Changing the Church:
By Louie Crew
Appeared in Combating Homophobia, edited by James Sears & Walter Williams, Columbia University Press, 1997: 341-353. Do not reproduce in any medium without written permission of the author.© 1996 by Louie Crew , 377 S. Harrison Street, #12D, East Orange, NJ 07018
For the past two decades, the Episcopal Church has received widespread media attention as it has grappled with the ordination of women as priests and grappled with lesbian and gay issues. Just as in other Christian churches, where women and lesbigays have organized to promote a more egalitarian and inclusive spirituality, the Radical Right has mounted a regressive reaction. In some cases, especially in the Southern Baptist Convention and in more fundamentalist denominations, the Right seems to have gained a stranglehold, even controlling the denomination's seminaries and universities.
The Episcopal Church, in contrast, has manifested substantial progress, both for women and for lesbians and gays. Issues of gender and sexual orientation are closely related in recent Episcopal history. This essay will suggest what lessons can be learned from this effort in institutional change.
In the Episcopal Church, our theology reveres Scripture as but one of three sources of authority, co-equal with Reason and Tradition. We have always required clergy to be educated, and most of our seminaries have been open to historical and critical scholarship. Few priests believe that the bible is inspired literally word for word. As a result, few Episcopal parishes require you to hang up your mind when you enter; and few require doctrinal purity tests. Many Episcopalians look at faith analytically; we are not beholden to a confessional statement or to a majesterium's conclusions.
Episcopal polity, therefore, allows much air in which lesbigays may breathe our living witness. Having the freedom to think does not ensure that thinkers will support lesbians and gays, nor does it do away with the struggle or stigma lesbians and gays must endure: but a church free to think is a church free to allow God to act in a new way.
The Episcopal Church is at once more democratic than many church structures and more centralized than many. Episcopal means "overseen by bishops." Bishops and all others are accountable to the General Convention, a bicameral legislature which meets triennially. During the interim, the Presiding Bishop and Executive Council provide oversight at the national level. One principal bishop oversees each of the 100 domestic dioceses of the Episcopal Church, with much choice left to each diocese in terms of its liturgical and theological preferences, including choice of candidates for ordination.
General Convention governs the church through Constitution and Canons, and it advises the church through resolutions. Until the 1994 General Convention, when the canons were amended to ensure non-discrimination in access to ordination on the basis of sexual orientation, the church had never addressed lesbian and gay issues through its canons, and hence it may be said that the church has never officially proscribed lesbian and gay behavior on the part of priests or laity, though in fact, it has often manifested the prejudices of any age.
I founded Integrity in October 1974, out of tiny Fort Valley, Georgia, as a newsletter, Integrity: Gay Episcopal Forum. Almost immediately two called from Chicago, one a priest named Tyndale the other a lay person named Wickliff (historic names in the British reformation). I introduced these two to each other and to others who had written from Chicago. About a dozen met in Wickliff's apartment in December and formed the first chapter.
Chicago as the site was likely not an accident. A joke popular in the Episcopal Church at that time asked: "How many straight priests in the diocese of Chicago does it take to put in a light bulb? Answer: Both of them." Whatever the joke lacks in scientific accuracy it makes up by identifying a place known to have accumulated gay clergy, in this case, a critical mass ready to nurture a movement, a group with strategies for organizing.
Also in 1974, three bishops ordained "The Philadelphia Eleven" first women priests in the Episcopal Church. These ordinations were declared "irregular" since the General Convention had frequently considered but not yet voted to approve the ordination of women.
The ordinations were not declared "invalid," only "irregular." People inside and outside the Anglican Communion frequently describe how we "muddle through" with distinctions such as these. Almost never in our history have we had the luxury of expecting a high degree of conformity in doctrine or liturgical practice. To avoid extinction, frequently individual Anglicans and even groups of us have needed to back off from actions with which we disapprove and allow them still to happen, preferably "somewhere else."
It was not new that lesbian and gay Episcopalians got together in 1974: for at least a century earlier, certain parishes and cathedrals were rumored to be relatively gay friendly. What was new in 1974 was our organizing and our announcing it to the world. That scared even many of the gay priests of the diocese of Chicago.
