Friday, June 30, 2006

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Speaking of Covenants ...

Inclusive Church weighs in on the Archbishop of Canterbury's "The Challenge and Hope of Being an Anglican Today." (If you're not familiar with our Inclusive Church friends "across the pond" you should be!)

Inclusive Church is grateful to the Archbishop of Canterbury for his reaffirmation of the breadth and diversity of the Anglican tradition.

His recognition of this fundamental principle and mark of Anglicanism - the catholic, reformed and liberal strands of the Communion - offer a sound basis for our journey forward together.

But we have profound concerns about the process of agreeing any Covenant. The quick response of some of the more conservative parts of the Communion indicates that they see a Covenant more as an instrument of division than an instrument of unity.

The terms and wording of any document will need to “renew our positive appreciation of the possibilities of our heritage” in the Archbishop’s words. A Covenant must therefore give value to the strands in our tradition, not excluding reason from our theological method but finding a new way of expressing the Anglican approach to the faith in today’s world.

If we are to approach the process of agreeing a Covenant with honesty and integrity we must as Provinces and local churches be willing to be open about our own present situations. Many provinces have practices which other parts of the Communion may not support. For example, the blessing of same-gender relationships happens regularly in this Province even if not officially acknowledged. There are ongoing issues around the world over the tacit acceptance of lay presidency and polygamy.

The possibility of a two-tier Communion should not therefore be seized upon as a way to exclude those who support the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the church. The Church of England is in various ways very similar to the Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Anglican Church of Canada and many of us would hope to strengthen our links in the future. It is likely that any wording designed to exclude TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada would also exclude the Church of England.

We are also uncertain whether a Covenant would affect the unilateral activities the Windsor report hoped to end – for example the election by the Province of Nigeria of Revd Martyn Minns as bishop for a missionary initiative in North America.

We have serious concerns about the way a Covenant might be applied locally in the future. Proposals before the Church of England’s General Synod for the ordination of women as bishops are specifically designed to avoid parallel jurisdictions. How can we reconcile that with the proposal to have “constituent” and “associate” members of the Communion? Is there not potential for division even at Deanery level?

Ultimately we believe that we are already brought together by the covenant of Baptism. An Anglican Covenant, to reaffirm the bonds of unity for our Communion, will have to reflect the essential inclusiveness of the Baptismal Covenant.

Notes on the PB-elect's NPR interview

I had a chance in fits-and-starts through the day to listen to Bishop Jefferts Schori's interview with Diane Rehms and thought I'd share here some of the quotes I pulled out for my own files.

On mission and ministry: The church’s primary focus needs to be on mission. We have identified our priorities for the coming years and the first of those is justice and peace work to be framed by the Millennium Development Goals and I look forward to calling the whole church to continue work on those goals.

On dioceses threatening to “leave the church”: The diocese as an entity is a creature of General Convention and unless and until General Convention gives consent for them to leave it simply represents the departure of a few individuals.

On gay and lesbian people in the life of the Episcopal Church: I think it’s vitally important for this church to affirm the goodness of all of God’s creation and the place of all God’s people in this church. We have been ordaining gay persons in this church for years and years … in recent years they have been able to be open about their sexual orientation and honest about that -- I don’t see any retreat from that among deacons and priests … I think we will experience at least a pause in the consecration of bishops who are openly gay and that makes me very sad because I believe that God equally calls people of both sexual orientations to leadership in this church. I firmly believe that gay and lesbian Christians bless us all by their presence and that we need to continue to work at finding a way to include them in all aspects of the community’s life.

On General Convention’s response to the Windsor Report in B033: It is the Episcopal Church’s response at the current moment – I don’t think it represents a final response -- it opens the door to the next stage of conversation. I think many of us were disappointed that it came to that. My sense was that it was the most we were going to be able to manage at that late hour in the convention … convention makes policy, it doesn’t rule on matter of doctrine, and those policies are routinely reversed and revised every three years. I think it is a pause – I do not see it as slamming the door – I think it is an unfortunate way of inviting us into the next chapter of the conversation.

On “the church and politics”: We have a responsibility as Christians to express our moral understandings of the actions of Congress and of our government and I think we need to do more of that work, probably, than less. I understand “politics” to mean “the art of living together in community.” If we’re called to love our neighbors we can’t do it simply by sitting in our church pews – we have to get out into the world and work at it.

On the blessing of same-sex relationships: When a priest agrees to preside at the wedding of a heterosexual couple that priest uses his or her best judgment that this couple is capable of a sacramental relationship. The priest is never “certain” of that -- but the priest lives in hope that that is a real possibility – and then the couple themselves act as ministers of the sacrament -- the priest is only there to pronounce the blessing. And I think that thinking about it in that way may help us all to see the possibility for any couple to enter into a faithful, life-long relationship.

New Zealand Speaks: Ultimatum? What ultimatum?

Anglican Archbishops here look forward to the proposed international Anglican covenant

The Anglican Archbishops in this country welcome the prospect of contributing to the shaping of a worldwide Anglican Communion covenant on doctrine, as outlined today by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.

And they say that describing such a covenant as an “ultimatum” to the liberal wing of the church is a misrepresentation of his address.

Furthermore, suggestions that New Zealand’s Anglican church might find itself on the outer with the Archbishop of Canterbury is hard to imagine, says Archbishop David Moxon, one of the co-presiding bishops of the church here.

“I believe we will always be in communion with him,” says Archbishop Moxon. “And also, with this particular Archbishop of Canterbury, there’s a widespread trust in his scholarship, integrity and spirituality. Being in communion with him is a pleasure.”

The Times in England has reported a significant address by Dr Williams, which he made in response to the recent convention of the Episcopal Church of the United States (ECUSA). The American church had sparked concern among the worldwide Anglican Communion when it unilaterally ordained a man in a gay partnership as a bishop.

The ECUSA convention made significant concessions to the worldwide communion, including an acknowledgment that it had “strained” the communion by its actions. Even so, the American church’s moves did not satisfy Biblical conservatives, especially in some parts of Africa.
Dr Williams, in a major address, was responding to the ECUSA actions, and he suggested that a two stage “opt-in” covenant, to be developed over time by the Anglican Communion – whereby those who didn’t wish to fully subscribe to a covenant defining Biblical standards could become “associate” members of the communion, rather than full members, if they wished.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Moxon has said that the English press has gone off on the wrong foot.
“They’re assuming,” he says, “what the covenant will say – and that has yet to be shaped. Their assumptions are premature.

“There are many liberals and conservatives who trust Dr William’s scholarship and reason. He will be a key player in the wording.

“And if you look at the people, including two New Zealanders, who wrote the Windsor Report, and who suggested the covenant, there are some very deep, reflective scholars – liberal and conservative – on that group.

“They weren’t suggesting a straitjacket. They were suggesting clear claims about the Bible in coherent, contemporary terms, which we would all gather around, if we can.
“Anglicanism has only ever survived because of the genius of the wording we’ve been able to gather around, with integrity and hospitality.

“Because the classic Anglican texts, including liturgical texts, are ‘roomy’. We can say them, we can pray them, we can believe them – but there is also room for a reasonable variety of Christian points of view.

“Anglican Christianity has tried to say that we want a large room, of unity in diversity, which is clearly and simply described, and a covenant can do that.”

Source: The Anglican Church, New Zealand website

Presiding Bishop-elect on NPR

Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori was interviewed today by Diane Rehms on NPR's WAMU. Check it out here -- not sure how long the audio link will be available but it is WELL worth a listen!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Diocese of Newark Announces Candidate Slate

Press Release: June 28, 2006

Integrity applauds the Diocese of Newark for offering a stellar slate of qualified candidates to replace retiring Bishop John Croneberger -- and is delighted that the list includes the Reverend Michael Barlowe, an openly gay priest who has beenin a partnered relationship for 24 years.

Today's list, released less than a week after the Episcopal Church passed a resolution calling for "restraint"in the election of any bishop "whose manner of life" presents a "challenge"to the greater communion is received by Integrity as a tremendous sign of hope for the Episcopal Church and for its commitment to the full inclusion of LGBT people in the Body of Christ.

"The resolution passed on the final day of our General Convention contained veiled language calling for the discrimination against gays and lesbians in this church," said Integrity President, the Reverend Susan Russell. "We are very pleased that the Diocese of Newark has declined to be bullied into bigotry."

"We recognize that had the language in question been in place prior to the election of our Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori we might not be preparing to celebrate the gift of the first female Primate to the Anglican Communion," Russell continued. "Our prayers will be with the Diocese of Newark, that they may be given the same faithful courage in electing their next diocesan bishop asthe Episcopal Church was given in electing our next Presiding Bishop."

The American way puts the Church of England to shame

From Michael Hampson in Monday's UK Guardian

The American church is to be commended for quietly carrying on with its life. The entire Anglican communion has risen up against it, Lambeth Palace included. But it has chosen to maintain its dignity. Last week Katharine Jefferts Schori became the first woman leader of an Anglican church anywhere in the world when she was appointed to head the US Episcopalian church and said there should be "room at the table" for gay and lesbian members of the church.
Meanwhile in Britain, those of us who supported Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury still dream that he will reveal his masterplan for establishing the open, liberal church in which he and we used to believe. Then we look at the realities emerging over the last five years and the dream disappears.

