Wednesday, March 30, 2011

It has begun!

Consider this a "church wonk" test.

  • If this doesn't look familiar to you then you're not one -- a church wonk of the Episcopal Church/General Convention variety.

  • And if you are one -- a church wonk of the Episcopal Church/General Convention variety -- then you recognize it in a nanosecond as a General Convention Schedule ... in this case the "Draft" schedule of the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church July 2012 in Indianapolis.

That's right: July. 2012. And here it is ... March. 2011. And it has already begun. In some ways, it never stopped. At least not for us church wonks. (Note to +Kirk Smith: Yep ... one of those church wonks who care about the proposed Anglican Covenant.)

The work of the church certainly goes on between General Conventions. Not only in the mission and ministry of congregations all over the country and -- in Province 9 -- outside the U.S. borders as well. And the work of CCABs [Committees, Commissions, Agencies & Boards]. The SCLM (Standing Commission on Liturgy & Music) is one of the "C's" in "CCAB" ... that's the body that's been doing all the work I've been writing about around implementing Resolution C056 and "collecting and developing resources for the blessing of same-gender relationships." And they've been working hard through the task forces convened to report to them to make that work happen.

Deputations are being elected and beginning to meet. Ours (Diocese of Los Angeles) was elected last December and we've now met twice as a deputation and our "Anglican Covenant Response" subcommittee met again Monday night to finalize our report ... due to President Anderson by April 24. April 30 we go to CDSP for a gathering of all the California deputations. And with Blue Book report deadlines starting to loom I've got three conference calls and a trip to Baltimore on my calendar in the next two months.

Yes, it has definitely begun. I used to think of General Convention kind of like Brigadoon ... it emerged from the mists every three years for ten days of liturgy, legislation and shopping and then disappeared until its appointed time. Maybe it's just because I'm getting older and time goes faster on everything (how come it's 4:00 in the afternoon every time I turn around, for example?) but it seems to me that ... kind of like the prayer ... we go from strength to strength in a life of perfect service/perpetual meetings.

So there you have it. Confessions of a church wonk. And since this'll be my eighth General Convention I'm clearly an unrepentent one. So let the games begin ... or continue. And let's remember that test of whether our church wonkiness is worthwhile is whether the lives of those NOT in the pews are better because of the ones who are. (Looks like we have our work cut out for us. Guess it's a good thing "it has begun.")

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I didn't even know he was sick!

YET ANOTHER great icon of the entertainment community has passed away. The Pillsbury Dough boy died yesterday of a yeast infection and trauma complications from repeated pokes to the belly. He was 71.

Dough Boy is survived by his wife Play Dough, three children, John Dough, Jane Dough, and Dosey Dough, plus they had one in the Oven. Services were held at 3:50 for about 20 minutes.

(Thanks Monique Brown-Mustafa via Sally Lambert on Facebook!)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

HIGHLY Recommended Reading

The Reverend Dr. Caro Hall is a friend, colleague and one of my favorite people on the planet -- and I was absolutely delighted to find that her doctoral dissertation is "on the web." Entitled " Homosexuality as a Site of Anglican Identity and Dissent" it isnot only an important study, it's an "excellent read" ... and a great resource for anybody wanting to understand more about the history of LGBT inclusion in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. Here's the "executive summary" ...
Since the early 1970s conservatives in the Episcopal Church have attempted to halt the increasing liberalization of the church, specifically opposing changes in liturgy, the ordination of women and the full inclusion of gays and lesbians. Having failed to make progress domestically, they activated an existing network of predominately evangelical conservatives in other parts of the Anglican Communion to oppose ‘homosexuality’.

This coalition was able to pass a strongly anti-gay resolution at the 1998 Lambeth Conference of bishops but then found it almost impossible to enforce the resolution in the North American provinces. The 2003 election of an openly gay man to be Bishop of New Hampshire led to open international conflict, and demands for changes to the loosely knit Communion in order to prevent further such incidents and to ‘discipline’ those responsible.

This thesis chronicles the progress of the conservative alliance and the rhetorical and symbolic constructs it developed in order to maintain a strong group identity despite its inherent diversity. It examines the way that the Anglican Communion is created through the discourse of its members and suggests that conservatives began to re-imagine the Communion. Its ability to reform the Communion according to its new imagining depends upon the ability to generate and use power through rhetoric and through symbolic acts of boundary crossing and civil disobedience against the North American churches. Throughout the development and maintenance of the conservative alliance, ‘homosexuality’ has been the rallying cry which has brought conservatives together and cemented their alliance.

This paper examines why the unstable construct ‘homosexuality’ has such salience both within the United States and in the global south that it can act as an identifier and as a motivator for intense dissent across significant difference. It looks for the answer at the convergence of patriarchal values and (post)colonial power differentials.
You can read the rest here ... and I hope you will.

Lights | Camera | ACTION!

It was "lights, camera, action" at All Saints today as we began shooting our part in a documentary on marriage equality/Prop 8. Honored to be part of a great project ... here's a little look at the "behind the scenes" of today's shoot:

The 45 minute set up to get the five minute soundbite ... (three cameras and five production folks wedged in my office)

The pre-shoot meeting about who's asking who what and when ...

And here's me with Lambda Legal's Jon Davidson after our time together on camera ... notice the bride and groom making their way up the steps behind us to City Hall for their wedding. Kind of a nice ironic touch, I thought, as we'd just finished an hour of discussion about how gay & lesbian couples continue to have their marriages denied, dismissed and devalued.

Just another day at work in the Fields of the Lord. And now ... home to work on a sermon about the Woman at the Well.

"Film at Eleven!"

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A year later ...

The Living Church weighs in on SCLM Atlanta Consultation

Still catching up on reports about last week's consultation in Atlanta. Posted on Monday to "The Living Church" -- was this article titled "SCLM’s Rite in Progress: ‘The Outline of Marriage’?" by Charlie Holt.

See for yourself:
The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music briefed nearly 200 invited General Convention deputies in Atlanta March 18 and 19 on how it is preparing a proposed rite for blessing same-sex couples. The SCLM invited two deputies, one lay and one clergy, from each of the Episcopal Church’s dioceses to attend the consultation.

“We are making history on a couple of levels,” said Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies, because deputies are “meeting together outside of General Convention for the first time and discussing a topic outside of General Convention.”

Anderson reminded deputies of the limitations on General Convention’s authority, in that it “cannot change the core doctrine of the church,” but said that “the topic [rites for blessing same-sex couples] itself is history-making.”

While hosted and organized by the SCLM, the meeting was funded largely from outside of the Episcopal Church. The Arcus Foundation, which describes its mission as achieving “social justice that is inclusive of sexual orientation, gender identity and race, and to ensure conservation and respect of the great apes,” provided a $404,000 grant to the Church Divinity School of the Pacific that helped pay for the SCLM gathering.

The meeting’s four plenary sessions followed the themes of “Inform, Engage, and Equip.” The Rev. Ruth Meyers, chair of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, described the trajectory of General Convention resolutions relating to homosexuality beginning in 1976 and culminating in Resolution C056, which authorized gathering theological and pastoral resources and developing rites for blessing same-sex unions.

“Our purpose is not to debate whether to develop these resources,” Meyers told the deputies. “We had that debate in 2009.”
Read the rest here ...

"We are prophets of a future not our own"

Today on our liturgical calendar we honor the work and witness of Archbishop Oscar Romero. The collect for the day is:
Almighty God, you called your servant Oscar Romero to be a voice for the voiceless poor, and to give his life as a seed of freedom and a sign of hope: Grant that, inspired by his sacrifice and the example of the martyrs of El Salvador, we may without fear or favor witness to your Word who abides, your Word who is Life, even Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be praise and glory now and for ever. Amen.
And here are some of his own words ... in a poem entitled "A Future Not Our Own" ... which spoke to me with particular power and grace this morning.


