Wednesday, August 31, 2011

LOVE this from the UCC blog re: "Spiritual But Not Religious"

This one is making the rounds on Facebook and well it should. Great food for thought as we "spiritual AND religious" church-types gear up for a new program year.

Spiritual but Not Religious? Please Stop Boring Me.
Reflection by Lillian Daniel
Matthew 16:18 -- "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it."
On airplanes, I dread the conversation with the person who finds out I am a minister and wants to use the flight time to explain to me that he is "spiritual but not religious." Such a person will always share this as if it is some kind of daring insight, unique to him, bold in its rebellion against the religious status quo.

Next thing you know, he's telling me that he finds God in the sunsets. These people always find God in the sunsets. And in walks on the beach. Sometimes I think these people never leave the beach or the mountains, what with all the communing with God they do on hilltops, hiking trails and . . . did I mention the beach at sunset yet?

Like people who go to church don't see God in the sunset! Like we are these monastic little hermits who never leave the church building. How lucky we are to have these geniuses inform us that God is in nature. As if we don’t hear that in the psalms, the creation stories and throughout our deep tradition.

Being privately spiritual but not religious just doesn't interest me. There is nothing challenging about having deep thoughts all by oneself. What is interesting is doing this work in community, where other people might call you on stuff, or heaven forbid, disagree with you. Where life with God gets rich and provocative is when you dig deeply into a tradition that you did not invent all for yourself.

Thank you for sharing, spiritual but not religious sunset person. You are now comfortably in the norm for self-centered American culture, right smack in the bland majority of people who find ancient religions dull but find themselves uniquely fascinating. Can I switch seats now and sit next to someone who has been shaped by a mighty cloud of witnesses instead? Can I spend my time talking to someone brave enough to encounter God in a real human community? Because when this flight gets choppy, that's who I want by my side, holding my hand, saying a prayer and simply putting up with me, just like we try to do in church.


Dear God, thank you for creating us in your image and not the other way around. Amen.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Saint Andrews in Denver, Colorado, to offer Same Sex Blessings

h/t to Titusonenine for this one:

The parish self-description from their website is:
We are an inclusive, welcoming community with a historic and ongoing commitment to outreach, traditional worship and music shaped by our Anglo-Catholic heritage, and a growing number of children.
In a recent newsletter rector Elizabeth Randall says:
With the Bishop’s permission and by resolution of the vestry, St. Andrew’s is now a parish where the blessing of same-gender relationships may take place. Blessings are available to active members of the parish, and will use the liturgy provided by the diocese. Couples who are interested in seeking a blessing should contact the rector. Many thanks to the vestry task force who guided our discernment process, and to all those who told their stories and offered their views during this time. This is an important milestone in the life of our community, and I am grateful to share this moment with you.
News that one might say, "Makes the heart glad."

God For President!

The Tide Is Turning: New Poll Data on LGBT Equality

A new Public Religion Research Institute poll has some very encouraging data on shifting opinion on LGBT equality. From their executive summary:

Generations at Odds: The Millennial Generation and the Future of Gay and Lesbian Rights Executive Summary

There is at least a 20-point generation gap between Millennials (age 18 to 29) and seniors (age 65 and older) on every public policy measure in the survey concerning rights for gay and lesbian people.

•More than 6-in-10 (62%) Millennials favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, 69% favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to adopt children, 71% favor civil unions, and 79% favor employment discrimination protections for gay and lesbian people.

•Among seniors, only about 1-in-3 favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry (31%) or favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to adopt children (36%).

The generation gap in support for same-sex marriage is striking and persists even among conservative political and religious groups.

•Nearly half (49%) of Republican Millennials favor allowing gay and lesbian people to marry, compared to only 19% of Republican seniors and less than one-third (31%) of all Republicans.

•Forty-four percent of white evangelical Millennials favor allowing gay and lesbian people to marry, compared to only 12% of evangelical seniors and 19% of evangelicals overall.
Public support for allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry has increased significantly over the last 5 years.

•Many polling organizations have recorded double-digit increases in support for same-sex marriage since 2006. In 2011, for the first time, multiple surveys from different organizations (including Gallup, ABC/Washington Post, CNN and Public Religion Research Institute) found a majority of the public favored same-sex marriage.

•In PRRI’s current July survey, views about same-sex marriage are evenly divided; 47% of Americans favor it and 47% oppose it.
There is also a strong net positive self-reported increase in support for same-sex marriage among the general population, and most Americans currently say supporting same-sex marriage is the more socially acceptable position to hold.

•Among Americans who say their views have shifted over the last five years, more than twice as many say their current opinion about the legality of same-sex marriage has become more supportive than more opposed (19% and 9% respectively).

•Consistent with this sea change in opinion over the last five years, a majority (51%) of Americans currently say it is more socially acceptable to support same-sex marriage rather than to oppose it.
Despite the conventional wisdom that religious groups generally oppose rights for gay and lesbian Americans, there are major religious groups on both sides of the debate over same-sex marriage.

•Majorities of non-Christian religiously affiliated Americans (67%), Catholics (52%), and white mainline Protestants (51%) favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.

•On the other hand, 6-in-10 (60%) African American Protestants and approximately three-quarters (76%) of white evangelical Protestants oppose allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.
There is broad acceptance of same-sex relationships in society and Americans are comfortable with gay and lesbian people in a variety of public professions.

•Nearly two-thirds (64%) of Americans agree that gay and lesbian relationships should be accepted by society, including majorities of all major religious groups except white evangelicals.

•Americans are comfortable with gay and lesbian people serving in a variety of public roles in society, including as a law enforcement officer (75%), a doctor (71%), a judge (70%), a high school teacher (63%), an elementary school teacher (61%), and a clergy person (56%).

Most Americans believe it is difficult to live openly as a gay or lesbian person, but twice as many Americans believe more gay and lesbian people “coming out” is a good thing rather than a bad thing for American society.

•A majority (51%) of the public say it is very or somewhat difficult in their community to live as an openly gay or lesbian person, compared to 45% who say it is not too or not at all difficult.