Read it all here.

The ABofC Speaks ...

The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued his response to ECUSA's response to the Windsor Report's request for a response: "Challenge and hope for the Anglican Communion." Read it here.

And then:

Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold issued a statement June 28 in response to the Archbishop of Canterbury's release of a reflection entitled, "The Challenge and Hope of Being an Anglican Today, A Reflection for the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful of the Anglican Communion."

The full text of Griswold's statement follows: I am greatly encouraged by the Archbishop of Canterbury's timely call to the provinces of the Anglican Communion to join together in exploring our Anglican identity. I am one with him in his desire to develop a covenant capable of expressing that identity amidst the complexities of the world in which we live. I believe it is possible for us hold up a renewed vision of what it means to be Anglican Christians.

The Archbishop's has helpfully raised up in his text the constituent elements of classical Anglicanism, namely the priority of the Bible in matters of doctrine, the Catholic sacramental tradition and a "habit of cultural sensitivity and intellectual flexibility that does not seek to
close down unexpected questions too quickly." This both reminds us of the tradition that has formed us and points us to the future.

The conclusion of this lengthy process is now unknown. Therefore is it misleading that some, in responding to the Archbishop's lengthy theological reflection, have focused their attention on speculations about a yet-to-be determined outcome. And, as we enter into that process
of discernment, we must never forget that God can always surprise us, and that the church is not our possession but is an instrument of God's reconciling love in the world.

The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold
Presiding Bishop and Primate
June 28, 2006

P.S. You can also listen to +Frank on NPR's "Fresh Air" by clicking here: he talks about Canterbury's response as well as the election of the first female Anglican primate.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Feeding on the Bread of Anxiety

By Katie Sherrod (for ISSUES, a publication of The Consultation)

At the end, it came down to this.

We tried to create a "diverse center" by throwing aside the dignity and ministries of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered sisters and brothers.

We tried to build a bridge to Lambeth on the bodies of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Episcopalians.

We tried to "create space for healing" by throwing some of our brothers and sisters out of the boat.

We tried to become "Windsor compliant" instead of focusing on being Gospel compliant.
And all of this because we were force fed the bread of anxiety and became agents of fear instead of agents of hope. There was way too much talk of "sacrifice" and "crucifixion" and none at all about resurrection.

From Day One, a small number of noisy conservatives were pumping fear into the Convention as hard as they could. English archbishops were flown in from England to add to the pressure. When the British bishops weren't there in person, they were issuing letters of warning, which were quickly passed around by the conservative minority.

It almost didn't work. This Convention was very clear that it did not want to go back on human sexuality justice issues. Finally on the last day the presiding bishop used the ugliest kind of coercion and distortion of process to get what he wanted.

In his address to the joint session of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, Frank Griswold tried to anger "the center" by telling them that "the fringes" had manipulated them. He made it clear that the "fringes" included LGBT people who are participating fully in the life and ministry of the church and want to continue to do so.

We-have-to-do-this-or-we-won't-be-invited-to-Lambeth became his ultimatum. Then he brought out his biggest gun of all, Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori. Give Katharine what she needs to be at the table. The bishops caved.

And when Jefferts Schori was invited to speak to the House of Deputies, the deputies caved.
Fear triumphed over hope, appeasement trumped truth, bullying replaced leadership.
It was spiritual violence - to my GLBT brothers and sisters, to the bishops, to the deputies.
And all for what?

Within minutes, conservative Episcopalians were saying it wasn't enough. To their credit, they had also said this on the floor of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies. All along, they've said it wasn't enough. In fact, nothing the General Convention could have done short of stripping Gene Robinson of his office, throwing him and all LGBT people back into the closet and locking the door, and then handing the leadership of the church over to Peter Akinola assisted by Bob Duncan would have satisfied them.

Why are we surprised? Appeasing bullies never works.

We had a chance to say, "We in the Episcopal Church value being part of the Anglican Communion. We love it and wish to remain to vital part of it. However, we are not of one mind on the issues presented in the Windsor Report. We are working out our own consensus on this. Please give us grace and time in which to work this out in the context of our polity. And then let us bring our lived experience in dealing with these painful issues to the Communion as our gift."
That would have been the truth.

It would have shown respect for the Anglican Communion and for the decisions the bulk of people in this church support. It would have shown respect to the shrinking number of conservatives who are in pain over the direction of The Episcopal Church and it would have shown respect for LGBT people and their allies.

If Katharine Jefferts Schori walks across that bridge to Lambeth that we constructed of the bodies of our LGBT brothers and sisters, I pray that she will say this to the rest of the Communion.

The Episcopal Church's struggle to extend the life of the church to all the baptized is a gift. If we don't value it, why should we expect the rest the Communion to do so?

Reflections from the Bishop of New Hampshire

An Open Letter to my Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

From V. Gene Robinson, Bishop in the Church of God in a blessed place called New Hampshire:

Let's allow ourselves to be re-infused with that Holy Spirit which has never abandoned us, no matter what the Church does or doesn't do. Many of you have been writing to me, in the aftermath of General Convention, to ask what I am thinking, now that the Convention has called upon the Church to deny consent to the consecration of partnered people as bishops. Frankly, like all of you, my thinking is all over the map. But here is where I am, only a few days later.

Read it all here.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Atlanta Pride Sermon

It was a great joy to be able to finish the General Convention Marathon with the good people of Atlanta at their Friday Night Gay Pride Eucharist Celebration. I was also so very happy to be able to "reprise" the story of Bishop John Krumm in preaching to a congregation -- and a preacher! -- very much in danger of being disillusioned by the church! SR


Proper 7B: All Saints, Atlanta, June 23, 2006

I want to begin by saying how very grateful I am to be present with you tonight for this worship and celebration. I bring you greetings from our national Integrity Board, from our Claiming the Blessing partners and from my parish community: All Saints, Pasadena. It is a great privilege to be part of your witness of God’s love here in Atlanta and I thank you for making me so very welcome.

I also want to begin by being honest about the fact that there were moments towards the end of the long and eventually bloody General Convention when I looked at the itinerary taking me home to Los Angeles via Atlanta and wondered “What was I thinking?” I wondered if I’d have anything left after nine 18-hour days in a row -- if I’d have anything at all to bring to this pulpit – to bring to this assembly.

And at the end, as I watched the church that had so courageously stepped out in faith by electing the first-ever woman Presiding Bishop on Sunday step back in fear by passing a resolution restricting access to the episcopate to those “whose manner of life poses a challenge to the church and would lead to further strains on communion” I wondered if I’d stepped through the looking glass like Alice and should be on the watch for the Red Queen after my head! In a nutshell, General Convention agreed on Wednesday to a standard for bishops that called into question the election on Sunday we were still celebrating – for anyone who doesn’t think a woman Presiding Bishop won’t lead to “further strains of the communion” isn’t paying attention.

The ugly bottom line is that succumbing to threats, blackmail and bullying the bishops and deputies who had worked for eight days to offer a balanced response to the Windsor Report that affirmed our commitment to the wider Anglican Communion AND to the LGBT faithful fell like a house of cards under extraordinary pressure from the Presiding Bishop. And in place of the honest, faithful response to Windsor we were on the verge of offering the Communion we ended up with an eleventh hour cop-out that, in words from an email correspondent, “betrayed what we know to be the truth: that God is calling gay/lesbian people to full-inclusion in the life of the Church, including the episcopate.”

And rather than leaving Columbus with a mandate to move on with the mission of the church the storm rages on. The actions of General Convention please no one.

Liberal bishops dissented from the decision declaring “language that … singles out one part of the Body by category is discriminatory.” Conservative bishops dissociated themselves from the decision because it fell short of being “Windsor compliant.” And gay and lesbian people were left feeling that once again their lives, their relationships and their vocations were somehow negotiable in the game of global Anglican politics.

What a mess.

And so it was with some degree of irony that as I flew to Atlanta yesterday, tossed about a bit by the thunderstorms between here and Columbus, and turned to the lessons appointed for this sermon that I realized we had selected this particular portion of the Gospel of Mark: Jesus Stills the Storm.

“Peace. Be still,” Jesus said – to the storm, to the disciples and to me. And I found, once again, the power of what we claim as the Living Word – the power of the one whose love for us can reach through the centuries through the Holy Scriptures. I found that the power of the one who stilled the storm that swirled around the disciples’ boat can also still the storm what swirls inside our souls tonight as the dust starts to settle from General Convention 2006.

Listen again to the Collect of the Day that began our worship this evening:

O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness.”

Not the sure foundation of theological consensus. Not the sure foundation of constituent membership in the Anglican Communion. Not even the sure foundation of resolutions passed at General Convention. The sure foundation is still the same as it was when I memorized all five verses of what is still one of my favorite hymns back in my junior choir days:

The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord
She is his new creation by water and the word
From heaven he came and sought her to be his holy bride
With his own blood he bought her and for her life he died.

