It was not that many years ago when our churches, yours and mine and most others were absolutely certain what God thought of us...Because of your courageous work, there are a lot of confused people out there. That is a huge step forward...Watch Bishop Robinson's Keynote Address
I like to think of it as holy chaos...pretty much what has happened in families all over America. Kids come home and they say, "Mom, dad, I'm gay," and the family is thrown into confusion and then the parents have to decide how deep, how broad, how high is their love for their child. So the gay kid, the Bishop of New Hampshire, came home to dad, the the Archbishop of Canterbury and said, "Dad, I'm gay." And now the Anglican Communion is in confusion trying to decide how deep, how broad, how wide God's love really is.
That is holy confusion and chaos.
From the Pittsburgh Gazette:
“This is hard work, but we can do it because it is worthy work and it is Godly work,” Bishop Gene Robinson, 65, of New Hampshire told those attending a dinner hosted by More Light Presbyterians, a pro-gay rights group of the Presbyterian Church (USA), in the Westin Convention Center Hotel, Downtown. “We will live to see the day that the church of Jesus Christ, in whatever form it is, will repent from what it has done to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people the way it has repented for slavery.”...From Unbound: An Interactive Journal of Christian Social Justice:
Robinson, who plans to retire next year, said he finds inspiration from the civil rights movement of the 1960s. He called what is happening now in the Episcopal and Presbyterian churches “holy chaos.” Gay equality work in both denominations has caused a sense of confusion, which he called a step forward from the certainty that most Christians felt when it came to what God and churches thought of homosexuals.
Christian history teaches that standing for the right thing often comes with a price, Robinson said.
“So the real question for your church and mine is this,” he said, “If you’re not in trouble for the gospel you preach, is it really the gospel?”
On Saturday, More Light Presbyterians – working for the “full participation of LGBT people of faith in the life, ministry, and witness” of the church – gathered for their National Celebration Dinner. I got to sit at a table reserved for members or alumni of BGLASS, Princeton Theological Seminary’s LGBTQQI and allies student organization, and the recipient of this year’s National More Light Chapter Award.
As I sat there, surrounded by friends, I realized that, despite the transitions and mobility so common to our generation, we take our communities with us. BGLASS was always more than an organization for me. It was family. And like family, the people of BGLASS helped me know my own identity and my calling. In 2009-10, I had the privilege of co-moderating BGLASS. That year, we decided we weren’t going to be on the defensive anymore; we were going to celebrate and to advocate.
Those two words, celebration and advocacy, set the tone for the More Light gathering.
Just like the night before, this was a time for sharing stories, honoring allies and LGBTQ leaders, and reviewing the General Assembly opportunities and challenges to equality. More Light particularly honored Michael Adee, founding MLP Executive Director and Organizer, who will soon begin work leading the Global LGBT Faith Project and whose love for people is unmistakable.
Later in the evening, the room became suddenly quiet, expectant, as Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Anglican bishop, took the podium to deliver his keynote address. When he opened by saying that we have done an amazing job, we were all expecting that sentence to end with something like, “of making the church a more inclusive and welcoming place.” Instead, he said, “You have done an amazing job of… creating confusion in the church.” He referred to this confusion as the “holy chaos” of people beginning to question what they once held certain.
Chaos is of course not always popular among the “decently and in order” Presbyterians, but this was a night for a new kind of church.
That new church, though, needs to own up to its past before it can move forward. Bishop Robinson was frank: 95% (a statistic he admits to making up) of the hate, discrimination, and homophobia has been caused by religious people. “We,” he said, “taught them to hate.” And so it’s up to religious people to turn the tide.
More Light Presbyterians rallied at the call to take back the Bible. The Bible, Bishop Robinson said, was originally given to African Americans in order to keep them docile and quiet. The problem was that they actually read it! They read a Bible of freedom and dignity, of liberation and covenant. “And we gay people,” he added, “are reading our Bibles too.”
So, friends, welcome to the church of holy chaos, the church of bold love and even bolder grace, the church you might not remember, but the church we were always meant to be.
The change is not complete; there is still much work to be done. But, to borrow an image from Bishop Robinson, we are dancing to the center of the church, where we have known we always belonged.