Within only six months, Integrity held its first national convention at the Cathedral of St. James in Chicago--a product of good strategies by leaders well connected in the diocese. Many of the members of the Chicago chapter were close to the Suffragan Bishop Quintin Primo, one of the first African American bishops, who presided over the main Eucharist. The dean of the Cathedral was extremely supportive. Several clergy members were close to prominent theologian Norman Pittenger, and they persuaded him to be the principal speaker. Dr. Pittenger, after retirement as a professor at the General Theological Seminary in New York, had identified himself as gay in a statement widely published in England, where he lived in at Cambridge University. Dr. Pittenger's decision to take this risk led many of his former students to join us.
Ellen Barrett and James Wickliff served as Integrity's first co-presidents. Before we had a national meeting, I drafted Integrity's first Constitution, to assure that we moved towards gender justice. Ellen was then a candidate for priesthood in New York City.
More "irregular" ordinations of women took place in Washington, DC, in September 1975, after our convention. In Washington at the time, on a missionary journey to our new chapters in the east, Jim Wickliff and I yielded to the counsel of friends who advised that our visibility at the ordination might put in jeopardy lesbians among all early ordinands.
In 1976, General Convention passed a resolution "Homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church." Integrity members had proposed this specific wording a year earlier when we met with The Standing Commission on Human Affairs. Bishop George Murray, chair of the Commission, was not known for liberalism: he was one of the clergy persons whom Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. scolded by name in his "Letter from the Birmingham Jail." Yet Bishop Murray had grown through that earlier confrontation. We got to meet with the Commission because I wrote to him as my former bishop, while I was a professor at the University of Alabama (1966-70). Others wrote to those whom they knew on the Commission. Constantly we knocked on doors, wrote letters, and made our presence known as lesbigay.
That same 1976 General Convention changed the canons to permit the ordination of women. At the same time it declared homosexual persons "children of God," it "regularized" the earlier ordinations in Philadelphia and Washington. The 1976 Convention passed (and reaffirmed in 1979, 1983, and 1994) resolutions supporting the civil rights of lesbians and gays.
In January of 1977, the first month women could be "legally" ordained, the Rt. Rev. Paul Moore, Jr., Bishop of New York, ordained to the priesthood Ellen Marie Barrett, who had served as Integrity's first co-president. Other lesbians had been among the Philadelphia Eleven; thousands of gay men had been ordained over centuries, but they were not "out" to the world; most were not "out" to anyone. Ellen Barrett was ordained while already out to her bishop, out to her supporting congregation, out to other diocesan review bodies, and on the day of her ordination, out to anyone in the world who could read a newspaper. "Ordaining them" was no longer theoretical.
Reaction was swift and volatile. For months, Episcopal newspapers and magazines fulminated. Meeting in Port St. Lucie nine months later, the House of Bishops said ordinations of lesbians and gays should not happen. They passed a strong resolution condemning homosexuality as unbiblical. They asserted the church "is right to confine its nuptial blessing exclusively to heterosexual marriage." No one sought dialogue with lesbigays this time.
Yet at Port St. Lucie, the Bishops tabled a measure to censure Bishop Moore. With glorious irony, some of the bishops most annoyed by the ordination of Ellen Barrett still needed to protect dissent, namely their own. Since the canon law now made it legal to ordain women, bishops who felt women should not be priests did not want to be forced to ordain them. At Port St. Lucie, the House of Bishops adopted a "conscience clause" permitting bishops to refuse to ordain women. During the 1980's, at first a few, then a few more bishops began quietly to ordain lesbians and gays who were out to them, protected by that same notion of "conscience."
At the 1979 General Convention, the Commission on Human Affairs, now chaired by the Rt. Rev. Robert Spears, Bishop of Rochester, presented an extremely positive report that called for the ordination of qualified lesbians and gays and was favorable to blessing same-sex unions.
On Sunday at the beginning of the Convention in 1979, one of our strong local leaders in Denver, a priest named Ric Kerr, was host to the Presiding Bishop John Allin who came to see the marvelous work that Ric and his parish had done to reclaim a depressed neighborhood and create a multicultural congregation. Along with Bishop Allin came a large entourage to witness this "success story." In his sermon, Ric came out, gently claiming gays' place at God's table. At the reception, Bishop Allin, with whom I had met several times earlier, said, "I knew you'd be here for this. You're everywhere!"
