Friday, July 25, 2008
The Latest From Bishop Mary Grey-Reeves
“While the arc of progress is long, it bends toward justice.”
Yesterday I had the pleasure of participating in the Walk of Witness with all participants of Lambeth and ecumenical partners. England’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown gave an inspiring and heartfelt speech about our need to be tenacious in our efforts to halve world poverty by 2015. A man comfortable with the scriptures and clearly a heartfelt desire for justice in the world, he reminded us that we are behind in our goals, very behind. Dr. Helen Wangusa, Anglican observer to the United Nations noted in Lambeth communication to us that the needs of women and children are particularly lagging, and that when their needs are better addressed in a society, as a whole, that society improves greatly. One can see the correlation between the level of human rights and the economic and political access of women and children in any given country around the world. A reporter tried to corner me into saying that the Church of England’s slow progress of women in the episcopate and its inherent hypocrisy was negatively affecting the MDG’s progress. I replied that this was true – as it was also true that America’s hypocrisy and apathy toward the world’s poor negatively affected our progress toward serving the least among us. No one is off the hook when it comes to global poverty, and no one entity can be blamed for the grave injustice that insidiously rests in political power play impacting the most basic of human needs: food distribution, access to clean water, housing and education. We humans are joined at the hip.
Likewise, any thought of disassociating ourselves from those who have expressed contradictory views to our pursuit of human rights for gay, lesbian, transgendered and bisexual persons needs to be considered, and then released. The Archbishop of Sudan, Daniel Deng Bul made a difficult statement the other day, calling for +Gene Robinson’s resignation. He is not the first to ask for this, and it makes sense given his context. For those who are offended by this, I ask you to suspend that feeling. Judgmental thinking is always an option – you can do it anytime – but for the next 20 minutes say, release it. In that 20 minutes pray for the poor and respond in some way that will make a difference to their daily lives. While the rights of all are connected, back up, if you will, on the arc of progress, give thanks for the rights we enjoy every day, and use them for the good of another. Jesus spoke most about God’s hunger for justice and service to the poor. There is no litmus test on that. We do not as Christians get to assess the politics and moral values that surround the poor and then judge whether or not there is sufficient compatibility for the work of the gospel. Archbishop Bul noted in his statement, “it is not personal….” It is on one level, however, it really isn’t in his context. Having lived in Miami, an international city of Latin America, I am quite used to double-speak. It isn’t personal, it isn’t fully honest or transparent (an American value that is lived out only some of the time), but in some contexts it does keep people alive. Sudan begins a fragile Peace after more than 20 years of civil war. I cannot begin to understand that, let alone judge it.
My mother was the American connection to El Hogar de Amor y Esperanza in Tegucigalpa, Honduras in the 80’s and early 90’s. She collected money and goods to get to the more than 100 orphaned boys who were cared for and educated by missionaries of The Episcopal Church, a ministry that continues and thrives today, but which began with a priest and his wife literally picking up two abandoned boys off the street one day. She worked ecumenically and with anyone who would help her. Sometimes she was herself the mule for medicine, supplies, clothes, shoes, etc. One of the things she learned to do was bribe customs officers when arriving in Honduras. Having been taught respectable manners and values by my mother, I remember being slightly appalled that she would do such a thing. Her response was a roll of the eyes, “Mary, those children are waiting for me on the other side – get it in perspective.”
For those concerned about +Daniel’s statement, I ask you to be patient and keep perspective. Our diocese has a lot of ties to Sudan and offers a lot of support. Do not miss a beat in that work. For Jesus’ sake, do not punish the poor of Sudan for this very long Anglican arc of justice regarding the human dignity and full inclusion of our GLBT members. We will not stop that work and are speaking clearly and calmly about unbelievable misperceptions regarding the state of The Episcopal Church. Remember that we are all joined at the hip; justice in one context is connected to justice in another. For those of us who are currently blessed with more rights and more justice, how shall we serve those with less?
Our bishops meet with bishops of the Sudan and Tanzanzia tomorrow evening to have more frank discussion about companion relationships. Courting for love of the poor and all the marginalized is happening all over this campus in all sorts of ways. Non-reactive conversations continue as we keep perspective. I flow with the wily movement of the Holy Spirit; I remember my mother’s eyes and stories of little boys who have grown up loved and educated to be part of the rebirth of a country. May we be so privileged.
I thank you for your prayers, and again, am humbled to be here representing El Camino Real to the Anglican world, and the Anglican world to you.
I See You!
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