I have shared before that it's been a long time since I felt proud to be an Anglican ... the last time was probably as a teenager in South Africa, when I first became politically aware of the injustice of Apartheid, and saw the Anglican Church fighting against Apartheid, and also electing Archbishop Desmond Tutu as it's leader. Then, the Anglican Church I worshipped in, spoke out for minority groups, supported them, defended them and fought for their full inclusion and for their lives.
I can't remember feeling that same sense of lasting pride since then, and have often reflected that I feel shame about being an Anglican, and about affiliating with and serving an institution which has become so synonymous with the exclusion of the LGBT community in the UK, that it's difficult for the inclusive voices inside the organisation to make themselves heard, because people have stopped listening.
We all approach every situation in life with our previous experiences that have shaped and influenced us, and these guide our emotions. And so, I rejoiced at having the opportunity to march today, but was nervous about over-identifying with a denomination I've become wary of, regarding it's dealings with the LGBT community. I could not have been more wrong in this case, and in many ways, today I began to feel a certain pride at being an Anglican again. I was welcomed into the group, met some folk and was generously given a pair of rainbow wings by a member of the clergy, which added some much-needed to colour to my plain black clergy outfit. ;) I also met Diana Wheeler, of Oasis (the LGBT Ministry of the Diocese of California) and Sister Eden Asp, of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
|My wings :)|
|Me with Diana Wheeler & Sister Eden Asp|
We all joined together in singing All Are Welcome (by Marty Haugen), which caused a few to wander over and join in for the rest of the service. After the readings, The Right Revd. Mark Holmerud, Bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, preached about how marriage equality was long overdue, and offered his thanks for those who helped with the struggle. He reflected on the theme of this year's pride being, "Embrace, Encourage, Empower" and offered three other words; "Comfort, Control & Commitment". He mentioned that equal marriage opponents were no longer comfortable, wanted to regain control and were committed to removing equal marriage again, but that it was our calling to help them understand that they haven't lost anything, when everyone has gained so much. He finished by calling us to go out to love, to encourage, empower and embrace.
The service continued with the prayers, the peace, and the breaking and sharing of bread & wine, and finished with the words of the blessing:
Live without fear; your Creator has made you holy,
has always protected you, and loves you as a mother.
Go in peace to follow the good road and may God's blessing in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit be with you always.
|The beginning of the Pride Mass|
|Bishop Marc Andrus during the Eucharistic prayer|
I managed to chat to Bishop Marc Andrus and his wife, Sheila, about their ministry to the LGBT community, and their role in the fight to help bring Marriage Equality back to California. It was both humbling and encouraging to meet church leaders that were that committed to the full inclusion of the LGBT community that they not only opened church doors, but actively fought for their equality & inclusion.
|Me with Bishop Marc Andrus and Revd. Thomas Jackson|
|The Front of the bus|
Again, I think today made more of an impact on me than I thought it would, and will stick with me for years. The powerful witness and potential of an inclusive church should not be undermined. I suppose the challenge to the people out there is, when they find an inclusive church, attend it, and support it, because without that, they struggle to survive ... the churches that exclude the LGBT community are often very well funded and attended, but we need to be supporting the much smaller inclusive congregations, to get them to grow, and flourish, and witness about an inclusive faith.
A couple of things stood out for me today ...
- In my conversation with Bishop Marc Andrus, we reflected on the state of affairs in the Church of England, and I mentioned that one of the big differences, was that the Church of England was sometimes ACCEPTING of the LGBT community, but that that did not mean the same thing as WELCOMING them. And Bishop Marc went even further and said that there's a big difference between WELCOMING and INVITING. Inclusive churches can be found in the UK, but the Church of England seems to lack voices that are actually going out to the LGBT community and inviting them in, and welcoming them, and affirming them, and allowing them to bring their gifts and identities into our worshipping communities.
There is such a massive difference between accepting (a very passive thing), and actively inviting and welcoming, that I could write pages.
If people are invited, welcomed, affirmed and included - as themselves - they are encouraged to bring their gifts, they are energised, they are empowered, they are transformed, they bring their gifts to the table, and the community around them is enriched & grows.
If they're merely accepted, they *may* walk through the church doors, but they will keep their private lives and their identities hidden from those around them, and - as a result - they can never be full members, because they are not allowed to be full.
- The second thing that really struck me, was when we marched by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and they thanked the bishop and the clergy for working so hard for the LGBT community. That really brought a tear to my eye, and made me proud - for today - to call myself an Episcopalian.