My Facebook & Twitter pages have been full of news lately discussing the decisions reached during the Primates' meeting. Not being an expert in Anglican polity I’m not going to even attempt to wade into the mess of who has authority over whom, and what these decisions mean. I’ll even freely admit I lack a historical context for what is going on, though you better believe Anglican history will be high on my to-do list when I get to seminary.
Rather than delving into a quagmire I am unqualified to explain, I’d like to speak about a troubling linguistic trend that has taken root among those renouncing the primates decision. I feel like a broken record, a conscript for the language police, for going back to this. Yet apparently it still needs to be said. If you’re posting about your support for “our LGBT brothers and sisters” you are actively participating in the erasure of our siblings with many genders and no gender.
Indeed, I find these responses, in all orders of ministry, to be far more painful than sanctions from a distant body. It is hurts because I am overwhelmed by the expectation that we are done working for equality. As “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You” floods my feed, and I find myself shaking my head at the complacency which surrounds those posts.
Do the people rushing in to proclaim their welcome consider how unwelcoming it is to see terminology that silences your experience? Your existence? Are they aware that in our 1979 Book of Common Prayer there is a Eucharistic prayer that specifically excludes everyone who is not a son or daughter from the “everlasting heritage of God”? Have they considered how painful it is to be caught up in the movements of the Easter vigil, hungry for a sign of grace, only to hear that you are not a part of the celebration because of your (a)gender? Do they know how tiring it is to repeat for the umpteenth time ‘my pronouns are they/them’, and receive a grammar lecture in response to your invitation?
In this rush of people running in to proclaim their support for gay marriage in the Episcopal Church, I instead find myself inundated by reminders that I’m not supposed to exist. With every Episcopalian who declares how open we are to our “LGBT brothers and sisters”, I’m told that the pain of discrimination I’m experiencing within the Episcopal Church is irrelevant. All of this leaves me feeling like a pawn in a larger game, a token of equality who is supposed to blend into the rainbow crowds hissing at the primate’s decision.
But I don’t blend in. I long to participate in a catholic church where my welcome is based not on geography or my skills as an educator/activist, but on Christ’s presence in every human being. I also cannot passively accept the Episcopal Church’s characterization of ourselves as a bastion of inclusion while we remain reluctant to engage with the cissexism, heteronormativity, racism, classism and ableism that abound within our institutional church.
Indeed, as I watch this ecclesiastical drama unfold, I find myself pulling away, in pain and confusion. For even the language of these debates contributes to the erasure, the enforced invisibility, of my people. Yet, much as I long to, I cannot remove myself completely. For it was in the Episcopal Church that I first heard the gospel, the place where I was first told that my existence was not a sin, that community in which I learned that God could and does love me for who I am, who I’ve been and who I will become.
So rather than retreat completely, I offer to my church this meager cry of pain. I give you this mess of words that hold a seed of the longing within me. I offer you these reflections, as I offer to God this prayer, remembering that in all things, in all times, and in all places, we are called to abide with one another in love. Love for ourselves and our neighbor, for those we agree with, and those we cannot understand, love for those who are hurting and for those who rejoice.
Creator God, I pray for your church. For the heirs of your dominion who hear from the right and the left that they are deformed, unworthy, invisible. We ask you to be with all who doubt their strength to endure another round of rejection, that your Word may enfold and shield them from the countless mortal words of ignorance and fear. We pray for those who struggle to find your constancy in a tumultuous world. For all of us who have inherited a legacy of oppression from all sides, and stare at a quagmire that defies peaceful resolution by our own strength. May all of us come to know your truth in our lives. Open our ears when it is time to listen, and guide our tongues when it is time to speak. Above all gracious God, be with us in our times of division, that we may never fail to see how you are making us one.