Monday, July 31, 2006

Yin and Yang in Pittsburgh Today

Well, Pittsburgh is evidently the hot place to be today. Happily, I'm in cooler-by-the-day Southern California grateful that the heatwave has ended here, but there's definitely some "yin and yang" church stuff going on in summer-steamy Pittsburgh today.

First the "Yin": Bishop Duncan and the Network folk are gathering to talk "next steps" -- which sound very much like "last steps" toward the schism they have been working so long and hard to achieve. You can read "Moderator Bob's" address to the ACN here ... or you can just get the Clif Notes version below:

"Innovating ECUSA has walked apart. The clarity we prayed for has been given."

The new lingo is now "innovating" vs. "enduring." (I never liked "reasserters" and "reappraisers" much anyway, but you do kind of need a scorecard to keep track with these guys.)

Whatever. The bottom line is (stop me if you've heard this one before) we are the ones who have "walked apart" while they are pulling hamstrings running to obtain alternative primatial oversight, create covenants and confessions and create a curia-esque magesterium that bears absolutely no resemblance to anything Cranmer, Hooker or Seabury would have recognized.

And WE'RE the ones who are "innovating."

Methinks they dost spin just a bit too much! (See also: Whatever!)

But before you despair, check out the "Yang" -- and that would be "in other news" from Pittsburgh this press release from Roman Catholic Womenpriests posted today by Fr. Jake of Father Jake Stops the World:

On Monday, July 31, 2006, 8 U.S. women will be ordained priests and 4 women will be ordained deacons in the Roman Catholic Church. The ordination will take place on a chartered boat that will depart from Pittsburgh, PA at 3:00pm (1500 hours) E.D.T., and will sail on the Three Rivers: the Allegheny, the Monongahela and the Ohio, Bishops Gisela Forster, Ida Raming and Patricia Fresen of Germany will preside. The women being ordained come from California, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin and Kentucky.

Just as, by her example, our foremother Rosa Parks led white America to the understanding that they must examine their conscience and recognize the sin of racial prejudice, the womenpriests and womendeacons lift up the issue of gender equality before the Roman Catholic Church. By offering a new paradigm of gender equality, womenpriests and womendeacons affirm that women, as well as men, can and do image Jesus Christ.

Now there's an enduring innovation! And let the people say, AMEN!

The path to peace must be a path of peace

I'm a huge fan of TIKKUN ... the magazine and the movement ... and was both moved and encouraged by the full page ad in today's NYT entitled "Stop the Slaughter." You can read a PDF of the ad here but just to get you started, here's the opening text:

In the name of our sisters and brothers suffering and dying in Lebanon, Israel and the Occupied
Palestinian Territories, we, the undersigned, demand that the Israeli government, the leaderships of Hezbollah and Hamas, the U.S. Government, the international community and the United Nations immediately take the following steps to stop the war in these countries:

1. We demand that the Israeli government immediately halt its attacks on Lebanon. We join with the Israeli peace movement and the thousands of Israelis who demonstrated against this war in Tel Aviv on July 22, 2006 in their insistence that these attacks are utterly disproportionate to the initial provocation by Hezbollah, have killed innumerable innocent civilians, displaced half a million people, destroyed billions of dollars of Lebanon’s infrastructure, and will not, in the long run, secure peace or security for Israel. We also call on the Israeli government to supply food, electricity, water and funds to repair the humanitarian crisis caused by its invasion of Gaza.

2. We demand that Hezbollah and Hamas immediately stop shelling or otherwise engaging in violence against Israel. These actions, which have killed numerous Israeli civilians, terrorized the people of Israel and damaged many towns and cities, played a central role in provoking the current crisis, and do nothing but harm the cause of Palestinian and Lebanese independence and democracy. It is this kind of violence which has over the years pushed many decent Israelis into the hands of its most militaristic and paranoid political leaders.

3. We demand that the U.S. government and governments around the world call on Israel, Hezbollah and Hamas to observe an immediate ceasefire, place an immediate embargo on all shipments of weapons to all parties in the war (including Syria and Iran), and join an international conference to provide security on the border between Israel and Lebanon. By endorsing Israel’s attacks and explicitly giving it time to do more damage to the people of Lebanon, the U.S. government has become a party to this violence, which, together with American military actions in Iraq, is sure to create enmity towards the U.S. and Israel in the Muslim world for generations to come.

These are the minimum steps necessary to stop the violence and the humanitarian disaster in southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. But these steps alone will not ensure that the region doesn’t return to an untenable status quo which will again eventually break into violence and new rounds of warfare. We therefore issue a call for lasting peace ...

... Unrealistic? What has proved unrealistic time and again—whether we are talking about U.S. policy in Vietnam and Iraq or Israeli and Arab policies in the Middle East—is the fantasy that one more war will put an end to wars. The path to peace must be a path of peace. -- Tikkun NYT peace ad, July 31, 2006

From Across the Pond ...

A cartoon moment from The Church Times ... along with this excellent piece by the Reverend Marilyn McCord Adams:

Waiting on others can stifle prophetic action

For the past 150 years, the Church of England was - as an established Church arguably needs to be - a broad Church, whose institutional definition came from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; from its threefold norms of scripture, tradition, and reason; from its daily and weekly recitation of historic creeds; from its observance of the dominical sacraments; and from its episcopal government.

It was a Church wide enough to embrace Evangelicals, whose heart-of-hearts resonated to sola scriptura; and Anglo-Catholics who - amid smells and bells and clouds of smoke - secretly longed for clearer cut magisterium and for reunion with Rome. It was a Church that left room in the middle for wayfarers of all sorts and conditions - a Church whose very refusal to subject members to orthodoxy tests, or to weekly cross-examination in the confessional, created an atmosphere of acceptance that allowed it to be a home for all seasons.

It was a Church centred on worship of a mystery bigger than we can ask or imagine. Broad Church wasn't everybody's first choice, but it worked to keep the Church together. It was a Church for adults, a Church that could give members room to explore, because it always brought people back to the Bible and the BCP, back to the sacrament of the altar to meet the mystery on their knees.

Over the past decade-and-a-half, however, various forces have come together to re-identify our Church, to give the worldwide Anglican Communion sharper definition. The Archbishop of Canterbury's statement, "The Challenge and Hope of Being an Anglican Today" (News, 30 June), oils the Windsor-report machinery for immediate function, and gives instructions on how to divide the Church.

Read it all here

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Pray for Peace

"Seven hundred thousand out of a total Lebanese population of 3.5 million, 20 percent of the population, mostly Shiites, are now being cared for and given refuge by mostly Christian schools, churches, and other humanitarian organizations. This is the story of the Good Samaritan at a mega scale! And to think that this is the outcome of a strategy that meant to rouse anti-Hezbollah feelings among the Lebanese population and government. Talk about a failed strategy! Of course, this has happened so many times before that any thoughtful tactician would have learned the lesson by now, but military muscle is always too hedonistic and narcissistic to listen to the voice of reason and history."

- Dr. Martin Accad, academic dean of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary of Lebanon. Source: Christianity Today posted by Sojourners

Winning by Losing

Great op-ed in today's NYTimes ... Savage makes the argument far more eloquently than I could on a good day ... much less a middle-of-vacation-day ... that the recent decisions by the New York and Washington courts against marriage equality based on arguments of heterosexual instability might just indicate the beginning of the end for the heterosexual agenda. (Plus, you gotta love a dad who'll miss a breaking story to take a kid to the ballgame! Now THAT'S "family values" in action!)

Same-Sex Marriage Wins by Losing
By DAN SAVAGE, Seattle

THERE were community meetings in Seattle on Wednesday. Some of the couples who had sued to overturn Washington’s ban on same-sex marriage, a case they lost before the state’s Supreme Court earlier that day, were going to appear. Gay and straight elected officials who support “marriage equality” were going to make speeches. I probably should have been there too.

But I had a previous engagement.

The Seattle Mariners were playing the Toronto Blue Jays at Safeco Field. My 8-year-old son — adopted at birth by my boyfriend and me — loves the M’s almost as much as he hates the way a breaking news story can keep me late at work. He would never have forgiven me for skipping the game.

I didn’t feel too bad about missing the meetings. Washington’s high court rejected same-sex marriage for much the same reason the New York Court of Appeals did earlier this month. The speeches in Seattle would no doubt be similar to those made in New York, and I didn’t need to hear them again.

Basically, both courts found that marriage is like a box of Trix: It’s for kids.

In New York, the court ruled in effect that irresponsible heterosexuals often have children by accident — we gay couples, in contrast, cannot get drunk and adopt in one night — so the state can reserve marriage rights for heterosexuals in order to coerce them into taking care of their offspring. Without the promise of gift registries and rehearsal dinners, it seems, many more newborns in New York would be found in trash cans.

At least the New York court acknowledged that many same-sex couples have children. Washington’s judges went out of their way to make ours disappear, finding that “limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples furthers procreation, essential to the survival of the human race, and furthers the well-being of children by encouraging families where children are reared in homes headed by the children’s biological parents.” Children, the decision continues, “tend to thrive in families consisting of a father, mother and their biological children.’’

A concurring opinion gave the knife a few leisurely twists: due to the “binary biological nature of marriage,” it read, only opposite-sex couples are capable of “responsible child rearing.”
These stunning statements fly in the face of the evidence about gay and lesbian parents presented to the court. Similar evidence persuaded the high court in Arkansas to overturn that state’s ban on gay and lesbian foster parents.

