Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Moment of Personal Privilege

Please take a minute to read this letter from our Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies calling for a repeal of HB2 in North Carolina and for solidarity with our transgender brothers and sisters being denied dignity and humanity as children of God.

And indulge me, if you will, in a moment of personal pride and bittersweet celebration that my late wife Louise’s last documentary project – “Out of the Box” – is called out and commended to the church for the work ahead:
In the face of the violence and injustice we see all around us, what can we do? We can start by choosing to get to know one another. TransEpiscopal, an organization of transgender Episcopalians and their allies, has posted on their website a video called “Voices of Witness: Out of the Box” that can help you get to know some transgender Episcopalians and hear their stories. Integrity USA, which produced the video, and the Chicago Consultation are two other organizations working for the full inclusion of LGBT people in the church. Their websites also have online materials that you can use to learn more about the stories of transgender Christians and our church’s long journey to understand that they are children of God and created in God’s image.
Louise's inspiration to capture the TransEpiscopal stories that changed hearts and minds at General Convention in Anaheim in 2009 and make them available to the wider church in her last film project released for General Convention 2012 is a powerful tribute to her vision, tenacity and commitment to leave the world a better place than she found it.

It was a true labor of love – supported by Integrity, TranEpiscopal and a truly stellar production team – which she embraced through the battle with cancer that eventually claimed her life in September 2012 – just weeks after “Out of the Box” premiered in Indianapolis.

The struggle continues – and it delights me in a deep, profound way that Louise’s legacy lives on in that struggle.

Thanks for letting me share.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

No Longer

A sermon preached on Sunday, June 19th at All Saints Church in Pasadena -- with thanks to Michael Hopkins, Anne Lamott, Michael Curry, Salam Al-Maryati, Mike Kinman, Diana Butler Bass and ... as always ... Jesus.

O God of deep compassion and abounding mercy, in whose trust is our perfect peace: Draw near to us in this time of anguish, anxiety and anger, receive the dead into your eternal care, comfort those who mourn, strengthen those who are wounded or in despair, turn our anger into the conviction to act, channel our passion to end our dependence on violence for our sense of security, and lead us all to greater trust in you and in your image found in the entire human family; through Jesus the Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns among us and eternally. Amen.

And here we are again – a shell shocked nation gathered for candlelight vigils, press conferences and solidarity rallies in the wake of yet another mass shooting – this time targeting the LGBT community in Orlando, Florida.

Our Twitter feeds and Facebook pages are full of earnest memes and links to statements, prayers and press releases. The collective will of the nation seems – for the moment – to be galvanized to call for the kind of systemic change that will end the scourge of gun violence that plagues our nation and bloodies our streets, our homes, our schools, our churches, our movie theaters and our nightclubs.

#WeAreOrlando is trending on Twitter and will be until it isn’t anymore … until the hashtag joins the archive of outrage that has so far inexplicably failed to rouse our nation to address the carnage with sensible gun laws.

In the vortex of the longest election season in the history of voting, the June 12th shooting in Orlando has brought into sharp relief the choice in front of us: Will we be a nation that lives in fear or a nation that overcomes fear?

If children slaughtered at their desks, college students murdered in their classrooms, and church members massacred in their Bible Study class hasn’t been enough to overcome the gun legislation impasse then what makes us think that this latest attack on an LGBT nightclub will be the tipping point?

I am daring to hope that it is.

Our friend author Diana Butler Bass wrote on Facebook this week: When I was a church history professor, I used to ask every class this question: "Think 100 years in the future. What will those people look back to our time -- to us -- and say 'How could they have been so stupid? Why couldn't they see how wrong they were?' What do we do now that will look completely immoral to them?” 

“This week,” Diana said “my top answers are gunphilia and homophobia.”

Those would be my answers, too.

And yet I am daring to hope that today – now – this moment – June 19, 2016 – will be a date history will recognize as the day we turned the corner to end the scourge of gun violence that afflicts our nation and to heal the systemic homophobia that infects our nation; as a moment we embraced our high calling to – as Michael Curry puts it –
change the world from the nightmare it often is into the dream that God intends. 

June 19th is already an historic date. A date of transformation. A date of liberation.

