Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Renewal of Clergy Vows: Diocese of Los Angeles, 2010

We gathered together again today ... the clergy of the Episcopal Diocese of Los of Los Angeles ... for the Holy Week ritual of renewing our clergy vows and receiving the vials of oil-made-holy for unction and chrismation blessed in this service at St. John's Cathedral.

I was running late. I thought I'd left plenty of time but hadn't factored the impact of the "one last email" before I headed south on the 110 ... and then three block walk from St. Vincent's parking lot to St. John's Cathedral.

As I walked -- briskly -- down Figueroa St. with Betsy Hooper-Rosebrook (who was my "shepherd" during my ordination process as a member of the Commission on Ministry and a friend for whom I needlepointed the ring bearer's pillow for her wedding to Tom Rosebrook) we trucked past the dome of St. Vincent's Roman Catholic Church (on the OTHER corner of Adams and Fig) ...

... I thought "OMG ... can it REALLY be over ten years since we gathered there to elect Jon Bruno our bishop? How did I get to be someone who says "remember when ..." so fast!!!"

St. John's looks better every time I'm down there. I just love how the space is used as a kind of palette to create genuine liturgical expressions of the people gathered for work and worship.

And I love that the "mission statement" on the back of the service leaflet we were handed read:

St. John's Cathedral
Catholic Worship - Evangelical Preaching - Progressive Social Witness
Now THERE'S a "trinity" for you!
And so we gathered. 400-something clergy ... bishops, priests and deacons ... to remember who we are as those ordained to do the work we have been called to do -- and "whose" we are as those ordained to do the work we have been called to do.
It was, in some ways, a "swan song" for our Bishops Chet Talton and Sergio Carranza. Both are retiring this year ... once we get our new Bishops Suffragan "suited up" on May 15th ... and so +Chet preached and +Sergio presided and +Jon played "back up singer" ... making a few announcements during the "greetings time."
+Chet preached a wonderful sermon -- beginning by asking us to remember when we heard that "first call to ordained ministry" ... "And I am NOT (he said) talking about whatever it was you told the Commission on Ministry." (To a ripple of laughter.) He then went on to tell his own story of a 12-year old Chet hearing his own vocation voiced for the first time in the words of a mentor priest.
And wow ... I looked around the space there in the nave at St. John's and at all those faithful and trying-to-be-faithful clergy colleagues of mine here in this native diocese of mine and I thought how MUCH of my vocation -- my life, my ministry, my work and my priesthood -- I owed to so many of them ...
A random and scattered sampling:
  • Mort -- who trained me to be an L.E.M. when I was still a parish secretary at St. Paul's, Ventura.
  • Howard -- who taught me church history in Claremont.
  • Shirley -- who showed me what it means to love across differences.
  • Warren -- who stood by me when nobody else did.
  • Joanna -- who helped keep me sane during CPE, provided an oasis of calm in the chaos more than once and was one of my presenters for ordination to the priesthood
  • Art -- whose late wife Fran gave me the "A Woman's Place is in the House of Bishops" tea towel as a souvenier from their trip to Lambeth 1998 and who was a faithful colleague when I was at St. Peter's in San Pedro.
  • Lynn -- who has been a sister, a mother, a friend and a fierce protector ... that was, after we got over our first conversation EVER which was a knock-down-drag-out fight over putting a serape on the altar for a regional confirmation service when Fred Borsch was our new bishop.
  • Rachel -- who sat on the floor with me at a diocesan-convention-gone-by while we women told stories about putting away the red blazers until after our ordinations were approved ... based on the advice of "the mothers" that red was a power color and we were already scary enough without making it worse. And now she's a rector herself ... and a powerful woman who can and does wear red when she feels like it.
  • Larry -- my "litter mate" deacon (we were ordained as transitional deacons together at St. Francis, Simi Valley in June 1996)
  • Michael -- who "knew me when" my kids were babies and my brother-in-law was his Senior Warden and when women priests were ... well, not as usual as they are now ... and who was the first of dozens today to say, "How's Jamie? When's he coming home? We have him in our prayers at Ascension ..."
  • Lyn -- who was ahead of me in seminary and I remember watching her in liturgy class doing her "eucharist practicum" ... with her toes wiggling nervously in plain sight under the altar in her Birkenstocks
  • Keith -- who started Ministry Study Year when I did in 1992 and bought us all scratch off lottery tickets while we waited to find out if the Commission on Ministry was going to make us Postulants for Holy Orders.
  • Kelly -- who shares with me the challenge of being a peace-monger Army mom ... and who I remember with her kids in strollers in seminary ... and her anxious mother at her ordination, terrified that if she got ordained in the Diocese of Los Angeles she'd turn into a lesbian. (So far so good. :)
  • Oh my, oh my, oh my: I could go on and on ... because as we streamed up the aisle to receive the bread and wine made holy it seemed there was a story I could tell about almost every person who walked past me ...

... and so I experienced the "both/and" of feeling simultaneously REALLY old and TOTALLY renewed.

SO many new faces ... diversity I couldn't even have imagined even those not-really-all-that-many-years-ago I was ordained a priest in that very space -- January 17, 1998. And so many old, dear, familiar ones ... the connectivity of the stories that have united us ... even the differences that have challenged us ... all that makes us what we are: The Diocese of Los Angeles ...

.. Renewed. Refreshed. And Ready to Rock and Roll!

Quote of the day for Tuesday in Holy Week

"Obama is not a brown-skinned, anti-war socialist who gives away free healthcare. You're thinking of Jesus." -- by John Fugelsang


Monday, March 29, 2010

Monday in Holy Week: The Gospel Journey to Both/And

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
John 12:1-11
Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus' feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, "Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?" (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, "Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me." When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

Monday in Holy Week: “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished”

“No good deed goes unpunished” was something I grew up hearing my Aunt Gretchen say – usually with a frightening degree of relish in her voice and usually as she was launching into a long, gossipy story involving one of her Altar Guild or Daughters of the King cronies. Thinking back, “see these Christians, how they love one another” was not exactly what got modeled for me in my early growing-up days in the church … it was more like “see these Christians, how they fight and argue over things like women priests and prayer books, over who gets to sit in which pew and sing which hymn.”

And what I heard as a grade-school altar guild groupie hasn't changed much from what I hear as a fifty-something church blog junkie.

And so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that “No good deed goes unpunished” comes to my mind as an appropriate sub-title of the gospel story appointed for this Monday in Holy Week – the story of Mary's extravagant outpouring of precious perfume as a gift to Jesus earned her a tongue lashing from Judas. It's a story not only told in this Gospel according to John ... and what all the tellings of the story have in common is that the good deed – the gift she offered – was judged and rejected by those surrounding Jesus who thought she should have made a different choice.

Mark says, “They were infuriated with her.” Matthew says, “They murmured against her.” (And if I got to choose I think I’d pick the nice honest infuriation anytime over a bunch of murmuring going on!) Either way, her best offering was deemed unacceptable by the community that surrounded Jesus … there was no way they were going to let her good deed go unpunished.

And then Jesus intervened.

“Let her alone. Why do you criticize her?” he asked – and then challenged them to look beyond their “either/or” mind-sets and embrace what we like to call “both/and” thinking – that feeding the poor is always important but so is taking care of each other: that in doing what she did – offering what she offered – she gave not only a gift to Jesus but an example to us of risking to give abundantly, to love extravagantly.