•More than one-third (34%) of Americans say that more gay and lesbian people “coming out” and letting people know they are gay or lesbian is a good thing for society, compared to 18% who say it is a bad thing for society.

Slightly more Catholics believe the Catholic Church’s position on the issue of homosexuality is too conservative than believe it is about right.

•Forty-six percent of Catholics think the Catholic Church’s position on the issue of homosexuality is too conservative, 43% think it is about right, and only 6% think it is too liberal. Even among Catholics who attend church at least weekly, nearly 4-in-10 (37%) say that the Catholic Church is too conservative on the issue of homosexuality.

Nearly seven-in-ten (69%) Millennials agree that religious groups are alienating young people by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues.

•Among seniors, only 37% agree that religious groups are alienating young people by being too judgmental and 48% disagree.

More than 6-in-10 Americans believe that negative messages from America’s places of worship contribute either a lot (23%) or a little (40%) to higher rates of suicide among gay and lesbian youth.

•Among religious groups, 73% of non-Christian affiliated, 64% of Catholics, 60% of black Protestants, 59% of white mainline Protestants, and 51% of white evangelical Protestants say places of worship contribute either a lot or a little to higher rates of suicide among gay and lesbian youth.

To read the full report click here.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Point of Personal Privilege:

From "Blue Star" to "Back to School"

A purely personal blog post to end the day.

It's called a "Blue Star Flag" and they give it to you to hang up when you have a kid on active duty in the armed services. And it hung in our dining room window for six years. That would be Six. Years. And now it doesn't anymore.

(And yes, the response to that versicle is "Thanks Be To God.")

We took it down a few weeks ago when my Jamie (AKA Staff Sgt James Russell) completed his enlistment contract and left the helicopter hanger for the classroom.

And since today is "Back to School Day" for him I was thinking about all the other "first days of school" over the years: In short pants with a yellow lunch box in Kindergarten at St. Paul's Parish Day School in Ventura. At the bus stop heading off to Alta Loma Jr. High when I was in seminary down in Claremont. Football "two-a-days" before classes started at Buena High back in Ventura. Ventura College. Emory Riddle. And now Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green KY.

Good job, Jamie! And a Very Happy Back to School Day!

In case you need another reason to be an Episcopalian ...

... there's this "Quote of the Day" from Tobias Haller:

"There was a wonderful series of interviews with church leaders a few years back after a swath of hurricanes went through Honduras.

All were asked 'Why these terrible storms?'

The local evangelical church leader said, 'God is punishing the people for their waywardness.'

The Italian incumbent noted, 'God is testing His people.'

The Episcopal Bishop (Leo Frade, now in Florida) said, 'It's hurricane season.'"

-- the Rev. Br. Tobias Haller

Confused about what's going on with marriage in California?

Not To Worry: "Gay Married Californian" Explains It All:

Knowing Our History: Remembering Pamela Chinnis

by Susan Russell

It was Dr. Fredrica Harris Thompsett who taught me that we learn our history in order to back up and get a running start on our future. And you can’t know the recent history of the Episcopal Church in general -- or the history LGBT inclusion in the Episcopal Church in particular -- without knowing about Pam Chinnis.

The first notice of Pam’s passing on August 24th came in an email that evening from House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson:
Dr. Pamela Chinnis, 30th President of the House of Deputies, died this evening at 6:31 p.m. Dr. Chinnis, a lay person, was the first woman to serve as President of the HOD. She is remembered for her many achievements, writings and service to this Church she loved so much. Please keep her family in your thoughts and prayers. May she rest in eternal peace.
And literally within minutes the tributes started pouring in. Elizabeth Kaeton called her “a trailblazer in pumps and pearls.” “No one in a position of leadership in the Episcopal Church was more committed to full inclusion of LGBT people or did more to bring it about than did Pamela Chinnis,” said Kim Byham (Integrity President from 1987-1990) "What a blessing she has been to us all," said Integrity founder Louie Crew.

Integrity President Caro Hall, in the tribute Integrity issued on August 25th wrote “Dr. Chinnis’ proactive advocacy for LGBT inclusion literally changed the face of The Episcopal Church. In 1993, as the church looked toward its 1994 General Convention in Indianapolis, Dr. Chinnis became the first President of the House of Deputies to address an Integrity gathering. At that historic meeting she promised to appoint “out” gay and lesbian deputies to legislative committees at the upcoming convention and pledged personal vigilance for "the whole issue of gay and lesbian rights," speaking, she said, "as the mother of a gay son."

And then there was this from Michael Hopkins:
To say Pam was a faithful Christian and Episcopalian is to make a vast understatement. She was gracious beyond the telling, but she also had a backbone of steel. She was supportive of lesbian and gay people in the church long before that was popular, and her commitment to our full inclusion never wavered. She was extraordinarily well thought of among African-American Episcopalians and was one of the primary encouragers of the House of Bishops to do its work on racism that resulted in the Pastoral Letter of 1994, "The Sin of Racism."
And those are just the tip of the iceberg of those offering tributes to and memories of the work and witness of a woman whose commitment to the gospel agenda of justice, compassion and inclusion was such an extraordinary and inspirational example. So let me add mine.

My memories of Pam Chinnis are ones of a strong, graceful, confident presence leading the House of Deputies in Indianapolis (1994), Philadelphia (1997) and Denver (2000). They are of an early and fervent supporter of the ordination of women with deep roots in the ECW (Episcopal Church Women) – who modeled for my generation the power of the laity and the call to challenge the interlocking oppressions of racism, sexism and heterosexism in the Church.

They are memories of her great friendship with then Presiding Bishop Ed Browning and their shared commitment to the ideal of a church where “there will be no outcasts.” They are memories of her support of our Claiming the Blessing collaborative – launched after her tenure as President of the House of Deputies – and of her sharing pitchers of margaritas with our steering committee at a National Cathedral adjacent restaurant in 2002 after our inaugural meeting.

