Sunday, April 30, 2006

Diocese of Texas elects Dena Harrison as bishop suffragan

by Mary Frances Schjonberg

[ENS] The Venerable Dena Harrison, archdeacon and canon for ministry in the Diocese ofTexas, was elected April 29 as the diocese's second bishop suffragan.Harrison, 59, was elected on the third ballot during the election held at ChristChurch Cathedral in Houston. She becomes the 13th woman elected as a bishop of the Episcopal Church.

She will serve with diocesan Bishop Don A. Wimberly, Bishop Suffragan Rayford B.High Jr. and Assistant Bishop John C. Buchanan.

A bishop suffragan acts as an assistant to and under the direction of the diocesanbishop, and serves as a bishop for the whole church. Harrison will oversee pastoraland congregational development for the 64 Episcopal congregations in the Austin region.

Harrison was born and raised in Texas. She received the master of divinity degreefrom the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest in 1987. She was ordained to the diaconate later that year and was made a priest in early 1988. She servedthree parishes in Texas before becoming canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Texas in 2000. Harrison took her present position in 2003.The Episcopal Church's General Convention will be asked to consent to Harrison'selection because it occurred within 120 days of the convention, which runs from June 13-21 in Columbus, Ohio. Her consecration is set for October 7 at Camp Allen.

To be elected, a nominee had to receive a majority of the votes in both the clergyand lay orders on the same ballot. The number constituting a majority was based on actual votes cast. Election on the third ballot required 216 lay votes and 98clergy votes. Harrison received 222 lay votes and 133 clergy votes.

Results of the three ballots are available at

Saturday, April 29, 2006

More on the IRD, et al

Episcopal Diocese of Washington publishes
“Following the Money: Donors and Activists on the Anglican Right”

When the General Convention of the Episcopal Church meets in Columbus, Ohio, in June, a small network of theologically conservative organizations will be on hand to warn deputies that they must repent of their liberal attitudes on homosexuality or face a possible schism. The groups represent a small minority of church members, but relationships with wealthy American donors and powerful African bishops have made them key players in the fight for the future of the Anglican Communion.

Now, in a two-part series in its diocesan newspaper, the Washington Window, the Episcopal Diocese of Washington examines these organizations, their donors and the strategy that has allowed them to destabilize the Episcopal Church.

“Following the Money: Donors and Activists on the Anglican Right” will be published on Monday as an eight-page section of the Window. It will also available on the diocese’s Web site at:

The first part of the series, “Investing in Upheaval,” draws on Internal Revenue Service Forms 990 to give a partial account of how contributions from Howard F. Ahmanson, Jr., the savings and loan heir, and five secular foundations have energized resistance to the Episcopal Church’s decision to consecrate an openly gay bishop and to permit the blessing of gay and lesbian relationships.

The article sets contributions to organizations such as the American Anglican Council (AAC) and the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) in the context of the donors’ other philanthropic activities which include support for conservative political candidates, think tanks and causes such as the intelligent design movement.

The second article, “A Global Strategy,” uses internal emails and memos from leaders of the AAC and IRD to examine efforts to have the Episcopal Church removed from the worldwide Anglican Communion and replaced with a more conservative entity. The documents surfaced during a Pennsylvania court case. The article also explores the financial relationship between conservative organizations in the United States and their allies in other parts of the world.

The series was written by Jim Naughton, a former reporter for The New York Times and The Washington Post, who is the director of communications for the diocese. For further information contact him at or 202/537-7162.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Thoughts on the Election in California

There Can Be Only One -- Reflections on the Bishop Walkabouts
by John Kirkley in meditatio

The race for bishop of California is on. The "walkabouts," a grueling series of 4-5 hour public meetings, six in as many days, between the seven nominees for bishop and California Episcopalians began on Monday night. Approximately 650 people came to Grace Cathedral in San Francisco the first night, and nearly 400 at St. Paul's, Oakland the next.

I moderated break-out sessions at each, with the nominees rotating through each room in 30 minute intervals to answer questions.I'm glad I attended two walkabouts, because my impressions of the nominees changed as a result of seeing them in a different setting and in a different order of appearance.

It was quite different to meet in the nave of Grace Cathedral with a "small group" of 150 people as compared to a classroom at St. Paul's School with 30-40 people. I found that, in the more intimate setting, some of the nominees rose in my estimation, while others did not fare as well. Moving beyond a first impression was really valuable.

Overall, I was impressed with the quality of the nominees. All are accomplished priests (or bishop, in Mark Andrus' case), with obvious gifts for episcopal ministry. I was also impressed with the diversity of the nominees, and I don't mean by that the fact that they span the usual politically correct categories. The are all very different people.Robert Taylor is modest in his demeanor, understated in his speech, gentle in manner.

Jane Gould is confident, direct, and bold. Eugene Sutton is spontaneous, almost flip; relaxed, yet passionate. Donald Schell is intense, forceful, and loquacious. Bonnie Perry is pure energy: kinetic, dynamic, fully present. Mark Andrus, too, is fully present, but a grounded rather than live wire; serene yet engaged. Michael Barlowe is focused, methodical, well prepared.I dwell on these matters of disposition and style, because the differences among them in terms of theology are minimal.

Schell, Andrus, and Barlowe are probably the more intellectual of the lot; the others struck me as more pragmatic and politcally savvy in the best sense of the word: but all of them are smart people, no doubt about that. All are deeply committed to compassionate Christian service to the world, to social justice, to Anglican comprehensiveness in liturgical and theological matters. The differences are in leadership style and, I daresay, in their ability to combine the contemplative and the prophetic dimensions of lived faith. With regard to the later, I believe Andrus clearly stood out from the rest.

The social location and life experience of the nominees is also of some interest, I believe, in thinking about their ability to lead in the context of our diocese. Taylor, as a native white South African and immigrant to this country, has a compelling life story and demonstrated capacity to understand and navigate racial and cultural diversity; a sensitivity to the outsider that I suspect gives him moral gravitas.

And yet, that is true of all of the nominees in one way or another, particulary Sutton as an African-American in a church shockingly oblivious to its own culture of white privilege. Both of the women have had to struggle with the sexism endemic to church and society (including the tendency for people to confuse them during the walkabouts; a problem that for some mysterious reason didn't plague the men!).

And the gay and lesbian nominees have been treated as "issues" rather than as people by many in our church, when they haven't been vilified outright. Surviving such experiences either makes one cynical or compassionate; they have chosen the better path.It is also interesting to note the ways in which the two "straight white men" have taken risks in solidarity with outsiders in church and society. Andrus has been a strong advocate of racial, economic, and environmental justice, as well as supportive of gay and lesbian people in a diocese that has been notoriously inhospitable to them. Schell's risk-taking is perhaps less obvious, but his affinity for ministry with artists, prophets, and queer folk of all kinds is no less authentic.All of this leads me to believe that, while I am coming to identify my preferred candidates, all of the nominees would make good, albeit very different, bishops of California.

The ElectorsOn May 6, the clergy and lay delegates of the diocese will meet to elect one of these seven people. I was as heartened by my experience of the electors at the walkabouts as I was by the nominees. People were attentive, respectful, and prayerful. They asked a mix of pointed and run-of-the-mill questions. As a moderator, they pressed me to keep the playing field level and to ask similar questions of all the nominees so that we could compare "apples and apples."Some have worried about the "gay question" leading up to this election. I didn't sense that our electors are preoccupied with it though. They aren't particularly anxious or fearful. They seem to me to be genuinely open to figuring out who the best person is to lead our diocese.

Nigel Renton, long-time secretary of our diocesan convention and deputy to General Convention, has commented that the small number of people in our diocese who would automatically vote against gay or lesbian nominees, and the small number who would automatically vote for one of them, probably cancel each other out. This election will be decided by the vast majority of us who will simply vote our conscience based on the best assessment we can make of who we need as our next bishop. And we will figure that out together - through prayer and conversation - without competing factions.The truth is that all of these nominees are leaders who will push the envelope on a whole range of issues. All of them would challenge us to embrace the stranger, include the outcast, and reconcile with the enemy.

Whoever we elect, "the gay issue" is not going to go away in the Anglican Communion. We will be faced with another well qualified, openly gay or lesbian bishop-elect soon enough, whether it is here and now or somewhere else later. But that is not what will drive decisions on May 6. The politics here are local, focused on evangelism, multicultural ministry (which is the same thing as evangelism in our context), congregational and clergy health. Yawn! How unexciting. But there it is. We aren't out to make news for its own sake; just a bishop, and a good one at that.

MeI've learned a lot about myself through this election process, and it isn't over yet. I'm learning to be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit, finding myself surprised by the nominees who excite me. I'm learning to let go of my need to be in control - a power far greater than myself is going to determine the outcome of this election. My ego wants MY nominee to win; but in truth, God will bless us - yes, even me - just as well if "someone else's nominee" wins. There can be only one eighth bishop of California. And that makes me a bit sad, because I've come to wish that all seven of them could stay with us. Ain't God good to give us such an embarrassment of riches from which to choose?


