Thursday, August 29, 2013

Equal protection gets a little closer to equally protecting everybody



I.R.S. to Recognize All Gay Marriages, Regardless of Stateby  [NYT]
WASHINGTON — All legally married same-sex couples will be recognized for federal tax purposes, regardless of whether the state where they live recognizes the marriage, the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service said Thursday.
The change stems from the Supreme Court decision in June that struck down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which found that same-sex couples were entitled to federal benefits.“Today’s ruling provides certainty and clear, coherent tax-filing guidance for all legally married same-sex couples nationwide,”
Read the rest of the decision here ... and let us rejoice and be glad in it!      

Anderson Cooper: Everything You Ever Needed to Know About Pat Robertson But Where Afraid to Ask

[sorry about the commercial first -- it's the price you pay for "free" video!]

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

LET FREEDOM RING! Marking the 50th Anniversary of MLK's "I Have A Dream" Speech

At 12 noon on August 28, 2013 All Saints Church in Pasadena joined with those across the nation ringing bells to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s historic "I Have A Dream" speech.

Thanks to all who stepped up on a moment's notice to ring out freedom ...

Zelda Kennedy ... closing the bell ringing with prayer ... and let the people say: AMEN!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

History belongs to the intercessors, who believe the future into being.

History Belongs to the Intercessors
Sunday, August 25, 2013 | Susan Russell | All Saints Church, Pasadena


Twenty years ago this month

I went on a transformational journey.


My family packed up and moved – lock, stock and canines –

from the Central Coast to the Inland Empire

for me to embark on a vocational adventure called

“journey to priesthood.”


We leased our home, rented a townhouse,

moved my boys … then 12 and 9 … into new schools

and I prepared to enter the Claremont School of Theology

as a thirtysomething seminarian.

There was, needless to say, a lot riding on me,

on the bishop and on the commission on ministry

having gotten it right on this

“called to ordained ministry” thing.


Oh, I looked good on paper.

My undergrad transcripts were strong,

my recommendations were solid

and the psychologist had signed off on me.

But it had been 17 years since I’d taken my brain out for a walk

and I was hoping I could still cut the academic mustard

after my multi-year soccer mom sojourn.


My first day was a jam packed blur of

Introduction to Old Testament,

History of Christianity

and Major Christian Doctrines.

By the time I got to my third class – the doctrines class –

my head was swimming

with words like “ontological” and “hermeneutic” and “sacerdotal”

but I was hanging in there.


And then – after spending 90 minutes

with my head barely managing

to brush up against the bottom of the words

of the professor’s introductory lecture –

he got to the part where he said

he didn’t need to bother to explain the Aristotelian theory of Causality

because we wouldn’t be in the class

if we hadn’t passed the philosophy pre-requisite.

And I kinda lost it.


I held it together getting to the car to head for home.

But then at the red light at Foothill and Indian Hill I started to cry –

not the subtle, sniffing,

tears-leaking-gracefully down your cheeks kind –

but the gasping for breath, wracking sobs kind

that makes you miss the light turning green

and has impatient drivers honking at you.

What if I couldn’t do it?

What if everyone was wrong?

What if it was all a big, horrible cosmic mistake?


It was, to say the least, not an auspicious start.


And once I got over myself I did fine. I actually did more than fine.


At Claremont between 1993 and 1996

I studied Hebrew Scriptures with Jim Sanders,

New Testament with Marcus Borg,

Feminist Theology with Rosemary Radford Reuther

and Anglican polity with … Gary Hall.

I had the privilege of a truly extraordinary seminary education

in a broadly diverse, ecumenical community

with gifted scholars, prophetic preachers and creative liturgists.

And I read … a lot. And I remembered … some.

And so when I left seminary

I took with me not just a degree to hang on the wall

but I carried with me the internalized voices

of a whole host of what Ed Bacon calls “balcony people”

I’d never actually met —

but whose work and witness informed

both my studies as a seminarian

and my ministry as priest and pastor.


Fredrica Harris Thompsett –

who taught me that

“the reason we back up to learn from our history

is to get a running start on our future.”


