courtesy http://www.gospelgifs.com/Dear Ones:
"It is done." This is the first thing that came to my mind this afternoon after a newspaper article was brought to my attention. A little background, first:
It is our custom here in this household to read and 'keep' the newspapers on a corner of the kitchen table. My husband retrieves and reads the daily paper with his breakfast and then leaves it there for others. On 'slow days' I will generally give it a peek or even a good read before the end of the work day.
The last few days, however, as sometimes happens, I got behind in my newspaper reading. The fact is, I depend on 'in person', word-of-email and word-of-internet (and the phone) to get my breaking news. Eventually, of course, I have a chance to catch up. But today, I had a unique experience.
My day started early. Having done a good deal of writing, I had a late lunch and decided to check out today's paper. I scanned the front page and noted the City reps attendance headline. I noted couples celebrating Valentine's Day in the mid-piece and then my eye latched onto a photo at the bottom of the page. There I saw Carl and Grace LeVander and Carmine and Josephine Pikero renewing their vows at St. Leo Parish church in Stamford.
"Ahhhhh...that is the way it's supposed to be", I sighed to myself. 'Supposed to be' in the sense that these couples so embrace and respect their original marriage vows that they wanted to repeat them! And also, if I am to be as honest with others as I am with myself, I also reflected that my 'supposed to be' also referred to men and women being joined in Holy Matrimony in a Sanctuary setting. More specifically, in my Sanctuary setting.
Up until a few months ago, I might have been inclined to tolerate gay marriage, just not in my sanctuary. But now that I know how 'in your face' the GLBT contingency of the UCC is, I now have a very different opinion. And before the 'church progressives' think that my 'tolerance' is not something they need to consider, consider this: I am yet a member. I have yet a vote. I may resign or maybe you'll stone me or put me in stocks out front (that would be cool). Really, neither of us cares anymore, so just know that for now, I am entitled to my own opinion unaltered and unadulterated by you. So just read about how you turned me off to a few things.
Let me explain my newfound doubts about gay marriage at our church. For not the first time in my life, I feel I have done my job too well. Having been an influential member of the "Open and Affirming" (O & A) Committee at The First Congregational Church primarily as Senior Deacon, back then, I have a vested interested in the gay marriage vote. The O & A Committee agreed upon and shared with the Congregation that 'voting for us to become an O & A church DID NOT NECESSARILY MEAN THAT WE WERE VOTING FOR GAY MARRIAGE IN OUR FINE OLD CHURCH.'
Got that? Good. It's a matter of record, despite what is anyone says about it.
For the four plus years of the O & A's Committee's existence, as I tried to convince the more conservative faction of the congregation that voting to become an O & A church was a good thing, I used the qualifier above. No way, no how did this mean that we were voting for gay marriage. We were only going to be open and affirming and inclusive and we even expanded our O & A Statement to include everybody, but everybody as is the way of most United Church of Christ (UCC) churches.
My arguments must have worked, because the O & A vote 'squeeked by'. We had made a major inroad in making Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered feel welcome at our church. I personally was convinced that the 'nay-sayers' would be persuaded, also, that this was a good thing. The only problem was that 'stupid me' actually believed what I'd been told by all the members of the O & A Committee. I really fell for the 'inclusiveness and welcoming argument' (moderates and conservatives need not apply, thank you) And I believed what 'they'd' said about gay marriage, even as the congregation was morphing into an obvious 'culture of sameness' climaxing in today's big news.
Speed ahead to the new pastor at FCC Stamford, the Rev.Dr. Cari Jackson, lesbian and black rights champion. Her choice, from what I've been told, was a close vote by the Pastoral Search Committee. Over the years it took that dear Committee to do it's duty, many church members and attendees started withholding money and attendance flagged. Finally, the vote for the new Pastor was whittled down to the core group left to carry the load for those who hadn't yet resigned the UCC. Of course, Rev Cari had a strong majority--no surprise there. The 'house' always wins.
From day one, Rev Cari Jackson's agenda has been to install Gay Marriage into the fabric of FCC Stamford's tapestry of official services. This was very obvious, so it was no surprise when I heard her (at one of my rare appearances in the pews, nowadays) ring out proudly in the sanctuary on the day of the church's Gay Marriage vote state what she stated. Now I don't know if this is Rev Cari Jackson's interpretation or if she was 'misinformed' by some members or both....But I do recall her saying before the gay marriage vote, "The O & A Committee spent a great deal of time (she had to check with a church officer on the O & A Committee for how many years that was, exactly) to get to this point. And then, Rev Cari Jackson stated something to the effect that "of course, the work of the O & A Committee was conducted all in preparation for getting a gay marriage voted passed". Really? REALLY? How did I MISS that? I have a memory like an elephant. I recall something very different from years past, and that not at all what Rev Cari Jackson stated.
As this new pastor stated what she did with such enthusiasm, joy and certainty, I said to myself, "SAY WHHHHHHAT????" Who is she kidding? Is she for real? That's a load of....." OOps, time to remember where I am, in the church sanctuary.
