fathers Day variations

The use of the work meditationin the title should tell you that this post has some religious connections in it. If that is not your thing--get out now.

Today is Father's Day. I have a father. I am a father. My church teaches me that God is my Father. But there is more to it than that. (If there wasn't, this post would be pretty short.)

My denomination of faith--the Episcopal Church (U.S.) is undergoing an identity crisis right now. It's not the first time the Ep. Ch. has undergone such crises. I am sure that this one won't be the last time it occurs either.

(What follows is my shockingly uninformed view of the situation. If you know more than me, write a comment pointing out the mistakes and other things overlooked.)

The current crisis centers on whether or not it's okay for the Episcopal Church to have ordained an openly homosexual priest into the group of bishops--those clergy that serve as the highest organization and spiritual level in the United States church. Naturally, introducing homosexuality into any discussion during these sensitive times of cultural war makes people reflexively draw lines for and against.

I am of the opinion that the mere fact that Gene Robinson is homosexual is not the single-most important factor in whether or not he should be the bishop of the good people in New Hampshire. (He has been acting as the bishop there for the past several years.) I know there are many who say that homosexuality is a biblically-censured sin and therefore automatically disqualifies them to hold such a vital spiritual position in the Church's hierarchy.

People say hate the sin, but love the sinner. But when that sinner happens to be in a position of power and authority, AND he happens to espouse a lifestyle that is polarizing, AND he argues that God made him this way and God wouldn't want him to be any different . . . well, you've got a recipe for problems.

All of this is important, but it's even MORE important to me right now because the Episcopal Church (U.S.) has been holding
their General Convention of the bishops of the nation in Columbus, OH for the past several days. I should have been providing daily updates on the goings on at the Convention Center. I tried briefly to serve as a volunteer for the event . . . but work and sickness got in the way. I should have done more to stay informed as the Church leaders once again meet to discuss an enormous slate of issues, only one of which is the role of homosexuality in the faith, AND vote on the new presiding bishop for MY diocese of Southern Ohio. (That vote took place today during my own church service.) [See comments 1 and 2 for additional information and correction to these last sentences.]

Hearing a reminder that these decisions were being prayed over today made me think; hearing Fr. Rick tell us that during his visits to the convention he has witnessed everyone carefully listening to one another gave me a bit of hope. I sincerely hope that this listening will result in deliberate and prayerful choices for the Ep. Church. A bishop has a spiritual role similar to a father--an overseer, a guider.

I don't see myself as someone overseeing from a distance. I think, especially in my girls young lives, I am in the thick of it. But someday, I will step back and oversee, observe from a distance. I can only hope that my efforts, my guidance and teaching, my love and concern that I display now will give Sarah and Grace the tools they need to live their own lives in a way they are happy with and in a way that makes them happy. I have no way of knowing what form those lives will take. I have no way of knowing if their choices will make me happy or not. I don't yet know how I will react to those choices that I don't agree with--but I know they will come. Can I trust them to make their own mistakes and to come to me when necessary? Can I trust myself to welcome them openly, without judgment, without anger or disappointment? What will be the proper thing for me to do? I don't know and may not know until that moment arrives.

The Church may not know what to do in this moment. And if they don't hear God's clear answer, I hope they can make the decision to wait more and dialogue more and see if the answer becomes clear. Let us not make rash decisions that divide. The Church has done quite enough dividing in it long and varied history. But I am happy that the Episcopal Church has faced these cultural questions in the past and come to decisions that I think were the right ones.

I hope the Church leaders can find a way to do that again. Let us all be patient and listen for the answer to come to each of us individually and collectively.


David said...

Here is an update on the vote for the presiding bishop post that I mentioned.

I don't know anything about the new bishop, but I have to admit, I am initially happy with the seeming boldness of the choice--though to my mind, it's not THAT bold.

David said...

I should also note, that in the first of my many errors during this "meditation" essay, I indicated that the vote for presiding bishop was a vote for the bishop of the Diocese of Southern Ohio.

That is incorrect. The vote that took place was to be the presiding bishop of the ENTIRE U.S. Episcopal Church. So, I guess it IS a bit bold after all.

David said...

Finally . . . it took me a few minutes of my brain doing other things, but I see the humor in the fact that the result of all my yammering on about FATHER'S day results in the election of a female bishop.

Labels are only labels people.

Anonymous said...

Dave, You may have realized that our own Bishop of ATL (Neil Alexander) was one of the nominees but it looks like we will be keeping him here for another 9 years, huh? Did you see any details concerning the order in which the other candidates were eliminated? Always a sports fan, I gotta know the score, man!! See you soon. - MM