Monday, February 17, 2020

One in the Spirit: Claiming the DNA of Anglican Comprehensiveness

One in the Spirit is an initiative of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles focused on deepening and broadening the mission of the Church as outlined in our catechism: “to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.”

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. And what we plan to build together  is our capacity as a diocese to expand relationships and deepen connections across differences in order to strengthen our shared commitment to follow Jesus.

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.

We have 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. Those goals include:
  • To live more fully into our baptismal promise to respect the dignity of every human being. 
  • To proclaim in Christ’s name that we will not submit to our era’s epic division and polarization. 
  • 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 feed hearts that are hungry for connection and community in a secularizing, isolating age. 
  • To choose not to choose between challenging systemic oppression in all its forms and respecting the dignity of every single human being. 
As 21st century Anglicans we are the spiritual descendants of 16th century Anglicans who chose not to choose between being catholic and protestant in the 16th century … a seemingly impossible thing when people were burning each other at the stake over theological differences. Claiming that DNA of Anglican comprehensiveness, we are uniquely wired as a community of faith to offer an antidote of hope and joy to the destructive and pervasive narratives of anxiety and fear that fuel division and polarization in our church, our nation and our world.

We are convinced that claiming that core piece or our Anglican identity will equip us to do the work of bridging the differences that challenge us as 21st century disciples … whether theological or political; cultural or generational or any other category that threatens to divide us.

Our initial task is to pull together a diverse team of leaders from around the diocese who will begin 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.

Presiding Bishop Michel Curry offered these remarks to our Executive Council a few months ago and they remain words that are germane not only to our One in the Spirit initiative but to our work in the world in this time of conflict, division 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 civilizations that have refused to listen to Jesus who said 'love your enemies, bless those who curse you.'” We 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 partisan ends … but to change how we relate to each other as human beings. And then we will see what happens.
Together we will see what happens here in the Diocese of Los Angeles as One inthe Spirit draws us even more fully into our call to be beacons of God’s love, justice and compassion in our beautiful and broken world.

Friday, February 14, 2020

"notification of successful canonical consent process"

They came in side-by-side into my inbox yesterday so that's how I saw them as I was drinking my morning coffee.

They were just a routine set of emails ... the kind I've gotten dozens of during my decades at work in the Episcopal Fields of the Lord ... from our Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs notifying us that two dioceses -- Missouri and Lexington -- had received the necessary canonical consents to their recent elections of new bishops.


And ... I sat there for a minute staring at the subject lines before opening them -- wanting to just savor the moment and not lose sight of just how much this very ordinary, first-thing-in-the-morning email on a routine matter of church bureaucracy would have been unimaginable just a few years ago. And inconceivable a few decades ago.

It was another one of those moments when I thought of the words of George Regas ... who famously challenged us to "set audacious goals and to celebrate incremental victories."

We cannot yet say that we have reached the audacious goal of the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments when some dioceses still create separate and inherently unequal standards for access to the sacrament of marriage for same-sex couples and others still discriminate against LGBTQ people in the ordination process.

And yet the incremental victory of the election of Deon Johnson as the Bishop of Missouri is one to be celebrated. Deon is a awesomely faithful priest, pastor and person who will make a brilliant bishop ... and when he is consecrated on April 25th, he will among other things become the fifth openly LGBTQ bishop in the Episcopal Church.

Some of us lived through the height of the Inclusion Wars and the high drama of the constant threats of being voted off the Anglican Island (not to mention the Lake of Fire, which was also on our threat list) for the election of Gene Robinson as the Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003-- and we took our share of licks here in the Diocese of Los Angeles when we elected Bishop Suffragan Mary Glasspool in 2009.

And so the fact that Deon was elected Bishop of Missouri because the good people of Missouri and the Holy Spirit decided he was the right person for the job is one thing to celebrate -- but the fact that the wider church consents were received with dispatch and the news came in a regular old email just like it was the most ordinary thing in the world is absolutely an incremental victory also worth pausing to celebrate.

So congratulations, Diocese of Missouri. And Diocese of Lexington, too. Wishing you all nothing but best blessings as you begin new chapters of mission and ministry in your corners of the kingdom.

