Sister Joan Chittister famously said, "We are each called to go through life reclaiming the planet an inch at a time until the Garden of Eden grows green again." Reflecting on that journey -- a blog at a time -- is the focus of this site.
Monday, June 30, 2008
Another Response to the GAFCON Communique ...
Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
Jesus, it seems, had some pretty strong opinions about those who only wanted to greet those "on the inside," to love only those who loved them back and to be in communion only with those who agreed with them. In fact, Jesus had a WHOLE lot more to say about those who draw a circle to keep people out than he did about those who find the love of their life is a person of the same gender. (In fact, he preached about the former at every opportunity and mentioned the latter exactly the sum total of never, not once, zilch, zip, nada, squat.) And yet, what the Gafcon bunch has just spent the better part of week and several millions of dollars to come up with is a statement that does precisely that.
No wonder Jesus wept.
PB on GAFCON
Much of the Anglican world must be lamenting the latest emission from GAFCON. Anglicanism has always been broader than some find comfortable. This statement does not represent the end of Anglicanism, merely another chapter in a centuries-old struggle for dominance by those who consider themselves the only true believers.
Anglicans will continue to worship God in their churches, serve the hungry and needy in their communities, and build missional relationships with others across the globe, despite the desire of a few leaders to narrow the influence of the gospel. We look forward to the opportunities of the Lambeth Conference for constructive conversation, inspired prayer, and relational encounters.
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Sundry reflections on a Sunday Evening
The number of Primates openly supporting this movement has gone down since 2006 not up. Within Gafcon itself there is a move to redirect leadership from ++Akinola to ++Jensen.
The number of American Dioceses active in the movement has dwindled and even the Windsor Compliant Bishops are now prepared to cut the jurisdiction jumpers out of the equation to raise their own influence.
There is no occasion since the fully public inception of this movement of them actually getting anything they wanted. Neither TEC nor the C of Canada have been sanctioned or side streamed, and the reasserters have not been proclaimed as the true Anglican presence by anyone with any actual authority to do that.
The promises made to parishioners that they would soon be the acknowledged by the Archbishop of Canterbury as the true presence has not and will not happen.
The Jerusalem Declaration has pinned its future to an arcane formulation of "authorities" that most Anglican provinces worldwide are not going to endorse: specifically the 39 Articles and the 1662 BCP as standards of the faith.
Nor will most of the Anglican provinces endorse their peculiar formulations and doctrine of Scripture as found in the Document.
So after a dozen years of planning and six years of bullying and threats, this movement has a smaller affiliation circle and less influence than five years ago.
And their position on the Archbishop of Canterbury will further reduce that.
Despite their assertions that they will not leave, they have simply defected in place and will now just function as an out of control irritant.
It is, in fact, what the Diocese of Washington's Jim Naughton described as "taking the status quo, tying it up in a bow and trying to make it a present." Or what Katie Sherrod of Fort Worth fame has described as "all hat and no cattle."
Perhaps the greatest irony is that those who profess to be "protecting the historic faith" are declaring that Anglican identity "need not be determined through recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury."
For anyone who forgot their Anglican Communion 101, here's a refresher:
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the Focus for Unity for the three Instruments of Communion of the Anglican Communion, and is therefore a unique focus for Anglican unity. He calls the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference, chairs the meeting of Primates, and is President of the AnglicanConsultative Council.
Threatening to throw the Archbishop out with the bathwater is certainly "a" way to get attention but it hardly lends itself toward protecting the historic catholicity of the Anglican Communion we've been hearing so much about. Sadly, it reminds me most of all of the time one of my then-small boys pitched a fit in the cereal aisle of the supermarket stamping his foot and declaring "you are not the boss of me."
Actually, I was the "boss of him." And so is the Archbishop of Canterbury -- within the limits of his authority as "first among equals" of the primates of all Anglican primates worldwide and the focus of unity for the Communion.
The Gafcon Communique or Jerusalem Declaration or whatever they're calling it is nothing less than the last ditch effort of the dwindling schismatic fringe to declare as fait accompli that which they wish would be: an Anglican Communion created in their own image without the Archbishop of Canterbury to boss them around or those pesky bonds of affection that knit you to people you don't agree with.
Here's the Anglican Reality Check according to Dave Walker:
Here endeth the reality check.
Just another day in paradise
Momentarily I will head over to church to preach at the 7:30 a.m. service. Then we'll welcome the Bishop of New Hampshire who will preach at both 9:00 & 11:15 (and speak at the Rector's Forum between services.) At 11:15 we'll be welcoming 40 new members and baptizing 6.
After church is the annual Women's Council "Voices of the Heart" Brunch where about 100 of us will listen to Elsie Sadler and Connie Smith talk about their many decades of ministry here at All Saints Church (Connie was married here during "the war.")
Then I'll head over to the rectory and join my staff colleagues at the new member welcoming reception. From there I'll go back to church for a GALAS event: the screening of the documentary film "Saving Marriage" (chronicling how Massachusetts defeated the anti-equality initiative in their state) and sitting on a panel to discuss how we're going to do the same thing here in November.
