Thursday, June 29, 2006

Letter to Episcopal Bishop of Atlanta

Bishop Alexander and Deputies to the 75th General Convention

In name of our risen Lord, Jesus Christ, I send my heartfelt greetings and good wishes to you! I have watched with dismay the reactions by the more conservative elements of our Church along with the Archbishop of Canterburys response to our General Convention. I will admit that when I first read the Archbishops letter, I felt enraged because it seemed to me that it was a clear capitulation to the Global Souths relentless agenda to ensure that no gay or lesbian person will ever be fully included in the life of the Church. It seemed to me that gay and lesbian people were being thrown under the proverbial bus for the sake of unity.

After prayer and good nights sleep, I am still wary that the Archbishop is trying to do something that is impossible, and is willing to accept the expulsion of the Episcopal Church from the Anglican Communion (associated status would by the Archbishops own words make us equivalent to the Methodist Churchto me, thats expulsion) if it will keep the Global South with its numerous faithful in the Anglican fold. I am disturbed that the Archbishop calls for a covenant based only on Scripture and Tradition, completely leaving out Reason. I am disturbed at his inference that the Episcopal Church has moved forward with ordaining women and fully including gays and lesbians within the life of the Church based ONLY on social and legal considerations. I know many of you are aware, as much be the Archbishop, that there are quite a few biblical reasons to support full inclusion of gays and lesbians within the life of the Church.

I also find it laughable that the Archbishop seriously argues that the debate in the Anglican Communion is not essentially a debate about the human rights of homosexual people. It is possible indeed, it is imperative to give the strongest support to the defence of homosexual people against violence, bigotry and legal disadvantage, to appreciate the role played in the life of the church by people of homosexual orientation, and still to believe that this doesnt settle the question of whether the Christian Church has the freedom, on the basis of the Bible, and its historic teachings, to bless homosexual partnerships as a clear expression of Gods will. I submit that the basic human rights and dignity that God gives all human being is the very subject of contention here. The Global South does not pretend to value the humanity of homosexual people against violence, bigotry, or legal disadvantage, most of which are abundantly present in their countries. The Archbishop then goes on to remark that only a small minority would approve of blessing same sex unions or fully including homosexual people in the life of the Church. Had we had such a process of discernment about 50-60 years ago, I sincerely doubt that desegregation or other laws suppressing black people would have passed a vote of the Lambeth Conference or any other organ of the Church. Were the Global South and the conservatives in our midst approach these topics with an open mind, it would be different. However, I know for a fact they generally approach homosexual people from the basic perspective that we are, at our core, perverted and evil human beings looking to revel in our sin as an affront to God.

I know this because I grew up in an independent Baptist church in Lexington, KY which was to the right of the Southern Baptist Convention. Brother Wayne preached hating the sin, but loving the sinner, the same message I see conservatives and the Global South proclaiming in their blogs. They have no animus against homosexual persons; they simply want to be sure that we enjoy none of the legal protections that heterosexuals enjoy, that our children are removed from our homes no matter how good of a parent we might be, and that the government and private sector can discriminate against us and harass us at every their pleasure. This includes barring us from the House of God unless we agree to renounce our sexual orientation and agree to never have a loving, committed relationship with a person of the same gender. God have us love and partnership as an expression of His love for us, and I believe he expects the same of me as a gay man as he does of any heterosexual person.

The church of my youth had an elder (kind of like a vestry member) who was discovered to have been molesting young boys on the church baseball team for over 10 years. This man was married with children, and identified as heterosexual. Yet, all they did to him was require him to step down as an elder, but he was allowed to remain a deacon and provide communion each Sunday. The summer I finally accepted the fact that I was a gay man, Brother Wayne stood in the pulpit and said, I know this not Godly, but I could never have love in my heart for a homosexual. And if I knew of any here now, I would come down off this pulpit, escort them out of the sanctuary and tell them never to return. The message to me at that time was clear: Gods church hated me. I believe the Holy Spirit let my heart understand that God Himself did not hate, and that Christs salvation and love for me was still present. I will forever be grateful for the grace of that understanding, because I know too many homosexual people for whom that grace was not present.