“The Church’s One Foundation” is not any particular creed or doctrine or theology or agreement on who should be ordained to what … nope “The Church’s One Foundation Is Jesus Christ our Lord ” – the one who incarnates for us the sure foundation of God’s loving-kindness which we claim for ourselves today and will proclaim for others this weekend as we become outward and visible signs of God’s love and care to the LGBT community in the Pride events ahead: evangelists for the Gospel.

“Evangelists??” Why yes, my dear, evangelism is all the rage – hadn’t you heard? Of course, it hasn’t always been so. I’m one of those cradle-type Episcopalians -- and so I remember jokes like “Evangelize? Whatever do you mean? Everyone who should be an Episcopalian already is one.” I grew up in a church where I couldn’t imagine what on earth “evangelism” could have to do with us – with me. But that church has changed – and so have I – and I guess the response to that versicle is “thanks be to God.”

The awesome truth is that we have MUCH good news to tell … and we live and move and have our being in a culture literally dying to hear it. To hear that they are loved. To hear that they are welcome. To hear that they are called to “go and do likewise.” That’s the Good News of God in Christ Jesus AND the Episcopal Church that we have each and every one of us been commissioned to proclaim and that is the work to which we have been called.

And it is hard, sometimes, and for many of us this is one of them – to separate the Gospel we have been given to share from the church intended to be vehicle for that Good News when it becomes a roadblock instead. It is hard, sometimes, to find God in the church.

I hold in particular mind tonight Bishop John Krumm – the former bishop of Southern Ohio who retired to Los Angeles. At his memorial service I had the privilege of hearing Bishop George Barrett reminisce about their 60-year friendship in the homily he offered at our diocesan Cathedral Center. “John,” he said -- stabbing his long, boney finger into the air for emphasis, “was never disillusioned by the church because he never had an illusions about the church!”
Yet John Krumm loved this church -- served it joyfully and well. Because he had no illusions he was free to focus on the ideal. Because he had his feet firmly planted on the rock, the shifting sands did not overwhelm him. I’ve thought a lot about John Krumm in these last few weeks. I thought about his long and faithful life and the many changes he must have seen over the course of it.

I thought about his willingness to be an agent of change -- to venture into the unknown future God called him to. And I thought about the many fears he must have overcome in order to respond to that call so bravely and faithfully. And I prayed for leaders who would call us to follow in his footsteps – to call us to walk in love rather than retreat in fear: the fear that in the end dominated the decisions of this General Convention – the fear that Episcopal theologian Verna Dozier has named as the opposite of faith.

“Doubt is not the opposite of faith,” she writes. “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.”

It is absolutely true that the church has disappointed us. We are treated as imposters and yet are true; as unknown and yet are well-known; as dying yet we are alive; as punished and yet not killed; as sorrowful yet always rejoicing; as having nothing and yet possessing everything.

And it is absolutely true that God never will disappoint us. For now IS the acceptable time. Now IS the day of salvation. If we can trust that promise, then we CAN move by that finite and partial light and continue to be agents of change – voices of hope – moving forward into God’s future – in spite of the challenge, in spite of the fear, in spite of the church who forgets sometimes where her true foundation lies.

Mid toil and tribulation and tumult of her war
She waits the consummation of peace forevermore
Till with the vision glorious her longing eyes are blessed
And the great Church victorious shall be the Church at rest.

And the storm will finally be stilled. And all will be well. And all manner of things shall, indeed, be well. Amen.

As the Dust Settles

I'm barely home -- the dogs are at least home from doggie day care and the suitcases mercifully unpacked. There's coffee now, and half-and-half in the fridge so there's hope of getting some semblence of our life back now that General Convention is behind us. There's parish ministry to focus on and my son coming home on leave from the Army before heading to Kuwait to look forward to and there's the great joy of knowing that tomorrow morning I'll be at All Saints Church where whoever you are and wherever you are on the journey of faith you are welcome. Even if your "manner of life" causes concern to the communion. Even if you're jet-lagged, bone-weary and soul-sick. Even if you can't for the life of you figure out how ANYBODY could think that what we left Columbus with was "the best we could do."

I've hear of win-win situations.

And I've heard of win-lose and even lose-lose.

But this was a lose-lose-lose-lose.

Liberals/progressives/reappraisers (choose your label) lost because they could not support a resolution that singled out a percentage of the baptized to serve as bargaining chips in the game of global Anglican politics.

Conservative/neo-orthodox/reasserters (choose your label) lost because they could not support anything that fell short of "Windsor compliant language."

LGBT people lost because once again the church that passed resolutions re-affirming their full inclusion said in B033 that that "full inclusion" is conditional -- that sacramental apartheid still prevails and a percentage of the baptized can be excluded from a percentage of the sacraments.

The moderates/people in the pews/"disenfrancised middle" (choose your label) lost because their fondest hope of talking about something ELSE disappeared the minute the resolution offering language vague-to-the-point-of-sure-to-be-debated-for-the-next-three-years passed and we lost the chance to seize the hope Katharine Jefferts Schori called us to in her sermon that very morning.

Lose-lose-lose-lose was NOT the best we could do.

More Links to GC06 Post-mortems ...

They saved the worst for last ... reflections on Columbus by Louise Brooks (brilliant producer of "Voices of Witness" and my fabulous partner.)

A Wide Open and Wounded Heart ... sermon by the Reverend Michael Hopkins

"Peace. Be Still" Marching Orders from General Convention ... just posted by Witness Magazine.

The Best We Can Do ... heartfelt reflections by the Reverend Elizabeth Kaeton

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Reflections on the run ...

Anyone who reads this blog will know that yesterday was a bloody end to General Convention 2006 here in Columbus. After meetings all morning I am rushing to catch a plane to Atlanta where I will preach at the Pride Eucharist tomorrow night so any genuine reflection will have to wait a bit.

For now,

Pray for the church.

Read the Statement of Conscience by bishops dissenting from having B033 railroaded through the convention.

Read my rector, Ed Bacon's, reflections on the All Saints General Convention website.

Read "Jake's" reflection "Church Embraces Bigotry" on Father Jake Stops the World

And then pray for the church some more.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Day Nine: The Grand Finale

If the old adage "May you live in interesting times" holds any appeal for you, General Convention 2006 is right up your alley. Despite predictions that "nothing would happen" and the despite the glacial progress on legislation in the House of Deputies we have not only given the Anglican Communion its first female primate, we have come to clarity that:
  • we are committed to our interdependence as members of the Anglican Communion (passing resolutions affirming interdependence, regretting the impact of the actions of General Convention 2003 on some members of the communion and committing to participate in exploring the creation of an Anglican Covenant)
  • we are committed to the inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the life and work of the church, refusing to pass a resolution that included moratoria on consecration of gay/lesbian bishops and same sex blessings.

Here's one analysis from Kendall Harmon's titusonenine: The strategy of leaders of the Anglican church at Columbus had been to engineer the moderate middle ground to be Windsor-compliant, marginalising the radical liberals and the orthodox, for the sake of unity. This strategy failed. In the end, the key resolutions were too liberal for the conservatives or too conservative for the liberals.

I think Kendall is probably right. I also think the strategists mis-read the "moderate middle" -- both in Deputies and Bishops -- who are just not willing to turn the clock back on inclusion or to make gay and lesbian people bear the burden for our participation in the Anglican Communion.

I think two of the watchwords for this convention have been "clarity" and "honesty" -- and yesterday we got both. Anyone who has ever done relationship counseling knows that one of the core values of authentic relationship is honesty -- and so for us as the American Episcopal Church to be in authentic relationship with our Anglican family we MUST be honest about who we are.

I applaud the courage of a church not willing to "hold its nose and vote anyway" for a resolution that did not tell the truth about who we are (as urged by Special Committee member Dan Martins) and believe the action of the House of Deputies in defeating A161 yesterday set the stage for creating a response to Windsor that will give us a way forward rather insist on a way apart: either from our Anglican family or our gay and lesbian baptized.

I deeply appreciated Bishop Charles Jenkins' words in the House of Bishops yesterday: we must be honest about the fact that we are a church of two minds on some issues AND a church willing to walk together anyway. "We must give back the anxiety to those who handed it to us," he said by finding a way to express that to our Anglican Communion family so we can move on in mission and ministry.

Our last legislative day will begin with a called joint session where deputies and bishops will together receive a "mind of the house" statement being crafted as-we-speak by a committee appointed last night by the Presiding Bishop.

Interesting times, as they say. "They" also say "it's not over until the fat lady sings" and she hasn't even warmed up yet ... so stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Oh yeah, "honesty" -- I remember that

From John Kirkley's meditato on Resolution A161

One 18 year-old deputy saw right through the duplicity of it all. He noted that the last resolve apologizes to gay men and lesbians for the actions of this resolution, and pointed out that if we need to apologize for it, why are we doing it in the first place? Indeed. Why, if we believe that the election and consecration of the Bishop of New Hampshire was of the Holy Spirit, are we apologizing for that? Bishop Doug Theuner was right in 2003. The issue here isn't homosexuality; its honesty.