They are memories of a woman of privilege who used her platform of privilege to live out the baptismal promise to strive for peace and justice and to respect the dignity of every human being – even when it earned her the animosity of those determined to maintain the status quo. In stepping out of her comfort zone, as a straight ally she became the target of some of the same slings and arrows aimed at LGBT Episcopalians.

To illustrate, here’s some more history. It is an ENS (Episcopal News Service) report from Pam’s last hurrah as President of the House of Deputies -- the 73rd General Convention held in Denver in 2000.
Nelson Koscheski Jr. of Dallas, a clerical member of the House of Deputies, had scattered salt beneath the tables of deputies from Newark (N.J.), Dallas, Ft. Worth, South Carolina, and other dioceses. He also scattered salt beneath the seat of Pamela Chinnis, president of the House of Deputies and an outspoken supporter of homosexual rights within the Episcopal Church. Deputy Louie Crew, the best-known homosexual activist in the Episcopal Church, protested Koscheski's action.

"The deputation of Newark is sitting in salt," Crew said. He asked that the House of Deputies stand in recess while the salt was removed, and that the deputies use the time to "meditate on what it means to respect the dignity of every human being, including the deputy who spread the salt."Many deputies gathered near the Newark deputation. Holding hands or locking arms, and swaying in unison, they sang "We Shall Overcome," "Jesus Loves Me," "Jesus Loves the Little Children," and "Balm in Gilead."

Koscheski later protested that he meant the salt as a gesture of healing, pointing out that he spread it among both liberal and conservative deputations. The Dallas deputation apologized to the House of Deputies twice. Koscheski resigned the deputation and returned to Dallas.
For the record, salt has historically been a symbol of exorcism – not healing. It is used to expel or protect from evil spirits. Not even the Dallas deputation bought Koscheski’s efforts to “revision” his actions on the floor that day.

And as part of Integrity’s communication team in Denver that summer I remember the bemused secular media folks in the press room trying to wrap their heads around what came to be known as “the salting incident.” Trying to grasp that a Clergy Deputy to General Convention resorted to an ancient exorcism practice -- scattering salt – to “protect” the Church from “homosexual activists” … including President of the House of Deputies Pam Chinnis.

I also remember – like it was last week, if not yesterday – the legislative progress we made in Denver … passing a groundbreaking resolution (GC2000-D039) which included these two “resolves:”
That we acknowledge that while the issues of human sexuality are not yet resolved, there are currently couples in the Body of Christ and in this Church who are living in marriage and couples in the Body of Christ and in this Church who are living in other life-long committed relationships; and

That we expect such relationships will be 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.
There were originally eight “resolves” – the eighth and final instructing the SCLM (Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music) to create rites for the blessing of same-sex relationships.

The resolution was crafted knowing that the “8th Resolve” was likely going to be a bridge-too-far for this convention. Yet when it came to pass in the legislative process that it was separated off and failed by a narrow margin, our strategists inwardly celebrated the victory of writing into the record both a de facto recognition that same sex relationships fell within the bounds of our common life and the characterization of those relationships that continues to inform the work of the Episcopal Church over a decade later.

It was -- as I described it in a Denver 2000 press statement --“Not the whole enchilada but it has enough guacamole for me.” Setting the goalpost further than we expected to go and then stepping back to “compromise” for what we wanted to achieve in the first place was a carefully orchestrated strategy which paved the way for further movement forward in 2003. And at GC-2006. And GC-2009.

And like Fredrica told us, re-learning our history helps us get a head start on our future as we work toward GC-2012 in Indianapolis – where compromises will again be made. And progress will again be achieved. And like the Persistent Widow in Luke’s gospel, we’ll keep coming back – again and again – until justice is done, equality is achieved and we don’t have just the whole enchilada but the combo plate … with guacamole.

In a 1992 speech to the Episcopal Women’s Caucus, Pam Chinnis said: "One day we will overcome barriers -- but not in my lifetime or in yours. However small the gains are, or seem to be, we were and are not willing to make peace with oppression." The gains we make from General Convention to General Convention may seem to some to be small ones but cumulatively they have and will continue to move the Episcopal Church forward to more fully becoming the Church God is calling it -- and Pam Chinnis helped lead it -- to be.

“The greatest tribute we could make to the life and leadership of Pamela Chinnis is to complete the work of fully including all the baptized in all the sacraments,” said Caro Hall in Integrity’s statement on Dr. Chinnis’ passing. “As we prepare to gather again in Indianapolis for General Convention 2012, let us not only give thanks for her work and witness -- let us also pray for the power and perseverance to move the church forward in our generation as she did in hers.”

And let us always remember that we stand on the shoulders of Pam Chinnis and other of Giants of Justice as we move forward into God’s future.
Rest eternal grant to her, O Lord;
And let light perpetual shine upon her.
May her soul, and the souls of all the departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

I started this piece in my head driving around Colorado on vacation but didn't get a chance to get it written until today. Thanks to the Episcopal Church Archives for the photos.


Provincetown Care Package arrived from vacationing friends. YUM!

Hurricane Michele Elevated to Category 3

BREAKING NEWS: Hurricane Michele has just been elevated to a Category 3 on the Theocracy Threat Scale. Voters are urged to take necessary precautions to prevent erosion of the First Amendment and the potentially devastaing impact of Bachmann's theological storm surge on our Constitution.

For more information, see:

Los Angeles Times: Bachmann ties God to earthquake, hurricane
Huffington Post: Bachmann says Hurricane Irene & Earthquake are Divine Warnings to Washington DC

(And yes, I know she says it was a joke. Ha. Ha.)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

For the beauty of the earth ...

It may not literally be "the top of the world" but when you're at the summit in Rocky Mountain Nat'l Park it sure feels like it! We're still "on vacation" but back from a wonderful trip to Colorado ... just sharing a little of the beauty of "this fragile earth, our island home" -- feeling all the more fragile after a week of earthquakes and hurricanes!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Anglican Orthodites Pray for "Evangelistic Hurricane"

Checking my email over lunch with a particular eye on all our friends, family and colleagues in the path of Hurricane Irene, I canNOT resist sharing this latest bit from the American Anglican Council in their weekly email.
We are asking that the kingdom of God would advance into the consciousness of backslidden Christians, atheists and sinners. Lord, let this be an evangelistic hurricane. Let it stimulate Wall Street to cry to You. Father, we ask for this storm to be instrumental in igniting a prayer movement on the East Coast.
I. Could. Not. Make. This. Up.

