Saturday, April 30, 2011

News from the Diocese of San Joaquin

[received via email]


Since its reorganization in March 2008, the Diocese of San Joaquin has made incredible progress in recognizing a basic truth expressed in 1976 in Resolution A069 of the 65th General Convention, which stated in part, “That it is the sense of this General Convention that homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church.”

Since that time the Church has continued to examine what that full and equal claim means. In 2009, the 76th General Convention passed Resolution C056, which directed the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to “collect and develop theological and liturgical resources” as they relate to the blessing of same gender relationships. That task is in progress and the results are to be reported to the 77th General Convention in 2012.

In the interim, Resolution C056 stated that, “bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church.” With respect to the nature of the relationships being considered, they are described in Resolution D025, a related resolution as, “lifelong committed relationships ‘characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God’ (2000-D039).”

In 2009, at its Annual Convention, the Diocese of San Joaquin adopted a resolution supporting C056. Further, following the Annual Convention in 2010, the Commission on Equality, along with Bishop Lamb, hosted a forum on the issue of blessing same gender unions. The forum was well attended and the sense of the forum was that the Diocese is ready to take the next step in full inclusion and support the blessing of these unions.

California currently finds itself in an odd position regarding same gender marriage and unions in that for a short time in 2008, same gender marriages were lawful. The passage of Proposition 8 in November 2008 added a provision to the California Constitution which limited marriages to the union of a man and a woman. This was swiftly challenged. The California Supreme Court, in the case Strauss v. Horton, ruled that Proposition 8 was valid, but would not apply to those same gender couples who were lawfully married prior to the November 2008 general election. This constitutes approximately 18,000 couples whose marriages are legally recognized despite Proposition 8.

California also permits the formation of Domestic Partnerships under state law for same gender couples as well as opposite sex couples if one or both of the persons is 62 years of age or older. These Domestic Partnerships confer upon the couple all of the rights and responsibilities which pertain to marriage under California law.

We must also recognize that there are same gender couples in relationships which reflect the characteristics set forth above who have not entered in Domestic Partnerships, perceiving them to be inferior to marriage, and who, for various reasons, did not or could not marry during the brief time when same gender marriages were legal.

Couples in such relationships are part of the Diocese of San Joaquin. They are in our congregations and in positions of leadership. They are our friends, neighbors, and brothers and sisters in Christ. It is now time, to the extent permitted by California law and the Canons of The Episcopal Church, to extend to these couples the “generous pastoral response” necessary to meet their needs as members of this Church.

Effective on Pentecost, June 12, 2011, clergy in the Diocese of San Joaquin may perform blessings of same gender civil marriages, domestic partnerships, and relationships which are lifelong committed relationships characterized by “fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God.” Said relationships shall be called “Sacred Unions” for purposes of the blessing and recognition of these relationships. A liturgy authorized for use within the Diocese will be published separately.

It must also be recognized that the Canons of the Church currently limit marriages to opposite sex couples , as does California law. Accordingly, until such time as both the Canons and state law permit the solemnization of the marriage of a same gender couple, and specific authorization of the bishop is given, no priest of this Diocese shall attempt to solemnize a marriage between two persons of the same gender.

It is to be understood that no clergy will be required to perform these blessings in contravention of his or her beliefs and conscience. However, prior to June 12, 2011, all clergy are encouraged to engage in open discussion of this matter with members of their congregations, particularly those who are members of Vestries or Bishop’s Committees.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Defending the Sanctity of Marriage Since 1973

Yes, this is me. It wasn't a "Royal Wedding" -- it was the 1973 of my elementary school friend Catherine Cutter to her own Prince Charming, Joe Higgins -- and I got to be one of the bridesmaids. And don't I look fine in my pink taffeta bridesmaid dress! (And no, it was not Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen.)

There have been a lot of weddings under the bridge since I posed beside Cathy & Joe's wedding cake in the Arcadia living room at the reception following the Lutheran liturgy where they promised to to love, honor and cherish each other until death did they part.

But what I thought about today ... tonight ... as I continued to reflect on the event that kept me up most of last night were the similarities between what the world watched Catherine and William do in Westminster Abbey and what happens every time a couple step out and make take the amazing risk of promising to love, honor and cherish each other until death do they part.
(And yes ... I stayed up and watched nearly all of it. I'll admit to fading as the liturgy finished and dozing off -- figuring I could catch the balcony kiss and the fashion post-mortem later ... which I did. But here on the "left coast" the festivities started at 1:00 a.m. ... so there wasn't much point in "waking up" for the wedding ... we just "stayed up" for it.

I loved the clothes, the hats and the pageantry. I loved the Rutter anthem and the cartwheeling verger. I loved seeing Camilla curtsy to the Queen, that Harry couldn't resist making side comments during the service and that the tiny bridesmaids couldn't sit still. I loved the tolling bells and the gathered crowds and event that Rowan Williams seemed to be enjoying himself -- bless his heart.)
But at the end of the day it wasn't about any of those things. It was about two people who found each other. Loved each other. Claimed each other. And who want to profess that love and claim publicly and to invite their community and their God into their relationship ... to support and to bless them in their life and commitment to each other -- to protect the sanctity of their marriage.

You can download the whole wedding liturgy here ... but I loved that in addition to all the lofty prayerbook language, William and Catherine wrote their own prayer to be included in that liturgy:
God our Father, we thank you for our families; for the love that we share and for the joy of our marriage.

In the busyness of each day keep our eyes fixed on what is real and important in life and help us to be generous with our time and love and energy.

Strengthened by our union help us to serve and comfort those who suffer. We ask this in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Amen.
I loved that as I listened to the vows they made ... to the promises they promised ... to the liturgy that unfolded ... there was a deep sense that this wasn't just a "royal" wedding ... this was a "real" wedding: the coming together of two people with same hopes, dreams and expectations that every wedding I've ever been part of -- from the 1973 pink taffeta one to the one we're preparing for this Memorial Day weekend at Sewanee and every one in-between.

What I'm thinking about tonight is about all that is sacred about those promises. About those hopes. About those dreams. And about how that sacredness -- that sanctity -- deserves our best and our most determined efforts to protect it. And I'm thinking about "weddings I have known" -- Cathy & Joe in 1973 and Michael & John Clinton in 2004. Anne & Stuart in 2006 and Bear & Susan in 2008. Mel & Gary. Brian & Fernanda. Gene & Mark. Emily & Louis. Joshua & Henry.

What I'm thinking about tonight is the sanctity of marriage that transcends the orientation or the gender of the couple making the promises to love, honor and cherish each other ... and of what a privilege it is to be part of a Protect Marriage movement committed to protecting ALL marriages and to preaching Family Values that value ALL families.

So God bless Will & Kate as they begin this next part of their life together. May they live long and prosper. May what God has joined together no one put asunder. And may we live long enough to see all marriages equally celebrated and protected.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

While the eyes of the world are on "The Royal Wedding" ...

... let's not forget that there are LEGALLY MARRIED COUPLES here in the United States who are NOT "living happily ever after" because of state sponsored discrimination called "DOMA." If we're going to "protect marriage," let's protect ALL marriages.

If we're going to preach Family Values let's value ALL famiies.

And let's support Rep. Rush Holt's appeal to the White House to stop the deportation of same-sex spouses! (And keep Joshua and Henry in your prayers!)

How come there was no "birther" movement over THIS one?????

This was a comment by "dr primrose" on an earlier post ... and I deemed it too good to be buried in comment-land. Facinating facts, good question and sad commentary!

Let's compare the controversy over Obama's birth with that over Obama's opponent in the 2008 election, John McCain.

McCain said he was born in the U.S. Canal Zone although no records have been found supporting his birth there. McCain did have a birth certicate and there was a story in a local newspaper announcing his birth.

Because the U.S. Canal Zone was then a U.S. territory, not a U.S. state, there was in fact a bona fide dispute as to whether McCain was a "natural born citizen" of the U.S., a requirement to become the U.S. president.

Before the 2008 election two leading attorneys, one Democratic and the other Republican, concluded that McCain met the constitutional requirement. The United States Senate unanimously passed a resolution finding that McCain was a "natural born citizen."

You can read all the details in this Washington Post article -- McCain's Birth Abroad Stirs Legal Debate: His Eligibility for Presidency Is Questioned.

While this legal support would have had no binding affect on any court, the issue seemed to have completely dropped away six months before the election.