Quite a contrast to Special Committee member Dan Martins (San Joaquin) whose advice to Convention was to "hold your nose and vote for this."

Surely the church deserves better.

Monday, June 19, 2006

With members of our Los Angeles Deputation

They briefly let visitors on the floor of the House of Deputies to snap pictures ... here's one we got with MOST of the deputation ...

Resolution Interruptus

A quick post at the end of a long day. The House of Deputies today amended Resolution A160 to express regret at "straining" the bonds of affection in the Anglican Communion ... falling short of admitting to "breaching" those bonds and coming no where near the "repenting of the actions" demanded by the Conservative Cabal. A160 will now head to the House of Bishops for concurrence.

So far so good.

Onward to A161 -- the really stupid resolution created by the "Special Committee" that manages in the same resolution to balance the unity of the Anglican Communion on the backs of gay and lesbian people by urging the church to refrain from allowing any of them to respond to the Holy Spirit's call to the episcopate AND to apologize to them for the new one they were getting ripped by the church they're trying to serve.

You've gotta love it.

And, you've got to vote it down.

You've got to vote it down not only because it violates the canons of the Episcopal Church but because it won't do any good anyway. Gay and lesbian people will be told they are and will remain second class citizens in the Episcopal Church in order to keep at the table those who have already decided to leave.

Think not? Check out The London Times: The Anglican Church descended into “ecclesiastical anarchy” last night as American traditionalists refused to accept the authority of a woman and asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to lead them instead.

If nothing we can do is going to be good enough, I say we have the courage of our convictions to stay the course, embrace the decisions of General Convention 2003 and get on with the work of the church. Unfortunately, we didn't get a chance to vote it down today. After several hours of frankly rather disorganized leadership in the House of Deputies the debate was suspended and we go back tomorrow morning to take it back up. Ergo "resolution interruptus."

Stay tuned ... and pray for the church!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Who'd Have Thunk It?

What a wild, amazing, Spirit-filled, historic day behind us -- may God give us grace for the wild, amazing, Spirit-filled journey ahead of us!

I am still fairly stunned by the rapidly accelerating sequence of events that left us at the end of the day with the historic choice of the first woman primate in the Anglican Communion as the Rt. Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori (Bishop of Nevada) was elected (on the fifth ballot) the 26th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

Thrilled on so many levels at her election I am also deeply, powerfully aware of how far this church has traveled in order to allow it to MAKE this courageous and historic (I know -- third time I've used historic ... well it IS!!!) choice possible.

I remember the deep pain, division and anguish of the 1970's when the ordination of women (the last great threat to global Anglicanism and Western Civilization as we know it) was the thing that was going to split the church. I remember the lines for communion stretched out at diocesan convention with folks jockeying to get into position so they wouldn't have to receive communion from (horrors!) a woman priest. I remember my own Aunt Gretchen whose congregation (one of four) tried to "leave the Episcopal Church" over the ordination of women in the Diocese of Los Angeles in 1977. And I carry with me, close to my heart, the stories of sister priests who had to cross police lines to get to their own ordinations because of the bomb threats.

And so the very idea that the bishops of the Episcopal Church could elect a woman to lead them ... and the House of Deputies concur OVERWHELMING to that election with barely a murmur of dissent is so overwhelming I'm almost afraid to go to bed tonight lest I wake up and find out it was all a dream.

I am so proud of this church I could just burst.

Proud that we were ready, willing and able to put everything else aside and select the person the Holy Spirit anointed to lead us with grace, with concord and with great joy.

Proud that through the many dangers, toils and snares we have come over the divisive issue of the ordination of women we have emerged on the other side of those challenges stronger, bolder and more open to God's Holy Spirit.

And convinced that this election is huge message of hope to those who fear these present challenges will be our undoing. We have history on our side -- we have hope on our side -- and most importantly we have the Holy Spirit on our side who leads us into all truth and into all knowing.

And what I know tonight is that this election is tremendously good news for a church in desperate need of same. It is not only a vote for a Presiding Bishop it is a vote for the future -- a vote for a new vision of what the church can be and who the church can become if we can be open to the Spirit of truth that leads us into all truth and refuse to be discouraged by the voices crying, "Not yet" -- "Slow down" -- "Be careful."

I am convinced that if we had listened to those self-same voices in 1976 after the General Convention approved the ordination of women -- if we had succumbed to the doomsayers and the sky-is-falling-ers who threatened split and schism and (I'll have to check but I think I'm right on this) the end of civilization as we know it -- we wouldn't be celebrating the election of the first woman primate at this 75th General Convention.

And I can't think of a better Father's Day gift to the Anglican Communion than its first woman primate.

Bishop Jefferts Schori has been a supportive voice and vote in the House of Bishops, she has been a strong supporter of Integrity Nevada and was a most welcome honored guest at last Friday's Integrity Eucharist here in Columbus. (Three of the seven PB candidates were with us for that amazingly wonderful celebration ... feel free to guess the other two! :) She has every best gift we could ask for in a Presiding Bishop and it is with great joy and anticipation that we look forward to working with her in the months and years to come.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise God all creatures here below
Praise God above ye heavenly host
Creator, Son and Holy Ghost.


Good night!

Clarity Again

In the interest of ... umm ... "clarity" ... let me make it perfectly clear that I'm in favor of it.

Clarity, that is.

I appreciated more than I can say the clarity of David Anderson's response to Larry King to the question, "Why do you stay [in the Episcopal Church]?" Many of us have long asked the same thing and while I might have hoped for a more theological response, his answer, "I like a good fight" was certainly clear.

And it confirmed long held suspicions by many that this really isn't about God or Jesus or historic Anglicanism or even about sex. And it certainly isn't about what the answer Integrity and our allies at this convention have given to the question: a deep love of this church, commitment to this communion and the desire to do nothing more than live out our baptismal covenants in the context of Christian community with all the rights AND responsibilities that holds.

Pointing out the divide between those two reasons for staying in the Episcopal Church is the kind of clarity I'm in favor of. And grateful for.

What I'm NOT in favor of is what I have called "making an idol" of clarity -- or the efforts to promote that idolotry at this General Convention by insisting that clarity in-and-of-itself is our highest goal in this legislative process. Discerning the will of God for this church is our highest goal -- and it will not be reached by manufacturing the false dicotomy of comply with the letter of the Windsor Report or walk apart from the Anglican Communion.

Once again I turn to Terry Holmes in "What Is Anglicanism?":

"Clarity should not be expected-- in fact, it should be suspect -- when we are attempting to make clear the infinite mind of God for the finite minds of humankind. When Anglicanism is true to its concept of authority, this apparent hesitance to say, "Thus saith the Lord!" -- only to have to spend the next hundred years subtlely qualifying "what the Lord said" -- is not a sign of weakness but evidence of strength and wisdom." - Urban T. Holmes, “What Is Anglicanism” pg. 16

And ...

Ultimately the authenticity of faith and belief is measured at the bar of justice. All religious questions merge into the one query: What shall we do? There is an inevitable course to our religious profession which can be aborted only by denying its Lord. That course leads to living in the world as God sees the world. We can debate the trivial points, but the vision is largely clear. To love God is to relieve the burden of all who suffer. The rest is a question of tactics." - Urban T. Holmes, “What Is Anglicanism” pg. 95

I think that's pretty clear.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Speaking of "clarity" ...

Just because you don't ask for clarity doesn't mean it doesn't sometimes show up anyway:
Our deepest desire is to testify to this church and to this communion what we know of the saving grace of God in Christ Jesus present in our lives, our vocations and our relationships.
Susan Russell, Integrity President
Committee 26 Testimony, June 13, 2006
Q: Why do you stay [in the Episcopal Church] Canon Anderson?
A: Well, I like a good fight.

David Anderson, AAC President
Larry King Live, June 15, 2006

Thursday, June 15, 2006

"Voices" Video Now Online

You can now view the "Voices of Witness" video on the CTB website ... many thanks to Jeff, our amazing web-guru who can seemingly make ANYTHING happen!

"Voices of Witness" in the Concord Monitor

Robinson no longer in spotlight:
Video at convention tells others' stories
By ANNMARIE TIMMINS, Concord Monitor
June 14, 2006

When the nation's Episcopalians met three years ago, New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson was the face of homosexuality in the church. Not this time. First, Robinson is hardly getting any press attention at this year's convention in Columbus, Ohio. Second, several other gays, lesbians and their straight supporters have lent their voices to the fight in new video showing the lives of gay Episcopalians that debuted last night.

Robinson appears in the video, but only briefly, and his is not the most powerful story. More prominent is the household of two men in California who are raising a son and daughter. (One of the men said his mother always told him he'd meet someone nice at church. He did, but it was another man.)

