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. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

9/11 Seventeen Years Later

Tuesday was the morning I didn't lead chapel. Monday was a late EfM night for me and so on Tuesdays our principal led chapel for the K-6th grade students of St. Peter's Parish Day School and I came in later in the day.

So on Tuesday 9/11/2001 I got up later than usual, poured my cup of coffee and settled into the "big chair" in the living room to watch a little morning television. And -- like so many others who I've heard had a similar reaction -- at first I thought I'd stumbled on a rerun of some kind of disaster movie. Except it was on all the channels. And it wasn't a movie.

And I watched as the second plane hit the Twin Towers.
And I got dressed and went up to St. Peter's and led chapel.
And I fielded calls from parents who wondered how to talk to their kids.
And I called parishioners who had family members traveling and didn't know where they were.
And I listened to the eerie silence over the San Pedro peninsula as the airspace was shut down.
And I called my kids. And my mom. And my best friend. And I told them I loved them ... just in case.
And I tracked down our rector (Alan Richardson) who was in New York City on sabbatical and found out that he was OK.
And I met with our parish leadership and we called everyone in the parish to tell them we'd be having a service at 7pm.
And we gathered. And we prayed. And we cried. And we waited to see what would happen next.

The next day ... September 12th ... our kindergarten teacher brought me a drawing one of her students -- Ben -- had made that morning, It was a typical kindergarten assignment -- draw something "alike" and something "different."

And here's what Ben drew:

It remains for me -- seventeen years later -- a reminder that the world that is is not yet the world that God would have it be.

And it remains for me -- seventee years later -- a profound gift that in the wake of the tragedy of 9/11 a child opened his box of still-sharp-for-the-new-school-year Crayola Crayons and drew an icon of hope.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Deadline Day for Interim Body Nominations

So the way our polity works in the Episcopal Church is that every three years the elected deputies (bishops, clergy and laity) meet in General Convention to make debate about, deliberate upon and make decisions for the whole church. Not everybody likes that process. Not everybody abides by it. But it is our process.

The 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church met this summer in Austin, Texas and debated, deliberated and decided a whole boatload of things. And among those things was the creation of a number of task forces, commissions and groups to actually DO the work of convention between conventions. These are referred to as "Interim Bodies" ... and the deadline to nominate folks to those bodies is today ... August 20, 2018.

I'm telling you this not because I think you need a tutorial on Episcopal Polity on this Dog Day of Summer but because there is a boatload of important work to do over the next three years and the more diverse, expansive and engaged the members of these interim bodies are the better the whole church will be.

The list of all the options is available here ... but here's the list of just the task forces -- which are open to all members of the Episcopal Church (not just bishops and deputies) and will be convened and called to report back to the 80th General Convention in 2021:
Task Force to Study Environmental Racism (Resolution A011)
Task Force on Care of Creation (Resolution A013)
Task Force on Theological Education Networking (Resolution A022)
Task Force on New Funding for Clergy Formation (Resolution A027)
Task Force on Congregational Redevelopment (Resolution A032)
Task Force on Safe Church Training (Resolution A048)
Task Force on Theology of Social Justice Advocacy (Resolution A056)
Task Force on Theology of Money (Resolution A061)
Task Force on Liturgical & Prayer Book Revision (Resolution A068)
Task Force to Develop Model Sexual Harassment Policies (Resolution A109)
Task Force to Assist Office of Pastoral Development (Resolution A147)
Task Force to Develop Substance Abuse Screening Process (Resolution A189)
Task Force on Communion Across Difference (Resolution A227)
Task Force on Formation & Ministry of the Baptized (Resolution C005)
Task Force to Develop Churchwide Family Leave Policies (Resolution C019)
Task Force on Ministry to Individuals with Mental Illness (Resolution C034)
Task Force to Study Sexism in The Episcopal Church (Resolution C060)
Task Force on Women, Truth, and Reconciliation (Resolution D016)
Task Force to Develop Anti-Sexism Training (Resolution (Resolution D023)
Task Force on Clergy Formation & Continuing Education (Resolution D025)
Task Force to Coordinate Ecumenical & Interreligious Work (Resolution D055)
Task Force on Dialogue with South Sudanese Anglican Diaspora (Resolution D088)
Task Force on Disability & Deaf Access (Resolution D097)
This is a very real opportunity to raise up diversity in our leadership and empower voices throughout the church to participate in the process of governance. If you -- or someone you know -- has a passion for and/or expertise in any of these important issues please prayerfully consider putting your name forward -- or urging them to -- for consideration.

