Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Face of "Obamacare"

This is the face of "Obamacare."

My wife has stage four renal cancer. Tomorrow she is having what we hope will be life-saving surgery -- surgery which her "pre-existing conditions" might have made impossible prior to the Affordable Care Act.

We invite your prayers for successful surgery tomorrow. And we urge you to put those prayers into action by working to preserve the reforms that have moved this nation closer to making health care accessible to ALL Americans.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Confessions of a Goldwater Girl

From my "just posted to the Huffington Post" piece: Reflections on Campaign 2012 by a Former Goldwater Girl:

I never made it to law school and instead stayed home and raised kids and remained a registered Republican -- more out of loyalty to my father than to the GOP -- but increasingly found myself voting "across party lines."

That changed in 1992. I was watching the Republican Convention television coverage -- cooking dinner while my sons did their homework at the kitchen table -- when Pat Buchanan rose to the podium and gave what has come to be known as his "Culture War" speech. I listened with increasing horror as his narrow, exclusivist, fear-mongering rhetoric laid out a vision for what this country needed -- a vision that bore absolutely NO resemblance to the values my parents had raised me to understand were core to the "Grand Old Party" of my Republican roots.

I turned the stove down under the simmering green beans, told the boys to finish their homework and that I'd be right back. I drove the six blocks down to the grocery store where earlier in the day I'd noticed the card table out front with the "Register to Vote" sign. And I changed my party affiliation that day -- explaining to the woman at the card table that if I got hit by a bus tomorrow I was NOT going to die a Republican. And I've never looked back."

Read the rest here

Friday, August 24, 2012

Romney Steps Over the "Birther" Line on the Eve of the GOP Convention

So I'm minding my own business resting like the doctor told me to do after my oral surgery yesterday (and feeling quite well, thanks all!) when I almost do myself serious damage falling off the couch as the words "No one has ever asked me to see my birth certificate" actually come OUT of Mitt Romney's mouth.

Either his media trainer needs fired or his campaign really is as snake-belly low as the leftist pundits would have us believe. As I noted in a comment I made over on Facebook, "Any media person worth their salt sits down with you before you go "on" and reminds you not only of what message you're supposed to stay on but on what string you don't want to give the other side to "pull."

I watched one of Obama's spokespeople do a great job on that a few minutes ago on MSNBC when Andrea Mitchell tried to get her to say that the Romney's comment on the birth certificate was "race based." Taking that bait makes the headline "Obama accuses Romney of race baiting" instead of "Romney sinks to birther comment" ... so she side-stepped it with "I wouldn't say that ... although this is clearly an appeal to the fringe elements of the conservative base

And then there was this from my friend Louie Crew on Facebook -- who isn't running for anything so can speak the whole truth and nothing but the truth:
"When I turned 21 in 1957, I registered to vote for the first time, in Anniston, Alabama. The only black person in line was a man in a suit reciting the Constitution of the State of Alabama from memory, while the of us waited. He had to start all over again a couple of times when he made a mistake, but soon did it flawlessly, and was registered.

When I got to the head of the line, I explained that I did not know the Constitution of the State of Alabama had to be memorized. The person in charge said sternly with a snarl, "You're white. We know you can read." Perhaps she was Romney's cousin. Egregious racism!— Louie

Thursday, August 23, 2012

By George, I think he's got it!

Brian Brown (of NOM [National Organization for Marriage] fame) and Dan Savage (of "It Gets Better" fame) met for an over-dinner debate moderated by NYTimes journalist Matt Oppenheimer last night. Here's a link to a HuffPost report on the debate ... and here's a quote from the evening that's receiving some well deserved attention:

By George, I think he's got it! Let's review:
  • Some rabbis thinking interfaith marriage is wrong doesn't make it illegal.
  • Some priests thinking divorce is wrong doesn't make it illegal.
  • NOM thinking same-sex marriage is wrong -- by Brown's own logic -- shouldn't make it illegal.
Are we done now, NOM?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

An Absolutist Agenda vs. The American Dream

Horrified by the rhetoric about "legitimate rape" coming from Missouri Representative Todd Akin I watched the reaction go from some tweets by pundits early Sunday afternoon to posts by bloggers later in the afternoon to New York Times and CNN by Sunday evening to leading the morning news shows on  Monday morning. And of course I had my own two cents to offer.From the blog that grew from a Facebook comment:
The "absolute standards or principles" Akin, Fischer and their allies advocate are their own literalist interpretation of the Bible and sexist interpretation of Christian theology. So convinced they have sole possession of the absolute "Capital T" Truth that they have no need of "Capital F" Facts, Akin and Fischer are exactly the kind of ideologues our founding fathers wrote the First Amendment of the Constitution to protect us from.

