Am I Gonna Get Fed, or Fed to the Lions?

    My head is hurting. A lot. I was at church this afternoon, using my time and talents to further the Work of God (by balancing the parish checkbook), and a couple of things came up.

    The first thing was my priest, discussing with some people how she took her vow of obedience to the Canons of the Church and the bishop seriously, and therefore would not perform a Holy Union for a same-gender couple. She went on to say she could not provide relationship counseling, and she could not advise them on other priests who may be willing to bless them, because that would be doing an end run around the bish, and she was sticking to her vows. She didn’t mention the couple, but if you looked up ‘small parish’ in the dictionary, you’d see our picture. Therefore, even though she didn’t mention the couple by name or even by gender… we all knew who had asked.

    Think about the paradox, though. To fulfill her vows to God, she could not provide pastoral support to her parishoners.

    I wonder if I should go to church tomorrow. I wonder if I should be going to church at all. I wonder what would happen if they found out I’m bisexual. Would they react the same way I saw some of them react when they discovered a long term, beloved member is transgendered?

    Four people found out when I did. I watched their eyes, and in their eyes I saw this parishoner, their friend, their pewmate, their Sibling in Christ, become something else. Something different. Something other. One of those people.

    I literally stumbled into the Episcopal Church. That morning, at the penticharisevangelbaptist church I had been attending, tithing, praising and praying member of, I had been told to leave until I repented.

    I had mentioned in Prayer Group that I was bisexual. I had also mentioned that I was celibate, with plans to stay so for a good, long while. But celibacy didn’t matter to them. They didn’t want me back until I could say I was 100% straight. And they would be keeping my donations to the building fund, thank you. So, blinking the tears from my eyes, I started walking in the direction I thought I had left my car. And found, instead, Trinity Epsicopal Cathedral in Sacramento. I walked through the doors and the service had just begun, so I stayed, and kept going back. And I never let anyone get close, never really loved a church, until I moved here. And before I let myself fall in love with these people, I listened and read and made sure they could let themselves love someone like me.

    There’s always a little fear in the back of my head. That I’m going to go to church for spiritual food, and instead I’ll be fed to the lions. And where will I stumble to from here? Is there anywhere I can go?

    I came home to a dark and cold house. I turned on the heat, turned on the lights, and lit candles. We’re a bunch of poor twentysomethings, we buy the 7 day votive candles for decorations. I lit one and placed it on the kitchen windowsill. My brain started saying the Phos Hilaron.

    Candle

    O gracious Light,
    pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven,
    O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed!
    Now as we come to the setting of the sun,
    and our eyes behold the vesper light,
    we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
    You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices,
    O Son of God, O Giver of life,
    and to be glorified through all the worlds.


    ETA: Before you go commenting, please read the followup post: Nice Kitties.

    Advertisements

7 Comments

Filed under my life

7 responses to “Am I Gonna Get Fed, or Fed to the Lions?

  1. As a straight, white, male, I cannot begin to imagine what you are experiencing. You are at a church that you quite literally stumbled upon but which became a spiritual home – and now you suffer this alienation. This must be so heart-breaking for you. No, worse than that. But I just don’t have the words.

    In different ways I have been hurt by the church over the years and, like you, I found comfort in the timeless words of the liturgy, the communal praise and repent, the collective wisdom of the saints over the generations. I hope and pray that in the timelessness of the church you can find comfort and in the promise of the Gospel you can find hope. These things come to you through – and in spite of – those who proclaim this Word to you. This is not to say that you shouldn’t seek out another faith community – the embrace of communal fellowship and unfettered access to pastoral care are essential elements of being in a church – but it is to say that the Word and Sacrament are bigger than any priest and will continue to nourish you despite your priest’s unnecessarily-narrow commitment to her Bishop’s teachings and discipline.

