Monday, August 31, 2009

All Saints Church, Pasadena offers online fire resources

Click here for information from the All Saints Church website on "the Station Fire" burning here in Southern California.

'I'm not the gay bishop – I'm just the bishop'

-- The Guardian interviews +Gene Robinson

Since the air quality from the fires is too awful to even think about going out into it unless you have to I'm spending my lunch break at my desk ... taking a break from "Things Fall Calendar" by blog surfing and website meandering ... and (in the process) coming across this interview with the Bishop of New Hampshire I thought worth passing along ... in case YOU'RE looking for something to distract you for a few minutes from whatever it is you're supposed to be doing you're not doing or if you can't handle going outside to breathe during your lunch hour, either. This'll get you started:

There is no missing Bishop Gene Robinson when he bounds in to the lobby of a London hotel, hand outstretched in greeting. Partly it's the outsize cheeriness, but mostly it's the purple shirt and large gold cross, which among the sensible City suits and dark skirts makes the statement he presumably would wish it to: that he believes in the Word, and would like others to do so too. He sits down, smiling, slightly too close. The ecclesiastical finery is accessorised with chinos and a pair of black and grey-checked slip-on trainers, worn without socks. "So. Tell me about you."

Robinson is here for the annual Greenbelt festival – music, talks, poetry and prayer on Cheltenham Racecourse, a kind of Christian Glastonbury (Robinson has never heard of Glastonbury) – and he is going, he says at one point, "because I seek to make Jesus known and loved by anyone who will listen. The opportunity to send that message to young people is a real goal of mine." He is also going, of course, because he is now, bar Archbishops Rowan Williams and Desmond Tutu, one of the most famous clerics in the Anglican communion: in fact, he is such a draw that two of his talks this weekend will be given in spaces that can hold 2,000 people.

As the church's first openly gay bishop, this short, determinedly smiley man may well trigger the first ever schism in the Anglican communion – as was endlessly rehearsed in the run-up to last year's Lambeth Conference. His election in 2003 as the Bishop of New Hampshire, the most conservative state in north-east America, has already been described as the greatest crisis in the church since the Reformation. By pointedly failing to invite Robinson to Lambeth (which did not stop a hard core of over 200 bishops staying away anyway) Williams was eventually judged to have just about held the whole shooting-match together.

But there was a lot of brinksmanship involved, and things are shifting again. Part of Williams's strategy was to require a general moratorium on the blessing of same-sex partnerships and the election of clergy in gay relationships to bishoprics until a general consensus could be thrashed out; in July, at their triennial general convention in Anaheim, California, the Episcopalians pointedly removed themselves from it. It was politely worded – the moratorium is technically in place until a diocese actually elects an actively gay bishop – but the fact is that there are two American dioceses, Minnesota and Los Angeles, which will be electing a bishop by the end of the year, and between them they are fielding one gay and two lesbian candidates.

Williams, in response, has suggested that the communion might have to resort, eventually (he does not do things in any kind of rush) to a two-tier, or "two-track" model.

Robinson's reaction is unequivocal. "I can't imagine anything that would be more abhorrent to Jesus than a two-tier church." A long pause. When he's not smiling his eyes are strikingly sad. "Either we are children of God and brothers and sisters in Christ, or we aren't. There are not preferred children and second-class children. There are just children of God."

Read the rest here

Monday Morning Update


From this morning's L.A. Times:

A fire in the Angeles National Forest that is threatening homes from Acton to Altadena and has killed two firefighters doubled in size to 85,000 acres overnight and destroyed more structures.

The exact number of homes consumed by the Station fire remains unclear, but officials said several homes south of Acton, on the fire's northern flank, were lost last night and this morning. Earlier, 18 homes in the Tujunga Canyon area were lost, but officials expect the number to rise.

More neighborhoods were evacuated overnight as the fire pushed in three directions. Officials said the blaze had not yet burned to the top of Mt. Wilson, where critical communications centers are located, but they said that area remains highly vulnerable. Firefighters remained atop the mountain this morning, trying to protect the TV and radio transmitters.

Doubled. Overnight.

Our friend and video editor, Vic Vinson, who was working in our study until past midnight on final-edits for the Integrity Eucharist video, went home to find out his neighborhood had received evacuation orders as the fire that had been going UP the canyon started back down.

The tragic loss of two firefighters on a treacherous mountain firebreak road yesterday is on everyone's hearts and minds and it continues to astound that human beings can do what these brave firefighters do in 100+ temperatures -- putting themselves in harm's way so we're not.

Yesterday, one of our parishioners left a message on my cell phone that she was going to be late to teach Sunday School as she had to unload some of the "in case we have to flee" stuff out of her car in order to fit her kids in. (But she still showed up to teach Sunday School!)

Another arrived home from a funeral up north to find his neighborhood has been evacuated and he couldn't get back in to get his cats out of the house.
And we've been keeping track of each other on the 21st century "tie that binds" ... Facebook ... with updates flying back and forth from La Canada to Altadena to Pasadena, along with requests for donations of towels and water bottles for the local humane society for evacuated animals and offers to "come stay here if you need to ... bring the dogs."

The air quality is stupendously horrible. Even those of us who don't have "respiratory issues" have sore throats, stuffed noses and heavy chests. Those with pulmonary and cardiac problems are seriously compromised. And it's supposed to be 100 again today.
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More later ... off to get started on some of the other details of life and work that haven't even been thought about for the last few days. Thanks to all who have sent prayers and good wishes ... keep 'em coming!
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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Saturday update from the So Cal wildfire frontline

This photo from today's L.A. Times shows just how massive the "Station Fire" is as it looms over the L.A. skyline.
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(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Closer to home, here are photos I've taken over the last 48 hours of the fire's progression from my West Altadena eye's view:
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As I write, it's showing 104 on the thermometer on the porch and there's a steady hum of planes and helicopters overhead dropping fire retardant on the hillside. Prayers invited for all those in harm's way ... most particularly for those brave firefighters who put themselves there to protect us.

UPDATE 6pm: Added some late afternoon photos to the group above. Things have calmed down considerably here for the moment -- and we're hoping it stays that way.


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Friday, August 28, 2009

"Go in peace to hate and kill the President of the United States"

In the News --

It's too hot (104) and smokey to be outside unless you have to be (and the less people out there milling around getting in the way of the fire fighters the better) so we're pretty much holed up inside with the dogs and cat -- keeping one eye on the fire news and the other on the tributes to Ted Kennedy and "other news."

Which brings me to some of that "other news:"

Did you hear the one about the Arizona pastor -- Steven Anderson of the Faithful Word Baptist Church -- who preached a sermon on August 16 entitled "Why I hate Barack Obama"?

It evidently lasted an hour but here's an excerpt:

Let me tell you something: I don't love Barack Obama. I don't respect Barack Obama. I don't obey Barack Obama. And I'd like Barack Obama to melt like a snail tonight. Because he needs to recompense, he needs to reap what he's sown. I'm not gonna pray for his good. I'm going to pray that he dies and goes to hell

But wait -- there's more. On August 17, one of Anderson's parishioners showed up the Phoenix Convention Center openly carrying an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, while the President was visiting.

How's that for "putting your faith into action?"

I checked out the church's website. It notes on the "meet our pastor" page: Pastor Anderson holds no college degree but has well over 100 chapters of the Bible committed to memory, including almost half of the New Testament.

I'm thinkin' maybe he missed a few. At least.

