Could we all stop having Negative Assumptions about one, please? Because, I am really, really sick of the finger point that has happened over the last week and a bit. Maybe I should go back to the beginning.
On 2 May 2015 Rich McCaffrey of Orlando, FL posted on an issue close to his hear and that of his husband Eric McCaffrey. Yes, I said husband; They are a Married Same-Sex couple. Rich posted a public status onto Facebook where he expressed his disappointment and sadness in that the baptism of his son, Jack, had been cancelled. The baptism was originally suppose to have happened on April 19 but was cancelled/postponed on April 16 and was to be held at St. Luke’s Cathedral, which is the seat of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida.
The Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida is considered on of the more conservative Dioceses of the Episcopal Church. It’s current Bishop, the Rt. Rev’d Greg Brewer, is openly opposed to the blessings of Same-Gender unions and Same-sex marriage. His predecessor the Rt. Rev’d John Howe was much more vocal in his views on the matter.
Normally when a sacrament is being denied the Ordinary of the Diocese, in this case Bishop Brewer, is given some sort of notification. It has been reported that Bishop Brewer first learned that Jack McCaffrey’s was via Rich McCaffrey’s Facebook post. At least, that is what Bishop Brewer said. This incident reached the religious and then the secular press with Bishop Brewer making a statement to the Orlando Sentinel that he was going to be meeting with the McCaffrey’s.
The online reaction to the baptism being postponed (as per Bishop Brewer in the Orlando Sentinel article) or being outright cancelled (as per two posts by Rich McCaffrey) was very much in opposition… unless you count the unsigned blog post on the website of the Anglican Communion Institute which never mentioned the case of Rich McCaffrey. Regardless of whether the Baptism was set for April 19 and then either cancelled or postponed that date was removed from the Cathedral’s calendar by the Very Rev’d Anthony Clark, who is the Dean of Central Florida and Rector of St. Luke’s Cathedral. However, Dean Clark was not the target of most of the online scorn here on the internet. The majority of the blame rested on the feet of Bishop Brewer.
The backlash against Bishop Brewer has been tremendous. In fact, I would say downright absurd. The reason I say so is that it appears many of us have gone on the assumption that because Bishop Brewer is opposed to both blessings and marriages of Same-Sex unions that somehow this is either his fault, or he must have been doing a lot more interference then has come out. Hypothesis abound that:
- Read the first Orlando Sentinel Article: It seems like he is going to be asking them a lot of questions? It’s like they are back at Square One.
- It’s his Diocese: He is suppose to know what is happening and be notified if something like a Baptism is being denied,
- It was at his Cathedral: Bishops have to work closely with their Cathedral Deans since it is their own Cathedral Church. Plus his office is probably right down the hall, and
- He a conservative that doesn’t like LGBTQs: Why do these parents have to meet with the Bishop? Are we to expect that all LGBTQ parents are going to have to meet with the Bishop to have their children Baptized.
- He had to be involved or condone it otherwise the Dean would have been fired.
So, I am about to warn people: Cut the Bull S**t please! Cut it. I am seriously pissed off. Way too much rage was directed at keyboards because of Negative Assumptions about Bishop Greg Brewer in large part because he is a conservative. Does the man support Same-sex blessings or marriages? No. Why? Because he has well grounded theological concerns, that is why!!! If anyone thinks “No he doesn’t” or that I am somehow taking he side please understand that the Christian Faith has seen a wide variety of stances on a multitude of issues that is fairly well grounded even before we ran into our current issues on Human Sexuality.
That all being said the negative assumptions about Bishop Brewer and his diocese have in my view lead to what I think is some less then acceptable commentary by my fellow Anglicans/Episcopalians over this past week. It’s going to go through the four points I had earlier and show how bad assumptions about Bishop Brewer and the Diocese of Central Florida got us into this mess.
The Orlando Sentinel Article
If anyone in their right mind thinks that Jeff Kunerth of the Orlando Sentinel went into Bishop Brewer’s office and said “Let’s write an article together”, sat for an hour or so to make the story you probably have no idea how articles like this get written. At best Mr. Kunerth was in the Bishop’s office for a half-hour or so asking questions while the Bishop answered them and took quotes. At worst it was a five minute phone call that the Bishop squeezed in between seeing a Priest with a major maintenance problem at his parish and a person seeking information on becoming a Vocational Deacon.
