Oh Boy. Y'all have heard me write here and there in the past about the Episcopalean fundamentalist/evangelical church I used to attend way back when? You know.. the anti-pluralist, anti-public school teachers, anti-homosexual, pro-Pat Robertson spooky ranch I took flight from?
Well, they hit the national news this evening... Truro Episcopal church is pulling away from the Virginia diocese and the leadership is expecting to retain ownership of the property, which includes a historic chapel and rectory which dates back to the 1700's. That's right. George Washington and George Mason attended services there, and the real estate is valued at approximately 25 million dollars. I suspect this will be in the news for a long time coming.
Why pull away and refuse to be Episcopalean any longer? Gays. The congregation hopes to align themselves with the Nigerian Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola. The Washington Post recently ran an article indicating Akinola was in favor of jailing people in Africa for being homosexual. Not surprisingly he is also a "fierce" opponent of the openly gay bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson.
As I said in my earlier post, I've little time to articulate my personal experience with this parish, due to my crazy-busy schedule. Perhaps when things calm down I'll have a chance to discuss it. I'm not entirely sure I will... it's in the past, and I'd like to think I've blossomed into more of a present moment sort of person. (For an interesting perspective, read this.)
All I can say is, I am so not surprised. I left the church about 18 years ago, but the ultra conservative movement which this parish has spear-headed within the Episcopal church has been around since at least the early 70's when then Rev. John Howe became Rector of the congregation. A charismatic and gifted teacher, Howe, who was appointed bishop of Florida soon after I left, has long-standing ties to fundamentalists such as Pat Robertson and James Dobson. (Something which wasn't immediately apparent during my time there) I left shortly after they invited Jerry Falwell to speak at a conference, and began preaching against public school teachers (my mom happened to be one at the time) and took numerous stabs at the one thing that makes our country so great, which is our diversity. With the exception of a couple of weddings and a funeral, I've not attended a service since. There was much I loved about that church, the manner in which it fostered my love of music, and the sense of community it offered me, but when the blinders came off and I realized how dangerously narrow their thinking was becoming, both my mom and I made the decision to leave. It was a difficult realization to come to, but served a very good purpose in my life. Come to think of it, maybe I shouldn't judge what's happend as "good" or "bad" and get out of reactive mode. It's quite possible this rift will serve an even greater purpose in the long run. I hope so.
Just weeks after the installment of the first (liberal) female presiding Bishop at the National Cathedral in November, it will be very interesting to see how this shakes out over the coming year.Interesting, indeed.
To peer through a window of hope, read the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori's sermon which she delivered at her investiture ceremony. As someone who left the church in search of an alternative to a congregation held captive by creativity-draining fundamentalist fears, I find hope in her message. Surely everyone on both sides will find a peaceable solution, even if it means a permanent break is in order. We can no longer afford to find refuge in the realm of hatred. We live in a nuclear-tipped world where religious differences can bring irreversible consequences. Judgement is a weapon with the power to cut into the very spirit of everyone it touches.
Where does peace begin? Does it begin in Iraq or Nigeria? I don't think so ~ it begins here at home. It begins in our hearts.
...make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy... grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; for it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying (to our judgement) that we are born to eternal life.
The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi
Wish I could learn to do this more often myself.
Posted by susan at December 17, 2006 9:39 PM
My friend, you are right on! Peace does begin at home and in our hearts. I pray that in the coming days more people will begin to see this. I do not consider myself a Christian, though I believe Jesus was one of the great teachers. It seems to me that during this time when we celebrate His birth, those among us who cast stones and other harmful objects, might consider his teachings about love and peace. Especially certain leaders of our country.
Posted by: jzrart at December 18, 2006 12:03 PM
The only Episcopal church I've ever known for the past 14 years has been one that is welcoming and inclusive. I don't recognize the vitriol coming from parishes like this, and it saddens me to no end.
Posted by: samtzmom at December 18, 2006 12:44 PM
I'm in no way implying the entire episcopal church is this way. Far from it. I have benefited in countless ways from partaking in the programs and ministries offered by the National Cathedral which is a high episcopal church. They're siimply wonderful there, and I applaud what they are doing! These churches that are breaking away are of a very different breed for sure.
Posted by: susan at December 18, 2006 4:56 PM
Thanks for your calm and rational account of this. Divisions in the church won't be healed by each side ranting at each other. Possibly, they won't be healed at all. But it makes a change to read a piece like yours.
Posted by: Catherine at December 19, 2006 5:13 AM