Episcopalians apparently are not conservative enough for Ukraine’s religions leaders.
On Friday I sent a post about a delegation of Ukrainian religious leaders coming to Houston. I was honored to be their guide to two services today, including a 6:00 PM service at St. Martin‘s Episcopal Church, the nation’s largest Episcopal parish. I sent Friday’s post after personally confirming the night before that the group would indeed be there. This after the group reached out to me two weeks ago and asked for my suggestions about a mega-church they could visit. The visit was approved by the group and St. Martin’s shortly thereafter.
Much work has gone into St. Martin’s enthusiastic embrace of – and preparation for - the group’s visit, from the Rector down. The choir has even prepared a rendition of the Ukrainian National Anthem to be sung after a prayer for Ukraine, which was to be offered by the leader of the delegation.
It would have been beautiful.
Would have been because late yesterday I received a text that the delegation would not be attending this evening’s service after all. Why? Because the Episcopal church is not conservative enough; by which I think they mean the church supports a woman’s right to choose and allows female and LGBTQ+ priests. Apparently, it is unacceptable for these ecclesiastics to be seen praying with us.
That one of America’s oldest mainline denominations – George Washington’s in fact - and such strong supporters of Ukraine – should have to endure such an insult is unbelievable to me. As a proud Episcopalian I immediately advised the group that I could not in good conscience continue to work with them.
America’s Episcopalians have been dealing with issues like LGBTQ+ clergy for many years, and many of the tens of millions worldwide in the Anglican Communion – of which the Episcopal Church is part - disagree with us on these issues. That’s fine. Disagreement and infighting is part of the evolution of the Body of Christ I suppose. Ukraine’s religious community will find itself changing as well if they are truly committed to religious freedoms and really want to join the West. If not, they should consider returning their gaze to Russia. Putin and Kiril are anxiously awaiting them and will see this episode as a victory.
I am deeply sorry that such a travesty by this disinformed pharisaic group, sent here to garner support from America’s politicians, has occurred. They should have stayed home. They obviously do not understand where they are this Sunday.
We live in a country where religious and personal liberties are bedrock, which includes gay marriage and LGBTQ+ inclusion. That includes going to church and the right to be gay. The Episcopal Church opens its doors to everyone – and that includes seminaries and the priesthood. We are proud of our stance and consider it the truest expression of Christ’s Love for all.
The dynamism in America’s churches has allowed denominations to adapt over the years, but not without much pain and many schisms, including within the Episcopal Church. This dynamism is happening right now throughout the USA’s churches. Turns out even conservatives have gay kids. Ukrainians too. Judging from the UCCRO collection of representatives sent here they are just beginning this process. I wish them luck and intend to document the process.
I will be at the service this evening at St. Martin’s sitting in the pews reserved for the Ukrainian contingent. I can only offer my deepest apologies for representing the group to begin with and for their atrociously bad manners. Surely their mothers taught them better. Lesson learned.
I still hope the delegation decides to come in the end. Or at least a Nicodemus or two. Hopefully, the choir will still sing the Shche ne vmerla Ukraina. Because in the end, we can’t judge Ukraine’s people from this episode. Ukraine still deserves our support – even if their religious leaders don’t represent them very well.
God bless Ukraine.