Cathy in New York
Hi everyone. I have been dealing with discrimination in my liberal, gay affirming Episcopal diocese since 1999. There is a disconnect here where parishioners and clergy tell you the church is welcoming to gay members and then we get treated like second class citizens. I have been denied membership on altar guild because I am openly gay and I was driven from a parish because I was teaching in Sunday school--this along with meetings at that parish about the gay problem where one man told me openly in front of the meeting that he fears for his children with me in Sunday school. After a few years of this nonsense, one helpful priest told me I could go to the suffragen bishop and he would help, that he had helped others. Eventually I did, and he refused to help except to offer to find me a welcoming parish. (In fact, he didn't even return my call and was evasive when I called again a few weeks later and asked why.) I saw that offer to move me as segregation and silencing and did not want it. I finally stopped going to church because I had reached a point of depression and rage.
Most of the clergy I spoke with here about my experiences denied them. I felt like my voice was taken away. My life was actually better without church. Sad, huh? I heard the diocese was going to have a new bishop, so a few months after he started, I emailed him with a detailed description of what I experienced in several parishes and his answer was guess what--to find me a welcoming parish. I tried to explain why that was not acceptable. He felt because his daughter is gay he is coming from the right place. He also felt because the diocese had just established a wonderful and highly publicized program for homeless gay boys that I should feel this was an affirming place. It is a great program, but in a diocese that has treated me and other gays like dirt, it is no more than tokenism.
I am trying to find a way to communicate effectively and make the diocesan leadership accountable enough to take me seriously and face the problems here. I need to find people locally to help me stay even and strong and to provide me with guidance if possible. If you know anyone in Soulforce or one of the other peaceful Christian gay awareness groups around here who can help, please let me know how to get in touch. I have a feeling I will be asked again to meet with the local bishop (I didn't go when he first invited me because I didn't want him to feel he was solving my issues with hugs and a smile), and I don't think I should go alone.
Last week I emailed the presiding bishop of ECUSA, and she sent me an affirming response. It was very encouraging. She said she agreed that sending someone to a safe parish was not enough of an answer and she said we would not consider this an adequate answer to an African American asking for equal dignity. She also said it is my ministry to speak about discrimination. I cannot engage in such a ministry if I have no one else to back me up because clergy and bishops have responded that my views are just my personal opinion and that I have a political, self-serving agenda by speaking up.
Added info: The diocese I am in is the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island. It comprises Queens, Brooklyn, Nassau County and Suffolk County.
Cathy in NY
Last edited by Cathyny; 04-02-2010 at 02:02 AM.
Reason: Additional info about where I am