“You even call urself a bishop?i have many names for you”.
The above statement comes from a “Anglican Christian” in Uganda. His understanding and command of the English language is limited and since he was so enraged at what I had posted with regards to my faith and my sexual orientation his post were almost unintelligible but the message was clear. I thought back over the years about how people denounce someone and usually it is in the form of gossip and slander rather than outright condemnation that our misguided soul makes in his statement. One thing you can count on, you can take it to the bank, you can bet the farm on it happening, is, if you are not part of the “club” whatever that “club” may be you are going to get hammered.
Many years ago I and beloved best friend John attended an Episcopal church that many in Asheville less than affectionately called “All Swells”. I at the time was considering a return to active ministry. I had been ordained many years prior in a small Orthodox Church Synod by one of the two bishops who pastured this small community of faith. This bishop was a graduate of the Pontifical College and held a doctorate of Sacred Theology. He had left the Roman Catholic Church over the issue of priestly celibacy and became Orthodox. I was ordained in 1970 and despite rumors circulated in this region I was NOT ordained over the Internet, which did not exist then, or through the mail. I had requested and received an indefinite leave of absence to work through issues which I felt I had not openly and frankly addressed.
I made the decision to indeed return to active ministry and contacted a progressive Old Catholic Community in California, where else, and signed what was called a “presbyterial covenant” with its governing bishop. Well I naively thought the folkes and clergy as fellow Christians down at All Swells would be supportive, they were not and indeed rather condescending about the whole matter. It was then that the rumors began to fly. Even though I was asked by one of the first openly gay supportive deacons to serve as an observer on a newly created “commission”, and even though this same deacon asked me once to preside at a gay wedding that her bishop refused to allow, it was made clear by a member of one of their diocesan committees I was not welcome and that people thought I was radical and a fraud. In fact the worst insult they reserved was when one of Asheville’s first HIV positive people who had officially, as in filling out his wishes and instructions for his funeral with that church’s office, which included my delivering his eulogy and John reading the Epistle for the service, died and neither he or I knew of his passing nor were we asked to do what Bill has asked us to do. The parish clergy did this intentionally. I attended the funeral out of respect for Bill but I refused Communion.
I began my ministry with the homeless and applied to the board of directors of a civil rights council and was accepted and appointed thereto by the then mayor. I spoke my mind including demanding that the gay community be recognized as a legitimate civil rights minority. This was not particularly well received. At the time there was this dowager queen who I will call Martha since he acted far more like an old Southern Auntie, still does, than he did a gentleman who served also. She was not happy with me. Allegedly in fact he made it his/her mission to question my legitimacy as clergy but only behind my back since he was somewhat intimidated by me. After the small Eucharistic community I served elected me as their bishop in the Reformed Tradition Martha even made a call to my residence telling me that the city of Asheville was going to ask me to officiate at the opening of a park and to give it my “episcopal blessing” and calling me “your grace” repeatedly. I have been called many things but Grace has never been one of them!
So when our African Anglican in his broken English told me he had many names for me I could not help but laugh and recollect. Just remember, when the politically correct people and the far right people consider you an outcast you are absolutely doing something Right and Good! And one last thought, if you want to know a Gospel definition of a faith community you have but to listen to the words of Jesus “where two or three are gathered together in my Name I am in the midst of them” which means the fullness of the “church” is there in all its legitimacy and validity!
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