This week, I continue with more reflections from the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. Look for posts in the days to come that give some insight into the experiences of the week, the take-home lessons, the pondering questions still ruminating in me. Thanks for following along!
On Saturday evening of General Convention, we were invited to a revival at a local church. The revival was powerful and clearly moving to many in the crowd. Of particular note was the Spanish translator hired to translate for Bishop Curry. She was poised, animated, and seemed to feed off Bishop Curry’s energy. I do not know how she did it, but the two of them really seemed to be preaching together – to be dancing in God’s word as they preached a message of love and life. Even for someone whose Spanish is minimal, I found her translation and presence really made Bishop Curry’s sermon come alive in a new way.
But what has been staying with me about that evening was the protest outside the church. Members of Westboro Baptist Church gathered to protest what the Episcopal Church has been doing; from their signs, I understand they are mostly upset about the ordination of women, and our inclusion of the LGBTQ community in ordained and married life. In the course of my life, I have had many conversations about both of those issues, including people confronting me about my own ordination and my theological understanding about the expansiveness of God’s love for all. Those conversations have sometimes been hard, hurtful, and even anger-inducing. But ultimately, they were always conversations – things said to my face, debates had between people, disagreements had within the context of relationship.
So the sentiments of the protestors was not new to me (although some of the language used against female pastors would have made many clutch their pearls). What was heartbreaking was seeing a preteen standing next to her mother with a sign that read, “No Women Preachers – 1 Tim. 2.12.” I went back and reread 1 Timothy 12, and I confess, a good portion of the chapter is about wives submitting to their husbands, keeping silent, allowing their husbands to lead. We’ll talk about that in another blog post. But as I looked at the young girl, I remembered all the times I started asking hard questions about things I had read in the Bible that did not seem to make sense – that did not seem to jive with the wide embrace of God’s love. I remembered the Sunday School teacher who encouraged us to read the Bible literally, condemning her own current marriage because she had once been divorced. I remember feeling a sense of discomfort until I found liberation in the Episcopal Church – a church that taught me to ask hard questions, to be uncomfortable in the ambiguity, to be released from the bonds of literal biblical interpretation, and to read the Bible in a new way.
Holding all that in my mind, I grieved for this young woman. I sorrowed for the mother standing next to her, teaching her to keep silent, and to disrespect every woman who believes God is empowering us with God’s word. I lamented the hate being inculcated into this young girl. I mourned the light being limited in her life. As female preachers poured out of buses for the revival, I found myself wanting to whisper into her ear, “God’s love is bigger than the words in 1 Timothy.” Holy Scripture has been used time and again to limit God’s love, grace, and mercy. I am sure I am guilty of a similar sin in one way or another; perhaps even this blog post is an exercise in sinful presumption. My prayer for all of us is that we have people whispering in our ears words of truth, reconciliation, and peace. Let not the work of the Holy Spirit be extinguished in us.