What an example for us to claim on this Monday in this Holy Week. And what an antidote to the “either/or” challenges that seem to face us every time we turn around – not to mention the “no good deed unpunished” contingent who are all too ready to leap in at a moment’s notice with what we shoulda, coulda, oughta done instead …

The climate of polarization that currently grips the American Culture, the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion is a prime example. I'm thinking this morning of a friend and parishioner who shared with me the experience of being part of a day of dialogue that brought together folks from different congregations and contexts for “conversation across the divide.” They started by going around the table and naming what were, for them, Jesus’ core moral values.

“Peace” said my friend.

“Not at any price,” immediately retorted a woman across the table from her, “what about security?” – throwing down the “either/or” gauntlet … and letting her know it was going to be a long day across the divide!

The idea that we have to choose between peace and security is, I believe, a false dichotomy that puts us in “either/or” land – but it is a place where many people dwell: like the disciples either murmuring at or infuriated by those of us who have a different perspective. Bridging that divide is tough – hard, hard work – but it’s work we’re called to do. And, I’m happy to report, its work my friend hung in there and gave it her best shot for the rest of the weekend.

Were any minds changed? I suspect not – but – like the woman who anointed Jesus -- she did what she could.

In the wider Anglican Communion and here at home in the Episcopal Church the either/or du jour seems to be “justice or unity.” Can we find a way to respect the dignity of every human being and fully include all of the baptized in the Body of Christ and still maintain unity? And there are LOTS of good deeds not going unpunished as those working, striving, strategizing and advocating for a way forward through the hard ground of our differences run up against just how hard it is to hear the “both/and” voice over all the “either/or” shouting.

I found some hope this week in these words from the paper entitled "A Theology of Marriage including Same-sex Couples" which was presented to the House of Bishops.

We read our situation in light of the church council in Acts, and propose a similar compromise for a way forward: Traditionalist communities need not relinquish their traditions, but they must not break table fellowship. Inclusivist communities are not bound by those particular traditions, but they must avoid sexual immorality, which means that all couples, including same-sex couples, should marry.
It may not be perfect, but it is a both/and approach to what has become for so many an intractable either/or impasse ... and so it gives me hope.

The prayer that began our worship is full of “both/ands” -- joy and pain/glory and crucifixion/the way of the cross and the way of life and peace. For the “way of the cross” is by its very nature a both/and – a way we walk throughout our spiritual journey and a way we walk in a most intentional way this Holy Week.

May we be given the grace in these holy days ahead to walk with the sure and certain knowledge that the One who walked this way ahead of us walks along with us as well. And may we be given the grace to treat each other gently along the way – letting the good deeds of others go unpunished as we work to proclaim together the Good News we have been given to share. Amen.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday 2010 @ All Saints Church

Giving thanks for a full and rich Palm Sunday and with prayers of for a blessed Holy Week and Joyous Easter, here's a little peak at what some of Palm Sunday looked like in Pasadena this morning.
Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of Jesus’ suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

And here's a link to the rector's Palm Sunday Sermon: "Perverting the Nation with Nonviolence" -- which included the challenge to us that "to be in the world like God is loving others no matter what."

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Other breaking news today in L.A.

Without much fanfare the ruling on the appeal of the property dispute between the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and former members of the Episcopal Church in Newport Beach was posted online.

You can read it all here ... but here's the bottom line:
Let a writ issue requiring the Superior Court of Orange County to vacate its order denying the motion of the Episcopal Church and Los Angeles Diocese for judgment on the pleadings, and to enter a new order granting that motion. Petitioners shall recover their costs in this proceeding.
I spoke with my bishop earlier today and he said a formal statement will be coming from the diocesan communication office -- probably on Monday -- but in the meantime I have his dispensation to offer the following during Lent:

Alleluia. Alleluia.

The whole enchilada

So now I've actually had time get a "first read" of the 95 pages presented to the House of Bishops by the Theology Panel convened by the HoB Theology Committee.

As I noted in the blog I wrote yesterday, I actually think there's been some new ground broken by the portion written by Deirdre Good, Cynthia Kittredge, Eugene Rogers & Willis Jenkins that will serve us well as we move forward.

I can't say the same for the section written by the "other team" -- John Goldingay, Grant LeMarquand, George Sumner & Daniel Westberg. I described it yesterday in a note to a colleague group as "the same casserole they've brought the potluck for the last 20 years."

And lest that be considered dismissive rather than descriptive, here's how Grant LeMarquand described it in his own words:

I have heard it said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. That is, however, exactly what I will be doing for the next minutes – not providing any new insights or fresh thinking but, as straightforwardly as possible, saying the same old thing one more time.
Like I said: same casserole, different day.

And then, after giving an overview of the report they'd written, LeMarquand concluded his remarks with this curious summation:

My task is made difficult not only because it may seem to you to be naïve or tedious but because it is by its nature a negative argument. As an Anglophone Canadian from the predominantly French-speaking part of my country, I well aware that to vote Oui! feels much more exciting and more open to future possibilities than to vote Non! The no vote is a vote for the past, a vote against change. “No we can’t” is never as much fun as “yes we can.” So be it.

And there you have it. Just like the other blog I wrote yesterday.

Only it's not "No we can't" is it? It's "No YOU can't" to same-sex couples -- as the position outlined by the self-described traditionalists continues to draw a line that keeps them outside-looking-in at the outward and visible sign the church withholds from the inward and spiritual grace of their marriages. Meanwhile, the theology team from the other side blows that line in the sand away. ALL the way away.

And that's the breaking news here, boys and girls.

Buried in all the been-there-done-thatness of this report and the bad taste we still have in our mouths over how the committee was convened and then secreted and then released to the bishops the week-before-Holy Week ... buried in all that is this (from the top of page 78)

"Because of our sense of the church’s mission, we argue for blessing same-sex marriages, not for blessing civil unions or same-sex partnerships. While some civic and legal strategies reserve the word "marriage" for relationships between male and female, and use another term such as "union" for relationships between two women or two men, the distinction does not make sense within the life of the church. There, marriage is a discipline, a means of grace, and a type of the relationship of Christ with the Church.

Our argument therefore eliminates the option of "half way houses" and compromises. We agree with the traditionalist paper and Archbishop Williams that public blessing of same-sex unions would function as Christian marrying, and we acknowledge with them that sentiment in the Communion stands against that.

We do not then argue for same-sex marriage lightly or in disregard of the Communion. We do so for the sake of the mission of our church within the Communion, as a way of giving our testimony to the work of the Spirit among us."

One side brought the same old casserole to the potluck. The other side brought the whole enchilada.

Let us rejoice and be glad in it. And then let us dig in!

Because it seems to me that this is too important a significant shift in theological argument to get lost in the shuffle -- and that we need to step up and not just embrace it but expand it ... and not just for our work in the Episcopal Church but here in the marriage equality movement here in California and elsewhere.
Guacamole, anyone?

Friday, March 26, 2010

"Yes, We Can" vs. "Hell No, You Can't"

Watching this video -- thanks to Greg Larkin for the "prompt" -- I couldn't help but see a parallel between what we're hearing in our country and what we're hearing in our church.

Yes We Can ... provide health care for all, end poverty, fight racism and sexism, give to our children a better, stronger, more inclusive nation where liberty and justice for all really means ALL


Yes We Can ... include all the baptized in all the sacraments, end patriarchy, fight racism and sexism and give to our children a better, stronger, more inclusive church where respecting the dignity of every human being really means EVERY human being


Hell No, You Can't ... mess with my privilege, undermine my power, extend to "the other" the rights I claim for me and mine, challenge racial, gender and orientation stereotypes that keep others "in their place" so I can give to my children the same unexamined power and privilege that my forefathers and I have used for generations to keep The American Dream and The Episcopal Church as the private preserve of the straight, the white and the male.

