If you missed the memo, there's a very sad situation down in the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida wherein Baby Jack was denied the sacrament of baptism because Baby Jack happened to have two dads. Their story is here ... and I was deeply moved by the way Jack's dad Rich opened his account: "My hope in sharing our story is to raise awareness to our community, and to offer perspective to a reticent institution."
He has accomplished both.
The Faithful America online petition that had a goal of 15,000 signatures is up to nearly 24,000 as I write. Clearly awareness has been raised in the community that no matter how optimistic we are about the Supreme Court and the movement toward marriage equality, the battle against homophobia is far from won.
And he has also gotten the attention of "a reticent institution." Barraged by emails, Facebook comments and secular media attention, Central Florida Bishop Greg Brewer is meeting with the family today -- Thursday, May 7 -- because, according to the Orlando Sentinel: "Whether they are active in the church and Christians in the community is far more important than whether they are gay or straight."
So my expectation would be that from now on Bishop Brewer will be meeting personally with each and every baptismal family in the Diocese of Central Florida to discern whether or not the parents are active in the church and Christians in the community. Otherwise he will be guilty in 2015 of singling out LGBT parents seeking the sacrament of baptism for their children for the same kind of heightened scrutiny African American voters were subjected to when seeking the constitutional right to vote before the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That kind of systemic bigotry had no place in our nation fifty years ago and it has no place in our church today.
And so the only thing that Bishop Brewer should say to Jack's parents today is how profoundly sorry he is for the fact that he failed as the chief pastor and shepherd of the flock in his diocese to protect his LGBT sheep from the assault of systemic homophobia that raised its ugly head and disrupted their plans to baptize their child into the Body of Christ.
I remain ever hopeful that this sad episode can be used by the Holy Spirit for the good of breaking down any barriers between the full inclusion of LGBT people in the work and witness of the Diocese of Central Florida. It certainly has the potential to be a Syrophoenician Woman Moment -- reminiscent of the story from Matthew's gospel where Jesus himself changed his mind about healing the daughter of the woman his tradition and his disciples told him was unworthy.
WWJD? He'd baptize Jack, of course. Let's fix this, people. And not just for Jack -- but for all the babies coming after him. We not only can do better than this -- we have to.