Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Match Made in Heaven!

I could NOT be more pleased that my friend and former Diocese of L.A. colleague Gary Hall has been nominated as the 10th Dean of the Washington National Cathedral! Regular readers of this blog will know that I have a big old soft spot in my heart for our the National Cathedral ... if you "missed the memo" here's the back story ... so I am so very thrilled that this special "house of prayer for all people" will be pastored by one of my favorite priests in the church.

And ... if you want a sampling of Gary's preaching, check out his last summer-preaching-gig here in Pasadena ... ENJOY!

Monday, July 30, 2012

All Saints Church in the News:

We had a good media moment or two here at All Saints on Sunday ... as we welcomed Civil Rights leader and architect of non-violent social action Dr. James Lawson to the pulpit with the Aurora Colorado tragedy still fresh in our hearts, minds and prayers.

Channel 7 focused on "local church is asking its members to become “non-violent agents for change.”

And FOX 11 showed a clip of Dr. Lawson's sermon:

Which is avaiable in its entirely here:

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Better late than never ... my #GC77 Photo Album

Some are photos I took myself, others are ones folks posted on my Facebook page or emailed to me ... together they make up a pretty good look at the highlights of the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church from MY point of vantage point as a first time deputy/long time convention goer/fan of TEC.


Bishop of New Hampshire Reprises Signature Role of Daniel in yet-another Lions' Den

God bless him ... +Gene is stepping up to speak out for marriage equality -- again -- this time at an event billed as a "gay marriage summit" at Jim Garlow's San Diego megachurch.
From the news report in the Union-Tribune San Diego
Bishop Robinson applauded Garlow for organizing Sunday's event, calling it “quite unusual” given the overheated rhetoric that often dogs the issue. “I think the real goal is not to change other people’s minds, but to show that people with opposing views can have a civil dialogue,” Robinson said. Joining Garlow and Robinson on stage will be Presbyterian elder and theologian Robert Gagnon and Jennifer Roback Morse, founder and president of the San Marcos-based Ruth Institute, which promotes the traditional definition of marriage.
Film, as they say, at eleven!

"The end of the church as we know it" -- food for thought from Baptist pastor Amy Butler

h/t to Bishop Michael Curry who recommended this article from the Associated Baptist Press on Facebook:

Our work is not to control the trends of society or to prop up a comfortable model we’ve become accustomed to. Our work is to make faithful disciples of Jesus Christ: to bring the gospel to the world, to nurture people in their faith, to live as good stewards of what we’ve been given and to bring justice and peace to a society desperately in need.

We’ve done all these things with varying degrees of success for years and years with members, money, programs and buildings. Now, with this new reality confronting us, how can we continue to make faithful disciples of Jesus Christ?

I think it’s an exciting time for the church. Society has handed us a reality we’d hoped we’d misread, but instead of lamenting our plight or struggling to get things back to the way they used to be, think of all the possibilities that await us. The church as we know it is in decline, it’s true. And we anticipate the future with the assurance that God, most certainly, is not.

Read the rest here

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Reach for the Stars: The Legacy of Sally Ride

cross-posted on The Huffington Post

The news of the passing of Sally Ride -- a bona fide American hero and our first woman astronaut -- struck home here at All Saints Church in Pasadena as not just a public loss but as a personal grief. Sally's mother and sister are much-loved members of our parish community, and so her death after a valiant fight against pancreatic cancer took not only an iconic figure in our collective history but a member of our extended family.

The day after her loss, Sally's sister Bear shared some thoughts about her sister's life and death with us -- and I offer those here with her blessing:
Sally Ride was the first American woman to go into space and she was my big sister. Sally died peacefully on July 23 after a courageous 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer. I was at her side. We grew up in Encino, Calif. Our parents, Joyce and Dale Ride encouraged us to study hard, to do our best and to be anything we wanted to be. In 1983, Newsweek quoted our father as saying, "We might have encouraged, but mostly we just let them explore."

Our parents encouraged us to be curious, to keep our minds and hearts open and to respect all persons as children of God. Our parents taught us to explore and we did. Sally studied science and I went to seminary. She became an astronaut and I was ordained as a Presbyterian minister. Sally lived her life to the fullest with boundless energy, curiosity, intelligence, passion, joy, and love. Her integrity was absolute; her spirit was immeasurable; her approach to life was fearless. Sally died the same way she lived: without fear.

Sally's signature statement was "Reach for the Stars." Surely she did this and she blazed a trail for all the rest of us. My sister was a very private person. Sally had a very fundamental sense of privacy. It was just her nature -- maybe because we're Norwegians, through and through. People did not know she had pancreatic cancer and so this is bound to be a huge shock. For 17 months, nobody knew -- and now everyone knows. Her memorial fund is going to be in support of pancreatic cancer.

Most people did not know that Sally had a wonderfully loving relationship with Tam O'Shaughnessy for 27 years. Sally never hid her relationship with Tam. They were partners, business partners in Sally Ride Science; they wrote books together and Sally's very close friends, of course, knew of their love for each other. We consider Tam a member of our family. I hope the pancreatic cancer community is going to be absolutely thrilled that there's now this advocate that they didn't know about.

