once a piskie?

This week I am posed with a question that was bound to arise eventually: am I still a Scottish Episcopalian?

Clearly, I am not living in Scotland, and I am not currently a member of an SEC congregation; which might be a strike against.  But there was another time when I lived in England for two years — in the edge-less Midlands– and there was no doubt in my mind that I was a piskie then.

Indeed, that is when vocation stirred, and I had to engage in the repeated explanations of why I was an Episcopalian living in England, called to be ordained in Scotland, rather than a lay-chaplain in England called from within local structures. That was easier than it might sound, really.  I had no trouble at all persuading people that I was piskie, not C of E.

And therein lies the rub.  For I worship in the C of E right now.  Variously.  In big churches and small, in one diocese or another; and I thank God for the cavernous space of the Cathedral that calls me back and back again to offer a sacramental home and no shortage of back doors. But I am not C of E.  I fear I am too American to ever be C of E.  Separation of church and state is deep within my bones, and I never could understand why anyone would add the word anti- to disestablishmentarianism unless it achieved a Triple Word Score.

‘Not’, however, does not define ‘is’.  Being a piskie is more than not being C of E.  And that too was part of my sense of call:  to a whole church; to a brave church that was reaching towards the future; to a church that was small enough that it dare not waste anyone’s talents, and intimate enough to learn what each person might be able to offer.  That was the dream, anyway.  The reality was sometimes harder.

So, I guess the question ‘am I still a piskie’ is really a question of whether enough of the dream remains.

Two things happened this week to show me that it probably does.

First: I was not at all surprised but terribly disappointed by the offical SEC response to the Consultation on Marriage.   Not surprised, because it was the church doing what it does best:  dancing around an issue, careful to say nothing and to say it on good precedent, trying to ensure that nothing could cause offence.  Disappointed because, while that is a church I recognize, it is not a church I believe in or dream of or long to be a part of.  We used to be braver than that.  I want us to be braver again.

Today I was reading Hilary Clinton’s UN speech on LGBT rights.  In it she says this:

Leadership, by definition, means being out in front of your people when it is called for. It means standing up for the dignity of all your citizens and persuading your people to do the same. It also means ensuring that all citizens are treated as equals under your laws

It’s worth reading or listening to the speech in full, as she also speaks well of how ‘rarely are cultural and religious traditions and teachings actually in conflict with the protection of human rights’. Clinton named for me the shape of my disappointment in the SEC’s official response to the Equal Marriage legislation in Scotland.  I know that the church is not of one voice.  I understand that most people in most congregations probably spend very little time deciding what they think about equal marriage legislation, and that it is the marginal voices (liberal and conservative, both) that push this issue.  But sometimes, the church needs to get out ahead of the majority and do what is right and just and true.  Sometimes, the church should lead.

So, I was frustrated.  And that is a good sign.  It means I still care enough to be frustrated.

Secondly, though, I was proud:  proud of the vestry of St Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow, who let neither difference of opinion nor caution from the central church structures daunt them.  Theirs is the response I wish the whole church had made.  Theirs is the vision I recognize and want to be a part of.  Indeed, that is the understanding of the church I was formed in and was called to.  It is good to know they are there.

I suspect I am still a piskie, and always will be.  It’s just that sometimes, that’s a rather hard thing to be.

8 thoughts on “once a piskie?”

  1. Kimberly Well said, as usual you expressed, correctly in my humble opinion, the views of many. Actually I believe that we might be in the majority. ” Are you still a piskie?” Yes I think that you are and always will be. I think of myself as a piskie despite missionary outreach work in and around the Rhubarb Triangle. Keep believing as sometimes this is all one can do.

  2. Very good post. Thank you for your thoughtfulness.

    Of course, my initial reaction to your question before reading the post was, “Of course you are. That’s where you were confirmed.” So much for thoughtful responses – even if I do think it holds. (-:

  3. As a fellow piskie-in-exile, I recognise all of these things! And there’s something about Surrey religion that I will probably never understand…
    It does seem to me that the SEC has become less brave, though I thought there was one glimmer of hope in the otherwise profoundly disappointing official pronouncement – the commitment to working with our Porvoo brothers and sisters on these matters stands out as a commitment to working things out faithfully in our primary context, which is Northern Europe. If we are serious about inculturation and contextual theology for all Anglican churches, then we need to be serious about what that means for us too. I hope that whoever becomes the new bishop of Edinburgh will contribute to a recovery of nerve for the SEC!

  4. I agree that what is happening in Porvoo is promising, though we are following there too. Part of my inculturation will always make me look to North America as well as to Scandinavia. I hope for a happy liberal Northern Alliance. (and I assume New Zealand is so far south that it might as well be north really)

    Sarah, I was actually confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church in Meriden, CT — and have no desire at all to claim that as my ecclesial home. (I am glad, though, that Haiti is sufficiently well for you to be playing on-line)

  5. Yes, I agree very much on an alliance with all those who think that the gospel has more to say about grace than condemnation, more about the quality of our relationships than gender of the partner we love, more about grand, generous justice than narrow social mores.
    Unfortunately, I have heard things recently that suggest the SEC is heading backwards…

  6. That is a tricky one — a question I’ve been asking for several years now. The SEC was certainly not as ready to move forward as I thought it was when I first had a sense of call. And therefore, it has sometimes felt to be moving backwards to me. I still don’t know if my first perception of hopefulness was misplaced, or if my sense of regression is unfair. My hunch is that — to speak in vast sweeping generalizations — the superficial changes of liturgy were accepted after the blue book, but the theological implications of the changes were not worked through in most congregations. So, some of us who were formed by its theology and assumed it to be the heart of the church are sometimes thrown by the realities. But maybe that’s just me.

  7. Yes, I think that’s pretty spot on. The new feature, though, is that the leadership seems considerably more cautious that before. I suppose that is in response to the mood of the Communion, but I find it very disheartening.

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