Monday, November 12, 2018

Comment on the Debacle in the Diocese of Albany:

It is sad news indeed that the Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Albany is choosing to defy the councils of the church and continue to deny access to the sacrament of marriage to same-sex couples under his pastoral care. Our hearts go out to the LGBTQ faithful in that diocese who are once again being told by their bishop that who they are is not acceptable to God and that the love and commitment they share with the love of their life is not worthy of the church's blessing.

The text message I got from one of them today read simply "We are devastated."

Just as the shepherd in Matthew's parable left the ninety-nine sheep to tend to the one who was separated from the flock, so must the church which is the Body of Christ in the world seek out those sheep in Albany who are feeling lost and abandoned by their shepherd. The Episcopal Church must say loud and clear to them that their bishop may have abandoned them but Jesus never will ... and neither will the Episcopal Church.

We are blessed with incredible leadership by our Presiding Officers who quickly issued these statements doing precisely that.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry's statement included both this affirmation and this reminder:
We are committed to the principle of full and equal access to, and inclusion in, the sacraments for all of the baptized children of God, including our LGBTQ siblings. For as St. Paul reminds us in Galatians 3, "in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus."

As members of the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12), we also are committed to respecting the conscience of those who hold opinions that differ from the official policy of The Episcopal Church regarding the sacrament of marriage. It should be noted that the canons of The Episcopal Church give authority to all members of the clergy to decline to officiate a marriage for reasons of conscience, and Resolution B012 of the 79th General Convention does not change this fact.

In all matters, those of us who have taken vows to obey the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church must act in ways that reflect and uphold the discernment and decisions of the General Convention of the Church.
And President of the House of Deputies Gay Clark Jennings offered this affirmation:
For more than 40 years, the Episcopal Church has prayed, studied and discerned and, in doing so, we have seen the evidence of God's blessing in the lives of LGBT people. The Episcopal Church's General Convention, our highest temporal authority, first acknowledged that God calls LGBT people to any ordained ministry in 2009. In 2012, the General Convention authorized a liturgical rite for the blessing of same sex unions, and in 2015, we authorized marriage equality in the church.

We recognize the Holy Spirit at work in the marriages of LGBTQ people and we know that there are Christians who have been drawn further into fidelity and service to the world by living in committed same-sex partnerships and marriages based on holy love and the gift of seeing Christ in one another. When we celebrate these marriages, the entire church is blessed by the love and fidelity of these faithful couples.
The Episcopal Church has been on a long journey toward the full inclusion of LGBTQ people in the work and witness of the church ... including full inclusion in all the sacraments. And for all the progress we have made it is clearly a journey that is not yet over.

In 2015 when liturgies for marriage were made available to all couples in the Episcopal Church and the marriage canons were amended to be fully inclusive, bishops with jurisdiction were required by a resolution overwhelming adopted by both houses of General Convention to "make provision for all couples seeking marriage to have access" to those rites.

Eight bishops with jurisdiction declined to follow that directive. And so in 2018 the General Convention spoke again -- this time in Resolution B012 which gave rectors or clergy in charge of a congregation the ability to provide access to the trial use of the marriage rites for same-sex and opposite-sex couples: removing the "under the authority of the bishop" clause.

The resolution takes effect on the First Sunday of Advent (December 2) ... and to their credit seven of the eight bishops who hold what is a theological minority position in the Episcopal Church are crafting plans to comply with the actions of General Convention. The Bishop of Albany is not.

There is, in fact, a difference between respecting theological conscience and confusing your theological conscience with your ecclesiastical authority. And while Bishop Love is entitled to the former he must not be allowed to presume the latter.

Let me be clear: I do not believe that anything less than full and unequivocal access for all couples in the Episcopal Church to marriage in the prayer book is good enough for Jesus or for us. I believe in my heart of hearts that we are on the road to that destination -- and I know for a fact certain that we persist until we arrive.

However, we continue to journey there together as a church that has committed itself to both full inclusion and to respecting the theological consciences of those who hold minority positions ... because we're Anglicans.

Nobody ever said that would be easy -- but as Anglicans we claim the spiritual DNA of those who found a way to be both protestant and catholic in the 16th century and so I believe we are uniquely wired to meet this challenge in the 21st. And we do not meet that challenge by allowing one bishop to reject the canons of the church, the resolutions of General Convention and his pastoral responsibility to pastor all the sheep of his flock.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Ghosts of 1992: Revisiting The Day I Became A Democrat

Originally written for the Huffington Post in 2016, I've reprised this piece for Campaign 2018.

I've always been a political animal. I think it was in our family DNA. The values my parents raised us with included a deep love of this country and its foundational values of liberty and justice for all -- and they instilled in us a deep sense of our responsibility to participate in the political process.


The first election I remember being aware of was 1960 -- I was 6. Four years later, I walked our precinct with my mom handing out literature for Barry Goldwater. And in fifth grade I won first prize in a D.A.R. essay contest for a piece titled "The Land I Love is America."

Yes, the family political roots went deep.

We watched conventions together -- crunched up on the old couch in the den in front of the black-and-white TV with the rabbit ears, where we stayed up late following election returns. I remember explaining the Electoral College to classmates on the elementary school playground because my daddy explained it to me. And when I was in high school in Santa Barbara I volunteered to drive voters to the polls to make sure that shut-ins had the opportunity to vote.

I voted in my first presidential election in 1972 -- the year I turned 18 and they lowered the voting age to 18. I think I thought they did it just for me!

In college I majored in history and political science, with plans to go to law school and thinking that one day I might find my own role in the political process; I believed that the American Dream really is worth the work it takes to preserve and protect it, even as I believed we were not yet "there" in the "liberty and justice for all" part. Along the way I got sidetracked. 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.

And here we are 26 years later. What has changed is that my two boys are grown men long past having homework to worry about finishing.

What not only hasn't changed but has exponentially increased is the rabid rhetoric that drove me out of the party in 1992. The unprecedented level of hate-filled, divisive discourse from the GOP side of the aisle -- led by the White House -- means Campaign 2018 is for many life-long Republicans what 1992 was for me: the moment when principles are more important than party. And to them I say "I feel your pain ... and thank you for your patriotism."

Yes, there is sadness for me that my daddy's Grand Old Party does not exist anymore -- but the values he taught me are alive and well. And when I vote on November 6 -- and believe me, I will – I will be speaking out against the judgment, intolerance and condemnation my Republican daddy taught me had nothing to do with traditional American values.

So with Election Day in sight, this former Goldwater Girl has just two words for what's left of the party I left behind 20+ years ago while my kids finished their homework at the kitchen table: Blue Wave!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Pondering The Antichrist

For someone who's never really spent much time thinking about it, this week I was inexplicably drawn to researching the term “Antichrist.” Here's what I found in Britannica:
“The medieval view of Antichrist communicated by Adso, Ripelin, and a host of other writers rested on the principle that Antichrist is the parodic opposite of Christ in all things.”
Things like ...

Welcome the stranger
Feed the hungry
Pray for those who persecute you
Love neighbor as self
Proclaim good news to the poor
Liberate the captive
The truth will set you free
Do justice
Love mercy
Walk humbly

Hmmmm ...

