Thursday, May 31, 2007

Fort Worth Bound

Heading off to Fort Worth momentarily
for our spring Integrity Board meeting.
Prayers for safe travel and a productive meeting invited.
More as sporadic online access allows!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Unsolicited Advice

The Living Church is reporting that "In a statement released on May 30, Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda stated that as Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams had extended invitations to “all the American bishops who consented to, participated in, and have continued to support the consecration” of Bishop V. Gene Robinson in New Hampshire, the Church of Uganda would honor the commitment it made last December and not attend."

Well there you have it ... they won't come if we come. Excluding the Bishop of New Hampshire isn't enough for these guys ... they're after "the whole enchilada." Faced with such a dilemma, what's an Archbishop of Canterbury to do?

Granted, His Grace has not asked for my advice but here it is:

When my boys were small and it was birthday party time we had some rules in our house about how we made out the invitation list. Inviting two or three friends over for a sleepover was one option. Inviting the whole class for a pool party was the other. Inviting everybody except the boy nobody else wanted to play with during recess or the girl who creeped you out was not an option. And no good trying the “If Timmy comes then John and Jason won’t!” argument. We invited everybody – and if someone chose not to show up because someone else was included then that was their choice. We’d miss them – but the party would go on!

So I’m wondering today if the rules that served me well with my small boys wouldn’t serve the Archbishop of Canterbury just well in dealing with bishops behaving like small boys.

Just wondering.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

More "Bits and Pieces"

Bits and pieces for a Tuesday afternoon:

I had fun doing the Air America "State of Belief" rado show this week. Walking With Integrity has a link to the MP3 file of the piece here ... easier to link to them than figure out how to do that myself. I appreciated the quality of the questions that were asked and the opportunity to get "our " perspective out into the air waves. Check it out and see what you think.
Also from Walking With Integrity is this note about our Integrity meeting in Fort Worth this weekend. Looking forward to being "deep in the heart of Texas" with colleagues and companions on the journey. Prayers invited for safe travel and a productive meeting. (And do stop by for Eucharist if you're in the neighborhood!)
"In other news" Rosie has quit The View and I'm really bummed about that. It's also only two-episodes-from-the-end-of-The-Sopranos and I was really intrigued by this Huffington Post piece speculating on the what-nexts.

In the "funny how stuff makes its way around the blogosphere" department a comment on the post last week on this blog about the wedding of two Episcopal priests ("Mazel Tov") was the springboard for some reflections over at a blog called out the backroom window. (Thanks, Julian ... blessings on you and your family, too!)

Today just happens to be the natal feast of the Bishop of New Hampshire. Happy, HAPPY Birthday and God's richest blessings to you in the coming year, +Gene!

Finally, I am posting this photo of my bishop just because I can ...

... and because I like it so much. It was taken Sunday at the birthday party of a mutual friend and I just am so grateful to have a bishop who has managed against some pretty incredible odds to remain grounded, optimistic and faitful and who is still willing to take some time off on a Sunday afternoon to just "hang out in the 'hood."

Here endeth the "bits and pieces."

Monday, May 28, 2007


On this Memorial Day we remember with compassion all those who have died serving their countries in combat as we pray for the courage to act to bring peace to all places where people suffer from violence, war and conflict.

Found this poem on Rosie's Blog:

Something Is Lost

Something of every boy is lost in war
As surely as the boy who dies in war is lost:
The wonder in his eyes, bright as a star,
The laughter that was quick and clean as frost:
Something of trust, reluctance to do harm;
The sense that all was right, that men were good:
Something is lost, less tangible than blood.

Something of every boy is lost, the thread
Upon which his illusions once were strung.
Like some bright bird that flies with crippled wing
Each boy returns less gentle and less young.
What is there we can say to assuage the truth?
Nothing but lasting peace can avenge their youth.

Mabel C. Burlingham .

PS -- It's OK to take a day off ... I have it on good authority that the church will still be a mess on Tuesday!

Sunday, May 27, 2007


Pentecost. When I was growing up it was Whitsunday ... did that change with the 1979 Prayer Book or did I just miss a meeting? (Someone will tell me more that I really want to know about that I imagine, but there it is.) Whenever it changed it's been many long years now that Pentecost has been a day to wear red and celebrate the "birthday of the church" when the Holy Spirit rushed in and inspired the disciples who were still hiding out in what Henri Nouwen called "the house of fear" to launch out into the world proclaiming the Gospel of Love.
Our Pentecost celebration this year started on Pentecost Eve. I had the 5:00-family-service duty and I headed over to church Saturday afternoon wondering if anybody would show up on Saturday in Memorial Day weekend. They did: a hardy remnant of mostly families with little-bitties who love to play the rhythm instruments along with the guitars and can't wait to rush the altar when it's "bread and wine time." I tried to connect the themes of Memorial Day and Pentecost -- praying that the same Holy Spirit who gave the disciples the power to speak in the languages they needed to be understood by those in the crowd in Jerusalem would give us the power to speak the language of peace we need to speak to end the scourge of war.
Then we headed over to Holy Spirit ... an emerging Episcopal fellowship in the Silverlake district of Los Angeles. Forty-plus folks gathered around food and fellowship and then scripture, reflection and eucharist -- some "regulars," some newcomers and some haven't-been-in-church-in-a-whiles -- all sharing community and communion as we shared stories of the hows and wheres the Spirit had acted in our past ... where we hear the Spirit calling us into the future.
And then today, The Feast of Pentecost, was a day of celebration, energy and joy at All Saints Church where we baptized eight little people (two at 9:00, five at 11:15 and one at 1:00) into the Body of Christ, heard a kick-ass sermon from my colleague Zelda Kennedy (I'll post it as soon as we get it "up" on the website) and were transported by the amazing Lauridsen Veni Sancti Spiritus.
We didn't have our regular adult education offerings today ... instead we piped jazz out onto the quad between services and had cake-on-the-lawn celebrating the Birthday of the Church and just enjoyed being part of this Big Fat All Saints Episcopal Church Family. And we fussed over Sebastian Lopez who was baptized today at six months old and we got fussed over today by Lydia Wilkins who is still fussing at 103 years old. And the Spirit was in all of it. And we rejoiced and were glad in it.
And on Tuesday we'll get back to the hard work of turning the human race into the human family -- of bringing that kingdom-come-to-earth-as-it-is-in-heaven. And we'll do it with renewed energy and assurance because we glimpsed it -- that kingdom come -- again today: on the church lawn and at the communion rail and in the baptismal font and in the jazz and the babies and the Lauridsen and in the rush of that Holy Spirit who calls us to follow those first disciples as we launch out into the world proclaiming the Gospel of Love.

Mazel Tov!