I'm in Memphis getting ready for an Integrity gathering this evening and working on my sermon for Sunday. Sunday's Collect of the Day on Jesus being made known to the disciples in the breaking of the bread brought to mind this little piece I wrote in seminary soon after the first time I ever baked the bread for communion. A chunk of it will probably end up in the sermon but I thought it was worth revisiting here today.

I’ve always kind of had a thing about bread. As a child, I went off to school every day with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches – only Weber’s would do – with the crusts removed. The crusts were saved in a plastic bag in the freezer to take to the Arboretum to feed the ducks – fat, waddling, noisy old things who lived off the bits and pieces rejected by picky little girls like me. My early years were filled with an abundance of both bread and people who prepared it to my liking. Indulged and privileged it seemed that bread – soft, white and usually smeared with something sweet – was something I would always relate to.

But it wasn’t until I got to seminary that I got the chance to actually bake any bread. It was an awesome privilege to be asked to bake the bread for communion and as I worked the dough on the floured board one morning it occurred to me that when the church becomes more like the bread that feeds it we will have inched closer to the coming of the kingdom.

The ingredients were set out, ready to be combined in the big, yellow mixing bowl: flour and shortening, sugar, salt and an egg – and yeast: turned frothy in the measuring cup of hot water. Separate and distinct when lined up on the counter, each of these items would serve a different but essential function when kneaded together into the dough that would become our bread.

The large pile of flower and the tiny packet of yeast were equal in importance: without either of them the final creation would be less than it was meant to be. Mixed together, kneaded and left to rise on the window sill in the afternoon sun and then baked in the heat of the over they would transformed into a new thing – brown and fragrant, crusty and warm – ready to be the food offered to feed both body and soul in a very hungry world.

The volume of the flour many times outweighed the other ingredients – but bread would not have happened if the flour had used its majority status to argue for the exclusion from the mixing bowl of the insistent salt or the disruptive yeast. Each had to play its own role in the process of becoming bread: to be wrenched from its own bag or box or packet or where it was comfortable with its own kind and combined with things which were “other.” And the bread which emerged from the oven resulted from the interaction of those ingredients as much as it did from the kneading and shaping of the baker or the heat of the oven.

As the church we are called to be the Body of Christ to the world – a body symbolized for us by the bread we break each time we gather. Yet how often we settle for my childhood relationship with the bread that God has given us. I know there are times when I am still that little girl who wants her bread the way she wants it: safe and familiar and prepared for me by someone else – sweet and with the crusts cut off! I don’t want to participate in the process: I just want to be fed by what I expect. Sure the ducks can have the leftovers – as love as I get mine first.

The radical transformation that takes place between the time the ingredients are lined up on the counter and the fragrant loaf emerges from the oven will never happen if I cling to that understanding of this bread God has given us to eat – of this body God has called us to be. It will never happen if we stay safe in our containers – wrapping creeds and formulas and ritual around us like the bad around the flour, protecting itself from the influence of the frothy yeast or the pungent salt – isolating ourselves from the very things that are essential to becoming the bread – the community -- God would have us be.

There’s a hungry world out there waiting to be fed and we’re the ones who have been called to feed it: both to offer and to be the bread of life. For God has called us to be a new thing – and to get there, we must first be mixed up, kneaded and punched, left to rise and then subjected to the heat of the oven. This is not exactly what I had in mind for my life, I can tell you – but yet I’ve always kind of had a “thing” about bread.

This Schism Is Brought to You by the IRD

From THE WITNESS by Daniel J. Webster

June 2006 may be a turning point in the history of the Christian church in America and in one branch of Christianity worldwide.

Episcopalians meet in their triennial General Convention at Columbus, Ohio. Presbyterians hold their 217th General Assembly in Birmingham, Alabama. Though held at virtually the same time and miles apart, they are both fighting a common enemy that most church members likely are not aware of.

Regular readers of The Witness may know well the wedge tactics employed by the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD). However, I suspect most pew dwellers haven't a clue what it does.

I wrote about the IRD in a 2004 article titled "Power, Money, Control…It's the Church" for Search, a journal for the Church of Ireland. I drew on resources from General Convention 2003, The New York Times, and the work of colleagues digging into the IRD.

Many believe a schism in the Episcopal Church USA and the worldwide Anglican Communion is inevitable after this summer. If it does occur it will not be about homosexuality or Gene Robinson or the blessing of same-sex unions. It will have been planned, plotted and engineered by the IRD and its very rich, ultraconservative henchmen (some women, but mostly men) who have targeted the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), the United Methodist Church (UMC) and the Episcopal Church for nearly 25 years. Sexuality was just a hot-button issue the IRD could exploit along with "radical feminist theology" and what the IRD judges to be an abandonment of "biblical Anglican theology."

There's no better description of how the IRD works than Hard Ball on Holy Ground, The Religious Right v. the Mainline for the Church's Soul (Boston Wesleyan Press, 2005). This book, edited by Stephen Swecker, is a compilation of articles by several authors who expose the IRD for what it is.

"In the end, the IRD is not a program grounded in faith but, rather, in fear -- both fear of change in general and fear of loss by those who benefit most from the status quo, i.e., the wealthy and the powerful," writes Swecker in his closing article.

In other words the IRD has little to do with religion, except for control and contempt of it, and everything to do with democracy and demagoguery.

Do you think a church schism can't happen in your church? Jimmy Carter, the former president, laments in his book Our Endangered Values (Simon and Schuster, 2005) how it happened in his church.

"A major and perhaps permanent schism occurred at the annual Southern Baptist Convention in 2000, when a new 'Baptist Faith and Message' statement was adopted," he writes. "In effect, this change meant substitution of Southern Baptist leaders for Jesus as the interpreters of biblical Scripture."

President Carter also says it's about power. As for the IRD, it "is funded chiefly by people whose interests are primarily political and economic," writes John B. Cobb, Jr. in the foreword to Hard Ball on Holy Ground.

Schisms are likely in the Episcopal Church, maybe in the Presbyterian Church, and, if the IRD has its way, in the United Methodist Church. The IRD is open about its agenda. Visit; there for the world to see, without apology, is a clear strategy to foment disorder in the three mainline churches. On its home page are dropdown menus listing the action plan against the three mainline churches. The tactics are the same and they are brilliant. They consist of two initiatives.

The first IRD initiative is to court disaffected church members. It financially supports these small groups to wage conflict internally in their denominations. Episcopalians know of the American Anglican Council (AAC). It was created by the IRD, with whom the AAC shared offices for a number of years. Swecker's book also documents how the IRD shared board members and financial backing with ultraconservative dissident church groups, including the AAC, in the three targeted denominations. Another article digs further to illustrate how IRD board members have influenced, had access to, or ties with government agencies and the current presidential administration.

"It [IRD] brings to the task financial resources that are very large in comparison with the sums usually available to dissident factions in church disputes," writes Cobb.

The second IRD strategy is to carefully place board members in secular and church media in an effort to whip up controversy in the so-called, "culture wars." The influence these ideologues have on mainstream media and religious publications is really quite stunning.
In 2004 members of the IRD board of directors were also editors, frequent contributors or on the boards of such media outlets as The New Republic and The Weekly Standard (Fred Barnes, also now on Fox News); National Review Online (Richard Neuhaus, a guest on NBC's "Meet the Press" Easter Sunday, April 16, 2006); and The New York Sun and Asian Wall Street Journal (Mary Ellen Bork).

Why is this small but powerful group so determined to go after these churches in the first place? It is to silence the prophetic witness of faithful Christians across the country.

"The IRD's stated goals, which consistently are at odds with the historical witness of the mainline churches, include increasing military spending, opposing environmental protection and eliminating social programs," write Andrew Weaver and Nicole Seibert in their Hard Ball article "Follow the Money: Documenting the Right's Well-heeled Assault on the UMC." Other contributors document the sources of millions of dollars that have funded this effort to disrupt, distract or derail America's traditional voice for the social gospel.

"In the whole history of the American church, there's perhaps never been anything quite like the Institute on Religion and Democracy," Swecker writes.

Church goers "and others will be dismayed to learn that the churches they love are targets of a campaign of destabilization," the Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches says of the book. "We ignore this reality at our peril."

So take three books to General Convention this June. Hard Ball on Holy Ground will tell you who you are up against and how we got to this point, and it belongs in your bags for convention.
Take your bible with all its passages on the poor and destitute (there are thousands). Read the story of Jesus and the Syrophonecian woman (Mt. 15:21ff) or the first council in Jerusalem (Acts 15) to see what the bible teaches about inclusivity.

Take along your Book of Common Prayer. Pray for our church in the prayers in the back of the book. Pray for the church in a convention or meeting. Pray for the courage to renew our Baptismal Covenant, to strive for justice and peace, and to respect the dignity of every human being.