And, I hope the LGBT community feels the same. I hope it makes it easier for kids growing up gay that they know that another one of their heroes was like them.
I hope so, too. I hope that this great American hero -- the woman who inspired a generation of girls to reach for the stars in math and science -- will also inspire a generation of LGBT youth to reach for the stars in their lives and relationships.
I hope her example of 27 years of faithful commitment to the love-of-her life will demonstrate that it is indeed possible to balance career and family -- to make a difference and to make a home.

And finally, I hope that her legacy will contribute not only to curing pancreatic cancer but to healing homophobia. The greatest tribute we can pay to the work and witness of Sally Ride is to follow her example in living our lives with as much energy, curiosity, intelligence, passion, joy, and love as we can muster -- and to be curious, keep our minds and hearts open and to respect all persons as children of God -- because we don't have to be astronauts to reach for the stars.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Fence Between Fear and Possibility

Sermon for the 7:30 a.m. service @ All Saints Church in Pasadena | Sunday, July 22, 2012

As most of you know, I am just back from the Episcopal Church’s General Convention -- our every three year conglomeration of liturgy, legislation and shopping – held this year in Indianapolis. This was my eighth General Convention and my first as a deputy -- and I was honored to represent the Diocese of Los Angeles in the legislative process which is one of the “councils of the church.”

And it was quite a process. We studied up on, prayed about, debated over and voted on a wide range of issues -- from a church-wide response to bullying to committing to work for a just peace in the Middle East to making our non-discrimination canons transgender inclusive to adopting prayers for the loss of beloved animals. Just to name a few. We passed a budget focused on mission, created a task force to intentionally plan for major organizational restructure and committed to a three year study of the history and theology of marriage.

And we also worshiped, prayed, sang and heard from some very fine preachers … including our Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. It was her Sunday morning sermon that gave me the title for this reflection this morning – “the fence between fear and possibility” -- and what it was going to be was an opportunity to “unpack” the events at General Convention – including a couple of amusing, anecdotal stories of who did what when -- and concluding with why I think what we did in Indianapolis matters to All Saints Church in Pasadena.

And then Aurora Colorado happened. And it was clear this sermon wasn’t going to go where I thought it was.

And yet, when I turned back to quote from the Presiding Bishop I found that her words were just as relevant to our post-Aurora world as they were before the gunman armed with an arsenal of assault weapons opened fire in that crowded movie theater:
Until we can see the chasm between what is and what ought to be, we don’t have any hope of changing. Indeed it is the act of crossing that boundary between what is and what ought to be that is so characteristic of prophets. When Jesus is called a prophet, it has to do with erasing the boundary between God and human flesh. Prophetic words of comfort or challenge urge a kind of frontier work – getting across the fence between fear and possibility, reconciling division, transforming injustice, urging the lost onto the road home.
Bishop Jefferts Schori preached those words to us in the context of a General Convention wrestling with the challenges of re-imagining and restructuring our church to meet the challenges of mission and ministry in the 21st century. She was preaching to a congregation of people who love their church and strive to live out the Gospel while not always agreeing with each other about how to do both of those things. And she was challenging us – and, I suspect, challenging herself (because we know all the best sermons are actually the preacher preaching to the preacher) – to suck it up and get over that fence between fear and possibility in order to bridge the gap between what is and what ought to be in our church and in our world.

This morning what “is” is that the arsenal of weapons the gunman used to kill twelve and injure nearly sixty others were obtained legally. And what “ought to be” are reasonable gun control laws making the kind of carnage we saw in Aurora Colorado not only unimaginable but impossible. In the words of satirist Andy Borowitz – via twitter this morning: "Maybe I'm a dreamer, but I wish mental health care were as easy to get as, say, a gun."

And that, my brothers and sisters, is a tweet that deserves and “Amen.”

It not only deserves an “amen” but it deserves our best energies committed to getting over whatever fences stand between what “is” – a world where fear dominates our discourse, pollutes our politics and feed violence – and what “ought to be” – what Jesus called “the kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.”

I have often quoted Verna Dozier from this pulpit and I’m going to do it again. Dr. Dozier famously said, “Don’t tell me what you believe. Tell me what difference it makes that you believe.” And this morning in the All Saints Church chapel we gather to be fed by word and sacrament not just because we believe – but because we believe we are called to make a difference. Called to climb the fence between fear and possibility. Called to refuse to settle for what “is” but to work together with God to create what “ought to be.”

And that brings me back to some of the good news out of the just completed General Convention of the Episcopal Church. We’ve gotten some press out of the gathering – mostly around the movement forward on the fuller inclusion of LGBT people in the work and witness of the church. And by telling what we believe – by putting our faith into action through the legislation passed in Indianapolis – here are a few examples of the difference we are making in comments received on some of the online stories, blogs and news sites:

Here’s one from the Huffington Post: “In response to this story I immediately went on Google and found a local Episcopal Church to attend on Sunday (they even have a female priest), I am very excited...”

And here’s another: “It's amazing that some churches can go out of their way to make sure everyone feels welcome. Someday I may walk into your church just to see what it’s about. KristineE.”

