While it did not surprise me, it still saddened me to learn that Bishop Gene Robinson will be excluded from participating in any meaningful way in the Lambeth Conference of Bishops. Bishop Robinson responded to this slight with his usual combination of vulnerability and grace. Actually, to refer to his exclusion as a "slight" is inadequate. It is diabolical - literally, a splitting apart of that which should be united - the very opposite of the symbolic role of bishops in the Anglican Communion.
For so many of us, Bishop Robinson has been a symbol of the unity of gay and lesbian Anglicans with the larger Anglican Communion. As such, his exclusion feels like an attack on our dignity as well as on the integrity of the Church. It is painful to know that our acceptance is so very conditional, if real at all.
Yet Bishop Robinson is always the first to remind us that we are loved beyond our wildest imagining. Human dignity is our birthright signified in baptism, rooted in God's unconditional love. And it is inviolable. When we take our identity from God, the decisions of others no longer have the power to define us or determine our destiny. We are free.
And so, the question is: "How will we respond to the dynamic of scapegoating and exclusion?" Grounded in God's love, we can choose to do so non-defensively, joyfully, and courageously. We have the opportunity in this moment to rise above fear and resentment to offer the unconditional love of God to those who would scorn us. This Love comes to us through the Resurrection in the form of forgiveness. As forgiven and forgiving victims, we discover that we need not identify with our victimization, instead claiming our identity as children of God and heirs with Christ Jesus of a divine inheritance.
This is not easy. Surely it will be painful. But by joining our suffering with that of the Forgiving Victim, Jesus Christ, we can transcend our suffering in acts of compassionate witness to the reality of unity that the Church all to frequently obscures.
Now is the time for creative, nonviolent resistance to the mechanism of scapegoating and diabolic division. I would encourage every bishop from our Church to bring at least one gay or lesbian person from his or her diocese to Lambeth to surround that meeting with prayer. I would encourage each bishop to wear a black armband throughout the conference as a sign of solidarity and mourning with Gene.
The bishops who are our straight allies now bear a very special burden and responsibility. They must be very, very careful about speaking for gay and lesbian people. I would invite them to consider refusing to do so, finding ways to block the Lambeth Conference from making ANY decisions that affect LGBT Anglicans until such time as we are consulted about our own lives, relationships, and ministries. Would it be possible to put forward a statement to that effect?
Write to the Archbishop of Canterbury and gently remind him of the responsibilities of his office. Do not do so with judgment or vituperation. Remember that he is a man of conscience, and may well be divided against himself, in quite a bit of pain over his own decisions. The only feeling I can muster with regard to Rowan Williams is compassion. May God have mercy on him.
Make a contribution to the Listening Process in your diocese. During Lent, my mostly LGBT congregation met with an almost exclusively straight congregation for four weeks to listen to the stories of gay and lesbian Christians (and straight allies) and discuss readings on the topic. It was transforming for all of us (and the best part - the "straight" congregation invited us into the conversation!)
Most importantly, as Gene has urged his sister and brother bishops, stay at the Table. No one can define your relationship with God for you. No one can define you in or out of the very life of the Trinity into which you were joined in baptism. Keep bearing witness, keep being Christ for your neighbor, and trust that God will do the rest. You may well be the sign of hope that God is using as a means of grace for someone who is still struggling on the Way.
As we prepare to walk the Way of the Cross this Holy Week, it is good to remember that in the midst of what seems like failure the power of God to save is revealed. God is made known in how we respond to failure - including the failure of the Anglican Communion to be the Body of Christ in its fullness. How will we respond?