And what's the common denominator? Fear. Loss of power. And a deep well of anger that the rules have changed in the middle of the game for them ... that the changes they abhor are coming in spite of them and the values they have based their lives on -- life, liberty (for eveyone who agrees with them) and the pursuit of the happiness of shutting others out from the power and privilege they are ENTITLED to, dammit -- well, you start to see why it's all such a muddle.

+Barbara Harris famously said that what we are in the midst of is "the death rattle of the patriarchy -- and it is NOT going gently into the good night."

Amen, sister. Amen.

Thoughts on Theology

Still knee-deep in Holy Week preparations and also needing to spend part of today in Not-so-Holy Income Tax preparations, so I'm still only whittling away at the HoB Theology Report in terms of coming up with my own impressions of the actual WORK ... as opposed to my already registered reactions to the whole PROCESS.

That said, I found this piece from theology committee member Deirdre Good's blog hopeful. It's from the introduction given by theologian Willis Jenkins to the presentation of the report to the House of Bishops -- which Good has posted with permission in its entirety on her blog -- but these were the two excerpts that "caught my eye:"

We do not plead for inclusion in marriage on the basis of rights, nor do we claim liberty for marriage on the basis of justice. Instead we show how all our marriages make sense within the church’s prayers and its proclamation of the gospel. Reading scripture in recognition of gifts of the Spirit evident in same- and other-sex couples, we present ourselves within the frame of an analogous debate: that of the earliest church wrestling with the question of Gentile inclusion.

By offering this frame of argument, those in same-sex marriages allow themselves and their relationships to become vulnerable to “our” interpretation. Our response, I contend, should be similar to how Peter, James, and Paul responded: by giving witness to gifts of the Spirit among these couples and making a way forward that respects tradition.

We argue that marrying same-sex couples, if done forthrightly as a matter of witness and proclamation, can help our church better explain itself to the whole Communion. It is “part of the Episcopal church’s mission,” we write, “to marry same-sex couples; that is, to discipline them and turn them to the service of the church, that by them redemption may reach further and the marriages of all may be strengthened.”

For the sake of mutual understanding and accountability with our companions in mission around the Communion, our argument elaborates how this mission makes sense within shared scriptures, shared liturgies and shared practices of moral formation. For we want our companions in mission to be able to understand us when we say that blessing same-sex marriages should not jeopardize the marriages or mission of churches that practice traditionalist marriage.

We think just the contrary: that same-sex marriage strengthens the meaning of all marriages and illustrates anew the mission of the church. “The question of same-sex marriage,” we write, “comes to the church not as an issue of extended rights and privileges, but as a pastoral occasion to proclaim the significance of the gospel for all who marry.”

Amidst similar dissension and debate in our church, we read our situation in light of the church council in Acts, and propose a similar compromise for a way forward: Traditionalist communities need not relinquish their traditions, but they must not break table fellowship. Inclusivist communities are not bound by those particular traditions, but they must avoid sexual immorality, which means that all couples, including same-sex couples, should marry.

So I still think there is much to process and much to ponder about this report, its content and the now DECADE long process that brought it into being.

AND I think the theological framing of the discussion of same-sex relationships described by Jenkins above can be an important contribution to the ongoing process of "doing the theology" of full inclusion.

It may all end up being more theology we've done that those on the other side of the aisle disagree-with-and-therefore-dismiss -- but what I'm wondering this morning is if maybe ... just maybe ... this work will help us turn an important corner.

Yes, I'm tired of my life and relationship being "studied." (But heck ... I was tired of that ten years ago in 2000 when the then House of Bishops' Theology Committee ... still chaired by Henry Parsley ... flew me and Michael Hopkins to Chicago so they could say they "consulted" with "live-in-captivity actual homosexual persons.") And I'm tired of being used as a wedge issue in this chess game of global Anglican politics that -- at its base level -- has nothing to do with either theology or sexuality and everything to do with power and control.

And God knows I'm tired of the arguments from "the other side" based on scripture through a literalist lens and pseudo-science -- and the portion of the report written by the self-described "traditionalists" doesn't appear to offer a single new thought, perspective or concept to the dialogue.

Of course it's a justice issue. And it is a pastoral issue ... as my calendar is already filling up with pastoral appointments with folks for whom this whole point-counterpoint debate on same-sex relationships has unearthed -- once again -- feelings of rejection, internalized homophobia and the deep pain of having to justify your life, your vocation and your relationship to your "tribe." I'm sick of it all.

But here's where the cost of discipleship part comes in for me. It's not about what I'm tired of. It's about the Gospel.

It's about the mission and ministry of a church that has SUCH good news to offer -- SUCH a powerful witness to provide to a world in such desperate need of it -- SUCH an opportunity in the weeks and months and years ahead to actually incarnate that Year of the Lord's Favor that's as old as Isaiah and Jesus ... in a nutshell it's about our foundational call as baptized people to proclaim the Good News of God in Christ Jesus by word AND example.

And we can't do that if we continue to allow a percentage of bigots to hold our mission and ministry hostage to their demands that we marginalize a percentage of the baptized.

And if it takes one more theology paper to get us over the schismatic speed bumps and back up to speed as a church moving forward into God's future then I say bring it on.

Let's read it. Let's challenge it. And then let's use it to put an end -- once and for all -- to the fiction that our differences have to be divisions and then let's get on with freeing captives, getting that good news to the poor and liberating the oppressed -- and bring the Good News of the God who loves absolutely everybody TO absolutely everybody!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

“I won't lecture you on theology if you don't lecture me on science”

If you're anything like me, the week-before-Holy Week is not the week you have the elbow room to digest the 95 pages of theological reflection lobbed out of the House of Bishops meeting yesterday.

So join me in thanking goodness someone else is doing that work for us -- IT ... a frequent commenter on this blog and a contributor to "Friends of Jake" (among other things) offers this important reflection which I commend to you:

“I won't lecture you on theology if you don't lecture me on science”
(written by a bona fide scientist)
Now that the TEC Bishops' Super Secret Theology committee has released its report (or rather, its two competing reports), I'm sure there will be a lot of discussion.

I have read through the conservative's arguments against acceptance of GLBT people and my blood pressure is skyrocketing over the same old tired flat earth arguments.

I will leave it to others to dissect their theological aspect (Tobias Haller comes to mind) but I will point out one direct quote that I find breathtakingly outrageous.

... we are left with three fallacies that need correction: (1) that current science points to sexual orientation as basically innate; (2) that the attempt to change orientation is bound to cause harm; and (3) if homosexuality is something “given,” it cannot be considered in the category of “unnatural.” The rest of this section on scientific evidence will counter the first two points, and the section on natural law that follows will clarify what a theological notion of “unnatural” implies, and why this still applies.

Their discussion of genetics (a field I know a little something about) shows a complete failure to understand basic principles--what it means to say something is innate, and the fallacy of a single gene theory. They embarrass themselves. And rather than take your time here with lecture, I will refer you to Gay Married Californian, where tomorrow I will begin a series on Genetics.
Read the rest here … and may I just say: Brava! Amen! Alleluia!!