And finally this moving email from “Melissa” -- “You make me want to believe in God. I think you have interpreted with love, kindness, and thoughtfulness the true doctrine of Christ. For what it's worth, you make me wish I believed, so I could belong to a group with you as such a member. I think the Episcopal Church just may save the soul of Christianity with its open and affirming love, which is truly Christ-like in my opinion.”

Having climbed over the fence between the fear of who would leave if we included everybody at the table, the Episcopal Church is now – finally – moving forward into the possibilities open to us as we sing a new church into being … one of faith and love and praise … committed to love, justice and compassion. Stepping out of the “house of fear” we are building “the house of love” – and, as the witness of those comments I just shared illustrate – if we build it, they will come.

One more Dr. Dozier quote to leave you with: “Doubt is not the opposite of faith. Fear is. Fear will not risk that even if I am wrong I will trust that if I move by the light that is given me, knowing that it is only finite and partial I will know more and different things tomorrow than I know today, and I can be open to the new possibility I cannot even imagine today.

Together let us climb that fence. Together let us claim the future. Together let us make the impossible possible as we work to reconcile division, to transform injustice and to urge the lost onto the road home. Amen.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Going Fishing?

Here's the note I just posted to our Bishops-and-Deputies list serve as we head into the week-after-the-week-after General Convention #77:

As the dust and press coverage continues to settle from our time in Indianapolis the fact that there are mixed reactions to our collective work and witness is indisputable. We’ve heard some of the negatives from the much-discussed op-eds in the NYT and WSJ … and we’ve seen some stellar responses from bishops, deputies and others in presenting the positives. And as we head into the week-after-the-week-after what is resonating for me is the sermon Bishop Robinson preached at the Integrity Eucharist – where the “punch-line” was a call to evangelism – and it sounded something like “Are you gonna sit there or are you gonna fish?”

I know we’ve had much discussion on this list about the pros-and-cons of taking “political” positions – which I’d call “principled positions with political implications” but let’s not quibble. My point isn’t to re-engage that debate but to point to some concrete responses from those who find in our commitment to the 4th mark of mission … “to transform unjust structures of society” -- such good news that it calls them to check out the Episcopal Church … many for the first time.

My case in point is the blog I posted to the Huffington Post yesterday. Entitled “Episcopal Church Urges Congress to Dump DOMA. So What?”

Here’s just one of the comments: “In response to this story I immediately went on Google and found a local Episcopal Church to attend on Sunday (they even have a female priest), I am very excited...”

And here’s another … from an earlier blog post filed from Indianapolis: “It's amazing that some churches can go out of their way to make sure everyone feels welcome. Someday I may walk into your church just to see what it’s about. KristineE.”

And finally this moving comment from “Melissa” -- “You make me want to believe in God. I think you have interpreted with love, kindness, and thoughtfulness the true doctrine of Christ. For what it's worth, you make me wish I believed, so I could belong to a group with you as such a member. I think the Episcopal Church just may save the soul of Christianity with its open and affirming love, which is truly Christ-like in my opinion.”

RNS just published a new study that indicates a record 19% of Americans now identify as “None” when it comes to religious affiliation.And those statistics include a host of folks who think they know enough about being a Christian not to want to be one – until they hear about the Episcopal Church. I truly believe we’ve climbed over that fence between fear and possibility the Presiding Bishop talked about in her Sunday sermon in Indianapolis. The question before us is no longer who will leave unless we circle the wagons … it is who will come as we widen the circle. And the way to find out is to go fishing.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Upper South Carolina "Surprised and Dismayed?" Seriously????

Here's what the Bishop of Upper South Carolina had to say about the actions of the 77th General Convention in adopting transgender inclusive resolutions D002 and D019:
I spoke against this on the floor of the House of Bishops because of the confusion in church and culture about just what “transgender” and “gender identity” mean. Further, we haven’t even begun a conversion about this in the wider church. I was surprised and dismayed by this vote.
So here's the deal: I totally get that good people of deep faith read the same scriptures, love the same Jesus and come to different conclusions about a whole variety of issues.

What I do NOT get is how a bishop of this church can say we "haven't begun a conversation" in the wider church when [a] we passed several transinclusive resolutions at the LAST General Convention in 2009 and [b] "Voices of Witness: Out of the Box" -- the video documentary of the voices of witness of transgender Episcopalians was snail-mailed to every bishop and deputy ahead of our meeting in Indianapolis -- was a topic of conversation and reflection at convention -- and has nearly 8000 views on YouTube and [c] members of TransEpiscopal did a brilliant, thorough and faithful job of speaking to both the resolutions in quesiton and to transgender issues in general in legislative hearings.

Seriously. If the conversation hasn't "begun" in Upper South Carolina then I guess I'm the one who is surprised and dismayed that their bishop hasn't stepped up and helped make that happen. I guess you could say it "makes the heart sad."

Stacy Sauls Steps up in the WSJ

Bishop Stacy Sauls responds to the recent egregiously erroneous and blatantly biased op-ed about the Episcopal Church in the WSJ. Read it all here.
"[The Episcopal Church] is deeply true to the tradition of Jesus, Jesus who offended the "traditionalists" of his own day, Jesus who was known to associate with the less than desirable, Jesus who told his followers to seek him among the poor. It is deeply true to the tradition of the Apostle Paul who decried human barriers of race, sex, or status (Galatians 3:28). What ails the Episcopalians is that this once most-established class of American Christianity is taking the risk to be radically true to its tradition. There is a price to be paid for that. There is also a promise of abundant life in it."