What the New York and Washington opinions share — besides a willful disregard for equal protection clauses in both state Constitutions — is a heartless lack of concern for the rights of the hundreds of thousands of children being raised by same-sex couples.

Even if gay couples who adopt are more stable, as New York found, don’t their children need the security and protections that the court believes marriage affords children? And even if heterosexual sex is essential to the survival of the human race (a point I’m willing to concede), it’s hard to see how preventing gay couples from marrying increases heterosexual activity. (“Keep breeding, heterosexuals,” the Washington State Supreme Court in effect shouted, “To bed! To bed! To bed!”) Both courts have found that my son’s parents have no right to marry, but what of my son’s right to have married parents?

A perverse cruelty characterizes both decisions. The courts ruled, essentially, that making my child’s life less secure somehow makes the life of a child with straight parents more secure. Both courts found that making heterosexual couples stable requires keeping homosexual couples vulnerable. And the courts seemed to agree that heterosexuals can hardly be bothered to have children at all — or once they’ve had them, can hardly be bothered to care for them — unless marriage rights are reserved exclusively for heterosexuals. And the religious right accuses gays and lesbians of seeking “special rights.”

Even if you believe that marriage plays a special role in the lives of heterosexuals with children (another point I’m happy to concede), can it not play a similar role in the lives of homosexual couples, whether they’re parents or not? Marriage, after all, is not reserved for couples with children. (Perhaps it will be soon, if courts keep heading in this direction.)

When my widowed grandfather remarried in his 60’s, he wasn’t seeking to further the well-being of his children, who were grown and out of the house. He was seeking the security, companionship and legal rights that marriage provides. The survival of humankind was the furthest thing from his mind.

These defeats have demoralized supporters of gay marriage, but I see a silver lining. If heterosexual instability and the link between heterosexual sex and human reproduction are the best arguments opponents of same-sex marriage can muster, I can’t help but feel that our side must be winning. Insulting heterosexuals and discriminating against children with same-sex parents may score the other side a few runs, but these strategies won’t win the game.

So I’m confident that one day my son will live in a country that allows his parents to marry. His parents are already married, as far as he’s concerned, as my boyfriend and I tied the knot in Canada more than a year and a half ago. We recognize, even if the courts do not, that it’s in his best interest for us to be married.

And while Wednesday was a dark day, the M’s beat the Blue Jays 7 to 4, so it wasn’t a total loss.

Dan Savage is the editor of The Stranger, a Seattle newsweekly.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

And it was morning and it was evening ...

... and it was the last day of vacation at the beach!

Elizabeth Kaeton's "After Columbus"

It continues to amaze me that the growing analysis of what happened in “Columbus” is that “the diverse center held.” What absolute nonsense! What happened is that most of the Left and the Right, as well as the Middle, caved into strong-arming and emotional manipulation from ‘above’ – as well as ‘across the pond.’

After Columbus and the intellectually insulting, ethically bankrupt, and ultimately cowardly language of “manner of life” in B033, after the announcement from Lambeth about a Covenant Process which assures Episcopalians of the status of ‘downstairs maid,’ after the pronouncement from Nigeria that The Episcopal Church is ‘a cancerous lump in the Body’, the question begs to be answered: Were we so blinded by our earnest desire to give our newly elected Presiding Bishop what she, after only 72 hours, thought she needed, our determined optimism as Christians who are Americans, our confused tears about the intent of our choices, our desperate longing to belong to something bigger than ourselves, that we missed the trees of justice for the forest of uniformity?

Read it all here

Friday, July 28, 2006

Where Are the Activist Judges When You Need Them?

Back from the beach ....

Where Are the Activist Judges When You Need Them?

“While same-sex marriage may be the law at a future time, it will be because the people declare it to be, not because five members of this court have declared it.” -- Washington state Supreme Court Justice Barbara A. Madsen in the majority opinion ruling that there was no constitutional right for people of the same sex to marry each other.

Imagine just for a moment how different our nation would be if in 1954 the justices charged with rendering a decision on Brown v. Board of Education had applied Madsen’s flawed logic to the issue before them: the desegregation of public schools. It might have sounded something like this: “While desegregation of public schools may be the law at a future time, it will be because the people declare it to be, not because we’re willing to stick our necks out.”

Yeah, right. Does anyone for a moment imagine that if that important issue had been offered up as a ballot initiative it would have been anything other than soundly defeated by the “majority opinion?” Does anyone think local legislators dependent on that majority opinion for re-election would have supported legislation overturning segregation? Until just what “future time” would African-American children seeking equal access to public education have had to wait until “the people declared it to be?”

Hate to say it, but I think we’d still be waiting.

We’d still be waiting and in 2004 we would not have celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the tremendous gift America received from the activist judges who dared to overrule majority prejudice in favor of minority rights with the Brown vs. Board of Education decision. I remember watching with bewilderment on that May 2004 morning the live CNN feed from Topeka and listening to President Bush speaking from a red-white-and-blue bunting draped platform saluting the 1954 decision as a courageous step forward for all Americans while the “crawl” under the live footage read “Bush reiterates call for constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage” – and soon we got to hear another diatribe from our President launched at “activist judges who dare to overrule majority opinion on this important issue.” Hello!

As an American citizen I’m tired of seeing my Constitution selectively applied to offer equal protection to only some American families rather than guarantee liberty and justice for all. As a priest and pastor I’m tired of seeing my Holy Scriptures selectively interpreted to support bigotry and bias rather than proclaim good news to the poor, release to the captive and freedom to the oppressed.

Majority opinion has been wrong in the past and it will be wrong in the future and it is wrong today on the issue of marriage equality for same-sex couples seeking the equal protection guaranteed their families and their relationships by the Constitution. Majority opinion may today hold that marriage should be defined as between a man a woman but let’s not forget that not so long ago that same majority opinion held that marriage should be defined as between a white man and a white woman.

Let’s not forget that there were religious leaders who used biblical texts to justify segregation and declared that interracial marriage was an abomination to God and contrary to the clear truth of scripture.

Let’s not forget that it took an activist judiciary to over-rule majority opinion in favor of equal rights.

And let’s hope and pray that there are still those willing to go and do likewise.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


HIATUS: by Susan Russell

As I will be at the beach this week there will be no blogging from me -- however kindly folk have offered to "moderate" during my online absence so let the conversations continue (kindly, gently and respectfully, of course!) while I loll on a beach and contemplate the wonders of nature, sunscreen and margaritas! Blessings, all!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Focus on the Family: Gone to the Dogs

James Dobson's Colorado Springs-based ministry stands firmly against same-sex marriage, gay rights initiatives and, now, mooing puppies.
On Tuesday, Focus unveiled its new "straight" puppy Web site,, featuring a basset hound named Sherman, who barks as biology intended. During a news conference, a Focus employee dressed in a dog suit, who serves as a mascot at the group's visitors center, made a brief appearance.
"Dogs aren't born mooing, and people aren't born gay," a Focus news release stated.

CBS Interview with +Katharine Jefferts Schori: Take 2

Episcopal News Service
Thursday, July 20, 2006
CBS Evening News plans July 23 profile of Presiding Bishop-electAnchor Russ Mitchell interviews Katharine Jefferts Schori[ENS]

A CBS Evening News profile of Presiding Bishop-elect KatharineJefferts Schori is scheduled to air nationwide during the 6 p.m. newscast onSunday, July 23, after last week's planned airing was pre-empted by breakingnews.The profile centers around a July 13 interview conducted by CBS News anchorRuss Mitchell with Jefferts Schori on the campus of the General TheologicalSeminary in New York City.Should the profile be rescheduled due to time constraints, the segment willair at a later time, said producer Chris Hulme.Clergy and lay leaders may wish to make this announcement in congregationsduring July 23 Sunday services.

Arkansas Bishop to Allow Same-Sex Blessings

Arkansas Bishop to Allow Non-Sacramental Same-Sex Blessings
From The Living Church

In a letter e-mailed to the clergy of his diocese, the Rt. Rev. Larry Maze, Bishop of Arkansas, has given congregations permission to develop pastoral responses to same-gender couples who seek the blessing of The Episcopal Church for their relationships. Under the terms outlined in the letter, clergy are forbidden from performing sacramental rites for the blessing of same-sex unions, but clergy and congregations are permitted to experiment with pastoral responses to same-sex couples seeking affirmation and support.

The July 19 letter noted that while The Episcopal Church remains divided over the propriety of same-sex blessings, there had been agreement for more than 30 years that “homosexual persons are children of God,” and are to be shown “love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care.”“Seeking ways of recognizing and blessing faithful, monogamous same-sex relationships falls within the parameters of providing pastoral concern and care for our gay and lesbian members,” Bishop Maze wrote, citing the 74th General Convention’s resolution that placed same-sex blessings “within the bounds of our common life.”

A spokesman for Bishop Maze, who began a two-week vacation on July 21, told The Living Church “we are not talking about same-sex marriage.” Bishop Maze “has only approved a process whereby we can explore the meaning of same-sex blessings.”In November 2000, Bishop Maze initiated a conversation within the diocese on the pastoral and sacramental implications of blessing of same-sex unions. The July 19 letter continues this trend, according to the diocesan spokesman.Bishop Maze, who will retire in January, following the consecration of a successor scheduled to be elected on Nov. 11, distinguished between a sacramental rite for the blessing of same-gender unions and a pastoral provision for blessings.