And I invite you to pray, as Episcopalians do each November 3, the Collect for the feast of Richard Hooker. He is generally regarded as the author of Anglicanism's vision of the "via media" -- the middle way.

O God of truth and peace, you raised up your servant Richard Hooker in a day of bitter controversy to defend with sound reasoning and great charity the catholic and reformed religion: Grant that we may maintain that middle way, not as a compromise for the sake of peace, but as a comprehension for the sake of truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

"The Graduate!"

Luna graduated today from her sit/down/stay puppy class -- a VERY big accomplishment and, frankly, one we had some doubt about the outcome going into the final exam. But when all was said and done, she managed to rise to the occasion and is now a puppy class graduate.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

There’s nothing “Anglican” about the Anglican Communion any more…

A gem from Louie Crew's "Do Justice" series:

Ok, I’m not a life-long Episcopalian. I found and was found by God through this church as a college student. And what struck me most profoundly about Anglicans was that we could fight like cats and dogs (or Sunni and Shiites, or Dempsey and Louis, or the Red Sox and Yankees—choose your metaphorical poison) about anything and when someone said, The Lord be with you”, all the conflict ended while we leafed through the Book of Common Prayer and did what we DO and what “defines” us. Praying together was the only “bottom line” in the church where I found God and God found me. The other stuff was interesting and kept our hearts pumping, but all that mattered was being able to worship together—break the bread and pass the wine in spite of (perhaps “because of”) our disagreements.

Now, all these years later, I am a Deputy to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church and when I suggested we begin the six pre-Convention gatherings around Connecticut with a short, simple Eucharist, the initial response was this: “that might be divisive.”

The point was that there are Episcopalians who don’t want to break bread and pass wine with other Episcopalians because they may not be “doctrinally” pure. (Read between the lines: they may be in favor of the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered folks in the mission, work and worship of the church.) Well, pinch me awake and call me Rip Van Winkle—when did we reach this point and why didn’t we know it?

I can tell you this much for sure: at the General Convention in Minneapolis there were three people—a bishop, a priest and a lay person—who were supposed to be at my worship table for Eucharist every morning who were never there. About half-way through Convention I figured out they were all members of the American Anglican Council and were having their own Eucharist somewhere else lest the Body be moldy and the wine be sour because heretics like me were at the table. So this “divisiveness” of the one thing that defines us as a church and makes us who we are is nearly three years old.

And I think the time has come for people like me stop being polite and start claiming the banner of Anglicanism before people who aren’t Anglican at all drag it away into a new church I would not recognize as the one where I found and was found by God. There’s all this buzz that the boy’s club we call the House of Bishops has sworn a blood brothers’ oath to each other to keep the Episcopal Church firmly within the Anglican Communion even though it will require them to regret, repent, and never be naughty again by approving a duly and canonically elected bishop who loves and is faithful to another person of their own gender. I pray devoutly that this rumor is only that and that our bishops have enough gravitas and faithfulness to not make Gene Robinson’s episcopate something to be apologized for and “regretted”.

I voted to consecrate Gene Robinson. I voted to approve the blessing of same-sex unions. I did it because it was appropriate, right, just and holy. I do not “regret” my vote and I certainly don’t intent to “repent” about it. The God I found and was found by as a college sophomore led me to cast that vote. The God of the Anglican Church I became a part of and have been a priest in for 30 years guided and inspired me in what I did in Minneapolis.

Now the Fundamentalists of the third world who call themselves “Anglican” want to destroy the ethos and genius of Anglicanism by making us a church based on doctrine and hierarchy rather than worship and equality. And I’m sick and tired of listening to them and those in the Episcopal Church who ride on their coat tails. The Windsor Report, besides slapping the hands of the American and Canadian Church for the offense of believing all people are God’s children, would turn the so-called Anglican Communion into a “little Rome” with the Pope in waiting (the Archbishop of Canterbury) ready to head the “curia” (the Primates—all men and all Archbishops) and the house of Cardinals (the Lambeth gathering of world-wide bishops). We would become a church burdened and oppressed by bishops all who would determine what the 39 previously independent churches could or could not do before being disciplined and brought into line.

The European Provinces are so gun shy that no one wants to stand up to the bullies in Africa lest they be accused of “racism” or “colonialism”. Here’s what I think—the church in Africa is no more truly “Anglican” in terms of openness, acceptance, calmness, tolerance and true Christian charity than my friends up the road in the Assembly of God Church. Anglicanism is not a doctrine, creed or confession—it is a Book of Common Prayer and a remarkable dose of “common sense”. Several of the Primates from Africa and other parts of the third world refused to participate in a service of communion at one of their gatherings (imagine the secret hand shakes and code words and tree houses the Primates’ Boy’s Club could come up with!) because Frank Griswold was simply present. There is no way that having the Eucharist be “divisive” is part of the Anglican ethos!

I am sick and tired and beyond exhausted at bending over backwards to appease fundamentalists masquerading as Anglicans, whether in Africa or in the American Anglican Council. I’m ready to stand up straight and say, “Ok, you say you are Anglicans, let’s do this the way Anglicans always have. You have your opinion and I’ll have mine. It complicates both our lives but it is just the way it is. Now let’s break the bread and pass the wine because that is the only thing that defines us as a church and the only way we know who we are as a people of God. You turn from the table because someone is there who doesn’t agree with you…fine, you’ve made the choice to leave this fragile communion of Anglicans. God bless you. We’re here if you want to come back and join us and you will be welcomed back with joy and wonder like a lost sheep, a lost coin, a lost son/daughter. But don’t try to turn my church into a mini-Roman Catholic Church. That’s not who we are. That’s not who God is calling us to be.”

I became an Episcopalian in my heart when someone told me that old phrase: this is the church for all sorts and conditions of men (sic). Sounded a lot like the Kingdom to me….

I am not willing to have anyone undermine that and refuse to share the Table with me and tell me I’m not an Anglican.

I’m the Anglican here. I’m the “big tent” guy. I’m willing to be in communion with anyone who will come to the Table. I am waiting patiently, compassionately, lovingly, ready to break the bread and pass the wine. Join me if you can. If you can’t…well, god’s speed and good luck…know you can always “come home” when you want to.

The Rev. Dr. James Bradley, Rector of St. John’s, Waterbury, CT 06702

Prayers Ascending for the Diocese of California

Do continue to keep the Diocese of Calfornia in your prayers as they seek to discern together who the Spirit is calling to be their next bishop. As the election draws closer and the rhetoric grows more polemic remember that anyone elected from this extraordinary slate of qualified nominees will be an asset to the House of Bishops and will continue the diocese's historical commitment to LBGT inclusion.

From the Diocese of California website: This week, the nominees for Bishop of California will be making the rounds of the Diocese, learning about us, and giving us a chance to get to know them better. Meetings scheduled in each of the Deaneries -- called Walkabouts -- are opportunities to present your questions and to hear the nominees' responses. Several of the Walkabouts will have Spanish translation, and all will offer childcare.

The Walkabouts are open only to members of congregations in the Diocese of California, and are the only opportunity to hear from all of the nominees in one place. You are encouraged to attend the Walkabout in your deanery, but you may attend any (and as many) of the Walkabouts you wish. It is recommended that electors, alternates, and clergy attend, and all parishioners of churches in the Diocese may also attend. No photography, filming, or recording of any kind will be allowed at the Walkabouts.

To learn more about the Walkabouts, read The Walkabouts FAQ

Monday, April 24th from 6:00pm to 10:30pm
Grace Cathedral, 1100 California St., San Francisco
Tuesday, April 25th from 6:00pm to 10:30pm
St. Paul's, 114 Montecito Ave., Oakland
Wednesday, April 26th from 6:00pm to 10:30pm
St. Paul's, 1924 Trinity Ave., Walnut Creek
Thursday, April 27th from 6:00pm to 10:30pm
St. Stephen's, 3 Bay View Ave., Belvedere
Friday, April 28th from 6:00pm to 10:30pm
St. James', 37051 Cabrillo Terrace, Fremont
Saturday, April 29th from 10:00am to 2:30pm
St. Peter's, 178 Clinton St., Redwood City

Mazel Tov!

So here are some photos from my niece Jennifer's wedding last week ... one of those wonderful family occasions that you just can't resist sharing with the rest of the world -- whether they're interested or not! Here's wishing Jennifer and Travis "happily every after" ... and applauding ALL those who are willing to take the courageous leap of faith to pledge "til death do us part!" Mazel tov!

+Griswold in the Guardian

A recent Guardian article on the Episcopal Church continues to engender conversation around what exactly Bishop Griswold either said or actually meant in his interview with Stephen Bates.

Here's the both the quote in question and an excellent response from Oasis CA: Speaking exclusively to the Guardian, Frank Griswold, presiding bishop of the US church, said: "The diocese needs to respect the sensibilities of the larger communion. It will note what is going on in the life of the church and make a careful and wise decision. It will then be up to the house of bishops to give or withhold their consent. Given what has happened over the last three years, I think there will be increased sensitivity."