Also known as “Juneteenth” it is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.  June 19, 1865 was the date Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the enslaved were now free.

Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation become official in January 1863.

Official or not, the Emancipation Proclamation had virtually no impact on those enslaved in Texas -- because the Good News of liberation was withheld from the enslaved by those with the power to withhold it; by those refusing to accept the authority of the President who proclaimed it.

Not knowing freedom had been declared they suffered under the yoke of slavery – until June 19th when the word finally came to them that they were no longer enslaved but free. Juneteenth.

And what is the word that comes to us today – June 19, 2016 at All Saints Church?

In Christ there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female.  All are one in Christ Jesus. 

Those powerful words -- those liberating words of Paul in his Letter to the Galatians -- are a kind of Emancipation Proclamation: freeing the entire human family from the artificial constructs that the world tells us divides us.

Yet just as those enslaved in Texas did not hear the word of their freedom until years after it was proclaimed, there are still those waiting to hear that Paul’s proclamation applies to them these many centuries later.

And the wake of this week’s tragedy in Orlando has exposed the harsh reality that like those who intentionally kept the news of liberation from reaching the enslaved there are those who intentionally work to keep the news of God’s inclusive love available to absolutely everybody from reaching all God’s beloved children.

It has become so predictable that you can practically set your clock by it. I’m talking about the point after a national trauma when actual Christianity gets hijacked by someone spewing the kind of hateful, harmful utterly unchristian diatribes that make Jesus - in the words of Anne Lammot - “want to drink gin straight out of a cat dish.” It is a sad and crowded history.

Jerry Falwell blamed the 9/11 attacks on “gays, abortionists and feminists.” Pat Robertson narrowed the blame for Hurricane Katrina down to “the gays.” And Terry Jones burned copies of the Quran to mark the anniversary of 9/11.

One of this week’s hijackers of actual Christianity – and there were sadly more than one -- was SacramentoPastor Roger Jimenez. In his Sunday sermon on June 12 — just hours after the Orlando massacre — he asserted “these deaths shouldn’t be mourned because if the victims were gay, then the Bible calls them sinners, and they deserved to die.”

He went on to say “If we lived in a righteous government, they should round them all up and put them up against a firing wall, and blow their brains out.”

And as I listened to him – in horror and outrage that my faith was being hijacked by this homophobic wolf in pastor’s clothing and being represented as “Christian” – I realized my outrage was a tiny window into what billions of Muslims feel every time they hear the horrific distortion of their faith being called “Islamic.”

Roger Jimenez is to Christianity what ISIS is to Islam ... and it is up to every single one of us to speak out against this hijacking of the core tenets of our faith by those who would distort them as weapons of mass discrimination; lob them like incendiary devices to ignite hate and division; and convince any sane person that Christianity is that last thing they want anything to do with.

It is also up to us to stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters when their religion is hijacked by media pundits and political candidates who ignore the billions of faithful followers of Islam - a religion of peace, justice and compassion - and feed into the agenda of the terrorists.

Speaking at the June 13th Interfaith Vigil in Los Angeles, our friend Muslim leader Salam Al-Marayati called ISIS a “cult of death” that “does not represent me and does not represent 1.5 billion Muslims — it represents the worst of humanity, not just a distortion of the faith.”

And then – in a moment I truly did not think I would live long enough to witness – one of those moments that gives me hope we truly are at a “tipping point” –Salam went on to address the LGBTQ community saying: “We are your shield. The Muslim community stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the LGBTQ community. We are one, we are all part of one humanity, and we will defend each other — we will work together.”


This is what a “radical” faith looks like: a radical vision of love, justice and compassion that transcends dogma and doctrine and focuses on our common humanity as children of the same God — refusing to be hijacked by those who would divide, polarize and terrorize us. It is the kind of faith that can and will change the world: if we work together.

That is the radical faith we gather here, in this sacred space, week after week, year after year, rector after rector, to embrace and to proclaim; and then to take out in the world in desperate need of love, justice and peace as an antidote to hatred, oppression and violence.

This is the radical faith into which we welcome 22 new members at our 11:15 service and it is the radical faith into which we will baptize Grete, Christian, Deborah and Nicholas today.

