Ann Fontaine wrote: "And 2000+ people can get all excited about keeping Gay and Lesbian persons out of leadership." Untrue. And so the mischaracterization goes on and on as if repeating often enough makes it true, whether it is by Ann or Herb Gunn or whomever. Here is an interesting report from our convention:
After its defeat, Herbert Drayton of St. Stephen's, Charleston, asked to speak. Mr. Drayton objected to the defeat of the fourth resolution, and the passage of the first three. Here is his moving speech and Bishop Salmon's pastoral and powerful response. Both are presented in their entirety, and again, verbatim - exactly as they said it.
(Note: From a news story at: http://www.charleston.net/stories/100303/sta_03episcopal.shtml about the 4th defeated resolution: "A group from several churches tried to persuade the rest of the deputies to back off from what they perceived as actions that would force an unnecessary confrontation. For example, the deputation from All Saints Church in Hilton Head offered a resolution urging local Episcopalians to recognize diversity in the church and not to separate from the denomination while trying to work out differences. "The conversation needs to continue," said the Rev. Richard Lindsey, the church's pastor. "All Saints is hurting. ... The diocese is hurting. We need to come closer together even if we don't want to, to share the love of Christ. The resolution was overwhelmingly defeated.")
I'm Herbert Drayton of St. Stephen's Charleston, but I stand before you not representing a specific church. I stand before you as a Christian. When my vestry elected me to attend this convention, I told the secretary that. I asked her, "Why me?" And she said, "Well, they.they chose you." I said, "Well great! Let me pray on it. Call me tomorrow." She called me at 8:30 the next morning and said, "Are you going to attend?" I said, "Yes, but I need to speak to Jim Beals [the rector] first. She said, "That's great, I've already put the packet in the mail for you." When I spoke with Jim he said, "We want you to attend because you are a quick thinker, you're open-minded, and you can present your views very well." I hope I do well in that regard as I speak to you today.
It's been painfully obvious for me sitting in that chair back there that something's gone on today that's really not. I don't really understand what actually happened here today. Because as a black man sitting amongst you, I wonder if I asked you a question and had everyone close their eyes and I said who among you is gay or lesbian, how many of you would be willing to raise your hand. Who among you have a son or a daughter that is gay or lesbian? Would you invite them to this convention and present your views as you did here today.
How many of you would stand on that end against gays and lesbians if it was your family or friends? How many would you be over here? If I were the subject of a vote today that let me into your church today, how many of you would stand over there against me, and how many of you would over here, for me? All the women sitting among you - to your left and right, behind and in front of you - or if we were voting to accept women - How many of you would stand against the women over there and for the women over here.
This is a very painful thing that happened here today. I love the Church dearly, I will see most of you in the community, I sit on the Commission On Ministry, but I sit with a heart filled with tears. Thank you.
Let me see if we can have some dialogue about that for a minute. And the conversation I would want to have is that one of the reasons that we are stuck is that you just said that what was going on here was against gay and lesbian people. If that's what's going on here we ought to be ashamed of ourselves.
I have a niece who is lesbian, I have a nephew who is gay. When I was in St. Louis we had the largest gay/lesbian population in the city of St. Louis in my parish. We are not talking about being against somebody. What we are debating is our concern for the gospel. Is the condition of gay and lesbian people such that homosexuality requires no repentance? Are impulses normative and moral?
For instance, if we took it out of the realm of homosexuality - lets just say that I wanted to have a relationship with somebody else - whether something is free or not does not mean that it is moral and what we are talking about is not against anybody. If you will look at the book I quoted today, one of the foundation stones of the moral theology that Richard Hays has in his book is a story around a friend of his - a gay friend of his - who has been in school with him, and just came to be with him a week before he died. And a relationship between them and sexuality and what the gospel taught and how that was put together.
If we are against gay and lesbian people we are the sorriest of all people. And the reason we are in this stuck is we can't have this conversation and get unstuck from those ideas! And until we can talk to each other to figure out what's going on and what this means, we're going to stay stuck. And if what you said is that I, the bishop, am against gay and lesbian people, I'm the sorriest of all leaders, because I choose to be for everybody in the name of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Now - how do we do that? And how do we do that without offending each other? But somehow or other, being against this person and being against that person. I suggest to you that I would be more against gay and lesbian people if were not willing to say what I thought the reality of the truth of the gospel was. I think not to put the truth on the table is not loving anybody! And that's why we need to keep talking to each other, to see if there's any reality to that statement.
As I have been a Deacon and Priest and Bishop in the Church, I, to my memory, have sat and held the hands of three gay people who died of AIDS - because they were dear friends of mine. And I can tell you that the last thing they thought was that I was against them because they knew very clearly why I thought the gospel had something to offer to them. And folks, that's the reason we're dead in the water. We do need to have conversations. And we need to have long and hard conversations and I can guarantee you as Bishop of this diocese, that we're going to have them! And we're going to have them and try to figure out why it is that we can't get in touch with this, so that when we have a debate we're for and against somebody.
I can understand why sometimes you feel that way. But what I want to say to you is that if that is true. If that is true. then we are the saddest of all people. And I can tell you as a bishop in this Church, I'm not against gay and lesbian people. I have them in my own family. And I think that we as Christians need to be able to talk about what that looks like in our churches. How is it that I had a parish with so many gay and lesbian people in it? The reason why is that we loved each other profoundly and we didn't beat around the bush about things. And I think we can handle that, but we can't get anywhere if these folks here who voted today are dogs out to get somebody. And that is where we are.
I think where we are, is we don't understand how to handle the Gospel so that together we can minister to each other. That's why I think we've got a lot of talking to do. I would have to say to you I think, as painful as it was for me, the best thing that happened to the Episcopal Church was for the for General Convention to go and do what they did. Because what they did was they threw us right smack in the middle of our mess and we're going to have to figure out how to deal with it. And we're not going to deal with it through recrimination. We're going to have to deal with it by getting in touch with how the Gospel works. I'm committed to find out together what that is.
I do understand why you said what you said and I want to respect the feelings that you have about it. But I'd like to respectfully say consider the fact that I believe that I am not against gay and lesbian people. And I don't believe you are either. If that is the case, how can we have, in the Church of God, a life together that ministers to the whole body, and what does that look like. I don't think we'll settle that today. I think what we are responding to today is the stuckness of the Church. And friends, we're leaving here stuck. But I'm satisfied that we've done what we could do. Some people will see this as a tragedy and some people will see it as a victory. But I can tell you - whichever way you see it - it's still a tragedy for everybody because the Church right now is dead stuck. And in a mess.
When rich Episcopalians run into a wall, and can't hire a lawyer or banker to do something about it, the only thing you can do is pray. Isn't that odd? That the only thing you can do is pray? The first beatitude says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." And the word that it uses for "poor" in that Greek setting is utter, abject poverty. How in God's name could utter, abject poverty be blessed - why does the beatitude say that? It said it because they didn't have a single solitary place to go. Except on their knees. One of the things that this demonstrates to me about the church is we don't have any other place to go - except on our knees. And if we don't understand that we are the saddest of all people.
So I think we can keep working on that, and I guarantee you I'm going to do that.
After that we ended the day. We voted to go into recess. After the Primates have met, we will come back together for further discussion. I will (God willing) report fully from that day of discussion.
The original message was posted but not written by
The Rev. Dr. Kendall Harmon
Diocese of South Carolina
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