Sunday, September 03, 2023

Time To Make Some Noise

The email hit my inbox at 12:58pm ... just as I was about to log into lead a 1:00 Zoom meeting. Because it was from our PHOD (President of the House of Deputies) I scanned it quickly to see if there was any breaking news ... and I felt like I'd been gut-punched as I read the words:

On July 9th, 2022, shortly after the House of Deputies elected me to serve as your 34th president, I experienced an incident of unwanted and non-consensual physical contact. I was physically overpowered and lost bodily autonomy by a retired bishop waiting for my arrival to greet our colleagues in the House of Bishops. This, along with some accompanying inappropriate verbal statements, compelled me to submit a Title IV complaint via my chancellor to the intake officer in the Office of Pastoral Development.

PHOD Ayala Harris went on to share that after a 13 month process with multiple affirmations of clear violations of both the spirit and letter of our commitment to "safe church culture" the issue was being referred for pastoral rather than disciplinary action. And all I could muster in the moment was "How long, O Lord?" as I read:
My motivation for sharing this story stems from a deep love for our church. It is from this place of profound care and concern that I raise important questions about safety and accountability. If the president-elect of our House and deputy chair of the Legislative Committee on Sexual Harassment, Sexual Exploitation, and Safeguarding can experience unsafe treatment right at the door of the House of Bishops during the General Convention, then who in our church can truly be safe? If there is no discipline for well-documented violations, then under what circumstances would discipline be imposed?
I was clearly not alone.

Within hours a letter generated by members of the House of Bishops to members of the House of Bishops was posted -- a letter which included the message “We are angered by and deeply concerned about the perception – or the reality – that bishops get a free pass on behavioral issues” and a call for a thorough discussion at the upcoming House of Bishops meeting later this month.

And then my phone started pinging and my DMs started buzzing as a powerful cohort of sister-in-the-struggle organized to create and distribute a sign-on letter for the church-at-large to stand with and speak out for Title IV reforms in general and President Ayala Harris in specific.

The text of that letter is posted below ... and here's a link to add your name

Ready. Set. Go!




To President Ayala Harris: WE STAND WITH YOU. We see you living out the commitment to truth-telling and full inclusion that you promised when you stood as a candidate to lead the House of Deputies. We bear witness that what you have described represents an assault on you, our elected leader, and by extension on the entire Episcopal Church. We acknowledge that you have taken a great risk and shown great courage and love in making visible that which was meant to remain hidden. We commit to work alongside you to build the safe and life-giving church we all deserve. Finally, we are so, so sorry. We recognize the toll that the Title IV process must have taken on your first year as President of the House of Deputies. We are grieved and outraged that on your first day as our elected leader, you were abused by a member of the most privileged class in our church’s hierarchy.


To our Bishops: WE NEED TO HEAR FROM YOU. We applaud those within the House of Bishops calling for accountability and attention to the need for Title IV reforms. That important work does not take the place of a direct and public response to the report that the second ranking officer in our Church – a lay Latina woman of color – was publicly assaulted at the doorway to your House, by a member of your House. She has taken a tremendous risk in making this incident public and calling the church to greater accountability. You now have a choice. Will you make a strong statement about your commitment to safety for all and your unwavering solidarity with the people of color, women, and lay people who regularly experience being “put in our place” when we dare to step into positions of power? Will you step out of the cozy collegiality and privileged opacity that has characterized the (still) overwhelmingly white and male House of Bishops and address all four orders of the faithful? Now is not the time for silence or mumbling about not really knowing all the details. We know enough to make our commitments clear. What do you stand for? What will you fight for? Scripture gives you an excellent starting point, “As for me and my House…”


To Presiding Bishop Curry: WE NEED A GOOD WORD. We are praying for your health and your energy and your spirit. We know that this has come at a time when you needed and deserved rest. We probably count too heavily on you. Your powerful words and your fire for justice have carried us to a whole new place of faith and commitment to the path of love. We know that you have that fire within you, even in times of physical weakness. This is a critical moment for our church and a bland bureaucratic statement will not be enough. We await a powerful word as only you can bring it.


