Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Celebrating the life of Louie Crew Clay

The news came in an email from Elizabeth just few minutes ago. She had been with Louie and Ernest yesterday and it was the news we were expecting and dreading and hoping not to get ... news that our beloved Louie had passed peacefully from this realm to the next surrounded by love and light and the prayers of those of us keeping vigil from afar.

There will be much to say. Much to remember. Much to mourn. And much to rejoice in. But right now all I can think to offer is this video we made to celebrate his legacy back in 2015 ... "Once upon a time there was a little boy named Louie ..."

Rest in peace and power, dear one. There is so much more love in the world because of you. May we be given the grace to be wise stewards of your legacy and ... as you would want it ... find "Joy Anyway."


Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Comment on Integrity Leadership Transition


This morning the Reverend Gwen Fry announced her resignation as President of Integrity in a letter posted here ... and the Board has given notice of a process to elect her successor. Asked for comment by the ENS reporter covering the story (which you can read here) I wrote the following:

Gwen has been a long time leader in the movement for the full inclusion of LGBTQ people in the work and witness of the Episcopal Church and her resignation today as Integrity President comes after a long period of discernment factoring her own health and the health of the organization – an organization that has been struggling to find its voice in a new paradigm of advocacy for LGTBQ Episcopalians.

Integrity has a forty-plus year history as a leading voice for full inclusion – beginning as a mimeographed newsletter started by Dr. Louie Crew Clay in 1974 and evolving into an organization with bylaws, chapters and a volunteer board.

During the height of what I’ve come to think of as The Inclusion Wars (2003-2009) Integrity had an Executive Director, support staff and a full time advocacy and legislative agenda. That was then. This is now.

As the times have changed, so has the role of Integrity. We are now a church where the full inclusion of LGBTQ people in all orders and aspects of ministry is not theoretical but canonical. And we are also a church where the full inclusion of LGBTQ people in all orders and aspects of ministry still varies widely depending on your zip code.

There is still much work for an organization like Integrity to do to support LGBTQ Episcopalians and continue to advocate for church-wide inclusion, but the institutional structure that served its work in the past is not designed to meet the challenges of either the present or the future. And so it’s time for new vision and new leadership.

My hope is that this will be a time for those with a commitment to the vision Integrity has led since 1974 – the vision Presiding Bishop Ed Browning of blessed memory shared of a church with no outcasts -- will come up around the current Board leadership as they work to reconfigure the organization to meet the needs and challenges of 2019 and beyond.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

OMG ... And Then There Were Five!

I forgot they were electing a new bishop today in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri.

Between the intense news cycle of the Impeachment Hearing Week past and the clean up I've had on my plate from our own Diocesan Convention last weekend and trying to remember where I put the Thanksgiving decorations before it's too late to find them and put them up I was quite literally busy and distracted by my many tasks.

And then my phone pinged with a text message from Jim White.

"Did you hear about Missouri? They elected Deon Johnson. On the first ballot!"

And all I could muster was OMG!

OMG ... what a difference a decade (or two or three or four) makes.

Booting up my laptop and catching up with the reports and videos and photos from Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis I was gobsmacked by muscle memory of having been there ... in that very same very holy space ... in November 2002 for the first Claiming the Blessing (CTB) conference.

It was the place we launched our initiative to "promote wholeness in human relationships, abolish prejudice and oppression, and heal the rift between sexuality and spirituality in the Church" -- and it marked  the beginning of years of intentional collaborative work by organizations and individuals within the Episcopal Church advocating for full inclusion of all the baptized in all sacraments of the church.

That was then: Members of the CTB leadership team making the case for blessing unions between same-sex couples in the Episcopal Church:



And this is now: The election on the first ballot of a married, gay man as the 11th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri.


Same church. Same chancel. Different day. OMG ... what a different day!

A week ago today I had the high honor of being the preacher at the 124th Convention Eucharist here in the Diocese of Los Angeles. One of the texts I preached from is what I've come to think of as the Gospel According to Margaret Mead ... and that text is "Never doubt that a small group of faithful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

The world is in desperate need of changing and the church is not yet done with its own struggle with the full inclusion of all God's beloved into the beloved community.

Nevertheless ... today is a day to pause and rejoice.

Today is a day to recognize how far we've come on the journey to where God is calling us to go.

Today is a day to say TBTG for the Diocese of Missouri and mazel tov to Bishop-elect Deon Johnson -- who will become the 11th Bishop of Missouri and the 5th LGBTQ Bishop in the Episcopal Church: words I could not even have imagined typing in 2002 when we launched the CTB initiative from the cathedral where he was elected.

And today is a day to give thanks for every single member of every single small group of faithful, committed people who have changed this church from where we were in 2002 to where we are in 2019.  We may not be "there" yet ... but today is yet another incremental victory toward the audacious goal of Ed Browning's dream of church where there are no outcasts. 


Tomorrow we continue the struggle. But today we celebrate.

OMG ... Alleulia ... Amen.


Friday, November 22, 2019

Children of the Resurrection

Proper 27C | November 10, 2019 | 7:30 a.m.
A sermon preached at All Saints Church in Pasadena

None of us can really know what happens after we die until we get there ... that’s part of the "mystery of faith" we proclaim.  But that doesn't stop us from wondering.

In the Gospel this morning Jesus is in Jerusalem teaching in the Temple. 

Our All Saints mission statement includes the phrase "following a revolutionary Jesus" and being a revolutionary -- running up against the protectors of the status quo -- is one of the hallmarks of Jesus' ministry. And in today's Gospel he runs into the Sadducees.

The Sadducees were a Jewish that disagreed with their cousins the Pharisees about a lot of things -- but one thing they both agreed on was that neither one of them liked what this radical rabbi from Nazareth was saying.

The Sadducees were a conservative, politically powerful cohort of religious leaders, wealthy men who mostly hold themselves to be superior to the common folk and were focused on the practices at the Temple. And -- germane to our Gospel today -- they don’t believe in resurrection at all.

So it’s no surprise that they show up to question Jesus while he’s teaching. And it's no surprise that they’re out to trip Jesus up.

And not for the first time we hear undertones of impatience as Jesus continues to contend with those who keep missing the point of what he's running out of time to teach them.

And the point is that Jesus is offering them a different way of seeing things: of seeing things as a child of the resurrection.

Last week we gathered for our parish feast day: the Feast of All Saints -- remembering those who have left their mortal bodies and our physical company, those whom we grieve and miss: opening our hearts to admit our pain and loss for those we love and see no more -- even while celebrating our hope and faith in the love of God that is greater than death.