And we continue as a whole church toward that audacious goal of full inclusion, let's give thanks for all who have gone before us ... some of whom did not live long enough to get perfectly routine emails in their inbox like the ones I got yesterday. May their memories be for blessing ... and may we be given the grace continue the struggle until the work is finally done.





Monday, February 10, 2020

Nobody Is Electable Until We Elect Them


It is the eve of the New Hampshire primary. We are months away from November 3, 2020 -- arguably the most important General Election in our lifetimes -- with the Iowa Caucus Debacle still in the rear view mirror and the most ubiquitous question on every platform, in every interview and from every pundit discussing the Democratic field is "Which candidate is the electable one?"

And that question is inevitably followed by a laundry list of reasons why every single candidate is unelectable ... sending shivers of fear down spines and inspiring pearl clutching immobilization on the part of a large percentage of the still-traumatized by 2016 Democratic electorate.

And since I've personally been guilty of all of the above, I wanted to take a minute to share this twitter exchange that snapped me out of it.


What Brad said.

The antidote to being immobilized over the question of which candidate is the electable one is to be more in love with the consequences of the upcoming election than with any particular candidate. To let the primary process play itself out. To campaign for, give to and support the candidate of your choice and then campaign for, give to and support whoever the nominee ends up being. Ignore the pundits and click bait and doomsayers and pearl clutchers. Focus on organizing, mobilizing, unifying ... and hydrating.

Remember 2018 and the Midterms. Remember there are more of us than there are of them and undivided we really are a Blue Wave that can be the change we want to see. But most of all, remember that every single candidate is unelectable -- until we get behind them and elect them.

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Dear Bonnie,

Dear Bonnie,

It is Thursday before your Saturday consecration as the 11th Bishop of Michigan and I'm sitting here with my morning coffee feeling a bunch of feels.

I'm feeling delighted for the Diocese of Michigan in specific and the Episcopal Church in general as we gain a awesome addition to our House of Bishops -- and I'm feeling challenged by how far we have yet to go until that House genuinely reflects the diversity of our Big Fat Episcopal Family.

I'm feeling sad that I won't be there in person to celebrate -- and I'm feeling grateful for both the great cloud of witnesses who will be gathering and for having lived long enough that live-streaming is a thing and we can be part of the digital-congregation celebrating out here on the Left Coast.

And I'm feeling nostalgic. Having spent some time digging through an archive of old pictures this morning, I'm remembering a long list of milestones we've had the privilege of sharing along the way to this big day; good times and bad times; steps forward and steps back; a lot of water under a lot of bridges on the journey.

I'm remembering the year you led the conga line around the floor of the House of Deputies, introducing the budget to the tune "You Can't Always Get What You Want." And I'm remembering the dour senior clergywoman who was not only not amused ... but who shook her head and said what a shame it was Bonnie Perry had just lost any hope of every being elected as a bishop. (Shows how much she knew!)

I'm remembering the crazy wild ride of 2003 when we all worked together to secure consents to the Gene's election in New Hampshire ... and then hung together to weather the storm that followed. I'm remembering when you hosted the steering committee of Claiming the Blessing at All Saints in Chicago in January and had to explain to me that "Yes, 1 is actually a temperature around here." I'm remembering when you and Thomas teamed up as the floor managers in the House of Deputies as we fought off the push back during the height of the Inclusion Wars.

I'm remembering both the devastation of the adoption of B033 in 2006 and the work you helped drive with the Chicago Consultation to move the Episcopal Church beyond being blackmailed into bigotry by those using the lives and vocations of the LGBTQ faithful as bargaining chips in a game of global Anglican politics.

And I'm remembering the unmitigated joy we shared in Salt Lake City in 2015 as the Supreme Court decision brought civil marriage equality to our country and the General Convention brought canonical marriage equality to our church. (Look at those faces!)


In an Instagram post this morning our sister Becca Stevens wrote "I've been a minister for 28 years now. And sometimes I really do believe it's all about the hokey pokey. The answer to the questions about how we live into our faith is to put our whole selves in."

And so with all the remembering, what I'm remembering most is how fully and completely you have put your whole self into all of it.

The ups and the downs ... the battles and the celebrations ... the conga lines and the caucus fights ... as a priest and pastor, as a rector and reconciler -- 100% all the time. And what I'm rejoicing in on this Thursday morning before the Saturday of your consecration is how you will continue to put your whole self in as a Bishop in the Church of God -- and how we will all be blessed by that.

