Friday, February 29, 2008

Rebuilding Communion -- Who Pays the Price?

From the Lambeth Conference 1998 to the Lambeth Conference 2008 and Beyond

In progress at St. Deniol's Library in North Wales, this important conference is based on the forthcoming book Rebuilding Communion (Monad Press, 2008). The aim of the book -- which will be sent by LGCM to every Bishop attending the Lambeth Conference -- and the conference is simple: to review the last 10 years since Lambeth 1998; to listen to experiences of Lesbian and Gay Anglicans from the worldwide communion; to sketch out possibilities for the future of Anglicanism.

John Clinton Bradley (Integrity administrator) and Michael Hopkins (Integrity past-president) are in Wales attending the conference and John has been blogging on it over at Walking With Integrity:

So far he's posted reflections on presentations by:

Stay tuned and keep the good work of those gathered at St. Deniol's in your prayers!

Another Quote of Note from the AAC

In both Canada and the United States, if you love Jesus and take his teachings and commands seriously, the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) or the Episcopal Church (TEC) will come after you with harmful intent.
David Anderson, President & CEO of the American Anglican Council
I thought about giving up reading these weekly AAC Newsletters for Lent but decided that would be like my childhood effort to give up broccoli ... better, I figured, I should "take on" things that will build up the Kingdom rather than "give up" things I don't like anyway.
So I keep reading ... keep noting, for the record, just how predictably the victimization-meter keeps getting turned up in David's weekly efforts to re-cast the architects of this schism as its victims.
And I keep looking for where and when there are opportunities to challenge the "revisionism" and the spin.
So ... toward that end (of noting for the record) let ME note "for the record" that both the ACC and TEC are FULL of people who "love Jesus and take his teachings and commands seriously" -- and who disagree with David Anderson about how we live that out as a people of God.
And guess what? We're willing to continue to be in conversation and consultation with those, like David, who disagree. And guess what else? If he isn't -- willing to be in conversation and consultation -- then he'd be the one walking away ... not us.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Dear New Hampshire ....

... send your money, not your bishop!

Episcopal Cafe reports: Lambeth Palace has been careful to avoid sending Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire any of the mail that goes out to bishops invited to the Lambeth Conference, and it has made sure that his partner, Mark Andrew, has not received any of the correspondence sent to spouses. Somehow, though, a request for $7,000 to support the conference has found its way to the bishop's desk.
That's right. The invitation isn't in the mail but the "ask" is.
It really does make you wonder if the right hand knows what the left hand is doing over there -- and inspires me to ask (once again!):
If the Petulant Primates really aren't coming to Lambeth Conference, what on earth is the Archbishop of Canterbury hoping to gain by continuing to exclude the Bishop of New Hampshire?
How great a witness could this church ... this communion ... make to the world if it would refuse to scapegoat the only honest gay bishop in the Communion and come together as bishops of the WHOLE church at Lambeth Conference to seek the face of God in "the other."

C'mon, +Rowan ... step up, buddy.

It's never too late to do the right thing!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

My, my, my ...

More news from San Joaquin, via Episcopal News Service:

[Episcopal News Service] A growing number of Episcopalians in the Diocese of San Joaquin are opting to remain within the Episcopal Church (TEC), as the Fresno-based diocese prepares for an anticipated March 29 special convention that would elect a provisional bishop.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, in a letter to be distributed via a new diocesan newspaper, notes the proposed convention date and reassures the people of the diocese that work is ongoing "to ensure that you and your fellow Episcopalians may continue to bless the communities around you well into the future."

"I anticipate convening a Special Diocesan Convention on 29 March, at which you will elect new diocesan leaders, and begin to make provision for episcopal leadership for the next year or so," Jefferts Schori writes. "That gathering will be an opportunity to answer questions you may have, as well as to hear about plans for the renewal of mission and ministry in the Diocese of San Joaquin."
The convention announcement follows a series of February 19-22 meetings with individuals and groups from Lodi to Bakersfield which the Rev. Canon Bob Moore called "very fruitful. We've been able to broaden the scope of people who may see a future in the reconstituted Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin and that's been good," he said.

Moore noted as signs of progress the appointment of a 26-member steering committee to help continue the diocese (see roster below); 17 congregations who have opted to remain with TEC; the anticipated March 29 special convention to elect a provisional bishop; establishment of new diocesan headquarters in Stockton and a partnership with Episcopal Life Media to facilitate dissemination of information and to provide a new diocesan newspaper edition.

"It's an enormously big step," said Moore, of the new diocesan publication. "The lack of information here is profound," he said.
Read the rest here ... and do keep the Episcopalians in San Joaquin in your prayers. Their former bishop is NOT making things any kind of easy for those who wish to remain faithful to the doctrine and discipline of the Episcopal Church ... you know, the things he vowed to do when he was ordained and when he was consecrated.
[Also from the ENS article] In other developments, Bishop John-David Schofield in a letter dated February 15 forbade [Brian] Cox and [Bob] Moore from serving as an interim pastoral presence in San Joaquin. "You are meddling in the affairs of San Joaquin with neither the courtesy of requesting my permission as bishop nor even troubling to inform me of your plans," the letter said.

"Under no circumstances are you welcome to hold meetings in this diocese or to ask permission of clergy or other leaders to do so," Schofield added.

But ... if he's not an Episcopal Bishop anymore, what with jumping ship to the Southern Cone and all, then with what authority does he "decree" what folks who want to stay in the Episcopal Church either do or don't do ... or where or when they meet with who?
It just gets curiouser and curiouser ...

The IRS Strikes Again

Now they're after the UCC (United Church of Christ). And note, that's the WHOLE United Church of Christ ... not just a congregation: the whole-enchilada DENOMINATION!

Here's the UCC statement ... and here's some commentary from a blog called "Progressive Involvement:"

In a move reminiscent of the IRS's move against All Saints Episcopal in Pasadena, CA, the IRS is now going to investigate an entire denomination, the United Church of Christ (UCC). With over a million members, the UCC is one of the larger protestant denominations in the United States.

The issue, supposedly, is a speech given by Sen. Barack Obama at the church's national convention in 2007. In a statement, the UCC said:

Obama, an active member of the United Church of Christ for more than 20 years, addressed the UCC's 50th anniversary General Synod in Hartford, Conn., on June 23, 2007, as one of 60 diverse speakers representing the arts, media, academia, science, technology, business and government. Each was asked to reflect on the intersection of their faith and their respective vocations or fields of expertise. The invitation to Obama was extended a year before he became a Democratic presidential candidate.

(UCC President John) Thomas said the IRS's investigation implies that Obama, a UCC member, is not free to speak openly to fellow UCC members about his faith.

Let's get this straight: The IRS does not investigate Jerry Falwell, who accused the President of the United States of murder. The IRS does not investigate the blatantly political Pat Robertson, or D. James Kennedy, or James Dobson. The IRS does not investigate the outfit from Colorado Springs that sent me a CD, two days before the 2004 election, promoting George Bush. The IRS does not investigate the myriad of conservative religious organizations openly participating in various elections. (May I add, I don't think they should either.)
But the IRS does investigate the progressive All Saints Episcopal Church because, before the 2004 election, the Rector gave a speech denouncing the Iraq War. Imagine the temerity! A Christian pastor raises questions about a war. (Note: It was the rector-emeritus, but let's not quibble!)

