I've been reading the lively theological discussion in the comments at Father Jake Stops the World. Trying to sort out what it means to be a Christian, how do we interpret and apply the creeds, and how do we deal with people who hold different (and sometimes antagonistic) views.
Phew. Difficult stuff, and the stuff of decisions about trying to live out faith here in the ultraconservative ol' Diocese of Central Florida.
If I'd been closer to a diocesan border, and there were a more moderate diocese I could have slipped into a couple of years ago, when the s..t hit the fan, I would have been out of here.
There wasn't, so I didn't. I could have driven a bit farther than I do now, to a more liberal parish, but I found myself drawn to the Church of Open Arms.
I was hurting and suspicious when I went there, after the trials in my old parish. The biggest draw to the parish was the assisting priest, who was my spiritual director. She's left now. (sigh)
The rector probably isn't a whole lot less conservative than the one in my old parish, but he voted against joining the AAC, after hearing some of the hate-filled messages of its proponents.
He set up a beautiful memorial service, full of bells and whistles, for my gay brother, the one who died last summer.
The rector had never met my brother. My brother never found his faith, and didn't attend church. I told the rector the circumstances about my brother* up front, and the priest didn't miss a beat. He lent his beautiful voice and music to the service, while the assisting celebrated. He arranged for chalice bearers and the whole nine yards. A number of parishioners, who had never met my brother, either, attended the service.
This may strike some of you as nothing out of the ordinary, but it is, in my experience.
I remember the service given for a family member of some friends of mine in the old parish. The departed wasn't gay, but was a drug user who died in unpleasant circumstances. Nobody worthy of concern, it seemed.
The rector barely even showed up for the service. There was nada but a few words, then the departed's ashes were stuck in the ground. I was the only parishioner except family members to show up.
What a difference in attitude.
Every time I've gotten mad at the rector of the Church of Open Arms since, which has been several times (but I think he's pretty much blithely unaware of it), I remember his kindness in all of that. I'm sure even some of the parishioners came to the service at his hint that I could use the support.
So here I sit, in an ultraconservative diocese, in this mixed-bag parish with a conservative at the helm.
Thankfully, I've haven't run into anyone in this parish who spouts hate. That's made it easier to be here.
So, getting back to the comments at Father Jake's site, there is a mystery to faith.
I certainly don't understand God's workings. As painful as the separation from my old parish was, God put me someplace better, where I think/hope/pray I'm growing in my faith.
When I look into the faces of most conservatives in the parish, I see Christ's love, and understand He wants to work in and through us all. Even those with whom we disagree.
I thank God I haven't encountered hate-spewers in this parish. Maybe we can truly become the church of open arms.
I only pray I have enough Christ in me to maintain this quest for Christ, for as a parish, we're going to be facing some really hard times and choices. Unspoken prejudices will come to the surface.
Can I keep in mind that those who hold these prejudices are God's children, with spots in them as yet unhealed, look for Christ in them, and reflect Christ's love to them?
My plan is to leave if this diocese leaves the Episcopal Church. but even I'm wise enough to know God sometimes has other plans. If so, she'll have to fill me with love -- which is what I want, in any case.
The nature of God is a mystery, and that mystery touches us each in unique ways.
There's no doubt in my mind that my brother is with Christ now.
(*my brother was gay. What killed him, though, was alcoholism. He drank himself to death, and he died of internal bleeding related to cirrhosis of the liver. I applaud Bishop Robinson checking in for help, and pray for his recovery. I tried to get my brother into a residential-treatment program a couple of years ago, but he resisted, even though he'd already had a bleed. My brother just got angry with my pushing.)
My belief is that when Christ judges us, it's more of a discernment, and a healing of the spirit, which my brother and all of us need. After this, only a few truly hard-hearted ones could resist him.
I believe she's the God of inclusion, who wants each one of us, passionately.
Why? A mystery.
Ours is the God of many chances, and those chances extend even beyond death. Christ overcame even that.
Our strict orothdox brethren are probably branding me a heretic. So be it. Jesus loved my brother, and me, and all of us, in our hurt and hurting -- enough to die for us.
He loved me first, and I love him passionately.
Do you think he's looking for reasons to turn us back from the pearly gates? Or that he requires us to sign a confessional? Oh, he's so much more than we want to make him.