It is a radical faith that says we do have the power as old as the words of Isaiah
that Jesus preached in his first sermon in Nazareth:
          to proclaim good news to the poor.
to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

It is a radical faith that says we do have the power to cast out the demons that afflict us as a Body of Christ and as a Body Politic just as surely as Jesus cast out the demons we heard about in today’s Gospel.

Speaking of demons, here are some words of wisdom from our Rector-elect Mike Kinman … with a hat-tip to Christina Honchell for pointing me to them online:

We don't talk about demons much ... probably either because it's too scary or because they sound like superstition and we consider ourselves too intellectually evolved. We'd rather think of them as a literary device. Whether or not that is true, there are demonic forces out there. Demons change people, separate and isolate people, and are incredibly powerful: so powerful we feel like we are powerless against them. But we are not.

No, my friends, we are not. We are equipped and empowered with the powerful Good News that our church, our nation and our world is longing to hear. It is the Good News of the liberating love of God that is as long overdue to those enslaved by oppression and marginalization in 2016 as the Good News of the Emancipation Proclamation was overdue to those enslaved in Texas in 1865.

It is the Good News of the dream that God intends
where there is no longer Jew or Greek,
no longer slave or free,
no longer male or female,
no longer gay or straight,
no longer white, black, brown or any variation thereof,
no longer cisgender or transgender,
no longer theist or atheist,
no longer Democrat or Republican,
no longer Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, Wiccan or None of the Above.

In the dream that God intends there are ALL of the above, no longer divided but united -- woven into one human family created in love by the God whose deepest desire is that we love one another as much as God loves us.

That is the dream we claim as our own -- the vision we proclaim to the world;  It is the radical faith that dares to tell us we have the power to cast out not only the demons of gunphilia and homophobia but to banish any demon that separates, isolates or enslaves us until there is no longer anything that keeps us from being
the beloved community we were created in love to be.


[Opening Prayer from Michael Hopkins' "Litany after the Orlando Massacre"]

Monday, June 13, 2016


My email inbox, FB page and Twitter feed are all full of poignant, powerful statements in the wake of yesterday's tragic shooting in Orlando. None more eloquent and spot on than this one from Hillary Clinton.

So many of us are praying for everyone who was killed, for the wounded and those still missing, and for all the loved ones grieving today. 

We owe their memories and their families more than prayer. We must also take decisive action to strengthen our international alliances and combat acts of terror, to keep weapons of war off our streets, and to affirm the rights of LGBT Americans -- and all Americans -- to feel welcome and safe in our country.

Here’s what we absolutely cannot do: We cannot demonize Muslim people.

Inflammatory anti-Muslim rhetoric hurts the vast majority of Muslims who love freedom and hate terror. It’s no coincidence that hate crimes against American Muslims and mosques tripled after Paris and San Bernardino. Islamophobia goes against everything we stand for as a nation founded on freedom of religion, and it plays right into the terrorists’ hands.

We’re a big-hearted, fair-minded country. We teach our children that this is one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all -- not just for people who look a certain way, or love a certain way, or worship a certain way.

I want to say this to all the LGBT people grieving today in Florida and across our country: You have millions of allies who will always have your back. I am one of them. From Stonewall to Laramie and now Orlando, we’ve seen too many examples of how the struggle to live freely, openly, and without fear has been marked by violence. We have to stand together. Be proud together. There is no better rebuke to the terrorists and all those who hate.

This fundamentally American idea -- that we’re stronger together -- is why I’m so confident that we can overcome the threats we face, solve our challenges at home, and build a future where no one’s left out or left behind. We can do it, if we do it together.

Thank you for standing together in love, kindness, and the best of what it means to be American.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

#HesWithHer -- Obama Endorses Clinton

"I know how hard this job can be. That's why I know how good Hillary will be at it." BAM!!

    Tomorrow I turn 62 ... which I just have to say sounds ridiculously old to be still figuring so many things out. But today I'm deeply grateful for the early birthday present of a clear path forward for a united Democratic Party from Bernie & Barack. Elizabeth Warren's endorsement will be the icing on my birthday cake ... and my "blow out the candles" wish will be for an issues driven campaign and a clear mandate in November for the Clinton White House. BAM!!