Rabbi Abraham Heschel –

who taught me that

we don’t just pray with the words we use from the prayer book …

we pray with the feet we use to march for justice.


And Walter Wink –

who taught me that

“History belongs to the intercessors, who believe the future into being.”


That, my brothers and sisters,

is the business we are about here at All Saints Church –

whether we’re gathering in church on Sunday morning for worship

or gathering on the steps of City Hall on Monday afternoon for a press conference.


When we knit prayer shawls

to comfort those suffering from loss or illness

and when we knit justice coalitions

to confront those causing suffering

for the oppressed and the marginalized.

It is all the same work.

It is all the same high calling.


It is all part and parcel of making God’s love tangible 24/7

as we believe into being a future

where our human race finally becomes

the human family it was created to be;

our nation finally becomes

the nation with liberty and justice for all

it was conceived to be;

and when our churches finally become

the vehicles for God’s love and grace –

for absolutely everybody –

that they are meant to be.


Eleven years ago this month

I went on another transformational journey.

On August 1, 2002 I left a great job

as Associate Rector and Day School Chaplain at St. Peter’s, San Pedro

and moved into the corner cubicle in the “temporary trailer”

here at All Saints Church

to start the work of a new initiative we called “Claiming the Blessing.”


Our stated goal was

“abolishing prejudice and oppression,

and healing the rift between sexuality and spirituality in the Church.”


Our initial commitment

was obtaining approval of a liturgical blessing

of the faithful, monogamous relationship between two adults of any gender.


And when one of our founding members –

a guy named Gene Robinson –

maybe you’ve heard of him –

was elected by the Diocese of New Hampshire to be their 9th bishop,

our agenda expanded to include securing consents to his election.

Remember that in 2003

marriage equality had not yet come to Massachusetts –

much less anywhere else;

“Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell” was still in force in the military,

the White House was supporting a “Federal Marriage Amendment”

that would write discrimination into our Constitution …

and “Modern Family” wasn’t even on the drawing board yet.


And that was just in the civic arena.

In the church,

the schismatics were marshaling their forces

to turn the fuller inclusion of LGBT people in the Episcopal Church

into the wedge they’d been looking for to split the church

they’d failed to rent asunder over the ordination of women

when they tried to in the 70’s.


It was quite arguably a hot mess.


And yet, there were intercessors who dared to believe a future into being.

A future set free from the bondage

of homophobia, bigotry and discrimination

as surely as Jesus set free

the woman from the bondage of her illness in this morning’s gospel.

A future of the full inclusion of all the baptized

in all the sacraments in our Church,

of equality for LGBT people in our country

and of the healing of the homophobia that infects our human family.


They learned their history

in order to get a running start on their future –

like Fredrica Harris Thompsett taught them to do.


They prayed with their feet,

up and down the convention center halls

and in and out of legislative committee meetings –

like Abraham Heschel challenged them to do. 


They believed the future into being

as Walter Wink challenged them to do.


And in 2003

against a lot of odds and in face of organized opposition

Gene Robinson became the Bishop of New Hampshire

and the Episcopal Church

took another step toward the blessing of same-sex unions.

And a decade later the journey is not over

and the work is not yet done

but on Friday evening

when I presided at the marriage of Jack and John

who have been together for 37 years

and who flew here from Georgia

with the blessing of their parish priest

to be married in the sight of God

and by the power vested in me by the State of California

I had a glimpse of the kingdom come

as we stood there in the Silverlake garden

on the shoulders of the intercessors

who had believed that moment into being.

And that – my brothers and sisters – is something to

rejoice and be glad in. 


And because there is still much work to be done, I invite you to hear with me these words from our brother Walter Wink from his book “The Powers that Be:”*


History belongs to the intercessors who believe the future into being.

This is not simply a religious statement.

It is also true of capitalists or anarchists.

The future belongs to whoever can envision a new and desirable possibility, which faith then fixes upon as inevitable.

This is the politics of hope.

Hope envisages its future

and then acts as if that future is now irresistible,

thus helping to create the reality for which it longs.

The future is not closed.

Even a small number of people,

firmly committed to the new inevitability

on which they have fixed their imaginations,

can decisively affect the shape the future takes.