Compare this to Obama. There's been no evidence whatsoever that he was born anywhere else other than Hawaii. The state has made public the "short form" birth certificate -- which is valid for all legal purposes -- for years. And there was even a newspaper story of his birth in the Honolulu newspaper. And despite all the evidence supporting one side, this issue has not dropped away like it did for McCain. And you have one presidential candidate beating on the birther drum and the Speaker of the House saying the issue was beyond his pay grade (even though the Senate unanimously supported McCain on this issue),

So what's the difference between the treatment of McCain and Obama? Politics, yes, of course. But racism appears to be a pretty good answer, too.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Song of the Day

This one's for you, President "Born in the USA" Obama.

Now ... for the record: Obama was really born in the Hawaii. JFK is really dead. And the Moonwalk really happened. Everybody back under their rocks and let the rest of us get back to work on liberty and justice for all.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Think the Crazy Christians Can't Get Any Crazier? THINK AGAIN!

NEWS FLASH FROM WING NUT LAND: Abortions are the result of Lesbian Womb Envy

h/t to for this one ... an excerpt from The 700 Club where Pat Robertson and his gal pal Terry Meeuwsen are discussing Planned Parenthood. Let's listen in, shall we? (And no, you really couldn't make this stuff up)
Pat Robertson: The far-left is livid about killing babies. They want to kill do this, they want to destroy ... If a woman is a lesbian, what advantage does she have over a married woman? Or what deficiency does she have?

Meeuwsen: Well she can’t have children

Robertson: That’s exactly right. And so if these married women don’t have children, if they abort their babies, then that kind of puts them on a level playing field. And you say, nobody’s there to express that? Isn’t that shocking, well think about it a little bit ladies and gentlemen.
And there you have it! I'm not sure what it is you HAVE ... the words "paranoid poppycock" somehow come unbidden to my mind. (you can watch it yourself on YouTube) But remember this, boys and girls, the next time someone suggests these are folks we can reason with.


Hail Thee, Festival Day(s)!

It's been a blessedly restful Easter Monday ... and with my feet up watching the Dodgers take on the Marlins I've put the photos I took between Maundy Thursday and Easter Day into a slide show to give a little taste of the Glory of Easter @ All Saints Church. Enjoy!!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter Preparation

In the calm-before-the-Easter-storm of music, mystery and Alleluias the back-stage preparations are in high gear. Flowers are being organized and arranged ...

... and the liturgies have been copied and collated ...

... as we prepare at All Saints Church for our six celebrations of Easter: the 4:00 Children's Vigil this afternoon, where 17 little people will be baptized into the Body of Christ; the 7:30 Great Vigil of Easter where we will kindle the first fire of Easter, sing the Exsultet, hear the stories of salvation and then baptize 5 bigger people and welcome 52 new members; and then the four Easter Day services -- 7, 9, 11:15 and 1pm -- with families and flowers and music and joy.

So in this calm-before-the-Easter-storm, here's a poem by John O'Donohue to help our internal preparation for Easter catch up with the external preparations so well underway:

No one knew the name of this day;
Born quietly from deepest night,
It hid its face in light,
Demanded nothing for itself,
Opened out to offer each of us
A field of brightness that traveled ahead,
Providing in time, ground to hold our footsteps
And the light of thought to show the way.

The mind of the day draws no attention;
It dwells within the silence with elegance
To create a space for all our words,
Drawing us to listen inward and outward.

We seldom notice how each day is a holy place
Where the eucharist of the ordinary happens,
Transforming our broken fragments
Into an eternal continuity that keeps us.

Somewhere in us a dignity presides
That is more gracious than the smallness
That fuels us with fear and force,
A dignity that trusts the form a day takes.

So at the end of this day, we give thanks
For being betrothed to the unknown
And for the secret work
Through which the mind of the day
And wisdom of the soul become one.

-John O'Donohue

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday Homily 2011: "Walk in love as Christ loved us."

Yesterday was Maundy Thursday and it was a quiet hive of activity here at All Saints. Arriving for the day I cut through the back door of the church where Easter lilies were all lined up along the ambulatory wall -- waiting for their debut at the Easter Vigils. Gloria was filling the candlesticks with oil in the sacristy as the piano tuner was plunking out notes on the piano here on the chancel while a woman walked the labyrinth in the south transept.

As I came out the baptistery door into the courtyard, I paused under the banner hanging across the lawn: “All Saints Says Torture Is Wrong.” And I thought what better day to stand against torture than Maundy Thursday -- the day we celebrate the "new commandment" that our Lord gave us ... the commandment that we love one another ... just before he was led off to be tortured for the sake of that love.

Today is Good Friday and yesterday’s hive of activity has been replaced with the rhythm of the story we know and hear again.“Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kedron ravine. There was a garden there, and he and his disciples went into it …” And we know the garden’s name: Gethsemane.

And we know what happens next – we know where this familiar Good Friday story leads – know where we will leave it when we conclude this three hour service of prayer and reflection, story and song. We know that Jesus dies: that the life -- the promise -- the light that shone so brightly will be extinguished. All that will remain of the rabbi from Nazareth will be a broken body and the broken dreams of his scattered followers. The Kingdom he proclaimed has not come. The powerful remain powerful: the oppressed remain oppressed -- and where there had been hope there is only despair.

This is the stark truth of this day we call "Good Friday" -- a crucial point in the symphony that is Holy Week. Palm Sunday was our overture: touching on all the themes to be played throughout the week and leading us into the subsequent movements. And now we've arrived at Good Friday: in some ways the "adagio" of the piece. In the hours between now and the "allegro" of Easter, we sit in the silence and contemplate the power of this story that is ours.

There is a poem I come back to again and again on Good Friday. Its author and origin are both lost to me in the mist of Good Fridays past … I have it only as a typed (as on a typewriter … remember those?) scrap of paper in my prayer book.

And it reads:

This is the day when life is raw,
quivering, terrifying:
The day of numbed emotions,
the day of blunt nails
and splintered wood,
of bruised flesh
and red blood.
The day we loathe,
when hopes are crushed.

The day we long for,
when pretences fall away—
Because the worst that we can do
cannot kill the love of God.

The worst that we can do cannot kill the love of God. That’s the short answer to one of the most common Good Friday questions: “So what’s good about Good Friday?”

A somewhat longer answer to that question starts with the words of Robert Shahan, a former Bishop of Arizona, who famously said, "Faith is what you are willing to die for. Dogma is what you are willing to kill for."

What’s good about Good Friday is that Jesus didn’t come to give us dogma to kill for -- he came with a willingness to die for the faith he had in the message that the Kingdom of God is at hand: the Reign of God is about to be realized. It is here. It is now. He came with a message of inclusiveness and compassion: compassion in the truest sense of the word.

That message – in the words of the offertory sentence we’ve heard more times than we can count– is the invitation to walk is love as Christ loved us.

“This is the cup God has given me; shall I not drink it?” Jesus asked in the Garden. Was it a rhetorical question asked by the one who saw unfolding before him the events that would lead to the death he had been born to die -- the sacrifice of the sinless one for the sins of the world?

Or was it a hoping-against-hope question that there was still another way to make known to the people of God the love of a God who was willing to become one of them -- to show them how to walk in love with God and with each other?

It won’t surprise anybody to hear that I believe it was the latter. I believe that more important than the death Jesus died was the life Jesus lived – a life so in alignment with God’s will – with God’s love, justice and compassion – that he was “obedient even unto death.” Not obedient to a vengeful God who sent Jesus as a blood sacrifice – to a death that was the inevitable result of humanity’s abject sinfulness for which we should still wallow in guilt and shame.

Rather, what I believe is good about Good Friday is that Jesus was obedient to the love of a God so great that it enabled him to transcend the FEAR of death as he walked the way of the cross – as he chose to drink the cup he had been given even as he questioned up until the very last moment whether there wasn’t another way to accomplish the work he had been given to do.

The “good” in Good Friday is that in spite of the worst the world could do, the love of God transcended even death. The “good” in Good Friday is that we who follow Jesus -- we who have been called to BE the Body of Christ in the world -- can likewise transcend the fear of death in order to live lives fully alive – in order to continue to walk in love as Christ loved us – to walk in love with the God who loved us enough to become one of us in order to show us how to love one another.

It was the message he spent his 33 years on earth teaching, proclaiming and modeling for the crowds who gathered and for the disciples who followed. And it was – by earthly standards – a message that resulted in a “massive fail.”

