Thursday, November 10, 2005

An Inconvenient Woman

Remember "Church Lady" and the way she would twist her lips, tilt her head, look directly at the camera and declare "Well, isn't that convenient?" Where is Church Lady when you need her?

All Saints' Episcopal Church in Pasadena, CA investigated by IRS

The former rector of the church preached a sermon two days before the 2004 election criticizing not only Bush, his tax cuts, and the war in Iraq but also John Kerry as a candidate for president. He urged congregants to vote their conscience in light of their faith and the teachings of Jesus. He did not specifically endorse one candidate or the other. Now the church is in danger of losing its tax-exempt status, and it's not the first time they've gotten into trouble.

According to the government it's okay for the Church to be prophetic as long as it doesn't criticize the current administration. It's okay for the Church to have faith-based initiatives so long as they don't challenge current social structures. It's okay for priests and ministers to preach the gospel as long as it doesn't apply to the current political scene.

Isn't that special?!

The Church is at its best when it is inconvenient to the status quo. It was the Congregational church that led the way in the abolitionist movement right here in Connecticut during the trial of slaves aboard the Amistad. Antoinette Brown Blackwell was the first woman ordained in 1853, in a small Congregational church in South Butler, NY. William Johnson was the first openly gay man ordained in 1972, in the United Church of Christ, of which the Congregational church has been a part since 1957. The Episcopal Church has its own rich rebellious history with the "Philadelphia 11", the ordination of Barbara Harris as the first female bishop, having the good sense and wisdom to ordain my college friend, Anne, and most recently ordaining the first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

It's not very PC anymore but there was a time when the Church was called the Bride of Christ. Though the terminology may be distasteful to some, the relationship is right on. We are wed to Christ, bound by a covenant in which we are Christ's body in the world. When FDR became relegated to a wheelchair, his wife Eleanor said that she would be her husband's legs, and she went into the coal mines to see for herself what a miner's life was like. We, the Church, are the hands and feet and mind and heart and yes, the voice of Christ in the world, speaking as best as we are able, the truth of justice, peace, and love that is so desperately needed.

Finley Peter Dunne said about a hundred years ago "The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable". Journalists today may disagree with that but whenever the truth is proclaimed, comfort and discomfort arise. Most of us have been comfortable for too long.

So to All Saints' Church in Pasadena: You go, girl!

Now, isn't that inconvenient!


Andy said...

What a great, GREAT blog entry. Informative, inspirational AND irreverent - everything I enjoy. Nice job, Cindy. Keep up the good work.

Cynthia said...

Thanks, kemosabe!