The Convention itself was affected by the Port St. Lucie statement (which as a statement by the bishops alone was not enforceable). Convention approved a negative resolution, but one which was milder than that of the House of Bishops. In a compromise, both houses of convention said it was "not appropriate" to ordain anyone sexually active outside the bonds of heterosexual marriage. Behind the scenes Integrity members helped to convey our anguish and to rally support. Over three dozen bishops plus scores of lay and clerical deputies signed a dissent document stating that as an act of "conscience" they could not abide by that resolution. One of the original dissenters was the Most Rev. Edmond Browning while he was still Bishop of Hawaii. He was elected Presiding Bishop in 1985.[My friend Ted Mollegen, deputy from Connecticut, notes that it was the intent of the 1979 resolution to establish local option to respond to the lesbigay issues. Indeed, one of the influences on that convention was Professor David Allen Scott, a colleague of Ted Mollegen's father at Virginia Seminary. Professor Scott said: "General Convention should not attempt to resolve this issue.... The ordination of ministers should be left to local diocesan bishops to decide." (as reported by David Virtue in "Debate Highlights Homosexual Issues." Virginia Churchman April 1979: 2.]
Around 1980, the Rev. Carter Heyward, one of the Philadelphia Eleven, a theologian serving as professor at the Episcopal Divinity School, came out as lesbian, as have scores of others.
Throughout the period from 1979 onward, many bishops have more actively ordained lesbians and gays who are open throughout the ordination process--to their sponsoring congregations, to diocesan commissions on ministry, to diocesan standing committees, and to their ordaining bishops. Few of these ordinations come to the attention of the press, nor do those in the process seek to publicize them as such. Integrity leaders now cite over 100 such ordinations, most of whom are members of Integrity.
In another gesture of inclusion, The Diocese of California began the Parsonage, as a peer counseling center in the Castro, a lesbian and gay neighborhood of San Francisco. The Rt. Rev. William Swing, Bishop of California, passionately told a meeting of the House of Bishops in 1987 that their unlove sent far too many lesbigay clergy to San Francisco and New York, and reminded us that we as a church are interconnected and must grow into that realization.
Integrity has grown unevenly. In 1984, after ten years, we had about 1,200 members, the same number we had by our second anniversary in 1976. However, in the second ten years we doubled our numbers. We began 1995 with seventy-five chapters and about 2,500 members. Each group must have at least 10 members to become a chapter; the NYC chapter sometimes has over 300 members. Chapters currently average 30 members, and meet at least once a month, some once a week, for a service (usually a Eucharist) and for educational/social time. Most chapters meet in local parishes.
The goal has never been for Integrity to replace one's parish, but instead, for Integrity to refuel members to go back into their own parishes empowered to incarnate a loving lesbigay presence there. The secondary, but always present goal, is to affect the preaching and teaching of the Episcopal Church on the parish, diocesan, and national levels. In this, Integrity is probably unique among lesbigay ministries. For example, many members of Dignity, the organization of lesbigay Catholics, use the Dignity mass as their only church attendance. Dignity, too, has had little or no influence on the policies of the Roman Catholic Church; nor are they likely have much chance to do so in a non-democratic environment. On the other hand, most of the Protestant groups (Affirmation, Presbyterians for Lesbians and Gay Concerns, etc.), work as hard on the "political" front as the environment of their denominations permit, but they rarely have regular worship services outside a parish environment.
In 1995, Integrity membership is larger than that of all the Protestant lesbigay caucuses combined, despite the Episcopal Church being a relatively small denomination. Why? Some feel that our structure may be essential: Integrity is structured to remain active in the parish, diocese, and denomination, but also protected from being co-opted by priorities of the hosts. Others suggest that our numbers merely reflect a higher percentage of lesbigays in the Episcopal Church.
Most Integrity chapters have been formed by and are led by lay leadership. Some dioceses, however, have included Integrity in their diocesan budgets and the bishop appoints a chaplain for Integrity. In one of the more unusual cases, Bishop Spears, together with the Roman Catholic Bishop of Rochester, called for and funded a joint Integrity/Dignity chapter in that city. That group, with the bishops' permission, began blessing lesbian and gay relationships in 1976.
