Unity is still elusive among GLBT Christians

8 11 2007

In January I will be attending a conference for GLBT Christians in DC. A wide variety of workshops and small groups will be available to participate in, as well as a good chunk of free time. Among the things that will be offered are times for worship. From what I gather, most of the worship will be of the contemporary evangelical variety which will be very well-received by most at the conference, I’m sure. It will be a great opportunity for fellowship and exchange of ideas, and to meet people that you only know by what they write or post onto the message board where these folks get together (gaychristian.net)

I did inquire if there would be any opportunities for liturgical worship, and I was happy to see that it was being worked on. Someone responded to me privately and said something was in the works for Evening Prayer (not necessarily the Anglican/Episcopal version, but still, it’s Evening Prayer), which was a very nice piece of news.

When I asked about the possibilities of a Eucharist or Communion Service, I was told there were currently no plans for that, which saddened me. The young gentleman and I privately corresponded in a cordial, yet very direct manner about the why’s and wherefores…

Apparently the bottom line is because there are so many varieties of a communion service, it would be impossible to accomodate everyone. The further bottom line is that because some of our members coming from Roman Catholic or Orthodox communities would feel that a Eucharist led by someone other than a priest in their church would not be a valid Eucharist. So the preferred option seems to be that we find local parishes/communities near the hotel where we will stay. Some of the clergy which will be attending the conference may have their own Eucharist in their hotel rooms.

My own opinion on the matter is that this just shows that it is very sad that the one rite that is supposed to unite us all together is the one thing that also divides us, as I’ve talked about in an earlier post … Quoting myself, I said

It is ironic that the rite that is supposed to bind us all together across sects and denominations is potentially highly schismatic. … whether you deny someone communion or whether you choose not to participate for reasons of purity, one party is in effect saying to the other “you are not a Christian … you are not part of the Body of Christ.” It doesn’t get any more schismatic than that!

One would think that the fact that these are all GLBT Christians and our supporters under one roof would trump such notions of denomination and sectarian loyalties, in my opinion.

To the gay Roman Catholic who would not receive at a Eucharist because it was not presided over by a RC priest, I would not hesitate to remind him that there are many priests who would turn you away at the rail if they knew you were of the “intrinsically disordered” variety. I would also have to bite my tongue to keep from saying something such as “I’m sorry I thought Donatism was settled 1700 years ago.”

To the conference organizers who are so concerned about being sensitive to everyone’s needs, I would point out that the Sunday of the Conference is January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany, so you are in effect holding the conference on Christmas Day for the Eastern Orthodox….

To the evangelical who might be upset that the liturgy makes out the meal to be more than a memorial, I would point him to Martin Luther who taught that Christ is present in the Eucharist.

The entire thing makes my blood boil.

 

 

 

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15 responses

8 11 2007
Jarred

I can see where this would be frustrating. But at the same time, I’m inclined to encourage you to take some hope in the fact that there will be time to set these things right in the future. After all, few lasting things are built overnight, right?

8 11 2007
Reverend boy

If nothing, I am ever optimistic for the future. The fact that GCN actually exists and that a conference of this nature takes place is a HUGE HUGE thing in its own right, and we all should be grateful for it.

I’m also a big proponent of the idea that we should throw a party, invite everyone and if the guests can’t deal with the guest list or the way the party is put on, that’s their problem. In other words, the important thing is to have one (it IS a feast day on a SUNDAY, HELLO!) and the guest list can sort itself out.

9 11 2007
JN1034

The Didache teaches us: “There are two ways, one of life and one of death.” You’re certainly on the first one (the Holy Spirit works through you) regardless of the overarching frustrations. Your pan-Christian empathy is commendable. And you are correct: We’ve made the god-making Eucharist the unstable isotope of interpersonal Christian community. You know, you’re the future of our Church. Thank you.

9 11 2007
Pisco Sours

I’m just spitballin’ here, but going back to the early history of the Church, it seems like schism after schism after schism has been about how God, the indescribable, is to be described. The very topic is going to be fraught. Judaism hasn’t had much in the way of schism since Christianity was formed, and those splinter groups that have formed (I’m thinking Sabbetai Zvi and his ilk) tended to splinter because they deviated so far from the Jewish norm.

Growing up Orthodox Jewish, I didn’t hear so much about how different Reform and Conservative Jews were. Now the differences among the three did affect my family directly, because my father converted to Judaism through a Reform rabbi and had to reconvert to join my family’s Orthodox synagogue. I never once considered Reform Judaism a different sect or denomination, however; they were just Jews who did things a little differently.

Aside from talking to God more than about God, I think Judaism’s mechanical, matrilineal way of determining who is a Jew and who isn’t helped maintain a certain cohesion. Except for Maimonides’ 13 articles of the Jewish faith, there are no doctrinal tests about who is a good Jew and who is an apostate.

I really do have to admit that sometimes all the theology and God talk and trying to pin down who or what he is is terribly frustrating and annoying to me. I understand it’s kind of necessary when you have Jesus, who was fully God and fully man and what does that mean?!, but at the same time I think it’s having that question in the first place, which really is kind of transcendentally unanswerable no matter how hard we try, that set Christianity up to be the lava-lamp blob of world religions.