“Neither the General Convention nor the Diocese of Arkansas has produced or approved official rites for the blessing of same-sex unions,” he said, adding “no congregation, vestry, or priest is expected to interpret the pastoral concern and care of the Church for gay and lesbian persons in a way that includes the possibility of formal rites of blessing.”

Congregations, however, were encouraged to come to “clarity around the issues involved when the church blesses anything or anyone.“If a couple seeks blessing in that congregation, they will join in that exploration much to the benefit of the congregation and the couple. This is a pastoral response,” Bishop Maze explained.The bishop’s encouragement of theological speculation on the distinction between a sacramental rite of blessing of same-sex unions and a pastoral provision for blessing same-sex unions is likely to draw the ire of the wider Anglican Communion.

The Windsor Report, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican Consultative Council, and the primates have all asked The Episcopal Church to refrain from such blessings.In a report published in The Christian Challenge magazine, two Arkansas congregations, St Paul’s, Fayetteville, and St. Michael’s, Little Rock, were cited as being open to Bishop Maze’s invitation. However, neither congregation said it was ready to proceed at this time with blessings

Investiture of Marc Andrus takes place tomorrow

New bishop called to heal divide in diocese
Conservatives dismayed by ordination of women, gays
By Christine Morente,
STAFF WRITER Inside Bay Area

Marc Andrus inherits a more progressive diocese than any other in the United States, but he has his work cut out for him to spread his message of inclusion to the rest of the country's Episcopal community.

On Saturday, at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, Andrus will become the eighth bishop of the California diocese, replacing retiring Bishop William Swing.
Andrus, 46, has seen his share of red-blue controversy in other dioceses that still do not accept gay or women ministers in conservative congregations.

At the same time, the Bay Area diocese has the most diverse membership — both economic and ethnic — open to anyone who believes he is called to serve. Andrus sees it as an important diocese.

"More women have been ordained in this diocese, and now its role is inclusion for gay, lesbian, transsexual and bisexual people," he said. "My role as bishop is to help that voice be heard in a larger level."

On June 14, the Joint Legislative Committee on the Consecration of Bishops in Columbus, Ohio, agreed to elect Andrus as bishop. He was elected in May by the Diocese of California. Previously, he served as assistant bishop in the Diocese of Alabama.
Married with two children, Andrus is attracted to the diocese by its energy. The Episcopal Diocese of California has a 27,000 members and has parishes in San Mateo, San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa and Marin counties, and two congregations in Santa Clara County.
"They're very engaged Christians," he said. "They want to be part of a solution for good, they want to grow spiritually and want to offer what they have to a wider community."

Several San Mateo County congregation members see him as someone who can heal the divide that has been brewing since the Episcopal Church's participation in the civil rights movement, when conservatives felt the Episcopal Church should have stayed out of it. Instead, some dioceses moved toward progressive attitudes and social justice.
The schism became larger in 1979, when the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer was changed to accept anyone who wanted to become clergy.

The Rev. Lisa Eunson, of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Belmont, shrugs off the discourse among conservatives who don't believe women and gays should be ordained.

"I'm a priest, and I try to call people back to what God is saying," she said. "In the Episcopal Church, we believe very much in the fact that clergy are called by God. Who are we to question who God is calling? We have to trust that God is doing what God wants to happen next."
The Rev. Catherine Costas, deacon of the Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Belmont, said Andrus is a strong pastor interested in keeping contact with the Anglican Communion to address world problems.

"He will fight for issues on matters of justice," she said.
Meanwhile, Eunson believes Andrus is up to the challenge.
"He's someone who does yoga and loves nature. He's passionate on environmental issues," she said. "He comes to us with all the tools — both intellectually and spiritually — to be very much at home in this diverse climate."

Andrus said that, under his leadership, the Episcopal Diocese of California will help people find a spiritual home.
"It will help people search for meaning and relationship."

The investiture celebration starts at 11 a.m. The Rt. Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, Bishop of North Carolina, will preach, and the Rt. Rev. Harry B. Bainbridge III, Bishop of Idaho and President of Province VIII, will preside at the liturgy.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Rev. John Kirkley: One That Got Away

As I reflect on the spiral of violence engulfing Palestine, Israel, and Lebanon, I am reminded of the many issues that the 2006 General Convention of the Episcopal Church failed to address. One that got away was the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There were three resolutions on aspects of this issue that never made it to the floor of the House of Deputies: A011, A012, and A013. While these proposals were nothing terribly new or earth shattering, they would at least have afforded us an opportunity to speak a word of judgment and hope to the wider world.We were too busy ensuring that the two or three diocesan elections in which gay or lesbian nominees might stand a chance of being elected bishop were prevented from doing so. In essence, the half dozen or so gay or lesbian priests who are qualified, called, and willing to serve as bishop in our church were considered more of a threat to the world than the current debacle in the Middle East.Lions and tigers and gay bishops, oh my!Meanwhile, as the peace process in the Middle East is beset by an inferno of escalating retaliatory violence, the Episcopal Church dithers about whether or not it will be a "full" or "associate" member of a reconstituted and newly covenanted Anglican Communion - nine or ten years from now, if ever. And so Jesus continues to weep over Jerusalem - and the Gaza - and Southern Lebanon - and over a Church more concerned with its "purity" than with its mission: healing the world by reconciling all people to God and each other through Christ. Hat tip to happening-here, for keeping us focused on the needs of a suffering world, even as the Church continues to fold in on itself.

Monday, July 17, 2006


HIATUS: by Susan Russell

As I will be on retreat for the rest of this week and on vacation next week there will be little or no blogging from me -- however kindly folk have offered to "moderate" during my online absence so let the conversations continue (kindly, gently and respectfully, of course!) while I loll on a beach and contemplate the wonders of nature, sunscreen and margaritas! Blessings, all!

Who owns Christianity?

Who owns Christianity?
by Deepak Chopra [from an article in]

Not many people of moderate persuasion have much sway in the church any more. I was reminded why recently when the Episcopal Church did two important things: It elected a woman bishop to head the denomination, and it backtracked on appointing gay bishops. The first move seems Christian. Women deserve to hold church office as much as political office (one diocese, however, was so incensed that it voted to leave the church, and worldwide there are still Anglican movements that do not permit women to be bishops or ordained priests).

The second move was an act of cowardice because it did not reflect the ideals of love in Christianity and was motivated by reactionaries in the Episcopal denomination. Countering a long tradition of laissez-faire tolerance, the reactionaries have gotten tough and threatened to form their own church if gays are promoted in the priesthood. The worldwide Anglicans are more intolerant, upholding that homosexuality is forbidden, unnatural, wrong or an outright sin, depending on who is doing the disapproving.

You'd think that someone would stand up and ask a simple question: Who are we to condemn gays if Christ didn't? In fact, who are we to condemn any sinner, since Christ didn't? Christianity is about forgiveness, and for the past two decades, as fundamentalism swept through every Protestant denomination, moderates and liberals have been driven out, and were roundly condemned as they left. Along with them went tolerance and forgiveness, not to mention love.

Did Christ teach love or is that just a liberal bias? In the current climate, it's hard to remember, but one thing is certain: Once a tight cabal of fundamentalists takes over any denomination, Christ's teachings go out the window. The reversal of Christianity from a religion of love to a religion of hate is the greatest religious tragedy of our time.

Those of us who haven't been swept up in worldwide fundamentalism, which has corrupted Islam, Hinduism and Judaism as well, have been caught in a double bind. We can't join any sect that preaches intolerance, yet we can't fight it, either, because by definition fighting is a form of intolerance. To escape this double bind, moderates have stayed silent and stayed home. But that tactic failed. As healthy as it is to nourish your own devotion and faith, it's disastrous to allow extremists to take over the church, because the statehouse, the board of education, the Congress,
and eventually the presidency are next.

Perhaps civil society will solve the problem of religious extremism. So far it hasn't. America finds itself in the sad plight of being the world's most prominent secular society hijacked by sectarians. One can only hope that the church comes to its senses and regains its moral center. If that doesn't occur, the core teachings of Christ will be lost, for all intents and purposes, to this generation.

Deepak Chopra is the author "Peace is the Way," which won the Quill Award in 2005 as well as 41 other books. He is also the founder and president of the Alliance for a New Humanity, an international network of people from all walks of life who are networking together tosee a positive change take place in the world.

Toward A Litmus Test Litany

Happy William White Day -- he described in Lesser Feasts and Fasts as "a theologian of no mean ability [whose] gifts of statesmanship and reconciling moderation steered the American Church through the first decades of its independent life."

On his feast day, these reflections from my friend and clergy colleague Michael (no relation) Russell seemed particulary appropriate to offer in the hope that the God who "in a time of turmoil and confusion didst raise up thy servant William White" might endow those who continue to lead this church with the gifts of "wisdom, patience and a reconciling temper" we celebrate as his legacy.

Toward A Litmus Test Litany

I find it sad that in the present time we, and that includes me, do not assume the essentials about one another so that every time we meet we have to re-establish common ground before we can speak about other things. In essence there is no longer any "good faith" common ground presumed. We are always embryonic with the ontogeny recapitulatingthe phylogeny.