Nevertheless, I knew I was no longer welcome in the church of my youth, so I left organized religion for the next seven years. I only entered a church for weddings or funerals. Upon moving to Atlanta, I had been feeling a void in my heart that only fellowship in the House of God can provide. I needed to have my relationship with Christ nurtured through a church, but I knew that I could not join a church that denied my basic humanity or taught that God loved me less than he loved heterosexuals. Or that God created me this way only to create a cruel rule that I should never experience love or companionship. I also did not want a church that was focused on the experience of being a homosexual Christian. I found such a place in All Saints Episcopal Church in Atlanta. For the first time in my life, I was in a church that challenged me to engage in Scripture, to think about it, and struggle with it. I didnt have to do this alone eithereveryone else at the church was engaged in the same process and welcomed me to join them in their journey. We are all at different places of understanding and growth, but we continue to strive to grow together. For me, such a place was truly Providenceat work. It brought me back to Christs church as I became a confirmed member of the Episcopal Church. The gifts of the Holy Spirit have only continued to grow in my life since I joined the Episcopal Church and All Saints.

Yet, I now see conservatives in our Church attempting to sever all ties because their particular view of the Bible is not the one that is winning. They are furious that a woman was elected to be the Presiding Bishop. They are furious that as a Church, we believe that gay and lesbian people can be called to the ministry and episcopate. Even as we proceed ahead with this covenant process, my concern is that the consensus will arise that we should sacrifice homosexual Christians on the alter of unity. The Global South and conservatives do not seem open to any kind of dialogue that does not have a pre-ordained, anti-homosexual conclusion.

As official representatives of the Atlanta diocese, please do not retreat from the respect and inclusion you have shown to gay and lesbian parishioners in this community. Please do not acquiesce to demands to deny my basic humanity or the God-given gifts I have been given as a gay man. Please do not let reactionary elements destroy our Church, but also do not destroy me in order to preserve unity. Thinking of how the Global South and conservatives view homosexuals, I am reminded the story of Christ with a group of children. The apostles did not think it dignified to have noisy children around our Lord, so they tried to shoo the children away and keep others from approaching Jesus. Upon realizing this, Jesus rebuked them and demanded that they allow the children to come to Him. He then made a remark (and I dont have this exactly) with the gist that there will be woe unto anyone who leads a child away from God. For seven years, Brother Wayne drove me away from fellowship with Gods people, and he did his best to drive me from God Himself. Many homosexuals have been driven from God by the hate they feel spewing from the pulpits and pews. Thankfully, the Episcopal Church is not such a place on the whole. I do not want it to become such a place either, just for the sake of unity. Please do not allow the Global South or other conservatives drive away another generation of homosexual people from the Grace of God's Salvation and Love.

My thoughts and prayers are with you in the coming days.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Politics in the Anglican Communion

The Archbishop of Canterbury today released a statement of "reflection" on the state of the Anglican Communion in the wake of the recent Episcopal Church General Convention. In it, he clearly advocates a position that says gays need to be thrown under the proverbial bus for the sake of unity to keep the damn Africans and other Global South provinces happy. I have copied the letter below with my responses in italics.

The Challenge and Hope of Being an Anglican Today: A Reflection for the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful of the Anglican Communion

The Anglican Communion: a Church in Crisis?

What is the current tension in the Anglican Communion actually about? Plenty of people are confident that they know the answer. Its about gay bishops, or possibly women bishops (It's both, and if you don't see that, you're willfully blind.). The American Church is in favour and others are against and the Church of England is not sure (as usual).

Its true that the election of a practising gay person as a bishop in the US in 2003 was the trigger for much of the present conflict. It is doubtless also true that a lot of extra heat is generated in the conflict by ingrained and ignorant prejudice in some quarters (That's YOU he's talking to Africa and the "Global South", you misogynistic homophobes.); and that for many others, in and out of the Church, the issue seems to be a clear one about human rights and dignity. But the debate in the Anglican Communion is not essentially a debate about the human rights of homosexual people (The hell it's not! If this weren't about the basic human rights and dignity of homosexuals, we wouldn't even be having this fight.). It is possible indeed, it is imperative to give the strongest support to the defence of homosexual people against violence, bigotry and legal disadvantage (so glad you oppose discrimination), to appreciate the role played in the life of the church by people of homosexual orientation (choirs everywhere would die without gay people), and still to believe that this doesnt settle the question of whether the Christian Church has the freedom, on the basis of the Bible, and its historic teachings, to bless homosexual partnerships as a clear expression of Gods will (Maybe you have a point, but the decisions of the Episcopal Church have not been based merely on human rights; they also have a biblical basis, and you know that. The Global South and Africa may not like it, but there are biblical arguments made from ORIGINAL text, as opposed to the altered text of King James, to support full inclusion of gay people in the church.). That is disputed among Christians, and, as a bare matter of fact, only a small minority would answer yes to the question (So, we should put these matters to a simple vote. Why haven't we thought of this before? We could have kept women in the kitchen and blacks in chains by putting these "biblical" matters to a vote.)

