"As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves
with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave
or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in
Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's
offspring, heirs according to the promise." Galatians 3:27-29 (NRSV)
And it’s a wrap.
General Convention 2012 is now one for the history books.
From my perch here on my last night in this Indianapolis
hotel room, I am struck by a combination of wonder, gratitude and just plain
exhaustion. This church has done
so much over the last couple of weeks, and they’ve also been long.
And in that spirit of Eucharist – of thanksgiving – and of
the comfort and challenge communion offers, I offer a couple of snapshops from
my experience of two communion services in the latter part of Convention: The Integrity Eucharist and the
It was a huge honor to serve alongside Bishop Mary
Glasspool, Bishop Gene Robinson, and Deacon Carolyn Woodall in the
service. And words cannot describe
the emotion of the evening, which was a capstone to the passage of resolutions
D019 and D002 earlier that day. The crowd of 1600 was positively
elated. Members of the
TransEpiscopal team sat in seats of honor in the front row. I have no words for how I felt looking
out from the platform, seeing both longstanding TransEpiscopal teammates and
newer members, several of whom are mentees (or, as became our GC joke,
padawans…) and friends from Massachusetts. I was particularly proud of our young adult presence this
year. There they all were being
preached to, directly, by +Gene Robinson, who emphasized again and again, “we
were not meant to live in tents.”
Referencing the nomadic life of Abraham and Sarah, he
underscored how we should expect to be on the move, to be challenged, to grow
comfortable with new understanding and then to be challenged yet again. This is the work of the Spirit, +Gene preached,
the Spirit that continues to flow among us, opening us to truths that Jesus told us we
could not yet bear. As John
16:12-13 puts it, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear
them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.” This has become one of my
favorite passages over the last several years, particularly since I began
working in earnest on trans issues in the church. It's obviously one of +Gene’s favorites as well.
The following day the House of Deputies debated one of the
major LGBT related resolutions of General Convention, #A049, which authorized a
blessing of same sex couples that was developed over the previous
triennium. It, too, passed in a
landslide. It was a huge moment
for a church that does so much of its theology through its liturgical practice
and development. It is one thing
for couples to already be able to receive a blessing—or even to have their marriage solemnized in church, as Bishop Shaw authorizes clergy to do in the Diocese of
Massachusetts—but it is another thing for The Episcopal Church to officially
authorize a blessing rite.
Meanwhile, TransEpiscopal was preparing for another
Eucharist. Today I noticed a tweet
from someone that read, “I hesitate to ask, but what is a TransEpiscopal
Eucharist”? In short, it was a
service of Communion organized and lead by members of TransEpiscopal to which
all were invited. We came into the
2009 Convention with no plans for such a service, but were persuaded by friends
within TransEpiscopal, Integrity, and the Episcopal Women’s Caucus to gather in
that way. In 2009 it was
small—maybe twenty people – but very powerful. We gathered in a circle around a table at the back of
Integrity’s conference room, shared scripture readings, a group reflection, and
the holy gifts of bread and wine.
At one point, someone held up a camera and snapped a photo that conveys
well the service’s intimate feel.
2009 TransEpiscopal Eucharist
This year we decided to do a service again, planning the
liturgy more in advance yet still leaving plenty of room for the Spirit to move
our preparations. As Iain Stanford
and I finished putting the liturgy together in Integrity’s nerve center, the
debate in the House of Deputies on the blessing liturgy was live
streaming. The liturgy passed just
as we finished our work. What a
As it so happened, our openness to the Spirit’s blowing
allowed us to transform the service into a combination of both Baptism and
Eucharist. One of the totally
unexpected delights of the Convention was meeting a genderqueer identified
transman who, it turns out, came into Convention considering baptism. TransEpiscopal volunteers instantly
bonded with him, grafting him into the team. And when Elizabeth Kaeton, President of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus,
baptized another General Convention attendee in the hotel fountain earlier this
week, our new friend wondered whether he too might take this step here, rather
than back in his home state.
Several long, inspired conversations later, it was apparent that the
TransEpiscopal Eucharist was the perfect context for this moment.
I had never had the privilege of doing an adult baptism
before, nor had I baptized someone from the trans community. This was a truly holy moment. It also followed a long period of
reflection—in place of a sermon—in which nearly all of the forty or so gathered
people participated. There was
such joy, love, wonder in that room.
It was such a privilege to see the various roles played by both clergy
and laity, trans and allied. As
Rev. Carla Robinson invited us, we all shared the bread and wine with one
another, a fitting follow-up to the renewal of our baptismal covenants. We were living fully into our
membership in this one body—this changing, challenging body—and not simply our
own, there in the Integrity meeting room, but that of the wider convention, of
the wider church.
As we come to the end of this powerful Convention, we stand
at a kind of commencement. An
ending/beginning. We are stepping
into a new chapter in the life of The Episcopal Church. TransEpiscopal’s and IntegrityUSA’s
prioritized resolutions were and are part of something much larger.
+Gene Robinson told us, “we were meant to live in
tents.” Yet even tents can perhaps prove too
constraining. On the Transfiguration
Mount where Peter, James and John beheld the already/not yet resurrected Christ,
Peter’s impulse was to “make three booths” or “dwellings,” to try to pin Jesus
down, to pitch his tent among us and stay for a while. A long while. But we weren’t meant to stay on that mount forever. We were meant to travel back down, to walk
through unforeseen valleys and reach the other side.
We were meant to be transfigured.
**All photos except the 2009 TransEpiscopal Eucharist, were taken by Anderson C.