So what we need is for a new Conversational Entrance Rite. Somehow the SCLM missed this in all their extensive liturgical work for the BOS at the last GC. So I'd like to propose that we adopt a Litmus Litany so that we can quickly establish shared essentials and then get on to otherconversations. I am sure folks will have other suggestions, but here goes:

L: Do you believe in God?
P: I believe in God, Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth

L: Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
P:I believe in Jesus Christ, his only son our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontious Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heave, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

C: Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?
P: I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.

C: Will you continue in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in thebreaking of the bread, and in the prayers?
P: I will, with God's help.

C: Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin,repent and return to the Lord?
P: I will, with God's help.
C: Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
P: I will, with God's help.
C: Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
P: I will with God's help.
C: Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
P: I will with God's help

Now I think this proposed Litmus Litany would really be enough so that we could even wear like a little Sunday School button that was engraved with"LLC" for Litmus Litany Compliant. We could have it appended to our names like other honorifics: Michael Russell, MA, MDiv, LLC.

I am pretty sure that once we are all assured that we have common good faith ground in something as simple as this Litmus Litany then we could stop wasting time and flapping our jaws in immediate judgment of others when they do not begin their statements with those statements of faith we think most important at the moment or for all eternity.

We might actually function in that blissful state of Good Will and be happier ourselves. So I hope the SCLM will hop on the bandwagon here and create a much neededLitmus Litany for us all. I think the proposed one above is pretty darn good and comprehensive, although I have to confess that I did not write it myself.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

"To Preach the Unpreachable Text"

Abel Lopez, my friend and clergy colleague at All Saints Church today managed to preach a fabulous sermon on a very challenging text ... a sermon he has given me permission to share on this blog and I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed hearing it! (You'll miss the Cuban accent but you can't have everything!)

"Shall We Dance" -- A Sermon on 2 Samuel 6:1-17

In the process of doing research for this sermon, imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon a paper by Thomas G. Long of Princeton Theological Seminary that addressed the question of whether or not every biblical text could be preached. Long asked, “are there biblical texts so historically remote, so theologically conflictural…..that they are simply not legitimate texts for preaching? He concluded, that although few, indeed there were a limited number of texts which would fall into the category of unpreachable. You’ll appreciate that my surprise turned to fear when, although not identified as solidly unpreachable, our lesson today was identified in the strongly questionable category.

Long went on to say that for many of these “Difficult Preaching Texts,” it was necessary to explore a different model of interpretation. He suggests that we should step back from the text and ask questions of function rather than merely of content. I agree with Long; however as I wrestled with the text (and I did wrestle with the text) I concluded that function was important and also there was an opportunity for us to gain much from the content.

Clearly, when reading the first part of the story, one has to ask, “what is going on here?” What kind of God is this that would strike dead poor Uzzah for just trying to steady the Ark? Do we dismiss this text because it shows us an angry, violent, punishing God? Stepping back and looking at this story from a functional perspective, one has to examine what symbolism is at play. What did Uzzah’s spontaneous and reflexive response to the falling Ark reveal about him? You see the Ark in this story can be seen to represent the cosmic power of the divine, free from all human control or intervention. Uzzah, on the other hand, represents the limited human effort to “..manipulate divine presence and favor.”

I can imagine that if we had asked Uzzah, prior to his death, if he believe in God the Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen, he would have responded with a resounding yes! And yet this great believer, when the oxen stumbled, revealed his real faith: His was a God that was so small it was contained in a box and so powerless that if the box fell God would fall. His God had become an empty shell of a God trapped inside a fragile religious symbol.

Look with me and see Uzzah reaching out to steady the ark.
I see Uzzah reaching out to steady the Ark when someone says that we shouldn’t seek to grow and extend our message of God’s inclusive love.
I see Uzzah reaching out to steady the Ark in the comprised vote made at the General Convention.
I see Uzzah reaching out to steady the Ark every time someone says that Sermons from this pulpit are too political and should be toned down.

Now, let’s examine content. Notice I said David brought the Ark. David, unlike Uzzah, recognized that the Ark was a sacred symbol. Important in the faith and worship tradition of the Israelite people, but David knew that it was not in and of itself God the Almighty. David knew that he stood before a God not isolated within a container. His dancing and leaping was an expression of joy and praise to God. It was a form of religious rejoicing, an expression of joy on the occasion of bringing of the Ark to Jerusalem. David was passionate in his praise and worship of the Lord. Recall, much of the book of Psalms (meaning Songs of Praises) was written by David. On one occasion he said, “Let them praise his name in the dance: Let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp.”

Now, before you become alarmed, I’m not going to advocate for the introduction of dance into the worship Services at All Saints. But today’s lessons did cause me to ponder this very physical form of worship in David’s time and perhaps in more recent times.

I suggest to you this morning that Dancing is a powerful symbol. It can become, for us, the double-performance of both human prayer and divine address. On the one hand, the dance can express our deep desire and longing to be free of oppression and grief, the longing of people still marginalized. On the other hand, the dance can become a way for us to experience healing. Also, and not to be missed, the dance can become an expression of our ongoing and evolving relationship with the divine.

Cubans take dancing very seriously. We expect our babies to learn to dance before they can walk. In every city, throughout the country, people from all ages gather at the plazas, on weekends, for a celebration of music and dance. As a young man, I interpreted that every musical piece, was a way for Cubans to move beyond the bonds of oppression and to express our cry for freedom of speech. I saw the unrestrained movement of the body as a way of rejecting and throwing off the excessive control our government imposed on it’s people. I use to say to myself, if dancing is a way to release the pains of oppression, no wonder Cubans are such good dancers! Although I understood that it was a way to be lifted beyond the oppression, I thought it was a poor substitute for political or social action. Throughout my life in Cuba I resisted participating in these celebrations. Not dancing in Cuba is like renouncing your citizenship. I saw my not dancing as a protest vote.

It was many years later in Austin, TX that the movie Buena Vista Social Club aired. I saw the movie many times and I would cry over and over again. I needed deep healing. I needed to face the reality that I had built up and maintained so much resentment toward our government. Resentment that was buried deep, deep within my heart. Whereas others had found a way to express hope and at least elevate themselves weekly from the oppression, I had isolated myself and refused to join the dance. It was then that I realized that I was living in exile long before I left my Cuba. Dancing had given so many in Cuba hope, a way to free their bodies and mind.

I was recently sharing much of this with a friend of mine who is from the South. We often compare similarities between Cuban culture and Southern Culture. Usually our conversations center around food. He said the following to me, “Abel, some of my most cherished moments growing up were my time spent worshipping along side my family in a black church. The music was expressive and freeing. It was not unusual to have one of the Sisters get caught up in the Spirit and break out into a shout or dance. My friends and I thought all the shouting was quite funny and we would often take bets as to which Sister would be the first to get the Spirit. But even then, as a child, I understood the sacredness of these services to people who were excluded from so much of the world.”

He continued, “They brought into worship their disappointments, their pain, the hurt they experienced daily from overt racism. They also brought into worship their joys, hope, and their expressions of thanks and praise for the blessings God brought into their lives. Looking back, had I not lived the life they were living, it would be easy for me to dismiss these services as emotionalism over substance. But that would be a big mistake, for they taught me that ultimately, the sacred performance is life. Like David their worship experience sprang from their life experiences.”

So If I am not advocating for a more inclusive worship at All Saints, including a little shouting and dance, where am I going with this almost unpreachable text. First, allow me to bring this down to the personal level. As individuals each of us experience the pains and joys of life. We too can feel disenfranchised, disappointments and perhaps being oppressed or simply not appreciated. We are sometimes loss to God’s call and purpose for our lives. God invites us to leave our selves, to leave our pain behind for a moment and to share in the ecstasy of the divine dance of love, which is the true liturgy in which we know God. Remember God is always reaching out to us. "Shall we dance?" Says God. "Lose yourself! Dance wildly and freely with me. Dance with the abandonment of David. Help me break the floor rules that keep you in the corner while the rest of us are dancing." God is present, planting possibilities with every encounter, inspiring adventures with every step of your dance.

On an institutional level you’ve heard much over the past few weeks about the outcome of General Convention. One could say that the divine Spirit was surely at play in the election of Katharine Jefferts Schori as the Presiding Bishop. I wasn’t there but I’m told that there was much shouting, crying and expressions of joy. Would it be presumptuous of me to assume that there was a little dancing going on? Just some 31 years ago Bishop Schori would not have been allowed to be ordained let alone become a Bishop and I’m sure few people, if any, would have expected that in the course of three decades the Episcopal Church would have elected a female Presiding Bishop.

How could all of this have happened in a Church with such entrenched structures and processes going back hundreds of years? I’d suggest it was because the Church over the past many years continued to dance with the divine. I’d like to think of the Church connected torso to torso with the divine, dancing, sometimes embracing, sometimes stepping back, but always remaining in rhythm with the music. It is the way we live out our interpretation of our Christian faith. It is the interplay of reasoning, tradition and scripture that allows us to hear God’s call in our time. It precludes us from grasping hold of theology in a dogmatic, obsessive or intolerant way. It is our dancing that brought us Katharine as our new Presiding Bishop and we as individuals and the collective church should dance in prayer and thanksgiving for this wonderful gift and we should dance in prayer asking God to guide and be with Bishop Schori, for the demands of her leadership will be great and more than, many of us could bear.

