Monday, November 12, 2018

Comment on the Debacle in the Diocese of Albany:

It is sad news indeed that the Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Albany is choosing to defy the councils of the church and continue to deny access to the sacrament of marriage to same-sex couples under his pastoral care. Our hearts go out to the LGBTQ faithful in that diocese who are once again being told by their bishop that who they are is not acceptable to God and that the love and commitment they share with the love of their life is not worthy of the church's blessing.

The text message I got from one of them today read simply "We are devastated."

Just as the shepherd in Matthew's parable left the ninety-nine sheep to tend to the one who was separated from the flock, so must the church which is the Body of Christ in the world seek out those sheep in Albany who are feeling lost and abandoned by their shepherd. The Episcopal Church must say loud and clear to them that their bishop may have abandoned them but Jesus never will ... and neither will the Episcopal Church.

We are blessed with incredible leadership by our Presiding Officers who quickly issued these statements doing precisely that.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry's statement included both this affirmation and this reminder:
We are committed to the principle of full and equal access to, and inclusion in, the sacraments for all of the baptized children of God, including our LGBTQ siblings. For as St. Paul reminds us in Galatians 3, "in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus."

As members of the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12), we also are committed to respecting the conscience of those who hold opinions that differ from the official policy of The Episcopal Church regarding the sacrament of marriage. It should be noted that the canons of The Episcopal Church give authority to all members of the clergy to decline to officiate a marriage for reasons of conscience, and Resolution B012 of the 79th General Convention does not change this fact.

In all matters, those of us who have taken vows to obey the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church must act in ways that reflect and uphold the discernment and decisions of the General Convention of the Church.
And President of the House of Deputies Gay Clark Jennings offered this affirmation:
For more than 40 years, the Episcopal Church has prayed, studied and discerned and, in doing so, we have seen the evidence of God's blessing in the lives of LGBT people. The Episcopal Church's General Convention, our highest temporal authority, first acknowledged that God calls LGBT people to any ordained ministry in 2009. In 2012, the General Convention authorized a liturgical rite for the blessing of same sex unions, and in 2015, we authorized marriage equality in the church.

We recognize the Holy Spirit at work in the marriages of LGBTQ people and we know that there are Christians who have been drawn further into fidelity and service to the world by living in committed same-sex partnerships and marriages based on holy love and the gift of seeing Christ in one another. When we celebrate these marriages, the entire church is blessed by the love and fidelity of these faithful couples.
The Episcopal Church has been on a long journey toward the full inclusion of LGBTQ people in the work and witness of the church ... including full inclusion in all the sacraments. And for all the progress we have made it is clearly a journey that is not yet over.

In 2015 when liturgies for marriage were made available to all couples in the Episcopal Church and the marriage canons were amended to be fully inclusive, bishops with jurisdiction were required by a resolution overwhelming adopted by both houses of General Convention to "make provision for all couples seeking marriage to have access" to those rites.

Eight bishops with jurisdiction declined to follow that directive. And so in 2018 the General Convention spoke again -- this time in Resolution B012 which gave rectors or clergy in charge of a congregation the ability to provide access to the trial use of the marriage rites for same-sex and opposite-sex couples: removing the "under the authority of the bishop" clause.

The resolution takes effect on the First Sunday of Advent (December 2) ... and to their credit seven of the eight bishops who hold what is a theological minority position in the Episcopal Church are crafting plans to comply with the actions of General Convention. The Bishop of Albany is not.

There is, in fact, a difference between respecting theological conscience and confusing your theological conscience with your ecclesiastical authority. And while Bishop Love is entitled to the former he must not be allowed to presume the latter.

Let me be clear: I do not believe that anything less than full and unequivocal access for all couples in the Episcopal Church to marriage in the prayer book is good enough for Jesus or for us. I believe in my heart of hearts that we are on the road to that destination -- and I know for a fact certain that we persist until we arrive.

However, we continue to journey there together as a church that has committed itself to both full inclusion and to respecting the theological consciences of those who hold minority positions ... because we're Anglicans.

Nobody ever said that would be easy -- but as Anglicans we claim the spiritual DNA of those who found a way to be both protestant and catholic in the 16th century and so I believe we are uniquely wired to meet this challenge in the 21st. And we do not meet that challenge by allowing one bishop to reject the canons of the church, the resolutions of General Convention and his pastoral responsibility to pastor all the sheep of his flock.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Ghosts of 1992: Revisiting The Day I Became A Democrat

Originally written for the Huffington Post in 2016, I've reprised this piece for Campaign 2018.

I've always been a political animal. I think it was in our family DNA. The values my parents raised us with included a deep love of this country and its foundational values of liberty and justice for all -- and they instilled in us a deep sense of our responsibility to participate in the political process.

The first election I remember being aware of was 1960 -- I was 6. Four years later, I walked our precinct with my mom handing out literature for Barry Goldwater. And in fifth grade I won first prize in a D.A.R. essay contest for a piece titled "The Land I Love is America."

Yes, the family political roots went deep.

