June 30, 2015

LGBT Episcopalians Celebrate “Disordering Our Boundaries”

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Episcopalians marked 40 years of advocacy in the Episcopal Church during a Monday night Eucharist characterized by inclusive language, liturgical innovations and prayers for “disordering our boundaries and releasing our desires.”

Hundreds of Episcopalians at the denomination’s triennial General Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah participated in a festive Eucharist hosted by Integrity USA, the church’s unofficial LGBT caucus. The event took place the same day that bishops gave approval to a new gender-neutral marriage rite which appears likely to be enacted by the end of the week.

“We’ve been at this for 40 years — it’s a nice, Biblical number to be coming out of the wilderness,” declared former Integrity USA President Susan Russell of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.

The caucus, which was founded in 1974 by six-time General Convention deputy Louie Crew, has had a presence at every such gathering since 1976.

Viewscreens projected rainbow-colored Jerusalem crosses as the congregation sang an opening hymn to the “Wind of God.” An aspergillum-wielding Bishop Suffragan Mary Glasspool of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles sprinkled the congregation with holy water while a dove and colorful streamers circled overhead at the tip of a  liturgical gizmo resembling a long flycasting rod.

“And now a word from the Prophet Louie,” a prayer leader introduced, beginning a video on the life of Crew. Following the video, the congregation was led in singing “Louie, Louie, Louie Hallelujah.”

Episcopal Church House of Deputies President Gay Jennings presented Crew with the House of Deputies Medal on behalf of his service to the Episcopal Church, which Jennings praised as “persistent, prophetic.”

“All I did was get in the way of the Holy Spirit, and she’s a fierce tornado,” Crew said in accepting the medal. Encouraging the assembled congregation to “be evangelicals for Jesus,” Crew emphasized his calling to open the church to groups which felt marginalized or excluded.

Integrity has been a powerful voice at General Convention, triumphing in 2003 with a successful vote of consent by Bishops to the election of openly partnered gay bishop Gene Robinson to lead the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire. The organization has sponsored legislation at past conventions adding gender identity and expression to the church’s nondiscrimination canons.

Despite achieving its goals, Integrity USA announced in March that most staff would be laid off due to “resource issues.” Both Development Director Sam Peterson and Executive Director Vivian Taylor — who had signed on with Integrity only two years prior — saw their positions eliminated.

But financial difficulties were not mentioned at the upbeat celebration.

“What a week, no?” Glasspool asked with a smile, listing off new Supreme Court rulings enacting same-sex marriage and upholding the Affordable Care Act as well as the election of North Carolina Bishop Michael Curry as the denomination’s first African American Presiding Bishop.

“Bishop Curry knows what ‘all’ means,” Glasspool affirmed, noting that Curry had preached at an Integrity event two years prior. The bishop, who was the first openly partnered lesbian to be consecrated to the episcopate, also noted that the service was for the first time being held in the General Convention worship space as an official part of the churchwide gathering.

“We got to this place of redefining marriage by redefining two other words: home and family,” Glasspool declared in her sermon. Recalling her early love of Homer’s Odyssey, the bishop summarized the book as encapsulating both a desire for adventure and later a desire to return home. Tying her sermon to the Gospel text of Luke Chapter 4 when Jesus reads at the synagogue in his home town of Nazareth, Glasspool explained that in the Gospel of Mark, the author implies that Jesus is already moving away from his natural family and into the home of Peter in the town of Capernaum.

“The concept of family is transformed. The reign of God transcends the closest of family trees,” Glasspool interpreted.

Following the sermon message, Priest Kimberly Jackson of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta read a prayer to begin the time of communion:

“Spirit of Life, we thank you for disordering our boundaries and releasing our desires as we prepare this feast of delight: draw us out of hidden places and centers of conformity to feel your laughter and live in your pleasure.”

The service detoured significantly from the church’s Book of Common Prayer, instead drawing from several alternative resources. The Eucharistic prayer was taken from Prayers for an Inclusive Church while the prayers of the people were adapted by transgender priest Cameron Partridge from We Pray: Prayers to and for the Transgendered Community. An opening invitation to worship was adapted from a Post-Colonial Eucharistic Prayer and scripture readings were taken from The Inclusive Bible.


13 Responses to LGBT Episcopalians Celebrate “Disordering Our Boundaries”

  1. Dan says:

    These folks represent my new favorite religious term: Burger King Christianity – Have it Your Way.

  2. MQT journo says:

    How is this Christian? The quoted prayer is an invocation for an evil spirit to lead them into desires and pleasures of the flesh.

  3. Dusty H says:

    You must understand this, that in the last days distressing times will come. For people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, brutes, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid them! For among them are those who make their way into households and captivate silly women, overwhelmed by their sins and swayed by all kinds of desires, who are always being instructed and can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth. As Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these people, of corrupt mind and counterfeit faith, also oppose the truth. But they will not make much progress, because, as in the case of those two men, their folly will become plain to everyone. — 2 Timothy 3:1-9

  4. Namyriah says:

    “Inclusive language.”
    Well, I am SO impressed.
    Look at how that inclusive language has caused the Episcs to grow exponentially.

  5. Karen B. says:

    Nice article Jeff. It might be worth noting somewhere that new Presiding Bishop elect Michael Curry was present. Just in case anyone wondered about his stance on this.

    • Jeff Walton says:

      Thanks, Karen. I was unaware of Curry’s presence, although I did know that he had spoken at Integrity events in the past. One other interesting thing: Gene Robinson is here in Salt Lake, but he had no role in the Integrity Eucharist this year. Considering it was pretty much the Gene Show in recent years, this is a big change.

  6. kirk says:

    Whoa.
    “Prayers to and for the Transgendered Community.”
    I was under the impression Christians prayed only TO God. When you pray TO the “transgendered community,” what religion is that, and what magical powers does that “community” draw upon?

  7. ken says:

    The Christian church is not a Mutual Admiration Society, but that’s what the mainlines have devolved into. They still talk about sin, but not their own, just other people’s sins, the “bigots” out there. The mainlines will probably shrink to the point where they unite, and I think their motto ought to be that line from the parable: “I thank thee, O God, that I am not like other men.”

  8. SallyE says:

    I’m done. After 30 years in the ECUSA I have had enough.

  9. AlphaGirl says:

    These Episcopalians are selling perversion as “love” and evil as “virtue.”

    Satan, who comes as an “angel of light,” allows his children to be “cafeteria Christians” picking and choosing what to believe while ignoring, distorting and lying about the rest of Scripture. For a time, that is, then like a lion he devours them.

  10. Emanuelle says:

    What an evil denomination. It makes me sick that I ever belonged to this “cult.”

  11. Robert Placer says:

    This is the revival of pre-Christian European paganism. This is idolatry, worshiping a God of your own creation. This is the great reversal of our European pagan ancestors who renounced all of this to be baptized as Christians.

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