In the end his poll numbers plummeted and the crowd’s joyful “hosannas” shifted to shouts of “crucify him” as his own disciples abandoned him as he hung dying on the cross. But not before Peter … the one he’d counted on, the one he’d called “the rock on whom I will build my church” … pulled out his sword in the Garden and whacked off the ear of the high priest’s slave in an act of brutal violence antithetical to message preached by the Prince of Peace.

Peter didn’t “get it” that night in the Garden and the Church hasn’t gotten it down through the ages either. Verna Dozier in her wonderful book "The Dream of God" describes it thus: "The [church] made the incomprehensible gift of grace into a structure … [rejecting] the frighteningly free gift of God to be a new thing in the world – a witness that all of life could be different for everybody."

And yet the good news this Good Friday is that God hasn’t given up on us getting it.

“There is a massive shift coming in what it means to be a Christian,” said Rob Bell in Jon Meacham’s TIME Magazine cover article What if there’s no hell? “Something new is in the air.”

I want to say “amen” to the massive shift part – because I think it is evidence that God hasn’t given up on us “getting it.” And I want to question the “something new” part – because I believe that what is in the air isn’t something new at all … it’s something very, very old.

It is nothing less than the core message Jesus came to live -- and the message he died without compromising: walk in love and I have loved you … and the world will be changed.

Walk in love as I have loved you … freed from the power of death and empowered to be fully alive.

Walk in love as I have loved you … and there’s nothing you can’t accomplish.

Walk in love and I have loved you and together we can turn the year of the Lord’s favor from a prophecy to reality: good news to the poor, freedom for the captives, liberation for the oppressed and sight to all who are blind to the power of God’s love, justice and compassion.

None of this is new to anybody who hangs around here at All Saints Church – even for a little while.

In fact Jon Meacham said as much when he wrote “a similar work by a pastor from mainline church might have merited a hostile blog post or two but it’s difficult to imagine that an Episcopal priest’s musings would have provoked the volume of criticism directed at Rob Bell whose reach threatens prevailing Evangelical theology.”

To walk in love as Christ loved us is threatening – not just to Evangelical theology but to all the structures and hierarchies and theologies and principalities the church has created down through the ages to protect its love of power from being challenged by the power of love.

In response to that threat the church has too often pulled out its dogmas and its doctrines – like Peter pulled out his sword in the Garden – and inflicted spiritual violence antithetical to the message preached by the Prince of Peace it purports to follow.

And yet the good news this Good Friday is that God hasn’t given up on us getting it. Inspiring Rob Bell to re-examine old certainties about heaven and hell and proclaim “something new is in the air.” Speaking through John O’Donohue who calls us to undo the “fall from belonging” and recognize the interconnectedness of all creation in the Creator’s web of love. Calling Ed Bacon to remind us that we CAN “reverse our amnesia” and remember that we – like every other human being – are loved beyond our wildest imagining.

Today is Good Friday.
The day we long for,
when pretences fall away—
Because the worst that we can do
cannot kill the love of God.

And so we walk the way of the cross these next three hours knowing that the worst they could do to our Lord on Good Friday could not keep Easter from coming.

And we walk in love as Christ loved us as we move forward into God’s future – knowing that even the worst the world can do … even the worst the CHURCH can do … cannot kill the love of God.

We walk in love as Christ loved us, an offering and sacrament of love, justice and compassion.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tick Tock Triduum

This morning it was a quiet hive of activity here at All Saints as we countdown to the Triduum. As I walked across campus from the parking garage I cut through the church where Easter lilies are all lined up along the ambulatory wall waiting for "showtime." Gloria was filling the candlesticks with oil in the sacristy as the piano tuner was plunking out notes on the piano on the chancel while a woman walked the labyrinth in the south transept.

As I came out the baptistery door into the courtyard, I snapped this photo of the banner hanging across the lawn:

And then I got to my desk and opened up my email and two more people had emailed me the sermon I first got from Elizabeth Kaeton on Monday afternoon and have since sent the link out myself and yet continue to get "you've got to read this" emails from folks who've seen it for the first time.

It's a sermon by Briallen Hopper -- a divinity student at Yale -- and it's posted on the blogsite of The Stranger in Seattle -- where it's described as a "heartbreaking "mashup of an It Gets Better video and the Passion of the Christ."

It is also reminder that the torture we say is wrong is not just limited to the physical torture of other human beings. We also stand against the psychological torture of bullying and badgering. And we stand against the spiritual torture of those who are told they have to change who they are in order to be loved and accepted by the God who created them gay or lesbian; bisexual or transgender.

And what better day to stand against ALL torture than this Maundy Thursday -- the day we celebrate the "new commandment" that our Lord gave us ... the commandment that we love one another ... just before he was led off to be tortured for the sake of that love. Tick Tock Triduum.

"A Sermon for Passion Week" -- by Briallen Hopper

My text today is from the prophet Jeremiah, chapter 31.

“Thus says the LORD:
A voice is heard in Ramah,
Lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
She refuses to be comforted for her children,
Because they are no more.
Thus says the LORD:
Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears;
for there is a reward for your work,
says the LORD:
they shall come back from the land of the enemy;
there is hope for your future, says the LORD:
your children shall come back to their own country.”

It’s been thousands of years now,
but Rachel is still weeping for her children.
She’s still refusing to be comforted.
But she’s not in Ramah.

Right now Rachel is in suburban Minnesota.
Her son Justin bravely came out at age thirteen and endured merciless bullying for two years.
He killed himself last August.
Rachel found his body.

Rachel is also in Indiana.
Her son Billy was called a fag at school.
His classmates told him to kill himself.
And so he did.
Rachel found his body too.
Rachel is in California,
Where her son Seth hung himself from a tree in his backyard
After being sexually tortured at school.

Rachel is in Texas.
Her thirteen-year-old son Asher shot himself in the head
When he was tormented for being gay.

Rachel is in Ridgewood, New Jersey.
Her son Tyler jumped off a bridge
After his college roommate secretly filmed him having sex
And outed him on the internet.

Rachel is in Wisconsin.
Her son Cody felt unsafe at school
So he tried to form a gay-straight alliance for Safe Schools.
Before he could create a safe space for himself,
Cody was gone.

But Rachel is weeping for more than her dead sons.

Rachel is also in New Haven.
Her daughters go to Yale.
They are hardworking, talented women.
They have been called sluts.
They have been raped.
Last year,
when one of Rachel’s daughters was raped by a classmate,
The daughter went to people in authority for help.
Traumatized and fearful,
She told her story over and over.
But nothing was done,
And now she sits in classrooms with the man who raped her.
Rachel’s daughter will survive,
But the damage will never be undone.

When Rachel’s daughter told her mother what had happened,
Rachel held her and they clung to each other and wept together.
And Rachel knew that even though her daughter was still alive,
The trusting, joyful girl she used to be
was no more.

Rachel is still crying.

We know these stories.
We read them in the paper,
And we see them close to home.
We know that Rachel and her children are nearby.
We know they might be in this room.
But it’s hard for us to know what to say or do
After reciting this long litany of loss,
And registering the endless hurt.

Sexual violence, sexual damage, and sexual shame.

They invade our bodies and pervade our culture.
They wound us
and haunt us
and dissolve our spirits in nausea and nothingness.

I grew up in a church that had a rich vocabulary for describing sexual darkness.
As young people growing up in the church,
We knew vividly the damage and sorrow that sexuality could cause.
Of course, the church was also the one doing the sexual violating,
and shaming.

That is why I am no longer there.
That’s why I am a liberal Protestant.
But sometimes I worry that mainline Protestantism
doesn’t know how to talk about this dark side of sexuality.
Our language about sexuality is so resolutely cheerful.
When it comes to straight sexuality,
Our main message is that sex is good.
We’re not like the evangelicals with their chastity rings
And their abstinence education and their crazy hangups.

And when it comes to gay sexuality
We just want to make it clear that church is a safe and happy place,
And we signal that in the language for our stances on LGBT issues.
The Congregationalists are “open and affirming,”
the Baptists are “welcoming,”
and the Methodists are “reconciling.”
The Episcopalians talk about “Integrity,”
and the Presbyterians say “More Light.”

We love to talk about welcome,
Even justice.