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hail to the Chief! (AKA "You GO, Gay!")

The Reverend Gay Jennnings -- our newly elected President of the House of Deputies, pictured here with Bishop Barbara Harris -- got off to a great start with a "Guest Voices" feature in today's Washington Post. You'll want to read it all, but here's a bit to get you started:
Episcopalians are remarkably sincere about church democracy. We believe that the Holy Spirit is working through our legislative committees and debates, even when we misinterpret her guidance. Part of the reason our General Convention takes so long is that we spend significant time in worship, reading scripture, and singing.

When things get rough or tempers flare, we usually take a break to pray together before resuming debate. If we need more time to discern where God is leading us, we take it. Our recent moves to include lesbian and gay Christians more fully in the church, for example, are the result of more than 30 years of theological study, prayer, and conversation. One can disagree with these initiatives, but they were not born of a desire to reject our Christian truth for secular wisdom. Many of us who hold quite traditional views on the nature of sin believed that our church needed to repent of the sin of homophobia.
Can I get an "Amen!"??? And then let's suspend the rules of the House to allow for the playing of "Hail to the Chief."

Bad Journalism

Believe it or not I'm packing for another trip this morning -- a quick one to Washington DC for work with the HRC Faith & Religion Council. And while I'm waiting for the laundry to dry so I can finish packing and head off to LAX I came across this piece by RNS's (Religion News Service) Daniel Burke, challenging the "bad journalism" of a couple of the post-General Convention op-eds we've seen in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

You can read Daniel's piece here. And here's my comment:
Thanks for this, Daniel. And as a further note, having "kept a steady eye on the Episcopal Church" for a lot LONGER than six years, I want to note that these two op-eds ... as blatantly biased and egregiously erroneous as they were ... were unpresentative of the media response to the actions of the Episcopal Church at its 77th General Convention. Instead of headlines and handwringing about what would happen IF we moved to fully include all the baptized in all the sacraments, we got reporting on the fact that we DID move forward to more fully include all the baptized in all the sacraments.

"Paradigm shift" may be an overused term, but in this case I think it's fair to say it is accurate. Now we as a church get to put our evangelism where our resolutions have been and tell the Good News of a church grounded in scripture, tradition and reason and growing into God's future -- drawing the circle wider rather than circling the wagons. And what I know from my experience at All Saints Church in Pasadena -- which is about to break ground on a building project to make room for the mission and ministry that has outgrown our facilities -- is that there are plenty of people out there who think they know enough about being Christians NOT to want to be one ... and when we invite them in we change their minds.
And now ... Hi Ho, Hi Ho ... it's off to LAX I go. Prayers invited for good travel karma!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Get out your thank you notes, kids!

The headline reads:
Bishop who leads Pensacola area Episcopal diocese will bless gay unions

Here's the link to the story in the Pensacola paper:
Although the spiritual leader of Pensacola-area Episcopal churches is conflicted, he has decided to authorize blessing same-sex unions. The Rt. Rev. Philip M. Duncan II, bishop of the 63-congregation Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast, stated in a letter to his flock of about 19,000 people: “I will consider each request for blessing individually, and I shall permit it where it has pastoral warrant.”

Duncan’s statement followed a decision by bishops at the Episcopal General Convention in Indianapolis this month to approve rites for gay and lesbian relationships.
Yep. This is Big News. And Bishop Duncan is going to hear about it. And if we're as well brought up as our mothers would like us to be, we're going to make sure he hears from US in thanksgiving for his work and witness on behalf of the Gospel. Here's the note I just sent:
Dear Bishop Duncan,
Just a quick note to add my voice to those applauding your leadership in opening the way for the blessing of same-sex relationships in your diocese. I know all too well that what is routine in Pasadena is revolutionary in Pensacola and I know I speak for countless Episcopalians across the country who see in your actions the “light at the end of the tunnel” in the inclusion wars. As we move forward together into God’s future, may we truly be the church where “all means all” as we proclaim the Good News of God in Christ Jesus to absolutely everybody. Thank you again and may God continue to bless you and your work and witness in the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast.

Blessings, (The Reverend) Susan Russell
All Saints Church
132 North Euclid Avenue
Pasadena CA 91101
Please do consider going and doing likewise. You can email Bishop Duncan here. Seriously. Go do it now. Your mother will be so proud!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Thanks, CNN!

That's right -- the time stamp on this screen capture from this morning's CNN segment does indeed say "5:32 a.m." It was a VERY early morning ... but it was also a great chance to talk about what's RIGHT with the Episcopal Church to the CNN audience.

Watch for yourself here.