Of course this is a radical fringe wing-nut whacko, who nobody in their right mind would take seriously. Except maybe the NOT so much in his right mind guy with the semi-automatic rifle.

What I'm wondering this afternoon is when is enough enough? When do we stand up and use whatever power at our disposal to reject hate-speech so antithetical to the Gospel of the God of Love? When do we reject this crap and expose it for what it is: rabid fundamentalist idiocy that has as much to do with "true religion" as gay Lutherans had to do with tornado weather in Minneapolis last week.
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Well, if you're preaching this week, it's "silver platter time" ... as one of my favotire Sundays in the lectionary has rolled around again -- "True Religion Sunday."
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And just for fun, I did a search through my files and found this blog I wrote a number of years ago ... funny how timely it seems in light of today's "news!"


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"True Religion" (circa 2005)

So I'm back from vacation -- back to the routine of checking email, updating websites, keeping pastoral appointments and writing sermons: blessed by the privilege of doing what I do and feeling a little like I won some kind of preaching rotation lottery because, once again, I'll be in the pulpit on that late-summer-Sunday I've come to think of as "True Religion Sunday."

“True religion” – words from the Collect of the Day for “Proper 17” – this year, the 15th Sunday After Pentecost: “Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. AMEN.”

And what a great week to be focusing on “true religion.” The cover story in Newsweek is “Spirituality in America” and an online poll entitled “Where Do You Stand On Faith?” with numbers that indicate Americans are of many different minds about what exactly constitutes “true religion.” Also in the news has been Pat Robertson, who last week I thought had outdone himself by attributing the legalization of no-fault divorce and on-demand abortion to gays and lesbians. Let me make sure I’m clear about this now:

Couples who can’t get married in 49 out of 50 states are responsible for DIVORCE? And those who are arguably statistically the LEAST likely to ever “demand” an abortion are responsible for that, too???

I figured next Robertson would find a way to blame us for Global Warming, but no – this morning he had moved onto bigger fish to fry: calling for that timeworn, traditionally orthodox Christian solution to tensions between nations – the assassination of the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez.

Say what? Let’s do another Newsweek poll and see if ANYBODY thinks assassinating people is one of the multiple choice answers to the “What Would Jesus Do?” question. (Let me give you a hint – and answer is NOT!) And let’s be really, REALLY clear that this kind of rhetoric has to, must be, challenged, condemned and repudiated as antithetical to everything Jesus came to teach us, enable us, empower us to become as the Body of Christ in the world.

I am not sure yet what Sunday’s sermon will look like – it’s only Tuesday – but I’m thinking there’s never been a better time to focus on just exactly what this “true religion” we’re praying for looks like – and I’m thinking the best place to start is by staying as far away as possible from Robertson and turning instead to Romans (yes, Romans 12:9-21 to be specific):

“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." No, "if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

So there you go – that’s some “true religion” for you: we’re called to “BLESS those who persecute” us – not ASSASSINATE them! (And NOT -- she added in 2009 -- to pray hate and death to the president from the pulpit!)

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And NOW ... "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord!"
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Report from the So Cal Fire Front

There are several wild fires burning in Southern California at the moment ... here's a look at the one in OUR neck of the woods: the La Canada "Station" Fire..
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From my front porch about 8:00 a.m.
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From the front porch about 11:00 a.m.


End of the street 12:30 p.m.
(that's JPL [the Jet Propulsion Laboratory] in the foreground)




Thursday, August 27, 2009

View from the end of my street about 11pm

500 homes being evacuated in La Canada ... monitoring some All Saints parishioners on Facebook and keeping one eye on the hills and one eye on the TV news

video

Keep watch, dear Lord ...

... with those who work, or watch, or weep this night ... and especially those who fight the wild fires here in California.

This really bad picture ...


... was taken a few minutes ago from the end our our street. It's the flames from the La Canada fire cresting the hills in the distance across the arroyo.

... and give your angels charge over those who sleep.Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen.

Salvation's goal: returning all to right relationship

-- by Katharine Jefferts Schori, August 27, 2009

I was delighted to see this piece in today's Episcopal Life Online ... much food for thought!

[Episcopal Life] I always am delighted when people listen to what I say in a sermon or address. Sometimes I am surprised by what they hear.
In my opening address at General Convention, I spoke about the "great Western heresy" of individualism (see the full text here). There have been varied reactions from people who weren't there, who heard or read an isolated comment without the context. Apparently I wasn't clear!

Individualism (the understanding that the interests and independence of the individual necessarily trump the interests of others as well as principles of interdependence) is basically unbiblical and unchristian.

The spiritual journey, at least in the Judeo-Christian tradition, is about holy living in community. When Jesus was asked to summarize the Torah, he said, "love God and love your neighbor as yourself." That means our task is to be in relationship with God and with our neighbors. If salvation is understood only as "getting right with God" without considering "getting right with (all) our neighbors," then we've got a heresy (an unorthodox belief) on our hands.

The theme of our General Convention, ubuntu, was chosen intentionally to focus on this. Often translated from its original African dialects as "I am because we are," ubuntu has significant biblical connections and warrant. The Hebrew prophets save their strongest denunciation for those who claim to be worshiping correctly but ignore injustice done to their neighbors (e.g., Amos 5:21-24), and Jesus insists that those who will enter the kingdom are the ones who have cared for neighbor by feeding, watering, clothing, housing, healing and visiting "the least of these" (Matt 25:31-46).

In my address, I went on to say that sometimes this belief that salvation only depends on getting right with God is reduced to saying a simple formula about Jesus. Jesus is quite explicit in his rejection of simple formulas: "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven" (Matt 7:21).

He is repeatedly insistent that right relationship depends on loving neighbors – for example, "those who say, ‘I love God,' and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen" (1John 4:20). The Epistles repeatedly enjoin the followers of Jesus to "give evidence of the hope within you" (1Pet 3:15ff), that "faith without works is dead" (James 2:14-26), that our judgment depends on care for brother and sister (Rom 14:10-12) and that we eat our own destruction if we take Communion without having regard for the rest of the community (1Cor 11:27-34).

Salvation depends on love of God and our relationship with Jesus, and we give evidence of our relationship with God in how we treat our neighbors, nearby and far away. Salvation is a gift from God, not something we can earn by our works, but neither is salvation assured by words alone.

Salvation cannot be complete, in an eternal and eschatological sense, until the whole of creation is restored to right relationship. That is what we mean when we proclaim in the catechism that "the mission of the church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ" and that Christian hope is to "live with confidence in newness and fullness of life and to await the coming of Christ in glory and the completion of God's purpose for the world." We anticipate the restoration of all creation to right relationship, and we proclaim that Jesus' life, death and resurrection made that possible in a new way.

At the same time, salvation in the sense of cosmic reconciliation is a mystery. It's hard to pin down or talk about. It is ultimately the gift of a good and gracious God, not the product of our incessant striving. It is about healing and wholeness and holiness, the fruit of being more than doing. Just like another image we use to speak about restored relationship, the reign of God, salvation is happening all the time, all around us. Where do you see evidence?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Who goes to heaven?

How could I not share this opinion piece (by Jerome Christenson from the LaCrosse Tribune) when it [a] comes from a Minnesota Lutheran who [b] makes such total sense and [c] uses Sandy Koufax to illustrate his point on inclusion?

WINONA, Minn. - When the pastor's wife is a man, the Ladies' Aid will never be the same. Especially when the pastor isn't a woman.