To hold both grief and hope at the same time is the central paradox and fulcrum of the resurrection life we live as followers of the revolutionary Jesus.

And on this twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost in this year of our Lord 2019 ... two days away from the start of Impeachment Hearings on Capitol Hill and 360 days until the next presidential election ... I also believe we are grieving a deep societal sense of loss in our nation.  The raised tensions, the assaults on the rule of law and constitutional protections that have arguably been aspirational yet served as the guard rails for our fragile democracy, the veiled and not so veiled threats; the anger, polarization and division ... well, I could go on and on.

It’s a whole different kind of death.

The German theologian Dorothee Soelle wrote more than 30 years ago about how we can be living and dead all at the same time. Soelle says “Death is what takes place with us when we look upon others not as gift, blessing, or stimulus, but as threat, danger, competition. It is the death that comes to all who try to live by bread alone.”  It is not, she says “the final departure we usually think of when we speak of death; it is that purposeless, empty existence devoid of human relationships and filled with anxiety, silence, and loneliness.”

We all know that sort of death. We learn it in our earliest days and most of us – ironically – live with that sort of death for all of our days.

What does it mean for us to choose life in the face of that kind of death?  Jesus tells the Sadducees that they just don’t get it. They are thinking of life and death in wholly mortal terms. They are holding so literally to such a small vision that they are missing not only the bigger picture but the treasure of God’s love promised through the resurrection.

Jesus says that it’s really a whole different thing. The resurrection life is not just getting some version of your old life back. Nor is resurrection the same thing as immortality. This is not just a question of what happens to your physical body after you die.

My favorite Easter card puts it this way: "The great Easter truth is not that we are going to live newly after death, but that we are to be new here and now by the power of the resurrection."

We can’t know what happens after our bodies die. We know that people live on in our hearts and our memories. We know that they live on through their influences on us, in the ways that they have shaped our lives -- and I think this morning in  particular of the influence of Rabbi Marv Gross ... whose influence through his work at Union Station is a legacy that will continue to give life long after his untimely death this week.

We hear that assurance of Jesus last line in this passage – God is the God of the living – and to God all are living.

But what does it mean for us in this moment to live as a child of the resurrection?  How does the experience of Jesus, this example of Jesus-  live on through you? And how do you bear witness to the resurrection in your experience of others?

For us in this moment, in this time and this place, to live as a child of the resurrection is not a matter of physical life and physical death. It is to be transformed by the witness of Jesus and to live anew in that spirit. It is to be transformed by the Incarnational Jesus’ words and deeds.

It is a rejection of the death-dealing of this world. It is moving from death into new life. It is the realization that nothing, not even death, can separate us from the love of God.

And because of that, because of the constant presence of God and constant love of God  for us as living children of the resurrection, the constant challenge to us is to allow that love to flow through us and out into the world.

Our practice of love in this world must be modeled on God’s love for us and it is active and engaged and ever-oriented toward justice and mercy for all God’s children and for this beautiful earth.

We know that we are surrounded by death. We are surrounded by polarization. We live enmeshed in a system that devalues human life and destroys the earth. We are soaked in fear until it seeps into our pores. We are taught to hate. We are robbed of our trust.

But through the love of God and the example of Jesus, we can move from death to life as children of the resurrection.

The lectionary passage leaves off the concluding two verses of this episode. Those versus are 39-40 and they read: Then some of the scribes answered, ‘Teacher, you have spoken well. For they no longer dared to ask him another question.”

Some of these folks heard Jesus. Sounds like some of them were transformed by his words and his witness. And the others at least realized they’d come up against a force to be reckoned with.

My brothers, sister and gender fluid siblings, living into the promise of resurrection will make you a force to be reckoned with. Not in the conventional ways of the world of smack downs and verbal violence. Not in the competitive market of unchecked consumption. But in bearing the heart of God, the force of justice, the sacred sense of compassion, and a deep vision for a better world right here and right now.

Our world needs that kind of spiritual force. It needs it today. It needs it on Wednesday. It needs it on Thursday. And it needs it each day going forward.

And the question before us this day is are we prepared to live that way? And are we prepared to help each other live that way?

Amen.

Portions of this sermon inspired by and adapted from "Child of the Resurrection" by Jennifer Sanders: 11-6-2016

Monday, November 18, 2019

Together Let Us Live Like Jesus

I had the privilege of being the preacher at the Eucharist for the 124th Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles in Riverside on November 16, 2019. 

Here's the video of the sermon ... text posted below:





Together Let Us Live Like Jesus
.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all our hearts be aligned with your love O God, our strength, our courage and our freedom. Amen.



Go. Cross Boundaries. Listen Deeply. And live like Jesus.

Those are our marching orders as we prepare to gather around this table to be fed by the holy food of new and unending life and then ask to be sent out into the world to continue our lifelong journey along the way of love.

Go. Cross Boundaries. Listen Deeply. And live like Jesus.

These words bring to mind other words – words from the Gospel According to Margaret Mead: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

Gathered today at this 124th meeting of the annual convention of the Diocese of Los Angeles,  we stand on the shoulders of many generations of thoughtful, committed people who have gone before us in the lifelong way of love … those who changed the world for the better in their lifetimes as we strive to change it in ours – who said yes to the call to be people of justice and joy; compassion and peace.


It was 1997 and I was a brand-new deacon attending the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Summit in Cincinnati, Ohio -- and the preacher at the Eucharist concluding the conference was Dr. Verna Dozier.

Biblical scholar, author, gifted educator and faithful Episcopalian Verna was 80 years old and it was one of her last appearances before the Parkinson's disease she battled took her out of public life.

After she was assisted into the makeshift pulpit in the conference center assembly hall, she paused for a long moment to survey the gathered community before she proclaimed "You are a peculiar people ... and by the grace of God may you always remain so."


She then went on to challenge us to live into that peculiarity -- into our particular charism and challenge as American Anglicans with these words: "The Church has the possibility of being the new thing that can haul the whole world into God's vision for God's creation. Our choice is to be the ones who see the new way and to follow it, or to be the ones the new creation leaves behind."

We, my brothers and sisters and gender fluid siblings, are the Los Angeles branch of that peculiar people -- and both the challenge and the choice before us in these waning days of 2019 is exactly the same as the one Dr. Dozier named for the Episcopal Church in the waning days of the last millennium.

And the good news I bring today is that we are a peculiar people with lots of practice at choosing the new way and following it ... it is part of our DNA as both Anglicans and as Angelenos.

I am a daughter of this diocese. I was born at Good Samaritan Hospital and baptized at the Old Cathedral. I spent my earliest church days following my Aunt Gretchen around while she did her altar guild tasks at a time when hats were required for women and the priests were all men. And when we reached the age where it was time for confirmation class the boys went off to be acolytes ... and the girls went off to do nursery duty.

