Thursday, May 31, 2012

DOMA Closer to the Dumpster

Let's be clear: the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" does not defend marriage -- it discriminates against same-sex marriages. Equal protection simply isn't equal protection unless it equally protects everybody -- and since DOMA violates that foundational principle of constitutional democracy it is long past time for it to go in the dustbin of history. Today's ruling by the 1st Circuit Court finding DOMA unconstitutional is therefore an important step toward that goal – making "liberty and justice for all" a little closer to really mean "all."

BOSTON — An appeals court ruled Thursday that the heart of a law that denies a host of federal benefits to gay married couples is unconstitutional.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston said the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, discriminates against married same-sex couples by denying them federal benefits.

The law was passed in 1996 at a time when it appeared Hawaii would legalize gay marriage. Since then, many states have instituted their own bans on gay marriage, while eight states have approved it, led by Massachusetts in 2004.

Read the rest here

Monday, May 28, 2012

God of love and mercy, receive our thanks this day for the men and women who have given their lives in service to our country. Help us to honor them in our work for peace through justice, that people across the globe may live abundant lives freed from the threat of war and violence. In the name of Christ, we pray. Amen.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Celebrating a Decade of Work and Witness: Claiming the Blessing Blog Launched!

CLAIMING the BLESSING was convened in 2002 as an intentional collaborative ministry of leading Episcopal justice organizations (including Integrity, Oasis, Beyond Inclusion and the Episcopal Women's Caucus) in partnership with the Witness magazine and other individual leaders in the Episcopal Church focused on promoting wholeness in human relationships, abolishing prejudice and oppression, and healing the rift between sexuality and spirituality in the Church.
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. Then on June 7, 2003 when Canon Gene Robinson was elected by the Diocese of New Hampshire to be their 9th bishop, our agenda expanded to include securing consents to his election.The results were history making.

2002 - 2012. It's been a decade full of work and witness, of challenge and opportunity. And we're not done yet. "Promoting wholeness in human relationships, abolishing prejudice and oppression, and healing the rift between sexuality and spirituality in the Church" is a tall order -- but we're on it. And will continue to be on it until the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments is a reality and not just a resolution. This blog will be an archive of that work and witness.

Check it out! Posts so far include:
  •  2002-2012: CTB History
  • "A Message to the Church:" -- Michael Hopkins explains it all
  • "What does it mean to bless?" -- CTB Theology statement
  • "Biblical theology and the debate about rites of blessing" -- An interview with Walter Brueggemann

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Evangelism: Texas Style

Watch this local news segment from Austin (Diocese of Texas) and think about the take-aways of [1] the Episcopal Church Welcomes Everybody and [2] (I loved this line) "Jesus friended everybody before Facebook."

Kudos to St. David's, Austin ... Onward to Indianapolis:

"Discrimination is as discrimination does:" More on the Mess in the CofE

"Discriminatory is as discriminatory does. It is not for the discriminator to judge the matter, based on their intentions, but those discriminated against, based on what actually happens. All else is illusion."  by Bishop Alan Wilson
So, where has the C of E got to this week on Ministry and gender? Assuming Les Six have done their stuff, an amended scheme will go before the General Synod in a few days time. Down the road leading here two mantras have pullulated behind the discussion:

(1) “This isn't, of course, about gender. Perish the Thought.” This assertion is a lie. It is, and it always was. Discriminatory is as discriminatory does. It is not for the discriminator to judge the matter, based on their intentions, but those discriminated against, based on what actually happens. All else is illusion.
(2) “This is about theology not discrimination.” This assertion is a lie. However you tart it up, Trevor Huddleston showed us years ago, discriminating is actually a theological assertion. Imagine, as I have attempted sincerely to do, that there is a theology that justifies treating women, against their will and calling, as inferior. I can't conceive of such a thing, but let's suspend disbelief for a moment. What is the difference between that noble theology and cultural prejudice dressed in voodoo? At no time in the past five years has anyone showed me. All that unites reactionaries in this matter seems to be a cultural prejudice against seeing women in positions of authority, reinforced by a reactionary subculture. It is every bit as much drawn from the contemporary world’s values as progressive aspiration. It’s just drawn from the reactionary quarter of them.

So, for synod members, it’s what one game show used to call make-up-your-mind-time, for the next five years anyway. If the Church needs a gender-neutral ministry, something the vast majority of people believe to be right, this scheme does not deliver that. It is fundamentally inequitable and discriminatory. The best condoms do not have holes in them, however small. There is no telling what monstrous births may take place in the various caves of Adullam this measure potentially creates.

It could be a step in the right direction, but it will retain the Church’s institutional sexism in a way most people outside the bubble find puzzling and, ultimately, morally disgusting. If what matters most is the lesser matter of allowing women to be bishops, this scheme does finagle that. In itself the eventual presence of women in the house of bishops might be able to achieve what the present set-up couldn’t for the institution, and plug the hole in the bucket.

