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October 13 2006
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Volume 34
Issue 41
 
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Founder of Integrity leads Sixth Annual Matthew Shepard Memorial Sermon in Seattle, speaks to SGN
Founder of Integrity leads Sixth Annual Matthew Shepard Memorial Sermon in Seattle, speaks to SGN
Dr. Louie Crew, Founder of Integrity, which advocates for inclusion of Gays and Lesbians in the Episcopal Church, addressed members of Seattle's Trinity Parish Episcopal Church on Sunday, October 8th. During the service, he delivered the Sixth Annual Matthew Shepard Memorial Sermon.

The sermon is held each year in honor of a Gay college student who had been severely beaten, tied to a fence in the Wyoming countryside and later died from his injuries. The sermons are meant to question prejudice and intolerance, both in the church and in society. .

Crew has a B.A. degree from Baylor University, a M.A. degree from Auburn, a Ph.D. from the University of Alabama and an honorary Doctor of Divinity Degree from the Episcopal Divinity School. He received the Episcopal Church's Bishops Cross from the Rt. Rev. John Shelby Spong, Diocese of Newark, in 2000. .

He has taught in England, Hong Kong, and China, as well as at colleges in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Chicago, Illinois. He became Associate Professor of English at Rutgers University in 1989 and retired from that position in 2002. .

In 1974, Crew founded Integrity and served as editor of Integrity's newsletter from 1974 to 1977. He also co-founded the lesbiGay caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English in 1975. He served on the board of directors of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force from 1976 to 1978 and on the Wisconsin Governor's Council on Lesbian and Gay Issues in 1983. .

Crew spoke with the SGN this week outside a reception held in his honor by the Seattle Integrity chapter. He spoke about his Seattle visit, his beliefs about matters of faith and shared his deepest desires for the future of the Episcopal Church. .

Seattle Gay News: Why was it important for you to come to Seattle to speak today? .

Dr. Louie Crew: Well, because I was invited. In some sense, the places that would invite me are the one's who least need to hear, because any challenge I have to make would probably get some people run out of town if they were to invite me to certain parishes. But, it is also very affirming for me to have these experiences. I love this city. It is one of the most the most civilized cities in the world. I always think of Seattle and Minneapolis as two of my favorite cities, because they are so much more affirming than a lot of places. It is good to be here. .

SGN: What was your message today? .

LC: I think there were two. One was the message I have to do as someone preaching in the Episcopal Church; that is to address the lessons. The lessons are all very homophobic, but also errata phobic and very patriarchal. I try to ground those in the sermon. What I tried to do is show that as Episcopalians, one of the blessings is that we don't have to take the bible literally. We are expected to use our heads. ... I thought it was important for us not to run away from the abusive passages, not to cover them up or explain them away. We don't have to honor them, but I wanted to show them what the price would be if we do. I do think Matthew Shepard, which was the major focus of the service today, on this anniversary, I tried to point out that the people who murdered him where following those text quite literally. So, I think that is basically it. .

SGN: How do you think Gay and Lesbian people have been received in the Episcopal Church? .

LC: Much better than in some of the others, especially in terms of our polity, which allows people in priesthood, currently, to be assigned to places. Some other churches, for example, the United Church of Christ beat us to the draw by 25 years or so in openly affirming and ordaining people but they would never ordain someone who had someone who would hire them and very few got ordained. With the difference of the polity, we have had some advantage. I think we've also just had some great blessings in our church. We have had a steady, faithful witness of Gay and Lesbian people who didn't just go find a comfortable place where they can go worship. They lobbied the diocesan conventions and they lobbied the general conventions of the Episcopal Church. That is not the witness of everybody, not all of them are Gay. Not all Gays would wind up in the vestry for example, but we have had a core of very faithful people, I would say. Another reason for it is not that it comes out of a political agenda, but out of a faith agenda. I hope my sermon demonstrated that this was the most important thing to me. I don't imagine getting into heaven by saying, 'My name is Louie Crew, let me in. I'm right you know.' I am 70 in about 65 days, so I am aware that the end is not too far away. I don't anticipate that, I anticipate saying 'be merciful to me.' What else can you say in that circumstance? On the other hand, sometimes we see evil; we see what is wrong. It is very obvious that taking peoples lives, that are in caring and committed relationships and trashing them as if they are prostitutes [is one example]. You can love prostitutes, but taking people and denigrating them largely out of a ... sometimes woeful ignorance. They fallow blindly the scriptures. I try to show that some scriptures are not followed, such as the role of women. Thank God they are not followed anymore - at least by most Christians. .

SGN: What is your hope for the church? .

LC: I hope we will move beyond this issue to unite around a mission for people who have far greater needs. We have already seen the ways Gays and Lesbians have influenced the health system in the United States, particularly through the AIDS crisis. Just getting enough clout and enough know-how to understand how the systems operate. To say, 'We are not going to wait forever to have drug testing. We need the drugs to come through the testing process faster.' That has benefited everybody. I would like to think that the political skills we have gained in trying to change our political structure will also help us to say, 'We are not going to allow homelessness in a country as wealthy as ours.' It was almost once against the law in any country to find homeless people. We don't need the law or institutions, which often have their own problems. We need a caring, loving response to [the homeless]. We have really sold our economy to the very small, very greedy, and the very wealthy. We need to radically change the country around. I think Gays and Lesbians don't have a monopoly on those attitudes but we have skills to bring to that contest. We also have a great deal of benefit of having those skills across a broad range of race and class. We have not dealt with our own racism and classism very well, but we have done better than the bigger culture in some places and in some ways. I think that the fact that we have people across races and classes who have some expertise in how this government works. How you go in and lobby this, that and the other. Someone asked Medgar Evars, the Black activist that was murdered in Mississippi, how the church had been a light to help them in their struggles. He used the analogy of a tail light, not a headlight. I think that is still, unfortunately, the position of the church, and even the Episcopal Church. We didn't ask the general convention in 2003 about the state of marriages, but the state of Massachusetts and it looks like my home state of New Jersey will do it right away. Then, you got the problem of people who want to honor people and want to honor the state and the state says they can't be married. 'You say you can't bless us.' So, I think in this case we are the taillight. We are at least on the engine of justice and I am hoping we can get a bit more.
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