Thursday, September 30, 2010
I was, of course, irate when I read that Williams spoke against endorsing relationships for gay and lesbian clergy and bishops because “the cost to the Church overall was too great to be borne at that point.’" I even sent out a warning that I “felt a Rowan Williams Rant” coming on – but was too busy to write it.
And I’m still too busy to write it. But after the news of the week, I’ve gone from irate to righteously indignant, so here goes:
While Rowan Williams is whining about homosexuality "wounding the side" of the institutional church, he remains blind to the cancer of homophobia that is spreading in the Body of Christ. And it's time somebody pointed out the difference.
I'm remembering my experience on an 8-day Ignatian silent retreat with the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. (Yes, really.) The long-story-short is that in working with the sister assigned as my spiritual director, we entered into conversation about vocation – and she invited me to explore whether or not I had a vocation to the episcopate. (To be a bishop.)
I answered quickly and definitively that I was absolutely clear that I was not called to be a bishop because I believe a bishop is called to guard the unity of the church and I didn’t give a rat’s tail about the unity of the church.
She replied – equally quickly and definitively – by asking me which church was it that I didn’t give a rat’s tail about: the institutional church or the church as the Body of Christ.
And I told her I thought our time was up for the day. Because I was busted.
The truth is I care deeply about the unity of the Body of Christ. I care deeply about those members who have been baptized into Christ’s Body and then isolated, segregated, marginalized, excluded and dismissed because they happen to be gay or lesbian. Paul was right about the whole “one member of the body cannot say to another I have no need of you” thing – and yet that is what is and has been said to the Church’s gay and lesbian members for generations. It's what Rowan Williams says when he calls us a "wound in the side of the church." And it is time for it to stop.
And it’s not just time for it to stop because some gay or lesbian folks are called into both ordained ministry and a covenanted relationship with the love of their life.
It’s time for it to stop because when Rowan Williams says “Homosexuality is a Wound in the Church’s Side” he adds more fuel to the fire of homophobia that drives people – especially young people to self-loathing, to despair and – far too frequently – to suicide.
This week’s news has been a horrifying parade of young lives lost to the cancer of homophobia. Seth Walsh. Asher Brown. Billy Lucas. Tyler Clementi. They all took their own lives after being branded as gay by bullies whose abuse convinced them their lives were not worth living.
And while Rowan Williams is busy worrying about the “unity of the church,” the church he’s so worried about is overtly complicit in the spread of the disease that killed these children – the disease of homophobia.
Because here’s the deal with wounds: they heal. They may take a little time, they make take a little tending, they may leave a little scar … but they heal. And sometimes they even make us stronger for having fought the battles worth fighting. And if homosexuality – or more accurately, the fight to fully include homosexual children of God equally in the work and witness of the church – inflicts a few wounds then they are wounds the church should bear proudly as it lives into its calling to be the Body of Christ on earth.
Even Jesus showed up on Easter Day with a few wounds to show for the work he’d been called to do – why on earth shouldn’t the church that purports to be His body – to follow in His footsteps – expect some of the same? “The cost to the Church overall is too great to be borne at that point?’" Give me a break.
I came out of my 8-day retreat still clear I was not called to the episcopate but also clear about the difference between the institution and the incarnation. And so today I’m yearning for Williams to spend a little time with a Sister of the Sacred Heart of Jesus who might challenge him to figure out the difference between the institutional church and the church as the Body of Christ. And might send him out ready to suck it up and quit whining about wounds and get to work preserving the unity of the Body of Christ by healing it of its homophobia. Because the cost to the Church overall is too great for us to settle for anything less.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
These came to me via email from my friend Pamela. And at first I just kind of gasped and laughed and said "OMG!"
I mean really ... I never miss an episode of "Mad Men" but even so it is easy to forget how NOT so long ago this kind of overtly sexist stuff was not only tolerated but effective at selling ties ... and coffee and vitamins and ketchup!
Monday, September 27, 2010
Tomorrow is our annual "staff day away" ... time we take as senior and operation staff at All Saints Church for collective reflection at the beginning of each program year. This year, one of our "homework assignments" from the rector was an excerpt from John O'Donohue's "book of blessings" ... "To Bless the Space Between Us."
Here's a taste:
And all I can think to add to that tonight is "Let the people say 'Amen.'" And get some sleep. And wake up tomorrow refusing to collude with despair and ready to take back our power to be agents of peace, justice and compassion.
We need to rediscover the careless courage, yet devastating simplicity, of the little boy who in the middle of the numbered multitude blurts out, “But the emperor has no clothes!” When spoken, the word of truth can bring down citadels of falsity.
Real presence is the ideal of all true individuation. When we yield to helplessness, we strengthen the hand of those who would destroy. When we choose indifference, we betray our world. Yet the world is not decided by action alone. It is decided more by consciousness and spirit; they are the sources of action and behavior.
The spirit of a time is an incredibly subtle, yet hugely powerful force. And it is comprised of the mentality and spirit of all individuals together. Therefore, the way you look at things is not simply a private matter. Your outlook actually and concretely affects what goes on.
When you give in to helplessness, you collude with despair and add to it. When you take back your power and choose to see the possibilities for healing and transformation, your creativity awakens and flows to become an active force of renewal and encouragement. In this way you can become a powerful agent of transformation in a broken, darkened world.
[Sorry about the 15 second ad first ... it's what you get from CNN but worth waiting through.]
And I'm honored to serve with this great witness to God's inclusive love on the HRC Religion Council!!
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Team and website are doing fine -- and the new arrival is receiving visitors here.
While there will be much more content to add and expand -- including the extensive sermon and presentation archives still under reconstruction on the new server -- we are excited about the opportunities this new era of communication will open for All Saints and looking forward to watching "our baby" as it grows, expands and matures in the weeks and months to come.
Here are a couple of snapshots to show off our new baby:
Worship is the center of our life at All Saints Church and it is from that center that we respond to God’s call to put our faith into action. All Saints is a place where inclusion is expected, where people of all faiths are welcomed and where we continually live into the challenge of expanding our capacity for diverse and dynamic celebrations of God’s inclusive love.
"Our Community" is where to start to explore and connect with the many ministries, program and small groups in the All Saints Church community -- from local to global.
