St. Luke’s — embracing one another

Historically, Saranac Lake has been a community that embraces and cares for one another. While we have our differences, individuals from a broad spectrum of life have consistently banded together to build a healthy community.

Together we enjoy many community-wide activities. Alternatively, when one of our fellow citizens or families faces tragedy, we are there for them. The Samaritan House, the ongoing food pantry activities, Grace Pantry and the churches that provide meals and fellowship for people who are alone or in need are just a few examples of Saranac Lake’s generosity and inclusiveness. Valuing and embracing one another, respecting and learning from one another are bedrock values of Saranac Lake and every healthy community I know.

When I moved to Saranac Lake over five years ago, I became a member of the Church of St. Luke, the Beloved Physician. I found a loving and accepting community that worked together to promote one another’s spiritual growth and sense of well-being. Individuals also worked hard to live their values in the greater community. These core values have been the basis for our church for many years. We continue to warmly and actively welcome all people to become full members of the congregation, including members of the LGBTQ community. This position put us in opposition with the bishop of our diocese, who refuses to let ministers and parishes under his authority perform marriages for same-sex couples. This has led to St. Luke’s establishing a working relationship with the neighboring Diocese of Vermont. While we still comply with the stringent edicts of Bishop Love in the Albany Diocese, we have the support and fellowship of the bishop and Diocese of Vermont.

At the National Episcopal Church’s meeting in July, a top agenda item was the refinement of the existing national church policy on the LGBTQ community. A proposal was made to recognize same-sex couples as full participating members of the Episcopal Church, allowing them to be married with the church’s support and sanction. Eight bishops expressed opposition to the proposal. A compromise was finally reached: Bishops overseeing a diocese would not be able to impose their views on same-sex unions, but that decision would rest with the priest at each congregation, with support of a bishop from another diocese. Of the eight bishops who had been in initial opposition, seven agreed with the compromise and voted for its enactment. Bishop Love, of the Diocese of Albany, spoke forcefully against it and did not support the compromise.

Subsequently, Bishop Love met twice with the clergy within the Albany Diocese, the first time to listen to them and solicit their advice. The second time he met was to announce his final decision regarding how he and, therefore, the entire diocese would respond to the changes. At that meeting he issued a strongly worded “Pastoral Letter” that was to be read in each church Sunday, Nov. 11. In that letter he took a firm position against the actions of the national church, refusing to allow its adoption under his authority. We at St. Luke’s believe that Bishop Love’s letter and stance are deeply in conflict with our church community and the greater community of Saranac Lake. We believe that everyone has an opportunity to have their marriage sanctified and supported.

The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Michael Curry, has issued a statement voicing his concern and continued support for the changes adopted at the July meeting. He has vowed to continue his conversations with Bishop Love and take appropriate actions soon.

We at St. Luke’s look forward to a swift resolution so that we can not only welcome but fully celebrate the rites of the church with our fellow LGBTQ parishioners. We continue to open our doors to all who are searching to enrich their lives and the lives of others through the growth and expression of their faith. We reach out to every member of our community for support to build an even healthier and welcoming Saranac Lake.

Charles VanAnden lives in Saranac Lake and is senior warden of the Vestry of the Church of St. Luke, the Beloved Physician.