Then, the IRS investigates an entire (liberal) denomination because one of its own members spoke to his fellow Christians about "his personal faith journey" and about how religion had been used to divide the country.

Moreover, the UCC appears to have bent over backwards to make certain that the speech could not be construed as a political campaign speech. No campaigning of any kind was allowed inside the convention center.
In any case, so what if it was? Political leaders--especially when campaigning--routinely speak at national church conventions. Usually, these speeches are given to religious organizations of which they are not members themselves. Ronald Reagan regularly spoke to the National Association of Evangelicals. John F. Kennedy gave his famous speech on church-state relations to the Houston Ministerial Association. Vice President Hubert Humphrey spoke at the Lutheran Youth Conference I attended in 1965!

That doesn't even count the great number of politicians who speak in individual churches all the time, sometimes even preaching the sermon. Jesse Jackson preached at my seminary during the Iowa caucuses in 1988. It is beyond ludicrous that a prominent politician can't speak to members of his own denomination about faith, or politics, or whatever he feels like talking about.
So there you have it. Stay tuned on this one ... there is clearly going to be more to this story!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Prayer for the Nation

thanks to Episcopal Cafe for this

Prayer for the Nation
Invocation for the Democratic
Presidential Debate

offered by
The Very Rev.
Tracey Lind, Dean,
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Cleveland

Shalom, Salaam, Peace be with you. Let us pray.

Gracious and loving God: we call you by many names and come to you by many paths, yet you have brought us together to this time and place. We join our voices in praising you for the majesty and beauty of this land, for the people of our nation, for the state of Ohio and its citizens, and for the city of Cleveland and those who live, work and study here. May we always be mindful stewards of your bountiful creation.

As we come together this evening, we thank you, O God, for the great diversity of our nation and its people who, throughout our history, have embodied the principles and ideals of a democratic society. We pray especially this night for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. We give thanks for their willingness to stand before us and offer themselves to serve as our nation’s president. We pray that as they debate, they will exhibit the courage of their convictions, hunger for the truth, a vision of compassion, justice for all people, and civility toward one another.

And as we, your faithful people, listen, discern and cast our ballots, may we remember that this nation is too important for anything but truth, that this world is too vulnerable for anything but peace, and that your creation is too precious for anything but love.



The Mom Song

So last night, after a LOOOOOOOOOONG Monday after a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG weekend I finally got to the NYTimes, still sitting in the hallway in the blue plastic bag from Sunday morning, and enjoyed the feature in the NYTimes Magazine entitled "Did you hear the one about the Christian comedian?"

It's a great piece, and it included a reference to this video ...

... which I made a note to "Google" when I got online and then forgot about -- until I found it already posted over at Titusonenine. (Thanks, Kendall!)

So sit back ... turn up the volume and ENJOY! (And give thanks for Moms (and Dads!) everywhere who love us enough tell us what we need to hear ... over and over and over again!)

Talking Across the Divide

Do you wonder sometimes whether it does any good -- trying to talk across the theological and political divides that are so much a part of our contemporary cultural landscape?

Case in point du jour ... this quote from Kendall Harmon's Titusonenine:

"I am very struck by our inability to communicate."-- Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori toward the very end of the [2/25/08] session with active clergy of the diocese of South Carolina
Telling, eh? Well, you won't have seen the half of it until you gird your loins and check out the comments (up to 72 in number as I post this) on this single sentence statement from the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

My own two thoughts in response are:

#1 -- To say "No wonder the Kingdom hasn't come!"
#2 -- To pray for the church -- AND for our Presiding Bishop: the Most Reverend Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Won't you join me?

Holy God, we pray for your holy catholic church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Savior. Amen.

UPDATE: Kendall closed the comments at 90 with this comment of his own:

Kendall Harmon wrote:
I am ending this thread. I would like to say in conclusion that charity is to be extended as part of living out the call of Christ. To all. Jesus even called us to love our enemies. It is very difficult, yes, but it is our call. It is an important part of our witness to give attention to how we say things as well as what we say.

And let the people say: AMEN!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sunday at All Saints ...

... we had a visitor from Nigeria!

It was great delight for us here at All Saints, Pasadena to welcome Davis MacIyalla -- one of those gay people of which there aren't any in Africa -- to share in witness and worship with us.

Davis is the Director of Changing Attitude Nigeria and he spoke at the Rector's Forum (video here) ...

... and then joined us for worship on this Third Sunday in Lent.

Here we are in the obligatory "candid shot" after church, with Jim White, member of the All Saints vestry, founding member of Claiming the Blessings and chair of the L.A. Deputation to GC'09. (We just call him "Mr. All Church All the Time.")

Davis is on his way now to a conference in Wales -- Rebuilding Communion: Who Pays the Price? -- where he will be presenting a paper, along with other LGBT leaders from around the Anglican Communion (including our own fabulous Michael Hopkins.)

So Godspeed, Davis! Great to have you with us in Pasadena. Looking forward to seeing you in Canterbury this summer and beyond!


Integrity Launches "Canterbury Campaign"

All the details are available on the Integrity website, but here's the gist:

The historic ties of mutual affection and common history that have bound the diverse, global Anglican family of faith together for generations are under assault by those who would replace communion with conformity as the criterion for a place at the Anglican table. It is critical that, at Lambeth 2008, those committed to the historic ethos of Anglican comprehensiveness stand together to…

  • Witness to our shared history;
  • Call our Anglican brothers and sisters in Christ to transcend the differences that some insist must divide us;
  • Focus on the common mission and ministry that will, in the end, unite us.

It is critical that the LGBT faithful, who have seen their lives and vocations reduced to bargaining chips in a decade-long game of Anglican politics, speak out together and give voice to the hope and the faith their witness to the Anglican Communion represents.

Integrity's message at Lambeth will be that God's mission includes all people, especially those marginalized by our societies. We work towards the day when all people are fully included in all rites and all orders of the Church and towards the realization of the Reign of God. Thus we stand within the "mainstream" of the Anglican ethos which is inclusive and tolerant of difference.

After thirty years of promising to “listen to the experience of gay and lesbian persons," the Anglican Communion is still content to listen to those who want to talk about us rather than talk to us. Lambeth 2008 is the end of that.

Integrity is working with two coalitions to have a unified, effective presence at the Lambeth Conference. Within the Episcopal Church we are working the Chicago Consultation—which is composed of some 50 inclusion activism leaders—gay and straight; bishops, clergy, and laity. Within the Anglican Communion, we are working with the St. Anne's Network—which consists of about a dozen LGBT organizations from around the globe—including Integrity Canada, Integrity Uganda, Changing Attitude UK, and Changing Attitude Nigeria.

Some pictures are worth 1000 words ...