The "Christian Values" that undergird their platform are judgment, intolerance and condemnation -- a perverse hijacking of the justice, love and compassion proclaimed by Jesus of Nazareth. The "American Values" they are fighting to defend have nothing to do with liberty and justice for all and everything to do with power and privilege for the few. And their defiance of compromise and collaboration makes them ill-equipped to govern at best and dangerous to the democratic process at worst

"To paraphrase Edmund Burke, "All it takes for absolutists to triumph is that the rest of us do nothing." We made our voices count in April when Planned Parenthood was under attack -- time to make them count again in August and speak out, stand up and counter the rabid rhetoric of the Akins and Fischers and all those confusing their Absolutist Agenda with our American Dream. Make some NOISE people!"
Read the rest over on the Huffington Post

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Musings from the multi-platform vacation front

So my rector -- Ed Bacon -- was back on Oprah this morning. It was a reprise of an interview he'd done earlier on her radio network ... only this time they ran it as part of the "Super Soul Sunday" series along with a whole cool live-streaming/tweeting thing.

It made for a very multi-platform morning at my house.

Yes, I'm on vacation. But -- as I commented to a Facebook friend who commented on my comment about the Oprah airing -- I'm on vacation, not in isolation. And so of course I'm still interested in what happens when Ed's on Oprah talking about turning the human race into the human family ... especially when I can watch from my couch in my jeans on my laptop with the Dodgers whooping the Braves on the television. (Go, Blue!)

If you want to catch the Oprah segment, you can still watch it here. And, of course, I commend it to you. You'll hear about turning the human race into the human family, about the power of forgiveness, and about what grits and grace have in common. Basically, you'll hear what we hear every Sunday at All Saints Church ... and how delighted was I that Oprah -- who I kind of think of as "the gift that keeps on giving" -- gave us ... gave Ed ... gave the message of God's love, justice and compassion ... a bigger platform this morning.

Oh, I know. The Oprah Winfrey Network isn't getting the ratings the old Oprah Show days used to pull in and who knows what difference Ed holding forth on television makes, anyway -- there's no slot in the parochial report for "how many viewers did you reach with the Good News of God's inclusive love" on television this week. How do you quantify the impact? Will it help your pledge base?

And this whole twitter thing ... so you "follow" him on twitter," right? Then where does he "go"? Yes ... it's a brave new multi-platform world.

Now, Lord knows I don't have all the answers. I don't even pretend to. I'm a Baby Boomer, "digital immigrant," still-figuring-it-out-as-I-go-along bystander to a whole new world of communication and networking opportunities, possibilities and challenges.

But here's what I do know:
  • I know that Oprah may not have the "reach" she did in her talk show heyday ... but this morning RevEdBacon had 545 followers on twitter and now he has 7967. Or he did the last time I checked. And those are folks we can build relationship with as we continue to send out Good News from All Saints in Pasadena.
  • I know that our call to "proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ Jesus" needs as many platforms as we can find to get it out in a world in desperate need of it -- Oprah, twitter, or whatever. And our charge to bear witness to God's love, justice and compassion deserves our best efforts to maximize every single one of them.
  • And I know that almost every single Monday when we go through the newcomer cards that folks filled out on Sunday, someone responds to the question, "what brought you to All Saints today?" with "Saw Ed Bacon on Oprah" or "Read about you in the Huffington Post" or "invited by a Facebook friend" or ... well, you get my point.
Also in the news today? Pat Robertson arguing against international adoption, with these decidedly not WWJD words: “… all these various children, blended family, what is it – you don't know what problems there are. I'm serious. You don't have to take on somebody else's problems. You really don't.” (So much for Matthew 19:14 and suffering little children to come to Jesus. Oy vey!)

And then there's the "traditional values" candidate for Senate in Missouri -- Todd Akin -- who opined this morning that there is no such thing as pregnancy from "legitimate rape" since (wait for it ...) "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." Talk about taking "blame the victim" to a whole new level -- Seriously!

Of course Akin is backing off that statement now ... as well he should. But if ever there was a news day that illustrated how badly the we need alternative voices speaking about the values of love, justice and compassion -- what Ed calls the "habits of love" in his upcoming book -- then it was today.

So I'm having a GREAT vacation. Thanks for asking. Yesterday it was a trip to the Farmer's Market -- some great live Bluegrass music followed by great Italian food with good friends. Today it was Dodger baseball and Ed on Oprah. And who knows what tomorrow will bring? I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

And Now For My Anti-War/Pro-Veteran/Mom's Opinion on NBC's "Stars Earn Stripes"

You can ask my wife. Every SINGLE time the commercial came on during the Olympics promoting the debut of "Stars Earn Stripes" -- the glorifying combat, turning the horrors of war into a game show, 21st century version of Roman gladiators in the Coliseum distracting the masses from the abuses of the Empire, pseudo-reality show -- I ranted about what a travesty it was. Every. Single. Time. (And we watched a LOT of Olympic coverage so we saw the commercial a LOT of times!)

