Now begins the grieving process.
Canon Gene Robinson has been confirmed by the Episcopal General Convention to become the Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire. And now my church will never be the same.
Before the vote this afternoon, while the bishops were talking and praying quietly, I looked across the gallery of observers and saw several young people from my home parish. They had come with me and others to witness to the leaders of their church. They asked that the Episcopal Church reaffirm church doctrine on marriage "by word and example."
One of them is 24-year-old Meghan, who was married in my church just five weeks ago. Our parish taught her that she was expected to be chaste until she married, and that she has entered into a lifelong relationship with one man. But what is the wider Episcopal Church teaching her now?
This Sunday is going to be difficult in my home congregation. My rector was going to go on vacation, but he'll need to be with his people instead. I expect that some friends I've worshipped with for 15 years won't be there. My parish will never be the same.
My bishop has written that he would vote for the confirmation. I have honored and admired him for years, but now I feel betrayed. What will it be like for so many in my diocese to feel this alienation from our bishop? My diocese will never be the same.
I know bishops and deputies to this convention who have told me that if Gene Robinson is confirmed. They will go home. It won't be a walkout. It will instead be something more sober and sorrowful. Some won't be back. My denomination will never be the same.
Today at lunch before the vote, I met with several American bishops. As they left for their meeting, one of the bishops from Africa prayed for them and for the whole church. It was a moment of grace and comfort.
Over the last week, I've had the growing sense that the Episcopal Church would, in fact, make the tragic decision it made. So I can't say I was shocked. But the grief is real and sharp. This evening, I've cried my tears and I'll cry more over the coming days.
But it's not for the church I grieve. The Church of Jesus Christ will survive.
There is so much physical, emotional, and spiritual brokenness over this issue in our society. Children born out of wedlock, so many growing up without fathers. Teens lured into debasing early sexual experimentation. College men and women "hooking up," using each other's bodies with no truly human connection. Men trading in the wives of their youth for trophy wives. Women abandon their husbands for lesbian relationships. Serial marriages. So much sexual brokenness that produces more sexual brokenness, including the physical and emotional abuse of children.
The Christian message in truly countercultural. There is freedom in discipline. There is genuine happiness and joy in holiness. There is dignity and pride in purity. There is sexual satisfaction in fidelity in marriage. Through Jesus Christ, we need not live captive to sin. We can live in freedom, grateful for His mercy and empowered for service by His grace.
The Episcopal Church has abandoned this Gospel message, this Good News.
But after grief, what?
It is the nature of families that as one generation dies, another is born. Several years ago, on the day my family buried my grandmother, one of my cousins gave birth to a daughter.
So even now, in the midst of a sorrow, I'm looking with hope and even anticipation to the future. There is a relief in having this matter, so long contested in the Episcopal Church, now clarified. The deep theological differences have become so clear now. Of course, many of us will continue to witness to Episcopalians and others who are confused, even rebelling, against God's gift of sexuality in marriage.
God is going to do something new in the Anglican Communion. I am joining others who will appeal to the wider Anglican Communion for redress. I'm looking forward to seeing the shape of a new global church, knit together in sharing our gifts and resources. The growth of the Christian Church is outside North American and Western Europe. We Episcopalians, who want to remain faithful to Scripture and the great company of God's people, will find a deeper and closer communion within the truly cutting edge of Christendom. Today I'm much less a part of the dwindling Episcopal Church, and much more a part of the vibrant Anglican Communion.
So, with hope and anticipation, I know that nothing will ever be the same in the Church.