My first diocesan convention was 1987 and my name badge read "Mrs. Anthony Russell" ... never mind that Mr. Anthony Russell darkened the church door solely on Christmas and Easter. I remember in 1992 when two women clergy literally flipped a coin to decide which one of them would run for Deputy to General Convention -- because there was no way the diocese would send TWO women priests.

Let me pause for just a moment and note how far we've come. Yesterday this diocese not only elected an awesome slate of young leaders to represent us at General Convention but all four clergy deputies are women, our first alternate is a woman and six out of the eight deputies and alternates are new deputies. So we are a diocese that is choosing the new way.

And in a story that lives on in the Sisterhood of the Red Blazer, I remember being warned by women clergy mentors to "lose the red blazer until after you're ordained" because it was "too threatening."


I tell these stories because while we are most certainly not yet done with the systemic sexism which continues to plague our church, our nation and our world it is inarguable that we have come a far piece from those days. And it is a deep joy to have over and over and over had the high honor of being part of this work of the church in the world as we have gathered convention after convention to discern together what new ways the Holy Spirit is calling us to follow -- and then finding the courage to say yes when Jesus says "Go!"

And that brings me to the Gospel lesson for today. It starts with Jesus giving the disciples yet-another-teachable-moment -- yet another reminder of what it is they are supposed to do: to serve the least, the lost and the lonely ... and that "whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant."

And then they encounter Bartimaeus – the blind beggar who many tried to silence but Jesus would have none of that. Modeling what he had just taught his disciples, he called the man everyone wanted to silence and ignore to come to him … and then asked him “What do you want me to do for you?” “How can I serve you?”

Crossing the boundary others were not willing to cross, Jesus centered the man on the margins.
Jesus listened deeply to what the man needed … not assuming to know his needs but granting him agency to name that for himself.

And then when he did … we are told … immediately he regained his sight.

Our human family is in desperate need of recovering its sight. It is suffering from an epidemic of blindness … blindness to the divinity present in each and every human being. That blindness fuels our divisions and feeds our polarities – and we are the ones Jesus is calling to walk the way of love as agents of hope and healing.

Yes, the challenges before us are great, the divisions are many and deep and there is much work to do.  And yet we claim the legacy of those on whose shoulders we stand … of those who have led the way through the struggles our Big Fat Anglican Family has weathered in the past.

Of John Hines who taught that justice was the corporate face of God’s love.
Of Ed Browning who proclaimed that in this church there would be no outcasts.
Of Barbara Harris who preached that there is no such thing as being half-assed baptized.
And of our own Malcolm Boyd who challenged us always to ask: “Are we running with you, Jesus?”

Just the tip of the iceberg of those faithful, committed people who changed the world … sometimes an inch at a time … because they were willing to:

Go. Cross Boundaries. Listen Deeply. And live like Jesus.

There is another gospel I have on my heart today -- the Gospel According to Joan Chittister. Sister Joan famously wrote: “We are each called to go through life reclaiming the planet an inch at a time until the Garden of Eden grows green again.”

They are words that have inspired me ever since I read them decades ago in her brilliant book “Wisdom Distilled From the Daily” and yet -- if I’m honest -- there are moments when I’m so tired from thinking about it all I’m ever so tempted  to give up on the inch much less the mile.

And when that temptation looms, I remember my son Brian and his struggle in grade school as he tried to conquer the inch in front of him: mastering the mystery of Long Division! I remember the night he proudly announced at the dinner table that he'd finally figured it out. "First you guess, then you multiply, then you subtract until you run out of numbers!" And then, pausing for effect, he announced: "So now I understand math!"

And I remember his older brother, quickly bursting that bubble with the sobering news of algebra, geometry and calculus yet to come. "Oh no" exclaimed Brian in disbelief and horror. "You mean there's MORE?????"

Yes, there's more -- for Brian and for us. And just as my mother's heart ached for him that night at the dinner table -- wanting him to celebrate the achievement, yet knowing how much further he has to go -- how many lessons he has yet to learn -- I imagine God who is mother and father to us all feeling much the same about us every time we think we're finished: every time we're tempted to think the inch we've just reclaimed is enough.

Over and over and over again we face the challenge of refusing to settle for how far we've come and opening ourselves up to where God is calling us to go.

To Cross Boundaries. To Listen Deeply. And to live like Jesus.

To live like Jesus is to literally be  the change we wish to see in the world -- and the blessing we gather to claim today is a church changed and changing -- the challenge we face is an inch reclaimed and miles yet to go.
  
Hear these words from our former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori:

Until we can see the chasm between what is and what ought to be, we don’t have any hope of changing.  Indeed, it is the act of crossing that boundary between what is and what ought to be that gets us across the fence between fear and possibility, reconciling division, transforming injustice, urging the lost onto the road home.

These words were preached back in 2012 to a congregation of people who love their church and strive to live out the Gospel while not always agreeing with each other about how to do both of those things.

And she was challenging us – and, I suspect, challenging herself (because we know all the best sermons are actually the preacher preaching to the preacher) – to get ourselves together and get over that fence between fear and possibility in order to bridge the gap between what is and what ought to be in our church and in our world.

I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that seven years ago the world was far from perfect and we faced a whole list of challenges.

But I think it is fair to say that since then the fence between fear and possibility has only gotten taller and harder to climb and the chasm between what is and what ought to be has only gotten deeper and more treacherous to cross.

It was Verna Dozier of blessed memory who said: “Don’t tell me what you believe. Tell me what difference it makes that you believe.”

Today we gather together as the Diocese of Los Angeles to be fed by word and sacrament not just because we believe – but because we believe we are called to make a difference.

Called to climb the fence between fear and possibility.

Called to refuse to settle for what “is” but to work together with God to create what “ought to be.”

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

To say that we live in challenging times is an understatement – and the onslaught of breaking news makes it clear that there are even greater challenges ahead.

But we are a peculiar people. And if we move together by the light we have – knowing it is only finite and partial -- we will move forward together as co-creators of what ought to be; agents of the change we want to see refusing to allow fear to keep us from climbing that fence that stands between us and another world that is not only possible ... she is on her way.

