Dear General Convention,
We write from the perspective of a long relationship with the Church of the Transfiguration, Dallas and the Church of the Epiphany, Richardson, Texas. I am Jerry (JD) Godwin, for 18 years Senior Associate at Transfiguration followed by 12 years as its Rector, and my husband, David Stinson, for 27 years Director of Music and Organist at Epiphany.
Our journey to wholeness in relationship began in parts of the upper Midwest separated both by time and miles, one of us in northern Minnesota in a conservative Scandinavian-Lutheran culture, the other of us in a central Iowa conservative farm culture. Our paths converged in a small rural Iowa town where we were Vicar of a small Episcopal congregation and United Methodist church musician, respectively.
Our life together, marked by growing in love, mutual respect and forbearance, was also marked by the necessity of lying: sneaking around, hiding our cars, using back doors, driving many miles to the capital city where we could relax without fear of recrimination, all so that we could enjoy each other’s companionship and allow our love to flourish.
In responding to our call to continue our ministry in Texas, we had a hope that the larger metropolitan area would afford us a more welcoming and accepting environment both culturally and ecclesiastically in which to live openly and honestly. It fast became obvious that we had to establish new and ever more inventive ways to lie about our love. We developed what we came to call the grocery-store-shuffle where we were constantly watching for persons from one or the other’s parish coming toward us in the grocery aisle, a signal that one or the other of us needed to “shuffle” off in the opposite direction. We would rejoin each other at our car in the parking lot. We spent many movie-going occasions sitting in opposite sides of the theater. We lived in fear, not so much for ourselves, but for what we imagined the consequences for our parish members might be should our love for each other become known.
In the 35th year of our relationship and as The Episcopal Church in a majority of its dioceses seemed to be more and more open to LGBTQ relationships and clergy, we began to search for employment in more welcoming dioceses, knowing that would mean separation from the congregations and friends whom we had grown to love and by whom we knew ourselves to be loved in nearly three decades of faithful ministry.
Ultimately our search found fruition, welcome and acceptance in the Diocese of Olympia where JD served Priest-in-Charge of a congregation and David served as part time Director of Music of another congregation and from where we both have happily retired.
But the reality of living-the-lie need not continue in our church today. Bishops and dioceses must not be able to continue to prohibit its clergy from the benefit of holy matrimony and sharing the benefits of their pensions and insurance with their spouses. Nor should entire dioceses be allowed to ignore the law of the land by refusing to allow its clergy and congregations to ask God’s blessing on those whom God has called into holy relationship. Tolerance is not acceptance.
It is time for General Convention to stand tall and proud, and to guarantee access to the fullness of its sacramental life to all, no exceptions. General Convention, do not forget us. We’re counting on YOU!
JD Godwin and David Stinson