This might be news to some but reports, especially in the secular media, don’t get all the religious facts straight. No, really: They Don’t. We don’t know exactly what happened. The quotes from Bishop Brewer are very likely accurate, don’t reflect the entire conversation but are designed to be read by persons who don’t know much of what was going on. So, yes, the Bishop said in the article he was going to be asking questions; Why should he not be asking questions if his intent is to confirm that there is no reason why Jack McCafferty shouldn’t be baptized
Bishop Brewer’s Diocese
This might come as a shock to people but Bishop’s don’t always know what is going on in their Diocese even when they are trying to keep appraised and it comes down to people just not telling the Bishop what they need to hear. They are human! Their Episcopal Consecrations don’t make them omniscient. Conversely, this might also come as a shock but clergy don’t tell the entire truth or outright lie to the Bishop. I know, shocker. Turns out clergy are humans too.
Bishop Brewer’s Cathedral
Yes. The Cathedral Church of St. Luke, Orlando is the Cathedral Church of Bishop Brewer. Does anyone have any idea how often a Bishop is at his/her Cathedral Church? It’s not as much as people think it is.
Most people know this but for 5 years I was a Parishioner at my own Diocese’s Cathedral. When I was first attending Bishop Jane Alexander was Dean Alexander. I would be lying to say that as a parishioner of the Cathedral I knew the Bishop well; She most definitely knew who was I was because I was a server at the Cathedral and was thus at Diocesan services, but the reason Bishop Alexander knows the people of the Cathedral so well is because of her two years there as Dean Alexander. She has a geographically large Diocese to cover and her primary concern (like Bishop Brewer) is the pastoral oversight of the Diocese.
Bishop Alexander and the present Dean, the Very Rev’d Neil Gordon, get along very well. Without trying to mess around too much about any internal politics of my Diocese I would say that communication between these two awesome clergy-persons is not perfect. They are humans. And their offices are in the same building about 25 meters away from each other.
So, I would expect that the Bishop and Dean of Central Florida would have the occasional communication glitch. Their offices are about a mile away from each other as the Diocese Offices and the Cathedral are not co-located. The Bishop is usually only going to be on site for one service around Christmas and Easter, one or more services a year for Ordinations or Installation of Diocesan officers, and a canonical visit to the Cathedral itself once every one to three years. That is it. Bishops hang around their Cathedrals a lot less then you think they do.
Bishop Brewer is a Conservative
I am just going to be frank here: This is a dumb attitude to take. If he was so conservative why is he having the meeting with the parents in the first place? Why do the article and say what he said in the article? Why is he taking time out of an evening of his to meet with the parents? Do you have any idea how much clergy don’t like making appointments in the evening and want it during their daytime so they can spend it with their family? But, here is this Bishop who is “probably being a giant homophobe” making an evening appointment with the McCaffreys which is likely much more convenient to them. He went out of his way to make that appointment.
The Dean was not fired
Sigh. Clergy are humans. They make mistakes sometimes. As well, they operate in a world that is outside the business world. There are a lot of clergy who do things that should be fired that aren’t. But, that is a how other issue. Could have the Dean been fired over this? Maybe. He could have gotten a verbal warning. However, since the Dean wasn’t dismissed we probably never will know what happened because it would be considered a confidential matter and wouldn’t be disclosed unless the Dean chose to or the Dean was seeking employment elsewhere and the new Bishop (or a Nominations Committee) was asking for information.
The McCaffrey’s Final Post
Finally, there is Rich McCaffrey’s (presumably) final Facebook post on the incident does shows Bishop Brewer, and the congregation of St. Luke’s Cathedral, in a very positive light. It states that:
- “The Bishop acknowledged he learned the Cathedral set a firm date of April 19 for the baptism, but did not support postponing the baptism.” (We don’t know when the Bishop learned this was a firm date)
- “He genuinely wanted to learn about us and expressed his apologies for how it had been handled.”
