“Father Oprah” has been getting a lot of press recently. And with a moniker like that how could it be any other way? It’s not everyday that a fellow clergyman ends up in the tabloids. Well, besides Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggert, and their ilk. Though I’d lump them more into the category of entertaining charismatic charlatans than clergy.
You probably know the ”Father Oprah” story by now. The Rev. Alberto Cutie, a popular Roman Catholic priest, was photographed canoodling (never thought I’d use that word in a blog post) with his girlfriend on a Miami beach. He since announced that he would join the Episcopal Church and was welcomed with open arms by the bishop of Southeast Florida. He was officially received into the Church on Pentecost, though it will take a year before he is able to function as an Episcopal priest. He first needs his “Anglican dip” as we like to call it.
Part of me thinks, “Here we go again: the Episcopal Church is becoming a freak show.” Ex-New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevy announces that “I am a gay American” in one breath and then claims he wants to be an Episcopal priest in the next. It wasn’t the issue of his sexuality that bothered me — it was the lack of understanding about the ordination process. You can’t just “decide” that you want to be a priest; you must enter into a discernment process of several years. It was the notion of ‘If no one else will take me surely the Episcopal Church will.” Is that the reputation we really want?
But another part of me is delighted by this. Not because we’re stealing Roman Catholic clergy but because of the Episcopal Church’s emphasis on inclusion rather than exclusion. That isa reputation to be proud of. And on a personal note, I’ve seen a similar situation with one of my closest friends from seminary. A Roman Catholic priest for nearly a decade, Bill fell in love, left the Church, and got married. It was pretty scandalous for the Midwestern town where he served since his wife was the former youth director at his parish.
He’s now serving a large church in Minnesota, thriving in ministry, and loves being both a husband and the adoptive father of an adorable little girl from Columbia. Bryna and I just happen to be her godparents which is a true delight. But the point is that if Father Cutie is truly called to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church, he may encounter similar fulfilment and affirmation of the decision. Time will tell.
And if “Father Oprah” does end up getting married perhaps he’ll need to change his nickname. How does “Father Family Guy” sound?