  2. I am pretty certain my bishop would approve of same sex marrriage (at the very least, blessings) but in England canon law, and civil law, state we musn’t do it. On the occasions when priests in my diocese do then the bishop does not discipline them officially or publically, but, as a bishop in the college of bishops hisofficial instruction is for us not to marry sane sex couples. As a priest I have promised to obey my bishop in all things lawful and so I do not marry same sex couples even though I want to. I would hope I have the guts to resign rather than disobey my bishop if I really felt I had to disregard his instructions. In the mean time, because this is the CofE, I am allowed to campaign openly for a change in canon law.

    Therefore the priest you mention is doing the right thing, but only on that one issue. As for pastoral care and giving out information about other priests, that has nothing to do with canon law and I doubt very much if her bishop has specifically instructed her to not do them. She is using the bishop as an excuse for her own prejudice on this matter or she is making a mountain out of a molehill. Even so, she could still give the same sex couple a chance of getting what they are after by simply referring them to a priest better qualified to deal with their pastoral concerns than she is, without mentioning marriage. Of course, such a priest would most likely answer all their questions regarding marriage and would probably even marry the couple, but that would not be the reason for their referral by your priest.

  3. Homophobic, canon-citing women priests really get to me, since until 1973 they were in exactly the same position, for exactly the same bogus reasons, as LGBTQ people today. Your priest probably wouldn’t be one if those bishops hadn’t decided to obey God rather than men, whatever the cost.

    In any case, she did not actually vow to obey her bishop, but the more nuanced and restrained “respect and be guided by [his] pastoral direction and leadership.” Much more importantly, she vowed “so to minister the Word of God and the sacraments of the New Covenant, that the reconciling love of Christ may be known and received,” and “to be a faithful pastor to all whom [she is] called to serve, laboring together with them and with [her] fellow ministers to build up the family of God.” (BCP p. 532). If the latter vows conflict with the former, it’s a no-brainer–and she is clearly breaking them in your regard as well as that of the couple.

    I am so sorry that you are being put through this anguish, and will pray for your guidance and consolation and for her conversion. Have you considered whether you are being called to lovingly confront her with your experience and feelings about this? Sucky job, I know, but someone’s got to do it.

    I’d tell you to send the couple my way–I am an Independent Catholic priest and one of our approved liturgies is the BCP–but we moved from Portland to southern California in summer 2005. Let me know if you’d like referrals to gay-friendly ECUSA and/or IC folks there, though.

    Peace,

    Laura

  4. I have substantially the same vows as your priest, as +John adapted that part of his ordination liturgy from the BCP, and I just can’t read them at all the same way that she does. (For many of the reasons Mtr. Laura mentions.)

    Incidentally, I dunno what it is, but as much as I love my Episcopalians, I find a lot of them do this kind of thing. The Constitution & Canons loom larger than Scripture, tradition, or good discipleship sometimes (which is why very few bishops right or left are thinking very hard about taking people to court over buildings right now). Just have to pray for this priest to come to her senses, I guess.

    And I also pray for a time when people won’t have to be looking over their shoulder for the lions. I know that feeling, and it has no place in the Church.

  5. Jen

    As a straight woman (although I’d make an exception for Natalie Portman), I don’t understand what the to-do is about homosexuality lately. I really don’t. It’s not like people can catch gay. It’s not like we haven’t had gay saints and other church figures. I think that the church universal needs a good, long, cold shower.

  6. Shit, Jen, I’m kinda-not-straight, and I don’t understand all the to-do! I just want to worship in peace.

  7. “And I never let anyone get close, never really loved a church, until I moved here. And before I let myself fall in love with these people, I listened and read and made sure they could let themselves love someone like me.

    There’s always a little fear in the back of my head. That I’m going to go to church for spiritual food, and instead I’ll be fed to the lions. And where will I stumble to from here? Is there anywhere I can go?”

    This brings tears to my eyes, as I have had the same thoughts and feelings about past church experiences, and the same trepidation about ever becoming “close” to anyone in a church again. All I can offer at this time are my sincere prayers and good wishes for you. Blessings to you.

    Susan