So if the opposite of those things is the Antichrist maybe there's something to this Antichrist thing after all. Just sayin'

Friday, October 05, 2018

How are you today?


I didn't even expect to win this one. The deck was stacked from the beginning with a GOP Congress and a President desperate to shove through a nomination before the midterms.

Oh, I made the phone calls and signed the petitions and joined with 327 other clergywomen to write a letter to the NYT and I went to vigils and forwarded the memes and posted on Instagram and "clicked here to donate." But I did it all not expecting to win this one -- just bound and determined that they were going to have to fight for every inch, dammit.

Because let's be honest: everything about the process stunk from the get-go. From the refusal to release hundreds of documents to the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee to the fast-track hearings with an artificial deadline etched in stone by desperate congressional leadership feeling the power usurped by a hacked election slipping through their fingers as November 6 approaches.

And all that was before the allegations of sexual abuse reared their heads ... back when all this flawed nominee had to defend against were allegations of lying under oath.

Not to even bring up Merrick Garland.

I didn't even expect to win this one. And still.

This afternoon when  I went to the Auto Club at lunch to renew my car tags the nice woman behind the counter asked how my day was going. Without thinking I said "Other than Congress, fine." And she put down her pen and looked me in the eye and -- with her eyes filled with tears -- said "I know. I haven't slept all week."

That's how we are today, America. Thanks for asking.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Preaching As Resistance


Back in December, colleague and FB friend Phil Snider sent me this message:
Hi Susan, I hope all is well, or at least as much as it can be in times such as these. I'm wondering if you would consider submitting one of your sermons ("Good News vs. Fake News: La Lucha Continua") for a book of sermons I'm editing, with the title Preaching as Resistance. I'm not sure how I first came across the sermon, but as soon as I read it I immediately thought it would be an excellent fit. Would you have an interest in being a contributor to this book? Many thanks for considering!
I said I'd be honored ... and the book is now a reality: Preaching as Resistance is not only out -- it's
the #1 new release in preaching on Amazon.

I could not be more delighted to be part of this book offering an alternative narrative to those who think they know enough about Christians not to want to be one ... and given the dreadful news in the current news cycle, who could blame them? When "Christian Values" are hijacked not only to support the Predator-in-Chief in the White House but to bully women who come forward with their stories of sexual abuse and assault we can and we must stand up and speak out together -- and I am proud to be part of a cohort of preachers modeling that prophetic witness in these challenging times.

And -- on a personal note -- I am thrilled that "Good News vs Fake News" ... the sermon Phil included in the book ... tells the story of my late mother-in-law Jody's dogged persistence in standing up and speaking out for the values that dominated her life: love, compassion and inclusion. Even as she struggled with a chronic, terminal illness, Jody called her Nevada Senator's office every single day to advocate for healthcare, immigration reform and equal protection for all Americans.

We continue to celebrate her life -- and the lives of so many others on whose shoulders we stand -- as we continue to persist, resist and insist that respecting the dignity of every human being is both a foundational Christian and American value.

Preaching as Resistance is a book celebrating the vision of Christianity built on the love, solidarity, justice, and hope at the heart of Christ -- a much needed antidote to the violence, authoritarianism, and exploitation associated with the demagogues of our world.

I hope you'll rejoice and be glad in it.

I hope you'll consider purchasing a copy -- or two -- and I hope you'll spread the word.

But most of all I hope that as we resist together ... through our preaching, our praying, our witness and our action ... we will be the change we want to see as we work together to bring hope and healing to our beautiful and broken world.

Friday, September 21, 2018

A Storm Surge of Systemic Misogyny


Listening to the back-to-back coverage of the two stories leading this morning's news I was struck by the parallels between managing the twin disasters of a hurricane named Florence and a Supreme Court nominee named Kavanaugh.

They are both in-and-of-themselves catastrophic events that carry the capacity to wreck havoc. The hurricane -- with its wind, rain and floodwaters -- threatens all those living it its wake along our Carolina coast. And the Supreme Court nominee -- with the potential to dismantle decades of progress on equal protection, women's health care, abortion rights and voting rights (just to name a few) -- threatens all those who hold liberty and justice for all as a core American value.

But even more devastating than the initial threat of these twin catastrophic events is the storm surge that follows in their wake.

In the Carolinas it is the ongoing surge of flood waters that have yet to crest and do their worst ... displacing families, destroying businesses, changing landscapes and continuing the destruction long after the storm itself has dissipated and is no longer discernible on the weather radar map.

And it is a storm surge that not only includes the water that dumped from the heavens or surged from the sea ... it includes the toxic waste from hog farms which floods out of lagoons intended to contain it into the ground water of surrounding communities with devastating results.

Likewise, the storm surge from this highly contested Supreme Court nomination -- a nomination fast-tracked by the GOP majority in a process that has included half-truths and outright lies; unreleased documents and unprecedented procedures -- has the potential to continue to do its worst if this patently unfit for office nominee is confirmed to a life-time appointment to the highest court in the land.

And -- like the toxic waste that contaminates the Carolina storm surge -- the flood waters of division and partisanship surrounding this nomination have unearthed the toxic waste of systemic misogyny  that lies as close to the surface in this patriarchal nation of ours as the pig waste does to the ground water in North Carolina.

The quotes referenced above by sitting Senators who dismiss the testimony of a woman coming forward at great personal risk to tell her story of abuse are symptomatic of that storm surge of systemic misogyny that is just as toxic, that stinks just a much and is just as great a danger to our body politic as all the pig poop in North Carolina.

As a nation we deserve a full hearing of the actual facts of what occurred between Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford all those years ago -- not a rush-to-judgment perpetrated by GOP partisans so blind to their own patriarchal privilege that they can't even see that they're up to their knees in a cesspool of sexism.

We can and must do better than this. We can and must insist that we are better than this. And if we are ever to become a nation where liberty and justice for all is not just a pledge we make but a reality we live, we can and must stop this storm surge of systemic misogyny -- and we must do it now.


Celebrating Good News From Newark



With the chaos, division, and unrelenting cycle of bad-to-worse news that dominates the world around us it is such a delight to have touchstone moments to remember that good things happen, change is possible and there is both hope and healing.

Tomorrow the Diocese of Newark will team up with the Holy Spirit to consecrate a new bishop for their diocese and for the Episcopal Church as  Carlye J. Hughes — an African American woman from the Diocese of Fort Worth who was elected on the first ballot  — becomes the  eleventh Bishop of Newark.

And anyone who knows anything about the Episcopal Church will know that those words are proof once again that with God nothing is impossible. If this can happen anything can happen. We can be the change we want to see. We can be part of moving that arc of history toward justice. We can make a way where there is no way. Si se puede ... yes we can.

Mazel tov Carlye and Newark and TEC.

More on the September 22nd Consecration:

  • The consecration on Saturday will be livestreamed here by NJPAC's professional team starting at about 10:30 AM, when the pre-service music begins, and continuing until the service concludes at about 1 PM. 
  • You can also download the program for the consecration service and follow along. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

9/11 Seventeen Years Later

Tuesday was the morning I didn't lead chapel. Monday was a late EfM night for me and so on Tuesdays our principal led chapel for the K-6th grade students of St. Peter's Parish Day School and I came in later in the day.

