For more years than I like to contemplate, I have attended church services waiting for a time bomb. As soon as I realised the epistle was from one of those notorious areas where Paul discusses sexuality, my hackles would rise in anticipation of the sermon. Of course, in most cases, nothing was mentioned and I would calm down, partake of the Eucharist and shake hands with the rector as I left. Every few years my fears would be realised and the sermon would condemn homosexuality and I would become the drama queen, march out and never darken the doors of that church again. The first time in the 80's I had read the epistle then sat down to hear homosexuality compared to bestiality. I wrote to the rector and we exchanged letters but I was removed from the list of readers, I have never offered to read since. The last was not long after I had been overwhelmed by the movie "Brokeback Mountain" only to hear it condemned ( I am sure sight unseen)from the pulpit. Finally I decided to take the step and try the 2 city parishes which I had been told were gay accepting although I live 80km from the city. I began attending St James, King Street where the weekly bulletin on the front page "welcomes all people regardless of age, race, sexual orientation or religion." I saw women taking a major role in the service, they never even read a lesson at my previous parish, and even preaching at times. Some were ordained women from outside the diocese, often returning as guests to the city where they grew up but where they cannot be ordained a priest. Before long I heard a sermon accepting gay people. Just like last Sunday when Michael Horsburgh preached on the Baptism of our Lord and acknowledged that Jesus was accepting his identity and then went on to affirm the identity of women and gay people as members of the church. Sermons are no longer posted on the website unfortunately . The website has just been updated so perhaps they will return later, I hope so.
Now I have been directed to the Christmas Eve sermon of Bishop Nathan Baxter of the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania
You need to read the whole sermon but one passage stands out.
"when we look at our Gay and Lesbian brothers and sisters in Christ--- those who over the years have shared pew and altar railing with us---when we see their love and devotion to Christ, to the Church and its mission---and yes, to one another, we know Christ is seeking to be born once again in our midst, just as he has done many times before. Can we hear the Angel---the messenger of God---speak within, “Fear Not, this is of the Holy Spirit”? I pray we can. For to be driven by fear is not of God. Fear makes us prisoners of safety rather than agents of hope. Fear keeps us from asking with an open heart, could this be of God?"
He goes on to describe the battles in the past to accept black men (he is an African American) and women which he describes as won. Sadly not for women in Sydney.
The Episcopal Church led the way with the ordination of women and is now at the forefront of the fight for acceptance of Gays and Lesbians. The Diocese of North Carolina has made a statement in support at its recent Synod. I am praying for them in this time of turmoil and strife. I am also thankful that I no longer have to fear a condemnatory sermon one Sunday and can even expect an occasional one which is explicit in its acceptance.
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