"About All Saints" connects you with everything from our mission & vision to directions to the campus to staff directories to our wider church networks to ... well, check it out.
At All Saints Church putting our faith into action is a core value, so the new website has a dedicated "Take Action" section that not only gives information on specific Sunday actions (this week is voter registration) but also pages with deeper resources for ongoing actions, such as ...
... Interfaith Work, where you'll find not only archived resources about our commitment to interfaith work and witness but a way to get involved in our still-evolving "Islam 101" program scheduled for this fall.
Our design team worked very hard to create a website that would resource the needs of congregation members and leaders with pages dedicated to administration, resources and ministries ...
These are just the tip of the iceberg! Visit www.allsaints-pas.org to explore — and stay tuned for even more exciting additions in the weeks and months to come!
With thanks to all who’ve worked so hard to make this long-dreamed of new web presence a reality! Our website is yet-another-way for us to proclaim the Good News of God’s inclusive love to world in desperate need of it as we work to turn the human race into the human family — one ―link at a time!
Friday, September 24, 2010
The decision by U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton came in a closely watched case as a tense debate has been playing out over the policy. Senate Republicans blocked an effort to lift the ban this week, but two federal judges have ruled against the policy in recent weeks.
Read the rest here
In the October 1st issue of Entertainment Weekly (the one featuring "TV's FUNNIEST SHOW: MODERN FAMILY" on page 51, there is a great side bar article about FIVE MOVIES THAT HAVE CHANGED THE WORLD...and FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO is listed as number 4! Congrats Daniel Karslake all those behind FTBTMS.VERY COOL! If you don't know about For the Bible Tells Me So you should. So check out their website ... and view this preview ... and give thanks for movies that change the world!
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Morning came early today. A four o’clock wake up call to get a 4:30 a.m. cab to the airport to check in for a 6:00 a.m. flight back to L.A. from Phoenix where I had the extraordinary honor of standing with my SCLM (Standing Commission on Liturgy & Music) Task Force colleagues to address the House of Bishops yesterday about our work implementing Resolution C056.
We had forty-five minutes yesterday morning to present an overview of how we propose to move forward with our charge to “collect and develop theological and liturgical resources” for the blessing of same sex relationships. An additional part of that charge is to do that work in “consultation with the House of Bishops” and to “devise an open process” bringing dioceses, congregations individuals engaged in that work.
There’s much to write and reflect about the content of our work … and I will link up the resources I know will shortly be posted to the SCLM website. But as I’m waiting to fly home I wanted to capture not the data and details but the tone and timbre of the meeting.
It was “most an amazing day.”
We met for breakfast with the bishops on the SCLM to go over the details of our presentations and to just all get to know each other a little better. I think it’s fair to say we were all a little anxious.
Now we were three seminary professors and two not-unaccustomed-to-public-speaking priests – and between us we probably knew 90% of the bishops in the room down the hall. But the importance of the work we have been given to do for the church combined with the time pressure of “launching” a process of this depth and complexity ALONG with worrying about the technical details in an unfamiliar space -- (Will the PowerPoint work? Do we have enough copies of the handouts? Who’s going to hand OUT the handouts?) – all as we stepped into the moving sidewalk that is the House of Bishops meeting in progress … suffice to say there was some nibbling at the bread of anxiety in the morning over breakfast.
At the appointed hour we headed down to the HoB meeting room where they had just finished Morning Prayer & Bible Study. First the house heard from two bishops reflecting on the question “What is God up to in our midst concerning same sex blessings?” Those bishops were Tom Ely (Vermont) and John Bauerschmidt (Tennessee) -- +Ely in a state where blessings and civil unions pre-date his consecration and +Bauerschmidt from what he called “the buckle of the Bible belt.” And both bishops stressed the commitment of their dioceses to working together through differences.
Then Ruth Meyers (the SCLM chair) presented an introduction to our project and process was clear, concise and (as I told her afterwards) “professorial without being condescending.” Key to that introduction was reiterating that what we’ve been charged to do by General Convention in this resolution is to resource the church in those contexts where the blessing of same-sex relationships are – or will be – happening; not to debate whether the blessing of same sex relationships should happen.
Jay Johnson and Patrick Malloy presented the overview of the principles undergirding the work their theology and liturgy task forces are engaged in and Thad Bennett and I introduced our work on the pastoral care and teaching resources. Then we turned it over to the bishops for 40 minutes of “table discussions” on five questions looking for feedback on both the content and process of the work going forward.
The conversation in the room was lively and energetic – and at the end of the session Bishop Kee Sloan (Bishop Suffragan, Alabama and a member of the SCLM) invited those who wanted to continue the conversation with us to grab some lunch after Eucharist and come back to the plenary room. About a dozen folks chose to do that and we had a great opportunity to clarify some questions, engage in some very interesting dialogue and get feedback on both process and content.
One comment that really stood out for me was a bishop’s challenge to us to add “Missional” to the list of opportunities the blessing of same sex relationships offers the church – a list that already included “Sacramental” and “Eschatological.” And of course I agree. This work isn’t just about the couples whose relationships will be blessed. It’s also about the mission of the church that will be blessed by a more expansive opportunity to incarnate God’s inclusive love.
I had no idea how soon we would get a chance to experience one of those missional opportunities in action.
So – having concluded the presentation part of the day we had a late lunch and then took some time out (AKA “naps!") and then reconvened to debrief our work over dinner in the hotel dining room. There was a lot to talk about – and we settled into a long, lively dinner that included a dessert course with a side order of evangelism as three young hotel staff members came up to the table and individually engaged with us about the work the Episcopal Church is doing.
The first one was a waiter – “Michael” – who said as a gay man it had never occurred to him that there were churches that would welcome him rather than condemn him. He thanked us for giving him hope that he hadn’t imagined he’d ever have with an earnestness that was deeply moving.
A few minutes later “Amanda” … our waitress … came up to the table to say that she’d encouraged Michael to come talk to us because she’d found him crying in the kitchen after listening to our conversations. She was raised Catholic but it “didn’t fit” anymore and she wanted to know where she should go to find an Episcopal Church. I gave her my card and told her to email me and I’d hook her up with folks in Phoenix.