Tomorrow is another day ... and methinks there will still be plenty of Global Anglican Posturing going on. But as for me and my house, today we're just going to be too busy loving and serving the Lord to worry about it.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
My initial reaction to the "GAFCON Communique" ...
Step back from the details of this particular document for a moment, and consider the nature of GAFCON. It has brought together bishops from some of the poorest countries on Earth to deliver the residents of some of the richest suburbs in America from living in a Church to which they cannot dictate terms. Zimbabwe is on fire. Darfur is bleeding. Ethnic strife and pandemic disease rage across the African continent while these bishops devote themselves to rescuing the Episcopalians of Orange County, California and Fairfax County, Virginia from persecution that does not exist.
And how will they achieve this? By calling the world to faith in the Gospel as it was delivered to them by representatives of an empire that conquered their homelands, stole their resources and denied their ancestors even the most basic human rights.
One doesn’t know whether to laugh or weep.
And then there was my favorite part ... this a quote from Rachel's feature: "In their official statement, conservatives said they 'do not accept that Anglican identity is determined necessarily through recognition by the archbishop of Canterbury.' "
And that makes us the revisionists?
Like I said:
The ram in the thicket
The text in question is Genesis 22:1-14 -- the story sometimes called "the sacrifice of Isaac."
We know, of course, that it turns out not to be the story of the sacrifice of Isaac at all but the "the ram in the thicket" that God provided. And what I'm wondering today is if this story -- disturbing as it is to our 21st century sensibilites in many ways -- doesn't offer an important teaching about the ways of God whose ways are not our ways, but whose quality is always to have mercy.
What I hear in the good news of "The Lord will provide" (which is the punchline of the story) is a call away from being cornered into the "either/or" messaging of the world around us and open ourselves up to the "both/and-ness" of God. We do NOT belong to a God who calls us to kill our children in order to "earn" God's love -- and we do NOT belong to a church that calls us to sacrifice ANY member of the Body of Christ in order to "earn" institutional unity.
The good news for me in Genesis 22 is -- if we're paying attention -- the same God who provided a ram in the thicket for Abraham will provide one for the Anglican Communion. If something needs to be "sacrificed" in order to "keep the communion together" then how about anything that keeps us from truly seeking and serving Christ in one another: racism, sexism, heterosexism, liturgical fundamentalism, etc., etc., etc. My prayer is that our witness at Lambeth Conference will be to point those rams in the thicket all around us and to refute the false premise that the LGBT baptized must be sacrificed on the altar of Anglican Unity.
For the convicting part of the story about Abraham and Isaac is that we can take ANYTHING that God has given us and turn it into an object of worship -- committing the sin of worshipping the gift rather than the giver which, as my OT professor used to remind us almost daily, is the most frequently committed sin of all. Even our beloved Communion -- intended to knit us together in bonds of affection -- can become an idol itself if we allow it to be knit into a straight-jacket of doctrinal conformity.
And the VERY good news in Genesis 22 is our God (whose quality IS always to have mercy) is always working to move us beyond that error into all truth -- always pointing to the ram in the thicket if we will but pay attention.
So let's pay attention. Let's pray for our bishops as they prepare to journey to Cantebury to meet for study, prayer and reflection. Let's pray for the cloud of LGBT witnesses who will surround that gathering with support, prayer and invitation to conversation. And most of all, let's give thanks that we belong to the God of infinite mercy, love, justice and peace whose will it is that we make known that love to all people.
All for now. Amen.
Food for thought from Giles Fraser ...
More persuasively, our dentist has said something similar. My daughter looked up at me, wide-eyed. Pleeeease. Then I looked at the cost. How much? You must be joking. The price was astronomical.
Yet my wife and I agreed, not knowing where we would get the money from. Thankfully, the grandparents have stepped in with their chequebook — for which I am enormously grateful. But I cannot help reflecting on the morality of the whole thing. The money spent on these braces could feed a hungry family for months.
Christians often work under the assumption that there is an easy compatibility between the claims of love and the demand for justice. But it is not so. Justice demands that we treat people without favour or bias; that there must be a basic fairness in the way we distribute resources.
The Christian task is to press towards a state of affairs where we combine the universalism of justice and the particularism of parental love. Yet we know, realistically, that that is the God’s-eye perspective — to love all people with the passionate love of a father.
For most of us, the demands of love and justice are never going to be fully integrated. The best we can do is to expand the range of our love by constantly seeking to exercise it. Marriage must not be selfishness for two, or families selfishness for three or more.
Yet young Miss Fraser will have nice teeth, and some children will have no food. Lord, have mercy.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Good News from Presbyterian Land!
Today, the 218th General Assembly of the PCUSA voted against discrimination by voting 54% to 46% in favor of providing spiritual and ordination equality for LGBT Presbyterians.
Meanwhile, this week's PBS "Religion & Ethics Weekly" includes this story about one of the weddings last week at All Saints Church here in Pasadena ... the marriage of two retired Presbyterian ministers ...
... blogged on here last week under "One More Happily Ever After Story."