But “Justice” cannot do justice to the stories
Of the people who come through our doors
Reeling with pain,
Trapped in cycles of trauma,
Covered with scars and bruises in their spirits or under their clothes.

Sometimes when I think about all the children who are bullied to death
Because of their sexuality,
And all the vulnerable people with no one to protect or defend them
From rape and sexual abuse,

I get angry—
Especially because I know that when Rachel and her children come to our churches
They sometimes feel that they are welcomed and affirmed,
But only on condition that they are normal and happy.
They are welcome to be gay or lesbian or bi or trans,
but they have to be relatively unscathed by their experiences with homophobia.
They are allowed to be a rape victim or a sexual abuse survivor,
but they have to have gotten over it.
They have to move on.

When I think of Rachel and her children and what they require,
I think of what should be written on our church signs and banners:

“East Rock Methodist Church. Welcoming the Disconsolate.”
“New Haven Baptist Church. We Mourn with those who Mourn.”
“Grace Presbyterian. A Weeping and Wailing Church.”
“First United Church of Christ. God is Still Weeping.”

So far this has been a sermon about lamentation:
About being aware of sexual sorrow
And making space for it in our congregations.
I think this is urgently important,
But I don’t want to stop there,

Because the Scripture doesn’t stop there.
In the words of Jeremiah:

“The LORD said:
There is hope for your future:
your children shall come back to their own country.”

Or, to put it another way—
In the words of Harvey Milk—

“You gotta give ’em hope.”

But giving hope isn’t easy.
For some people, it doesn’t get better.
Their pain is never going to be fully healed in this life.
For years or forever,
They will be too wary to get too close to people.
They will wake up in the dark with racing hearts,
Reliving their nightmare.
Their children will remain dead until the Last Day.
What does the church have to offer them?

In addition to creating space for suffering,
The church needs to provide strong narratives
That show people how devastated God is by their suffering,
And how lovingly God sees them.

The church needs to make sustaining religious meaning for people dealing with sexual damage.
And the phrase that came to me as I was thinking how to do this,
Inspired by liberation theology,
Was “a preferential option for the gays.”
Or maybe, “a preferential option for those who have suffered sexual violence.”

The idea of a preferential option for the poor comes from Catholic social teaching.
It reminds us that on the last day
We will be told that whatever we did for the least of our brothers and sisters,
We did for Christ.

The doctrine of the preferential option for the poor reminds us
That through their vulnerability, the poor are identified with Christ.
I believe that those who have been sexually hurt.
Are also closely identified with Christ.
I believe the beauty of God’s love is uniquely revealed in them.

As we near Passion Week,
I want you to think about the Passion Story in a new way.
I want you to imagine Our Savior
As a thirteen-year-old American boy.
For a few years now he has found the courage to tell the truth about who he is.
Everyone at his school knows that he is different.
There are a few people who hang out with him,
Who love him and who look up to him and love to repeat the things that he says,
But most of the students avoid him or spread rumors about him.
And there are groups of students who follow him around at recess and after school,
Telling him why he’s wrong,
Trying to get him in trouble,
Trying to set traps for him.

He feels isolated from his family.
His religious community doesn’t support him.
Sometimes the stress is too much, and he has to go away by himself
To just pray and try to find the strength to go on.
It’s clear that he isn’t fitting in.
He’s a source of disruption in the school.
Kids have created a facebook page to mock him.
Graffiti about him is scrawled all over the bathrooms.
Something has to be done.

A teacher sends him to the Principal’s Office.
The Principal says:
“What do you have to say for yourself?
Is it true what they say about you?”
The boy says, quietly,
“If you say so.”
The Principal says,
“Look, I don’t think you’re a bad kid,
But the other students seem to think you’re strange,
And a lot of the teachers have trouble with your lifestyle.
Personally I don’t have a problem with who you are,
But don’t look to me for any favors.”
And the Principal sent him back out into the hallway.

This happened on a Friday.

It breaks my heart to tell this next part, but I know it’s true.
After school, a group of students were waiting for him.
They gathered around him and beat him up.
They kicked him to the ground.
They smeared him with lipstick they’d stolen from their big sisters
And they called him Queen of the Fags.
They wrote it on his forehead.
They tore off his clothes
And they flipped a coin to see who would get his ipod.
When the boy stumbled home hours later
It was getting dark.
He went into the house.
No one was home.
He found his father’s gun
And then he went out into the garden in the backyard and sat down,
Too tired to move.
He texted all his friends,
Hoping for a word of encouragement,
But none of them replied.
He was alone.
He clutched the gun, and in a broken voice, he prayed,
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
I don’t want to do this.
Show me another way.”

I don’t know whether this boy lived or died that night.
But here’s what I do know.
I know, in the words of Isaiah,
quoted by the Ethiopian eunuch,
That in his humiliation, justice was denied him.
And I know that in the words of the Psalm,
This boy is the stone that the builders rejected.
And I know that if he is alive, he is in our church.
And I know that if he has died, his family is in our church.
I know that his story is not something to be ashamed of
Or silenced
Or gotten over.
His story, and the story of all who have suffered like him,
Is the story of Jesus.
It is the foundation of the Good News on which we build our lives.

Here is our hope:

“The stone that the builders have rejected has become the cornerstone,
And it is marvelous in our eyes.”

If necessary,
Let us tear down our churches
And rebuild them on this story,
This broken body,
This cornerstone.

CNN only polls the over-35 crowd on marriage equality? Seriously????

This just in from the good folks over at GetEQUAL :

A CNN poll -- yet again -- indicates that marriage equality is still rising in public opinion…meaning that groups like the National Organization for Marriage and others are on their way to extinction.

However, when we looked at the CNN poll, we saw something weird -- Americans under the age of 35 weren't polled. That's right -- in a national poll of likely 2012 voters, not one person under the age of 35 -- the most progressive and LGBT-friendly generation in history -- was included in the poll results!

What does that mean? It means that the 51% of Americans who favor marriage equality are actually -- if CNN had bothered to ask enough young people for a representative sample -- more like 54% or 55%. Why didn't CNN ask people under 35 what they thought? Who knows -- but we're tired of seeing media outlets continue to peddle a narrative that says that LGBT equality is a "controversial" issue.

Click here to join those asking CNN to listen to ALL Americans. From the GetEQUAL website:
Help us make sure that millennials -- the most progressive generation ever -- aren't cut out of the political narrative. And help us make sure that media outlets like CNN don't get away with under-representing the vast majority of Americans who support equality. We deserve better than that!
And now, back to Holy Week!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Holy Week Hump Day

Wednesday in Holy Week 2011:
“The word that sustains the weary”

On this Wednesday in Holy Week we hear these words from the prophet Isaiah: “The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary.” Or, as the contemporary language translation “The Message” puts it, “God, has given me a well-taught tongue so I know how to encourage tired people.”

And what a timely message for this Wednesday in Holy Week – Holy Week Hump Day, we might arguably call it. For as we reach this mid-way point in the week between Palm Sunday and Easter I look around and I see an awful lot of tired people. And I’m not just talking about a garden variety “Oy, what a week I’ve had” tired … I’m talking about another kind of tiredness … of a deeper kind of weariness.

We don’t have to look further than the latest CNN bulletin on the polarization in American politics or the latest blog post on the schism in the Anglican Communion or the most recent example of one part of the human family oppressing and marginalizing another part.

It comes from those who yearn for political leaders who offer hope rather than hype. It comes from those who desire church leaders more committed to the Kingdom of God Jesus came to proclaim than to the Institutional Church they are determined to maintain. And it comes from those who wonder if we can ever become the human family we were created to be. Where, oh where, is there a “word to sustain the weary” in all of this?

I’m recalling tonight a reflection I wrote a few years ago -- focused on one of the gospels appointed for Tuesday in Holy Week. It’s the one where Jesus tosses the moneychangers out of the Temple in a fit of righteous indignation.

I wrote then: If we’re not righteously indignant we’re not paying attention.

As we follow the life and example of Jesus may we be given the courage to challenge the civil boundaries that keep us from being a nation where liberty and justice for all really means all. And as we follow Jesus this week in the way of the cross may we also be given the grace to take up the cross of righteous indignation and take ON those religious authorities who presume to say who qualifies and who doesn’t to be gathered into God’s loving embrace.