I close with these words of Indian author Arundhati Roy as interpreted by Ana Hernandez:

              Another world is not only possible. She is on her way.
              On a quiet day, you can hear her breathing. She is on her way. 
Now …

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


Friday, November 01, 2019

The Weaponization of Religious Liberty


Religious discrimination is a real thing.
History — both modern and ancient — is tragically full of examples of times and places where religious discrimination has been the source of persecution, death and destruction. The perversion of religion into a weapon of mass destruction is antithetical to the core beliefs of all the world’s great religions. And yet, none of those religions have escaped the sad reality that human beings — given the power to do so — will use God as an excuse to inflict pain and suffering on other human beings.
Our forefathers knew that. And they brought that knowledge — that wisdom — into our Bill of Rights with a First Amendment that begins: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...”
The First Amendment both prevents the government of the United States from privileging one religion over another and protects each and every one of us — as American citizens — to believe whatever we choose — or choose not — to believe about what God thinks, approves of or blesses.
It is what protects our democracy from becoming a theocracy. And, as we watch with sadness and horror the nightly news stories of religious wars and sectarian violence, this guarantee of religious freedom is something Americans of all religions — and no religion — should rejoice and be glad in.
What that guarantee of religious liberty is not is something to be distorted and exploited to further a political agenda of discrimination against LGBTQ people ... but that’s exactly what happened today with the Trump Administration’s HHS announcement today removing any requirement that recipients of grants from HHS enforce nondiscrimination rules that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and rules prohibiting discrimination on the basis of religion.

Today’s HHS announcement comes on the heels of
the appointment of Paula White to the White House staff to advise the administration’s Faith and Opportunity Initiative, which was established last year by executive order to “give religious groups more of a voice in government programs devoted to issues like defending religious liberty.”

It is yet another step by this administration to license discrimination against LGBTQ people on religious grounds … policies that are dangerous and detrimental not only for the LGBTQ Americans who are its direct target. It is a policy that opens the door for discrimination, inequality and prejudice to nearly every citizen of every state, undermining the foundational American value of equal protection. It is nothing less than an orchestrated backlash against equal protection for LGBTQ citizens and a flagrant distortion of the ideal of religious freedom into a vehicle for religion based bigotry.
Bottom line: The First Amendment protects your right as an American to the free exercise of your religion. It does not protect your right to use your religion as an excuse to discriminate against other Americans.
And watching the tragic consequences of genuine religious discrimination on the nightly news makes it all the more urgent that we stand together and speak out against yet another effort to turn religious liberty into a weapon of mass discrimination.
Because religious discrimination is a real thing. And this blatant effort to exploit it in order to attack LGBTQ citizens is a reprehensible thing.


Words & Worship: The Ongoing Work of Prayer Book Revision


And just like that it's November ... and Diocesan Convention looms on the horizon: November 15/16. In addition to all the regular work and worship of our Annual Family Reunion complete with Liturgy & Legislation, this year the Diocese of Los Angeles will offer an expanded set of workshops. You can see the full schedule here ... and do note that one of them will explore the ongoing work of prayer book revision.

Here's the description of the workshop ... being offered at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, November 15 at the Riverside Convention Center (where we're thrilled to be returning after a number of years in convention center wilderness):
General Convention has invited dioceses to talk about and collect liturgical materials to bring to the national conversation about new forms of worship, i.e., “Prayer Book revision.” In this workshop, we will talk about the “why” and the “how” of these imagined changes as they are lived out in a parish context. We’ll talk about how some churches have introduced changes, and we'll offer tools for undertaking this work in your parish.
Presenters include: Norma Guerra, Susan Russell & Kay Sylvester
If you need a reminder of where the Episcopal Church stands in the process of creating a process to begin a process of prayer book revision, there's this fine overview by Melodie Woerman from Episcopal News Service ... and here's a link to the enabling resolution 2018-A068 ... which includes this resolve:
Resolved, That bishops engage worshiping communities in experimentation and the creation of alternative texts to offer to the wider church ...
So if you're a Dio L.A. peep coming to convention, join us for what we hope will be the first of several opportunities to engage in this work of collaboration and collection of alternative texts for worship that we can offer to the wide church. If you've got thoughts or ideas send them my way ... srussell@ladiocese.org

And do keep this important work in your prayers as we continue to live into our responsibility to incarnate in our generation the ongoing work of prayer book revision that has been part of our heritage since 1789 ... articulated in these opening words of the Preface of our Book of Common Prayer:
It is a most invaluable part of that blessed “liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free,” that in his worship different forms and usages may without offence be allowed, provided the substance of the Faith be kept entire; and that, in every Church, what cannot be clearly determined to belong to Doctrine must be referred to Discipline; and therefore, by common consent and authority, may be altered, abridged, enlarged, amended, or otherwise disposed of, as may seem most convenient for the edification of the people, “according to the various exigency of times and occasions.”

Saturday, October 26, 2019

#Resist


Good people of deep faith read the same Bible and come to different conclusions about what God wills, intends and blesses. Patriotic Americans come to different conclusions about how best to defend the Constitution against all enemies—foreign and domestic. And what makes America great is that we are protected in our differences by the rule of law — and that no one is above the law.

Yes, we have failed over and over again to make the aspiration of liberty and justice for all a reality — but the fact that it remains an aspiration is the North Star of our journey toward a more perfect Union.

I come from Republican stock who would support many of the policies I disagree with in the current administration — but they would not be willing to either participate in or support the dismantling of the fabric of our democracy that is happening in broad daylight in front of our eyes.

Where are the Republicans who will put country before party and recognize that if we let this continue, our democracy is the baby that goes out with the bath water? Where are the patriots who will stand against this civic heresy that a President is above the rule of law?

Resistance is not an option. It's a duty.

Friday, October 25, 2019

"So what exactly is your new job?"

On September 1st I began a new chapter with new work and a new title: Canon for Engagement Across Difference for the Diocese of Los Angeles.

I'm still at All Saints in Pasadena as a member of their clergy staff ... dividing my time 40/60 parish and diocese ... and still living into a new paradigm of being "bilocational." But suffice to say it's exciting, energizing and just a little intimidating to be given the chance to both imagine and implement this new initiative which is the brainstorm of our Bishop Diocesan John Taylor.

And that brings me to the question which is the title of this post: So what exactly is your new job?

The announcement that went out back at the end of June does a good job of outlining the vision ... you can read that here ... but the Clif Notes version is this:
Known as “One in the Spirit: Finding Divinity Within Difference in the Diocese of Los Angeles,” the 3-year initiative will begin in September guided by a new staff officer, working group, and mission statement prioritizing four goals:
  • “To live more fully into our baptismal promise to respect the dignity of every human being.
  • “To understand better how barriers of class, race, language, nationality, culture, politics, geography, orientation, and identification blind us to the burning image of the divine in one another.
  • “To proclaim in Christ’s name that we will not submit to our era’s epic division and polarization.
  • “To feed hearts that are hungry for connection and community in a secularizing, isolating age.”
My job is to pull together a diverse team of folks from around the diocese who will initially work on a process of collaborating and collating: doing an inventory of what programs, projects and initiatives are already in place doing this core Gospel work of reaching across difference and imagining together what we can create to both amplify the existing work and create new opportunities that don't yet exist.

