Suffer the Little Children


Honest to Ethel!

I can’t imagine you haven’t heard about the brouhaha coming out of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida concerning the “postponement” of the baptism of Jack, the adopted son of two fathers.

You can find the perspective of Eric and Rich McCaffery, Jack’s parents, here in The Blade.

You can find the perspective of Greg Brewer, the bishop, here in the Orlando Sentinel.

And, the story from the Dean? Anthony Clark? The one who canceled postponed equivocated needed more time , said “It’s not never, just not now”?

He’s been away all week at a conference.

The story has struck such a deep cord in Christians in general and Episcopalians in particular that Faithful America (“Love thy neighbor. No exceptions.”) has started a petition which began late Monday afternoon with a goal of 15,000 signatures and will, I have no doubt, surpass its new goal of 25,000 before the end of Friday.

The issue has stirred up debate on every conceivable tangential issue, from the age old controversy of infant vs adult baptism, to the relatively new controversy of whether or not LGBT people should be able to adopt children.

Everyone is pretty clear that baptism ought never be denied anyone. Well, everyone except those Uber-Calvinists who think the efficacy of the sacrament is dependent upon the state of grace – or lack there of – of the parents.

11036802_10205308797390981_4207043699870446834_nThe real problem, you see, is that The Episcopal Church has gotten “soft” (as opposed to, ahem, “standing firm”) on “membership requirements.”

Note: If you do click on the above link and have the stomach to watch and listen to the entire video, you will notice that, while his logic is absolutely pristine, it is completely devoid of any compassion. It’s as narrow a legalistic interpretation of scripture as you are apt to find. If you look closely, you will also notice not a drop of the milk of human kindness on the man’s lips. 

According to the Uber-Calvinist position, if the Dean had been doing his job, he would never have admitted the boys fathers as “members in good standing” of The Cathedral.

Problem solved.

Unless, of course, they repented of their “sin” and lived separately.

I suspect they’d also have to walk ten miles backward, barefoot, covered in sackcloth and ashes, calling out every ten feet, “I am a worm and no man.”

But, I digress.

Well, maybe just a little.

As often happens in church, the ‘shame and blame’ game is in high gear. It’s the Dean’s fault. It’s the Bishop’s fault. No, it’s the fault of the “deep pocket” members of the Cathedral congregation who think they can buy whatever they want – or get rid of what they don’t want.

No, this never would have happened without the “militant progressive LGBT community” who, like the immature, adolescent brats they are, always “want more”.

The truth is that the Diocese of Central Florida has been highly toxic to LGBT people for years. The previous bishop, John Howe, was a particularly virulent homophobic influence in that diocese.

Which was not a real stretch for him in that particular geographical area.

With the exceptions of a few pockets of tolerance and acceptance – especially the Diocese of Southeast Florida where Bishop Leo Frade has created a climate of acceptance – the State of Florida has been noted for being home to almost as many intolerant knuckleheads and right wingnuts as in any of the other states which Louie (Crew) Clay describes as being “Behind the Cotton Curtain”.

It’s bad enough to deny (or, postpone “not never, just not now”) baptism to a child, and even to deny the baptism because the parents are two gay men, but to do so in the Diocese of Central Florida which is known, at best, to be “intolerant” of LGBT people, is to create a theological hurricane in the church which thought it was heading into an endless summer of justice.

If people had gotten complacent about the Supreme Court making Marriage Equality the law of the land just before The Episcopal Church changed the pronouns of the marriage canons, well, this was a pretty cold slap in the face.

My best hope which I share with many, many other LGBT people and our allies, is that this ‘El Nino’ of hot baptismal water will provide the opportunity for a real ‘climate change’ in the church.

It’s going to take a great deal of work, getting rid of the toxins of intolerance and pollutants of prejudice, but this baptism could not only provide a means of grace and hope for this child and his parents and family, but it just might transform hearts of stone into hearts of flesh.

Here’s my suggestion for that climate change in the Diocese of Central Florida – indeed, in The Episcopal Church: Before on more baptism is allowed in any church by any priest or bishop anywhere, everyone has to wash each other’s feet.

You know, just the way Jesus did with his disciples, saying:

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (John 13:14-17)

Nothing like a little dose of humility to bring an end to the Climate of Arrogance.

That same night, after he washed their feet, Jesus said to his disciples:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34)

I think a good way to understand what that means is on your knees, washing someone’s feet.

Then, we also might understand what Jesus meant when he said, “Suffer the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14. Luke 18:16)