One Body of Christ - A Letter from the Rev. Jan Nunley

Dallas Morning News

In Deborah Caldwell's story, "Episcopalians face growing split on gays," she refers to the Episcopal Church as a "bookish and mannerly denomination ... headed toward a schism over gay rights."

I shared this misconception until 1986, when, as a reporter for KERA, I interviewed a courageous Episcopal priest about his parish's barrier-breaking ministry to people with AIDS - the first mainline congregation to do so in Dallas in those fright-filled early days of the HIV epidemic. That story changed my life, and led me to ordination as an Episcopal priest.

In 13 years, I've found this church to be many things, but "bookish and mannerly" aren't among them.

Unfortunately, I'm not able to exercise my priesthood in the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas because of a second widely held misconception, reflected in Ms. Caldwell's lead: that the Episcopal Church is in schism over "gay rights," and that as a lesbian my goal must necessarily be to subvert the authority of the church with a strange, secular notion of "rights" and "equality."

In fact, "gay rights" are not at issue in this controversy. Nor is the authority of Scripture. What is at stake is the basic question of whether Episcopalians will hold to the historic truth that there is but one baptism into one Body of Christ - or rather maintain that there are two baptisms, separate and unequal: one for heterosexuals, the other for everyone else.

Lesbian and gay Episcopalians do not wait to be grafted as an extra appendage onto a bizarre Frankenstein's monster of a church, for the sake of politically correct "inclusion." We are already in the Body by our baptism, which cannot be revoked or repealed. Yet it seems that the church is afflicted with a spiritual version of anosognosia - a "denial of deficit" - that permits her to believe she can function and be whole and holy while denying a part of the Body for whom Christ died. Only when that is healed can any church cease to be at war with herself.

The Rev. Jan Nunley
Rector, St. Peter's and St. Andrew's Episcopal Church
Providence, RI 02908-5255

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