Favorite response so far? From a parish member who emailed that her granddaughter called from the Denver airport to tell her she'd seen the segment while waiting in line at LAX to board her flight! Nope -- we could NOT pay for that kind of advertising for the Good News of God's love available to absolutely everybody. Thanks, CNN. Seriously!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

STOP THE PRESSES: Susan Russell Applauds George Conger

Now, don't get me wrong. I like George Conger -- even though we disagree about -- oh well, just about everything . He's an affable guy who loves and serves the same Lord Jesus I do. And if I'm as committed to Anglican Comprehensiveness as I keep saying I am then I need to make darned sure I stay committed to listening to voices I disagree with and making room for them in the discourse. That said, it's not often I find myself APPLAUDING what George has written. But this is one.

What George has written is a spirited dissection of the quite egregiously erroneous Wall Street Journal piece on our General Convention which was entitled "What Ails the Episcopalians." (And might -- according to one Facebook commenter -- have been more appropriately titled "What Ails the WSJ.")

Anyway, check it out. George's piece is here -- and if you know ANYTHING about George Conger you will know immediately how bad the WSJ piece is when you read his opening words:
The author’s insights are largely superficial and the reader cannot rely on him as a guide to the deeper meaning of the things he describes. Silly things take place at Episcopal Church General Conventions — I have covered the last six — yet, the Episcopal Church and its presiding bishop are not guilty of the crimes leveled against them in this article.
Seriously! My deep wondering continues to be how those how speak the loudest and most insistently about "preserving the faith received from the apostles" seem to think that somehow the 9th Commandment does not apply to them. I just checked. There is, indeed, no * after the "false witness" part that says "*unless you're talking about the Episcopal Church."

Sunday Morning on CNN

Media Heads up: I'm scheduled to be on CNN's "Faces of Faith" segment tomorrow morning to talk about what happened at General Convention and what it means for the Episcopal Church. The show airs at 8:30am eastern time ... which means a CNN car is coming for me at 4:30am ... so I won't be late for church! :)

Do help spread the word for folks to tune-or-TIVO in ... and if you've got any thoughts about what our work and witness in Indianapolis means to the Episcopal Church in specific and life in general, please share!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

"You make me want to believe in God."

And it was morning and it was evening and it was the 9th day.

Yes, we've been in Indianapolis for 9 days and the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church is now a wrap. The pictures above are the sunrise from my hotel room this morning and the empty House of Deputies after everybody had cleared out. More on the details of what we did and why I think it matters to come. Right now I need to just put my weary self to bed and be grateful to be able to sleep in a little in the morning before I head back to L.A. (Those 7:30-every-morning committee meetings take their toll -- seriously!)

But first I want to share a comment on this blog from an earlier post about General Convention -- because it illustrates in such a clear and compelling way just exactly WHY it's worth it to take two weeks out of your life for all the angst and anxiety of yet-another-general-convention and why I'm more convinced than ever that we -- the Episcopal Church -- is on the cusp of a truly great new chapter in its history of being a vehicle for God's love, justice and compassion. A reader wrote:
You make me want to believe in God. I think you have interpreted with love, kindness, and thoughtfulness the true doctrine of Christ. As a non-Christian and previous graduated religion minor (history major), I have looked at the life and teachings of Jesus as a great philosopher, similar to Buddha.

For what it's worth, you make me wish I believed, so I could belong to a group with you as such a member. I think the Episcopal Church just may save the soul of Christianity with it's open and affirming love, which is truly Christ-like in my opinion.

Blessings be to you and yours,
I rest my case. And now I'm going to bed.

Episcopal Church OVERWHELMINGLY Votes to Dump DOMA

Today the Episcopal Church adopted resolution [D018] urging “members of the U.S. Congress to repeal federal laws that have a discriminatory effect on same-gender civilly married couples, and to pass legislation to allow the U.S. federal government to provide benefits to those couples.” One of the “marks of mission” for the Episcopal Church is “to transform unjust structures of society” -- and today’s action is clearly in alignment with that missional goal.

The overwhelming votes by both bishops and deputies to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) offers a strong, prophetic statement that we are a church that stands for a Protect Marriage movement that protects all marriages and we are committed to family values that value all families. Ending the inherent injustice of granting 1138 federally protected rights to some married couples and denying them to others is clearly in alignment with our Christian promise to love our neighbors as ourselves and our American pledge to work for liberty and justice for all.

Yes. I'm proud of my church today.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Episcopalians Say Yes to Bless

In her sermon on Sunday, July 8th our Presiding Bishop urged us to have the courage to step over the "fence between fear and possibility" -- and yesterday we stepped over that fence with the overwhelming majority of deputies voting to concur with the previous action of the House of Bishops in authorizing liturgies for the blessing of same-sex relationships. We will leave this 77th General Convention the first church so to do in our communion or our country -- and I'm not sure I've ever been prouder to be an Episcopalian.

Not just because of the outcome of the vote -- which of course I applaud -- but because of the tone and timbre of the debate and of the care and concern to listen to and genuinely hear voices of difference and to craft legislation that clearly moves the church forward on the fuller inclusion of its LGBT baptized while explicitly reminding it that Anglican comprehensiveness commands respect for and inclusion of minority theological perspectives.