Yes indeedy. That's JUST how God works, doncha think? Bringin' people to Jesus one hurricane at a time. Honest to freakin' Pete ... if it wasn't for the work and witness of saints-in-light like Pam Chinnis it would be enough to make you think about turning in your Christian Card.

So here's my prayer:
I pray that the power of God's love would advance into the consciousness of ALL in harm's way. Holy God, surround all in danger with the power of your love and embrace all who are anxious with the power of your grace. We ask not only for safety in this approaching storm, but for an increased recognition that we are all members of your beloved human family and a renewed commitment to your call to live out your values of love, justice and compassion.

And the (Prop 8) beat goes on ...

Yes, it's been a week of surviving earthquakes and preparing for hurricanes for some ... of vacation for others. And yet the Prop 8 beat goes on in California. This from our friends at the American Foundation for Equal Rights via email:

At 9 a.m. on Monday, we'll be back in court.

The proponents of Prop. 8 – who passed the ballot measure that stripped the freedom to marry from gay and lesbian Californians – are trying to prevent the American people from seeing the video recording of the Prop. 8 trial.

What are they trying to hide? Last year's trial was conducted in an open courtroom. The testimony and evidence that was presented are public record, accessible to everyone. Both witnesses they put on the stand have a long history of advocating for their views in the media, at conferences, and in numerous books and articles that they've published.

The Prop. 8 proponents don't want anyone to realize that, despite ample resources, they failed to present a single piece of credible evidence or expert testimony that supported keeping the discriminatory law on the books. At one point during the trial, their lead attorney, Charles Cooper, even asserted that they didn't "need any evidence."

At the American Foundation for Equal Rights, we are committed to spreading the truth about why gay and lesbian couples should have the fundamental freedom to marry, and to exposing the lies used to justify discrimination.

Even though Monday's hearing will not be broadcast or recorded because of objections made by the Prop. 8 proponents, we'll be providing live updates from the courtroom on Twitter, @AFER, and track the hashtag #Prop8. Also, be sure to like us on Facebook for more information.

Here's what you can do:

• Urge your friends to "like" AFER on Facebook for updates about the Prop. 8 case and what the other side is up to.
• Send a tweet encouraging your followers to tune into AFER's live stream on Monday.
• Encourage your friends and family to sign up for email updates from AFER.

Everyone should be able to see for themselves the trial of a case that affects the civil rights of millions of Americans.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"All Shook Up"

So we're on vacation in Colorado enjoying blue skies, cool breezes and the great company of friends and family. And a cabin with wifi. So over my (late) morning coffee I decided to log onto Facebook and send some birthday greeting to some friends and ...

Ping! "Was that an earthquake?" Virginia friend
Ping! "OMG ... we just had an earthquake!" Washington DC friend
Ping! "Earthquake? In Albany??? You've got to be kidding!" Albany NY friend
Ping! "I swear we just had an earthquake!" Atlanta GA friend
Ping! "Everything shook ... some glasses broke ... we're all OK." Delaware friend
Ping! "Somebody call my folks and tell them we're all fine here. Just no phone service." DC friend
Prayers ascending for all impacted ... and especially for our friends at the National Cathedral coping with some significant damage.From the National Cathedral website:

The highest point of in the nation’s capital, the “Gloria in Excelsis” central tower of Washington National Cathedral, sustained significant damage in the 5.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Tuesday afternoon. Mason Foreman Joe Alonso is currently assessing the damage to the Cathedral building with the help of other Cathedral stonemasons and structural engineers.

Three of four pinnacles (corner spires) on the central tower have been damaged. Specifically, three “finials” (capstones shaped like fleurs-de-lys) have fallen from them, with more significant damage to two of the pinnacles. Similar decorative elements on the Cathedral's exterior also appear to be damaged. Cracks have appeared in the flying buttresses around the apse at the Cathedral's east end, the first portion of the building to be constructed, but the buttresses supporting the central tower seem to be sound.

No individuals were injured either within the Cathedral or on its grounds. Despite some cracks on upper floors in the interior, no damage to the stained-glass windows has been reported. The building has been closed to visitors until further notice.

UPDATE: A video look at the damage to the Cathedral.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The End Is MORE Than Near!

Too busy working on SCLM writing deadline to blog but can't resist posting up this cartoon-worth-1000-words:

Back to wordsmithing for Jesus!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Blessings Project in Process

It's a beautiful day in the Menlo Park neighborhood. (If you're not familiar with "the Bay Area" that's between San Francisco and San Jose.) I arrived an hour or so ago and am getting ready for three days of meetings finalizing the draft of the SCLM C056 Task Force "Blessing Project" and the report that will end up in the (not necessarily blue) Blue Book for General Convention 2012.

The process has been an amazing privilege to be part of ... the work of not only the folks on the various task forces but the "wider church" who have had input and opportunities for engagement with our work all along the way. Bishops and Deputies. Theologians and Canon Lawyers. Parish Priests and Seminarians. Activists and Academics.

Reading through the copious comments of our "consultant reviewers" I was struck over and over again at the deeply respectful tone and timbre of nearly all of them ... and that the folks who think this is a bridge too far AND the folks who think it doesn't go far enough are all part of the process.

While going to look for this link to the actual text of the resolution to post here, I also found a link to this E-Cafe blog post by Rebecca Wilson posted the day after C056 was adopted in Anaheim in 2008. Entitled "Resolution C056: It's our job now" it begins:
Yesterday morning, on the last day of convention, the House of Deputies passed Resolution C056 on Liturgies for Blessings. The House of Bishops passed this resolution overwhelmingly on Wednesday afternoon.

The final resolution was a substitute for the original C056 and was crafted by a small group of bishops informed by a larger Indaba-style conversation that took place on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning.