So on Tuesday 9/11/2001 I got up later than usual, poured my cup of coffee and settled into the "big chair" in the living room to watch a little morning television. And -- like so many others who I've heard had a similar reaction -- at first I thought I'd stumbled on a rerun of some kind of disaster movie. Except it was on all the channels. And it wasn't a movie.

And I watched as the second plane hit the Twin Towers.
And I got dressed and went up to St. Peter's and led chapel.
And I fielded calls from parents who wondered how to talk to their kids.
And I called parishioners who had family members traveling and didn't know where they were.
And I listened to the eerie silence over the San Pedro peninsula as the airspace was shut down.
And I called my kids. And my mom. And my best friend. And I told them I loved them ... just in case.
And I tracked down our rector (Alan Richardson) who was in New York City on sabbatical and found out that he was OK.
And I met with our parish leadership and we called everyone in the parish to tell them we'd be having a service at 7pm.
And we gathered. And we prayed. And we cried. And we waited to see what would happen next.

The next day ... September 12th ... our kindergarten teacher brought me a drawing one of her students -- Ben -- had made that morning, It was a typical kindergarten assignment -- draw something "alike" and something "different."

And here's what Ben drew:


It remains for me -- seventeen years later -- a reminder that the world that is is not yet the world that God would have it be.

And it remains for me -- seventee years later -- a profound gift that in the wake of the tragedy of 9/11 a child opened his box of still-sharp-for-the-new-school-year Crayola Crayons and drew an icon of hope.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Deadline Day for Interim Body Nominations

So the way our polity works in the Episcopal Church is that every three years the elected deputies (bishops, clergy and laity) meet in General Convention to make debate about, deliberate upon and make decisions for the whole church. Not everybody likes that process. Not everybody abides by it. But it is our process.

The 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church met this summer in Austin, Texas and debated, deliberated and decided a whole boatload of things. And among those things was the creation of a number of task forces, commissions and groups to actually DO the work of convention between conventions. These are referred to as "Interim Bodies" ... and the deadline to nominate folks to those bodies is today ... August 20, 2018.

I'm telling you this not because I think you need a tutorial on Episcopal Polity on this Dog Day of Summer but because there is a boatload of important work to do over the next three years and the more diverse, expansive and engaged the members of these interim bodies are the better the whole church will be.

The list of all the options is available here ... but here's the list of just the task forces -- which are open to all members of the Episcopal Church (not just bishops and deputies) and will be convened and called to report back to the 80th General Convention in 2021:
Task Force to Study Environmental Racism (Resolution A011)
Task Force on Care of Creation (Resolution A013)
Task Force on Theological Education Networking (Resolution A022)
Task Force on New Funding for Clergy Formation (Resolution A027)
Task Force on Congregational Redevelopment (Resolution A032)
Task Force on Safe Church Training (Resolution A048)
Task Force on Theology of Social Justice Advocacy (Resolution A056)
Task Force on Theology of Money (Resolution A061)
Task Force on Liturgical & Prayer Book Revision (Resolution A068)
Task Force to Develop Model Sexual Harassment Policies (Resolution A109)
Task Force to Assist Office of Pastoral Development (Resolution A147)
Task Force to Develop Substance Abuse Screening Process (Resolution A189)
Task Force on Communion Across Difference (Resolution A227)
Task Force on Formation & Ministry of the Baptized (Resolution C005)
Task Force to Develop Churchwide Family Leave Policies (Resolution C019)
Task Force on Ministry to Individuals with Mental Illness (Resolution C034)
Task Force to Study Sexism in The Episcopal Church (Resolution C060)
Task Force on Women, Truth, and Reconciliation (Resolution D016)
Task Force to Develop Anti-Sexism Training (Resolution (Resolution D023)
Task Force on Clergy Formation & Continuing Education (Resolution D025)
Task Force to Coordinate Ecumenical & Interreligious Work (Resolution D055)
Task Force on Dialogue with South Sudanese Anglican Diaspora (Resolution D088)
Task Force on Disability & Deaf Access (Resolution D097)
This is a very real opportunity to raise up diversity in our leadership and empower voices throughout the church to participate in the process of governance. If you -- or someone you know -- has a passion for and/or expertise in any of these important issues please prayerfully consider putting your name forward -- or urging them to -- for consideration.

Not everyone is called to this kind of work. But I do believe all members of the church are called to be part of its ongoing transformation. Some are called to do that work through the institutional structures. Some are called to do that work by challenging the institution from outside those structures. And some folks will find themselves called to do variations on those binaries at different times and on different issues and in different ways. But it's all the same work.

Think about it. Pray about it.

Here's the link to the nomination form.

Monday, August 13, 2018

I'm on Vacation But the Resistance Is Not

I am super gratefully on vacation. After a long program year, an awesome but exhausting General Convention and the kind of family challenges managing the needs of aging parents bring it is a deep privilege to have a season of unscheduled time to do whatever I choose to do whenever I choose to do it -- including choosing to do nothing at all.

Today that meant the privilege of a day at home catching up on beach trip laundry on a warm summer day cool enough to not need the a/c with sleepy Corgis who are happy to have a mommy home all day. And it meant being able to "Facebook Live" from my couch the rally hosted by my congresswoman Judy Chu  opposing the Kavanaugh nomination to the Supreme Court -- a rally where my rector Mike Kinman was one of the speakers.

And because I'm on vacation and have time to do what I want to when I want to I have time to share his remarks with you ... remarks which bear reading, sharing and quoting as we move forward together and continue to resist those forces working to dismantle the progress that has been made toward making liberty and justice for all not just a pledge we say but a reality we live.

So I give you Mike Kinman and "We Are At A Moment of Grave Threat to Liberty." Because I'm on vacation but -- thankfully -- the Resistance is not!

=======



“History teaches that grave threats to liberty often come in times of urgency, when constitutional rights seem too extravagant to endure.” 

 Those words were written nearly 30 years ago by a Supreme Court justice who understood that the greatest danger to liberty was not an outside military force but the power of those with power to use fear, hatred and mistrust to convince us to surrender our liberty for their own prejudices and prosperity. That Supreme Court Justice was Thurgood Marshall.

It’s because of justices like him that insidious doctrines like separate but equal were struck down and the basic human right of women to control their own bodies at last was recognized and enshrined into law in Roe v. Wade.

 We are at a moment of grave threat to liberty.
Where a president who was swept into office by using the power of fear, hatred and mistrust seeks to shape a Supreme Court that will enshrine that fear, hatred and mistrust into law for generations to come. We are at a moment of grave threat to liberty.
Where the president and others who like him seek to govern by prejudice and for personal profit.
Where a president and others like him who see the Constitution as a system to be gamed for the benefit of wealthy white men, seek to appoint a justice in Brett Kavanaugh who will use that Constitution to secure their privilege rather than assure the most basic promises of liberty and justice for all.

We are at a moment of grave threat to liberty.
Where a President who is under investigation for colluding with a foreign power to assume that office is trying to shape a Court that will impede if not terminate that investigation. We are at a moment of grave threat to liberty.
Where a president who is in the process of fulfilling campaign promises to ravage the environment, target Muslims, immigrants and people of color, expand mass incarceration, and dismantle access to affordable health care is now turning his sights on some of the most important Supreme Court decisions of the past three-quarters of a century.