It's hard to figure what Martin Luther would have made of the whole thing.

The ELCA last weekend authorized congregations to hire non-celibate gay clergy who are living in a committed relationship.

Forty years ago, just suggesting such a thing anywhere near a Lutheran church would have made posting the 95 Theses a theological lullaby. More to the point, pretty much any talk about the subject likely would have started out … "These two guys came into a bar - holding hands … " and been talked about anywhere but in church.

When I was growing up, there were no gay people. Certainly no gay Lutherans, or none that anyone would admit to, anyway.

Good Lutherans had a sense of sin stronger than egg coffee from the bottom of the pot. I was brought up to take my "Thou shalt nots" seriously and it's hard to think of a "shalt not" more serious than that one … something so serious the only way you heard about it was in a dirty joke.

It was that Sodom and Gomorrah thing, you know. If a place was so bad that just looking back at it turned Lot's wife into a pillar of salt, those Sodomites just had to be people you wouldn't trust around your kids. (I always wondered what the people in Gomorrah did that the Lord found so annoying - guilt by association, I guess.)

Now in those days, long before three clicks on Google leaves nothing to the preadolescent imagination, we had neither the information nor the imagination to come to grips with the mechanics of the matter, and there was no one much inclined to enlighten us.

As far as the church was concerned, there were no gay folks in heaven, and that's all we needed to know about that.

At the time, that seemed reasonable enough to us. Heaven, after all, was billed as a pretty doggone exclusive place - if a place that looked a lot like small-town Minnesota could be called exclusive.

In any case, the rules for admission were written down for all time in black and white, and there'd be no debates and no loopholes when the last day rolled around.

The fact that Sandy Koufax refused to pitch the opening game of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur might have impressed some folks, Pastor Hanson told our Saturday morning confirmation class, but as long as he was a Jew he wasn't headed for heaven - a verdict I thought might be just a bit presumptive, considering the possibility that at least one of the three people of the Trinity might be a Dodger fan. But according to the pastor, rules were rules and the rules never changed …

Until they did. What at one time seemed reasonable seemed to take on a different cast. If Koufax wasn't going to Heaven, why were the chosen people chosen in the first place? Black and white blurred into softer shades of gray. Maybe those homos might make it to Heaven after all. Maybe it wasn't right to turn God's people into nothing more than a dirty joke.

And last weekend, the church I was brought up in officially changed its rules.

I'm certain that won't set well with some folks. For some folks, it will be just one more change they don't believe in.

No doubt they don't like it even one little bit. No more than they like so many of the changes they'd just as soon have had stay the same. It's just one more thing in their world, in their lives, they just can't count on any more. One more unthinkable thing they've got no choice but to think about. One more reason to stand up at a town hall meeting, to demand, "I want my country back."

After all, at one time, according to their rules, it was their country.

But the rules have changed.

And if we're going to have to share Heaven, we'd best get used to sharing our country. Their country. Your country. My country.

Our country.

May he rest in peace and rise in glory

February 22, 1932 – August 25, 2009

"For all those whose cares have been our concern,
the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives,
and the dream shall never die."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

+Barbara Harris an Anaheim ratings hit!

Loved reading this in the just-released bulletin inserts for August 30 from the Episcopal Church Center:

As of August 1, the Media Hub — nicknamed "gee-chub" for its web address, gchub.episcopalchurch.org — logged more than 90,000 visits. Those visitors viewed roughly 50,000 videos on demand.

The three most watched sermons were: Bishop Barbara Harris, retired suffragan of Massachusetts, at the July 10 Integrity Eucharist; Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori at the United Thank Offering Ingathering on July 12; and Brian McLaren at the July 16 Eucharist.

Go, +Barbara!

Here's to Heresy!

Still easing into first "back to work week." Get coffee. Boot up computer. Go to Google to get directions for meeting later this week. Right click on weird Google logo to see what they're celebrating today ...

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... and find that today is the 400th ANNIVERSARY OF GALILEO'S TELESCOPE. (Who knew?)

In case you snoozed through that lecture in history class, here's a "Clif Notes" refresher:

Born in 1564, Galileo was a noted physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher. After his 1609 invention of a telescope, Galileo published an account of his observations of the moons of Jupiter -- and used this observation to argue in favor of the sun-centered theory of the universe against the dominant earth-centered theories.

The next year Galileo visited Rome in order to demonstrate his telescope to the influential Jesuit Collegio Romano, and to let them see with their own eyes the reality of the four moons of Jupiter. Nevertheless, opposition arose to the Sun-centered theory of the universe which Galileo supported and in 1614, Galileo's opinions on the motion of the Earth were denounced from a Roman pulpit and called "dangerous and close to heresy."

Galileo went to Rome to defend himself against these accusations. Although he was cleared of any offence at that time, the Catholic Church nevertheless condemned his work as "false and contrary to Scripture" and Galileo was warned to abandon his support for it. When he later defended his views in his most famous work, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, published in 1632, he was tried by the Inquisition, found "vehemently suspect of heresy," forced to recant, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest -- where he died in 1642.

So what's all this got to do with us today? Read this bit from one of the online bios of Galileo and see if it sounds vaguely familiar:

Galileo's opponents cited biblical references in defense of their position, including:

Psalm 93:1, "the world is firmly established, it cannot be moved."
Psalm 104:5 says, "the LORD set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved."
Ecclesiastes 1:5 states that "And the sun rises and sets and returns to its place" etc.

Galileo defended heliocentrism, and claimed it was not contrary to those Scripture passages. He took Augustine's position on Scripture: not to take every passage literally, particularly when the scripture in question is a book of poetry and songs, not a book of instructions or history. The writers of the Scripture wrote from the perspective of the terrestrial world, and from that vantage point the sun does rise and set.

So there you have it. They say that those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it -- and "Exhibit A" of that theory are those who four hundred years later are throwing around isolated scripture passages to support outdated understandings of everything from the science of creation to the science of human sexuality.

And -- oh yes -- calling those who have learned from their history and are determined NOT to repeat it "heretics."

So here's the "takeaway" from this morning's lecture on life, the universe, Galileo and heresy:

THE BIBLE IS NOT A TEXTBOOK ON HUMAN SEXUALITY IN THE 21ST CENTURY ANY MORE THAN IT WAS A TEXTBOOK ON ASTRONOMY IN THE SIXTEENTH!

Cue music -- sing along if you know the tune:

I sing a song of the saints of God,
patient and brave and true,
who toiled and fought and lived and died
for the Lord they loved and knew.
And one was a doctor, and one was a pope,
and one was a heretic with a telescope;
they were all of them saints of God,
and I mean, God helping, to be one too.
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Monday, August 24, 2009

We missed an anniversary around here

Last week -- August 19th to be precise -- was the one-year anniversary of the arrival on our doorstep of Ms. Juno Brooks-Russell (AKA "Juno the Wilful.") from Husky Camp ... the doggie rescue org. that also brought us our Luna.

Here she is on "day of arrival" ... already staking out her spot on the doggie chaise:

And here she is a year later ... her big, beautiful husky/malamute mix self:

So happy anniversary, baby girl! We're all so very glad you came to join our family! (Well, at least the cat is learning to live with it! :)
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“Where Would We Go?”