C056 begins the process for the Episcopal Church’s response to various kinds of same-gender unions: committed relationships, domestic partnerships, civil unions and marriages. It also contains a provision for pastoral generosity in states with legal status for same-gender couples.

The ultimate power of this resolution will be determined by the strength of the process it sets in motion.
The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. And as we put the last touches/edits/footnotes on this particular pudding I am deeply encouraged by the strength of the process its initiating resolution set in motion and by the end results that we will bring to Indianapolis. Not because we all agree on everything. Not because I think these resources for the blessing of same-gender relationships is a destination. And in spite of the fact that the paradigm has kept shifting directly under our feet as we've worked on this over the last 2 years.

So off to work we go. Keep us in your prayers over these next three days. Know that all who have commented and contributed ... not only in this C056 process but to all the processes that got us to the point of having a C056 to implement ... have both a stake and a hand in whatever we'll end up bringing to Indianapolis. AND to whatever we end up adopting in Indianapolis. AND to the rest of the work ahead.

Blessings from "The Blessings Project!"

Oscar Romero would have been 94 today

"Peace is not the product of terror or fear. Peace is not the silence of cemeteries. Peace is not the silent result of violent repression. Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all. Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity. It is right and it is duty."

[Thanks to Lee Crawford for the reminder and to NAPF for the quote.]

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Down the Rabbit Hole with Michelle Bachmann

I've been sucked down the rabbit hole of reading Michelle Bachmann quotes. Actual quotes of things she really said. Out loud. For example:
"There are hundreds and hundreds of scientists, many of them holding Nobel Prizes, who believe in intelligent design." -Rep. Michele Bachmann, Oct. 2006

“Unfortunately [Melissa Ethridge] is now suffering from breast cancer, so keep her in your prayers. This may be an opportunity for her now to be open to some spiritual things, now that she is suffering with that physical disease. She is a lesbian.” -Michelle Bachmann, November 2004.

"If we took away the minimum wage -- if conceivably it was gone -- we could potentially virtually wipe out unemployment completely because we would be able to offer jobs at whatever level." -Michele Bachmann, Jan. 2005
And from this "Fact Check" feature on the Huffington Post:
Michele Bachmann's claim that she has "never gotten a penny" from a family farm that's been subsidized by the government is at odds with her financial disclosure statements. They show tens of thousands in personal income from the operation.

Bachmann's wildly off-base assertion last month that a NATO airstrike might have killed as many as 30,000 Libyan civilians, her misrepresentations of the health care law, misfires on other aspects of President Barack Obama's record and historical inaccuracies have saddled her with a reputation for uttering populist jibes that don't hold up.

Examining 24 of her statements,, the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking service of the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, found just one to be fully true and 17 to be false (seven of them "pants on fire" false). No other Republican candidate whose statements have been vigorously vetted matched that record of inaccuracy.

Here are just a few:

BACHMANN: "Well what I want them to know is, just like John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa, that's the kind of spirit that I have, too." – Speaking to Fox News on Sunday.

Wayne was born in Winterset, Iowa, nearly three hours away, and moved to California in his childhood. John Wayne Gacy, convicted of killing 33 men and boys, was born in Chicago, moved to Waterloo to work in his father-in-law's chicken restaurants and first ran afoul of the law there, sentenced to 10 years for sodomy. He began his killing spree after his release, and his return to Illinois.


BACHMANN: "Overnight we are hearing that potentially 10 to 30,000 people could have been killed in the strike." – Criticizing Obama in May for the "foolish" U.S. intervention in Libya, and citing what she said were reports of a civilian death toll from a NATO strike as high as 30,000.

THE FACTS: The U.S. ambassador to Libya, Gene Cretz, said in late April that U.S. officials have seen reports that 10,000 to 30,000 people may have died in Moammar Gadhafi's crackdown on protesters and the fighting between rebels and pro-government forces, but it is hard to know if that is true. He was speaking about all casualties of the conflict; no one has attributed such a death toll to NATO bombing alone, much less to a single strike.


BACHMANN: "It's ironic and sad that the president released all of the oil from the strategic oil reserve. ... There's only a limited amount of oil that we have in the strategic oil reserve. It's there for emergencies." – On CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday.

THE FACTS: Obama did not empty all the oil from the strategic reserve, as Bachmann said. He approved the release of 30 million barrels, about 4 percent of the 727 million barrels stored in salt caverns along the Texas and Louisiana coasts. It's true that the U.S. normally taps the reserve for more dire emergencies than exist today, and that exposes Obama to criticism that he acted for political gain. But the reserve has never been fuller; it held 707 million barrels when last tapped, after 2008 hurricanes.


BACHMANN: "One. That's the number of new drilling permits under the Obama administration since they came into office." – Comment to a conservative conference in Iowa in March.

THE FACTS: The Obama administration issued more than 200 new drilling permits before the Gulf oil spill alone. Over the past year, since new safety standards were imposed, the administration has issued more than 60 shallow-water drilling permits. Since the deep water moratorium was lifted in October, nine new wells have been approved.
It seems that having Sole Possession of the Capital T Truth gives you license to not bother with Capital F Facts. Just because I don't believe in capital punishment doesn't mean I don't hope she gets enough rope to hang herself.

Tom Ehrich hits the Absolutist Alarm Bell

A WAY worth reading piece by Tom Ehrich. Entitled "Religious right will ruin the U.S." it rings the same alarm bell I wrote about in Just Say No to Absolutism.

This is no time for naiveté, people.
A tragic three-way marriage has occurred. One party is middle-class rage, which tea party string-pullers have cleverly directed against immigrants and government, rather than their actual enemy, the predatory rich. The second is racial bigotry, which cannot accept the legitimacy of a black president. The third is hard-core Christian fundamentalism, which has lost its way in idolatry of right opinion.

Out of this three-way of utter certainty has come a class of politicians who start at an extreme position and say no to anything else — and keep saying no until they get their way. If this continues unchecked, their absolutism and disregard for freedom will become national policy.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Look what crawls out from under the Crazy Christian rock Rachel moved

You may not think you have 14+ minutes to watch this but ...O.M.G ... it's a must-see for anybody who thinks Crazy Christians is an overstatement.(Spoiler: Oprah is the Chief Harlot and the Statue of Liberty is a pagan idol ... because she was a gift from the French. Seriously.)