Finally, continuing on the institutional level, I want to speak briefly to the other big outcome of the convention. As excited and thankful as we were to hear of our new Presiding Bishop, we were equally sadden and disappointed to learn of the decision to approve a resolution which formalized discrimination and institutional oppression in the Church. Know that this resolution does not only discriminate against and oppress gay and lesbian members of the church. It discriminates against and oppresses all of us, all of us. For the rationalization and thought, contained in such a compromise, oppresses all of us whose dance with the divine calls us to understand God’s inclusive love as having no restrictions on how we hear God’s call to serve. We are all wounded and oppressed by this action.

Know that as we continue on our journey for true inclusion for all of our brothers and sisters, we can be lifted from the oppression and the discrimination by the praise and dancing we offer up to God. We come here each Sunday to be in community, to be nurtured to kneel down asking God for healing. I ask you to incorporate in your worship and prayer that we be free from oppression. Pray that our leaders will continue to dance with the divine, that their dance will in the end not be like Uzzah. Pray that we will not continue to try and steady the Ark by discriminating against our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. Pray that we understand the true call of God to be that we lift up from oppression all of our brothers and sisters just as we were called to lift up to the world and to God, Bishop Katherine as the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church USA. Amen.

Luna at Seven Months ...

Getting to be a VERY big girl!
(Check out MY blog here and see pictures of my dog mom & dad!)

Talking Across the Divide

Musings for a REALLY hot Sunday afternoon:
So IS there any way to talk across this particular divide or are we doomed to keep assaulting each other with our arsenal of talking points, scripture texts and theological soundbites until Jesus finally runs out of patience with us and gathers us into His loving embrace and leaves us with a much longer "things undone" than "things done" list?

Friday, July 14, 2006

'Heartlands of Anglicanism'

11 JULY 2006
Media Release from the Archbishop of Cape Town

[ACNS] The Archbishop of Cape Town has written to the Primates of the Anglican Communion issuing a strong call to uphold the ' broad rich heartlands of our Anglican heritage.' He argues that this must be 'the territory on which we debate our future.' He adds 'it is not something to be fought out at the limits of conservatism or liberalism, as if they were the only possibilities before us. '

In a lengthy reflection on what it is to be Anglican, Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane declares, 'we cannot lose this middle ground.' He argues that the central core of Anglican tradition is not bland or shallow, but offers 'productive spiritual soil.' He refutes any suggestion that embracing the middle ground means 'anything goes.' Rather, he affirms uncompromising dedication and obedience to the heart of faith, as it is lived under the authority of Scripture, of Church order and structures, and of Christian tradition.

Read the ACNS report (which includes the full text of Archbishop Ndungane's statement) here

And now, a word from my bishop ...

Open Hearted, Open Minded Christianity
by The Right Reverend J. Jon Bruno and The Reverend Bryan Jones

In recent years the Episcopal Church has acted from a firm foundation of biblical, historic faith, not on "whatever the liberal elements of secular society deem permissible or politically correct" as contended by Charlotte Allen in her diatribe against the Episcopal and Presbyterian churches, "Liberal Christianity is paying for its sins" (Los Angeles Times, Sunday, July 9, 2006).

Episcopalians seek to follow Jesus' own understanding of scripture when he identified two commandments from the Torah (Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18): "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength" and "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" as greater than any other portions of Scripture (Matthew 22:36-40). We believe that the central biblical mandates are clear: to love, welcome, and include all people into an egalitarian Christian fellowship, in which "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11). It is in these overarching commandments and central mandates from the Bible as a whole that we find the authority of Scripture. We do not look for that authority in any handful of scattered, isolated passages selectively gathered to rationalize intolerance, cruelty or unfairness.

This basic call of God in Christ leads Christians in each age to new awareness of still unresolved divisions and unaddressed exclusions in the Church and in society. In our own times, this dynamic has led the Episcopal Church and many other American churches into conflicts over injustice and oppression against people of color, the poor, and immigrants, as well as over the equality of women and the full humanity of gay and lesbian people.

Our current conflicts are real but should not be overblown. Out of more than 7,000 congregations nationwide fewer than 150 have sought to leave the Episcopal Church. Out of 111 dioceses, seven are seeking ecclesiastical oversight from someone other than our newly elected Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, while making it clear that they do not wish to leave the Episcopal Church.

The Episcopal Church is open to all people regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation. Within the broad parameters of essential Christian conviction and practice, it celebrates a diversity of opinions and positions on many issues. We are bound together by common prayer and shared worship, so we have no need to impose uniformity in thought and doctrine. At our best we are open-hearted and open-minded followers of Christ. We democratically elect our bishops, priests, and lay leaders at all levels of the church. We respect each person's right to conscience. We know our understanding is limited and often mistaken but we strive together to hear God's voice in Scripture, in the tradition of the Church and in our God-given capacities to think and feel, to reflect and to learn.

In her article, Charlotte Allen paints a picture of the Episcopal Church in particular and the American religious landscape in general that is simplistic and inaccurate. In her view churches can be neatly divided into denominations which are declining because of their liberalism and denominations which are growing because they are conservative. Reality, as usual, is a bit more complex. The Episcopal Church was never simply "the Republican Party at prayer." It always has been and still is home to people who are both theologically and politically conservative, moderate and liberal. It is the church of Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, but also of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a life long active Episcopalian whose social conscience was formed by the Episcopal schools of his youth. Even the Southern Baptists are more diverse than their commonly assigned caricature. The last three Baptist Presidents were named Truman, Carter and Clinton.

Declining Church membership and attendance is a broader phenomenon as well. The Southern Baptist Convention now publicly worries that its plateaued membership numbers and declining baptism rates augur future decline. Some recent studies reveal that attendance has started to decline in evangelical congregations and conservative mega churches as well. It is true that the overall membership of the Episcopal Church has declined since the 1960's. But it also true that a majority of its dioceses experienced increases in their active members (communicants) between 1993 and 2003. For example here in California the "liberal" diocese of Los Angeles and the "conservative" diocese of San Joaquin grew at nearly equal rates. (13.9% with 1,018 new communicants for San Joaquin and 12% with 5,869 new communicants for Los Angeles.)

Christianity in North America is moving through a great historic transition which may have first expressed itself among mainline denominations, but is not stopping there. We have moved into an era where, regardless of nominal identifications, only a minority of Americans are active, church-going Christians of any stripe. The rivers of societal sanctions and cultural norms no longer flow through church doors depositing people in the pews. Today the majority of Americans no longer fear either social ostracism or eternal damnation when they choose not to go church. The palpable tone of hostile resentment in so many public voices of American Christianity today arises out of grief at the passing of that socially conventional church. But we are convinced that its passing is all to the good. Too often the motivation of religious fear bore the bitter fruit of anxious lives and judgmental communities, hardly the joyous fruits of the Spirit which the poetry of St. Paul sings praises to (Galatians 5:22-23). Far better for churches of any size to be filled with people who have consciously chosen to sing praises faithfully and gratefully towards the loving God they find there.

And while we are at it, let's sing a few praises for Katherine Jefferts Schori, newly elected as the first woman Presiding Bishop in the Episcopal Church. Her ministry continues to embody what Christian churches in the 21st century should be about. Her vision for the Church calls us beyond the current disputes to Christ's call to comfort the mourning, feed the hungry, and preach good news to the poor.

Every week in tens of thousands of churches, including Episcopal congregations, people are quietly living into that vision by caring for their neighbors. A recent study from the University of Chicago revealed that presently 50% of Americans report they have fewer than three people in their lives they can confide in. Twenty-five percent report they have no one to confide in at all. In such unprecedented social isolation, loneliness may be the hunger and poverty that is shared most often by people at all levels of our society. Although we make no claims that it is the only place where a life different from this can be found, we know the local Episcopal congregation offers a blessed alternative. There you will find a faith community where people know and care for each other; respect differences, and share the presence of God, whose love passes all our understanding.

J. Jon Bruno is the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. Bryan Jones is Rector of St. Thomas of Canterbury Episcopal Church in Long Beach.

Office of Communications & Public Affairs
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OK, this one just made me laugh

Thanks to Sara McGinley, our favorite Minnesota Mom!

Speaking of Biblical Issues ...

AP reporter Richard Ostling has an interesting piece outlining what ELSE we did at General Convention:

People were so riveted on the homosexual issue at the Episcopal Church's June convention that other actions involving biblical teachings got little attention.The most dramatic was approval of Barry Beisner as bishop of the Sacramento-based Diocese of Northern California. A minority of six on the committee handling nominations commended Beisner's ministry, but objected because he's twice divorced and in a third marriage.

Thus, his consecration Sept. 30 will be precedent-setting. One delegate noted that in some dioceses Beisner would be ineligible to be a priest, much less a bishop.

Until recently, Episcopalians, like fellow Anglicans in other nations, opposed remarriage while the original spouse is living, based on Jesus' strict teaching (Matthew 5:31-32, 19:3-9; Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18), reaffirmed by Paul (1 Corinthians 7:10-11).The committee minority quoted 1 Timothy 3:2, that a bishop must be "above reproach," but delicately dropped the succeeding phrase saying he must be "the husband of one wife."

The minority warned that Beisner's elevation would appear to weaken the church's "commitment to the lifelong sanctity of marriage" and cause Anglicans overseas to question the Americans' commitment to biblical teaching.

Episcopalians only liberalized on divorce in recent times.In the mother Church of England, even with relaxed rules, Prince Charles (the church's future supreme governor) couldn't marry Camilla Parker Bowles in church while her first husband is living. After a civil wedding, the Archbishop of Canterbury merely led a prayer service for the couple. In 1936, King Edward VIII famously had to surrender his throne to wed twice-divorced American Wallis Simpson.

