Dear General Convention
Robert and I have been together for almost 13 years now. As I look back on our journey together I sometimes wonder how we ever managed to become a family. When I met Robert, he was a single father, raising his two biological daughters, then ages 8 and 14. I had just recently joined an Episcopal church in Dallas, and to my surprise, he started going with me, enjoyed the service and started bringing the girls. The four of us joined and became regular fixtures.
Looking back on those years, I think we were viewed as kind of a curiosity, since Robert and the girls are of Mexican descent, and the church seemed 99% Anglo. In addition, we were one of only a handful of same-sex couples who attended regularly. To my knowledge, we were the only same-sex couple with children in that church, whose membership is well into the thousands. Were we accepted there? I’m sure some accepted us, others kept their opinions to themselves, and probably some just weren’t sure.
Robert and I got married in a civil ceremony in New York in 2011. Our youngest daughter was there with us, as well as a friend for a witness, but other than that it was a ceremony in front of strangers. Did that civil judge promise to be there for us in future years as we struggled through the inevitable challenges every couple faces? No. Did we have a body of like-minded believers promising to support us and help nurture our marriage? No. Did we feel like we were making our vows in front of God and witnessed by other believers? I wish the answer was a strong “Yes,” but honestly, that wasn’t really part of the event.
Fast-forward 6 or 7 years and now Robert and I are empty-nesters and have moved to a wonderful, supportive, inclusive Episcopal church where we are welcomed in as a couple, and where there are many other same-sex couples (and opposite-sex couples). How wonderful it would be for us if we could reaffirm our vows properly, in OUR church, in front of OUR friends and chosen family. Unfortunately, this is not possible with the current state of affairs in the Diocese of Dallas.
We lament this situation not just for us, but for other gay people who meet someone and wish to commit to one another for the rest of their lives. Should the church encourage them to marry, as it does for straight couples? Why would we condemn promiscuity for straight couples, but fail to provide any alternative to it for gay couples? Shouldn’t the stereotypical motherly advice to a young man or woman who is “running wild” to “settle down and get married” be beneficial to someone regardless of their sexual orientation?
Finally, as the parents of two beautiful young adult daughters, what is our message to them? Is it important to get married in your own church, or is it okay to just live together as so many are doing these days, or just have a civil ceremony? If we all show them that marriage should be an integral part of a couples’ spiritual life and fight for the rights for all couples in the Diocese of Dallas to have that right in their own church, maybe that message will be received.
John Guilford & Robert Dijas