Over and over again speakers this afternoon declared that the time has come; time for the Church to fully include its LGBT members. It was a hearing of Committee 13 on Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music which lasted over two hours. Over the course of the entire hearing there were only a handful of speakers who opposed resolutions which aimed to provide equal rites for same-sex couples as for heterosexual. Once again this was a moving and inspiring time. Many of the speakers identified as LGBT, and many of them were young.
Integrity President Susan Russell said that she felt that we had joined the ‘guild of the persistent widow’ as we came again and again to ask for full inclusion. Susan reminded the hearing of the 1976 Convention when women's ordination was no longer theoretical but a reality--in the same way this year, she said, the marriage of same-sex couples is no longer theoretical, it is ontological. In her view CO19 offered the ‘best, brightest and most focused attempt’ to provide equality in our rites and will give the church clarity to move forward.
The Rt. Rev. Stacy F. Sauls, bishop of the Diocese of Lexington advocated for unions for same gender couples. The Church has already made a pastoral exception to allow divorced people to be married in a spirit of grace, compassion and pastoral mercy. CO41 he said, was asking for same gender couples no more than heterosexuals have already done for themselves.
Supporting changing the Prayer Book language to make it gender inclusive (C028), Katherine Ragsdale, Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School, said that using the resources of the church she can teach her students to bless the candlestick on the altar, but not the relationship of a same gender couple in the pew.
Many other speakers talked of the way their lives had been touched or changed by their LGBT friends and family members. Hannah Anderson, a 17 year old from North Carolina shared the story of Arthur, a gay teenager whom she knew from summer camp. When he committed suicide in junior high, Arthur wrote that he loved summer camp but that he couldn’t bear being alive in a world where he could only be accepted one week a year. She asked for the Church to be fully inclusive so that people like Arthur would know the love of God.
Deputy Matthew Lawrence, also from North Carolina, pointed out that despite the Anglican Communion’s promise to listen to the LGBT people, but has tended to hear only those who have found their voices. He praised Voices of Witness Africa as providing a way to hear the voices of those people who live under the real threat of beatings and death. He suggested that they were listening for the voice of this Church saying that there is a place of inclusion.
It was a long hearing, and now the committee must sift through all the submitted resolutions to find the one or two that will best meet the concerns that they heard this afternoon. There are many ideas about how to move towards equality in the marriage rites of the church.
It is time…
Caroline Hall for IntegrityUSA