Read it all here.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

+Carey Opts Out of DC Conference

Interesting news from "across the pond" -- The following is a statement from Lord George Carey, the 103rd Archbishop of Canterbury:

It is with great regret that I have had to cancel my visit to the Future of Anglicanism conference in Washington this weekend. Since General Convention earlier this month there have been a number of developments in the Episcopal Church of the United States of America and increasing pressures on the unity of the Anglican Communion.

I understand from Lambeth Palace that talks between the Archbishop of Canterbury and ECUSA leaders are ongoing and delicate. It is for these reasons, and in order to support the office and ministry of the Archbishop of Canterbury, that I have made my decision.

Read it all here and continue to keep the church and the communion in your prayers. (Remember the good old days when things "slowed down" during the summer?!)

Recommended Reading

Book Description: In a powerful new book, evangelical theologian and former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Jack Rogers argues unequivocally for equal rights in the church and in society for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Throughout history, he observes, Christianity has moved towards ever greater openness and inclusiveness.

Today's church is led by many of those who were once cast out: people of color, women, and divorced and remarried people. He argues that when we interpret the Bible through the lens of Jesus' redemptive life and ministry, we see that the church is called to grant equal rights to all people. Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality describes Rogers' own change of mind and heart on the issue; charts the church's well-documented history of using biblical passages to oppress marginalized groups; argues for a Christ-centered reading of Scripture; debunks oft-repeated stereotypes about gays and lesbians; and concludes with ideas for how the church can heal itself and move forward again.

A fascinating combination of personal narrative, theology, and church history, this book is essential reading for all concerned with the future of the church and the health of the nation. "This is an extraordinary book, arguably the best to appear in the long, drawn-out debates within churches over homosexuality," says J. Philip Wogaman, former senior minister at Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C.

"Rogers book will be useful to people of ALL mainline denomination..." says the Right Reverend V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire. "For those who truly wish to know what the Bible does and does not say, this is a real find."

About the Author: Jack Rogers is Professor of Theology Emeritus at San Francisco Theological Seminary and was moderator of the 213th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). He is the author of Reading the Bible and the Confessions; Claiming the Center: Churches and Conflicting Worldviews; and Presbyterian Creeds.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A Word to the Church

Reflecting on General Convention 2006, Presiding Bishop Griswold has offered "A Word to the Church" which starts: I am writing to you in the light of the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Columbus, Ohio and the reactions to its decisions. A full report on the actions of General Convention is available online at the Episcopal Church's website. However, I want here to offer some reflections of my own.

Read those reflections here, or ...

Listen to them here ...

And HERE are a couple of my favorite bits:

On the Presiding Bishop-elect: I believe the election of Katharine Jefferts Schori, Bishop of Nevada, to be the 26th Presiding Bishop was the work of the Holy Spirit. Her considerable gifts will serve the church well in the years ahead. Her election also means that a woman's voice will be heard among the voices of the 38 primates of the Anglican Communion. The Communion, through its Consultative Council, is committed to gender equity in all Communion decision-making bodies. Bishop Jefferts Schori's election is a further step toward the realization of that goal.

On the "listening process:" Our decisions also created space in order that a "listening process" across the Communion can be as fruitful as possible, and draw us together across differences. Voices from other parts of the Communion and our own church must be heard and honored. One of the primary resources in this listening process will be the voices and experience of gay and lesbian members of Christ's body. Here I would hope that Jesus' observation that a tree is known by the fruit it bears would be taken seriously as a biblical criterion alongside other texts.

On the "two-tier communion concept:" I note here that a two-tier solution to our present strains raises serious questions about how we understand ourselves as being the church. I am put in mind of Paul's understanding of the church as the body of Christ of which we are all indispensable members in virtue of our baptism. I think as well of Jesus' declaration in the Gospel of John that he is the vine and we are the branches and that apart from him we can do nothing. Such a two-tiered view of our common life suggests to me amputated limbs and severed branches without any life-giving relationship to the One who is the source of all life. A pragmatic solution in this regard is at the expense of the deeper truth that the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you.

Cartoon du jour ...

Setting the Record Straight

Setting the Record Straight
by Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh
July 11, 2006

There are a number of pieces of misinformation circulating in the wake of General Convention. The following is an attempt to set the record straight.

Claim: That only two or three of the autonomous churches of the Anglican Communion accept women as bishops.
Fact: A chart provided by the Anglican Communion Secretariat in 2003 lists three autonomous provinces of the Anglican Communion (The Episcopal Church and the Churches in New Zealand and Canada) as having chosen and consecrated women as bishops. However, Brazil, Central America, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Scotland, Southern African, and the Sudan ordain women as priests and have no canonical bars to women bishops. The Church of England is in the process of amending its canons to allow women to become bishops, and Australia very narrowly defeated a similar measure at its last Synod.

Claim: That the Episcopal Church has authorized same sex-blessings.
Fact: General Convention 2006 did not pass any new resolutions or canons concerning this. A 2003 resolution states that the church is divided on this issue, commits the Church to a standard of faithful monogamy, and states that local areas "are operating within the bounds of our common life" if they explore liturgies for such blessings. The church as a whole has not come to a conclusion or authorized any liturgy. In other words, it continues to support local option for pastoral responses.

Claim: That Presiding Bishop-elect, Katharine Jefferts Schori, introduced radical feminist theology by referring to "Mother Jesus" in her homily at General Convention.
Fact: The image of "Mother Jesus" was used widely among patristic and Medieval theologians and Christian mystics including: Julian of Norwich, Adam of Perseigne, Aelred, Albert the Great, Anselm, Aquinas, Augustine, Bernard of Cluny, Bonaventure, Bridget of Sweden, Catherine of Siena, Clement of Alexandria, Dante, William Flete, Gilbert of Hoyland, Guerric of Igny, Guigo II the Carthusian, Helinand of Froidmont, Isaac of Stella, Margery Kempe, Peter Lombard, Ludolph of Saxony, Marguerite of Oingt, Mechtild of Magdeburg, Richard Rolle, and William of St. Thierry, as well as in the Ancren Riwle and the Stimulus Amoris. These church heavyweights got their inspiration from the Bible, which itself uses such imagery. See, for example, Deuteronomy 32:18; Isaiah 46:3–4; Hosea 13:8; and Mathew 23:37.

Claim: That Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has defied the Windsor Report by making her diocese a center for blessings of same-sex unions.
Fact: The Diocese of Nevada did approve a resolution at its December 2003 convention allowing blessings of same-sex unions, subject to approval of each case by the bishop. Bishop Jefferts Schori has required that parishes wishing to do such blessings have a fully developed policy on the matter. In two-and-a-half years since the resolution was passed, there have been two such blessings.

Claim: That the experience of Missouri provides a precedent for withdrawing from a province of the Episcopal Church.
Fact: Article VII of the Constitution of The Episcopal Church does require that a diocese agree to its placement in a particular province. Pittsburgh did agree to being in Province III. The canons of The Episcopal Church specify the assignment of each diocese to a province. There is no provision for withdrawing from a province, only for transferring to another existing province. Missouri was originally in Province VII, which includes most of the Southwest. In the 1960s, Missouri decided that it had little in common with dioceses in that geographical area and would fit better in a more Midwestern region. It stopped participating but did not try to withdraw formally from Province VII. This situation helped encourage General Convention to pass a canonical change specifying a means by which a diocese could transfer to Province V, which includes much of the Midwest.

Claim: That General Convention 2006 did not respond to the Windsor report.
Fact: General Convention did pass resolutions expressing regret for causing pain to others in the Anglican Communion, expressing a desire to remain in the Communion, committing to continue a process of providing alternative oversight, committing to being involved in the ongoing dialogues of the "Windsor Process" and "Listening Process," designating specific representatives to follow and report on the development of an Anglican covenant, and calling upon "Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion." The General Convention made no statement on liturgies for blessing same-sex relationships, but the church had not authorized such a liturgy.

Claim: General Convention proved its lack of orthodoxy by defeating a resolution that declared an "unchanging commitment to Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the only name by which any person may be saved" and "the solemn responsibility placed upon us to share Christ with all persons when we hear His words, ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.’"
Fact: The discussion about this resolution pointed out that the church had already committed to these concepts when it approved the Book of Common Prayer and Catechism, and, more importantly, raised objections to another section of the resolution that insisted on a specific (substitutionary) interpretation of the Atonement, noting that it was not in the Anglican tradition to insist on a single interpretation of basic doctrines. (See resolution text here)

Claim: That the Archbishop of Canterbury has issued a statement supporting a two-tiered version of the Anglican Communion that would result in the Episcopal Church’s being reduced to associate status.
Fact: The Archbishop has encouraged open discussion for moving toward an Anglican Covenant. He also suggested that the Communion would find a way to maintain a relationship with both those churches that adopted the covenant and those that did not (i.e., a potential two-tiered system), and he suggested that any covenant adopted would have to follow the traditional Anglican via media and be broad enough to encompass many interpretations of doctrine. It is not clear which churches would have what status should the Communion develop in this manner. (Read more here)

Claim: That the Archbishop of Canterbury (or his Panel of Reference) has the power to intervene in matters within The Episcopal Church (such as granting alternative primatial oversight).
Fact: The Archbishop of Canterbury’s June 2006 theological paper on the Communion controversy included this disclaimer: "All that I have said above should make it clear that the idea of an Archbishop of Canterbury resolving any of this by decree is misplaced, however tempting for many. The Archbishop of Canterbury presides and convenes in the Communion, and may do what this document attempts to do, which is to outline the theological framework in which a problem should be addressed; but he must always act collegially, with the bishops of his own local Church and with the primates and the other instruments of communion." Likewise, in a May 2006 "Communiqué," the Panel of Reference (to whom Canterbury will refer petitions from dioceses and parishes) stated, "It was clear from this that the Panel is not a tribunal or court which can intervene formally to adjudicate in the affairs of the autonomous Provinces of the Anglican Communion" and went on to note that all it could do was to recommend action.