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Using fear as a weapon violates the gospel

I'm on vacation until Labor Day ... Hooray, Hooray! ... and so have been easing into blissfully unscheduled and unagenda-driven days. Finished a novel. Cleaned a closet. Pruned some roses. Went to a movie. And this morning I'm reading some blogs while watching the morning news ... and want to share this great reflection by Tom Ehrich which I just happened to be reading whilst they were airing a report on Perry's "Prayer Rally" held last weekend in Texas.

It does a great job of contextualizing the fear mongering that seems to be dominating our discourse ... making Verna Dozier's point and calling us to live in Nouwen's House of Love ... not retreat into Perry's House of Fear. Enjoy!

Using fear as a weapon violates the gospel
By Tom Ehrich, August 10, 2011

[Religion News Service]On a visit to southern Spain, I came across a centuries-old Roman Catholic church that had a large stone post with iron rings placed beside the church door.

It was the whipping post, where targets of the Spanish Inquisition were tortured in public and their blood stains left to frighten others into obedience.

Whipping posts, stocks, pillories and other instruments of public humiliation and suffering have been standard fare in human societies, but they have been used with special zeal when religion and crown, or religion and state, were making common cause in repression. Religion gave God's imprimatur, the crown or state supplied torturers, and the sharing of repressive power left both institutions more powerful.
America has thought itself above such an unholy alliance, but some of the worst public-torture excesses took place against heretics and Sabbath-breakers in the American colonies and, with religion's blessing, against slaves on into the 19th century.

When any institution tries to gain power through fear, corruption follows. The church's excessive use of torture, humiliation, shunning and economic reprisal didn't end with the Inquisition. Its lingering impact helps to account for Christianity's virtual collapse in modern-day Europe and in Quebec.

Modern Christian zealots play with similar fire when they combine evangelistic fervor, patriotism, and a conservative moral agenda into a single thrust for influence that relies on intimidation more than Scripture.

Further corruption occurs when gaining power through fear leads to alliances with repressive political and economic institutions. As Spanish prelates found in the 14th century, preaching venom against Jews carries more impact if the crown can be led to slaughter Jews. Senator Joe McCarthy portrayed his witch hunt as "a final, all-out battle between communistic atheism and Christianity" and thereby won strong support from Roman Catholics and evangelicals.

I don't dispute the integrity of conservative Christians when they raise moral issues. We need impassioned debate on morality in an America mired in corruption, greed and selfishness.

But when any religious movement ventures into fearmongering, it undermines its moral character. When religious enthusiasts pounce on dissent, as both progressives and conservatives do, the dialogues we desperately need get stifled. When religion wraps itself in the flag, declaring patriotism to have a Christian accent, open discussion becomes even less likely.

Saturday's strange scene in Texas -- where a governor invited people to a Christian prayer day, then stoked both their heartfelt desire to pray for America and their fears that some dreaded other is taking America away from them -- seemed a lot smoother than McCarthy's demagoguery but not substantively different. Play to people's fears, link their fears to religion's supposed enemies, merge the two impulses, and get faithful people shouting for revenge.

All Christians -- conservative and liberal alike -- need to remember that Jesus gave just one new commandment: don't be afraid. Don't let fear turn your heart away from lepers or gentiles. Don't use fear as a weapon. Don't be afraid of God or of each other. Live without fear, and join hands in seeking a society where the darkness cannot use fear against us.

Yes, fear is rampant in our land now, and much of it for good reason. Christianity must not seek to exploit those fears to build its franchise or to make common cause with self-serving politicians. When Christians use fear as a weapon, they violate the gospel itself.

ENS Source link

-- Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the author of "Just Wondering, Jesus" and founder of the Church Wellness Project. His website is Follow Tom on Twitter @tomehrich.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Lightness has a call that's hard to hear

Sunday's sermon was entitled "Lightness has a call that's hard to hear." If you don't know the Indigo Girls tune that inspired the title you should. And thanks you YouTube, you can:

As for the sermon, you can watch it here.

Or you can read it here:

Lightness has a call that’s hard to hear
Proper 14A Psalm 85: 8-13; Matthew 14:22-33 August 7, 2011 Susan Russell

Welcome to August! We have well and truly arrived at those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer … and with them come the memories of summers past. I’m remembering with particular fondness those wonderful years when the Dodgers were the Boys of Summer – not the Boys of Bummer.

I’m remembering when my parents loaded us up in the Rambler station wagon for a road trip to somewhere-far … me in the back seat with a pile of books to read through the trip: The Little House books summer … the Nancy Drew summer … the Madeline L’Engle summer. I’m remembering when my own now twenty-something sons were little and summer was an organized blur of swimming lessons, Vacation Bible School and play-dates … with one eye on the countdown clock to the start of the school year.

And this morning I’m remembering a particular summer – the summer of 1996. It’s hard for me to believe it was 15 years ago but it was. It was the summer I was ordained. It was the summer I came out. And it was the summer I discovered the Indigo Girls.

The title of this morning’s sermon – Lightness has a call that’s hard to hear – is a lyric line from an Indigo Girls tune. I picked it as a sermon title a couple of weeks ago when we decided to launch this staff preaching series connecting the dots between the challenges of the “new normal” and the opportunities to proclaim God’s love, justice and compassion.

At the time picking a sermon title that far out felt a little arbitrary – but given the events of the last few weeks I think I’m clearer than I’ve ever been that the Holy Spirit can use absolutely ANYTHING to get our attention – even an old Indigo Girls CD and an arbitrary sermon title deadline. You may know the tune … it’s called “Closer to Fine” … and for the record, here’s the part of the lyric that got my attention:

Darkness has a hunger that's insatiable
And lightness has a call that's hard to hear
I wrap my fear around me like a blanket
I sailed my ship of safety till I sank it, I'm crawling on your shore.

