As reported in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and elsewhere, the American Episcopal Church now seems irrevocably split between the traditional Episcopal Church and the brand-new Anglican Church of North America, recently formed specifically in opposition to the way the Episcopal Church kept refusing to apologize for ordinating, six years ago, the openly gay Gene Robinson as one of its many bishops.
It's pro-gay Episcopalians versus anti-gay Episcopalians, basically. The result is that there's now another American Christian denomination. I believe that brings the total to 575, 224,676, 459, 937, if you don't count the Mormons.
As it happens, I go to an Episcopal church. I am an Episcopalian, actually--I went through the oil-and-ashes ceremony and everything. My wife and I belong to San Diego's massive St. Paul's Cathedral. The former dean of St. Paul's is John Bryson Chane, now the Episcopal bishop of Washington, D.C., and CEO of the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation, which oversees the operations of Washington National Cathedral.
The former dean of my church is now the dean of what amounts to America's church!
I would guess that 30% of St. Paul's congregants are openly gay. It could be as high as fifty percent. I have no idea. I just know it's a lot of its great many members. When we joined up with it, my wife and I had no idea that St. Paul's was a gay-friendly church. We just thrilled to its worship service--and the more we learned about Episcopalianism, the more we liked it. Plus, the cathedral was really close to our home. So we signed up. And it's been a great church. A lot of people there aren't overly thrilled by the church's gay-friendliness, but they stick with it anyway. Everybody gets along. It's nice.
A lot of conservative Christians understandably chafe at the reason the Episcopal Church gave for deciding at its recent convention that "any ordained ministry" is open to gay men and lesbians. Many leaders at that convention said their decision to thusly effectively revoke their three-year-old moratorium on ordaining homosexual bishops was less a matter of doctrinal preference than it was a bow to practical reality.
By way of justifying their decision what they said, in effect, was, "We already have so many gay men and lesbians in our church; it's ridiculous to pretend they aren't already making all kinds of decisions about who gets elected to what. We're just acknowledging the reality we're already living.
But for conservatives, of course---and, again, absolutely understandably---that isn't anywhere near a good enough excuse for the continued tolerance of homosexuals in Christian churches.
"Show them the door," has become a rallying cry of conservative Christians toward unrepentantly gay Christians.
My church founded and operates a charity in Tijuana, Mexico called Dorcas House. From St. Paul's website: "Dorcas House is foster home in Tijuana, Mexico for children whose parents are in prison. St. Paul's Cathedral is a major underwriter and supporter of Dorcas House, providing operating funds, staff support, medical aid and much more. It is the dream of the Friends of Dorcas House that the children of prisoners have a safe place to sleep, enough food to stave off hunger, and a nurturing environment where they can grow and learn. The hope is that each child may someday understand the love of Jesus Christ through the people who invest in their young lives."
Dorcas House is an amazing ministry. It saves children's lives, period.
Dorcas House absolutely depends for its existence upon gay men and lesbians who call St. Paul's their spiritual home. Without their unceasing support and dedication to it, Dorcas House would collapse overnight.
Are we still supposed to expel from our church our gay and lesbian congregants? How does that work, exactly? Do we just trade the glory of Dorcas House for showing the door to the very people who built and sustain it?
In the name of Christianity, do we really stop giving food, shelter and love to starving, homeless children?
That gays and lesbians shouldn't be in our churches---that, in fact, they can't be real Christians---seems like such a simple and obvious truth. But, like all simple and obvious truths, the more you look at it, the more complex and mystifying it gets.