 What could be more fundamental than our freedom to marry whom we choose?
 What could be more fundamental than every American being able to cast a ballot?
 What could be more fundamental than a woman’s right to control her own body?

That these liberties are under attack by people who would pervert and distort the life and teachings of Jesus to suit their own prejudices, fears and desires for domination is for me a point of great pain and great shame and also a call to action. Not because I wish to impose my faith on others but because I believe no one should have their freedoms restricted because someone wishes to impose their faith on them.

And so, together, we must stand up.
 We must stand up against this grave threat to our liberty. And we must not only reject Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court but we must not rest until the Senate is presented with a nominee who promises to defend the very liberties that are under attack by this nominee and this administration.

The right to access birth control.
The right for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex people and more to marry whom they choose and to live free of discrimination at home and in the workplace.
The right to clean air and clean water.
Workers’ rights.
Immigrants’ rights.
Privacy rights.
The right to have the voice of those among us who are poor have the same weight as those among us who are rich.
The very right to vote that is the bedrock of our democracy. 
And yes, the right to safe, legal abortion

 We must reject Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, but that is not enough.

This is a time of grave threat to liberty where the power of fear, hatred and mistrust are in ascendancy, and we must reject those powers as well. We must stand up and we must speak out. Not just against this nomination, but against the very fear, hatred and mistrust from which this nomination springs.

For, as Justice Marshall said nearly a quarter century ago: “Democracy just cannot flourish amid fear. Liberty cannot bloom amid hate. Justice cannot take root amid rage. America must get to work. In the chill climate in which we live, we must go against the prevailing wind. We must dissent from the indifference. We must dissent from the apathy. We must dissent from the fear, the hatred and the mistrust. We must dissent from a nation that has buried its head in the sand, waiting in vain for the needs of its poor, its elderly, and its sick to disappear and just blow away. We must dissent from a government that has left its young without jobs, education or hope. We must dissent because America can do better, because America has no choice but to do better.” 

My friends, we are the America that Justice Marshall was speaking about.

We must tell our Senate to reject this nomination. We are America. And we must tell our Senate to reject any nomination that puts our most cherished liberties at risk. We are America and we can do better. We are America and we have no choice but to do better. We are America. And today we commit to each other and to our children: We will do better.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Sixteen Years Later: Still Claiming Blessings


Sixteen years ago today I moved into the corner cubicle in the "temporary building" in the north driveway on the campus of All Saints Church in Pasadena to begin a new chapter in my ministry as Executive Director of something called Claiming the Blessing (CTB). It was from that "corner office" I would spend the next 18 months traveling around the church giving more parish halls presentations, attending more strategy meetings and logging more travel miles than you could shake a stick at. (Case in point this moment from the Anglican Consultative Council "command appearance" in Nottingham in 2005.)

Claiming the Blessing was convened 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.

Those were our official marching orders.

We were also convened by some very smart equality activists -- LGBTQ and straight allies -- who not only recognized the truth that we were wasting precious energy competing with each other from our different "silo" organizations and ministries ... and that the way we were going to make a difference was to [a] tell the truth about that [b] work to come up with achievable goals and then [c] collaborate on strategies to achieve them.

Since 2002, our advocacy has included liturgies for the blessing of same-sex relationships, equal access to all orders of ministry by qualified gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender candidates and supporting civil and sacramental marriage equality.

I could tell lots and lots of stories about how that journey has played out over the last 16 years. Some of them can be found on our website. Others you're going to have to wait for the book.

But suffice to say it is absolutely a true thing that the course of the history of the Episcopal Church ... and I would be so bold as to say the wider movement for LGBTQ equality ... was influenced by the decisions made at those first round table meetings at Vails Gate and the College of Preachers.

By the willingness of leaders to tell the truth to each other in order to triumph over turf wars and to forge partnerships and friendships that have stood the test of time. And the test of General Conventions. And the test of Lambeth Conference. And ...

Well, you get the drift.

There are a boatload of pictures here. They end at General Convention 2015 in Salt Lake City where the Supreme Court made marriage for all legal in our nation and our General Convention changed the marriage canons and authorized liturgies for marriage for all couples.

No the work isn't done yet. But today -- August 1, 2018 -- I'm remembering showing up at All Saints Church with a couple of plastic crates of files and letterhead in my car and the warnings of some of my clergy colleagues in my ears that I was making a terrible mistake ... that if I stepped out of parish ministry I'd never get back in ... that I'd be marginalized as an "activist" and never get to exercise pastoral ministry ... that I was limiting my options and ...

Well, you the drift.

I'm delighted they were wrong. I'm delighted that sixteen years at All Saints have given me more opportunities and challenges than I could ever have "asked for or imagined." And most of all I'm delighted at the extraordinary privilege of being able to do this gospel work with a truly amazing cloud of witnesses over the year.

Ed Bacon, Katie Sherrod, Jim White, Sandye A Wilson, Elizabeth Kaeton, Michael Hopkins, John Clinton Bradley, Christine Mackey-Mason, Joseph Lane, Rosa Lee Harden, Kevin Jones, Peggy Adams, Cynthia Black, John Kirkley, Louie Clay, Kim Byham, Jason Samuel, Mike Clark, Bishop Gene Robinson ... OMG .. this is like an Oscar speech ... who am I forgetting?

La lucha continua -- the struggle continues ... that's the truth.

But so do the blessings, my friends. So do the blessings!

Monday, July 30, 2018

What Religious Liberty Is and Isn't

Religious liberty is once again trending on Twitter this morning — and not in a good way.

Whether the debate is about achieving marriage equality or ending employment discrimination and whether the issue is LGBTQ equality or women’s reproductive rights it seems that someone, somewhere is convinced that their religious liberty is under attack because not everyone agrees with them. This is not a new phenomenon ... it's been going on since Pat Robertson launched the Culture Wars with the speech that drove me out of the Republican Party in 1992. But I digress.

The reason religious liberty is trending on Twitter this morning -- and not in a good way -- is that Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new "religious liberty task force" which is nothing less than a wolf-in-sheep's clothing effort to attack the equal protection guaranteed all Americans by privileging the religion practiced by some Americans.

So here’s a little reality check: Religious liberty is NOT the liberty to impose your religion on everybody else.

The First Amendment protects us from any laws “impeding the free exercise of religion” thus guaranteeing that each and every American has the liberty to believe — or not believe — absolutely anything he or she chooses about what God wills or intends, blesses or condemns.

It also — thank God — protects the rest of us from any other American imposing those beliefs on us.
For example: A Jew has the religious liberty to keep a kosher kitchen — but not to take away your ham sandwich.

A pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic had the religious liberty to abstain from meat on Friday — but not to confiscate my pot roast.

And an Evangelical Christian has the right to believe that God doesn’t bless same-sex marriages - but not to deny equal protection to the marriage of the lesbian couple next door.

So when our Justice Department is making decisions about equal protection for LGBTQ Americans the question isn’t what the Bible says but what the Constitution says. And nobody’s religious liberty is under attack when the answer is equal protection isn’t equal protection unless it equally protects everybody equally.