In a down and dirty world this won't be the first time in human affairs tulips were grown on dung. As to the leadership of the Church in synod, a lifetime of pretending, whilst trying to set their course on dead reckoning and politics with only an occasional star sight, scarcely prepares them to exercise moral leadership at a critical moment. Most episcopal palaces are emitting a loud and eloquent silence now. Many of our senior men probably thought on Monday that all they were doing was giving the women what they wanted whilst being as nice as possible to the other lot. That's why you can't see them for dust now.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The CofE throws out the baby of historic Anglicanism with the bathwater of misogyny

I'm behind -- on everything from blogging to bill paying and just about everything in between. But I couldn't let the latest craziness in the Church of England go without comment. And since I don't have time to come up with my own, here's Andrew Brown's from "Comment is Free" in the Guardian ...
The present code of practice makes it possible for parishes to reject the ministry of women but it was introduced in the clear expectation that such parishes would die out. Enshrining the veto in law makes it much less likely than they will, and it also introduces an unmistakable element of gender discrimination into the law. That will confront parliament (which also must approve the law) with quite a tricky problem.
To give parishes the legal right to choose their bishops is wholly incompatible with the way the Church of England has always worked before, so it's a nice irony that it should be brought forward by "traditionalists".
More later. Laundry to fold.
Oh ... what does the ABofC have to say about it?
Nothing helpful.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Speaking of "redefining marriage:"

[thanks to "Gay Christians Downunder in Australia" for this one!]

Sunday, May 20, 2012

"New Skies" premieres today at All Saints Church

Time flies when you're having fun and so it's hard to believe that here we are pushing the end of May again already and gearing up for the Spring Concert for our Children and Youth Choirs at All Saints Church. If you're in the neighborhood, of course you should drop by. 5pm in the Church. And even if you're NOT in the neighborhood you should know about anthem premiering in the concert this evening.

The title is “New Skies” and it was commissioned by us from Karen P. Thomas, artistic director of Seattle Pro Musica. There are 3 texts that are used through the song. The first is the pledge from the “It Gets Better” website.
Everyone deserves to be respected for who they are.
I pledge to spread this message to my friends, family and neighbors.
I’ll speak up against hate and intolerance whenever I see it,
At school and at work.
I’ll provide hope for lesbian, gay, bi and trans and other bullied teens by letting them know that
“It Gets Better!”
The next text was an anonymous poem that was found on that same website (sung by Trouveres):
Look up!
Let us search for clear sky.
Rain flows in rivers where we stand.
Wind pushes, we sway, but stand still, but stay strong.
There are new skies to come.
Do not say that we are less than,
We are as ever,
Hearts flying wild,
Hope beating heavy and sense turning mad,
Excitement growing,
Hands in hands,
And as ever, and as always,
You want only, simply, to be loved
And come home.
The last poem is Emily Dickinson (sung by Mastersingers and Troubadours and Chamber Choir):
If I can stop one heart from breaking
I shall not live in vain.
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help on fainting robin
Unto his next again,
I shall not live in vain.

They say that those who sing pray twice ... and so these words ... prayed twice as they are sung this evening by the young voices here at All Saints Church ... will be offered "like incense" into a world in desperate need of the love, hope and healing they represent. Songs of healing. Songs of hope. Songs of new skies and a new commitment to be the agents of change that will rid the world of the hatred, intolerance and homophobia that keeps it from being the "kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven" we pray for.
And let the people say, "AMEN."

Saturday, May 19, 2012

COMING SOON to a General Convention Near YOU!!

Gay Rights = Civil Rights ... says the NAACP

The board of the N.A.A.C.P. voted to endorse same-sex marriage on Saturday, putting the weight of the country’s most prominent civil rights group behind a cause that has long divided some quarters of the black community.

The largely symbolic move, made at the group’s meeting in Miami, puts the N.A.A.C.P. in line with President Obama, who endorsed gay marriage a little over a week ago. Given the timing, it is likely to be viewed as both a statement of principle as well as support for the president’s position in the middle of a closely contested presidential campaign.

All but two of the organization’s board members, who include many religious leaders, backed a resolution supporting same-sex marriage, according to people told of the decision.

Borrowing a term used by gay rights advocates, the resolution stated, “We support marriage equality consistent with equal protection under the law provided under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

In a statement, Roslyn M. Brock, chairwoman of the board, which has 64 members, said, “We have and will oppose efforts to codify discrimination into law.”

Read the rest here

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The High Cost of Homophobia

Homosexuality isn't what needs healing.
Homophobia is.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Blame-the-Gays-Game: It's BACK!!

Some things you can set your clock by. The Rose Parade coming to Pasadena for New Year's Day. The swallows returning to Capistrano for St. Joseph's Day. And the Blame-the-Gays-Game reappearing on the House of Bishops/Deputies list serve for General Convention.

We're -- let me check -- yes, 49 days out from our first legislative day and like Pasadena swimming with tourists or Capistrano swamped with swallows, the rhetoric on the list is knee-deep in blame-shame-and-attack at the "distraction from the real work of the church" our conversations about human sexuality have become. It is rife with straw "men" arguments involving the ever-popular themes of polygamy, promiscuity and bestiality. And -- the part that got on my last gay nerve this morning -- the blaming of the "decline of civil discourse" (which is certainly worth bemoaning!) on "the events of 2003" (which is code for "the election of Gene Robinson.)

Which precipated the following commentary from yours truly -- which I share here for your edification and information:

This will be my 8th General Convention. My first was Phoenix in 1991 when the discourse between bishops came so notably "un-civil" that then Presiding Bishop Ed Browning opted to clear the visitors from the gallery in order to let the bishops argue behind closed doors. Verna Dozier famously said we were "a peculiar people." She did not say we were "a perfect people."

