"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
Monday, August 04, 2003 Jesus is my savior, but Becca Stevens is my hero.
Many of you have heard me talk about Becca before. She's the priest at Vanderbilt University in Nashville who started Magdalene House , a residential housing and recovery program for Nashville women with a criminal history of prostitution and drug abuse. Her chapel (St. Augstine's) is the yardstick by which I measure our own ministry and others.
Today, as you've probably heard, we in the House of Deputies consented to Gene Robinson's consecration as bishop of New Hampshire. He will, if consented to by the House of Bishops tomorrow, become the first openly gay bishop in the church.
In the midst of the long debate, which alternated between pro and con for 45 minutes and pretty much rehashed the arguments I've long heard, Becca stepped to the microphone. In her soft, Southern voice she started to speak.
She talked about how she grew up with a priest father who was a Southern conservative and dead opposed to the ordination of women. He was killed by a drunk driver when he was 40, leaving Becca's mom with her and her 4 siblings.
Years later, and 8 1/2 months pregnant, she said she "waddled up the aisle" and was ordained with hands laid on her head by men who,with her father, had opposed the ordination of women.
Years later from that, when she and her husband were playing with their oldest son -- that son who was about to be born after that ordination, and asking him what he wanted to be when he grew up, he was talking about being a fireman and other things. And Becca asked him, "what about a priest?" And he scrunched up his face, looked at her and said, "A priest??? That's a GIRL'S job!"
She talked about how the Holy Spirit works to change hearts for the sake of love. How it happens in places we can never believe it can happen. How so much of what she had been hearing in opposition was about fear and how we need to have the courage not to fear and to step out in faith, trusting that God will be with us. For fear has no power when next to the love of God.
And finally, she said, we need to step out in faith and just get this work of the Spirit over with so we can get on to the real business of Christ which is feeding the hungry and healing the sick and bringing God's love to a broken world.
My plain, typed words do not do Becca's words justice. You really had to be there, but no memory of today will stay with me longer and whatever you hear on CNN, there was nothing else I could write about tonight.
Becca's words prompted a short burst of applause -- the only time in the whole proceding from beginning to end that anyone in the house broke the rule of decorum about not public demonstrations. I reached for a tissue and wiped the tears that were spilling out of my eyes and down my cheeks, glanced next to me and noticed that Steph was doing the same thing.
I don't think our church is going to split over this vote ... but it might. I believe that what binds us together is stronger than the power of a vote to separate us ... but I could be wrong.
But I KNOW that love is greater than fear. I KNOW that the Holy Spirit can do amazing things in the hearts of people ...things that seem impossible. I KNOW we have a lot of work to do, and whatever state the church is in, those of us who are left are going to do it ... we're going to feed the hungry, heal the sick and bring God's love to a broken world.
I know these things because Jesus has promised us they're true. In the past days, I've forgotten them at times and succumbed to the fear that is thick in the air. But I was reminded today of them in a way I will never forget. That love is greater than fear.
EGR resources and connects the church to embrace what one person, one congregation, one diocese and one church can do to make this mission of global reconciliation happen.
Want to find out more ... check our our website at www.e4gr.org.
"Christ's example is being
demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy,
which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here.
If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest
of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't,
it will be irrelevant."