So how delighted was I to get word that I am not only not alone -- but I stand in the company of not one but NINE Nobel Peace Prize winners saying the same thing -- Desmond Tutu, Jody Williams, Mairead Maguire, Shirin Ebadi, Jose Ramos-Horta, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Oscar Arias Sanchez, Rigoberta Menchu Tum and Betty Williams. More or less. From their letter to NBC:
"It is our belief that this program pays homage to no one anywhere and continues and expands on an inglorious tradition of glorifying war and armed violence. Military training is not to be compared, subtly or otherwise, with athletic competition by showing commercials throughout the Olympics. Preparing for war is neither amusing nor entertaining."
NBC, responding to the charges, said that "Stars Earn Stripes" is "about thanking the young Americans who are in harm's way every day. This show is not a glorification of war, but a glorification of service."

I've got a graphic for that. It's:

And just to be clear -- I'm wearing two hats for the occasion.

The first one is my "give-peace-a-chance"/"war is not healthy for children and other living things" conviction forged in the crucible of the 70's honed into a deep antipathy to military solutions in the service of empire building rather than diplomatic initiatives in the service of bridge building" hat.

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah ... I know. We live in a different world. The threat of attack from terrorist ideologues challenges old paradigms. Which is why I'm not a pacifist. Wish I was sometimes, truly. But I just can't go there in the face of Rwanda. Or Bosnia. Or al-Qaeda. Wish I didn't believe that sometimes in a world beset by violence that counter-violence wasn't a necessary option.

But there's a difference between understanding war as a regrettably necessary option and exploiting war for mid-season ratings. And that's where I put my second hat on.

The second one is my "mother of an Army veteran, Blackhawk helicopter crew chief who served a 15 month stint in Iraq and two special-ops deployments in Afghanistan, don't you DARE trivialize the lives and sacrifices of our troops still in harm's way by reducing their service to a glorified game show" hat.

Enough is freakin' enough. Join me -- with both my Anti-War/Pro-Vets hats firmly in place -- and NINE Nobel Peace Prize winners in calling on NBC to be ashamed of themselves.

You "thank young Americans in harm's way" by working to end war -- not by glorifying it. And you "glorify service" by rewarding their sacrifice with health, education and employment benefits that serve our veterans -- not by exploiting their sacrifice with a game-show that benefits your stockholders.

We may not all be Nobel Peace Prize winners who can get media attention for our opposition but we still have a voice.

Sign the petition here. If you're a twitter person send this tweet out today:
@NBC has created a war-o-tainment reality show w/ no role for reality -- Protest #starsearnstripes here:
Speak out. Step up. Go. Do it. Now. Seriously!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Ed and Oprah: Together Again!

In January 2009 my boss -- and the rector of All Saints Church -- Ed Bacon was on the Oprah Winfrey Show and made headlines, waves and a couple of email servers crash when he opined that "being gay was a gift from God."

At All Saints Church we refer to Oprah as "The Gift That Keeps on Giving."

It keeps on giving because it keeps drawing folks to us who are hearing through those words -- and others like them -- that there is a God who loves them beyond their wildest imagingings AND there are communities of faith where they are not just welcome but wanted.

Next Sunday -- August 19th -- Ed will be back with Oprah. This time in a one hour interview about religion & spirituality taped awhile back for her Sirius radio show and running for the first time as a video segment. Check it out. (And stay tuned for his book -- "8 Habits of Love" -- coming in September!)

Preview: Oprah and the Rev. Ed Bacon on Faith and Spirituality
Curious how religion and spirituality work together? Oprah and the Rev. Ed Bacon of All Saints Church in Pasadena, California address this question and more in an enlightening discussion. Watch a preview now!   Watch this episode Sunday, August 19, from anywhere in the world! Log on to, or

The Cat in the Hat (after Sam I Am)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Earth to AFA: Kidnapping is NOT a Traditional Christian Value

cross posted from The Huffington Post

There's been much ado this week about the call by anti-gay activist Bryan Fischer for an "underground railroad" that would effectively abduct children from same-sex parents. According to The New Civil Rights Movement, Fischer tweeted that he believes it's his duty to Christ to steal the children of gay people and same-sex couples, noting that "we need an Underground Railroad to deliver innocent children from same-sex households," and concluding, "We must obey God's law, not man's law," at the end of the video posted by his organization, the American Family Association.

And because statements like that get headlines like this one in the Toronto Tribune -- "US pastor advocates kidnapping children from same-sex homes" -- people like me feel the need to step up and say things like this: Kidnapping is not a traditional Christian value!

Clearing that up is not only in the service of defending same-sex families, who, as long as the so-called Defense of Marriage Act exists, already deal with not being equally protected by the equal protection guaranteed all Americans by their Constitution, and who now have to cope with the so-called American Family Association turning their children into fair game in the culture wars. It is also about recognizing that if people like me don't step up and set the record straight when a radical like Bryan Fischer hijacks the Good News of God's inclusive love and turns it into a weapon to hurt rather than a message to heal, then we have no room to complain when more and more people think they know enough about being a Christian not to want to be one. And who can blame them? If the only thing I knew about Christians was what I read in The New Civil Rights Movement or the Toronto Tribune, I wouldn't want to be one, either!