It helps, now and then, to step back
And take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
It is beyond our vision

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of
The magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete,
Which is another way of saying
That the kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection…
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about:
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
Knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything
And there is a sense of liberation realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
And to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
An opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results…
We are prophets of a future not our own.

Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, who was assassinated for speaking up for God's Kingdom and justice in 1980.

REAL Family Values

That's the headline of the editorial in today's New York Times, which reads:
President Obama came to the right conclusion last month when he decided that the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal spousal benefits to married same-sex couples, is unconstitutional, and ended the government’s defense of the law in pending court cases. But that did not relieve Congress of its duty to renounce the bigotry behind the 1996 law and wipe it off the books.

More than 100 House Democrats, led by Jerrold Nadler of New York, John Conyers of Michigan and Barney Frank of Massachusetts, have introduced a bill calling for a repeal of the act. An identical repeal bill was offered in the Senate by Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Dianne Feinstein of California and Patrick Leahy of Vermont, all Democrats.

Getting the repeal bills through both chambers will not be easy. Republican leaders are continuing to pander and promote intolerance, declaring that they will step in for the administration to defend the act’s denial of equal protection in court either by formally intervening or filing an amicus brief using outside lawyers paid for by taxpayers. Mr. Leahy, who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, should schedule a hearing to call in couples to talk about the harm caused by the act to make clear that their marriages are deserving of full respect.

Republicans like to cast themselves as the protectors of “family values.” But that mantle properly belongs to President Obama and the Congressional Democrats committed to ending this atrocious law.

Denying same-sex couples and their families the significant savings of filing joint tax returns, Social Security survivor benefits, and about 1,130-plus other spousal benefits and protections granted other married couples is not a family-friendly policy. It is discrimination, plain and simple.
This one deserves a very big, very loud

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

New Rules

I decided to take my own annual Lenten advice about not giving up epiphanies for Lent -- and had one -- an epiphany -- about comments on this blog this morning.

It was the result of a particularly nasty ... if sadly not unusual ... series of postings in response to a post about marriage equality reaching a majority approval rating in some national polls.

One blog commenter finally said,
"I'm not in favor of censorship, generally, but the cost is that these comment threads are now hijacked by *** and **, as they repeat and repeat their same tired arguments. Most people do not agree with them and they are mad as hell that they've lost. So they want to hurt us as much as they can. We need to stop feeding their anger, and go somewhere else till they burn themselves out."
And that precipitated my epiphany: we are feeding the fire of that anger by giving it oxygen and it's time to cut that off. It's time for some "New Rules" (yes, I'm a Bill Maher fan!) So I wrote:
There is -- in fact -- a distinct difference between dialogue and diatribe ... as I noted in a post a few weeks ago. And at this point I think it's not healthy for the diaologue on this blog OR for the "drive-by diatribers" to keep that pattern going.

So I hearby declare a moratorium on venom and vitriol -- recognizing that there are those who will hear that as "failing to listen to 'the other side.'"

But here's the deal: after a decade or two in the trenches on this work, I guarantee you there isn't a single one of the arguments out there I haven't already heard. And I'm ready for us to move onto some new territory.

If you want to be part of that conversation, then welcome aboard. If not, go in peace.
Since then, I've deleted a few comments. Will probably delete some more before they get bored and go elsewhere. For the record, this is not about not being open to hearing other perspectives. I'm a big fan of honing arguments and rising to challenges.

What I'm not a fan of are those who come to incite and insult rather than dialogue and discuss. A couple of Exhibit A's are these two comments ... received today ... about the new comment policy. One wrote:
There is no fellowship between Believers and Non-believers. Good manners, politeness, and fairness in business dealings yes, fellowship, no. [see Isaac & Abimelech Genesis 26.]
while another wrote simply
So there you have it. Welcome to my New Rules.

Spring has sprung in Pasadena:

[View from the second floor of Regas House yesterday]

Our 14 minutes of fame at the HRC L.A. Gala

What an honor to be honored by the Human Rights Campaign with such amazing colleagues as Dr. Sharon Groves and Rabbi Denise Eger! (And note that Sharon starts her introductions with a "shout out" to this blog!)

Click here for the video (I couldn't figure out how to embed it and not have it "autoplay" ... and ran out of time to fiddle with it! :)

And now, for some GOOD news ...

Ready to take a turn here at "Inch At A Time" and focus on those who are giving us great food for thought and good resources for making a positive case for the full equality of God's LGBT beloved.

Let's start with Dean Brian Baker ... one of my favorite colleagues in the struggle ... who if you don't know, you should. Check out his profile bio:
"I'm a husband, a father of two teenage children and the Dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Sacramento. I'm also a West Point graduate, an Army veteran and an activist for marriage equality and the rights of the homeless."
Brian wrote several great blogs since we were in Atlanta together ... one I've already quoted from here ...
At the Churchwide Consultation on blessing same-gender relationships, I got in a great conversation with a priest who firmly believes that any sexual relations outside of marriage (which can only be between a man and a woman) is expressly forbidden in scripture. Consequently he does not support the church blessing any same-gender relationships. I do not have a need, or even a desire, to change his mind so he believes as I believe. I think it is vital that we make room for a diversity of viewpoints and theological perspectives, which includes those with which I disagree. I was thrilled that he came to the conference in which his view was a minority and I was pleased that the people in our small group welcomed him.

At dinner, and through the following break, he and I had an in-depth conversation. It became clear to me that his perspective on what the Bible is, and how to read it, is very different from mine. It isn’t that he takes the Bible seriously, and I don’t. I take the Bible very seriously. I just understand it very differently that he does. Here are some things I believe to be true about the Bible:
and the others bear quoting as well ...

From The Sin of Sodom?
Why would we think this story should be used as a basis for contemporary sexual morality in the first place? The hero of this story, Lot, who is rescued by the angels for his morality, offers his virgin daughters to be raped? Really? Clearly there are customs at play in this story that reflect the cultural context of the time it was written that are not part of the spiritual wisdom in the text we want to apply to our current lives.

To use the story of the destruction of Sodom to condemn committed, consensual, same-gender relationships is to mis-use the Bible and making it say something that isn’t there. I, as a Bible believing Christian, would rather work at trying to figure out what the text is trying to teach me, rather than twist the text to support an anti-gay bias.
and, from Why not Adam & Steve?
The Genesis story of Adam and Eve illustrates the beautiful pattern of individuals leaving their parents in order to be united/completed with another. This joining is significant and should not be undone. When this story was written, opposite-gender relationships were normative. Consequently, the author used Adam and Eve as the example. But there is nothing in the text that prohibits people of the same gender being joined in “one flesh.”
Bravo, Brian!

Another blogger of note is the Reverend Benny Hazelhurst ... who I found from a link on Brian's blog. Benny's blog bio is like-unto Brian's:
"... a husband, father, and a Rev in the Church of England. More controversially, he is an Evangelical Christian who believes that homosexual relationships and partnerships should be welcomed, nurtured and blessed. He is a founder member of Accepting Evangelicals with his wife, Mel, and they believe that God has a place for everyone in his/her Kingdom."
And here are some great points from his recent blog -- Towards a Theology of Gay Marriage:
By focusing on the 'end product' (male and female) rather than the need which God is addressing in the Garden of Eden (relationship), we risk making the same mistake as the Pharisees did with the Sabbath. They elevated the Sabbath to monumental proportions because they thought it was something greater that our human needs, and Jesus had to correct them by reminding them that the Sabbath was created by God to meet human needs, not to be an end in itself.

When we elevate marriage to the same monumental proportions and restrict it to our observation of Adam and Eve, we need to be reminded that marriage was ordained by God to meet a human need, not to be an end in itself. This is radical thinking sure enough, but it is just as Biblical as the challenges which Jesus brought to the Pharisees.
I hope you'll enjoy reading Brian & Benny as much as I have. Onward and Upward!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Reflections on Atlanta

Of course I'm still mulling the events in Atlanta ... even as I hunker down back at home with my regularly-scheduled life, work and "to-do" list. We've still got a lot of work to do with the SCLM task forces to get our reports ready for submission to the commission and then off to the "Blue Book" (which hasn't been blue in awhile, but nevermind) and then off to Indianapolis for the debate and decision part.