That said, what I know from my experience of more legislative hearings, committee meetings and floor debates than I can now count, that the tone and timbre of our work at General Convention has been overwhelming characterized by respectful discourse, prayerful consideration and genuine care and concern for those who hold opposing viewpoints. For all its challenges, when we gather as the Body Politic of the Episcopal Church there is a holiness about our work that transcends our differences -- so I have no choice but to blame the Holy Spirit.

What I know about this list serve is that passions rise, keyboards click and it is all too easy to lose sight of the humanity behind the words we disagree with in our responses. Finding ways to communicate respectfully across differences is an ongoing challenge -- in our culture and in our church -- and because we are human we, of course, will fall short of that mark. And because we are Christians, when we do we are called to repent and return to how the Lord would have us treat each other -- in love as Christ loved us.

At the same time, I believe the promise that the truth will set you free in John 8:32 calls us to speak the truth to each other -- and when that truth is that our positions are being misrepresented, when we are asked to defend arguments we haven't made and when the lives, relationships and vocations of the LGBT baptized are reduced to "issues" then we will speak that truth -- while endeavoring to speak it in love. And for my money, no one every spoke it better than the Reverend Michael Hopkins when he wrote these words:

"We ask you to stop scapegoating lesbian and gay Christians for every contemporary ill in the Church, particularly for our current state of disunity or the potential for the unraveling of the Anglican Communion. You know as well as we do that the issues are far deeper than human sexuality. They are issues of scriptural interpretation and authority, including the very different polities that exist in different provinces of the Communion and whether or not local autonomy is a defining characteristic of Anglicanism. Issues of human sexuality are just one tip of that very large iceberg and if sexuality went completely away tomorrow, the iceberg would still be there.

This movement is not about getting our way or else. This movement is a means to further the healthy debate within the Church, to deepen it on a theological level, to begin to articulate how we see the blessing of same-sex unions as a part of the Church’s moving forward in mission rather than hindering mission. We believe that it is time for the church to claim the blessing found in the lives of its faithful lesbian and gay members and to further empower them for the mission of the Church. We are trying to find a way forward in this endeavor that holds as much of this church we love together as possible. We ask all our fellow-Episcopalians to join us even if they disagree with us."
That was 2002. Before the nomination or election of the 9th Bishop of New Hampshire -- much less C056 or the SCLM Blessings Task Force. And his words are still true. And they will still set us free if we will let them.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

D007 -- Response to the Anglican Covenant

I am honored to be the proposer of the following resolution -- wending its way through the General Convention Office resolution submission process -- representing the good work of the global No Anglican Covenant Coalition. Just received word that our resolution has been assigned filing number D007 ... so we are well and truly Indianapolis bound!

With thanks to all who worked to craft this resolution and to its endorsers and sponsors, I give you:

D007 -- Response to the Anglican Covenant

PROPOSER Russell, The Rev. Cn. Susan

ENDORSED BY Hopkins, The Very Rev. Michael; Lee, Ms. Lelanda

SPONSORED BY Buchanan, The Rev. Susan; Engstrom, The Very Rev. Marilyn; Gracey, Mr. R. Stephen; Hart, Mr. Christopher; Kandt, Mrs. Pamela; Leigh , Ms. Tobyn; Moore, The Rev. Stephen; Russell, The Rev. Michael; Shaw, The Rev. Lee; Williams, Ms. Sandra; Bronson Sweigert, The Rev. Cynthia


Resolved, the House of _______ concurring, That the 77th General Convention give thanks to all who have worked to increase understanding and strengthen relationships among the churches of the Anglican Communion; and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention reaffirm the commitment of this church to the fellowship of autonomous national and regional churches that is the Anglican Communion; and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention recognizes that sister churches of the Anglican Communion are properly drawn together by bonds of affection, by participation in the common mission of the gospel, and by consultation without coercion or intimidation; and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention, having prayerfully considered the merits of the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant and believing said agreement to be contrary to Anglican ecclesiology and tradition and to the best interests of the Anglican Communion, respectfully decline to adopt the same; and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention call upon the leaders of The Episcopal Church at every level to seek opportunities to reach out to strengthen and restore relationships between this church and sister churches of the Communion.

EXPLANATION Churches of the Anglican Communion have been asked to adopt the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant. The suggestion for such an agreement was made in the 2004 Windsor Report, which recommended "the adoption by the churches of the Communion of a common Anglican Covenant which would make explicit and forceful the loyalty and bonds of affection which govern the relationships between churches of the Communion."

The Windsor Report was produced at the request of Primates upset with the impending consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire and the promulgation of a liturgy for the blessing of same-sex unions by the Diocese of New Westminster in the Anglican Church of Canada. Archbishop Drexel Gomez, of the Anglican Province of the West Indies, was entrusted with leading the development of the first draft of a covenant.

This same Archbishop Gomez was one of the editors of "To Mend the Net", a collection of essays dating from 2001 and advocating enhancing the power of the Anglican Primates to deter, inter alia, the ordination of women and "active homosexuals," as well as the blessing of same-sex unions. Archbishop Gomez's punitive agenda remains evident in the final draft of the proposed Covenant.

Despite protestations to the contrary, the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant attempts to create a centralized authority that would constrain the self-governance of The Episcopal Church and other churches of the Communion. This unacceptably inhibits Communion churches from pursuing the gospel mission as they discern it.

