St. Mark's Cathedral Launches
Convention Hospitality
Dean Address Sexuality Issues

by Susan Barksdale


ìAll are welcome in this placeî was the refrain of the procession at St. Markís Cathedral on Sunday morning, July 27, as the congregation and early arrivals for General Convention gathered for worship. Among the many visitors in the congregation were two former Cathedral Canons, Rona Harding and Gayle Morris; the Rev. Ed Bacon, rector of All Saints, Pasadena; the Rev. Susan Russell of ìClaiming the Blessingî; and the Rev. Fred Williams of the Church of the Intercession in Harlem.

Although this was not an official General Convention event, it was indeed part of the opening of two weeks of hospitality by the Diocese of Minnesota to the Episcopal Church, and one of a number of events to be held at the cathedral, including the Integrity Eucharist on the evening of Wednesday, July 30, and the Presiding BishopĂ­s Forum on Global Reconciliation on Thursday, July 31.

In his sermon, Dean Spenser Simrill referred to an area of potential controversy over the confirmation of Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, as Bishop of New Hampshire; and of the possible proposal of liturgical rites for same-sex blessings. He alluded to the Gospel of the dayconcerning the fearful apostles in their boat hearing the voice of Jesus as he walked over the water to them. ìWhen Godís Spirit moves, it always dislodges,î he said. ìCan we not hear Jesusí voice saying ìBe not afraid?íî

Simrill spoke of Biblical passages that have been used in opposition to homosexuality, speaking of ìselective literalistsî and asking, ìWhose interpretation are we to follow?î He added, ìScripture speaks to Scripture. Scripture interprets Scripture.î

ìIf this is such a big deal, why didnít Jesus say anything about it?î Simrill said. ìJesus spoke of love. Why do we keep using Scripture as a club? The Holy Spirit has been moving this past forty years to claim the blessing of inclusion.î He spoke of friends in faithful and committed same-sex relationships, adding that Scripture condemns promiscuity, both homosexual and heterosexual, and that the Holy Spirit ìasks us to put on different sets of lenses.î He spoke also of the fear of ìthe otherî ó ìWhen we become fearful, we become dishonest.î

ìWe need each other,î Simrill said. ìOur identity is based in baptism as we are marked as Christís own forever, not on seven texts. Our unity is not based on how we interpret Scripture; it is based on our identity with Jesus Christ.î

ìCan we reach across the lines,î Simrill concluded, ìand claim the grace? We are all in this boat. Can we hear the words of Jesus, ëDo not be afraid ó I am doing a new thingí?î


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5/7/04 -j