Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Bible Tells Me So (Crew)

by Dr. Louie Crew

Editor's Note: We were pleased when Dr. Crew offered us this essay for publication. In it, he puts a human face on racism and heterosexism. Some readers may not be familiar with the "LGBT" term he uses; it is a commonly used shorthand reference to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered persons.

"One big reason for that is the biblical world makes sense [if you're in the Global South]; the Bible reads like it is describing the world you know immediately." -- Archbishop Peter Akinola (Church of Nigeria)
Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola has it right. The same is true for most LGBTs. The blood-letting rages of God and the people in the Hebrew Scriptures are behaviors we witness in much of Christendom toward us. We LGBTs also know how to appropriate the Exodus and deliverance into a much safer land, flowing with milk and honey.

Archbishop Akinola is right to ask us to look back just one generation to the experiences of Africans regarding "nomadism, polygamy, and blood sacrifice."

Imagine for a moment what it was like to be LGBT in 1954 when I entered Baylor, to be LGBT and Episcopalian in 1974 when I founded Integrity. Earlier in 1974 a bishop from Florida had shocked the entire House of Bishops by daring to mention the unmentionable and proclaimed on the floor of the House, "I found a queer priest in my diocese and what are we supposed to do to prevent this?"

The House of Bishops did what it is wont to do for every unpleasantness: It created a task force, and it named it as only Anglicans could do, "The House of Bishops Task Force on Homophiles and the Ministry"! "Homophiles"! How much more Episcopalian could they have been?

Looking back from this distance, I respect far more the candor of the less couth bishop from Florida.

In 1964 if heterosexual and divorced, you could not remain active as a priest in most dioceses. In 1974 if you were open about being queer, you did not get or keep a job as a priest.

The same was true in most of academia. I fully expected to be fired when – in the same month that I founded Integrity – I co-edited College English for a special issue on "The Homosexual Imagination" – the first major academic journal ever to address LGBT issues edited by LGBT persons. It took me months to realize that the college was not going to issue the letter of dismissal. It took my parish across the street from my office to do that, with the vestry sending me a letter to "find some other place to worship." When I held the letter to the light, I could see the watermark of the seal of the State of Georgia: they had stolen college stationery to use in writing the letter.

For LGBT people, the woman at the well is not a quaint story of middle class people dressed in bath robes for a church pageant; she is our sister, and she is asking Jesus the questions we have asked the Episcopal Church about where we might worship and with what priestly leadership. And with us as with her, we find that Jesus is much less concerned about our sins than about our thirst.

For LGBT people, the centurion's plea for his boyfriend servant is understandable in our experience as we have watched our beloveds go sick, even die, and we've not had the access to help them that their heterosexual "family" has had – family that in many instances would not even speak to them, but are all too happy to come in and seize all that we have accumulated together. We understand well why the centurion did not want to risk having the Jewish healer come under his roof and see the real love behind the plea: "Say but the word only and my 'servant' shall be healed." We know in our own experience the tyranny of changing the pronouns.

I'd love a chance to sit down with my brother ++Peter and to share experiences about this marvelous Savior of both of us, the Savior of absolutely everybody.

About the Author: Dr. Crew taught English throughout his career, at universities including the University of Alabama, the University of Wisconsin, Beijing Foreign Language Institute, Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Rutgers. He is clerk of the vestry at Grace Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Newark, a long-time Deputy to General Convention, the founder of Integrity, a recent member of the Executive Council, and currently serves as secretary of the Nominating Committee of General Convention. His Ph.D. is from the University of Alabama, and he holds honorary doctorates from three Episcopal seminaries: Episcopal Divinity School, General Theological Seminary, and Church Divinity School of the Pacific. He is the author of 1,815 publications. A brief version of his resume is available here. Over 1,000 visit his Anglican Pages every day.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I found a queer priest in my diocese and what are we supposed to do to prevent this?"

It is clear that enough was not done.

8/02/2007 10:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd love a chance to sit down with my brother ++Peter and to share experiences about this marvelous Savior of both of us, the Savior of absolutely everybody.

I am sure that the Arch-Bishop would hear your confession. Including your turning from what appears to be an Universalist postion. Jesus could be the Savior of all but to those who reject him or his teachings, salvation is at best uncertain.


8/03/2007 9:18 AM  

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