The third was “Vanessa” … their supervisor … who thanked us for connecting with them and told us about her experience of finally finding a church home that helped her claim a relationship with God … and then being devastated when that church family rejected her gay friend. She’s going to email me, too.
It blew us away.
While we were obsessing about perfecting PowerPoint slides and refining our messaging about the SCLM project, these earnest young people responded to the few crumbs of conversation they overheard at our dinner table like they were starving for hope. And if those crumbs gave them that hope and energy – and gave them the courage to come up to a table full of “church people” and say, “Wow … we want to know more about what you’re talking about!” then imagine how they and countless others like them are yearning for the banquet we set every time we gather to witness to God’s inclusive love.
It is about mission.
It is about the building of the Body.
And it is about the vocation of the Episcopal Church to be the voice of love, justice and compassion to ALL those yearning for what Michael and Amanda and Vanessa came looking for at our dinner table last night.
It’s something some of us have been preaching for years. But it never hurts to have a little more empirical evidence to affirm the truth we hold in our hearts. And yesterday we got it. In a hotel dining room in Phoenix at a meeting of the House of Bishops. Go figure. And thanks be to God!
Friday, September 17, 2010
The good news is there's coffee, wifi and some unexpected elbow room in my day. Which adds up to a blog waiting to happen.
And let me just start by saying what a privilege it is to be heading to this meeting of the House of Bishops.
No. I mean really.
I'm going -- along with my Standing Commission on Liturgy & Music (SCLM) task force colleagues -- to make a presentation tomorrow morning about the work we are doing to implement resolution C056 calling for "a renewed pastoral response from this Church, and for an open process for the consideration of theological and liturgical resources for the blessing of same gender relationships ..." and charging the SCLM "in consultation with the House of Bishops, collect and develop theological and liturgical resources, and report to the 77th General Convention."
And what a difference a couple of decades make! I'm remembering my first General Convention in 1991 ... in Phoenix, ironically enough! ... where the House of Bishops still met sitting in rows by order of seniority, where +Barbara Harris was the only woman in the house and where then-PB Ed Browing had to close the gallery and send all of us observers out of the room because even discussing the issue of human sexuality became so heated that the bishops needed to fight it out behind closed doors.
The "Bishops Only" sign above pretty much said it all.
I'm also remembering June 2003 when then-Integrity President Michael Hopkins and I were "invited" to meet with the House of Bishops Theology Committee that had been charged with coming up with a theology on human sexuality. I put "invited" in quotes because it took some jumping up and down before we were finally invited into a process that had been going on for quite some time behind quite closed doors and with absolutely no consultation -- much less collaboration -- with anyone of the gay and lesbian sort. (See again: "Bishops Only.")
So we schlepped to Seabury Western. We waited outside in the hallway until we were finally summoned in. (They were sorry to keep us waiting but they were running late.) And we spent an hour in conversation and they thanked us for our time. And at this point I can't remember whether we ever got a report or not.
And that was then and this is now. This is -- or at least I believe it has the possibility to be -- a whole new way of doing business with our bishops. Because as stoked as I am about the charge of General Convention 2009 via C056 to "collect and develop [long overdue] theological resources" AS important as resources we will collect and develop is the process that's been crafted for that collection and development.
It is definitely not bishops-behind-closed doors.
And it is no longer the LGBT faithful in the role of strangers at the gate standing outside of the process while their lives, relationships and vocations are reduced to an "issue to be studied" or a "problem to be solved."
It is -- as "resolved" by General Convention -- work being done "by the SCLM in consultation with the House of Bishops [to] devise an open process for the conduct of its work inviting participation from provinces, dioceses, congregations, and individuals ..."
Just like the "gifts of God for the people of God" this is the "work of God with the people of God." Like I said ... what a difference a couple of decades make!
And I hope ... no, check that ... I TRUST that in the days and weeks and months ahead we can model for the whole church what can happen when the whole church engages in the process of theological reflection.
What can happen as we move past arguing about whether same sex couples are entitled to equal blessings from the church of their already-equally-blessed-by-God relationships and move forward with common prayer resources for those who choose to be on the right side of history on equality for the LGBT baptized.
And -- most important of all -- what will happen to our mission and ministry when we finally become the church the signs outside our buildings say we are: The Episcopal Church [that] Welcomes You ... and shift our focus away from those few who threaten to leave if we include everybody and concentrate instead on the many who are waiting for us to tell them it is safe to come in!
So this is me. Blessed to be House of Bishops bound. And I do mean "really!"
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Honest to God. I am NOT making this up. This one came to my attention in an email from a colleague who wrote asking, "Is this guy for real? Tell me this is like 'The Onion' or something!"
No. Sad but true. This is actually one of the the questions du jour on one of the “other side of the aisle” blogs today.
My “A.” to that “Q.” is a simple:
“If you have to ask …”
If you’ve got a little time and a strong stomach, you can read their answer here. But meanwhile, here's the better answer from my friend Bruce:
I don't know, I'm still a neophyte. I may always be. All I know is that the Genesis story is 100% truth, but also that it's neither a history textbook nor a treatise on biology. I can't even conceive of extending that truth into literalism. It would kill the truth completely, because then you get wrapped up in the "factual" problems (among others) of Cain and Abel's wives and while you're dealing with that, you've lost sight of the truth of the story. Nonetheless, I still think of myself as pretty orthodox.I guess for me the bottom line is if the litmus test for orthodoxy has become "the historicity of Adam and Eve" I'm a pretty happy heretic!
They should have burned Calvin as a heretic, if they had the chance.
September 14, 2010Yep. West Virginia. Read the rest of the Charleston Gazette article here and also check out Elizabeth's great blog on the story here.
W.Va. Episcopalians consider blessing same-gender relationships
By Kathryn Gregory
The Charleston Gazette
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Delegates to the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia's annual convention voted this week to allow the church to bless same-gender relationships.
The resolution was submitted by the Rev. Ann Lovejoy Johnson, associate rector of St. John's Episcopal Church in Charleston. It "urges our Bishop to honor same-gender relationships by supporting public rites for the blessing of same-gender relationships in congregations where such blessings are supported and so desired."
