Even when a religious denomination is trying to make right of a centuries-old wrong, you can count on some of its followers to run screaming in the opposite direction. Such is the case with the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, which is based in Charleston.
The Diocese, which covers the southern and eastern half of the state, recently voted to not only oppose its mother church’s decision to ordain gay priests and bless gay marriages, but also to cease participation in most of the national group’s activities.
It’s a severing of ties but not quite a split, more like a protest against what the dissenting conservatives see as “assenting to actions deemed contrary to holy scripture...until such bodies show a willingness to repent of such actions.”
"The only model that's been out there for us has either been leave or acquiesce, and that hasn't been working," the Diocese’s Bishop Mark Lawrence told the Associated Press. "We need to get the 30,000 members of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina awakened to the challenges before us. ... Once we have done that, then the question is how do we engage the larger Episcopal Church?"
The South Carolina Diocese is not the first to express its extreme displeasure with its church’s pro-gay actions. Almost a year-and-a-half ago, four dioceses formed the Anglican Church in North America, a new national group. Other anti-gay parishes have since joined.
The unhappy South Carolina Episcopalians also rejected a resolution putting the Diocese on record against anti-gay discrimination. “This Diocese will not condone or deny the dignity of any person, including but not limited to, those who believe themselves to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered,” the unsuccessful resolution read.
So the bigots in the Diocese of South Carolina aren’t even willing to temper their anti-gay stance on ordination and marriage with a statement that they value the worth and dignity of all human beings, including queers?
Why try to dress up prejudice with liberal talk about the dignity of people you hate? Why say you love the sin and hate the sinner, when, in reality, you hate the sinner, too.
It’s obvious that these South Carolina Episcopalians are intolerant. They don’t want their clergy to be out queers, and they don’t want gay marriage recognized in any way, shape or form. They want their church the way it used to be, unanimous in its condemnation of queers. They obviously long for the bad old days when “the love that dare not speak its name” had steel doors on its closet, and anyone caught doing what comes naturally was thrown in jail.
At least they’re honest bigots.
Tommi Avicolli Mecca is co-editor of Avanti Popolo: Italians Sailing Beyond Columbus, and editor of Smash the Church, Smash the State: The Early Years of Gay Liberation, which has been nominated for an American Library Association award. His website is www.avicollimecca.com.