These shapers of the future are the intercessors,

who call out of the future the longed-for new present.

In the New Testament,

the name and texture and aura of that future

is God’s domination-free order, the reign of God.


When we pray we are not sending a letter

to a celestial White House,

where it is sorted among piles of others.

We are engaged, rather,

in an act of co-creation,

in which one little sector of the universe

rises up and becomes translucent, incandescent,

a vibratory centre of power that radiates the power of the universe.


History belongs to the intercessors, who believe the future into being.

If this is so, then intercession,

far from being an escape from action,

is a means of focusing for action and of creating action.

By means of our intercessions

we veritably cast fire upon the earth and trumpet the future into being.” [“The Powers that Be: Theology for a New Millennium” by Walter Wink]


Fifty years ago this week,

over two hundred thousand intercessors gathered in Washington DC

to “cast fire upon the earth and trumpet the future into being”

in an act of co-creation

a vibratory centre of the power of love, justice and compassion

engaged to triumph over bigotry, racism and oppression

calling out of the future

a longed for new present

of jobs and freedom for all Americans.


We hear again this morning

the words from Martin Luther King’s historic “I Have A Dream” speech

reminding us that the holy work of believing the future into being

will never be done until there are no strangers left at the gate,

until no member of the human family

is placed outside the embrace of love, justice and compassion,

and every hill shall be exalted and every mountain shall be made low,

the rough places will be made plains

and the crooked places will be made straight

and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed

and all flesh – ALL flesh -- shall see it together.


The moral arc of the universe

is about the transformation of that which "is"

to that which "can and must be."

That includes the redemption of every single life,

transformed with the vision of a more just and equal world;

a vision that Dr. King dreamed of and preached about 50 years ago this week.

The most dangerous mistake we can make

is to be blind to the continued injustice

or assume that the moral arc of the universe moves towards justice on its own and that we are not a part of the bending.**

Dr. King famously declared that, as a people,

we are bound up into a "single garment of destiny.”

That single garment of destiny means

there is no rest for any of us until there is freedom and equality for all of us.


The single garment of destiny means

the struggle for civil rights, the struggle for LGBT equality,

the struggle for reproductive rights, the struggle for immigration reform,

the struggle for economic justice, the struggle to end gun violence …

whatever struggle challenges any member of the human family

challenges the whole human family.


And as intercessors who believe the future into being,

we will not rest until “we shall overcome” has become “we have overcome.”


Together we are all on a transformational journey

to turn “thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven”

from a prayer we pray

to a reality we live. 


In a moment we will gather at this table

we will receive the bread and wine made holy

to give us strength for the journey

as we go out into the world in desperate need

of the good news of God’s love and justice and compassion.


History belongs to the intercessors,

who believe the future into being.

We are the intercessors

and may God give us grace

to claim that high calling in our generation

as those who have gone before us

have claimed in it in theirs.


Let us pray.


"Holy God, you promised Abraham and Sarah that you would bless them so that their descendants would be a blessing to all humankind.  As Jacob wrestled with you throughout the night, refusing to let you go until you blessed him, grant each of us the courage to claim your blessing as our birthright. And then open our ears so that we can hear what your Holy Spirit is saying as we move forward into your future as vehicles of your love, justice and compassion – blessed in order to be a blessing to your whole human family.  Amen."***
* Walter Wink, "The Powers that Be: Theology for a New Millennieum
** adapted from Paul Raushenbauch, Huffington Post
*** adapted from Collect for Claiming the Blessing, by John Clinton Bradley



Friday, August 23, 2013

Mazel Tov!

SO delighted to return from vacation to the privilege of presiding at the marriage of this fabulous couple -- together for 37 years and now ... thanks to General Convention 2012 and the Supreme Court ... legally wed and duly blessed. It was the first chance I've had to actually use the rite approved in A049 and what a joy!

