Back in the mid-1990s, which feels like the Mesolithic Age of church dialogues about sex, I became friends with several gay and lesbian Episcopalians, most of whom I met through my reporting on Integrity. Whenever we sat for the quiet conversations that become possible away from open hearings and legislative debates, I said to them: “If you can convince General Convention that your relationship is the equivalent of marriage, you deserve to win.”
In July 2015, in light of such clear victories for Integrity, I can see through the huge qualifier in my long-ago wishes. I found it easy to say then because I felt so little hope that General Convention would ever speak with such clarity.
Now that General Convention has so spoken, I offer this unqualified follow-up to those friends who still count me as a friend: You have worked long and diligently for this victory, and I hope it changes your lives for the better. I hope that it draws you closer to the heart of Christ and the fellowship of his church.
I worry that these victories have come amid some of the shriller rhetoric I have seen in many decades, such as comparing the marriage rite to the Confederate flag and referring to “de facto sacramental apartheid.” I suppose we have Godwin’s law to thank that no serious person has yet invoked Hitler, pink triangles, and death camps. (Though I have it from a trusted source that warnings of Nazism made a cameo appearance in a debate on Resolution A098’s support of subsidiarity. Yes, subsidiarity!)
I am concerned, in short, that so much of the discussion on same-sex marriage assumes bigotry, fear, or hatred as the only possible grounds for believing that Scripture’s teaching on marriage is clear and that the Episcopal Church has formally rejected that teaching. I worry that the shrinking number of bishops who stand on this ground will be tolerated, for now, but soon enough will face the threat of a Title IV trial.
My friend David Mills wrote about this phenomenon for Touchstone in 1995. Each time I need to make sense of what has happened in the Episcopal Church since 2003, when it crossed the Rubicon on how the sexuality debate shapes the episcopate, I revisit David’s essay.
From my perspective, the newfound clarity in General Convention’s decisions takes the wider Anglican Communion into a place of deeper incoherence. I have no doubt that the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion will survive this conflict. What I doubt is this: Can I remain an Anglican, without precious and hair-splitting qualifiers, in the early twenty-first century? Is this the communion of the Church in which I belong? I ask for the prayers of my friends, worthy opponents, and anyone who considers me an enemy as I search my soul and God’s wisdom for answers.
The featured image of the Salt Palace Convention Center was uploaded to Flickr by jnshaumeyer. It is licensed under Creative Commons.