Friday, May 04, 2007

Yet another bishop visits the Mission

The Most Reverend Martin Barahona, the Diocesan Bishop of El Salvador and Primate of the Anglican Church of the Central Region of America, is visiting San Francisco. Our little Episcopal parish of Saint John the Evangelist had the privilege of hosting him Thursday. We took our guest on a walk through some of the sights of the neighborhood, grit and all.

Bishop Barahona has drawn flack from conservative U.S. Episcopalians, some in his own province, and some of the other Anglican primates for participating in the consecration of a partnered gay man as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003. He's not a person to shy from the disapproval of some in order to serve the wellbeing of the many. A Central American bishop of conscience hardly could be. Apparently he found the shocking Robinson installation a no-brainer. He wrote:

I participated with a sense of solidarity with the marginalised, for whom I have fought for many years. I have fought for the social, economic, political, religious, racial and migratory marginalised; and now for those marginalised by sexual preference. I am totally convinced that Christ has always stood next to the marginalized, and I try to follow Christ even though I am a sinning man. I am very clear that God calls us to exercise a ministry, and God knows all of us best. Who am I to correct the plan of God?

On our walk with the Bishop we stopped by the murals in Balmy Alley that, among other themes, demonstrate how closely the Mission neighborhood has long felt linked to struggles in Central America.

The murals include a chilling angle on El Salvador's Oscar Romero.

Serious conversation followed about how our little parish can help Bishop Martin's efforts. Fr. John Kirkley of St. Johns listened intently. The global economy forces mass migrations of people looking for work to survive. How can those of us who enjoy relative security welcome and assist those set in motion by these impersonal forces?

We were also able to offer Bishop Martin a chance to see the work of St. John's Educational Thresholds Center, a community youth development project operating in the facilities of Marshall School. Once upon a time, years ago, SJETC was a project of the parish. Today it’s a Mission district anchor from thousands of parents and children.

As Ario Salazar explained to the Bishop that they'd been teaching the children the essential Mission District skill of telling the difference between homeless poor people and dangerous drug addicts and predators, one of our party whispered to me: "Maybe they could teach the whole country that distinction?"

We then visited the Mujeres Unidas y Activas in the Women's Building on 18th St. The MUAs help Latina immigrants to support each other to find their feet in a new country and to work for their communities. They had discussions of a possible exchange with Salvadoran women who are working in Bishop Martin's country to help prospective immigrants understand the realities involved in coming to the United States.

Two bishops in the Mission in a threeday span, both in the 'hood out of concern for our immigrants. Must be something good in the air!


MadPriest said...

In years to come the Latin American theology of our era will be believed as important as The Reformation. The truly wonderful thing is that the Church is infused with it even though most people don't realise where their thinking has come from. From the local Mothers Union branch serving fair trade coffee to the Pope using its language for his soundbites it stretches across the world. No wonder those it calls to account are fighting so hard to stop it. But it's too late for them. Bishop Martin may not see it fully realised in his own lifetime but the victory has been won.

janinsanfran said...

Madpriest -- that comment may be the most lovely thing anyone has ever written here. I agree with you; the simple truth of liberation theology is what enables many of us to see the Christ alive in our world.

Miss Eagle said...

Indeed, madpriest - and let's not forget the marginalised in other parts of the world who are living out their own unique contribution to the good news. Comfortable white western culture will get a wakeup call whether it likes it or not - whether it listens to Jesus or not. Your reporting, Jan, on the Bishop's visit is heartwarming.

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