Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Terry Garay's commentary on General Convention2009

If you’ve ever worked behind the scenes at a live event, particularly a major one that’s bringing together thousands of people, many from out-of-town, then you know how frenetic the activity leading up to it can be. Right now, here in Southern California, we have crews and production people putting the final touches on just such an event.

No, I’m not talking about tomorrow’s Michael Jackson Memorial.

I’m here to call your attention to The Episcopal Church’s triennial General Convention, which will be taking place this Wednesday, July 8th, through Friday, July 17th, in Anaheim.

For you non-religious types out there: The Episcopal Church General Convention is easily comparable in scope to the Democratic and Republican political conventions. It’s where policy is set for the entire church. It’s huge!

For LGBT people that happen to be members of the Church, this year’s convention also has major implications.

Now, before I go on, let me clarify an important point: I happen to be one of those non religious types. According to a recently published report, I am probably in the minority among my LGBT brothers and sisters.

There’s this perception that gays and lesbians are godless, hedonistic Christian bashers. Homophobic fiction. The Barna Group has found that a significant majority of gays and lesbians, six in ten to be exact, say that faith is important in their lives. The difference between gays of faith and straights of faith, though, is in how those beliefs are communicated. It seems that straights tend to be more vocal. And gays and lesbians are more private.

One group that, thankfully, isn’t in the closet with their views is called Integrity. It’s an organization for LGBT Episcopalians.

They believe that the Church is on the tipping point, to quote a member, “of becoming unequivocally welcoming and affirming of LGBT people.” And, no doubt, the stakes are high at this year’s general convention:

Church leaders will be considering whether to sanction a religious rite for same sex unions and whether to ease restrictions on the ordinations of gay and lesbian bishops.

Divisions are nothing new to the Episcopal Church. In 2003, there was a huge split between church liberals and conservatives when the Rev. Gene Robinson, an openly gay priest, was consecrated as Bishop of New Hampshire.

I wish Integrity the best of luck with their efforts. And if you happen to go to the convention, make time to stop by their booth and give them your support.

Now, why should such internal church matters be of interest me? Well, I’m a big believer in the butterfly effect – you know, the idea that if a butterfly flaps its wings in the Indian Ocean, a breeze blows in the Pacific – because everything’s connected.

Battles for LGBT rights are waged every day throughout the world. To me, it’s a score for our side when any of them are won.

It was to our collective benefit when organizers successfully launched the first Beijing Queer Film Festival in China in June

We all benefit when a gay minister is inducted in Scotland.

Or the high court in India strikes down a ban on gay sex and rules it isn’t crime

Or, in Lithuania, when the President vetoes an anti-gay bill

So members of Integrity, you may not number me among your ranks when you go to the Episcopal Church General Convention this week, but of this I can assure you:

I’m going to be there in spirit, rallying you on to victory! Because if you win, we all win!

I’m Terry Garay and for what it’s worth, that’s my two cents.