There is also the story of a woman who admitted she opposed gays adopting children until she saw a gay couple's children baptized at church. The woman nearly cried as she explained how spiritually movedshe felt after participating in that baptism service. "The whole church embraced it," the woman said. The 40-minute production, called Voices of Witness, is intended to tell Anglicanchurch leaders in America and the world that being gay and Christian is not mutuallyexclusive. The video, which is being distributed for free at the church's General Convention and will soon be available for free online, was made for about $12,000 in donations by a church justice group called Claiming the Blessing.

The Rev. Susan Russell and Louise Brooks, partners from California who are both active in the Episcopal Church, said they produced the video, but not because ofthe fallout that followed Robinson's election three years ago. Since then, church leaders from American and elsewhere have asked the church to apologize, even repent, and promise not to ordain openly gay bishops again.

Russell and Brooks's frustration with the church goes back 30 years, they said, ever since the church's worldwide leaders pledged themselves to listen to the experiencesof homosexuals and assure them they are loved by God. They first made that pledge in 1978 at a international church gathering. They have reaffirmed that promise twice in the past 30 years, Russell said, but have never lived up to it. With this video, Russell, Brooks and the people in it hope to make the church's worldwide leaders finally hear their stories of being gay and dedicated Episcopalians.

Jane Tully, the wife of a Episcopal priest from New York, said she knew no gay people in her parish when her son came out to them. Since, she has realized how many clergy members know and respect gay people, and she has worked to bring their stories intothe church's struggle with homosexuality. Tully thinks the church is going through the same struggles families do when theyfirst learn a loved one is gay. With prayerful conversation and shared experiences, she believes the church can stick together and include its gay members.

Robinson appears near the start of the video, talking in church. He tells a groupthat it's time to stop talking about being gay and start talking about God. He appears again only briefly. Still, Robinson was the hero last night during the screening,which was held at a Columbus church, not the conference headquarters. His election in New Hampshire, followed by his confirmation by the national church, has brought renewed energy to the fight for gay equality within the church.

"Gene has accelerated the discussion," said the Rev. Ed Bacon, the rectorof All Saints parish in Pasadena, Calif. "We could not have invented a better public strategy than what the Holy Spirit came up with. Gene embodies the Word."

As popular as he remains among many Episcopalians, who surrounded him after the screening, Robinson is not getting requests for press interviews like he did three years ago when his election was the center of the church conference. Episcopal leaders are spending much of this conference telling the church's world leaders how they intend to retain their "bonds of affection" that link them while supporting a bishop who is gay, and therefore an offense to many of the church's world leaders.

Robinson is content to be out of the limelight, he said last night. But he's begun to accept that he will never be just the bishop - as opposed to the gay bishop -as he once hoped. He sees now that he has two roles. "I think I was naive and or ignorant," Robinson said. "I think I underestimated the historic nature of what was happening."

That finally occurred to him when his secretary was told to keep everything Robinson writes because otherswill want to study it one day. "While I am the bishop of New Hampshire, that is the priority,"Robinson said. "But there is this other ministry too," he said.

(The video, Voices of Witness, will be available at

General Convetion 2006: Legislative Day Three

Up early today trying to get a head start on what will be another big day (aren't they all at General Convention?) The Special Committee will continue hearing testimony on the Windsor resolutions this morning and the Deputies will likely get a chance to consider A159 ... the first of those resolutions to come out of committee ... sometime today.

This evening the Episcopal General Convention will be the focus of the Larry King Show so be sure to tune in and see us "live from Columbus."

Reflecting on the hearings last night I think the single most striking impression I took away was that the discourse was remarkably on point and remarkably free of both the Scripture bludgeoning and graphic sexual detail that has been so unfortunately part of these debates over the years. We were actually talking about the church and the nature of communion -- and while I might vehemently disagree with many of the perspectives represented by the "other side" I am deeply grateful that the conversations were actually about theology rather than biology.

On that note, I thought the following comment exchange from an earlier post on this blog was worth bringing "up front." I think it is illustrative of both the core difference between the two "sides"here at this convention AND the core hope I hold for this church: that if we can keep coming back to Jesus in our discourse the Prince of Peace will bring us to place of both peace AND justice for all.

Rev. Susan, with all respect for you as one for whom Jesus also died on the cross,we reasserters do not think we are the sole possessors of truth. Nor do we thinkwe "possess" truth. Rather, the Truth who is Jesus, the Son of God mademan,possesses us as bondslaves of Christ, who in His grace and boundless mercy yetsays,"You are My friends, if you do what I command you. No longer do I callyou slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have calledyou friends, for all things that I have Heard from My Father I have made known toyou." (John 15: 14-15)

With equal due respect, I was speaking of the testimony I have heard here in Columbus and expect to hear more of today, much of which is grounded in the deep, clear and (I believe) sincere conviction that there is only one "clear truth of scripture" (we heard that over and over) and that the full inclusion of LGBT people in the Body of Christ -- including the celebration of their relationships and the affirmation of their vocations -- is outside the bounds of that truth. Period.

As for Jesus being "the Truth" on that we can agree -- +Gene in his remarks yesterday stated clearly that in the Episcopal Church the "gay agenda"IS Jesus -- the way, the truth and the life. That is the witness Integrity has been making in this church for the last 30 years and -- God willing -- the witness we will continue to make not only in this church and in this communion but to those outside the faith yearning to hear that God's abundant love is REALLY abundant enough to include them.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Idol of Clarity

A quick report at the end of a long night of open hearings on the resolutions regarding our response to the Windsor Report. "Clarity" seemed to be the word of the day ... something both Martyn Minns and David Anderson have told me is what they are asking for out of this convention ... and (speaking of clarity) it becomes more and more clear that nothing short of complete "compliance" with the Windsor Report will be sufficient for those insisting that have sole possession of absolute truth.

That being said, here's the testimony offered to the committee:

The opinion of the Bishop of Durham notwithstanding the Windsor Report offers recommendations and invitations -- not ultimatums.

I ask the committee to remember in their deliberations that this report was created without consultation with, contribution by or participation in by a single openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person -- and that the 30-year promise to listen to the witness of gay and lesbian persons continues to go unfullfilled. There is is much to regret in our Anglican family -- and the continued silencing of gay and lesbian voices in the wider communion dialogue must be on the list. We have much work to do -- and we cannot faithfully do that work by making an idol of "clarity" as we seek the mind of God on these complex issues. Let us reject the implication that we are at a "Deal or No Deal" moment in the Anglican Communion.

Rather, I propose we allow
A159 to stand as our best offering to balance our autonomy as a church and our interdependence as a communion and discharge the resolutions before us tonight.

Video Launch in Columbus

The "Voices of Witness" video premiered last night to a full house at Trinity Church of donors, benefactors and press. It was an amazing and wonderful thing to finally "come out" with this witness to the powerful movement of the Holy Spirit in the lives, families and relationships of gay and lesbian people AND to the impact their life and witness has had on their congregations, famililes and friends.

The press of convention business is, as always, extraordinary: we start with legislative committee meetings and/or hearings at 7:30 a.m. and don't stop until after the 10:00 p.m. daily debrief. In the midst of all that busyness it was an extraordinary gift to spend that hour watching and hearing these amazing witnesses who help us remember why we do the work we do -- why the struggle is worth it -- why the full inclusion of all the baptized into the Body of Christ is not a price the church has to pay but an opportunity the church is called to embrace.

More about committees and resolutions and all the gory GC details later. The video will start playing in the CTB booth on convention floor today and we'll have DVD copies to give out (God willing and Fed Ex cooperating) on Friday. Information on ordering "Voices of Witness" will shortly be available on the CTB website ... stay tuned and pray for the church!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Greetings from the AB of C

This just in: Text of a greeting from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, given to the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies of the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America meeting in Colombus Ohio. The message was read by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu.

"Greetings to you all in Christ's name as you meet to pray and deliberate about the life and witness of your church and the demands of God's Kingdom. May God grant you discernment as you meet and listen to each other in patience and love.

As all those involved will be acutely aware, this General Convention takes place in a climate of intense and perhaps rather oppressive attention worldwide. At the meeting last week of the Bishops of the Church of England, we recognised the pressure under which you meet, and committed ourselves to praying more deeply and more constantly for allof you during these days. Please be assured of our loving concern for the Episcopal Church and our hopes that we in the Anglican Communion may learn again to walk with each other more trustfully.

The recommendations of the Windsor Report will be much in your minds and your deliberations, and I appreciate the work your Commissions and Committees have done in responding to the Windsor Process. I hope that the theological vision there set out in the Report of the ground and character of our communion in Christ will be clearly before you. We cannot survive as a Communion of churches without some common convictions about what it is to live and to make decisions as the Body of Christ; Windsor is not the end of the story, but it sets out a positive picture of what that might imply as together we strive to serve the mission of God.

We thank God for all that the Episcopal Church has contributed over the years to our fellowship and commend you to the One "who is able to establish you according to...the proclamation of Jesus Christ” (Rom.16.25).