9 11 2007
Reverend boy

Pisco, the view of other jews you had growing up is very similar to the view I had growing up in rural North Carolina. The only real perceived difference between the baptists, methodists and presbyterians was just the way the service played out and how long the sermon was. No one was really more “right” than the others, you just landed where you were most comfortable. I guess that point of view has stuck with me.

9 11 2007
tobias

I think when we turn the Eucharist (or any other good of the church) into a forum for division we transform it into an idol. In this case, it is particularly irksome, as you note, that the “bread in which we are all made one” becomes the means of division. Surely this is a reversal not-pleasing to God.

9 11 2007
Grandmère Mimi

RB, I read this post yesterday, but it made me too sad to leave a comment. That sharing the table of Our Lord is a source of division and exclusion is scandalous. I know it’s been this way for a long time, but it still makes me weep.

Throw a party and invite everyone is the way to go. Those who choose not to attend the party are free to make that choice.

9 11 2007
KJ

I’m with Grandmère — sad. The nod to RC seems a bit of a red herring since a priest in good standing would likely not be smiled upon by his superior for conducting the Eucharist at such an event. And of course, even if he did, he is to be giving communion only to the RCs.

For those more used to a “low” form of communion, which was my experience growing up, a “higher” form can be somewhat intimidating, but quite possible given necessary “support” for the structure. Or, I have been at Christian GLBT events (Evangelicals Concerns) at which the low form was used (Grape juice!), and all, inlcuding RC, seemed to survive the experience, though I’m sure that those used to a more formal event found it quite odd (I know that at this point in my life, I do.).

But I’ve never been with a group of gay GLBT folks that weren’t very interested in learning about the experiences and traditions of others, so why that would not be true of GCN, I do not understand.

9 11 2007
josh

Rather than letting your blood boil, you might look at this another way. GCN is evidently an evangelical protestant ministry without much experience making Eucharist, whether liturgical, valid or not. Maybe they’re not attracting that many Catholics, Episcopalians, Orthodox, Lutherans or Disciples of Christ; those churches aren’t where these folk are coming from, so they do what they know.

Go to the convention, enjoy yourself, make friends, learn, pray, celebrate—but get yourself to an inclusive Episcopal parish on Sunday for Epiphany. (St. Thomas’, Dupont Circle, is about half LGBT.) “Do it all” that weekend!

Good luck, RevBoy. I hope it works out well.

10 11 2007
Mike

While I understand your desire to have communion blessed by a priest, never lose sight of the fact that communion is about sitting at table and sharing a meal. I am sure you will do lots of that at the convention. Evangelism is not limited by human boundaries.

10 11 2007
RFSJ

RB,

I’m of two minds on this. I agree with much of what you say. The division in Christianity is terrible, and is of course getting worse as we watch these past few days (at least in the Anglican world.) At the same time, there are indeed faithful Christians who hold a different view of the Eucharist than you and I do. It is indeed too bad that a series of “private” celebrations may be available in hotel rooms. At the same time, perhaps those are needed in this current time of disunity as hopefully a step towards fuller unity. And it’s ironic that at a conference for GBL Christians that there is going to be further marginalization.

Pray for the Church.

RFSJ

10 11 2007
Reverend boy

Mike and RFSJ,

Great to hear from you both. I personally am not concerned if an actual clergy person (of whatever stripe or affiliation … in this particular setting a lay person presiding would be totally appropriate IMHO) celebrates or how formal/high/low/broad it is … my point of contention was that the idea was a non-starter from the get-go. The important thing in my mind was to have it. Again, throw the party and the guest list will sort itself out.

I HAVE simmered down about it … There are many more things to deal with, such as people recovering from the damage done in ex-gay ministries. The conference itself is a show of fellowship and unity … many relationships and friendships are built at these things as well as increased understanding about our various contexts. THAT is what being the Church is about.

And who knows, a lot can happen between now and January …. 😉

10 11 2007
scott

Thanks for sharing your thoughts & feelings – i’ve not made up my mind about attending the conference yet. That decision probably will have more to do with the financial impact of cross-country travel than theological or liturgical differences.

If i do end up attending, i figure that there will be at least some folks interested in sharing Morning Prayer during the event, and likely also folks willing to share a cab on Sunday to some nearby TEC parish to share in the Eucharist.

Again, thanks for sharing your feelings.

12 11 2007
lovedintobeing

Much appreciate the post. Nice to know that there are gatherings of GLBT Christians happening. I’ll have to check out the organization’s website.

Communion is a tough place to find common ground. Like you, I share a certain frustration that we can’t just find some unity in the midst of what is already a fractured Church. Perhaps we can only pray for the day when the table is spread for all. It may not happen until the wedding feast of the Lamb but it’s still so vital to seek common ground with other believers of all stripes, GLBT-affirming or not.

I’m couldn’t agree more about the need to help folks who have been/are being wounded by the church in various ways. As someone who grew up in a very conservative church and even went to an ex-gay ministry for a while, it took time and many loving, faithful saints to help me claim my identity as a child of God. If the conference helps a few more out of closets of shame and self hatred, then thanks be to God.

I’ll add a link to your blog on mine. Click on over and check mine out. There might be some overlap.

Paul
http://www.lovedintobeing.wordpress.com

13 11 2007
Doorman-Priest

Still, with ant luck there’ll be liturgical dance!

(The luck bit being that you’ll miss it.)

Ha!

D.P.

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