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY on the Feast of the Annunciation

"I'm so glad Mary
didn't wait for the formulation
of a Doctrine of the Incarnation
before she said 'Yes' to God."

-- Ed Bacon

Katie Sherrod Rocks

I was going to just post the link to Katie Sherrod's blog on the recent House of Bishops meeting in the comments on the Theology Report I posted yesterday, but decided they it was too important to "bury" in the comments.

So here ... from Desert's Child ... some important food-for-thought from Katie:

At their just-concluded meeting, the House of Bishops "received" the two reports from the no-longer-secret-committee of theologians about same sex marriage.

Mary Glasspool, bishop suffragan elect of the Diocese of Los Angeles, attended this meeting at Camp Allen near Houston as did Bishop Gene Robinson. For non-Episcopalian readers of this blog, Glasspool is a fine priest and a lesbian living in a long-term committed relationship. Bishop Robinson is a great bishop, and a gay man living in a long-term committed relationship.

Episcopal News Service has a story in which reference in made to a comment by Paul Lambert, bishop suffragan of Dallas, in a posting to the Anglicans United website. I found it revealing and informative.

Here is the statement [emphasis added]:

"It goes without saying that the recent Consent for the Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of Los Angeles has been a topic of discussion among the gathered bishops and how that will impact our relationships with the larger Communion. Although we have not had a plenary discussion on this development we will no doubt do so when the subject of the Anglican Covenant later this week occurs. Of course, her presence at our meeting makes it difficult to discuss this openly and honestly, both for her and the House gathered. I bid your prayers that we may have a spirit of mutual respect and forbearance for all involved. I do believe that we will do so with sensitivity and concern for all."

One might ask, how does the presence of Mary Glasspool make it difficult for bishops to discuss how her election will impact our relationships with the larger Communion openly and honestly?

Would the bishops say things behind her back that they would not say to her face? Apparently so.

It is indeed harder to talk about another human being as an "issue" or a "problem" when he or she is in the room looking you in the face. It is even harder when they are worshipping next to you, taking communion beside you, sharing the Body of Christ.

It is the power of the incarnational experience, and it is exactly why some have fought so hard and long to keep people of color, women and LGBT people out of the rooms where power is wielded and decisions are being made that affect the lives of people of color, women and LGBT people. It is why some primates, bishops, and other individuals have refused to worship with our presiding bishop and have loudly demanded she not be allowed to come to meetings of the primates.

It is why the Archbishop of Canterbury declined to invite Gene Robinson to Lambeth.

But we are an incarnational church. Each of us has been sealed as "Christ's own forever." That includes Bishop elect Glasspool as much as it includes Bishop Lambert. It includes Bishop Gene Robinson and the Communion Partner bishops. It includes every person of color, every woman, every LGBT person in the Anglican Communion.

Yes, it makes it harder for those who have been accustomed to wielding power unchallenged for so long to continue to speak and act as if all these millions of people are somehow "less than" other people.

Yes, this means that when you say LGBT people are "intrinsically disordered" you are going to have to say it to their faces -- and then -- harder still -- listen to their response. You might even have to witness the deep wounds your words and actions have caused and are causing all these people.

But given that we are brothers and sisters in Christ, this new reality in our House of Bishops should be an occasion of rejoicing, not lament. Our bishops are beginning to experience what the House of Deputies began to experience long ago -- who is in the room matters.

Bishop Lambert obviously realizes this, as he writes, "I bid your prayers that we may have a spirit of mutual respect and forbearance for all involved. I do believe that we will do so with sensitivity and concern for all."

I join him in this prayer.
As should we all, as we continue to struggle together to overcome the deep wounds of interlocking oppressions that damage not just those marginalized because of their race, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity, but those who wield unchallenged (and unexamined) power.

As we dwell here today on the edge of the end of Lent and begin to journey into Holy Week -- to Golgotha and beyond to Easter joy -- may we carry with us into that journey not only the wounds and hurts that challenge us and this church we love, but God's promise of healing grace that is stronger even than death.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The House of Bishops' Theology Committee releases its report to the Church on Same Sex Relationships

"Same-Sex Relationships in the Life of the Church" is the title of the 95 page report, presented to the House of Bishops on retreat at Camp Allen this week and posted online a few minutes ago.

You can download the whole enchilada here ... but here's a sneak peek at the Table of Contents:


Same-Sex Marriage and Anglican Theology: A View from the Traditionalists
A Theology of Marriage including Same-Sex Couples: A View from the Liberals
The Traditionalist Response
The Liberal Response
Postscript, from the Theology Committee

This study document was presented to the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church at its spring meeting in March 2010. It has been edited in several places following the discussion. The responses of several pan-Anglican and ecumenical theologians will be added to this study in the summer, along with some further editing, before a final edition is published.


I haven't had time to read it yet. And frankly the week-before-Holy Week is not exactly brimming with time to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest what this committee has to say.

However, on VERY first glance:

  • I'm wondering what it says from the get-go about a report that contextualizes itself as "traditional" vs "liberal"

  • I wonder about "several pan-Anglican and ecumenical theologians" to be added later (but not named here). Maybe that's covered later in the document but if not, is smells of the same back-room secret-committee nonsense that many were so concerned about in the beginning of this process.

  • And I wonder enough about the part I have read ... The Preface (by committee chair Henry Parsley) to reprint that below. I've "bolded" the parts that made me go "hmmmm?":

For a generation and more the Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican Communion have been engaged in a challenging conversation about sexual ethics, especially regarding same sex relationships in the life of the church. The hope of this work is that serious engagement in theological reflection across differences will build new bridges of understanding.

The Lambeth Conferences of 1988, 1998, and 2008 have urged the churches of the Anglican Communion engage in an intentional process of listening to the experience of gay and lesbian persons and exploring our pastoral ministry to them. There have been sharp disagreements. Communion has been strained. There have been repeated calls to listen carefully to one another, to undertake serious theological work and scriptural exegesis, and to repent of prejudice and injustice towards homosexual persons in church and society, as well as calls to uphold the classic teachings of the church on sexual ethics and marriage.

These two papers and responses are a contribution to this on-going process. This project was commissioned in the spring of 2008 by the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church, to be overseen by the Theology Committee. The committee subsequently appointed a group of eight distinguished theologians to undertake the study. They represent a broad spectrum of viewpoint and intentionally include a variety of theological disciplines, gay and lesbian persons in committed relationships, and both single and married heterosexual persons. The panel has met several times since the fall of 2008, shared a number of papers, and engaged in sustained dialogue.

Same-Sex Relationships in the Life of the Church is their work. It is designed to be a distinctively theological document, bringing to bear on the questions before us careful scriptural exegesis enlightened by reason and the witness of the theological tradition. It seeks to be faithful to the Anglican way of searching for truth and seeking the mind of Christ.

All debates have at least two sides. Honest dialogue enjoins to listen to both viewpoints with genuine attention and respect. Such an approach has been employed by faithful Christian persons over the centuries, and is the way theological discernment is engaged by the church. Its purpose is both to encourage mutual understanding and to provide wise counsel to the church for its mission.

In this vein, after much conversation, the eight theologians formed two affinity groups consisting of four theologians each and have prepared two main papers. One adheres to what it understands to be the church’s traditional ethical and sacramental teaching about marriage. The other revisits this teaching in order to call for the church’s recognition of faithful, monogamous same-gender relationships. Each affinity group has then prepared a formal response to the other’s work. Their study has been accomplished with a remarkable degree of mutual respect and charity.