The Constitution already protects the right of any clergy person to make decisions about whether or not they preside at a marriage based on their own “free exercise of religion.” No orthodox rabbi has ever been compelled to solemnize an interfaith marriage. No Roman Catholic priest has ever been forced to marry a previously divorced couple. And nobody - priest, pastor, rabbi, minister or Imam — is ever going to be required to marry a same-sex couple.

The First Amendment is doing its job protecting our religious liberty. And anybody who tells you otherwise needs to do a little remedial reading of the Ninth Commandment. (I’ll save you having to look it up: that’s the “shall not bear false witness” one.)

Thursday, July 26, 2018

What A Difference A Decade Makes


I was looking for some data to respond to a history question follow up to some of our work in Austin and came across this link on the Episcopal Church’s website. (click on picture below to go to page)
 
https://www.episcopalchurch.org/library/gallery/lambeth-conference-opening-eucharist-changing-attitudeintegrity-service

It is an album of photos from the Lambeth 2008 Conference.

What is remarkable (to me) about it is that it includes both the Official Opening Service at Canterbury Cathedral and our Integrity/Changing Attitude “fringe Eucharist” up on the hill … what we called our “Strangers at the Gate” service.

A flood of memories came rushing in but the primary feeling was some awe at how far we’ve come in 10 years … and true amazement that the official archives of the Episcopal Church represents these images as equivalent parts of our Episcopal Church history.

I think it’s fair to say we could not have even begun to imagine that could be the case when we gathered on that hill overlooking Canterbury Cathedral … a place where +Gene had literally been locked out and we were truly the strangers at the gate.

We may not be “there yet” as a church or as a communion -- but we are where we are at least in part because of everyone who worked to make that moment on that hill possible … and all the moments before and after. And that includes not just the folks who were there but those who supported us in getting us there and in all the work ... before and after and still before us.

Just sharing the moment on a hot July afternoon ten years post Lambeth 2008. La lucha continua.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Episcopal Church Says "We Do" to Marriage Rites for the Whole Church

Making all sacraments available to all people was a key goal at this 79th General Convention -- and with the action today by the House of Deputies on Resolution B012 that goal was achieved. It was, however, a hard won compromise.

Because it fell short of changing the language regarding marriage in the current prayer book there are for those who believe our actions continue to fall short of the full and equal claim for the LGBTQ baptized promised in 1976. And because it removes the ability for dissenting bishops to prohibit same sex couples from access to the liturgies in their home churches, there are those who see our actions as a bridge too far away from their belief that marriage is only between a man and a woman.

And yet, it was a compromise that received overwhelming support from both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops: something those of us who have been at this work for quite literally decades could not have imagined even a few short years ago.

Eighteen years ago at its 73rd General Convention in Denver the Episcopal Church adopted a resolution acknowledging "there are currently couples in the Body of Christ and in this Church who are living in marriage and couples in the Body of Christ and in this Church who are living in other life-long committed relationships." And today we adopted a resolution stating that "provision will be made for all couples desiring to use these marriage liturgies in their local congregation or worshipping community."

We have gone from being a church where simply acknowledging the existence of same-sex couples in our midst was a controversial and deeply divisive issue to being a church where an overwhelming majority embraced marriage for all, ending what was de facto sacramental apartheid for same-sex couples in some dioceses.

We have done that over many years, with many steps forward and some steps back and -- in the action today -- we have done it in a resolution that protects both theological conscience and sacramental access for all.

In his opening remarks to this 79th General Convention, our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry challenged us to stay as focused on Jesus as Starbucks is on coffee.  Adopting  B012 will better equip us to do precisely that. It will enable us to move forward from Austin more fully the church we are striving to be. It will help us become a church where love truly is the way: a church where whoever you are and wherever you find yourself on the journey of faith there is a place for you.

Whether you're a double espresso or a mocha frappuccino ... or a grande drip with room for cream -- as Bishop Curry keeps reminding us:  there's plenty good room in God's Kingdom and in the Episcopal Church.

The hard won compromise achieved today finally making all sacraments available to all people in the Episcopal Church is work well done.  I am both deeply proud to be an Episcopalian and deeply grateful to all those on whose shoulders we stand as we start this new chapter -- moving out of the trenches of the Inclusion Wars and forward together into God's future as part of the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement.

Monday, July 09, 2018

B012 -- "Marriage Rites for the Whole Church" -- Adopted by #GC79 Deputies



The work of continuing to make the full and equal claim promised LGBTQ Episcopalians in 1976 not just a resolution but a reality continued on legislative day five of the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church. By an overwhelming majority, the House of Deputies adopted an amended version of Resolution B012 entitled "Marriage Rites for the Whole Church." The resolution will now go to the House of Bishops for action.

Questions are still swirling about the intent and impact of this important resolution. Here is what I said when I spoke to it on the floor:
I rise in favor of B012 — a resolution that will move us beyond the seemingly intractable challenge of living together as a church where the sacramental marriage that has been authorized for all couples in the Episcopal Church is irreconcilable with the theological conscience of some members of the Episcopal Church.
Make no mistake about it: it contains costly compromises that come with very real pain. Pain for those who will experience this action as falling short of the full and equal claim for the LGBTQ baptized we have been striving for since 1976. And pain for those who will experience this action as a bridge too far away from their belief that marriage is only between a man and a woman.

The question for this General Convention is whether the gift of walking together forward into God's future as members of the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement is worth the painful compromises we are mutually being asked to bear in order to make that possible.

I believe the answer is yes and I urge support for Resolution B012 as Proposed by Committee 13 so that we may continue to walk forward together.
One of the primary questions I'm getting is a form of "What about DEPO?"

Here's what I've got ... a bit on the fly between legislative sessions:

DEPO -- Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight -- was part of the original version of B012 and was changed via amendment by Legislative Committee 13. As a member of that committee, I can attest that the changes we made were in response to hours of testimony from both proponents of same-sex marriage from the eight dioceses where marriage for all is not yet a reality and from seven of the eight bishops with jurisdiction in those dioceses.

What we heard was that the relationships between the bishop and dissenting parishes are not irreparably damaged -- simply challenged on this issue of sacramental marriage. In response, this carefully crafted compromise language -- crafted in consultation with bishops from across the theological perspective -- recognizes that reality and seeks to provide an option that protects both theological conscience and sacramental access for all.

For more clarity, I turn to these wise words from Deputy Christopher Hayes:
B012, if adopted by the House of Bishops in the same form, gives the Rector or Priest-in-Charge of the congregation full authority to use the marriage liturgies for same-sex couples. If the officiating priest or the couple for some reason need pastoral support of a bishop, and the diocesan bishop has theological objections, another bishop should be invited to provide that pastoral support.
This is not DEPO, which presumes a broken relationship between the bishop and the congregation, so that another bishop must take over the pastoral relationship and ecclesiastical authority over that congregation for all purposes. B012 does not provide for that. It provides only for another bishop to be invited in if, and only if (1) the officiating priest needs pastoral support for the particular marriage (rarely), or (2) permission is needed for marriage after prior divorce.
Note that the priest officiating at a marriage rarely needs to consult with the bishop for any reason whatsoever (as long as neither of the betrothed was previously divorced)
Some other important points to note:
  • B012 is a carefully crafted compromise that balances couples' access to liturgies for marriage, including same-sex couples, with room for all to agree or disagree. 
  •  While this decision defers adding the trial liturgies for marriage until prayer book revision is completed, it provides improved access to the liturgies in the meanwhile.
  • It clarifies role of Rector and provides options for bishops to invite other bishops to assist in pastoral work, without prescribing exactly what that looks like in every situation.
Finally, there's this:



As Rachel would say: Watch this space.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Dear #GC79

Dear #GC79,

We came to Austin to address -- among other things -- the seemingly intractable challenge of living together as a church where the sacramental marriage that has been authorized for all couples in the Episcopal Church is irreconcilable with the theological conscience of some members of the Episcopal Church.