Response to the Guardian article from Oasis CA

I would not read too much into the Guardian article quoting our Presiding Bishop; the media is not always accurate in its attributions or sensitive to context. Bishop Griswold didn't say anything anybody doesn't already know. We believe that we can and must "respect the sensibilities of the larger communion" and still move where the Spirit is leading us.

Respecting the sensibilities of others and "waiting for consensus" are two different things: to do the former means to stay in respectful conversation with those who disagree with the direction we've gone (as many in the Anglican Communion continue to on the issue of women's ordination), while to insist on the latter is to deny the work of the Holy Spirit in the Episcopal Church. As to fears about the unity of the Anglican Communion: of course we will be grieved if there's an official split.

If that happens, however, it needs to be abundantly clear that responsibility for the schism lies at the feet of those who have orchestrated it by insisting that compliance with their theological litmus test is the criteria for being in communion. It is neither fair nor accurate to blame a split in the Anglican Communion on those of us who are threatening to stay.

The good news for us in California is that whoever we elect as our next bishop will be a strong supporter of full inclusion of ALL the baptized in the ministry and sacraments of the church. Our election is not a "make or break" moment for the Anglican Communion. The rejection of the scapegoating of gay and lesbian people for the sake of pseudo-Christian unity is, unfortunately, an ongoing struggle. God isn't done with us yet.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Request for General Convention

An Arkansas witness worth sharing:

Dear General Convention Deputy:

The Vestry of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Fayetteville, Arkansas, would like to share with you the following resolution, passed unanimously following a seven-month parish-wide process of study, prayer, and conversation.

The Vestry of St. Paul's Episcopal Church expresses its support for our church's offering of a rite of blessing as a resource for pastoral care for our gay and lesbian members who wish to make a lifelong, loving commitment of mutual fidelity as a couple. By this resolution we communicate our position to our clergy, our Bishop and the upcoming General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

In the spirit of the House of Bishop's moratorium on new rites of blessing, we have not performed any covenant ceremonies, but we would like for you to take into consideration our congregation's desire to offer that form of pastoral care for our members when you attend the upcoming General Convention.

Ours is a growing and vital parish, the second largest in Arkansas. Our worship attendance is rising and this year's pledges to our Stewardship Campaign increased 15% over the previous year's income. We are in a college town, and we believe that the spirituality of our community is reflected in our statement. If we were located in another community, we imagine that our pastoral needs might be expressed differently.

Please accept our invitation to get to know us better at our web site. We have recognized a holiness of life in the relationships of our own gay couples, and we would like to celebrate and bless their lifelong commitments.

We hope that you will help the General Convention find a way to allow our church to promote commitments of loving fidelity while retaining our bonds of affection, communion and respect for those who will disagree with our theology.

John Lewis, Senior Warden
Christine Cook, Junior Warden
The Rev. Lowell Grisham, Rector

Sunday, April 23, 2006

'The logic of all purity movements is to exclude'

by Andrew Linzey in the Times Online

"SHALL the fundamentalists win?" That was the title of Harry Emerson Fosdick's sermon in 1922, which argued for an open-minded, intellectual, and tolerant Church. The sermon cost him his job at the First Presbyterian Church, New York, but it drew a line in the sand, and fundamentalism began to wane.

A similar sermon needs to be preached to the Anglican Communion. The labels today are different: "conservatives" or "progressives', "reasserters" or "revisionists", and the issues are not the same. In Fosdick's day, the wedges were biblical inerrancy, the Virgin Birth, the literal Second Coming and a theory of the atonement called "penal substitution".

Although the labels and the issues are different, the same fundamentalist drive to create a "pure" Church remains. During the previous century Anglicanism was largely untouched by these debates, because its "broad tent" tradition discouraged any one party in the Church from gaining ascendancy. But with the growth of conservative evangelicalism, that consensus is now threatened. The victims this time are not those who disagree about doctrine, but Christian gays.
In previous decades disagreements about sexuality bothered Anglicans, but the idea that they merited schism would have been regarded as preposterous. That we are now at this point indicates the neartriumph of the exclusivist tendency.

The response of the hierarchy has been typically Anglican: set up a committee and produce a report. But the Windsor report failed Anglicanism. Instead of embracing comprehensiveness and diversity, it pursued fictions like "unity" (interpreted as uniformity), "interdependence" (meaning "not giving offence"), and championed "instruments of unity" (fostering centralised control), and proposed a future "covenant" (to implement canon law worldwide). The Episcopal Church of the United States and the Anglican Church in Canada were called upon to obey the "standard" of Christian teaching on sexuality (a Lambeth resolution that has only advisory authority).

All the manoeuvring that followed has been nothing less than a farrago based on voids. The hierarchy has set about implementing the inherently schismatic logic of the Windsor report — dubbed inaccurately "the only game in town" — with the result that the Communion stands precariously close to splitting. What was set up to be a loose association of autonomous churches "bound together by ties of loyalty and affection" is being rent asunder by an un-Anglican attempt at centralised control — ironically in the name of achieving the "highest degree of communion".

Contrary theological voices have been cast aside. No fewer than 22 UK and US theologians produced detailed critiques of Windsor, explaining how it devalues diversity, inflicts curial-style centralism and departs from classical Anglicanism. Never heard of them? I’m not surprised. The essays are part of a book I co-edited called Gays and the Future of Anglicanism, which was mischaracterised immediately after publication, and then buried.

That is a pity, because theology actually holds the key to resolving competing claims. "Conservatives" are seen as preserving "historic truth" and "progressives" as wilfully discarding it. So long as the debate is cast in those terms, no resolution is possible. The way forward is to grasp the dynamic of God: as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the teaching God, which, we are promised, will guide believers into all truth (John xvi, 13).

Not all truth is given in the past; the Spirit has something to teach us in the present. It is untrinitarian consistently to oppose God’s work in the past to what we may learn here and now. All innovations should be tested, but it is a mistake to assume that all development is infidelity.
As Fosdick and his generation had to wrestle with new knowledge about the origins of creation, so Anglicans have to grapple with new knowledge about the sheer diversity of human sexuality. Contrary to what is supposed by Windsor, developments in the US and Canada have been heralded by 40 years of scholarship, which has revealed the inadequacy of traditional theology. “Sex inside marriage is holy, sex outside marriage is unholy” now strains credulity.

Fosdick quotes the remark of General Armstrong that "Cantankerousness is worse than heterodoxy" — to which we should add "and homophobic persecution". There is something unsavoury about a situation in which the Archbishop of Canterbury calls on Americans to repent of ordaining an openly gay bishop, yet says nothing about the imposition of another anti-gay law in Nigeria (actively supported by Anglican Archbishop Akinola) which makes any public support of gays an offence punishable by five years in prison. Supposedly "authoritative" Lambeth Conference resolutions about respecting the human rights of homosexuals are being ignored.
There is one sure way of testing the Spirit: do our beliefs lead to an increase in injustice, bigotry and suffering? If they do, they simply cannot be reconciled with the workings of the creative, compassionate Spirit promised to us.

So far, a policy of appeasement has prevailed. Even a Special Commission of the Episcopal Church has wrong-headedly recommended "repentance", "extreme caution" in selecting bishops, and following the Windsor "process", but even that has been rejected by the leading conservative grouping, the American Anglican Council. That is because the agenda of conservatives is a rolling one: today it is gays, but biblical inerrancy, interfaith worship, women bishops, remarriage after divorce will surely follow. The logic of all purity movements is to exclude.

The only test of whether a church is Anglican is whether it is invited to the Lambeth Conference. With the next Conference in 2008, the Archbishop of Canterbury faces a Rubicon. If he fails to invite all Anglican bishops, or invites them on unequal terms, he will make schism concrete, with incalculable consequences worldwide for every Anglican church, diocese, even every parish. By this one act, his office will become an enduring source of disunity.

The assumption that progressives will swallow the situation should be questioned. When realignment becomes a fact, UK progressives will have to do what the conservatives have done: become effectively a church within a church, and insist on alternative episcopal oversight. Above all, we will not be excommunicated from US and Canada. We shall fight and fight and fight again to save the Church we love.

The Rev Professor Andrew Linzey is Senior Research Fellow, Blackfriars Hall, Oxford University, and co-editor of Gays and the Future of Anglicanism.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Integrity Responds to Special Commission Resolutions

Integrity welcomes "One Baptism, One Hope in God’s Call: The Report of the Special Commission on The Episcopal Church and The Anglican Communion" as a considered contribution to the listening process called for by the Windsor Report of 2004. As we read the report in detail, we have some important questions and comments.particularly in regards to the resolutions offered by the commission. We begin, however, by reiterating the good news we find in the report.

The Good News

We are grateful for the report’s reiteration of the Episcopal Church’s 30-year stance that "gay and lesbian persons are by Baptism full members of the Body of Christ and of the Episcopal Church and ’are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance and pastoral concern and care of the Church.’"