The purpose of this project is not to create a new consensus or make a recommendation to the church. It is rather to express as fully as possible two contrasting theological views, both rooted in the teaching of the church and in Holy Scripture, in order that we might listen to and learn from both sides of the debate. In keeping with our Lord’s parable about the scribe who has been trained for the Kingdom of Heaven, the theologians have brought forth from their treasure what is new and what is old. (Matthew 13:52).

The Theology Committee is very grateful to our distinguished panel of theologians for their extraordinary and graceful devotion to this project. Very special thanks go to Dr. Ellen Charry, convener of the panel and editor of the work, and to the Rt. Rev. Joe Burnett, consulting bishop. We are indebted to the Rt. Rev. Pierre Whalon, Bishop in Charge of the Convocation in Europe, for suggesting that we undertake this study, for which he owes us all dinner in Paris one day. A number of ecumenical and pan-Anglican theologians have agreed to read and comment on these papers. The final edition will include their contributions.

We offer this work to the church for reflection and response and in the hope that it will both help us live together more faithfully in the midst of difference and contribute to our corporate discernment in these matters. We trust that these papers will make all of us think carefully, regardless of our point of view.

In this, as in all things, may we have the “power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. . .” (Ephesians 3.18-19).

The Rt. Rev. Henry Nutt Parsley, Jr.
Chair, Theology Committee of the House of Bishops
Lent 2010

Requieset Midge Constanza

In Memory of Margaret "Midge" Costanza by the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle

Friday 26th March 1977 was an historic day for every LGBT American. It was the first time LGBT people were invited to the White House. Literally, we were invited to “sit at the table” with the elected leadership of this country. This momentous occasion marked the end of the first decade of the gay liberation movement begun by the Stonewall uprising of 1969.

We owed this breakthrough to one person: Midge Costanza who died on March 23rd in San Diego. She was my neighbor and my friend.

Read the rest here ... and may her soul and the souls of all the departed rest in peace and rise in glory!

Diarmaid MacCulloch at All Saints TONIGHT!

Diarmaid MacCulloch, acclaimed author and Professor of the History of the Church at Oxford University, will be in the Forum at All Saints Church in Pasadena on Wednesday, March 24 at 7 p.m.

His new book, Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, is getting rave reviews and is the basis for a new BBC series on church history.

From a recent review:

"... a crucial contribution to today's religious debate. Contemporary critics have portrayed the Christian legacy as uniformly anti-rational and antediluvian; the enemy, this way, can be destroyed with a single blow.

MacCulloch instead portrays a multi-dimensional movement, which, through the millennia, has acted as liberator and not just oppressor, intellectual driving force as well as censor. In a culture shaped more by Dawkins than Deuteronomy, this amounts to an act of iconoclasm. But for MacCulloch, "science is a very imprecise word", at its core exhibiting "no clash of purpose or intention with religion".

True scientists, he explains, are philosophers bent as much on an examination of God's creation as any theologian. In today's world, this is an incendiary statement and it makes one long to organise a debate between MacCulloch, professor of church history at Oxford University, and Dawkins, former professor for the understanding of science."

Copies of the book will be available for sale and for signing. It's short notice, but come by if you can!

132 North Euclid Pasadena CA 91101

The Polls

I know, I know ... polls are widely suspect, easily manipulated and often WRONG. Nevertheless, they are a finger on the pulse of at least the people polled ... and sometimes what's more interesting than the results are the questions being asked. At least to me.

So -- just for fun -- here are two polls in the news today:

First of all, there was this Gallup/USA Today poll, posted yesterday following the passage of the Health Care Reform bill -- which I'm filing under: What a difference a day makes!
WASHINGTON — More Americans now favor than oppose the health care overhaul that President Obama signed into law Tuesday, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds — a notable turnaround from surveys before the vote that showed a plurality against the legislation.

48 percent: It's a good first step; more changes are needed
31 percent: Makes the wrong type of changes
8 percent: The system doesn't need changes
4 percent: Makes the most important changes needed.
10 percent: No opinion.
And then there was this Harris poll -- as reported in the Baltimore Sun -- which I'm filing under: You've got to be kidding!
•67 percent of Republicans (and 40 percent of Americans overall) believe that Obama is a socialist.
•57 percent of Republicans (32 percent overall) believe that Obama is a Muslim
•45 percent of Republicans (25 percent overall) agree that Obama was "not born in the United States and so is not eligible to be president"
•38 percent of Republicans (20 percent overall) say that Obama is "doing many of the things that Hitler did"
•24 percent of Republicans (14 percent overall) say that Obama "may be the Antichrist."
I also found of interest this observation by John Avlon, as quoted in the Sun article:
The full results of the poll, which will be released in greater detail tomorrow, are even more frightening: including news that high percentages of Republicans—and Americans overall—believe that President Obama is "racist," "anti-American" "wants the terrorists to win" and "wants to turn over the sovereignty of the United States to a one-world government." The "Hatriot" belief that Obama is a "domestic enemy" as set forth in the Constitution is also widely held—a sign of trouble yet to come.
Do I have any idea what all of this means? Of course not. I'm just a parish priest with a blog and an opinion or two.

But I'm also an American who loves this country and wants it to be the best it can be -- to rise to its full stature of a land of liberty and justice for all -- to be worthy of the sacrifices my son and thousands of others young Americans are making as they serve to protect the core values of our democracy from all enemies -- foreign and domestic.

I am the daughter of a staunch Goldwater Republican father who I guaran-damn-tee you is rolling in his grave at what has been done to his Grand Old Party.

And I am Episcopal activist who has spent the last 10+ years watching my church distracted from its mission and ministry by an Absolutist Agenda that has proved itself ready, willing and able to destroy (or attempt to destroy) whatever it can't control.

They say that those who don't learn from their past are doomed to repeat it. I think in these days of rapid change and challenge I'd add to that "those who don't pay attention to their present are doomed to be statistics." And the work we have to do -- the challenges we have to face -- are too great to allow ourselves to step back and let the Wingnuts take over this country the way they've tried to take over this church.

So now I'm getting back to the week-before-Holy Week details of life ... but I'm keepin' a candle burning -- literally and metaphorically -- for this country, for this church and for all of us to find ways to overcome the ignorance and fear which has so sadly become so much of our public discourse.

Kyrie eleison.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Court Rules That Mississippi School Violated First Amendment Rights Of Lesbian Student

From the ACLU website:

ABERDEEN, MS – A Mississippi federal court today ruled that school officials violated a lesbian student’s First Amendment rights when it canceled the high school prom rather than let the student attend with her girlfriend. The U.S. Court for the Northern District of Mississippi stopped short of ordering Itawamba Agricultural High School to put the school prom back on the calendar because of assurances that an alternative “private” prom being planned by parents would be open to all students ...

“It feels really good that the court realized that the school was violating my rights and discriminating against me by canceling the prom. All I ever wanted was for my school to treat me and my girlfriend like any other couple that wants to go to prom,” said McMillen, an 18-year-old senior at Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi. “Now we can all get back to things like picking out our prom night outfits and thinking about corsages.”

Read the rest here ...

From the OTHER Gene Robinson on health care

Here's the really bad picture I took with my phone camera of my TV at home as President Obama signed into law the health care bill passed on Sunday.

And here are some reflections from the "other" Gene Robinson ... in today's Washington Post [h/t to Kendall over at Titusonenine]
Even when the "fixes" that have to be approved by the Senate are made, the health-care bill will still be something of a mess. But it's a glorious mess, because it enshrines the principle that all Americans have the right to health care -- an extraordinary achievement that will make this a better nation.