There is, of course, a broad spectrum of beliefs, practices, and theologies within Our Big Fat Christian Family, just as there is in any faith tradition. I am arguably part of the more liberal end of the spectrum, as a lesbian priest in the Episcopal Church serving a multicultural congregation committed to putting its faith into action by living out the values of love, justice, and compassion through ministries committed to peace and justice in an interfaith context. But my point today is that you don't have to be where All Saints Church in Pasadena is on the spectrum to step up and speak out when Christian values are perverted the way Bryan Fischer has perverted them.

Because here's the deal: There are good people of deep faith who read the same scriptures and come to different conclusions about a whole variety of issues. And then there are dangerous people of deluded faith who have projected their biases onto God and are so convinced that they have sole possession of the absolute truth that facts don't matter, laws don't matter, and the rights of those who disagree with them certainly don't matter.

And it is long past time for the rest of us -- for all the rest of us -- to claim our power by speaking out, standing up, and calling out the toxic rhetoric of the Bryan Fischers of the world for what it is: antithetical to the life, witness, and Gospel of Jesus; contrary to authentic Christian values; and not of God.

It should go without saying that kidnapping is not a traditional Christian value, but given that it apparently does need to be said, if we don't say it, who will?

Thursday, August 09, 2012

This Gold Medal Moment ...

... brought to you by Title IX!

Passed in 1972, the legislation read in part:
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance
This landmark legislation opened the way for equal access to funding for women's athletics and created a culture where girls not only could but DID excel in sports and aspire to excellence -- just like their brothers.

So the next time someone tells you that you can't "legislate social change" send them the URL to this blog. Encourage them to revel in this Gold Medal Moment.

Or this one:

Or this one:

Or this one:

Or this one:

And remind them that until Title IX passed in 1972 first class athletes who happened to be girls did not have access to the equal funding, training, resources and support their brothers took for granted. That was then. This is now.

Let's hear it for legislated social change.

[h/t Sarah Lawton for the Facebook comment that reminded me of this connection!]

Monday, August 06, 2012

Of Blessings Claimed and Kingdoms Yet to Build

Sunday's sermon -- "Blessing Claimed. Now What?" is now up on YouTube ... Link to text | Link to YouTube

At a Lenten Soup Supper in the 1980's
Dr. Thomas Jayawardene rocked my world
by explaining that the point of the church isn’t the church,
the point of the church is to build the kingdom;
and he compared the relationship between church and kingdom
to the relationship between scaffolding and skyscraper –
the former is necessary to the creating the latter but it is NOT an end in itself.
And sometimes, he said,
the Church has been so focused on polishing and decorating the scaffolding
that it has forgotten what it was there to build in the first place.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

"We've changed the world" | A New Chapter for the Diocese of New Hampshire

On Saturday August 4th the Diocese of New Hampshire gave the Church of God a new bishop when they consecrated Robert Hirschfeld as their bishop coadjutor. The picture below is from the AP report from Saturday's consecration -- the commentary below that is from a member of St. Paul's in Concord NH)

by Cherie Konyha Greene / For the Concord Monitor August 4, 2012

The Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire is about to consecrate a new bishop coadjutor, the Rev. Rob Hirschfeld. Since New Hampshire has no cathedral, we'll be doing it in the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord. It's going to be the sort of grand occasion you might expect from a church body with British roots. You know - the culture that brought us the opening ceremonies to the 2012 Olympics.

Well, okay. This is New England, after all. The presiding bishop won't be parachuting onto Main Street; her flight from Washington will land at an airport. (Let us pray that Voldemort doesn't show up, because I'd really hate to see the Very Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori floating in on an umbrella.) We won't get Paul McCartney, but we do have music composed for the occasion by music director Nicholas White of St. Paul's School, sung by a 90-some-voice choir.

Our 300-strong Parade of Parishes will have heraldic banners and clergy draped with hand-quilted red stoles. No glowing owls on bicycles, but we've got this dove-shaped kite on a pole that flutters over everyone's heads, which is pretty cool. Our torch-bearers won't be running, but there will be incense. There will also be plenty of big words like "coadjutor" that date to the time of Henry VIII.

We love this stuff in the Anglican Communion. We had those things at the consecration of our current bishop, Gene Robinson. Aside from being held in a theater instead of the University of New Hampshire hockey stadium, this ceremony shouldn't be much different. Except:

This time around, we probably won't have to run a gauntlet of angry protesters on our way into the ceremony. I doubt the Concord police will have to sweep the Capitol Center for explosives. It is highly unlikely that anyone will stand up during the liturgy and describe intimate bedroom matters in graphic detail. Odds are, this bishop will be able to stir his coffee without bumping into a CNN camera. In fact, the soon-to-be Right Reverend Rob might not even need a bulletproof vest under his vestments.

It happens that the newly elected bishop is a heterosexual.

