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The Episcopal Church's Christian Witness

The Episcopal Church's Christian Witness
'He who converts his neighbor has performed that most practical Christian political act of all' -- C.S. Lewis

By Ladson F. Mills III
February 17, 2017

There was something of the old Episcopal Church in the way St. Johns Lafayette Square and the Washington Cathedral handled criticism of their traditional roles in providing prayer services for the new presidential administration during the recent inauguration ceremonies.

Luis Leon of St John's and Dean Randy Hollerith of the Washington Cathedral faced intense pressure to replace services with an ecclesiastical equivalent of a star-studded celebrity protest as personified by Madonna (no relation to the real one). It spoke well for both men and their congregational leadership for resisting the temptation.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry's statement that Christians pray 'leadership will try to serve not partisan interest, but the common good' was a credit to the faith. In the midst of cultural insanity we were treated to a rare glimpse of good old fashion sane and healthy example of Christian behavior.

The challenge will be for it to continue.

The Episcopal Church has spent decades teaching Child Abuse recognition and prevention. Safeguarding Our Children has become an integral part of all dioceses training requirements. But child abuse is not just sexual or physical, but psychological as well.

As an overweight and the youngest child in my neighborhood I was sometimes targeted for what is now called bullying. In those days it came with the territory, and while not particularly enjoyable learning to stand up for oneself was a rite of passage. My father took steps which in today's society would cause horror, but proved quite effective.

He purchased a set of boxing gloves and taught me a few basic moves. The lessons proved invaluable in dampening the enthusiasm of my antagonist. I learned that bullies are also cowards.

Today bullying has mutated into mobbing. It is as cowardly as ever, but protection from unpleasant consequences can be found in the anonymity of large groups. Just ask the children of President Donald Trump.

Ivanka Trump was publicly harassed on an airplane in front of her small children. This pales in comparison to what followed. Ten -year -old Barron Trump was targeted by Kathie Rich, a writer for NBC's Saturday Night Live. The outrage from the left was either tepid or non-existent.

SNL Producer Lorne Michael suddenly developed problems receiving e-mail. Minnesota Senator Al Franken, an original Saturday Night Live writer and cast member , was contacted for his views. It could be surmised that a man known for touting tolerance and inclusion would have strong opinions concerning such egregious behavior from an organization he helped make famous.

A reply to my inquiry never came, but I now receive his newsletter.

While it is comforting to learn what a treasure he is for the good people of Minnesota, I would have preferred a straight answer to a fair question. Perhaps the voters of Minnesota may wish an explanation for his reluctance to condemn such behavior.

It seems that Ivanka Trump has not been subjected to enough indignity but retail corporations such as Neiman Marcus, T. J Maxx, Marshalls, Burlington, and Belk have now joined in the assault by removing her clothing line from their stores.

I am not familiar with most of the stores but I am familiar with Belk. Twenty years ago in a town where I served as rector a senior member of the local affiliate was outed for being gay. There was compelling evidence suggesting gay men were unfairly targeted in a sting operation. Belk turned on him and fired him.

Belk was not alone. The local newspaper, a member of the Knight-Ridder chain, inexplicably changed its policy and printed his name. My call to the local editor requesting an explanation for the policy change resulted in an answer that can only charitably be described as indecipherable. Belk was one of its largest advertising clients.

The public humiliation was too much and he attempted suicide. Only the unanticipated arrival of a repair man prevented his death. The treatment of this very decent man was despicable and I never entered the local Belk store again.

It seems that Belk and Knight-Ridder learned their lessons. The LGBT community of today is a far cry from twenty years ago. It is organized, financed and will fight back. Presidential children, however present vulnerable and soft targets for corporate self -righteousness.

But this is where the Episcopal Church can provide Christian witness. The House of Bishops might follow the lead of the Presiding Bishop, St John's Lafayette Square, and the Washington Cathedral and speak out against such behavior. The children of politicians, even those who may be reviled, are off limits.

And for those who cannot maintain some modicum of decorum there is always the discipline rubric. It would be refreshing to see it used on those other than orthodox members.

A few weeks ago the Episcopal Church showed a glimpse of the old we're going to do what's right, and let the chips fall where they may that was once its hallmark. For a brief shining moment there was a return to the blessed swagger of a bygone era.

And if for some reason it doesn't continue then thanks for the memories!

It was good to see it back; if only briefly.

Ladson F. Mills III is a retired priest with over thirty years pastoral experience. He lives with his wife in South Carolina. He currently serves as Scholar in Residence at Church of Our Saviour, Johns Island. He is regular contributor to "Virtueonline."

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