To us all: WE SHARE A POWERFUL FAITH. 1 John 3:2 reminds us, “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed.” Our Church has faced moments of reckoning before. We are at our best when we let our faith, not our fears, carry us forward. May this be a moment when more is revealed about what it looks like to be a gathered community struggling towards a fuller and deeper commitment to the dignity of every human being.

Sunday, July 30, 2023

We Persist: A Sermon Commemorating the Philadelphia Eleven

A sermon preached at All Saints Church in Pasadena on July 30, 2023 commemorating the 49th anniversary of the ordinations of the Philadelphia Eleven.

It was a hot Monday in July 1974 at the Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia -- and as Barbara Harris told the story, "The phones were ringing off the hook."

One woman said ‘Are you people going to ordain women there today?’ and I said ‘Yes, we are!’ and she said ‘You’re gonna split this church right in half.’ And I said ‘The church is already split in half – that’s why we’re doing it.”

 And so on that day July 29, 1974 eleven deacons — who came to be known as the “Philadelphia Eleven” — and four bishops gathered in front of a standing-room-only-congregation at the Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia and made history with the ordination of the first women as priests in the Episcopal Church.

Forty-nine years later it might be hard to imagine — in a parish like All Saints, Pasadena with a long history of women clergy serving at this altar; in the Diocese of Los Angeles with a history of women bishops on its staff; and in an Episcopal Church with a woman as one of our former Presiding Bishops — what a radical act that was. But it was.

Protesters at the ordination called the proceedings “unlawful and schismatical; constituting a grave injury to the peace of Christ’s Church.” One priest said, “You are trying to make stones into bread.

Yet, in spite of the warnings and protests, the hand wringing and the phone calls, the threat of schism and the dire predictions of the end of the world as we know it, the Episcopal Church kept moving forward. 

In September 1975 four more women were ordained in Washington DC. And in September 1976, at the 65th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, the ordination of women was “regularized” with a resolution that simply said that the canons for ordination “shall be equally applicable to men and women.”

And while the church may have said it, that did not in fact settle it.

The protests continued, including some congregations (four here in the Diocese of Los Angeles) trying to leave the Episcopal Church over the ordination of women -- and a number of dissenting bishops refused to either ordain or license women in their dioceses.

 In 1994 – twenty years after the ordinations we commemorate here this morning – I was in seminary and serving as the legislative aide to the Bishops’ Committee on Constitution & Canons at the General Convention in Indianapolis … and the chair of that committee was one of those bishops – Bill Wantland from the Diocese of Eau Claire. 

As convention was wrapping up, Bishop Wantland thanked me for my work on the committee and told me I clearly had gifts for ministry but … he couldn’t resist adding … could never actually be a priest because I was ontologically incapable of being an efficacious bearer of a sacerdotal presence.

Yeah. That’s a moment you don’t forget.

What he was saying – with big churchy words – was that very nature of my being as a woman made it impossible for me to preside at this or any altar as an icon of the priesthood of all believers … something he was capable of doing by virtue of having been born a man.

And that – I believe -- was the split Barbara Harris was talking about to the irate woman on the phone in Philadelphia that hot July morning.

It was the split between those who saw the church as an institutional structure steeped in patriarchal privilege they were determined to protect at all costs and those who saw the church as the Body of Christ still growing into the Beloved Community they were determined to help birth into being.

It was the split our rector emeritus of blessed memory George Regas described in his appeal for support for the ordination of women: “I suggest to you that we cannot wait to settle questions of the freedom of all humanity. Women are either free in our society or they are not.”