This morning the legislative committee charged with the high calling of addressing that challenge responded by reporting out a compromise resolution which will be a bridge too far for some and a disappointment to others.

According to Merriam Webster, a compromise is defined as "an agreement or settlement that is reached by each side making concessions" -- in other words, a profoundly Anglican solution to intractable challenges. And that is precisely what will be brought to the House of Deputies for its consideration on Saturday morning, July 7.

Entitled "Marriage Rites for the Whole Church" Resolution B012 protects the conscience of those who cannot embrace the marriage of same-sex couples while making liturgies for marriage available to all couples in all dioceses in their home churches.

To achieve this compromise, those who had hoped to finally see the Book of Common Prayer revised with gender neutral language for marriage will be asked to concede that goal at this time. And those who had hoped to continue diocesan policies of sending same-sex couples to other dioceses to be married will be asked to change that policy.

The resolution provides bishops who do not embrace marriage for same sex couples the creative option of inviting another bishop to assume episcopal oversight on matters-relating-to-marriage for congregations in their diocese wishing to make marriage available to same-sex couples. It allows the bishop to exercise his or her conscience while allowing all couples seeking Holy Matrimony in the Episcopal Church equal access to the sacrament of marriage. It continues the trial use of the liturgies authorized in 2015 and preserves the canonical authority for any member of the clergy to decline to solemnize or bless any marriage.

Make no mistake about it: these are costly compromises that comes with very real pain. Pain for those who will experience this action as falling short of the full and equal claim for the LGBTQ baptized we have been striving for since 1976. And pain for those who will experience this action as a bridge too far away from their belief that marriage is only between a man and a woman.

The question for this General Convention will be whether the gift of walking together forward into God's future as members of the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement is worth the painful compromises we are mutually being asked to bear in order to make that possible.

I believe the answer is yes and I urge support for Resolution B012 as Proposed by Committee 13.

I am convinced that just as 16th century Anglicans were able to walk forward together in spite of the seemingly intractable challenge of being together in a church that is both protestant and catholic, 21st century Episcopalians can walk forward in spite of seemingly intractable challenge of being together as a church where the sacramental marriage that has been authorized for all couples is irreconcilable with the theological conscience of some members.

We've got this. We're Anglicans.

Faithfully,
Deputy Susan Russell
Diocese of Los Angeles

Monday, July 02, 2018

We're Anglicans. We've Got This.


It has been over 40 years since the Episcopal Church declared that “homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church.” [1976-A069]

Since that time the church has been moving forward — sometimes an inch at a time — to turn that resolution into a reality. Just as with the ordination of women in the 1970’s not everyone has agreed … but part of our charism as Anglicans has been to claim our big tent heritage by making room for minority theological opinions. And the resolution (A085) coming forward to the 79th General Convention in Austin from the Task Force on the Study of Marriage maintains that trajectory.

No one will be compelled to participate in nor to preside at any marriage. Period. Full stop. At the same time, no one will be denied access to the sacramental rites for marriage offered by this church to its members. Period. Full stop.

And yet, as we gather in Austin there is an effort afoot to push back on that profoundly Anglican, both/and proposal. Seductively entitled "Marriage Rites for the Whole Church" an alternative resolution (B012) is described as seeking to "find a lasting way forward for all Episcopalians in one Church."

What it actually does is enshrine a separate and ergo inherently unequal status to the sacrament of marriage for same-sex couples. And it does that by privileging the theological consciences of some Episcopalians over the baptismal covenant of others. B012 is hardly a “compromise” when it proposes that dissenting bishops will agree to provide access for all couples (as they were charged to do in 2015 by A054) in return for consigning marriage for same-sex couples to perpetual second-class trial use.

The question on the table in Austin in 2018 is not whether there is a place for traditionalists with a minority opinion on marriage equality in the Episcopal Church. It is whether those holding that minority theological perspective should have the power to deny access to the sacrament of marriage to couples seeking God's blessing on their marriage.

And it is a patently false dichotomy to suggest otherwise.  The inability to exercise a right created by General Convention results in discrimination. The inability to impose one's theology on everyone else in the diocese is not discrimination, it is simply a  denial of unearned privilege.

Conservatives are free to believe whatever they wish and -- under the current canon law --free to decline to engage in rites they see as untenable. But they are not free to impose their vision on everyone else.  As Juan Oliver put it so concisely: The conscience of individual bishop does not go beyond the individual. It may not be used to refuse their diocese what the assembled Church has decided. There is in fact an ontological difference between feeling excluded because you're disagreed with and being excluded because of who you are.

Theology — by definition “the study of God” — is at its core the yearning of finite creatures to understand the infinite creator of all being … something arguably ontologically beyond our capacity to understand to begin with. And yet we try. We study. We conjecture and we come up with our best guesses. Where we go astray is when we start investing our best guesses with the authority of the God we’re best guessing about. And in the process we can end up with a kind of “theological fragility” which — like its second cousin white fragility — sees diversity as threat rather than blessing and in so doing rejects the very comprehensiveness that is a hallmark of Anglicanism. 

The late, great Urban T. Holmes wrote in "What Is Anglicanism: " We often speak of Anglican "comprehensiveness." If this is a way of making relativism palatable or a means of accommodating all shades of opinion with no regard for truth, then it needs to be rejected. If by comprehensive we mean the priority of a dialectic quest over precision and immediate closure then we are speaking of the Anglican consciousness at its best.

As Anglicans we were formed in the crucible of the 16th century Reformation into a particular body ecclesial uniquely capable of being both protestant and catholic in a time when folks were being burned at the stake over disagreements about doctrines and dogmas. We are, therefore, uniquely wired to be a church that can hold together the tension of being both gay and straight ... and everywhere in between ... in the 21st century. We can do that because theological diversity is part of our DNA ... theological fragility is not.

We're Anglicans. We've got this.

Friday, June 29, 2018

B012: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?


So just when you thought you were down to "finish laundry and pack for Austin" on your to-do-before-General-Convention list this ENS story hits your inbox: "Bishops propose solution for full access to same-sex marriage rites"

The "solution" is Resolution B012 ... proposed by several bishops as an alternative to Resolution A085 proposed by the Task Force on the Study of Marriage. It is seductively entitled "Marriage Rites for the Whole Church" and described as seeking to "find a lasting way forward for all Episcopalians in one Church."

What could possible go wrong?