And now -- having just gotten a text message from St. Nader of Eldahaby (the aforementioned Web Wizard) that our email server will be back up in about 5 minutes, I must refocus my attention on the pile of work on my plate to get finished before I leave for Phoenix and the House of Bishops meeting this weekend. But I'll be packing for that meeting with John Denver singing in my head and a sense that we may just have arrived at that "tipping point" we've been heading toward down a VERY long "country road" to justice!
Monday, September 13, 2010
And -- truth be told -- there's nothing on it this week that I'd take off even if I could.
It's just the confluence of launching a new website next week, starting the new program year, another EIR hearing for the new building, getting ready for Homecoming Sunday, the Lambda Legal Liberty Awards honoring the work of California Faith for Equality AND going off to Phoenix for the House of Bishops meeting that has me feeling ... well, a little "whirly."
So here's the overview:
THE NEW ALL SAINTS WEBSITE is set to launch next weekend ... just in time for Celebration of Ministries Sunday. (September 26th) It's been a long time coming and we have been working with a WONDERFUL team of web designers who really "get" us and it's going to be a huge improvement ... not just in the look-and-feel department but navigation and functionality. Bookmark our URL and check us out next weekend!
Then there's the ongoing saga of our BUILDING PROJECT. We're in the middle of the end of the "comment phase" of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) process. I guess grueling would be an appropriate adjective. Last week it was the Traffic Advisory Commission, tonight is the Design Commission and next week we go back to the Planning Commission. Anyway, as I said on my Facebook update, there weren't any "surviving a building project" classes in seminary to help with all this but the Lamaze breathing classes I took that didn't help with childbirth are helping a little. So while I'm not exactly "enjoying" this part of the process, if it's what we have to go through to get the new buildings "born" then it's going to be worth it in the end!
Thursday night we'll get gussied up and head over to the Egyptian Theater for the WEST COAST LAMBDA LEGAL LIBERTY AWARDS honoring California Faith for Equality -- a group I'm honored to be affiliated with and grateful for their tireless advocacy for LGBT equality.
Friday morning it's off to Phoenix for the HOUSE OF BISHOPS MEETING where I'll have the honor of being one of the task force presenters for the SCLM C056 project -- responding to the GC2009 resolution that called for the SCLM "in consultation with the House of Bishops, collect and develop theological and liturgical resources" for the blessing of same sex relationships.
We're presenting an overview of the scope of our work on Saturday morning and then going to have the chance to have conversations with the bishops more informally. You can keep up with the progress of the project on the SCLM blog -- and I do invite your prayers for all of those working hard to do this important and exciting work toward continuing to move the church forward on equality for its LGBT baptized!
And then I'll fly home Sunday morning (at what one friend famously called "the crap of dawn") to be back in time for HOMECOMING ... which is a VERY big deal at All Saints Church. We're all gearing up for a "best ever." For memory-lane purposes, here's a look at last year:
Join us if you're in the neighborhood! Services at 7:30, 9, 11:15 & 1pm! Look for me on the lawn ... I'll be the one looking a little "whirled" ... but enjoying every last minute of it all!
Immigration overhaul could leave gay couples out
When gay couples were given the right to marry in the District earlier this year, John Beddingfield and Erwin de Leon were among those who quickly obtained marriage licenses. In April, the Woodley Park couple - who have been together for 12 years - quietly exchanged vows before a justice of the peace.Read the rest here ... but here was the "bottom line" from the end of the piece that really brings it home:
Yet even as they pledged to stand by each other in sickness and in health, Beddingfield, 46, the rector at All Souls Episcopal Church, and de Leon, 44, a doctoral student from the Philippines, were aware that their marriage still hadn't guaranteed them the same rights as heterosexual couples. The District recognizes their marriage, but the federal government does not. The country that had given de Leon a home, given him an education and given him Beddingfield would not allow him to start the process of becoming a citizen, even as it extends that benefit to the foreign-born spouses of heterosexual U.S. citizens.
Once de Leon's student visa runs out next year, he will likely be forced to join the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.
"I grew up looking to this country for its ideals and really believe strongly that it is about equality, freedom and opportunity," de Leon said. "It is too bad that a small minority - gays and lesbians - are still treated as second-class citizens.''
For Beddingfield and de Leon, the issue is personal as well as political. De Leon expects to finish his doctorate in public and urban policy in the spring. If an immigration overhaul does not allow Beddingfield to sponsor his spouse for citizenship, de Leon might be able to acquire U.S. residency through his mother.Just for the record, that pledge we say to the flag? It's "liberty and a justice for ALL." Not "liberty and justice for straight people!"
That's ironic because de Leon's mother came to the United States from the Philippines after he did. Like de Leon, she married an American, but quickly obtained legal residency because she was straight. It currently takes about 10 years for Filipinos to sponsor their children for U.S. residency. To de Leon, that's a long time to wait for a legal right he argues he should already have.
And that baptismal promise we make? The "Will you strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being?" one ...
The answer is "I will, with God's help." Not "I will if they're straight."
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Sermon for Sunday, September 12, 2010
Exodus 32:7-14; Luke 15:1-10
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t remember where they were nine years ago today. The day after the day that has come to be known by its numbers: 9/11
And I’m remembering as well the days following – ones that brought out both the best and worst in what I’ve come to think of as our Big Fat Christian Family. Here’s some of the worst -- from the sermon I preached on September 16, 2001 as the priest-in-charge at St. Peter’s in San Pedro the Sunday after 9/11:
I read with horror and amazement the transcripts from the dialogue between Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson on Tuesday’s tragedy: blaming the ACLU, feminists, gays & lesbians and those who support a woman’s right to choose for causing this calamity: for bringing down God’s anger on the United States. "I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen'" said Falwell.And nine years later I could preach the same sermon this morning using this week’s craziness over the Florida pastor’s "Burn the Qur'an" circus as an illustration.
I realized with sobering clarity on Friday morning as I watched the service from the National Cathedral, that I hold much more in common faith with the Islamic and Jewish leaders who gathered … to pray for peace and healing than I do with these "fellow Christians" who use the Gospel of Jesus Christ as an assault weapon aimed at those with whom they disagree.
