The Washington National Cathedral has announced that it will begin celebrating weddings of gay and lesbian couples inside the historic church.
In a released statement from the cathedral, its leadership states the church has a “long history of advancing equality for people of all faiths and perspectives. The Cathedral is called to serve as a gathering place for the nation in times of significance, but it is also rooted in its role as the most visible faith community within the Episcopal Church.
So asks Mariann Budde, my friend and the Episcopal bishop of Washington, D.C. to Wednesday’s post, Why Liberal Christianity (Too Often) Sucks. There were lots of great comments to that post, and some other questions that I hope to answer, but Mariann’s was the most pointed, and it’s one I want to respond to.
At the end of that post, I wrote,
Finally, mainline Christianity is committing suicide, plain and simple. By gathering every summer at their national conventions and killing each other with friendly fire, they are rapidly precipitating their own demise. No one gives a shit about the survival of your denomination.
By “no one,” I don’t mean the people who go to those meetings and fight and argue and vote. Those people care. But they can’t see the forest for the trees. No one back at home cares.
So the faster that progressive Protestants can give up on their denominations — like conservative Protestants did 20 years ago — the more likely they can turn things around before it’s too late.
I really do believe what I wrote there. I may be prone to overstatement, but I think that my predictions about the death of progressive Christianity being precipitated, in part, by denominational infighting is profoundly accurate.
Calvary’s affiliation with the SBC was long-standing and historic, a source of much pride in years past. In our church archives, we have a photograph of the president of the Southern Baptist Convention at the time, Congressman Brooks Hays, and the president of the American Baptist Convention, Rev. Dr. Clarence Cranford, both Calvary members (Cranford was Calvary’s pastor then), clasping each others’ arms in friendship, partnership and cooperation.
I haven’t seen any such reenactment in the years since that picture was taken; it was very possibly a moment that was the last of its kind.
Despite our long-standing ties to the Southern Baptist Convention, Calvary has for some time been at odds with many of the policies and public positions of the SBC. There have been many specific issues, like a rejection of the ordination of women, for example, over which we disagreed. But increasingly these differences became more foundational.
I’m in Washington, D.C., with the family for a week of vacation (and some work) (and a great big and ravenous dog is watching our house!). Last night, after hours a Smithsonian museums, we sat with tens of thousands of Americans and watched Tom Bergeron host “A Capitol Fourth,” culminating with an amazing fireworks show over the Washington Monument.
Here’s what both Courtney and I remarked on during the show: The large number of immigrant families around us on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol, dancing and singing and waving American flags.
With all of the (largely white) Tea Party fervor in recent years about getting back to the “real America” and the “true America,” it was refreshing to see that some of the most passionate Americans on Capitol steps have different skin color than I, and speak English with a thick accent.
Many of us post-evangelicals have an ambivalent feeling about our country — coming from the history of genocide of Native peoples to the current drone strikes that hit innocent civilians — yet seeing a recent immigrant dance with his three-year-old daughter last night, both of them waving flags and singing the National Anthem, was enough to renew my faith in America.