The Rev. Andrew Cooley, rector of St. Mark's, Durango, CO, recently announced an impending retirement date of May 1. In response, The Durango Herald offered something you don't see much of anymore - a comprehensive and humanely written retirement announcement.
Among the gems, his summation of 2003-04, and of the subsequent struggle for GLBT persons to achieve equality within the church.
“It was heartbreaking to see good, faithful people no longer able to remain part of the church,” Cooley said. “The people that left, for the most part, left graciously and faithfully.”
He first became aware of the conversation about the role of gays and lesbians in the Episcopal Church in 1979, when he attended the convention as a student. He was ambivalent about the subject at the time, he said.
“Since then, I’ve been aware of the church’s struggle, and my own struggle was coming into focus,” he said. “I have come to see that the church is so enriched by the gifts that gay and lesbian persons have brought and have seen such profound faithfulness in gay and lesbian persons. I feel compelled to make the church more open to see those gifts expressed in all of my ministry.”
I've been privileged to know Andrew since he was assigned to be my mentor in seminary, when I was sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado. I later got to sit on the group that prepped together (and well and seriously) for the General Convention's Colorado deputation. I had to give up the position of clergy alternate deputy to take a job in Iowa, but I've not forgotten how Andrew comported himself, there or anywhere else.
You can see how people would think a big resort town separated by miles of mountains from the bishop's front door in Denver would be an impediment to full participation in the life of the church, but Andrew has been known to fly, drive, and ski great distances in the service of others and of the wider church. His full retirement and absence from clergy deputation to General Convention may initially cause Colorado voters to wonder if they've been handed defective ballots.
Thanks for the indulgence, everybody. And thanks to Andrew.