George Regas ... our rector emeritus here at All Saints in Pasadena and one of the valiant allies in the struggle for both women's ordination and LGBTQ inclusion ... famously challenged us to "set audacious goals and to celebrate incremental victories.

In these dark and challenging times we need to celebrate those incremental victories more than ever as we work to dismantle oppression in all its forms and strive to respect the dignity of every single human being. And so on Saturday, February 8 we will pause for a moment in the struggle to celebrate with the good people of the Diocese of Michigan the incremental victory for love, justice and compassion of your consecration as their 11th Bishop.

Bonnie, you're going to be a great bishop ... and I'm so very proud to know you and call you friend.

All best blessings,
Susan



Saturday, February 01, 2020

Resolved ...


Today was tough. At least it was for me.

No matter how little you expected from the GOP led Senate, watching the impeachable offenses of the current resident of the White House shrugged off without so much the testimony of a single witness or the admission of a single document into evidence was a stunning abdication of their oath to defend the Constitution and a gross dereliction of the duty they were elected to fulfill. 

Nevertheless, we persist ... because the alternative isn't an option.

And as we persist together in the struggle, we look to each other for support and we look to those who have gone before us for wisdom ... with an eye to those who come after us -- that they might inherit a nation where liberty and justice for all is a little closer to being not just a pledge we make but a reality we live. And some days that seems more possible than others.

Today was tough. At least it was for me. And then this happened.

I got an email from colleagues in the Diocese of Newark with the news that  a resolution honoring two giants of justice -- Marge Christie and Louie Crew Clay -- was unanimously adopted at their Diocesan Convention today. And reading it over, I was reminded all over again about the obstacles they overcame in their commitment to leave this realm better than they found it ... and that the same power that was behind them in their struggle is behind us urging us forward in ours.

The struggle is still real. The day is still tough. And yet, the burden feels just a little lighter. At least it does for me.

La lucha continua ... and we love you Marge & Louie!


HONORING TWO OF NEWARK’S GIANTS OF JUSTICE: 
MARGE CHRISTIE AND LOUIE CREW CLAY 

RESOLVED, that this 146th Convention of the Diocese of Newark recognize that two giants of this diocese, Marge Christie and Louie Crew Clay, in 2019 moved on from their justice work on earth to take things up directly with God; and be it further

RESOLVED, that this convention celebrate their lives and work by recommitting itself to the work of manifesting the Realm of God here on earth, proclaiming by word and deed both within the Church and in the World that God loves absolutely everybody.

====

Marge Christie died on April 14, 2019. Louie Crew Clay died on November 27, 2019.

Christie began her ministry before women could be General Convention deputies. She was a warrior woman, keen for justice, quick with mercy, and beloved of her God. She was a leader in the struggle to get women elected as vestry members in parishes, then as deputies to General Convention, and then in the quest for the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate in The Episcopal Church.

In 2006, Christie introduced the resolution for the House of Deputies to confirm the election of Katharine Jefferts Schori as the church’s first female presiding bishop and thus the first female leader of an Anglican Communion province. It was meet and right that she be the person to do this.

Crew Clay was THE advocate for the full inclusion of LGBTQ people in The Episcopal Church. Ultimately his influence extended globally and beyond the church. He was the founder of a newsletter that grew into Integrity in 1974. Crew Clay also served six terms in the House of Deputies, representing the Diocese of Newark, and one term on Executive Council.

He was a pioneer in using the Internet to share information throughout the church and beyond. Long before Facebook was a gleam in the eye of its founder, Crew Clay began the HOBD listserv to allow deputies to ‘meet’ online to discuss issues facing the church. In everything that he did he was supported by his husband of 44 years, Ernest.

Louie met hate with love, abuse with grace, bullying with humor, turning many foes into friends. No matter the setback, no matter the painful pace of progress, Louie always moved forward, smiling. Because, joy anyway!