But for the moment ... and it's a very big but ... I could not be more delighted with the feedback we continue to get about the tone and timbre of the meeting ... the content and the process.

Our goals had been to "Inform, Engage and Equip."
  • To Inform the deputies about the history of the work we've been charged to do and about what we've done so far in response to that charge.
  • To Engage the deputies in dialogue and discussion about not only the work we've been doing but the resources they need in their contexts.
  • To Equip them to go back to their deputations and to their dioceses and bring their colleagues and constituents -- as fully as possible -- into this church wide process of discussion and discernment.

Here's how Nicholas Knisely [Diocese of Arizona; Phoenix] described his experience of the consultation over at Episcopal Cafe ... a description that tells me if we didn't get it perfect, we came pretty darned close:

What this process has done extremely well is to listen to the diverse voices in the Episcopal Church. I participated in the small group conversations. I saw the scribe for our group carefully keeping track of our conversation. Our group arrived at some very interesting insights, some of which were new to me.

The group process worked; and when we disagreed, that was recorded too. Later in plenary sessions, the disagreements were recognized and honored. There is not a clear consensus on what the Episcopal Church should do with the report it will receive. There is a shared recognition that either way the decision goes on authorization, there will be some parts of the Episcopal Church that will not be able to bear the decision. But there was no sense that anyone was walking away. They had been heard and everyone was committed to staying in relationship with one another somehow, someway.

That's what reconciliation actually looks like.

And it is happening among the relatively small group that gathered for 22 hours of meeting time because of the process designed by the SCLM. So kudos to them. And I ask the question to the larger body; why don't we do this a lot more? The process used in Atlanta is actually only part of the beginning. We attendees were given tools and resources to extend the table and to report back to the SCLM. I'm hoping that is exactly what happens. I intend to make it so in Arizona.

We ought be regularly consulting in this way in advance of major votes at all levels of the Church. This event ought not be exceptional. The upside is so great that the expense is easily worth it.

[Visit the Episcopal Cafe link above to read more from Dean Knisely.]

I have heard some critique that "both sides" were not represented in the resources presented -- never mind that what C056 charged the SCLM to do was to collect and develop resources FOR the blessing of same-gender relationships … not to rehash arguments AGAINST the blessing of same-gender relationships.

More important than the increasingly small minority of folks who keep insisting we're not including them in the conversation because they've chosen not to talk about the subject we're discussing is the great work that is going on with those who do come to the table. Here's a great peek at that from Brian Baker's [Diocese of Northern California; Sacramento] blog post:
At the Churchwide Consultation on blessing same-gender relationships, I got in a great conversation with a priest who firmly believes that any sexual relations outside of marriage (which can only be between a man and a woman) is expressly forbidden in scripture. Consequently he does not support the church blessing any same-gender relationships. I do not have a need, or even a desire, to change his mind so he believes as I believe. I think it is vital that we make room for a diversity of viewpoints and theological perspectives, which includes those with which I disagree. I was thrilled that he came to the conference in which his view was a minority and I was pleased that the people in our small group welcomed him.

At dinner, and through the following break, he and I had an in-depth conversation. It became clear to me that his perspective on what the Bible is, and how to read it, is very different from mine. It isn’t that he takes the Bible seriously, and I don’t. I take the Bible very seriously. I just understand it very differently that he does. Here are some things I believe to be true about the Bible:
[And of course you'll want to follow the link and read what Dean Baker has to say.]

My point on all of this is THIS IS HOW ANGLICANS BEHAVE AT THEIR BEST! We are a people hard-wired for diversity because of the DNA of comprehensiveness that courses in our veins. Descended from a people who figured out how to be both protestant and catholic in the 16th century we have ABSOLUTELY NO EXCUSE for not figuring out how to be gay and straight in the 21st.

One of the things I said in my presentation in Atlanta was our task force ... the Teaching Resources Team ... was charged with giving the church the resources it needs. The whole church.
For example: In my small group was a man who said blessings were forbidden in his diocese and WOULD NEVER HAPPEN THERE. And there was me -- from All Saints Pasadena -- where we'll be celebrating 20 Years of Blessings next year. And probably most folks in the Episcopal Church fall somewhere in between us on that continuum.

And our job is to resource ALL of them ... those asking the "Why would they ...?" questions as well as those asking the "How do we ...?" questions.

To resource the folks in the diocese that forbid blessings and swear they will never happen there to understand why other dioceses are making the choice to bless and celebrate same-gender relationships.

And to resource the folks in dioceses that have been blessing same-gender relationships for twenty years with the liturgical rites and pastoral care tools they need.

It is important work. Holy work. All of it. The "why" questions and the "how" questions. It's work that it's a privilege to do. And it is work I believe will help us reclaim a few more of those inches on the way to making the Garden of Eden grow green again.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Photo blog on SCLM C056 Consultation in Atlanta

It was described as "an historic gathering" and that it was.

Not only because the issues we had gathered to consult about -- collecting and developing resources for the blessing of same-gender relationships -- is breaking historic ground for the Episcopal Church but because the process that was created brought together deputies from 98 dioceses for consultation and theological reflection ... an unprecedented opportunity HoD President Bonnie Anderson noted in her opening remarks.

I'm going to write more on both the content and process ... but for the moment here are some snapshots for a look at what were truly an amazing two days of work and worship.

The "Film at Eleven" I promised from Atlanta:

The webcasts of the plenary sessions from our SCLM Consultation on Blessings are now up on the ENS website. You'll be able to hear presentations about the scope and history of the project from Ruth Meyers and Tom Ely as well as presentations from the chairs of the various task forces:

  • Theology

  • Liturgy

  • Pastoral & Teaching

  • Canonical

What an honor to be part of such great work. I'll post some more photos up later, but for now here's one of my favs ... Bowie Snodgrass leading our closing prayers -- ably assisted by her six month old, Jacob: AKA Family Values Incarnate!!

Friday, March 18, 2011

The "long story short" from Atlanta

Lord it is night. The night is for stillness. Let us be still in the presence of God. It is night after a long day. What has been done has been done; what has not been done has not been done. Let it be.
What a great prayer to end a greatly blessed day. Much to say ... process ... share ... report: and too pounded to make ANY of those things happen.

So I'll let this great blog from Integrity's Caro Hall do the job for me ... and come back with more tomorrow from Atlanta.

My hat’s off to the SCLM who seem to have left no stone unturned. Commissioned by the last General Convention to collect and develop resources for the blessing of same-gender unions, they identified four areas that needed work; theological principles, liturgical resources, pastoral and education resources and finally legal and canonical aspects. Then they convened groups to work on each of the four areas and set about to use all the resources available to create the widest possible conversation.
Read the rest here ... and stay tuned for "Part Two" tomorrow.

And the arc continues to bend ...

This just in from ABC.News:
Support for Gay Marriage Reaches a Milestone
More Than Half of Americans Say Gay Marriage Should Be Legal

More than half of Americans say it should be legal for gays and lesbians to marry, a first in nearly a decade of polls by ABC News and The Washington Post.

This milestone result caps a dramatic, long-term shift in public attitudes. From a low of 32 percent in a 2004 survey of registered voters, support for gay marriage has grown to 53 percent today. Forty-four percent are opposed, down 18 points from that 2004 survey.
Interesting data to find in my "inbox" as we finish four final preparations here in Atlanta and gear up to to begin the Church-wide Cosultation on same-gender blessings. Stay tuned ... either to this blog or literally "tuned" to the live webscast coming from the Nat'l Church website.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bishop Robinson @ Vanderbilt

When Lambda's Jon Davidson and I were at Vanderbilt University last month, they were already anticipating the upcoming visit of the Bishop of New Hampshire. Delighted to read this report in the student newspaper:

Openly gay bishop talks big issues in the LGBT Movement

Speaking to the Vanderbilt community Monday night, The Right Reverend Gene Robinson Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire said life is getting better for the homosexual community, but there is still work to be done.

