Turning language upside down

The dean of Virginia Theological Seminary has turned language on LGBT inclusion  on its head and applied it to conservatives who feel "excluded" by progress towards same gender blessings and other issues. He claims it is the conservative Christian - not the LGBT Christian  -  that  is in danger of being driven out of the chruch.   

"There are those who are using the language if inclusion to justify exclusion," wrote The Very Rev. Ian Markham today in the Center Aisle newsletter.  "There are voices that insist that anyone who insist that anyone who has the temerity to believe in traditional marriage, confined to a woman and a man, should not be allowed in the Episcopal Church...there are plenty of voices that want to exclude in the name of exclusion," he wrote in an article titled General Convention Needs Genuine Diversity.
 
"We are so sure we are right that we don't welcome conservatives," he continued. "Let us continue to welcome our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters as intrinsic members of the chruch; but let us also extend a warm and affirming welcome to our conservative brothers and sisters.    
 
Which makes me wonder which General Convention - and which church - the Very Rev. Dean has been attending.Here is what I've witnessed at this General Convention:
  •  Testimony before and debate within Committees has been both respectful and gracious. 
  • Differences of belief have been spoken, heard and considered. 
  • One committee stopped consideration on a measure so a subcommittee could adjust the text in a way to make the measure more acceptable in response to a single bishop. 
  • Today's debate on a liturgy for blessing same gender couples stands as a model for how we should conduct our business. 
  • In decision after decision Committees have sought the via media, the middle way between opposing views as the path for moving forward. Diversity of opinion has not given way to harsh views or abusive interactions. 
 
Here's what I have seen outside the General Convention:
 
  • As the President of Oasis California, I speak for and work toward inclusion of  LGBT people as equal members of the Body of Christ which is the Church. Some of my stakeholders are liberal, some are conservative, in terms of theology and politics. Some support blessing same gender couples, other do not. All are welcome in our ministry.
  • As an Episcopal hospital chaplain I minster to people who are straight or gay, conservative or liberal, women or men, white or of color. Some are liberal, some are conservative, in terms of theology and politics. Some support blessing same gender couples, other do not. All are welcome in my ministry.
  • As an assisting parish priest in Christ Church of Alameda, CA, I serve, preach and teach  a congregation with a diversity op theological and political opinions. Some support blessing same gender couples, other do not. All are welcome in our congregation.
 
This is the reality I live in one of the most liberal areas of America, living across the bay from San Francisco. And I don't see evidence to supporting the Very Rev. Dean's claim that those who support LGBT inclusion are tying to drive conservatives from the Episcopal Chruch.
 
Our history shows the opposite is true: those who have left this chruch have done so at their own insistence. Let us remember the Bishops who refused to ordain women for more than three decades after church policy permitted women to become priests.  Let us remember the bitter fight against women's ordination and LGBT inclusion has left scars on the heart of our chruch and our people. Let us also remember that those who left have often been welcomed back to their old church homes with open arms. Bishops of Maryland, Connecticut, Pittsburg and Virginia have offered reconciliation to those who left. And the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson has personally reached out to his colleagues in the House of Bishops offering real reconciliation to all who seek it. 
 
All of this suggests the Very Rev. Dean's complaint that conservatives are not welcome in today's Episcopal Church should be considered in a new context.  Otherwise our language can be twisted until it becomes meaningless, until ''up' is said to mean 'down' and 'left' is said to mean 'right.'  Here's a diffferent approach. 
 
If conservatives are not being welcomed then perhaps they should show some gracious restraint and not rush to judgement by painting all LGBT advocates with the same broad - and misleading - brush. Perhaps we should recognize that healing takes time, especially when some in the church insist on opening new wounds. I don't suggest Dean Markham supports or is involved in some of the vicious actions by self-proclaimed conservatives. Unfortunately, the hurt caused by the divisive few can bleed onto other conservatives who do not delight in demeaning those with whom they disagree.   
 
If some Episcopalians are not welcoming conservatives with grace, that may be the result of how some conservatives wage their war against change. If you want to see what I mean, check out the ironically named "Virtue online." People who have been wounded by the divisive and destructive tactics of some conservatives may be justifiably afraid to welcome then or those who share their conservative beliefs. Healing and reconciliation takes time and effort. Most of all it requires both conservatives set their house in order and stop - or at the very least disassociate themselves - from the unchristian acts of their fellow travelers. We in Oasis California - and I expect many others who stand for LGBT inclusion - would be happy to reach out to any conservative who has feels rejected. Now it is time for those on the opposing side to step up and do the same.