I’m tempted to stop listening to the news and refrain from reading all social media. It just hurts too much!! I can’t tell whether it’s the pollen or are my eyes slightly damp from all the injustice and pain? And this week it really hit close to home. But, that’s for a bit later…
If you’ve turned to the blog for news about resolutions this week, you may be disappointed. So, it’s okay; you can move on. But for those of you who decide to stay, I’d like to ask that we consider a call to prayer. The headlines have been full of continued reports of the loss of life and devastation following the earthquake in Nepal. I heard a story earlier this week about the tragic plight of refugees in Africa – makes me want to go back and read all the good reports from the Migration Ministries but I know that would just be a way of ignoring the suffering of many thousands of men, women and children who have been displaced from their homelands with little hope of resettlement.
Closer to home, the Episcopal News Service reported last week that our Presiding Bishop has reached an agreement with Bishop Suffragan Heather Cook (Episcopal Diocese of Maryland) that deprives her of her status as an ordained person in The Episcopal Church. Bishop Katharine’s statement reads:
Pursuant to Title IV of the Canons of The Episcopal Church, the Presiding Bishop and Bishop Cook have reached an Accord. Under the terms of the Accord, Bishop Cook will receive a Sentence of Deposition, pursuant to which she shall be “deprived of the right to exercise the gifts and spiritual authority of God’s word and sacraments conferred at ordination.”
As such, Cook will no longer function as an ordained person in The Episcopal Church.
The Accord resolves all ecclesiastical disciplinary matters involving Cook.
This Accord is separate from any resolution of employment matters involving Cook and the Diocese of Maryland as well as from criminal matters pending in the secular courts.
While this ends the disciplinary action of The Episcopal Church, it doesn’t put an end to the pain and suffering of all involved – including Heather Cook. It is yet another tragedy. The full article can be found here – http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2015/05/01/dual-actions-end-heather-cooks-ordained-ministry-employment/
But, for me, the news that is even closer to home happened on Tuesday morning. As many of you know, I work for Hillsdale College. Hillsdale prides itself on its conservative, liberal arts education which sometimes sets its philosophy and that of most students in opposition to some of the faculty, staff, alumni and student body. I am proud to be a member of the faculty because I am convinced that much of the academic experience here is excellent and that the faculty and staff take a significant interest in the whole life of each student. I just don’t necessarily agree on all points of the college’s political position.
On Monday morning, a student sent an email to the chaplain’s office which then went out to all faculty, staff, students and many alumni announcing the opportunity to join in prayer for the Supreme Court Justices’ decision on marriage equality. By now, you can find the exact wording of the email on many media sites since social media has carried this story quite far (Huffington Post, MLive, Channel 6 News, Outsports, etc).
Unfortunately, the email was very clear as to how one ought to pray on this matter. This event is sad and hurtful on so many levels. First, I personally know the student who wrote the email and have always found her to be thoughtful, kind and gracious. She volunteers at a local food pantry and is active on campus. There seems to be a huge disconnect here. What happened? Is this one more case of the intent of the author bearing no resemblance to the tone of the words when read by others? Of course, there is also the problem that the email was then sent out by the chaplain’s office and he freely admitted that he had not read it carefully before sending – a good reminder for all of us that post information on social media: read it over, sleep on it and when in doubt, don’t send it. The real tragedy, though, is for those who received this email and may be gay or have family and friends that are. How terrible it must have been for them to read that the chaplain’s office considers the work the Supreme Court is facing as “ugly” and that we need to “root out evil.” This email could also be seen as bullying for any students or staff here who are struggling with their own expression of sexual identity.
Of course, we all do need to pray. We need to pray for God’s wisdom and guidance and the elimination of discrimination and hatred. We need to pray for reconciliation and healing. We need to pray that we can be Christ’s hands and feet and voice in this suffering world because that will put action to our words. To help in the relief effort for the victims of the Nepali earthquake, check out Episcopal Relief and Development – https://www.episcopalrelief.org/press-and-resources/press-releases/2015-press-releases/earthquake-in-nepal
We can act in support of the refugees by celebrating World Refugee Day which has been set as June 20th by the United Nations General Assembly. You can find more information on their website which includes the World Refugee Day 2015 Toolkit – http://episcopalmm.org/sites/www/Uploads/files/EMMResources.org%20Transfers/RCUSA%202015%20World%20Refugee%20Day%20Advocacy%20Toolkit_04.28.15.pdf
Maybe there’s no direct action we can take to relieve the sorrow in the Diocese of Maryland over the fatal accident except to pray for the family of Thomas Palermo, Heather Cook and the people of that diocese but, if it causes us to evaluate our own habits we may be able to prevent something like this from happening again.
Here on campus, many did respond. The chaplain’s office sent out a more-clarifying, gentler email apologizing for the earlier one. The administration sent an email acknowledging that “the tone and language of the email did not properly represent our commitment to thoughtful inquiry and civil discussion as necessary to the pursuit of truth. We have a long history of treating all students with love and respect, and our Honor Code requires our students to do likewise.”
Some of us on the faculty expressed our sadness over the incident to the chaplain in messages that hopefully will lead to more open dialogue in the future. And some reached out to the students involved in the planning of the prayer meeting knowing that these young people have now found themselves in the center of a mess they didn’t expect.
So…I will continue to read and listen to the news because it can better inform my prayers and actions and I hope you will join me. Together, we are The Church, God’s people, and we can make a difference!
Let us pray…
Gracious Lord, sometimes the world seems too much. Too much pain. Too much suffering. Too much misunderstanding.
We come to you to ask that we might see with your eyes, hear with your ears, and know with your mind how we might carry on your mission in this place.
Help us to be your voice for those who have no voice, your hands for those whose hands are constrained, and your feet for those whose feet are shackled in oppression.
Help us to know your heart that we may ache for those who suffer injustice.
Remind us often, Lord, that “the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.”
All this, we ask with humility in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
~ Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council