One deputy speaking against the resolution urged caution in "moving too fast" -- lest the church end up like a barge in her hometown Tampa Bay trying to turn on a dime and end up tipping over. In point of fact, we have been at this for a VERY LONG TIME. The Episcopal Church promised full and equal claim to its LGBT baptized in 1976. In 2002 Claiming the Blessing was formed to call the question on that promise and work to move the church forward on liturgies for the blessing of same-sex relationships. A decade later that mission was accomplished with yesterday's historic vote ... and, no, we are not done yet.

From the very beginning of this movement it has been clear that the Holy Spirit is calling this church to a full and equal claim for ALL the baptized ... and She will not be done with us until -- in the words on the buttons so many deputies, bishops, volunteers and visitors are wearing in this convention hall -- All Really Means ALL!

And let me be very clear: this is not a question of asking for one thing and meaning another. The authorization of the liturgies for blessing was a huge and historic step forward for this church of my birth, baptism, confirmation and ordination -- but it was also exactly that: A Step.

As my friend, colleague and mentor Michael Hopkins famously said back in 2002 when the Claiming the Blessing initiative began in answer to the question "Isn’t marriage and same-sex blessing the same thing?"

That they are similar is obvious. Each grounds a relationship that includes sexual expression in public covenant which gives them “a reality not dependent on the contingent thoughts and feelings of the people involved” and “a certain freedom to ‘take time’ to mature and become as profoundly nurturing as they can” (Rowan Williams, “The Body’s Grace,” in Our Selves, Our Souls and Bodies, Charles Hefling, ed.).
The question remains as to whether “marriage” is appropriately defined as the covenant relationship between a man and a woman only, as is the church’s long tradition. The church must continue to wrestle with this issue. To wait until it is solved, however, in order to celebrate the blessing of a faithful same-sex relationship is pastorally irresponsible and theologically unnecessary.
What was true in 2002 is true in 2012. The church is on a journey. It is -- I suggest -- evolving on the issue of marriage equality. In fact, A050 -- the companion resolution to A049 adopted yesterday authorizing liturgies for blessing -- calls for a task force to study the history and theology of marriage and to make recommendations to the 78th General Convention. I look forward to the work of that task force for I am quite convinced that the same Holy Spirit who has been moving us forward in faith on the full inclusion of LGBT people in the work and witness of the Episcopal Church will be in their work.

I look forward to the next three years of experiencing these rites of blessing in our congregations and engaging in the study of the theology of marriage the convention also called us to undertake. I look forward to the Episcopal Church continuing to evolve on the issue of marriage equality. And -- having taken the historic steps we took yesterday over the fence between fear and possibility -- I look forward to joining our UCC brothers and sisters in being a headlight and not a taillight on full marriage equality.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Blessing Has Been CLAIMED!

There will be more to come tomorrow, but it's late and there are two more day so of legislation which begin for me with 7:30am Legislative Committee Hearings so suffice to say: The Blessing Has Been Claimed!

In an overwhelming vote (78% lay/76% clergy) the House of Deputies voted today to authorize rites for same-sex couples in The Episcopal Church. (Bishops voted yesterday 111-43)

I've got stories to tell -- reflections to offer -- details to share -- and deep, deep delight that the work of Claiming the Blessing -- the collaborative born in 2002 to work for securing liturgical rites for blessing -- has achieved its goal. But right now it's time to turn off the lights and get up and do it all again tomorrow. And yes, I'm very, VERY proud of this church. And grateful for the amazing cloud of witnesses who have worked so long, hard, and faithfully to bring us to this place where -- as the Presiding Bishop said on Sunday -- we have dared to climb over the fence between fear and possibility.

Some press links:
New York Times

Monday, July 09, 2012

Episcopal Church Makes Landmark Decision for Transgender Inclusion

[Deputy Carla Robinson, Diocese of Olympia speaking in favor of transinclusion resolution]

Today the Episcopal Church "put the T in equality" by explicitly including transgender people in the work and witness of the Episcopal Church and as candidates to the ordained ministry. In voting to concur with the earlier actions of our bishops, the House of Deputies officially added gender identity and gender expression to the non-discrimination canons - making today a very good day to be an Episcopalian.

And it is not just a good day for transgender Episcopalians and their friends, families and allies. It is a good day for all of us who are part of a church willing to the risk to continue to draw the circle wider as we work to live out our call to make God's inclusive love known to the whole human family.

In her sermon Sunday morning, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori challenged all of us who gathered as the General Convention community - bishops, deputies, volunteers and visitors - to step over the fence between fear and possibility. And in today's vote for inclusion, the Episcopal Church did precisely that. Just as we stepped over the fears surrounding the ordination of women in the 1970's and the fears of the ordination of gays and lesbians in the 1990's, today we stepped over the fear of our transgender brothers and sisters and into the possibility that at long last the end of the "inclusion wars" are in sight.

Now, before you jump to the comments to remind me we're not done with sexism or homophobia in the church let me assure you I know that far too well. Yes, we still have plenty of work to do to make all the resolutions of our conventions realities in our communities. Nevertheless, today's actions represent a significant step forward as we continue to live out our vocation as a church committed to respecting the dignity of every human being - and so there is much to rejoice and be glad in.

