One such conundrum that the Episcopal church will have to deal with is the presence in its House of Bishops and in its ranks of clergy, of members of Indian nations in which same-sex marriage is forbidden by tribal law.
The following article that was posted at CNS News a month before the SCOTUS ruling legalizing same-sex marriage gives you background and an idea of the numbers of souls involved,
"The Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma and the Navajo Nation, with about 300,000 members each, maintain decade-old laws that don't recognize same-sex marriage. Neither tribe has shown much sign of shifting.Of course, the gay activists will say that cultural and religious imperialism is to blame for these now archaic laws,
In all, tribes with a total membership approaching 1 million won't recognize marriages between two men or two women."
"John Hawk Co-Cke' (co-KAY), an enrolled member of the Osage Nation who's gay, said that before reservations were created, many tribes had no problem with men who embraced their feminine side and women who lean toward their masculine side, inspiring the term two-spirit people. Two-spirit people were sometimes given special ceremonial roles because of their ability to go into both the masculine and feminine world, he said.
The spread of Christianity starting when tribes were moved onto reservations contributed to a change in attitude that's reflected in laws that reserve marriage for heterosexual couples, Co-Cke' said. The influence of Christianity remains strong in many tribes more than a century after an era of mass conversions on reservations.
'It saddens me, but I don't blame them because they have been forced to give in,' said Co-Cke', who was raised as a Methodist and has for many years led two-spirit retreats in Oklahoma.
Co-Cke' said he respects the faith he was raised in, but learning about Native American traditions that date back further helped him become comfortable with being gay.
'I started feeling that emptiness. That's when the old ones started calling me,' he said. 'I had to get healthy.'"
The Episcopal church has a long history of mission and outreach to the native American people, and one has to wonder if that outreach will now include efforts to enlighten them on same-sex marriage.
The Episcopal church page that features the Navajo praises their history, culture, and values,
"The Navajo are our American heritage. For literally hundreds of years they have lived on their lands in the Southwest and had a culture embedded in the Divine Creator, with a tradition of worship and roots deep in the earth. They have embraced The Episcopal Church for over 100 years. And they have done this in the face of extreme deprivation, poverty, and forced removal from their homeland.
Deep reverence for all things living characterizes Navajo spirituality, and prayer is their natural language. Everything a Navajo knows – shelter, fields, livestock, the sky above and the ground below – is holy. Land is the Earth Mother who gives life to all. Their traditional dwelling, the hoghan, reflects this understanding of creation, and it is here where Navajo Blessingway and other ceremonies still occur. In the name of Jesus Christ, they pray for healing for each other and for the rest of the world and even under the bleakest of circumstances, they never forsake prayer.
They have much to teach us.They may have something to teach TEc about marriage, and look out, they are infiltrating the ranks of the ordained!
In 1978, The Episcopal Church founded Navajoland Area Mission: some 26,000 square miles in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. At that time, there was no clear vision, nor were substantive efforts undertaken to preserve physical facilities or to raise up lay and ordained leadership.Not only that, but the Cherokee have already entered the House/Hoghan/Tepee of Bishops. The following is from a New York Times article from 2011,
Today, there is a new spirit and energy in this land! Several churches have been reopened. While we have had only one Navajo priest, we now have 11 candidates for ordination – two ordained as priests in June, 2013."
"Bishop Carol J. Gallagher is a member of the Cherokee nation, through her mother, whose maiden name was Elizabeth Walking Stick" (NYT).Her blog, "Mamabishop" can be found here.
Being in a small way part of the Cherokee clan myself brings this home on a personal level.
In 2011, when the NYT article on Bishop Gallagher came out, the number of Native American bishops was four,
"American Indian Episcopal bishops will increase to four. The others are Creighton Robertson of South Dakota, Steven Plummer of the Navajoland Area Mission and Steven Charleston, president and dean of Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass."The following quotation from Bishop Gallagher is a bit ironic given the differences her nation and her church have regarding same-sex marriage,
"...declaring that the church needed to regard its American Indian members as ''equal partners' in its work."I predict that some partners will remain more equal than others in this case.
And in February 2015 the Episcopal News Service announced,
"In a liturgy that combined Anglican and Navajo traditions, the Rev. Canon Cornelia Eaton was ordained priest in the Episcopal Church. She serves as canon to the ordinary for Navajoland... The liturgy included readings and hymns in English and Navajo, and smudging by (Bishop) Eaton...For the uninitiated,
"Smudging calls on the spirits of sacred plants to drive away negative energies and restore balance." (PowWow-Power.com)There are a fair number of Navajo who may be in a bit of a pickle, torn between their nation and their church,
With Eaton’s ordination as priest, Bailey has ordained three Navajo, or Diné, as priests and three more as transitional deacons. There are another three Diné in the ordination process. Eaton is the fourth female Diné following Plummer, the Rev. Rosella Jim and the Rev. Inez Velarde."
Which will they choose? To be off the reservation or on it?