We are also heartened that the report reaffirms that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons everywhere in the world "are entitled to equal protection of the laws.and [that the Episcopal Church] calls upon our society to see that such protection is provided in actuality."

Integrity concurs with the Windsor Report’s clarification to the entire Anglican Communion, echoed by the commission, that "any demonizing of homosexual persons, or their ill treatment, is totally against Christian charity and basic principles of pastoral care."

However, these affirmations only repeat the Episcopal Church’s stated convictions over the past four decades -- 40 years during which LGBT Episcopalians have struggled for full inclusion in the Body of Christ. Despite open abuse of LGBT persons across the Anglican Communion over the ten years since Lambeth 1998.and greatly increasing since the consecration of V. Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003, the report says nothing new to them in acknowledgment of their continued suffering and their prophetic persistence within the church. This is a great weakness of the report, for the situation in some parts of the communion for LGBT persons is dire.

The Resolutions

Indeed, Integrity finds much in the report to cause LGBT persons deep disappointment and pessimism about their future in the church. Integrity is troubled in particular by resolutions A160, A161, and A162 presented by the special commission for debate at the triennial General Convention of the Episcopal Church in June 2006. It is essential that bishops and deputies to the convention understand the consequences of these resolutions for LGBT Episcopalians and Anglicans. A brief commentary on the eleven proposed resolutions follows.

Read it all HERE

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

More on the "Spin Cycle"

The American Anglican Council has offered its response to the Special Commission Report declaring it "inadequate" because it "does not reflect the mind of the Anglican Communion with regard to these issues, nor does it comply with the spirit and word of the Windsor Report or the Primates’ Communiqué."

No surprises here -- just more of the rhetoric we've seen since 2003 insisting that the criteria for our being in communion is capitulation to their demands that we pass the narrow, sola scriptura litmus test they have been diligently working to bait-and-switch with the traditional Anglican approach to Biblical authority grounded in Scripture, Tradition and Reason.

Never mind that voices from around the Anglican Communion continue to advocate for listening and dialogue in spite of our differences --

Never mind that Archbishop Eames is on record in saying that ECUSA has not only met but exceeded the recommendations of the Windsor Report --

And -- perhaps most disturbing of all -- never mind that facts getting in the way of the "spin du jour" are cavalierly re-written. Case in point?

From the AAC Commentary on the Special Commission Report: Based on the commission’s theological foundation and the need for a new consensus, the report does not call for a moratorium on consecrations of non-celibate homosexuals; rather, the committee urges only “the exercise of very considerable caution” with regard to the election and consecration of an individual “living in a same gender union” (Paragraph 51 and Resolution A161).

From what Resolution A161 actually SAYS: … we urge nominating committees, electing conventions, Standing Committees, and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise very considerable caution in the nomination, election, consent to, and consecration of bishops whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.

As a careful reader would get from the spliced citation, the report does NOT say that any special caution needs to be exercised with respect to candidates for bishop "living in a same gender union"; it says that we need to exercise caution with respect to ANY "manner of life" presenting a challenge.

Further, while it DOES list as an example of that a bishop who cannot be a pastoral leader to all in the diocese or is compromised in her/his ability to strive for justice for and respect the dignity of all (Archbishop Akinola might come to mind for some!) it doesn't even list "living in a same gender union" as an example of a problematic "manner of life."

Readers might reasonably conclude that this is a very deliberate attempt by the AAC to get people thinking that the report says something it very clearly doesn't -- a tactic that does nothing to move the church forward in resolving the differences that challenge it and everything to continue to polarize those differences in an effort to immobilize it.

The Living Church got it right in its editorial this week: "We invite and implore all who will be working to shape the Church’s future in the coming months to do so while keeping in mind that they, their allies, and those with whom they disagree all are members of the one body of Christ. How we live out our membership will have a profound impact on our ability as a Church to make disciples as Jesus commanded."

Telling the truth to and about each other is at least a place to start.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

General Convention "Blue Book"

The Report to the 75th General Convention (otherwise known as "The Blue Book") is now available online.

Check it out Here.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Good News for An Easter Monday

Happy Easter! As I used to tell the children when I was a day school chaplain, "Chaplain Susan didn't do 40 days of Lent to do just ONE day of Easter ... so we're going to celebrate all FIFTY days of Easter!" So let's start with some Good News to celebrate this Easter Monday: the platform just released by "The Consultation" offering not just a legislative agenda for General Convention but a vision for the Episcopal Church -- grounded in the one Lord, one Faith and one Baptism that bind us together as the Body of Christ called to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.

It strikes me as an extremely hopeful sign that as we move closer to Columbus and General Convention 2006 there are faithful folks at work creating a proactive platform for a vision calling us to look beyond fighting over the unity of the institutional church to proclaiming the mission of the prophetic church: Alleuluia, Alleluia!

The Consultation Platform: The Consultation is a coalition of eleven independent organizations* in the Episcopal Church committed to peace with justice. We come to the 2006 General Convention in Columbus understanding clearly that the Episcopal Church is once again at a watershed moment in history. Now more than ever, it is critical to articulate what we believe and what we are called to do.

We affirm the goodness of all creation.
• We join our voices with God, who, after completing all of Creation said, “It is very good.”
• We see the image of God in one another and in all of Creation.
• We are inextricably linked in an interdependent web of Creation.

We have sinned and fallen short of the mark.
• We fail to recognize the image of God and the Christ in others and ourselves.
• We have by our action and inaction perpetuated a culture of greed, domination, and violence.
• We in the Episcopal Church have been complicit in this sin.

We have allowed our governance to be distorted.
• We believe that all the baptized are called to share in the governance and mission of the Church at all levels.
• We see the increase of power claimed by the episcopate as an imbalance in the Body.
• We compromise the church as sign and witness by not sharing our resources.

We reaffirm the promises of our Baptismal Covenant
• to continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers.
• to persevere in resisting evil and, whenever we fall into sin, to repent and return to the Lord.
• to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.
• to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves.
• to strive for justice and peace among all people and to respect the dignity of every human being.

Therefore, we call the Church, gathered at this 2006 General Convention, to:

1. Continue the radical reformation of the Church.
• remove all canonical obstacles to exercising the full baptismal ministry in the whole life of the Church.
• conform the canons to the baptismal theology of The Book of Common Prayer.

2. Invest in economic justice and eliminate poverty.
• support the U.N. Millennium Development Goals fully, including the 0.7%
allocation of funds.
• affirm worker justice, including the right to unionize.
• advocate for a living wage and health care for all.
• invest in economic justice to eliminate poverty.
• ask the Church Pension Group to provide equitable retirement policies for women.

3. Make reparation for slavery.
• commission a report to describe the Church’s culpability, preserve this chapter of our history, and make recommendations for compensation.
• support public legislation and compensation.
• apologize publicly for the Church’s role in this violation of basic human rights.

4. Dismantle racism.
• call upon every diocese to mandate anti-racism training.
• deepen our commitment to inclusive representation on slates for leadership at all levels of the Church.

5. End the culture of violence
• work for the end of violence against women and children throughout the global
• work to change federal budget priorities that fuel the culture of violence at the
expense health and welfare at home and peace abroad.
• include in Safe Church training orientation to issues of domestic violence and
appropriate responses.
• confess the violence inherent in using language for worship that is not inclusive,
expansive, and hospitable.

6. Build a culture of peace.
• call for an end to the war in Iraq.
• offer training in creative peacemaking in every diocese.
• inform our young people of the conscientious objector registry at the Episcopal
Church Center.
• add peace, justice, and nonviolence studies to the curricula of all Episcopal schools, colleges, and seminaries.
• encourage investment in enterprises that bring peace and prosperity to areas of

7. Clarify our theology of marriage, family, and human sexuality
• oppose the limitation of adoption and other civil contracts on the basis of sexual
orientation or marital status.
• relieve the clergy from their responsibility as civil magistrates in marriage.
• reaffirm that all orders of ministry are open to all the Baptized who are otherwise qualified.

8. Promote environmental justice
• mandate detailed energy audits and conservation measures, including recycling, in all Episcopal Church facilities and programs.
• commit the Episcopal Church to purchasing electric power from renewable sources.
• call for the federal government to fund fully its Environmental Protection Agency
• call upon our government to recommit to the Kyoto Protocols.

9. Reflect our mission priorities in Program, Budget, and Finance
• Urge Program, Budget, and Finance to restore the original askings for mission and economic justice programs.

*Integrity is one of the eleven member organizations of The Consultation.
Other member organizations are:
Episcopal Urban Caucus
Episcopal Peace Fellowship
Episcopal Women's Caucus
Union of Black Episcopalians
Episcopal Ecological Network
Episcopal Church Publishing Company
Episcopal Network for Economic Justice
Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry Advocates
Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission
Province 8 Native American Ministries Network

Sunday, April 16, 2006

How Cute Is THIS?????

(Photo of the Russell boys "back in the day": Easter circa 1987)


A Blessed Easter to All!

