Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Holy Unions and our own "generous pastoral response"

Much ink and considerable heat has been expended on the topic of same-sex unions. Most of the words are abstract arguments about interpretations of the law, morality and interpretation of Scripture. Such arguments have their place as we work our way through this issue.

Rarely, though, do we hear from the people most involved: those loving couples of the same gender who have committed themselves to each other and ask for God's blessing through the Church. Their stories are rarely told.

This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to hear from several couples at a forum hosted by St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Richmond. I went with two members of our St. Paul's congregation, and we went primarily to listen.

Those who spoke were the rector and several members of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Dupont Circle, in Washington DC, which has been conducting Holy Unions, as they call them, for several years among people of the same gender, and with the sanction of that diocese.

We heard stories that were touching, poignant, sometimes funny, and sometimes very sad. We heard about parents, grandparents, and great aunts who accepted their gay children, and others who just could not. These were very human stories, stories of love, and stories of courage in the face of societal and family opposition. These were also ordinary stories in that they were told by people who really just want to live quietly as families, earn a living and be with each other and their friends, and go to church on Sunday.

As I listened, the words of our General Convention this past summer came immediately to mind: We are called as Christian people to provide a "generous pastoral response" as community of faith to all the people in our community.

In the months ahead, we will be engaging in conversation as a congregation, and with our new bishop, Shannon Johnston, about what this generous pastoral response will look like. I do not presume to know what it will look like. It is my prayer that before we talk, we will listen; before we jump to theological abstractions, we will first see the faces of the people whose lives are most on the line. I pray we will be generous with each other not just when we agree, but when we disagree.

And then I pray we will come to the same table, share in our bread and wine, share our blessings, and be as one with Christ and each other as Christ is one with us.

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