Friday, April 27, 2007

VOICES OF WITNESS wins Polly Bond Award!

.Read all about it here ... and may I just say ...
.
WOO HOO!!!
.

More on NH Civil Unions

CONCORD, N.H. - The Rev. V. Gene Robinson became the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop. Now, he and his partner want to be among the first gay couples in New Hampshire to officially unite under a soon-to-be-signed civil unions law.

New Hampshire is set to become the nation’s fourth state to offer civil unions for gay couples after legislation approved by the state Senate on Thursday was sent to Gov. John Lynch, who has said he would sign it.

"My partner and I look forward to taking full advantage of the new law," Robinson told The Associated Press.

=========

Good for them! Do "bookmark" this part of the article for the next time (and sadly there WILL be a next time!) you read the B.S. about +Gene "abandoning his wife and children ..."

Robinson said his long journey to where he is today began as a boy in Kentucky when he found he was not attracted to women. As an adult, he spent two years in therapy seeking a "cure" for his homosexual urges.

He told his girlfriend, Isabella, about his sexual struggles, but they married anyway in 1972, moving to rural New Hampshire and having two daughters. Robinson eventually realized he would not change and the two divorced.

"The hardest thing is coming out to yourself. You’ve internalized the same homophobia as the rest of the culture," he said in an interview four years ago.

Soon after the divorce, Robinson met Andrew who was then working for the Peace Corps in Washington. A year and a half later, the two settled in Weare, where Andrew began accompanying Robinson to his daughters’ after-school activities.

===========

There you have it: May they live long, well and prosper!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

He's Home!

PFC Jim Russell
home on leave from Iraq
and his happy mom!
(Blogging will therefore be sporadic in the week ahead.)

Wedding Bells in New Hampshire

CONCORD, N.H. — New Hampshire is set to become the fourth state to offer civil unions for gay couples with legislation approved Thursday and sent to Gov. John Lynch, who has said he would sign it.

"This legislation is a matter of conscience, fairness and of preventing discrimination," said governor's spokesman Colin Manning. "It is in keeping with New Hampshire's proud tradition of preventing discrimination."
.
Shortly after the Democratic-controlled Senate passed the bill 14-10 along party lines, one of the state's best-known gay residents told The Associated Press he would use it.

"My partner and I look forward to taking full advantage of the new law," said Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, whose 2003 consecration shook up the Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Union of which it is part.

New Jersey, Connecticut and Vermont already offer civil unions for gay couples. Neighboring Massachusetts in 2004 became the only state to allow gay marriage.

Unlike other states, there was no active court challenge to push New Hampshire to act on the issue.

In fact, the success of civil unions was an about-face from two years earlier, when a study panel of lawmakers and community leaders recommended New Hampshire giving no meaningful consideration to extending legal recognition to gay couples.

Read the rest here.

Lambeth Conference Update

Mark your calendars:
.



The Lambeth Conference 2008
will take place in Canterbury
July 16 to August 4, 2008

per
Anglican Communion News Service

What kind of values are we teaching our children?

I was so impressed with this witness by Rob Ham (our Jr. High Minister) in this week's Saints Alive newsletter that I decided to share it here for all those who wonder what kind of Christian Values we're teaching our kids over here at All Saints Church in Pasadena:

On Mohawks, Hunger & Jesus


Saturday, April 14, is a day that will live in infamy. It is a day that will be remembered for generations and generations. Or, at least for a few weeks! It was the day that I said goodbye to my fluorescent pink Mohawk. Gone are the days of yore when children would walk by me and say, “Mom, why is that man’s hair the same color as your shoes?” And even though my wife is much happier with my natural shade of brown locks, there will always be a special place in my heart for that bright color which is not found in nature.

Moments like these remind me of the reasons I love working in youth ministry.

1 Timothy 4:12 states, “ Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love in faith and in purity...”

You see, that Mohawk was a constant reminder that we have students in our community who genuinely care for and love the people in this world. We have students who choose daily to leave their comfort zone and put others before themselves. Students who are committed to having God work in and through their lives. In February I challenged our Jr. High students to leave their comfort zones and fast for 30 hours in order to raise money for those who suffer from hunger around the world. I told them that if they could reach the goal of raising $10,000 dollars by the end of the fast, that they could do whatever they wanted to my hair.

So our students went to work. They did cookie fundraisers, they got sponsors from all over the country, and they even auctioned themselves off to members of the parish to do yard work! And in the end, a miracle had occurred. They not only raised the money, but they actually exceeded their goal! And the very next day my hair was pink.

The reason I bring this up is to declare that Jesus is very much at work in the lives of our youth here at All Saints. Every week our students are growing in the understanding of God’s love and abounding grace in their lives. They are realizing that having a relationship with God can be more powerful than any force in this world.

Last week a student came up to me after one of our programs. She had been asked in a small group earlier that night if there was anything in her life that she would like to change. Her face was beaming, and her heart was full of excitement as she told me that if she could change anything, it would be to have a deeper relationship with the God of the universe.
========
Way to go, Rob ... and ASC youth!
.

Bush's Approval Rating


According to Harris Poll figures released today.
.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Bush Blames the Troops

With my son arriving home tomorrow on leave from Iraq (Woo Hoo!) this one by Robert Sheer really hits home ...

Robert Scheer on truthdig

Blame it on the military but make it look like you’re supporting the troops. That’s been the convenient gambit of failed emperors throughout history as they witnessed their empires decline. Not surprisingly then, it’s become the standard rhetorical trick employed by President Bush in shirking responsibility for the Iraq debacle of his making.

Ignoring the fact that we have a system of civilian control over the military, which is why he, the elected president, is designated the commander in chief, Bush hides behind the fiction that the officers in the field are calling the shots when in fact he has put them in an unwinnable situation and refuses to even consider a timetable for getting them out.

He did it again Monday, responding to the prospect that both houses of Congress seem in agreement on setting guidelines for the “progress” that the president continually proclaims is at hand. “I will strongly reject an artificial timetable [for] withdrawal and/or Washington politicians trying to tell those who wear the uniform how to do their job.” This is disingenuous in the extreme, because Bush is the Washington politician who plotted this unnecessary war from the moment the 9/11 attack provided him with an excuse for regime change in a country that had nothing to do with the terrorist attack.

It was Bush who sent the troops to invade Iraq with the mission of ridding it of weapons of mass destruction, which he should have known Iraq did not have, and to end ties with al-Qaida that, the record shows, he knew never existed. And it was the Bush administration that micro-managed every aspect of the occupation to disastrous consequences ranging from the de-Baathification that isolated the Sunnis to premature elections that put Shiite theocrats in power. The economic reconstruction of Iraq has been a failure for everyone except the U.S. corporations that have ripped off U.S. taxpayers to the tune of many billions of dollars. It is only now, when all of those policies for the economic and political reconstruction of Iraq have come a cropper, that a military surge has been ordered to provide a social order for Iraq that this president’s policies have destroyed.

This president has been denied nothing by Congress in the way of financial underwriting for this boondoggle, yet he seeks to cast even the mildest attempt to hold him accountable for the results as unpatriotic. That is all that the Democratic congressional leadership has proposed with its timetable—marks to measure progress on the ground in a war that, as Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye pointed out, has lasted longer than World War II. It is a very limited, nonbinding attempt to hold the president accountable, for it does not ban him from using any portion of the whopping $124 billion in new funds; it requires only that he publicly and specifically defend his claims of progress.

It’s a claim of progress that, until now, has not been met with any congressional review, even though it is the obligation of Congress to judge the effectiveness of programs paid for with the funds that Congress alone can appropriate. If the proposed timetable were in place, then it would be more difficult for the president to claim success for his surge, as he did Friday, insisting that “So far, the operation is meeting expectations” and then confusing his audience by conceding that recently “We have seen some of the highest casualty levels of the war.”