The "Both/And" of Easter

Smack in between the devastation of Good Friday and the Glory of Easter sits Holy Saturday -- a day I have come to think of as the Feast of Both/And. With the cries of "Crucify him" and the sound of nails in a cross and bells tolling in grief still echoing in our ears we focus on the flowers and the candles, the water and the incense, the music and the mystery that make up our Easter celebration.

The great "both/ands" of Easter: grief leads to joy, death leads to life, without Good Friday there would be no Easter Sunday: Alleluia, Alleluia.

I am struck by how closely the both/and-ness of Holy Saturday connects to the both/and-ness we experience as LGBT people in the Episcopal Church. In 1976 this church told us we were entitled to "full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church" AND in 2006 continues to treat our vocations and relationships as bargaining chips in the game of global Anglican politics.

In the past 30 years we have taken many steps forward toward making that resolution a reality AND there are miles to go before we rest. It feels to me as I write on this Holy Saturday as though we, the LGBT baptized, are being treated by the institutional church as "not ready for prime time Christians": they may not be crucifying us anymore AND we're not good enough for Easter. And that's not good enough.

The both/and nature of our life in the Episcopal Church is recognizing that the recent Report from the Special Commission was not the "u-turn" on LGBT inclusion widely predicted by the conservative pundits AND its resolutions did not live up to the full and equal claim the church has promised.

The both/and nature of the political process in the Episcopal Church is that we will continue to work within the legislative process to support the resolutions that work toward achieving that goal AND we will work to amend or defeat those that do not.

And the both/and nature of our commitment as Anglicans to the worldwide communion is that we will stay in conversation and communion with those with whom we disagree AND we will not allow blame for any break in that communion to be laid at the feet of those of us who are threatening to stay.

In these coming days and weeks leading to Columbus and General Convention 2006 we will hear plenty of "either/or" rhetoric from the other side of the aisle -- from what I'm calling the "communion at any price" folks who have clearly decidedthat our exclusion from the Body of Christ is a price they are willing to pay. I am convinced that this church is smarter and more faithful than that -- that the threats of blackmail, schism and presentments will, in the end, backfire on those launching them as grenades into our common discourse and that we will emerge on the other side of this convention having taken steps forward rather than steps back. AND it will continue to be a "both/and."

We may not in our lifetimes experience a church healed of its homophobia OR of the racism or sexism that continue to challenge us AND we would not be where we are today if the faithful who went before us had not been willing to step out in faith -- to speak up with courage -- to labor on in hope.

One of those faithful saints who labored long and hard in the fields of justice went to greater glory this past week: William Sloan Coffin. I invite you to join me as I claim these words of his as my own as we journey with hope into the days and weeks ahead. "Hope is a state of mind independent of the state of the world. So if your heart is full of hope you can be persistent even when you cannot be optimistic. You can keep the faith despite the evidence, knowing that only in so doing has the evidence any chance of changing. So while I'm not always optimistic I'm always very hopeful."*

The evidence of the cross was that death had the last word.
The evidence of the empty tomb is that life has triumphed over death.
The Lord is Risen.
The Lord is Risen, indeed.
Alleluia, Alleluia.
Happy Easter!

*(1994 NPR interview quoted on Margot Adler's obituary on NPR, April 12, 2006)

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Great Easter Truth

The Great Easter truth is not that we will be born again someday but that we are to be alive here and now by the power of the resurrection!

That great Easter truth we celebrate doesn’t end when the Easter lily wilts and the Alleluias fade: instead it enables us to be alive – here and now – each and every day – claiming the power of the resurrection – often in very unexpected ways. For as we journey together through the Easter season we will hear again and again that the Risen Lord isn’t always announced with alleluias and Easter lilies – in fact, the exact opposite seems to be the rule.

Mary Magdalene, the first to encounter Jesus in the garden at first thought he was the gardener – until he spoke her name. Running to tell the other disciples they thought she was hallucinating – until he appeared to them in the upper room. Thomas, out of the room when Jesus showed up, thought they had ALL gone over the edge – until Jesus showed up again and said, “Here, Thomas – if what you need to believe is see my hands and my side, check it out.”

Over and over we hear the stories of those who had resurrection right in front of them and they couldn’t see it – not, I believe, because they lacked faith but because they lacked the vision to see what was right before their eyes. The resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was not a one-size-fits-all experience – if it had been, we would have fewer resurrection narratives in scripture – and fewer clueless disciples in the narratives!

And yet I believe that in these stories of first century Christians there are truths that speak in a very particular way to us in our efforts to build a church that isn’t “one-size-fits-all” either -- but to build a church that is a community of faith where whoever you are and wherever you find yourself on your journey of faith you are welcome here!

For it is in that community – in communion with God and with each other – that we are given the grace to recognize the resurrection that so very often doesn’t look at all like we expected it to. The Good News we have to share – the lived experience we have to testify to – is about exercising diverse and prophetic ministries in every part of this broken world: proclaiming peace in a time of war in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine, preaching life in the face of death in the genocide in Darfur and in the death penalty in California, offering comfort in food offered to the hungry or a prayer shawl given to the grieving.

Around the world and around the corner we have Good News to tell – resurrection to proclaim – work to do. Being alive here and now -- by the power of the resurrection -- gives us the power to make a difference: an Easter Truth worth celebrating all year long!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Jesus is dead.

Jesus is dead.

The life - the promise - the light that shone so brightly has been extinguished. All that remains of the rabbi from Nazareth is a broken body and the broken dreams of his scattered followers. The Kingdom he proclaimed has not come. The powerful remain powerful: the oppressed remain oppressed -- and where there had been hope there is only despair. This is the stark truth of this day we call "Good Friday."

What is there in that message for us today?

Let's be honest: we already know that this is not the end of the story. We gather for our Good Friday services with the Easter dress hanging in our closet; the flowers ordered; the brunch planned and the candy ready to go in the baskets.

We've peeked at the last chapter to see how the book comes out. We've seen this movie before and know that there's a happy ending.

One question is: Can we be present in the reality of Good Friday, knowing that Easter happens?

Another question: Why bother? Couldn't we just skip Good Friday? Clearly that's an option. Look around you: I think I'm safe in saying that there'll be a few more folks in church on Sunday morning than there are today. Folks who go straight from Palm Sunday to Easter Day without the Holy Week stuff. Couldn't we just skip this part -- why dwell on it? We just heard the story of the crucifixion on Palm Sunday: just like we've heard it every year. Can we hear it again in a way that isn't just "the same old thing"?

When my children were tiny, I sang in the choir at St. Paul's in Ventura. Since their father attended church sporadically, it fell to my friends Bruce and Lori to "pew sit", and so my boys joined their two girls, Kimmie & Alex during many a service. I remember one such occasion when from the choir loft, during the reading of the passion, I looked down and saw all four of them -- intently coloring on the back of their bulletins – seeming oblivious to the liturgy surrounding them. All of a sudden, Kimmie, who was about four, stopped coloring and began to listen to the unfolding story.

She'd been in church since before she was born – an embryonic Episcopalian: which is one better than a "Cradle Episcopalian." So she'd heard this story many times, even for such a little one. She could sing "There is a Green Hill Far Away" from memory. She had filled up her "He is Risen" coloring book. But on this particular day, she was listening like she'd never heard the story before.

When the gospel got to the words, "because he was already dead", she suddenly stood up and said (in a loud, horror-filled voice) "Jesus is DEAD? They KILLED JESUS????" And she started to cry in a way that made it very clear: this story she'd heard over and over again she had just heard, in some very profound way, for the first time.

At four years old, she entered into the pain and suffering of the crucifixion event -- and in experiencing that pain herself, was changed by it. And, as she was carried out of church, inconsolable on her daddy's shoulder, so were we.

I am baffled by how we can hear these stories of Lent and Holy Week and not be changed by them. Don't we get it? Who was it that was upset by Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the dead? Who was repelled by the teachings of Jesus? Who felt that Jesus was teaching false doctrine? Who wanted this man to "go away"?

It was the righteous; the orthodox; the people who knew how to do it correctly. It was the keepers of the Law. It was the people who knew the rules: and knew how to make sure everyone else kept them. How can we hear this message - this story - and not be confronted by that? By the sin of self-righteousness in the voices who cried "Hosanna" and turned so quickly to the crowd which cried "Crucify Him". And crucify him they did. The crowd got what they asked for.

I don't want to be part of that crowd. I don't want you to be part of that crowd. I don't want the church to be part of that crowd. But that's the risk we run if we skip Good Friday. If we fast-forward to Easter, we avoid confronting in ourselves our own self-righteousness, our own certainties, our own fears. We also avoid being transformed by them.

Robert Shahan, the Bishop of Arizona, once said, "Faith is what you are willing to die for. Dogma is what you are willing to kill for."

Jesus is dead.