And it was a split the courageous women, their ordaining bishops and those who supported them were determined to bridge, fix and heal  -- which led us to July 29, 1974 and a moment in the Episcopal Church where those two tectonic plates crashed into each other and set off the ecclesial Richter Scales in a seismic event that challenged what had for centuries been the patriarchal narrative controlling women and limiting men … and making God’s beloved nonbinary children utterly invisible.

And the aftershocks continued – in fact, continue to this day.

Remember – my “ontologically incapable” conversation with Bishop Wantland happened in 1994 … a full 20 years after the ordination anniversaries we commemorate today.

For while we have made tremendous progress, sexism remains a thing in our church, our nation and in our world -- and the church still struggles to live into its high calling to dismantle rather than participate in the myriad interlocking oppressions that keep us from seeing each other as fully human images of God.

Nevertheless, we persist.

The work of dismantling oppressive systems is long and hard and usually involves at least two steps forward and one step back … and what we have learned in this struggle to dismantle patriarchy in the Episcopal Church  applies not just to the finite number of women who feel called to holy orders and the vocation of priesthood – it applies to the ongoing work of becoming Beloved Community where all are seen, all are represented, all are loved, valued and called into the work of being agents of love, justice and compassion in this beautiful and broken world.

 And as we persist, we stand on the shoulders of the Hebrew midwives Shiphrah and Puah, whose story we heard this morning in Exodus; women who were willing to defy Pharaoh in order to bring new life into being …

We persist in the tradition of Sirach and the personified-as-feminine Wisdom that has been part of creation from its very inception …

We persist in alignment with the words from Paul in his letter to the Galatians: that in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female – all are one in our Big Fat Human Family …

We persist in solidarity with the women who were the first proclaimers of the resurrection, ignored by the men who dismissed them as being ontologically incapable of being efficacious bearers of a prophetic witness … rejecting the good news they had to offer as the first preachers of the resurrection as “nonsense.”

We persist because we know that centering those who have been historically excluded is not erasing those who have historically centered: it is erasing the silos, barriers and boundaries that keep us from being the Beloved Community God created us to be.

We persist because we refuse to be limited by the false narrative that maleness, heterosexuality and Whiteness are “normative” reducing all the rest of us to somehow-less-than variants thereof: a narrative that is – for the record – just as destructive to those who identify as men as it is to the rest of us.

As author, activist and academic bell hooks wrote long before the Barbie movie was even a glimmer in Greta Gerwig’s imagination: 

“A patriarchal world view teaches a man
that his value is defined by the things he can achieve,
rather than who he is.
In an anti-patriarchal culture,
males do not have to prove their value and worth.
They know from birth that simply being gives them value,
the right to be cherished and loved.”1

That my brothers and sisters and gender fluid siblings is the message every single solitary precious human being brought into this world should know as deep down as it is possible to know anything –
that their existence is a blessing;
that simply being gives them value;
and that the God who loves them beyond their wildest imaginings
wants one thing and one thing only from them –
that they love each other they way God loves them.

That is the message Jesus loved us enough
to become one of us in order to show us how to live it;
and that is the message the institutional church has failed to live up to
over and over and over again
every time it has chosen protecting patriarchal privilege
over birthing Beloved Community.

Nevertheless, we persist.

And the reason we persist
is because we love the vision of what this church could become
so much that we’re willing to endure the pain of the birth pangs
of bringing that new reality into being
of being co-creators of a world of liberation for absolutely everyone
of believing that another world is not only possible, she is on her way –
of saying yes to the vision Alla Bozarth –
poet, author therapist and one of the Philadelphia Eleven --
describes in her 1978 poem “Call”:

There is a new sound 
of roaring voices 
in the deep 
and light-shattered 
rushes in the heavens. 

The mountains are coming alive, 
the fire-kindled mountains, 
moving again to reshape the earth. 

It is we sleeping women, 
waking up in a darkened world, 
cutting the chains from off our bodies 
with our teeth, stretching our lives 
over the slow earth— 

Seeing, moving, breathing in 
the vigor that commands us 
to make all things new. 