A core piece of this work is our Anglican identity -- remembering that we come from spiritual ancestors who found a way to hold together the seemingly irreconcilable tensions of being both catholic and protestant in the 16th century -- and trusting that the DNA of Anglican comprehensiveness will equip us to do the work of bridging the differences that challenge us as 21st century disciples.

The plan is to have our Steering Committee in place by the end of November and then to call together a broadly based Task Force early in the new year. Stay tuned for more updates on that as we continue to build as we fly. And ... if you're a Diocese of L.A. peep ... come find me at Diocesan Convention and let's talk. I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas as we build this together.

In the meantime, I wanted to share these words from our Presiding Bishop's opening remarks to Executive Council last week ... works that are germane not only to this Engagement Across Difference initiative but to our work in the world in these days of challenge and polarization.
The United States is being torn asunder within by the inability to be in deep relationship with each other and yet hold differing positions and convictions. And the test of this democratic experiment will be the capacity of this particular nation to hold differences in the context of deep and real human relationships.

I really believe that Jesus was right. That the Way of Love, doesn't mean the way of agreement. But it means the capacity to love each other, and therefore, to seek the good together. Whether we agree or disagree. This is the democratic experiment; this is not just religious platitude. Dr. King once said, “History is replete with the bleached bones of civilization that have refused to listen to (Jesus),” who said love your enemies, bless those who curse you.

This country must not become a valley of dry bones. And frankly, the only way is the way of love. There is no other way. And maybe, this wonderful little church of ours, can offer that. This Way of Love to the body politic.

Not for political ends, not to change anybody's vote. But to change how we relate to each other as human beings.

And then we see what happens.
This is us ... the Diocese of Los Angeles. Ready to see what happens.

A Bishop on the Heretical Error of Male Supremacy


Written by the Right Reverend John H. Taylor (Bishop of Los Angeles) and posted to his Facebook page this morning -- shared with his permission.



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A conservative website has given its readers the opportunity to cull intimate emails and photos of Representative Katie Hill. It's a sad story. She's having a lousy divorce. But that's public life for you. Members of Congress should follow its ethics rules. Candidates shouldn't have affairs with subordinates, as Hill admits doing. She may have issues with alcohol, for which she deserves our prayers. The House ethics committee will no doubt do its work diligently and hold her appropriately accountable.

Meanwhile, down the street is someone who is finally being held accountable for his shadow foreign policy but not his well-illuminated male predation. A new book adds scores of stories to what we knew already. Sickening behavior toward women that, it were undertaken in the form of assaults on members of almost any other cultural group -- African-Americans, Jews, Muslims, Latinx people -- would result in eternal disgrace. But in our society, you can still do that to women and get away with it. If you are a bisexual woman, and you comb your friend's hair, you get your naked pictures on a blog, and an investigation promptly ensues. If you're a powerful man, assaulting women time after time, your buddies say “but Clinton” and line up for your reelection campaign.

As for why there’s such a double standard, my siblings in faith, it's our fault. We Christians, at least in the aggregate. It's because of the continued distortion of the true gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. It's because many of us have committed the error of male supremacy.

A powerful 80 million-strong bloc of conservative Christians keeps Trump in power while participating in ecclesial polities that keep women down. One of the authors of the new book "All The President's Women: Donald Trump And The Making Of A Predator," Monique El-Faizy, nails it in a "Huffington Post" interview:


"The structure of the evangelical church, where Trump gets the bulk of his support, is very patriarchal. For them, this kind of patriarchy is what God has instructed them to do, and they find all kinds of different ways of rationalizing it. Early on, I called an old source of mine. I said, 'How on earth are you supporting him?' And they said, 'God uses imperfect vessels.' So they rationalize it by saying, [Trump] is being used, he’s a tool of God. He doesn’t need to be perfect, we’re all sinners. But at the very core of their support is just a comfort with patriarchy and the idea that women are supposed to be submissive to men."

Not every evangelical or Christian Zionist, of course, behaves or thinks abusively about women. Obeying their male preachers and Bible study teachers, many treat women with deep respect and reverence. Male supremacy reigns nevertheless. We see it parts of the Muslim world, unfortunately. But we also see it in our Christian home town. Most non-denominational churches won’t permit a woman in the pulpit or top leadership. If your daughter or granddaughter wants to preach the gospel, for instance, she had better not be a Southern Baptist, the denomination Jimmy Carter left over just this issue.

No enlightened Bible scholar can actually find reliable warrant for such prejudice. Your local male-dominant pastor will probably quote Deutero-Pauline writings such as this clunker from Ephesians: "For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church." But these are probably not the the apostle’s words. Scholars have known this for hundreds of years. Try this: Read 1 Corinthians 13 and then Ephesians 5. It's like comparing Yeats to the second inaugural address of Calvin Coolidge. Paul thought Christ would return in Paul's own lifetime. He didn't think people should bother to get married. So he devoted no energy to deciding who should take out the garbage. A loyal member of Paul's movement probably wrote Ephesians as the church dug in for the long haul and Greco-Roman male dominance smothered living memories of our Lord's egalitarianism.

Yet Ephesians' household codes and the work of post-Pauline writers and editors -- not the gospels, not Paul's genuine texts -- undergird the social teachings of modern evangelicalism. They help keep Trump on Air Force One while poor Katie Hill girds for ignominy. If there's a deep state in control of our civic lives, there you have it -- deep in the darkness of misogyny committed in the name of him who came in light and love to save and lift up all people to love God and care for one another in the spirit of mutual self-sacrifice.

So come, spirit of the risen Christ. Come cleanse, teach, and unite your church. Show us the way to the Oxford Annotated Bible, Education for Ministry, and a really good seminary like Bloy House, The Episcopal Theological School at Claremont. That includes all us preachers in the progressive denominational church, who must do the hard and sometimes unwelcome work of sifting the canon for its essential nuggets of justice, righteousness, peace, and love. It means teaching explicitly about what Paul said and probably didn’t say.

Because in these times, now more than ever, we need well-educated Christians — Christians who refuse to acquiesce any longer in the heretical error of male supremacy.

(Photos: All Saints Pasadena; Rep. Katie Hill)

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

On Equality, Protest & the Truth that will set us free


On Thursday, October 10 in Los Angeles an auditorium packed with LGBTQ community members in specific and supporters of equality in general gathered to hear nine of the Democratic candidates for President field questions about their hopes and dreams for our nation at a town hall entitled "Equality in America."