Grace be with you all.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

"Deal or No Deal"

There is always a certain "opening night" energy at this point of General Convention: the volunteers' aprons are crisp and bright, the greetings of friends and colleagues not seen since last convention sincere and energetic and the vendors and booth tenders are busy unwrapping their wares and arranging their buttons and pamphlets. So here are some quick musings on this first day of Getting-Convention-Going:

I've been here since Friday and today the Exhibit Hall opened, credentially began and it was my first foray into the cavernous convention center which will become very much our home-away-from home for the next ten days. As for us, we've spent most of our time so far getting volunteers organized, our work center and booths set up, and tracking the errant Fed Ex delivery -- (scheduled for by 10 a.m. Saturday now promised by "sometime" Monday. We'll see!) I'll leave momentarily for a briefing for bishops and deputies on the pending legislation and our hopes for this convention.

What's our "agenda?" I couldn't say it any better than Michael did in his sermon last night ... and the words that keep echoing from me from it are "We speak of what we know ..." There's some calming reassurance in those words from John's gospel ... "we speak of what we know."

Nobody's asking us to do anything other than speak of what we know. Speak of our lives made fuller and more holy by the Spirit of God present in them in and through the Episcopal Church. Speak of a church enriched and enlivened by the work and witness of LGBT Christians who want nothing more than to serve their Lord and live out their lives in relationship with their beloved and in communion with the saints. Speak of the mission and ministry of the church we love -- and how sick unto death we are of having it hijacked by those determined to scapegoat LGBT vocations and relationships as expendable bargaining chips in the game of Anglican global politics.

What we know is that we are here in Columbus ready to move forward in mission and ministry while others are intent on drawing lines in the sand issuing ultimatums and piloting an Anglican version of the ridiculously popular game show, "Deal or No Deal."

Here's what we know: the Episcopal Church is smarter than that, more faithful than that and more determined to live out its historic commitment to the Gospel imperative than that. That's what we know.

What We Know

I commend to you the homily preached by Integrity past-president Michael Hopkins at our Integrity Volunteer Orientation and Eucharist last night here in Columbus. Always a gifted preacher, Michael articulates our call to speak our truth in love to a church that will sometimes not hear it firmly grounded on the doctrinal foundation of the Holy Trinity. It was truly an inspiring beginning to our work here together at General Convention 2006. -- Susan

What We Know

We speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen.

Here we are, a gathering of orthodox Christians celebrating the Feast of the most blessed, glorious and holy Trinity.

The timing of this General Convention, so much earlier than it has been in the past, was a point of some controversy, but one wonders if it was not a piece of the divine humor to help make it be so. It is as if God is saying, “Focus on the mystery of my life before you start mucking around any more in your own.”

For me, one of the important things to remember and hold dear about the notion of the Trinity was that long before it was codified in doctrine, it was testified to in experience. The Trinity, for the early Church, was a way of talking about the experience of God, not a way of defining what that experience should be.

Anything we call Christian Truth has always worked that way. It was first an experience of the People of God, and only afterwards a doctrinal statement.

Those who criticize us for lifting up our experience and asking the Church to discern with us the work of God in it rather than “making the theological case,” are simply mis-remembering how it works and has always worked. Theology always follows experience.

That is precisely what the readings for Trinity Sunday mean to remind us about. It was Isaiah’s awesome experience of God that led him to his “yes” to mission. It was Paul’s experience of God’s “yes” to him that enabled him to speak of God’s “yes” to others. And in the Gospel reading, it is an experience of God, rather than theology about God, into which Jesus is trying to coax Nicodemus.

“How can these things be?” Nicodemus asks. Jesus’ answer is revealing. After a gentle chide, he answers.

We speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen.

Among other things, this is a statement of how Jesus does theology: from experience. It is, I believe, how Integrity, specifically, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons generally, have been making their witness and helping the Church do its theology for the last thirty years and more.

It was thirty years ago in 1976 that Integrity first had a presence at General Convention, a presence that resulted in a promise from the Church of our full inclusion, a promise we are still waiting to be fulfilled. For thirty years—11 Conventions—we have kept coming back and doing two simple things—offering our experience as Christian people to the Church and asking for the promise to be fulfilled.

Read it all here

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Speaking of Minority Theological Stances

Some great "food for thought" from clergy colleague Alma Beck:

I know what it is to hold a minority theological stance in ECUSA. I am a strong pacifist in a church that officially subscribes to the Just War Theory. My church blesses battleships and allows its clergy to be military chaplains. While this theology is not my theology, it does not prevent me from being faithful to my own conscience. As a priest, I am not forced to bless implements of war, nor serve in positions that would require me to violate my own beliefs. I know that my sisters and brothers understand scripture differently than I do on these matters, and I'm glad we are in a faith community that makes room for our differences while allowing each of us the space to walk the path we understand God to be calling us to walk.

It seems to me that the actions of GC2003 put opponents of same- gender relationships in the same position. They hold a theological stance separate from that of the actions of Convention, but they aren't forced to act contrary to their consciences. No one has to bless any union they feel is immoral, nor enter into such a union.

Interesting, the proposed moratorium on the blessing of unions does place my conscience in a bind. I am forced to deny one of the sacraments to a group of God's children simply because they are gay. I find that goes counter to my vow to respect the dignity of all persons. I hope that bishops and deputies will keep in mind that permissive resolutions simply open doors for those who hear God's call to walk through them. They do not force anyone to go where they feel they are forbidden to walk.

--Alma Beck

Mike Luckovich Does It Again

Thanks to Elizabeth Kaeton for forwarding this "picture worth a thousand words." It seems to me that there are striking parallels between the concerted efforts of the current administration to ignore the truly pressing issues of national concern by exploiting the "gay marriage" issue and the concerted efforts of the radical right in the Episcopal Church to hijack the mission and minstry of the church by exploiting the LGBT inclusion issue.

More from Columbus shortly ...

Friday, June 09, 2006

What’s really at stake (and it certainly isn't sex)

What I believe is that preserving the traditional Anglican theological process of seeking truth in common prayer will still serve us well if we let it. -- +Stacy Sauls


I've just arrived in Columbus -- have only unpacked the laptop so far! -- but wanted to share this stellar analysis by +Stacy Sauls, Bishop of Lexington, as a "must read" for context we prepare to gather for General Convention 2006. More to come ... Susan

What’s really at stake (and it certainly isn't sex)

Sex sells in America. One particular commercial comes to mind. It involves a woman shampooing her hair in an airplane restroom while making incredibly suggestive sounds that are heard to the great shock of everyone else on the flight. What does sex have to do with buying shampoo? Nothing, of course. The Church is learning the hard way what advertisers learned long ago. Sex sells because it pushes decision making from our most rational capacities to our most visceral ones.

The presenting issues of our current controversy in the Church are sexual, specifically whether the Church can be supportive of a certain kind of same sex relationship (marked by mutual love and respect, exclusivity among partners, and lifelong commitment) and whether people in such relationships should hold positions of ordained leadership, especially as bishops. Reasonable, intelligent, and equally committed people of faith, to be sure, hold different and completely rational opinions about these issues. That is not the problem. The problem is that sex pushes us to react viscerally and instinctively instead, and we frequently succumb, as much on one side of the issues as the other. It is this visceral reactivity that is behind the name calling, slander, and rampant immaturity bedeviling us at the moment and getting in the way of any thoughtful resolution of the issues. Visceral may be OK for buying shampoo. Faith deserves better.

Read it all in The Advocate, the Diocese of Lexington's newspaper

Thursday, June 08, 2006

"Comment Moderation Enabled"

Well, I give up.

There seems to be nothing for it but to move this site to a "moderated" status in order to enable those who actually want to talk about the posted articles room to do so. Please understand that this is in no way an effort to exclude those who disagree with the positions represented and presented here ... rather it is a last ditch effort to keep the discourse civil and on point as we move toward General Convention and beyond.

I hope those interested in doing so will continue to read and comment here ... and will have patience if given the press of business in the next two weeks it sometimes takes a while for the "moderated" comments to post: it'll be another "inch at a time" thing!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Integrity Agenda

The Integrity Agenda
(Finally ... for those who've asked about it, speculated about it, even fantasized about it ... it's the Integrity Agenda for General Convention 2006: courtesy Integrity Board member Elizabeth Kaeton.)

Watching Integrity work at General Convention is analogous to watching open heart surgery on a dinosaur. Part of it requires muscle and stamina: cracking open the chest of this ancient relic requires nothing less than brute strength.

Another part is delicate, intricate work, requiring all the fine-motor skills of a surgeon in the tiny, thin places of the heart and soul of this still-living and breathing organism.

Much of it is like the work of the larger team members: the surgical assistants and anesthesiologist -- long, tiresome, weary moments strung out over minutes, hours, days and weeks of watching and waiting, monitoring and evaluating, ready to move on the advanced notice that is sometimes less than a heartbeat.

It's all about the 'holy' spirit which people bring from their own 'holy places' and the Holy Spirit who shows up at the oddest times and in the oddest places, but is always firmly in control. That being said, I think that we do a disservice if we do not communicate the contextual setting of General Convention to our constituents before telling them that the strategy going into General Convention is pretty much the same every time: Be awake. Be alert.

