Today, a pastoral letter from the Rt Revd Gregory Brewer was posted to the diocesan website. The letter was his response to the past week’s events surrounding the baptism of Jack McCaffrey, infant son of Rich and Eric McCaffrey. The key paragraphs are the bishop’s explanation regarding who is responsible for a newly baptized child’s upbringing in the Gospel;
Congregations often assume, wrongly, that it is the prime responsibility of the parents to raise their baptized children as Christians with the local church only playing a supportive or secondary role. As a result, congregations often consider the baptism service as a welcoming celebration they watch, instead of a corporate act of re-consecration for the entire congregation- including a sacramental baptism that changes the child’s life forever. In a service of baptism, God acts in grace and the congregation acts in prayerful and sacrificial love.
If we are called to “do all in our power to support this person,” that promise implies a level of effort far greater than having a good Sunday school program. Instead, the implication of the baptismal liturgy is that the task of raising that child into the “full stature of Christ” is primarily that of the local congregation, of which the parents and sponsors are coequal members. It assumes that congregations get personally involved in the lives of the newly baptized and their families through their prayers and the building of friendships. Acting in concert for the raising up of children in Christ takes seriously the fact that such children are full members of the Body and worthy of our best efforts of discipleship, love and pastoral care.
Bishop Brewer addressed the objection of some that Jack’s parents are a married male couple. After he repeated his own objection to same gender marriage, he concluded the topic with “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Separately today, an audio recording of yesterday’s sermon at the Cathedral Church of St Luke was posted on the cathedral parish’s website. Yesterday’s preacher was the Revd Canon J. Gary L’Hommedieu. His sermon was a switch on the reading regarding the Good Shepherd as he made it a tribute to the cathedral’s dean, the Very Reverend Anthony Clark. Canon L’Hommedieu told his version of the McCaffrey family’s experience with Jack’s baptism in which he contradicts both Rich McCaffrey’s version published on his personal Facebook page and his own bishop’s pastoral letter, claiming there was no postponement of Jack’s baptism.
The Canon’s take on the prior week’s events;
…Speaking of bad dreams, most of us in this room know that our cathedral was caught up this past week in a well publicized scandal in an alleged refusal to baptize the adopted son of a same sex couple. Since there never was a refusal, the scandal is how the real story was highjacked by social media activists on the West Coast and for what purpose? Certainly not for the purpose of welcoming the young family into a loving Christian home that they themselves had chosen. The story has only a few characters; the two parents who came into this cathedral fold with their child seeking a spiritual home and upbringing and the local shepherd, who as he warned them had the responsibility to care for a diverse flock and not just a faction of diversity activists. This seemed to make sense to the parents, they weren’t joining a movement, but a family. And as we all know anyway, families never get along. Well after this news story went viral on social media, all sorts of minor players began to pile on, many of them self-proclaimed moral critics seated comfortably at their computer screens. Doesn’t cost a lot to do that, does it? It didn’t matter that the real players had been cast in a fiction. Any esteemed society of self-proclaimed moral aficionados has no need for facts, only performance. That esteemed society included several from this congregation, ready to join the pile on once someone else took the lead when it was safe to come out of hiding and join a worthy cause. All this is so commonplace, it’s business as usually in the church. Except when storms of compassion and support are laced with vitriol, malice and worse, pious outrage and righteous contempt you get the sense that this is no rally of support, no heartfelt pledge of solidarity. These are not comrades in a war of justice. More like barracudas smelling blood in the water. There’s no cause, no purpose, just an easy righteousness that demands all the risk of hitting a little button on the computer that says Send. There was certainly no concern for the sheep in the fold known as the Cathedral Church of St Luke. You see, Christians are a truly diverse body. The Holy Spirit does not raise up one faction to wage jihad against another faction. Another spirit does that. Funny how the presence of this other spirit has a peculiar way of surfacing through electronic displays of compassion and solidarity. It’s worth remembering that the folks who came here did not come as a cause, but as a family. That they’d be welcomed as a family. Not commented on or even endorsed as a cause. We dehumanize people when we reduce them to a cause. Add them to the ranks of heroes in a war they didn’t sign on for. They were exploited along with the rest of us. And they too were splattered in this bloodletting of righteousness…
staff photos left to right, Canon L’Hommedieu, Bishop Brewer, & Dean Clark, from the Cathedral Church of St Luke website
posted by David Allen