how not to treat our best

I hadn’t heard anything from her in a while, but she popped up on Facebook in response to the Church of England’s failure to allow women bishops. Her comment, “last one out, please turn out the lights” was representative of her perspective on those rare occasions she did comment on matters related to the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. If that perspective is somewhat cynical, she is justified.

She was an associate at a large Episcopal parish in the San Francisco Bay Area. She left, not of her own accord I inferred, during the administration of an interim. Which is a terrible shame, because I’m sure she would have gotten along marvelously with the eventual permanent choice.

She herself became an interim at a large Episcopal parish in Southern California. When the newly called rector arrived, he asked her to stay on as an associate. He then did an about-face and soon decided, ostensibly though hardly believably, to lay her off for financial reasons. Her plan to be priest at large in the diocese soon faltered. She ultimately removed all references to the Episcopal Church from her Facebook profile and is now back home in her native Canada.

I knew her through her podcast sermons, and was distressed at the turn of events. I wrote about what had happened, planning to publish it here. I wrote then, and still feel:

Her sermons were lively, witty, contemporary, both thoughtful and thought-provoking, while challenging us to live the social gospel in the best tradition of both Jesus and the Episcopal Church. I loved listening to them.

I sent her a draft, and we ultimately had a marvelous telephone conversation. She asked me not to publish the blog, saying that it was all too accurate and sill too raw. I had to honor that. I was flattered that she said I understood her well and even more flattered by her favorable comments on my writing.

More than a year has now passed and I feel the need to speak out. In deference to her original request, however, I do not use her name as I did in my initial draft.

There is a lesson here. The Episcopal Church did some marvelous work at General Convention this year regarding inclusiveness, but if this is how we treat our best, most intelligent, most engaging young clergy, who can reach out to those who might otherwise not join us, there isn’t a lot of hope for The Episcopal Church in the United States.

I trust that this was an exception, and not the rule, and that others of her caliber receive far better treatment.

I can only hope.

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