Sermon preached by the Rev. David Norgard at All Saints Church, Pasadena on Sunday, August 23rd. (RCL #16B - Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18; John 6:56-69)

It was a delight to welcome David Norgard -- friend. mentor and Integrity president-elect -- to the All Saints pulpit yesterday. David shared a copy of his most excellent sermon with me via email and now I'm sharing it with you. Enjoy!

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen

Simon Peter answered, “Rabbi, where would we go?”
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When I first joined the Episcopal Church (many years ago now), people seemed to be leaving it in droves over what was then the new Book of Common Prayer. Later, when I became active in the gay rights movement, I was continuously meeting people who were leaving their churches over homophobia and sexism and patriarchy, not to mention bad music. Still later, when I became rector of a church in San Francisco, some left because I was too innovative.

I was just getting started, though. If they had waited a little while, they could have argued with the people who would leave because I was too traditional. At least, by then, I didn’t take it personally. It was just the way religious life is in post-modern times. People become attracted to faith communities by all the talk and symbols of eternal verities. Yet when that talk moves in a direction different from where they think it should go, it is often tempting to go looking for newer or older verities somewhere else. We want the Truth…unless it is the one we don’t want.

Even so, in all my years as a priest (more than I say in public anymore), I have remained convinced that belonging to a faith community is one of the fundamental ways we grow in the knowledge and love of God. There are other ways, of course. Experiences of awe and mystery and silence and transcendence and compassion and struggle for the good can bring us that moment, that place also.

Yet life in a community is a unique experience and irreplaceable as a spiritual discipline. It teaches us virtues – like patience, for instance – and prudence and, when we are really in the groove, justice. (That was what I first most admired about All Saints, by the way – its indefatigable pursuit of justice.) Yet that is why community life is also inevitably so very, very difficult. Sooner or later, even the most wonderful faith community tests its members. It’s the nature of community life. The community asks too little and we feel ignored; it asks too much and we feel put upon.

That is why Joshua’s line in the first lesson has such an appealing, romantic ring to it: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” There is something compelling and reassuring about such a solid declaration. We want to have and show that solidity, that same strength. We want to serve God and we want to do it without feeling ambivalent or torn or conflicted. Good luck with that.

To give a little context to Joshua’s statement, he was not just being rhetorical. There were choices, in fact. They were in a new land. Joshua and his people could have transferred their loyalty to the god of the people among whom they had come to live. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, as the saying goes. It is a reasonable line of logic. On the other hand, there was the God who had led them to the place they were…What to do? What to do?

That brings us to today’s Gospel. Like those in Joshua’s hearing, the people in Jesus’ hearing faced a real choice. We like to think that to know Jesus is to love him. We like to assume that all his first disciples were totally devoted to him. We like to picture them sitting in rapt attention around his feet when they not busy polishing those nimbuses above their heads. But two thousand years of piety tend to dull the shock of his message. Waxing on about eating flesh and drinking blood and the very King of the Universe living in us and us living in God sounds perfectly familiar to us.

But imagine hearing it for the very first time. Imagine that you had always understood God to be utterly transcendent, categorically other, not just on the mountain-top but way above the mountain, above all the mountains, utterly separate from everything in creation. Imagine that. Put yourself in that mindset. …And then imagine someone whom you trust and like and love and admire telling you that God is right here, immanent, not near you even but within you, inside you, internal to you. How would you react? It would be disturbing, of course, even scandalous, not just unacceptable but incomprehensible. To use the Episcopalian idiom, it would be inappropriate.

Yet that is just what John describes. He portrays Jesus as almost coy at first. Jesus seems to say, “Is this a problem? Do you have a problem with what I am saying?” And instead of demurring or deferring, he amplifies his point by explaining it: “It is the spirit that gives us the life we live; the flesh in itself is useless.” Now, he is not unaware of the effect he is having. He goes on to say, “I realize there are some among you who may be having a hard time with what I am saying.” But if we are at all still in the mindset of those original hearers, we just want to throw up our arms and say, “Enough already! Are you kidding? You have got to be kidding. We love you but enough is enough.”

Jesus expects that kind of reaction, though. Maybe he is sly and coy. He says to the shocked crowd, digging himself in even further, like some pundit on a cable news show: “This is why I told you…following me is going to require listening to that of God within you.”

Well, that was the proverbial last straw. From that point, many who had been following Jesus simply could not put up with the impiety, the absurdity any longer. And many left. Jesus’ ministry was not altogether a success – by the numbers. And how could it be really? That the God of the very Heavens would be dwelling inside people!?

Just consider the implications: that of God within that odd neighbor next door, that of God within the pesky brother-in-law across town, that of God within those people who don’t actually help you on customer help lines, that of God within the people on MSNBC and on Fox. How could that be!? There was just no point in even staying with someone so misguided. No, that wouldn’t be good. It wouldn’t be smart. It probably wasn’t safe. It wasn’t meet and right so to do.

And so we arrive at the most poignant moment of the story. Jesus asks Peter, the one who had already been with him through so much, “Are you going to leave me too?” And Peter responds, with an air of resignation, really, as much as affirmation, “Teacher, where would we go?”

It was a true dilemma. Would they stay, simply out of sheer love for him – and each other perhaps? Would they do the wrong thing in their minds for the right reason? Or could it be that in the midst of the dilemma lay the real point of the lesson? Could it be that the reason was the thing…that love must govern all our comings and our goings? Amen.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

SAVING THE WORLD'S WOMEN -- Today's NYTimes Magazine Special Issue

Truly amazing, challenging and inspiring reading for a Sunday afternoon:

IN THE 19TH CENTURY, the paramount moral challenge was slavery. In the 20th century, it was totalitarianism. In this century, it is the brutality inflicted on so many women and girls around the globe: sex trafficking, acid attacks, bride burnings and mass rape.

Yet if the injustices that women in poor countries suffer are of paramount importance, in an economic and geopolitical sense the opportunity they represent is even greater.

“Women hold up half the sky,” in the words of a Chinese saying, yet that’s mostly an aspiration: in a large slice of the world, girls are uneducated and women marginalized, and it’s not an accident that those same countries are disproportionately mired in poverty and riven by fundamentalism and chaos.

There’s a growing recognition among everyone from the World Bank to the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff to aid organizations like CARE that focusing on women and girls is the most effective way to fight global poverty and extremism. That’s why foreign aid is increasingly directed to women.

The world is awakening to a powerful truth: Women and girls aren’t the problem; they’re the solution.

Read the rest here.

Also in the issue: "A New Gender Agenda" (Interview with Hillary Clinton)

And:
Afghan Schoolgirls vs. Jihadists
When Development Makes Life Harder for Daughters
X-Factor Philanthropy
Madame President: Questions

Before & After


YESTERDAY



TODAY


So today is the last day of Vacation 2009 ... and we finished up "with a bang" getting the long-procrastinated-planting done out front of the house. The goal for the rest of the day is to AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE ... and then head over the to the Huntington Library where we're doing dinner and a concert with friends.
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If "all well that ends well" this has been a MOST excellent time off as it was full of good things along the way and is ending very well indeed!
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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Last Night @ The Hollywood Bowl ...

... DIANA KRALL! (What a treat!)


Loved the show ... here's a review ... and here's me ... enjoying the waning days of Vacation 2009!
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We're running out of vacation ...

... faster than we're running out of our list of "things to do on vacation."

But we made it down the list to "replant the front yard flower beds."