That post engendered this comment from someone named Jesse:

I used to be 'righteously indignant' but now I'm just tired. Some days I just want to lay it all down and stop. But here’s what keeps me going. One of the reasons I joined TEC was the sense of welcome I 'perceived'. I have to tell you I wasn't thrilled that the local Episcopal priest was a woman but when I met her and we talked and I told her my story, that woman gave me the energy to go on fighting the fight to be a Christian.

The priest who gave Jesse the energy he needed to go on being a Christian – even though he wasn’t thrilled she was a woman -- knew what it was to strengthen the weary … to encourage the tired. And even through cyberspace we can reach out and encourage each other – especially on those days when we, like Jesse, want to lay down whatever burden we’re carrying and just stop.

On Monday I had the chance to be part of a panel of clergy speaking over at Fuller Seminary. (Not too often do I get to say that!) Anyway, in our conversation about reaching across the divides that challenge us, I was reminded what I was taught in seminary about the two-fold job description of a preacher: to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.

And today, on this Holy Week Hump Day, I want to suggest that it isn’t just a job description for those who preach from a pulpit but for those who live out the Gospel in hundreds of different ways in our daily lives and work. Y

es, if we’re going to follow Jesus we WILL be … we SHOULD be righteously indignant about any number of things. And that indignation will lead us to afflicting the comfortable in their power and privilege – to challenging those who wage war and who perpetuate bigotry: whether it’s lighting a candle at a peace vigil or signing a letter on the lawn it IS work we have been called to do on behalf of the Gospel.

But on the other side of that coin is our call to comfort the afflicted – and today I want to call us to remember not to neglect that half of our “job description.”

God doesn’t promise we won’t be weary. But God promises to be with us in the weariness. And God promises to send prophets like Isaiah and pastors like Jesse’s with words to sustain us when we’re weary – to encourage us when we’re tired. And so, like the prophet who is called to both afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted, let us commit ourselves – each and every one of us – to not only receive those words of encouragement when we need them but to offer them to those who yearn for them: wherever and whenever we can. Amen.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tuesday in Holy Week: "We Wish to See Jesus"

Time flies when you’re having Lent.
The season that began what seems like “just yesterday” with the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday has brought us already to this Tuesday in Holy Week – to the time author Nora Gallagher writes of as "the hinge between Lent and Easter ... between the guilt and shame, the inertia and fear that bind us to the past and leave us in despair and the love that lures us toward hope."

"The love that lures us toward hope." I love that line: for it speaks to me of the love of God so great that it triumphs over death ... a love that continues to "lure us toward hope" these 20 centuries after the death of the One who came to show us how to "walk in love, as Christ loved us". Was it that love -- that hope -- that lured those we hear about in today's Gospel of John? The "Greeks" who approached Philip in Jerusalem with the plea, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus"?

A brief historical “contextual” note: when John says "some Greeks", he doesn't mean folks who hang out in Athens and are related to Zorba. To the 1st century hearers of the Gospel "Greeks" meant "non-Jews" - foreigners - Gentiles. No wonder Philip had to go check with Andrew first ... did you notice that in the text? "They came to Philip -- who went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus." As one of the commentaries I consulted noted: "... evidently being dubious how they might be received." No automatic welcome for these guys: these Greeks who wanted to see Jesus.

But see him they do. Crossing all sorts of boundaries -- breaking a whole list of deeply ingrained cultural rules -- Jesus teaches them the same way he has been teaching his disciples all along. Did he think about the words of the prophet Isaiah we just read: “It is not enough for you to do my bidding, to restore the tribes of Leah, Rachel, and Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel; I will make you the light of the nations, so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” Maybe. John doesn’t tell us what Jesus thought, but he does tell us what Jesus said: "Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also ... Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." Then John, the gospel writer adds, "He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die."

In those few sentences is the essence of the Gospel -- the Good News Jesus came to give the world and the world couldn't hear: Follow me ... do as I do ... I have come to show you the way to live in love and community with God and each other.

NOW the Kingdom of God is in your midst ... and it is for ALL people.

Yes, he said all this to indicate the kind of death he was to die; for the inevitability of the crucifixion must have hung heavy in his heart these last days. But if we settle for John's explanation at face value, we miss the power of this text for us today. I believe Jesus said all this to the Greeks who sought him out in Jerusalem -- lured by love and hope -- not ONLY to indicate the kind of death he was to die, but to indicate the kind of life we are to live.

"When I am lifted up I will draw all people to myself." And how will he do that? I'm jumping ahead in the story a bit, but come Pentecost we will hear again of the coming of the Holy Spirit ... the birth of the Church called to be the Body of Christ in the world ... called to take up the ministry of Jesus on earth.

So if the church is indeed the Body of Christ here on earth, how good a job are we doing with those who come to us as they did to Philip saying, "Please, we want to see Jesus?" Let me tell you about my friend ... a woman I've known since the 7th grade who lives in Toronto with her husband and three children. After many years without a faith community, she wrote me that she started going back to church. "Only it's not exactly church," she said. "It's at a church but I don't go on Sunday yet ... I go Wednesday night and meet with other women. We pray and sing and support each other. And they read from the Bible, but it's so wonderful ... they don't beat you up with Jesus, so it hardly feels like church."

"They don't beat you up with Jesus" -- what an indictment! Yet in the church she grew up in Jesus -- the Jesus who yearns to draw all people to himself -- became for her a stumbling block, a barrier to faith rather than a lure toward hope. My friend never knew that there was a choice between the Jesus of Judgment and the Christ of Faith and so I pray that this community she's found will be a gateway for her -- that she can finally "see Jesus" - just as those Greeks in Jerusalem did: can see for herself that "draw all people" means her, too!

Thankfully, All Saints Church has a long history of offering a voice of hope to those who come saying "Please, we want to see Jesus" – who come looking for a place to encounter the Lord of Love rather than the Letter of the Law. It is a history with deep roots in our Anglican heritage – for the Episcopal Church is a product of the glorious 16th century experiment intended to end the bloody feud between Catholics and Protestants in England during the reformation – an experiment that resulted in a church where orthopraxis (common practice) was valued over orthodoxy (common belief).

The significance of that experiment, my Church History text tells me is that “it was able to hold the vast majority of the people together, despite being a compromise few would have chosen." And there you have it: Anglican Traditionalism.
It seems to me that as 21st century Anglicans facing the very real challenges in front of us we would be well served to dig more deeply into our 16th Century roots ... to claim with enthusiasm the heritage that has historically given us the ability to live with disagreement ... to honor the tension of diversity and focus on the things that bind us together rather than allow ourselves to be distracted by the things that threaten to divide us.

"We must be the change we wish to see in the world," said Ghandi. When we do that, then we truly follow the Lord who told us not only what kind of death he was to die but what kind of life we are to live.

And if I have "an agenda" – and I do -- it is an agenda as old as Isaiah and Andrew, of Jesus and the Gentiles. It is the agenda of a Lord whose love lures us toward hope – of the one who yearns to draw all people to himself – of the Jesus who took time, in the last days before his crucifixion, to reach out to those Greeks who came to him -- not sure if they'd be welcome. It is the Gospel Agenda and it is begging to be fulfilled – and we are the Body of Christ who have been charged with fulfilling it in our generation.

And so, in this Holy Week, I pray that God will give us grace to commit ourselves to being "… the change we wish to see in the world" – to persevering in the proclamation of God's Good News to all people -- in spite of the setbacks and the obstacles; of the challenges and the costs -- as we journey with Jesus and claim his "agenda" as our own. Amen.

The Passion According to Saint Matthew

Video of Palm Sunday's chancel drama at All Saints Church:

Monday, April 18, 2011

Comment on Tax Day "Defense of DOMA" announcement

The headline reads "G.O.P. taps ex-solictor general to defend gay marriage law"

Note to L.A. Times:

  • We don't have gay marriages. We have marriages.

  • And we don't pay gay taxes. We pay taxes.

And here's what else I think:

Today’s “Tax Day” announcement by Speaker John Boehner that ex-solicitor general Paul Clement has been retained to defend the indefensible “Defense of Marriage Act” is an affront to every taxpayer committed to liberty and justice for all. And it is a slap in the face to the millions of gay and lesbian taxpayers who are being told by the House leadership’s action that they are only entitled to equal taxation – not equal protection – on the very day they write their checks to the IRS.

It is unconscionable that in the face of a budget crisis that threatens to reduce health care for the elderly and education for our children that the House leadership is going to spend taxpayer money to defend DOMA – a law that reduces same-sex couples to second-class citizens.