At exactly the same time in Minneapolis, an enthusiastic crowd gathered to hear Donald Trump make his case for "Making America Great Again" by continuing the policies he has advanced during his three years in office.

The contrast could not have been more stark. The differences could not have been more distinct. And the divide could not have been deeper.

The Los Angeles crowd heard a diverse field of competitors for the presidential nomination in their party address how they would work to both reverse the steps backwards during this administration and move to take steps forward toward the goal of full equality for LBGTQ Americans. Representing different generations, cultural and geographic contexts, ethnicities, genders and orientations they offered a hopeful, forward looking vision for a nation living out its aspirational ideal of a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all people are created equal.

The Minneapolis crowd heard the President of the United States attack a sitting member of Congress, a former Vice-President of the United States, the Speaker of the House, refugees in general and Somali refugees in particular. In a rally described by the Washington Post as "Stunning in ugliness and tone" he offered conspiracy theories, obscenities and character assassination directed at his opponents and a vision for a nation continuing on the path he has chartered during his administration ... a path notable for its chaos and corruption at home and abandonment of historic allies while embracing dictators and oligarchs abroad.

I was honored to be in the audience here in Los Angeles for the Equality Town Hall ... sitting amongst a great cloud of witnesses in the balcony above the candidates and questioners. There were a number of moments that stuck out for me: Elizabeth Warren's brilliant response to the question about marriage and connecting our trade policy to advocacy for human rights, Pete Buttigieg so artfully navigating questions about his faith, and the universal support of all nine candidates for Equality Act.

But the most powerful ones were the moments when the carefully orchestrated agenda was disrupted by transgender rights protesters calling for an accounting for the ongoing murder of black trans women in the streets of our nation. In a statement after the event, HRC President Alphonso David apologized saying, "Black and Latin trans women should not have to protest to have a voice in spaces created for the LGBTQ community."

Their pain was palpable, their voices were strong and the justice they seek is irrefutable. None of us are free and safe and home until all of us are -- and the marginalization of black trans women as the story of the LGBTQ movement's past is told and as the future of the LGBTQ movement is shaped is undeniable.

Their courage in standing up and speaking out challenged all of us to continue to live into the aspirational vision of a nation where liberty and justice for all really means all.

And in that moment, they also provided the candidates and moderators the opportunity to offer a vision for what public civic discourse looks like when we amplify rather than vilify voices of protest; when we live into the best of who are are as a diverse nation still striving to become the nation we were conceived to be; when we are willing to listen to those whose experience is not ours in order to become partners in dismantling oppression.

The greatness of America lies in the power of protest to continue to challenge its leaders to live up to the promise of greatness we have yet to fully realize … and in the willingness of Americans to be transformed by the witness of the stories, the pain and the struggle of those with the courage to speak their truth in order to set us all free.

Because -- as the radical rabbi from Nazareth taught us in John 8:32 … "the truth will set you free."

And until all of us are free, none of us are free.


Thursday, October 03, 2019

When the President thinks he's the exception that proves the Rule of Law

I heard an update on the latest craziness from the current resident of the White House on the radio this morning -- and all I could muster as a response was surprise that anyone can still be surprised by the ongoing onslaught of corruption, chaos and collusion.

It cannot be a surprise to anyone that a man we all heard declaring on video tape those immortal words ... "When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything." ... thinks that when you're President you really CAN do anything: that you are the exception that proves the Rule of Law.

And anyone who thought that was libtard, snowflake hyperbole only needs to dig back through the wreckage of this administration to see what damage can be wrought to the body politic when a Commander-in-Chief confuses himself with a Despot-in-Chief.

Listen to the wise words of my bishop -- John Taylor -- who posted this observation on his Facebook page earlier today:
"Trump taunted his critics today by calling on China to investigate Biden. So there we have it. From “no collusion” to super-collusion, collusion everywhere, with all the wealth and might of the United States for sale to the highest bidder. This is familiar stuff. When the leader decides it’s legal, and has the power to back it up, then it’s legal. Thus it always was -- approximately until constitutions and the balance of powers. Humanity gets it deep in our being. Much of the modern world has still never known anything else. It’s important today to remember how easy it would be to lose it."
It is very important to today to remember how easy it would be to lose it. To lose it all. To lose not only what we've managed to accomplish after these couple of centuries of living into the aspirational American Dream but to lose all hope of making liberty and justice for all not just a pledge we make but a reality we live.

Humanity does get it deep in our being ... and the place we "get it" is what I would explain theologically as the Imago Dei in each and every human being: the image of God that calls us to our best and highest self -- loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves. And yet our history as humans bears out how we've struggled to make what we get in our being align with how we live in the world.

If we could have done it on our own, there would be no need for the Garden of Eden myth to explain how death and evil entered the world. If we could have done it by following a to-do list, the Ten Commandments would have done the trick and we'd be good to go. If having the one who created us in love becoming one of us in order to show us how to walk in love with each other had worked there would have been no Good Friday.

Instead, here we are as Easter people. Continuing in the struggle to align our lives with God's values of love, justice and compassion. Continuing to be a church that is the Body of Christ -- the hands and feet of Jesus in the world -- comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. Continuing to strive to be a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all people are created equal -- a nation where the the rule of law is a thing and where a constitution and balance of powers are the bedrock of our fragile democracy.

And today -- a day when corruption, chaos and collusion dominate the news cycle -- to continue to remember how easy it would be to lose it ... as we renew our commitment to walk in love with each other in the struggle to preserve it.

La lucha continua.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

On Rowan Williams, Communion Across Difference and the Ghosts of Lambeths Past

This week the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles was treated to a visit from the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury -- Dr. Rowan Williams. He visited several congregations, presided at several services, got a chance to check out some cool ancient artifacts of the faith at the Huntington Library -- and he spent some time in conversation with diocesan clergy in the Great Hall of our Cathedral Center in Echo Park.

At one level it was just the ordinary stuff of the calendar of someone like the former Archbishop of Canterbury -- and at another level it was really rather extraordinary.

Rowan Williams is no stranger to the Diocese of Los Angeles. I remember when he and Martin Smith led a clergy conference for us way back when he was just that smart bishop from Wales. I'm thinking it was around 1999 and we joked about it being our "Rowan & Martin" year. I experienced him as wise and grounded and accessible and really quite a wonderful example of a scholar, pastor and teacher. I was honored to meet him and wished he could have stayed longer -- and I was thrilled when he was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury.