Well, at least we made it to "pick out plants to PLANT in the front yard." We'll get to the planting part tomorrow!
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Pastoral response from ELCA Bishop Mark Hanson to yesterday's vote on LGBT inclusion

I watched much of the ELCA debates yesterday on the live webcast and was so VERY impressed with the pastoral response offered to his WHOLE church by Lutheran Bishop Mark Hanson. Well worth the seven minutes to hear this grace-filled message of reconciliation, hope and faithfulness making VERY clear that the only ones excluded are those who choose to exclude themselves.



Here's the comment I just posted to the ELCA blogsite ... as an encouragement to go and do likewise:

I am an Episcopalian who has been praying for your Assembly and watching with deep respect the careful, prayerful process by which your church has moved forward on these questions of inclusion that challenge all our faith communities. I rejoice in the opportunties yesterday's decisions will provide for our churches to work together in common mission and I am deeply grateful for this profoundly pastoral response offered by Bishop Hanson following the announcement of the final vote.

His words of compassion, hope and grace-filled reconciliation left no room for doubt that the ELCA is striving to be a church where ALL are not only welcome but embraced. Those who choose to walk away from fellowship with the ELCA will do so because they "feel" excluded -- not because they have been excluded.

I hope Bishop Hanson's words will reach far beyond the ELCA for they are good news not just for Lutherans but for all seeking to live in community as the Body of Christ where all members are loved, valued and included.

Thank you.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Integrity responds to ELCA Assembly Actions

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 21, 2009 -- 05:30PM/PDT

Integrity rejoices at the news from Minneapolis that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) today adopted all four of the resolutions before their Assembly regarding the fuller inclusion of the LGBT baptized in the work and witness of the Lutheran Church.

“Today’s action in Minneapolis is not just good news for gay and lesbian Lutherans, it is good news to all who strive for peace and justice and are committed to respecting the dignity of every human being,” said the Reverend Susan Russell, president of Integrity USA.

“For decades the faithful have prayed for justice to roll down like waters for the LGBT baptized in the Lutheran and Episcopal Churches. The Summer of 2009 has become that watershed moment we have prayed for.”

“We are delighted that our Lutheran brothers and sisters in Christ are joining The Episcopal Church in moving forward in mission with a commitment to include all God’s beloved equally. We look forward to opportunities to continue in our call to common mission with our Lutheran colleagues as we join together in proclaiming the Good News of God in Christ Jesus available to all.”

“We believe that when taken together with the actions of our Episcopal Church last month in Anaheim, we are seeing a spiritual groundswell sending the message that there are communities of faith that actually practice the compassion they preach. Our deepest hope is that these actions will encourage those who had given up on the church to give it another chance. Our doors are certainly open to welcome them – and we look forward to the mission and ministry ahead of us as the Body of Christ in the world.”

If you're looking for something to do on Sunday morning ...

... and you happen to be in the Pasadena area, DO consider All Saints Church, Pasadena!

We welcome to the pulpit this Sunday our friend David Norgard. A native of Minnesota and a former president of NEAC (National Episcopal AIDS Coalition) David is a noted preacher, speaker and organizational development consultant. He served as rector of St. John the Evangelist, San Francisco; and as an associate rector at the Church of the Apostles, NYC.

Recently he was elected to succeed Susan Russell as the president of Integrity and will bring his vision, passion and organizational clarity to that important national work beginning October 1st. Don’t miss this chance to hear one of the finest priests and preachers in the Episcopal Church on Sunday, August 23 at 7:30, 9:00 & 11:15.

Episcopal Cafe has the news from Lutheranland

Great job Episcopal Cafe ... keep us posted!

2 of 4 ELCA motions for full inclusion have passed:

The first: Asks the assembly whether, in principle, this church is committed to finding ways to allow congregations and synods that choose to do so to recognize, support and hold publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships.

passed 77% to 23%

The second: Asks this church whether, in the future implementation of these commitments, it will make decisions so that all in this church bear the burdens of the other, and respect the bound consciences of all.

passed 619 yes to 402 no.

Episcopal Cafe commentary: "As one watches the debate on these resolutions, the prayer, the struggle and faithfulness of our sisters and brothers in Christ is both very apparent and very familiar. They are in recess for worship and lunch until 2 p.m.Central time. The debate will continue at that time."

Here are the wo resolutions still to be considered:

Asks the assembly whether, in principle, this church is committed to finding a way for people in such publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve as professional leaders of this church.

Proposes the specifics of how this church can move toward change in a way that respects the bound consciences of all.
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Makes you want to consider moving to Maine!

As the state of Maine prepares for an expected November referendum on their new marriage equality law, television ads urging voters to uphold the law began airing this week.

This one-minute spot -- called “Together”-- features residents of the state who talk about “Maine ways” and “Maine values” of “fairness, respect for each other,” and “strong and healthy families,” which can be promoted through marriage equality.

Can't help but wonder how the Prop 8 battle might have ended differently if those running the Calfornia campaign had been likewise inspired.



Thursday, August 20, 2009

A day in the life of my "chosen lifestyle"

It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood and I'm still on vacation, so I thought it might be a good time to invite anyone who's interested into "a day in the life of that 'chosen lifestyle'" that has so many knickers in a twist.

So here goes:

Wake up to "The Today Show." Get to drink coffee in bed and find out more than I wanted to know about the "Real Housewives of Atlanta" and see the results of some doggie makeovers.

Hear on the national weather report that there were tornadoes spotted near Minneapolis and tell Louise someone will be blaming them on the ELCA movement forward on gay clergy. Eat some fruit and yogurt for breakfast.

Empty the dishwasher, put in a load of laundry and chase Juno around trying to put the ointment in her we're-not-sure-what-happened-but-she-has-some-kind-of-infection eye.

Next door neighbor tells me "All Saints is in the news again" -- waving the local paper. (It's the Health Care Reform story from yesterday.) "You go get'em!" (OK -- we will!)

Put wheelbarrow with flat tire in the back of the Volvo. Go to wash-it-yourself car wash and restore visibility through windshield to aforementioned Volvo. Go to local gas station and ask nice man to take a look at wheelbarrow tire. Find out that inner tube is "busted." Go to local hardware store. Wait while nice man replaces inner tube.

Back home. Fold one load of laundry. Put another in the dryer. Dig hoe and rake out of garage and clean out flower bed along front sidewalk for new planting planned for Friday. Trim hedges while I'm at it. Sweep up mess.

Shower. "Suit up." Head downtown to the California Endowment for a roundtable hosted by Maria Shriver's office on "the status of women in America." (We're the LGBT panel.)

[Fun Facts to Know and Tell About Women in America: The last national "status of women" report was commissioned (are you ready?) when John Fitzgerald Kennedy was president. No kidding!]

Hear on the radio on the way down the 110 that a Blackhawk helicopter crashed on a training exercise in Colorado. Break the law and call Jamie ON my cellphone WHILE driving to make sure he's OK. He's OK but four other soldiers aren't. "Don't worry, Mom -- I'm safer in my helicopter than you are talking on your phone on the freeway," says my son.

He has a point.

Hang up the phone and say prayers for the families of those in the helicopter accident.

Arrive at "women's roundtable" session. Grab some lunch off the buffet table. Have a great 90 minutes with some fabulous people. Hand out a bunch of my cards to those who say, "We've been looking for a church."

Head home via Orchard Hardware. Buy a garden hose to replace the one the dog (with infected eye) chewed up -- along with compost for aforementioned flower beds and various other household "stuff."