It’s gobbledygook, and the Democratic leaders of Congress have finally decided to call the president on it. “The longer we continue down the president’s path, the further we will be from responsibly ending this war,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Not content any longer to take Bush at his word, the leaders in both the House and Senate finally posted some specific benchmarks of progress, accompanied by a nonbinding suggestion of an end to U.S. troop involvement in this quagmire within a year’s time if genuine progress is not made. Even that minimum restraint on the president’s ambition was accompanied with the caveat that sufficient troops would remain in Iraq to protect U.S. installations, train the Iraqi army and fight terrorists.

The proposal was the softest the Democrats could offer without totally repudiating the will of the voters who brought them to power in the last election. If the president vetoes this authorization bill, then the onus is on him for delaying funding for the troops and showing contempt for the judgment of the voters, who will have another chance in less than two years to hold the president’s party responsible.

But that will not restore life to the 85 U.S. soldiers killed so far in April alone, or prevent even greater sacrifices to Bush’s folly.

News items that caught my eye while I websurfed during lunch today

Heroine attacks Pentagon over lies about her capture
Jessica Lynch, the US army private who became the heroic American face of the Iraq war when her convoy was ambushed soon after the invasion, lambasted the Bush Administration yesterday for lying about the incident.

Comment: Is there really anybody left out there who doesn't think this country is being run by people onotologically incapable of telling the truth about anything?

House Committee Authorizes Subpoena for Rice
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform today authorized subpoenas for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Republican Party documents as part of probes into a key assertion in the run-up to the Iraq war and alleged violations of presidential records rules.

Comment: About time!

Rosie O'Donnell Leaving 'The View'
ABC has been unable to come to a contractual agreement with Rosie O'Donnell. As a result, her hosting duties on "The View" will come to an end mid-June. "They wanted me three years, I wanted one year, and it just didn't work," said O'Donnell on today's show.

Comment: Major bummer. We've taken to TIVOing "The View" and making it part of our evening's entertainment. We'll totally miss her ... Rosie rocks!

Leahy, Specter demand more answers from Gonzales
The leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in a bipartisan letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, indicated that they were displeased with his performance at a panel hearing last week and demanded additional answers. Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and ranking Republican Arlen Specter (Pa.) chastised Gonzales for failing to answer questions that “should not have been a surprise,” noting that the attorney general rigorously prepared for the April 19 hearing. “By some counts you failed to answer more than 100 questions, by other counts more than 70, but the most conservative count had you failing to provide answers well over 60 times,” the senators said.

Comment: See above ("About time!")

Finally, in Episco-Blog-News, titusonenine has objectively retitled today's Boston Globe article:

Episcopal leader holds firm on gay rights

as

Episcopal Leader Will not Retreat from the new North American Theology Dividing the Anglican Communion

Comment: Much better, doncha think? And -- if you have you asbestos underwear handy and want to venture into T-9-Comment-Land (not recommended for the faint of heart) do check out how Bishop Katharine's comment "This is an issue for some clergy and a handful of bishops in our own church, and for a handful of primates across the communion, who believe that this issue is of sufficient importance to chuck us out..." is being spun as and Imus-equivalent-racial-slur.

Here endeth the lunch hour ... I'm getting back to work!

PB names +Gene's episcopacy "a great blessing"

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori in Boston
(GEORGE RIZER/GLOBE STAFF)
.
Here's the video record of Michael Paulson's interview with +Katharine ... article posted below ... great stuff (although I found it hard to hear Paulson's questions +Katharine's answers were crystal clear)
.
By Michael Paulson, Globe Staff April 25, 2007
.
Saying "I don't believe that there is any will in this church to move backward," the top official of the Episcopal Church USA said yesterday that the election of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire has been "a great blessing" despite triggering intense controversy and talk of possible schism.
.
In an interview during a visit to Boston, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori compared the gay rights struggle to battles over slavery and women's rights, and said she believes that it has become a vocation for the Episcopal Church "to keep questions of human sexuality in conversation, and before not just the rest of our own church, but the rest of the world."
Jefferts Schori said that it could take 50 years for the debate over homosexuality to be resolved, but that she believes it will happen. She said she hopes that the Anglican Communion, an umbrella organization including the Episcopal Church and the Church of England, will stay together.
.
"Where the protesters are, in some parts of Africa or in other parts of the Anglican Communion today, is where this church and this society we live in was 50 years ago, and for us to assume that people can move that distance in a year or in a relatively instantaneous manner is perhaps faithless," she said. "That kind of movement and development has taken us a good deal of pain and energy over 40 or 50 years, and I think we have to make some space so that others can make that journey as well."
.
Jefferts Schori, a 53-year-old oceanographer who was ordained an Episcopal priest just 13 years ago, has been attempting to guide the 2.4 million member Episcopal Church through controversy since she was elected the 26th presiding bishop last summer, three years after the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire triggered the controversy by choosing the Rev. V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay man in a long-term partnered relationship, as its next bishop.
.
The Anglican Communion has been embroiled in a debate about whether and how to punish the American church for its consent to Robinson's election, which some Anglican primates view as a violation of biblical teachings about sexuality.
.
"This is an issue for some clergy and a handful of bishops in our own church, and for a handful of primates across the communion, who believe that this issue is of sufficient importance to chuck us out, but the vast majority of people and clergy in this church, and I would believe across the communion, think that our common mission is of far higher importance," Jefferts Schori said. "If we focus on the mission we share, we're going to figure out how to get along together, even if we disagree about some things that generate a good deal more heat than light."
.
Jefferts Schori was in Massachusetts to visit with local Episcopal clergy, who are meeting in Brewster. She spoke to the Globe yesterday morning in the office of Bishop M. Thomas Shaw, leader of the Diocese of Massachusetts, at the diocesan headquarters in downtown Boston.
.
"This is a ministry filled with joy and challenge, and for somebody who thinks that the cardinal sin is boredom, it's feeling like a good fit," she said of her new role. "Anglicans have always said that our role is to live in tension and to live in the midst of tension, and, frankly, the only thing that doesn't exhibit tension is dead."
.
Asked about her message to those who are critical of the direction of the Episcopal Church, she said: "If we are not willing to reexamine our assumptions about who is in and who is out, I don't think we are adequately faithful in our spiritual journey. We may come to different conclusions about who is fit for inclusion in the community, but I don't think it excuses us from a willingness to wrestle with that question."
.
Michael Paulson can be reached at mpaulson@globe.com.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Letter to Lambeth

As posted on Episcopal Cafe ... A group of Episcopal rectors and cathedral deans, fresh from a retreat in Canterbury has written to Archbishop Rowan Williams asking him to "continue our Anglican precedent of inviting all jurisdictional bishops of The Episcopal Church in the United States and of the Anglican Church of Canada to the upcoming Lambeth Conference."

20 April 2007

The Most Rev’d Rowan Williams
The Archbishop of Canterbury:
Lambeth Palace
London SE1 7JU
.
Your Grace:

We are members of a clergy colleague group enjoying a retreat at Canterbury Study Centre in the Second week of Easter. While here, we have appreciated the hospitality and history of Canterbury Cathedral itself. Surely this holy place represents the graceful strength and broad wisdom of the entire Anglican Communion of churches. We are proud to locate our own history in this spot, and we are glad that our own ministries are refreshed by our time here.

We can say gratefully and humbly that our own congregations represent centers of faithfulness, outreach and documented growth, something not always reported about mainstream Anglicanism in North America. We believe our growth has something to do with our own practice of invitation and hospitality in the one Lord. We are deeply committed both to the Anglican Communion, and to gays and lesbians as integral members of our communities.

As we meet here in Canterbury, we are also aware that people and committees are simultaneously at work in the design of the next Lambeth Conference. As leaders in our own communities, we are obviously aware, too, of the identity and authority struggles within the Anglican Communion. In those tensions, we appreciate the careful theological wisdom and depth that you have brought through your leadership in our communion.