For starters, there's this from Bishop Tom Ely ... Bishop of Vermont:
I think there is some genuine well intended effort behind this resolution, but I think it is limited in scope and effectiveness. I wish there had been some conversation with bishops and deputies who served on the Task Force for the Study of Marriage (I was one) in the same way that there appears to have been conversation with some Communion Partner Bishops. I would also add that following the 2015 GC, the Presiding Bishop appointed a "Communion Across Differences" Task Force of bishops, to which the bishop members of the TFSM reached out for conversation. Sadly, those conversations never materialized. Calling for such a Task Force in resolution B012 might be a good thing but would be better proposed (IMO) as a separate resolution. Let the substance of B012 as it relates to A085 be considered by Legislative Committee #13.

My first reading and reflection on B012 is that it continues to relegate marriage of same-sex couples to a 2nd class status (not BCP) and the DEPO language used is vague and begs the question of whether every couple desiring to be married in The Episcopal Church, will be able to do so in their home church, by their local priest. I look forward to the thoughts of others and to conversation in Committee #13, of which I am a member.
Then there's this fulsome response from Joan Geiszler-Ludlum -- Deputy, East Carolina and Chair of the Task Force on the Study of Marriage -- which includes:
Resolution B012 offers open-ended trial use without any eventual amendment of the Book of Common Prayer. Providing the liturgies for marriage for trial use in this manner relegates the liturgies for marriages of same-sex couples to perpetual second-class status. At some point, preferably sooner rather than later, these liturgies need to stand beside the current Prayer Book marriage liturgy as authorized alternatives. Baptized committed members of this Church and the LGBTQ+ communities have been waiting over 40 years for this Church to value and bless their committed, lifelong relationships on the same footing as the Church values and blesses the committed, lifelong relationships of different-sex couples. How much longer will we make them wait? 
and
Resolution B012 further proposes an application of DEPO (Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight) stating, “congregations may request, and when requesting shall receive delegated episcopal pastoral oversight (DEPO) by a bishop of this Church who shall provide access to these liturgies.”Joint Rule III.11 state: No proposal for legislative consideration which approves, endorses, adopts, or rejects a report, study, or other document that is not generally known by the members of the House or readily available may be considered by the General Convention unless such material is first distributed to both Houses. It is the responsibility of the proposer to provide the necessary copies to the Secretary of each House. DEPO in its current form is a policy enacted unilaterally by the House of Bishops, and implemented by and between bishops. As such it lacks fulsome discernment by the full polity of this Church. If it is to apply to trial use of the additional liturgies for marriage, it should be revisited and adapted for this specific context.
In her comment on the ENS website Ruth Meyers (Dean of Academic Affairs and Hodges-Haynes Professor of Liturgics at CDSP) offers this important clarification:
The bishops’ resolution deals only with the marriage liturgies approved for trial use in 2015, not other revisions proposed by the Task Force on the Study of Marriage. Resolution A085 would also change “Concerning the Service” of Marriage and the Catechism to state that marriage is a solemn and public covenant between two people. This language allows room for broad interpretation: those who understand marriage to be available to same-sex couples as well as different-sex couples, and those who understand that the two people must be a man and a woman. The trial-use liturgies would be added to the Prayer Book, not replacing the current marriage service, and so not requiring anyone to use the gender-neutral versions of the rite.
Finally, here's my take:
B012 is a well-intentioned but badly framed effort at compromise that creates more problems than it solves. It enshrines a separate and ergo inherently unequal status of second class access to the sacrament of marriage for same-sex couples. And it privileges the theological consciences of some Episcopalians over the 1976 promise of "full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church" to the LGBTQ baptized.

We can do better. As laity, clergy and bishops working together we can craft legislation that guarantees that no one will be compelled to participate in nor to preside at any marriage -- and at the same time assures that no one will be denied access to the sacramental rites for marriage offered by this church to its members. I believe A085 gets us a long way toward that goal and look forward to the work of Legislative Committee 13 as we work together to listen to the Holy Spirit as she continues to call the Episcopal Church into God's future.
And now ... back to the laundry. Tick Tock #GC79

Monday, June 18, 2018

Is There a Place for Conservatives in the Episcopal Church?


That's the question being asked in an article posted earlier today in The Living Church.

In case anyone is interested, here's my short answer: Yes.

In case anyone is still interested, here's my longer answer: I was raised in a family where my Aunt Gretchen (who lived with us) was a member of one of the parishes that tried to leave the Diocese of Los Angeles over the ordination of women (Holy Apostles, Glendale) and died with a "Save the 1928 Prayer Book" bumper sticker on her car. ... and yet she never "left the church" and we still went to communion together. All that to say I never remember a time when we have not been a tradition challenged by differences. The issue is whether those differences are inevitably divisions -- or if the DNA of Anglican Comprehensiveness is sufficient to embrace them.

There is an ontological difference between feeling excluded because you're disagreed with and being excluded because of who you are. As a faith tradition formed out of the crucible of the Reformation with the radical innovation of insisting it is possible to both catholic and protestant, it is arguably antithetical to our historic Anglican ethos to insist that one's criterion for being included is being agreed with. So yes: there is room in the Episcopal church for conservatives and progressives -- just as there has always been room for catholics and protestants. What there is not room for is confusing exercising one's theological conscience with imposing one's theological conscience. The former is part of our heritage; the latter is not.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Resistance IS Patriotic



Hanging out the flag this morning and recognizing the deep irony that as we spend Memorial Day remembering those who swore to defend the Constitution against all enemies -- foreign and domestic -- the Constitutional right to free speech and expression they died protecting is under direct attack by elected officials who are dismantling the Constitutional protections they too swore to defend. #ResistanceIsPatriotic

Monday, May 21, 2018

That Time I Was Right


When it was announced that the preacher for the Meghan Markle/Prince Harry wedding would be our own Presiding Bishop Michael Curry I wrote that this was (and I quote:)
"... a moment of evangelism and an opportunity to proclaim the Good News of an inclusive church and the expansive love of God to a world in desperate need of it. And there is nobody better for the job that Michael Bruce Curry — child of God, preacher of the Gospel and Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church."
The piece -- "Reflections on Evangelism, Inclusion & the Royal Wedding" -- drew the attention of the Religion News Service and garnered this quote in their May 17th post on the upcoming wedding:
Episcopalians are hopeful they can capitalize on all the attention paid this weekend to Anglican ritual and spirituality. If all goes well, Curry might be their ticket to framing the church in a fresh light. “For those who know enough about Christians not to want to be one,” Russell said, the wedding brings a chance “to hear someone who gives a message of justice and compassion.”
And boy howdy was I right about this one!

Knowing Bishop Curry as I have for these many years ... before he became a bishop in our work for peace and justice, when he was Bishop of North Carolina and a leading voice supporting the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments and since he's been our Presiding Bishop (elected by an overwhelming majority on the first ballot in 2015, I might add) ... I had not a shadow of a doubt he would bring the powerful message of God's love available to absolutely everybody to his wedding address. And bring it he did!