He came with a willingness to die for the sake of the message that the Kingdom of God is at hand. It is here. It is now. He came with a message of inclusiveness and compassion.
Compassion is what Kimmie experienced on that Good Friday: compassion in the truest sense of the word. The Latin word for passion means "suffering": the combined form of "compassion" means "with suffering." It is an invitation to join, to be a part of something requiring sacrifice and often pain. For us, this evening, it is an invitation to join and be part of the crucifixion story.

Not a very inviting invitation, is it? Not a message that sells any better in Pasadena than it did in Jerusalem. Like the disciples who fled from the Garden of Gethsemane, we don't want a dead rabbi: we want a Risen Lord.

The paradox is that it's precisely because we have already experienced the Resurrection that we can enter into the crucifixion: not just on Good Friday, but wherever and whenever we face the choice between self-righteousness and compassion.

What we have to offer is a faith to die for: not a dogma to kill for. What we have to proclaim is a Gospel of that can truly enter into those places of darkness and suffering where compassion is the only gift we have to give. It is ours to give, as the Body of Christ, because our Lord went there first. It is ours to give when we reach out to the oppressed and the persecuted. It is ours to give whether we proclaim the Gospel to those who have never heard it before: or to those who have never before heard that the Good News of God in Christ includes them.

We are at crucial point in the symphony that is Holy Week. Palm Sunday was our overture: touching on all the themes to be played throughout the week and leading us into the subsequent movements. And now we've arrived at Good Friday: in some ways the "adagio" of the piece. In the hours between now and the "allegro" of Easter, we sit in the silence and contemplate the power of this story that is ours.
Jesus is dead.

May God give us the grace to enter with compassion into the death of Our Lord -- even as we prepare with Joy to Celebrate His Resurrection. Amen.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Sacrament of Servanthood

The Sacrament of Servanthood

It's Maundy Thursday again ... "MONDAY" Thursday ... as my kids used to call it. It's not "Monday" Thursday, of course ... it's "maundy" for maundatum the Latin for commandment. For on this Thursday in Holy Week we remember the commandment our Lord gave us in one of his final acts before his arrest, trial and crucifixion: "A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you so you must love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

The very familiarity of these words can take away their power when we hear them these centuries after our Lord spoke them that night in the upper room to those "still didn't quite get it" disciples. They celebrated the Passover meal symbolizing God's deliverance of Israel from death in Egypt – even while the impending tragedy of the death of God's Son loomed on the horizon. "A new commandment I give you," he said to these faithful Jews who already had ten perfectly good commandments, thank you very much. Not a recommendation. Not a suggestion. Not a "resolution" ... but a COMMANDMENT -- elevating it to the status of the ten that came down the mountain with Moses ... elevating it to "the Word of God."

This, my friends, was precisely the kind of talk that had gotten him into this no-going-back place to begin with. This insistence that God's revelation didn't quit on Mt. Sinai didn't sit well with those who considered themselves the champions of orthodoxy … the leaders of the religious institutions of his day. Invested in the status quo, there was no room for new commandments ... for "continuing revelation" ... for Jesus -- this rabble rouser from Nazareth. "A New Commandment?" Blasphemy! Apostasy! Heresy! And so the gloom darkened, the troops gathered -- and the cross loomed. And yet, "Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end." Loved them enough to tell them the truth -- no matter what the cost.

Loved them enough to share all of who he was with them – and command them to do the same to each other.

But where does the foot washing part fit in to all this? One commentary I read reaches this conclusion: "Jesus was showing us that we are all equal when we gather around the table of the Lord. If the Creator could wash the feet of the created, should not the creatures wash the feet of one another in equality? And if Jesus saw himself in his creatures, shouldn't we see him in each other?"

Does that mean we're supposed to REALLY wash each other's feet? Well, let's look again at our criteria for primary sacraments in the church: We do it because Jesus told us to. ("given by Christ to His Church" in the loftier words of the catechism)

Baptism in Matthew 28: GO THEREFORE and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit.

Eucharist in Luke 22: And he took bread and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them saying, "This is my body which is given for you. DO THIS in remembrance of me.

And in today's gospel: John 13: So, then, if I -- your Lord and teacher -- have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example that you also should do as I have done to you.

I imagine our Lord shaking his head and saying in gentle despair, "What part of go and do likewise didn't you understand?" Peter certainly didn't understand ... at least at first. "You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand," said Jesus -- in words of profound reassurance. That's the beauty of sacraments: you don't have to understand them to do them -- to accept them.

Could it be that part of the reason the "kingdom" hasn't come yet is that the church missed the boat on what Jesus intended to be another primary sacrament "given by Christ to his Church": the sacrament of servanthood? Sadly, examples are all too easy to find -- such as the newspaper article about a church edict forbidding women and children to participate in ceremonial foot washings on Maundy Thursday. It declared that the act of foot washing was symbolic of Jesus choosing an all male priesthood -- therefore the ceremony would consist of twelve men from any congregation -- no women and no children.

Can you imagine our Lord saying to his disciples gathered on the night before he was handed over to suffering and death: “A new commandment I give you: exclude women and children.” I can’t imagine that – instead I imagine Jesus reading that news report, shaking his head in discouragement and saying, “What part of love one another don’t you understand?”

The priesthood of all the faithful: that’s the calling we ALL gather tonight to celebrate as we share with each other the bread and wine made holy. The priesthood of all the faithful -- ALL the beloved people of God: not just the ones with white plastic around their necks and seminary degrees hanging on their walls. Can we – in this "out-of-the-ordinary" week – dare to claim that extraordinary calling? Can we – each and very one of us – believe that God will give us the grace to obey this New Commandment if we will but ask – if we will but follow the One who calls us to walk in love as He loved us and gave Himself for us.

As in that upper room you left your seat
and took a towel and chose a servant's part
so for today, Lord, wash again my feet
who in your mercy died to cleanse my heart.

So in remembrance of your life laid down
we come to praise you for your grace divine;

Saved by your cross, and subject to your crown,
strengthened for service by this bread and wine.

May the Lord who has given us the will to do these things, give us also the grace and power to accomplish them. Amen.

From My Mail Box

There are dozens like it in my inbox, but this is perhaps the most eloquent of those "voices crying in the wilderness" -- voices I hope the "communion-at-any-price" folks will weigh before they consider sacrificing the justice the prophets have called us to do for the uniformity the primates have blackmailed us with.

"I am still in the process of reading the Special Commission's report in anticipation of the 2006 General Convention. As I read, however, a feeling of not only disappointment, but actual heartbreak is coming over me. One reason for that may indeed be that as a performing arts major, I can be overdramatic (hey, it's what we do!). But part of that comes from realizing that there is still so much to be done to work for the actual full inclusion of GLBT people in the life of our beloved Church.

Allow me to share a bit about myself. As a 21-year-old college student, many people have told me that I have yet to experience what the "real world" is like. But I beg to differ. The real world is full of joy and happiness, yes, but also disappointment and heartbreak. Somewhere between the age of 12 and 14, I figured out that I am gay. But fear kept me from saying anything about it. In fact, I went the opposite direction. In my later teenage and early college years, I affiliated myself with conservative organizations such as the American Family Association, Forward in Faith NA, the American Anglican Council, the Network, one very conservative Episcopal diocese, and even some in the continuing movement. Not only was it a lie, but it threw me into some
very deep depression.

I had always tried to make myself attracted to, even love, girls. At times, I played the part extremely well. But upon going to college there was one person who caught my attention, someone I eventually developed very deep feelings for. I had to opportunities to begin a
relationship with him, but was too afraid of my own Baptist family and the rest of the world around me. So I stayed in the closet. My coming out was too late, I had lost him to fact that life changes and people cannot wait for something they are not sure will ever happen.

The Episcopal Church was one place that I thought I could count on for support and acceptance. My family cannot accept me as I am, but I thought for sure that my spiritual family would. The executive summary to this report says that if we have to choose between communion with members of the Church here in the U.S. and Anglicans in other parts of the world, then we will choose to jettison members of the domestic Church based solely on sexual orientation.

Because I have the capacity to love someone of my own gender I have to take a back seat to those who would seek to divide the Church. Rather than celebrate the fact that I have the capacity to love at all I may very well be asked to keep such a thing "private," to use the words of the Report.

I have already decided that I have to put off seminary until I can figure out how all of this works--being open and honest is not one moment, but an entire process. Do I now have to be driven to the back of the bus to appease some African bishop who says I'm unfit? Do I have to act as though there is something wrong with me, as if love could ever be wrong? Fear has already cost me the possibility of a very wonderful relationship. Does the Church want a part in causing that fear for other people like me?

I am doing the best I can not to lose faith. I will never lose faith in Christ--He is the constant. However, I am quickly losing faith in the Church. I hope the Episcopal Church does not precipitate that, for I am not alone in this." -- April 8, 2006

Speaking of Regret...