We salute your stated desires to “keep everyone at the table.” Your recent call for a renewed reading and hearing of scripture, rooted in eucharistic fellowship and the Holy Spirit, is one that we eagerly accept. We note that such a call is what holds our own parishes and cathedrals together. Our local communities are full of people who have disagreements, but who yet share eucharist, scripture, and truly holy communion together. Thus, in our commitment to the resurrection of Jesus, the Holy Spirit has continuing occasion to renew us. Thus, too, we celebrate Jesus Christ together in our Anglican heritage.

Toward that end, we urge you to continue our Anglican precedent of inviting all jurisdictional bishops of The Episcopal Church in the United States and of the Anglican Church of Canada to the upcoming Lambeth Conference. We certainly respect the fact such an invitation is yours to give; but we pray that your invitation will be as broad and graceful as the invitation Jesus offers all Christians to gather at table together.

We understand that one of the oldest features of Canterbury Cathedral is the worshipping community, and while here we feel the connection with that central reality in our own places. We are privileged to worship here, as at home, at the invitation of Jesus Christ our Lord. Again, we encourage you to continue that inviting spirit, so that, together, the Anglican Communion can witness distinctively to the world the fullness of resurrection life.

Meanwhile, we remain committed in prayer to your and our common witness, in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Respectfully,
The Very Rev’d Sam Candler
Dean, The Cathedral of St. Philip, Atlanta, Georgia
Convenor


The Rev’d Ed Bacon, Rector,
All Saints Church, Pasadena, California

The Rev’d Michael Chalk, Rector,
St. Mark's, San Antonio, Texas

The Rev’d Jim Cooper, Rector,
Trinity Church, Wall Street, New York

The Rev’d Bob Dannals, Rector,
Christ Church, Greenville, South Carolina

The Very Rev’d Peter Elliott, Dean,
Christ Church Cathedral, Vancouver, British Columbia

The Rev’d Geoffrey Hoare, Rector,
All Saints Church, Atlanta, Georgia

The Very Rev’d Henry Hudson, Dean,
Trinity Cathedral, Little Rock, Arkansas

The Rev’d Brenda Husson, Rector,
St. James Church, New York City

The Rev’d Lucinda Laird, Rector,
St. Matthew's Church, Louisville, Kentucky

The Rev’d Harold Lewis, Rector,
Calvary Church, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The Very Rev’d Tracey Lind, Dean,
Trinity Cathedral, Cleveland, Ohio

The Very Rev’d Sam Lloyd,
Dean of the National Cathedral, Washington, DC

The Very Rev’d Bill Lupfer, Dean,
Trinity Cathedral, Portland, Oregon

The Rev’d Fred Reynolds, Rector,
St. Paul's Church, Rochester, New York

The Very Rev’d Joe Reynolds, Dean,
Christ Chuch Cathedral, Houston, Texas

The Rev’d Jay Sidebotham, Rector,
Church of the Holy Spirit, Lake Forest, Illinois

The Very Rev’d Spenser Simrill, Dean,
St. Mark’s Cathedral, Minneapolis, Minnesota

The Very Rev’d Robert Taylor, Dean,
St. Mark's Cathedral, Seattle, Washington

The Rev’d Richard Tolliver, Rector,
St. Edmund's Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

The Rev’d William Tully, Rector,
St. Bartholomew's Church, New York City

Copy:
The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori
The Most Reverend Andrew Hutchison
The bishops of our respective dioceses

Monday, April 23, 2007

Breaking News from Traditional Family Values Land

Titusonenine offers this update from St. James, Newport Beach -- that stalwart bastion of Traditional Family Values:

NEWPORT BEACH, CA – The Rev. Praveen Bunyan has resigned his position as rector of St. James Anglican Church, having confessed to inappropriate conduct toward an adult female parishioner.

The vestry, wardens and bishop were informed of the inappropriate conduct, promptly investigated, and then accepted the resignation last week.

The 1,200 member congregation was informed at Sunday services yesterday.

Pastoral duties are now being provided by the church’s Rector Emeritus, the Rev. Canon David C. Anderson, and by its Associate Rector, the Rev. Richard Menees.

CONTACT: Karen Bro, Saint James Anglican Church

===============

Titusonenine isn't accepting comments on this sad report ... but here's one that struck a chord with me -- courtesy Doonsbury's Gary Trudeau.

UDPATE ... Check out what the Word of Mike has to say ... I think he hits the nail right on the head. Thanks, Mike!

Words of Wisdom from Wise Women

"For a saint to emulate, think of ++Desmond Tutu--his clarity and stability, his freedom, and his joy. That is the goal at which the Divine Detachment Process aims. Being who we really are day by day, hour by hour, step by step, is our primary testimony, our basic protest against injustice. And this requires being unflappably secure, utterly convinced that Jesus loves us all the way down. Imagine--and this is not a guilt trip, because Im not there yet either--what would happen if we all came close to ++Tutu in the conviction that God is for us. I tell you, that will be the day when the trumpet sounds and Jerichos taboo-walls come tumbling down! Imagine Jesus grinning with tears of happiness. Imagine His renewed exclamation, I saw Satan fall!"

Marilyn McCord Adams, in "Leaven in the Lump of Lambeth":
her address to the LGCM Annual Conference last week in London.
Read it all here. The LCGM website has a link to an MP3 file -- you can listen here.

=================================
.
"Both science and religion have important things to say to all human endeavor ... and at this stage in human history, we may not develop an adequate response to the dilemmas of existence without attention to both ways of knowing."


+Katharine Jefferts Schori
speaking on science and Christianity
at Oregon State University.
Read it all here.

[photo: SCOBEL WIGGINS Gazette-Times ]

Shut Up & Sing



"Freedom of speech is fine
as long as you don't do it in public."

Watched the Dixie Chicks' documentary "Shut Up & Sing" on Sunday night ... loved it, loved it, LOVED IT! Great music, strong women and a fascinating slice of life-in-these-United-States under the current regime where, as a tag line from the film puts it, "freedom of speech is fine as long as you don't do it in public."

If you've forgotten how great their hit single -- "Not Ready to Make Nice" -- is click here for the music video. As I wrote in February ... "If indeed it's "too late to make it right" with those in the Anglican Communion who insist we must sell out our vision for the Kingdom in order to be at the table with them then maybe it's time to crank up the music and sing along: [link to lyrics here]
.
I'm not ready to make nice
I'm not ready to back down ...
.
Because the Kingdom calls -- and we truly do not have time to continue to go round and round and round.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Dodgers 10 - Pirates 2

So in a great leap of faith we piled in the car with gloves, umbrellas and rain gear and lo and behold, the clouds parted, the rain ended, the infield was uncovered and baseball happened. Homeruns were hit, bases were stolen, and the home team won. Big time.

It is well with my soul!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Sexism Is Alive and Well ...

... and living in Titusonenineland!

Hardly breaking news, but hey ... it's a rainy day off and I'm two-down-three-to-go loads on the laundry scorecard and my hopes for a night at the Stadium watching the Dodgers beat Pittsburgh are fading as the rain gauge fills so I figured I'd wander around blogland for a little edification ... and here's what I found ... a sampling of titusonenine comments on this Chicago Tribune feature article on women clergy:

============

An unfortunate and aberrational experiment that needs to be ended by any Alternate Province, and the entire Communion.

============

I would not blame WO for all the ills of the Church. But, I would hold WO accountable for some of the ills of the church including:

* the feminization of the church so that men have less of a place, feel less welcome, and are less appreciated for the masculine qualities they bring.
* the disregard of ancient and legitimate church teaching and practice.
* the celebration of victimhood over truth in the church.
* a focus on emotional rather than rational argument in theology and morality.
* relativism.
* tolerance of apostasy.
* the infuences of wicca and other pagan symbolism and belief.
* tolerance of lesbianism and by extention homosexuality among men.
* the devaluing of law and order in favor of radical and novel and illicit practices.
* the adherence to the spirit of the age over the Holy Spirit.

I am sure there are more. These are just the ones I can think of at the moment.


============

I hope all those women “priests” are happy and are feeling completely self-actualized. There ought to be some social benefits for all the social, spiritual and emotional mahem their “life choices” represent. Not to mention that WO is contrary to divine revelation.

