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Thursday, August 30, 2007
Religion ... Society ...

A lot of midwestern newspapers, and even some coastal rags (like the Washington Post) have run stories in the past few days with titles such as “Lesbian Being Considered As Next Episcopal Chicago Bishop”. Here’s an example. Just for shock effect, they always begin with the word “lesbian”. I don’t think that most people are at ease with that word yet. The subtext is that it’s bad enough for men to be gay, but for women to go bad like that . . . .

That mentality was drilled into my head by my parents and teachers. They hardly ever used the term “lesbian”. It was something so bad, so far removed from normal life as to be unspeakable. And since my genetics never took me on the journey of homosexual urges, I had little reason to question this notion.

Until I went to law school in 1979, I don’t think I’d ever even seen a “lesbian”. Not that I’d know, anyway (I obviously did see them, given that they make up around 4% of the female population). Only in the legal mill did I encounter any openly gay women and men (some woman named Linda and a guy known as Mitchell – definitely not “Mitch”). And it took another 5 years until I actually started talking to people who I knew were gay or sort-of gay (lots of blurriness out there). By 1990 or so I actually had some gay friends, people I could stop thinking of as gay when I was around them.

And then around 1993 or so I met Tracey Lind — the Reverend Tracey Lind that is. The LESBIAN Reverend Tracey Lind. I was trying out the Episcopal faith and I was looking for a parish with some electricity, some voltage, some juice. Most Episcopal parishes run on AAA batteries in that regard. After reading an article somewhere, I decided to try out St. Pauls in Paterson (NJ), specifically their mid-week evening Eucharist. And guess what? There was some voltage in the air. And most of it was emanating from the presiding minister – none other than the good Reverend Lind.

I hung out at St. Pauls to varying degrees for the next 5 years, and I got to know Tracey — more or less. I can’t say that we became best of friends. I became involved in a handful of parish activities, and I had to deal with Tracey in a variety of ways. To be honest, she could be quite grating at times. And she definitely was a publicity hound. She had her own little cult of followers, comprised of some other bona fide lesbians, some gay guys, some down-and-outers from the inner city looking for a break, and some well-intentioned genteel Anglicans from the middle class looking for “relevance”. I think there was even a transexual in the mix. I used to call this motley crew “the Trace Cadets”. Obviously, I was not one of them, and thus never got the attention and consideration from Tracey that they did.

And yet I kept on schlepping up to Saint Pauls every week or two, to see Tracey up on the altar and to listen to her sermons. Why did I do that? Because she was damn entertaining. Sometimes she could be insightful, sometimes she was humanistic and caring, and sometimes she was just plain off-the-wall. But she was always entertaining. And at bottom, I always sensed that she had a good heart.

Well, finally it was time for her to leave for bigger and better things in Cleveland. And now she’s in the running for even bigger things in Chicago. And not only that – it’s like the whole future of the Anglican Communion is riding on what happens with her. If the Diocese committee were to select her, it would get the Anglican bishops in Africa and England royally peed off, given that she’s quite open about her sexual orientation and is openly living with a female partner. Then the Episcopalian Church in the USA would get tossed out of the “World Communion”, and the local parishes would start choosing whether they were “American Episcopalians” or “International Episcopalians”.

To be honest, I just don’t see what the big deal is. It’s just Tracey Lind. So what if she lives with a woman, and who cares what they do in private (or don’t do – I’ve heard that most lesbians don’t have anything like the scintillating sex life that teenage boys, and the many web sites catering to them, would imagine). And if they hug or kiss in public, well, we don’t have to watch it.

Whatever she does with her partner, Tracey is still a pretty good priest. She has a lot of spirit in her. She’s not afraid to relate to heterosexuals and to minister and preach to them. Despite my quibbles with her, I enjoyed my time at her parish. If she were still in the area, I’d probably still go to church despite my disagreement with the core Christian myths. I still haven’t discarded the most central of those myths, i.e. that God exists. And Tracey definitely hasn’t either. She is a woman of God, a woman who serves God well despite a lot of flaws. It’s sad to see her caricatured in the papers as “LESBIAN”. It’s so impersonal, so political. Well, Tracey is tough; she can handle it. She will land on her feet one way or another. But I do hope that the good Episcopalians burghers of Chicago will decide to take advantage of her talents.

Is Tracey Lind worth having a schism over? Well, if you gotta have a schism, it might as well be over someone ultimately likable, like Tracey. History has seen so much worse.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:05 pm      

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