Just Another Foolish Priest

Red DeanA cleric talking nonsense is hardly news, but when it’s the right sort of nonsense, the Washington Post can be relied upon to gush:

Ambitious and outspoken, the new head of Washington National Cathedral has attracted more attention over the past few weeks than previous cathedral deans have for decades.

The Rev. Gary Hall’s announcement that the cathedral, the seat of the Episcopal Church, would host same-sex weddings and his immediate embrace of gun control in the hours after the school massacre in Newtown, Conn., have made him a regular on national television. On Thursday, Hall will be the only representative of the clergy speaking at a Capitol Hill news conference where Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) will introduce a bill that would ban dozens of assault weapons.

One recent morning, Hall zoomed around town to three television appearances in an hour, triggering stares in network studios as he sat in his priest’s collar getting his makeup done while the usual pundits and politicos came and went.
His sermon two days after the Newtown shootings — “The gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby,” he said — got a rare standing ovation…

As leader of one of the country’s most prominent churches — and the site of Tuesday’s official inaugural prayer service, complete with the Obamas — Hall is being interviewed daily about measures he and a team of clergy leaders are promoting.

Ushers handed out 10,000 call-your-lawmaker cards to worshippers over the Christmas period. Hall and the Washington diocese’s bishop, Mariann Budde, traveled to Johns Hopkins University this week for a summit on gun control. They are soliciting criticism from gun-owning Episcopalians, hoping to broaden their pool of allies.

Hall is advocating for something striking to keep the subject on people’s minds. He likes the idea of wrapping the towering Gothic cathedral in black crepe in memory of gun violence victims. Or ringing its massive bells each morning to toll the number of deaths each day. Something that gets people’s attention.

“What I want to do is more like guerilla theater,” he said….

“He’s like the Joe Biden of the Episcopal Church. He has the personality and respect that can bring people together,” said the Rev. Susan Russell, a priest at All Saint’s Pasadena, a 4,000-member Los Angeles church where Hall worked for 11 years.

OK, I’ll admit it: that last bit made me laugh, but “the cross lobby”, good grief…

The spirit of Hewlett Johnson lives on, it seems.

But same-sex marriages in the cathedral are, I should add, just fine with me, not that I should have a vote on the matter: That’s something that ought to be up to each church to decide for itself.

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