In God’s Mission here in El Salvador, sometimes things come at us so fast it’s hard to stay focused on anything. Sometimes it’s unexpectedly hard labor, other things make us break out in smiles, others push us to tears and some are so spiritually uplifting we thank God he has sent us here. Yesterday was uplifting.
There we are shaking the hand of retired Bishop Gene Robinson of the Diocese of New Hampshire. In the words of Bishop Martin Barahona, “Bishop Robinson is a true champion of human rights and dignity”. If you do not know this man he is the first openly gay Bishop of the Episcopal Church. For Dianne and I this was a momentous occasion. How often do you shake hands with people who defy the status quo publically to millions, who preach the love of Jesus for all people to millions regardless of the consequences and who does all this with a consistent trust in Jesus’s words “and surely I am with you always to the very end of the age”
Yesterday we were invited to a special service presided by Bishop Martin Barahona and Bishop Gene Robinson in the honor of the LGBTI community in El Salvador and their friends and families. It was held at San Juan Evangelista in San Salvador. Dianne and I plus 10 members of the community went for the 2 PM service to support these brave members of the Episcopal Church in El Salvador and support the Episcopal Church for having the bravery to stand with our brothers and sisters in Christ who are oppressed and marginalized here. It was great to see everyone there and we also met other North Americans who have been in El Salvador for a Conference on LGBTI rights held by Cristosal Fundacion who had Bishop Robinson as one of their speakers.
As we sat there taking it all in it hit me during Bishop Martin’s sermon exactly what Bishop Robinson represented. Bishop Martin mentioned how the World Cup was being decided but we needed to focus on the Eucharist, a symbol of God’s love that unites all of us as Christians. He also pointed out that in sports you hear words like humiliation and dignity but is losing a game really humiliating when compared to humiliation of losing your human rights because of your sexual orientation. Or, how does winning a game bring dignity to a team or country in comparison to a man like Bishop Robinson who brought dignity to the important discussion of Human Rights to all of God’s people. This is not dignity brought on by the elevated status of being a Bishop but the dignity of being able to express with truth, honesty and love that human rights for the LGBTI community are a mandate from God. Bishop Robinson didn’t have to sink to the level of those who opposed his views, people whose hearts were filled with anger and hate. Bishop Robinson trusted in Jesus’s message that as disciples of Jesus we can change people with truth, honesty and Love and Bishop Martin said he had witnessed this change when Bishop Robinson spoke to supporters of his and those who opposed him. As in yesterday’s Gospel of the Sower of seeds, Bishop Robinson’s message delivered with dignity does fall on good soil and many Christians do hear the message and understand and it will bear fruit multiple times over. Bishop Martins point was that a true Champion isn’t someone who plays sports; a man like Bishop Robinson is a true Champion. As Bishop Martin said, “It might be hard to imagine Bishop Robinson running up and down the Futbol field winning the game but he has run all over the world winning the game of Human Rights. Bishop Robinson is a champion of our faith”. I would be remiss if I didn’t add this; Iglesia San Juan Evangelista was full of Champions. These champions were the men and woman of the LGBTI community in El Salvador who have stood up for their rights knowing full well the danger it puts them in. These are men and women of the Episcopal Church who trust in God that His justice will prevail. Dianne and I were in the presence of true champions.
So there we are shaking Bishop Robinson’s hand, this Champions hand. All I can say is that it was uplifting to speak with a man of this bravery who has done so much for our faith. He thanked Dianne and me for our service to Christ and we thanked him for being such and inspiration for all of us.
Acts 10:34 - So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality.