24 June 2012

Emmanuel, Sister Relationships, and Moral Decisions

In an average day, I do not have occasion to make a moral decision. Today was a bit different. About 2 months ago, I had a rare invitation to attend, briefly, the beginning of the vestry meeting. I was asked not by a vestry member, but by a parishioner who was attending to argue for what seemed to me an obvious idea: we do not have to agree with people to care for them. Somehow the vestry did not get the point, refusing to continue our tradition of dedicating cash raised by an annual fund raiser, a 5k race, to the desperately needed medical care in our sister parish, St, John, Melut, South Sudan. Instead, the vestry elected to fund an NGO operating in the area. I am sure it is a fine NGO. I am sure it does good work. I was however, and remain appalled. I was one of the lay folks who started the ministry in our parish that became the sister parish relationship. I knew then, as did the vestry, the clergy and our bishop, that we do not agree on every point of dogma with the Sudanese. Most especially, we do not agree on the church's response to the lbgt folk among us. Archbishop Daniel, the primate of Sudan has visited our church. He has eaten my cooking, and shared coffee with me at our diocesan convention. I understand he is unable to be fully inclusive of lgbt people. We knew that when we entered relationship, but his more recent public comments have been really exclusionary and hostile. I as do many who would be his friend, find that distressing. But, the people of Melut are engaged in the life and death issues of health, medicine, clean water, and war with North Sudan. They do not care I suspect, a lot about theological issues, gay rights or inter-provincial Anglican issues. They care about getting their kids basic medicine. They, not the archbishop are the beneficiaries of the sister parish relationship. But the vestry, in error I believe voted for the nice white, Western, NGO, not the difficult, Black, African church. Now the event is upon us and to some extent they are paying a price. They are desperately short of volunteers. People who did not vote in that fateful vestry meeting are voting with their feet. Now look, I have a great excuse. I had eye surgery last week. I have a bubble in my eye that is key to the healing, but limits my posture and activities, and I have a 100% knee replacement that is less than 5 weeks old. I cannot stand or walk a lot. So my outrage aside, I can argue I should sit this one out -- and then run for either a vestry seat or junior warden. (That might scare the crud out of some of the existing vestry!) I can, but I won't. Regardless of what I think of the decision, they had the authority to make it. They were wrong, but the people of South Sudan need every help we can send them, regardless. I signed up, and recruited my son Drew. We will be there to help because the needs are real, and because like them or not, the decisions are within the framework of the polity. I wish I felt good about it. But then no one told me all moral decisions make us happy. FWIW jimB

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