Not everyone is called to this kind of work. But I do believe all members of the church are called to be part of its ongoing transformation. Some are called to do that work through the institutional structures. Some are called to do that work by challenging the institution from outside those structures. And some folks will find themselves called to do variations on those binaries at different times and on different issues and in different ways. But it's all the same work.

Think about it. Pray about it.

Here's the link to the nomination form.

Monday, August 13, 2018

I'm on Vacation But the Resistance Is Not

I am super gratefully on vacation. After a long program year, an awesome but exhausting General Convention and the kind of family challenges managing the needs of aging parents bring it is a deep privilege to have a season of unscheduled time to do whatever I choose to do whenever I choose to do it -- including choosing to do nothing at all.

Today that meant the privilege of a day at home catching up on beach trip laundry on a warm summer day cool enough to not need the a/c with sleepy Corgis who are happy to have a mommy home all day. And it meant being able to "Facebook Live" from my couch the rally hosted by my congresswoman Judy Chu  opposing the Kavanaugh nomination to the Supreme Court -- a rally where my rector Mike Kinman was one of the speakers.

And because I'm on vacation and have time to do what I want to when I want to I have time to share his remarks with you ... remarks which bear reading, sharing and quoting as we move forward together and continue to resist those forces working to dismantle the progress that has been made toward making liberty and justice for all not just a pledge we say but a reality we live.

So I give you Mike Kinman and "We Are At A Moment of Grave Threat to Liberty." Because I'm on vacation but -- thankfully -- the Resistance is not!


“History teaches that grave threats to liberty often come in times of urgency, when constitutional rights seem too extravagant to endure.” 

 Those words were written nearly 30 years ago by a Supreme Court justice who understood that the greatest danger to liberty was not an outside military force but the power of those with power to use fear, hatred and mistrust to convince us to surrender our liberty for their own prejudices and prosperity. That Supreme Court Justice was Thurgood Marshall.

It’s because of justices like him that insidious doctrines like separate but equal were struck down and the basic human right of women to control their own bodies at last was recognized and enshrined into law in Roe v. Wade.

 We are at a moment of grave threat to liberty.
Where a president who was swept into office by using the power of fear, hatred and mistrust seeks to shape a Supreme Court that will enshrine that fear, hatred and mistrust into law for generations to come. We are at a moment of grave threat to liberty.
Where the president and others who like him seek to govern by prejudice and for personal profit.
Where a president and others like him who see the Constitution as a system to be gamed for the benefit of wealthy white men, seek to appoint a justice in Brett Kavanaugh who will use that Constitution to secure their privilege rather than assure the most basic promises of liberty and justice for all.

We are at a moment of grave threat to liberty.
Where a President who is under investigation for colluding with a foreign power to assume that office is trying to shape a Court that will impede if not terminate that investigation. We are at a moment of grave threat to liberty.
Where a president who is in the process of fulfilling campaign promises to ravage the environment, target Muslims, immigrants and people of color, expand mass incarceration, and dismantle access to affordable health care is now turning his sights on some of the most important Supreme Court decisions of the past three-quarters of a century.

 What could be more fundamental than our freedom to marry whom we choose?
 What could be more fundamental than every American being able to cast a ballot?
 What could be more fundamental than a woman’s right to control her own body?

