Bishop Gene Robinson, Bishop Robert O'Neill, Disabled Resource Services Fort Collins, Episcopal Church of Colorado, Lawrence Hitt II, Peggy Johnson Ph.D., Rt Rev Harold Warren, St. Luke's Episcopal Church Fort Collins, Tamara Schmiege Ph.D.
(Apologies to those who’ve followed this aspect of my saga on this blog– but there is an update.)
I thought, about six years ago, that it would be good for me to return to the Episcopal Church– specifically, St. Luke’s in Fort Collins, where I had gone in the past and sung in the choir. I did so downplaying that I am disabled by non-obvious depression and PTSD.
After an incident regarding my participation in the choir, St. Luke’s was obligated under its own resolutions and nationally adopted policies to make accommodations of my or anyone’s disability and to work to resolve the antipathies and understandings that had become so entrenched. So was the Diocese and the Offices of the Chancellor and the Bishop.
Not only did the Diocese refuse my requests for assistance, it dispatched its chancellor/lay lawyer to undermine my self-advocacy and raise questions about whether I was really disabled, whether my disability played any part in matters, refusing to address my direct charges of discrimination and exclusion.
I recently summoned the courage to present an affidavit of events as I remember them to St. Luke’s. Two weeks ago, I e-mailed the Rt Rev Robert O’Neill, Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Colorado, requesting his personal assistance in mediating my return to St. Luke’s and the choir.
The other night I received an e-mail reply from Bishop O’Neill in the form of a copy of an e-mail he sent to the Chancellor, Lawrence Hitt II, as follows:
“Given our history with this woman, I am assuming you don’t want me to respond, right?”
The Diocese and its member parishes trumpet love, tolerance and inclusiveness. Regarding compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the National Council of Churches, of which the Episcopal Church in the US is a member, adopted a resolution of inclusion— this eloquent document should be on the tip of O’Neill’s tongue, driving his behavior and that of his staff, and isn’t.
For the past decade O’Neill has been caught up in a high profile lawsuit around the issue of gay clergy in the EC, involving a seceding conservative Episcopal Church, Grace Episcopal, in Colorado Springs. O’Neill’s disciples stripped that parish of its land, indicted its priest within an Episcopal Court; the priest took a plea to a misdemeanor “under Alford”, meaning that he did so even though he viewed himself as innocent. (Unethically, Hitt has opined that to plead under Alford is a sign of guilt, when the opposite is really the case).
Then, although he had ordered Colorado churches to refrain from sanctioning same sex unions, O’Neill ordained one lesbian priest and seated “a partnered lesbian” priest at St. Paul’s in Fort Collins.
Accordingly no one, as he attempts to straddle the middle, is sure where O’Neill stands, but he is generally viewed as having done a disastrous job of holding the Episcopal Church in Colorado together. A close-knit conservative parish working out of the beautiful St. Andrews in downtown Fort Collins is on the market–that congregation which is “bible-based” has siphoned off many members of the Episcopal Old Guard in this community and set up shop on the outskirts of Loveland.
O’Neill appears to act out of political expediency– it is de rigeur to champion gay rights, while dismissing out of hand the concerns and needs of a disabled communicant. For shame.