This has been a tough news week. I’m almost tempted to leave it at that for today. I’m weary and touchy from trying to follow all of the discussions surrounding Judge Kavanaugh’s potential confirmation to the Supreme Court. On the one hand, I’d love to just hide away because I find this all so disturbing yet, on the other hand, I believe that we need to speak out with discernment and wisdom for all the victims. So, I have spoken out and, as a result, have faced some personal attacks for my words.
For me, this is not a partisan issue; this is a question of justice for a women who has reported an attack that happened more than thirty-five years ago, a question of confirming the best possible individual for the highest court in our land, and a question of giving voice to the many victims of sexual assault – both women and men – who have been invisible in our culture for decades. I am not taking a political stance in the Nuts and Bolts. And, I am sorry that I see many in both parties trying to use this for their advantage in the upcoming elections.
You may recall that in January of this year, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and President of the House of Deputies Gay Clark Jennings sent out a letter asking the church to examine our history of failures to acknowledge and protect the victims of sexual abuse and misconduct. As a result, on July 4 at General Convention in Austin, bishops, deputies and guests gathered for a “Liturgy of Listening” in which twelve stories of sexual misconduct that occurred within the church were read. Prior to Convention, a call had gone out for victims to share their stories and forty were received from which the twelve were selected. At the service, each story was read by a bishop of the same gender as the author – six men and six women. The focus was on how each had been hurt by the church. Episcopal News Service (ENS) reported:
The service was planned by Central New York Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe, who chairs the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Response to #MeToo Planning Team. In remarks in Episcopal News Service in late June, she said the service was designed to help set a framework for General Convention’s consideration of resolutions dealing with sexual misconduct, exploitation and gender disparity. These sins occur “because we aren’t seeing the image of Christ in one another,” she told ENS.
“Seeing Christ in all persons” reminds me of the Gospel readings from Mark from the last couple of weeks: we need to welcome others because by doing so, we welcome Christ among us – and not only Christ, we welcome God in our midst – and we need to be attentive lest we cause another – or ourselves – to stumble. I contend that if we are honestly seeking Christ, we will have ears to listen to the stories of the many who have been hurt and abused and we will be living out our Baptismal Covenant in which we promise to “seek and serve Christ in all persons” and “respect the dignity of every human being.” I confess that I have struggled to see Jesus in those who have criticized my opinions this week. I know I need to pull back a bit to regain my focus.
I realize that this is more of an op-ed than my traditional blog post and I promise that the Nuts and Bolts will return to its regular format soon yet, for now, I think we need to take time to pray for everyone involved in this volatile issue that is wreaking havoc with our faith in democracy and confidence in our leadership.
Let us pray –
Praise to you, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, source of all consolation and hope.
By your Son’s dying and rising He remains our light in every darkness,
our strength in every weakness.
Be the refuge and guardian of all who suffer from abuse and violence.
Comfort them and send healing for their wounds of body, soul and spirit.
Rescue them from bitterness and shame and refresh them with your love.
Heal the brokenness in all victims of abuse
and revive the spirits of all who lament this sin.
Help us to follow Jesus in drawing good from evil, life from death.
Give us hears to hear to stories of all the victims
that they know they are not invisible to us and to you.
Help us to seek Christ in all persons
and help us live that others see Christ in us.
Make us one with you in your love for justice
as we deepen our respect for the dignity of every human life.
Giver of peace, make us one in celebrating your praise,
both now and forever. Amen.
(adapted from a prayer by Bishop John F. Kinney, St Cloud, MN)
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council