Monday, January 5, 2009

Winners, Losers, And The Miracle Of Grace

It was quiet this afternoon outside the Cathedral Center of St. Paul, headquarters of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. But there was jubilation within as word came down from the California Supreme Court that three congregations which left the Episcopal Church after the ordination of the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, a partnered gay man, as bishop of New Hampshire must return their properties to the Diocese.

My wife and colleague Kathy and I were downtown for a noon meeting. We visited the Cathedral Center in Echo Park afterwards. It seemed to be the place to be today, if only briefly. This news van was the first to arrive for a 2 p.m. news conference. It was national news several years ago when our congregations in Newport Beach, Long Beach, and North Hollywood voted to join the Anglican Province of Uganda. When they tried to keep their buildings and property, our Diocese sued.

Today's unanimous ruling is expected to complicate the lives of 100 other congregations around the country who have left TEC without leaving their buildings. It's not clear yet whether the dissenting LA churches will try to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Here's Bishop J. Jon Bruno's statement from the Cathedral Center:
"The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles is overjoyed with the conclusive opinion of the California Supreme Court.

"We have prevailed in all areas of law addressed in this case.

"We look forward to the possibility of reconciliation with these congregations, and we assure that this Diocese and the people of The Episcopal Church that we will continue mission and ministry in the areas of these congregations.

"The mission of The Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Los Angeles continues, as our prayer book states, 'to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.' We will continue to seek this reconciliation with fellow Christians in the communities of Long Beach, Newport Beach, and North Hollywood, as well as La Crescenta, where Episcopal church properties continue as part of the Diocese of Los Angeles in accordance with the Court's opinion announced today.

"We acknowledge that this opinion establishes a precedent. We further note the pastoral concerns at this time within The Episcopal Church, which continues in its mission of service, especially in providing food, shelter, medicine, and pastoral care to those in greatest need locally and globally, respecting the dignity of every human being."
Political and legal entanglements are a fact of human life, including in the church. And yet neither elections nor legal rulings can settle theological disputes or heal spiritual or interpersonal wounds. Long after voters and judges leave off, the work of God's grace persists.

O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light rises up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what you would have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in your light we may see light, and in your straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER

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