That these liberties are under attack by people who would pervert and distort the life and teachings of Jesus to suit their own prejudices, fears and desires for domination is for me a point of great pain and great shame and also a call to action. Not because I wish to impose my faith on others but because I believe no one should have their freedoms restricted because someone wishes to impose their faith on them.

And so, together, we must stand up.
 We must stand up against this grave threat to our liberty. And we must not only reject Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court but we must not rest until the Senate is presented with a nominee who promises to defend the very liberties that are under attack by this nominee and this administration.

The right to access birth control.
The right for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex people and more to marry whom they choose and to live free of discrimination at home and in the workplace.
The right to clean air and clean water.
Workers’ rights.
Immigrants’ rights.
Privacy rights.
The right to have the voice of those among us who are poor have the same weight as those among us who are rich.
The very right to vote that is the bedrock of our democracy. 
And yes, the right to safe, legal abortion

 We must reject Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, but that is not enough.

This is a time of grave threat to liberty where the power of fear, hatred and mistrust are in ascendancy, and we must reject those powers as well. We must stand up and we must speak out. Not just against this nomination, but against the very fear, hatred and mistrust from which this nomination springs.

For, as Justice Marshall said nearly a quarter century ago: “Democracy just cannot flourish amid fear. Liberty cannot bloom amid hate. Justice cannot take root amid rage. America must get to work. In the chill climate in which we live, we must go against the prevailing wind. We must dissent from the indifference. We must dissent from the apathy. We must dissent from the fear, the hatred and the mistrust. We must dissent from a nation that has buried its head in the sand, waiting in vain for the needs of its poor, its elderly, and its sick to disappear and just blow away. We must dissent from a government that has left its young without jobs, education or hope. We must dissent because America can do better, because America has no choice but to do better.” 

My friends, we are the America that Justice Marshall was speaking about.

We must tell our Senate to reject this nomination. We are America. And we must tell our Senate to reject any nomination that puts our most cherished liberties at risk. We are America and we can do better. We are America and we have no choice but to do better. We are America. And today we commit to each other and to our children: We will do better.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Sixteen Years Later: Still Claiming Blessings

Sixteen years ago today I moved into the corner cubicle in the "temporary building" in the north driveway on the campus of All Saints Church in Pasadena to begin a new chapter in my ministry as Executive Director of something called Claiming the Blessing (CTB). It was from that "corner office" I would spend the next 18 months traveling around the church giving more parish halls presentations, attending more strategy meetings and logging more travel miles than you could shake a stick at. (Case in point this moment from the Anglican Consultative Council "command appearance" in Nottingham in 2005.)

Claiming the Blessing was convened as an intentional collaborative ministry of leading Episcopal justice organizations (including Integrity, Oasis, Beyond Inclusion and the Episcopal Women's Caucus) in partnership with the Witness magazine and other individual leaders in the Episcopal Church focused on: promoting wholeness in human relationships, abolishing prejudice and oppression, and healing the rift between sexuality and spirituality in the Church.

Those were our official marching orders.

We were also convened by some very smart equality activists -- LGBTQ and straight allies -- who not only recognized the truth that we were wasting precious energy competing with each other from our different "silo" organizations and ministries ... and that the way we were going to make a difference was to [a] tell the truth about that [b] work to come up with achievable goals and then [c] collaborate on strategies to achieve them.

Since 2002, our advocacy has included liturgies for the blessing of same-sex relationships, equal access to all orders of ministry by qualified gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender candidates and supporting civil and sacramental marriage equality.

I could tell lots and lots of stories about how that journey has played out over the last 16 years. Some of them can be found on our website. Others you're going to have to wait for the book.

But suffice to say it is absolutely a true thing that the course of the history of the Episcopal Church ... and I would be so bold as to say the wider movement for LGBTQ equality ... was influenced by the decisions made at those first round table meetings at Vails Gate and the College of Preachers.

By the willingness of leaders to tell the truth to each other in order to triumph over turf wars and to forge partnerships and friendships that have stood the test of time. And the test of General Conventions. And the test of Lambeth Conference. And ...

