After some very full and immensely long days of legislative sessions in the House of Deputies, a major thread of discourse emerges: the physical body as a site of political action. On the first day, we heard reports from the Presiding Officers’ Working Group on Truth-Telling, Reckoning, and Healing and testimony from the floor regarding resolution A127: Resolution for Telling the Truth About the Episcopal Church’s History with Indigenous Boarding Schools. Extra time was allowed for the House to witness to what President Jennings called “holy listening.” Silence infiltrated the hall as deputy after deputy recounted their past stories with indigenous boarding schools—either their own or those of family members. They painted pictures with words of children abused and traumatized for living in the wrong body in the wrong place and at the wrong time.
We heard arguments on resolution A125: A Resolution Extending and Furthering Beloved Community and learned that just because we use the word “beloved,” it does not mean that the path unfolding before us is decorated with rose petals or paved in gold. Next, we heard passionate pleas surrounding the reproductive rights of people able to conceive, bear, and birth children and were instantly reminded of the familiar feminist and Black feminist adage that the personal is indeed political. And each day, we continue to hear Dr. Coldren’s update on how many deputies and deputy family members have tested positive for covid while we are gathered in Baltimore. Various issues, but one commonality—the Body.
If we are truly honest with ourselves, we might recognize that all of our issues begin and end with our bodies. Feelings of shame, embarrassment, (in)security, and worthiness all stem from our individual and communal ideas about the Body. Throughout our country’s history, certain bodies have been vilified, demonized, and rationalized as sub-human. Others have been named as savage, primitive, too weak, too crippled, too young, too old, too dark, too light, too big, too aggressive-looking, too sexual, not sexual enough. The Body has never been enough. But as I capitalize the word Body, my mind jumps to our shared Eucharist.
Every single time we gather together to celebrate, we remember Jesus’ last offering to his disciples and to us. He commends to us his Body and his Blood, and it strikes me that not once does he say to his friends, “Sorry ya’ll, but this is all I have to give. I wish I had more, but my body—born of a young woman, marked by years of scars and bruises, fragile and finite as it is—is what I have to offer.” Jesus does not say this. He does not issue an apology, and it reminds me of Sonya Renee Taylor’s work The Body is Not an Apology. This radical statement has ignited a bold international movement rooted in loving and embracing every shape of the Body. We desperately need to embody this work.
If Jesus says that his Body is enough, and we believe that we are part of the Body of Christ…then friends, we are enough. Our bodies with all of their beautiful limitations are enough. So, as we move through these last days of General Convention (and thereafter), I pray that each of us honor our individual and collective bodies. As we are enticed to stay up later and wake up earlier, walk miles between hotels, restaurants, and the convention center, and extend ourselves past our limits—honor your Body. To the mama holding her baby at the microphone, the nursing parent behind the black curtains, the differently abled deputies walking with canes or riding in chairs, to the volunteers and convention participants living with chronic but invisible illness, I want to say that we see you.
Your Body is not an apology. To the truth-tellers and the ones who still feel the lingering effects of trauma in your Body and in the blood of your ancestors that courses through your veins, we see you too. Your Body is not an apology. Your Body glows with the touch of the Divine.
In closing, I leave you with excerpts from Sonya Renee Taylor’s spoken word. A video and full text can be found on this Youtube page.
The Body is not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor
“Do not give the body as gift. Only receive it as such. The body is not to be prayed for, is to be prayed to…
For the bend, twist, fall, and rise again, fall and rise again. For the raising like an obstinate Christ. For the salvation of a body that will bend like a baptismal bowl. For those that will worship at the lip of this sanctuary. Praise the body, for the body is not an apology. The body is deity, the body is God, the body is God. The only righteous love that will never need repent.”