Chapters sometimes have a small core of priests who serve as chaplains. More often, chapters call upon a wide network of clergy to come and preach and preside at Eucharist. These occasions have changed many a visitor. No congregation has ever had an Integrity chapter meeting there without being changed by our presence.
From the beginning, Integrity has been blessed with numerous leaders who know how the Episcopal Church works, persons willing to invest the enormous amount of time and effort to connect. One of the reasons lesbians and gays have succeeded in the Episcopal Church is that we spend time learning how it operates, and then we teach one another. Almost every one of our leaders knows who's who in the Church in her diocese, in her parish, and in the Episcopal Church Center. We know how to serve these people.
Episcopalians are blessed with an open political process. Many of the same persons who shaped the Constitution of the United States shaped the Constitution of the Episcopal Church. In our Church, it is okay to respect political processes. Episcopalians believe in the Holy Spirit not as an icon chiseled into stone at Pentecost and allowed to say no new word, but as God's living presence among us. We believe that God expects us both to listen and to think.
It seems to me that 1979 was the high water mark of homophobia: "You shouldn't do it!" General Convention told the bishops. But the tide almost immediately started to ebb. "We will do it anyway," three dozen conscientious bishops said in reply. The House knew it could not muster enough votes to prevent the dissent. Lesbians and gays and many straights who recognized our spiritual gifts then took risks to try to ensure the tide never again turned against us.
Gains of the 1980's were most noticeable at the parish and diocesan level. The decade manifested homophobia, to be sure. In 1982, for example, the Bishop of Louisiana denied Integrity permission to use any Episcopal Church during General Convention in New Orleans. However, four years later, the Most Rev. Edmond L. Browning at his installation as Presiding Bishop promised "This church of ours is open to all. There will be no outcasts." This was to become the most profound commitment of his 12-year term, 1986-97. Six months after his installation though, when the bishop summoned "every group in the Episcopal Church" to report what it had learned in a "listening process," Integrity alone was omitted. Our board complained, and thereafter began a regular process of meeting with the Presiding Bishop. The board always brought a list of specific actions and asked him to connect board members personally to the persons at the Church Center responsible for actions of each type we brought.
Those opposed to us were badly divided in their other priorities. Some wanted mainly to preserve a male priesthood. Some wanted mainly to preserve a liturgical style. Others wanted mainly to preserve a morality which they called biblical, though the morality they described was no more biblical than kids dressed in bathrobes for a Christmas pageant. They talked about families, but these families sounded more like families on tv in the 1950's than like anything in the Bible. Many longed for the days when Episcopalians held the keys, if not to the Kingdom of Heaven, at least to the Country Club.
The one common ingredient to many disparate agendas was that all agreed that homosexuality was an abomination. Around this one "certainty" many began to organize. The clearest way to persuade people that the church was "going to the dogs" was to point out the growing support for homosexuals.
In 1984, a group of conservative bishops met in January to pursue ways to "revitalize" the Episcopal Church. Two of the key players were the Rt. Rev. William Frey, Bishop of Colorado (a candidate for the office of Presiding Bishop in 1985) and the Rt. Rev. Michael Marshall, a British transplant (publicly "outed" in the English press in 1994). A year later, this group became Episcopalians United for Revelation, Renewal, and Reformation (EURRR). From the beginning, the group aggressively opposed the ordination of lesbians and gays and the blessing of our relationships. They have attacked Integrity in nearly every issue of their publications.
General Convention in 1985 called for three years of dialogue on the homosexual issue. Integrity made the mistake of believing the promise, but the dialogue promised in 1985 did not occur. "You issued a check and it has bounced," we said at the hearing sponsored by the Commission on Health and Human Affairs at General Convention in 1988. As a "compromise," again Convention swept everything under the rug by calling for three "more" years of dialogue, but this time Integrity launched an effort to encourage dialogue on the local level. Materials were developed and many parishes had excellent programs, though this was not widespread.
Integrity began to wield real influence at the 1988 General Convention. Friends and foes alike credited us as having the best network at the convention, designed by Kim Byham, a brilliant New York attorney who served as our president at that time. He has coordinated our presence at all subsequent conventions, and he has also been extremely effective in getting Integrity's message to the media.