We need a Protect Marriage Movement that protects all marriage and Family Values that value all families. Until we end the blatant and indefensible discrimination of DOMA we are not living up to the pledge we make to be a nation of liberty and justice for all, we are not providing the equal protection guaranteed by the 14th Amendment equally and we are failing to defend the self-evident truth that our forbearers fought to protect: that all people are created equal.

'Don't ask, Don't tell' should be repealed in our churches, families and communities too

A great piece by the Reverend Alberto Cutié ... (h/t Episcopal Cafe)

Although I am aware this repeal is controversial, especially in some ultra-conservative circles, I am sure it is the right thing for our government and military to do. Denial cannot be healthy for any organization - and to deny the presence, dedication and sacrifice of a good number of men and women in our military due to their sexual identity and orientation – is wrong. The time has come for other sectors of our society; starting with our families, churches and communities begin to consider their own repeals of "Don't ask, don't tell".

There are too many teenagers being bullied and attempting suicide because of the rejection and harshness they so often experience in places where they should be experiencing understanding and greater compassion; especially in their own families and religious institutions. There are too many churches that are preaching homophobia and practice exclusion; as if God did not love all of his children in the same way. What is even worse is that too many people are still unable to have intelligent conversations about issues of human sexuality, without almost immediately resorting to condemnations based on what they believe to be right for everyone.

Our churches should be leading the way to inclusion, acceptance and love of all people; regardless of what their particular situations might be. We too often forget the fundamental message of the Bible: God is love. Loving people do not discriminate, exclude or go out of their way to hurt others – not even when they think they are right!

Read the rest here
... and give thanks for his work and witness!

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal*"

*unless you're a same-sex couple filing your taxes today

As millions of Americans file their income taxes today, activists will be staging protests to call attention to the tax inequities facing same-sex couples as a result of the state and federal laws that refuse to recognize or extend civil marriage protections to same-sex couples.These actions highlight the ongoing moral and financial costs of denying marriage equality to same-sex couples—as well as the consequences paid by all Americans as a result of these discriminatory state and federal laws.

Here are the facts from an email I received this morning:
“During tax season, same-sex couples are explicitly reminded that despite abiding by the requirements of American citizenship by paying taxes, they are still treated as second class citizens by the government, said GetEQUAL Director Robin McGehee.

“We are even taxed on our partner’s health insurance benefits, if they are even provided, which requires that required to pay more into social security taxes than our heterosexual counterparts knowing that when we die our families will not even have access to any of the family ‘safety net’ benefits provided in the form of social security survivor benefits, estate tax deferral, and other programs that we help fund through our tax dollars and that only heterosexual couples and their children will enjoy.”

A study produced by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) debunks the myth that granting same-sex couples the freedom to marry would cost the government money. In fact, it would save taxpayer dollars. Same-sex couples aren’t the only ones paying for marriage discrimination, all taxpayers fund this discrimination which amounts to as much as $1 billion nationwide. To read the CBO study here.
Until we end the blatant and indefensible discrimination of DOMA we are not living up to the pledge we make to be a nation of liberty and justice for all, we are not providing the equal protection guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to same-sex couples and we are failing to defend the self-evident truth that our forbearers fought to protect: that ALL people are created equal.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Meghan Daum answers the question "Why Sarah Palin doesn't get what she deserves"

You'll want to read the whole op-ed in today's L.A. Times here, but if you're in a hurry, here's the punch-line:
Palin is too well-shielded by her own incompetence. By casting herself as the less privileged, less polished outsider in the fancy school, she fashions the rest of us into playground bullies (ironic, given her predilection for bullying language) who taunt her with big vocabularies and book learning and obsession with nuance. By playing the victim (ironic, given how closely she associates victimhood with liberal whining), Palin forces her critics to choose between the roles of merciless oppressor and guilt-ridden enabler. And since the merciless oppressor part is already played ably by various screamers on blogs, cable TV and Internet comment boards, writers like me have taken the other route, leaning over so far backward to avoid saying the obvious that we sometimes can't get enough air in our lungs to say much at all.
h/t John Anderson of Episconixonian

Saturday, April 16, 2011

On Monday @ Fuller Seminary

It's a kind of unusual way to spend Monday in Holy Week, but I'm honored to have been invited to be part of a panel this coming Monday night at Fuller Seminary. The program is being framed by the question:

"What can Fuller Seminary do to prepare its students for ministry in congregations who are divided on the issue of homosexuality?"

Yes, that would be an invitation from FULLER Seminary ... the same week that the Diocese of San Joaquin authorizes liturgies for the blessing of same-gender unions.
  • Remember that the next time there's a "one step back" after "two steps forward" on the journey toward justice and you think we're never going to get there.
  • Remember when you fear that the church will never live up to its promise of full and equal claim to the LGBT baptized.
  • Remember when it seems that liberty and justice will never mean "all."
Remember a week when both Fuller Seminary and the Diocese of San Joaquin took two steps forward! Here are the details of Monday's event ... join us if you're in the neighborhood!

Fuller's Peace and Justice Advocates and Just Peacemaking Initiative Present:
DIVIDED BY HOMOSEXUALITY: Pastoral Tools for Mediation and Dialogue
Monday April 18th 7pm in Travis Auditorium

The Reverend Canon Susan Russell
Senior Associate at All Saints Church in Pasadena
Chair of the Program Group on LGBT Ministry for the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles

Bishop Yvette Flunder
Senior Pastor, City of Refuge, United Church of Christ
Residing Bishop, Refuge Ministries/Fellowship 2000

Rev. Dr. Ken Fong
Senior Pastor,Evergreen Baptist Church of Los Angeles, Rosemead

Paul W. Clement, Ph.D.,
ABPP Clinical Psychologist, Private Practice,
South Pasadena

Chris Moore
PhD Candidate in Christian Ethics, Fuller Seminary
Former Fellow at St. John's the Divine

Breaking News from the Diocese of San Joaquin


Dear Friends,

Last week the Equality Commission and I met. We discussed the next steps in this diocese toward the blessing of same sex unions. One of the products of the discussion was the following Q and A document. It will provide some definitions and clarify some of the terms that are used to describe the sacramental blessing of a sacred union.

Please read the introduction and the conclusion carefully and thoughtfully. They will provide a context for the discussion.

Faithfully Yours,

From the "Q&A" document referenced above:
The Provisional Bishop of San Joaquin is authorizing the use of a rite for the “Sacramental Blessing of a Sacred Union.” This sacramental rite maybe used to bless the union of a man and a woman or it may be used to sacramentally unite persons of the same gender.
Read the rest here

Friday, April 15, 2011

Dr. Drew asks "Can you pray away the gay?"

No kidding. That's the subject of his show tonight. On the National Day of Silence ... dedicated to eradicating homophobia and raising awareness about LGBT youth at risk ... Dr. Drew is going to use his HLN air time to give a platform to the Exodus International bunch. Check it out.

I got wind of it earlier today when we got a call from one of the CNN producers looking for "counter voices." I understand my friend MCC Pastor Neil Thomas is going to be on ... and good for him. But bad for Dr. Drew. Here's the note I just sent to CNN via their "send in a question or comment for the show" link on their website:
As a priest and pastor I am shocked and saddened that Dr. Drew is going to give air time to "ex-gay" ministry leaders on a the National Day of Silence dedicated to raising awareness about LGBT youth at risk. The destructive message that homosexuality is something that needs to be "healed" continues to tell LGBT youth that they are "less than" and contributes to bullying, marginalization and self-destructive behavior. So here's the answer to the question: You can NOT "pray away the gay" ... but you can teach away the ignorance that gives homophobia the power to put our children at risk.
Want to ask your own question or make your own comment about the show? Click here And then I'm torn between saying "tune in" -- so you can hear my friend Neil ... and "tune out" -- because it's all about ratings. So I'll err on the side of "do whatever" ... but stay aware that this is a message that's toxic to our kids and the more they try to "pray away the gay" the more we need to "preach against the homophbia."

And now, back to my regularly scheduled "day off."

TOO funny: "Preview" of the upcoming Royal Nuptials!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Well Done Delaware!

In between proofing liturgies for the Great Vigil of Easter, writing a Palm Sunday sermon and preparing for my Lenten Small Group tonight on our Baptismal Promises, I had one eye on my TweetDeck watching Mark Harris live-tweeting from the State House in Delaware as the Civil Unions Bill came to the floor for a vote. (that's him ... pictured left ... in a photo he posted to Twitter "just before the session.")