It may take years to get the details right. The newly minted reforms are going to need to be reformed or at least fine-tuned, and those will not be easy battles. But the social movements that allowed Obama to become president and Pelosi to become speaker proved that the arc of history bends toward fairness and inclusion.

Needed change must not be thwarted, even if some people find it hard to accept. Obama got it right in his remarks following the vote: "We did not fear our future. We shaped it."
Finally ... as I dash this off between the Noon Eucharist (which just finished) and Tuesday Staff Meetings (about go begin) this prayer -- the collect for Lent 5 that seems particularly apt for all that swirls around us this day ... from the unruly wills of those who attack and vilify to the changes that challenge us all to the call for grace to love mercy and do justice:
Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Timely Lenten Study Group Cartoon ...

... from the ever clever Dave Walker!

Jesus says, "Leave her alone!"

[The Reverend Amy Cox graciously shared with me for publication on this blog her sermon for the Fifth Sunday in Lent 2010. Enjoy!]

Lent 5: March 21, 2010
All Saints Church, Pasadena

Oh God, who is always doing a new thing to put your love for us into action, May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be aligned with that love. Amen.
Happy World Poetry Day, everyone! Did you know that the United Nations had claimed March 21 as World Poetry Day? I love poetry, but I am not a poet. To prove that, I will offer you my summary of today’s lesson in rhyme:
There once was a woman named Mary
Who broke open a jar that smelled—very!
She anointed Jesus with oil
And Judas’ temper did boil
But Jesus said, “Leave her, she’s caring.”
People sometimes spend a lot of time trying to understand the meaning of today’s story from John by trying to understand what Mary’s motives were. The fact is, though, we don’t really know anything about Mary’s motives in this story.

There are other versions of the same story from Matthew and Mark, and one that may be related from Luke, and they don’t give us any more clarity about what exactly moved this woman to break open the costly perfumed oil and anoint Jesus. Perhaps she realized that he was about to die. Jesus points to his impending death and his need for anointing when he tells Judas and the others not to scold her extravagant behavior, but we don’t know if anointing him for burial is what actually moved Mary.

Maybe she’s motivated by gratitude for all that Jesus has done for her and her family—he did bring her brother Lazarus back from the dead, after all; maybe she’s motivated by the desire to worship the one she has come to regard as God’s anointed one, and maybe it’s something else entirely. Or maybe Mary herself doesn’t even know what drove her to break open this incredibly costly jar of scented oil and anoint Jesus with it, maybe she simply felt moved by the Spirit.

But what we DO know is this: Mary takes an action that is both caring and extremely generous. This is the part of the scene that eventually got written down in scripture and that has carried down through the centuries: Mary puts her love for Jesus into action, an action of caring and generosity.

Today’s lesson is very important, especially on this Sunday before Palm Sunday, because it is the summary version of everything that Jesus tries to teach in his last day on earth.

Immediately after this scene with Mary, Jesus and his followers march into Jerusalem, putting in motion the events that lead very quickly to his arrest. Even at this point in the story, right before they march into Jerusalem, Jesus’ ministry of healing and teaching to large groups is over. He is at dinner with Mary and Martha and Lazarus likely because he can no longer move about the countryside easily – the authorities are on the lookout for him to kill him. Jesus knows that he is at the end of his ministry on earth, and any major points that he wants to make sure he gets across—well, now is the time to make them.

Not to be spoiler here, but the central point that Jesus makes in these last days, that he leaves his followers with, according to John, is to love one another. Jesus spends his last night with the apostles stressing and stressing and stressing to them to love one another. He even washes their feet—an act of caring and great generosity since it would usually be done by a servant.

Wait, does something sound familiar here? An action of caring and great generosity? Washing feet? Showing love? You see how great today’s passage is: it is the condensed version, the Twitter version if you will, of what Jesus is calling us to do. And here it is:

Put our love into action: show caring and generosity.

To illustrate this, I want to tell you the story of another Mary who puts her love for Jesus and for one another into action. This Mary lives in the 21st century. She happens to be an Episcopal priest, and she’s been a priest for a pretty long time, 28 years. In the first church where she served as a rector, she did so much putting love into action that the congregation grew from about 50 members to about 150. Mary describes it this way:

For the next seven years I helped the Holy Spirit build up this exciting branch of the Body of Christ while simultaneously dealing with a host of urban issues such as immigration, housing as a right, the four-pronged economic justice plan that came out of General Convention in 1988 and focused on land trusts, cooperative housing, worker-owned businesses and community development credit unions.

What a great example of putting love into action—the love of justice for the broader community and the love of parishioners that strengthened the congregation. Eventually, Mary was called to serve at a very different parish, and she describes that experience this way. A little background here is that Mary is gay, and although the congregation knew that, they really didn’t want to know anything more.

The good people of St. Margaret’s gave me room to be myself without asking explicit questions, and I gave them room to be themselves: (at that time) a relatively conservative, but Jesus-loving parish of untapped potential. This resulted in a mostly joy-filled love affair during which the parish grew by leaps and bounds (St. Margaret’s is now one of the most exciting parishes in this diocese) and I grew profoundly in my knowledge and love of the Lord.

Here’s someone who acted on her love for those she served in such a way that she could actually describe their relationship as a “joy-filled love affair.”

Mary then went on to work at her diocese, and I could share more examples of how she put love into action there. But instead, I want to share one more wonderful example of putting love into action from a different person. This one comes from someone named Diane who described her first job at a bank:

I was the supervisor of a group in which I was the only Anglo, female, native English-speaking Christian. No one spoke to each other—in fact they hated each other—and everyone worked on their own. I re-divided the work load and created teams of people who had to learn to work together to keep from failing. Monthly potlucks where people were to bring typical dishes from their country of origin proved to be a great “ice breaker” with this group. By the end of my few years there, not only did the individuals in the group get along with each other and perform their jobs well, they were frequently looked at as management material because of their ability to work cooperatively. I felt at home in this diverse group of people, and was enriched by the experience of learning about their languages and customs.

Wow, isn’t that awesome? Can you imagine if Congress worked together with that kind of caring and generosity?

Like the Mary we read about in the gospel story today, these stories from a modern-day Mary and Diane show the power of love that is put into action. It enables people, relationships, and communities to flourish. It “turns the human race into the human family.”

Now fortunately or unfortunately, this is not the end of the sermon, because the parallels with the Gospel story don’t end there. There’s one more point. Remember how Judas jumped all over Mary as she anointed Jesus? There’s always somebody quick to jump all over you, telling you you’re doing it wrong, even when you’re being kind, right? Well, there are also people today who are quick to jump all over Mary and Diane as they continue to put their love into action. You see, Mary and Diane are Mary Douglas Glasspool and Diane Jardine Bruce, the two women who will be consecrated as bishops here in the Diocese of Los Angeles this coming May 15.

This past week, the final i’s were dotted and t’s were crossed in the Church’s process of approving new bishops-to-be. And while many people are thrilled that Mary and Diane, who gave us such mighty examples of how to put love into action, are now going to be bishops, others are indignant that they will be bishops—both because they are women and because Mary is an open lesbian.