Well, you get the drift.

There are a boatload of pictures here. They end at General Convention 2015 in Salt Lake City where the Supreme Court made marriage for all legal in our nation and our General Convention changed the marriage canons and authorized liturgies for marriage for all couples.

No the work isn't done yet. But today -- August 1, 2018 -- I'm remembering showing up at All Saints Church with a couple of plastic crates of files and letterhead in my car and the warnings of some of my clergy colleagues in my ears that I was making a terrible mistake ... that if I stepped out of parish ministry I'd never get back in ... that I'd be marginalized as an "activist" and never get to exercise pastoral ministry ... that I was limiting my options and ...

Well, you the drift.

I'm delighted they were wrong. I'm delighted that sixteen years at All Saints have given me more opportunities and challenges than I could ever have "asked for or imagined." And most of all I'm delighted at the extraordinary privilege of being able to do this gospel work with a truly amazing cloud of witnesses over the year.

Ed Bacon, Katie Sherrod, Jim White, Sandye A Wilson, Elizabeth Kaeton, Michael Hopkins, John Clinton Bradley, Christine Mackey-Mason, Joseph Lane, Rosa Lee Harden, Kevin Jones, Peggy Adams, Cynthia Black, John Kirkley, Louie Clay, Kim Byham, Jason Samuel, Mike Clark, Bishop Gene Robinson ... OMG .. this is like an Oscar speech ... who am I forgetting?

La lucha continua -- the struggle continues ... that's the truth.

But so do the blessings, my friends. So do the blessings!

Monday, July 30, 2018

What Religious Liberty Is and Isn't

Religious liberty is once again trending on Twitter this morning — and not in a good way.

Whether the debate is about achieving marriage equality or ending employment discrimination and whether the issue is LGBTQ equality or women’s reproductive rights it seems that someone, somewhere is convinced that their religious liberty is under attack because not everyone agrees with them. This is not a new phenomenon ... it's been going on since Pat Robertson launched the Culture Wars with the speech that drove me out of the Republican Party in 1992. But I digress.

The reason religious liberty is trending on Twitter this morning -- and not in a good way -- is that Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new "religious liberty task force" which is nothing less than a wolf-in-sheep's clothing effort to attack the equal protection guaranteed all Americans by privileging the religion practiced by some Americans.

So here’s a little reality check: Religious liberty is NOT the liberty to impose your religion on everybody else.

The First Amendment protects us from any laws “impeding the free exercise of religion” thus guaranteeing that each and every American has the liberty to believe — or not believe — absolutely anything he or she chooses about what God wills or intends, blesses or condemns.

It also — thank God — protects the rest of us from any other American imposing those beliefs on us.
For example: A Jew has the religious liberty to keep a kosher kitchen — but not to take away your ham sandwich.

A pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic had the religious liberty to abstain from meat on Friday — but not to confiscate my pot roast.

And an Evangelical Christian has the right to believe that God doesn’t bless same-sex marriages - but not to deny equal protection to the marriage of the lesbian couple next door.

So when our Justice Department is making decisions about equal protection for LGBTQ Americans the question isn’t what the Bible says but what the Constitution says. And nobody’s religious liberty is under attack when the answer is equal protection isn’t equal protection unless it equally protects everybody equally.

The Constitution already protects the right of any clergy person to make decisions about whether or not they preside at a marriage based on their own “free exercise of religion.” No orthodox rabbi has ever been compelled to solemnize an interfaith marriage. No Roman Catholic priest has ever been forced to marry a previously divorced couple. And nobody - priest, pastor, rabbi, minister or Imam — is ever going to be required to marry a same-sex couple.

The First Amendment is doing its job protecting our religious liberty. And anybody who tells you otherwise needs to do a little remedial reading of the Ninth Commandment. (I’ll save you having to look it up: that’s the “shall not bear false witness” one.)