Few people in Falls Church, including many who attend the Falls Church Episcopal here, fathom how bad what the church’s leadership is asking its members to vote for this week really is. Balloting of the 2,800 church members will continue through services this Sunday, and it is expected that the vote will be overwhelming in favor of the church’s formal withdrawal from the Episcopal denomination.
This move has been coming since the Episcopal denomination, by wide majority of its bishops nationwide, voted in November 2003 to consecrate the openly-homosexual Rev. Eugene Robinson as a bishop.
Local church leaders have variously confirmed this, emphatically, and also tried to cloud the issue with theological jargon, claiming the denomination has, more generally, drifted from roots they claim are grounded in “Biblical inerrancy.” That is, the claim there is not a single mistake or outdated notion in the Bible. Therefore, since homosexual behavior is condemned in a handful of random Biblical verses here and there, it is anti-Biblical to consecrate a gay bishop. You’d be surprised to see what other things are condemned in different parts of the Bible.
The actions of the Falls Church Episcopal’s leadership, and that of the Truro Church of Fairfax and some others across the U.S., is a mild replay of the same sad history of centuries of division, slaughter, discord and tyranny within Christendom. This week’s action will not trigger another Inquisition, but the mentality is the same.
Rather than affirming a generosity of spirit and Good Samaritan compassion that can embrace and nurture a complex and multi-faceted humanity, in this case, the leaders of the Falls Church Episcopal have chosen to stand against the civil authority of the U.S. Constitution that promises equal rights for all, just as happened in all those pulpits that, in the past, denounced what they called the “un-Godly” acts of freeing slaves, ending segregation, or more recently, ending prohibitions on interracial marriage. Church folk experience such hate, emotionally, as a burning righteous indignation.
If this week’s vote results in the departure of Falls Church Episcopal from the Episcopal denomination, the church will go down in infamy as a regrettable and despised bastion of bigotry, prejudice and hatred.
In order to earn this legacy, the church’s leadership is willing to disenfranchise its members from access to one of the nation’s most historic church structures and histories. On this one issue, of the consecration of an otherwise completely qualified, but gay, bishop in New England, this church’s leadership is descending from the heights of grandiose plans for a major expansion in 2000, to years of development paralysis, to now being expelled from its property by the Diocese of Virginia following this week’s vote and its flock sent wandering. The power of hate can be so strong.