===========

I knew ya'll would want me to "share the joy" ... but now I'm going to have to take a break from undermining civilization, destroying the family, splitting the church and the general mahem of my "life choices" as the dryer is buzzing and there's laundry to fold.

A Lily Among the Thorns

A new book to pay attention to ...



This unique approach to Christian sexuality looks to the Bible to examine how and why patriarchal thinking as well as racism, sexism, and classism have distorted the faith’ s central teachings. Miguel De La Torre, a well-respected ethicist and professor known for his innovative readings of Christian doctrine, illuminates such sensitive topics such as pornography, pedophilia, homosexuality, and celibacy with fresh interpretations of the biblical text and re-examinations of traditional teachings. The author outlines a model of biblically based sexuality that fosters intimacy and openness between loving partners.

Miguel A. De La Torre (Denver, CO) is a professor of ethics and religion at Iliff School of Theology, a syndicated newspaper and Internet columnist, and a respected expert on liberation theologies.
======
NOTE: Miguel is also a colleague of mine on the HRC Religion Council and was one or our "cloud of witnesses" in Washington this week. Read his witness here ...

News Briefs


New Hampshire Governor Backs Civil Unions

[CONCORD] -- Gov. John Lynch said Thursday he will sign legislation establishing civil unions for gay couples in New Hampshire."I believe it is a matter of conscience, fairness and preventing discrimination," Lynch said. Read it all here.
========

Reactions to Alberto Gonzales' Testimony (note that these are the REPUBLICANS on the committee:)

"Your ability to lead the Department of Justice is in question," said Alabama's Jeff Sessions, who normally toes the White House line.

"You have a tremendous credibility problem," said South Carolina's Lindsey Graham.
"We just don't have a straight story," said Iowa's Chuck Grassley.

By the time the floor was given to Oklahoma's Tom Coburn, one of the most conservative members of the committee, everything seemed to be headed south for Gonzales. "It was handled incompetently," Coburn said about the group firing of the attorneys. "It's generous to say that there were misstatements. That's a generous statement. And I believe you ought to suffer the consequences." Read it all here.

============

More on DC Clergy Call for Equality

More than 200 clergy members and theologians representing a wide range of religious denominations in all 50 states came to Washington, D.C., this week to urge Congress to pass bills to protect gays and transgender persons from job discrimination and violent hate crimes. The clergy members, with Catholic priests and evangelical Christian ministers among them, said they visited Capitol Hill to inform senators and representatives that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is against religious teachings. Read it all here.

========

Job Opening at Lambeth Palace

This one's being reported on EpiScope ... great job for the right person ... (wait for it ...)

Church of England/P/T Gatekeeper ... Read it all here.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Wit and Wisdom of Anne Lamott


“You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image
when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”

Catching Up ...

It was a whirlwind week -- with an emphasis on the "wind" -- as we were a wind-swept bunch on Capitol Hill and now the Santa Ana winds are whipping here in Southern California! Made for some interesting air travel but happily I went there and back safely and am now back to "business as usual" -- whatever that means these days!

On a personal note, I note with GREAT pleasure that my son Jamie is happily "stateside" on leave from his unit in Iraq ... visiting with the "east coast Russells" this week and heading out to be with us next week. Thanks to all who've sent prayers and best wishes for his safety and travel ...

Most of this week was spent in Washington where it was a huge honor and privilege to be part of the "great cloud of witnesses" on Capitol Hill putting a faith-based-face on equality for ALL Americans. After our press conference in front of the Capitol (photos here ... video here) we spread out for visits with members and staffers. I was able to meet with my Congressional Representative, Adam Schiff and thank him for being an originating sponsor of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act which should be on the House floor soon and urge support for ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) likely coming later in this session.


I was able to meet with my Congressional Representative, Adam Schiff and thank him for being an originating sponsor of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act which should be on the House floor soon and urge support for ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) likely coming later in this session.

After meeting with staffers for several other California representatives we met with senior counsel for both Senators Boxer and Feinstein ... got lost several times in the maze of congressional office buildings ... were impressed with the good nature and extreme YOUTH of most of the folks working "on the hill" (sure I used to watch "West Wing" but it's different when you're sitting across the desk from folks who look hardly old enough to DRIVE much less run a country!) ... and had the wonderful opportunity to network with a fabulously diverse group of clergy from all over the country: all 50 states were represented and my hat is off to Harry Knox and the HRC Religion & Faith Department for pulling off a pretty spectacular event. (Photos can be found here ... video here.)


Of course our whole time in Washington was under the shadow of the unfolding tragedy at Virginia Tech and flags flying at half-staff. As I noted in a comment earlier on this blog, while we were deeply aware of the context in which we were ministering on Capitol Hill that day it was also an extraordinary opportunity to engage in pastoral conversations in elevators, security lines and cafeteria counters. I kept hearing the response from Morning Prayer echo in my head, "Only in you can we live in safety" as we prayed with each other and with volunteers, staffers and colleagues for an end to violence and for the hope of peace and justice for all.
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"In other news" the Anglican World Kept Turning and Mark Harris and Fr. Jake kept blogging ... and there was good news in Oregon as the State Legislature passed bills designed to institute domestic partnerships and end discrimination.
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Finally, it was a singular honor to have this little blog nominated for Best Religion Blog in something called the Blogger's Choice Awards (Who Knew????) Those so inclined can vote here ... and it's a particular honor to have been nominated by the illustrious Fr. Jake!!

Blog Debut: Episcopal Cafe



Add it to your favorites ... The Episcopal Café a ministry of the Diocese of Washington in partnership with The Episcopal Church in the Visual Arts. Here's how this new entry into the blogosphere is described on its home page:

The Café is collaborative effort by more than two dozen writers and editors, and an ever-growing list of visual artists. Together, we aspire to create a visually appealing, intellectually stimulating, spiritually enriching and at least occasionally amusing site where Episcopalians and those interested in our church can read, watch, listen and reflect upon contemporary life in a context informed by faith and animated by the spirit of charity.
Our aim is frankly, but we hope gently, evangelical. To the extent that we can speak intelligently, passionately, persuasively and truthfully—and to the degree that we manifest wisdom, humility and genuine concern for those we disagree with—we will succeed in drawing Episcopalians more deeply into their faith, and in persuading those without a spiritual home to explore our Church.

The new site includes Daily Episcopalian, a blog previously devoted to news and commentary on events in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. News items can now be found on The Lead blog. Commentary on the Church and Communion can still be found on Daily Episcopalian, but in its new incarnation the blog also features articles on theology, peace and justice initiatives and popular culture. A new blog, Speaking to the Soul, includes sermons, reflections, multimedia meditations and excerpts from books on spirituality.

Most of the art on the Café is provided by The Episcopal Church and Visual Arts. The Art Blog offers additional information, and sometimes a brief meditation, on each piece. We also feature a growing collection of multimedia meditations.

WELCOME TO THE BLOG WORLD!
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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Spirit Was A Movin' on Capitol Hill Today!



Witnessing to Equality on Capitol Hill Today
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Watch the Press Conference on You Tube here.

Said Bishop Carlton Pearson, founder and senior pastor of the New Dimensions Worship Center (Tulsa, Okla.):“Congress once again has the opportunity, indeed the imperative, to add women; people with disabilities; and members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community to the existing federal hate crimes law by passing the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. It is morally wrong to deprive anyone of the means to feed themselves and care for their families. Passage of this bill will help gay, lesbian and transgender people in 33 states where you can be fired for simply being gay.”

Said Peggy Campolo, Evangelical Christian leader (Wayne, Pa.):“For more than 20 years, I have been an advocate for my gay brothers and lesbian sisters, not in spite of my desire to follow Jesus Christ, but because of it, not in spite of what I read in the Bible, but because of it! Friends, there is no justice when men and women pay taxes, but are denied equal justice in the workplace, and equal protection under the law. I stand for justice today, in Jesus’ name, beside my lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters.”

