Recently a group of people of our diocese gathered to discuss our state's newly implemented law allowing same gender civil unions. I was asked to share the process that the parish at which I had been interim rector several years ago used for its educational process in determining if that parish would offer same gender blessings. I'd lost the files that I'd kept on this process--though just the other day I accidentally came across them in a box on the floor of the closet. Just in time to be too late. Without the files and with my unreliable memory, I faltered in the telling of the story, which deserved a better fate. I spoke extemporaneously, and without a lot of forethought. I deservedly learned--or relearned--that foot-in-mouth disease has no upward age limit. With the crystal clear vision of hindsight, I realize how much I relied on my own ability to "snow" my way through anything. I also realized that I hadn't taken this event nearly as seriously as it deserved.
Had I done my homework more thoroughly I would have spent more thought on justice issues than on how well we did the process. I focused on how "balanced" the process was with attention being given to both sides of the issue. How much more effective it would have been for me to have considered how that must sound to people who are being treated as those who have to wait for others to determine their worthiness. As if both sides have equal validity! One priest very astutely mentioned, in our small group discussion, how inappropriate it would have been if in the discussion of civil rights for African American citizens we offered a "balanced" presentation. As if both sides have equal validity.
At the time we did this process, it seemed like the right thing to do, and probably if I had to relive that time, I might still do it the same way, given who we were and who I was then. But if I had to do it now, I believe I'd be sickened by trying to give equal time to all views. Maybe being retired has allowed me to be less timid about speaking the truth to power. Being democratic is not always the same as being just. Behaving "pastorally" is not always the same as behaving in accordance with Gospel imperatives. An educational process is not limited to presenting all views on a subject.
I believe the Church at its best is really trying to do the right thing, the loving thing, the Gospel thing. Perhaps one impediment to being even better at that would be to revisit our need to keep everyone in the parish happy--or maybe revisit our need to keep everyone in the parish--by giving equal weight to each one's position on an issue. Haven't we all participated in parish polls to determine who the new rector should be and come up with a job description that even Jesus wouldn't fill! And based our choice on what the majority wanted instead of what the faith community and the world needs...
"In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations." (From The Great Law of The Iroquois Confederacy) To our credit, we're beginning to take this idea to heart when we think of the natural environment. I wonder if we should transfer this idea to how we do our decision-making in the Church and local parish, as well. It seems as if we often base our choices on what the current group of people around us approve of and will reward us for by continuing to come to church and sign a pledge card. What if we could listen to what our seventh generation descendants will say of the choices we've made and how we made them?
I've spun in all directions since that gathering, wishing I'd thought through some of these things before showing up. Hopefully, Love will forgive my thoughtless arrogance in believing I knew all I needed to know, and had done all I needed to do, to participate. And perhaps Love will also award me a point or two for taking away from the experience a sadder but better wisdom.