Holy God, faithful and true,
whose steadfast love endures for ever:
we give you thanks for sustaining Jack and John in the life they share
and for bringing them to this day.
Nurture them and fill them with joy in their life together,
continuing the good work you have begun in them;
and grant us, with them, a dwelling place eternal in the heavens
where all your people will share the joy of perfect love,
and where you, with the Son and the Holy Spirit, live and reign,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Monday, August 19, 2013

View from Jury Duty

Today was my first day back to work after vacation -- and I spent it on jury duty. I never actually made it out of the jury room -- but, as the nice jury commissioner explained to us in the orientation hour -- just by showing up to do our civic duty we had impact on the judicial system because we were there prepared to serve ... and sometimes cases manage to get themselves setteled once the jury shows up.

I bought it.

Anyway, I never made it out of the jury room. But I did make it up to the cafeteria for lunch -- where this was the view:

Civic duty AND a room with a view. Not a bad first day back to work. Tomorrow I'll get to the 1351 unread email. One thing at a time.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Double Delight: Two Good News Reports to Report

A New Presiding Bishop for the Lutherans

Delighted to get the news that the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) has elected its first woman Presiding Bishop -- the Reverend Elizabeth Eaton. From the Religion News Service report:
(RNS) The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on Wednesday (Aug. 14) elected the Rev. Elizabeth Eaton as the denomination’s first female presiding bishop. Eaton received 600 votes against incumbent Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson, who received 287.

Eaton, the current ELCA bishop of the Cleveland-based Northeast Ohio Synod, is married to the Rev. Conrad Selnick, an Episcopal priest. Like Hanson, she is considered a moderate who supported the denomination’s decision to allow partnered gay clergy while allowing room for churches to disagree, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. A native of Cleveland, she received a master of divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School.

Ding, Dong -- Prop 8 is REALLY Dead!

Equally delighted at the news that the anti-marriage equality folks failed in their last ditch effort to end marriage equality in California. Check it out:
SAN FRANCISCO -- The California Supreme Court refused Wednesday to revive Proposition 8, ending the last remaining legal challenge to same-sex marriage in the state. Meeting in closed session, the state high court rejected arguments by ProtectMarriage, Proposition 8’s sponsors, that only an appellate court could overturn a statewide law -- rejecting Prop. 8 Proponents’ last-ditch effort to revive Proposition 8. Following the resumption of marriage equality in California on June 28, Prop. 8 Proponents filed a lawsuit seeking to limit where gay and lesbian couples could marry to only two California counties.
Los Angeles Times article and AFER report

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Yes, there has been a dearth of blogging lately ... primarily because I've been focused on Vacay 2013 ... beach time, family time and R&R time. Exhibit A: This shot from Moonstone Beach near Cambria ... #vacationcentral

Saturday, August 03, 2013

MARRIAGE: Knowing our history in order to move into our future

Have just returned from a four day initial meeting of the A050 mandated "Task Force for the Study of Marriage" which met in Baltimore. Our charge, from the enabling resolution passed by the 2012 General Convention of the Episcopal Church, is "to identify and explore the historical, biblical, theological, liturgical, and canonical dimensions of marriage, and to do so in consideration of the "changing societal and cultural norms and legal structures" of our time."

We divided up our work into subcommittees and I've been tasked with chairing the "historical/liturgical/canonical" team ... and so we have our work cut out for us! That said, what a delight to wake up this morning to this "making the rounds" article from the National Catholic Reporter -- A look at marriage equality from a historical perspective -- which totally makes the point that the more we know about the history of how marriage has changed in the past the better prepared we are to meet the challenges of our day and to move into the future. Check it out ...

A look at marriage equality from a historical perspective

Debate over same-sex marriage is raging these days in the United States, be it in the courts, the media, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and even among one's friends and family. Deep beneath the breakers runs a broad stream of little-known history that might bring some calm.

The biblical view

For most of us, marriage has been shaped by our culture, largely founded on the Book of Genesis and developed over centuries of tradition. God created humans male and female -- Adam and Eve -- to be partners who cling to each other to carry out the mandate to increase and multiply. After the fall, the rest of Genesis recounts the results: The descendants increase and evil multiplies. God determines to make a new start: the flood, Noah and the family ark, a covenant that guarantees God's protection. But the mandate to increase and multiply remains.