More great words from Mark Harris, via PRELUDIUM:

It is time, in the spirit of the Windsor invitations to express regret, to ask if perhaps the Archbishop of Canterbury, the President of the Anglican Consultative Council, and other ranking members of any of the instruments of communion in the Anglican Communion might express regret:

REGRET that the Archbishop of Nigeria has unilaterally, and without consultation with the Communion declared that the Church of Nigeria is no longer in communion with the Episcopal Church, and

REGRET that the Archbishop of Nigeria has initiated a plan, clearly contrary to the spirit of the Windsor Report (par. 155) to provide an ecclesiastical structure in the United States for persons wishing to disassociate from the Episcopal Church but wishing to remain in a church related to the Anglican Communion, (the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), and
REGRET that the Archbishop of Nigeria has stated his clear support for the proposal of a national law in Nigeria that criminalizes homosexuality and any support of gay or lesbian persons, and

REGRET that no spokesperson for the Anglican Communion has publicly stated that it is the Church of Nigeria that has broken communion, initiated a new missionary ecclesiastical structure in an existing Province of the Anglican Communion and has supported new laws proposed in Nigeria and has made statements in the international community that denigrate and condemn gay and lesbian persons, their rights as persons and those who in any way speak in support of their rights, and

REGRET that no agent of the Anglican Communion has publicly criticized the Church of Nigeria for its actions.

Barring such statements of regret, perhaps the Archbishop of Canterbury, as the focus of unity, his spokespersons, and the spokespersons for the instruments of communion, might be invited to refrain from accusing the Episcopal Church of the desire to "walk apart."

The Anglican Communion is already broken, a fact that seems to go mostly unstated. The issue is how to move forward from that fact to a future in which mutual forbearance and love might lead to renewed relations. Let it be noted that the Episcopal Church for all its failings, has not declared itself out of communion with any Province of the Anglican Communion, has not initiated new ecclesiastical structures in another Province, and has not spoken out publicly in support of law, custom or prejudice against gay and lesbian persons in the society and in the church and is trying to address the concerns of the Windsor Report in a responsible way.


Coming SOON To A Bookstore Near You!

Going to Heaven:
The Life and Election of Bishop Gene Robinson
(Paperback) by Elizabeth Adams

A sharecropper's son, Gene Robinson rose to become an Episcopal priest and later, the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican Church. His election set off a worldwide firestorm of reaction, both positive and negative. Based on extensive interviews with Bishop Robinson and the people around him, "Going to Heaven" paints a portrait of the man who is, as he puts it, "neither the angel nor the devil some would make me out to be."

The book illuminates his early life; his struggle with his sexual orientation; his calling into the church; and finally, the tumultuous events surrounding his election and consecration. Gene Robinson's life is a compelling story of challenges overcome by hard work, humor, and deep faith, but it is also a story of one man's journey into his own "otherness" and the emergence of a ministry that speaks to countless people who believe in a Gospel of love and inclusion.

(Available by pre-order now on ... plans are in the works for a book signing event in Columbus in June!)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Episcopal Church in the Balance

by the Rt. Rev. William E. Swing, Bishop of California
Monday, 10 April 2006

On my last visit to a congregation a member of the choir, with tears in her eyes, said to me: “My vicar retired, my bishop is going to retire, and the Episcopal Church has been kicked out of the Anglican Communion. That is more loss than I can handle.” Her genuine lament stays with me.

My short reply on the spot: “You’ll soon have a wonderful new priest, this time next year you all and the new bishop will be off on high adventure pursuing the mission of Jesus Christ, and the Episcopal Church is very much part of the Anglican Communion. You will be just fine.”

My longer reply with pen in hand: the large issues that are now hanging in the balance are (1) freedom in the Body of Christ, (2) accountability of Episcopal bishops to the Episcopal Church, and (3) the nature of church property. Let me explain.

I. Freedom in the Body of Christ

We would not be having the present turmoil around homosexuality if the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church did not have an elevated doctrine of freedom in the Body of Christ. Because we are caught up in the new creation that springs from Resurrection power, we are an expansive people. We have the freedom to disagree but stay together, freedom to discriminate and also welcome everyone, to live with contradictions. We even have the freedom to self-destruct and completely forfeit our freedom. If we had a magisterium or a final authority, we would not be this far into the turmoil. We are where we are because we allow the Holy Spirit to move us into the chaos as a precursor of a fresh order of a new creation.

I do believe that we are fighting over freedom, among other issues. One side says that we have moved from legitimate freedom to illegitimate license. The other side says that freedom has given us a new perspective on the worth of people, a perspective from which we cannot back down.

Therefore, there is a mad dash to create a worldwide final arbiter – a Windsor Report or an archbishop or instruments of unity – which would settle matters in a reasonable way, which would put an end to all of the mischief caused by freedom. The whole of the Anglican Communion is wrestling with this. I am a freedom man, but you know that.

II. Accountability of Episcopal Bishops to the Episcopal Church

When I was a young priest, I used to watch the old bishops wrestle over the current challenges of the day. Often they violently disagreed, but at the end of the day they were the House of Bishops. Not so now. There is a minority of bishops who will not receive Holy Communion with other bishops. They have litmus tests. “Were you in New Hampshire? Have you ordained a woman? “Whatever is the ultimate turn off, it is clear that this minority had created its own Mini-House of Bishops. It usually meets at the same time and a few miles away as the House of Bishops. And far, far beyond that they claim their legitimacy is based on keeping faith with the majority of the Anglican Communion and its Primates, not in its collegiality in the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church.

This has enormous consequences. If there are legitimate bishops who have no accountability to all of the bishops of the Episcopal Church, then we will have to come to a new accountability. Presently each bishop at his/her consecration promises that “I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, disciple, and worship of the Episcopal Church.” Further when the question is asked of the new bishop, “Will you share with your fellow bishops in the government of the Whole Church,” the answer is, “I will by the grace given me.” Up to now, the Episcopal Church could depend on the word of its bishops to uphold its unity. But no longer.

Now the opposite is so clear. All of the dioceses that have threatened to leave are guided by bishops who have threatened to leave the Episcopal Church. No diocese with a loyal bishop has threatened to leave. It is the bishop who is the key. If the Episcopal Church cannot depend on bishops to keep vows and the unity of the Church, then there has to be a new accountability, and we suffer in the birth pangs of this reality. Do the shepherds lead the sheep into the fold or out of the fold?

III. The Nature of Church Property

As you probably know, a group known as the American Anglican Council has morphed into the Anglican Communion Network. They have a plan to carry out a realignment of Anglicanism on North American soil whereby they would replace the Episcopal Church as the sole Anglican presence in North America. They have an elaborate scheme for proselytizing, transferring oversight of congregations, and redirecting funds of the local congregation. And negotiating “property settlements affirming the retention of ownership in the local congregation!” Ah, here is the final rub! “Who gets the house in the divorce?”

Well, the Anglican Communion Network held a conference in Pittsburgh in November, and the great man of the movement, Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, had these surprising words to say to the faithful. “They (the Episcopal Church) may get the building, but you will get the blessing. What God is looking for is your faith, not your facility.”

Here is an African who is a supreme missionary. He calls people into pilgrimage. Leave everything behind and follow. God will provide. This is not good news to the Network strategists. They want to stay home and live in our buildings. Think hostile takeover, and you get the picture of these folks, who pledged to “carry out guerrilla warfare against the Episcopal Church.” They talk pilgrimage; they intend mutiny.

If folks are so horrified with the election in New Hampshire that they leave the Episcopal Church, I understand. It is a matter of principle. If folks want to use the events in such a way as to catapult themselves into elevated authority, then I think it is a matter of power. The property issue tells the tale. This fight is about power, not principle.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh adopted a policy of releasing diocesan control of property to any congregation which sought to disaffiliate with the diocese. In the Diocese of Florida a representative of five parishes leaving the diocese proposed that these parishes keep their properties. In the Diocese of Los Angeles, an Orange County Superior judge ruled that two breakaway parishes were the rightful owners of their church buildings and other property. You see, if the parish holds title to property as an implied and express trust on behalf of the diocese, then we all stay together. (All parishes except one in the Diocese of California have signed articles of incorporation stating exactly that.) But if the Network is successful in farming out the properties to local congregations, then if a split happens, they can harvest the properties in their new alignment.

In Conclusion

I have been ordained for forty-five years, and during that time the Episcopal Church has navigated through the storms of black civil rights, prayer book revision, women’s ordination, and same-sex issues. Presently we are in deep and troubled waters over the national takeover plan of the Network, with the international cooperation to shun, discredit, and by-pass the Episcopal Church. Trusting in the Holy Spirit, I am totally convinced that we will endure and thrive as we always do. And we will take on harder challenges in the next forty-five years.

I do believe that the Episcopal Church is a brave, supple, obedient part of the Body of Christ and is alive to the Incarnation in the 21st century, as well as centuries past and centuries to come.

We are not everything or necessarily the best thing. But we are uniquely created by the Spirit to do the will of God as we see that will beckoning to us. We will not always be pleasing to the world or to ourselves or to other Anglicans. But we do try through song and conscience, praise and action to please the One God of all and to embrace all the children of God and all of God’s creation.