For General Conventions since 1988, we have selected approximately 40 persons to represent Integrity from a pool of 80 or so volunteers. Integrity spends about $40,000, which goes to housing for the volunteers (transportation and food are dutch treats), a booth, a nerve center, a hospitality suite, publications, and other expenses. We divide the volunteers into a variety of task forces. Legislative volunteers, for example, monitor sessions of each House. Committee meetings begin at 7 a.m. Volunteers then report to our nerve center on the progress of all legislation, noting the dates of hearings at which our volunteers might testify. With computers, we generate reports far more accurately and faster than most official avenues of information. We do not limit our interests narrowly to lesbigay legislation, but put our people into the full range of venues where they may share expertise. For example, at all conventions, women of Integrity have served on the women's caucus, as did its first male member, Integrity legislative leader Pat Waddell from California.
In the same year as the Detroit General Convention, The Diocese of Massachusetts elected as suffragan the first female bishop in Anglican history, the Rt. Rev. Barbara Harris. Harris had directed the Consultation, an umbrella progressive group of which Integrity was a founding member, along with Union of Black Episcopalians, the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, the Episcopal Women's Caucus, the Urban Bishops' Coalition, and other.
It would be impossible to overestimate the importance of these many friendships and the importance of alliances we have forged across diverse struggles. For example, in the earliest days, many gay male Episcopalians were Anglocatholic opponents of women's ordination. The Diocese of Chicago, which hosted our first convention, was one of the later dioceses to ordain women. Nevertheless, Integrity's leadership steadfastly supported women's ordination from the beginning.
In 1989, EURRR launched an even more strident attack on any bishops supportive of lesbians and gays. In December, the Rt. Rev. John Spong, Bishop of Newark, in a highly publicized event, ordained the Rev. Robert Williams and commissioned him as the chief missioner for the Oasis, a diocesan ministry with lesbians and gays. EURRR opened an endless attack, primarily as a fund-raiser. If other bishops ordain lesbians and gays, as Spong has, the church is surely in apostasy, EURRR relentlessly argued. As an official ministry of a diocese, the Oasis gave weight to EURRR's scare tactics that sin was overtaking the Episcopal Church.
At General Convention in 1991 those opposed to ordaining lesbians and gays presented a resolution "All members of the clergy of this church....shall be under the obligation to abstain from sexual relations outside holy matrimony." The resolution failed! Although the resolution did not name lesbians and gays, members of both the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies identified the Catch 22 and voted accordingly. Instead, the Convention passed a resolution reaffirming heterosexual marriage as the tradition of the Episcopal Church but acknowledged that many faithful Episcopalians are living in discontinuity with this tradition. Opponents of lesbians and gays left the convention howling that they had lost and that the Episcopal Church was moving towards heresy. For the first time openly gay and lesbian Integrity members serving as deputies identified themselves as such on the floor of the House of Deputies. The House of Deputies elected its first woman ever to serve as its president.
In 1991, about 3,000 people attended an evening hearing. To speak on behalf of gay and lesbian issues, Integrity selected the Bishop of Los Angeles (the Rt. Rev. Frederick Borsch, the leading theologian in the House), an openly gay priest (the Rev. Walter Szymanski of Rochester, who had been leading the blessing effort since 1976), and an openly lesbian priest (the Rev. Stina Pope of Atlanta). On departure from the hearing, hundreds joined in a circle to sing "We are a gentle, angry people."
In 1991 General Convention faced up to the fact that the church had not actually had the dialogue promised for the last six years and called for a structure to ensure dialogue for the next three, with a mechanism to report the results from parish to diocese to national church. It stressed that it wanted dialogue, not argumentation. Two historic visits poignantly symbolized the dialogue. In 1992 Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning spoke at the Integrity national convention in Houston, spurned by the Bishop of Texas and scorned by EURRR. In 1993, President Pamela Chinnis of the House of Deputies spoke at the Integrity national convention in San Diego, spurned by the Bishop of San Diego. She came out as the mother of a gay son, and pledged to use her appointment powers to put lesbian and gay deputies on committees of General Convention.
During the 1991-94 triennium 18,000 ordinary Episcopalians evaluated their parish dialogue about human sexuality--the largest response to a sexuality survey ever recorded by a Christian denomination. The committee overseeing the dialogue reported, "We estimate from the sale of dialogue guide materials that nearly 30,000 persons were actually involved in some way in this dialogue process--as many as 1,128 congregations and slightly more than seventy-seven per cent of the dioceses."