As reported in today's NYTiimes:

The Rev. Mark Alan Lewis and the Rev. K. Dennis Winslow, Episcopal priests, were joined in civil union on Tuesday. The Rev. Tim S. Hall, also an Episcopal priest, officiated at the couple’s home in Union City, N.J., assisted by his wife, the Rev. Jacqueline Schmidt.

Read the rest here ... and may they live happily ever after!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Bits and Pieces

Re: On the Radio
This week's Air America radio show "State of Belief" will include an interview with yours truly about "things Anglican." Their website offers several ways to listen ... check it out and see what you think.

Re: My son in the Army:
For everyone who's written to ask how he is I'm happy to report that he's fine. I heard from him yesterday. It's getting back to in-the-100s in Kirkuk and so "the weather sucks" but he got to see Spiderman 3 and appreciated the cookies we sent. (He's not the talkative one in the family so that about covers it!)

Re: For Fun
If you've ever preached a sermon or listened to a sermon I virtually guarantee you will not fail to be amused by Father Matthew's video giving you the preacher's-eye-view of the fine art of sermon writing.

Finally, a little Q & A:
Q. Why do you continue to refuse to post on this blog information on the Scandinavian Study "proving" that gays die young?
A. Because it is a roundly debunked pseudo-scientific report which was commissioned by the Family Research Institute -- an ontologically homophobic organization with no objective credibility whatsoever. Here endeth the explanation -- and (I hope) questions on this matter.

(Here also endeth the "bits and pieces!")

"Where do you get off ...????"

I get lots of emails that start that way ... "Where do you get off ....????" (or a variation thereof) and I may do another "Mail Bag" blog one of these days and we can look at some of them together ... but for the moment (given it IS Memorial Day Weekend and I'm trying to have a life here!) here's an easy answer to those asking a variation of the question: "Where do you get off saying Jesus' "invitation list" is about what we do in the world rather than what we believe in our hearts?"

And the answer is ....

Matthew 25: 31-45

31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' 40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

41"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

44"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' 45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

Thursday, May 24, 2007

More Anglican Angst

When I was invited to be a "Guest Voice" on the Washington Post/Newsweek site "On Belief" here's what I said:

The announcement this week that New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson will not be receiving an invitation to the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops was a sad day for the Anglican Communion and a new low for the beleaguered Archbishop of Canterbury.

It is sad that the once proud-of-its-diversity Anglican Communion has allowed itself to be blackmailed into bigotry by those unwilling to accept into their midst a duly elected brother bishop solely because of his sexual orientation. And it is clear that Rowan Williams’ failure to exercise differentiated leadership has enabled the Communion he leads to continue to spin out of control.

The Archbishop had an explanation for his decision not to include Bishop Robinson: “I have to reserve the right to withhold or withdraw invitations from bishops whose appointment, actions or manner of life have caused exceptionally serious division or scandal within the Communion.”
What he doesn’t have is an explanation for the stunning hypocrisy of excluding the Bishop of New Hampshire because he is gay while including the Archbishop of Nigeria who supports legislation criminalizing gay and lesbian people so draconian that it has been condemned by the international Human Rights Watch.
What he doesn’t have is a response to those who increasingly use the word “irrelevant” to describe a church more interested in how many bishops will attend the elite gathering at Lambeth Palace in 2008 than it is in how we can help end the AIDS pandemic by 2008. Or stop the spread of malaria. Or find a way to end the genocide in Darfur.
“Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these,” is the only criterion Jesus gave for being on his invitation list. Both the Communion and the Gospel would be better served if the Archbishop of Canterbury would go and do likewise.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Quotes of Note ...

... from bishops weighing in on the "who's going to Lambeth" list.

I do not believe it is Bishop Robinson's "manner of life" that has "caused exceptionally serious division or scandal within the Communion," rather it is the divisive actions of those who have used it in an intentional effort to divide both The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. -- +Mark Hollingsworth, Diocese of Ohio

Until we are able to separate ourselves from our fixation on human sexuality as the root of our divisions and address the dynamics of power and leadership in the Communion, we are doomed to fail in Christ's call to engage the world in the act of inclusive love and a mission-driven theology that claims justice, the rule of law and the respect for human rights as the core of our work as a Communion. -- +John Chane, Diocese of Washington

The isolation and exile of Bishop Robinson rebukes the bright vision of the unity of the Church, and substitutes the mechanism of the diabolic, the shattering of communion and integrity. -- +Marc Andrus, Bishop of California

Mary Had A Baby

(Photo: Courtesy White House - Via: Washington Post)

[from the Washington Post] Mary Cheney gave birth today to perhaps the most anticipated baby in contemporary U.S. politics -- her first child, Samuel David Cheney, whom she will raise with her longtime partner Heather Poe.

The 8-pound, 6-ounce boy is the sixth grandchild for Dick Cheney. The vice president and his wife Lynne, both beaming, posed for a photo with the baby just hours after his 9:46 a.m. birth at Washington's Sibley Hospital.
Read the rest here .... and do keep little Samuel David in your prayers.

If you look up "speaking truth to power" in the encyclopedia ....

... I think you'll find a picture of Diocese of California Bishop Marc Andrus as the illustration!

Bishop Marc Andrus has posted his response to yesterday's announcement from Canterbury. I was going to just link to it but it's too good not to post here in its entirety:
The Most Noxious Point of the Windsor Report Becomes Reality
When the Windsor Report came out I found myself in a very tiny minority. Certain forms of math are not my strong suit, but I kept counting the Windsor recommendations differently - No blessings; No consents; No border crossings; Listen to the lives of gay and lesbian people. Four fingers of one hand, so even the arithmetically challenged could manage. But I had to keep using my thumb, because I counted five.

Number five made me work to try and pay attention to not only its presence, but its great danger for who we are as a Communion, even as Christians. It was this: The Archbishop of Canterbury should exercise extreme caution in inviting Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire, to Communion-related events. Now this has happened; the Archbishop has decided that Bishop Robinson will not be among the bishops invited to attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference.

The tactic of exile and isolation has been among strongest tools of oppression against the human spirit. We were created to be in communion, and there is a deep-seated intuition on the part of those who wish to hem in human freedom that the best way to do this is to separate us, one from another.

The ground-breaking work of Rene Girard has revealed the mechanism of scapegoating. Girard teaches that Jesus and the Hebrew prophets began loosening the chains of scapegoating. This action of isolating Bishop Robinson is retrogressive, taking us backwards to a shadowy, scary place from which we have already been delivered by Christ and the Prophets.

The isolation and exile of Bishop Robinson has implications for the Communion too, within the larger framework of scapegoating. A former Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, once said that if you touch one bishop of the Anglican Communion, you touch them all. This refers to the idea that bishops represent the unity of the Church. The bishop as a symbol of unity is usually understood at the level of a diocese, but there is a larger horizon of meaning - when we look at one bishop our spiritual vision can see all bishops everywhere, for the unity represented is most importantly the unity of the Church throughout the earth.

