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Bishop of Dio Central Florida issues pastoral letter regarding Baby Jack

Bishop of Dio Central Florida issues pastoral letter regarding Baby Jack

 

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

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Professor Christopher Seitz

"Please on Mr Holman."

This is the new TEC.

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Dr. Harry M. Merryman

Professor Seitz,

Though I am sometimes chagrined at the Episcopal Café echo chamber, I must say I would find your sarcasm much more interesting were you and your colleagues at ACI more open to comment and debate on your website.

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Ric Schopke

Strange. I just listened to Canon L'Hommedieu's sermon for the third time. What I heard was about an exhibition of true, genuine, deep love patterned on the Good Shepherd, Jesus, who lays down his life for the sheep.

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Rob Holman

There is an adage, the preacher is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. This was not a warm and fuzzy sermon. It was rebuking those that would engage in divisive behavior and calling out the self-righteous critics for being flame throwers. Most were outside the Church in places like this blog and a few were inside the Church. He declared the criticism was based on fiction and rooted in evil, in other words slanderous gossip. And he rebuked those that participated in it. Then he called them together under the one true Good Shepherd. It was appropriate given the real situation at hand.

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Cynthia Katsarelis

My spouse and I just listened to it again. Spouse is a professor at a research university. The logic is very, very twisted. Enough to fear for the mental well being of the person who conjured it up. In fact, it actually evokes some compassion from me for these very extreme conservatives and the pain from which such thoughts must spring. The paranoia to set up such an "us vs. them" mentality when we are all Episcopalians!

I don't understand that pain. I have my own from experiencing real discrimination, exclusion from the church, and awful hate rhetoric. We all need to be concerned about the suffering of our kids, the suicide rate amongst LGBT kids is alarming. But I guess that losing the position of being the status quo has it's own pain, pain that needs compassion, even if I really don't understand it at all.

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Chuck Messer

I appreciate the Bishop's pastoral letter. I believe it was heartfelt and genuine. HOWEVER, the sermon by the canon of the cathedral was a flop. He had a perfect pitch to knock a home run but struck out. Perfect lessons, a full house of seekers and visitors, and world wide attention to articulate love (which was the theme of the lessons). INSTEAD, he blew the opportunity to evangelize by sharing the love of Jesus and how to join in this love - in other words, there was NO GOOD NEWS! Not once did he mention Jesus without it being connected to his feelings of the past week and his personal agendas colored the gospel for those looking for a spiritual home and connecting with OUR Lord. His sermon has hurt other pastors who are evangelists of Jesus seeking to make new disciples and laborers who want to grow The Episcopal Church. Way to blow an opportunity for the Kingdom of God. Christians are being killed in other parts of the world. Poverty is epidemic. Race relations within this country is at it's worst in my lifetime. The world needs JESUS and yet we have decided to fight each other over genitalia.

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DJ Lyon

I found the Bishop's response, in its entirety, to be quite beautiful and nuanced. I don't share his perspective on marriage, but I appreciate that he grapples with the issue in a sincere and thoughtful way, and that he has a sense of proportionality that is so often lacking in these discussions. The Rev. Canon L’Hommedieu's sermon, on the other hand, is full of the very vitriol and contempt he accuses his opponents of displaying. It exhibits none of the generous spirit and open-heartedness of the Bishop's letter. Sincere disagreement over core theological issues is not "bloodlust" or "evidence of . . . the demonic," but using the pulpit to attack people of good faith and goodwill might be. Wolves circling the flock indeed.

[DJ - Welcome first time commenter. Notice our policy requiring first and last names, and please observe it in the future. Unless you go by DJ. - eds.]

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Roy Eldridge

I appreciate and agree with your views on this matter. However, once inside the cathedral, things change to an angry, hostile, bitter, and defensive vibe that is hard to recognize as Christian. See the previous post by the Canon. It is curt, , defensive and admonishing to, "get the story straight, sir."

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Paul Woodrum

Rob, as a self-identified evangelical, maybe you can explain to us why evangelicals emphasize obedience to ancient sexual purity codes over obedience to Jesus commandment to love, show compassion, and seek justice.

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Rob Holman

The simple answer is we don't. Bp Brewer has provided a fine example of this. He will attend the baptism of a couple Jesus says are living in sin. The Bp. is loving them and meeting them where they are in the desire to draw them closer to Jesus who has a way of showing us our sin as he loves us and calls us to repentance. "To love" as I think you would define it (embrace their sexuality) is to embrace their sin that leads to eternal death. That isn't loving if homosexuality is sinful. The fullness of God's justice is received in salvation and the total deliverance from slavery to sin. Granted, a very strong tide has swept over western culture and has swept into the church of a new sexual morality that doesn't believe this is sin. And so to love is to embrace this part of them, I get that. We evangelicals in the west liken ourselves to Athanasius (just somewhat) when he was the lone voice among the bishops of the church proclaiming Jesus' full divinity and humanity. Most of the rest of the Church (at one point) received the teaching of Arianism. Granted, this "Athanasian" side of the Church is in the majority world wide. The new sexual morality is peculiar to the "western Christian" world in developed nations where the faith is so weak it is almost indistinguishable from the culture.

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