Above all, be as gracious and as generous as we can possibly be, aiming always to follow the Via Media without compromising the dignity -- ours or anyone else's -- to which we are called to respect in our baptismal covenant.

Like open heart surgeons and all other physicians, we pledge to do no harm. As Christians, this means, additionally, even when harm is being done unto us.

This year, I anticipate higher drama from the right side of the church than most Queers on the left can muster up on a good day at Gay Central. I expect some of them to come prepared to leave this church and all of them well prepared to do as much collateral damage as they can before they do.

We on the left -- not just Integrity but the constituent members of the Consultation -- have to be ready to be part swat-team, part rescue-unit. And, we need to come to General Convention absolutely crystal clear about what it is we believe and what it is we want -- and be equally clear that people may not want/be able to hear our statements of belief or give us what we want -- even our allies on the Left.

The "No's Have It

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A constitutional ban on same-sex marriage failed to pass the Senate on Wednesday but Republican leaders planned to take it up in the House, keeping a national spotlight on the divisive issue.

Great ... let's take it to the House now and waste more time, energy and resources pushing discrimination and division!

The 49 to 48 vote fell short of the 60 votes needed to end debate, thwarting President George W. Bush and the mostly Republican senators who argued that the Constitution must be amended to prevent judges from striking down existing state-level bans on gay marriage. Democrats said the vote was an attempt to muster conservative support ahead of the November congressional elections and divert public attention from more pressing issues like the war in Iraq ...

Ya think????

More Helpful Rhetoric from the Religious Right

A couple of questions arise immediately for me on this one: what happened to being "People of the Resurrection" ... and if the schism has already happened, does that mean we can get back to the Gospel?

'Prepare for Crucifixion,' Bishop Duncan Tells Fort Worth Clergy

Citing the example of Peter, the disciple who returned to Rome to face certain death, the moderator of the Anglican Communion Network told a May 31 gathering of clergy of the Diocese of Fort Worth to prepare for a "crucifixion," but assured them that in the long run "God will reform his Church."

Read it all at The Living Church online

What if they gave a schism and nobody came?

On the "schism" issue, let me restate what I wrote about schism in June 2003 ... just days after Gene Robinson's election as Bishop of New Hampshire:

"What If They Gave A Schism And Nobody Came"

What it takes to create schism is for someone to leave – and I am sick unto death with the unity of this church being placed on the shoulders of those of us who have committed to stay.

When are we going to hold accountable those who threaten to leave? When will we name the actions of those who have conspired with factions of the larger Anglican communion to actively oppress and marginalize its GLBT members with what it is: fomenting schism – creating conflict – sacrificing the unity of the church to their own agenda of power, control and heterosexism?If schism happens – and I not convinced that it will – the blame will lie not with Claiming the Blessing, the Diocese of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson or the countless GLBT Christians living out their faith journeys in the Episcopal Church.

It will lie firmly at the feet of those whose will to power is greater than their willingness to embrace the other, whose commitment to crisis is greater than their faith in the Gospel and whose singular obsession with things sexual has blinded them to the Spirit’s revelation via things incarnational.

The cornerstone of the Claiming the Blessing initiative has been this citation from the second chapter of Genesis: “I will bless you so that you will be a blessing.” The blessing of life-long, committed relationships of people who love each other and love Jesus will not split this church – they will bless this church.

The election of one of the finest priests in the communion to take his place in the House of Bishops will not split this church – it will bless this church.

Committed to stay in conversation with each other we will weather this storm as we have weathered the others that doomsayers have predicted would destroy this great church of ours – and we can get back to the business of being a blessing to those who so desperately need the Good News of God in Christ we have to offer.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Washington Wind Sprint

I’ve never actually considered running a marathon – much less prepared for one – but I understand from people who know about such things that before you attempt to make it 26 miles you schedule some shorter distance runs to get yourself in condition. And so I’m thinking that my 36-hour trip to Capitol Hill and back might just qualify as a “wind sprint” in preparation for the General Convention Marathon looming now just a week away.

It was a terrible time to be away – no question about that. We were in final edit on our “Voices of Witness” video -- which is premiering at General Convention -- and my absence from the production team at a moment’s notice was problematic, to say the least. And not only was it Pentecost and Youth Sunday at All Saints Church, we were also launching an historic inter-faith peace initiative with noted author and columnist James Carroll here to present a major paper critiquing American foreign policy from a Christian perspective using the war in Iraq as a case study. But wait, there’s more – Archbishop Desmond Tutu was “stopping by” to give his blessing and be with us for worship at the 11:15 service. Even by All Saints standards it was a Big Ol’ Sunday – and I had to leave in the middle of it all to catch a plane that would get me to Washington in time to be part of the first-thing-in-the-morning “No on the FMA” events on Capitol Hill.

Flew to DC. Tried to convince my body that it was time to go to bed when David Letterman hadn’t even started yet in Los Angeles. Tried to convince my body it was time to get UP when the alarm clock and body clock were in definite disagreement. Dressed in what I hoped was Capitol Hill Appropriate (suit, collar and pearls … part of my strategic plan to debunk the myth that lesbians can’t accessorize) and headed off to “the hill.”

And I would be a big fat liar if I said I didn’t stand on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, looking down that long expanse of the Mall to the Washington Monument with its echoes of gatherings, protests and movements past and get all choked up. What a privilege to stand on that historic ground and bear witness to the freedom this great nation of ours holds as sacred trust by speaking against this shameful, exploitive attempt to write discrimination into our Constitution. How proud was I to stand at that podium and give voice to the 250,000 postcards sent by Americans all over the country urging a “No” vote on an issue that is (in words I happily borrow from +Gene Robinson) a weapon of mass distraction.

I was there as part of the HRC (Human Rights Campaign) contingent and after organizing our sign carriers and getting our postcards arranged in baskets by state-of-origin we arranged ourselves in front of the dozen-or-so cameras that had arrived to cover the press conference. My job was to speak – in three minutes or less – from a faith-based perspective on the issue at hand. Here’s what I said

I am the Reverend Susan Russell, an Episcopal priest and pastor from All Saints Church in Pasadena, California. I am here today representing people of faith who oppose writing discrimination into the Constitution in the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment. As an Episcopalian I have taken vows to respect the dignity of every human being and as an American citizen I have pledged allegiance to a flag symbolizing liberty and justice for all. The Federal Marriage Amendment violates both of those principles and so I believe it is imperative that people of faith opposed to legislating inequity step up and make their voices heard in this critical debate.

We have heard a lot about Christian moral values in the marriage debate and as a pastor I want to say that moral values are of deep concern to me. I am deeply concerned by the shocking lack of moral leadership offered by those who would focus the energy, resources and attention of this Congress on writing discrimination into the Constitution while the war in Iraq continues, the Gulf Coast reels from Katrina’s after effects, the AIDS pandemic worsens in Africa and genocide continues in Darfur. These are the moral issues my congregation wants Congress to be considering – not a Federal Marriage Amendment which is clearly a political move to bolster sinking poll numbers.

My son is serving in the U.S. Army on active duty. Last October I sat in the bleachers in Columbia, South Carolina as he graduated from boot camp and heard all those brave, young soldiers swear to "defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic." It never occurred to me that a few months later I myself would be on the steps of the U.S. Capitol to defending the Constitution from those willing to exploit it for political gain. My son and his colleagues preparing to be deployed to Kuwait deserve better than that. America deserves better than that. And that’s the message we’re here to bring to Congress.

From there we went to the Senate office buildings to deliver baskets of postcards to the senators. My assignment was one of my own senators -- Senator Diane Feinstein -- and it was just a little surreal to be trooping through the office corridors with news cameras and still photographers click-click-clicking away – recording our every move. Senator Feinstein’s staff graciously received the postcards we brought and I brought back with me a mental picture of the earnest young staffers answering the phones in her Washington office tracking calls coming in from constituents – calls that were coming in fast and furious while we were there on with our “special delivery.”

And then back to the airport and the flights taking me back to L.A. where I’ll barely have time to pack and head back to the airport for Columbus. Was it worth it – this wind sprint to Washington in a week I didn’t have time to go? Absolutely. I have to count it “worth it” whenever we have the opportunity to put a face on the values we hold highest – whenever we have the chance to give voice to the voiceless – to do the speak truth to power thing.

Waiting to board the plane at the Washington airport I got a call from a reporter in Houston working on his “getting ready for General Convention” story. It was in talking to him that I was able to see the events of the last 36 hours both as preparation and prelude for the challenges we face in Columbus.

The exploitation of gay and lesbian families in the game of partisan American politics is what we went to Washington to protest. Writing discrimination into the Constitution is antithetical to our core American values and I believe it is critical that we hold to account those in this country would use the issue of marriage equality as a wedge to further polarize and divide a nation looking for ways to come together to solve the many very real problems we face.

The exploitation of the gay and lesbian baptized in the game of global Anglican politics is what we go to Columbus to prevent. Just as writing discrimination into the Constitution is anathema to us as American citizens so perpetuating the marginalization and oppression of ANY child of God must be anathema to us as Christians. We must hold to account those in this church who would use the issue of the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people into the Body of Christ as a wedge to further polarize and divide the Communion when we should be looking for ways to come together to solve the many very real problems we face.

