March 24, 2011

We Gather Together: Conversations on Same-Gender Blessings 2

This is the second of two blogs I am sharing from Katrina Hamilton who represented the Diocese of Olympia at the church-wide consultation on Same-Sex Blessings in Atlanta. Katrina is the 25-year-old head of our deputation to next year’s General Convention which will be the third time she has served as a deputy.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

On our final day here I was reminded about the power of a voice. Today was not the first time (nor do I imagine the last) that someone has thanked me for talking. This has always seemed strange to me, especially because in junior high and high school talking too much often made me the object of ridicule. Back then it was seen as pushy and strange. At times, people seemed to think I was downright crazy for my tendency to express whatever I wanted to anyone, regardless of the situation.

In recent years I've received compliments, many of them during church events such as this. I never understood why until today.

This morning my small group reviewed some of the proposed teaching materials, and was asked to focus on several questions, including, "Why might a blessing service be seen as 'separate but equal' to some?"

Good discussion was had, ranging from the theological to the personal. We started in on how some members of the church were worried that allowing blessings or marriages for same-sex couples would involve something being forced onto them. We talked about our desire to keep everyone at the table, to allow individuals, congregations, and dioceses to practice as they see fit. We talked about the visceral reaction the phrase 'separate but equal' brings up, particularly members who lived through and participated in the civil rights movement. And this is where I came in. To the best of my recollection, this is what I said:

"I find myself facing a conundrum and I don't have an answer, so I wanted to share it with all of you. Not having lived through the civil rights movement myself, I can only go on what people tell me it was like. Based on that, I often find parallels between the two. My friends and I talk about how this isn't a sexuality issue, it's a human rights issue. Still, the Anglican and the Episcopalian in me loves the idea of accepting all points of view, telling everyone they are welcome here with us, and allowing people to express their faith as they see fit, even if I disagree with what they believe. But I can't help but think that if we were talking about race, this kind of thinking would make me sick to my stomach. Could you imagine us saying that if a congregation doesn't want to allow black people in to worship, they don't have to? I worry that in trying to allow for everyone's opinion, we are giving them the Church's blessing to marginalize people. But do we force the change? Doesn't that kind of forceful behavior just encourage resentment?

That is my conundrum, and I don't have an answer."

I got a lot of nodding heads. I was not the only one who had been thinking about it.

As we were leaving several of the group members thanked me specifically for my participation in the group, and especially for my comments today. Some said it was something they themselves have thought, but didn't feel comfortable bringing up.

As I said, I've been thanked for talking before, but I don't think I understood it until today. This is the power of a voice. It's not the person or their thoughts, but the potential that those thoughts are shared. Shared by those who seem to oppose you, and those who cannot or will not speak for themselves.

It seems fitting that I had this realization about the power of a single voice in Atlanta, the final resting place of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. This discussion is difficult for me. I imagine for those more personally affected it can be intolerable. I wish we could do more. I wish we could talk about marriage rites, not just blessings. I wish I could say we are a united front, and every member of the church is happy to join with us. I wish it was all going to be over soon. But it's not. All we can do is keep coming back to the table. All we can do is keep talking.

And I am very good at that.