At it's prior national convention, The Episcopal Church of the United States approved the ordination
of an openly gay bishop, bringing upon itself not only the wrath of those who voted contrary to the majority of those representing
congregations all over the country, but of the worldwide Anglican communion itself.
So what did they do for an encore in 2006? This same uppity church had the nerve to go against
2000 years of mysogynistic patriarchy and elect as its national bishop, a woman - one Katharine Jefferts Schori, 52, a pilot
and oceanographer but seriously lacking - as far as Christian literalists go - those two patriarchal attributes and shaft
of righteousness that God did not issue to women ... ever. Having united with a local Episcopal congregation fairly recently
myself (1999), I did not do so out of some epiphany that the Episcopal church had a doctrine or belief system totally in harmony
with my own or one much closer to truth with a capital T. And there was no epiphanic moment when I just KNEW Jesus was my
savior, I'd been done born again and could now qualify for entrance into Reverend Falwell's Liberty University.
Naw... we just joined with the Episcopals out of a desire to integrate with a spiritual congregation
in the community into which my wife Lietta and I had moved.
We found the local Episcopal congregation absolutely warm and embracing. Our little congregation
is known somewhat as one of the most conservative parishes in the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia (Washington). But the average
Sunday morning attendance is less than 20 souls.
My wife and I, in our 50's, were for a long time literally the youngest actively participating
members of the congregation.
Of those who actively participate, I would estimate the average age to be 75 years. Perhaps
that is why I was recently elected as the Senior Warden - the youngest person with sufficient energy to do so. In 1999 we
were embraced, loved and repeatedly encouraged to return. When we did, I found that they were in need of a back-up organist
and I was able to fill that role.
The Ladies guild needed youthful energy and my wife was scooped up and put to work.
Later on, my wife and I were invited to participate in a program of calling and discernment
with the idea that our youth might be put to greater use by involving us in a ministerial capacity. Perhaps one or both of
us could begin a program of training to be able to step in when the time arrived as future replacements for our priests.
Both of us were authorized as lay preachers with tasking of giving a monthly sermon.
This alone gave tremendous relief to our priests, who were originally called out of the congregation
some 15 years ago when the parish lost its traditionally trained and ordained Episcopal priest. We have two priests in our
congregation, one male and the other female. The presence of a female priest is a reminder that the Episcopal Church has a
history of courage in dealing with change.
Our female priest is in her 60's, employed in the community and busier than she ought to be
with church duties, family obligations and full-time employment.
Our male priest is entering his late 80's and is in declining health.
This congregation has already suffered the consequences of Episcopal courage, having lost several
families in the last ten years as a result of the appointment of an openly gay priest, the Very Reverend Robert Taylor, as the head of St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral - the first openly gay dean chosen to lead an American
That event is the reason why attendance dropped down to the less-than-20 Sunday attendance.
Those who left the parish were couples of the same generation that makes up the remaining congregation. When your number of
active participants drops from the 30's to the 20s you have in fact lost 1/3 of your congregation to Episcopal courage and
its radical departure from traditional Christian conservatism.
For those who did not leave the church, regarding homosexuality, these folks have never "been
there; done that." Yet what I heard from them for the most part was an expression of reverence for personal choices and a
trust that such issues were between God and the individual.
Having taken issue many times with those who proclaim a literal Bible and espouse their own
private interpretations of Bible verses in condemnation of those who do not conform, I expected to hear that sort of thing
among these, the oldest of our highly "conservative" parish - but was mistaken.
I'm fairly certain that privately, most or all of us who live our lives mostly outside of much
interaction with a gay community have personal and meaningful reasons for how we feel - empathetic, supportive or intolerant
. They are, however no more than personal value judgments and we ought to be mature enough to not elevate our
judgments to a place in a religious context as reasons for condemnation.
We have no justification if we act as accusers based on a personal moral standard which
most tend to assume is of course God's moral standard. Otherwise we couldn't judgmentally condemn anyone could we?
Righteousness in fact is neither a scripturally nor traditionally defined concept that contains
a rigid and uniform code of conformity.
But Goodness for the sake of Goodness might very well be.
To focus on being righteous is to focus on and glorify one's self at the expense of the universal
applicability of Jesus' life and teaching. If Jesus could declare to a mortal caught in provocative and mob-arousing
sin - all the while staring down a supposed moral majority bent on murder and mayhem ...
"Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more,"where do any of us have the right to go beyond that pattern?
In attempting to do so, we ultimately find ourselves trying to dictate morality to God. We expect
God to support our humanly weak judgmental thinking and leave ourselves vulnerable to a moment in time when our "wrongteousness"
brings us face to face with a revealing to us that we have been tragically wrong and mistaken.
A lifelong judgmental Christian will approach his own demise with an uneasy sense or fear that
ahead might lie an immense shock: the prospect of discovering that God has always been a God of Compassion and not a God of
And for literatists, there would be nothing worse than should such a discovery occur at the
supposed bar of judgment when actions are up for review and it's too late to change the behavior. They have a lot riding on
whether or not God is as mean-spirited as his literalist children.
Episcopals are numbered among the most courageous American churches who are doing the right
things for the right reasons, never going into an endorsement of a gay lifestyle, yet recognizing that judgment and condemnation,
if judgment an condemnation is part of being God, is left to a Heavenly Father who knows what He's doing and knows hearts
and intents a hell of a lot better than any of us.
There's a conservative movement within the Episcopal Church of the USA (ECUSA) to separate itself
in a protest reeking of narrow righteous indignation. Their words of reasoning are conservative and judgmental - an almost
ignorant assumption that God Himself is conservative in nature, punitively judgmental and obsessed with the details of human
intimacy. It's also, like every fundamentalist/literalist church, an entity whose morale values are founded on superstitious
assumptions about a world in the hereafter that must by God be a mirror of the world we live in.
The assumption, spoken or left unsaid, is that God does recognize and authorize weak and narrow
human perception and in so doing, endorses disharmony and separation. This seems to presuppose an all-or-nothing,
either-or supreme and omnipotent creator who delights in blind obedience; who is willing to be bound by mortal condemners
when they assign to themselves the wisdom of condemnation.
These self-righteous dissenting leaders may be more sincere than am I who find myself openly
critical of their choices. I risk being narrow and judgmental myself if I condemn their actions and erroneously assign to
myself wisdom in condemnation. So I try not to go so far in my indignation as to condemn (and fail more often than not)
But I will disagree with moral monopolists.
I am best advised to follow the example in my own congregation, which has already lost 1/3 of
its membership in rebellion against a decision of religious policy reached by our Episcopal community's spiritual leadership.
Interesting that according to scripture, should one chose to read Bible verses as literally
inerrant, God also lost 1/3 to rebellion and disagreement with His policy.
I wonder about that scriptural 1/3.
Have we any evidence that ultimately they were justified and vindicated by some authority higher
© Arthur Ruger 2006