... and others pretty much say it ALL!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Heterosexuality is not normal

[photo: Amy Chong, Santa Barbara Independent]
The sad, sad story of Lawrence King's murder, blogged on here February 14th, is featured in today's New York Times and also in this story in the Santa Barbara Independent:
The death of Lawrence King was a wake-up call to the community not only about gay rights, but about the morals and values our youth hold — or perhaps, lack. In a press release on February 12, State Senator Sheila Kuehl (D-23) stated, “This killing also raises a larger concern, because the danger that loomed over Lawrence King still threatens other students, and we must raise our voices to be sure that no more lives are lost and no more communities are so devastated.” Beyond merely preventing violence for those who do not fit into the mold, we need to address the acceptance of differences.
A government study reports 97 percent of all youth report hearing anti-gay remarks in public schools. It’s not surprising that youth throw around words like “gay” with negative connotation when no one is stepping forward to stop them. Likewise, the teasing of classmates for dress, financial status, gender, and physical appearance continues as usual.
We can’t continue pointing fingers. For youth to truly think about all of these issues, a speech by the principal is not going to make the connection. People — and in particular, youth — need to be in an environment where acceptance is consistently the norm.
And that challenge needs to be made not only to our schools ... but to our churches AND to our Communion. The full inclusion of all the baptized into the Body of Christ is not some "issue" we should get around to when we get all the other "real" concerns of the church taken care of. It is staring us in the face in the faces of the strangers at the gate who do not hear from the church the message that they are loved, they are welcome, they are NEEDED to make the church the whole people of God it is called to be.
The church that promises to respect the dignity of every human being every time it renews its baptismal vows should be challenging the culture to become that "environment where acceptance is consistently the norm" -- not copping to the culture's bigotry and bias against LGBT people.
The Episcopal Church has a unique, gifted opportunity to make this case from a faith-based platform, grounded firmly in the Scriptures we read, the Tradition we claim and the Reason we apply to the challenges before us. And I believe it is our call to do precisely that.
It is long past time for us to stop allowing the schismatics among us "spin" the issue of LGBT inclusion as an issue that will split the church (it will not) -- and to claim it instead as an opportunity that will grow it. Not only in numbers -- as we reach out to those yearning to raise their children and live their lives in an environment of love, tolerance and inclusion -- but in witness: as we model for the culture WJWD (What Jesus WOULD Do!) -- as we live out baptismal promises as Christ's Body in the world.

Another plot development ...

... in "As the Anglican World Turns" Land!

I'm on my way out the door for a memorial service this morning that will take me away for most of the day, but wanted to quickly post up links to this "breaking news" in Anglican Land.

Yesterday, Jonathan Petre posted a story entitled Secret plan to avoid church gay split ... which led to George Conger's Presiding Bishop Backs US Deal ... (guess the "secret deal" wasn't so secret!) ... which precipitated this letter of clairifcation by Bishop Howe of Central Florida posted today on Episcopal Cafe.

So ... what does it all mean?

Because I'm in a hurry, let me defer to this comment by Stand Firm's Matt Kennedy, posted today over at Titusonenine:

I see this, again, as nothing more than an expansion and internationalization of DEPO. It is too little too late, but worse, it is a recipe for the eventual defeat and destruction of internal resistance within reappraising jurisdictions. And, to top it off, as others have already noticed, there is no discipline whatsoever envisioned in this plan for TEC. The orthodox are seen as the divisive and difficult ones.
Perhaps, Matt, that's because they ARE!

More later ...

Friday, February 22, 2008

And now, from the "They Eat Their Own, Don't They?" Department ...

... we have this tidbit from today's weekly AAC (American Anglican Council) Newsletter -- written by David Anderson:
One of our lead stories this week centers on the agreement of the Rev. Brian Cox to cooperate with the Episcopal Church in their attempt to wrest control of the Diocese of San Joaquin back from Bishop John-David Schofield and the parishes that have chosen to realign with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

There is a particular disappointment among the orthodox that this former brother in arms would agree to such a collaboration. The American Anglican Council would urge Fr. Cox and any others who are being asked to participate in such endeavors to turn aside. History judges the collaborationists harshly, and his interests in bringing so-called reconciliation to the areas encompassing San Joaquin is ill-advised and focused on the wrong people.

The newsletter goes on -- at length -- and while I'll spare you the details, David Anderson's argumentation ends up where so many orthodox arguments do: with bestiality.


My point in posting this today is not to show how low David and his AAC cronies will sink ... I think we already know the answer to that. My point is how intensely personal this all is for them. David has been betrayed by a "former brother in arms."


Note that it's not "brother in Christ" but "brother in arms" -- as in armed warfare. And that's what this is for them -- those who have worked, prayed, schemed, fund-raised and brought into fruition this schism du jour. It is a war.

Premeditated and orchestrated with malice aforethought -- it is a war against everything that stands between them and:

  • the church they believe they are entitled to create in their own image (see also: straight/white/male)
  • the Gospel they believe they have sole authority to interpret and proclaim
  • the Absolute Truth of which they have Sole Possession.

How hard must it be for Brian Cox ... who is a nice man, a good priest and a genuine-article reconciler ... to have his erstwhile orthodox "brothers" like David Anderson turn on him as a "collaborationist." (For the record, Brian -- who is a Diocese of Los Angeles clergy colleague -- and I arguably disagree about almost everything there is to disagree about except that [1] Jesus is our Lord and Savior and [2] there is room in the Episcopal Church for both Brian Cox and Susan Russell. He deserves better than this from his former friend and I hope he's "considering the source," as my mother would have said.)

So here's my closing thoughts on this: methinks it's going to get worse before it gets better. Methinks, for all the saber rattling and "brother in arms" language, there is not a sound of exultation and victory in the "orthodox" tents but a dawning realization that the strife will soon be o'er and the battle will be won ... and not by them.

For you see, their coup d’état has failed.

It becomes increasingly clear ...
  • that Lambeth Conference will happen,
  • the the Primates have played their cards and are done calling the shots,
  • that the American Episcopal Church will NOT be voted off the Anglican Island,
  • that blessings and ordinations will continue to happen,
  • that gay and lesbian clergy will continue to courageously live into their episcopal vocations and that the church will be enriched by their witness
  • that they are not going to get to create their own "parallel jurisdiction" and call it Anglican
... then we can expect the rhetoric to become more strident, the battle language to become more harsh and the scapegoat list to become longer and longer.

When it's no longer Gene Robinson or Frank Griswold or Katharine Jefferts Schori (or Susan Russell, Elizabeth Kaeton, Michael Hopkins, Tracey Lind or fill-in-the-LGBT-blank) but Brian Cox who's the traitor to the cause and the source of the problem then, my friends, the end is near. And the end can't come soon enough, as far as I'm concerned.

Oh, there are more "battles" to come ... and, sadly, there will be more "collateral damage" (as they call it in warfare-language-land.) But at the end of the day, those who will be called to account for that collateral damage to the mission and ministry of the church, to the lives and vocations of the LGBT baptized, to the families and friends scapegoated in pursuit of the winner-take-all strategy of the Absolutist Agenda will be the architects of that Agenda.

