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Convenient memory loss

by Charlie Smith


The Reverend Dr. Kendall Harmon of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina says that the Anglican Church is falling apart because of the ordination of gay clergy.
The Reverend Dr. Kendall Harmon of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina stated in a recent issue of the Charleston Post and Courier that “The [Anglican] communion did not come apart because of the ordination of women. [But] it did come apart because of the ordination of gay clergy.” Apparently he has a very short and convenient memory (see “Affirmation of St. Louis,” 1977).

Kendall Harmon sugarcoated and dismissed the viciousness of the fight 30 years ago against ordaining women to the priesthood, an apparent effort to validate his continuing viciousness “in the name of the Lord” against the full inclusion of gay and lesbian Christians within the Episcopal Church. He is not telling the truth about what happened in the 1970s and he is certainly not telling the truth about what is happening now.

There was a time when those who objected to the ordination of women and their licensure as lay readers and lay ministers covered their faces or walked out of services when women administered the chalice or read from the scriptures in many of the churches in our diocese. Some covered their ears during the readings if the scriptures were read by a woman.

When my own mother was licensed in the 1970s, I well remember the pain that I felt for her when people we knew would do these things during services. Many fine women layreaders and layministers during this time were targeted with rumors that they were lesbian feminists “out to prove something” by serving in these new capacities.
When the 1977 “Prayer Book” was adopted, these same obstructionists angrily muttered the words from the 1928 “Prayer Book” at the same time that the rest of the congregation was worshipping with the “new” one.

Contrary to Harmon’s suggestion, the church did come apart over the ordination of women. It also came apart over the new prayer book — but most of all it came apart over the 1976 General Convention statement that gays and lesbians are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons to the love, acceptance and pastoral concern and care of the Church. The statement went even further to say that gays and lesbians are entitled to equal protection of the laws with all other citizens, and that society should see that such protection is provided in actuality.

Thirty years later the church is still coming apart — not because of gay people, but because people like Harmon are still tearing the Episcopal Church apart in their attempts to exclude people they despise: gay and lesbian people of faith.

Most Episcopalians alive today have never seen a copy of the 1928 “Prayer Book.” As of June 18, we have a woman as our new presiding bishop — but absolutely nothing has changed for gay and lesbian people within the Episcopal Church of South Carolina in 30 years.

As long as you agree to live a lie and stay in the closet, even with the full knowledge of the leadership of the dioceses in South Carolina, you can still be an employee, parishioner, deacon, priest or even a bishop in the Episcopal Church. Just like 30 years ago.

It is only when you have the audacity to tell the truth about yourself and to have some integrity in your life that you incur the wrath of Harmon and the other zealots who have come to dominate the Episcopal Church in South Carolina in recent years. They are perfectly comfortable supporting the lies.

 Christ Himself must be laughing out loud at Harmon’s notion that his church might “come apart because of the ordination of gay clergy.” Indeed, the church has been ordaining them and benefiting from their ministries for over 2,000 years.

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