Friday, October 26, 2007

A Sign

by the Rev. Thomas B. Woodward

A couple of weeks ago, while attending Trinity Episcopal Church in Meredith, New Hampshire, with my brother, Pete, a man sitting a couple of pews in front of us went to the front of the small church to present the week’s “Ministry Minute.” He said:

In nearly every community in the United States there is the same sign. The sign is significant in its simplicity and in its message. What it says is “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You.” That is what it says wherever you find it, in New Hampshire, California or Texas.

There are two words that are conspicuously absent from the sign. The two words are "except" and "unless." You will not find either of those words on the front or on the back of the sign or even in tiny fine print. You will not find, after the words "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You" the words "unless you interpret the Bible differently than we do" or "except if you are a gay or lesbian person who has been elected bishop." The sign says simply and in a way God intends us all to understand, "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You – No Exceptions, No Unless."
Ron Kiesel, who spoke those words with such simplicity and such power in this rural New England parish, had left the church for nearly two years over being upset by the consecration of a partnered gay man as his bishop. In the coffee hour after the service he told me, “One morning I woke up and heard God’s voice: ‘Who are you to judge that man?’ That was all. And that was all I needed. Now I am back, and Gene Robinson is my bishop, and I am a very, very happy Episcopalian.”

10 Comments:

Blogger David Charles Walker said...

This was beautiful to read about. You know, if it could happen to Saul of Tarsus, it can happen to anyone. From time to time, I have often pondered the possibility of such a transformation happening to... say BofP or KofQ - while not holding out much hope for a couple of others. But, you never know. Miracles still do happen.

10/26/2007 12:50 PM  
Anonymous maria said...

A shame, isn't it, that a person has to come around to your point of view before they are truly welcome in this church.

10/26/2007 9:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

What do you mean, Maria? The whole point of the story is that we are all welcome and all in need of transformation. We all need to be in the church.

Am I misunderstanding your comment?

10/26/2007 9:44 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

I am constantly reminded of Bishop Gene Robinson's comment when someone asks how he deals with people who don't want him in the church: "I have room for them in my church - I wish they had room for me in theirs."

Maria, I have spent all my adult life providing an enthusiastic welcome to those who disagree with me on very important matters -- otherwise this would not be a church, but a Rotary Club. We don't vote people into or out of the church: we welcome them.
Tom Woodward

10/26/2007 10:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rev. Woodward,
August 29, 2007 - "Blasting away the Bedrock" (on this blog) seems to go against what you are saying here.

You used quotes around the term so-called orthodox and other slights to refer to those who disagree with you on very important points.

I don't care for the cutting language you use for those who are on the other side of the issue. I am concerned that you can write a post like the one above (on 10/26/07) and while not voting them out of the church you seemingly kill them in your heart by ridiculing them.

The issue will not be won by the use of such ideas or language.

Just my two cents worth

Greg

10/31/2007 3:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry Greg. That wasn't worth two cents.

David

10/31/2007 9:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greg, I don't hear the inconsistency you seem to hear.

I assume Tom Woodward used quotes around "the so-called" orthodox because – as he amply demonstrated in his "Undermining of The Episcopal Church" – they're not orthodox at all. They are throwbacks to the Puritans of the 16th century.

Greg, nobody in The Episcopal Church is trying to "vote them out of the church," as you claim. Far to the contrary, they are a bunch of Donatists who are separating from the church in a never-ending quest for purity. Just look at the parishes fleeing their dioceses – whether or not their bishops are so-called "Windsor-compliant." There is not one parish, not one diocese, and certainly not our General Convention that has sought to label the conservatives as "heretics" nor sought to disaffilate from them. To the contrary, our church has bent over backwards to make room for the conservatives. The reverse cannot be said.

You are simply spreading lies here.

Scott

10/31/2007 9:05 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Greg,
I want to reassure you about a couple of matters that trouble you. I put the quotation marks around the word "orthodox" in the context you mention in part to point out the irony in the use of the term by those who are attacking the Episcopal Church. As I have tried to show, they are anything but orthodox in any traditional understanding of the term. They have undermined traditional understandings of the sacraments, the Bible, of human sexuality, the authority of the laity and on and on. In doing so many have called me and others "heretic," "apostate," "those who have abandoned the Christian church." Maybe you have a better word for that kind of behavior -- if so, I would love to hear of it.
Second, I am good friends with many of the leaders of the dissidents and was supported by the Network for Trustee of the Church Pension Fund at our last General Convention. I have not killed these "orthodox" in my heart, nor have they drawn blood from my own. Together we work to contain the worst in ourselves so we can work, even in our opposition to one another's vision, for the coming of God's Kingdom.
Tom Woodward

10/31/2007 10:09 PM  
Anonymous Mrs. J.F. said...

My husband and I are cradle Episcopalians. We live in a synod diocese. Our family attends a Methodist church because there is no Episcopal church home for us without an "Unless" within driving distance. It saddens me that our children seem to be forgotten by those who subscribe to the "wait and see" attitude. How many generations must be lost while we wait for peace and justice?

11/01/2007 9:11 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Mrs. J.F., your comment makes me so sad. I hope the answer to your "How long ...?" question is "Not long!" I hear much enthusiasm building for our General Convention in 2009. Personally, I think it's inevitable that the great schism will have occurred by them. The so-called orthodox will have left, and the Episcopal Church can get on with its true mission and ministry. I pray we will be able to rebuild healthy parishes and dioceses in areas like yours.

BTW, I know others read the comments, and some of you may be puzzled by Mrs. J.F.'s reference to living in a "synod diocese." I think I know the reference. About a decade ago, a group of schismatics (featuring many of the current lead actors, plus many of the retired bishops who are now abettting the schism) established what they then called the Episcopal Synod of [or was it "in"?] America. Those shysters even tried to trademark and appropriate unto themselves the name of "ECUSA." The more things change . . . .

11/01/2007 6:11 PM  

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