And so it goes for the centuries recounted in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, with marriage as a primary institution. To fulfill the mandate, husbands have many wives; family members marry each other; masters impregnate slaves, sometimes founding a new people (Abraham, Hagar and the Ishmaelites); boys marry at 14 and girls at 12 -- all to ensure the continuity of households. In this long process, the mandate is well on its way to fulfillment, but a cloud hangs just over the horizon: What to do when the mandate is fulfilled?

Early Jews and Christians
Adopting Genesis and the rest of the Bible as their own, Jews and Christians in antiquity adopted the institution of marriage as defined in its pages. Yet marriage was also an institution of the world in which they lived, a Roman world, where true marriage -- matrimony -- was a partnership in which a couple consented to live together with mutual affection and respect and to raise a family. For pagans, Jews and Christians, mutual consent was legally and literally the heart of the matter in their Roman world, and from which a series of laws and customs flowed, including their distinctive ways of getting married.
As Christians spread westward, becoming more numerous -- by mid-fourth century 30 million of a population of 60 million in the Roman Empire -- some early Christian thinkers began to worry about the cloud on the horizon: Heaven was already too full. Indeed, St. Augustine, the celebrated bishop of Hippo in Roman Africa from 395 to 430, thought the cloud had already moved from the horizon to the center of his Mediterranean sky, overshadowing, indeed threatening, his "City of Man."

Commenting on the Book of Genesis, Augustine reasoned that after the fall from paradise, Adam and his descendants were bound by the precept to increase and multiply until it had been fulfilled by Abraham and his descendants, the patriarchs. Now fulfilled, he concluded, the mandate to increase and multiply had been replaced by a concession: allowing couples to have intercourse without the mandate to procreate. Indeed, St. Paul had proposed a remedy that "it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion" (1 Corinthians 7:8-9).

Augustine saw that marriage was here to stay, offering three important social benefits -- fidelity, offspring and a sacred union. By fidelity, he meant the commitment to have sex only with one's spouse; by offspring, having and raising children; and by a sacred union, a bond signifying the indissoluble union between Christ and the church described in the Letter to the Ephesians (5:31-32).

As time passed and the population grew, Augustine's thinking about marriage gradually changed. Tutored by his Roman world and his pastoral life as a bishop, he came to see what made marriage marriage: mutual consent to a life together characterized by marital affection and respect. The importance of offspring, so prominent a reason for marriage, gradually receded in his mind, for his pastoral life brought him face to face with countless childless marriages he considered true marriages.

Medieval Christian view
Augustine's thinking about sex and marriage has been at the root of the traditions about sex and marriage in the West, because he was the only church father to write extensively about sex and marriage. Christian thinkers and writers for centuries have been deeply beholden to Augustine. With the rise of universities in the late 12th century, for instance, their masters -- the early Scholastics -- sought to determine how marriage in their secular world fit into their sacramental world. A sharp debate arose among them about what constituted true marriage. One group argued that it was at the point of sexual consummation true marriage exists, because consummation embodied the union between Christ and the church. A second group argued that it was consent given in the present to live together as equal partners with mutual affection and respect that embodied the union. By the end of the century the "consentist" position had won the debate, largely because its architect, the prominent Parisian theologian Peter Lombard, had written a textbook that became the theology text for the next 400 years.

A contemporary view
Thus, for some 1,600 years, what made a marriage a true marriage was consent, from which its three benefits -- fidelity, children and sacred union -- flowed. Whether a couple could have children was, like sexual attraction, nature's call -- not what makes marriage marriage. Although same-sex couples can have a child by adoption and nurture the child in a home characterized by mutual affection and respect, they cannot beget a child of their own. That same situation often is the case for an opposite-sex married couple who adopt and nurture. Neither couple can be said to contravene the law of nature by marrying.

Given the percentage of people for and against same-sex marriage, more than 60 percent of our citizens, including Catholics, seem to agree with what our Western predecessors concluded about what truly constitutes marriage, whether for an opposite-sex or same-sex couple, namely, consent to a life together of partners infused with affection and respect constitutes true marriage, from which the social benefits flow.

[Thomas M. Finn, chancellor professor of religion (emeritus) at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., published the article "Sex and Marriage in the Sentences of Peter Lombard" in Theological Studies, March 2011.]