Every time I look at the photo with me in the background on the TransEpiscopaal Facebook page and blog I remember how important it was for me to be there at GC 2012. You see, at that time I wasn’t what you would call an active member of TransEpiscopal, working on important legislation or volunteering at the TransEpiscopal booth in the exhibition hall. No, I was more of a lurker on the list serve and had been for a number of years. I was there to track legislation, however, and I was there to attend a very special Eucharist. And as it turned out, I was there to attend the triennial family reunion of the church. I attended General Convention 2012 in Indianapolis for very personal reasons.
Having no responsibilities at the convention as a visitor I was free to go from house to house observing our church at work. The first day I was there I immediately took note of the gender neutral bathroom facility strategically placed between the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. I know, you’re thinking bathrooms? But for me that was an incredible statement my church made. The church that I grew up in, in a very tangible way, supported me and all gender non-conforming children of God.
Sitting in the galleries of both houses listening to the discussion on resolutions D019 and D002 filled me with hope for my church. The bishops and deputies who stood up in support of these resolutions was a powerful witness to the broad, inclusive church I was proud to be a member of. Even those who stood in opposition of these resolutions filled me with hope because we are not a monolithic tradition here in The Episcopal Church. It reminded me that the tent is indeed big and it reminded me that even with these nondiscrimination clauses added to the canons, we have much work left to do to gain true acceptance throughout the church. As the votes were cast and tallied in both the House of Bishops and House of Deputies there was a deep sense of gratitude, joy, and acceptance that washed over me. It was quite surreal actually. With this monumental decision (at least in my eyes) the Episcopal Church gave me the “cover” I thought was necessary for me to come out and live authentically after 21 years as a priest in the church.
The evening before I left the convention and headed for home, I attended the TransEpiscopal Eucharist. It was a perfect way to rejoice with others the incredible gains achieved at GC2012. It was also the first time I was in a room, worshipping with others, who knew me. Fully knew me. At that Eucharist I began a journey that brought me out of the shadows of lurking on a list serve. I was no longer on the sidelines of my community and stepped onto the playing field, simply by being known.
And so every time I see that banner across the top of TransEpiscopal’s blog or Facebook page with me standing in the background I am reminded of how far we have come as a church and how much I have grown. It hasn’t all been pretty or easy the past three years. There have been many losses and disappointments. There has also been resurrection and new life, in the church and personally.
Legislation is never antiseptic and removed from the lives of people. It is deeply personal and affects the lives of many whether we can see them or know them, understand them or even agree with them. Individuals like me are always held in the balance of the decisions we make as a church. Even as individuals like me are held in the balance by GC decisions, at the same time GC decisions do not necessarily prevent individuals from encountering difficulty. That experience certainly held true for me. It was most difficult to seek the dissolution of the pastoral relationship with a parish and people I deeply love and who loved me. We need to live into GC decisions, to engage and embrace them in our congregations and dioceses. What we do at GC truly does matter because of the connections between the layers of our church.
I look forward to joining my colleagues and friends of TransEpiscopal in Salt Lake City to continue our work in the church. I am attending this General Convention because it is personal. Because there will be others attending this year who are just like I was three years ago, desperately looking for a place to call home, feel the support of their church, and experience the transforming power of the love of God.