This mere fact means that the world might go back to leaving New Hampshire alone, outside of presidential primary season, which doesn't make much more sense to New Hampshire Episcopalians than the toxic, global kerfuffle that arose from Robinson's election. Flatlanders expressed amazement that "conservative" New Hampshire had taken such a "radical" step, but it was completely in harmony with our state motto: Live Free or Die.

We voted for Robinson because he was a hardworking, dedicated priest who understood us. We simply thought he was the best man for the job, and we were right. Under his leadership, New Hampshire has been energized to be a beacon of God's love to the world.

People outside the state know Gene as "the first gay bishop," which is, of course, laughably inaccurate. He's just the first one to be elected while being completely honest about his committed relationship with another man, and he has been a model of transparency and integrity throughout his tenure. We would have happily kept him on for many more years had he not announced his retirement to the Diocesan Convention on Nov. 6, 2010.

I was saddened to read that he had, as I feared, cited "death threats, and the now-worldwide controversy" among the reasons. I remember when they announced Robinson's election at St. Paul's Church. After the standing ovation, parishioners considered what might happen next. Many said, "It's only New Hampshire. We're a small diocese; who's going to notice what we do?" As part of the Episcopal Church U.S.A., we're not very big. Compared with the worldwide Anglican Communion, we're barely a blip. So who was going to pay attention?

Well, the next day, faced with an onslaught of frantic protests from more conservative parts of his flock, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams could only say, "Let's all take a deep breath." The British are good at not freaking out.

Unfortunately, not all Anglicans and Episcopalians are British, and the freaking out soon began in earnest. It culminated in Robinson being asked not to come to England for the worldwide Anglican Communion's conference, because if the bishop from our small diocese showed up, entire continents were likely to bolt. I guess they noticed.

I wonder, though, whether they noticed something else. There was a quiet miracle growing here, sending out shoots across the country. Robinson noted, in that same 2010 address, that people "who have been ill-treated, in the name of a judgmental God, and who have left the Church . . . because religion tells them they are an abomination," are now hearing "a different story" of unconditional love.

Our incoming bishop Rob Hirschfeld took a stand for marriage equality in his previous parish. We picked him because that bell we rang back in 2003 is not going to be un-rung. We're going to keep ringing it. Little New Hampshire, the diocese without a cathedral, the place we didn't think anyone would notice, has changed the world.

(Cherie Konyha Greene is a writer and a member of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Concord.)

Blessing Claimed. Now What?

August 4, 2012 | Susan Russell | All Saints Church, Pasadena

It's always an honor to preach from the All Saints pulpit -- but today was a particular delight to stand and speak to celebrating the incremental victories of Claiming the Blessing over the last ten years and to imagine new audacious goals for the next ten.
This morning’s sermon started out titled “Blessing Claimed” – and as I worked on it it changed itself into “Blessing Claimed: Now What?”

One of my mentors and heroes is historian Fredrica Harris Thompsett – and she’s the one who taught me that the reason we bother to know our history is to back up enough to get a running start on our future. So this morning I want to spend just a few minutes giving you that “running start” by backing up for just a little bit of history.

Ten years ago this week – August 1st to be exact – I left St. Peter’s in San Pedro where I was the associate rector and chaplain to the day school to begin a new ministry as Executive Director of something called “Claiming the Blessing.”

Forged out of the crucible of what some have called “The Anglican Inclusion Wars” Claiming the Blessing was the brainchild of a small group of visionary leaders – including several from All Saints Church – who imagined a collaborative ministry bringing together organizations, congregations and individual justice leaders committed to the common dream of the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the work and witness of the Episcopal Church.

Our rector emeritus George Regas famously said that those who work for justice are called “to set audacious goals and to celebrate incremental victories.”

The audacious goal “Claiming the Blessing” set was a pretty audacious one: “promoting wholeness in human relationships, abolishing prejudice and oppression, and healing the rift between sexuality and spirituality in the Church.”

And we committed to starting out by identifying an achievable goal and then creating a strategy to achieve it.

And so on August 1, 2002 Claiming the Blessing set up shop in the southeast cubicle in the “temporary” trailer in the north driveway of All Saints Church and we got to work on our “achievable goal.” Our initial commitment was obtaining approval of a liturgical blessing of the faithful, monogamous relationship between two adults of any gender at General Convention in 2003. Then the arc of history bent a little closer to justice on June 7, 2003 when Canon Gene Robinson was elected by the Diocese of New Hampshire to be their 9th bishop, and our agenda expanded to include securing consents to his election.

It has – to say the least -- been a very full ten years. Ten years of theology statements and blog posts; of fundraising letters and General Convention campaigns -- and more parish halls, small groups, legislative committee sessions, open hearings and closed-door-meetings than you can shake a stick at.

Here are three quick stories from my “that was then” file:

In the early days of Claiming the Blessing I traveled all around the church presenting our case and our theology statement. In one diocese, folks worked VERY hard to get me a meeting with their bishop. We got the meeting – with a few conditions: No one could know he was meeting with me. We had to park in the back alley and come up the freight elevator. I had to wait in the elevator while the very nervous Canon to the Ordinary made sure the coast was clear. And we met for an hour. And he was very cordial. And we did NOT get his vote in Minneapolis.