And at the end of the day, those who will have "won" will be those who are even now working to build bridges across differences rather than brandish doctrines across divides.

Those would be the "collaborationists" -- AKA as co-creators of the Kingdom called by the Prince of Peace to beat swords into plowshares and forsake being brothers in arms for being brothers -- and sisters -- in Christ.
O come, o come, Emmanuel!

Women and War: Catch 22

by Ellen Snortland

Without breaking through the female leadership dearth, women will never be able to prove they can end war

In “Lysistrata,” the ancient Greek comedy by Aristophanes, women demand peace by withholding sex until their husbands agree to stop the Peloponnesian war. In the modern era, many of us — women and men alike — demand that women have an equal place in decisions to wage war orpeace, historically moving from bedroom “girlcott” to calling the shots, literally. Alas, we are far away from achieving control over matters of war or peace in the halls of power.

One of the yearnings of my heart as a women’s rights activist has been to get a critical mass of women in positions where we can demand the “boys” put down their bombs and guns. Enough bang, boom, bang, boys! Move over, you’ve screwed up the world and now it’s our turn to see if we can not only do better but clean up your mess. But how do we get a “tipping point” — enough women into power in a culture that deeply mistrusts, and often despises, peaceful people? It’s one of those Catch 22s. (A “Catch 22” as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “a problematic situation for which the only solution is denied by a circumstance inherent in the problem or by a rule.”) In this case, more women leaders are our hope for peace — but in order to trust them they need to be warriors, not pacifists. Get out of THAT little catch.

The US Civil War had few public pacifists, male or female, with Quakers being an important exception. Many women, North and South, joined in the war effort. Women “warred” by rolling bandages, nursing, knitting socks or taking over the family farm, business or plantation. Obviously, as in any era or country, women were deeply involved with the conflict because they were related to the wagers of war. From politicians to officers to conscripts, everyone had a human stake in the War Between the States.

Ironically, wars serve to expand the scope of what women learn to do, and thereby expand their dreams and possibilities. How are you gonna keep Jane chained to the stove once she knows she is just as capable as men — whether father, husband, son or brother — to do “men’s work?” Each time the US has engaged in war, American women have become more involved in public issues and demand more rights as citizens and representation in leadership.

During the Civil War the suffragists, led by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, waited. They put on hold their mission to get women the right to vote. The war effort was more important, even though they ardently believed that getting half the population the vote would make a difference in creating justice and peace. Catch 22.

Fast forward to the “Great War,” which we now call World War I: The suffragists were put down by anti-war and pro-war women alike for being selfish. “The women’s vote can wait. Peace and patriotism are more important!” (Jeanette Rankin of Montana, the first woman ever elected to the US Congress, voted against going to war before women even won the vote in 1920.) Another Catch 22. How can women vote against war if they can’t even vote?

Now we’re facing yet another Catch … we’re up to Catch 25 or so, right? We have feminist anti-war groups who, after soul-searching, feel compelled to endorse a male who voted against our going to war in Iraq. A male who, if he gets the nomination, I fear will be hammered, nay, NUKED by the GOP campaign machinery for being against the war in Iraq. And ironically, the first electable woman to come forward since women won the vote in 1920 is being hammered and nailed by some of her sisters for voting the way she did on the war.

If she hadn’t voted for war, she would NEVER have gotten as far as she has now. Does anyone really think an openly pacifist woman would ever win the presidential nomination in this country? As much as I wish it could be so, I can’t see it. So we’re supposed to wait for another female candidate? Wow. HRC is as strong a candidate I can think of, regardless of gender, as we’ve seen in decades.

My heart’s desire lies not only in my belief that HRC can turn the country around in a shorter amount of time than anyone else, but that women will eventually have the power to force the boys running the government to put down their weapons. Until then, we have to have people trust that we too can go to war if we have to.

Look, sisters and brothers, we don’t have females entering into the presidential pipeline; none that I can see anyway. Where are they? Where are the other female senators, who, like their male counterparts, set up exploratory committees and test their tootsies in the presidential waters? Until and unless we break through this female leadership dearth, we will not be able to see if we women can end war. Catch THAT. Perhaps we once again need to employ Lysistrata tactics.

Ellen Snortland can be reached at

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Holy Irrelevant?

Well, I'm still digging out from under having been away last week and off on Monday but ONE of the things I "dug out" was this great sermon by Colin Coward of Changing Attitude UK.

You'll want to read the whole thing, but here are a couple of snippets to get you started:

The Communion has become obsessed with the consecration of one man, and with the issue he represents. Isn’t this current obsession with LGBT people irrelevant, as the title of this Lenten series of sermons suggests, a distraction from more important issues? In a recently published book on the ethics of the New Testament, Richard Burridge, Dean of King’s College London writes "While the spectres of mass starvation, international conflicts, HIV/AIDS and global warming stalk us like four modern horsemen of the Apocalypse, many Christian churches around the world are overwhelmed by internal wrangling about women in leadership and homosexuality."

What it means to be ‘biblical’ lies at the heart of these debates, says Richard. He concludes "Whenever we are presented with a choice between being biblical and being inclusive, it is a false dichotomy - for to be truly biblical is to be inclusive in any community which wants to follow and imitate Jesus."

Why is it relevant to the church that she should affirm LGBT people and why is this a holy cause? Because care for the oppressed and marginalised is core to the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Because LGBT people are subjected to abuse, persecution, death threats, murder and execution in many countries now.

The trauma through which Christianity in general is living, and the Anglican Communion is living with particular intensity, is a trauma about far more than LGBT sexuality and sexual activity. To grossly over-simplify what is clearly a very complex dynamic, I’d like to suggest it is about two core things.

Firstly, literalism and the concrete against the spiritual and the divine. Conservatives want to return us to a pre-enlightenment mentality, a time when they imagine people’s world view was more secure and certain. That’s a fantasy, of course, but in a time of deep insecurity and uncertainty, people of our generation are seeking the security blanket of fundamentalism and secure, ’unchanging’ faith. That isn’t the kind of faith Jesus was encouraging Nicodemus to explore.

LGBT people are scapegoats in this dynamic. We may also be prophets, reminding the church that Jesus is gently inviting us to take the risk of journeying further down the road with him.

Secondly, the exploration of the presence of LGBT people in church and society may also be forcing the church to confront properly for the first time in 2000 years the aversion it carries to the truth that God creates us male and female and sexual. Our spiritual and sexual selves are deeply intertwined, and the church expends enormous amounts of time and energy trying to prise the two apart.

Monday, February 18, 2008

"Happy Anniversary" Day

I'm sure there are lots of interesting things begging to be blogged today, but as today is February 18, 2008 it is the second anniversary of our wedding -- and so blogging is not on the agenda.

Tomorrow will certainly be soon enough for any thoughts I've got to share on the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Communion, the Presidential Primary or Life in General.