Robinson is best known for being the first openly gay priest to be ordained Bishop in a major Christian denomination when he was elected in 2003.

Hosted by the Vanderbilt Medical School Gay-Straight Alliance as part of their annual LGBTQI Health Week, Robinson spoke to a room of around 300 people in Langford Auditorium about the Church’s turbulent relationship with the LGBT community.

“I know the Church is responsible for most of the pain in the lives of gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, we just have to admit that, and at some point we will repent of it the way we repented of our support of slavery using the bible,” Robinson said.

“I think what you’re seeing is God at work liberating God’s people in this LGBT movement, and the Church scrambling to catch up, not fast enough in my humble opinion,” Robinson said.

Robinson said that in his opinion, the issue of homosexuality has been settled in the Episcopal Church, but he pointed to the Evangelical position against homosexuality as a deterrent for the younger generations.

“Most young people don’t want to belong to a Church that is condemning their gay and lesbian friends,” Robinson said.

During the question and answer session of the event, a self-identified Southern Baptist took issue with Robinson’s position on homosexuality and religion, citing verses in the bible that some interpret as condemning same-sex activity. Robinson responded by explaining his interpretation of scripture.

“The way I go about scripture is I have to ask ‘what was that context’ and ‘what did those words mean to the people who wrote them and the people who hear them’ before I can ask whether it has some binding authority on me,” Robinson said.

“I believe the bible to be the word of God, and not the words of God,” Robinson said. “I don’t believe God dictated those words, but I do believe the authors sat down to record as best they could and in an inspired way this dynamic relationship with the living God.”

Robinson also discussed same-sex marriage, citing the Obama administration’s decision to cease legal defense of the Defense of Marriage Act and the President’s changing attitude about same-sex marriage as turning points in the LGBT movement for equality.

The issue with marriage in general, according to Robinson, is the confusion between the secular and religious ceremony.

“It is very clear that marriage is a secular institution. The clergy is there to bless the union,” Robinson said. “If you get married without benefit of clergy, you’re still married.”

Recalling the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, Robinson Movement of the 1960s that changing the laws is important but not the endpoint of the LGBT movement.

“When we get all the laws around LGBT people in place, it won’t mean all of the hate will go away,” Robinson said. “So there is going to be plenty of work to be done.”
Speaking about the big picture, Robinson said that the most threatening part of the LGBT liberation is the threat is poses to traditional society.

“What I think this is really about, the big picture, is the beginning of the end of patriarchy,” Robinson said. “For a very long time, straight, white, educated, wealthy, western men have been making most of the decisions for most of the world, and that jig is up.”

What we're doing in Atlanta, what we're NOT doing in Atlanta and why I think it all matters

Due to the marvels of modern technology I'm blogging from somewhere between Burbank and DFW ... on my way to Atlanta for the two day "churchwide consultation" hosted by the SCLM (Standing Commission on Liturgy & Music) of the Episcopal Church.

Here's what we're going to do:

Our task will be to consult with representative deputies (two from each diocese; one lay/one clergy) on the resources we (the task forces charged with the task by the SCLM) have been gathering and developing in response to Resolution C056 ... passed in 2009 by General Convention and calling for "an open process for the consideration of theological and liturgical resources for the blessing of same gender relationships."

That work has been delegated to four different task groups:

● Theology
● Liturgy
● Teaching & Pastoral Care
● Canonical Implications

And in a VERY packed day-and-a-half we will meet in plenary sessions to hear updates on the process and context of the task groups and their work; break into small groups for conversation and feedback; and then charge the deputies to go back to their deputations and continue the conversation.

Here's what we're NOT going to do:

We're not going to debate whether or not we should be gathering these resources. That conversation already happened. In Anaheim.

And we're not going to debate how we should use the resources we've gathered. That conversation is yet to happen. In Indianapolis.

Why I think what we're doing matters

Whether or not to take the resources we've gathered and authorize their use for the blessing of same-gender relationships is an important step for the Episcopal Church. Obviously I think it's the right step to take and it's one I will be working hard to see that we take in Indianapolis. But as important as I think that is, what we're doing together in Atlanta is even more important.

Resolution C056 specifically asked that
"... the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consultation with the House of Bishops, devise an open process for the conduct of its work inviting participation from provinces, dioceses, congregations, and individuals who are engaged in such theological work, and inviting theological reflection from throughout the Anglican Communion"
... and this work we are doing together in Atlanta was described by my colleague Heidi Clark as "the holy privilege ... of being in this particular moment of the life of the church. listening deeply, and reflecting together on what the SCLM is developing to bring to the whole church."

Does everybody think that's the best idea they've ever heard of? A great way to spend the time of a couple of hundred deputies and other church leaders? Heck no.

One correspondent wrote that "there isn't a lot -- not a lot that's important anyway -- for the deputies to do." And yesterday I had a phone conversation with a diocesan colleague who declared the whole process a misguided effort to create second class liturgies for gay people -- and until we have marriage equality in the prayer book we're not "there."

My answer to the first was "I guess 'important' is in the eye of the beholder" ... and my answer to the second was ... "You're absolutely right ... and that's not the conversation C056 charged us to have."

I think ... I hope and I believe ... that what we're doing together in Atlanta both can and will be a new model for how the whole church comes together for consultation and reflection in an intentional way in preparation for the legislative work we do together when we gather for General Convention.

Make no mistake about it ... I consider the political work we will do in Indianapolis as holy as I do the consultative work we will do in Atlanta -- because I think it is all part of how we live out our call to continue to discern God's will and the Holy Spirit's direction in community. And I think we have a chance to break new ground in Atlanta by modeling a transparent collaborative process involving the whole church in creating these resources in response to the church's request for them via C056.

So prayers invited -- for good travel karma. For a productive time together. For ears to hear and hearts to listen not only to each other but to the One who calls us together to do this work. And most of all in thanksgiving for the love that calls us into community and into relationships -- and then sends us out into the world to love it as God loved it.

Film -- as they say! -- "at eleven!"

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

JESUS SAVES ... us from the blindness of literalism

It's my week to write for the All Saints "Lenten Toolkit" ... a series of reflections we write on the Lenten Lessons and offer to the congregation for reflection during this season of reflection. So I've been spending some time thinking about Nicodemus and thought I'd share here what I came up with for the "toolkit."

I'm still mulling the irony that the very pericope that includes the object lesson of Jesus "healing" Nicodemus of the blindness of literalism is one that ends up being used as a blunt instrument by the "Our Way Is The Only Way" crowd -- and as signs in the end zones at football games. Go figure! Here's the lesson for Sunday:

Lent II -- John (3:1–17)
A certain Pharisee named Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin, came to Jesus at night. “Rabbi,” he said, “we know you are a teacher come from God, for no one can perform the signs and wonders you do, unless by the power of God.” Jesus gave Nicodemus this answer: “The truth of the matter is, unless one is born from above, one cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said, “How can an adult be born a second time? I cannot go back into my mother’s womb to be born again!” Jesus replied: “The truth of the matter is, no one can enter God’s kingdom without being born of water and the Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh; what is born of the Spirit is Spirit. So do not be surprised when I tell you that you must be born from above. The wind blows where it will. You hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” “How can this be possible?” asked Nicodemus.

Jesus replied, “You are a teacher of Israel, and you still do not understand these matters? The truth of the matter is, we are talking about what we know; we are testifying about what we have seen – yet you do not accept our testimony. If you do not believe when I tell you about earthly things, how will you believe when I tell you about heavenly things? No one has gone up to heaven except the One who came down from heaven – the Chosen One. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so the Chosen One must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes might have eternal life. Yes, God so loved the world as to give the Only Begotten, that whoever believes may not die, but have eternal life. God sent the Chosen One into the world not to condemn the world, but that through the Only Begotten the world might be saved.
Nicodemus is one of my all time favorites. The story we have for the Gospel this second Sunday in Lent is a perfect example of someone of good faith with great intentions and a sincerely seeking heart utterly missing the point Jesus was trying to make by falling into the trap labeled “literalism.”