15 years ago I felt like someone had looked right into what was going on in my life and written the words to describe what it felt like to be going through what was for me a “coming of age” process long after I thought I was all grown up. What it felt like to be …

• stepping out into the unknown
• figuring out things I thought I’d figured out
• looking for answers and just getting more questions.
• finding that the ship I thought was labeled “safety” in fact offered no safety at all from the tumult of life’s challenges.
• finding that sometimes stepping out in faith feels like drowning in very deep water indeed.

What I came to understand in that Summer of ’96 was that coming of age wasn’t a destination -- it’s a process. And it turns out it’s a lifelong process.

And so when I listen to this Indigo Girls tune today, I find it speaks to me of the challenges we’re facing collectively in 2011 in exactly the same way they spoke to me of the challenges I was facing personally in 1996.

And I wonder if just maybe our friend Peter wouldn’t think so too.

I love Peter. When I served at St. Peter’s in San Pedro for five years we sometimes called our patron “Saint Two Steps Forward, One Step Back.” They same guy who proclaimed with such power and certainty “You are the Christ – the Son of God – the Messiah” turned around and swore, “Never heard of the guy. Don’t know him, can’t help you.” Peter always seems to be stepping out – speaking out – ACTING out … and whether he was stepping out into tempest on the Sea of Galilee or into the tempest in the Council of Jerusalem over whether Gentiles could be part of the 1st century church … over and over and over again Peter responded to that call of lightness that’s hard to hear … even when his response was sometimes two steps forward, one step back.

Lightness may have a call that’s hard to hear … but if we listen carefully we can hear it today in the words of the psalmist:

• Love and faithfulness have met; justice and peace have embraced.
• Justice will march before you, O God, and peace will prepare the way for your steps.

I grew up in the Episcopal Church inspired by the words of then Presiding Bishop John Hines who told us “Justice is the corporate face of God’s love” – so I grew up understanding justice as a profoundly theological concept.

A few weeks ago we had the singular honor of welcoming to this pulpit our friend Dr. Maher Hathout – who shared with us his own insights as a justice maker within his Muslim faith family. He challenged us to go out and be the best Christians we could be … just as he strove to be the best Muslim he could be and called our Jewish brothers and sisters to be the best Jews they could be … recognizing that the commitment to peace, justice and compassion that unites us is greater than the theological differences that divide us.

And he challenged us as well to work within our tradition – as he was working in his – to end the tribalism and exceptionalism that keeps us from uniting as peacemakers in the world.

And we went out the front door to find some picketers across the street – yelling at us through their megaphones about how we were preaching heresy and leading people into the Lake of Fire. They didn’t just have megaphones. They had a bigger-than-life-size Bible … it was taller than me … on wheels. And it wasn’t just “The Bible.” It was “The Holy Bible by Jesus.”

There isn’t time to unpack for you this morning all the ways that’s just plain wrong … but suffice to say we could not have had a better example waiting for us outside the church doors of what Dr. Hathout had called us to challenge in our Christian family if we’d asked for it.

Darkness has a hunger that's insatiable
And lightness has a call that's hard to hear

Lightness was hard to hear over the Crackpot Christians yelling at us from across the street through their megaphones … and it has been equally hard to hear over the cacophony coming from congress during the debt ceiling debacle we’ve been watching in Washington.

My favorite comment on the whole sorry mess went like this:

“Wizard of Oz Sequel: 2011” -- Dorothy encounters men with no brains, no hearts, and no courage. But she's not in Oz ... she's in Congress.
I wrote a blog comparing the willingness of the debt ceiling zealots to tear the American economy apart to the willingness of Anglican schismatics to tear the Anglican Communion apart. And in it I referred to a joke that used to be funny … but isn’t anymore. The joke is “What’s the difference between a terrorist and a liturgist?” And the punch-line is: “You can negotiate with a terrorist.”

It hasn’t been funny since 9/11 when we moved past the time when hostages were taken and negotiations resulted in their being released. The world is different now – and we’re dealing with a kind of absolutism that makes negotiation impossible. There is no such thing as compromise with absolutism. And when that mindset translates into our political life, if politics is the art of the possible, without the possibility of compromise it becomes an impossible art to practice.

Mahatma Ghandi famously said, "A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members." And the Circle of Protection – an interfaith coalition committed to a moral budget – had this to say about what was happening on Capitol Hill:
“In the face of historic deficits, the nation faces unavoidable choices about how to balance needs and resources and allocate burdens and sacrifices. These choices are economic, political—and moral. As Christians, we believe the moral measure of the debate is how the most poor and vulnerable people fare. We look at every budget proposal from the bottom up—how it treats those Jesus called "the least of these."
All of which precipitated this actual comment on my actual blog:
When the Bible teaches to 'do good and share with others', it means within the Bible Faith Community. It doesn't mean the whole world, or the whole country, or even the whole state, or city. What we take issue with is the Federal Government forcing us to share our wealth with those outside our religious community.
Seriously. So here’s what I take issue with – I take issue with the Good News of God’s love, justice and compassion being hijacked by the insatiable hunger of the darkness called fear, anxiety and exceptionalism.

I take issue with those who are so convinced they have sole possession of the capital T Truth that they miss the capital F Fact that we are all part of the same human family.

My brothers and sisters, Jesus calls us to be better than that. He calls us not to create a club that takes care of its own but a community reaches out to the world. A community Sr. Joan Chittister describes as the place:

“… we work out our connectedness to God, to one another and to ourselves … knowing that we will be caught if we fall and we will be led where we cannot see by those who have been there before us.”

Will be led where we cannot see – will be caught if we fall. Like Peter stepping out onto that deep water … thinking he’s drowning … and instead being caught by Jesus who will not let him fall.

Peter stepped out onto his deep water and we step out into ours. I look out into this congregation this morning and I know some of the stories of what the deep water is about for us.