The Church of England has already declined to adopt the Anglican Communion Covenant. The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines has indicated that they will not support the Covenant, and the rejection of the Covenant by the Tikanga Maori of the Anglican Church in Aoteroa, New Zealand and Polynesia renders it virtually certain that those churches will also decline to adopt.

The deficiencies of the proposed Covenant would lead to an Anglican Communion further divided rather than more unified.

Declining to adopt the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant not only avoids permanent, institutionalized division, it opens the way for new opportunities to build relationships across differences through bonds of affection, by participation in the common mission of the gospel, and by consultation without coercion or intimidation.

Monday, May 14, 2012

God Believes in Love: Straight Talk About Gay Marriage

Check it out: Good news about Gene Robinson's new book coming out in September!

"My friend, Bishop Gene Robinson, has long been a voice for equality—not with anger or vitriol, but with compassion and faith. He has been guided by the simple precept that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us." — President Barack Obama

From the Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire in the Episcopal Church, the first openly gay person elected (in 2003) to the historic episcopate and the world's leading religious spokesperson for gay rights and gay marriage—a groundbreaking book that lovingly and persuasively makes the case for same-sex marriage using a commonsense, reasoned, religious argument, made by someone who holds the religious text of the Bible to be holy and sacred and the ensuing two millennia of church history to be relevant to the discussion, equally familiar with the secular and political debate going on in America today, and for whom same-sex marriage is a personal issue.

Find out more here

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Andrew Sullivan on why Obama's Evolution Matters So Much

Andrew Sullivan weighs in on Presdident Obama's Evolution on Marriage Equality in the upcoming issue of TIME Magazine. Here's a preview:

I do not know how orchestrated this was; and I do not know how calculated it is. What I know is that, absorbing the news, I was uncharacteristically at a loss for words for a while, didn't know what to write, and, like many Dish readers, there are tears in my eyes.

So let me simply say: I think of all the gay kids out there who now know they have their president on their side. I think of Maurice Sendak, who just died, whose decades-long relationship was never given the respect it deserved. I think of the centuries and decades in which gay people found it impossible to believe that marriage and inclusion in their own families was possible for them, so crushed were they by the weight of social and religious pressure. I think of all those in the plague years shut out of hospital rooms, thrown out of apartments, written out of wills, treated like human garbage because they loved another human being. I think of Frank Kameny. I think of the gay parents who now feel their president is behind their sacrifices and their love for their children.

The interview changes no laws; it has no tangible effect. But it reaffirms for me the integrity of this man we are immensely lucky to have in the White House. Obama's journey on this has been like that of many other Americans, when faced with the actual reality of gay lives and gay relationships. Yes, there was politics in a lot of it. But not all of it. I was in the room long before the 2008 primaries when Obama spoke to the mother of a gay son about marriage equality. He said he was for equality, but not marriage. Five years later, he sees--as we all see--that you cannot have one without the other.

Read the rest here.

Friday, May 11, 2012

And NOW a word from Sojourners

Here's the statement posted over on God's Politics yesterday in response to President Obama's Evolution on Marriage Equality:
"Sojourners supports equal protection under the law and full legal rights for all people regardless of sexual orientation. We affirm the right of faith communities, congregations, and religious organizations to define marriage in accordance with their own traditions and interpretation of Scripture.
"We hope that the president will work to find common ground with those who do not agree with his position on same-sex marriage and believe that open, respectful, and civil discourse on these issues is very important. For all of us, our relationships with friends and family, and our faith convictions will influence our views on these matters. We believe the best path forward is a legal system that respects the rights and responsibilities of all couples, gay or straight, and also respects the religious liberty of faith communities to define marriage consistent with their theology and scriptural understanding."
Seriously? After years of bobbing and weaving around the issue of marriage equality, Sojourners' official position is:
We believe the best path forward is a legal system that respects the rights and responsibilities of all couples, gay or straight, and also respects the religious liberty of faith communities to define marriage consistent with their theology and scriptural understanding.
As I commented over on their blog:
So if I'm reading this correctly, so long as the First Amendment continues to protect the free exercise of religious conscience, you guys are good with civil marriage equality? Or am I missing something? Because I'd be real happy to be happy about that!
Because here's a news flash: "The legal system" already respects the religious liberty of faith communities to define marriage consistent with their theology and scriptural understanding. It's called The First Amendment and it works just swell.  Nobody's making Roman Catholic priests marry divorced couples -- or Orthodox Rabbis marry interfaith couples. And nobody is going to make anybody marry same-sex couples. We've got that covered.

So if Sojourners actually "supports equal protection under the law and full legal rights for all people regardless of sexual orientation" then I'm having a hard time imagining how equal protection equally protects same-sex couples unless we dump DOMA and their marriages are equally protected by the 1138 federally protected rights now guaranteed to opposite-sex couples but denied to same-sex couples.

Seriously ... am I missing something here? Or is this kind of breaking news from Sojourners? Inquiring minds would LOVE to know!

PS -- for the commenter unfamiliar with SOJOURNERS. From their website:
Sojourners ministries grew out of the Sojourners Community, located in Southern Columbia Heights, an inner-city neighborhood in Washington, D.C. The community began in the early 1970s when a handful of students began meeting to discuss the relationship between their faith and political issues, particularly the Vietnam War. In 1971, the group decided to create a publication that would express their convictions and test whether other people of faith had similar beliefs. What emerged was a publication committed to social justice and peace: The Post-American.

