Sunday, April 20, 2008

Give me strength!

This morning after church I received a flurry of printed material. One parishioner had been passing on to me his blog notes on a book called Living your Strengths by Albert, L. Winseman, Donald O. Clifton and Curt Liesveld, Gallup Press. I had asked to see the book and this morning he presented me with my very own brand new copy. I had tried to get this from Borders but it came up "out of print", so I was surprised and delighted to receive this new one.

Then, in the hallway, a woman parishioner gave me the April 2008 Gourmet magazine, with the recipe for a pasta dish pictured on the front, about which she had told me on Wednesday night. It did indeed look delicious and I was glad for the chance to copy the recipe.

She also loaned me a brand new book by Sarah Sentilles, called A Church of Her Own: What Happens When a Woman Takes the Pulpit. Previously the same woman had loaned me The Life of the Skies: Birding at the End of Nature by Jonathan Rosen, author of The Talmud and the Internet. My friend did not mind that I was not yet finished with the bird book, which I had received over a month ago, by the way.

I am a voracious reader. I always have been. You can see by just this smattering of titles that I am very catholic (in the "universal" definition of the word "catholic") in my reading. Just last night I had finished an Anne Perry Victorian murder mystery called Buckingham Palace Gardens. The riches I was handed this morning will satisfy me for awhile.

I did two house blessings this afternoon, came home, made some tea, and immediately went online to take the Clifton Strengthsfinder (trademarked), to find out what my strengths are, before beginning to read Living Your Strengths. I can be very obedient, and when a book suggests I take the survey before reading, and my secret code is inside the dust cover, making the whole thing very alluring, I obey.

My Clifton Strengthsfinder Signature Themes are:

In short, I'm inquisitive. I like to think. I am fascinated by ideas. I love to learn. I can sense the emotions of those around me.

So tomorrow I will take the book to work with me and make it part of my Monday office day. Monday is a paperwork day for me, and I don't have much to do this week, so I'll use that time to read, on behalf of my congregation, of course.

The Gourmet magazine, however, I will have to see if I can find for myself and buy, because having paged through to the cover recipe, I passed other recipes I want and found that this particular issue was chock full of recipes I want, which is not always the case. Might as well own it as photocopy nearly the entire thing!

I've read a good deal of the birding book, the first and last chapters and those dealing with the search for the "extinct", but maybe not, nobody knows for sure, ivory billed woodpecker. Those of you who have read my earliest post will know that I have been an avid bird watcher for 27 years now. The book is wonderful. However, it deals with the, what I consider shameful, past of bird identification, the "bird in hand" origins, which was the basis for Audobon's watercolors. Birds were "collected" by the thousands, identified, catalogued, classified, and "collection", by which was meant killing, or catching even if it led to a bird's death, were the only methods accepted for identification. I've avoided much of the book because I already know way too much about that and I'm not sure I want all the details.

However, I just may have to own the Sarah Sentilles book, A Church of Her Own. Ms. Sentilles writes my truth. Read this paragraph from the Introduction:

"Several years ago, I heard Harvard Law School professor Lani Guinier deliver a speech in which she compared the struggles of marginalized groups in institutions to canaries in coal mines. The experiences of marginalized groups alert us to the racism, classism, misogyny, and bigotry in our world, revealing that there is something toxic in our atmosphere. But, Guinier pointed out, unlike the miners who heeded the canaries' warnings, we blame our version of the canaries, not the noxious gases."

In the church, we blame the women for wanting to become ordained persons in the first place. We blame feminism. We blame civil rights. And we do so claiming the warrant of God Almighty Himself.

In the Anglican Communion, those churches who have their roots in the Church of England, two women recently were named bishops in New Zealand and Australia. That raised up once again the firestorm against "women in orders", women like me who have had the audacity to believe ourselves called by God to lead the church as ordained persons. We are intentionally insulted by the presence of "flying bishops", appointed to protect those who are against the ordination of women. We are expected to make allowances for those who will refuse ever to make allowances for us. We endure the accusation that we are not Christians because we have taken ordination vows. We have been told, "A woman's ordination vows don't make her a priest because she is not of the proper substance. You can baptise a horse, but it doesn't make it human." We are expected to accept this state of affairs with equanimity, like good liberal girls.

The church is the only institution which is allowed to be openly racist, homophobic, and sexist. It is exempt from the law, and it takes as its warrant Holy Scripture. God said it. Therefore it is so for all time, never to be changed, infallible from before time began.

As Ms. Sentilles writes, we can try to argue away the scriptures that give the warrant for eternal, suffocating, abusive bigotry, or we can say yes the scripture says these things and we are going to be ordained anyway. When we do the latter, we are calling all of scripture, faith, and relationship with God into question.

Good. These things need to be called into question. In the Episcopal Church, and until recently in the Anglican Communion, scripture was not the final word; it was the first word. Jesus is the final Word, and the working out of the implications of that Word in the faith communities since his life, death and resurrection are the continuing, valid story of that living Word.

Lest you think that women's ordination is what began the unraveling of the old wine skins and the creation of new ones, the challenge to slavery predates women's ordinations. The challenge to racism, after the end of slavery deepened the unraveling. Women's ordinations is not the last word in this continuing creation of new wine skins or the making of new wine, either. We aren't waiting for the rest of the world to catch up with the end of slavery, the death of racism, or the death of sexism. Slavery, racism and sexism are only three of the forms in which the sin of patriarchy manifests itself.

Scripturally bolstered and warranted homophobia, masquerading as "love for the sinner, hate for the sin", is part of that package. I am sworn, and am determined, to see the end of the legalized practice of homophobia in the church in my lifetime. I wish I could say I will live to see hearts and minds changed before I die, but I'm not that optimistic. However, I would like my church, The Episcopal Church International, to stand up and proclaim that whatever the cost, we will no longer deny ordination or marriage or full inclusion to gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered persons. Of course, I'm talking about a church which is still dominated by men clergy and bishops, and I'm not sanguine about their desire to stick their necks out. I praise and truly admire the male clergy and bishops who do.

I am a Christian. I am following my Lord, Jesus Christ, to the best of my ability to do so. Regardless of what scriptures say to the contrary, that is what I am doing. There are days I wonder if it is all worth it. But then I remember things like the first day a little girl in a parish church in the Diocese of Easton in Maryland came forward with the collection plates. She was grinning from ear to ear. She had just seen her first woman presider, me, and she couldn't get enough of the sight.

It is for you, child, that I and my sisters and brothers continue on. God willing, I will continue to do so to my dying day.

1 comment:

Jan said...

I have "input" as one of my strengths, too, which explains why I love to read and study anything and everything. I, too, am a "voracious reader." I'd say I'm "catholic" too though usually I say "eclectic Christian."

My strengths:
(so to compare with yours)

I think it was Barb that sent me over here. I like what you write. Thanks.

Thank you so much for saying what you wish the Episcopal Church would stand up for! I wish they'd listen to you.