- “Most importantly, he was clear he is supportive of Eric and I, two dads, baptizing our son at the Cathedral and offered to be a part of it.“
- “We are appreciative and are looking forward to the baptism to take place this summer.”
Read the post for yourself if you want to but this post reads like the McCaffreys concerns have been addressed and dealt with, that the Bishop was truly apologetic for what had happened, that the Bishop did not support a cancellation or postponement of the Baptism, that he was supportive of them getting their son baptized, and was more than willing to be a part of it.
There is also the Facebook post that Bishop Brewer himself made that I also encourage you to read. In it Bishop Brewer states that he and the McCaffreys had the chance to “talk through the events” of the postponement, that the “conversation was open, warm, and frank”, that the McCaffreys had asked to wait until the summer “‘after the dust settles'”, but very importantly that he refers to Jack as “their son”. It also points out that he has meet with the “leadership of the Cathedral” on this matter. Hint: that means the Dean.
After reading carefully into the posts by Rich McCaffrey I have come to the conclusion that if he wanted to “burn” the Bishop, the Diocese, the Dean or the Cathedral congregation in any of these posts he would have… especially in that final post. He didn’t. Instead, we are seeing Bishop Brewer doing what he was elected and called to do: Be the Chief Pastor of the Diocese of Central Florida. His flock includes the McCaffreys… and in a few months it will include little Jack as well.
A lot of people made some bad assumptions about Bishop Brewer this last week. The article which included an interview with the Orlando Sentinel did not help and may have made things a bit worse. However, not doing the interview would probably have made things much worse as all the article would say was that “Bishop Brewer has no comment” and silence can sometimes be deafening.
Likely his own Dean should have been more honest with him from the beginning. Dean Clark was probably getting leaned on from parishioners of influence at the Cathedral and made a bad choice and was less then honest with the Bishop. The Dean is human. He makes mistakes. So do I.
Bishop Brewer deserves an apology from many of his this last week as we played armchair Church politics all over the internet. He got dragged through the mud. A lot of people made some bad assumptions about him because of his theological positions on Human Sexuality. It turns out as a “conservative” Bishop he is just fine with Baptizing the children of a Same-sex married couple. The Dean got some mud on him to, but it was far less then Bishop Brewer got on him. And that pisses me off.
For a long time now we have been using the internet to cast stones at one another over our theological differences. This “Liberal”/”Conservative” divide. Because of Bishop Brewer’s (and the majority of his) Diocese known position on Human Sexuality a lot of us made the negative assumption that this was done because of Homophobia, specifically on Bishop Brewer’s part. Or, that the McCafferys’ meeting with and “scrutiny under” Bishop Brewer was based on Homophobia. Because of these assumption people jumped to various opinions. And, let’s be honest: They were mostly Bull S**t opinions.
A bad assumption was made about a Bishop in the Church of God, people extrapolated information that didn’t exist from their bad assumptions and suddenly Bishop Greg Brewer becomes a Homophobic boogeyman. I saw a lot of downright despicable posts this past week from good people and smart people that should have known better. Frankly it pissed me off. For someone who gets identified by most as a “liberal” on issues related to human sexuality I wanted nothing to do with “liberals” for a while. After all, aren’t the “liberals” suppose to be the ones that rise above on matters like this over the “conservatives”.
All of this happened because of negative assumption. In our little Anglican/Episcopal corner of the internet we had a little S**t storm without half the facts. How are we going to build up on the Church when we did stuff like this? Does it help us at all when we do this? Blog posts, and comment threads like I saw last week show me we are not using the medium of the Internet to reach out and build up the Kingdom of God. I saw a lot of scorn and I only saw two people offering prayers; That should have been flipped.
Could we all stop having Negative Assumptions about one another, please? Last week it caused us a lot of unnecessary pain. Better still can we stop using the internet to throw mud at each other? Can we use this as a forum to actually build up the Church? Or are we just going to use this as a place to show our contempt for others that don’t share our exact theological view?
I hope and pray that Jack McCaffery is baptized this summer and grows up to be a fine Christian, possibly by Bishop Brewer himself. I hope and pray that between now and when Jack’s own children come to be baptized we have learned how to use the internet much more positively to build up the Church. And I pray we stop making so many negative assumptions about each other because it is going to hurt the Church.