I would like to make it clear that I did not plan on preaching on the Primates communique. I was pretty much over it by the time I got to Friday, and I assumed most everyone else would be too. (A tiny amount of projection helps in preaching, don’t you know.) As I commented to someone over the weekend, I haven’t spent this much time explaining the workings of Anglican polity since the GOEs.
But when I went to look at the lessons, there was that piece from 1 Corinthians, as if the Holy Spirit herself had planned this whole thing, and was off in a corner giggling at us. And all day Saturday, as I was handing out food to the hungry and cold of Kansas City, parishioners asked me, “So why are the Anglicans being so mean to us?” “What happens now at church?” “Are we really being kicked out?” All the social media that flows past my eyes daily bore witness to a heightened level of anxiety about this which, frankly, really surprised me.
I think those of us who are enmeshed in church geekery assume that these squabbles are just that, and no more. We forget that there are times when our political arguments are not just theoretical, but they do affect real people, who really care what happens.
So, dear reader, I preached about the Primates. And parties. And wine.
Here is what I said.
Rev. Megan L. Castellan
January 16-17, 2016
2 Sunday after Epiphany, Year C
John 2:1-11, 1 Corinthians
So there are good things and bad things about preaching from a lectionary. Sometimes, it’s your week to preach, you look up the gospel, and discover that Jesus has just told a story about a servant who embezzled cash, then gets rewarded. (Thing that happens!) That’s a downside.
Then, sometimes, the media spends most of the week deciding that your worldwide Anglican Communion is on the verge of collapse, OMG, and the lectionary assigns this reading from 1 Corinthians.
I haven’t decided if this is a good thing, or if the Holy Spirit is just cheerfully trolling us.
So, a few notes for background:
If you weren’t anxiously glued to the #primates2016 on Twitter this week (and why should you have been? You have lives, you have jobs!), then you may not be aware that this week, the Archbishop of Canterbury called a meeting of the different heads of the different Anglican churches from all around the communion. For what amounts to a very large tea party, as is their wont.
The stated purpose of the meeting was to work through the conflict in the Communion which has been festering for some years now. Or decades. Or even longer, depending on how you’re measuring. The conflict can be traced to a lot of things: colonialism, western imperialism, differences in scriptural interpretation, differences in authority, but where most of the blame has been focused is the church in the US’ openness to women’s ordination, ordination of LGBTQ folks, and willingness to bless same-gender marriage.
In the run up to the meeting, everyone was doing that whole chest-out, I’m very tough, routine. The conservative group of primates released a statement threatening to boycott, and/or walk out. The English media wrote a lot about how this would be the END OF ANGLICANISM, OH NO.
It was dire.
But you know what happened?
None of that. Pretty much none of that.
No one walked out, except one guy from Uganda, and he apparently forgot to tell anyone about it until Thursday. On Thursday, the primates leaked/released a statement which affirmed the primates’ commitment to stick together–but also said that many of them were worried by what the US church had done, so it recommended that we take what amounts to a time out for 3 years–not representing the Anglican Communion on ecumenical dialogues (which we haven’t been doing anyway, since 2009) and abstaining from some internal votes. Now, we’ve pretty much been doing those things already, so this is not actually as big a deal as it sounds. It has not affected our life here in Kansas City, because I daresay none of you even noticed.
The statement went on to say that the primates were against the criminalization of homosexuality, and believed in caring pastorally for all people.
So that’s what happened. It’s not the greatest possible outcome–it would have been wonderful for the primates to have agreed, to have immediately gotten on board with what we did, when they heard our explanations. But I don’t think that this is the worst possible outcome either. It’s not the death knell for Anglicanism, it doesn’t mean we have been kicked out of the global church, or punished, or sanctioned, or anything like that. We. Are. Fine.
There’s a lot still that’s unknown. Stan and I have been arguing about what is supposed to happen in three years–both because we don’t know, and we disagree in our theories, and because we are clergy, and so are paid to argue about things like this during the week. What’s clear, though, is that right now a few things are true:
- The churches of the Anglican Communion have said they are committed to sticking this out together.
- The Episcopal Church isn’t changing its stance on the full inclusion of GLBTQ people. The Presiding Bishop told the other primates that, and he reaffirmed it in his statement to the church. We are doing what we believe God has called us to do, based on how we have experienced the Spirit at work. And certainly, our life at St. Paul’s here in KC isn’t changing.
It’s like all these member Anglican churches, together at a giant party. A wedding, why not, since we are all called to the wedding of the Lamb, says Revelation. And yet, the wedding has hit a snag. A crisis. And the whole thing is thrown into a shambles.
Yet we know, from today’s gospel, from that tricky lectionary, that Jesus has a thing about parties it would seem. Parties need to go on. *****
Running out of wine at a wedding feast may seem like an incidental problem, but it would have been a huge crisis. People saved their whole lives long for weddings–they lasted several days, up to a week, and you invited literally everyone in town. Wedding banquets were the one time in a person’s life where you had to rub elbows with people you may not know–people different than you, because EVERYONE was invited. To run out of food or wine was to show that you were failing in showing hospitality to these people you lived with. It was a loss of honor–which is why Jesus’ mother is so perturbed by the situation. The party is in danger of shutting down before it starts. She’s looking out for the bride and groom. And so Jesus does something unexpected. Instead of giving a speech, or running to the wine merchant, he provides the best wine. And a lot of it–Jesus churns out 120 gallons of it.
An unexpected miracle. And so the party continues.
It’s not comfortable to be in this place where we are right now in the church. It’s not a great place. But I do believe that our call is to be right where we are. Because for as uncomfortable as it is to be at this particular party we find ourselves at, with this particular guest list, I do believe that St. Paul is also right–we all need each other. And for as painful as it is at this particular moment, I think our particular gift at this time, like our Presiding bishop has said, is to bear witness to the gifts we have received through the presence of our LGBTQ members. That’s the gift that we–and no one else, right now!–has. We need to share that–and we also need to listen and receive the gifts of the other Anglican churches. Something that we, who benefit so richly from the presence of our South Sudanese community, know very well. Their presence with us and their perspective make us better able to see the God of infinity.
We need to stay at this party. Even when it hits a bump. Even when Real Housewives-type drama breaks out. Because if we stay here faithfully long enough, sooner or later, there’s going to be a miracle.
****Very important NB. At the 10:30 service, it was at this point, when I paused to let the importance of parties sink in, that a baby from the very back screamed “YAAAAAASSSSS!” at the top of her lungs. The congregation burst out in laughter and applause.
This has given me a new idea: I will haul a baby around with me to all future preaching appearances, in order to have Adorable Affirmation of all of my homiletical points.
This is why we are at St. Paul’s. Diversity in every way.