In US, Decline of Christianity Continue at Rapid Pace, published on the 17th of this month, the Pew Research Center released the findings of its latest surveys on the continuing rapid decline of Christianity on the American landscape. While this is certainly not news to anyone who has been paying attention the past two decades, the response to this trend within the traditional churches bears reflection.
Well, it has certainly been a season. After missing all of Christmas with the flu, and spending some much needed time on vacation in my happy place, in sunny Carpinteria, California with my beloved, I have had a good amount of time to reflect on many things; primarily my relationship to “The Church.” The title of this post is an homage to one of my favorite artists, Annie Lennox, and also descriptive of the state I find myself in, in relationship to institutional religion.
In August of 2018, I was suspended from all service as a Subdeacon in the Orthodox Church in America, and told I could no longer vest and serve in Liturgy, teach catechism, preach sermons, lead groups, or wear my cassock (fancy black dress for churchy dudes) because I refused to remove or “clarify” my post regarding my support for the LGBTQ+ community.
In this post, I thought I’d share a re-printed blog/meditation (with permission of course) by one of my favorite authors. These words had a profound impact on me two years ago, shortly before I retired after 17 years service as Director of St. John’s Camp and left my job of 14 years at IU. That was one of the best Summers of my life, which is good, as it preceded two of the more challenging years of my life, including present day. The words below are ones that I have come back to over and over, to be reminded of who I am and whose I want to be and how I wish to live. I hope you find it as inspiring, life-giving, and challenging as I did. Thank you to Fr. Richard Rohr and the Center for Action and Contemplation
for the permission to reprint!
Necessary Falling Apart by Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM
Most religion is highly “legitimating religion.” It is used for social control and public order both by the powers that be and by people who want to be in control. This limited use of religion has allowed much of Christian history to participate in a toxic and unjust environment—just as long as we have “a personal relationship with Jesus.” This will not work anymore; in fact, it never did.
The time has come to be forthright with all of you, dear readers, and to advocate for something that is close to my heart. To my shame, I have spent too many years living in fear of being honest and speaking up about my beliefs on same-sex relationships, marriage, and furthermore unequivocally stating that I am an ally of the LGBTQ community.
I know some will ask how I arrived at this place, and to that, my only response is the poem from Rumi above. I found myself caught by the Divine Lover in a moment of being woken up.
I moved to Indianapolis in 1996 – a very naïve and innocent young man from a small WASPy rural town in East Central Illinois. My first awakening came from working with a man named Jason, who was flamboyantly and proudly gay. Being a good evangelical “Christian” boy, I was initially put off by him and was unsure how to talk to him about his “lifestyle” and try to “convert” him. However, over time, as I got to know him…as a person…and heard his story and became friends with him, my heart started to change. Jason was not an object to be converted; he was a human being with a story and a family and desirous of communion and friendship…just like me. That was the beginning of my heart changing, and the start of a shift in my attitude and understanding that would ultimately lead me to believe that, like the woman at the well, the Divine is truly everywhere present and filling all things…even those I had been raised to believe were wrong.