And even more than I love Nicodemus, I love how graciously and patiently Jesus works to move him beyond the limits of literalism that trap him into failing to see the wideness and abundance of God’s love, justice and compassion. Jesus does not give up on Nicodemus -- even after he asks one question after the other … even as he seems determined not to “get” that being born from above (other translations call it “born again”) has nothing to do with a physical birth but with a spiritual re-birth.

This conversation we have here in the third chapter of John can’t be the only one Jesus and Nicodemus had. The others aren’t preserved for us – by John or by anybody else. But there are two reasons I’m convinced that Nicodemus continued to learn from Jesus – and those two reasons are the two other places Nicodemus shows up in John’s gospel. We encounter him again in chapter seven during a debate between Pharisees and the temple guards about what to do about this radical rabbi from Nazareth:
Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?” They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.” Then they all went home.
So Nicodemus – a teacher and political leader – has gone from meeting with Jesus under the cover of darkness to standing up in the Sanhedrin (think Senate or House investigative hearing) to defend him.

But wait – there’s more! The third and last time we encounter Nicodemus is in the nineteenth chapter of John … just after the crucifixion:
Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen … and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
Quite a transformation! From missing entirely the point of the Good News Jesus had come to proclaim to standing up and speaking truth to power in his defense at the Sanhedrin to courageously seeing to it that Jesus was properly buried after all the disciples had fled in fear, terror and disappointment.

Nicodemus may not have grasped what Jesus meant by “born from above” when first they met but by the end of the story he is a living example of what that re-birth looks like: of someone who both stepped out and spoke up. He is an icon of transformation.

And it seemed to me – mulling this text this year – that the first step on that transformational journey for Nicodemus was moving beyond the limits of literalism and being open to what Jesus so patiently tried to teach him … and us … in this third chapter of John. “The wind blows where it will,” Jesus said. And that is as true for us as it was for Nicodemus, for that wind is still blowing. The wind of change. The wind of challenge. The wind of the Holy Spirit.
• Where are we being called – like Nicodemus was – to look beyond what we think we know in order to become what God would have us become?
• When have we – as individuals, as a church, as a community – been challenged to give up literalism in order to embrace new understandings?
• How can we – like Nicodemus – be “born from above” and empowered to speak truth to power in our own “Sanhedrins” as he did in his?
Holy God, heal us – as you healed your servant Nicodemus – of being so blinded by literal words on paper that we cannot see the Living Word in our world. And help us, we pray, to follow Nicodemus by boldly proclaiming your Good News to all as we speak truth to power and stand with the marginalized and oppressed. Amen.

Yes, the Anglican World (Still) Turns

It does seem to have been pretty quiet on the "Anglican Front" ... and that is (in my mind) a good thing. My hope is that the "lull" indicates that the various churches that make up the Communion are spending more time going about the business of being the Body of Christ in the world in their part of the world than they are worrying about how other churches are living out the Gospel in theirs. Meanwhile, we come together -- as we should -- through the "bonds of affection" that unite us as members of the same Anglican family when an earthquake strikes New Zealand or diaster strikes Japan. (And if you haven't yet donated to Episcopal Relief & Development you can do that here.)

There was one bit of Anglican news I thought worth passing on this morning ... and that's this bit from the letter the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Primates posted to the Anglican Communion Office website last week:
The recent Primates’ Meeting in Dublin did not set out to offer a solution to the ongoing challenges of mutual understanding and of the limits of our diversity in the Communion. But it is important to note carefully what it did set out to do and what it achieved. In recent years, many have appealed to the Primates to resolve the problems of the Communion by taking decisive action to enforce discipline on this or that Province. In approaching the Dublin Meeting, we believed that it was essential to clarify how the Primates themselves understood the nature of their office and authority.

It has always been clear that not all have the same view – not because of different theological convictions alone, but also because of the different legal and canonical roles they occupy as Primates. Some have a good deal of individual authority; others have their powers very closely limited by their own canons. It would therefore be difficult if the Meeting collectively gave powers to Primates that were greater than their own canons allowed them individually, as was noted at the 2008 Lambeth Conference (Lambeth Indaba 2008 #151).
You can read the rest here ... but I for one was gratified to see that there seems to be a genuine and articulated move away from attributing to the Primates more power than would be either wise or helpful. And now, back to your regularly scheduled Lent.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Report from the Inclusion Front: Santa Clarita CA

A couple of weeks ago there was an ordination at St. Stephen's in Santa Clarita and the church celebrated two brand new priests -- Sue Bek and Cynthia Jew. The local paper ran a nice feature piece entitled "Lifelong callings finally realized" on February 26 with some great pictures as part of the celebration.
One reader took exception to the feature and the paper ran his comments ("St. Stephen's wrong to ordain gay priest") on March 6. I understand from folks in the community that he's also taken to protesting outside the church.
So here's the op-ed response in Sunday's "Santa Clarita Valley Signal" by Santa Clarita rector Lynn Jay:

‘There will be no outcasts in this church’
Rev. Canon Lynn Jay, rector
St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church
March 13, 2011

The words that follow are from a prayer that is always used at ordinations in the Episcopal Church:
“Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord...”
I would like Mr. Miano (“St. Stephen’s wrong to ordain openly gay priest,” March 6) to know that St. Stephen’s, a congregation of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, is proud to convey to the world the inclusive love of Jesus — “that things which were cast down are being raised up” — women, people of color, the poor, the homeless, as well as gay and lesbian people.

And things that have grown old are being made new — not an old wrathful God who desires the death of sinners, but the new incarnate son of God, Jesus, who comes that all may be freed and made whole.

A former presiding bishop of the church said, “I think the Church has a role in being both prophetic in holding up issues, and using all its influences to try to bring about better conditions for the poor, the hungry, both in this country, as well as in the global village. There will be no outcasts in the church.”

The overwhelming power of God: father, son and holy spirit are evident in the all encompassing love at St. Stephen’s. There will be no outcasts in this church.


1 - Let the people say "AMEN!"
2 - Let the people send Letters to the Editor and/or add some comments to the online feature in support of St. Stephen's.
3 - Let the people take a minute to click here and send an email of thanks to Lynn+ for her powerful witness to God's inclusive love!

PS -- Here's the comment I posted on the Santa Clarita Valley Signal website:
"This piece by Reverend Jay AND the comments that follow should, in my opinion, be required reading in American Government classes to impress upon students the importance of our First Amendment. Mr. Miano's right to read the Bi...ble and come to whatever conclusion he chooses to about who should or should not be ordained is protected -- just as Reverend Jay's congregation & denomination's right to read the same Bible and come to different conclusions is equally protected. And equally protected is their right to express those opinions. God bless America!

AND God bless St. Stephen's, the Episcopal Church and all who work to proclaim the Good News of God's inclusive love. Reverend Jay's witness to love, justice and compassion is exactly the antidote we need to those who preach the kind of exclusion, judgment and condemnation that has convinced so many people they already know enough about being a Christian not to want to be one. Keep up the good work, St. Stephen's. You Rock!"

Monday, March 14, 2011

I'm giving up literalists for Lent

I'm behind on a number of things this year ... haven't gotten my tax stuff together yet, haven't filled out all the paperwork for the CREDO conference I'm going to in May and -- until today -- I hadn't decided what to give up for Lent.

But now I can cross one thing off the list. And it's not the taxes.

I'm giving up literalists for Lent.

Not forever. Just for Lent.

