by T. Stewart Lucas
I know the sin of comfort way too well. I am grateful that I grew up in a home with more love than I could ever need. The Episcopal Church where I was raised in the South was uniquely diverse with all different types of people: Nigerians in native headwear, mentally and physically handicapped members, recovering addicts, and male and female interior designers in their fur coats. It was a community that taught me how to love and that I was loved by a God who loved unconditionally. Jesus saved me, but that group of questioners and believers saved my life.
A multitude of women and men fought many years to make my ministry possible as a gay man in the church. When I accepted my sexuality in seminary at the age of 23, I was grateful, but too comfortable. God loved me through it and led me to people who would save my life. I met my amazing partner in ministry, and because others had broken down some barriers before, we were able to be married in an Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., in 2001. We didn’t know what was next, but it turned out that another church was ready to love me into being a priest in Baltimore.
When Gene Robinson was ordained as the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church my mother called and said, “Don’t you go up there to that service. There are too many crazy people out there. I don’t want you getting shot.” I didn’t go. Now I’m more likely to get shot in the streets of my own city. The sin of comfort and fear has kept me silent for too long. The bishops of the Episcopal Church must be clear in their response to the Archbishop of Canterbury who has not issued invitations to the spouses of LGBTQ bishops to attend Lambeth in 2020.
The sin of comfort has previously kept too many people down for too many years. We don’t have time for more boycotts and demonstrations. Invite all the spouses or don’t invite any of them.
Justin Welby clearly has one of the most difficult jobs in the world, and I believe he’s doing his best. But maybe the goal of keeping all of the world’s Anglican bishops together isn’t what he is called to achieve. Perhaps he is being called to set a new direction.
If the new direction is not going to include everyone, perhaps this kind of gathering needs to come to an end. There are hungry people in all our streets, and there are people who hunger for the love of God which knows no bounds. The church that raised me and loved me and saved my life over and over again is proof that we can love one another without agreeing. I believe the Jesus Movement requires us to be together at a table big enough for all.
As followers of Jesus, we are called to love our neighbors, wherever they are on their spiritual journey. God has issued us all a fabulous invitation to the table just as we are. God is serving healing, life-giving, liberating love. That love saves my life every day, and I am not going to wait to deliver that message to the kids running up and down the aisle of our church.
God, forgive me of my sin of comfort. Comfort me with your grace to stand and speak. Give us patience to sit at the table together and listen to one another. Strengthen us to go out and invite others to join in the love. Amen.
The Rev. T. Stewart Lucas is the pastor of The Church of the Nativity and Holy Comforter, an Episcopal-Lutheran worshiping community in Baltimore. He serves on the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. He is also a Deputy of General Convention 2018 and member of the Lutheran-Episcopal Coordinating Committee.