Unless you think that social and legal considerations should be allowed to resolve religious disputes which is a highly risky assumption if you also believe in real freedom of opinion in a diverse society there has to be a recognition that religious bodies have to deal with the question in their own terms (Yes, and the US has done this on its own terms, and used biblical arugments, not just social and legal ones. Again, why you are pretending this is not so?). Arguments have to be drawn up on the common basis of Bible and historic teaching (I thought we had a third leg called "reason"? Or is that just the Episcopal Church?). And, to make clear something that can get very much obscured in the rhetoric about inclusion, this is not and should never be a question about the contribution of gay and lesbian people as such to the Church of God and its ministry, about the dignity and value of gay and lesbian people (Again, Archbishop, it IS about these things. The conservative opponents do not believe that gay people have any basic dignity or value, especially when it comes to the Church of God and its ministry. They view us as sin-seeking creatures worshiping our own lusts, defying God's hatred of our "perversion". You know this is true, so why are you trying to give cover to these people?). Instead it is a question, agonisingly difficult for many, as to what kinds of behaviour a Church that seeks to be loyal to the Bible can bless, and what kinds of behaviour it must warn against and so it is a question about how we make decisions corporately with other Christians, looking together for the mind of Christ as we share the study of the Scriptures.

Anglican Decision-Making
And this is where the real issue for Anglicans arises. How do we as Anglicans deal with this issue in our own terms? And what most Anglicans worldwide have said is that it doesnt help to behave as if the matter had been resolved when in fact it hasnt. It is true that, in spite of resolutions and declarations of intent, the process of listening to the experience of homosexual people hasnt advanced very far in most of our churches (It hasn't even started in most African and Global South Provinces, and you are well aware of that fact. You also know that they could give a rat's ass about the gay Christian experience, and will never truly "listen" to people they consider perverts.), and that discussion remains at a very basic level for many. But the decision of the Episcopal Church to elect a practising gay man as a bishop was taken without even the American church itself (which has had quite a bit of discussion of the matter) having formally decided as a local Church what it thinks about blessing same-sex partnerships (Your point? So you can't decide whether an openly gay person can serve as a priest or bishop if you haven't already decided whether or not to bless same sex unions? I suppose Canada, which does allow same sex blessings, is now eligible to elect a gay bishop? Please.).

There are other fault lines of division, of course, including the legitimacy of ordaining women as priests and bishops (Yes, and now the US has done gone elected a WOMAN as its Presiding Bishop. Want us to repent of that too? Oh wait, a majority of provinces allow that sort of thing, so it's OK. At one time, though, it wasn't a majority opinion. But the church wasn't threatened at its very core like it is now when the subject is gay people.). But (as has often been forgotten) the Lambeth Conference did resolve that for the time being those churches that did ordain women as priests and bishops and those that did not had an equal place within the Anglican spectrum. Women bishops attended the last Lambeth Conference. There is a fairly general (though not universal) recognition that differences about this can still be understood within the spectrum of manageable diversity about what the Bible and the tradition make possible. On the issue of practising gay bishops, there has been no such agreement, and it is not unreasonable to seek for a very much wider and deeper consensus before any change is in view, let alone foreclosing the debate by ordaining someone, whatever his personal merits, who was in a practising gay partnership (Which is why you forced that gay bishop-elect in your own country to step down, right?). The recent resolutions of the General Convention have not produced a complete response to the challenges of the Windsor Report (That's probably because the Windsor Report basically threatened the Episcopal Church to defrock Bishop Robinson, and pass a resolution to never again ordain a gay person or ELSE...and here we now find the "else".), but on this specific question there is at the very least an acknowledgement of the gravity of the situation in the extremely hard work that went into shaping the wording of the final formula.