Integrity members actively participated in dialogue in our own parishes, some as leaders. Integrity, Inc. sought no official participation: we wanted the Church to own this process. As we expected, many who began the dialogue to find out more about "those people," ended by finding out much about themselves as well.
This dialogy must be credited with the radical difference of General Convention in 1994. Deputies arrived knowing that of those who had actively studied the issue, "Seventy per cent indicate that being sexually active as a gay or lesbian person is not contrary to being a faithful Christian." In 1991 lesbigays had been at the lonely fringe: the House of Bishops had disassociated itself from the actions of the Bishop of Newark, the Rt. Rev. John S. Spong, for the Williams ordination, and at the 1991 convention, the Bishop of Washington and the Assistant Bishop of Newark averted censure for ordaining other openly lesbigays as priests. But by the 1994 General Convention, at least a dozen other bishops had openly, albeit most of them quietly, ordained openly lesbigay people.
In the fall of 1993, just before the Panama meeting of the House of Bishops, the Rt. Rev. Otis Charles, retired Bishop of Utah and former Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School, came out to the House and to the world as a gay man, the Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop. It was clear to friends and foes that the center of opposition to lesbians and gays was not holding.
In a strong effort to block lesbians and gays, most of the bishops in the Southwest initiated a strong statement opposing ordination and blessings of lesbigay couples. They obtained the signatures of 106 bishops. Troubled by this step backwards, the Bishop of Newark drafted a statement of conscience which affirmed lesbigay sexuality and spirituality and stated he would continue to continue to the ordination of lesbigays. Seventy-one bishops have now signed Bishop Spong's "Statement of Koinonia."
At first a score of 106 bishops against us versus 71 for us sounds more like defeat than victory: but not all bishops wield power equally. Diocesan bishops control diocesan policy; retired bishops do not, nor do assistant bishops. Active diocesans who signed Bishop Spong's "Statement of Koinonia" oversee 862,000 communicants compared with the 646,000 (25 percent fewer) communicants overseen by active diocesans who signed the negative document. It seems that we have won the war, even though it may take several more conventions before the opposition concedes.
The 1994 General Convention was noticeable for its inclusiveness. Lesbian and gay deputies led floor debates that resulted in significant legislation. General Convention called on the Standing Liturgical Commission to study what form the blessing of lesbigay relationships might take. Convention called upon the church's official lobbyists in Washington to work for all legislation supportive of lesbians and gays. Convention called on the Episcopal Church Center to prepare materials to educate parents of teenagers to the issues of lesbigay and other teen suicides....
EURRR came to General Convention with a one-million-dollar budget, but clearly they lost the day.
The Rt. Rev. Bennett Sims, Bishop of Atlanta was a chief architect of the 1979 resolution inhibiting the ordination of lesbians and gays. In 1991 in an open letter to the Church, he explained: "When I wrote that Pastoral Statement in 1977, I knew only one homosexual person up close. He scared me to death with his penetrating challenge that he was as complete a human being as I was." I was that person. In 1977 Bishop Sims had summoned me for discipline through the world press, yet at the 1994 General Convention Bishop Sims was the chief celebrant at a service the 20th anniversary of the ordination of women and celebrated the 20th anniversary of Integrity. He explained that he changed his mind when he began to know lesbians and gays as persons, as sister and brother Christians, not just as issues.
I realize that for many I am giving merely a political report; but politics have not driven my work in the church, nor I believe, have politics driven the work of most lesbians and gays in the Church. Why should they? The Church is not a significant political force today. The Church that codified heteroprivilege and heterocentric morality for the United States no longer exists as that powerful an institution.
In the church, however, lesbigays are driven instead by the Gospel imperative, the profound faith that God loves absolutely everybody. Our ministry is less about who we are than Whose we are. I attribute any success that we have to the authenticity of this calling. I believe that God is present in our world with a marvelous sense of humor, using lesbians and gays to evangelize the Church and bring it back to its first principle, namely the boundless love of God and its absolute inclusiveness.
When the Integrity movement started, we sometimes made the mistake of thinking that we were asking in. We began to discover, however, a marvelous mystery, that we lesbians and gays already are the church, we already are the Body of Christ, that God chooses whom God will love, "that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39).