Documentation for the statements made above is available on request.
This document may be freely copied and distributed if reproduced in its entirety.

Copyright © 2006 by

Monday, July 10, 2006

Going round in circles

From Stephen Bates' Guardian piece on the recent CofE Synod meeting:

When I saw the Archbishop of Canterbury on Sunday, he asked me how I thought Saturday's debate had gone. He nodded in agreement when I said that it seemed all the arguments had been made before. I wish he would take a leaf out of the Archbishop of York's book and tell what he described as his "currently confused and struggling church" a little more bluntly how he feels. I asked him how he felt and he replied sadly: "You don't want to know."

Actually, I did. But deep gloom seems to be surrounding the senior staff that the covenant plan to save the Anglican communion is falling apart even before anyone's started discussing what might be in it. One senior figure admitted he did not think the communion could survive until the next scheduled meeting of all the world's Anglican bishops in 2008.

Katharine Jefferts Schori has been invited for an early meeting at Lambeth Palace within the next few weeks. They hope to integrate her more closely into the network of Anglican church leaders but this seems a vain prospect given that so many parts of the church's world still don't accept the idea of women in leadership, any more than gays.

Read it all here

Setback for marriage justice

Editorial in today's Los Angeles Times
Setback for marriage justice
New York and Georgia courts will be on the wrong side of history of gay marriage.
July 10, 2006

THE HIGHEST COURTS of New York and Georgia last week moved in the opposite direction of history and justice on same-sex marriage. By a 4-2 vote, the New York Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that the state Legislature's limitation of marriage to heterosexual couples was a "long-accepted restriction" not based solely on "ignorance and prejudice against homosexuals."

Adding insult to injury, an opinion signed by three of the judges in the majority ruled that it was rational for the Legislature to ban same-sex marriage in the interests of protecting children. Noting that "an important function of marriage is to create more stability and permanence in the relationships that cause children to be born," Judge Robert S. Smith wrote that the state could "offer an inducement — in the form of marriage and its attendant benefits — to opposite-sex couples who make a solemn, long-term commitment to each other."

Never mind that childless heterosexual couples also receive legal benefits from civil marriage — or that many gay couples are raising children.

The Georgia Supreme Court decision, also handed down Thursday, was narrower but still disappointing. The court rejected technical objections to a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage that was approved by state voters in 2004.Neither of these decisions is binding on the courts of other states, any more than was the famous 2003 ruling by Massachusetts' high court that gay marriage couldn't be prohibited.

So there's still hope that California's Supreme Court will take a more enlightened view of the issue when it next hears a challenge to heterosexual monopoly on civil marriage. Advocates of same-sex marriage have turned to the state courts since Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's ill-advised veto of a same-sex-marriage bill last year, but hopefully the Legislature will keep trying. Gay-rights activists shouldn't underestimate the challenge ahead.

In Georgia, the ban on same-sex marriages upheld last week passed with 76% of the vote. Meanwhile, even politicians who support gay rights consider it political suicide to mention the M-word. And conservatives continue to score points with the fallacious argument that legalizing same-sex marriage would make heterosexual marriage less attractive or, even more absurdly, damage the religious sacrament of matrimony.

It took the Supreme Court until 1967 — 1967! — to strike down odiously racist anti-miscegenation laws. Someday we'll look back on the anti-gay-marriage hysteria with the same revulsion. Until then, with a high court seemingly disinclined to address marriage, states such as California should take the lead.

When the going gets tough, the tough polish silver

OK -- it may not work for everybody but on the off-chance it'll work for you, I'm throwing it out there: polishing some silver is a works-for-me antidote to the powerless, helpless, nothing-I-do-ends-up-making-any-difference blues.

But since it is admittedly an option ripe for attacks of class-based assumptions before I get any of those in the comment section let me be perfectly clear: I recognize there are lots of people who live full, productive and fabulous lives who don't have old silver gathering dust begging to be polished. In which case, this will not work for you.

However, on Saturday afternoon when I was juggling writer's block with a sermon deadline looming ever closer, post-convention stress syndrome exacerbated by our diocesan clergy "debrief with the bishops" meeting Saturday morning and mother's angst over my son's departure this week for deployment to Kuwait with his U.S. Army unit I ditched it all and dug out the silver polish.

And an hour later the sermon still wasn't written, the Anglican Communion was still a mess and Jamie was still packing his duffle bag but by God, I had shiny candlesticks. And picture frames. And fruit bowls, tea trays and serving bowls. And I thought how amazing it was that those dull, gray, dusty bits of metal that had been sitting there doing nothing-in-particular an hour before were now gleaming in the afternoon sun on the sideboard. And what it had taken was a little time, a littel elbow grease, a little silver polish and a little faith that under all that tarnish was something worth the effort.

Maybe that's the lesson ... whether you have silver to polish or not. That underneath all the tarnish of our broken relationships, hurt feelings and failed initiatives -- foreign AND domestic -- there is stuff worth saving ... worth nurturing ... worth restoring: in this church, in this communion, in this country. It's worth a try.

And if I'm wrong, well -- at least the silver is polished.

What Elizabeth Said

From my friend, colleague, sister-priest and mentor Elizabeth Kaeton's blog, "Telling Secrets":

The time has come, my friends, to speak of sealing wax and wallpaper paste . . . and rules.The comment section of this Blog has begun to attract certain folk who think, somehow, that they can say what they want, no matter how vile or outrageous, and reprint as many articles from whatever current source they consider THE TRUTH.Not.

My dear friend Dave Golub, with whom I rarely agree on matters of doctrine or scripture, is absolutely correct in this matter: This is MY 'living room' and I do have rules and I am able, by the grace of God, to enforce them.

Read the rest here ... and know that while the Episcopal Church may be one church of two minds on some issues (per +Charles Jenkins) on this issue Elizabeth and I are two women of one mind. The lengthy posts on anal sex, the articles posted in the comment section you wish I'd posted for comment instead of the ones I did and the personal attacks ... on ANYBODY ... including fellow commenters ... will be deleted. Trash canned. Deep Sixed. Period.

Thanks for listening. Have a nice day.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

10 Questions For Katharine Jefferts Schori

From TIME Magazine

10 Questions For Katharine Jefferts Schori
Rough waters aren't new to Katharine Jefferts Schori, 52, a former oceanographer who is the Presiding Bishop-elect of the Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. Bishop Katharine, as she's known, takes over a denomination rocked by controversy at home and abroad for its liberal stance on gay clergy. She talked with TIME's Jeff Chu about her mission of social justice, the relationship between science and religion and whether faith in Jesus is the only path to heaven.

What will be your focus as head of the U.S. church? Our focus needs to be on feeding people who go to bed hungry, on providing primary education to girls and boys, on healing people with AIDS, on addressing tuberculosis and malaria, on sustainable development. That ought to be the primary focus.

The issue of gay bishops has been so divisive. The diocese of Newark, N.J., has named a gay man as one of its candidates for bishop. Is now the time to elect another gay bishop? Dioceses, when they are faithful, call the person who is best suited to lead them. I believe every diocese does the best job it's capable of in discerning who it is calling to leadership. Many Anglicans in the developing world say such choices in the U.S. church have hurt their work. That's been important for the church here to hear. We've heard in ways we hadn't heard before the problematic nature of our decisions. Especially in places where Christians are functioning in the face of Islamic culture and mores, evangelism is a real challenge. [But] these decisions were made because we believe that's where the Gospel has been calling us. The Episcopal Church in the U.S. has come to a reasonable conclusion and consensus that gay and lesbian Christians are full members of this church and that our ministry to and with gay and lesbian Christians should be part of the fullness of our life.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, who leads the Anglican Communion, wrote recently that a two-tier Communion may be a solution. What did you read in his message? The pieces that I saw as most important had to do with the complexity of the situation and the length of time that this process will continue. He's very clear that we're not going to see an instant solution. He's also clear about his role: it is to call people to conversation, not to intervene in diocesan or provincial life--which some people have been asking for.

There's much debate about whether science and religion can comfortably coexist. You're a scientist and a pastor. What do you think? Oh, they absolutely can. In the Middle Ages, theology was called the queen of the sciences. It asks a set of questions about human existence, about why we're here and how we should be in relationship with our neighbors and with the divine. And science, in this more traditional understanding, is about looking at creation and trying to understand how it functions.

What is your view on intelligent design? I firmly believe that evolution ought to be taught in the schools as the best witness of what modern science has taught us. To try to read the Bible literalistically about such issues disinvites us from using the best of recent scholarship.

Is belief in Jesus the only way to get to heaven? We who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box.

Pastoral work can be all-consuming. How do you relax? I run regularly. I like to hike, and I take one long backpacking trip a year. Flying is also a focusing activity. I come from a family of pilots, and it's always been part of my experience. It takes one's full attention, and that's restful in an odd kind of way. It takes your mind away from other concerns, not unlike meditation.