The isolation and exile of Bishop Robinson rebukes the bright vision of the unity of the Church, and substitutes the mechanism of the diabolic, the shattering of communion and integrity. I cannot overemphasize how important it is to meet this action on our Archbishop's part with the weapons of the spirit. I will be praying that my response and our response will be in solidarity with Bishop Robinson, mindful of our relatedness worldwide, full of shalom, and creative, in the manner of Jesus Christ.

Let the people say "AMEN!" ... and let the bishops say "Who's next to step up and speak out?"

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Hail to the Chief: Bonnie Anderson on Lambeth Invitations

House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson issued a short statement saying that "the Episcopal Church elects bishops and consents to the election of bishops in a democratic and participatory manner. The process is carried out within our Constitution and Canons, both at the General Convention and in our dioceses. The Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson is a duly elected and consecrated bishop of this Church. Not inviting him to the Lambeth Conference causes serious concern to The Episcopal Church."

Reminder: A Comment on "Comments"

Just a quick reminder that I do reserve the right to moderate comments on this blog ... which means decline to post them if I feel like it.

For the record, what inspires me to hit "DELETE" is not an alternative theological or political position respectfully offered ... I can even handle it if you want to throw in the occasional apostate heretic reference.

But here's what will end you up in my Trash Can:
  • Any comment beginning with Suzie Baby, Sue Baby, Suzie Q, etc. Gone.

  • Comments which include ad hominem attacks against ... well, anybody. Trash.

  • Rambling discussions speculating about sex acts are definitely zapped. Every time. No matter how many times you post the same article about the Scandanavian survey that proves queer people die sooner than straight people it's getting deleted. Period.

  • And please, please, PLEASE don't include the fiction that Gene Robinson abandoned his wife and children. Didn't happen. It'll get "moderated."

I may add others as the week goes on. For now ... let the conversation continue!

Lambeth 2008 Invitations In the Mail

Today's announcement from Canterbury that the Bishop of New Hampshire will not be included in the list of invitees to the 2008 Lambeth Conference will be dissected, examined, exegeted, parsed, blogged, and much commented upon in the days and weeks to come.

My initial reaction?

"Today's announcement exhibits a shocking abdication of leadership on the part of the Archbishop of Canterbury who has allowed himself to be blackmailed by those insisting on the exlusion the gay and lesbian faithful as the criterion for their inclusion at the table."

My official reaction? Here's the official Integrity Press Statement:

"Integrity is outraged and appalled," said Integrity President Susan Russell. "This is not only a snub of Bishop Gene Robinson but an affront to the entire U.S. Episcopal Church. The Archbishop of Canterbury has allowed himself to be blackmailed by forces promoting bigotry and exclusion in the Anglican Communion. This action shows a disgraceful lack of leadership on Williams’ part."

"Integrity calls on all the bishops and the leadership of the Episcopal Church to think long and hard about whether they are willing to participate in the continued scapegoating of the gay and lesbian faithful as the price for going to the Lambeth Conference. It is purported to be a conference representing bishops from the whole Anglican Communion. That can’t happen when Rowan Williams aligns himself with those in the Communion such as Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria who violate human rights while explicitly excluding gay and lesbian voices from their midst," Russell said. "Our bishops must ask themselves this question: 'Is complicity in discrimination a price they are willing to pay for a two-week trip to Canterbury?'"

Integrity is currently contacting the leadership of the Episcopal Church and consulting with our progressive allies about this situation. We expect to make an additional statement in the near future.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Monday Morning

Starting out with some cyber-sunshine for a Monday morning since we're socked in here with a thick "marine layer" (AKA "June-Gloom-in-May") and I'm looking for some rays of sunshine where I can get them. Here are a few:
Katharine Jefferts Schori's Op-Ed in yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle ... Brava!
Steven Charleston's reflections "Lessons from Jerry" over at Episcopal Cafe
Rosie O'Donnell's moving pictorial tribute "i-love-r-troops" (with music by Patty Griffin)
And -- last but not least -- photos from yesterday's Pride Parade in Long Beach CA where the Good News of God in Christ Jesus AND the Episcopal Church was on parade down Ocean Boulevard.

There ... I feel sunshinier already! Have a great week!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Your Mileage May Vary

~ Sunday after Ascension Day ~
Acts 1:1-11; Luke 24:44-53
May 20, 2007 ~ All Saints Church
Today we hear in both the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel According to Luke the story of how Jesus’ ministry on earth ended. How after proclaiming good news to the poor, freedom to the oppressed and liberation to the captive, after being betrayed, crucified, and rising from the dead and after appearing to the disciples during the 40 days after his resurrection the radical rabbi from Nazareth’s final act on earth was to disappear from their sight in such a way that two messengers dressed in white (that’s code for “angels”) had to come tap them on the shoulder and say, “Umm … how long are you going to stand there staring up in sky? He’ll be back …now get to work.” They clearly didn’t really “get it” yet … and sometimes I think, neither do we.

The final act of the Jesus-on-earth drama -- The Ascension -- is actually something we refer to quite a lot but don’t really talk about very much. Many Sundays one or the other of us stands behind this very altar and says: “Recalling Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension, we offer you these gifts.” And when I was growing up every single Sunday we said together the Apostle’s Creed: “… he ascended into heaven, and siteth on the right hand of God, the Father almighty, from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.” For years I thought that was a theological loophole I was happy to slip through – since I was always the last picked for the relay race team I definitely wasn’t “quick” and since I wasn’t dead yet I figured if Jesus came back sooner rather than later I’d be good to go. I swear I remember figuring all this out up in the Junior Choir loft in about third grade – I was a precocious theologian long before either knew or cared about defining theology!

The best definition I’ve ever heard of theology is one attributed to Anselm of Canterbury: he defines it as Faith seeking understanding. What that means to me is if we start our theological inquiry from our faith then there’s all kinds of room for our understandings to change, evolve, revise and expand while our faith remains rock solid. Now, not everyone buys that. I remember right before leaving for seminary being asked by a neighboring rector if I was worried about my faith being threatened by my impending theological studies. “No,” I replied. “Pity,” he answered. Well, I never liked him very much anyway -- and it turned out I was right … not about him but about the theology thing. In seminary lots of my understandings were “threatened” – challenged, undermined, rejected, even. But not my faith.
My faith in the God who loved us enough to become one of us and then died trying to show us how to love each other is the same as it was when I was trying to figure out the Apostle’s Creed in 3rd grade. I did manage to get the quick and the dead thing sorted out since then but I think I still have a ways to go on sorting out the whole Ascension thing. And frankly, it hasn’t made it to the top of my “things my faith is seeking understanding about” list.