Those opposed to Diane and Mary becoming bishops say, among many things, that their ordination, especially Mary’s, will split the Church and that we shouldn’t be spending so much of our energy on gay people, especially as candidates for bishop, because it’s just going to fragment the Church further over gender and sexuality. There are people in the Church who won’t take communion from or even with Mary or Diane, just like there are people who won’t take communion from our Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, because they are women and because Mary is a lesbian. I heard those opposed to their ordination saying that we’ve spent more than 300 denarii—I mean—that we’ve spent a lot of time and energy on an openly gay candidate for bishop—now a bishop-elect—that should have been spent on other people and other things, certainly on other candidates for bishop.

Yet when Judas scolded that other Mary for doing the “wrong thing,” Jesus said, “Leave her alone.” I think this is why Jesus directly takes on Judas’ false claim that he cares about the poor. Judas is trying to stop actions of love, and he does so by splitting our loyalties. Jesus says, “No, they’re all important, loving me/loving the poor, they’re all loving actions. You should know that I’m leaving, so your time to show me love is very short.”

To those who say we should interrupt the stream of loving action that come out of Diane Jardine Bruce or Mary Douglas Glasspool by limiting their roles in the Church, I say, “Leave her alone.”

And to those who say we should interrupt the stream of loving actions that come out of you or that come out of me or that come out of anyone, I say, “Leave her alone. Leave him alone. Leave me alone.” Because, like Judas, those protests that claim to be about justice but that pit people against each other are not about justice because they are not about love. They’re about fear or approval-seeking or self-centeredness, but they’re certainly not about love.

So don’t wait for Maundy Thursday—wash someone’s feet today! Put your love into action as soon as you can—show up for that friend who is sick, send that money to Haiti, take time to really listen to that child in your life. If your action is done with generosity and caring, if it brings you into a deeper love of God, if it’s about others and not about you, then keep on going, keep on loving. And don’t stop just because someone says you’re doing it wrong. Today, we are the body of Christ, and we’ll see what you’re doing and say, “Leave ’em alone.”


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Yes, We DID!

[Screen capture off NBC]

Final Vote: 219-212

It isn't perfect, but it's an inch.

Giving voice to the hope within us: A new generation of inclusion activists speak out

Walking With Integrity -- Integrity USA's blog -- is always one to keep an eye on but today I call it particularly to your attention for a couple of great reflections from some younger Episcopal voices about the impact of the election and upcoming consecration of Mary Douglas Glasspool.

Some links and excerpts:

A Beautiful, Irreversible Crack -- by Rachel Swan
Some call what has been happening a fracture. I agree. It has been a breaking open, an irreversible crack. A further breaking open in the Body of Christ that perhaps when Jesus said take this, all of you, perhaps all truly does mean ALL. I believe we still have a ways to go, however I cannot ignore this clear and visible sign of God's wild, messy, unsuspecting, outcast including, upside-down inclusive love, faith and trust in people like Bishop Robinson, Bishop Elect Glasspool, and even someone like me.

Pride and Shame -- by Chap Day
One of the signs of the Spirit moving in the Church is that this consent comes on the heels of statements of inclusion and support from a Patriarch so wise that non-believes will turn to listen to him, Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He is like that wise old family member that knows that the love of the God and the true bonds of affection that bind a family together are stronger than sexuality or morality. He understands that it is crucial to our faith to accept GLBT Christians into the fold and to celebrate with Easter joy when one like Mary Glasspool is called to be a Bishop among us. He warns us of the demoralizing and demonic destruction that awaits those who shun the outcast, hate those who differ, and seek legislation to exterminate that which we do not want to understand.
So this is me ... giving thanks for a new generation of inclusion activists, committed to turning the human race into the human family and the full inclusion of ALL the baptized into the Body of Christ. The future is in good hands!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Here's what I have to say about health care reform:

[And thanks to Louise, who brought me back this poster from her sojourn today at the California Faculty Association "2010 Equity Conference"]

Prayers for the nation as the health care vote approaches

So I should be heading off into what's left of a beautiful day off to get some errands done -- now that the laundry is folded -- and before shutting down my laptop checked Facebook to see if I'd heard from either of my kids today and saw these ... from the Huffington Post.

And so I decided the errands could wait a few more minutes but the prayers couldn't.

Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners.

Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues.

Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and
peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth.

In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

And now I'm off to the grocery store ... grateful for the Book of Common Prayer and a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that ALL are created equal ... even if not everybody's gotten that memo yet.

AWARD WINNING Voices of Witness!

Continuing to riff on the baptismal promise to "Proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ Jesus" here's some great news about Voices of Witness Africa ... a video proclamation of that Good News in the words and witness of LGBT Africans:
Yesterday at the 2010 Episcopal Communicators conference, "Voices of Witness Africa" won a Polly BondAward of Excellence.
So let's pause for a moment of: Bravo/a! Well Done! Well Deserved!

And if you're NOT familiar with "Voices of Witness," there's no time like the present to get the "backstory:"

After the 2003 election of +Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire, Claiming the Blessing launched an education initiative focused on listening to the voices of the LGBT faithful (and their straight allies!) in the Episcopal Church.
From the promo material on Voices of Witness (2006):
We know first-hand the moving stories of wounds that have been healed, hearts that have been touched and lives that have been changed by the Holy Spirit working in and through the ministry of Word and Sacrament in the Episcopal Church.

We believe that telling these stories, sharing these witnesses, is a gift we have to offer – and we believe that there has never been a more important time for us to commit ourselves to offering that gift in a way it can be the most widely received throughout the church and the communion.
-- Susan Russell, Executive Producer

The documentary premiered in Columbus at the 2006 General Convention to wide acclaim ... including a 2007 Polly Bond Award of Excellence to Louise Brooks as producer ... and a study guide was commissioned to empower and encourage congregational conversations on the voices of witness presented in the film.
Building on the Voices of Witness "brand," Claiming the Blessing members Katie Sherrod and Cynthia Black teamed up to produce "Voices of Witness Africa."

Anglican men and women from across the continent tell their stories of intolerance and community, of secrecy and hope, of facing challenges and seeking dignity as people of faith who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu called the documentary "A brave tribute to a God of love" -- and now it has received a WELL deserved award of excellence for producer Katie Sherrod & director Cynthia Black from Episcopal Communicators.

Information on both documentaries is available online on the Voices of Witness website. Voices of Witness Africa also has a Facebook Fan Page.

So kudos to ALL involved in these continuingly important tools for telling the good news, for offering voices of witness, for proclaiming by word and example the Good News available to absolutely everybody! (And if you want more info on the videos or study guides or setting up a screening in your community or congregation, just email me and I'll fix you up!)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Video Report on Mary Glasspool's election

From "Newsy: The new with more views"

[h/t to John Clinton on this one ... and great to see old ASC file footage going to good use!)

What to do when some people seem to just not "get it"

Hint: Help them.

Yes, it's annoying when our words seem to fall on deaf ears or -- worse -- are twisted to mean something we hadn't intended. And that seems to happen more and more.

It also seems to me we have a couple of choices when it happens. Jesus gives us the "shake the dust off your sandals" opt out in Matthew ... and I guess the 21st century version of that is "hit delete." And sometimes that's the best thing to do.

But there's another option -- and that's to help them. Get it.

I know, I know. You've done it a thousand times. You've told your story a million, you've defended your position in hundreds of venues and variations ... it does, indeed, get VERY wearying.

I totally get it.

And yet ...

"Proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ Jesus" doesn't have an * followed by
*to those who will listen to you, get it the first time and agree with you about everything.
(I double checked. Just a couple minutes ago. Not there.)
SO ... here's an example of giving it one more shot. My recent exchange with Cheryl Wetzel over on Anglicans United.

