Sunday, July 20, 2008

"Unity in Diversity"

Pray for +Gene.

Earlier today, I wrote that I believe it likely more preachers will speak today about Jacob’s Ladder than about the actual Gospel story, the parable about separating wheat from weeds. Well, according to Thinking Anglicans, the Gospel did carry the day across the pond at Lambeth. The Bishop of Colombo in Sri Lanka preached on the parable, pulling from it that we should dedicate ourselves to "rigorous self-scrutiny, unity in diversity and prophetic ministry."

The only thing I know about the Bishop of Colombo is that his diocese donated some wonderful tea to the Diocese of Louisiana when I worked there, and it was a big hit with the hurricane victims we gave it to. I also know that “unity in diversity” is a concept that demands full inclusion. If we are not a welcoming church, than we do not reflect true diversity. If we turn any of God’s children away, then we are not the unified body of Christ. “Unity in diversity” demands that the bishop of New Hampshire’s Anglicans be allowed to stand next to the Texas Anglicans and the Sri Lanka Anglicans at Lambeth Palace this week. Unfortunately, that is not to be the case.

In an attempt to placate conservative rabble-rousers, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, did not see fit to invite Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire to the Lambeth Conference. This ban has been counterproductive, causing not healing, but pain. The conservatives are not placated, but we in New Hampshire have been voiced to join the GLBT crowd as a voiceless community. +Gene movingly writes that he too is in great spiritual pain. Please pray for him tonight, and this week.

Never have I felt more in need of your prayers. As I write this, the opening service of the Lambeth Conference is going on at Canterbury Cathedral. I am a few miles away -- but it feels like a much further difference…

The level of fear and anxiety, especially among the Conference powers-that-be, is out the roof. No matter what I say, no matter what assurances I give, I seem to be regarded as a threat, something to be walled off and kept at a distance. Greeting a few American bishops in passing, and then at a dinner for General Seminary alumni last night, has been pleasant and supportive. But even though I thought I was properly prepared for the feeling of being shut out, I am stunned by the depth of that feeling…

I don't know how all this is going to play out over the next two weeks. At the moment, I am feeling like the ancient Hebrews, wandering in the desert looking for God's daily manna, just to get through. With all the exclusion and meanness that has come my way over the years, you'd think this would come as less of a surprise. But surprise me it did! And it hurts, especially at the hands of my brothers and sisters in Christ.

So please, pray for me. Pray that God will reveal to me what I am to do and how I am to do it, best reflecting God's love and spirit of reconciliation. Pray that when given an opportunity to speak to one or to many, God might replace my words with His words, my heart with His heart. In the end, I keep reminding myself, I'm going to heaven.

Now that I think about it, perhaps this is a form of “unity in diversity.” Thanks to the exclusionary nature of Lambeth, it can be said that Yankees, queers, and a bishop in Christ’s church all stand united this day. In shouldering this pain, Bishop Robinson has become a Christ-like figure, taking on the burden of all who asked him to represent and lead them in their faith. Represent and lead us. And for that, he has my prayers.

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