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.
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
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.