Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Missouri Supreme Court and Kelly Glossip: A shameful chapter ... but not the final chapter.

I write letters to the editor with great hesitation, because I find they often generate much more heat than light -- and generally find the comments sections after them to be petrie dishes of some of the worse angels of our human nature. But today's ruling by the Missouri Supreme Court against our brother, Kelly Glossip -- particularly because it involves the state trying to ill-define a sacrament of the church -- needs comment. And we as Christ Church Cathedral are uniquely qualified to testify that what Kelly and Dennis had was as much a marriage as Robin and mine. 

I have sent this to the Post-Dispatch. I hope it represents our community well. Please keep not only Kelly but all those who are collateral damage of discriminatory laws in your prayers ... and may we all be rededicated to shaping those laws to reflect our best selves.

Yesterday, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled 5-2 that Kelly Glossip was not entitled to survivor benefits from the state pension system because, despite their 15-year relationship, he was not legally married to Missouri Highway Patrol Corporal Dennis Engelhard, killed in the line of duty on Christmas Day, 2009.

On one level, the logic of the decision is irrefutable … an airtight syllogism: Receiving benefits requires you be married. In Missouri, two people of the same sex cannot be married. Therefore, in Missouri, a same-sex partner cannot receive benefits.

This argument might be legally sound, but it fails on a human level and is not worthy of us as a compassionate and just society.

Kelly and Dennis were parishioners of ours at Christ Church Cathedral. Dennis is buried in our memorial chapel and to this day, Kelly remains a part of this community. Like many other couples of same and differing sexes in our congregation whose commitment to one another is absolute and whose love for one another witnesses to Christ’s love for the world, make no mistake, Kelly and Dennis were married. Not in a way that was recognized by the state. Not even in a way that was recognized by the Episcopal Church. But in ways that count on that human level -- in the eyes of one another, in the eyes of their community, and in the eyes of God.

For thousands of years, people of faith have held that marriage is not so much a piece of paper but a quality of commitment to one another that recognizes that the two become one in self-giving love. A commitment that enriches not just the two but all society. That marriage is a relationship of joyful intimacy and of help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity. Make no mistake, Kelly and Dennis had a marriage. All that was missing was institutional sanction.

The Missouri Supreme Court has ruled that it is the institutional sanction – not the years of dedicated care for one another – that matters. It is a failure … and is indeed, in the words of dissenting Justice Richard B. Teitelman, a continuation of a “shameful history” of discrimination based on sexual orientation.

But the good news is the final chapter of this history has not yet been written. And that is up to us. We must rededicate ourselves to writing the next chapter of this history. A chapter where the constitutional changes are made that recognize that no two people who have the depth of commitment and love that makes marriage one of the foundational institutions of our society should be denied its rights, responsibilities or benefits. A chapter that changes our founding documents so they no longer fail on that most basic, human level, but fulfill their highest purpose – to call us to our best selves as a compassionate, just society.

The Very Rev. Mike Kinman
Dean, Christ Church Cathedral
Downtown, St. Louis, Missouri

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

To proclaim the Gospel boldly. To embrace diversity joyfully.

Here are some of my thoughts about the request by Pursuit Communities to use some of our space on Sunday morning. This is my first shot with iMovie and something happened with the sync-up of audio and video that I don't know how to fix ... so I hope it isn't disconcerting! But I'm posting this anyway because I don't want you to just read words from me on a page. I want you to hear my voice and see my face (even if they aren't always in sync). And I want us to do the same to one another -- hear each other's voices and see one another's faces.

in Christ's love,

Christ Church Cathedral’s 10 Rules for Respect

It's always good to have a refresher in these. These are our community rules for how we live out our baptism in treating one another. I am indebted to Bishop Greg Rickel of the Diocese of Olympia for the version from which this is adapted.

1. If you have a problem with someone, go to them in person privately and speak to them lovingly.

2. If someone comes to you with a problem with someone else, encourage them to talk with that person.

3. If someone consistently will not approach the person with whom they have a problem, offer to go with them to help.

4. Assume the best motivations of one another and don’t try to guess each other’s intentions and motivations. When in doubt just ask, “Why are you saying that?” or “Why are you doing that?” or “Why is this important to you?”

5. If someone tells you something in confidence, don’t tell. The only exceptions are if a person is going to harm her/himself or someone else or if a child has been physically or sexually abused.

6. Do not read or write unsigned letters or notes.

7. Speak your own truth for yourself. Don’t say “lots of people think . . .” to try to add weight to your point. Speak your own truth and let other people do the same.

8. When in doubt, just say it—as lovingly as possible. Own up front if you think you might not say something perfectly. And be graceful to one another when we have trouble expressing something or make a mistake.

9. Any conversation that involves conflict is best had in person and is worst had using the internet. The only email that should be sent when you’re in conflict with someone is “When can we get together and talk?”

10. Pray for one another. That’s not just a throwaway line. Lifting one another to God in prayer is how we learn, slowly and sometimes painfully, but ultimately joyfully, to see each other and treat each other as God’s beloved.