So until then, have a great day, everybody ... enjoy whatever your Monday looks like -- and remember to take a moment to give thanks for the gift of love that both calls us into relationships and sustains us in them!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

It's never too late to do the right thing

As reported yesterday, Five Petulant Primates have declared (again) their intention to boycott the upcoming Lambeth Conference. The foundation for their theological argument for removing themselves from the councils of the church and the communion of the faithful? "We could not feel at home."

Today, the Presiding Bishop's response to the "news" of the boycott:

"The gathering will be diminished by their absence, and I imagine that they themselves will miss a gift they might have otherwise received," the Presiding Bishop said. "None of us is called to 'feel at home' except in the full and immediate presence of God. It is our searching, especially with those we find most 'other,' that is likely to lead us into the fuller experience of the body of Christ. Fear of the other is an invitation to seek the face of God, not a threat to be avoided."

Brava! Well said! (I'd add "Alleluia" if it wasn't Lent.) Amen.

So now ...

If the Petulant Primates really aren't coming to Lambeth Conference, what on earth is the Archbishop of Canterbury hoping to gain by continuing to exclude the Bishop of New Hampshire? How great a witness could this church ... this communion ... make to the world if it would refuse to scapegoat the only honest gay bishop in the Communion and come together as bishops of the WHOLE church at Lambeth Conference to seek the face of God in "the other."

C'mon, +Rowan ... step up, buddy. It's never too late to do the right thing!

Friday, February 15, 2008

So it IS about cooties!

Anybody else out there to remember the game "Cootie?" Maybe they still have it out there somewhere in game land ... but a variation is certainly alive and well in Anglican Land.

I'm referring, of course, to the not-exactly-breaking-news "news" that a gaggle of Primates are declaring in a letter that they are absolutely really totally we-really-mean-it NOT coming to the 2008 Lambeth Conference.

OK. I think we knew that.

The only thing "new" about this news is the clarity of their reasons for turning down Tea at Lambeth. Are you ready? It's because of:
"... the presence in some form or other of Gene Robinson and his male partner, and of 30 gay activists ... In these circumstances we could not feel at home."

How could they "feel at home," bless their hearts, with all those gay cooties running around! THIRTY GAY ACTIVISTS! Imagine that! (Imagine that and then check the math ... I'm thinkin' there'll be a few more than that!)

Imagine not feeling at home in your OWN CHURCH!

Well, actually, we CAN imagine that -- but more importantly, we can imagine CHANGING that. We can imagine becoming a church and a communion where all the baptized are truly welcome into the Body of Christ and nobody worries about catching cooties from anybody.

Can't imagine that could happen? You're probably right ... I mean really -- that's about as likely as -- oh, a woman Presiding Bishop in the Episcopal Church or an African-American front-runner for President of the United States!

Oh well, we can dream, right? And in the meantime, we can keep the cooties where they belong ... in the box on the back of shelf in the game room!


Update: After I wrote this I checked some other blogs and note that Fr. Jake was on the cootie bandwagon and that Tobias Haller is waxing eloquent (as usual) on the "news" on the would-be no-shows.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

On Broken Hearts & Valentines Day

I'm in Oakland at the annual Episcopal Urban Caucus Assembly where the theme this year is "The Road to Peace" and the panel this morning focused on the impact of violence on at-risk youth. The stories were heart-rending, the statistics sobering and the presenters who work in ministries and agencies charged with stemming the tide were inspiring.

And then I checked my email on the break and found this from my old hometown 'hood of Ventura County:

I don't know if you've heard about the recent fatal shooting of a middle school student in Oxnard, but it appears to have taken on a hate crime ala Matthew Shepherd twist, that is absolutely gutwrenching. At times like these, I'm acutely mindful of the need for Christians to repent and beg forgiveness for the violence we've incited (directly and indirectly) over the centuries against GLBT people. Enough!

I pray for you and the work of Integrity daily. Please remember your old hometown in your prayers and that God may through us to begin some healing work in the midst of this tragedy.

From the Ventura County-Star news report:
A boy shot this week at an Oxnard middle school was pronounced brain-dead Wednesday...Lawrence King, 15, an eighth-grader at E.O. Green School ...was shot in the head about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday in a computer lab where about two dozen other students were working on English assignments, authorities said.

Some students have said King was openly gay, although police and school officials have declined to comment on that ... Matthew Puga, a seventh-grader at Green, said King was sometimes teased for wearing makeup and girl's clothing to school. Another seventh-grader, Emmanuel Martinez, said other kids would often pick on King because he dressed and acted differently.

Lawrence King dressed and acted differently -- and now he's dead. A 15 year old child shot in cold blood in a computer lab.

If our hearts are not broken that this can happen in "the land of the free" then shame on us as Americans.

If our eyes are not open to the truth that GLBT people live in fear of their very lives throughout the global communion of ours then shame on us as Anglicans.

And if we do not commit, on this Valentine's Day-of-all-day, to reach out in love and witness to the truth that GLBT people are fearfully and wonderfully made JUST AS THEY ARE -- beloved of God and in the image of God -- then shame on each and every single cotton pickin' one of us. That IS our charge as messengers of the Good News. That IS our call as the Body of Christ in the world. That IS the work we have been given to do in the name of the Prince of Peace and Lord of Love.

So let us ...
  • Pray for the repose of the soul of Lawrence King.
  • Pray for the child who pulled the trigger and took his life.
  • Pray for a road to peace ... that violence may end: in our cities, in our hearts, in our church and in our world.
And let us remember, on this day of hearts and flowers, the hearts that are broken because of violence against GLBT people and the flowers that will soon deck the final resting place of the child who was not even given the grace to live long enough to bloom.

Lawrence King, you deserved so much better. May the God who loved you beyond your wildest imaginings gather you now into Her arms of love. And may we, in your memory, recommit ourselves to making this a world where every single beloved child of God is free to be uniquely who they were created to be.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

And the bottom line is ...

Episcopal Life Online is reporting:
Members of the Episcopal Church's Executive Council February 13 learned that diocesan financial contributions to the wider church's budget exceeded what was expected in the 2007 and will likely also increase in 2008 ... Overall, the 2007 budget included about $1.9 million in increased income. The 2007 budget year ended with a $1.05 million surplus, compared to an anticipated $807,935 deficit. The savings came ... through the higher diocesan income, increased interest on short-term reserves, and a control of expenses.

You can read the rest here ... but could we get a little "shout out" for some GOOD News about TEC -- which is clearly not heading to hell in a handbasket nearly as quickly as some of those "across the aisle" would be having it so!

Myth & Reality

February 7, 2008

"This just in" via email -- the Inclusive Church Newsletter report from Philip Chester and Giles Goddard in the United States:

We're just over half way through our visit to the US: we write this on a plane from Chicago to San Francisco. So far it's been an excellent trip. We may have the record for the world's most extended Holy Communion; we went to the Ash Wednesday liturgy in the morning in the monastery of the Cowley Fathers in Cambridge Massachusetts. We had to leave at the Peace to catch a plane to Chicago. We walked into the church of the Atonement that evening just as they were beginning the Eucharistic prayer so we were able to complete our communion. We're mercifully far away from all the talk about Sharia law and the Archbishop, and for once it's a relief to be able to focus on the Anglican Communion!

