Friday, August 17, 2018

Still Claiming Blessings After All These Years

Claiming the Blessing marked its 16th Anniversary on August 1, 2018 with this reflective piece by CTB Convener Susan Russell: Sixteen Years Later/Still Claiming Blessings

Sixteen years ago today I moved into the corner cubicle in the "temporary building" in the north driveway on the campus of All Saints Church in Pasadena to begin a new chapter in my ministry as Executive Director of something called Claiming the Blessing (CTB). It was from that "corner office" I would spend the next 18 months traveling around the church giving more parish halls presentations, attending more strategy meetings and logging more travel miles than you could shake a stick at. (Case in point this moment from the Anglican Consultative Council "command appearance" in Nottingham in 2005.)

Claiming the Blessing was convened as an intentional collaborative ministry of leading Episcopal justice organizations (including Integrity, Oasis, Beyond Inclusion and the Episcopal Women's Caucus) in partnership with the Witness magazine and other individual leaders in the Episcopal Church focused on: promoting wholeness in human relationships, abolishing prejudice and oppression, and healing the rift between sexuality and spirituality in the Church. 

Those were our official marching orders.

We were also convened by some very smart equality activists -- LGBTQ and straight allies -- who not only recognized the truth that we were wasting precious energy competing with each other from our different "silo" organizations and ministries ... and that the way we were going to make a difference was to [a] tell the truth about that [b] work to come up with achievable goals and then [c] collaborate on strategies to achieve them.

Since 2002, our advocacy has included liturgies for the blessing of same-sex relationships, equal access to all orders of ministry by qualified gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender candidates and supporting civil and sacramental marriage equality.

I could tell lots and lots of stories about how that journey has played out over the last 16 years. Some of them can be found on our website. Others you're going to have to wait for the book. 

But suffice to say it is absolutely a true thing that the course of the history of the Episcopal Church ... and I would be so bold as to say the wider movement for LGBTQ equality ... was influenced by the decisions made at those first round table meetings at Vails Gate and the College of Preachers. 

By the willingness of leaders to tell the truth to each other in order to triumph over turf wars and to forge partnerships and friendships that have stood the test of time. And the test of General Conventions. And the test of Lambeth Conference. And ... 

Well, you get the drift.

There are a boatload of pictures here. They end at General Convention 2015 in Salt Lake City where the Supreme Court made marriage for all legal in our nation and our General Convention changed the marriage canons and authorized liturgies for marriage for all couples. 

No the work isn't done yet. But today -- August 1, 2018 -- I'm remembering showing up at All Saints Church with a couple of plastic crates of files and letterhead in my car and the warnings of some of my clergy colleagues in my ears that I was making a terrible mistake ... that if I stepped out of parish ministry I'd never get back in ... that I'd be marginalized as an "activist" and never get to exercise pastoral ministry ... that I was limiting my options and ...

Well, you the drift.

I'm delighted they were wrong. I'm delighted that sixteen years at All Saints have given me more opportunities and challenges than I could ever have "asked for or imagined." And most of all I'm delighted at the extraordinary privilege of being able to do this gospel work with a truly amazing cloud of witnesses over the year.

Ed BaconKatie SherrodJim White,  Sandye A Wilson,  Elizabeth KaetonMichael HopkinsJohn Clinton BradleyChristine Mackey-Mason,  Joseph Lane,  Rosa Lee Harden,  Kevin Jones, Peggy Adams, Cynthia Black,  John Kirkley,  Louie Clay,  Kim Byham,  Jason Samuel, Mike Clark, Bishop Gene Robinson ... OMG .. this is like an Oscar speech ... who am I forgetting?

La lucha continua -- the struggle continues ... that's the truth.

But so do the blessings, my friends. So do the blessings!

Noting that anniversary, it seemed a good time to post an update on the work leading up to and the results of the 79th General Convention -- held in Austin, Texas in July 2018.

April 7, 2018: Making Full and Equal Claim Full and Equal - Background on the work of the Episcopal Church's Task Force on the Study of Marriage -- including links to their Blue Book Report and FAQ sheet -- by CTB Convener Susan Russell

June 2018: Claiming the Blessing 2018: Full & Equal Means Full & Equal - Third in the series of CTB resources published to inform the work of General Convention on the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments.

July 6, 2018: Dear #GC79 - Open letter to Convention urging adoption of marriage for all.

July 13, 2018: Resolution B012 as concurred by the House of Deputies. (The vote was: Clergy: 99 yes, 3 no, 4 divided | Lay: 101 yes, 5 no, 1 divided)

July 13, 2018: Convention lets its "yes be yes" on marriage liturgies - Episcopal News Service article on adoption of B012

July 13, 2018: Episcopal Church Says "We Do." Susan Russell's blog from GC79 on historic vote.

August 15, 2018: Some same-sex couples will still face hurdles. Mary Frances Schjonberg's excellent follow up ENS feature on the roadblocks being put up for couples in some dioceses in spite of the overwhelming support church wide for equal access to marriage liturgies for all couples. 

The saga continues as does the struggle. As Rachel would say: Watch this space!