Not to Send Peace

by Louie Crew

First appeared in Integrity Forum 5.2 (1979): 4-5.

© 1979 by Integrity Forum; © 2004 by Louie Crew

Integrity is still a fledgling, only four years old in November 1978. Hence it seems much too early to measure Integrity's success. Certainly Integrity has been a means for many thousands of lesbian and gay male Christians to be used in Christ's witness; and certainly many more thousands of nongay Christians have through Integrity been confronted with some of the truths of our lives. Furthermore, Integrity shows fairly good vital signs, with strong leadership in most places.

What troubles me is the immense recalcitrance of the ignorance and the homophobia which we are called to exorcise. I very much doubt that we have found the most effective strategies for our prophetic missions to nongays and gays alike.

As does any spiritual community, Integrity constantly risks diminution through trivialization, whether by becoming merely a private club with incense and pretty music, by becoming a mere forum for the vaunting of celebrated egos, or by becoming merely an efficient mechanism for accommodating the evil that deserves a more radical removal.

Given the comfortable socio-economic status of most Integrity members relative to that of members of most other lesbian and gay male organizations, Integrity threatens to become a substantial drain of energy and power from the movement generally unless Integrity vigilantly resists all trivialization. Blasphemy has hardly ever been so possible through the imaginative swearings of street persons as through the elegant but vain use of God's name by those from whom much more is required.

When I took the first flimsy issue of Forum to the printer, I assumed that social injustice could be rectified simply by telling the oppressors the truth. I assumed that no one wants to be an oppressor, and that the person who steps on my toe can be dissuaded if properly informed of my pain. I knew that some who step on toes might have to be prompted several times before breaking their bad habits, especially since many were trained not to hear the promptings of lesbians and gay males as cries of human beings; and I knew that it would take time to persuade others to take on the nuisance job of speaking out when stepped upon, so accustomed have we grown to living with such annoyances. But basically I felt that the job was clear-cut and fairly simple in conception, if demanding in execution.

I was very naive. I failed to reckon with the fact that some people have a vested interest in our oppression. Perhaps a majority of the leaders of our church feel that they have an obligation to silence "undesirables," particularly those defined as undesirable by the heterosexual majority, whose contributions to the church coffers all too often are investments in respectability for this life rather than investments in the treasures of heaven. For such seekers of respectability, open and honest lesbians and gay males are obviously the moths and rust that corrupt, the thieves who break in and steal.

Even a sizable majority of lesbians and gay males view honesty and openness in precisely the same way. In every Episcopal cathedral and in thousands of parish churches there is a group of lesbians and gay males who really cannot imagine why we would possibly want to go to church at all if not for the couple of hours of precious respectability which they have carefully tried to secure there.

Our oppressors have grown much more sophisticated since we first started speaking out. Integrity's growth seems feeble by comparison. The oppressors are not stepping just on toes these days. The last two sessions of the House of Bishops have produced the most anti- homosexual ecclesiastical statements since Leviticus and Romans 1. In 1976 we caught them off guard and persuaded a conservative commission chaired by a Southern bishop to push through General Convention a very loving statement about us as "children of God." However, when Bishop Moore dared to take that document seriously by ordaining Ellen Barrett as such a Child of God, the respectability folks completely gutted the Minneapolis resolution. There is a very real possibility that the 1979 General Convention in Denver will for the first time in the history of the Anglican Communion pass legislation specifically prohibiting our ordination. As in the children's game, we have taken one itsy-bitsy step forward only to have to take a giant step backward. Furthermore, we are not even represented in the membership of the new commission charged to report our issues to General Convention, though our celebrated adversary Ruth Tiffany Barnhouse is the most outspoken member of that commission. Clearly the commission's report can have no more credibility than would the report on blacks by a commission with no black representation but with Lester Maddox as a vocal commission member.

Our Lord's ministry was volatilely nonviolent As Christ turned over the tables of the money-changers, so we must begin more serious instruction of those who have turned God's house of prayer into a heterosexual club with gay closets. The Church has shown very limited good faith in responding to our less dramatic presentations: we need to find more forceful measures.

For example, some closets need fumigating. Using a hetero cover to preserve an opportunity for ministry is one thing; but the use of that cover to take pot shots at the rest of us is decidedly another matter. When known gay and lesbian laity, priests, and bishops speak out against homosexuals to throw the suspicion off themselves, their position is as untenable as that of the high-yellow riding in the front of the bus and throwing rotten eggs at the black sisters and brothers in the back. If such folks can't be persuaded to desist in their abuses of us, they need to be exposed.

Again, the public needs to be alerted more dramatically to the priests and Levites who pass us by on the other side, ignoring the very pain which they have aggravated. E.g., twice in the last month Integrity persons have been turned down by bishops and other clergy in two separate dioceses when asked to perform a simple Eucharist for groups of needy lesbians and gay males, once for a group of Episcopalian English teachers at their national meeting. There is nothing sacred about ecclesiastical hatred!

Very soon Integrity members may have to face jail sentences for volatile, nonviolent acts at such altars, for performing the services our Lord performed for the temple exchequers. Recently our DIGNITY sisters and brothers in NYC interrupted a service at St Patrick's Cathedral with the chant, "Cardinal Cook Take a Look!" Certainly the Episcopal rector of nearby St. Bartholomew's took a look and used the episode positively in a sermon preached to the national gathering of the heads of Episcopal diocesan liturgy committees, perhaps as gay a group as any in our church. We simply can no longer rule out the rasher measures of Christian witness. Often Dr. King was heard most clearly when H. Rap Brown and Stokely Carmichael were in the wings. For sure, we will never do much educating if we allow our oppressors to dictate either the content, the style, or the timing of our reactions.

The real test will be whether we can resist in love. If we cannot, we should not even begin, for lovelessness is no victory at all.

I am persuaded that we have not yet even begun adequately to assess the real needs of our own community, and each day thousands of lesbian and gay male young people learn to perpetuate their own self- oppression. God's concern for us can be communicated only as we make ourselves available to communicate that concern.


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