One of the five benchmarks of mission adopted by our wider Anglican Communion family - is "to seek to transform unjust structures of society." As Episcopalians we have been striving to live out that mission in the work of transforming the unjust discrimination against our transgender brothers and sisters.The last time our General Convention met (in Anaheim in 2009) we adopted some important resolutions supporting the trans-inclusive federal ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) and Hate-Crimes bills, adding gender identity and expression to nondiscrimination canons for lay employees and calling for church data forms to provide for inclusive self-identification.

And now -- because of today's landmark decision by our General Convention we can advocate from a place of integrity, knowing that the change we want to see in the world has begun in us - in our canons, in our structures, in our church.

Today the Episcopal Church put the "T" in equality. Let the people say "Amen" and "Alleluia!"
Yes … 94 Lay 95 Clergy
No … 11 Lay 16 Clergy
Divided … 5 Lay 0 Clergy

Episcopal Church moves another step closer to authorizing rites for blessing same sex relationships

The resolution (A049) moving the Episcopal Church forward in authorizing the use of liturgies of the blessing of same sex relationships moved out of committee this morning and is headed to the House of Bishops. Considering the testimony from the open hearing held Saturday night and input from committee members, the revised resolution includes an articulation that Canon I.18.4 (stating that no clergy person can be required to preside at a marriage) also applies to the rites being authorized and provides support for the consciences of those opposed and those supporting this move forward.

It is not a perfect resolution and it is not the end of the journey toward the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments. It is, however, a profoundly important step forward on that journey. To reprise my commentary on the work we did in Denver in 2000: It’s not the whole enchilada, but it has enough guacamole for me.

It has both rites and resources to bless, teach and pastor same-sex couples as they come to the church for God’s blessing on their lives together. It has a mandate to the church to continue to explore God at work in those relationships through further theological study. And it provides generous pastoral oversight for both those seeking the Church’s blessing for their relationships and for those still “evolving” on the issue.

I believe it offers a classically Anglican response: moving the Episcopal Church forward while creating as wide a “via media” a place to stand as possible. It give me hope that we can continue to be a church where our unity is not found in uniformity but in charity, compassion and a willingness to embrace differences while striving together to meet the pastoral needs of all God’s beloved family.

My deepest hope is that this legislation will move quickly through our two houses of deliberation and that we will leave Indianapolis with the historic “job well done” of having collected, developed and ADOPTED both theological and liturgical resources for the blessing of same-sex relationships.

The legislation now goes to the Committee on Dispatch for report out to the house of intial action: the House of Bishops.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

What I said when I spoke at the Open Hearing last night to reject the proposed Anglican Covenant

I rise to speak in favor of Resolution D007 and urge this committee to move its adoption as the Episcopal Church’s response to the proposed Anglican 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.

You will hear this evening from a variety of voices speaking from a variety of perspectives on this issue, and I come to speak as a traditionalist. Our scripture and our tradition tell us to value the ideal of covenant while our reason tells us to reject this proposal lest we throw out the baby of historic Anglican comprehensiveness with the bathwater of hysteric Anglican politics. Like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, the proposed Covenant is nothing less than coercion in covenant clothing – and I urge its rejection.

Reform Unequal Immigration Law -- Resolution Adopted

We are on a 15 minute break so I'm throwing up this "breaking news" blog about one of the first resolutions to make it through both houses of the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church ... putting us on the right side of history and in alignment with the Anglican Mark of Mission: "To seek to transform unjust structures of society."

D011 Reform Unequal Immigration Law

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 77th General Convention urge enactment of legislation to permit same-gender legal domestic partners and spouses of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents to seek la
wful permanent resident status in the same manner as different-gender spouses of citizens and lawful permanent residents; and be it further

Resolved, That the 77th General Convention encourage dioceses and congregations to pray for, support, and advocate for the immigrants, refugees, and strangers in their communities, including lesbian and gay families facing unwanted moves, deportation or being split apart due to unequal treatment of same-gender couples under federal immigration law.

So what do you DO all day at General Convention?

For anyone who wonders what we find to do here all day and why there's precious little time for blogging, facebook or anything else, my schedule today is:

7:30 –9 -- Legislative Committee

9:30 – 10:45 -- Eucharist

11:15 – 12:45 --Legislative Session


2:15 – 6:30 – Legislative Session

7:00 – 9:00 – Open Hearings on Blessings Project

9:00 – Deputation Meeting

10:00 -- Integrity Debrief
And then we do it all again on tomorrow. More later. (Seriously!)

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

#GC77: And there was evening and there was morning and it was the first day

Yes, Day One in Indianapolis is "in the books" -- so to speak. And this is me with "THE BOOK" ... the notebook deputies are issued at registration with currently filed resolutions and -- as you can see -- plenty of room for more to come.

And they will. Resolutions are still being filed as we speak. Our first legislative committee meetings start tomorrow and we will begin the "sausage making" process of taking the meat of the submitted resolutions, adding the spice of the committee meetings and open hearings and then grinding them all up into resolutions to commend out of committee to either the House of Bishops or House of Deputies as the "house of initial action" -- remembering that in the Episcopal Church for a "bill to become a law" (or, more precisely, for a resolution to become adopted!) it has to pass both houses.