Very many in the Anglican Communion would want the debate on the substantive ethical question to go on as part of a general process of theological discernment; but they believe that the pre-emptive action taken in 2003 in the US has made such a debate harder not easier, that it has reinforced the lines of division and led to enormous amounts of energy going into political struggle with and between churches in different parts of the world. However, institutionally speaking, the Communion is an association of local churches, not a single organisation with a controlling bureaucracy and a universal system of law (You're damn right.). So everything depends on what have generally been unspoken conventions of mutual respect (How is it disrepectful to elect a gay bishop? We didn't force any other province to accept gay bishops for themselves, but we did ask they respect our decision to do so. This the conservatives and the Africans and the Global South have refused to do.). Where these are felt to have been ignored, it is not surprising that deep division results, with the politicisation of a theological dispute taking the place of reasoned reflection.

Thus if other churches have said, in the wake of the events of 2003 that they cannot remain fully in communion with the American Church, this should not be automatically seen as some kind of blind bigotry against gay people (Really? And why not? Their anger over this issue is STEEPED and BORN of bigotry, not an honest theological dispute. None of these people would break bread with a person they knew to be gay.). Where such bigotry does show itself it needs to be made clear that it is unacceptable (That would be easier, if you weren't genuflecting to their demands at this time. You cannot have it both ways, Archbishop.).; and if this is not clear, it is not at all surprising if the whole question is reduced in the eyes of many to a struggle between justice and violent prejudice (It's not clear at all, and you have said nothing to make it more clear...perhaps for you, it's clear because you aren't a homophobe...but for the Global South and Africa? It most certainly is about violent prejudice against gay people.).

It is saying that, whatever the presenting issue, no member Church can make significant decisions unilaterally and still expect this to make no difference to how it is regarded in the fellowship (You could have a point...whenever anyone makes a major decision, partners may not understand or approve.); this would be uncomfortably like saying that every member could redefine the terms of belonging as and when it suited them. Some actions and sacramental actions in particular - just do have the effect of putting a Church outside or even across the central stream of the life they have shared with other Churches. It isnt a question of throwing people into outer darkness, but of recognising that actions have consequences (It is about BOTH of these things, Archbishop...both throwing gay people into outer darkness and recognizing that actions have consequences.) and that actions believed in good faith to be prophetic in their radicalism are likely to have costly consequences.

Truth and Unity
It is true that witness to what is passionately believed to be the truth sometimes appears a higher value than unity, and there are moving and inspiring examples in the twentieth century. If someone genuinely thinks that a move like the ordination of a practising gay bishop is that sort of thing, it is understandable that they are prepared to risk the breakage of a unity they can only see as false or corrupt. But the risk is a real one; and it is never easy to recognise when the moment of inevitable separation has arrived - to recognise that this is the issue on which you stand or fall and that this is the great issue of faithfulness to the gospel. The nature of prophetic action is that you do not have a cast-iron guarantee that youre right (And perhaps you should remind the Global South and Africa of this very concept too, Archbishop.).

But lets suppose that there isnt that level of clarity about the significance of some divisive issue. If we do still believe that unity is generally a way of coming closer to revealed truth (only the whole Church knows the whole Truth as someone put it), we now face some choices about what kind of Church we as Anglicans are or want to be. Some speak as if it would be perfectly simple and indeed desirable to dissolve the international relationships, so that every local Church could do what it thought right. This may be tempting, but it ignores two things at least.
First, it fails to see that the same problems and the same principles apply within local Churches as between Churches. The divisions dont run just between national bodies at a distance, they are at work in each locality, and pose the same question: are we prepared to work at a common life which doesnt just reflect the interests and beliefs of one group but tries to find something that could be in everyones interest recognising that this involves different sorts of costs for everyone involved? It may be tempting to say, let each local church go its own way; but once youve lost the idea that you need to try to remain together in order to find the fullest possible truth, what do you appeal to in the local situation when serious division threatens? (Speak to the Global South and Africans here too...they want to sever much more than the Episcopal Church does.)
Second, it ignores the degree to which we are already bound in with each others life through a vast network of informal contacts and exchanges. These are not the same as the formal relations of ecclesiastical communion, but they are real and deep, and they would be a lot weaker and a lot more casual without those more formal structures. They mean that no local Church and no group within a local Church can just settle down complacently with what it or its surrounding society finds comfortable. The Church worldwide is not simply the sum total of local communities. It has a cross-cultural dimension that is vital to its health and it is naïve to think that this can survive without some structures to make it possible. An isolated local Church is less than a complete Church.