Do you have a favorite Bible verse? Chapter 61 of Isaiah is an icon for me of what Christian work should be about. That's what Jesus reads in his first public act. In Luke, he walks into the synagogue and reads from Isaiah. It talks about a vision of the reign of God where those who are mourning are comforted, where the hungry are fed, where the poor hear good news.

What is your prayer for the church today? That we remember the centrality of our mission is to love each other. That means caring for our neighbors. And it does not mean bickering about fine points of doctrine.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Speaking of “Manner of life …”

Speaking of “Manner of life …”
July 9, 2006 ~ All Saints Church, Pasadena ~ Susan Russell
(Proper 9B) 2 Corinthians 12:2-10; Mark 6:1-6

On June 1st I celebrated the 10th anniversary of my ordained ministry and, as anniversaries will do, that benchmark prompted me to reflect on “days gone by.” And I found myself remembering those earliest days of my ordained ministry, when I was serving up the hill at St. Mark’s, Altadena – and recalling that one of the things I asked for as a fledging preacher was sermon feedback from the congregation. So we created a “feedback form” that folks were encouraged to fill out and I’m remembering one particular week when there was a nice stack of them waiting for me on my desk on Monday morning.

I don’t actually remember what the sermon was about but since I’ve been told that every preacher only HAS “one sermon” I expect it was a variation on mine: God loves you beyond measure … now go out and love others as God has loved you. Anyway, what I DO remember is that somewhere I had used a rainbow as an illustration to make some point or the other. Sifting through the comment forms on my desk one practically leapt up from the pile: “When you talked about the rainbow I suddenly understood myself to loved – to be included – to be part of the Body of Christ in a way I never thought applied to me. And for the first time I took communion believing that “take, eat, this is my body which was given for you” really meant ME! Your sermon changed my life. Thank you.

Wow. If I had never preached another word that would have made all the student loans from seminary worth it! And then I turned to the very next feedback form in the pile. “Nice sermon. Good delivery. But the rainbow illustration seemed out of place; for me, the sermon would have been stronger if you’d left it out.” And I thought, “Well, there it is.” And I was tempted to take those two feedback forms and go to Aaron Brothers and buy one of those dual-mat frames and hang them up – side by side – over my desk as a reminder that you can never please all of the people all of the time and that one person’s life changing image is another person’s “didn’t work for me” illustration. That realization – coming as it did in my first days as a deacon -- came with a certain sense of freedom: the freedom that comes with knowing that since you’re never going to manage to make everybody happy anyway you might as well focus on being faithful to the word you’ve been given to preach.

Nothing I have done, learned, experienced or absorbed in these now 10+ years of parish ministry has done anything other than confirm that fundamental life-lesson I learned from those sermon feed-back forms piled on my desk as a still-wet-behind-the-ears deacon from Altadena.

And that includes the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church. Perhaps you heard about it? For while it was not the all-church-all-the-time media event we experienced three years ago with the election of our friend Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire the Episcopal Church did manage to make some news: both good and bad. The good news was the election of Katharine Jefferts Schori as the first-ever woman Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church and the first-ever woman Primate in the Anglican Communion – a brave, courageous choice of faith over fear, of looking ahead rather than looking back, of pinch-me-I-must-be-dreaming-who-ever-thought-we’d-live-long-enough-to-see-a-woman-presiding-bishop. It was a very proud moment for this church.

And then there was “the other news” – after nine days of legislative wrangling, we ended up passing what was presented as a compromise “Response to the Windsor Report” resolution designed to keep the American Episcopal Church on the global Anglican Island by agreeing not to consent “to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.”

It was a very not-proud moment for the church as it caved to threats that unless we gave “something” our bishops would not be invited to the once-a-decade gathering of Anglican bishops called the Lambeth Conference scheduled for 2008. And the “something” we gave was a compromise that in the end compromised nothing but the integrity of those who voted against their consciences and achieved nothing but writing sacramental apartheid into the annals of our church’s historic record.

Clearly anyone reading “whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion” who doesn’t read “gay and lesbian folk need not apply” has missed a few critical episodes of “As The Anglican World Turns.” And just as clearly, anyone reading “whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion” who DOESN’T think a woman Presiding Bishop [a] presents a challenge and [b] will lead to further strains on communion isn’t reading their email.

And they’re welcome to read mine – frankly somebody should because I can’t keep up with it. Is it the end of the world as we know it or another one step back before two steps forward on that arc of history that bends toward justice? Depends who you ask. Was it a reasonable “calling their bluff” offer to the wider communion or a bloody, sacrificial offering of gay and lesbian vocations on the altar of global Anglican politics? Depends who’s writing the email. Just like my decade old sermon feedback forms there are very different “take aways” from the recent events in the national Episcopal Church.

I’m hearing from folks who think the leadership of our justice lobby failed by not pushing hard enough and from those who think we failed by pushing too hard. I’m hearing from people who just can’t DO this anymore and need to step away out in exhaustion, anger and just plain sadness -- and I’m hearing from those who have been complacently on the sidelines and are newly invigorated by what happened in Columbus -- ready to step up and engage in the struggle for justice.

My own opinion? I think the General Convention of the Episcopal Church showed a stunning lack of moral leadership when it caved to the internal and external pressure to sacrifice the core value of gospel justice for the institutional value of corporate unity. I think when history looks back on these events we will rightly be judged for placing the unity of the institution over the call of the Gospel – AND in the long run, I think it is be one of those two steps forward-one step back moments that grieves the hearts of those watching the church step back from being all it could be but in the end is part of the movement forward toward the church I believe we are both called and destined to be.

And I think we need to be asking ourselves why a people who threw a tea party in the Boston Harbor to achieve liberty and justice for all in 1776 allowed themselves to be blackmailed into bigotry to secure an invitation to a tea party at Lambeth Palace in 2006. But most importantly, what I think we need to be asking ourselves is “where do we go from here” – and for that I want to turn not to the question that was all the rage a short while ago … “What Would Jesus Do?” … but to the question “What DID Jesus Do?” And for the answer we turn to today’s Gospel according to Mark.

What did Jesus do when faced with the competing values of speaking the truth about God’s inclusive love as he received and understood it and keeping the Anglican Communion – ooops … I mean the hometown synagogue – happy? Did he consider finding a way to compromise justice for the sake of unity? I mean really – wouldn’t the Gospel have been just as well served if he’d given them a little more time to get used to the idea … if he didn’t push them so hard … if he, well, maybe if he’d gotten a Special Commission together to craft some complex resolutions that would have used really a lot of words so say not so very much and offered them as a compromise to those who just couldn’t quite “go there” yet.

What DID Jesus do? He spoke the truth as he received it. And he let the chips fall were they might. In our gospel reading today we’re told “they found these things to be stumbling blocks.” Another translation says, “And they took offense at him.” In other words, he strained the bonds of affection. He challenged the wider community – he more than challenged them, he enraged them! In Luke’s account of this same story we hear what it was that Jesus preached that got their knickers in a knot: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And he ended his “sermon” by saying, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” And the story ends “They got up, drove him out of the town and led him to the brow of a hill on which their town was built so that they might hurl him off the cliff.” No “cake on the lawn” for this hometown boy back for a preaching gig – no invitation to the first-century Palestinian version of tea-at-Lambeth. He was a prophet without honor in his hometown – and yet he kept on preaching. Proclaiming good news to the poor – release to the captive – freedom to the oppressed.

The Good News he had to offer was too good to be extinguished – by hometown hooligans or Temple authorities or even death on a cross. The Good News that he was born to teach us and died rather than compromise is the same Gospel we proclaim today as we gather today to celebrate in word and sacrament the God who loved us enough to become one of us in order to show us how to love one another – each and every one another of us – as the oft quoted Archbishop Tutu named it … male and female, black and white, gay and so-called-straight, clever and not-so-clever.

My brothers and sisters, what the American Episcopal Church dared to proclaim in 2003 with the election and consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire was “today is that scripture fulfilled in your hearing.” Today. Not when Anglicans who do not yet accept the ordination of women come to consensus on the full inclusion of the gay and lesbian baptized into the Body of Christ. But today. Now. Here. Some find in these actions a liberating word of hope … seeing themselves fully included in the Body of Christ for the first time ever -- and others are fixin’ to throw us off the cliff. They find these things to be stumbling blocks. They have taken offense at us. Our manner of life is a challenge to them.

And I say, good for us. In spite of the one-step-back taken in Columbus the steps forward continue … and WILL continue … for we will settle for nothing less than the “manner of life” Jesus modeled for us and then died to free us to live – a life committed to loving God with our whole heart and loving our neighbors as ourselves: even when we challenge the wider church. Even when we strain the communion.

And when we do – and we will – the question we need to remember is WDJD … and to remember that the answer is not “created compromise resolutions that solve nothing and perpetuate discrimination.”

The answer is not “sacrifice gospel justice for institutional unity.” Instead the answer is preach good news to the poor, liberation to the captive, freedom to the oppressed – and let the chips fall where they may and shake the dust off your feet when you have to.

The answer is to embrace the manner of life we inherited from our Lord and savior and to celebrate the freedom that comes with knowing that since you’re never going to manage be make everybody happy all the time anyway you might as well focus on being faithful to the word you’ve been given to preach. That’s what Jesus did. May we be given the grace to go and do likewise.