It has been said that while the women sleep, 
the earth shall sleep— 
But listen! We are waking up and rising, 
and soon our sisters will know their strength. 

The earth-moving day is here. 
We women wake to move in fire. 
The earth shall be remade.

The earth shall be remade.  The kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven. Beloved Community will become a reality we live, not just a dream to which we aspire. The other world that is not only possible will no longer be on her way: she will have arrived.

So won’t you pray with me, this prayer we have prayed together before in this sacred space, as we ask the God who gave the Philadelphia Eleven the courage to be the change they wanted to see as they stepped out in faith 49 years ago to give us the courage to go and do likewise  as we step forward in faith into God’s future. 

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. 3



1 “The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love” by bell hooks
2 “Call” from Womanpriest by Alla Renée Bozarth
3 Ana Hernández  from text adapted from a quote by Arundhati Roy


Friday, July 21, 2023

Comment on Diocese of Florida Episcopal Election Results

My comment on the results of the most recent episcopal election in the Diocese of Florida after a day of reading, marking and inwardly digesting various letters, comments and reactions.

Yes, there's plenty of pain to go around. And it grieves the heart of God when there is polarization and division. And there is much work to do by all of us who love, tend and seek to call this church to become the Beloved Community it strives to be. But let's not perpetuate the false equivalency between feeling discriminated against because you're disagreed with and being discriminated against because of who you are. One of those things is categorically not like the other.

This is not about who we like, love, or tolerate. This is not about engagement across difference or -- God forbid -- "imposing a litmus test of secular politics on the sacred life of our Church." This is about the end of a long, sad process that was demonstrably hard-wired to disenfranchise Episcopalians who disagreed with their bishop about how to live out our call to be Episcopalians -- a particular people of God who have since the 16th century valued striving to live out the value of Anglican comprehensiveness. And this is about the DM that continues to echo in my heart this day from a long time member of the Diocese of Florida who wrote: "For so many years we felt alone and forgotten. This process has shown us that we are neither."

And the fact that the Episcopal Church has spoken -- through its historic polity -- and refused to consent to the election of a bishop who refused to commit to address the systemic marginalization of God's LGBTQ beloved in the Diocese of Florida is for many -- including me -- something to be grateful for.
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saturday, July 08, 2023

Deploying Religious Liberty as a Weapon of Mass Discrimination

Again with the Religious Liberty as a weapon of mass discrimination thing! Whether the debate has been about achieving marriage equality or preventing employment discrimination or providing gender affirming care or protecting reproductive freedom it seems that someone, somewhere is absolutely convinced that their religious liberty is under attack because not everyone agrees with them. It is, of course, not a new phenomenon. It has been going on at least 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 back on the top of the news cycle is, of course, the recent Supreme Court decision siding with the Colorado woman who filed suit to protect herself from having to offer the same services to same-sex couples that she offers to opposite-sex couples in her website business.

Although not unexpected given the make-up of the current Court, it was a chilling harbinger of things to come as we watch before our very eyes the ongoing erosion of equal protection allegedly guaranteed all Americans. As Justice Sotomayor wrote in her dissenting opinion, “Today, the Court, for the first time in its history, grants a business open to the public a constitutional right to refuse to serve members of a protected class.”

And because this ruling comes with the double whammy of allegedly protecting the religious liberty of some by eroding equal protection for all, I’m reminded of these words from our former President of the House of Deputies Gay Jennings who wrote: “Religious liberty is a bedrock of our country and a right cherished by Americans of many faiths. But disguising homophobia as religious freedom … is not only a dangerous legal precedent, it is a gross distortion of the teachings of Jesus.”

So one more time with the refresher course: 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, she or they choose about what God wills or intends, blesses or condemns. It also — up until now — has protected the rest of us from any other American imposing those beliefs on us.

In short: Religious liberty is NOT the liberty to impose your religion on everybody else.

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.

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.)

