[Episcopal News Service – Salt Lake City] In a colorful and festive Eucharist, members of the Episcopal LGBT community and its supporters celebrated the pioneers and victories of the past 40 years while looking ahead to the work yet to be tackled.
An estimated 1,200 to 1,500 worshipers attended the triennial Integrity Eucharist at General Convention, held for the first time in the convention’s main worship space.
The organization honored its founder, Louie Crew Clay, with a biographical tribute video and a presentation by the president of the House of Deputies, the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings.
“Many of us here tonight have never known an Episcopal Church without a strong, steady voice supporting LGBTQ people,” Jennings said. As the church has moved toward full inclusion of all people, “sometimes wandering deep in the wilderness, sometimes walking backward … we have had Louie to guide us.”
She cited his accomplishments, including serving a term on Executive Council, being “one of the most-respected members of the house” during six stints as a deputy from the Diocese of Newark and helping the church move into the age of social media to foster communication, love and community.
“Louie was social media before there was social media,” she said. “His Facebook posts are funny, poignant and profound.”
“I’m proud to say Louie is my friend,” she said. “I am honored to present you with the House of Deputies medal on behalf of your distinguished, creative, courageous, persistent, prophetic service and witness to The Episcopal Church that you love so dearly.”
Crew, who attended with his husband Ernest, exhorted worshipers: “You love Jesus – say, ‘Amen.’ You love the church – say, ‘Amen.’ If you’re grateful to General Convention and to The Episcopal Church for the welcome – say, ‘Amen.’
“Celebrate,” he said. “But we have so much more work to do.”
Millions of people do not know that kind of love and welcome, he said, urging the congregation to be evangelical, “so that others near you … who feel unwelcome and unloved can share what you’re experiencing in this wholeness, in this sense of church with them.”
The evening’s preacher, Diocese of Los Angeles Bishop Suffragan Mary D. Glasspool, described some of the significant news events of the past week, from the U.S. Supreme Court’s upholding of the Affordable Care Act and “making marriage equality the law of the land” to President Barack Obama’s eulogy for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney and “eight other martyrs killed at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.”
General Convention experienced the election of its first African-American presiding bishop, North Carolina Bishop Michael Bruce Curry, and a march against gun violence that demonstrated “that we can do as well as debate. In addition to tongues, we have legs and wheels, and we need to use both,” she said.
“The president of the House of Deputies said in her excellent sermon on Friday that translation is an important part of the work we are called to do, translating great and glorious visions into concrete reality,” said Glasspool. “I’d like to add to that. I believe that redefining is also an important part of the work we are called to do, as in redefining marriage. And I think we got to this point of redefining marriage by redefining two other very common words: ‘home’ and ‘family.’ ”
Weaving together the stories of the Odyssey (former English professor Crew nodded and smiled at her reference to dactylic hexameter), her own life and Jesus, Glasspool explored the traditional meanings of home and family, and how Jesus expansively redefined them.
“For Jesus, ‘home’ meant many things. He was born in Bethlehem; grew up in Nazareth; [was] ‘at home’ in Capernaum,” she said. “He left home to bring forward the reign of God: to confront demons and exorcise them; to preach, teach, and heal people of their diseases and brokenness; and to show people a much more tangible and concrete way to be with God. Because ultimately, ‘home’ for Jesus was not as much a ‘where’ as it was a ‘when.’
“‘Home’ for Jesus was when he was with God – and that seemed to be, in some way, all the time. Yet there was still a sense in which Jesus and all of Scripture made a distinction between a temporal, earthly home and an eternal home with God, who is beyond time and place.”
Family, for Jesus, “was not as much a ‘who’ as it was a ‘whoever.’ ‘Family’ for Jesus was whoever did the will of God: his disciples, present and future,” she said. “This presents a challenge to the church. … We need to understand that Jesus’ family does not look like our own blood-related and adopted families. Jesus’ family has all sorts of weird and wonderful, broken and diseased people in it. Jesus’ family is born through the waters of baptism and nourished by Jesus’ own blood.”
Glasspool concluded: “’Home’” is not so much where as when we’re with God. ‘Family’ is not so much who as whoever does the will of God. Which still leaves us with this adventure we call ‘life.’ It is God’s gift to us. It’s the journey from God and to God. It’s everything we do and all who we are, from birth to death and beyond, including fighting man-eating giants and facing those who would seduce us away from the great adventure. It’s rage and grief and joy and wonder and sorrow and hope and love. It’s marrying the person we love and are committed to and want to spend our entire lives with. It’s leaving home and returning home. With smokers and drinkers and priests and sinners and saints. With family. At home.
“Jesus was right. The Apostle Paul was right. You are right, Louie Clay Crew. ‘Faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.’ ”
— Sharon Sheridan is part of the Episcopal News Service team covering General Convention.