Thursday, September 13, 2018


Penn Hagood's letter and Wayne Helmly's response (see 10 September) continue to elicit comments. Today we have a new letter to this editor in reaction to Hagood's remarks.


Dear Ron:

I have thought a lot about Penn Hagood's letter and Wayne Helmly's thoughtful, apposite response to it. Much of what I would have to say has already been very well covered by Mr. Helmly's letter, but I did want to add one thing to the conversation.

I was struck by Ms. Hogood's statement about the fact that "our children are watching." She seems to assume that the best way to set a worthy example for one's children and to be deemed worthy in their eyes is by practicing discrimination and exclusion, rather than love and acceptance so clearly incarnated and advocated by Jesus Christ. This seems to me to be at best a huge leap and at worst a tragically erroneous premise.

According to a survey conducted by the highly reputable Pew Research Center for Religion and Public Life survey just last year (2017), 68% of (white) practitioners of the mainline Protestant denominations approved of same-sex marriage; 67% of practicing Roman Catholics held the same position on the matter. 85% of religious "nones," regardless of race or age, support it, while 74% of Millenials (born after 1981), so those who are currently 37 years or younger), regardless of race, political party, or religious affiliation support it.

What this means is that there is a very good chance that at least some, and possibly many, of the children, children-in-law and future grandchildren of Ms. Hagood's peers and fellow parishioners will not, in the end, be proud of a legacy of exclusion and backward thinking supported by transparent and hypocritical "proof texting" of the Bible. The better educated they are, it seems, the more likely this is to be the case. And let's not even get into the perfectly plausible scenario in which Ms. Hagood or one of her fellow parishioners finds him/herself with a gay or lesbian child or grandchild (yes, Ms. Hagood, it happens, even in the best of families and no, Ms. Hagood, it cannot be averted by raising children "right").

The fact is that many of the mostly heterosexual children, children-in-law and future grandchildren of the current schismatics are likely to feel the same sort of stinging shame many of us feel with regard to our parents' and grandparents' active or passive support of the atrocities of racial segregation in the Jim Crow era. We can of course forgive those lapses but the difficulty of forgiveness does vary according to the historical context: forgiving a parent for having supported segregation in 1975 is far more challenging than forgiving that same moral error committed in 1965 or 1955. Similarly, anti-gay prejudice is a considerably more egregious error in moral judgment in 2018 that it was in 1995 or 1975 (or, for that matter, 2012).

In short, the fact that "our children are watching" is a sword that can cut both ways. And in so doing, it can wound families deeply. Those who continue to advocate for a theology of fear, exclusion, and injustice would do well to give that some thought. Are you sure your actions today will make your children and grandchildren proud in the decades to come?


I thank the writer for contributing this thoughtful letter. It raises an important point about society's evolving understanding of marriage. The large and growing majority of Americans today accept same-sex marriage as the norm. This acceptance is directly related to age, the younger the more support. For a state-by-state breakdown of attitudes toward s-s marriage, see the article "Public Opinion of Same-Sex Marriage in the United States." Find it here . South Carolina supports s-s marriage, 53% in favor and 37% opposed. (Alabama is the only state in the union in which the majority of the people oppose s-s marriage.)

In the past two to three decades, attitudes towards homosexuality have shifted dramatically in America, and have done so in two major ways. In the first, society no longer sees homosexuality itself as immoral, but as morally neutral, that is inherently neither good nor bad. This is the understanding that has evolved in the Episcopal Church. In the second place, society had developed the understanding that discrimination against homosexual and transgendered persons is morally wrong. This is also the position that has evolved in the Episcopal Church.

The leaders of the Diocese of South Carolina made their schism in opposition to these two changes in the Episcopal Church. They rejected both reforms and found Bible verses for verification. They insisted that homosexuality was immoral and that non-celibate homosexuals must not be allowed equality and inclusion in the life of the church. These attitudes were firmly institutionalized in the Marriage Task Force documents of 2015 imposed on the diocese.

In years to come, DSC's policies against gay and transgendered people will be seen as we now see the old policies of institutionalized discrimination against African Americans and women. No one should forget that slavery, which no sane person would defend now, was almost universally touted in pulpits across the south before the Civil War as a moral good and the preachers had plenty of Bible verses to back themselves up. The democratization of American has meant the extension of liberty, equality, and inclusion for maligned and marginalized minorities. Gays just happen to be the latest group to arrive, long overdue.