It wouldn’t be the sermon I’d planned to preach today. Actually, I was pretty far down the road on a sermon for this morning connecting the reading from Exodus about God changing his mind about smiting the Israelites for building a golden calf because Moses talked him out of it with Jesus’ parable about the shepherd leaving the 99 sheep to go find the one who was missing.
But the news of the week kind of got in the way. And I found myself talking to reporters and writing press releases that included statements like this one:
While we believe the flurry of attention given this week to the Florida pastor and his ill-conceived plan to burn the Qur’an on 9/11 is regrettable, it also points out the crying need for education rather than polarization – and that is a need All Saints Church is mobilizing to meet in collaboration with our interfaith allies.
And then I found myself at the Islamic Center of Southern California yesterday at a Peace Vigil where our rector was one of the featured speakers. We’ll post a video of his remarks shortly, but let me share my favorite quote this morning as a preview:
"Let me give you some advice about Christian preachers. [he said to the Standing Room Only interfaith crowd.] If a Christian preacher is spewing hate and violence in the name of God or in the name of religion, that preacher is lying about his own religion. If that preacher doesn’t know the truth and beauty of his own religion, how can he be trusted to tell the truth about anybody else’s religion? He can’t."And to that all God’s people are invited to say, “AMEN”!!
“And we will not stand by while fear mongers attempt to make September 11th events moments of demonization and polarization by advocating tactics that are neither American nor authentically religious. All the world religions advocate living out of the House of Love, not the House of Fear.”
We hear a lot about the House of Love here at All Saints Church. (And if you’re a newcomer or visitor then just stick around – I guarantee you we’ll CONTINUE to hear a lot about the House of Love in the days and weeks to come!)
It is from the House of Love that we go out to proclaim the Good News of God’s inclusive love … and it is that radical proclamation that changes hearts and minds … that builds bridges rather blows up buildings … that draws us closer to being the human family we were created to be by the God who created us in love and then called us to love one another..
The quote from the Qur’an that opened yesterday’s peace vigil put it this way:
"O mankind! We created you from a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know and honor each other (not that you should despise one another)." Chapter 49, verse 13• Another way to put it is: “A core Christian teaching is to love our neighbor as ourselves – and you do not love your Muslim neighbors by burning their holy scriptures.”
• And yet another is “This little light of mine” is for SHINING … not for burning other people’s books!
Now I TOTALLY hear all of those arguments about how we should have ignored him and his maybe-fifty-member congregation and why is he getting all this publicity, and, and. And ... here’s my response: This Florida fanatic is just the wing-nut-du jour who's crawled out from under the rock of bias & bigotry. He is not alone.
Sadly we know there are LEGIONS of others out there spewing this same kind of venom what Maher Hathout called yesterday: “the unholy Trinity of ignorance, bigotry and stupidity.” And maybe, just maybe, exposing them to the light of day will help wake up some who think our Muslim brothers and sisters have cornered the market on dangerous fundamentalists.
The truth is our Big Fat Christian Family has its own lunatic fringe – and they are the fear mongers the rector talked about yesterday at the Islamic Center. And whether we like it or not – whether we chose it or not -- it is both the challenge and the opportunity du jour.
It is an opportunity to change hearts and minds – it is a platform to preach about God's inclusive love and not roll over and let one Crazy Christian and his maybe-fifty-something followers simultaneously put our troops in more danger than they already are AND make Jesus look bad to the whole darned planet!
It is an opportunity to change the hearts and minds of those who have listened to the Falwells and the Robertsons and the Joneses and think they know enough about being a Christian not to want to be one. And who could blame them? It is an opportunity for us to embody true Christian Values – the ones we share with our wider interfaith family -- and those values are not bigotry, hatred and discrimination ... they are love, justice and compassion.
This is NO time to be silent. It's a time to stand up. To speak out.To make our voices heard.
If Moses could argue with God and change his mind about smiting the Israelites – who let’s face it, kind of deserved it ... what with the golden calf incident and all ... surely we can speak up and change some of the minds who dismiss Christians as narrow minded, judgmental and ignorant. And if Jesus could leave 99 sheep and go out to find the one lost one, maybe we need to be stepping out of our comfort zone and doing the same. Looking for those who came looking for the God who loved them and ran from the church that judged them. Or condemned them. Or rejected them.
My brothers and sisters, the House of Love does not have a drawbridge to pull up to barricade ourselves inside safe from the challenges of the world not yet transformed into that kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. It is not the place we hide from the world but the place from which we go OUT into the world … to find the lost, to heal the broken, to feed the hungry, to release the prisons ... to proclaim the Year of the Lord’s Favor to the whole human family.
I don’t know anybody who doesn’t know where there were nine years ago today. The day after the day that has come to be known by its numbers: 9/11.
I also know where I was eight years ago yesterday. I was here – behind this altar … celebrating for the first time as part of the observation of the first anniversary of 9/11. And so I want to close today with this reflection I wrote eight years ago on September 11, 2002 – a reflection that is still for me an icon of who we aspire to be as the All Saints House of Love:
The candles massed in front of the altar burn in tribute to the names being read from the lectern – Naomi Leah Solomon, Daniel W. Song, Michael C. Soresse, Fabian Soto – as other names scroll above the altar projected on a video screen – John Bentley Works, William Wren, Sandra Wright, Myrna Yashkulka.
The church is silent save for the reading of the names and the careful footsteps of those who come forward to light a candle -- the gentle thud of a kneeler lowered for prayer --the quiet rustle of pages turned in a prayer book.
“American Airline Flight 11”– Anna Allison, David Lawrence Angell, Lynn Edwards Angell, Seima Aoyamma. The names began at 5:46 – the west coast moment when the first plane struck – and will continue through the morning until we gather for Eucharist at noon. The table is already set. The red frontal – blood of martyrs – covers the altar. The chalice is vested, the missal marked. The credence table is ready, too: flagons of wine, silver chalices and ciborium lined up – ready to hold the holy food and drink of new and unending life we will share here at All Saints Church.
“All Saints” – Charles’ deep voice breaks the silence as he begins reading the next segment of the list of names: “World Trade Center, continued” – Paul Riza, John Frank Rizzo, Stephen Luis Roch, Leo Roberts. I remember the ancient words of comfort from the prophet Isaiah, “I have called you by name and you are mine.” As Charles tolls the names of the dead that assurance echoes again and again in my head. These names I do not know – some I cannot even pronounce – each and every one known to God. Beloved of God.