Meetings have been held with a wide range of people, from lay people in Rhode Island to the Canon to the Presiding Bishop, and from key people in Integrity and the Chicago Consultation to clergy in Manhattan.

Giles and Philip with Rhode Island's Bishop Geralyn Wolf and husband Bob

With Chicago Consultation folk

We've explained that we came to the USA mainly to listen to the experience of the Episcopal Church and to develop an understanding of its situation, and to help develop communication between it and the Church of England. It's quite clear that there is a huge gulf of understanding between our churches; and yet, although there are many differences, the similarities are very profound. Anything we can do, as the Lambeth Conference approaches, to improve the relationship has to be a good thing.

Contrary to popular perception the Episcopal Church is in good heart, and maintaining a significant position in the USA as a church which is both broad and welcoming; which covers a wide churchmanship with big differences of opinion and yet is determined to stay together. Given the sort of coverage the secessionist dioceses and parishes get in the UK, it's a remarkable thing to learn that out of around 7,200 congregations across the country less than 100 have sought to leave. And out of around 110 domestic Dioceses, only 2 are likely to seek to secede. We're talking very small numbers, less than 2%. Many of the other parishes which might previously have wanted to leave are now recognising that to be part of a greater whole is valid and important, and real efforts are being made to develop understanding between those of different positions.

It's true to say however that there is widespread anger because of the way that the Episcopal Church has been perceived to be treated by the Primates and by senior members of the hierarchy in the UK and around the world. The position of welcoming lesbian and gay people is not some arbitrary piece of rights-based legalism; rather, it's worked out from the profound desire that "the Episcopal Church welcomes you" and is rooted in an understanding of the Gospel and Baptism which seeks to turn no one away.

In that context, the way in which more conservative and often rejectionist clergy and bishops are perceived to have been given the lion's share of attention and support is seen as both unjustified and unfair. Particularly in the light of the fact that there are many services of affirmation of same-sex relationships happening in the Dioceses of London and Southwark yet no one says a word about that.

But the commitment to the Communion remains. Lambeth 2008 is being prepared for carefully, in the hope that it can genuinely provide a meeting of minds and a deeper understanding of the Anglican Communion. And the people we have spoken to are too polite to remind us that without the USA the Communion could not, under any circumstances, survive financially - but their continued support is strong testimony to the way in which the shared history and practice of the Gospel in the Anglican tradition is valued.

Of course the Anglican Communion is about far, far more than the UK and the US. But our churches have a great deal in common. And gracious conversation between us would undoubtedly provide a stronger base to build on for the rest of the Communion, especially those many parts which are feeling disenfranchised by the loud voices of their conservative brothers and sisters. The Global Center, for example. And the province of Australia.

We have some ideas; a joint conference in Boston or NY between the Episcopal Church and the Church of England would be a good place to start. Common affirmation by parishes around the word of the value of Communion. Above all we're learning that it's better to talk than to assume, and better to share worship than to get our opinions from the internet. To the entente cordiale, and to Lambeth 2008!

Giles Goddard and Philip Chester

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

It was a beautiful day in the Berkeley neighborhood ...

... yesterday where we met at CDSP with some of our Anglican kin from across the pond for conversations about the upcoming family reunion slated for Great-Uncle Rowan's place this summer.

Making the long, journey from London and sacrifically putting up with the California version of February weather (75 degrees with blue, sunny skies!) were Inclusive Church allies Philip Chester and Giles Goddard -- pictured here with Integrity Board member Caro Hall (Director of Anglican Communion Affairs) and my own over-dressed self.

[photo credit: Tom Jackson]

We had quite the delightful visit, after the chance to worship together at noon Eucharist in the CDSP chapel and a lunch "conversation-with" members of the seminary community. It was marked with hope and optimism in a time of very genuine concern for the "what nexts" of being a Church ... being a Communion together.

It also pointed out, once again, the very real differences between our CofE cousins and ourselves as American Anglicans and ... as we named it in our afternoon conversation ... if WE are family members separated by a common language, how much more do we have to work to bridge the gaps with our Anglican counsins-further-removed by language, custom and culture in order to be part of this global Anglican family!

I wrote about that a few months ago in a piece called "Mind the Gap:"

For there are very REAL differences between us and our Anglican siblings, cousins and cousins-once-removed – and those differences did not start with the election of the Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003! To “mind the gap” is not to ignore those differences but to refuse to allow them to be exploited into the divisions they do not have to be.

George Bernard Shaw’s famous description of “two countries separated by a common language” is also a very apt description for the gap I found myself called to “mind” while I was in England – the gap between my experience in the American Episcopal Church and the experience of those who live and move and have their being in the Church of England. And if Americans and Brits have a gap to mind no wonder the Communion is facing challenges to its unity when we’re trying to bring Newark and Nigeria together under the same tent!

That's the work we'll be about together at Lambeth Conference ... with Giles and Philip and our other Communion Cousins: "minding the gap" as we build relationships across the pond AND across the divide.

There are miles to go before we rest, but if yesterday was any indication, we are off to a VERY good start!

Monday, February 11, 2008

On the road again ...

After a VERY successful, stimulating, inspiring Lent Event at All Saints Church (bravo/a to Michael Battle, JoAnne Terrell & James Carroll who were EXTRAORDINARY speakers on the themes of violence, religion and the American soul!) I hit the airport early this morning and am in the Bay Area for the week.

I am off to head up to CDSP momentarily for a meeting with Inclusive Church allies ... here from "across the pond" to talk more about plans for the Looming Lameth Conference ... and then for the bi-annual meeting of THE CONSULTATION and the annual EPISCOPAL URBAN CAUCUS assembly, which concludes Saturday morning.

We'll be launching our "Beyond B033" campaign with a workshop for Caucus members and I want to note here, once again, how gratifying it was to have the EUC adopt at its 2007 Annual Assembly the following resolution:


RESOLVED, That the Assembly of the Episcopal Urban Caucus meeting in Raleigh, North Carolina, February 7 – 10, 2007 expresses its opposition to Resolution B033 of the 2006 General Convention of the Episcopal Church; and be it further,

RESOLVED, That this Assembly calls on bishops with jurisdiction and Standing Committees to give their consent to otherwise qualified persons who have been elected bishop without regard to “race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, disabilities or age” (Canon III.1.2); and be it further,

RESOLVED, That this Assembly asks the Board of the Episcopal Urban Caucus to determine ways in which the 2008 Assembly might more completely address the issues raised by B033 and develop a strategy for its repeal at the 2009 General Convention; and be it further,

RESOLVED, That this Assembly asks the Board of the Episcopal Urban Caucus to communicate this resolution to all bishops with jurisdiction and Standing Committees of the Episcopal Church.