Unload car. Fold another load of laundry. Check email and find link to article about Minnesota Baptist who blames tornadoes on gay Lutherans. (Ya, shure, you betcha!)

Proof read curriculum project Louise is working on while she grills some supper. Curriculum is brilliant -- supper is yummy.

She goes back to write some more and I watch the Dodgers try to beat the Cubs. Download vacation pictures from Kentucky. Post some to my blog. Decide to write "a day in the life of my chosen lifestyle" blog. Russell Martin hits a grand slam and I scare the dogs (and send the cat under the bed) "woo hooing."

I'll make it til the end of the game. Chase the puppy around again to get more ointment in her eye before bed. Turn in and -- if I'm lucky -- get another chapter read in the Rebecca Wells novel I've got going before signing off for the night.

And that's all, folks. My "chosen lifestyle." Be afraid. Be very afraid.
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Postcard from Kentucky


If you're into things Anglican, skip this post. Just family photos of my trip last week to Kentucky.

"Mazel Tov" in Massachusetts!

Thanks to Titusonenine for the "heads up" on this one!

Cambridge Mayor to Marry Long-time Partner

[source link] On 2 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 30 at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Cambridge, Mayor E. Denise Simmons shall be marrying her longtime partner, Ms. Mattie B. Hayes, in a celebration of love, acceptance, and togetherness. The couple shares a passionate interest in advocacy and support work for children and families, and their wedding ceremony shall touch upon those themes. This is certainly a joyous milestone for the Cambridge Mayor and her family, which is to be expected of a loving union; however, this same-sex marriage is also important on a broader scale, as it seems indicative of a more accepting, more tolerant society.

The wedding will take place at the historic St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, which has predominantly been serving Cambridge’s African-American community for over 100 years, and is presided over by the Rev. Leslie K. Sterling. The wedding ceremony shall be conducted by Rev. Irene Monroe, who has cultivated a reputation as a progressive and nurturing spiritual leader, and who has conducted extensive outreach efforts to the GLBT community. The Reverend writes religion columns for In Newsweekly (the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender newspaper in New England), for The Advocate, and for The Witness, a progressive Episcopalian journal. Mayor Simmons is honored to have this progressive spiritual leader preside over her wedding, and to have the ceremony take place in such a historic and inclusive house of worship.

Mayor Simmons is also cognizant of the deeper societal implications of this marriage. As the nation’s first African-American, openly-lesbian mayor, she has already blazed a trail for anyone who seeks to assume a leadership role within their community. Moreover, the Mayor presides over a diverse city that consists of people from every racial, religious, economic, and cultural background, and she continues to work to bridge the divides between all her constituents. The Mayor appreciates that her city has made great progress in bringing people together, even within her lifetime.

“I believe this may be the very first African-American church to hold a same gender wedding, and that’s something that just wouldn’t have happened years ago,” says Mayor Simmons. “But times are changing, people are becoming more accepting of their fellow citizens, and we are slowly arriving at more of a ‘live-and-let-live’ kind of world.”

The Mayor adds, “It’s not an easy process, and there have certainly been some detours along the way, but I think all the kind words I’ve received about this ceremony suggest we’re living in a friendlier, more open society. Our society is definitely making progress.”

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

President holds national `call-in' on health care reform with religious leaders

By Janette Williams, Pasadena Star News Staff Writer

PASADENA - In a speech broadcast live Wednesday to All Saints Church and congregations nationwide, President Barack Obama called on people of faith to make their voices heard in the push for universal health care.

The "40 Minutes for Health Reform" call-in and audio Web cast drew more than 100 people to All Saints in an event notably lacking in protests or disruptions.

The president, whose remarks were punctuated by applause from the All Saints audience, struck some familiar notes on "affordable and accessible" health care.

But this time he urged people of different religious denominations to come together and "knock down ... the false witness" of opponents and the "extraordinary lies" circulating.

"It's time for any man or woman of faith ... to show the way," he said. "One thing we all share is the moral conviction that this goes to the heart of who we are as a people."

The president spoke of the "misinformation" circulating on health care proposals.

He cited "distortions" that had people wrongly believing illegal aliens would be covered when they are "specifically not," and false rumors that abortions would be funded. He also discredited the portrayal of voluntary counseling for the elderly on living wills or end-of-life wishes as "death panels" promoting euthanasia.

No one in America should be denied coverage because they are ill or have a pre-existing condition, Obama said, and no one should be "pushed to the edge of ruin" when insurance doesn't cover the cost of care.

The president spoke after Melody Barnes, head of his Domestic Policy Council, answered questions about the nuts and bolts of the health-care reform effort.

A handful of speakers told of personal problems with health care, and rabbis and pastors from around the county gave a round-up of what their congregations were doing to push the cause of universal health care

Among them, Jim Wallis of Sojourners: Christians for Justice and Peace, said there was "deep concern" among people of faith about the nature of the debate.

"The shouting, even hatred," he said. "We're in danger of losing the moral core of this debate."

A "steady moral drumbeat" must come from the faith community, he said, and a "clear call for truth-telling in this debate."

The Rev. Susan Russell of All Saints said the national project was to inform and encourage religious communities to "come together around the issue and step up and speak out" about the need for universal access to affordable health care.

Led by Faith in Public Life, the program is organized by, among others, the Episcopal Church, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Sojourners, the National Council of Churches in Christ and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.

Tim Moffett, a former All Saints parishioner, said he hadn't been sure what to expect of the event.

"I expected the same old, same old," he said. "But it wasn't. I got more clear facts ... and now I want to keep the conversation going."

News from ELCA Assembly in Minnesota

Press Release:

ELCA Assembly Adopts 'Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust'

MINNEAPOLIS (ELCA) -- The 2009 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) adopted "Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust" Aug. 19 with a vote of 676 (66.67 percent) to 338 (33.33 percent). The passing of the social statement on human sexuality required a two-thirds vote.
The churchwide assembly, the chief legislative authority of the ELCA, is meeting here Aug. 17-23 at the Minneapolis Convention Center. About 2,000 people are participating, including 1,045 ELC voting members. The theme for the biennial assembly is "God's work. Our hands."

Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust is the denomination's 10th social statement. Social statements assist Lutherans in their moral deliberation, govern the ELCA's institutional policies and guide the church's advocacy work. The statement addresses a spectrum of topics relevant to human sexuality from a Lutheran perspective.

More details to follow.
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Information about the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly can be found here

AP Report:

Lutherans move toward more open view on gays
By PATRICK CONDON (AP) – 1 hour ago

MINNEAPOLIS — Leaders of the country's largest Lutheran denomination have moved toward a more welcoming view of homosexuality.

Delegates of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, meeting in Minneapolis, approved a "social statement on human sexuality" on Wednesday that acknowledges differing views on homosexuality among congregations. It says the ELCA is strong enough to accommodate such differences.

The vote on the statement is a prelude to a bigger vote Friday. That's when delegates will debate a proposal to allow individual ELCA congregations to hire people in committed same-sex relationships as clergy.

Critics of the statement and the proposed changes on hiring clergy say both ignore clear scriptural direction that homosexual behavior is a sin.

"Those whose lives are closely linked with ours"

From Barney Frank on Larry King via Fr. Jake as seen on Mad Priest! (Giving new meaning to "those whose lives are closely linked to ours! :)

All Saints Church enters Nat'l Health Care Debate

“When we turn our backs to the sick we have turned our backs to God,” says All Saints rector, Ed Bacon
Continuing its long time commitment to engaging social justice issues, All Saints Church, Pasadena will open its doors to members of the community to participate in “40 Minutes for Health Reform” -- a national call-in and audio webcast on Wednesday, August 19 at 2 p.m. PDT featuring President Obama and faith leaders from across the country.

