Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Gay Bishops are Just Like the Rise of Hitler


Three weeks after announcing their marriage in St. Luke's, Jean and Toby are back at church again -- and this time it is Toby who is nervous. In news that made headlines across the country, the Episcopal national convention recently decided to approve an openly gay bishop and voted to recognize that some dioceses hold blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples. Those votes have split the St. Luke's congregation. "This is a challenging time for a lot of really solid churchgoing Christians," says Father Marcia, "and I'm aware of that on a very definite level." At St. Luke's, some parishioners are angry that their bishop voted to approve the ruling, and though Father Marcia agrees with the bishop's decisions, she has called a meeting of the congregation after the Sunday service to talk about it. One of the issues to be discussed is Toby. Currently, St. Luke's parish does not have a sacrament blessing same-sex marriage -- and although Toby accepts and does not expect that to change with the recent ruling, many in the parish don't know that. A change would be disastrous, says church member Annie Holmes, one of the few Democrats in the parish. "If the new pastor wants to institute some kind of sacrament," she says, "that will really drive people into the arms of a more conservative church." Financially, St. Luke's can't afford to lose a single member.

The meeting is held after service in the ugly, grayish community room. Father Marcia's white collar peeks out from under her flowered dress as she sweeps past the rickety folding chairs and round tables filled with people. Bill Gausewitz, the senior warden and meeting officiant, stands. "I want to explain what the rulings actually were," he says. "They confirmed an openly homosexual bishop. They authorized local dioceses to establish rites of blessing gay marriages, and recognized that parishes are dealing with this in their own ways." He clears his throat. "I want St. Luke's to be open and welcoming to anyone who wants to come here ... Some people say they don't want to keep going to this church if the convention is going to ... I say that the convention doesn't change anything for our diocese." A few people glance surreptitiously at Toby, who looks only at the warden.

"Besides, there was a time when Father Marcia wouldn't be here," Gausewitz says. "Somehow that's worked." The room erupts in laughter and the tension eases -- for all except one older woman, who is visibly shaking with anger as she stands up. "There's no comparison," she says, "between the ordaining of a moral woman and a twice-divorced man who's been living with another man. We've got to protest. I remember Germany in the '30s and nobody protested and you know what we got from that."