I also remember when he joined us in Anaheim in 2009 for our General Convention. We were in the vortex of the "inclusion wars" and deep in our resistance against those lobbying to vote the Episcopal Church off the Anglican Island for ordaining gay and lesbian people in general and Gene Robinson in particular. I experienced him as cold and distant and judgmental and really quite a sobering example of the institutional church failing to live up to its call to both be and act like the Body of Christ in the world. I was sorry he came and relieved when he left.

So it's fair to say I had mixed feelings about his 2019 visit.

Pat McCaughan -- writing for the Episcopal News -- did a great job with her feature on his address to the gathering on Tuesday morning. I commend it to you here. And of course I had my own reactions.

I deeply appreciated all his wise words on family, community and the critical importance of proximity. One of the quotes I tweeted during the morning read:



And ... because life is complex and history has happened and there's a lot of water under the Big Fat Anglican Communion Family bridge ... I was struck in the moment that these wise words were being spoken by the very man who had himself excluded Gene Robinson from the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Bishops -- making the kind of "contact with the other" he was calling for quite literally impossible: at least in that moment, at that time and in that place.

So that was then and this is now.

In the intervening years the Episcopal Church has "stayed the course" ... has kept showing up ... has survived all the threats to vote us off the Anglican Island and continues to move forward toward the goal of making the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments not just a soundbite but a reality. Rowan Williams has retired as Archbishop of Canterbury, TEC has now consecrated  three -- soon to be four -- gay or lesbian bishops and has both adopted rites and amended canons to make marriage accessible to all couples.

And we're not done yet. There is still work to do to assure that your access to marriage rites does not depend on your zip code, we are still on the journey to make our language in worship reflect the rich diversity on the continuum of God's beloved children and we are still working to live out our baptismal promise to respect the dignity of every human being. Even those we disagree with. Even those who wish we weren't part of their Big Fat Anglican Family. Even those whose actions have fallen short of their ideals.

And one of the ways we do that is by taking seriously Dr. William's call to “... look very, very, carefully and imaginatively at where it is that mutual understanding really comes alive” and at his example of the Mother's Union.
“The Mother’s Union, as it exists in many of our provinces, is a much more important cement of unity in the communion than the primates’ meeting ... and does incalculable work in binding together people across different cultures and environments.We need to ask how we do more in that sort of way, building those relationships between active and committed lay people, not just hierarchs and committees across the communion.”
Those are exactly the questions we are asking as we begin to implement our "One in the Spirit" initiative here in the Diocese of Los Angeles ... as we work to build relationships between difference in our congregations and communities ... as we work to be an antidote to the polarization and division that afflicts our church, our nation and our world ... as we work to create opportunities for mutual gratitude, connection and understanding. while we continue to dismantle oppression and stay the course toward becoming a church where there are no strangers left at the gate.

It's a tall order ... but no one better to attempt it than the Diocese of Los Angeles and no time better than now.


And so for all my mixed feelings going into this third encounter with Rowan Williams -- that smart bishop from Wales AKA the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury -- I was grateful he came and grateful for the opportunity to literally be in communion across difference.

Grateful for the chance for some conversation about the Indaba process which was such a cornerstone of his archepiscopate and grateful for his sermon on love and truth. And at the door on the way out after the Eucharist, grateful for his handshake and kind words, "Thank you for your work. It's been quite a journey, hasn't it?"

Yes it has been quite a journey. And the journey continues: an inch at a time.

Friday, September 06, 2019

Diocesan Dodger Night 2019 #edladodgernight #GoBlue

And it's once again time for Episcopal Night at Dodger Stadium.

Introduced by Bishop Fred Borsch of blessed memory during his tenure as our Bishop Diocesan, for this cradle-Episcopalian/second-generation-Dodger Fan it has for decades now been one of my favorite of all mashups ... getting to root for my team surrounded by Episcopeeps from all around this Big Fat Episcopal Church Family of ours.

I remember bringing my boys when they were kids ... the year Brian caught a foul ball during batting practice and we had Bishop Borsch autograph it for him. (There's a picture of that somewhere in the Episcopal News archives.) I remember schlepping down from Ventura in my St. Paul's days and in from Claremont during seminary and then up from San Pedro.

I remember years when we had huge turnouts and years when it was a faithful remnant. I remember wins and loses and seventh inning stretches and the fun of running into familiar faces in line for Dodger Dogs. And I remember the year I got to be the catcher for Bishop Glasspool's ceremonial first pitch. For this life-long Dodger fan being down on the field was totally a #BucketList item!

And once again tonight is the night.

We'll be taking on the San Francisco Giants (historic rivals!) as we close in on this year's pennant race. Our magic number is 4 (any combination of Dodger wins and Arizona losses will wrap up the National League West race), Kershaw is on the mound and Bishop Taylor will be throwing out the first ceremonial pitch so we are primed for another "best ever" Dio Dodger Night.

I understand there will be about 1200 of us in attendance and am proud that 260 will be from All Saints Church in Pasadena: 160 parish members and 100 scholarship tickets from generous donors for youth in foster care. I've got my jersey on already ... and my Dodger earrings ... and can't wait for game time.

And I was also thinking driving into Echo Park this morning on my way to the office that in some ways what we do when we gather each year for Dio Dodger Night is a tiny icon of the work we're imagining as we build our Engagement Across Difference initiative: One in the Spirit.

Tonight we will be coming together from different congregations, communities, and contexts -- representing different cultures, ethnicities, identities, and orientations -- across economic, political and theological differences -- bound together by our common love of Jesus and baseball.

And if you're a Giant fan ... hey: come on down. There's a Dodger Dog (or equally attractive vegan alternative) with your name on it and may the best team win. Because maybe -- just maybe -- what we need most at this moment in our polarized and divided nation and world is to hold on tight to those moments and opportunities to come together across differences for common goals ... even if it is "just" a baseball game.

So tick-tock game time. See you at the stadium! #edladodgernight #GoBlue

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

And it was morning and it was evening and it was the second day

So here's the view outside my office window as I write this ... on the second day of my tenure as the Canon for Engagement Across Difference for the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.

I'm looking out at Echo Park and the lake where I used to go paddle boat riding with my dad and brother growing up in L.A. in the 1960s ... at the lawn where I sat with a boatload of other Episcopalians twenty-some years ago now when we broke ground to build this Cathedral Center when Fred Borsch was our bishop 1990s in the ... in a building with a ton of muscle memory of countless meetings, events, liturgies and highs-and-lows over decades of ministry in this diocese of my birth, baptism, confirmation and ordination. And I'm still trying to wrap my head around how I ended up here doing work I couldn't have imagined doing that I can't wait to get started at.