Submitted by:
The Rev. Cynthia L. Black, D.D., Church of the Redeemer, Morristown
The Rev. J. Brent Bates, Ph.D., Grace Church, Newark
The Rev. Tom Mathews, Christ Church, Ridgewood

Monday, January 20, 2020

Thoughts on Impeachment Trial Eve


So because there is 
literally no defense 
for his abuse of power 
and obstruction of Congress 
his defense team will offer none 
and ask the American people
to unsee what they have seen 

and unhear what they have heard 
and pay no attention 
to the man behind the curtain.

So whatever the Senate does or doesn’t do 
it is our job to 
organize 
mobilize 
and unify 
to end this nightmare 
and get back to the work
of making the aspirational dream 
of liberty and justice for all 
not just a pledge we make 
but a reality we live.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Ecclesiastes 3:1 and Integrity USA 2020

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven."

Because I'm a queer fish who swims in the Episcopal pond, my email, voice mail and social media feeds have all been full of the latest breaking news of the turmoil and challenges facing Integrity ... the 40+ year old advocacy organization committed (at its best)  to the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments ...and with questions about what I have to say about it. Here's what I have to say.

I spent nine years on the Board of Integrity ... three as Communication Director under the leadership of the inimitable Michael Hopkins (2000-2003) and six as President of Integrity during what can arguably be described as the height of the Inclusion Wars (2003-2009).

It was an era that included:
  • the 2003 election of Gene Robinson as the Bishop of New Hampshire
  • the 2004 Windsor Report
  • the 2005 TEC response to the Anglican Consultative Council ("To Set Our Hope on Christ") 
  • the 2006 GC Resolution B033 (creating a de facto moratorium on the election of any other-than-straight candidates for bishop)
  • Lambeth 2008 
  • the 2009 overturning of B033 and crafting of rites for the blessing of same-sex unions
  • trans-inclusive changes to our canons
  • liturgies and canonical changes paving the way for equal marriage 
  • and soon-to-be five members of the House of Bishops who identify as LGBTQ.

I offer that quick review in part to say that this is not my first rodeo ... and in part to emphasize that the struggle for full inclusion has been long, has always been messy and -- for all the progress we have made over the last 40 years -- is far from over.

We are not "there yet" until there truly are no outcasts, until the full and equal claim promised by this church in 1976 is actually full and equal and until there's not a single stranger left at the gate.

And ... to every thing there is a season.

So in answer to all those emails, voice mails and social media posts asking for comment on the current "Integrity troubles" here are my two cents:

I think it's time to let it go.

I think the institutional container that was created in the 70's & 80's to provide a place of refuge and community on the margins of the church and which led to the empowerment of activists in the 90's & 00's to stand up, speak out and be agents of the change they wanted to see in the church and the world has outlived its capacity to do the work in front of us in this present era and prepare us to do the work ahead of us as we move forward into God's future.

This is not because of what one president, board member, treasurer or executive director did or didn't do. It is not a conclusion I've come to in the last days, weeks or months -- indeed it is a position I held in 2012 when an intergenerational visioning team gathered in Pasadena to consider Integrity's future and articulated again in 2018 when a group of past-presidents were invited into a conversation with the then-board.

In an analogy I've used before, for me it is like the history of the women's suffrage movement -- which organized, strategized and eventually achieved the goal of Votes for Women.

Achieving that goal required a particular organizational structure and strategy ... a structure and strategy that was finally and thankfully successful. And -- when the goal had been achieved -- there was still work to do. The work of dismantling sexism, confronting misogyny and taking down the patriarchy in all its forms. Work that continues today. Work that calls for different strategies and structures than ones our grandmothers and great-grandmothers used to get us the vote. Work that continues today with the League of Women Voters -- the new organizational structure that rose up out of the sun-setting of the Women's Suffrage Association

In my experience, Integrity has been the most effective at building grassroots organizing structures to influence ground breaking changes in the Episcopal Church through legislation that has made us a church where the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments is not a soundbite coming from the margins but the position preached by our Presiding Bishop and the policies written into our canons.

No, we're not done yet.
Yes, we have miles to go before those aspirational goals become a reality for everyone in this church we love, serve and challenge.
And ... to every thing there is a season.

In this season, I am persuaded that the old wineskins of Integrity USA's organizational structure are neither adequate, sufficient nor capable of equipping us for the work we are being called to do.

And, in this season, my hope and prayers are that collectively we can find a way to celebrate the accomplishments of the past while we work together to reimagine the work moving forward.