The second story is about the House of Bishops’ Theology Committee which was charged with coming up with a “theology of human sexuality” that included addressing issues around homosexuality but did not include actually talking to any actual gay or lesbian people. When someone – that would be “us – brought that to their attention they flew me and my colleague Michael Hopkins to Chicago where we were ushered into a conference room with a circle of bishops and two empty chairs and were given a whole 90 minutes so they could cross off “included the voices of gays and lesbians” on their “to do” list.

And then there was Minneapolis in 2003 when the Episcopal Church was breaking news and CNN’s Susan Candiotti was interviewing me and Kendall Harmon the Canon Theologian for the Diocese of South Carolina and asked Canon Harmon: “Help me and our viewers understand why this issue is the one that is splitting the church.” And Kendall Harmon looked at the camera and he said “Because homosexuality is like putting milk in a car. It just doesn’t work.” And she looked at me with an expression that said “Where do I go next with this?” And I thought “if milk in a car” is the best the Canon Theologian from South Carolina can do then I think we’ve got this one.

What a difference a decade makes.

You’ve heard me talk about the Gospel According to Margaret Mead before: “Never doubt that a small group of faithful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Over these last ten years the faithful committed people of Claiming the Blessing – and their allies – have seen the case for inclusion we were making from the fringes of the Church become a commitment to inclusion coming from the center of the Church.

During that decade our case became the Church’s case. In 2005 the Episcopal Church made the case for inclusion to the wider Anglican Communion in “To Set Our Hope on Christ” and in 2009 the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music began the three year “Blessing Project” collecting and developing theological and liturgical resources for the blessing of same-gender relationships.

And then last month the “Claiming the Blessing” bunch traveled to Indianapolis to finish the work we started in 2002: obtaining approval of a liturgical blessing of the faithful, monogamous relationship between two adults of any gender. And on July 10, 2012 "Claiming the Blessing" became "Blessing Claimed!" with the adoption of GC Resolution 2012-A049 authorizing – at long last – liturgical resources for the blessing of same-sex relationships.

What a difference a decade makes! The diocese where I had to come up the freight elevator to meet in secret with the bishop is now one where the current bishop is authorizing clergy to use the approved liturgies in their congregations.

The bishops who had to fly in gay and lesbian people to include in their discussions now have four openly gay or lesbian colleagues* in their house and they voted 111-41 to “Claim the Blessing” in Indianapolis.

And Kendall Harmon? He’s still the Canon Theologian in the Diocese of South Carolina and still trying to figure out that milk in the car thing … bless his heart.

Which brings me to the other gospel I have on my heart this morning -- the Gospel According to Joan Chittister: “We are each called to go through life reclaiming the planet an inch at a time until the Garden of Eden grows green again.”

The fact that some significant inches were reclaimed over the last decade – thanks at least in part to the work of Claiming the Blessing – is an incremental victory for us to celebrate today.

At the same time, making the Garden of Eden grow green again is still firmly in the “audacious goal” column – for we still have such a long way to go until that kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven we pray for every time we gather is a reality we live and not just dream we claim.

For the Garden of Eden does not yet grow green when health care remains out of reach for the poorest while tax cuts remain on the table for the richest; when the guns that made Aurora Colorado possible are easier to get than treatment for the mental illness that turns human beings into killing machines; when women and their bodies are subject to regulation but Wall Street isn’t; when sixty-seven years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki we still live under the threat of nuclear proliferation; when racism still infects our politics, sexism dominates our discourse and homophobia drives droves of Americans to line up for fried chicken sandwiches to demonstrate their support for keeping gay and lesbian Americans unprotected by the equal protection guaranteed them by their Constitution. And don’t even get me started on the icecaps in Greenland.

No. The Garden of Eden is most definitely not growing green again yet … all of which brings me to the “Now what?” part – so get ready for some new “audacious goals.”

Securing rites for blessing in 2012 didn’t conquer homophobia any more than securing votes for women in 1920 ended sexism – or Brown vs. Board of Education ended racism in 1954. Incremental victories all they deserve our celebration … even as they call us to redouble our efforts, our energies and our strategies to continue to the live out the Gospel According to Margaret Mead as we become the change we want to see as we work to turn the human race into the human family as we strive to make God’s love tangible 24/7 as we partner with God to bring that kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

And, my brothers and sisters, whether we like it or not whether we believe it or not whether it’s working or not what God has given to us – God’s partners in that work of kingdom building – to DO the work of kingdom building is – wait for it: The Church. Seriously.

Let me tell you another story: This is about a Lenten Soup Supper speaker named Thomas Jayawardene – an Anglican priest from South India who came to St. Paul’s Ventura in the 80’s when I was a young mother just back into regular churchgoing after my obligatory young adult lapsed phase. Dr. Jayawardene rocked my world by explaining that the point of the church isn’t the church, the point of the church is to build the kingdom; and he compared the relationship between church and kingdom to the relationship between scaffolding and skyscraper – the former is necessary to the creating the latter but it is NOT an end in itself. And sometimes, he said, the Church has been so focused on polishing and decorating the scaffolding that it has forgotten what it was there to build in the first place.