• The anxiety of a son fighting in Afghanistan and the anxiety of a daughter fighting addiction.
• The fear of an upcoming medical diagnosis and the fear of an impending layoff.
• The grief of the loss of a loved one and the grief of the end of a relationship.
• Coming to terms with coming out and coming to terms with moving on.
• And that’s just the tip of the iceberg

And here’s the Good News “News Flash” of the day:

Whoever you are and wherever you find yourself on the journey of faith … in deep water or safe on the shore – wrapped in a blanket named fear or looking for a ship named safety … wherever you are on that journey today you are in a community of faith committed to putting its faith into action. And we put that faith into action every time we send a letter to Congress AND every time we knit a prayer shawl. It is all part of our job description: making God’s love tangible 24/7.

Because our job is not to hoard our “stuff” within the “Bible Faith Community” – whatever the heck THAT means -- but to catch people who are about to fall – or who think they are.

Our job is to make the call of the light of God’s love, justice and compassion easier to hear over the din of the insatiable darkness of fear, anxiety and exceptionalism.

I want to close with a story. It is one author Robert Fulghum tells about a philosophy professor who ended a class by asking if there were any questions … and who told this story in response to an uppity student who replied, “Yeah, I’ve got a question. What’s the meaning of life?” And the professor said:

"When I was a small child, living during the war [WWII], we were very poor and we lived in a remote village. One day, on the road, I found the broken pieces of a mirror. A German motorcycle had been wrecked in that place.

"I tried to find all the pieces and put them back together, but it was not possible, so I kept only the largest piece. This one. And by scratching it on a stone I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy, and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun would never shine - in deep holes and crevices and dark closets. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places I could find.

"I kept the little mirror, and as I went about my growing up, I would take it out in idle moments and continue the challenge of the game. As I became a man, I grew to understand that this was not just a child's game but a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of the light. But light - truth, understanding, knowledge - is there, and it will only shine in many dark places if I reflect it.

"I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have I can reflect light into the dark places of this world and change some things in some people. Perhaps others may see and do likewise. This is what I am about,” he concluded. “This is the meaning of my life."

And that is the meaning of our life here together at All Saints Church. To shine the light of love, justice and compassion into the dark places of this world and change some things in some people. And to invite others to go and do likewise. Because…
Darkness has a hunger that's insatiable
And lightness has a call that's hard to hear
But together we can not only hear it -- together we can reflect it. And together we can become not just closer to fine … but closer to the kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven … for absolutely everybody. Amen

Friday, August 05, 2011

Getting Ducks in a Row for Vacation

I'm tidying up to get ready to go on vacation and just snapped this with my phone because I thought the "marriage equality ducks in a row" were cute. And then I thought it was fun to see which particular books from my eclectic library ended up next to each other ... and it made me think about what I'm going to read on vacation and if any of you have any suggestions.

(How's that for being invited into my "thought process???")

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Wizard of Oz 2011

Dorothy encounters men with no brains, no hearts, and no courage.
But she's not in Oz ... she's in Congress.


Setting the record straight (so to speak)

Yesterday I posted the good news that the L.A. City Council unanimously voted to support the Respect for Marriage Act and the repeal of DOMA (the so-called Defense of Marriage Act.) It was good news ... but not the most accurately reported news. The original news piece (from our local KPCC radio folks) mis-named the RMA as the "Protect" Marriage Act and it incorrectly described the bill as requring states to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. Which it does not.

After pointing out the errors in the comments and on the KPCC Facebook page it was gratifying to see this morning that the story had been corrected with this update:
Correction: This story originally stated that the law the council is supporting was called the Protect Marriage Act. It is actually called the Respect for Marriage Act. Apologies for the error. The story also originally stated that the act would require states to recognize same-sex marriages granted by all other states. That's not the case. Thanks to our commenters for pointing out the error.
You're welcome.

And I want to thank HRC for having such great legislative background online that it was so easy to check the actual language of the bill and post the correct info yesterday. Which ... in case you're wondering ... is:
Under the RMA, same-sex couples and their families would be eligible for important federal benefits and protections such as family and medical leave or Social Security spousal and survivors’ benefits, but the federal government could not grant state-level rights. The bill does not require states that have not yet enacted legal protections for same-sex couples to recognize a marriage. Nor does it obligate any person, state, locality, or religious organization to celebrate or license a marriage between two persons of the same sex. This legislation only requires the federal government to equally apply its policy of looking to the states in determining what legal relationships are eligible for federal benefits.
So there you go. It IS possible to "set the record straight" (so to speak) ... and together we can keep the media both honest and accurate. Well, at least some of the media some of the time. But it's a start! :)

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

L.A. City Council Unanimously Supports DOMA Repeal

(It’s actually called the RESPECT for Marriage Act, but still …)

[KPCC reports] The Los Angeles City Council voted 12-0 today to support federal legislation that would allow same-sex couples the legal right to marry.

The Senate version of the Protect Marriage Act, introduced by California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, would require states to recognize same-sex marriages granted by all other states.
It would also remove a key phrase in the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, that declares marriage a "legal union between one man and one woman'' and defines "spouse" as a person of the opposite sex.

Then-President Bill Clinton signed the act, which passed Congress on a 342-67 vote, into law in 1996. "DOMA does not grant me the same rights that it does all the rest of you around this horseshoe that are heterosexual in your relationships when they're bonded," said Councilman Bill Rosendahl, the only openly gay member of the City Council.

"State by state, granting us our rights is beautiful to see, but it is meaningless until the federal government repeals DOMA," he said.

Rosendahl said that DOMA prevents same-sex couples from receiving the same federal income tax, social security and family medical leave benefits that heterosexual couples receive.Council President Eric Garcetti introduced the resolution. "DOMA creates two classes of Americans with different laws for each, and we cannot afford in this day and age to have that," he said.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

There's "down to the wire" and then there's August 2, 2011

Mahatma Ghandi famously said "A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members." We need lawmakers who call us to the values of shared sacrifice and mutal bearing of the burdens of citizenship -- not model a willingness to hold the full faith and credit of the United States hostage to a narrow absolutist agenda.

Commentary worth reading:

Monday, August 01, 2011

Prayer du jour

"O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world: We commend this nation to your merciful care, that, being guided by your Providence, we may dwell secure in your peace. Grant to all in authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do your will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in your fear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen."