Searching for Home
Former Convenor, Integrity-Memphis
few weeks ago, I read a story from the recent gathering in Dallas
sponsored by the American Anglican Council (AAC), an organization
of the “orthodox” constituency within the Episcopal
Church. The AAC has been in the forefront of the opposition to
the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson and to the blessing
of same-gender unions.
was a special meeting, called for the purpose of formulating
a plan of action to be taken in response to the majority votes
on these two matters at the 2003 General Convention. Because
all attendees were required to sign a statement of agreement
with the mission of the AAC, the gathering was very much one
of like-minded people.
of the AAC leaders, the Reverend Kendall Harmon, told the story
of a man who was seen at the meeting, sitting alone sobbing,
who appeared to be in distress or was emotionally disturbed.
For this reason, he was brought to the attention of security
personnel and was subsequently approached by them. When asked
was he OK, he said he was. When asked why he was crying, he replied, “Because
I dedicated my whole life to serving God in this church and I
felt I had wasted myself for nothing. And now, I have come to
realize, I have not wasted myself, and that there is a place
this man had felt abandoned by the Episcopal Church and its recent
decisions, but he was overwhelmed to have found acceptance and
comfort among this group. He was apparently experiencing what
Harmon described about the gathering when he said “…part
of what is going on here is that people have a profound sense
of being given a home. It is safe, they are loved, they have
a message, they can be who they are.” He went on to say
that he wept at hearing this story. “Dorothy in the Wizard
of Oz was right” he proclaimed, “there’s
no place like home.”
irony in this story is obvious. Those in attendance at that meeting,
the great majority of whom have always felt “at home” in
the Episcopal Church, are now experiencing the painfulness of
feeling alienated. They feel that they have lost the comfort
and security that comes with being able to be true to who you
are and what you believe without fear of criticism or humiliation.
have expressed feelings of abandonment by the church. They long
for the days when the church felt like home and they make plans
to leave if they see returning to that as being impossible. They
need not describe to gays and lesbians the depth of their pain;
we know it all too well. Neither do they need to explain to us
the joy that accompanies the feeling of being truly loved and
of belonging within the church. Some of us have only recently
learned something of what that emotion can mean. Others of us
may never get that chance.
seems that we all want the church to feel like home; in fact,
it may be a necessity if we are to effectively go about doing
God’s work through the church. But, is it possible with
such divergent opinions and strong-willed advocates on either
side for the church to exist as a home to all? What are the qualities
we associate with that feeling of home?
adults, when we think of home, it seems we often refer to the
home of our childhood and the family that surrounded us. There
are many warm and fuzzy feelings connected to the notion of home:
unconditional love, acceptance, belonging, and security, to name
a few. There is a sense of nostalgia: familiar people, familiar
food, familiar routine and rules and, perhaps it is this familiarity
that makes us feel comfortable and safe when we’re home
with our family.
familiarity doesn’t mean similarity. All these desirable
feelings of home take place in the midst of and because of a
group of people--the family--whose members are as different as
night and day.
I consider my parents and the four siblings in my own immediate
family, I can’t imagine a more diverse group. We are Democrat
and Republican, gay and straight, vegetarian and Atkins dieter,
Christian and non-Christian, and the list goes on.
matter how long it has been since we last saw each other, we
tend to assume a right to frankness. We freely express our differing
opinions about each other and our lives, something we hesitate
to do even with close friends we see every day.
no matter what the topic of discussion, each of us is convinced
that he or she knows what is right. It is impossible to believe
sometimes that we all came out of the same home. But we did and
that’s our connection and that’s why we love each
other. It’s also why we tolerate our differences, strong
as they may be at times.
bond has nothing to do with like-mindedness. It has everything
to do with the fact that we all call the same place home and
it’s with each other that we experience those warm and
fuzzy feelings. Our home is our common ground.
course, families do split sometimes. Furthermore, this idealistic
image of a family is not so easily generalized to the church
family or to society at large. Humans willfully segregate themselves
along all sorts of lines, despite social efforts to avoid it.
It’s too bad we can’t just use our own families as
examples of units of diverse people who, because of a common
bond, are able to all feel at home together. What
a shame it is to have a large family break up with so much still
to do, just because its members disagree over who’s in
and who’s out, who’s right and who’s wrong.
don’t take the issue of authority of Scripture lightly,
but with so many intelligent, dedicated Biblical scholars reaching
so many different interpretations, it’s hard to believe
this one issue is worth breaking up a family and leaving one’s
people have lived in this home since it was built, without the
benefit of agreeing with all its rules. After all, as Kent Keith
on Louie Crew’s Anglican Pages website said, “You
see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God - It never
was between you and them anyway.”
reference to the Wizard of Oz by Harmon (and the fact
that there’s little doubt that “we’re not in
Kansas anymore”) reminded me of an interpretation of the
story line for televised broadcast that I recently read. “Transported
to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first woman she
meets and then teams up with three complete strangers to kill
do see things differently and families do split. But one thing
(maybe the only thing) that Reverend Harmon, Dorothy and I agree
on is that “there’s no place like home.” Let’s
all pray that we are able to preserve the home God has given
us in the Episcopal Church and that we can all find a way to
live together as a family.
Mary Jane Viar.
with permission from Mary Jane Viar. From the Integrity-Memphis
newsletter On The Bluffs, Advent-Christmas, Dec. 2003-Jan.
2004. For more information please go to the Integrity-Memphis website.