Said Rabbi Denise Eger, Congregation Kol Ami (West Hollywood, Calif.):“Jewish tradition teaches that we have an obligation to protect the rights of workers. There are many laws in our Torah that teach us of our obligations to be fair to workers. This legislation is about fairness and justice.”

Said the Rev. Dr. Miguel De La Torre, Southern Baptist minister and professor of ethics and religion at Iliff School of Theology (Pueblo, Colo.):“My Lord and Savior, through words and deeds, has taught me to stand with those who are oppressed. Because all are created in the image of God, the imago Dei, violence committed against any one person is violence committed against the very image of God. As a Latino, I know all too well the stings of discrimination in the workplace and for that reason I have no choice but to be here today advocating passage of the hate crimes bill and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.”

Said the Rev. William Sinkford, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association (Boston, Mass.):“We are people of faith, and we also have a commitment to truth. Much of the rhetoric in opposition to these bills is blatantly and inexcusably false. So let me be clear: These laws would not create quotas or force churches to hire people who do not share their religious values. These laws will not criminalize free speech or impede religious expression in any way. These laws do not undermine a single constitutional right. In fact, the contrary is true.”

Said the Rev. Dr. Erin Swenson, Presbyterian minister (Atlanta, Ga.):“My faith tradition teaches that every single person is made in God’s image and is worthy of dignity and respect. My denomination, the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., supports the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act as one way our community can ensure this dignity and respect for everyone. The sacred texts of my faith tradition teach clearly that God upholds the most vulnerable among us, and there are few more vulnerable than those in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.”

Said the Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson, moderator for the Metropolitan Community Church (Lakewood Ranch, Fla.):“We see in our religious roots and teachings a call to justice, mercy and kindness, a call to a civil society of mutual respect, justice and dignity for all. We also come today to say that hate crimes legislation is not about limiting free speech, or about theoretical crimes; but it is about real acts that terrorize, maim and kill real people in our communities.”

Said the Rev. Susan Russell, senior associate for parish life at All Saints Episcopal Church (Pasadena, Calif.):“My son Jamie is currently serving on active duty in Iraq. One of the core American values he was raised to embrace — and he understands himself to be defending — is our pledge to be a nation of ‘liberty and justice for all.’ I believe these important pieces of legislation will help move us as a nation toward that long-dreamed-of goal — that dream of liberty and justice my son and so many other brave Americans in harm’s way have sworn to preserve and protect.”

Said the Rev. Charles Bouchard, president of Aquinas Institute of Theology (St. Louis, Mo.):“These two pieces of legislation do not create special rights. They do not endorse any lifestyle and they do not interfere with legitimate religious beliefs about moral behavior. They simply offer appropriate legal protection for persons who are victims of violence because of who they are and ensure that workers are judged on the basis of their job performance and not the basis of prejudice.”

More pictures here
Full statements here


What a privilege to be part

of so great a cloud of witnesses!

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Most merciful God, whose wisdom is beyond our understanding: Deal graciously with those who grieve. Surround them with your love, that they may not be overwhelmed by their loss, but have confidence in your goodness, and strength to meet the days to come. Amen.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Report from DC ...

Well, the wind is blowing like crazy but so is the Spirit ... what an extraordinary opportunity to be part of the "Clergy Call for Equality" here on Capitol Hill this week! This morning's press conference included an amazing diversity of faithful voices ... you can find all the remarks online here ... but I have to say what a personal thrill and honor it was for me to finally meet Peggy Campolo whose work and witness I have admired for EVER!
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(If you've never read the transcript of her dialogue with her husband, Tony Campolo, entitled "Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?" you MUST click here ... immediately ... and after reading it ask youself if these two faithful people can come to different conclusions about the scriptures they both hold as holy and stay MARRIED why can't we find room to come to different conclusions about the scriptures we all hold as holy and still stay in COMMUNION with each other?)
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But I digress ... back to this morning in Washington ... here are some photos and the gist of my remarks from the press conference. More photos and reporsts to come as the week progresses.
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HRC President Joe Salmonese
welcoming everybody to
today's press conference
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Here's what I had to say: It is a privilege to stand here today in solidarity with other faith leaders and with a majority of Americans who believe the federal government should act to end workplace discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender workers. It is an honor to represent the Episcopal Church which stands as one of the over 210 law enforcement, civil rights, civic and religious organizations supporting the passage of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. And I thank you for this opportunity to witness to the core values I hold dearest as an Episcopal priest and as an American citizen.

My son Jamie is currently serving on active duty in Iraq. One of the core American values he was raised to embrace -- and he understands himself to be defending -- is our pledge to be a nation of "liberty and justice for all." I believe these important pieces of legislation will help move us AS a nation toward that long dreamed of goal – that dream of liberty and justice my son and so many other brave Americans in harm's way have sworn to preserve and protect.

We are not yet that nation when the liberty to walk safely on the streets of America protected from bias motivated violence is not yet available to ALL Americans: passing the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act will bring us one step closer to "liberty for all."

We are not yet that nation when in thirty-three states a hardworking American can be subject to the injustice of losing their job solely because of their sexual orientation or gender identity; passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act will bring us another step closer to "justice for all."

One of the primary tenets of all religious faiths is to love your neighbor as yourself and as a Christian I follow a Lord who called us to minister unto the needs of "the least of these" as we live out our call to do justice and to love mercy in His Name. These are the Traditional Christian Values I claim as an advocate for these critical pieces of legislation today.

Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “Justice deferred is justice denied.” Extending hate crimes protection to include sexual orientation or gender identity is the right thing to do and now is the time to do it. Ending workplace discrimination is the right thing to do and now is the time to do it. Thank you.

+CANTAUR PLANS AUTUMN VISIT TO "THE COLONIES"


Episcopal Life Online is reporting:

Archbishop of Canterbury announces plans to visit the Episcopal Church
April 16, 2007

[Lambeth Palace] The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has announced that he intends to visit the United States this fall in response to the invitation from the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church.

Speaking in a press conference in Toronto April 16, Williams said he would undertake the visit together with members of the Standing Committee of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council.

"I look forward to some sharing of our experiences as pastors as well as discussion of the business of the Communion," he said. "These are complicated days for our church internationally and its all the more important to keep up personal relationships and conversations ... My aim is to try and keep people around the table for as long as possible on this, to understand one another, and to encourage local churches."

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Washington Bound ...


... along with 250 other clergy heading to Capitol Hill to be part of the HRC Equality Witness. "Film at Eleven" as they say!

From the Toronto Star

Gay rights, church's `defining moment'

OTTAWA–Retired Connecticut Bishop Arthur Walmsley can only watch from the sidelines as his beloved Anglican church rips itself apart over gay rights – and he couldn't be more proud, however much the process saddens him.

"It's a defining moment for the church," Walmsley, bishop from 1979 to 1993, told the Whole Message Conference on gay rights in the church yesterday.

The U.S. Episcopal Church, as Anglicanism is known in that country, has been given until Sept. 30 by the worldwide Anglican communion to renounce its support for gay clergy and same sex marriage blessings, or face expulsion.

At a meeting in Texas last month, however, the U.S. House of Bishops, of which Walmsley was once a member, voted to stick by its principles – even if it means splitting the church.
Walmsley, who has been central to the Episcopal move to ordain gay clergy, said the bishops' stand took courage and should inspire liberal church-goers around the world to fend off "bullying" by conservatives.

"We are at a time when some of us need to stand up and speak," said Walmsley, chaplain to the diocese of New Hampshire.

Read the rest here ... and thanks be to God for bishops like Walmsley who continue to stand up and to speak up!

"Anglican Communion Institute" Expose

Thanks to Dylan Breuer for this thorough meander down memory lane and for turning up a few rocks along the way ... interesing what ends up crawling out!

From Dylan's blog ... anglicana

A few months ago, I referred to the Anglican Communion Institute (ACI) as a group that "goes to some lengths to establish itself as being something other than six guys with a website and some spare time." Now that a presentment has been issued against the ACI's executive director, Fr. Don Armstrong, with the charges including diversion of funds for "AI/ACI" expenses, Christopher Seitz, the ACI's preseident, is describing his organization in the same way as part of a case that the ACI was never involved with Armstrong's parish or its earlier ministry, "the Anglican Institute."

Seitz says in his first a long series of comments on Kendall Harmon's blog that, "ACI was formed at the January 2004 conference in Charleston, with the dissolving of SEAD, so as to assist several Primates and the work of the AC. Prior to this, there was an ‘Anglican Institute’ at Grace Church."

Hmmm ... Do read the rest here as the plot definitely thickens!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

File Under: Can Anything Good Come Out of This Don Imus Mess

In spite of all the pain and challenge of the Don Imus mess pointing out YET AGAIN how pervasive a blight systemic racism is on this great nation of ours here's a Letter to the Editor from today's New York Times that gives a glimpse of hope that there are a few "inches at a time" being reclaimed as we journey together toward becoming that nation of liberty and justice for ALL!

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To the Editor:

I’m a white, prudish suburban woman with the requisite huffy indignation for all things racist and sexist. Yet I watched Don Imus most mornings. It often made me squirm, but I could justify the puerile banter as being another part of urban culture that I just didn’t get. So I was ready to defend Mr. Imus because of the platform he provided for in-depth, high-caliber interviews.

When I saw the young women of Rutgers, I was shamed as I have never been shamed before. I suddenly saw my very real contribution to our racial divide. Indifference. I’d been willing to dismiss the denigration of African-Americans and women because it’s become common and because it suited me.

And I learned the true meaning of grace and courage from those young women.

Thank you all for showing me that I have much work to do.

Lisa Wilson
Yarmouth, Me., April 13, 2007

Friday, April 13, 2007

Report from the Front

There is a "surge" that appears to be working in Iraq ...



... but it's a surge of DEMOCRATS ... at least according to this bit of email from my Iraq-deployed son who emailed today with the "official" word of the extension of his deployment from July til October. (We'd gotten word from the Army "family center" Wednesday night.) He wrote ...

... everyone was pretty much ready for it, which doesn't mean that we weren't still pretty pissed off. i'm okay because i know about it right before going on leave, and i've just got a girlfriend i want to get back to. but other guys with kids or a baby on the way, or planning to get married - well i feel for them.

i think you'll be pleased the newest push within our flight at least is to vote for a democrat. some guys have been asking not to be referred to by their names, but instead as "mr. new democrat, even if it's hilary."

So there you have it -- a literal "report from the front" -- as he (happily!) begins to make his way home for a couple of weeks of leave ... first with the "east coast Russells" in Cape May NJ and then home here in Sunny Southern California for ten days the end of April. (Prayers invited for safe travel!)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

"Traditional Value" Folks Amp Up Attack on Pending Hate Crime Legislation

Here's the headline from the email blast making the rounds rallying the conservative base to block the long overdue update of the Hate Crimes Bill to include sexual orientation and gender identity by defeating H.R. 1592, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007:
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Pro-Homosexual/Drag Queen Bill
On Fast Track In House Of Representatives!

You can read their whole "spin" of the issue here ... but the energy and the venom being unleashed by the conservative fringe on this legislative initiative designed to live out what many of us claim as a traditional value -- responding to Our Lord's call to tend to the needs of "the least of these" among us by protecting the oppressed and marginalized from hate crime violence -- only makes the case for why such legislation is so necessary.
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Here's the HRC (Human Rights Campaign) link to their action on Capitol Hill next week lobbying for the passage of H.R. 1592 -- I'll be there along with about 250 other clergy from all 50 states ... keep us in your prayers ... and do call or write your U.S Representative and urge their support for this important legislation!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

I couldn't have said it better myself

(Photo from NYU archives)





To the Editor:

The Iraqis want us to get our military out of their country. Most American troops want to come home. Most Americans want us to get out of Iraq. Most of the world wants us to get out. Only the Bush White House wants to continue, and even escalate, this war.

We must have answers to some fundamental questions. Why did the Bush administration invade Iraq, why are we still there, and why does it want to keep our military in Iraq indefinitely?

Even after four years, we have had no truthful answers to those questions. It’s past time that we learned what we are fighting for. Is it only to stabilize what President Bush destabilized?

Charles F. Wurster
Seattle, April 10, 2007

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Oh ... and we got "official word" today that my son's Army Division has had its deployment in Iraq extended ... home in October instead of July.



Not surprising.



Still sucks.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The first roses of spring from our garden


An Easter Sampler


Michael Hopkins' "Life in the Mean Time"

The good news of this day is that all the ways we think the world works in this mean time: aggression and greed and despair and cynicism and death have been ultimately defeated by the God of Jesus Christ, and we, ourselves, have been given a share of his spirit so that we too may be dreamers of impossible dreams, and, more importantly, doers of impossible things.



In his life and death, Jesus reveals to us that with God there is no curse, only blessing; no condemnation of sinners, only forgiveness and the opportunity for new life; no sacrifice, only mercy. By occupying the space of shame freely, without fear or resentment, but peacefully, gracefully, and openly, Jesus demonstrates the vulnerability of God. Through his death on the cross, Jesus saves us by making it possible for us to see that our vulnerability can give rise to compassion and therefore healing; our vulnerability doesn’t have to be the source of fear and shame giving rise to rivalry, violence, and death.


Elizabeth Kaeton's "The Because of Things"

Here’s the truth I know about the Easter story, the ‘because of things’ I live to proclaim:

Because of God, I know about the power of the gifts of creativity and imagination to look into an empty tomb and see possibility.

Because of Jesus, I know about the power of hope to heal and inspire.

Because of the Holy Spirit, I know the confidence which is the antidote to confusion and terror.

The story of your life can be “Jesus died and then he rose.” Or, the story and plot of your life can be, “Jesus died and then he rose to love you lavishly, abundantly and beyond your wildest dreams.” The ‘because of things’ in your life can make the difference between a life which succumbs to confusion and terror or one that embraces possibility and hope.



When we look for Jesus, we must look for him among the LIVING. We must look for Jesus in the Eucharistic assembly. In the poor. And in every human being. We must look for Jesus in all creation, which is now made NEW and ALIVE. Jesus is risen. And he is no longer a passive object, or corpse. Jesus is instead a living, speaking, acting person, the living Lord of the cosmos. He is the living One, who died and came to life. He is the living One, who conquered death and the grave, and lives forevermore. He is the living One, who feeds us with his own flesh and blood and offers us forgiveness and new life in the Kingdom of God.


John Chane's Easter Sermon

The timeless story of Jesus, unaffected by the many layers of oral tradition, tell of a ministry and mission dedicated to non-violence, unconditional love and uncompromising forgiveness qualities sought reconciliation between parties at enmity with one another and with God. The core story of Jesus, his victory over death on the cross and his resurrection is centered in the holy city of Jerusalem . And today for Christians throughout the world it is impossible for us to celebrate the resurrection story of Jesus without coming to terms FINALLY with what is happening in Jerusalem and the Holy Land .

Harvey and Luna offer their Easter Monday reflections ...

And finally, Mark Harris offers a Fabulous Finale with this link to Hallelujah Nuns ...



HAPPY EASTER,
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EVERYBODY!


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Finding our way home for Easter

Here's my Easter reflection -- from the All Saints newsletter "Saints Alive" -- offered this Easter Monday morning is celebration of the Fifty Days of Easter that stretch before us and in thanksgiving for the celebrations of the Paschal Feast just gloriously -- and exhaustingly! -- behind us!

At All Saints Church we baptized 18 babies, 5 adults, incorporated 70 new members in a joyful celebration with 1000 in attendance -- and that was Saturday's Vigils. Sunday both 9:00 and 11:15 needed overflow for our overflow ... record numbers of folks coming to celebrate Easter Day ... and a wonderful reminder that the light and life and love this fabulous church of ours has to offer is far more powerful than the voices of schism and division!



