I wish that I could find a way never to think in stereotypes, but I find that stereotypes often seem so matter-of-fact that I don’t even notice them as stereotypes. I have not found a way to abandon them en masse, but only one at a time. The process is usually more painful than it was this time.
Ten years ago, on April 10, 2007, I flew to Memphis, rented a car and drove to Tupelo, Mississippi, base of Donald Wildmon‘s hostile American Family Association. As founder of the oldest and largest ministry of LGBTQ persons within the Anglican Communions, I wanted to check out the rector of the Episcopal Church there. I reckoned that Tupelo, much like Utah, was missionary work big time for an Episcopalian. Yet this priest had just been given his ticket out of town.
The rector graciously welcomed me. As a fellow Alabama native, no doubt he was aware of my stereotypical prejudgments when we entered IV’s Restaurant, but he gave those no nevermind. A mutual friend joined us unnoticed by the wait staff or those at nearby tables. Like the other two of the Trinity, this friend kept us focused disciple to disciple.
I can remember the menu of a good meal in close detail years later. This was one of the best feasts that I have ever eaten: unforgettable locusts and wild honey. You can’t buy that even at Neiman Marcus or Fortnum & Masons.
+Shannon Johnston, I rejoice in your kindness, in your passion for justice, in your love of the people of your diocese, all of them, and in your faithful witness to the whole state of Christ’s church as 13th Bishop of Virginia.
Tupelo, thank you!