"Not forever" because I think I really AM called to engage in dialogue with those who disagree about the full inclusion of all the baptized in the Body of Christ in the Church and with those who think LGBT Americans should be second class citizens. It's part of my vocation that's both a challenge and an opportunity and I am not going to step away from that part of what I do for good.

But I am going to focus this Lent on those who are coming toward the church -- toward Jesus -- toward the Good News of God's inclusive love. I want to free up the time I spend debating & dialoguing with the "The Bible said it; I believe it; That Settles it" crowd and use it to reach out to the "I think I know enough about being a Christian not to want to be one" crowd.

I want to follow up with the literally dozens of folks who approached me Saturday night after the HRC awards dinner with moving stories, tears in their eyes, business cards in their hands and hope in their voice.

  • "I used to be a Catholic ... I miss the church, but ..."

  • "I'm not religious anymore but if I was I'd come to your church."

  • "What times are your services? You're in Pasadena, right?"

  • "You probably don't remember me but my kids were at St. Peter's when you were the chaplain there and I'm here as a straight ally. My son came out a few years ago and when he heard that Chaplain Susan was getting an award he said I had to be sure and come find you and thank you."

  • "Do you have any idea how different my life would have been growing up if you had been my priest? Thank you!"

  • "Do you have a card? Can I email you?"
So these are the folks who are getting my attention for what's left of the 40 days of Lent. This is the "market share" for the Good News who deserve a chance to hear that there is a place for them ... a church for them ... a God who loves them and a community that will support them in their life and journey of faith. The rest of ya'll can hash it out if you want to about who's right about what the Bible says ... or means ... or intends. In fact, let me file a few of my answers "by title" and let them stand until Easter:

  • I really do hear that you believe the Bible condemns homosexuality. I do. And I read the same Bible and come to a different conclusion. Get over it.

  • No. No I'm not worried about the Lake of Fire. And yes, actually, I sleep just fine at night.

  • At the end of the day, I'm quite convinced how we treated each other in the process of disagreement is going count more toward the "final grade" than who won the argument.

  • And speaking of arguments, repeating the same one over and over ... louder and louder ... is the "Ugly Christian" version of the "Ugly American" strategy of just speaking English louder to folks who speak other languages. Doesn't work in Milan and not going to work here.
So onward to Easter. (And our services are at 7:30, 9:00, 11:15 & 1pm every Sunday ... just in case you want to stop by! :)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

HRC Equality Awards

Saturday night was "No Excuses" night here in L.A. as local equality activists gathered to support the work of HRC (Human Rights Campaign) at the annual L.A. HRC Dinner.

I was "honored to be honored" by HRC with a Community Equality Award -- along with my great friend Rabbi Denise Eger. [This is us with HRC President Joe Salmonese.]

I'll have more to say about this all later ... but for the moment, here are a few pictures from the evening and the text of my "thanks so much" remarks. There may be miles to go before we rest in the struggle for equality for LGBT Americans but there is no question we are further along that road than we would be without the tireless efforts of HRC. I'm proud to be a small part of that work as a member of the HRC Religion Council and look forward to the work we will do together moving ahead!

Thank you – and what an honor it is to receive this Equality Award from the Human Rights Campaign this evening! It is an honor made even greater by getting to stand here with Rabbi Denise Eger … who has been a friend, a mentor and a sister in the struggle.

I am so delighted that we share not only this moment of celebration of what has been accomplished but a commitment to the work that lies ahead. And before I thank anybody else, I want to thank my fearless, faithful, fabulous wife Louise … who teaches me every day the meaning of both unconditional love and how to stay on message.

I am also so deeply grateful for the unfailing support of my rector, Ed Bacon, my clergy, staff and parish colleagues. Time does not permit a longer list than that, but you must know that I stand here tonight on the shoulders of countless numbers who have worked for decades in the Episcopal Church to plant the fragile seeds of inclusion while tirelessly pulling the stubborn weeds of racism, sexism and homophobia.

God is not finished with the Episcopal Church yet, but a sign of how much has been accomplished is the presence this evening of Bishop Mary Glasspool – who is not … in spite of any rumors you may have heard … the second gay bishop in the Episcopal Church. She is actually the second one to tell the truth about being gay and still get elected – and I hope you will join me in thanking her for both her honesty and her courage!

“Set audacious goals and celebrate incremental victories” was the advice I heard years ago from an activist priest and tonight we are doing both. We are celebrating the victories of hate crime legislation passed and DADT repealed – even as we work toward the audacious goals of marriage equality, an inclusive ENDA and Just Immigration Reform … as we claim the promise that the arc of history DOES bend toward justice … that there’s no * after the “all” in liberty and justice for all that says “*unless you’re gay or lesbian/bisexual or transgender.”

The partnership between the Human Rights Campaign and faith leaders committed to LGBT justice is – dare I say it … (and if I can’t then who can?) … A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN. Because what the Human Rights Campaign figured out is that the best antidote to the venom of the Religious Right is a mobilized, messaged Religious Left.

And the work and witness of the HRC Religion Council – begun by Harry Knox and continuing under the inspired leadership of Dr. Sharon Groves – has not only mobilized and messaged us … your generous financial support has given us a bigger microphone for our message. And our message is this:

• God doesn’t discriminate against LGBT people and our government shouldn’t either.
• Freedom of religion includes freedom from religion and nobody has the right to write their theology into our Constitution.
• And when we preach about Protecting Family Values we preach about Values that Protect ALL Families.

I believe what Jesus taught me: that the truth will set you free.

And I believe what Janis taught me: that freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.

So tonight I believe we have nothing to lose as we recommit ourselves to the audacious goal of becoming a nation where liberty and justice for all truly means ALL – as we reconfirm the truth we hold self-evident that all people ARE created equal.

Your continued support of the Human Rights Campaign will help us all achieve that goal as partners in the work of bending that arc of history toward LGBT justice once and for all. Thank you again so very much! God bless! Shanti. Salaam. Shalom.

Friday, March 11, 2011

It was a fair question:

The other day I posted a piece I called "For the 'But the Bible Says Bunch" ... comments and links to the CNN blog by American Baptist biblical scholar Jennifer Wright Knust presenting an inclusive biblical apologetic for LGBT inclusion. (If you missed it, you can catch up here.)

It was this comment that posed the "fair question" I'm wriging about today:
Did you read Robert Gagnon's response?
Robert Gagnon is a conservative biblical scholar who wrote a response to Knust entitled "The Bible really does condemn homosexuality." My quick answer to "did you read it" was "Of course."

And ... on reflection ... I decided that fair question deserved a longer answer ... the one I posted on the CNN blog as a comment. Which was:

Gagnon falls into the rhetorical trap frequently deployed by those who presume to have the power to set the context for the dialogue with his "serious" question:

"... does the Left read significant works that disagree with pro-gay interpretations of Scripture and choose to simply ignore them?"

He leaves out a critical third option: We read your works and disagree with their conclusions. Not because we don't understand your brilliant exegesis. Not because we are so blinded by our "pro-gay" agenda that we fail to see the "Absolute Truth" of your arguments.

We've read them. Marked them, inwardly digested them ... and disagreed with them.

And if you'd like to have THAT conversation, you know where to find us.

And around and around it goes!

Mazel tov Morristown!

From my email inbox the morning: the good news for Church of the Redeemer and good news for the whole church in the call of the fearless, fabulous, faithful Cynthia Black as rector! Mazel tovs for everybody!

Church of the Redeemer Morristown calls new rector

Morristown, NJ – March 9, 2011 – Church of the Redeemer (Episcopal) in Morristown has called the Rev. Cynthia Black, D.D. to serve as the sixteenth rector of the parish. The Rev. Black succeeds the Rev. Phillip Dana Wilson who served as the rector from 1987 - 2009. She will assume her role as rector at Redeemer in June 2011.

Church of the Redeemer Morristown is a parish recognized for its strong social justice message and community involvement in Morristown and beyond. Check out our website and click on the box 'Our New Rector' to describe our search process and the Rev. Cynthia Black.