The bill passed ... 26-15 ... so here's where we stand (from the HRC email update:)

Delaware will be the eighth state to offer civil unions or comprehensive domestic partnerships. After the bill is signed into law, it will take effect on Jan. 1, 2012. Currently, five states have laws providing an expansive form of state-level relationship recognition for gay and lesbian couples, without offering marriage. California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington provide same-sex couples with access to almost of all the state level benefits and responsibilities of marriage, through either civil unions or domestic partnerships.

Earlier this year, the governors of Hawaii and Illinois signed into law civil unions bills. (Couples in Illinois can begin applying for civil union licenses on June 1, 2011 and in Hawaii couples can begin applying on Jan. 1, 2012.)

And we add to that list the jurisdications with marriage equality: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington D.C.

The arc is bending, folks. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. And then let's get back to work. After we take a minute to say Well Done Delaware!!

Calling on Bret Easton Ellis to Give Up Homophobia for Lent

From the report in US Magazine online:
As an acclaimed, best-selling author, Bret Easton Ellis should understand the power of the written word.

"I like the idea of Glee, but why is it that every time I watch an episode I feel like I've stepped into a puddle of HIV?" the literary icon asked his nearly 142,000 Twitter followers on Tuesday.

The 47-year-old American Psycho author was then bombarded with criticism for his off-color remark, but instead of apologizing, Ellis continued to fan the flames. "No, I wasn't drunk last night," he tweeted on Wednesday. "I was watching Chris Colfer singing 'Le Jazz Hot' and felt like I had suddenly come down with the hivs."

Golden Globe winner Colfer, 20 -- and the rest of the Glee cast -- have yet to respond to Ellis' comments
Well, the Glee cast may not have responded yet but we can. We can respond by demanding the same "zero tolerance" for his homophobic rhetoric on Twitter that Kobe Bryant received for his homophobic rant on the basketball court.

We can send a mobilized message from everyone who cares about ending bullying, stereotyping, the marginalization of LGBT youth and the stigmatizing of those living with HIV that he repent of his unconscionable comments.

Yes, I said "repent." It's a good old-fashioned word that means "a change of thought and action to correct a wrong" -- and what better time to call for repentance that during Lent?

Unlike Kobe Bryant, in Ellis' case there's no NBA Commissioner handing down $100,000 fines but there is a publisher -- Random House -- with a vested interest in the book he has coming out in May. Email them here or send them a message on twitter -- @randomhouse.

Let them hear -- loud and clear -- that the days when homophobic rhetoric was tolerated are past and the time when HIV stigmatization was accepted is gone. And let Bret Easton Ellis hear -- loud and clear -- that his words do have power as we call him to use that power to eradicate rather than exacerbate homophobia.

Speak up. Step out. Go. Do it. Now!


Two weeks ago Ed Bacon preached a sermon that called us to “examine our received narrative and sort out the toxic from the generative." Here's an amazing example of someone who did precisely that -- in a very public way -- and went from attacking marriage equality to supporting it.

Watch it ... and remember it the next time it feels like you're wasting your time having one more conversation with one more person who one more time insists marriage is a heterosexual privilege -- not an equally protected civil right.

Remember it if we lose a court case ... because we might. Or when another ballot initiative writes discrmination into the law books ... because it could. Or when the church fails to live up to the promise of "full and equal claim" it made to the LGBT baptized in 1976 ... because it continues to.

Remember this and keep it up. Because the arc of the moral universe does bend toward justice -- and we have the privilege of participating in that process by our work and our witness for LGBT equality.

With kudos to the Courage Campaign and a big shout out to Louis Marinelli -- this week's Recalculating Poster Child:

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Diocese of Los Angeles "Declines to Endorse" Proposed Anglican Covenant

"Hot off the Presses" is this news release from my home Diocese of Los Angeles:
[The Episcopal News, Los Angeles] -- Thanking the Anglican Communion for “taking this time of discernment” to develop the proposed Anglican Covenant, elected representatives of the Diocese of Los Angeles have issued a response declining to endorse the document.

"We cannot endorse a covenant that, for the first time in the history of The Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion, will pave the way toward emphasizing perceived negative differences instead of our continuing positive and abundant commonality," states the response, signed jointly by the diocese’s bishops and General Convention deputation.
Here's a link to the statement in its entirety and here's a video that helps outline the extensive process we have gone through here in the Diocese of Los Angeles as we've considered the proposed Covenant.

Makes me proud to be an Episcopalian ... proud to be an Angeleno ... and proud of the leadership for Bishop Glasspool in this process and of my colleague Carissa for her "right on" quote in the video: "Any covenant or legislation that might eclipse our ability to embrace our own diversity would be a mistake." And let the people say a big old AMEN!

20 Years of Blessing (well, almost!)

I knew it was coming up ... the twenty year anniversary of the first same-sex blessing at All Saints Church in Pasadena. I knew that then-rector George Regas preached his seminal sermon -- God, Sex & Justice -- in 1990.

And I knew that the parish had spent a year in conversation and discernment, led by the rector and the "God, Sex & Justice Task Force." And I knew that Mark Benson and Philip Straw were the first couple to to stand on the All Saints chancel and receive the church's blessing to their already-blessed-by-God relationship.

And so I got to thinking that the 20th anniversary of that groundbreaking ceremony must be coming up soon ... and wouldn't it be great to mark "20 Years of Blessing" in some kind of celebratory way! Well, thanks to "Google" I now know that the service took place on Saturday the 18th of January 1992 ... so we've got a little time to plan the party

Stay tuned for more on that idea ... and in the meantime, here's the 1992 L.A. Times article about Mark and Phil's blessing. (What a difference a coupla decades make!)

Blessing of a Covenant: Gays United in Rites at Prominent Pasadena Church

For eight years they lived together without benefit of marriage. Even after they spoke their vows in a church ceremony witnessed by 500 guests, plenty of people remain convinced that this couple is living in sin.

But when Mark Benson, a 47-year-old physician's assistant, and Philip Straw, a 45-year-old postal worker, promised to love, comfort and honor each other in a ritual last Saturday at All Saints Church in Pasadena, it marked a spiritual evolution. By blessing the Benson-Straw union, All Saints--the largest Episcopal church west of the Mississippi--assumed a bold stance in the crusade to liberalize traditional Christian views concerning homosexuality.

"Homosexuality is such a divisive issue, I'm sure there is a great deal of distress" about the ceremony, said the Rev. George Regas, All Saints' activist rector. "But the people who were there, who know these men, knew this was appropriate and good. . . . It had such a sense of rightness about it," added Regas, who proposed that All Saints confer blessings on gay unions in a November, 1990, sermon titled "God, Sex and Justice.

Such "weddings" or other ceremonies blessing gay unions--while not recognized by the family laws of any state--have been performed for years in the United Church of Christ, the gay-oriented Metropolitan Community Church and some other liberal churches and synagogues.

Gay activists and clergy alike consider the All Saints effort significant because of the prominence of the church, which has a membership of about 3,000. According to a church survey, about 8% of the congregation is gay.

The initiative at All Saints--whose congregation is known for its activism in such liberal causes as aid to Central American refugees and opposition to the Persian Gulf War--has been blamed for polarizing factions within the wider Episcopalian church. The denomination, which draws from Catholic and Protestant traditions, is known for embracing people with diverse theological viewpoints.

Episcopalian leaders at last summer's national convention in Phoenix called for more study, prayer and dialogue after they were unable to reach a consensus on the homosexuality issue. They affirmed a traditional Christian standard of sexual morality that advises celibacy for persons who are not part of a monogamous marriage between a man and a woman.

Surveys have indicated that a majority of the 2.4 million Episcopalians nationwide oppose such changes.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Last Real Republican Standing?

Remembering that I grew up in a Goldwater-Republican family and while disagreeing with many of the things my Daddy Held Dear I grieve that the GOP has become not the Conservative Party but the Crackpot Party, here are a few minutes of what Republicans used to look and sound like:

A quick note on "The Donald"

Yep. He was on the morning news again today. He and Bill Cosby ... looking like they were auditioning for a remake of "Grumpy Old Men." And while there's revolution in Libya, radioactivity in Japan and a budget impasse in Washington, what gets him on the morning news ... again ... is his ridiculous insistence that since "many people" are not convinced President Obama was born in the United States then there must be something to it.

