As I mentioned the last time that we visited, I had the honor of doing a Benediction for a Pride event several years ago. It was very modest by today’s standards. By the time you read this in the air-conditioned place of your choice, I will likely have lost ten pounds of water weight marching in the New Orleans Pride Parade this year. I will be following a float and a truck, and will likely find myself among 20 or 30 Episcopal clergy. (Nothing like shorts, a hat, and clergy collar to make a fashion statement!) I imagine that most will be in the always elegant black, while some will wear t-shirts. (About five years ago, the Bishop of Louisiana marched with us.)
Things have changed so completely since those early days. I am proud of how the Church has shifted, but I am embarrassed that it took us so long to be rightfully where we should have been all along. It is a joy to march in Pride. It is a statement about what we believe: Love Wins, All of us are children of God, we are each a blessing to each other. Those are important ideas. These beliefs have meaning and substance. When we look at those who oppose us–knowingly or unknowingly–the bitter fruits are rejection, homophobia, and social animus. Pride provides an opportunity for people of all types and orientations to stand in solidarity, and to march it all out to the world. This community can’t be shoved back into the closet! We are out there; glitter, bangles, beads, dance, music, wigs, makeup, and yes, a gaggle of clergy collars strolling–sometimes running–in a public statement that says: WE ARE HERE, WE HAVE OUR PLACE, WE ARE PROUD OF WHO GOD MADE US TO BE…AND WE ARE FABULOUS!
For centuries, the church has had so many of its clergy in the closet. My time as priest has allowed me to bear witness to some clergy whom I think are great. But in order to be ordained they had to fly under the radar by staying in the closet. One of those men will be marching with us in the parade this year. He came out when he was finally ordained priest in California. It’s been a difficult road for him. I remember another clergy person who whispered, “I am so upset with the Bishop for allowing _____ to go through seminary. We all know he’s gay.” My what a scandal! I thought to myself, “So?!” He, the gay priest, went on to do wonderful things. He’s back home and doing wonderful things again. He is a GREAT PRIEST.
As a denomination, we struggled with human sexuality for about 30 years or more. Some of “The Church” decided to leave our communion. That was both sad…but also not so much so. Leave if you must; if you can’t understand that all humans are made in the image and likeness of God. And if it’s not about love, then it’s not about God (that last bit I stole from our presiding bishop.) So we worked through our own internal issues, and we came out with vigor and enthusiasm on the other side. Love triumphs. That is not to say that we don’t still have a lot of work to do, or that everyone one who is Episcopalian agrees with the National Church, but most do. So we march with Pride with the community.
Thank you for giving us the chance to love you. Thank you for taking the risk to allow us to express our sincere apologies for things done and left undone. Thank you for embracing us and providing us with the opportunity to be loved by you. What a tribute it is to have a community open its arms to a past oppressor and say, “love me if you can.” We do. Thank you, and God bless you. May the face of God smile upon you. Never be ashamed. Let Jesus’ final commandment become the commandment that we all strive to live by: “Love one another as I have loved you.”