“United Airlines Flight 93”: Christine Adams, Lorraine Berg, Todd Beamer, Alan Beaven. Gone from our sight yet gathered into God’s embrace -- seated at the heavenly banquet we can but glimpse through the sacrament we are preparing to share -- the offering of praise and thanksgiving we will present at this altar.
I look again at the ciborium massed on the credence table – the candles flickering in the polished silver – the light of lives lost reflected in the vessels holding the bread of life. It staggers the mind to consider what they represent – the magnitude of the collective loss of love, joy, hope and possibilities taken on that day a year ago with such sudden unexpectedness.
Takashi Ogawa. Albert Ogletree. Gerald Michael Olcott. The pain of death and loss mingles mysteriously in the promise of life and hope. Body and Blood. Bread and Wine. Strength for the journey and hope for the future. Hope for a world where differences enrich rather than divide. Hope for the end of wars waged in the name of the God who created us not to destroy but to love each other.
Dipti Patel. James Matthew Patrick. Sharon Christina Millan Paz. “Whoever you are and wherever you find yourself on your journey of faith there is a place for you here.” Thanks be to God. Alleluia. Amen.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
"Let me give you some advice about Christian preachers. If a Christian preacher is spewing hate and violence in the name of God or in the name of religion, that preacher is lying about his own religion. And if that preacher doesn’t know the truth and beauty of his own religion, how can he be trusted to tell the truth about anybody else’s religion?" -- Ed Bacon
The 9th Anniversary of 9/11 was observed today at the Islamic Center of Southern California with an Interfaith Peace Vigil. All Saints' rector Ed Bacon was one of the featured speakers and I was privileged be one of the number of All Saints folks who were in attendance.
Here are photos from the event along with the text of Ed's remarks -- which I TOTALLY thought kicked!
Assalamu alaikum. Peace and shalom to all.
I am moved and honored to be in this sacred place where members of the Los Angeles interfaith community gathered today nine years ago to stand in solidarity with our sister and brother Muslims who were the targets hate speech and hate crimes immediately after the Twin Towers were hit. We also gathered to recommit ourselves to the proposition that peace and justice making are not options for the world’s great religions. Rather peace and justice making are central mandates for us all.
I am sick and tired of Christian preachers lying about God.
I grew up in the state of Georgia where I heard as boy some influential Christian clergy preach that God is a segregationist God. In other words, God was a racist God. That is a lie. Now a Christian preacher in Florida, acting in the same spirit of distortion, fear mongering, discrimination, and lies claims that Islam is of the Devil. That is a lie.
There are two ways to interpret the world’s religions today – a fear-based interpretation or a love-based interpretation. Discrimination, exclusion, and violence are the faces of fear-based religion. Compassion, mercy, inclusion, and peace-making are the faces of religion that is love-based. Islam and all the religions represented in this room today are love-based religions.
Where there are practitioners of any religion who demonize another religion, they are perverting their own religion.
Let me give you some advice about Christian preachers. If a Christian preacher is spewing hate and violence in the name of God or in the name of religion, that preacher is lying about his own religion. If that preacher doesn’t know the truth and beauty of his own religion, how can he be trusted to tell the truth about anybody else’s religion? He can’t. Don’t trust a fear-based religious leader to tell the truth about faith. Fear is faithless. A fear-based life has no room for faith. A fear-based life has no room for God. Fear has no vision for a world of peace. Fear cannot understand the compassion and mercy of God.
What we need in our time are people who refuse to give into fear.
people who refuse to be polarized
people who refuse to tell lies about other religions
people who refuse to hate
people who refuse to contribute to the spiral of violence.
Love-based religions and love-based lives are absolutely necessary for the survival of our civilization
Dr. King said, “The strong person is the person who can cut off the chain of hate, the chain of evil. And that is the tragedy of hate….It only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. Somebody must have religion enough and morality enough to cut it off and inject within the very structure of the universe that strong and powerful element of love.”
We don’t need to be burning the Holy Koran. We need to study it That is why at my church, All Saints Church, Pasadena, we will have a muti-week program this fall called Islam 101. I hope you will join us in learning from Islam what millions of other Muslims already know that God is merciful, kind, full of compassion and seeks us to be the same.
Peace, Shalom, Salaam
For more information visit the All Saints webite.
Here's what Ben, one of the kindergarteners at St. Peter's Day School, drew on September 12, 2001:
May God give us the grace to live into Ben's faith in how different "God's Church" can be!
Susan Russell is heading to bed early and remembering that 9 years ago tonight I went to bed in my little apartment in San Pedro grateful that I had the next morning off and wouldn't have to get up early for Day School Chapel and thinking I knew what tomorrow would look like. And I was wrong. Kyrie eleison.And this morning I woke up to a Good Morning America reporter doing a stand-up in front of Ground Zero adjacent St. Paul's Chapel in NYC. And I remembered being in New York in November 2001 and attending services at St. Paul's with members of the National ECW Board and the ashes that still covered the headstones in the church yard around St. Paul's.
Today the ashes are gone but the memories remain. Memories of tragic loss. Memories of great courage and heroism. And memories of a time of national crisis bringing out both the best and worst in our Big Fat Christian Family.
I've been digging through archives for the last few days, and here are two examples. The first from a sermon I preached at St. Peter's in San Pedro on Sunday, September 16, 2001:
And nine years later I could preach the same sermon using this week's Terry Jones "Burn the Qur'an" circus as an illustration.
I read with horror and amazement the transcripts from the dialogue between Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson on Tuesday’s tragedy: blaming the ACLU, feminists, gays & lesbians and those who support a woman’s right to choose for causing this calamity: for bringing down God’s anger on the United States. "I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen'" said Falwell.
And I thought of the public fury over photos of the reaction of a handful of Palestinians to the news of the destruction of the World Trade Center. How indignant I would be to have the venom spewed by Falwell, Robertson and their ilk portrayed as definitive of "Christianity." No less appalled than the millions of Islamic faithful who watch in horror as their spiritual heritage is categorized and vilified based on the actions of the evil ideologues who orchestrated these heinous attacks against humanity.
