Saturday, August 11, 2007

CEC - colored glasses

This month it will be 15 years since I first set foot in a Charismatic Episcopal Church (CEC). It was love at first sight for one raised in a barren, very conservative, very Baptist Church. Wow... Eucharistic, Charismatic, Evangelical...a home for all Christians, unity in essentials, freedom in non essentials in all things charity !!! How could anything so wonderful ever go wrong?

Needless to say I have been cured of much of that early idealism in the living out of the Christian life in this community. Surprisingly enough , despite all the ideals, people here, as everywhere turn out to be just that, people in great need of God's mercy, folk capable of greats acts of love and awful acts of selfishness...just like me, same people , different day and place.

This summer, as leaders in the CEC work on firm definitions of "who we are" I find myself yearning for the wonderful ambiguity of earlier years. The ample boundaires of generic Anglicanism, the Creeds, Book of Common Prayer, seemed to provide structure enough! People came to the CEC from a myriad of backgrounds and, in that sharing of diverse perspectives, I and many, found our faith challenged and enriched.

In retrospect, each of us saw the CEC though our own colored glasses. We all came for different reasons, looking for different things, following a vision whose commonality was convergence worship, not necessarily theological or liturgical uniformity. For me, it was a escape from the fundamentalism and conservatism of the church of my youth. For others, a safe harbor from the perceived heresies of liberal Protestantism.For evangelicals an embracing of the sacraments, for the charismatics the stability of goverment, for the high church folk, finally, smells, bells and you get to raise your hands in worship!!!! All wonderful, while ambiguity and tolerance is the order of the day....a crisis when each of these attempt to remake the church to fit their own image.

That the CEC is not socially liberal and more ecumenical is a shock to me and many in my parish who have lived the life of faith precisely thus for the past 15 years. Who voted Republican...really? Of course we welcome immigrants , dont you? Permission for an ecumenical service....why? This is the CEC aren't all christians welcome? Gays and lesbians? ...don't ask, don't tell, Open communion?...the Lord's table not ours...aren't the remarried after divorce also welcome?

Yet, as the dust settles, it seems more clear that our new found freedom was only a the CEC was incarnated in this little corner of the world! This summer it is becoming much more apparent that there are a lot more essencials, a lot less non-essentials, a lot more defining of orthodoxy , a particular flavor of worship prefered, a goverment style that defines "us", a preference for fundamentalism in Scritural interpretation, certain exclusions in who can serve, certain folk not in communion...less of the "in all things charity" than originally appeared.

What will happen? Time will tell ....! What will emerge after this summer? It is in the hands of God. Many will undoubtely applaud the changes and be grateful that finally, after all this time, the CEC can speak with a united faith, one liturgy, a uniform discipline....clear, unambiguous...God be praised forever! dull and horrid! Kind of like trading a multiethnic buffet for a uniform menu....sure, it is easier to list and pronounce, but something is definitely lost in taste!!! It seems our multicolored glasses are being replaced for new fangled blue ones that, supposedly, will allow all to see things less hazy, as they TRULY are....kind of like the tasteless plastic ones distributed at 3 D flicks! Can't see well without these ones....!

I for one will miss the glory days of idealism and ambiguity, where a "home for all Christians" seemed to mean all were welcome, all had something to contribute, all had a place at the table of the Lord....and, for now, keep my trendy pink and purple shades firmly on my nose.

Not on Your Life...

ARLINGTON, Texas - A church canceled a memorial service for a Navy veteran 24 hours before it was to start because the deceased was gay. Officials at the High Point Church knew that Cecil Howard Sinclair was gay when they offered to host his service, said his sister, Kathleen Wright. But after his obituary listed his life partner as one of his survivors, she said, it was called off...

As all stories go, there is probably more to this one than meets the eye, but I must admit to feeling a bit sick from reading it. How can this be? How can this be, in any way, excusable for Christians to do?

The rejection of a person created in the image of God, the hurt that certainly was felt by his loved ones and those who shared his life is awful! How horrifying that we should think any statement of principle justifies our inflicting more hurt on those already suffering. There is also the distorted, hurtful image of God it projects before a world so much in need of compassion and mercy.

It also makes me wonder if this is a stand taken for all sinners, as listed in the Bible mind you..., the fornicators, adulterers, liars , drunkards, the cohabitating, the divorced and remarried and all the rest of us imperfect people in need of God's mercy.....or if it is reserved for those who happen to be gay. One thing is for certain, the message it sends to gay people is unmistakable, loud and clear; not even in death are you nor your relationships welcome here!

I have trouble believing Jesus would have put any kind of principle over people. The guy who broke all convention to get close to folk, emptied himself of all perrogative and glory, associated with publicans and sinners, put his reputation at risk by standing up for the oucast...would tell a grieving family sorry can't???

I do not know who the impersonator is that people follow....Jesus??? Not likely.. It just seems if we were all following the Christ described in Scripture, we would act less like the pharisees and more like him! I would hate to see the fate of the woman caught in the act of adultery around this crowd....!!!

I will make sure to pray for Cecil and that his family is remembered in prayer on Sunday. Hopefully no one will have brought stones!