This piece was written in response to the urging of a moratorium on the consecration of partnered gay and lesbian priests as bishops in The Episcopal Church, urged by conservative and reactionary Anglicans in different parts of the world. Martyn Minns, mentioned below, is the titular leader of most of the individuals and groups that have left the Episcopal Church because of our desire and will to become fully inclusive. Peter Akinola has led the world-wide fight to demonize and demean gay and lesbian people.
Recognizing that Christ's sacrifice on the Cross was "once for all," it is still true that that sacrifice is reenacted and represented through additional innocent victims, sacrificed by those who cannot abide their presence or what they represent.
Many of us have recognized and been deeply affected by the saving grace of the martyrs of Sharpeville and of Birmingham and Selma. Nearly every posting on the House of Bishops/ House of Deputies list-serve points to the impending sacrifice of gay and lesbian Christians within the church and countless throngs outside the church hoping for some word of affirmation from God. "Sacrifice" may seem too strong a word for a moratorium, except that the message of a moratorium in this case carries the strong message that there are those who can be sacrificed for a greater good -- even by those who represent Jesus. That is an ancient message and, unfortunately, there are plenty who are eager to hear it. . . and to act on it.
Martyrs, as we all must know, do not always shed blood -- some shed tears, some shed their emotional and spiritual lives if the betrayal or hurt is deep enough. And there is worse.
If, as it appears to many, that we choose Martyn Minns over Matthew Shepherd even for a while, we will create martyrs. It will be the church creating martyrs. And those martyrs will, in time, be saving martyrs, sharing not by choice but by destiny in the saving work of Jesus on the Cross in their humiliation.
It may be for some that the death of Jesus on the Cross, which was accomplished to hold the religious establishment's faith, to hold the Empire together, was not enough, not sufficient. Just as for me and for so many others of us in this and every other church, it took the Martyrs of Birmingham, Selma, and Montgomery for us to begin to understand the humanity of the victims, so it will take more Matthew Shepherds (some Black, some Brown, some Asian) for those who stand against The Episcopal Church and its full embrace of gay and lesbian people.
How odd that it will be a brother or sister of Matthew who will be the agent of salvation for Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola and his brothers and sisters in faith, enabling them to see the full humanity and holiness of those they once saw only as sin or threat.
I hesitate in publishing this, because I know I can't speak for the experience of others. I can only assume that I am not overstating their case.