By Father Casey

I am occasionally asked by newcomers when Transfiguration became an inclusive church. They assume that there had to be a moment, a vote of some kind, when the people of Transfiguration “decided” that we would truly be open and welcoming to all people, especially LGBT persons. It’s a reasonable assumption, given the way churches in other denominational traditions have experienced very public votes on the matter.

My answer is that, as far as I can tell, there was never a decision, or a single inflection point. We never took a vote as a parish to determine whether or not we would be “open and affirming.” Rather, it was many decisions at many moments made by many people over many years that fostered the inclusive parish we know today. You don’t build a culture of embrace through a single vote, or even several votes. Culture is created by a community that chooses to live out its values slowly and steadily. Like rock formations in caves created by the accumulation of drips, Transfiguration has become what we are through countless little drips of love and leadership.

Certainly, it started with my predecessors, Frs. Roper and Godwin, whose patience and courage over decades had the most significant influence on the culture of our church. They were committed to Transfiguration not just saying that we seek and serve Christ in all persons, but actually trying to live it out. So, in all their many sermons, classes, conversations, communiques to the parish, and individual decisions, they gently bent our congregational arc in the direction of inclusion. I cannot overstate my respect and gratitude for them.

But it wasn’t just them. They were joined in that slow, persistent work by dozens of staff and vestry members, and hundreds of other lay leaders, who shared the desire to make our embrace as wide as possible. And their influence was manifested in all the daily and weekly encounters and decisions that make up the life of a church. Some periods were harder than others, including a time of intense pressure and conflict in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But the leadership held fast to the belief that God’s love really is for all, so the church should welcome and include all.

Which means, by the time I arrived in 2014, the fact of our full inclusion of LGBT persons was long settled. There was still work to do – it took our advocacy to General Convention of the Episcopal Church to secure the ability to officiate same-sex marriages in our church – but the culture of Transfiguration was quite settled. We proudly and joyfully welcome all people into the full life of our parish, and we celebrate the presence, participation, and leadership of LGBT persons among us.

It’s important to remember this story, and not only because June is Pride Month and Transfiguration will participate in Dallas Pride this weekend. It’s important to remember, because there are many issues and challenges we’re facing as a society right now, in which it feels like we’re not making any headway. We look around at a host of problems, and we lament that we haven’t solved the problems quickly.

What our history as a parish reminds us is that healthy, loving culture is not built overnight. It does not happen in a single vote. It happens over the long, slow arc of time, as people patiently pursue the right day after day after day. We tend to overestimate what we can do in two years, and underestimate what we can do in ten. Those of us who desire positive change on issues like gun violence, racial justice, and the environment would do well to remember this truth.

Do not forget, friends, that the Holy Spirit did not build the Church on the Day of Pentecost. As dramatic and intense as that day may have been, it wasn’t the tongues of fire or the tornadic winds that spread the gospel to the farthest reaches of the world. It was all the ways the Holy Spirit flowed through the lives of the faithful every day after that one that made all the difference.

So, I hope you’ll join me in celebrating Pride with me this weekend and all month. I hope you’ll give thanks for all those who helped our church be what it is today, and who fostered the inclusive community we now enjoy. And I hope you’ll praise God for the gift of the Holy Spirit, whose love, flowing out through us, will slowly grow into peace and justice, goodness and mercy, and all the other manifestations of the kingdom that we long for future generations to enjoy.

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