So I appreciated these words of fellow blogger “pastordan” -- who was working out his own theology-of-the-ascension online this week: He writes “…the underlying ideas of the story are these: that Jesus is no longer with us in the same sense that he was before his death; that he will eventually return to judge the living and the dead; and that in the meantime he is "in heaven," "with the Father," whatever that means. I don't know if that whatever is physical or metaphysical or supernatural or what, and I guess I don't really care. The details will work themselves out. That kind of attitude will drive many … right around the bend. But as a faithful reader, how is not nearly as important to me as why.

I can concede that Luke and the other New Testament writers might have been wrong on the details. They weren't writing modern history, much less scientific treatises. I think they nailed the why, though: God loves us, God wants us to be with him/her, God knows that the time is not quite right for that to happen. I find the room to live ethically within that structure. Your mileage may vary.”
That’s what Pastor Dan has to say. And I say “Precisely!” My mileage may vary … and so may yours. My faith seeking understanding may come to a different understanding than your faith seeking understanding. But since what I believe is that when Jesus does come back to “judge the quick and the dead” what he’s going to want to chat about isn’t whether we were right but whether we were faithful I’m still good to go. I’m OK with different faithful people coming to different understandings – AKA “your mileage may vary.” And I’m even OK with the idea that I might be – horrors – wrong about something.

A few months ago I preached a sermon entitled “Jesus Saves” and in it I said that I’m the kind of Christian that believes if we think the point of getting to heaven is getting to heaven then we’ve missed the point of getting to heaven. And today I want to make a similar statement about theology: I’m the kind of theologian who believes that if the theology – the understanding our faith inspires us to seek -- becomes more important than the faith that inspires the seeking then we’re missed the point of theology.

Here’s how my favorite theologian – not Anselm of Canterbury but Verna of Dozier – put it: I will trust that if I move today by the light that is given me, knowing it is only finite and partial, I will know more and different things tomorrow than I know today, and I can be open to the new possibility I cannot even imagine today.

Knowing more and different things tomorrow than we know today IS the point – I believe – of theological inquiry that calls us always into greater understandings of the infinite love of the God whose ways are not our ways – the God who inspires such awe and wonder in us that at times all we can do is stand dumfounded like the clueless disciples staring up in the sky – there are moments when all we can do is contemplate the mystery of the cross.

When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of Glory died;
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.

I want to suggest today that the pride we are called to pour contempt on is the hubris to think that any single living breathing one of us or collective of us … much less a Council or a Conference of us … can decree that our faith having reached a particular understanding in a particular time – developed a particular theology in a particular context – has the power to end the conversation for all people for all time. I want to suggest that there’s a theological term for that – and that it’s “hogwash.”

We must, I believe, strive to make the critical distinction between the faith received and the theology perceived. Our ongoing work here at All Saints Church around the theology of sacrificial atonement is a great case in point. Elaine Pagels was in the Rector’s Forum last week and what she said made SO much sense to me. “How were the early Christians to make sense of the crucifixion? How do you deal with that?” she asked. In other words “where was their faith seeking understanding going to seek to understand the incomprehensible?”

She went on to say that as the faith of those first century Christians “tried to salvage some deep meaning” they turned to the most obvious religious image close to them and that was the ritual of Temple sacrifice. In that context, sacrificial atonement as the understanding their faith found to understand the saving power of the cross makes sense to me. What doesn’t make sense to me is insisting that we accept it now as the ONLY acceptable understanding. It is not and never has been the ONLY way to survey the wondrous cross.
To insist that it is turns faith seeking understanding into theology seeking conformity. It confuses the faith received with the theology perceived and denies the Holy Spirit’s power to call us into those new possibilities we cannot even imagine today. It’s the tail wagging the dog on a dog that won’t hunt!

Here’s a more recent example. In 1994 a bishop named Bill Wantland explained to me that I had tremendous gifts for minstry but could never “be” a priest because I was “ontologically incapable of being an efficacious bearer of a sacramental presence.” According to Bishop Wantland’s theology of priesthood the very essence of my being – my “ontology” as a woman – prohibited me from exercising sacramental ministry. It’s still the argument many use to exclude women from priestly ministry and it’s the argument some have used to refuse to receive the sacramental ministry of our Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

The problem for me – other than the obvious – is that the ontological incapacity of a woman to function as a priest is based on the 13th century writings of theologian Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas was a learned, faithful man whose faith seeking understanding arrived at that conclusion based on the biology of his time. It was a time when women were understood to be biologically inferior men possibly – Aquinas speculated – by an ill south wind blowing at the time of conception. Whatever the reason – and no matter how absurd that all sounds to us today – one can see that a theology that made sense in a 13th century context may not make sense in … oh, let’s say the 21st century Diocese of Fort Worth!

The question being called right now in the Episcopal Church and in the Anglican Communion is can there be room for different understandings at the same table? Is there a place in the pew for those whose faith seeking understanding believe the cross is explained by the theory of atonement and for those who reject it? Is there room at the rail for those who do not believe a woman is ontologically capable of being a priest and for those who elected a woman presiding bishop? Is there room at Lambeth Palace for the Bishop of New Hampshire and the Archbishop of Nigeria? Is there room at All Saints Church for those whose faith has reached a different understanding than Ed Bacon or Susan Russell or Marcus Borg or Elaine Pagels?

I may still be working on the Ascension but on this one my faith has reached an understanding: Absolutely! The criterion for being part of this community of faith – this communion – is NOT agreement but relationship. To quote Verna Dozier one more time: “Don’t tell me what you believe … tell me what difference it makes that you believe …”

The Episcopal Church historically has been a place where the difference we make because we believe has been more important than the differences we have between what we believe. That is our strength. That is our history. And that is our legacy – a legacy that last week’s Episcopal Church ad in the New York Times described in these words:

“Episcopalians struggle with the same issues that trouble all people of faith: how to interpret an ancient faith for today… how to maintain the integrity of tradition while reaching out to a hurting world… how to disagree and yet love and respect one another. Occasionally those struggles make the news. People find they can no longer walk with us on their journey, and may be called to a different spiritual home. Some later make their way back, and find they are welcomed with open arms.”

The Gospel according to the Episcopal Church.

And now the Gospel according to All Saints Church: “Whoever you are and wherever you find yourself on your journey of faith there is a place for you here.”
Your mileage may vary but your welcome at this table never will. Thanks be to God. Alleluia. Amen.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Too good not to share: Katie Sherrod "On Flying Chickens"

I'm still on virtual blogging hiatus as the demands of the regular stuff of parish life and the ongoing saga of "As the Anglican World Turns" have combined to add up to not-enough-hours-in-the-day this week ... and now it is Friday already and with Sunday's pulpit looming just over the horizon my sermon is rattling around in my head very much as-yet-unfinished so I need to focus my attention there.

In a minute.