Since September 2010, the Rev. Lisa Green has served the Church of the Redeemer as interim rector. Green has made encouraging progress in reaching out to Morristown area churches to engage other denominational leaders in dialogue, and some joint collaborative worship ventures, particularly with Bethel A.M.E. Church, Morristown. She will continue as our interim rector through May 2011.

Joanna Dewey, church warden responsible for transitional management, comments: "We have been fortunate to be the beneficiaries of the Rev. Lisa Green's calm presence, loving pastoral care, and leadership initiatives, including her outreach to several local nonprofit agencies and local church leaders. We have been blessed by her as she effectively sets the stage for continued church growth and vision under the future leadership of the Rev. Cynthia Black. This is an exciting time in the history of Church of the Redeemer, and we look forward with anticipation to the months ahead."

For questions, contact
Joanna Dewey, Warden
Church of the Redeemer
36 South Street, Morristown, NJ 07960
Phone: 973-539-0703

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Wisconsin Republicans Give Up Integrity For Lent

While the rest of us were getting ashes on our foreheads and making lists of what to give up for Lent, the Wisconsin state Senate on Wednesday night passed (with no debate) a new, stripped-down "budget repair bill" -- which now excludes all the fiscal elements of the original budget repair bill, and simply includes the original's provisions to roll back collective bargaining rights.

Sen. Mark Miller (D) summed it up with this: "In thirty minutes, 18 State Senators undid fifty years of civil rights in Wisconsin."

From the CNN report:
Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the state AFL-CIO, said Wednesday night's maneuver "shows that Scott Walker and the Republicans have been lying throughout this entire process."

"None of the provisions that attacked workers' rights had anything to do with the budget," Neuenfeldt said. "Losing badly in the court of public opinion and failing to break the Democratic senators' principled stand, Scott Walker and the GOP have eviscerated both the letter and the spirit of the law and our democratic process to ram through their payback to their deep-pocketed friends."

The vote in the Senate was 18-1, with Republican state Sen. Dale Schultz -- who earlier had floated a compromise that neither side bought into -- the lone opponent. Outside, state Rep. Peter Barca argued that Republican leaders violated state open meetings laws by calling the chamber into session without proper notice -- a move he called "a naked abuse of power."

"The gig is now up. The fraud on the people of Wisconsin is now very clear. They are now going to pass a bill to take away people's rights," Barca, a Democrat, said.

And Sen. Mark Miller, the Democratic Senate leader, said Republicans "conspired to take government away from the people."
My, my, my!

"Why Bother?" -- A Sermon for Ash Wednesday

"We follow Jesus not in HOPE that he’s our ticket into heaven but in RESPONSE to the promise he incarnates that nothing – even death – can separate us from the love of God."

March 9, 2011

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

On this Ash Wednesday, as the liturgical season shifts from Epiphany to Lent, we are called to make a shift, too. Our focus shifts, as it does every year at this time, from stories about the outward manifestations of God's presence among us to a more interior place as we journey with Jesus on the road we know leads to Golgotha – to the cross – and ultimately, to the resurrection.

And so, on this Ash Wednesday, here is my annual advice for the journey ahead: Do not give up epiphanies for Lent!

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

Called to do justice. During Lent? Really???? Yes. Really. And it’s not something Ed Bacon came up during a glory attack or an idea that’s exclusive to All Saints Church. It’s a call that was issued by Isaiah and incarnated by Jesus. It’s as old as the prophets and as urgent as this morning’s news … it’s a call to fast for justice:
Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly
The fast Isaiah calls us to isn’t about giving up Twitter or Starbucks or Girl Scout cookies for Lent … it’s about getting ANYTHING out of the way that gets in the way of our being aligned with God’s love, justice and compassion ... as we journey into these 40 days of Lent and beyond. It’s why we bother – not just with this service and these ashes this season of Lent. It’s why we bother to follow Jesus.

Let’s face it … you could all be doing something else with this hour at noontime … Eating lunch. Picking up dry cleaning. Going to the gym. Playing Farmville on Facebook. But you’re here. In this church. In this moment. Remembering that you are dust and to dust you shall return. Why bother?

It’s a bit like a question I got on my blog this week in response to Sunday’s sermon:

So if we're all going to heaven anyway, what's the point of going to Mass or even bothering to have a relationship with Christ and following any commandments at all? Why bother?

It’s a classic question and one I’ve had on my heart getting ready for today. What is the answer we give to those who wonder why we’re here … who wonder why we bother. Lots of people don’t. Bother. With Lent. There’ll be a lot more people here on Easter Sunday than there are today. And there are even more who have dismissed the “whole Christian thing” because it was reduced for them to “follow these rules and you’ll get into heaven” – and condemns to “the Lake of Fire” anybody who doesn’t. Follow the rules. The way you do.

Why bother? Here’s my short answer:

We bother because we gather here today not to try to earn God’s love by following rules but to give thanks for God’s love that transcends all boundaries. We bother because we follow Jesus not in HOPE that he’s our ticket into heaven but in RESPONSE to the promise he incarnates that nothing – even death – can separate us from the love of God. And freed from that fear of death we are free to live life abundantly … and to risk journeying into the wildernesses that cry out for the love, justice and compassion that God calls us to live out in the world.

We bother because there are many “wildernesses” into which we are called this Lent 201l: If we are to be a people who have bread to share with the hungry we must challenge those who would balance our budgets on the backs of the least of these.

We bother because we serve the God whose fast is “to let the oppressed go free” – and so we continue to speak out about protecting family values that value ALL families.

We bother because in order to choose the fast Isaiah offers us this Lent we must continue to undo the thongs of the yokes of racism AND sexism that continue to keep this country and this church from being all that God would have them be.

We bother because living up to our baptismal covenant calls us to advocate for just immigration policies that will truly respect the dignity of every human being.

We bother because today we choose again to follow the one who calls us to journey with Him into those wildernesses -- bearing the Good News of a God who loved us enough to become one of us in order to show us how to love one another.

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

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

For the "But the Bible Says" Bunch:

It is disturbing to hear some Christian leaders today claim that they have no choice but to regard homosexuality as a sin. They do have a choice and should be held accountable for the ones they are making.
This one's been up on the CNN religion blog for awhile ... a month, anyway ... but I just saw it today because Kendall Harmon linked it up from Titusonenine. (Thanks, Kendall.) ANYWAY ... I thought it was a great, concise summary of what the Bible actually says -- and doesn't say -- about sexuality. And it was written by a Baptist. Woman. Bibical Scholar.

Check it out:

The Bible's surprisingly mixed message on sexuality
by Jennifer Wright Knust

We often hears that Christians have no choice but to regard homosexuality as a sin - that Scripture simply demands it. As a Bible scholar and pastor myself, I say that Scripture does no such thing.

"I love gay people, but the Bible forces me to condemn them" is a poor excuse that attempts to avoid accountability by wrapping a very particular and narrow interpretation of a few biblical passages in a cloak of divinely inspired respectability.

Truth is, Scripture can be interpreted in any number of ways. And biblical writers held a much more complicated view of human sexuality than contemporary debates have acknowledged.

Read the rest here.

Churchwide Consultation To Be Webcast

Delighted to receive this update from the Office of Public Affairs that the plenary sessions from our upcoming Churchwide Consultation on the SCLM process implementing resolution C056's call for the collection and development of resources for the blessing of same-gender realtionships will be webcast.

The resolution specifically charged us -- the church -- to develop "an open process for the consideration of theological and liturgical resources for the blessing of same gender relationships" ... and making that open process even MORE "open" by inviting anybody who wants to to tune in is a great step forward AND a great blessing to the work. So check it out ... here's the update from 815. And tune in next week if you can ... when we'll be "Live from Atlanta!"

The Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs:

Office of Communication to live webcast churchwide consultation
of Episcopal Church Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music

March 18, 19 in Atlanta, Georgia

[March 8, 2011] The Episcopal Church Office of Communication will live webcast all the plenary sessions of the March 18 and 19 churchwide consultation by the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM).