In the fall of 1975, the fledgling community moved to Washington, D.C., where both the community and the magazine took the name Sojourners. The biblical metaphor "sojourners" identifies God's people as pilgrims—fully present in the world but committed to a different order. The community lived together in common households, had a common purse, formed a worshipping community, got involved in neighborhood issues, organized national events on behalf of peace and justice.
Suffice to say, Sojourners -- and spokesperson Jim Wallis -- have provided an influential and prophetic voice on a whole variety of issues of peace and justice through the years. Sadly, for many of us, LGBT equality has not been one of them. I believe they, too, have been "evolving" ... and my hope is that the President's willingness to "come out' for equality is going to give Sojourners -- and many other -- the "nudge" they need to crack open that closet door and put themselves on the right side of history.

And now a word from the Bishop of Washington

Lots being written -- and lots yet to come -- about President Obama's "evolution" on marriage equality and on his historic statement earlier this week supporting the right of same-sex couples to equal protection of civil marriage.
Here's one from Mariann Budde -- AKA the Bishop of Washington -- who makes what I think is a critically important and infinitely hopeful point about the "evolution" aspect of the story:
“I want to thank President Barack Obama for his forthright description of how he came to change his mind on the issue of marriage equality. While some commentators are dismissing the President’s “evolution,” the fact is that many of us have a similar story to tell. We grew up in social and spiritual traditions that taught us that same-gender orientation was a perversion, was a sin. Yet over time, and in relationship with people whose lives and examples contradicted our assumptions, we came to a different conclusion. Eventually, we came to realize that the sacred traditions we thought were opposed to same-gender relationships had much to say in support of them.
“The President acknowledged that it was the example of staff members in committed, monogamous relationships; the same-gender parents of his daughters’ friends, and brave gay and lesbian soldiers that made him reconsider his opposition to marriage equality. This is only fitting. Jesus said that by their fruits you would know them. The President, like millions of other Americans, recognized goodness and holiness in the lives of same-sex couples, and had the courage and humility to change his mind. I offer him my appreciation and my prayers.”
My fondest hope is that in giving the gift of transparency in his decision-making process, President Obama is also giving the gift of encouragement to those who are still struggling with issues of LGBT equality to listen, to learn and to have both the courage and the humility to change their minds as well. We know that the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice. We also know that it does so a reconsidered position at a time -- a changed mind at a time -- an inch at a time.

NPR: Same Bible, Different Verdict

The email and phone call from NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty came just a minute or two apart early on Thursday morning: Could I do a phone interview on a piece for Friday's "Morning Edition" on faith, the Bible and marriage equality? Of course I could!

And the result was: Same Bible, Different Verdict On Gay Marriage by Barbara Bradley Hagerty

You can Listen here -- and I'm posting the transcript below. So far the email responses are running 3/1 "thank you"/"you're going to burn in hell" ... I figure that just about reflects the NPR demographic.

And if you're interested in how I respond to the "what Bible do you read, lady?" emails, here's an example in an email I just sent off a few minutes ago:

Dear Marc,

As the NPR segment outlined quite accurately, good people of deep faith can read the same Bible and come to different conclusions on a variety of issues – including homosexuality. And we clearly come down on either side of this one.

If you’re interested in an expanded version of how I arrive at my conclusions I comment this piece I wrote for the Huffington Post a few months ago:

And if you’re interested in an excellent exegesis relevant scriptural texts I comment Mel White’s “What the Bible Says and Doesn’t Say About Homosexuality.”
Thanks for taking time to write.

(The Reverend Canon) Susan Russell
All Saints Church, Pasadena CA
So it's been an interesting day in this little corner of the Kingdom. How's yours going?


Yesterday on MORNING EDITION, we heard from a Colorado voter who's opposed to gay marriage.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I'm not really religious, but I believe in the Bible. And in Bible it states, you know, a man and a woman.

GREENE: And many Americans share that sentiment, citing the Bible as the reason. Then again, President Obama also cited the Bible in favor of gay marriage.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The thing, you know, at root that we think about is not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it's also the Golden Rule. You know? Treat others the way you'd want to be treated.

GREENE: The president there is citing a statement attributed to Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.

NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty has been asking how people draw such different meanings from the same book.

BARBARA BRADLEY HAGERTY, BYLINE: It's true, says Carmen Fowler LaBerge, you can be a Christian and support same sex marriage. But she says...

CARMEN FOWLER LABERGE: Nobody can say gay marriage is biblical. That's just foolishness.

HAGERTY: LaBerge resigned her post as minister in the Presbyterian Church USA after the denomination voted last year to ordain non-celibate gay clergy. She says the Bible is clear.

LABERGE: From the Old Testament and throughout the New Testament, the only sexual relationships that are affirmed in scripture are those in the context of marriage between one man and one woman.

HAGERTY: Well, the Old Testament does condone polygamy. Still, LaBerge says, from Leviticus to Paul's writings in Romans and First Corinthians, homosexual acts are called vile and detestable. And legalizing same sex relationships does not change the sin.

Not so fast, says Reverend Susan Russell, an Episcopal priest at All Saints Church in Pasadena, California. She takes her cues from Jesus.

REVEREND SUSAN RUSSELL: Jesus never said a single word about anything even remotely connected to homosexuality.