Both of these points are really grounded in the belief that our unity is something given to us prior to our choices - let alone our votes. You have not chosen me but I have chosen you, says Jesus to his disciples; and when we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, we are saying that we are all there as invited guests, not because of what we have done. The basic challenge that practically all the churches worldwide, of whatever denomination, so often have to struggle with is, Are we joining together in one act of Holy Communion, one Eucharist, throughout the world, or are we just celebrating our local identities and our personal preferences?

The Anglican Identity
The reason Anglicanism is worth bothering with is because it has tried to find a way of being a Church that is neither tightly centralised nor just a loose federation of essentially independent bodies a Church that is seeking to be a coherent family of communities meeting to hear the Bible read, to break bread and share wine as guests of Jesus Christ, and to celebrate a unity in worldwide mission and ministry. That is what the word Communion means for Anglicans, and it is a vision that has taken clearer shape in many of our ecumenical dialogues.

Of course it is possible to produce a self-deceiving, self-important account of our worldwide identity, to pretend that we were a completely international and universal institution like the Roman Catholic Church. We're not (and Thank GOD for that!). But we have tried to be a family of Churches willing to learn from each other across cultural divides, not assuming that European (or American or African) wisdom is what settles everything, opening up the lives of Christians here to the realities of Christian experience elsewhere. And we have seen these links not primarily in a bureaucratic way but in relation to the common patterns of ministry and worship the community gathered around Scripture and sacraments; a ministry of bishops, priests and deacons, a biblically-centred form of common prayer, a focus on the Holy Communion. These are the signs that we are not just a human organisation but a community trying to respond to the action and the invitation of God that is made real for us in ministry and Bible and sacraments (and none of this has changed by having a gay bishop in New Hampshire.). We believe we have useful and necessary questions to explore with Roman Catholicism because of its centralised understanding of jurisdiction and some of its historic attitudes to the Bible. We believe we have some equally necessary questions to propose to classical European Protestantism, to fundamentalism, and to liberal Protestant pluralism. There is an identity here, however fragile and however provisional.

But what our Communion lacks is a set of adequately developed structures which is able to cope with the diversity of views that will inevitably arise in a world of rapid global communication and huge cultural variety. The tacit conventions between us need spelling out not for the sake of some central mechanism of control but so that we have ways of being sure were still talking the same language, aware of belonging to the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ. It is becoming urgent to work at what adequate structures for decision-making might look like (meaning the Global South and Africa get whatever the hell they want since they are the majority numerically, right?). We need ways of translating this underlying sacramental communion into a more effective institutional reality, so that we dont compromise or embarrass each other in ways that get in the way of our local and our universal mission, but learn how to share responsibility.

Future Directions
The idea of a covenant between local Churches (developing alongside the existing work being done on harmonising the church law of different local Churches) is one method that has been suggested, and it seems to me the best way forward. It is necessarily an opt-in matter. Those Churches that were prepared to take this on as an expression of their responsibility to each other (to not let fags have a place in the church) would limit their local freedoms for the sake of a wider witness; and some might not be willing to do this. We could arrive at a situation where there were constituent Churches in covenant in the Anglican Communion and other churches in association, which were still bound by historic and perhaps personal links, fed from many of the same sources, but not bound in a single and unrestricted sacramental communion, and not sharing the same constitutional structures (So that Africa and the Global South could look down their noses at the United States or whomever else isn't willing to tell gays they aren't fully welcome in the Church.). The relation would not be unlike that between the Church of England and the Methodist Church, for example. The associated Churches would have no direct part in the decision making of the constituent Churches, though they might well be observers whose views were sought or whose expertise was shared from time to time, and with whom significant areas of co-operation might be possible.

This leaves many unanswered questions, I know, given that lines of division run within local Churches as well as between them - and not only on one issue (we might note the continuing debates on the legitimacy of lay presidency at the Eucharist). It could mean the need for local Churches to work at ordered and mutually respectful separation between constituent and associated elements (is that your nice way of saying that since the Episcopal church didn't defrock Bishop Robinson, that they are cut off? Will you now recognize the AAC as the "official" American arm of Anglicanism?); but it could also mean a positive challenge for Churches to work out what they believed to be involved in belonging in a global sacramental fellowship, a chance to rediscover a positive common obedience to the mystery of Gods gift that was not a matter of coercion from above but of that waiting for each other that St Paul commends to the Corinthians.

