Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Continuing Thoughts

First, I want to thank Juniper68, Rev. Dr. Mom and Songbird for their comments. I've been where you are, I know what you are saying, I've said it myself.

In fact, I've been there VERY recently. I have recently felt body-slammed by two different groups, who each would have body slammed each other. Sometimes it's overt, sometimes it's subtle -- and usually hostile. I've had several experience at funerals that have been jaw-achingly awful. There is something about the stress that occurs during the death of a loved one that can bring out the absolute worse in a person. I've had a parishioner whose son died tragically. He was a member of a different church, different denomination. At the funeral, I wasn't even allowed to pray with the family. And I became angry, rightly so. At another funeral, I was asked by a very distant relative of the deceased "And who do YOU think you are?" I answered "Called by God." And I became angrier.

I've been known in discussion groups as the "angry radical feminist" -- just because I like to overstate my points, calling men "mutants of the race." After all, all fetuses start out female -- it's only after the toxic wash of testosterone that they mutate into males. (I love this stance. Generates lots of discussion.)

After the anger wears off though, I end up with a deep, abiding sadness that goes down into my bones. I think it's the sadness you can feel in some of the prophets when they realize the futility of preaching an unpopular word to a unregenerate nation.

The only way I can say that this particular denomination is living in integrity is that they DO remain in conversation with the topic. After all, it took them almost 150 years to begin using a hymnal instead of just the Psalter. I talk to the minister of this church on a regular basis -- we grew up together. We look at the passages together -- we struggle to understand each other in love. We use several exegetical tools -- some the same, some different and usually end up in similar places. He's given me an understanding of his struggle -- I gave him Phyllis Tribble. Our conversations become passionate -- but not hostile. We laid out the ground rules a long time ago that we would not attack each other -- or become automatically defensive. He's not a Fred Phelps -- or a Jerry Falwell either. And my idealistic self would hope that there are more people like my friend out there than there are like Fred Phelps. (Actually, I think there are more out there that just don't give a flip b/c they've never even been IN a church.) This denomination is still moving, is still thinking. I like to think of this denomination as the Ents of the Protestant world. They move and change, it's just very slow.

My denomination has accepted women as clergy for 50 years (or they have at least on paper.) I find my friend's honest struggle with this issue to have more integrity than someone who will say "oh yes, we have women clergy" but will not have a woman as an associate much less work for a woman AS an associate.

And all I can do is to live my call in integrity -- doing what I am set apart to do. The witness of my ministry has actually done more to convince my friend of the validity of the ordination of women than any discussion. And just as some of my African American friends know, laws and polity can change overnight, but true change will take lifetimes.

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