HAGERTY: Jesus does say the most important commandments are love God and love your neighbor as yourself. And given that, Russell believes if Jesus were here today, he would celebrate committed same-sex relationships. She says you take the Bible literally at your folly.

RUSSELL: When you read the Bible, you can find justification for almost anything, including slavery, the subjection of women, and an argument that the sun actually revolves around the Earth.

HAGERTY: Russell and other liberal Christians argue the Bible is the living word of God, and much like the U.S. Constitution needs to be interpreted as society changes. But Carmen LaBerge says the issue is which has more sway, the Bible or culture?

LABERGE: There's a stream of faith that would recognize that the Bible continues to have authority and that we are obligated to submit ourselves, and our wills, our desires to it. And there's a stream of faith that would say that human experience actually trumps or is an authority over the Bible at this point.

HAGERTY: Homosexual behavior is a fault line splitting Christian denominations in two - Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians, Catholics. There's even a wide gulf between young and old evangelicals. But nowhere is this question more fraught than in African-American churches, says Tony Evans. He pastors the 9,000 member Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas. One reason, he says, is cultural.

REVEREND TONY EVANS: The breakdown of the family is the single greatest challenge that we face today.

HAGERTY: Evans and others say the black family is in crisis. A majority of babies, for example, are born to single mothers, and that's why black ministers are often the most vocal opponents of same sex marriage. Asked about the argument that this is a civil rights issue, Evans bristles.

EVANS: The issue of race is not an issue of choice. It's an issue of birth.
HAGERTY: Does that mean that homosexuality is a choice?

EVANS: The Bible is clear on that one too. And that is sexual relationships are to be between men and women within the context of marriage. That's not only related to the issue of homosexuality, but adultery or fornication or bestiality. I mean all of that is proscribed in the Bible.

REVEREND GRAYLAN HAGLER: Of course it's a civil rights issue.

HAGERTY: Graylan Hagler, the pastor of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington, notes that there are plenty of blacks who are gay, and they too should have access to that God-given institution: marriage. To Hagler, legitimizing marriage for committed gay couples is precisely what the Bible envisioned.

HAGLER: I just think of the words from Galatians where it says there is neither Greeks nor Jew, male nor female, slave nor free. And what is happening there is that they're pointing to what the kingdom of God looks like, is that it's open to everybody and everybody has equal status.

HAGERTY: Of course, conservatives say that the best blueprint for God's kingdom on Earth does not spring from what you read between the lines of the Bible, but what you read in black and white.

Barbara Bradley Hagerty, NPR News.

Time for Tucker and Brad's Annual Tribute to Mother's Day

I have watched this video more times than I can count over the years and I am ontologically incapable of watching it without literally laughing out loud. Incapable, I tell you.

Maybe you have to be the mother of two boys. (And for the record, I am NOT the mother of these two ... but my Jamie and Brian have more than a little Tucker and Brad in them!) Or maybe it's just totally freaking funny.

Whatever. ENJOY! (And Happy Mother's Day!)

On Walking the Talk Before Talking the Talk

You know how sometimes there are people who we say we wish would "walk their talk?" Reflecting on President Obama's "evolution" on marriage equality it seems to me we owe him a lot of credit for "doing the walk before he got to the talk!"

DADT; refusing to defend DOMA; supporting Respect for Marriage Act, ENDA, "It Gets Better," the Hate Crimes Act, benefits for partners of federal employees ... to name a few. Am I glad he has now "evolved" on marriage equality? Of course. But the actions of the last three years speak even more loudly than the words of the last three days.

If you want a list, check it out here ... the White House page entitled "Civil Rights." (Can I get an "amen"?)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

RNS Report: President Obama endorses same-sex marriage, religious leaders respond

Yes, it's been a busy, multi-platform day with the breaking news of President Obama's "evolution" on marriage equality coming right smack dab in the middle of the last plenary session of our annual clergy conference. The twitterverse had been buzzing all morning so we had SOME "heads up" ... but when it came it was (arguably) "more than we could have asked for or imagined."

From the email I just got from the Obama team ... with a subject line simply reading: Marriage

"I decided it was time to affirm my personal belief that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. I respect the beliefs of others, and the right of religious institutions to act in accordance with their own doctrines. But I believe that in the eyes of the law, all Americans should be treated equally. And where states enact same-sex marriage, no federal act should invalidate them."
I wrote a quick response from San Pedro for the Huffington Post and sent out a tweet about it and then crawled back up the 110 freeway and got back to my desk to see Religion News Service (RNS) already had their "religion leaders round-up" posted -- and my tweet was in amongst the great cloud of witnessess. What a wild, weird, wonderful world we live in!

President Obama Makes the Case for Same-sex Marriage AND for Evolution

just posted to the Huffington Post:

Leaders lead. Today our President showed us what leadership looks like by affirming that the equal protection guaranteed by the Constitution should actually protect all Americans ... including those Americans married to spouses of the same sex Coming on the heels of yesterday's shameful exercise of ballot box bigotry in North Carolina, President Obama's strong, supportive stand for equality today gives both hope and challenge to all those who yearn for our nation to grow into its pledge to "liberty and justice for all."
We cannot fulfill that pledge so long as a minority of American families are denied the fundamental rights guaranteed the majority of American families. We cannot be the nation we were conceived in liberty to be -- cannot live out our dedication to the proposition that all people are created equal -- when a majority can mobilize their power to take away fundamental rights from a minority.

