The future of the Episcopal Church is in its alchemy. The Gospel of Jesus takes the souls of people that are weighted with the lead of sin and turns them into souls of gold. Every time the church proclaims the gospel, every time the church baptizes, every time the church hears a confession, or provides nourishment in the Eucharist, the church is changing lead into gold. The ultimate transubstantiation.
Not far from where the current 78th General Convention is meeting in Salt Lake City, on February 12, 2007, there was a mass shooting at the Trolley Square Mall. It left five dead and four severely injured. One victim, Carolyn Tuft, spoke to a crowd of Episcopal march participants about the day the gunman shot and forever injured her. She spoke of the tragedy of watching her fifteen year old daughter Kirsten Hinckley die at the hand of the gunman. She described the pain of the loss of her child, and the pain she endures from the lead pellets she carries in her body. Her point was simple, no one wants to bury another child, nobody wants another mass shooting.
There is a preponderance of lead in the culture, in the church, in the world. It is weighing down everything from civil discourse to basic human decency. Violence is treated with a shrug unless it happens close to home. There is a collective lead poisoning, a collective locked jaw reaction to the simple John Prine lyric, “Now Jesus don’t like killin’, no matter what the reason’s for.”
In her sermon during the United Thank Offering Ingathering and Eucharist, Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori looked at the congregation and proclaimed, “Little girl get up!” Referring to the healing of the little girl in the Gospel of Mark, the Presiding Bishop called the church to live into its resurrection. Getting up out of death is the Gospel. The alchemic symbol of turning the lead of death into the gold of eternity is not for only for Easter day, it is for everyday as the church performs the miracle of change. Mrs. Tuft turned the leadened shotgun pellets she has in her body into the golden message of peace. She called for change in the attitudes towards guns and violence and so should the Episcopal Church. There is great power in the Gospel of Jesus and in the witness of the Episcopal Church to that Gospel. There is gold in the church, it is time for the church to use its gold, its vast resources, its courage, and its bravery to be the change it wishes to see in the world.
As the future unfolds for the Episcopal Church, this gold can be used as ransom for much that faces our culture, our church and our world. The church can use its gold to ransom its voice in the conversations about guns and violence. The church can use its gold to ransom its courage to stand up against racism. The church can use its gold to demand equality, parity, and access for all people. It can also use its gold for itself, healing its own wounds, making itself stronger.
This alchemy is done for the sake of the Gospel, but also to guarantee a time in the future where Kirsten Hinkley does not needlessly die and another Carolyn Tuft is not left broken and in grief. The golden resources of the Episcopal Church flow out of the love of Jesus Christ. These golden resources of love, of transformation, of courage, of money, of brain power, of assets, all of it can be brought to bear and used to change the world. This is a future that needs to be now.