As we move forward into 2008 and look ahead to GC09, let's all bookmark these two arguments against B033, voiced by Canon Robert Brooks and posted on the EUC website:

1. It constitutes an attempt to amend the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church by means of a simple resolution of General Convention without using the process for making amendments specified in the Constitution. The qualifications for election or ordination of a bishop are in the Constitution and require a constitutional amendment to add new qualifications (i.e., passage by two successive General Conventions). Resolution B-033 purports to add qualifications to the election or ordination of a bishop to those in the Constitution without having submitted them in the form of a constitutional amendment. This constitutes an end-run around the Constitution. Resolution B-033 is therefore unconstitutional and as such, it is unenforceable.

2. Resolution B-033 lacks specificity as to the “manner of life” that is prohibited in a candidate for ordination as a bishop. In the development of democracy and the rule of law, it is a principle that any prohibited behavior in a society must be narrowly defined in law. Individuals cannot have their right to full participation in civic life denied because of some vague definition that changes from day to day at the whim of those in power. Resolution B-033 is an example of the worst abuse of law, because it allows the denial of ordination as a bishop to those other-wise qualified on the basis of nothing specific, but only that someone, somewhere, might be upset by the unspecified “manner of life”. Such a resolution is a dangerous precedent and places everyone at risk by its potential for capricious application.

And let the people say: AMEN!

And if you are NOT familiar with the extraordinary committment and dedicated work of these fine organizations, do check out their websites and give thanks for those whose vocation is to work with God toward that day when justice does INDEED roll down like waters and when righteousness flows like an ever-flowing stream!

More later ... have a great week, everybody!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Another kind of purpose driven life

This story came to me in an email from a parishioner (thanks, Jack!) and I offer it this First Sunday in Lent with prayers to all for a Holy Lent and Joyous Easter!

Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog's owners, Ron, his wife, Lisa, and their little boy, Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.
I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn't do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home. As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.

The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker's family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.

The little boy seemed to accept Belker's transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker's death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives. Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, "I know why."

Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I'd never heard a more comforting explanation.

He said, "People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life -- like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?" The six-year-old continued, "Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don't have to stay as long."


Lessons we can learn from a dog

(Which would also make an excellent list for a Lenten Discipline!)

  • Live simply.

  • Love generously.

  • Care deeply.

  • Speak kindly.

  • When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.

  • Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.

  • Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy. Take naps.

  • Stretch before rising.

  • Run, romp, and play daily.

  • Thrive on attention and let people touch you.

  • Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.

  • On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.

  • On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.

  • When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.

  • Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.

  • Be loyal.

  • Never pretend to be something you're not.

  • If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.

  • When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

What next with the "Anglican Covenant?"

It's been an-even-busier-week-than-usual in All Saints Church land so I haven't had time to do much more than glance at the reactions to the release of the latest on the proposed Anglican Covenant. As usual Fr. Jake has a great overview and response over at "Jake's Place" and the ever eruidite Mark Harris offered a "first read" reflection. Tobias Haller's reflection is entitled "A Covenant With Death" and Episcopal Cafe asks the important question, "Yes, but what is it for?"

What I have to contribute to the conversation are not, at this point, reflections of my own, but of +Joe Morris Doss ... shared here with his permission.

Check it out ... and have a great weekend!

I am glad to see that this will be a topic of discussion and I know it will be a good discussion. It seems to me that the most important thing — by far — is the fact that it is being submitted to Lambeth merely for “reflection” and not for some sort of ratification or acceptance. This is one hell of a victory!

Let the bishops reflect and offer their thoughts this summer, let the primates and other “instruments” reflect and offer their thoughts a year from now, and let the covenant committee continue to meet and draft away until it is timely for Provinces to consider a concrete proposal (if ever). Fine.

Meanwhile, we go about our business here, the international structures remain the same, and disagreements about human sexuality and scripture get resolved the old fashioned way: ye ol’ muddle through, slogging it out with hard work, difficult communications, and prophetic actions.

Most importantly, the statement seems to be offer recognition that the “ultimate” decision making bodies are in the individual provinces — exactly where they belong. The ACC and Primates are to be offered the opportunity to make proposals for reception of a proposed Covenant, after Lambeth and one year from now, (when the draft committee may or may not have one) but “ultimate consideration” will have to be made by “synodical process.”

To have this group recognize this is, in my opinion, significant.

What I think should be discussed, in addition to the line by line analysis of the latest draft, is anticipation of the next fight. It will not be over the draft, but over the urgent desire to speed up the process to a precipitous decision to adopt a Covenant, something like what is drafted to date, through our international instruments, beginning with Lambeth — and thus to force the rest of us to our knees or to throw us out the door.

What was produced at the last meeting is too obviously and too totally a defeat for those demanding the Covenant and thus the radical change of the Communion. There is going to be a fight. Identify that fight, on what ground, etc., and prepare.

Friday, February 08, 2008

God Moves to the Left

Great piece by our friend Giles Fraser in The Guardian today -- reflecting on his pilgrimage to the U.S. last fall, which included a stop-and-stay here in Los Angeles.

Here's the introduction to "GOD MOVES TO THE LEFT":

America's evangelical Christians are anti-gay, pro-gun, keen on capital punishment and obsessed with lower taxes. And, of course, they all vote Republican. At least, that's what vicar Giles Fraser thought -- until he went to meet them.

You really must read it all here ... but in case you're rushed for time and need to bookmark it for later, here's the conclusion:

For two months I travelled the US on my mini-pilgrimage, preaching in churches, staying with friendly church leaders and listening to the views of ordinary Christians in the pew. A lot has been said about those US Christians who are to the right of Attila the Hun and who believe multiple crazy things about the world and the world to come. We are rightly anxious about the degree of political influence these people have come to exert. But they are actually in the minority.

We don't hear about the progressive side to US religion because it doesn't fit the stereotype. These Christians are passionately concerned with issues of poverty and social justice, they run soup kitchens, give generous proportions of their income to good causes, have taskforces to reduce their carbon footprint, go on demonstrations against the war, and speak out against the use of torture. God bless America.

Indeed! And God bless Giles Fraser ... and God bless the commitment to proclaiming the Good News of God in Christ Jesus that shatters stereotypes and brings us an inch closer to that Garden of Eden growing green again!


Thursday, February 07, 2008

Truth and consequences

I had about an hour with local reporter Carl Kozlowski last week and here's the result: a feature in this week's Pasadena Weekly.

Truth and consequences
by Carl Kozlowski

As the president of Integrity USA, the 30-year-old national Episcopal lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) advocacy organization, the Rev. Susan Russell has been at the forefront of some of the boldest, most inclusive and most controversial policy statements of any church leader in America. She’s also the convener of “Claiming the Blessing,” a national ministry focused on the full inclusion of the LGBT population within the Episcopal Church, and a charter member of the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion Council.

But it’s in her role as the senior associate for parish life at All Saints Episcopal Church that Russell has a strong hand in the discussions of social, political and moral issues in Pasadena. And as All Saints celebrates its 125th anniversary this year, Russell finds the challenges to equal rights and social justice of all stripes are just as formidable as ever — but also utterly worth fighting to overcome.

This weekend, All Saints plays host to a special three-day conference on “Violence, Religion and the American Soul,” which will involve “examining the state of the American conscience” and exploring “the Christian responsibility to live a faith of nonviolence, healing and respect.”

