I am a cigarette-smoking person. I know how crazy this is, how bad it is for me and for those around me. Yup, I'm going to quit; really. But, this foul habit brings me outdoors to puff away with the other chastened sinners outside the doors. There are many people at the entrances to the Halls--the Phelpsians (who hold up big orange signs saying "God Hates Fags" here, and even at the funerals of AIDS victims, maintained a presence off outside the door during the time of this Convention. A nice-looking gentleman stood outside with us as well, opening the door for people and handing out literature for ESA, Episcopalians United, copies of United Voice, etc. This man wore one of the really big identifying buttons, a 5-inch wide one that had "Feminist Theology Isn't." written on it. He wasn't a big smiler. I watched him for a while as I finished my smoking, then said something friendly. At least, I thought it was friendly. I said: "With all these people here, and you being kind enough to hold the doors for people--I sure hope you don't get too tired. Isn't Convention tiring?" He looked me up and down for a long time. Then he said, "Don't you know I'm one of those awful male-chauvinist hateful people? Why do you speak to me?"
I assumed he'd read my badge--which doesn't have much of anything on it besides my name, and "The Miserable Offenders" on it. I do have a small tasteful "NEAC Member" (NEAC = National Episcopal AIDS Coalition) sticker on it, and a little yellow dot which says "parti" on it, an identifier that I am a proud user of Eisenhower-era computer communication tools. If looks could kill, I'd have no further use for cigarettes. Surprised, I could only mumble, "Well I don't hate you--I love you anyway. You are in my Church too." and went back inside. And I did not mean this platitudinously, nor did I say this sarcastically. We are linked, I assumed, by a love of God. When common humanity and basic good manners are sacrificed to difference, there is not much that I know of to do or say.
I have seen this man every day--and I have continued to say "hello" in my truest and best voice. I have smiled, nodded--and only once would he even meet my eyes. There is a lot of this around here.
One of my friends from back home, a former co-worker from my many years at Trinity Church, Wall Street, helped out at the Integrity booth. The Integrity booth had copious quantities of free literature, and books for sale, but was an especially great favorite here because of its seemingly limitless supply of jelly beans and trail mix, cashews, etc. They also had real flowers. A very elegant-looking older couple came by, noticed the flowers and said loudly, "Shouldn't those flowers be pansies?"
A lesbian couple, burdened with luggage, was accosted in the elevator by a priest who hissed: "I wish all you people, and all your kind, would vanish."
This liberal still believes that the only weapon is love. Love, or being loving does not at all mean that you must accept any old thing and say "great! fine! do your own thing; everything under the sun is equal and worthy of merit!" That is insipid. Gifts are not all good, and surely we all know that not everything new and shiny or different is necessarily of God.
We all require testing. We are not ordaining all women; we are ordaining those whose Calls are found true and worthy by the same methods we have always judged and tested those who would serve us. And someday, perhaps in three or six or nine years, we shall say to homosexual Episcopal Christian persons who want God and the Church to be part of their lives as humans made by God to Love and to have life abundantly, in the sight of community and shared responsibility with everyone else, "Yes: Come, beloveds. Christ lives--and love shall be our beacon."
Heck. Jesus was a novelty. How many years should we have waited to recognize this Jesus, in his startling novelty, as the Son of Man, the Christ, the Redeemer. The Person of God? We killed him anyway. How long does novelty last?
Jesus is still totally novel. Still brand new. And many here have decided to be defined by Love and by Hope rather than what scares us insensible or uncomfortable.
It is time for me to go home. Please forgive the outrageous length of my reporting. I only am only long-winded my editor. But the true story of any gathering like this one here in Philadelphia begins now. The event ends, and the understanding begins. There are no more facts to gather. I will write again for Justus News, but I can only tell you what I saw and felt. Nothing more and nothing less.
The works of God were visible here, in both wins and losses. I love my Church, and the Church still lives. I am so very proud to have been here.
With love, and some trepidation, but no true fear,
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