Saturday, March 31, 2012

Celebrating the life of Jim O'Donnell

Today we celebrate the life of Jim O'Donnell at All Saints Church with an 11am Memorial Eucharist. Rest eternal grant to our colleague, friend and brother -- and comfort grant to those who mourn. The heavenly banquet is an even more heavenly and hospitable place for his gentle, gracious, welcoming presence.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Claiming the Blessing Saga Continues!

This week -- buried in a Huffington Post interview -- Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said these words:

"I would guess that at [General] Convention, we would adopt a trial rite for blessing same-sex unions," she said, referring to the annual meeting of the church's governing body, which meets every three years. It will next meet in July in Indianapolis. Jefferts Schori said that no priest is required to bless any marriage, but that formal same-sex blessings could become optional.

Try to get past the part about the "annual meeting" that "meets every three years" ("my kingdom for an editor" ... Seriously!) and focus on the fact that the Episcopal Church is now -- finally -- so on the verge of "claiming the blessing" that the Presiding Bishop herself tells us so. The many months of work that the SCLM Blessing Project put into the resources that will be presented to General Convention 2012 follows the many years of work done by the Claiming the Blessing collaborative and our various organizations and institutions ... all of which stands on the shoulders of the Inclusion Pioneers who broke through the hard ground of homophobia to plant the Gospel seeds of love, justice and compassion now bearing fruit as the Episcopal Church moves ever-closer making the 1976 promise of "full and equal claim"to its LGBT members not just a resolution but a reality.

We may not be in Oz yet, but we're certainly not in Kansas anymore.

And here's a little look back at the journey-so-far down the yellow brick road that got us here:

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"Marked as Christ's own forever!"

What an honor and delight to baptize Andrew Gabriel Coxcollins at our noonday Eucharist today ... not too often you get to baptize a baby who got his first blessing from Archbishop Desmond Tutu! Mazel tov to Andrew, and to his moms Amy and Lisa! What a great day!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Thus Spake the Presiding Bishop

"I would guess that at [General] Convention, we would adopt a trial rite for blessing same-sex unions," she said, referring to the annual meeting of the church's governing body, which meets every three years. It will next meet in July in Indianapolis. Jefferts Schori said that no priest is required to bless any marriage, but that formal same-sex blessings could become optional.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Never doubt ...

... that a small group of faithful, committed people can change the world.

Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has!

Speaking of Traditional Biblical Values:

h/t Richard Swearingen via The Christian Left

2 For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.

4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?

6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Sermon for the Fifth Sunday in Lent

So we got to bask in the wisdom and witness of the fabulous Phyllis Tickle at our diocesan ministry fair on Saturday ... and so much of what she had to say about the challenges and opportunities of this "emergence paradigm" we find ourselves somewhere in the middle of connected with the musings I started earlier this week about the Greeks who came seeking Jesus in the Gospel appointed for this 5th Sunday in Lent.

So here's a pic of me with Phyllis ... who I've known since we worked on the "Via Media" teaching series back in 2004 ... and who really is one of the great shining lights of 21st century Anglicanism.

And then here's the sermon I ended up with. (Tick Tock Holy Week!)

But What About the Greeks? – Fifth Sunday in Lent
7:30 a.m. All Saints Church, Pasadena March 25, 2012

I know I just finished reading the Gospel
appointed for this fifth Sunday in Lent
with the customary
"The Gospel of the Lord"
but I have to admit
that when I said those words
what I was really thinking was
"But what about the Greeks?"

Because I’m left wondering
What happened to these Greeks who showed up
at the beginning of the gospel saying
"Sir, we wish to see Jesus"
and set off the from Philip to Andrew to Jesus chain of events
that ended up with Jesus going into
the poetic and prophetic musing
on what it means to be glorified
and "indicating the kind of death he was to die."

We never find out what happened to those Greeks.
If we read beyond the verses appointed for this morning
the section – or periscope as they call it in seminary-speak –
ends with "When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them."

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.

So we’re all left wondering:
Did they get to see Jesus?
Were they in crowd when Jesus offered this long explanation
of what his death was going to be about ...
and if so did they "get it" ...
or did they leave wondering what the deal was ...
feeling as if they came in late in the second act
and were not sure what the plot line was all about?

And ... I find myself wondering this morning ...
do we do that today?
Do we have folks who come to us saying "Sir/Madam ...
we wish to see Jesus!" ...
and do they get to?
Or do they get an explanation
of a doctrine that's out of context
and end up wandering off wondering what it was all about.
This Jesus stuff.
This Christian thing.
This Good News.

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 wanted to:
can see for herself that "draw all people" means her, too!

Yes, Jesus 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 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.

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 to 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 it will not surprise you to find that 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 spoke, in the last days before his crucifixion,
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.
Not by crafting Covenants
designed to dictate conformity as the cost of unity
but by risking relationship as the cornerstone of community.

By remembering what Phyllis Tickle taught us
at our diocesan ministry fair yesterday:
that doctrine and dogma are important
because they represent
the paper trail
of our historic experience of God
but those coming toward us
don’t want just a paper trail …
they want their own experience.
Like the Greeks
who came to Philip and Andrew
they want to see Jesus.

And so,
on this Fifth Sunday in Lent,
I pray that God will give us grace
to commit ourselves to being
"… the change we wish to see in the world" –
to persevere 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:
to proclaim Good News to the poor
freedom for the prisoners
sight to the blind
and liberation to the captives
as we work to make God’s love tangible
to turn the human race into the human family
and to make sure that whoever you are
and wherever you find yourself on the journey of faith
you know that if you come here
to this place … to this altar
seeking Jesus
you don’t have to ask if you can see him
because He is already here waiting for you
with open arms.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The "Other" March Madness: Update on Anglican Covenant Brackets

How are your brackets looking for the Anglican Covenant? The breaking news from across the pond this morning was that an early "shoe in" to make the Final Four -- the Church of England -- defeated the Covenant with the votes today in diocesan synods in Oxford and Lincoln. From the No Anglican Covenant Coalition statement:
With today’s results from the dioceses of Oxford and Lincoln, the proposed Anglican Covenant is now dead in the water in the Church of England. This also poses serious problems for the Covenant in other Provinces as it seems nonsensical to have the Archbishop of Canterbury in the second tier of the Anglican Communion and excluded from the central committees.

When we launched the No Anglican Covenant Coalition 18 months ago, we were assured that the Anglican Covenant was an unstoppable juggernaut. We started as simply a band of bloggers, but we would like to thank the hundreds of supporters and our patrons for their dedication to promoting debate. The Covenant needed the approval of 23 diocesan synods, as of today, that result is no longer possible.

Especially we would like to congratulate people in Diocesan Synods across the Church of England who, despite attempts in many dioceses to silence or marginalize dissenting voices, endeavoured to promote debate, ensuring that the Anglican Covenant was subjected to significant and meaningful scrutiny. We found, as the debate went on, that the more people read and studied the Covenant, the less they liked it.
Meanwhile, in a statement kinder folk than I deemed "disingenuous" the Anglican Communion Office's General Secretary Kenneth Kearon noted:
In the light of today's news about the decisions of the dioceses of the Church of England about the Covenant I wanted to clarify the current situation across the Anglican Communion. In December 2009, as requested by the Standing Committee, I sent the text of The Anglican Communion Covenant to all the Member Churches of the Anglican Communion asking that they consider it for adoption according to their own internal procedures.

I have received notifications from eight Provinces that they have approved, or subscribed, the Covenant or, in the case of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, have approved pending ratification at the next synod which is usual procedure in that Province. What next steps are taken by the Church of England is up to that Province. Consideration of the Covenant continues across the Anglican Communion and this was always expected to be a lengthy process.
What Kearon failed to note ... (and here comes the "disingenuous" part) ... but clergy colleague (no relation) Michael Russell caught is:

The SecGen of the Anglican Communion issues a report showing that nine provinces have passed it, but fails to mention at all those who have rejected it. The remaining nine GafCon provinces have already rejected it as well. Thus Provincially the count is perhaps 9 sorta yes and 11 sorta no. England makes that 12

There was no amount of tweaking that could make a silk purse from this sow's ear document, it is a clear rejection of Rowan's appeasement policies and his betrayals. However smart or spiritual he may be, perhaps he will learn that pandering to bullies is never fruitful while reasonable people remain free to confront that behavior.

I am sad that so much time has been wasted on promoting a document that was so fatally flawed in all its dimensions. Perhaps now we can get back to the work of ministry, or maybe sometime address the real issues that divide us.
And THAT should engender a great big fat AMEN ... (and if it wasn't for the fact that it's Lent a couple of heartfelt Alleluias as well!)

Finally, the "spin" has -- of course -- already begun. UK journalist Ruth Gledhill tweeted not moments after the deciding vote "Big covenant fail today as Oxford and Lincoln say no. Will Communion now become Anglican Federation?" My response was:

@RuthieGledhill false dichotomy alert! It's not a choice between Communion & Federation. Communion=relationship Covenant=control. Cheers!
And Tobias Haller's more articulate response was like unto it
:"The supreme irony in this is that the word "federation" derives from the Latin "foederis" = covenant. A federation is precisely a group of entities bound by an agreed covenant. What we are is a "communion" and the proposed Anglican Covenant would have turned us into a weak federation."
And onward we go.

In closing, let me just note that this stunning defeat of the Anglican Covenant in the "Mother Ship" herself is a tribute to the Gospel According to Margaret Mead in action:
"Never doubt that a few faithful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
Well done, No Covenant Coalition! Let's keep it up!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

But what about the Greeks?

I'm preaching on Sunday. It's Lent Event weekend at All Saints Church and we have the fabulous Richard Rohr with us for 9:00 & 11:15 ... as well as the Forum and evening presentations on Sunday & Monday ... and so it fell to me to preach to the faithful early morning remnant who will gather at 7:30 a.m. in the chapel for the said service that starts off our Sunday. And so, of course, I've been mulling the Gospel Appointed for the 5th Sunday in Lent (John 12:20-33):
Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.

Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

"Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say --`Father, save me from this hour'? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him." Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 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." He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.
And then I'll say "The Gospel of the Lord" and what I'll be thinking is "But what about the Greeks?" I'll be wondering what happened to the Greeks who showed up at the beginning of the gospel saying "Sir, we wish to see Jesus" and set off the from Philip to Andrew to Jesus chain of events that ended up with Jesus going into this poetic and prophetic musing on what it means to be glorified and "indicating the kind of death he was to die."

We never find out what happened to the Greeks. (I read ahead in the 12th Chapter of John to check on that and the pericope ends with "When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.") So I'm left wondering: Did they get to see Jesus? Were they in crowd when Jesus offered this long explanation of what his death was going to be about ... and if so did they "get it" ... or did they leave wondering what the deal was ... feeling as if they came in late in the second act and not sure what the plot line was all about.

And ... I find myself wondering this morning ... do we do that today? Do we have folks who come to us saying "Sir/Madam ... we wish to see Jesus!" ... and do they get to? Or do they get an explanation of a doctrine that's out of context and therefore wander off wondering what it was all about. This Jesus stuff. This Christian thing. This Good News.

I wish John had told us what happened next with them. I hope the Greeks got to see Jesus ... and I pray that we might be given the grace to make sure that whoever "the Greeks" are coming toward us get to see the Jesus of love, justice and compassion who leads us not only through these 40 days of Lent but onward to Easter.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Reflecting on Rowan: The Archbishop Who Almost Walked on Water

The announcement last week that Rowan Williams would step down as Archbishop of Canterbury has of course spawned a whole variety of reactions, responses and reflections. For example, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church thanked him "for his erudition and persistence in seeking reconciliation across a rapidly changing Anglican Communion" and the Archbishop of Nigeria compared him to Pontius Pilate.

Welcome to My Big Fat Anglican Family!

My own reflections on this latest plot development in the ongoing saga of "As The Anglican World Turns" have been deeply influenced by my experience of being in Canterbury for Lambeth Conference 2008 as part of the Inclusive Communion Lambeth Witness team.

On the last day of the 2008 Lambeth Conference -- during his final Presidential Address and at the Press Conference following -- +Rowan Williams managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of the victory of a conference that was arguably on the verge of finding a new way forward in faith for those committed to walk together in spite of their differences.

Like Peter, who the gospel writer Matthew tells us, started walking on the water toward Jesus and only began to sink when overcome by doubt and fear, Rowan Williams – after two weeks of a miraculous “walking on water” Lambeth Conference – sank like a stone in the last two hours.

Williams had the chance that summer in Canterbury to keep walking on water … to step out in faith and try something that some say is impossible: to find a way forward as a communion of faith refusing to be divided by the differences that challenge it. But by pushing his preference that the American and Canadian churches abide by the moratoria on blessings of same sex unions and the consecration of any more openly gay bishops, he undid in a two-hour span a good percentage of the good work that had been accomplished over the two-week conference.

For at the end of the day – and against all odds -- the mind of the bishops gathered in Canterbury in the summer of 2008 was to live with the differences they had spent all that time discussing rather than let them be exploited into the divisions the schismatics have been insisting they must be. They offered a great whiff of hope to the end of the inclusion wars and a vision for the beginning of a new way of being communion together.

And instead of embracing that nothing-less-than-a-miracle new way of being – instead of walking on the water toward Jesus – Williams retreated into fear and doubt and threw down a gauntlet to the Americans and Canadians – challenging them to make a “Sophie’s Choice” between the full inclusion of their provinces in the Anglican Communion or the full inclusion of their LGBT baptized in the Body of Christ.

I wrote at the time that he should be ashamed of himself . Four years later I look back at that moment -- with less anger than disappointment -- as the beginning of the end of his episcopate. I look at it as the moment when he chose, as Henri Nouwen named it, the House of Fear over the House of Love -- and as the moment when he was blackmailed into bigotry by those insisting that we could not possible walk on water as a Communion without the sacrifice of the full inclusion of the gay and lesbian baptized.

Scripture tells us what happened to the foolish man who built his house upon the sand. The Archbishop of Canterbury had the opportunity at Lambeth 2008 to act like the wise man he is and build the future of the Anglican Communion on the solid rock of honest differences and not on the shifting sands of global Anglican politics. Jesus promised us that "the truth will set you free." The Communion deserves nothing less than the truth -- and so does the Gospel.

And the truth is that the sacrifice that will hold the Anglican Communion together is not the sacrifice of the gay and lesbian baptized but the sacrifice of a false unity based in dishonesty. It is nothing less than rank hypocrisy that the Archbishop of Canterbury was willing to lay at the feet of Canadian and American Anglicans the blame for divisions in the Communion when the only difference between what's happening in our churches and in his is that we're telling the truth about it.

Because the truth is there is an ontological difference between feeling excluded because you're disagreed with and being excluded because of who you are. Brother and sister Anglicans walking away from the table because they've been disagreed with is a painful thing. The church walking away from the gay and lesbian baptized is a sinful thing.

There was a cartoon in THE CHURCH TIMES when we were at Lambeth Conference. It was set in an automobile show room and the banner announced a new model for 2008: The Anglican Moritoria. Beneath the picture of the car – sitting on blocks, rather than tires -- the cartoon said:
It’s much safer than the other models.
Doesn’t go forward and doesn’t reverse; just stays where it is.
And staying were we are may be "safer" -- but it will not bring about that Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven we keep praying for -- it will not turn the human race into the human family --and it is not the Good News we have been called to proclaim.

And the good news was that next year when the Episcopal Church met in its General Convention in Anaheim, we stood up to say – once and for all -- that gay and lesbian Anglicans are not for sale as bargaining chips in this game of global church politics – that the sacrifice of their lives and vocations in this church is too high a price to pay for institutional unity – and that we are done having our mission and ministry held hostage to the dysfunction of our beloved Big Fat Anglican Family.

We chose to walk on water. We chose to step out in faith in response to the one who says “Come” and to believe that miracles can happen. We chose to walk on water knowing that even if the strong winds blow and the naysayers nay we belong to the One who will catch us if we fall as we move forward in faith into God’s future.

And so today, as I reflect with others on the resignation of Rowan Williams, I do so weighing the cost I watched him pay on that last day at Lambeth with the promise I've seen realized in the mission and ministry of those who have continued to walk on water -- not just here in the Episcopal Church but across the Communion ... as the CofE edges toward women in the episcopate and as the ill-conceived Anglican Covenant edges closer and closer to rejection.

Archbishops they do come and go ... and it's only polite to wish them well on their new endeavors as they leave. Meanwhile, that arc of history is long AND it bends toward justice. Which rates a "thanks be to God" ... and (if it wasn't Lent) an Alleluia!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Books, Books and more Books

I have always loved books. I remember when I got my first library card at about the age of 6 and would weekly check out the maximum number of books a kid was allowed to check at a time (10) from the Eagle Rock branch of the Los Angeles Public Library. I also remember when I "graduated" from the thin books with the big print and pictures to the thick books with the small print and no pictures ... and that I had to renew "Little Women" three times to get through it in 3rd grade but I did it!

Anyway, Sunday night at our new member class a participant was excitedly showing me the "new" book he'd just discovered ... "What Is Anglicanism" by Urban T. Holmes ... and asked me if I'd ever read it.

"READ it!" I exclaimed. "If I had to pick the top ten books from my library it would totally be on the list!"

"And what," he asked, "would the other books be?" And so I've been thinking about that ever since. And though I could NEVER narrow my library down to just ten books, not counting the Bible or my Prayer Book -- at this particular moment in this particular Lent -- these are the other nine books I chose:

  • TELLING THE TRUTH by Frederick Buechner

  • THE DREAM OF GOD by Verna Dozier


  • WE ARE THEOLOGIANS by Fredrica Harris Thompsett

  • THE IRRATIONAL SEASON by Madeline L'Engle

  • HEART OF FLESH by Joan Chittister (or WISDOM DISTILLED FROM THE DAILY but that's at home)

  • TRAVELING MERCIES by Anne Lamott (who's coming here next week with her newest book)

  • UNEXPECTED NEWS by Robert McAfee Brown

  • SHE WHO IS by Elizabeth Johnson

The list could change tomorrow, but that's mine for the moment. What's yours?

Spring Has Sprung!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Thus spake Nigeria

My, my, my! Another country heard from in response to Rowan Williams' resignation:

Church of Nigeria reacts to Archbishop of Canterbury’s Resignation

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd and Rt. Hon. Dr. Rowan Williams took over the leadership of the Anglican Communion in 2002 when it was a happy family. Unfortunately, he is leaving behind a Communion in tatters: highly polarized, bitterly factionalized, with issues of revisionist interpretation of the Holy Scriptures and human sexuality as stumbling blocks to oneness, evangelism and mission all around the Anglican world.

It might not have been entirely his own making, but certainly “crucified under Pontius Pilate”. The lowest ebb of this degeneration came in 2008, when there were, so to say, two “Lambeth” Conferences one in the UK, and an alternative one, GAFCON in Jerusalem. The trend continued recently when many Global South Primates decided not to attend the last Primates’ meeting in Dublin, Ireland.

Since Dr. Rowan Williams did not resign in 2008, over the split Lambeth Conference, one would have expected him to stay on in office, and work assiduously to ‘mend the net’ or repair the breach, before bowing out of office. The only attempt, the covenant proposal, was doomed to fail from the start, as “two cannot walk together unless they have agreed”.

For us, the announcement does not present any opportunity for excitement. It is not good news here, until whoever comes as the next leader pulls back the Communion from the edge of total destruction. To this end, we commit our Church, the Church of Nigeria, (Anglican Communion) to serious fasting and prayers that God will do “a new thing”, in the Communion.

Nevertheless, we join others to continue in prayer for Dr. Rowan Williams and his family for a more fruitful endeavour in their post – Canterbury life.

+Nicholas D. Okoh
Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria

"Nevertheless ...?"


My one wondering about all this is how anyone could ever have imagined that the proposed Covenant would satisfy this bunch and whether +Rowan's resignation takes away the "let's adopt it for Rowan, poor chap, it's the least we can do" in the CofE. We shall see!

Latest Episode of "As The Anglican World Turns" reviewed in the Sunday NYT

There's an insightful piece in today's NYT by Ross Douthat on the resignation of Rowan Williams in specific and "As the Anglican World Turns" in general. Quote in point:
To be an Anglican bishop in Britain today, for instance, means shepherding a shrinking native-born flock alongside growing immigrant churches, trying to make religion relevant in a cosmopolitan and often anti-Christian culture, and figuring out whether the continent’s growing Muslim communities contain potential allies, potential rivals, or both. But to be a bishop in, say, Nigeria — where Christianity is expanding rapidly, secularism is almost nonexistent, and Islam looks like a mortal foe — means something very different. And asking a Welsh-born theologian to steward a Communion that probably holds more churchgoers in Lagos than Liverpool is a recipe for constant agony.
Read the rest here.

[And if you happen to be keeping track of the Other March Madness brackets -- the CofE vote on the proposed Anglican Covenant -- the diocesan count stands at 20 in opposition/12 in favor with 22 needed to defeat and 44 to go. Stay tuned!]

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Words of Wisdom from the Bishop of Liverpool

Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland and Evangelism

From Lesser Feasts and Fasts: Patrick was born into a Christian family somewhere on the northeast coast of Britain in about 390. When Patrick was about sixteen, he was captured by a band of Irish slave-raiders. He was carried off to Ireland and forced to serve as a shepherd. When he was about twenty-one, he escaped and returned to Britain, where he took holy orders both as a presbyter and bishop. A vision then called him to return to Ireland…

In my day school chaplain days, every time I told this story to the kids gathered for morning chapel I would pause at this point and ask them if they could imagine that … IMAGINE what kind of vision it must have been to convince Patrick to go BACK to the place – to the people – who had held him captive in order to bring them the good news of God in Christ Jesus. For of course we remember Patrick as the great evangelist whose missionary journeys spread Christianity all over Ireland – and today we celebrate his life and ministry AND the vision that sent him back to Ireland -- which is why we wear green to school today and eat corned beef and cabbage for dinner tonight. (And one of the mysteries of life I've yet to figure out is how corned beef got to be an icon for evangelism but there it is!)

In 2003 I was in New York City on my way out to meetings on Long Island along with a train full of revelers returning from the annual St. Patrick's Day parade. One of those revelers was a NYPD officer who had sprained his ankle marching in the parade and was heading home for an icepack and some Advil.

I must have been traveling in my collar because the conversation turned to church stuff and I found myself telling him about my ministry – at the time I was the Executive Director of Claiming the Blessing – and about the work we were doing in the Episcopal Church. He had been raised an Irish Catholic – and his partner was Puerto Rican – and it had never occurred to either of them that there might be a church where they would be welcome.

We talked some more and exchanged cards and I promised to email some folks to connect with and he said, sprained ankle notwithstanding, that he felt like running into me on the train was a St. Patrick's Day dose of the luck of the Irish. And when we came to his stop and he stood up to limp off the train, he took the big, green plastic shamrock from around his neck and gave it to me. And he told me to remember there were plenty of other people like him out there who needed to hear what we had to say about a church that welcomed everybody and that I should take some of his Irish luck with me for the work in front of me. And I still have it.

And it reminds me every time I see it of the New York cop who is part of the mission field out there longing for the good news we have to offer – yearning to know that the "Episcopal Church Welcomes You" signs really means him.

And here we are in 2012 -- a church continuing to wrestle with whether or not it is going to fulfill its commitment to the "full and equal claim" promised the gay and lesbian baptized since 1976.

On this particular St. Patrick's Day I believe asking gay and lesbian Episcopalians to hang in there and continue to take the vision of a Body of Christ that fully includes all the baptized BACK to the church that still questions their vocations and relationships is like unto asking Patrick to go evangelize the Irish who enslaved him.

And yet that's the vision we've been given – that's the call we have received.

Our witness of God's inclusive love is not just a witness to the presence of the holy in our lives and our relationships and our vocations -- but a witness to the power of God's love to transcend ANYTHING that holds us captive or enslaves us.

So let's remember on this St. Patrick's Day that the same God who inspired a former captive named Patrick to return to his captors and evangelize them in the 4th century is working in us as we work to call this church and this communion to wholeness in the 21st. And let's remember that it is that power working in us that can do infinitely more than we can ask for or imagine. And then let's get on with the work we have been given to do. (After we have a little corned beef and cabbage!)

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Archbishop of Canterbury to Step Down

Yes, I'm late to the ABofC Resigns Party. But it's been a busy day off of laundry and errands and the vet and ... well, just call it life in the lesbian fast lane.

Arguably a favorite press comment so far about today's breaking news came from the Guardian:
"Throughout his time in office he has been attacked by conservatives for his liberal views on homosexuality and by liberals for failing to live up to those principles."
And there you have it.

Integrity's President Caro Hall's statement included:
"Integrity wishes him well in his new position and prays that when God calls the next Archbishop he will be a forward-looking person of great courage who understands that to be the Instrument of Unity may not mean keeping everyone together in a unholy alliance. We hope that the members of the Crown Appointments Commission and the British Prime Minster will not bow to the forces who seek to keep the Church of England, and by example, the rest of the Anglican Communion, in the dark ages where women, gays, lesbians and trans-people are not welcome in the House of Bishops and thus are not welcome at all."
And the always brilliant Giles Fraser wrote:
Most people read him wrong – radical yes, liberal no. He was the spiritual equivalent, perhaps even the inspiration behind, to what Philip Blond later came to popularise as Red Toryism. He distrusted unfettered market forces, but also, and against the spirit of the age, the emphasis on individual freedom that went with it. His was a nostalgia for an old-fashioned ideal of community - perhaps even the sort of community of the South Wales village - where collective solidarity is always more important than individual choice and social diversity.

In effect, he became a split personality – with Williams the man at odds with Williams the archbishop. After the bitter Lambeth Conference of 1998, Williams, and several other bishops, made gay Christians a promise: "We pledge we will continue to reflect, pray and work for your full inclusion in the life of the church." Unfortunately, it was a promise he would fail to keep.

I'll have my own reflections tomorrow, but in the meantime, Episcopal Cafe has a comprehensive round up and Thinking Anglicans is another source for commentary. And no matter how you slice it, it's an end of an era.

Monday, March 12, 2012



It takes courage to be crocus-minded
Lord, I'd rather wait till June
like wise roses
when the hazards of winter are safely behind
and I'm expected
and everything's ready for roses

But crocuses?

Highly irregular
knifing up
through hard frozen ground and snow
sticking their necks out
because they believe in spring
and have something personal
and emphatic to say about it

Lord, I am by nature rose-minded
Even when I have
studied the situation her
and know there are wrongs that need righting
affirmations that need stating
and know that my speaking out
might even rock the boat
Well, I'd rather wait till June

Maybe things will sort themselves out
and we won't have to make an issue of it

Lord, forgive
Wrongs don't work themselves out
Injustices and inequities and hurts don't just dissolve
Somebody has to stick their neck out
somebody who cares enough to think through
and work through hard ground
because they believe
and have something personal to say about it

Me Lord, crocus minded?
Could it be that there are things that need to be said
and you want me to say them?
I pray for courage

[author unknown to me]

Sunday, March 11, 2012

For the Third Sunday in Lent

Quick post for the 3rd Sunday in Lent, fresh from this morning's experimental Contemplative Eucharist (sans spoken words) at the 9 & 11:15 services. Here's a photo snapped from the balcony as congregants lit votive candles while music played during the prayers of the people -- and one of the quotess scattered through the bulletin for meditation and reflection ... from my fav: Madeline L'Engle.

"What I believe is so magnificent, so glorious, that it is beyond finite comprehension. To believe that the universe was created by a purposeful, benign Creator is one thing. To believe that this Creator took on human vesture, accepted death and mortality, was tempted, betrayed, broken, and all for love of us, defies reason.

It is so wild that it terrifies some Christians who try to dogmatize their fear by lashing out at other Christians, because tidy Christianity with all answers given is easier than one which reaches out to the wild wonder of God's love, a love we don’t even have to earn."
— Madeleine L’Engle (1918–2007)

Friday, March 09, 2012

Claiming the Blessing 2012: What a difference a decade makes!

In 2002 when the “Claiming the Blessing” collaborative came together we had a single, simple, strategic goal [from the CTB website:]
Our initial commitment was obtaining approval of a liturgical blessing of the faithful, monogamous relationship between two adults of any gender at General Convention 2003. The results were history making, and CLAIMING THE BLESSING was instrumental in making that history happen. Resolution C051 was passed, recognizing for the first time that "local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions.”
Ten years later – after a long and winding road -- we are ready to claim the blessing of a liturgical rite for the blessing or those relationships.

You may or may not have seen the ENS release yesterday that the SCLM (Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music) has released excerpts from their report in response to Resolution C-056 calling for the collection and development of resources for the blessing of same-gender unions. If you missed it, here’s the link.

So now that the months of work that have gone into the years-in-progress goal of securing approval for rites for blessing of same-gender relationships is finally “out,” you may be asking yourself “what can I do to help turn this from a resolution to a reality?”

I’m glad you asked.
Read the resources and familiarize yourself with the theological background, the language of the rite per se and the two legislative resolutions coming to GC2012

Contact your deputies and bishops and encourage them to do the same … urging their proactive support for moving this important work from resolution to reality.

Network with others in your congregation, diocese and province to go and do likewise. Let those representing you at General Convention know that you support this move forward and expect them to support it in Indianapolis.

Advocate for the work of the SCLM whenever and wherever you can … comment on blog posts, letters to the editor, facebook comments, online forums, etc. Be prepared to respond to the mis-information that will doubtless be “coming soon” with the facts. (For example: no one will be or CAN be forced to preside at the blessing of a same-gender relationship against their conscience. Indeed, what couple would WANT a priest presiding at their blessing who didn’t support the vocation of their relationship? Seriously!)

ASK for more information if you need it … from members of the SCLM or the task force members. Or ask me.

• And finally Pray. Pray without ceasing. For justice to roll down like waters. For an end to homophobia and for the healing of the wounds the church has inflicted over its history to God's beloved LGBT children. For those who will claim in these liturgies for the blessing of their relationships the gift of being blessed in order to be a blessing. For the opportunity for evangelism this step forward on the arc of history gives us as a church. And do not neglect to pray for those who oppose the fuller inclusion of LGBT people in the work and witness of the church. Pray that the wideness of God's mercy might be wide enough for them to find the room they need to stand in communion and conversation with those with whom they disagree. And pray that we might all be given the grace to live out the "second greatest commandment" our Lord gave us: to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Ready. Set. Go. Do it. Now. Claim the blessing that you might be a blessing to those looking for the Good News of God's love, justice and compassion made tangible in your witness to the Gospel.


Thursday, March 08, 2012

Ending the War on Women: Lent & Liberation

Last Sunday we had the extraordinary privilege of having the Reverend Dr. Jay Emerson Johnson with us for a Rector’s Forum entitled “Ending the War on Women: Lent & Liberation” where he challenged us to think "both historically and theologically about the recent flare-up in this war on women.”

“I want to be really clear and explicit right up front that I'm offering these observations as a white gay man,” he began. “I say this because I am perplexed by the near deafening silence from so many white gay men concerning the twin poisons of sexism and racism in North Atlantic societies today. This is deeply troubling to me, especially since homophobia is but a symptom of a much deeper confluence of male privilege and white supremacy in our history and in our world. If we fail to link male privilege with white supremacy we do so, I believe, at our grave peril.”

“We should note, for example that the latest fiascoes over access to contraception are not just brief regurgitations of the so-called culture war. They are instead of instances of a much longer and deeper struggle for control over women's bodies -- and therefore, also a struggle for the liberation of all bodies. It is also a struggle for the liberation of all bodies: women's bodies, men's bodies, children's bodies, the bodies of all other animals ... the body of this planet itself, Mother Earth. Indeed there is a direct link between the kind of male privilege that lays claim to women's bodies and rapes this planet for resources. I truly believe if we ended the war on women we would save the planet."

Trust me when I tell you NOT to miss this one:

Ready for Prime Time: The Blessings Project

Yes, it's been a long time coming, but today I am delighted to share this press release from the Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs entitled:
Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music releases report on blessing same-gender relationships
It reads, in part:

The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) of the Episcopal Church has forwarded to the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies excerpts from its report, “I Will Bless You, and You Will Be a Blessing”: Resources for Blessing Same-Gender Relationships.

The report, nearly three years in the making, was prepared by the SCLM in compliance 2009-C056, "Liturgies for Blessings," a resolution approved by the General Convention (GC) of the Episcopal Church in 2009 which directed the SCLM to collect and develop theological and liturgical resources for the blessing of same-gender relationships through an open process.

“Since 2009, the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music has consulted widely throughout the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion,” said the Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers, Hodges-Haynes Professor of Liturgics at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific and chair of the SCLM. “Providing our report to the church’s two legislative houses, the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, is the next step in our open process. We look forward to their discussions and to presenting our report to General Convention in July.”

The report’s theological reflection notes that the SCLM has reviewed more than 30 years of General Convention’s deliberation on same-gender couples, especially resolution 2000-D039, approved in 2000, that identified characteristics the Church expects of couples living in marriage and other lifelong committed relationships: “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.”

“Such covenantal relationships can reflect God‘s own gracious covenant with us in Christ, manifest the fruits of the Spirit in holiness of life, and model for the whole community the love of neighbor in the practice of forgiveness and reconciliation,” the report states.

Resolutions Proposed to General Convention

The first of the two resolutions submitted by the SCLM asks GC12 to commend the SCLM’s report for study by the church and to allow trial use of its liturgical rite beginning on December 2, the first Sunday of Advent and the beginning of the church’s liturgical year. The trial use period would include an open process for review and a report to GC in 2015.

This resolution also requests that GC12 extend the provision of “generous pastoral response,” first provided in 2009, particularly to bishops in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal. This provision has allowed bishops to use their discretion in allowing clergy to officiate at the marriages or civil unions of same-gender couples in states where those unions are legal.

The second resolution asks GC12 to create a “task force of not more than 12 people, consisting of theologians, liturgists, pastors, and educators, to identify and explore biblical, theological, historical, liturgical, and canonical dimensions of marriage.” This task force, explained Meyers, would help the church study the issues raised by the marriage equality debate in civil society.

The full set of resources the SCLM has developed includes an introduction explaining the process that has been undertaken, a survey of legal and canonical matters, pastoral resources for preparing a couple for a liturgical blessing, a discussion guide for congregations, and an overview of GC legislation. These, along with the excerpts released March 7, will be published in April as part of the reports to GC12 from all official commissions, committees, agencies, and boards of The Episcopal Church, known as The Blue Book.

Complete report here. Read. Mark. Learn. Inwardly Digest. Give thanks. And then call your bishops and deputies and urge them to go and do likewise.

Claim the power of the Gospel According to Margaret Mead: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." Seriously!! Now is the time to stand up and say NOW is the time.

Here's what the arc of history bending toward justice looks like in a bar chart:

Shifting public opinion and our movement’s recent wins for equality from New York and Maryland to Washington and California demonstrate that we are closer than ever before to ensuring that same-sex couples and their families are treated with dignity, respect and equality.

In the midst of these watershed moments in the movement for LGBT equality, we must remain vigilant and continue our efforts to change hearts and minds to ensure that public opinion continues to keep pace with our legislative and legal victories and that our opponents’ lies about LGBT people harming kids have no longer have any place in the public discourse or power over public opinion.

Read the rest over at the EQCA (Equality California) blog

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Loved this one:

h/t Jeff Martinhauk on Facebook:

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

"Where is his authority?" (Question about the Canons on Marriage)

In response to the Bishop of Maryland's statement authorizing the clergy in his diocese to perform marriages between same-sex couples, a commenter wrote:
The Constitution and Canons seem pretty clear that marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman ... Seriously - where is his authority to do this?
Good question. First of all, he's hardly the first. There's a long list of bishops who have been doing precisely that as marriage equality has dawned in their dioceses. [note Bishop Shaw above at the Ragsdale/Lloyd nuptials on January 1.]

Now to the "authority" question. Here's an answer ... which begins by noting that the Canons arguably say nothing about marriage being "exclusively between a man and a woman."

Let's review. Canon I.18 (page 58) begins by instructing the clergy of this Church to "conform to the laws of the State governing the creation of the civil status of marriage" ...
CANON 18: Of the Solemnization of Holy Matrimony

Sec. 1. Every Member of the Clergy of this Church shall conform to the laws of the State governing the creation of the civil status of marriage, and also to the laws of this Church governing the solemnization of Holy Matrimony.
... and then continue with a "check list" -- which includes in (b) a description of marriage.
Sec. 2. Before solemnizing a marriage the Member of the Clergy
shall have ascertained:
(a) That both parties have the right to contract a marriage
according to the laws of the State.
(b) That both parties understand that Holy Matrimony is a physical and spiritual union of a man and a woman, entered into within the community of faith, by mutual consent of heart, mind, and will, and with intent that it be lifelong.
(c) That both parties freely and knowingly consent to such
marriage, without fraud, coercion, mistake as to identity of a
partner, or mental reservation.
(d) That at least one of the parties has received Holy Baptism.
(e) That both parties have been instructed as to the nature,
meaning, and purpose of Holy Matrimony by the Member of
the Clergy, or that they have both received such instruction
from persons known by the Member of the Clergy to be
competent and responsible.
It can be argued ... and indeed, is being argued ... that Canon 18.2b does not proscribe that marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman ... rather it describes Holy Matrimony as "a physical and spiritual union of a man and a woman, entered into within the community of faith, by mutual consent of heart, mind, and will, and with intent that it be lifelong" at a time when that was indeed the case. And it can be argued ... and indeed, is being argued ... that the values the make up the marriage transcend the gender of the couple committing to live out those values until death do they part.

It can be argued ... and indeed, is being argued ... that the descriptive nature of the language in Canon 18.2b does not "trump" the instructive nature of Section 18.1 to "conform to the laws of the State governing the civil status of marriage" -- and that bishops are operating within the spirit of the law (canon) when they authorize the clergy in their dioceses to stand on right side of history by offering equal blessing and equal protection to the same-sex couples coming to them for the blessing and solemnization of their civil marriage ... now available in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington, D.C. -- and coming soon to the states of Maryland and Washington. (And ... I believe ... coming BACK to California.)

My not definitive quick survey tells me that four of six New York bishops as well as the bishops of Maryland, Washington and Olympia have all come down on side of equality. I know my bishop, Jon Bruno, did while we had marriage equality here in California and I expect him to reiterate same when we get it back (sooner, I hope, rather than later.)

Is it messy? Yes. Do the canons need updating? Absolutely! Will we be working to make that happen in Indianapolis in July? (rhetorical question ... of course we will be!) In the meantime, is a bishop acting beyond his or her authority to permit clergy in their diocese to bless and solemnize marriages between same-sex couples? We don't think so.

Hope that helps!

Monday, March 05, 2012

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams faces defeat on Covenant - Telegraph

Last night the proposed Anglican Covenant stood on the brink of failure, after worshippers and clergy rejected it in votes up and down England. Two bishops voted against it.

Supporters of Dr Williams said that a defeat would be a “devastating” blow to him after he staked so much of his authority on the Covenant.

Sir Diarmaid MacCulloch, professor of the history of the Church at Oxford University, described the Covenant as a “witch hunt” against the US and Canadian Churches.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Don't Give Up Your Manners for Lent!

Remember what your mama taught you about writing thank you notes? Now is the moment to make her proud of you and put your thanks for standing up for marriage equality into an email to Bishop Mariann Budde (Washington) and Bishop Eugene Sutton (Maryland) -- both of whom issued statements today authorizing the clergy in their dioceses to preside at same-sex marriages.

Here are their statements …
Bishop Budde # Bishop Sutton

And here are their email addresses …
Bishop Budde # Bishop Sutton

Ready. Set. GO! (Make your mama proud!)

Bishop of Maryland on Marriage Equality

“Many of us are rejoicing that we in Maryland will be able to provide the church’s blessing upon these committed relationships in marriage, but also many Episcopal clergy in good conscience cannot perform same gender marriages. For those who have discerned that such committed relationships have met the church’s standards of holy matrimony, this bill this bill will permit them to do so, and I am giving them my consent to perform these marriages.” -- Bishop Eugene Sutton, Diocese of Maryland

Washington bishop will “allow and encourage” clergy to officiate at civil marriage ceremonies

[received via email press release from Canticle Communications]


WASHINGTON, D. C., MARCH 1—The Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, released a statement today on the signing of the Civil Marriage Protection Act in the state of Maryland. Her diocese includes the Maryland counties of Montgomery, Prince George’s, Charles and Saint Mary’s. The statement follows:
“I congratulate the Maryland legislature and Governor Martin O'Malley for their courageous and persistent efforts to ensure marriage equity for all Maryland citizens. As soon as the Civil Marriage Protection Act is enacted and same-gender couples can be married in the eyes of the state, I will allow and encourage Episcopal clergy in the Diocese of Washington to preside at such ceremonies, asking that they bring to this ministry the same spiritual intention and pastoral care provided to heterosexual couples seeking marriage in the Church.

“Not all Episcopal clergy and congregations support same-gender marriage, and in no way do I intend to force this issue upon them. But for those who feel called to offer the sacramental and spiritual support of the Church to same-gender couples seeking marriage, I gladly give consent and the authority to do so.”
Brava Bishop Budde!

Prop 8 Play to be Live Streamed on YouTube: Saturday, March 3rd

More details here.