But first I want to point to the always-marvelous and in this case never-better Katie Sherrod and her insightful reflections on the "News of No New News" out of her diocese -- (that would be Fort Worth) -- this week. So here it is -- word of wisdom on hot air, on turning boots into biscuts and on ...

Flying Chickens
by Katie Sherrod
Did you feel that? It was yet another gust of hot air emanating from the Diocese of Fort Worth.

Yes, our Executive Council voted almost unanimously—apparently one rector dissented—to announce once again that they are mad at The Episcopal Church and are thinking about three ways to leave it. Sounds like a song title, doesn’t it?

There was much fuss stirred up online [courtesy of Ruth Gledhill] about their meeting prior to the issuance of the statement but in the end it came down to nothing new.

First, a reality check: a diocese can’t leave TEC. Individuals can leave. Dioceses can’t leave. Plus, Texas is one of those states where laws “defer” to hierarchical structures of churches in regard to property, and TEC is nothing if not hierarchical.

Now, to the hot air. [click here and ENJOY!]

Thursday, May 17, 2007

A Walk Down Memory Lane

Not a lot of blogging time lately. It's been a VERY busy week in the parish AND my email box is bulging with queries about the lack of LGBT representation on the working group assigned to draft Executive Council's reponse to the Tanzania Communique. We continue to be in conversation with Council leadership regarding our concerns in that regard and are gratitifed by the response and by the efforts being applied toward rectifying that inequity.

But in the meantime I don't want this important piece from Cape Town to go unremarked.

Fr. Jake posted it earlier in the week so I'm just going to share his good work here and get back to my that aforementioned busy parish. But do file this away for future reference ... I assure you it will come up a time or two again between now and Lambeth 2008:

From Fr. Jake Stops the World:

Last week, the Most Rev. Njongonkulu Ndungane, Archbishop of Cape Town, offered his thoughts on a number of current topics in regards to the Anglican Communion. His description of how Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference came into being is quite enlightening. Keep in mind that this is the resolution that is often trotted out as "law" in regards to the Communion's teaching on human sexuality:

...So, finally we come to the 1998 Lambeth Conference. During the first two weeks of our three weeks together, Bishops spent considerable time working on particular questions. I chaired Section 1, which had the overarching theme of 'Called to Full Humanity'. Some 200 bishops opted for this Section, of whom 60 signed up to consider human sexuality. Let me tell you, these 60 spanned the broadest spectrum imaginable, from the hardest line conservatives to the most radical liberals!

Someone calculated that we devoted 800 bishop hours to this thorny subject. It was the most difficult group of the whole conference - there was huge pain and division as discussions began. But 800 bishop hours later, we had thrashed out a common position. The result was the 11 carefully crafted paragraphs of Theme 3 of the Section 1 Report. I am making these available to you, so you can see how we managed to be completely honest about the breadth of views on which we could not agree, and yet also find considerable agreement on wider issues, and on a way to go forward together.

We recommended that the Conference Resolution should not go into details, but merely accept and affirm our report, and refer it to the Provinces for discussion. The rest of the 200 Bishops of the Section agreed with this approach, recognising that it resulted from refining in a real crucible of fire. Now this is where clumsiness prevailed. The Archbishop of Canterbury found himself under considerable pressure for there to be a fuller resolution on homosexuality.

Contrary to all the usual normal procedures for handling resolutions, a draft was presented, and then debated and substantially amended in an hour-and-a-half plenary meeting, of over 600 bishops, spouses, observers, guests, and all in the full glare of the cameras. The result was Resolution 1:10. Though it does commend the report of the subsection, the points that follow did not arise out of the long hard wrestling that we had done, and did not reflect the way that, despite such differences, we had managed to enunciate our differences in ways that allowed us to keep working together.

It was as if our 800 bishop hours had never happened!

For all that resolutions are advisory and not binding, some of its clauses, those which 'reject homosexuality as incompatibly with Scripture' have taken on a life of their own. Other clauses, including those advocating continuing listening and also monitoring work in the area of human sexuality - alongside all the rest of the resolutions of the Conference - are given nothing like the same prominence!


I heartily concur with Fr. Jake's concluding comment on Archbishop Ndungane's walk down memory lane: "It sounds to me as if Lambeth 1.10 is not the mind of Lambeth, but the mind of George Carey."

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

More on "Reconciliation"

If we were on the TV show "The View" one of our "Hot Topics" this morning would be "Reconciliation." On this site, my reflections on reconcilitation last week generated some VERY interesting comments (from both "sides of the aisle" ... and Fr. Jake's May 12th Reconciliation Reality Check is up over 200 comments.

Meanwhile, over on Drell's Descants -- where Brad's reflections on the Reconciliation Seminar just held in the Diocese of Western Louisiana started the conversation going -- this is but a sample of the high quality of reconciling comments being posted:

"... if you are “progressive” then by definition you are faithless and apostate. This is not a matter of opinion, mine or anyone else’s, but of objective fact. If you are gay, support gay ordination or the gay lifestyle, then you are not a Christian, and will go to hell. Again, this is not opinion or a matter for conjecture: it is simply what the bible says. It is fact. And unless you are willing to truly accept that fact, and to live on the basis of it, then you are right: there is absolutely no point in your attempting to reconcile with any Christian. None at all. "

Reconcile THAT!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Monday, Monday ...

First off there's this Candorville du jour ...

Oh ... NOW I get it! We're not supposed to take it PERSONALLY!
Good news from the Diocese of Olympia where the Reverend Gregory Rickels was elected on the third ballot to be the next Bishop of Olympia. Austin's loss is Olympia's gain!
Don't miss Winnie Varghese's great opinion piece on Episcopal Life Online "A slow advance."
Quote: "... we do not support these shifts simply because General Convention has voted in the majority on our behalf. We believe in full equality under the law and in our churches for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people because it is right. I have no doubt it is a move towards making our churches more reflective of the justice already alive in God's dream for us. It is the right thing, even though it is making many uncomfortable. Our comfort with injustice does not negate its evil. "
Fr. Jake is offering a Reconciliation Reality Check which has already garnered 129 comments ... do weigh in! Jake's asking some important questions -- ones that will be informing much of how we move forward in the days and weeks ahead -- and I'm glad to see them receiving so much attention.
On the UK TimesOnline Ruth Gledhill is reporting on Lambeth Conference invitations. OK ... she's not exactly in my roloex under "reliable sources" but she did link to a new official Lambeth Conference Website which look worth bookmarking for future reference.
And don't miss John Kirkley's blog "An Unfortunate Oversight?" -- here's the intro:
Guess how many of the forty members of The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council are lesbian or gay?

The answer is eight.

Twenty percent of the elected leaders of the Church’s most important governing body in between General Conventions are lesbian and gay clergy and laity from around the country. This is reflective of the talent, dedication, and service that this small minority of the church’s membership offers to the whole. It is a testament to the esteem in which gay and lesbian Christians are held by our sisters and brothers.

Now, guess how many of these lesbian and gay leaders are serving on the Executive Council committee appointed to respond to the Communiqué from the Anglican Primates’ meeting in Tanzania?

The answer is zero. (Read it all here)
Finally, titusonenine is linking to this blog for the text of the Episcopal Church ad placed in Saturday's NYTimes on the Op-Ed page. Thanks, Kendall! (Not many comments yet but methinks the titusoneniners won't think it near as swell as I did!)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

On Mother's Day ...

Mother's Day has always kind of a mixed bag for me. My mother was famous for saying she'd rather have us clean up our rooms all year and skip the flowers and candy. (For the record, I sent flowers and candy again this year and yes, the room could use some picking up! :) And as a parish priest Sunday is a "working day" -- no matter how you look at it -- and so our Mother's Days have worked around that fact for lo-these-many years.
This year with Jamie in Iraq the best Mother's Day Present of all is just knowing he's OK -- which he is. Called from Kirkuk this afternoon. (Well the BEST would be an end to this crazy war and a new President but I'm trying to be reasonable here!) And my Brian sent along with a very sweet Mother's Day note what I imagine he imagines is what every mother wants: a picture of her boy with his dog and his truck. (Kentucky is turning out to have been a very good move for him!)

Meanwhile, the canine/feline-kids in our family put together a Happy Mother's Day blog over at Harvey & Luna so everybody is "present and accounted for."
Finally, in the Mother's Day flurry of flowers and brunches and gifts and cards let's remember that long before there was Hallmark there was Julia Ward Howe's 1870 "Mother's Day Proclamation" that got the whole thing started -- a proclamation that was, at it's core, a proclamation of peace that still speaks to us today:
Arise then...women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:"We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.
"From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: "Disarm! Disarm!The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women,
to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace...
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress,
not of Caesar, But of God -
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

TEC Marks a Milestone In NYT ad

The following advertisement appeared on the NYT op-ed page today -- how proud am I on this Mother's Day Eve to be a child of this Mother Church of ours ... this Episcopal Church USA!!! I'm hearing that there will shortly be info on the Nat'l Church website about how to use this ad in your own community or diocese but for now ... let us rejoice and be glad in it!

The Episcopal Church-Marking a Milestone, Moving Forward
Somewhere near you, there's a blue-and-white sign bearing the familiar slogan: The Episcopal Church Welcomes You .. It represents some 7,400 congregations that trace their beginnings in North America to a small but hopeful group of English Christians who arrived May 14, 1607 at a place they called Jamestown - the first permanent English settlement in the New World.
You may know us as Washington's monumental National Cathedral, site of historic services and ceremonies, or the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, still unfinished, but already the largest cathedral in the world.
But the Episcopal Church is also Boston's Old North Church, founded in 1723 and made famous by serving as the beacon for Paul Revere's revolution-spurring "midnight ride." And Philadelphia's Christ Church, home parish of 15 signers of the Declaration of Independence, host to the first General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 1785.
It's Trinity Parish on Wall Street in New York, formed in 1698, and St. Paul's Chapel just down the street, frequented by George Washington and the spiritual healing center of Ground Zero since September 11, 2001.
It's also Epiphany Church in Los Angeles, where Cesar Chavez rallied the United Farm workers. And Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Cumberland, Maryland, whose basement was a major stop on the Underground Railroad to freedom for enslaved African-Americans. And St. John's Church in Greenwich Village, a meeting place for gay and lesbian action following the 1969 Stonewall uprising.
It's a parish in Iowa. A campus ministry in Georgia. A mission in Dinetah - the Navajo Reservation. A cathedral in Utah. Even a house church in Vermont.
Wherever you find us, you'll find the Book of Common Prayer and a Christian faith that honors and engages the Bible, the tradition of the Church, and God-given human reason. Joined in prayer, you'll find people with many points of view - Christians who are progressive, moderate, and conservative - yet who value the diversity of their faith community.
That's a heritage drawn from our deep roots in nearly 2,000 years of English Christianity, and shared by a worldwide Anglican Communion that unites nearly 80 million people in 164 countries through prayer and ministries committed to caring for "the least of these," as Jesus commanded, by reducing poverty, disease, and oppression.
Episcopalians struggle with the same issues that trouble all people of faith: how to interpret an ancient faith for today ... how to maintain the integrity of tradition while reaching out to a hurting world ... how to disagree and yet love and respect one another.
Occasionally those struggles make the news. People find they can no longer walk with us on their journey, and may be called to a different spiritual home. Some later make their way back, and find they are welcomed with open arms.
Despite the headlines, the Episcopal Church keeps moving forward in mission - in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, as well as congregations in Belgium, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Germany, Guam, Haiti, Honduras, Italy, Micronesia, Puerto Rico, Switzerland, Taiwan, Venezuela, and the Virgin Islands.
We're committed to a transformed world, as Jesus taught: a world of justice, peace, wholeness, and holy living. We've grown a lot in 400 years, since that 1607 worship service from the Book of Common Prayer was held in Jamestown-inside and out.
Come see for yourself. Come and visit. .. come and explore ... come and grow.

Here's to "Mother's Day"

Maybe you have to be the mother of two sons to think this is THE most hysterical Mother's Day video ever ... or maybe it IS the most hysterical Mother's Day video ever! Either way ... HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!!!

"African plants foot in Episcopal battle" ...

... is the headline of an article in today's Houston Chronicle"
Hint: The African plants they're talking about are NOT African violets!

You can read the whole article here ... here are some snippets:

Minns' installation defied the wishes of both Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, leader of the U.S. Episcopal Church.

"I think we were not surprised by the action in Virginia last week. It's been building for a long time," said the Rev. Susan Russell, president of Integrity, a gay-rights lobbying group. "This is an important moment for the communion to recognize that there are forces within it, particularly those led by Archbisop Akinola, who are really determined to split the communion if they can't re-create it in their own image," she said ....

For some years, [Martyn] Minns has been active in the conservative American Anglican Council. "My sense is the Episcopal Church believes that everyone should be welcome, but no one is expected to change. That's very important to me. ... We don't need to redefine God for our culture; God is beyond culture."

Russell, a senior associate minister at All Saints Church in Pasadena, Calif., accused the conservatives of a "narrow and fundamentalist approach" to Scripture and theology.
"The pernicious piece for me is that rather than be seen as brothers and sisters in Christ who read Scripture and interpret it differently, they say that we have turned our backs on Scripture and are just focusing on social-justice issues," she said.

Dean Joe Reynolds of downtown's Christ Church Cathedral was saddened by Minns' installation.""With all the mission and ministry that needs to be done, it's a shame to spend time on those kinds of things," he said. "We are going about our work here on Texas and Fannin." Though some predict an eventual split, the Rev. David Puckett, rector of Holy Spirit Episcopal Church in the Memorial area, doesn't see it happening.

