A WEEK OF HISTORY
Last week will live forever in the history books. As a student of history, I was like the kid in the candy shop all week long. I hardly know where to begin; so much happened, and happened so quickly. It will take some time for us to absorb, digest, and reflect well on just what occurred in that whirlwind.
Monumental events happened in politics, society, and religion, and all impacting each other. It was also a moment of extremes, very bad and very good. On the very bad side was the continuing shock and grief from the monstrous evil of June 17 in Emanuel A.M.E. Church in downtown Charleston. On the very good side there was much more: the response to that satanic event, the Supreme Court decision validating the heart of Obamacare, the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in the entire nation, and the Episcopal Church's super-landslide election of its first Presiding Bishop to be an African American. Any one of these would have been a bomb explosion, but coming all together they were like a nuclear blast. The world has been rocked, and changed forever, in my opinion for the good.
Let's concentrate on the good. In the first place, the loving reaction to the massacre of June 17 has been almost overwhelming. The whole world has come together to surround the families, the churches, Charleston, and South Carolina in its moment of terrible sorrow. I cannot recall a time when there was such an enormous outpouring of good will in the face of malevolence. Good simply over swept evil and reduced it to its knees; and that all began with the victims' families who told the alleged murdered in front of the world, "I forgive you." In that very profound moment of grace, good destroyed evil and practically the whole world said, "Amen." President Obama was so moved that he delivered what I think was the greatest speech of his presidency, his eulogy on June 26 at the funeral of the Rev. Pinckney. It was all about grace. We have all learned how to be better Christians.
The Supreme Court moved on to uphold Obamacare, particularly in the part that helps the poorest people. That was a much-needed victory for populism. Then on Friday, that same court handed down its monumental judgment legalizing same-sex marriage in the United States. This brings to an end the front of the culture war on homosexuality, a campaign that has been going on for nearly half a century. It is finished. The issue of rights for homosexual citizens has been settled. (A bit late. 20 other nations had already legalized same-sex marriage.)
An African-American Presiding Bishop. Unthinkable even a few decades ago. What is more, he was elected on the first ballot by 70% of the bishops and affirmed by a near unanimous vote of the 800+ deputies present in General Convention. It is as if an ancient wrong has finally been made right. It is hard to find words to express my amazement and joy of this event. The vote of the bishops was by secret ballot, so we do not know how Bishop vonR voted, but I think we can take make a safe guess. This in itself is historic. The bishop of South Carolina probably helped elect the first black Presiding Bishop; South Carolina has been arguably the most racist diocese, historically speaking, in the entire Episcopal Church, the very last to integrate.
All in all, that was a great week for the Episcopal Church, and not so good for the schismatics. Sixty years ago, the Episcopal Church abandoned its lifelong indifference to the ills in the society all around it and committed itself to human rights, first for blacks, then for women, and finally for homosexuals. It has been a long and hard fight, but it was the right thing to do.
The independent diocese has reeled from the onslaught of history. The Supreme Court decision on marriage, of June 26, dealt only with the civic state. It had nothing to do with churches which are always free to set their own policies for marriage. Yet, the DSC felt it necessary to issue a press release right after the Supreme Court decision blasting the Court and reasserting its belief in heterosexual marriage only. Actually, the Court decision did not pertain the DSC at all. There was no need to react to it except to promote unity among its faithful.
As I have said often on this blog, TEC is on the side of history, DSC is against history. In time this will be become more and more apparent and problematical for DSC. A recent Pew Research study showed a dramatic sea-change in the American public's perception of homosexuality, especially among the young. As the years go by, the independent diocese, denouncing rights for homosexuals, will find itself shrinking into ever more irrelevancy. Down the road, when this schism is all over, as it is bound to be, people in the future will shake their heads in dismay of why it ever occurred in the first place. History moves on whether we like it or not, that is the only law of history.