I realized with sobering clarity on Friday morning as I watched the service from the National Cathedral, that I hold much more in common faith with the Islamic and Jewish leaders who gathered with Billy Graham and our own Bishop Jane Holmes Dixon to pray for peace and healing than I do with these "fellow Christians" who use the Gospel of Jesus Christ as an assault weapon aimed at those with whom they disagree.
And yet, during that same dig-through-the-archives, I came across this link to the old ECW website -- the one I maintained while I was a member of the Nat'l ECW Board from 2000-2003. (Yes, I've had an eclectic portfolio!) It was the "first response" of our Episcopal Church Women to the 9/11 tragedy. Entitled "Give peace, O Lord, in all the world; For only in you can we live in safety" it was a page dedicated to interfaith resources with this introduction:
And nine years later, it's the same prayer. In a week that has brought out both the best and worst of our Big Fat Christian Family I pray that the impulses that led the Episcopal Church Women to lead the way in 2001 by providing resources for education and bridge-building between people of faith will inspire us all to go and do likewise.
Our Presiding Bishop has called us "to engage with all our hearts and minds and strength in God’s project of transforming the world into a place of peace." We have, in this crisis, been given a unique opportunity to model Christian community in action. Imagine the impact we could have on the heart and soul of this great nation of ours if every Episcopal Church in every community, large and small, committed to participate in this project of reconciliation and understanding between people of faith ... people who are part of this same human family of ours.
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
As we pray for the "whole human family" during these days of anxiety and challenge, the Episcopal Church Women invite you to join with them in committing to:
● Networking with members of other faith communities, through prayer, dialogue and mutual community outreach.
● Educating ourselves about other traditions in order to challenge the misinformation and dangerous stereotyping such as that which so tragically emerged regarding the Islamic faith from the events of September 11th
The resources listed below are but a beginning. May the Lord who has given us the will to do these things give us the grace and power to perform them!
I know that will be a focus for us at All Saints Church in the days and weeks to come.
I know that will be the message of the sermon I will preach tomorrow (which I should have been finishing instead of writing this blog.)
And I know that will be the witness we will bear this morning as we gather at the Islamic Center of Southern California for the Interfaith Peace Vigil. 11:30 a.m. 434 South Vermont in Los Angeles Your prayers and presence are requested.
Shanti. Salaam. Shalom.
Friday, September 10, 2010
MEDIA RELEASE: For Immediate Release 09/10/2010
All Saints Church, Pasadena has a decades-long commitment to turning the human race into the human family. In light of that commitment, members of the All Saints community will stand together with members of our interfaith family tomorrow at the Islamic Center of Southern California at a 9/11 Peace Vigil. All Saints’ rector Ed Bacon will be one of the featured speakers at the interfaith event honoring the victims of 9/11 and working together to build our nation’s future.
“While we believe the flurry of attention given this week to the Florida pastor and his ill-conceived plan to burn the Qur’an on 9/11 is regrettable, it also points out the crying need for education rather than polarization – and that is a need All Saints Church is mobilizing to meet in collaboration with our interfaith allies. In the days ahead, we will be offering opportunities for members of our congregation and our community to come together to read the Qur’an and to learn more about Islam and the Muslim faith.”
“As a priest and pastor my Christian faith has been strengthened by sharing the Ramadan journey with my Muslim brothers and sisters and by celebrating the High Holy Days with my Jewish colleagues,” said Bacon. “A core Christian teaching is to love our neighbor as ourselves – and you do not love your Muslim neighbors by burning their holy scriptures.”
“We will not stand by while fear mongers attempt to make September 11th events moments of demonization and polarization by advocating tactics that are neither American nor authentically religious. All the world religions advocate living out of the House of Love, not the House of Fear. We encourage all people of good will, religious or not to overcome hatred and fear with love by seeking to understand Islam as a religion of peace.”
For further information contact:
Susan Russell, Senior Associate for Communication
Ed Bacon will be available for comment on Saturday, September 11 following the Interfaith Peace Vigil at the Islamic Center of Southern California, 434 S. Vermont Ave, Los Angeles 90020
Thursday, September 09, 2010
The state Supreme Court refused to come to the aid of California's embattled ban on same-sex marriage Wednesday, denying a conservative group's request to order Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown to appeal a federal judge's ruling striking down the voter-approved measure.
The state officials' decision not to argue in support of Proposition 8 has raised questions about whether anyone is legally qualified to defend it in court.
Read the rest here.
How can anyone think that an act of hate and religious fanaticism — the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 – can somehow be redeemed by an act of intolerance and religious stupidity?
I have been trying to decide whether Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove Center in Gainesville, who is planning to burn copies of the Quran on September 11, has any idea of how much harm and persecution his action will bring upon Christians living around the world–and specifically those living in countries with a majority Muslim population. I have travelled extensively in the Middle East, and I am quite familiar with the precarious situation of Christians in that area.
I can only appeal to him to desist from an action that will hurt his Christian brothers and sisters around the world; they are the ones who will suffer the consequences of his fanatical act.
As an American, I also appeal to his patriotism and concern for our U.S. troops. General David Petraeus, our commander in Afghanistan, has warned that this planned act of disrespect and destruction of the Muslim scriptures will both endanger our troops already in perilous situations and harm our relationship with those Muslim countries that are our sincere allies.
Every page of the Quran that burns will recruit to the ranks of Islamic extremists hundreds of irate Muslims, who will see in this action a confirmation of claims by Al Qaeda and the Taliban that Americans are engaged in our own jihad against the followers of Islam.
What would Jesus do? I am quite sure that burning the holy scriptures of another faith would never be his choice. Our Lord said from the cross where he died, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.”
I would remind Pastor Jones that our Lord forgives what we find it impossible to forgive and challenges us to move beyond fear, suspicion and hatred to “love one another.”
I want to assure the followers of Islam here and around the world that the planned actions of the Dove Center do not represent the true values and beliefs of the followers of Jesus Christ, who tells us that the greatest commandment is love.