Just as we said “No” to the Federal Marriage Amendment we must say “No” to any resolution that would place the burden for the unity of the Communion on the shoulders of a percentage of the baptized. Our vocations and our relationships cannot be used as bargaining chips to secure unity for some at the price of justice for all.

Monday, June 05, 2006

On Anonymous comments, Apples and Oranges and Life in the Blogosphere

A few quick comment on my way out for the day ...

... thanks to all offering advice on how to "block" the comments from our anonymous friend who seems hell-bent on making sure everybody reads Mr. Lee's article about gay porn and unhealthy lifestyles. I really don't have time or energy to learn any new technical thing at this point and I don't have "elves" at my disposal like some bloggers and I just don't have the energy or the will to keep deleting the article everytime it shows up masquerading as a comment so I guess we'll just live with it.

... for the record, I'm not in favor of porn -- gay or straight -- or of lifestyles that promote promiscuity ... Hugh Hefner comes to mind.

... yes, I have both heard and preached sermons on sexual morality ... and am proud to have been instrumental in the framing of Resolution C051 passed at General Convention 2003 naming our standards for holy relationships as follows: "fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God."

That's the orange we've got on the table. You can keep throwing apples around all you want, but that isn't going to reframe the debate.

And now, off to Capitol Hill. Blessings, all!

Post Card From Washington DC

I'm in Washington, trying to convince myself it's the 7:30 a.m. on the alarm clock rather than the 4:30 on my body clock. My work today will be to take part in the Capitol Hill response to President Bush's pushing for the passage of the Federal Marriage Amendment being considered this week by legislators.

From the Integrity press release sent out yesterday:

Integrity President Susan Russell will join other clergy and human rights activists on Capitol Hill on Monday, June 5th, to urge the Senate to resist writing discrimination into the Constitution through the Federal Marriage Amendment—which is due to be voted on Tuesday or Wednesday this week. "As an Episcopal priest I have taken vows to respect the dignity of every human being and as an American citizen I have pledged to uphold liberty and justice for all," Russell said. "The Federal Marriage Amendment violates both of those principles and so I believe it is imperative that people of faith opposed to legislating inequity step up and make their voices heard in this critical debate."

Russell urged all Integrity members and Episcopalians to contact their senators and President Bush to express their opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment. Contact information for senators can be found at President Bush can be contacted at 202-456-1111 or

Why bother when nobody expects the vote to succeed? Because gay and lesbian families once again being scapegoated on the altar of partisan politics by a president so desperate to rescue his evaporating poll numbers that he'll do or say anything to secure his conservative base needs to be named for what it is: an attack on ALL Americans committed to the equal protection guaranteed by the Constitution. This has nothing to do with defending marriage and everything to do with exploiting it.

Last October I sat in the bleachers in Columbia, South Carolina as my son's graduation from Army boot camp and heard all those brave, young soldiers swear to "defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic." It never occurred to me that a few months later I'd be heading for the steps of the U.S. Capitol to add my voice to those defending the Constitution from a president willing to exploit it for for personal political gain. My son and his colleagues deserve better than that. America deserves better than that. Never mind the vote count on the hill -- THIS is worth bothering with, worth speaking out against, worth getting up at 4:30 a.m.

"Film at eleven" as they say!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

"Mere Expediency Will Serve No One"

A Response to the Bishop of Exeter
by the Rev. Michael W. Hopkins
Rector, the Church of St. Luke & St. Simon Cyrene, Rochester NY
Past President, Integrity

The Bishop of Exeter, the Rt. Rev. Michael Langrish, was a guest at the most recent meeting of the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops. His remarks to the bishops at the close of the conference have received wide circulation and, anecdotally, appear to have had considerable impact on many bishops-particularly because many perceived them as having been offered on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury. It would be unfortunate if his comments did not receive careful consideration and critical scrutiny. I offer the following to that end.

The quote that titles this essay comes from the second page of Bishop Langrish's comments and, it seems to me, is at the heart of the wrestling with his thinking that must be done. The paragraph from which the quote comes is as follows.

With such seriousness and such prayer, your process must command respect and a belief that your intention and desire to do not just what is expedient, but what is right. I believe that we all want that. Mere expediency will serve no one well-neither the church here or further abroad. Yet, when you do come to a decision about what is right, that decision (whatever it is) will have consequences and almost certainly profound ones. And trying to read and understand what those consequences might be, will presumably be part of the decision making too. Discerning the Body, and discerning the time, all seem to me to be part of discerning the right, the divine word for now.

I suspect that all sides of the issues before the Communion can read this paragraph with approval. It is an apt description of what is before us. Of course, the crisis exists here as well, in that a measure of discernment has already occurred, again on all sides, and a "divine word for now" reached that seems profoundly contradictory.

So what is expedient and what is right in this moment? It very much depends, of course, upon the context from which one is speaking. And perhaps the real question before the Communion, and before the General Convention, is, "Can we bear one another's contexts?"

Read it all here

You've Got Mail!

Reflections from Elizabeth Kaeton, deputy from Newark, on some of what's showing up in her mailbox during this countdown-to-Columbus and General Convention 2006.

I got a packet of information in the mail from the AAC, which includes:

1 - "Equipping the Saints: A Crisis Resource fro Anglican Laity - 2nd Edition"
2 - "Moving Slowly With Caution Isn't Stopping: AAC Commentary on the Special Commission Report
3 - "The AAC's Profiles of the Presiding Bishop's Nominees"

Some fascinating things I didn't know before reading this information

1. On the very first page, they "crow" about a reported 12% decrease in giving to the National Episcopal Church. One might be led to believe that this is a significant figure, until one recognizes that it is the AAC affiliated and Network churches which are the ones withholding money. Suddenly 12% doesn't seem as significant as it might.

2. They also "crow" about 200 churches which have disassociated from TEC since 2000, at least 100 of those since 2003. And, the reason for that would be ..........? (Do they really think people are unable to see through this? I suppose they really do. Really, really deep sigh.)

3. Their "Timeline of Significant Events" begins in 1966-67 (!) with the heresy charges brought against Bishop Pike who declared that, "the Church's classical way of stating what is represented by the doctrine of the Trinity is . . . not essential for the Christian faith." We then fast-forward, 10 years later, to the Consecration of John Shelby Spong as bishop of Newark and General Convention calling for a study/dialogue on sexuality and the ordination of homosexuals. Who knew that the doctrine of the Trinity, Jack Spong's consecration, and a study on sexuality and the ordination of LGBT people would be the epicenter of the ecclesiological earthquake which is causing the "split" in the church? (Note to those who think we need more dialogue and more study - by the AAC's own admission, we've been studying and talking about homosexuality for 30 years!! I feel like I'm in the middle of a Verizon commercial, "Can you hear me now?")

As you continue to read on, you recognize that they are absolutely right: it's really not about LGBT people, as has been the AAC's persistent claim.

It's really not even just a difference in the interpretation of scripture.

No, it's much, much more than that.

It really is about a form of evangelical Christianity which informs a theology and ecclesiology that has nothing to do with the spirit of classical Anglicanism. The deep irony is that they use the word "Anglican" - and even "Classical Anglican" to describe themselves. Amazing. Simply amazing.

4. Their "Summation" of the Windsor Report ends by saying, "The trajectory of the leadership of TEC remains on that very course of revisionism, and it seems nearly impossible that General Convention 2006 will change the course. We will continue to pray for a miracle, because only the truth sets us free." Well, there it is, then.

5. Their Summary of the Profiles of the Nominees for Presiding Bishop concludes: "No candidate has committed to uphold recommendations from TWR calling for moratoria on blessing SS Unions and consecration of non-celibate homosexuals. Each candidate has expressed, however, a commitment to unity - in most cases, unity at the expense of truth. Each candidate has expressed some degree of desire to remain connected to the Anglican Communion but not at the cost of autonomy." They do not - apparently cannot - endorse a single candidate. Well, and there you have it.

Nothing will satisfy this group but having their own way. Burger King Theology rules the day.
And they complain about "the autonomy of the revisionists."

Oh, BTW, that sound you hear is the distinct thud of tightly packed suitcases being closed. In 2003, after the vote to confirm +Gene Robinson's election, many of the AAC and FiFNA folks walked around with the biggest, fattest, darkest smudges of ashes in the middle of their foreheads. It was a very dramatic way to make a point.

Be prepared, if the vote on TWR doesn't go down exactly the way some want it, for a major, dramatic presentation. They are all set for a "live feed" of it - appropriately entitled, "Lent and
Beyond." Check out here -- A fairly pricey little project. Now we know where at least some of the 12% of the money to the National Church has been redirected.

If this is your first General Convention, and even it it's not, fasten your seat belts, kids and put on your crash helmet. Well funded with redirected money, underwritten by the IRD, and fueled with high test, industrial-strength vitriol, the AAC promises to put on quite a show.