And just as that was news to me as a young altar guild member in the St. Paul’s Ventura parish hall back in the 80’s it is still “breaking news” for some. Let’s look quickly at the lessons appointed for today … what they tell us about the church:

The Collect for the Day – written to “collect” the themes of the lessons for the day -- begins: Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness

In Exodus we start with “the whole congregation of the Israelites complaining to Moses & Aaron” and then in the Gospel According to John we have the stellar example of the “OMG it’s a Miracle? How did he feed 5000 families with five loaves and two fish?” multitudes tracking down Jesus to say “Give us a sign so that we may see it and believe.”

Seriously? “Give us a sign???” Can’t you just imagine Jesus thinking “The 5000 with the loaves and fishes wasn’t enough of a sign for y’all? Really????” And yet here’s what Jesus said to them in response: "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."

Our job – the church’s job – is to be that scaffolding that makes the building of the kingdom possible AND – as the hands of Jesus in world – to invite ALL God’s beloved human family to come to this table – to be fed by the holy food and drink of new and unending life in order to out into the world to change it.

And it wasn’t just the congregation in Exodus or the multitudes in John that missed that memo.

In 1998 when the Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops adopted a resolution marginalizing gay and lesbian people I was still serving as associate rector at St. Peter’s in San Pedro. I will never forget that Sunday after that Lambeth Conference vote … when one of our communion hymns brought me both to tears and to a clearer resolve that the audacious goal of the full inclusion of ALL people at the banquet table is not just an idea Ed Bacon thought up on retreat in Philadelphia one summer but the point of everything we do within these walls and beyond:

Nor let thy spreading Gospel rest till through the world thy truth has run, till with this Bread shall all be blessed who see the light or feel the sun.

That, my brothers and sisters, is not just our audacious goal it is God’s audacious goal. And that we have the privilege to be partners in that work is what we embrace each and every time we gather … to celebrate incremental victories to be fed by the bread and wine made holy to go to be the church in the world to trust that if we build it, they will come and having come they will likewise go out into the world to invite others to come and see to come and share to come and join with us in setting ever more audacious goals: ending racism and sexism healing homophobia eradicating gun violence and the threat of nuclear proliferation transforming unjust structures of society.

I want to close this morning with a few brief “reports from the field” about how that’s going – the “if we build it, they will come” part – in words from two recent emails we’ve received here at All Saints Church:

I live in the Phoenix area and am curious if there are any churches nearby that follow the same mindset as I've been reading about on your blogs and website. I haven't been a church goer since I was a young child. This is a big thing for me to even want, but I'm so inspired by this type of Christianity it makes me want to go again.
You make me want to believe in God. As a non-Christian for what it's worth, you make me wish I believed so I could belong to a group like yours. 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.
How’s THAT for “an audacious goal” – anybody up for saving the soul of Christianity?

I say we go for it – and that as we continue to celebrate the “Blessing Claimed” that we make the answer to “Now what?” the audacious goal of becoming the church God is calling us to be by refusing to be the institution the culture has called us to settle for.

Let us claim the blessing of being the scaffolding that WILL build the Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven will turn the human race into the human family will grow the Garden of Eden green again until the Gospel news of the God who loves you beyond your wildest imaginings has run through the world blessing absolutely all who see the light or feel the sun. Amen.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

A Decade of Claiming the Blessing: 100+ pictures worth 1000+ words!

The promised slide show -- a journey down the memory lane of ten years of the work and witness of Claiming the Blessing. ENJOY!

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Ten Years Ago Today ....

... CLAIMING the BLESSING was officially launched when the newly appointed CTB Executive Director (that would be ME!) set up shop in the southeast cubicle of the multipurpose "temporary" office space in the north driveway of All Saints Church in Pasadena.

CTB 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. The CTB Blog gives a great overview of the work and witness of the last decade ... but here's the Clif Notes version:

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. Toward that end we convened a national conference -- Claiming the Blessing 2002 -- in St. Louis, Missouri. Three days of workshops, worship and the introduction of the draft CTB Theology Statement ... and we were off and running!

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. Between November 2002 and July 2003 the CTB Theology Statement was distributed to every bishop and deputy to the 74th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in preparation for legislation moving forward to authorize the blessing of same-sex relationships when they met in Minneapolis.

We left Minneapolis having met both of those goals: a new bishop for New Hampshire and having taken another step forward on blessings in a resolution “recognizing that local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions."

In preparation for the 2006 General Convention, Claiming the Blessing continued to “tell our stories” by commissioning VOICES OF WITNESS as a video gift to the Episcopal Church. From the project summary: We believe that telling these stories, sharing these witnesses, is a gift we have to offer – and we believe that there has never been a more important time for us to commit ourselves to offering that gift in a way it can be the most widely received throughout the church and the communion. We believed that then and we continue to believe it now.