The Rt. Rev. Leo Frade
Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida
Wednesday, September 08, 2010
This craziness has been going on for awhile. I mentioned it back in my sermon on August 1st:
Then there was the story yesterday on CNN about the Florida church that announced plans for the fall. They’re going to burn a copy of the Quran! On September 11! I find myself wondering, is there some kind of contest out there I don’t know about? Is there a prize for making Jesus look bad this week? Here’s a comment from my Facebook page just yesterday:And that's why I have this one last rant for the day.
You’re smart to wear your sunglasses in your profile picture. What’s going on in the news right now doesn’t make Christians look very good. I’d be hiding, too.
Ouch! The sad truth is that we are surrounded by people yearning for a spiritual community, longing for the Good News that Jesus has to offer them, and thinking that they know enough about being a Christian not to want to be one. And what they’re reading in the news about Christians isn’t helping.
I TOTALLY hear all of those arguments about how we shouldn't be giving this any attention and we should ignore him and his maybe-fifty-member congregation and why is he getting all this publicity, and, and.
Let's face it: this guy is just the wing-nut-du jour who's crawled out from under the rock of bias & bigotry. And he's not alone.
Sadly we know there are LEGIONS of others out there spewing this same kind of ignorant venom and maybe -- just maybe -- exposing their idiocy to the light of day will help wake up some of the "moderate middle" out there who think our Muslim brothers and sisters have cornered the market on whacko fundamentalists.
Here's a wake up call: We have our own lunatic fringe of Radical Religiousites in desperate need what my rector refers to as having a "can of Gandhian whoopass" opened up on 'em. And here's a chance to do precisely that.
Whether we like it or not, it's the story of the week. It's the opportunity du jour. It's the hand we've been dealt.
So cue music and "Come Labor On."
Figure out how to get your voice out there ... in letters to the editor, in comments on the news blogs, on the call-in shows in your community. Find a place to show up and speak out. Your local Isalmic Center is a great place to start.
Let's use this as a platform to preach about God's inclusive love and not roll over and let one Crazy Christian and his maybe-fifty-something followers put our men & women in uniform in more danger AND make Jesus look bad to the whole darned planet at the same time.
We have Christian Values, too -- and they're not bigotry, hatred and discrimination ... they're love, justice and compassion.
This is NO time to be silent. It's a time to stand up. To speak out. To make your voices heard.
Go. Do it. Now.
Yep. That would be the Episcopal Diocese of Texas.
It's enough to make you want to head to Houston! A great conference with a great line-up of fabulous speakers -- including Madame President herself: Dr. Bonnie "Hail to the Chief" Anderson.
From the conference website:
A group of Texas Episcopalians who favor the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people in the life and ministry of The Episcopal Church conceived and planned this conference to celebrate the diversity of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas and to expand the conversation in Texas about full inclusion. For more information on the conference, click here.
From the article in today's Episcopal Life Online:
"This conference will be an opportunity to affirm the ministry and contribution of all members of the Diocese of Texas as well as hear a perspective from the larger church," the Very Rev. Joe Reynolds, dean of Christ Church Cathedral, said. To check out the ENS article, click here.
Finally, to email Dean Reynolds and thank him for his prophetic leadership, click here and let him know what a beacon of hope and light this important gathering is to the whole church. And how much we will all be keeping him and this groundbreaking weekend in our prayers.
Moving Forward Texas, INDEED!!
Tuesday, September 07, 2010
If you're in the Los Angeles area, consider joining us for what I know will be a powerful witness to God's healing and inclusive love.
For more information contact the Islamic Center at 213-382-9200.
Monday, September 06, 2010
You know -- it'll be that "lifestyle" in action -- the one that's undermining western civilization.
And then we'll schlep back to Altadena and gear up for the back-to-program-year/mid-term election event driven calendar to drive us until we get to the point where the holidays-are-coming event driven calendar takes over and then it'll be the New Year ... and we'll probably head to Santa Monica for another annual gathering with long-time friends and their neighbors to compare notes about how fast the year flew by and ... well, you get the point.
Meanwhile, the work goes on. Ora labora. "Come labor on." One of my favorite hymns. One that, incidentally, has the distinction of being the only hymn in the Episcopal Hymnal that ends with a recipe:
- Serve ants well done.
Anyway, I guess the point of this blog -- which I should get to or I'm going to be late for the BBQ -- is that today is a great day to not only refuel for the work ahead but to reflect on the work that (as another favorite hymn puts it) "has brought us thus far on the way." To give thanks for those who've paved the way ... who've dreamed the dream ... who believed "si, se puede" and who give us the legacy of believing that we can, too.
Saturday, September 04, 2010
[thanks to Christopher Gable]
So here ... thanks to friend Bruce Garner's forward ... is a litte Labor Day Levity at Maggie ("Protect Traditional Marriage") Gallagher's expense. ENJOY!
Friday, September 03, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: CFE Leaders Challenge Alliance of Engle, Gingrich and Huckabee
September 3, 2010
This weekend in Sacramento, California groups of religious extremists will take part in “The Call” –lead by Pastor Lou Engle and promoted by conservative politicians such as Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee, who are using religious events to rally voters and to crush marriage equality in California.
“It is not only misguided but reckless to promote a God of vengeance.” said Samuel M. Chu, Executive Director of California Faith for Equality, of Engle’s religious agenda. ”Religion should never be used as a weapon to condemn, to harm, or to strip away a person’s humanity.” California Faith for Equality (CFE), is an organization of over 6000 clergy and lay leaders who support equality and justice for all.
“We represent good people of deep faith across the great state of California who know that traditional religious values are love, justice and compassion, not bigotry, discrimination and hatred,” said the Very Rev. Dr. Brian Baker, Dean of Trinity Cathedral in Sacramento. “CFE stands with all those working for marriage equality because we believe God blesses all people equally and that Constitution should protect all people equally
“CFE strongly supports freedom of religion,” added Chu, “but we also believe in the freedom from religion. When politicians like Gingrich and Huckabee create an alliance with Lou Engle, we must speak out to prevent religious extremists from writing their theology into the laws of this land.”
CFE spokespeople Samuel M. Chu and the Very Rev. Dr. Brian Baker will be available for comment throughout the weekend.
California Faith for Equality is a statewide network of clergy and lay leaders from a diversity of faith traditions who are committed to equality.
And this was a "Wow." So thanks to the creator of "Testify to Love in the face of Prop 8" ... Enjoy!