“Jesus repeatedly told his followers to ‘heal the sick,’ said the Reverend J. Edwin Bacon, rector of All Saints Church. “When we turn our backs to the sick we have turned our backs to God.”

Led by Faith in Public Life, 40 Days for Health Reform is an effort organized by the faith community – including the Episcopal Church, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Sojourners, the National Council of Churches in Christ, and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good -- to make clear to Congress that quality, affordable health care for every American family is a moral priority for millions of people of faith.

“This is a justice issue which President Obama will engage with religious leaders Wednesday. Our nation cannot be healthy until every one of us has health care,” Bacon went on to say. “All Saints Church, Pasadena, has a passionate interest in Health Care Reform because 47 million citizens are without health insurance. I am personally supportive of a public option that will offer an opportunity to all citizens to be covered just as U.S. employees, military personnel, veterans, and Medicare and Medicaid patients are covered by a government program.”

Members of the All Saints Church staff and parish will be available for comment following the webcast.

Click here for further information on “40 Days for Health Reform.”
For more information on the All Saints Church webcast, contact Amanda McCormick at 626.583.2765..
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Meanwhile, in Minnesota ...

Today is a "hiatus from vacation" day as I've got several conference calls and then am going over to All Saints to be part of the Obama Health Care Faith Leaders teleconference event. (More on that in a moment.)

Meanwhile in Minnesota, the Lutheran Church is poised to make decisions about LGBT clergy ... and I thought these two items worth passing on to all y'all.

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First: Walking With Integrity has just posted this link to "One Table, Many Blessings" -- an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America witness to the stories of its gay and lesbian pastors. In it, 95 members of the Lutheran clergy — a number that references Martin Luther’s 95 Theses — announce that they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. The booklet shares how the ban on openly gay clergy has affected their lives.

Second: Sorting through my "Google News Alerts" this morning, I came across this reflection by documentary filmmaker Dawn Mikkelson on the journey toward inclusion in her own Lutheran Church. It is WELL worth the read ... and has gotten me thinking about an ecumenical Q-Film Festival where we could learn from each other in the films that are giving voice to the Holy Spirit moving across the whole church of God.

"Seeking a God who loves us for who we are"
by Dawn Mikkelson
August 19, 2009

In 2001, I stood in the balcony of a St. Paul Lutheran church as the Rev. Anita C. Hill was ordained in an act of ecclesiastical disobedience. Standing there with my little video camera, with mainstream media on either side, elbowing for a view of the packed church, I fought back tears.

I needed to get this shot for my documentary film, "THIS obedience," directed with Jamie A. Lee. Hill was my pastor, openly lesbian and in a committed relationship, which meant that her ordination would prompt official church sanctions against our congregation.

The rules of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America state that pastors must refrain from "homosexual sexual relationships," while their straight counterparts may enjoy the support and love of a lifelong partnership.

I have made other films, but screenings of this one often lead me to weep publicly during audience Q&As.

Today, more than eight years later, I prepare to set up my camera at the Minneapolis Convention Center, where the ELCA has gathered again to debate the fate of my pastor's call and the future of one of the country's largest Christian denominations.

I watch nervously as groups from both sides of this issue scurry about, preparing for the structured chaos of floor debate, tethered by Robert's Rules.

Lutherans believe that congregations have the final say in decisions about whom to call as pastors, rather than having to defer to the opinions of powerful clergy leadership.

That said, this measured democracy comes at the price of generations of potential members and clergy who silently leave because the denomination sees their lives, or the lives of people they love (family, friends, etc.) as an issue to debate instead of bless.

What's my stake in this? I was raised Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist and had run from organized religion since my early 20s, largely due to the rejection I felt within a faith that erred on the side of rigid doctrine instead of focusing on grace and love. This division was particularly painful for me, as my Christian faith was the lens through which I first viewed the world.

As a Christian, I was raised to believe that my relationship with God (which at that point was housed in a Baptist church building) was more important than any relationship I had on this earth with friends, family, lovers or myself.

Yet as I discovered myself to be bisexual, the faith that had been my strength began to tear me apart. It was like God himself was rejecting me.

Beyond the debate over scripture (which has divided biblical scholars on all sides), I have come to believe that God loves me and that my sexuality is a gift. I have also become a member of the Lutheran Church (some find this ironic, but my new church is more liberal than the one I left).

Part of this journey was influenced by making "THIS obedience," which was broadcast across the United States on public television. The film ends with the Lutherans deciding that they needed to "study" homosexuals for a few more years before making any big decisions.

Today the study is done. The ELCA Church Council is recommending a sexuality statement that would allow for ministers to be in public, same-gender, committed relationships without fear of losing their jobs or seeing their congregations removed from the denomination, which has happened to dozens of pastors in recent years. For the first time in years, I have felt hope for organized religion.

So if the Lutherans make this decision, so what? Will it change the world? Maybe not exponentially.

But it will mean that untold numbers of adolescent kids who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning will see that there is a place for them in this world and with God. That the foundation of their life and world view has not rejected them. That the church, sometimes the biggest weapon used against them and their view of themselves, says, "We love you and accept you."

This does not mean that all Christians -- or all Lutherans, for that matter -- need to agree on one biblical interpretation. But it does mean that God is much bigger than all of us and that none of us have all the answers, nor can we claim to know whom God has and has not called to the ministry. All we know for sure is that God loves us for who we are, not in spite of who we are.

It's thoughts like that one that will change the world. And for the little kid in me -- maybe she will heal a bit too.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

On the radio


If you click here you can here a 60 minute segment from this morning's MPR (Minnesota Public Radio) Midmorning featuring Titusonenine's Kendall Harmon, Religion News Service's Kevin Eckstrom ... and me!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Homeward Bound!

Just a quick update from the Nashville Airport where I'm waiting to fly home from a visit with my below-illustrated boys (that would be Jim on the left and Brian on the right ... pictured visiting with "Honest Abe" at the Kentucky Museum in Bowling Green KY.)

Grateful for a good visit ... for fireflies and time to just "hang out" ... AND to be heading home again. Onward and upward! :)
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Thursday, August 13, 2009

"Let us hope it does not become widely known"


"Descended from the apes? Dear me, let us hope it is not true," exclaimed the wife of a 19th-century English bishop upon hearing of Darwin's new theory. "But if it is true, let us hope it does not become widely known."
Couldn't resist sharing this quote from a recent USA Today opinion piece on evolution ... pointing out how much a part of the English DNA "if we just don't talk about it, maybe it'll go away" may just to be!

[Posted from the airport in Las Vegas on my way to Bowling Green KY via Nashville to see my boys for the weekend.]

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

On the B033 Bridge to Nowhere & Town Hall Melees

So I got up early (for a vacation day, that is!) to log on to Southwest and do the online check in thing for my flight to Nashville tomorrow morning. Was rewarded with both an "A" boarding pass and the chance to hear Justice Sotomayor from the White House. What a hopeful reminder of who we are at our best -- in contrast to those increasingly absurd "town hall melees."

And as long as I was up, checked out Facebook where my friend Pam had posted
this link to this blog post over at the Bilerico Project.