As the Episcopal Church wrestles with the ordination of gay bishops and a pending split by conservative factions that include four Orange County parishes, Russell spoke with the Pasadena Weekly about the importance of speaking out and the occasional consequences that come with it.

“Looking back at All Saints’ history, and then considering gay and lesbian issues, it’s all part and parcel of our commitment for 125 years to be an outspoken voice on behalf of inclusion. It goes back to World War II, when our rector protested the deportation of Japanese to internment camps,” said Russell. “Later our rector was the only white clergyman willing to stand with Martin Luther King in the Rose Bowl. It’s been amazing, looking back at our history and seeing that it’s part of the DNA of this particular congregation and this particular place, not just part of [current Rector Rev. Ed] Bacon and [Rector Emeritus George] Regas. It’s a challenge to find how to continue living that out.”

As an openly gay minister herself, Russell has been a strong supporter of Bishop V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay cleric to be selected as a bishop in the American Episcopal Church. But since his controversial appointment in 2003, a vocal minority has led a number of Episcopal parishes to break away from the national church leadership — even attaching themselves to more conservative Africa-based wings of the international Anglican Communion.

In Russell’s opinion, the fight is worrisome, yet she feels it signifies a coming seismic shift in the American Episcopal Church.

“I think that we’re coming to the end of this chapter of the saga. I think that those who have articulated their desire to leave have already done so. Some will come back,” said Russell. “I remember in the 1970s when a parish in Glendale called Holy Apostle tried to leave the church because of the ordination of women. The odds are that 20 years from now we’re going to look back with the same result, wondering what the big deal was and seeing that the church moves on as it moves forward.

“The reasons [Episcopalians are] having trouble has nothing to do with churches like All Saints or Bishop Robinson, but a small percentage of the radical conservative fringe who insist the only way to make peace is capitulate to their position,” she added. “There’s not a lot of wiggle room with people who believe they have full possession of the truth.”

In keeping with the All Saints tradition of frank and full discussion, Russell noted another factor in the struggle for full acceptance of gays and lesbians. “Bishop Gene Robinson is the only honest gay bishop in the church. There are definitely other gay bishops but he’s the only one who’s been honest about his life and his relationship,” said Russell. “So in some ways he’s the sacrificial lamb.”

There will be no sacrifices made at All Saints this weekend, as the church plays host to the anti-violence seminar featuring such guest luminaries as Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan, Archbishop Tutu disciple and author Rev. Michael Battle, Chicago Theological Seminary Professor of Ethics and Theology JoAnne Terrell, and award-winning Boston Globe journalist James Carroll.

“It’s interesting timing for us here at All Saints in terms of … the political and cultural climate right now, because issues of violence are certainly here in Pasadena,” said Russell. “In the wider culture, we’re looking at increasing evidence that we as a nation are condoning torture, and also — from many of our perspectives — waging a preemptive, unnecessary war of aggression in Iraq."

“What All Saints wants to offer in this conference is an opportunity to reflect on the impact of that kind of systemic violence on the American soul, and how we as people of faith can use our faith as a witness to be peacemakers rather than warmongers.”

“Violence, Religion and the American Soul” runs Friday through Sunday at All Saints Church, 132 N. Euclid Ave., Pasadena. Admission is $40 for the seminars on Friday and Saturday, or $25 for either Friday or Saturday only. On Sunday, the conference concludes with keynote speaker James Carroll preaching the sermon at the 9 and 11:15 a.m. services. Call (626) 583-2781 or visit to find the complete schedule of events.


Thanks, Carl! I couldn't have said it better myself! :)

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Now IS the acceptable time

It is Ash Wednesday once more – the entry point for yet another 40-day Lenten journey toward Easter. We hear again the words as familiar as their outward-and-visible signs etched on our foreheads: “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

On this Ash Wednesday, as the liturgical season shifts from Epiphany to Lent, we are called to make a shift, too. During these weeks since Christmas our lessons have focused on the “epiphanies” of those who encountered Jesus along the way and knew somehow, at some point, in some perhaps indescribable way, that they had experienced the holy: experienced what have been called one of the “Ahas!” of God.

And now our focus shifts, as it does every year at this time, from stories about those outward manifestations of God's presence among us to a more interior place as we journey with Jesus on the road we know leads to Golgotha – to the cross – and ultimately, to the resurrection. And so, on this Ash Wednesday, here is my annual advice for the journey ahead: Do not give up epiphanies for Lent!

Let us not become so inwardly focused that we forget to notice – to give thanks for – to respond to – those encounters we can and will have with the holy in the next 40 days. Let us not become so focused on our own “journey with Jesus” that we forget that as long as there are still strangers at the gate, walking humbly with our God is not enough: let us not forget that we are also called to do justice.

Let us do an even bolder and more prophetic job of claiming “justice doing” as essential to our identity as Christian people – as Lenten pilgrims. Let us, by all means, pray silently to our God who is in secret, but let us at the same time proclaim loudly to those who would dismiss our activism as “agenda driven” that our agenda is a GOSPEL agenda: that our call to do justice is rooted deep in the roots of our history as a people of God – in these words of the prophet Isaiah:

Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly.

“Here I am,” our God promises – ready to lead us through whatever wilderness we face: to accompany us wherever the journey goes. On this Ash Wednesday 2008, I wonder if a wilderness we are being called into is named “Presidential Election Year,” as I count the cost of the challenge to those of us who are called to be peacemakers – justice seekers – reconcilers – as the divisive and polarizing rhetoric of the political machine continues to ramp up.

And I wonder if a wilderness we are being called into is labeled “Anglican Politics” as those bent on dividing the Episcopal Church continue to work toward the schism they are determined to pull off here in the American Church, as bigotry continues to triumph over baptism with the exclusion of the Bishop of New Hampshire from the Anglican Communion’s Lambeth Conference and as the 30-year old commitment to listen to the experience of the gay and lesbian faithful goes unfulfilled.

And I wonder if a wilderness we are being called into is named “Interfaith Dialogue” as we continue to live into the challenges of being peacemakers and bridge-builders with our Jewish and Muslim allies committed to a just peace in the Middle East.

Yet these are just some of the “wildernesses” into which we are called this Lent.

If we are to be a people who have bread to share with the hungry we must challenge those who would spend all our resources on arms for an immoral war that continues to kill Iraqi citizens and take American lives.

If we are to serve the God whose fast is “to let the oppressed go free” we must speak out when gay and lesbian families are threatened once again with becoming sacrificial lambs on the altar of presidential politics.

If we are to choose the fast Isaiah offers us this Lent, we must continue to undo the thongs of the yokes of racism AND sexism that continue to hold this country and this church in their grasp.

And if we are to live up to our baptismal covenant we must advocate for just immigration policies that will truly respect the dignity of every human being.

It is Ash Wednesday once more – the entry point for yet another 40-day Lenten journey toward Easter. And now IS the acceptable time. May we be given the grace to choose the fast our God calls us to choose … trusting that the One who calls us into this wilderness will be with us and bless us on the journey.