Finding our way home for Easter



When my now-25 year old son was in Mrs. Gold's kindergarten, it was the custom to have a "Mother's Tea" in the spring. It was quite the event, with colorful placemats, flowers and nametags – and of course our brilliant children's wonderful work displayed throughout the room As we sipped our punch and toured the room one bulletin board attracted particular attention. It was the "alphabet book" board where the children worked their way through the year and through the alphabet by drawing pictures for each letter. The current letter was "E" and so the board was covered with twenty pictures of "Easter." The green hill with the three empty crosses was the dominant theme – with some variations. Some with lots of flowers, some with smiley sunshines – even some with visiting bunnies, complete with baskets of Easter eggs.

Actually, there were nineteen such drawings – all wonderfully the same but different in their own special way. And then there was the twentieth. Down in the lower right hand corner of the bulletin board. The abstract looking page with a gray lump and a brown splotch and a big yellow blurb right in the middle. The one that said "Jamie Russell" on it. And – I’ll admit it – my heart sank just a little. And so I asked my son – in words that I now realize could have been more wisely chosen – "What's this, honey? I thought you were supposed to draw a picture of Easter?"
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He looked at me with the kind of disdainful superiority only a five year old can get away with and said, "It IS a picture of Easter, Mom – it's the empty tomb!" And like one of those ink-blot things that you can't see until someone explains it to you and then it's crystal clear, it suddenly made complete sense: the hillside, the rolled-away stone and the light coming out of the now empty tomb. The resurrection has been in front of me all the time – but it didn’t look the way I expected it to so I couldn't see it.

Which brings me to my favorite Easter verse – one I've shared with the All Saints community before:

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

The Great Easter Truth we celebrate is that there's an empty tomb right here and right now sending out light and hope and promise – giving us the strength and courage to go out and do the work we have been given to do. We may not always recognize it immediately – like Mary who didn’t recognize the Risen Lord in the garden or like the kindergarten mom who didn't recognize Easter on the bulletin board – but that hope and promise are here: and once we recognize it we're never alone again.

In Anne Lammott's Traveling Mercies she writes about her best friend who got lost one day. The little girl ran up and down the streets of the big town where she lived but couldn’t find a single landmark. Finally a policeman stopped to help her. He put her in the passenger seat of his car and they drove around until she finally saw her church.

"You can let me out now!" she told the policeman. "This is my church and I can always find my way home from here!"

Whoever you are and wherever you are on your journey of faith there is a place for you here at All Saints Church this Easter Day and every day. And wherever you've come from, you can find your way home from here.

Alleluia! Alleluia!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

THE GREAT VIGIL OF EASTER

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness
meets the world’s deep need.” -- Frederick Buechner
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The Great Vigil of Easter is not one of my growing up in the church memories. Easter was A VERY big deal but it all happened on Easter Morning. After a breakfast of chocolate bunny ears and a couple of Peeps I remember heading to church clutching the flower I had picked from our garden to place in the chickenwire cross waiting outside the church door to be transformed into a thing of beauty as the morning went on.
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I remember new clothes (usually involving itchy lace) and the new hat with the elastic band under my neck that my mother would be fussing with me to stop fussing with half way through the service. It was a huge deal that the children's choir got to sing "in the big church" and as a result I can't remember a time before I knew by heart all the verses of "Jesus Christ is Risen Today." The church was packed (with lots of people we didn't usually see on Sundays, including my daddy!) and I loved everything about it (except the hat!)
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But no Easter Vigil. That ancient tradition of the church crept back into the prayerbook during my young-adult-lapsed-phase and, because the parish I attended as a young mother wasn't one that had tried anything "new" liturgically since 1952 I didn't encounter the Great Vigil until seminary. I remember how dramatic it was the first time -- at St. Francis in Simi Valley -- when I experienced the darkness and rhythm of the ancient readings being suddenly interrupted by the lights and the music and the bells and the Easter Acclamation: HE IS RISEN INDEED!
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And I remember an Easter Vigil -- at St. Clare's in Ranch Cucamonga which was a tiny misson church whose sanctuary was the living room of an old ranch house -- where eight of us gathered around the salad bowl that served as our baptismal font and passed the Bible around the circle to read to each other the ancient stories of our faith before renewing our baptismal vows: HE IS RISEN INDEED!
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Tonight we will celebrate the Great Vigil of Easter at All Saints Church in Pasadena. We'll baptize 18 babies and 5 adults -- welcome 70+ new members into the church -- and when the lights come up we will ring our bells and proclaim HE IS RISEN INDEED! But first, in the liturgy of the word, we will hear not only the ancient stories of God's saving acts in our past, we will hear contemporary voices calling us to act with God in the present.
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We have partnered the Creation story with a call to be stewards of the planet in this time of global climate change. We have linked the Exodus story with a challenge to find a find the way out of our captivity to the War in Iraq. We have paired the Valley of the Dry Bones reading with the cry of one of the Lost Boys to breathe life into the genocide of Darfur. And we have offered as response to Isaiah's proclamation of Salvation freely offered to all a reaffirmation of our commitment to stand with those marginalized or excluded because of race, sexual orientation or gender identity.
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From the introduction to the liturgy for tonight's Easter Vigil: The Great Vigil of Easter is the culmination of the sacred celebration of Holy Week and the beginning of the celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection. It is the climax of the Christian Year and unfolds the story of redemption in scripture, psalm, and sacrament. It begins in darkness and proceeds to a joyous burst of light. It begins in silence and proceeds to the glorious proclamation of the Paschal Alleluia celebrating the passing from death to life, from sin to grace.
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As we baptize new Christians into the Body of Christ and incorporate new members into All Saints Church we listen to the historic record of God's saving acts in history through the scriptural stories that are our heritage. We hear from contemporary sources calling us to speak truth to power in the name of the God who calls us to walk in love with God and with each other. And we gather at the table to be fed by the bread and wine made holy -- praying that it give us strength for the journey as we go out to be the Body of Christ in the world.
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Frederick Buechner famously said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep need meet.” The Great Vigil of Easter is a place where that gladness and that need meet in this liturgical celebration of our baptismal call.

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The Mininstry of the Word portion of tonight's Vigil is available online here ... special thanks to friends Harry Coverston and Tobias Haller for permission to use their wonderful words as part of our worship and celebration.
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And my deepest prayer as we prepare as a people of God to celebrate in our various ways and traditions this great Paschal Feast that our common acclamation of "HE IS RISEN, HE IS RISEN INDEED" might -- for even just this Easter moment -- bind us together in the common faith and life we share as members of this Body of the Christ who gave himself for us that we might walk in love with him and with one another.

Friday, April 06, 2007

GOOD FRIDAY


Spinning the Story:
The Politics of Good Friday

[John 19:17-27] So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek.

Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.” This was to fulfill what the scripture says,

“They divided my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots.”

And that is what the soldiers did.

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.”

And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

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He wasn't even dead yet and they were trying to rewrite his life. At the foot of the cross where he hung in agony, they argued about what the sign above his head should say.

"Do not write, 'The King of the Jews,' said the chief priests – write 'This man said, I am King of the Jews" and Pilate replied "What I have written I have written."

It may be what Pilate wrote but it wasn't what Jesus said – is it? When he interrogated Jesus, Pilate started out by asking directly “Are you the King of the Jews?” and then – like a first century version of a frustrated prosecuting attorney –after coming at the question from several different angles he had to settle for Jesus' non-responsive response, "You say that I am a king."

Pilate said it – but Jesus didn't. The Jesus who hung dying on the cross while political leaders tried to spin his story to their advantage had nothing to do with the trappings of kingship or with earthly power or political authority – with revenge or with judgment. Instead, the ministry of the radical rabbi from Nazareth had everything to do with wholeness, with restoring creation to the fullness of the peace and justice; the truth and love that God intended – with challenging those who followed him to the high calling of loving their neighbors as themselves.

Quite a challenge, that: a challenge that required turning virtually everything the world says about life and death -- about power and control -- upside down. It's a challenge to stay "upside down" when the world around you is pointing in the opposite direction. And so it wasn't very long after the joy of Easter and the empowerment of Pentecost that the ways of the world started to leak back into the infant church.

It wasn't very long before others stepped in where Pilate and the chief priests had left off and began to "spin the story" to preserve the power of a developing institutional church rather than to empower the propagation of incarnational love. A vestige of that "spinning the story" can be found in the creeds we inherit … creeds that emerged from the early church councils having reduced Jesus' life and witness to a footnote: creeds that skip from "born of the Virgin Mary" to "suffered under Pontius Pilate" leaving an awful lot of walking in love as Christ loved us on the cutting room floor!

Verna Dozier in her wonderful book "The Dream of God" describes it thus: "The people of the resurrection made the incomprehensible gift of grace into a structure. [Rejecting] the frighteningly free gift of God go be a new thing in the world – a witness that all of life could be different for everybody – this gift was harnessed by an institution that established a hierarchy of those who "know" above the great mass of those who must be told." [pg. 4]

And so -- for generations -- those of us who "must be told" were told all kinds of things about what Jesus' life and death and resurrection meant. And a great many of them bore little or no resemblance to the actual life and witness of the one the church claims to follow – of the Jesus …

· who put table fellowship at the center of his life,
· who ate with outcasts,
· who welcomed sinners,
· who proclaimed the year of the Lord's favor,
· who was so centered in God's abundant love that he was willing to speak truth to power from that first sermon that almost got him thrown off the cliff by his irate Nazarene homies to his last cross-examination by Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea.

Instead we were given doctrines we were supposed to digest and not delve into, creeds we were supposed to recite and not question, Scriptures we were supposed to memorize and not contextualize. And the Good Friday story we were supposed to get in line behind is outlined by a colleague as: "Jesus died on the cross for your sins, and he's going to come down and beat you up if you don't pay him back."

And then they wondered why they were having trouble growing the church! The stumbling block for so many has nothing to do with the good news of God in Christ Jesus and everything to do with the disconnect between the stories Jesus told of a loving God calling the whole human family into relationship with God and with each other and the story the church was telling of an angry God demanding blood sacrifice as the price of relationship with him. And it was definitely a "him." And on it goes.

For just as Pilate and the chief priests argued at the foot of the cross on that first Good Friday over who got to "spin the story" of Jesus' life there is a gathering this Good Friday at the foot of the cross arguing over who gets to "spin the story" of Jesus' death. There are those insisting that there is only one way – their way – of understanding how it is that "Jesus Saves" – only one way of defining what is good about Good Friday.

And there are others pushing back – saying "wait a minute" – revisiting ancient texts and reclaiming ancient truths and coming to very different understandings about the mystery of the "goodness" of this Good Friday – understandings of how the death on the cross of the radical rabbi from Nazareth liberated the world – freeing it from the fear of death and offering to it the gift of eternal life.

And in what can best be described as a most interesting spirit of synchronicity, there has recently been quite a remarkable surge of discourse and dialogue about these matters sparked at least in part by Jeffrey John, the Dean of St. Alban's Cathedral, who offered a "Lenten Message" on BBC radio in which he shared his own journey with the cross.

The instinctive feeling that suffering must be a punishment sent from God seems to lie deep in the human soul - or it does in mine anyway. In my case it may have something to do with the fact that I was brought up in a tradition …which took a pretty firm line on sin and retribution.
The explanation I was given went something like this. God was very angry with us for our sins, and because he is a just God, our sin had to be punished. But instead of punishing us he sent his Son, Jesus, as a substitute to suffer and die in our place. The blood of Jesus paid the price of our sins, and because of him God stopped being angry with us. In other words, Jesus took the rap, and we got forgiven, provided we said we believed in him.

Well, I don't know about you, but even at the age of ten I thought this explanation was pretty repulsive as well as nonsensical. What sort of God was this, getting so angry with the world and the people he created, and then, to calm himself down, demanding the blood of his own Son? And anyway, why should God forgive us through punishing somebody else? It was worse than illogical, it was insane. It made God sound like a psychopath. If any human being behaved like this we'd say they were a monster.

Well, I haven't changed my mind since. That explanation of the cross just doesn't work, though sadly it's one that's still all too often preached. It just doesn't make sense to talk about a nice Jesus down here, placating the wrath of a nasty, angry Father God in heaven. Christians believe Jesus is God incarnate. As he said, 'Whoever sees me has seen the Father'. Jesus is what God is: he is the one who shows us God's nature. And the most basic truth about God's nature is that He is Love, not wrath and punishment.

Hardly radical stuff to those accustomed to sermons from this pulpit, but Dean John's willingness to challenge so directly this particular "spin" of the salvation story as contrary to a whole list of things drew lots of attention – including an across-the-pond attack by two evangelical bishops decrying John's theology (while admitting they hadn't actually read his talk yet) and accusations by self-described orthodox Anglicans of abandoning the foundations of the faith.

Never mind that substitutionary atonement – that's seminary lingo for the issue Dean John is addressing – is not and has never been a "doctrine" of the church. As Dan Martins, a priest in the Diocese of San Joaquin and a significant conservative voice in the Episcopal Church clarified "... there are other equally biblical and equally plausible theories of the atonement, and to the extent that this may be Dean John's point, then he indeed has a point. As C. S. Lewis wisely observes in his classic Mere Christianity, none of the possible theories can alone account for the mystery of the cross, and none have ever been declared official dogma by the Church." It is a theory – one among many – and it makes as much sense to insist that we have to "believe in a theory" in order to be saved as it does to insist that we have to "comply with a report" in order to be in communion with each other.

So when I read this morning that one bishop declared "the truth that Jesus died as our sin-bearing substitute carrying the punishment for our sins on the cross is the glorious heart of the Gospel" I was right back at the foot of the cross with Pilate and the chief priests arguing about what kind of king was this man who never said he was a king.

And I am convinced that if we were able to ask Jesus the question "Are you our sin-bearing substitute carrying the punishment for our sins on the cross?" his answer to us would be the same as it was to Pilate: "You say that I am."

All of this inspired our friend Giles Fraser, vicar of Putney, to write: "Easter is a time for stringing up the innocent. And this year, once again, the sacrificial victim is the dean of St Albans, Dr Jeffrey John. Of course, we all know the reason… [it's] because he’s honest. And it’s this same honesty that has got him in trouble again. For, once again, what he has been saying is nothing other than a truth known by most people in the pews: that the idea of God murdering his son for the salvation of the world is barbaric and morally indefensible. It turns Christianity into “cosmic child abuse.”

And it spins the story into something the institutional church has used for far too long avoid what Verna Dozier names as its high calling: to claim the frighteningly free gift of God go be a new thing in the world – a witness that all of life could be different for everybody.

That is the witness we have to offer the world – the witness we call turning the human race into the human family. And it has nothing whatsoever to do with swallowing morally indefensible theories of blood sacrifice and everything to do with living morally accountable lives of service and self-offering. It has to do with what Frederick Buechner names as "the place where your deep gladness meets the world's deep need." It has to do with being the Body of Christ in the world -- it has to do with these words to the hymn we sing as one our presentation hymns on Sundays:

A world in need now summons us
To labor, love and give;
To make our life an offering
To all that all may live.
The church of Christ is calling us
To make the dream come true;
A world redeemed by Christ-like love
All life in Christ made new.

All life in Christ made new is the Easter promise we claim even as we stand at this moment at the foot of the Good Friday cross – a cross which Jeffrey John describes in this way: On the cross God absorbs into himself our falleness and its consequences and offers us a new relationship. … From Good Friday on, God is no longer "God up there", inscrutably allotting rewards and retributions. On the Cross, even more than in the crib, he is Immanuel, God down here, God with us.

God is with us – and that is good news: on this Good Friday and always. Amen.