We watched conventions together -- crunched up on the old couch in the den in front of the black-and-white TV with the rabbit ears, where we stayed up late following election returns. I remember explaining the Electoral College to classmates on the elementary school playground because my daddy explained it to me. And when I was in high school in Santa Barbara I volunteered to drive voters to the polls to make sure that shut-ins had the opportunity to vote.

I voted in my first presidential election in 1972 -- the year I turned 18 and they lowered the voting age to 18. I think I thought they did it just for me!

In college I majored in history and political science, with plans to go to law school and thinking that one day I might find my own role in the political process; I believed that the American Dream really is worth the work it takes to preserve and protect it, even as I believed we were not yet "there" in the "liberty and justice for all" part. Along the way I got sidetracked. I never made it to law school and instead stayed home and raised kids and remained a registered Republican -- more out of loyalty to my father than to the GOP -- but increasingly found myself voting "across party lines."

That changed in 1992. I was watching the Republican Convention television coverage -- cooking dinner while my sons did their homework at the kitchen table -- when Pat Buchanan rose to the podium and gave what has come to be known as his "Culture War" speech. I listened with increasing horror as his narrow, exclusivist, fear-mongering rhetoric laid out a vision for what this country needed -- a vision that bore absolutely NO resemblance to the values my parents had raised me to understand were core to the "Grand Old Party" of my Republican roots.

I turned the stove down under the simmering green beans, told the boys to finish their homework and that I'd be right back. I drove the six blocks down to the grocery store where earlier in the day I'd noticed the card table out front with the "Register to Vote" sign. And I changed my party affiliation that day -- explaining to the woman at the card table that if I got hit by a bus tomorrow I was NOT going to die a Republican. And I've never looked back.

And here we are 26 years later. What has changed is that my two boys are grown men long past having homework to worry about finishing.

What not only hasn't changed but has exponentially increased is the rabid rhetoric that drove me out of the party in 1992. The unprecedented level of hate-filled, divisive discourse from the GOP side of the aisle -- led by the White House -- means Campaign 2018 is for many life-long Republicans what 1992 was for me: the moment when principles are more important than party. And to them I say "I feel your pain ... and thank you for your patriotism."

Yes, there is sadness for me that my daddy's Grand Old Party does not exist anymore -- but the values he taught me are alive and well. And when I vote on November 6 -- and believe me, I will – I will be speaking out against the judgment, intolerance and condemnation my Republican daddy taught me had nothing to do with traditional American values.

So with Election Day in sight, this former Goldwater Girl has just two words for what's left of the party I left behind 20+ years ago while my kids finished their homework at the kitchen table: Blue Wave!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Pondering The Antichrist

For someone who's never really spent much time thinking about it, this week I was inexplicably drawn to researching the term “Antichrist.” Here's what I found in Britannica:
“The medieval view of Antichrist communicated by Adso, Ripelin, and a host of other writers rested on the principle that Antichrist is the parodic opposite of Christ in all things.”
Things like ...

Welcome the stranger
Feed the hungry
Pray for those who persecute you
Love neighbor as self
Proclaim good news to the poor
Liberate the captive
The truth will set you free
Do justice
Love mercy
Walk humbly

Hmmmm ...

So if the opposite of those things is the Antichrist maybe there's something to this Antichrist thing after all. Just sayin'

Friday, October 05, 2018

How are you today?

I didn't even expect to win this one. The deck was stacked from the beginning with a GOP Congress and a President desperate to shove through a nomination before the midterms.

Oh, I made the phone calls and signed the petitions and joined with 327 other clergywomen to write a letter to the NYT and I went to vigils and forwarded the memes and posted on Instagram and "clicked here to donate." But I did it all not expecting to win this one -- just bound and determined that they were going to have to fight for every inch, dammit.

Because let's be honest: everything about the process stunk from the get-go. From the refusal to release hundreds of documents to the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee to the fast-track hearings with an artificial deadline etched in stone by desperate congressional leadership feeling the power usurped by a hacked election slipping through their fingers as November 6 approaches.

And all that was before the allegations of sexual abuse reared their heads ... back when all this flawed nominee had to defend against were allegations of lying under oath.

Not to even bring up Merrick Garland.

I didn't even expect to win this one. And still.

This afternoon when  I went to the Auto Club at lunch to renew my car tags the nice woman behind the counter asked how my day was going. Without thinking I said "Other than Congress, fine." And she put down her pen and looked me in the eye and -- with her eyes filled with tears -- said "I know. I haven't slept all week."

That's how we are today, America. Thanks for asking.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Preaching As Resistance

Back in December, colleague and FB friend Phil Snider sent me this message:
Hi Susan, I hope all is well, or at least as much as it can be in times such as these. I'm wondering if you would consider submitting one of your sermons ("Good News vs. Fake News: La Lucha Continua") for a book of sermons I'm editing, with the title Preaching as Resistance. I'm not sure how I first came across the sermon, but as soon as I read it I immediately thought it would be an excellent fit. Would you have an interest in being a contributor to this book? Many thanks for considering!
I said I'd be honored ... and the book is now a reality: Preaching as Resistance is not only out -- it's
the #1 new release in preaching on Amazon.

