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August 8, 2013

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This is a follow-up reflection following a letter that the letter Rev. Steve Heiss wrote to his Bishop explaining why he has officiating the same-sex wedding of his daughter and others. Following that letter a complaint was filed by a fellow clergy colleague.

My time with Bishop Mark Webb (bishop of the Upper New York Conference) and the Rev. Richard Barton, (who filed the complaint against me).

The Bishop's office is located in the top story of University United Methodist Church in Syracuse. As I climb stairs with Penny (chair of our staff-parish relations committee, now my advocate), I wonder how many steps there were in the tower of London. Finally, the summit is reached, the door to the bishop’s office is before us. We enter. 

The office space is 21st century. It feels a bit “out of sync” after climbing the worn stairs of a 19th century building! The receptionist gives us a warming smile. Gentleness from the front desk: good. Offers for variations on caffeine: better still. No worries. 

No prisoners; nary a cudgel nor a sword in sight. My Tower of London fantasy dissembles. Bishop Webb arrives in a minute or two (greetings, introductions all around) then suggests we walk down to the sanctuary to share a prayer with the 150 supporters who have assembled there. The people who have gathered in the sanctuary of University Church come from all over New York State, Vermont and Massachusetts.

For the entire time Penny and I were in conversation upstairs, this wonderfully supportive group was led in worship, prayer, song and conversation by the Rev. Dr. Brolin Parker and several other lay and clergy. It was an amazing gift to all of us. We walk into the sanctuary; people are singing. After the hymn the bishop prays. His prayer is conciliatory, thoughtful - even hopeful. Back to the stairs. I opt for the elevator.

The chairs in the bishop’s office are in a circle. His executive secretary is there, ready to take notes. We settle in, get to know each other. (After the meeting I realized I might have asked Rev. Barton to talk a bit more about his life. I have just met him for the first time. I suppose he too is in a painful place. It must be hard to submit a charge against a colleague.) The meeting lasts about 1 ¾ hours.

It is mostly a conversation between Bishop Webb and me. He seemed curious about my motivations. Wondered if I had ever considered alternatives. Offered opinion about my letter. I presented stories, rambled in theology, offered opinion about context, framing and narrative, and “How I Read the Bible.” 

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August 8, 2013

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