As a priest and pastor my commitment to marriage equality is grounded in my belief that the values that make up a marriage transcend the gender of the partners married to each other; that what God cares about is not our sexual orientation but our theological orientation and that the question the church should be asking is not who do you love but DO you love. And so I was particularly gratified to read that President Obama addressed the faith-based component of his own "evolved" support for marriage equality with these words:
"When [Michelle and I] think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule and treating others the way you would want to be treated. And I think that’s what we try to impart to our kids and that’s what motivates me as president and I figure the most consistent I can be in being true to those precepts, the better I’ll be as a as a dad and a husband and hopefully the better I’ll be as president.”
There are miles to go before we rest in the journey to marriage equality, but today’s statement by President Obama is a great step forward and one to rejoice and be glad in. And it is also a great answer to the question: “Do you believe in evolution?” Believe in it? I don’t just believe in it – I’ve SEEN it.

In North Carolina, everything old is new again -- including writing discrmination into their constitution

The last time North Carolina amended their constitution on marriage it was to ban interracial marriage.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Sad day for North Carolina and for ALL who believe liberty and justice for all actually means ALL!

Again with the tyranny of the majority taking away fundamental rights from a minority. Wake up, people! It's not "equal protection" unless it equally protects all Americans equally (Yes, I know that's redundant. It's a rhetorical device I save for when I'm pissed off.)

And just for the record: If you can get a majority to take away my rights, the next majority coming along might be after yours. Just sayin' ... that's not the liberty and justice for all we pledge allegience to. Sad day for North Carolina. In the words of +Barbara Harris, "Let there be peace among us and let us not be instruments of our own oppression.' La lucha continua!

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Super Moon Saturday

Some people will look at the moon tonight and think "What's the big deal?" But let's be honest—it's not about the moon being slightly bigger. This is about a great excuse for people all over the world to stop for a second, gaze upwards, and remember just how amazing life on this planet really is. When something as magnificent as the moon is there every night, it's easy to take it for granted and lose sight of its beauty.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Using the HuffPost Platform to Preach Against Homophobia

Incensed by the North Carolina Pastor who used his pulpit to advocate child abuse against LGBT kids my response – The Bully in the Bully Pulpit – is now live over on the Huffington Post.
Violent words beget violent actions, and it is long past time for those misusing their bully pulpits to perpetuate bullying behavior against our LGBT youth to be called on it. We're not going to compromise on having bullies use the power of their pulpit to advocate child abuse because they've confused their own twisted homophobia with the "Word of God."
Read the rest here ... and thanks in advance for any help sharing, liking, tweeting, commenting or otherwise helping to get the word out. If we don't speak up for our kids, who will?

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Meanwhile, over at the "other" #GC2012 ...

Yes, the Methodists are using the same Twitter hashtag for their General Conference 2012 as we'll be using for General Convention 2012 ... #GC2012 ... and so I'm finding myself even more in the loop than usual on what's going on in Methodist Land. And today not so happily so:

As the NYT report reads:
The United Methodist Church, at its convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, voted not to change long-contested wording in its book of laws and doctrines that calls homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching.

The vote was 61 percent to 39 percent against the change to the church’s "Book of Discipline," indicating little change to the deadlock on an issue the church has been debating for the last four decades. The delegates also defeated a compromise amendment proposed by the advocates of equality for gay members, which said that Methodists can agree to disagree on homosexuality and still live together as a church.
Read the rest here ... and do keep in your prayers all those who once again find themselves strangers at the gate when they should be seated at the banquet table.

And ... for all you Episcopal General Convention wonk types ... remember also that reports like this make the work we are preparing to do at our own General Convention all the more urgent ... that we not get so distracted by our own structural, budgetary and polity challenges that we forget to be a light to the world in desperate need of the Good News of God's love, justice and compassion available to all!

Baptists Behaving Badly

Southern Baptist Conference president compares gay affirming Americans to Nazis

This just in via email from our friends at "Faith in America"  ... who are calling upon Bryant Wright, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, to apologize for incendiary speech that compared affirmation of gay and lesbian people to Nazi propaganda during World War II.

"It is really inconceivable that a person of such prominence within one of America's largest Christian denominations could utter such a comparison," said Brent Childers, executive director of Faith in America. "It is beyond shameful and it makes a mockery of the faith he professes."

In a Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012 sermon entitled "When Homosexual Behavior is a Big Issue", Wright stated that anyone who believes same-sex sexual orientation is God-given or that sexual orientation can't be changed is believing a "lie of the devil" that has been repeated so much that now a majority of the public believes it – saying that was a lesson learned from Nazi Germany.

In his sermon, Wright said it makes him "really shudder" at the thought of faith leaders who affirm the dignity of gay and lesbian people, saying they are teaching "what God says is evil is really good." In addition, he makes the following statements:

"When man all of a sudden decides what God says is sin or evil is really good, that is blasphemous behavior. That is calling God a liar."

"When man says that homosexual desires are God-given and that a person can no more be changed than you could change the color of their skin, this is one of those common lies of the devil that is repeated so much over and over again that now the majority of American public believe it is true. We learned from the Nazis in World War II in how they approached propaganda. They believed wholeheartedly that if you repeat an outrageous lie over and over again it becomes more and more believable to where the public as a whole finally will embrace it. We saw that in World War II."

