Dear General Convention,
My name is Kristi Roper and I joined Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration in 2006 with my two daughters after a long and sporadic search for a church home. I had visited many churches since my conversion to Roman Catholicism during my time at a Jesuit college, but I never found a place I fully belonged. I convinced myself my faith was a private matter and organized religion was not necessary.
As my children grew older, and they began attending Episcopal schools in Dallas, I felt compelled to search again. We visited Transfiguration, and the first words from the podium were that “All are welcome.” I quickly realized this was not just a motto, but the way of the Episcopal Church. I had truly found my church home, and my spiritual life in Christ began to grow. My daughters were baptized, and we began to try and live out the promise we make in the baptismal covenant, “to seek and serve Christ in all persons.” This helped me move away from the idea that God and religion is a personal matter.
We all became involved in our church community and outreach. I serve as a Eucharistic Minister, and my daughters serve as acolytes. We volunteer for congregational outreach work, my daughters are involved with our youth group, and we have supported several congregational events.
Several years ago, I met Amy, who has an elementary-aged son, and they were long-time members of Transfiguration. As we grew closer and our relationship became a real commitment, we were both thrilled to learn of the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage. It represented the abolishment of years of second-class citizenship and invalidation as a full person. Even with this news, however, I continued to feel that, for me, marriage is a lifelong commitment that only has true meaning within the context of my faith. Then, General Convention announced that our church would allow same sex marriages! It was incredible to think that I could be joined with the love of my life, not in a civil ceremony, but in a sacrament! To experience the sacrament of marriage in my church was to be fully accepted and part of the life of Christ within my community. The magnitude of standing in my church, with my clergy, in front of my children and friends, would be so powerful and wonderful.
The elation was quickly diminished with news that we would not be allowed to marry in the Diocese of Dallas, neither in our beloved church, nor could our clergy perform the service elsewhere. It seemed as though a part of the vine that connected us was intentionally being clamped off, cruelly restricting the flow to our branches. It was as if we could be fed, but not at the same table, or we could drink from the fountain, but not the one everyone else used. The decision to deny me the sacrament of marriage felt against all I know to be true of Christ’s ministry.
The option from Bishop Sumner was to search for a new church in Fort Worth, search for new clergy outside of the Diocese of Dallas, and travel over an hour to another city to be married. This was not an option! Explaining to our three children why we were not allowed to stand up in our church, with our clergy, to experience the Sacrament of Marriage would have undermined our joy and generated undo emotional distress for us all. It was hard to channel my emotions and remain open to God’s love that I knew so deeply at Transfiguration. I did not want to risk hurting my young, inquisitive children or to cause them to resent or turn away from our church in anyway. I love the life of Christ I have come to experience at the Transfiguration, and I did not want to risk coloring that for my children. Amy and I did not believe the neighboring diocese was really an option at all, so instead we found a small Episcopal church in Sausalito, California, where we could get married. All of our family from Texas and Oklahoma joined us for our wedding, but we did invite friends, because of the burden of the cost to travel to California in July.
My wedding was one of the best days of my life, and I have never felt more certain of my commitment to my wife or my commitment to Christ than I did that day. I now feel as if I am living more fully as a Christian, able of receive and give more fully of myself than ever before. I did not enter my marriage lightly, and I guard the vows of my covenant with Gods help. I was 47 years of age when I got married, and I would have never been married had the General Convention not allowed me to do so in an Episcopal Church.
But I remain sad I was not able to marry at Transfiguration. No one should be denied the sacrament of marriage in any diocese of the Episcopal Church. In our church, all are welcome, and it’s time every diocese lives that mission.