At the 75th General Convention in Columbus we worked with an extraordinary team of allies and succeeded in orchestrating a legislative strategy rejecting a raft of resolutions that would have turned the clock back on equality in response to “The Windsor Report.” What we were not able to do was to fend off the now infamous “B033” – the resolution calling for a defacto moratorium on consents to the election as bishop of anyone "whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion."

Claiming the Blessing was present at the Lambeth Conference 2008 as part of the Inclusive Communion Witness; produced and distributed "Voices of Witness: Africa" giving voice to the too-often invisible LGBT faithful in Africa and in 2009 worked with allies to reverse B033 and adopt Resolution C056 -- calling for the collection and development of theological and liturgical resources for the blessing of same-gender relationships.

And then in 2012 -- after a decade of commitment -- Claiming the Blessing traveled to Indianapolis to finish the work we started in St. Louis in 2002: obtaining approval of a liturgical blessing of the faithful, monogamous relationship between two adults of any gender. Ten years of work and witness. Tears and tantrums. Theology statements, blog posts, fundraising letters -- and more parish halls, small groups, legislative committee meetings, open hearings and closed-door-meetings than you can shake a stick at. Ten years and "Claiming the Blessing" became "Blessing Claimed!" with the adoption of GC Resolution 2012-A049.

It proved impossible to get everybody in one shot -- given travel schedules and calendar issues ... but between these two photos we just about made it: The Claiming the Blessing Crew ... Ten Years Later!

And then there are my personal highlights ... what we used to call "Kodak Moments" before there were digital cameras and instant uploads: the freeze frame moments in my mental photo album of the Claiming the Blessing years:
  • That January 2002 meeting at the College of Preachers where we came up with "Claiming the Blessing" for the name for our embryonic collaborative -- and Ed Bacon said the Executive Director we were looking for was someone who woke up thinking about this work every morning. And I realized that was me.  
  • The reception room in the St. Louis Cathedral as speakers and particpants were gathering for the November 2002 CTB Conference and looking around to see Louie Crew, Carter Heyward, Marge Christie and Ed Browning -- just to name a few -- and thinking "OMG ... we are actually DOING this!"
  • Another St. Louis moment: Michael Hopkins' face when Ed Bacon pulled up his chair into our early morning conference team planning meeting and said, "I feel an altar call coming on." "Say more about what that would look like," said Michael. And what it looked like was a church full of people filling out pledge cards and then bringing them to the altar while we sang "Just As I Am" -- and raised enough to fund a year of our work.
  • The clandestine meeting at the diocesan office with the bishop who agreed to meet with me and allow me to present the CTB case/theology statement -- as long as nobody knew the meeting was taking place. Parking in the alley -- coming up the freight elevator -- checking to see that the "coast was clear" before going into his office with the Canon to the Ordinary. Never let it be said we didn't do what it took. (And no, we didn't get his support.)
  • Sitting in Michael's office at St. George's in Glen Dale, MD in 2003 with the leadership team from the American Anglican Council and hearing David Anderson explain that the reason blessing same-sex relationships were a deal-breaker was that genital activity was so important to God that He put a fence around it and inside that fence was only a man and a woman within the sacrament of marriage.
  • The National Reconciliation Conversation at St. James in L.A. -- intended to bring together leadership from "both sides" of the divide in the Episcopal Church. The Claiming the Blessing leadership team was there. The American Anglican Council was not. Do the math.
  • The Minneapolis roller coaster that was +Gene's consent process -- the low points of the bogus allegations of misconduct and the high points of the celebration once the votes were in.
  • Watching the expression on Susan Candiotti's face while we were live on CNN and Kendall Harmon responded to her question of why homosexuality was the straw that was going to break the camel's back of the Anglican Communion with the immortal words: "Because it's like trying to put milk in a car. It just doesn't work." (Seriously!)
  • The standing-room-only Columbus screening of "Voices of Witness" -- produced by my brilliant partner Louise Brooks -- and the tears and cheers it inspired.
  • In the depth of the betrayal and despair that was the aftermath of B033 having Vermont Bishop Tom Ely come find us in the hotel basement sit with us in the pain ... just BE there.
  • Nottingham and Lambeth and Plano and Anaheim -- Birmingham and Boston; Nashville, Newark and New Orleans -- more metal detectors, parish halls, power points and round table discussions than I can remember.
Many years ago, then All Saints rector George Regas challenged justice activists to "set audacious goals and celebrate incremental victories." For Claiming the Blessing "Blessing, Claimed!" in Indianapolis ... after ten years of work and witness of the Claiming the Blessing collaborative built on the foundation of decades of prophetic ministry by our various organizations and congregations -- is an incremental victory we're celebrating on the road to our audacious goal: promoting wholeness in human relationships, abolishing prejudice and oppression, and healing the rift between sexuality and spirituality in the Church.

Happy 10th Birthday, CTB! La lucha continua!