I could not be more delighted to be part of this book offering an alternative narrative to those who think they know enough about Christians not to want to be one ... and given the dreadful news in the current news cycle, who could blame them? When "Christian Values" are hijacked not only to support the Predator-in-Chief in the White House but to bully women who come forward with their stories of sexual abuse and assault we can and we must stand up and speak out together -- and I am proud to be part of a cohort of preachers modeling that prophetic witness in these challenging times.

And -- on a personal note -- I am thrilled that "Good News vs Fake News" ... the sermon Phil included in the book ... tells the story of my late mother-in-law Jody's dogged persistence in standing up and speaking out for the values that dominated her life: love, compassion and inclusion. Even as she struggled with a chronic, terminal illness, Jody called her Nevada Senator's office every single day to advocate for healthcare, immigration reform and equal protection for all Americans.

We continue to celebrate her life -- and the lives of so many others on whose shoulders we stand -- as we continue to persist, resist and insist that respecting the dignity of every human being is both a foundational Christian and American value.

Preaching as Resistance is a book celebrating the vision of Christianity built on the love, solidarity, justice, and hope at the heart of Christ -- a much needed antidote to the violence, authoritarianism, and exploitation associated with the demagogues of our world.

I hope you'll rejoice and be glad in it.

I hope you'll consider purchasing a copy -- or two -- and I hope you'll spread the word.

But most of all I hope that as we resist together ... through our preaching, our praying, our witness and our action ... we will be the change we want to see as we work together to bring hope and healing to our beautiful and broken world.

Friday, September 21, 2018

A Storm Surge of Systemic Misogyny

Listening to the back-to-back coverage of the two stories leading this morning's news I was struck by the parallels between managing the twin disasters of a hurricane named Florence and a Supreme Court nominee named Kavanaugh.

They are both in-and-of-themselves catastrophic events that carry the capacity to wreck havoc. The hurricane -- with its wind, rain and floodwaters -- threatens all those living it its wake along our Carolina coast. And the Supreme Court nominee -- with the potential to dismantle decades of progress on equal protection, women's health care, abortion rights and voting rights (just to name a few) -- threatens all those who hold liberty and justice for all as a core American value.

But even more devastating than the initial threat of these twin catastrophic events is the storm surge that follows in their wake.

In the Carolinas it is the ongoing surge of flood waters that have yet to crest and do their worst ... displacing families, destroying businesses, changing landscapes and continuing the destruction long after the storm itself has dissipated and is no longer discernible on the weather radar map.

And it is a storm surge that not only includes the water that dumped from the heavens or surged from the sea ... it includes the toxic waste from hog farms which floods out of lagoons intended to contain it into the ground water of surrounding communities with devastating results.

Likewise, the storm surge from this highly contested Supreme Court nomination -- a nomination fast-tracked by the GOP majority in a process that has included half-truths and outright lies; unreleased documents and unprecedented procedures -- has the potential to continue to do its worst if this patently unfit for office nominee is confirmed to a life-time appointment to the highest court in the land.

And -- like the toxic waste that contaminates the Carolina storm surge -- the flood waters of division and partisanship surrounding this nomination have unearthed the toxic waste of systemic misogyny  that lies as close to the surface in this patriarchal nation of ours as the pig waste does to the ground water in North Carolina.

The quotes referenced above by sitting Senators who dismiss the testimony of a woman coming forward at great personal risk to tell her story of abuse are symptomatic of that storm surge of systemic misogyny that is just as toxic, that stinks just a much and is just as great a danger to our body politic as all the pig poop in North Carolina.

As a nation we deserve a full hearing of the actual facts of what occurred between Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford all those years ago -- not a rush-to-judgment perpetrated by GOP partisans so blind to their own patriarchal privilege that they can't even see that they're up to their knees in a cesspool of sexism.

We can and must do better than this. We can and must insist that we are better than this. And if we are ever to become a nation where liberty and justice for all is not just a pledge we make but a reality we live, we can and must stop this storm surge of systemic misogyny -- and we must do it now.

Celebrating Good News From Newark

With the chaos, division, and unrelenting cycle of bad-to-worse news that dominates the world around us it is such a delight to have touchstone moments to remember that good things happen, change is possible and there is both hope and healing.

Tomorrow the Diocese of Newark will team up with the Holy Spirit to consecrate a new bishop for their diocese and for the Episcopal Church as  Carlye J. Hughes — an African American woman from the Diocese of Fort Worth who was elected on the first ballot  — becomes the  eleventh Bishop of Newark.

And anyone who knows anything about the Episcopal Church will know that those words are proof once again that with God nothing is impossible. If this can happen anything can happen. We can be the change we want to see. We can be part of moving that arc of history toward justice. We can make a way where there is no way. Si se puede ... yes we can.

Mazel tov Carlye and Newark and TEC.

More on the September 22nd Consecration:

  • The consecration on Saturday will be livestreamed here by NJPAC's professional team starting at about 10:30 AM, when the pre-service music begins, and continuing until the service concludes at about 1 PM. 
  • You can also download the program for the consecration service and follow along.