It's called "Cry Me A River:"

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I'm not smiling at the misfortune of the fundies. Really, I'm not.

The good folks over at Amplify got a pleading letter from Focus on the Fundraising... er... "Focus on the Family" whining about the hard economic times and what looks to be a 6 Million Dollar budget shortfall:

"Right now we're facing a serious budget shortfall that threatens our ability to reach out to parents, families and married couples who count on our help. Income is down nearly $6 million from what we expected and planned for this year."

I'm shedding a tear ...

Maybe if they didn't spend so much money on anti-LGBT ballot initiatives or lining the pockets of their founder and board (I wonder what verse in the Bible that comes from), they wouldn't be in such a pickle. They have thrown multi-millions into every ballot battle across the country- from California's Prop 8 to Florida's Amendment 2.

Forgive me if I do a happy dance at their money woes.

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And forgive me if I take this opportunity to "bookmark" this one for the next time someone tells me/emails me/refers-me-to-a-blog that blames budget shortfalls in The Episcopal Church on our "liberal agenda."

Remember that cigar that is sometimes "just a cigar"???? Sometimes a sucky economy is just a sucky economy -- but never underestimate the determination of the misinformation mavens to refuse to allow actual facts to influence their already made up minds. And I'm thinking this morning that there's a parallel between the acting out we've seen in the Town Hall Melees and some of the behavior we've been living with in the Anglican Communion over these last few years.

Every night the news is full of reports on those who show up at meetings designed to discuss solutions to health care in America prepared to shout down solutions with slogans that perpetuate both polarization and misinformation. ("Socialized Medicine" and "Killing Your Grandma" come to mind.)

Substitute the full inclusion of the LGBT baptized in the Body of Christ and you get a similar methodology ("Abandoning the Faith Once Received" and "Undermining the Sanctity of Marriage" come to mind.)

The sad truth is none of these folks want solutions -- to the issues that challenge us as Americans OR as Anglicans. They want to shout down "the opposition" to keep compromise from happening or coalitions from forming.

It took The Episcopal Church awhile to figure that one out -- but what I'm wondering this morning is if B033 won't be looked at in retrospect as "the bridge to nowhere" that finally called the question on continuing to tolerate intolerance. And what I'm hoping this morning is that maybe -- just maybe -- these Town Hall Meetings/Melees will prove the same.

Because I really believe we are better, brighter, stronger and more capable of solving problems as a nation than our recent history has demonstrated. And -- as Justice Sotomayor said from the White House today -- if a Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx can grow up to be a Supreme Court Justice then maybe there's nothing we can't do!

And I'm thinking that includes making health care available to all who need it in this country AND making God's love tangible to all who seek it in this church!
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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

People of Faith Supporting Health Care Reform

Just for the record, I am "on vacation" from the job-I-love-that-pays-my-mortgage ... NOT "on vacation" from life or from caring about what happens to health care in this country.

I gotta tell ya -- (and yes, I realize I am quoting one of my favorite bishops) -- when we got back into cable-tv range and I flipped on the news and read Sarah Palin's latest rot-gut-baldface-lies about "Obama's death panels" ... well, let's just say it did nothing good for my blood pressure but lots for my resolve to get out there and be part of the solution to this decades old problem of screwed up health care in this country.

And clearly I'm not alone in the "fed up with the lies/time to get our voices out there" department:




The Episcopal Church is "on record" on this issue ... passing these two resolutions in Anaheim:

C071: Health Care Coverage for All
D048: Adoption of a "Single Payer" Universal Health Care Program

Read them. Mark them. Inwardly digest them. Forward them to your congressional representative. Write a Letter to the Editor. Show up at a Town Hall meeting. LET'S GET IT DONE!!

Part Three of "Road Trip 2009"

While I am still "on" vacation, we are now back "from" vacation -- home from the 10 day road trip Louise and I took to visit her family in Colorado.

It was one of those rare-but-wonderful trips where we had good car, traffic, weather AND relative karma.

If you missed Part One or Part Two, you can click on the links and catch up.

Here's Part Three of Three: a little window into that "chosen lifestyle" that seems to be such a worry in some parts. Enjoy!




And now I'm home for a few days and then off to Bowling Green KY (without Louise who's back to work today) to visit my two boys for a long weekend ... and then some more R&R here at Chez Brooks-Russell before I'm back in the office August 24th.

Grace abounds.
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Monday, August 10, 2009

I'm back ...

... and digging through email while the laundry washes and drys as we're getting organized to go to our local "town hall meeting on health care" tomorrow night in Alhambra.

So if you're interested in letting YOUR congressional representative know what the Episcopal Church said about health care reform at our General Convention, bookmark this one.

Resolution: D048
Title: Adoption of a "Single Payer" Universal Health Care Program
Topic: Health Care
Committee: 09 - National and International Concerns
House of Initial Action: Deputies
Proposer: The Rev. Gary Commins

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Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 76th Convention of the Episcopal Church urge passage of federal legislation establishing a "single payer" universal health care program which would provide health care coverage for all of the people of the United States; and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention direct the Office of Government Relations to assess, negotiate, and deliberate the range of proposed federal health care policy options in the effort to reach the goal of universal health care coverage, and to pursue short-term, incremental, innovative, and creative approaches to universal health care until a "single payer" universal health care program is established; and be it further

Resolved, That the Episcopal Church shall work with other people of good will to finally and concretely realize the goal of universal health care coverage; and be it further

Resolved, That church members and the Office of Government Relations communicate the position of the Episcopal Church on this issue to the President and Members of Congress, and advocate passage of legislation consistent with this resolution.

EXPLANATION

The Episcopal Church, along with several other denominations in the National Council of Churches, previously called upon the Congress and the President to ensure universal access to health care for all people in the United States by the end of 2006.

That deadline has now passed, and the situation is worse than ever. More than 47 million people in the U. S. are currently without health insurance, more than 75 million went without for some length of time within the last two years, and millions more have inadequate coverage or are at risk of losing coverage. People of color, immigrants and women are denied care at disproportionate rates, while the elderly and many others must choose between necessities and life sustaining drugs and care. Unorganized workers have either no or inadequate coverage. The Institute of Medicine has found that each year more than 18,000 in the U. S. die because they had no health insurance.

While we in the United States spend more than twice as much of our gross domestic product as other developed nations on health care ($7,129 per capita), we remain the only industrialized country without universal coverage, and the United States performs poorly in comparison on major health indicators such as life expectancy, infant mortality and immunization rates.

Almost one-third (31 percent) of the money spent on health care in the United States goes to administrative costs. Single-payer financing is the best way to recapture this wasted money. The potential savings on paperwork, more than $350 billion per year, are enough to provide comprehensive coverage to everyone without paying any more than we already do.

Under a single-payer system, all Americans would be covered for all medically necessary services, including: doctor, hospital, long-term care, mental health, dental, vision, prescription drug and medical supply costs. Patients would regain free choice of doctor and hospital, and doctors would regain autonomy over patient care.

Physicians would be paid fee-for-service according to a negotiated formulary or receive salary from a hospital or nonprofit HMO / group practice. Hospitals would receive a global budget for operating expenses. Health facilities and expensive equipment purchases would be managed by regional health planning boards.

A single-payer system would be financed by eliminating private insurers and recapturing their administrative waste. Modest new taxes would replace premiums and out-of-pocket payments currently paid by individuals and business. Costs would be controlled through negotiated fees, global budgeting and bulk purchasing.