Of the many insightful and theologically acceptable opinion pieces that are surely circulating following the news that the Vatican would continue to only bless same sex unions, I was sorely disappointed in the chosen piece by Christine Flowers, titled “Some things in the church will never change” (March 27 syndicated column).
My purpose here is not to argue with my brothers and sisters in the Roman Church, especially on the basis of Ms. Flower’s glib and poorly reasoned paragraphs. Her referring to the abuse and trauma perpetrated by pedophile priests upon thousands of God’s innocent children as “totally trite,” is callous, offensive and reason enough to discount her article as unrepresentative of many of the faithful members of the Roman Church.
As the bishop of the Episcopal Church here in Virginia, I wish for your readers, church goers and non-church goers alike, to know that there are churches whose embrace of God’s children is wider in its compassion and inclusion. In this holy week leading up to Easter Sunday, we need to be clear that God’s loving and mysterious decision to be born into our flesh in Jesus; to live and die as one of us, was not narrowly about male flesh, white flesh, or even heterosexual flesh. Instead, God’s Word comes into the world to embody God’s great love for the creation of humanity in all of its variety and brokenness.
In our Episcopal Church’s expression of the Christian Gospel, all people, LGBTQ people included, can serve as bishops, priests, and deacons. And all of our clergy and lay people now have access to all of the sacraments of the Church including holy matrimony. These are some of the many ways that we strive to respect the dignity of every human being and demonstrate God’s love for all of God’s children.
For sure, churches and faith traditions need clear convictions and sturdy boundaries around their beliefs and practices. As potential followers, we need to know what we are signing up for when we put our trust in the spiritual guidance of any religious form. However, we should be leery of any religious system that puts greater emphasis on its rules than on its expression of God’s love and mercy for people it is called to serve. About the ridged, rule-following religious leaders of his day, Jesus observed that they “tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.” (Matthew 23:4)
As people of faith, we have much work to do to insure justice and peace for all of God’s children. This coming Easter Sunday is the Christian expression of God’s loving desire for a fullness of life’s joys for all people. That Good News must not include any asterisks.
Bourlakas is Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Southwestern Virginia.