Yesterday, CNN and a number of other media outlets reported on a pastor of a Baptist church in North Carolina who had apologized for his comment in a sermon that said boys who appear effeminate should have their wrists broken.

Childers said he understands how a pastor might say something in a sermon that they may not want communicated on the media airwaves but that the posting of Wright's sermon on his web site demonstrates that Wright apparently has no problem with espousing such rhetoric to the public. He said Wright, as a national religious figure, must be held accountable for publicly espousing and promoting that kind of hostility toward gay and lesbian people, especially the rejection and hostility faced by LGBT youth and families.

"Wright’s association of those who affirm lesbian and gay people with Nazis is intentional, even if perhaps unconscious," Childers said. "He obviously wants to paint those who affirm gay and lesbian people to be about as bad as possible, as bad as Nazis."

"But think for a moment what the parent of a gay or lesbian child hears. They hear that treating their child as a natural, wonderfully created child is somehow of the devil and that to embrace their child's sexual orientation is as evil as Hitler. And that if they believe otherwise, they are calling God a liar.

"So parents hear that they must reject their children. Kids hear that it is OK to bully their evil gay or lesbian peers? And young gay kids hear that suicide would be better than a life of rejection and condemnation. This is the kind of physical, emotional and spiritual violence that Wright is inciting within our society.

"Bringing such violence to bear on our neighbors makes a mockery of a faith that emphasizes love and compassion above all else. If Wright feels like shuddering, he should think about the consequences of bringing such violence against children and families."

Last year at the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Ariz., Southern Baptist leader Albert Mohler stated before convention delegates that he did not believe sexual orientation was a matter of mere choice and that "we as Christian churches have not done well on this issue."

"I wonder if Wright considers his colleague Albert Mohler someone who is spreading "outrageous" lies as the Nazis did?" Childers asked. "And I wonder if Mohler would consider Wright's words a job well done?"

Faith in America is a nonprofit organization that works nationally to educate the public about the harm caused to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, especially LGBT youth and families, when religious teaching is misused to justify stigma and hostility. Brent Childers, who serves as executive director, is a former Southern Baptist and former Religious Right adherent.

NOTE: Wright's reference to Nazis can be viewed here beginning at the 29:30 mark.
Mohler's comments from the 2011 SBC annual meeting can be viewed here.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

The Bully in The Bully Pulpit

According to Wikipedia, a "bully pulpit" is a public office or other position of authority that provides the holder with an opportunity to speak out and be listened to on any matter.

Last Sunday, North Carolina pastor Sean Harris became a bully in the bully pulpit, shamefully advocating parental violence against their gay, lesbian or transgender children. In his sermon at the Berean Baptist Church -- captured on audio tape -- Harris proclaimed:
"So your little son starts to act a little girlish when he is four years old and instead of squashing that like a cockroach and saying, 'Man up, son, get that dress off you and get outside and dig a ditch, because that is what boys do,' you get out the camera and you start taking pictures of Johnny acting like a female and then you upload it to YouTube and everybody laughs about it and the next thing you know, this dude, this kid is acting out childhood fantasies that should have been squashed....Can I make it any clearer?
Dads, the second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist. Man up. Give him a good punch. Ok? You are not going to act like that. You were made by God to be a male and you are going to be a male."
In response to the understandable outrage sparked by this indefensible display of homophobic based bullying, Harris first offered the classic default of the caught-in-the-act perpetrator "I was only joking." According to the interview in the Fayetteville Observer he then went on to say:
If I had to say it again, I would say it differently, no doubt. Those weren't planned words, but what I do standby is that the word of God makes it clear that effeminate behavior is ungodly. I'm not going to compromise on that.
Well, here's what we're not going to compromise on.

We're not going to compromise on having bullies use the power of their pulpit to advocate child abuse because they've confused their own twisted homophobia with the "Word of God."

We're not going to compromise on having the Good News of God's love, justice and compassion that are the core values of our Judeo-Christian heritage hijacked by those who want to turn our religion into a weapon of mass destruction aimed at LGBT people.

And we are not going to compromise on the fact that the "liberty and justice for all" we teach our children to pledge allegiance to really means liberty and justice for ALL.

Finally, we are most certainly not going to stand by and let the opponents of marriage equality argue that they are "protecting children" while advocating violence against children. You cannot have it both ways.

Jesus said, "Suffer the little children to come to me." He did NOT say "make the little children suffer in order to come to me." Jesus said, "Love your neighbors as yourself." He did NOT say "Love your neighbor unless he has a limp wrist - then give him a good punch."

Violent words beget violent actions and it is long past time for those misusing their bully pulpits to perpetuate bullying behavior against our LGBT youth to be called on it. Remember that a "bully pulpit" is a public office or other position of authority that provides the holder with an opportunity to speak out and be listened to on any matter. And we have the power to use our bully pulpits to speak out and be listened to on this crucial matter of ending the scourge of homophobia based bullying in our generation.

Whether your bully pulpit is a pulpit-in-fact -- a blog, Tweet or Facebook post -- a Letter to the Editor or a call to your legislator -- it is time to claim your authority and to use it. Stand up. Speak out. Together we can make a difference. Today. Go do it. Now. SERIOUSLY!!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

You KNOW You Want One!!

Order yours now ...

L.A. Pride Shirts are now available for order ... online here
Proceeds benefit the Episcopal Diocese of L.A. Pride Presence.