"I don't think that this event will prohibit Anglicans from continuing to commit themselves to seeking ways to remain unified as a communion," Puckett said. "I think the vast majority of Anglicans wish to do that," he said. "I mean Anglicans worldwide and Episcopalians."

At a parish meeting last fall, Puckett and an associate minister presented both the conservative and liberal interpretations of the main issues of human sexuality. We openly discussed all the issues, and toward the end of the day one of our oldest longtime members, a gentleman in his 70s, got up and said: 'I believe we are called to all live in the same tent.'

"It was great wisdom and really verified my faith in this wonderful parish," Puckett said.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Reflections on Reconciliation

The Diocese of Western Louisiana has just completed a Reconciliation Seminar led by Brian Cox and his team and Brad Drell is offering his reflections on his experience with the process on his blog, Drell's Descants.

Good for him.
I'm glad it was a positive experience. I hope it continues to bear fruit for the Diocese of Western Louisiana. And I hope it is a sign of hope that there are still those committed to working through the hard ground of our differences and finding a way forward through the morass of this schism being promoted by those who are committed to splitting the church they can't convince to agree with them.

I had the same hopes back in 2003 when I attended my third Reconciliation Seminar ... also led by Brian Cox ... one billed as a "National Reconciliation Conversation" and held at St. James, Wilshire (Los Angeles). In response to the Seminar I wrote Longing To Hope Again ... a Reflection on Reconciliation. Leadership teams from "both sides of the aisle" had been invited to this opportunity to engage in dialogue prior to General Convention 2003. The leadership of Claiming the Blessing (CTB) was there. The leadership of the American Anglican Council (AAC) was not.

So I was particularly struck by Drell's comment on the first day of the three-day Seminar: I’d say that we would all agree that more of this type of dialogue might have helped the national church from getting to where it is, had it happened a great deal earlier and with a great deal more frequency.

Couldn't agree more. But how do we make "this type of dialogue" happen when only one side shows up? I'm still longing to hope. And willing to show up. And those of us who have been at this for lo-these-many-years are still doing precisely that. Longing to hope. Showing up. Like we have for lo-these-many-years.

I'm thinking tonight about the once-upon-a-time when the Bishop of Los Angeles was longing to hope that if he brought together clergy leaders from his diocese for conversations about faith and theology we'd learn that we had more in common than we did in difference and we'd find a way to heal the breech between us. So we did. Eight of us. Four "liberal" and four "conservative." We met for a year. Twelve months. Once a month. We brought sack lunches and sat around a round table in our Cathedral Center and read the Catechism together -- the Outline of the Faith from the Book of Common Prayer. And we talked about it. About God. About Jesus. About the Holy Spirit. About the Church. About the Sacraments. About Sin.

And we prayed for each others' children and grandchildren. And we found we did indeed have a lot more in common than we did in difference. And in the end three of the four "conservatives" left the Episcopal Church. David Anderson to Nigeria. Bill Thompson to Uganda. Ron Jackson to I-can't-remember-where. In the end longing to hope wasn't enough. In the end their criterion for being included -- being agreed with -- was more important than their commitment to reconciliation.

I'm still longing to hope. I hope the efforts of those committed to reconciliation will be fruitful and multiply in the future. I hope that the extraordinary energy leaders like my bishop applied to making reconciliation happen in the past will be remembered and applauded -- even if they failed. And I hope that those coming late to the conversation will recognize that it is a conversation that has been going on for lo-these-many-years ... and one we're not walking apart from.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The week so far ...

So I just spent 2 1/2 days with my bishops and clergy colleagues in beautiful Long Beach exercising parts of my brain that haven't been out for a walk since seminary. It was frankly exhuasting -- and sometimes overwhelming -- but I'm so very grateful to be part of a diocese that encourages us to "stretch" in the service of doing our best to proclaim the Gospel, the Year of the Lord's Favor and the Good News of God in Christ Jesus.

We had two keynoters for the conference. The first was Dr. Stuart Hameroff, Professor of Anesthesiology and Psychology, and Director of the Center for Consciousness Study at the University of Arizona in Tucson ... and frankly the very tippy-top of my brain occasionally brushed the bottom of what he was talking about as he "unwrapped" quantum physics toward finding connections between science and the soul.
Facinating stuff ... in theory. And I was really, really grateful that I seem to have some really smart colleagues who were doing a better job than I was at integrating what he had to say.

Then there was Joan Roughgarden, a professor of biological sciences and geophysics at Stanford University, who led us through an exploration of biology and theology and what turn out to be some facinating connections between what the Bible tells us about the "whys" of creation and what Biology theorizes about the "hows." (I even bought her book ... Evolution and Christian Faith: Reflections of an Evolutionary Biologist ... so I'll be smarter about this part pretty soon!)

Then some of the aforementioned smart-colleagues offered some panel conversations about implications for the church which were well attended and well received. We also had the usual stuff-of-clergy-conferences ... introducing new clergy, clapping up those retiring soon, having a Q&A time with our bishops.
Of course "what happens next with the Communion" was part of our dialogue and -- at least for our four bishops -- there is not an ounce of interest in doing anything other than staying the course set in Camp Allen and moving the church forward without, as +Jon put it in his own inimitable style, "throwing anybody under the bus."
No news there!
But there WAS some fun news to "report out" -- first the news that +Chet Talton ... our dearly loved and deeply respected Bishop Suffragan ...

... is getting married at the end of the month!! Blessing upon them both -- and wishes for many, many years of happily ever after!
The other news was that there had been an appointment of a new Provost for our Cathedral Center (we don't have a Cathedral so no Dean) to replace Ernesto Medina who has moved to Omaha. The new provost?

The Reverend Michael Battle -- currently Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at VTS and a long time friend of this diocese. We are just thrilled to be welcoming him "home" to Los Angeles and look forward to the opportunity to work with him, particularly around areas of peacemaking and nonviolence.

All in all a very satisfactory first-half-of-a-week ... and now I "board up" to get ready to fly out tomorrow for meetings in Ft. Worth for the rest of the week. The CTB (Claiming the Blessing) Steering Committee will be meeting in that fair city this week and prayers are invited for safe travel for our committee members and for the work we will do together in the days ahead!

Just finishing up Clergy Conference ...

... here in beautiful Long Beach ...

