12 March 2007

What if we were all fasting?

Bishop Katharine has asked us to engage in a "season of fasting," but only GLBT persons are really asked to forego costly things. (As an aside, the other lesser fast -- from church boundary crossings -- appears to be widely ignored thus far.)

On parish is practicing an idea that seems to have merit, if we allow that fasting is an appropriate solution. Grace Church in Amherst, MA will bless no couples in their relationships. Here's what the local paper said:

Declaring a 'holy fast,' Grace Episcopal Church has decided to stop performing all wedding ceremonies because its bishops bar the blessing of same-sex unions.

'We are called to join the fast that our homosexual brothers and sisters in Christ have had to observe all their lives,' said the church's rector, the Rev. Robert Hirschfeld, in his sermon Sunday.

I question the notion of any kind of fast from blessing -- because I believe we should not withold God's blessing from those who seek it -- but if we are going to ask GLBT persons to fast, then all of us should make a costly sacrifice too. The House of Bishops practiced this in 2005-2006, and I wonder if they'll consider it again as they meet this month.

As we work toward a fully inclusive church -- not just of GLBT and "straight" people, but of all people, no matter what human criteria we are imagining -- we will need to figure out what steps to take. I admire the conviction of Grace Church, and I hope they will share with the whole church their experience.

Many of us have a vision for a promised land where all are welcome at the Holy Table. As we seek a path to that place, we need to decide if we'll go through the desert, through a sea, or through some other path. Our Presiding Bishop is asking us to enter a desert. Is this the right thing? Do we have a compass with us, so we don't get lost? Will we look for God's guidance on our way?

One thing is clear to me. If we're sending some of us into the desert, then we should all go with them. We are, after all, united in the Body of Christ.

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