In case you missed it ... and my FB and Twitter feeds suggest not too many people did ... here are links to both the video and to the text. And here's a stand out quote that arguably summarizes not only this wedding homily but Bishop Curry's lifelong work and witness:
“Imagine a world where love is the way. Imagine our homes and families, neighborhoods and communities, governments and nations, business and commerce where love is the way....When love is the way then no child will go to bed hungry in this world ever again, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like a ever-flowing brook, poverty will become history, the earth will be a sanctuary, we will lay down our swords and shields down by the riverside to study war no more. When love is the way, there's plenty good room for all of God's children."
I think it bears repeating that exactly ten years ago we were sweating out the beginning of Lambeth 2008 — the every ten year gathering of bishops from all around the global Anglican Communion — under the cloud of threats that the American Episcopal Church would be voted off the Anglican Island because of our commitment to full inclusion for LGBTQ people.

But instead of caving to the blackmail, the American Episcopal Church stayed the course, continued to expand the circle and in 2015 we not only changed our canons to make the sacrament of marriage equally available to all couples seeking God’s blessing on their lives and on their love, we elected a prophetic, outspoken champion of inclusion as our Presiding Bishop. I think it is fair to say that those of us who survived Lambeth 2008 could not have imagined — in even our wildest dreams — that we would be where we are today … and yet, here we are.

And where we are is a moment where national and international attention is shining on the Episcopal Church -- inarguably for a brief moment because that's how this works -- so let's seize it.

Here are just a few of what we've seen in the last 48 hours:

Headlines like this from Reuters:
US Bishop Wows Royal Wedding With Impassioned Sermon On Love

And this from the UK Guardian:
Michael Curry's Royal Wedding Sermon Will Go Down in History

And then there was this from Esquire: Bishop Curry's Royal Wedding Sermon Was Wholly Un-British, Amazing, and Necessary ... a feature that ended with these words: "We really did not expect to get inspired by a Royal Wedding, but there you are. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to join the Episcopal Church."

Seriously. Does it get better than that?

Yes. I actually did.

There was this SkyNews interview with both Presiding Bishop Curry and Archbishop Welby ...



... which included these words from Justin Welby: "What we saw was that preaching is not a past art: that the use of language to communicate the good news of Jesus Christ just blew the place open ... it was fantastic!"

And what we heard was the ABofC putting to rest once-and-for all (one can hope) the fantasy that differences have to become divisions and reminding us that as members of the Anglican Communion what unites us is far stronger than whatever may be leveraged to try to divide us. (Of particular to anyone heading to Austin in July for our 79th General Convention ... just sayin'.)

But wait ... there's more! Who thought they'd live long enough to see an Episcopal Presiding Bishop parodied on SNL?



And ... to have said PB applauding the performance on Instagram? Yes ... that just happened.


And that's just the tip of the iceberg of a moment where what is happening is that a whole boatload of people have a new sense of the energy, passion and love-driven spirit of this Jesus Movement we are part of.

They have a glimpse of a Christianity that is not about judgment, condemnation and exclusion but justice, compassion and inclusion. Michael Curry preached -- as Justin Welby noted in the video clip above -- about a Christianity that is "profoundly unconventional' ... "putting God at the center and blowing open a revolution that gives energy and life to the world."

And in response the world sat up and said ... as Prince Harry mouthed to Meghan Markle at the end of the sermon ... "Wow!"

What happened is that we have been handed a moment for proclaiming the Good News of God in Christ Jesus to a sin-sick world weary of division and polarization and hatred, bigotry and violence ... and it was handed to us on a silver platter.

What happened is that the seeds have been sown. And what happens now is that we get to work turning the moment into a movement. Ready. Set. Go.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Equal Time: CofE Rank & File Speak Out in Support ot TEC


ICYMI: The Episcopal Church's Task Force on the Study of Marriage (TFSM) -- convened by our 2015 General Convention -- requested feedback from our wider Anglican Communion cousins on the following question:
From your perspective and specific setting, what has been the impact of The Episcopal Church’s authorization and use of liturgical rites for same-sex marriage and the blessing of same-sex unions on “the Church”?
The response we received (and filed as part of our Report to General Convention) from the Church of England was submitted by Mr. William Nye, Secretary-General of the Archbishops' Council and Secretary General of the General Synod of the Church of England. It was roundly critical of the TFSM proposals and warned that -- if adopted -- “the pressure to dissociate the Church of England from TEC, in all manner of ways, would increase”.

It also turns out it was not roundly representative of many voices in the Church of England who have subsequently stepped up and spoken out to challenge Mr. Nye's authority to speak for the whole church and applauded the leadership of TEC in moving forward toward fuller inclusion of LGBTQ people in the Body of Christ.

Here are some excerpts from Letters to the Editor in The Church Times

From 113 church leaders: We have read William Nye’s letter to the Episcopal Church in the United States (News, 20 April) with considerable interest, surprise, and, to be honest, disappointment, and wish to dissociate ourselves from it. The letter refers to a majority belief in the Church of England that the only legitimate locus for sexual relationships is within heterosexual marriage. This sweeping assertion cannot, in fact, be substantiated, as the Church of England, to our knowledge, has never asked her regular worshipping community what it thinks and believes about this.

From 14 members of the General Synod Human Sexuality Group: The letter was not reported to the General Synod in February, nor published by the Church of England. Thanks to the Episcopal Church’s culture of openness, we now know of the letter’s existence and contents. Mr Nye asserts that for a majority in the Church of England “Holy Scripture is held to rule that sexual activity outside marriage between a man and a woman is contrary to God’s will.” It is not clear what steps he took to ascertain whether this is indeed the majority belief, and recent research surveys suggest that it is not.

From General Synod member Anthony Archer: The Episcopal Church’s consultation is a clear reminder of the autonomy of each Province of the Anglican Communion in shaping its own doctrine and affairs, autonomy that will become starker if the Episcopal Church has to face further “stringent consequences” for its prophetic lead. It is time the Church of England adopted that position rather than hide behind its de facto position in the Anglican Communion and wring its hands on the basis that it can do nothing until all other Provinces agree (in other words do nothing).

Then there's this response from One Body, One Faith ...

For decades we have watched the Communion used as an excuse for our failure to acknowledge the diversity of views in the Church of England, and to speak with integrity and courage the truth of our people. Now, as another province embarks on a different way of making gracious provision for diversity of integrities, it appears they are being blamed with impacting on the work of the working groups set up by the House of Bishops in the aftermath of the disastrous GS2055. The members of those groups with whom we’ve been able to engage are working courageously and prayerfully to hold in tension their various perspectives and to make room for meaningful change. It is disingenuous to seek to draw TEC into submission to the Church of England suggesting that this is for the sake of the Communion. TEC, the discernment and reception process are bigger than that, as is the provenance of the Holy Spirit.

This flurry of activity is more than just a tempest-in-a-teapot over Mr. Nye getting out over his skis and presuming to speak for the whole CofE.

It is a reality check to all of us who prepare to gather in Austin for our 79th General Convention and consider the proposals from the TFSM that diversity of opinion on issues relating to marriage exists in absolutely every part of our wider Communion.

It is a reminder that in spite of the threats of schism and the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it ... which seem to return to General Convention debates as regularly as the swallows return to Capistrano ... differences do not inevitably lead to division.

And it is an opportunity for us to continue to "set our hope on Christ" as we move forward with the work of making full and equal claim for God's beloved LGBTQ people not just a resolution we once adopted but a reality we actually live.