I was sitting at my kitchen table one day, sipping a tepid cup
of java I felt too uninspired to heat up and mentally writing my
acceptance speech for when I win the Nobel prize for anything, when
the phone rang and startled me back to reality. It was a friend, an
ex-Jesuit, who is both admired and despised for his radical Queer
"Did you hear about the heresy trial?" he asked.
Naturally, I thought it was something the Romans were up to
since it was Bob calling and since the word "heresy" conjured up
medieval images of enforced conformity, something at which the
Roman Catholic Church used to be fairly accomplished.
Bob proceeded to explain that a group of bishops within the
Episcopal Church had filed a presentment, which called for the
retired bishop of Iowa, Walter Righter, to be tried for acting
contrary to church doctrine.
To the minds of the nine traditionalists who brought the
charge, Righter committed heresy in 1990 when he ordained
"practicing" homosexual Barry Stopfel. I always indulge myself in a
few yucks when I hear that term, "practicing." Of course, Stopfel
was "practicing." We all practice being who we are, don't we? m
Anyway, Righter contends that the church has no official doctrine
on the matter of ordaining gays and lesbians. In point of fact,
such ordinations, though hardly commonplace, are nothing new.
Bob's phone call came more than a year ago when the complaints
were first filed. And guess what? The matter just went to an
ecclesiastical hearing on Feb. 27. I can barely contain my glee in
knowing that now the Episcopal Church is recognized for its
scandals, namely the recent embezzlement of a cool $2.2 million by
a former treasurer and now the Anglican version of the Inquisition.
The whole sordid affair offends me as a lesbian, an
Episcopalian and an American. I take a dim view of invoking heresy
to strongarm people into complicity, especially with a defunct
status quo. I take an even dimmer view of any attempt - religious,
political, or social - to marginalize pe ople who refuse to bow to
the golden calf called "heterosexuality." The reason I am
uncomfortable with both heresy and discrimination is that they are
both about the same thing - control.
When a religious institution threatens to defrock,
excommunicate or instigate charges of heresy against its clergy for
acting in accordance with their consciences, the chances are pretty
good that it is engaging some form of mind control. I find the use
of tyranny as leverage to exact doctrinal conformity despicable,
regardless of whether the conscience of the clergyperson is of a
traditionalist or a progressive bent.
Likewise, when a religious institution refuses to ordain
someone homosexual, declines to include sexual minority people as
fully participating members in worship, or fails to recognize the
need for lesbian and gay people to experience the full range of
intimate and sexual expression deemed appropriate for heterosexual
adherents, it is engaging in body control. …