Today was also the day the Exhibit Hall opened ... here are Tom and Vivian ready to open for business in the Integrity booth. Business was booming later in the day with lots of folks stopping by for buttons ("Say YES to Bless" is a popular one!) and also for up to date information on events, legislation and resources.

If you want to track what's going on here online the place to go is Integrity's GC2012 web portal ... or follow #GC77 on twitter.

The day was full of logistics, reunions, questions and meetings. Our Legislative team started out with an 8am meeting followed by a communication workshop until noon, a lunch meeting of the House of Deputies Floor Managers, registration and credentialling for deputies, and then a reception for bishops and deputies followed by the UBE (Union of Black Episcopalians) Gala FOLLOWED by our nightly debriefing meeting.


Which means the scheduled activities go from 8am - 11pm ... and, oh yeah -- then there's the email to check, the photos to upload and -- if you have the energy -- a blog to post.

And then it starts all over again tomorrow -- no 4th of July holiday around here -- with 7am deputation meeting followed by 8am committee meetings, a budget hearing, presentations by the Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies -- more legislative committee meetings and then -- tomorrow night -- it's Integrity Double Feature night as we screen "Out of the Box" AND "Love Free or Die" ... Film, as they say, at eleven.

I'll leave you with a few more pictures from this evening:

Fredrica Harris Thompsett and Thomas Brown at the Bishops/Deputies Reception

Bishop Mary Glasspool speaking at the reception with Integrity President Caro Hall looking on. (Mary was actually talking about "Out of the Box" and what a brilliant film it is. Which it is!)

Michael Hopkins, an Integrity Past-President and our floor leader
the House of Deputies giving folks some marching orders.

Some of the crowd gathered for the reception ... a great cloud of witnesses!
And finally, Caro, Katie Sherrod and Michael
at the "Team Integrity" table at the UBE Gala honoring:

And tomorrow is another day!

Monday, July 02, 2012

Yesterday: Reflections on Life, Liberty and #GC77

"The job of the Christian patriot is to never give up work or hope that all value of "all people created equal" is obtainable in history." -- Ed Bacon, July 1, 2012
I'm sitting in an Indianapolis hotel room after a LOOOOOOONG day of travel that began with an o'dark thirty flight out of LAX and concluded with a just-completed Team Integrity General Convention 2012 briefing. It has been such a full day that it hardly seems possible to me that this picture was taken yesterday. But it was.

That's me receiving a folded American flag from my son Jamie (AKA Sgt. James W. Russell, USAR/AKA "Jim") as part of annual pull out all the stops All Saints Church, Pasadena celebration of Independence Day Sunday. It is the Sunday when the rector's offertory sentences explain how just as we offer the bread and wine to be transformed into the holy food of new and unending life and we offer our money to be transformed into mission we also offer the flag as a symbol of our commitment to being a nation where all are treated and created equal. Arguably my favorite Sunday of the year.

It is a Sunday we hear not only from ancient prophets but from contemporary ones:

Moses said to Israel, “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the Lord your God, worship the Lord, hold fast to the Lord, and take your oaths in the Lord’s name. The Lord is your praise, your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things that your own eyes have seen.” -- Deuteronomy (10:17–21)

America began… as a half-formed and rough idea, but that idea became the meaning against which all life in this country has been measured ever since. And what is that idea? It comes to us by now as the brilliant cliché of the Fourth of July, but with stark simplicity it still defines the ground of our being: “All men are created equal.” That the idea is dynamic, propelling a permanent social transformation, is evident even in the way that word “men” strikes the ear as anachronistic now. That Jefferson and the others were not thinking of women matters less than the fact that they established a principle that made the full inclusion of women inevitable. And so with those who owned no property, and those who were themselves owned property. How new is this idea today? Its transforming work continues all around us. ... US politics is obsessed with the question of the place of immigrants, legal and illegal. The mainstream argument takes for granted that even here liberalizing change is underway. Confronted with an “illegal” person, the law must still give primacy to personhood. And, on another front, is it an accident that American Episcopalians are the ones challenging the world Anglican body on the question of equality for gays and lesbians?… After all, to be an American traditionalist – and isn’t this what we universally celebrate on the 4th of July? – is to affirm the revolution. --An excerpt from “What We Love about America,” by James Carroll (2006)

And a Gospel particularly germane in an election year on the Sunday before you leave for the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

Jesus said, “You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor but hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. This will prove that you are children of God. For God makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good alike, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. If you love only those who love you, what merit is there in that? Do not even the tax collectors do as much? And if you greet only your friends, what is exceptional in that? Do not even the pagans do that much? Let the love you extend be full just as the love God extends is full.” -- Matthew (5:43–48).

"The job of the Christian patriot is to never give up work or hope that the value of "all people created equal" is obtainable in history," said Ed Bacon in his sermon. (Which you can watch here)

We'll spend a lot of time talking about a lot of things here in Indianapolis. And my prayer for our church today is like unto Ed's prayer for our nation yesterday: may we never give up work or hope that that the Good News of God's inclusive love made available to all is obtainable in history. And may we be co-creators with God in making that kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven not just the prayer we pray but reality we work toward as we go about the work of this 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church.