Bottom line: The equal protection guaranteed all Americans by the Constitution is not equal protection unless it protects all Americans equally. And we cannot rest until it does.

So buckle up, friends … there’s work to do to end this annual SCOTUS Watch ritual where we wait one more time to see if our full humanity and citizenship will be affirmed or diminished by the ongoing efforts to chip away at those rights by using religion as a smoke-screen for homo/transphobic bigotry. And there are miles to go before we live in a nation where liberty and justice has become not just a pledge we make but a reality we live. La lucha continua!

Friday, June 30, 2023

Equal Protection is Not Equal Protection if it doesn't Protect Equally


And so we end Pride Month in a year where it is literally open season on LGBTQ people in our nation with another SCOTUS decision chipping away at the ideal that the equal protection guaranteed by the Constitution to all Americans equally protects LGBTQ Americans.

To paraphrase Bishop Barbara — who famously said “there’s no such thing as half-assed baptized” — there is no such thing as half-assed equal protection. So regardless of the majority opinion of the Supreme Court packed with social conservatives by the twice impeached, indicted former President, there remains a distinct and definitive difference between the First Amendment protection of the freedom to exercise religion and the freedom to weaponize religion to assault the equal protection of those who believe differently than you do.

And yes ... it is exhausting to continue to have your life, your relationship, your family and your equal protection a subject of ongoing debate. So it might be a good week to offer the LGBTQ folk in your lives a little extra TLC. And if you’re part of the rainbow tribe to offer yourself a little self-care. Because clearly la lucha continua. And there are miles to go before we rest and -- for the record -- we will not rest until we finally become a nation where liberty and justice for all is not just a pledge we make but a reality we live.

Monday, June 12, 2023

Beyond Inclusion to Transformation

Sermon for June 11, 2023  All Saints Church, Pasadena  | Susan Russell

It was 1998 and I was the Associate Rector at St. Peter's in San Pedro. The Inclusion Wars in the Episcopal Church were heating up with a resolution from the Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops declaring "homosexuality incompatible with Scripture" -- a resolution the Diocese of Los Angeles immediately "declined to receive."

A "concerned parishioner" made an appointment to come and talk to me ... and we met in my office. He started out by assuring me he wasn't anti-gay ... "but the thought of two homosexuals standing in the same spot in my church where my wife and I stood and took our marriage vows makes me sick to my stomach -- nothing personal."

Yeah. "Nothing personal." Except, of course, it was.

How is the fact that your relationship with the love of your life makes someone sick to their stomach not personal?

That moment came flooding back to me this week as I read about organizers of the protests against LGBTQ inclusive curriculum in North Hollywood and Glendale who declared: “We want to reiterate that our protest is in no way an attack on the LGBTQ community” while at the same time urging parents to keep their children home because “videos about families will be shown to the students including one where it says, ‘some kids have two mommies, some have two daddies.’“

 Yeah. This "is in no way an attack on the LGBTQ community." Except, of course, it is.

How is the fact that the very existence of LGBTQ families causes outrage, protests and even violence not an attack?

For those of us who have been at this work of bending the arc of history toward inclusion for God’s beloved LGBTQ people over these last decades, it feels a little like we’re in a bad remake of the film “Groundhog Day.” Wait – didn’t we already do that? Didn’t we already fix that?

Is there really someone on the sidewalk heckling us with the same toxic theology talking points we endured back in the 90’s when we started blessing same-sex unions and in 2008 when we were fighting Prop 8?

But we in the LGBTQ+ community are not alone in this Groundhog Day scenario.

The overturn of Roe v Wade and the stripping of bodily autonomy from those who can become pregnant has turned the clock back on reproductive freedom while hard won voting rights are being rolled back, disenfranchising Black and Brown voters. Science is suspect, data is debatable and hate is being monetized to finance an upcoming election cycle in our divided and polarized nation.