I'm still figuring out logins and logistics as we gear up to begin this new program year and this new initiative which is the brainstorm of our Bishop Diocesan John Taylor ... in his words:

"What we will build together over the next three years is our capacity as a diocese to expand relationships and deepen connections across differences in order to strengthen our shared commitment to follow Jesus. In response to the Gospel call to be agents of reconciliation, we envision a recovery of our deep connection to each other and our world so we can participate more fully in the transforming work of love."

 “Our aspirations include creating conversational communities to drive bridge building across the differences that simultaneously enrich and challenge us as a diverse, multi-cultural diocese utilizing existing diocesan programs and resources as well as creating new ones."

“Ours are audacious goals: but the challenges of this present day call for nothing less if we are going to be the change we want to see in our beautiful and broken world. And we believe that as Anglicans we are uniquely wired to offer an antidote of hope and joy to the destructive and pervasive narratives that fuel division and polarization."

"We remember that we come from spiritual ancestors who found a way to hold together the seemingly irreconcilable tensions of being both catholic and protestant in the 16th century – and we believe that DNA of Anglican comprehensiveness will equip us to do the work of bridging the differences that challenge us as 21st century disciples."


If any of it touches a nerve or stirs an idea or inspires a connection please do reach out. The first phase of this project will be "research and development" so if you have ideas, resources, stories or suggestions email me at srussell@ladiocese.org. This is wild and crazy work to take on in these wild and crazy times in which we live ... and we're going to need lots of wild and crazy people committed to the wild and crazy idea that we can indeed strive for peace and justice while respecting the dignity of absolutely every human being.

“Increase in us true religion” was part of the Collect of the Day that began our worship last Sunday ... a Sunday I had the privilege of being the preacher at All Saints Church in Pasadena, and here's some of what I said. (You can watch and/or read the whole sermon here.) Can't wait to see what Day Three brings!

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When we pray for God to increase in us true religion we are asking to be to deployed into the hard, challenging, joyful gospel work of tearing down walls and building bridges; of living out that promise we make to simultaneously strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every single human being … even those whose actions, policies and worldview we deplore.

 It is work we have been committed to for decades in this church and in this diocese and it is work that our bishop John Taylor is calling us to focus on with intentionality as we launch “One in the Spirit” a diocesan initiative with four goals:

• “To live more fully into our baptismal promise to respect the dignity of every human being.
• “To understand better how barriers of class, race, language, nationality, culture, politics, geography, orientation, and identification blind us to the burning image of the divine in one another.
• “To proclaim in Christ’s name that we will not submit to our era’s epic division and polarization.
• “To feed hearts that are hungry for connection and community in a secularizing, isolating age.”

Starting this week I will be dividing my time between continuing to serve as a member of the All Saints clergy staff team and leading this initiative as a member of the bishop’s staff.

There will be much more to share and explore in the weeks and months ahead but today is a day to rejoice and be glad in this opportunity to make true religion — that which binds together people in their quest for the divine — not just something we pray for once a year but a reality we try to live all year long.

Nobody ever said it was going to be easy.
And yet that is the work we have been given to do.

It is why we gather around the altar table week after week, year after year, to be fed by the holy food and drink of new and unending life — reminding us that it is in the broken that we are made whole and that until all of us are gathered in none of us are truly home.

Reminding us that our true religion — that which binds us together in our search for the divine – is the ligament of love intimately linking us with all creation as we strive to make God’s love tangible in this beautiful and broken world.

Monday, September 02, 2019

United in the Fight Against White Supremacy

So honored to be among the great cloud of witnesses speaking out and working to challenge and dismantle white supremacy.

Here's a great summary video our colleagues at MPAC ... the Muslim Public Affairs Council ... put together of our recent event with Congressman Adam Schiff at All Saints Church. Together we CAN be the change we want to see!

Friday, August 09, 2019

ICYMI ... Countering White Supremacy with Congressman Adam Schiff


Scheduled way back in June, the idea for the event sprang from Capitol Hill testimony of Omar Ricci -- Chairman of the Islamic Center of Southern California -- on the issue of inaction towards white supremacist violence.

After that hearing, Congressman Schiff agreed to participate in a community forum with Omar and MPAC ... and All Saints and IKAR joined as co-sponsors as "a powerful message of our unity against hate." We secured the venue (All Saints Church), recruited a panel of interfaith leaders (Salam Al-Marayati, Andre Henry, Mike Kinman, Omar Ricci, Susan Russell and Brooke Wirtschafter), and issued  joint statement which began: “We must move beyond words, thoughts & prayers and into action.”

Over 600 community members gathered at All Saints Church on Monday, August 5 for a two hour program that included remarks from Congressman Schiff and wide ranging panel discussions and questions from the audience.

You can watch the whole forum here and I hope you will ... it is well worth the time and -- IMHO -- a beacon of hope and encouragement that together we can be the change we want to see.

Monday, August 05, 2019

Countering White Supremacy: Moving from Words to Action

Tonight we welcome Congressman Adam Schiff to All Saints Church for a Community Forum entitled “Countering White Supremacy” – an important and timely conversation exploring how we can combat bigotry and discrimination and promote pluralism, acceptance and freedom for all.

Here's the video clip Rep. Schiff recorded to promote the event:



Scheduled way back in June, the idea for the event sprang from Omar Ricci [Chairman of the Islamic Center] testifying on Capitol Hill in May on the topic of inaction towards white supremacist violence. 

After that hearing, Congressman Schiff agreed to participate in a forum with Omar and MPAC ... and All Saints and IKAR joined as co-sponsors as "a powerful message of our unity against hate."

And so we secured the venue (All Saints Church), recruited a panel of interfaith leaders (Salam Al-Marayati, Andre Henry, Mike Kinman, Omar Ricci, Susan Russell and Brooke Wirtschafter), and issued  joint statement which began: “We must move beyond words, thoughts & prayers and into action.”

And then El Paso happened. And they Dayton happened. And the event we started planning in May took on the fierce urgency of now as we reeled from the toxic combination of unlimited access to automatic weapons in our nation and unleashed white nationalistic venom in our national discourse.

As Mike Kinman said in his comment for our press release this morning:
"We need look no further than this weekend's deadly shootings to know that white supremacy kills. It kills not only with the speed of an AK-47 but slowly through inequalities in opportunity, health care, education and more. With a president whose words and policies embody white supremacy and embolden those who would enforce it at the point of a gun, it is critically important that we come together across faith traditions and with our elected leaders to have action-oriented conversations about changing the direction in which our nation is heading. All Saints Church has always been a place for conversations like that -- and that is why we are hosting this conversation this evening."
So join us if you can. We'll be live streaming from this link ...