There is no way in which the Anglican Communion can remain unchanged by what is happening at the moment. Neither the liberal nor the conservative can simply appeal to a historic identity that doesnt correspond with where we now are. We do have a distinctive historic tradition a reformed commitment to the absolute priority of the Bible for deciding doctrine, a catholic loyalty to the sacraments and the threefold ministry of bishops, priests and deacons, and a habit of cultural sensitivity and intellectual flexibility that does not seek to close down unexpected questions too quickly. But for this to survive with all its aspects intact, we need closer and more visible formal commitments to each other. And it is not going to look exactly like anything we have known so far. Some may find this unfamiliar future conscientiously unacceptable, and that view deserves respect (even though you're actively discarding it). But if we are to continue to be any sort of Catholic church, if we believe that we are answerable to something more than our immediate environment and its priorities and are held in unity by something more than just the consensus of the moment, we have some very hard work to do to embody this more clearly. The next Lambeth Conference ought to address this matter directly and fully as part of its agenda (which is convenient because the Africans and Global South have a numerical majority...and you'd have the matter of whether Bishop Robinson would be welcome..I'm guessing not. You're setting up a showdown between the developed world and the Global South. This will not be pretty.).

The different components in our heritage can, up to a point, flourish in isolation from each other. But any one of them pursued on its own would lead in a direction ultimately outside historic Anglicanism The reformed concern may lead towards a looser form of ministerial order and a stronger emphasis on the sole, unmediated authority of the Bible (so now we're going to become Southern Baptists that believe the English version of the Bible is the direct, undiluted word of God? Infalliable in all things? Never once altered? You're smarter than that.). The catholic concern may lead to a high doctrine of visible and structural unification of the ordained ministry around a focal point. The cultural and intellectual concern may lead to a style of Christian life aimed at giving spiritual depth to the general shape of the culture around and de-emphasising revelation and history. Pursued far enough in isolation, each of these would lead to a different place to strict evangelical Protestantism, to Roman Catholicism, to religious liberalism. To accept that each of these has a place in the churchs life and that they need each other means that the enthusiasts for each aspect have to be prepared to live with certain tensions or even sacrifices (As far as I can see, the liberals are willing to live in this tension. No one has ever suggested that conservatives need to follow our example in regard to women and gays...but the conservatives insist we follow theirs.) with a tradition of being positive about a responsible critical approach to Scripture, with the anomalies of a historic ministry not universally recognised in the Catholic world, with limits on the degree of adjustment to the culture and its habits that is thought possible or acceptable.

The only reason for being an Anglican is that this balance seems to you to be healthy for the Church Catholic overall, and that it helps people grow in discernment and holiness (There is no balance when one side, the Conservative one, can dictate to everyone else what they can and cannot do.). Being an Anglican in the way I have sketched involves certain concessions and unclarities but provides at least for ways of sharing responsibility and making decisions that will hold and that will be mutually intelligible. No-one can impose the canonical and structural changes that will be necessary. All that I have said above should make it clear that the idea of an Archbishop of Canterbury resolving any of this by decree is misplaced, however tempting for many. The Archbishop of Canterbury presides and convenes in the Communion, and may do what this document attempts to do, which is to outline the theological framework in which a problem should be addressed; but he must always act collegially, with the bishops of his own local Church and with the primates and the other instruments of communion (Exactly, since you aren't the damn POPE.).

That is why the process currently going forward of assessing our situation in the wake of the General Convention is a shared one. But it is nonetheless possible for the Churches of the Communion to decide that this is indeed the identity, the living tradition and by Gods grace, the gift - we want to share with the rest of the Christian world in the coming generation; more importantly still, that this is a valid and vital way of presenting the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world. My hope is that the period ahead - of detailed response to the work of General Convention, exploration of new structures, and further refinement of the covenant model - will renew our positive appreciation of the possibilities of our heritage so that we can pursue our mission with deeper confidence and harmony. (Good luck with that... unless of course, you embrace a message that God hates the which case, we can all be happy again, right?)

This is me again. In case it's not obvious, I am FURIOUS at this letter and its implications. Why is it that I cannot be welcomed at the Table of the Lord in full communion with my other fellow sinners? I strive to be a good person, and I try to live a life that I can be proud of in the eyes of God. That includes embracing my sexuality as God created it, seeking to express it in ways that are healthy and with the same standards applied to straight people. Yet, this is a concept that so many cannot accept. They will not be happy until I am driven from the Church and the light and love of God and His People. It's hard not to hate them for that.