White Christian Nationalism is on the rise and Homeland Security has declared a heightened threat environment for domestic terrorism from “individuals inclined to commit violence due to their perceptions of the 2024 general election cycle and legislative or judicial decisions pertaining to sociopolitical issues” and a CNN feature this weekend drew a lot of attention declaring “11:00 on Sunday mornings one of the most dangerous hours in America.”

 Nevertheless, we persist.

We persist in proclaiming the Good News of God’s inclusive love available to absolutely everybody … the work that has been part of the DNA of All Saints Church at least since the 1940’s when the then-rector Frank Scott protested the deportation of Japanese Americans during World War II … the work that incited death threats to the rectory when then rector John Burt helped organize the rally that brought Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to the Coliseum … and the work that inspired then rector George Regas preach the words we heard as our first reading from his sermon at the 1997 Beyond Inclusion conference.

 Beyond Inclusion. That was the language we chose in the 1990’s to frame the work of moving beyond simply including to centering and celebrating gay and lesbian people in the work and witness of All Saints Church. And that was the context where George preached these words to a packed church which had become accustomed to picketers and hecklers on the sidewalk on Sunday mornings after it risked stepping out in faith – and ahead of the rest of the church – with the blessing of the union of Mark Benson and Phil Straw in 1992.

It took great courage for you to risk the livelihood, the reputation, the wonderment of All Saints Church on justice for gay men and lesbians. Yet, we trusted in the depths of God's mystery that truth would be vindicated someday … because we believed God raised the Jesus of inclusive, unconditional love from the dead. We trusted God would bless the courage of this place. You can do the right thing and still survive and thrive. This nation longs for such a church.

 My brothers and sisters and gender fluid siblings – the nation still longs for such a church.

Longs for a church willing to risk getting into the Good Trouble that results when it follows Jesus – the radical rabbi from Nazareth who got into his own Good Trouble by centering the marginalized, by siding with the oppressed, by eating with sinners and outcasts, by insisting that the kingdom of God could not come until there was not a single stranger left at the gate – and by insisting that centering those who have been historically excluded is not erasing those who have been historically centered – it is erasing the silos, barriers and boundaries that keep us from being the human family God created us to be.

Yes, it sometimes feels like a bad remake of Groundhog Day as we take two steps forward only to find ourselves one step back on the journey toward turning the human race into that human family. But it is the journey we sang about in our opening hymn – the journey we’re called to make if we are going to move beyond inclusion to transformation of this broken world into the Beloved Community of blessing it was created to be.

And the words of the reading we heard this morning from Jan Richardson “Here’s one thing you must understand about this blessing: it is not for you alone.

It is not for you alone.

For if we stop at inclusion – my inclusion, your inclusion, anyone’s inclusion – we miss the point of what it is we’re being included in when we proclaim -- as we do every time we gather here in this sacred space  -- "Whoever you are, and wherever you find yourself on the journey of faith, you are welcome to come to this table to receive the bread and wine made holy."

 These beloved and timeworn words of welcome  -- coined by George Regas and become ubiquitous throughout the Episcopal Church -- are Step One.

Step Two is to be fueled by that bread and wine made holy to go out into the world as beacons of God’s love and justice … of compassion and transformation.

And there are as many ways to do that as there are beautiful, diverse, gifted images of God gathered here this or any Sunday.

 If there was only one way, Jesus would only have had one parable. And he had a million of them … because he knew whoever you were and wherever you found yourself on the journey you needed to hear the Good News he had to proclaim in the way it would speak to your heart and transform you into a partner with him in the work of making that kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

This kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed …

The kingdom of heaven is like yeast a woman added to the flour …

The kingdom of heaven is a like a shepherd who leaves 99 sheep to search for the one lost one …

The kingdom of heaven is like a woman who lost a coin,

like a son who squandered his father’s inheritance …

like whatever story it is that is going to get through to you that God’s love is absolutely limitless and that Beloved Community includes absolutely everybody.

 Which makes me think of another story.