... I'll try to write a little about what we've been up to for the last few days here before I pack to leave for meetings in Ft. Worth for the rest of the week. Bizzy, bizzy, bizzy!
Meanwhile, here's a story I can't resist sharing from the ever-fabulous Mad Priest:
A plane full of archbishops crashes and they all go to heaven where God is waiting for them.
God says to Rowan. "Rowan, what do you believe?"
Rowan replied, "Well, I believe that my weakness brought the Anglican Church to the brink of destruction, but I truly did what I did to try and keep everyone together."
God thought for a second and said, "I admire your love for my Church. Come sit at my left."
God then addressed Katharine. "Katharine, what do you believe?"
Katharine replied, "I believe I should have been a lot more assertive in Dar Es Salaam. But I wanted the boys to accept me. I was being vain."
God thought for a second and said, "Because of your honesty, you are forgiven, my daughter. Come sit at my right."
God then called on Peter Akinola. "Your Holiness, what do you believe?"
Peter said, "I believe you're in MY chair!"

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Good News from the Diocese of Newark

An Open Letter to the Clergy of the Diocese of Newark from The Oasis

Bishop Beckwith has given The Oasis permission to create a list of clergy willing to perform civil unions as a resource for same sex couples who wish for their ceremonies to be performed by clergy. As civil agents of the state, clergy are legally permitted to perform civil unions and canonically there is nothing to prevent clergy from performing them and blessing the union ... The Bishop has a standard of expectations for any clergy performing civil union partnerships.

1. Civil Union ceremonies may be performed in church.

2. A record of the service may be recorded in the parish register.

3. It is the choice of the clergyperson, as in marriage, whether or not they will perform civil unions, and
4. The same requirements and expectations exist for civil unions -- "counseling, participation in the life of the church community and congregation, etc." -- that the clergyperson and church require for marriage. If it is a second relationship, permission needs to be given by the bishop (as in a second marriage request).

5. Guidelines for the service may be obtained from the Civil Union Task Force.

As you probably know, the Bishop has established a Civil Union Task Force to help respond to this new legal opportunity, chaired by Ms. Barbara Conroy and the Rev. Phil Wilson. In the meantime, if you are looking for services of blessing The Oasis has on file several approved ceremonies of blessing which are available by e-mail to anyone in the diocese who requests them.

If you have not already done so please let The Oasis know if you would like to be included on the list of clergy willing to perform civil unions. You can send a note of your willingness to The Oasis by e-mail to or to The Oasis, 31 Mulberry Street, Newark, NJ 07102.

Sincerely, THE OASIS
John Simonelli, Commission Chair

Monday, May 07, 2007

Monday Morning Round Up

The flowers are California poppies I shot when up in Santa Ynez Valley a couple of weeks ago ... just thought they were a happy way to start out a new week ...

Also on the "happy list" are Elizabeth Kaeton's wonderful sermon "Peter, Paris, James & The New Commandment" preached at St. Paul's in Chatham NJ and Michael Hopkins' prophetic witness "The Restorer of Streets to Live In" preached in the streets of Rochester NY.
From Elizabeth: God has given to Peter and Paris and James and even you and me the repentance that leads to new life. “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” Because it is by the love we show one another, not the judgement or the labels or the condemnation or the exclusion, but the love – even when that love leads to tough decisions to find a way to hold each other accountable for our actions while still keeping us together in the fold – the demonstration of THAT love is how we will be known as disciples of Christ Jesus, who said, “Love one another as I have loved you.”
From Michael: I have an agenda, as I said, which I trust and pray has at least a large part to do with God’s agenda—a new heaven and a new earth, a home for God among us, and us unshackled from the old ways of division and scarcity and fear. Together we can restore streets to live in, and together we can rebuild this church of ours. Let us be the ones who say, “No more acceptance of decline and scarcity as a way of life. No more playing the Survivor game. It stops, with the grace of God, with us, if we are willing to stop it together.”
Into the "not so happy" file goes the effort to "pie" Don Armstrong in the Grace Church pulpit yesterday. Fr. Jake has the story along with the opportunity to weigh in on the question, "So, is a pie in the face an appropriate response to the shenanigans of Don Armstrong?" (For the record my answer is "No!")
Closer to home and ALSO "not so happy" was the recent violation of her probation and impending incarceration of one near and dear to me. (And no, it's not Paris Hilton!)
In the "Lost & Found" Department, Mark Harris is reporting that Archbishop Akinola has "found" the letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury asking him to reconsider his CANA cameo appearance -- found and responded. Whatever.
And on the Required Reading List the Memorandum "Report of the House of Bishops' Task Force on Property Disputes" dated April 9th but posted today over on Daily Episcopalian (among other less fun to hang out at places.) Anybody else remember back when we were considered "paranoid" for suggesting that there was a conspiracy afoot?
Finally, here's my nominee for best bumper sticker of the week ... also courtesy Elizabeth Kaeton's "Telling Secrets."
Happy Monday, Everybody!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Say What????

"Our desire is not to interfere with what
they're (the Episcopal Church) doing.
We just don't agree with it."

Following Our Revisionist Lord

All Saints Church ~ Easter 5C

"I give you a new commandment: Love one another. You're to love one another the way I have loved. This is how all will know that you're my disciples: that you truly 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 before he died. "A new commandment I give you," he said to the faithful Jews who were his disciples – and 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 – the revisionist rabble rousing rabbi from Nazareth.

"A New Commandment?" Who did this revisionist think he was? It was 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.

"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." Not "if you follow all the purity codes." Not "if you get 100% on the theology quiz." Not "if you agree with each other about everything." The New Commandment is none of these: it’s simply love one another." And because the New Commandment – the Eleventh Commandment – we celebrate every time we gather may just be the hardest one of all, thank God we also celebrate the Grace of God that enables us to accomplish what we have been called to do.

Grace. It's another one of those words so familiar it sometimes defies explanation ... definition ... understanding. I remember well the moment when after years of hearing about it grace was finally explained to me in a way I could actually understand it. A priest told me, "Think of all the times you've said, thought or heard the phrase, 'There but for the grace of God go I' and try it this way instead, 'There but for the enablement of God go I.' Remember – there is nothing God will ask you to do God will not enable you to accomplish – THAT'S what we mean by "grace."

St. Augustine – one of the great Fathers of the Church – is reputed to have used these words when he distributed the bread of communion: "Receive what you are." You ARE the Body of Christ – the grace is already there. The sacrament is just a reminder. I was taught in my catechism class that a sacrament is "an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace." There are two primary sacraments in the Episcopal Church ... the Anglican tradition: Baptism and Eucharist. They are considered "primary" because Jesus told us to do them.

Other sacraments in the prayer book – ordination, confirmation, marriage, etc. – don't have the primacy of the other two because while we believe them to be inspired by the Holy Spirit the two things we have Jesus on record as saying: DO THIS are Baptism and Eucharist – and so we do.

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: I give you a new commandment: LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

It is that love we celebrate today in our worship and our praise – it is that Eleventh Commandment we claim as we ask God to send us out into the world to do the work we have been given to do -- to live our lives as God's people in the world offering that love that casts out fear to a world in desperate need of it.
We've been given a New Commandment. Let us rejoice and be glad in it! Amen.