I've been away all weekend at the farm so only opened my mail tonight. I knew this particular letter was coming, I've all ready read it and contemplated it and have worked through all sorts of feelings about it (one thing this letter did was unify, which I don't believe was its intent). But it still didn't really prepare me to come home, find the envelope in the mailbox, open it and find a three page form letter on Diocesan letterhead personally addressed to me from the Episcopal Bishop of Virginia.
Well, sort of addressed personally to me.
I think what said it all - that it was almost unnecessary to read the rest of the letter - was the way in which this one was "personally" addressed to me. The salutation was done in a way that Bishop Lee has never, ever addressed me. I've known him for over twenty years. He received me into the Episcopal Church. I served on the staff of one Episcopal church for nearly seven years and another one for another year after that. I've gone to conferences and meetings and thirteen Diocesan Councils. I've served as an officer in a Diocesan Region for several years and then President of that Region for two full terms after that. I've been a Delegate to Council. I've gone to receptions he hosted at two of the five General Conventions I've attended. I've served two complete (well, I guess we'll see if it'll be complete) terms on a parish Vestry. I've attended confirmations and funerals where he presided as well as an entire weekend retreat with my parish where he was the featured speaker. I've had dinner with him. I've even been a candidate for Deputy to General Convention for the Diocese of Virginia. And in all those settings, he has always called me by my first name. Mary.
This letter is addressed Dear Ms. Ailes.
You know, I think that just about says it all. The rest of the letter cites fifteen different canons and threatens me with all of them. I keep searching through the letter, but there's no mention of any piece of Scripture, no, not one. And Jesus is mentioned once - in the first line and then He's gone. The letter might as well have greeted me in the name of Zeus for all the good it did. The rest of the letter is written by someone I don't even know. It's as though Pod People (or is that PB People?) have taken over his body and the man I have known for my entire Episcopal life is no more.
Well, I put the letter under the tree - didn't know what else to do with it. I just hope Santa doesn't think it's for him.