 It was 2009 and the Episcopal Church was gathering for its first General Convention after the 2008 meeting of Anglican bishops at Lambeth. The Archbishop of Canterbury had traveled all the way to Anaheim to bring us greetings … and a not so thinly veiled warning, saying he hoped there would not “be decisions in the coming days that could push us further apart” … which was code for opening the way to ordaining any more LGBTQ bishops.

And in that context, we gathered for a Eucharist organized by Integrity – our then LGBTQ Episcopal Church Caucus – where Bishop Barbara Harris of blessed memory was our preacher and uttered these immortal words:

"If you don’t want LGBT folks as bishops, don’t ordain them as deacons. Better yet, be honest and say, “We don’t want you, you don’t belong here,” and don’t bestow upon them the sacrament of Baptism to begin with. How can you initiate someone and then treat them like they’re half-assed baptized?"

 My brothers and sisters and gender fluid siblings, the word we have to the world today from All Saints Church is that there’s no such thing as half-assed baptized and there’s no such thing as half-assed Beloved Community.

And the word we have for world today is that All Saints Church will continue its legacy of being a first responder church … running toward – not away from -- whatever threatens anyone from being a loved, valued and centered member of the Beloved Community we aspire to be.

Because either we’re all in or none of us are.
Either all of us are safe or none of us are.
Either all of our stories and images are represented or none of us are.
Either the radical welcome that calls us beyond inclusion to transformation includes all of us or none of us.

 La lucha continua -- the struggle continues. But we're in it to win it … so as much as we yearn to hear those longed-for words “arriving at destination” from our spiritual GPS, we know there are miles to go before we rest – before liberty and justice for all really means all -- before that kingdom come on earth is not just a prayer we pray but a reality we live.

And so we continue to take two steps forward and the occasional step back …
trusting in the depths of God's mystery that truth will be vindicated someday …
trusting God will continue to bless the courage of this place ...
trusting you can do the right thing and not just survive  -- but thrive – as we journey together into the of the God who loves us beyond our wildest imaginings – and into the blazing day.

We your people, Ours the journey
Now and ever, Now and ever
Now and evermore. Amen.

Friday, June 02, 2023

Nothing Personal

So it was 1998 and I was the Associate Rector at St. Peter's in San Pedro. The Inclusion Wars in the Episcopal Church were heating up with a resolution from the Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops declaring "homosexuality incompatible with Scripture" -- a resolution the Diocese of Los Angeles immediately "declined to receive."

A "concerned parishioner" made an appointment to come and and talk ... and we met in my office. He started out by saying he wasn't anti-gay ... "but the thought of two homosexuals standing in the same place where my wife and I stood and made our marriage vows makes me sick to my stomach -- nothing personal."

Yeah. "Nothing personal." Except, of course, it was. How is the fact that your relationship with the love of your life makes someone sick to their stomach not personal?

That story came right back to me when I read this in the LAT article about the protests today in North Hollywood:

“We want to reiterate that our protest is in no way an attack on the LGBTQ community,” the group wrote. “We recognize the importance of promoting equality and acceptance for all individuals.” The group, however, had set its sights on Friday’s Gay Pride and Rainbow Day assembly and urged other parents to keep their children home that day. “Keep your kids home,” a flier posted by the group said. “Videos will be shown to the students including one where it says, ‘some kids have 2 mommies, some have 2 daddies.’ This has caused outrage among parents.”

Yeah. This "is in no way an attack on the LGBTQ community." Except, of course, it is. How is the fact that the very existence of LGBTQ families causes outrage and protests not an attack?

La lucha continua -- the struggle continues. But we're in it to win it, so we'll just keep doing what we've been doing before, during and after 1998. Showing up. Supporting each other. Giving thanks for our allies. Returning again and again like the persistent widow in Luke's gospel ... until liberty and justice for all truly means all becomes not just a pledge we make but a reality we live.

Eat your Wheaties, friends. There's a lot of work left to do.