Tsk, tsk....Airing out the church's dirty laundry in public, well no harm done. If this is front page news for the Advocate, I'd wager that it's front page news for all of us there, isn't it?
We follow...or pretend to follow...."Roberts Rules Of Order" at church meetings. It is my opinion that a preliminary pre-motion to postpone the gay marriage vote, the stage of which was set early on in the meeting by a long-term respected male member, was simply run roughshod over and the motion to vote in gay marriage immediately called and seconded. I felt it was a rude disregard not only for procedure, but for the spirit of truth we implicitly honor in situations such as this. But things were rushed like crazy and no surprise there. The house always wins.
Looking around FCC Stamford that day, I noticed that most of our long-term and moderate and conservative members (who can vote) were not there. What a sad note. I thought they might at least show up for this vote, at least. Did they stay away because they were leaving for good? Did they stay away for fear of being considered 'politically incorrect if they vote no'? Were they absent because of the 'socio-political in-your-face climate' so rampant now at FCC Stamford? I just don't know. But suffice it to say that the odds were skillfully stacked and gay marriage 'passed' with flying colors. No surprise there. The house always wins.
5He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." Rev 21:5 (NIV)
Or does the house always win? The fact is that FCC Stamford is dying financially, with no one to blame but the remnant of themselves. Not just the gay rights issue is causing controversy, but the new pastor Rev Cari Jackson, whose mentor is Rev James A. Forbes, is a preacher along the lines of one Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Mind you, Rev Cari Jackson is a softer, more lesbian version of the 'Rev Jeremiah Wright and Rev Otis Moss' genre, but they all share the same core beliefs and there's no getting away from it.
Which brings me back to today as I had my last spoonful of lunch, folded up the newspaper, 'The (Stamford) Advocate' and wrote "Done" with a smiley face : ) on top in blue magic marker so that all knew this paper was ready for the recycling bin. I went back to work and that was that...Or so I thought.
Shortly after I began writing again, my daughter held up the Advocate and said, "Are you kidding? You're done? Wow, you really are blind". I asked, "What are you talking about, Sweetheart?" She said, "Gay Marriage at the church. You mean you didn't see it? Well I think it's cool."
I couldn't believe that I'd totally not seen the front page photo. I'm talking a four-column wide photo of Rev Cari Jackson marrying church members Joseph Belisle and David Vintinner, 'pronouncing them husbands'. Could I have missed it? With crystal clarity, the purity of which is astounding when it is experienced, I breathed the living words, "It is done". That's it. That's all that came to me of what my soul must have been reflecting so vibrantly that I saw the photo, but didn't see the photo. And I thought that it is all kind of funny.
It's funny that I am so resigned to things at FCC Stamford (not a surprise to anyone reading this who knows me personally) I was blinder than usual. This was 'resignation blind' as opposed to a deliberate decision to 'skip things such as this'. Upon further digestion (of both my lunch and of my so-called 'funny' visual lapse), I directed myself to the phrase I cannot now get out of my head: "It is done". Funny how the subconcious mind works isn't it?
I am not a fire-and-brimstone preacher and I certainly never was a fire-and-brimstone Senior Deacon at FCC Stamford, but I certainly am a fool for believing the words of those who have distinct socio-political agendas. That is why, I find no pleasure in the derivation of this "It is done" Scripture verse. It's in too heavy a context and I will let the reader deduce what she will as I quote it here:
6He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death." Rev 21:6-8 (NIV)
This reading stands as it is. I am at the point where I am fond of saying, "Perhaps I did TOO GOOD a job with ONA". By this I mean that with honorable intentions I attempted to persuade people's votes at church to become an O & A church in the first place. I also did too good a job of 'scolding' the congregation at times over their lack of true hospitality to persons of color. Sure enough, any and all complaints were over "Barbara's guys" and you know what? I'm glad of it. You're not really so very inclusive and welcoming after all, are you? Oh well, I tried. I really, really tried with you, FCC Stamford.
As for "It is done", I won't comment on the morality or immorality of what's going on in a 'Christian' church by gays and lesbians. I don't attend there often enough at all to know anymore. But I do recognize 'revisionist history' and 'subversion of church history' being used by the 'newbies and their fans" in order to mislead others. I will testify publicly that they are being duplicitous and unfactual with their 'take' on things that happened before they were there.
Everything I've stated here can be verified by church historical documents, of course. Somewhere in a dustpile upstairs I even have 20 years as a church officer of my own copies, if for some reason anyone cares. But if the clerk of the church is doing her job and the archiver is doing hers and if all recordings of proceedings are honesty conducted, there's no problem, is there?
Of course not. "It is done", isn't it? Have your gay marriages, not that you need anyone's permission. That is not your way, is it? But just don't prevaricate about history you were never a part of, don't lie if you were a part of that history and don't tell me or anyone else what our opinions were or should be. That, you are not allowed to do and that I will point out, for the sake of the truth for the generations to come.
God will get you for that, of course. 'The house always wins', after all.
Reverend Barbara Sexton
February 15, 2010