The two-day consultation will center on the 2009 General Convention Resolution C056 to collect and develop theological and liturgical resources for same-gender blessings. The plenary sessions will provide information about the work the SCLM and its task groups have accomplished to date in developing these resources.

The live webcast will be available

Participating will be nearly 200 clergy and lay deputies from almost 100 dioceses of the Episcopal Church.

Webcast schedule
Plenary sessions are scheduled:

Friday, March 18: 2 pm to 3 pm Eastern and 4:45 pm to 6 pm Eastern (1 pm to 2 pm Central and 3:45 pm to 5 pm Central; noon to 1 pm Mountain and 2:45 pm to 4 pm Mountain; 11 am to noon Pacific and 1:45 pm to 3 pm Pacific)

Saturday, March 19: 8:30 am to 9:30 am Eastern and 11 am to noon Eastern (7:30 am to 8:30 am Central and 10 am to 11 am Central; 6:30 am to 7:30 am Mountain and 9 am to 10 am Mountain; 5:30 am to 6:30 am Pacific and 8 am to 9 am Pacific)

In addition, the media conference slated for 2 pm to 2:30 pm Eastern will be live webcast. (1 pm to 1:30 pm Central; noon to 12:30 pm Mountain; 11 am to 11:30 am Pacific)

The event will be held at the Atlanta Hilton Airport (Diocese of Atlanta).

The Episcopal Church welcomes all who worship Jesus Christ in 109 dioceses and three regional areas in 16 nations. The Episcopal Church is a member province of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Episcopal Church Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music:

General Convention Resolution C056:

Atlanta Hilton Airport:

The Episcopal Church:

# # # #

NOTE TO MEDIA: Media are invited to all plenary sessions; small group or private sessions are closed to the media. There will be a media conference with phone accessibility on Saturday, March 19 from 2 pm to 2:30 pm Eastern (1 pm to 1:30 pm Central; noon to 12:30 pm Mountain; 11 am to 11:30 am Pacific). Expected to participate are Meyers, House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson, and Bishop of Vermont Thomas Ely, a SCLM member. Advance media credentials are required. Media representatives should contact Neva Rae Fox, Episcopal Church Public Affairs Officer, at

For more info contact:
Neva Rae Fox
Public Affairs Officer
The Episcopal Church
212-716-6080 Mobile: 917-478-5659

HRC Has Some Great Questions For Speaker Boehner About DOMA

From the HRC Backstory, a number of important questions remain unanswered by House Republican Leaders regarding their announced intention to "defend DOMA:"

1. There are as many as nine lawsuits in federal court challenging the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA. Will House Republicans intervene in all of these lawsuits?

2. Who will represent House Republicans in court? Will the House hire outside private counsel to defend the cases? If pro-bono legal counsel will be asked to represent the House, who will that be? Will a conflict and ethics check be conducted? Will the BLAG be consulted on strategic decisions related to the litigation?

3. How much taxpayer money will this all cost?

4. What will the House argue in defending DOMA? Will they go back to Congress’s 1996 arguments for passing the law – that it is necessary because marriage equality is “a radical, untested and inherently flawed social experiment” and contrary to the “moral conviction that heterosexuality better comports with traditional (especially Judeo-Christian) morality”?

5. The Justice Department stopped defending DOMA because they concluded that laws that discriminate based on sexual orientation should receive a higher level of scrutiny by courts. Will the House Republican leaders disagree? If so, will they argue that gays and lesbians have not suffered a long history of discrimination? That sexual orientation is somehow relevant to an individual’s ability to contribute to society, when they have four openly-gay colleagues? That gays and lesbians can change their sexual orientation, a position at odds with every major psychological organization? That gays and lesbians are politically powerful, ironically in defending a law passed by Congress specifically to disadvantage them?

6. Do they think they’ll win, especially given that in two DOMA-related cases in Massachusetts, a federal judge appointed by President Nixon has already found Section 3 of DOMA to be unconstitutional even under the lowest level of scrutiny that gives great deference to the legislature?

7. Apart from these cases, will Republican House leadership do anything to address the inequalities that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people face?

Monday, March 07, 2011

It's the Evangelicals vs. Jesus

Here's a good one from The Hufifngton Post:
It is perhaps one of the strangest, most dumb-founding ironies in contemporary American culture. Evangelical Christians, who most fiercely proclaim to have a personal relationship with Christ, who most confidently declare their belief that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, who go to church on a regular basis, pray daily, listen to Christian music, and place God and His Only Begotten Son at the center of their lives, are simultaneously the very people most likely to reject his teachings and despise his radical message.
Yep. The Huffington Post. (Thanks to Peter C for the link on this one.) Here's some more:
Jesus unambiguously preached mercy and forgiveness. These are supposed to be cardinal virtues of the Christian faith. And yet Evangelicals are the most supportive of the death penalty, draconian sentencing, punitive punishment over rehabilitation, and the governmental use of torture.

Jesus exhorted humans to be loving, peaceful, and non-violent. And yet Evangelicals are the group of Americans most supportive of easy-access weaponry, little-to-no regulation of handgun and semi-automatic gun ownership, not to mention the violent military invasion of various countries around the world.

Jesus was very clear that the pursuit of wealth was inimical to the Kingdom of God, that the rich are to be condemned, and that to be a follower of Him means to give one's money to the poor. And yet Evangelicals are the most supportive of corporate greed and capitalistic excess, and they are the most opposed to institutional help for the nation's poor -- especially poor children.

They hate anything that smacks of "socialism," even though that is essentially what their Savior preached. They despise food stamp programs, subsidies for schools, hospitals, job training -- anything that might dare to help out those in need. Even though helping out those in need was exactly what Jesus urged humans to do.

In short, Evangelicals are that segment of America which is the most pro-militaristic, pro-gun, and pro-corporate, while simultaneously claiming to be most ardent lovers of the Prince of Peace.

What's the deal? (queried article author Phil Zuckerman)
Anybody??? Thoughts? Opinions? Reactions? What IS the deal? While you're thinking, here's Dr. Zuckerman's conclusion:
Of course, conservative Americans have every right to support corporate greed, militarism, gun possession, and the death penalty, and to oppose welfare, food stamps, health care for those in need, etc. -- it is just strange and contradictory when they claim these positions as somehow "Christian." They aren't.

The New York Times Weighs In on Prop 8

Too Long to Wait
Published: March 7, 2011

Seven months have passed since Proposition 8, California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages, was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge in San Francisco following a much-publicized trial that turned up no evidence to justify the measure’s denial of equal protection and due process.

Yet the 2008 initiative continues to inflict serious harm on same-sex couples and their families thanks to a court order that prevents gay men and lesbians from marrying in California while the case is being appealed. That stay should be lifted now.

The appeal was argued in December before a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. It could be many more months before the panel rules. In February, it asked the California Supreme Court to resolve a procedural question regarding the standing of the initiative’s sponsor to bring the appeal. The state’s top court has said it will not even hold a hearing on the issue until September, at the earliest.

In legal papers filed last week, lawyers challenging Proposition 8 took note of the “serious, lasting, and irreparable damage to gay men and lesbians who wish to marry” caused by this extended timetable and called on the federal court to lift its injunction.

The stay should never have been granted in the first place. Applying traditional legal criteria, the extraordinary relief of a stay is only warranted when the applicant makes a strong showing of likely success on the merits and of irreparable injury in the absence of a stay — two arguments that cannot be satisfied here.

As the trial judge’s ruling affirmed, the denial of marriage equality furthers no legitimate governmental aim. And defenders of Proposition 8 can point to no real injury they would suffer if gay men and lesbians are permitted to wed.

Every day same-sex couples are denied their right to marry is another day of injustice for them and their families. Couples who wish to wed knowing that the appellate court could decide to uphold Proposition 8’s ban should be allowed to take that chance.