She'd posted Ruth Gledhill's piece about the Archbishop of Canterbury not being so amused about the election of Mary Glasspool, along with an "Ed. Note" that included this commentary:

Finally, the Rev. Susan Russell, former president of Integrity said: "I've never been prouder to be an Episcopalian or a daughter of the Diocese of Los Angeles — where we are ready to turn this election into an opportunity for evangelism." Silly me. I thought the point of our evangelism was Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead. We will celebrate this phenomenon again in three short weeks. Gay incorporation is NOT the focus of our faith and continued statements of that fact by Integrity - or our bishops - cannot make it so.
Bless her heart, I guess I wasn't CLEAR enough about what I meant by evangelism. So I decided to try again, and posted this comment [which is "awaiting moderation" and might never see the light of day, so I'm posting it here:]


Thanks for the “ink” and for the chance to clarify. The evangelism to which I refer is — believe it or not — the old fashioned kind: the proclamation of the Good News of God in Christ Jesus made available to all. The mystery of faith: Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. Jesus’ call to us to go therefore and make disciples of ALL.

Well, I think you get my point.

What the election of Mary Glasspool allows us to do — empowers us to do — in the Diocese of Los Angeles is to reach out to those yearning for spiritual community and thinking they already know enough about being a Christian not to want to be one based on what they think they know about Christians: Narrow. Bigoted. Judgemental. Sexist. Homophobic.

Well, I think you get my point.

Thanks again for reposting the article. I’ll bookmark your blog for future reference. Lenten Blessings, Susan+
Now not EVERY moment is a teachable one -- that's why we have the "shake off your sandals/hit delete" option.

But if we're looking for them, we can find them -- sometimes in the MOST unexpected places!


UPDATE: My comment did indeed get "moderated" onto the site ... and I got a nice note from Cheryl Wetzel advising me of that, along with her response:

My reply is that is has ALWAYS been available to ALL. From those who repeatedly tell "little white lies" to the most craven murderer: Jesus Christ and true spiritual communion is available to all. One difference is that the Biblically orthodox talk about Jesus and the woman at the well, remembering the final phrase of that story, "Go and sin no more." It is NOT enough to merely say that Jesus spoke with her and drank water from her ladle and then omit that final phrase. We all sin.

The gay community, as far as I can tell, as demanding a pass on their sin; equivocation that it is NOT sin. There is no Biblical foundation for this demand. There are some modern theologians that are trying to make this stick, but their work is thin and has not been validated by authorities in that field. I have had good friends who are gay since the early '70's. Their salvation is no less important to me than my neighbor's. -- Cheryl M. Wetzel

So, boys and girls: for the record ... THIS IS WHAT ACTUAL DIALOGUE LOOKS LIKE. I certainly don't agree with Cheryl ... and in a second I'll post my reponse to her reponse ... but just because I don't flatter myself that I'm going to "change her mind" doesn't mean we can't be in conversation.

At the end of her email to me, Cheryl included this (I think) important addition to what she posted above to the blogsite:
It seems to me that our difference is in the definition of sin and how encompassing that definition is. Good to hear from you. Cherie Wetzel
And so I replied:
Thanks for this and I think you have hit the nail RIGHT on the head about the "sin" part. In point of fact, we are not "demanding a pass on sin" ... our faithful reading of scripture and our lived experience of the holy in our relationships convince us that sexual orientation is morally neutral and it is indeed not only possible but optimal to live a life in alignment with God's love and authentically as LGBT people.
And now I need to step away from cyberland and get going in laundry and errand-land ... more later!

On "As the Anglican World Turns": An Epiphany During Lent

It's Friday and I'm catching up on all the "As the Anglican World Turns" news I missed this week getting my actual work done. So here are a few updates and some reflections:

First of all, my email included this "Google Alert"
Central Florida Bishop and Gay Executive Council Member Face Off Over Glasspool
Virtue Online
John W. Howe, and Bruce Garner, a gay Executive Council TEC member, faced off on the Bishops' and Deputies' list over the election of Mary Glasspool, ...
My, my, my -- I thought to myself. I thought there was a confidentiality agreement for those subscribed to that list! So I went and double-checked and -- sure enough -- at the end of every post to the House of Bishops and Deputies list (fondly referred to as "HoB/D") was this pretty clear reminder:
Unless this message is clearly in the public domain, e.g. a press release, it may not be redistributed without its author's permission.
(Remarkably unambiguous statement for Episcopalians, don'cha think? We probably don't even need a Special Committee from the House of Bishops to unpack this one for us!)

All of this prompted what I thought was a "retweetable" response from Colorado Deputy Lilith Zoe Cole -- which I post here with her (of course) permission:
The irony is that some (who paradoxically insist that a covenant would help) refuse to abide by the courtesies to which they have agreed as members of a community.
Which prompted me to say both "Amen" and "So what's up with that?"

And then I had an epiphany. In Lent. (Go figure.) Check out this rather extraordinary post by Kendall Harmon over at Titusonenine:

Kendall Harmon: A Personal Plea to Blog Readers in this Time
Posted by Kendall Harmon

I don't often do this, but it would mean a lot to me if you would not simply read, but read, think and pray about this entry.

"I've always been impressed that we are here, surviving, because of the indomitable courage of quite small people against impossible odds." ~ On the English people

Of course, said Gandalf. And why should not they prove true? Surely you do not disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself? You don't really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all! -- (J.R.R. Tolkien's character) Gandalf

The Lord of the Rings is about how men, including the humblest of men, choose to act in the face of moral urgency and engulfing peril. It is about the power of humility, the wisdom of mercy, the glory of self-sacrificial valor, the false glamour of evil, the workings of grace, and above all, the necessity of faith.

Put more plainly, LOTR screenwriter Phillippa Boyans says it's about goodness -- an idea that leaves many moderns skeptical and confused. "We come from a generation that has never had that question put to us," she said in an interview. "It was put to the generation of World War I. It was put to the generation of World War II. 'What are you prepared to do?' 'Are you going to hold on?' 'Are you going to keep going?' 'Do you have to live?' 'Is this a world worth fighting for?' All of this is in there." --Rod Dreher

I will take comments, but only ones that wrestle with the content here and its call for courage, faith and hope. Many thanks--KSH
So here's the epiphany part. I think this is a genuine window into the worldview of those -- like Kendall Harmon -- who find themselves on the other-side-of-the-aisle on issues of inclusion. For them, it's not about wrestling through differences and finding compromises in order to come to consensus and accommodate as broad a range of perspectives as possible within the container of Anglican comprehensiveness that calls all people into communion with God and with each other.

It's a face off between Good and Evil.

And they're the Good Guys. Up against "Capital E" Evil. And therefore, all bets are off. When you're defending the Alamo of Orthodoxy, the gloves are off, the rules don't apply and what you do or don't do -- the truth you tell or don't tell -- the confidences you breach and the colleagues you betray are all in the service of The Absolute Truth ... which you have and the Bad Guys don't.

Whether it's posting emails from a confidential list to a polemic blog or perpetuating disinformation about the Episcopal Church in the national news media, it's all good ... because it's all FOR the "Capital G" Good they're fighting for.

And that, my brothers and sisters, doesn't just "make the heart sad." It should make the heart, soul and body scared -- because rabid absolutism is as dangerous in South Carolina as it is in South Yemen.

Here endeth the epiphany!