Seriously. Newsflash for The Donald:
There are "many people" who think JFK is still alive, that Neil Armstrong's moon walk was faked and that Elvis never left the building. We have a name for these folks. Crazy.

We also have a First Amendment that protects their right to be crazy out loud. And we also have enough common sense not to elect them to public office. (Usually. Michele Bachmann is the exeception that proves the rule.)

And the last thing we need are would-be leaders exploiting their craziness to build ratings for their Celebrity Apprentice Reality Show and sucking up time on the morning news when there's revolution in Libya, radioactivity in Japan and a budget impasse in Washington.

Monday, April 11, 2011


So the Republican leadership in Congress supported a rider to the budget bill that would strip low inccome women from access to preventative health care "in order to balance the budget" but is willing to sign a blank check to defend the indefensible "Defense of Marriage Act????"

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday he doesn't have an estimate for the cost of the House defense of the Defense of Marriage Act in court as he maintained congressional action was necessary to uphold the anti-gay statute.

During a news conference on Capitol Hill, Boehner said he doesn't have information on the expenses for defending DOMA -- including the cost of any private attorneys -- when asked by the Washington Blade about these expenses as well as any planned oversight on these costs.


Friday, April 08, 2011

A few notes at the end of an "All Politics All Day" Day

It was all politics all day ... and since I was home today I didn't miss a single ugly bit of it.

Hi. I'm Susan. I'm a wonk.

The backs and forths, the spin and the swirl -- all to come up with a last ditch, eleventh hour (make that 11:59) effort to keep the government from shutting down. The pundits kept saying there was little hope for compromise when the leadership couldn't even agree about what they were disagreeing about! NOT a great "proud to be an American" kind of day, to say the least.

However, anybody who doesn't think this fight today wasn't about defunding Planned Parenthood wasn't getting the emails I get from conservative PACs who have been pushing for WEEKS to make that a priority on the Hill. Exhibit A -- from something called "OneNewsHour:"

"In the art of negotiation, it's always wonderful when the people who are going to be at that negotiating table say [that] your issue -- defunding of Planned Parenthood -- is not negotiable," she expresses. "We just say no to any of our tax dollars going for Planned Parenthood." Musgrave -- a former member of the U.S. House -- is encouraged by Boehner's comments and those of other lawmakers.

"The leaders in the House are also signaling that they're not going to go for any more Continuing Resolutions," she adds. "And we pro-life people around this country are very happy that these leaders are staying true to their promise to not use our tax dollars for the funding of the largest abortion-provider in this country, Planned Parenthood."

Well, they lost that one.

And the Tea Party tweeters are tweeting away that Boehner has "sold them out" by dropping the defunding of Planned Parenthood to get the 7-Day spending bill through.

This is the "damned by faint good news" version of "damned by faint praise." Time to call it a day. And a night. What a mess!

SO proud of St. Stephen's, Santa Clarita!

You may remember that this is the parish that's been picketed in protest the recent ordination of two women to the priesthood. If not, you can read about it here.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Lenten reflection from Bishop Glasspool

This reflection was part of the March 19th Lenten Quiet Day sponsored by the Program Group on LGBT Ministry at the Church of Our Saviour in San Gabriel ... Enjoy!

Monday, April 04, 2011

The Confession of Saint Martha

I wrote this piece in 2005 for Witness Magazine (which I still miss!) and thought it rose to a rerun with Martha's gospel coming up again this Sunday.

I love the fact that planted within the great drama of "The Raising of Lazarus" there is such a wonderful subplot: "The Confession of Saint Martha" -- or at least that's what I would call it if I got to be in charge of the lectionary.

Lazarus, friend of Jesus and brother to Martha and Mary, had been in the tomb for four days when Jesus finally arrived in Bethany. Here's how the Gospel according to John tells it: "When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home."

Quite a reversal of the roles, here -- very different from our encounter with these same sisters in Luke's Gospel where it is Mary who crosses over the cultural expectation -- sitting at Jesus' feet and getting in trouble with Martha for not pulling her weight in the kitchen. Here it is Martha who leaves the women mourning and goes out to meet Jesus: a radical departure.

I am convinced that the same kind of transformation that turned Saul from the persecutor to Paul the evangelist -- that turned Peter from the blustery fisherman who denied Jesus in the courtyard into the "rock" on which the church was founded -- changed Martha from a woman whining about needing help in the kitchen to a woman empowered to go out and ask for what she wanted. She goes directly to meet Jesus as he is coming into town -- and then confronts him in the road just outside the city: "If you had been here, my brother would not have died." What courage -- what chutzpah!

And then, in response to Jesus' question: "Do you believe?" we have her wonderful words of faithful affirmation, "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the One who is coming into the world." There you have it: The Confession of Saint Martha.

I think it bears noting that the same profession of faith that earned Peter an extra feast day in the liturgical calendar has not garnered Martha the same reward. It could be a case of gender bias in action -- or it could just be an honest oversight: with all the attendant drama over the raising of Lazarus from the dead I suppose one could be excused from overlooking the confession part of the story.

But I think another feast day for Martha is worth lobbying for. I believe her example is worth emulating. For I am convinced that the same kind of transformation that turned Saul from the persecutor to Paul the evangelist -- that turned Peter from the blustery fisherman who denied Jesus in the courtyard into the "rock" on which the church was founded -- changed Martha from a woman whining about needing help in the kitchen to a woman empowered to go out and ask for what she wanted.

That transformation is nothing less than the power of the Spirit of God calling each and every one of us to health -- to wholeness -- to realizing our full potential as children of God and to the life abundant which is our inheritance. It is a change that isn't about making us someone we're not but making us more authentically who we are. It is a change described best for me in a song I learned years ago at a women's retreat:

I will change your name.
You shall no longer be called
Wounded, Outcast, Lonely or Afraid
I will change your name.
Your new name shall be
Joyfulness. Confidence. Overcoming One.
Faithfulness. Friend of God.
One who seeks my face.

That's the life abundant God intends for each and every one of us: joyful in our work, confident in our gifts, secure in the love of the God who calls us to live not in the anxiety of earning approval but in the peace of knowing that we are both fully loved and fully known. And ready, like Martha, to march out on the dirt road outside of town (if we have to) in order to bring to Jesus' attention that which needs fixing, healing, raising -- in ourselves, in our families, in our church and in our world.

Walter Wink has written, "History belongs to the intercessors, who believe the future into being." Following Martha's example I might add to that, "And to the insisters who will settle for nothing less than a future that is about peace on earth and justice for all." And when we've finished with that, we can work on getting Martha her own day in Lesser Feasts and Fasts.

"Changing the Conversation" -- Clergy Call 2011 | May 22-24 in Washington DC

It's a great privilege to be part of the HRC "Religion & Faith" team and to be part of the ongoing work of changing hearts, minds and VOTES for LGBT equality. Coming up next month is one of the ways that happens ... Clergy Call 2011. Here's a look at what we do when we head to our nation's capital to lobby, work and witness:

So if you're a clergy person, consider joining us. Click here for more information. If you're NOT a clergy person, forward this to yours and encourage them to check it out.

And as we get closer to the date -- May 22-24 -- keep an eye on this blog and I'll post up links for you to contact your congressional reps and senators and urge them to put out the welcome mat for us. Together we CAN change the conversation. Help us make that happen on Capitol Hill in May!

Sunday, April 03, 2011

A Question for James Dobson: "Why Can't I Own Canadians?"

Here's one that's been around for awhile but is now making the rounds as a Letter to James Dobson (of "Focus on the Family" Fame.) Thanks to Elizabeth Kaeton for the link:

Dear Dr. Dobson:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's law. I have learned a great deal from you and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. For example, when people try to defend the homosexual lifestyle, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God's laws and how to follow them:

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves--both male and female--provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not to Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Leviticus. 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

4. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states that he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

5. A friend of mine feels that, even though eating shellfish is an abomination (Leviticus 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there "degrees" of abomination?

6. Leviticus 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20-20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

7. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed--including the hair around their temples--even though this is expressly forbidden by Leviticus 19:27. How should they die?

8. I know from Leviticus 11:7-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

9. My uncle has a farm. He violates Leviticus 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field--as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton-polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them (Leviticus 24:10-16)? Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws (Leviticus 20:14)?

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.