Not a bad week at work in the Fields of the Lord, eh?
And now we're gearing up here for a visit from our favorite Bishop of New Hampshire ... who will be preaching at 9 & 11:15 on Sunday at All Saints (as well as speaking in the between-services-Rector's Forum) AND giving a presentation for the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center Saturday night. Check one ... or ALL ... of them out if you're in the neighborhood!
And hug a Presbyterian if you see one ... spread the joy!
And on and on it goes ...
At Gafcon, who calls the shots?
White conservative Anglican clergy are beginning to pull the strings, squeezing their African brothers out of the picture
It was Canon Vinay Samuel, from India, who accused Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury of not trusting the intelligence of developing churches. The situation is hardly any better at Gafcon, where white conservatives are slowly but surely calling the shots and squeezing their African brothers out of the picture.
The eight-day gathering – which cost $5m and looks like making a small but tidy profit – was set to be the Archbishop Peter Akinola show, until his unfortunate use of the word apostate had the more media savvy prelates cringing into their prayer books.
The explanation given was that Akinola came from a different cultural context and didn't fully understand the impact of what he was saying. The same explanation was given for the African archbishops' silence on acts of torture.
Akinola, previously described as a luminary of the conservative movement, has now been hidden away until Sunday afternoon, when a statement outlining a skeleton structure for a "flying communion" has been issued and, handily, when most of the press will have left Jerusalem altogether.
Gafcon has not been the first time that western clergy have stepped in on behalf of the African primates. Where does interpretation stop and manipulation start? There are concerns over the way the African archbishops project themselves and such a guiding hand is, at best, good public relations and, at worse, patronising. If these men are held in such high regard then they should speak in their own words, without any help.
Williams' supposed lack of trust is reflected in the western clergy's handling of Akinola and co. It is a curious alliance. To the outsider the African churches have the numbers and the westerners bring the infrastructure and savvy. Together they can rightfully claim that they represent half of the Anglican communion and have an intellectual and theological depth to rival Rowan's. The westerners are doing the briefings – on and off the record – and the messages are being put out by them too.
When I say westerners, I mean white people. The African bishops are disappointed that the US bishops – including those who are deposed or disillusioned – are going to the Lambeth conference in July. The Australians, according to Gafconites present in Jerusalem, are unhappy that the Nigerians made the Lambeth boycott decision for them and announced the news before they had the chance.
In the fateful press conference – regarding torture – Akinola said that what was permissible in one culture was not permissible in another, without realising that same-sex unions have become the norm in western society and should therefore be accommodated in the same way that discriminatory legislation and treatment of homosexuals are par for the course in some African countries.
If the white bishops can turn a blind eye to polygamy and persecution then surely the courtesy should be returned.
Gafcon is heading for a clash of civilisations, with the northern and southern hemispheres each trying to assert their superiority. And that's before you get to the rumour about Gafcon being a done deal months ago, with little or no Nigerian input, or the rivalries between the Nigerians and Ugandans, with them trying to out-do each other when praying.
Of course the exception to all this tribalism is the Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, who is western but not too western and other but not too other. It has been suggested that he be lined up as an alternative Archbishop of Canterbury, but another suggestion would be for him to not give up the day job
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Chicago Consultation Video
Bits & Pieces for a Thursday Morning
AS THE ANGLICAN WORLD
Also of notes was the launch of a new website for the Chicago Consultation:
The group’s principal focus is on strategies for advancing the inclusion on GLBT people in the sacramental life of the Church while resisting further discrimination, particularly as the Communion prepares for the Lambeth Conference of Bishops (a once-every-ten-years gathering of all Anglican bishops) in July-August 2008 and the General Convention of the Episcopal Church (the national decision-making body of the Episcopal Church) in summer 2009.
- To strengthen the movement toward the blessing of same sex relationships.
- To advance the inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians in all orders of ministry.
- To strengthen the Anglican Communion’s witness against racism, poverty, sexism, heterosexism, and other interlocking oppressions.
Check out the great resources in its "Making the Case" section and bookmark this one for future reference!
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
What a difference a coupla days make ...
Friday, Jun. 20, 2008 By DAVID VAN BIEMA
Wednesday, Jun. 25, 2008 By DAVID VAN BIEMA
This all comes as a bit of surprise to the press, which — with ample encouragement from the Church's right — had been framing GAFcon as a decisive step toward schism in the Anglican Communion, the third biggest global religious fellowship.
A peek at the man behind the curtain ...
This is a rare photograph of the millionaire Howard Ahmanson, pictured here at Gafcon in Jerusalem.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
OK -- I'll admit it. We've been having some fun with the "Gafcon 8" story Ruth Gledhill broke yesterday: the list of folks, pictured below, who ended up on the Gafcon "no entry" equivalent of the Homeland Security "no fly list."
I got dozens of emails yesterday congratulating me on the high honor of being banned from this conference I had no intention of attending anyway. Before you could sing the refrain of "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name" there was a "Ban Me, Gafcon!" t-shirt designed and an "I want to be banned by Gafcon" Facebook group. (with 232 members the last time I checked.)
This morning, though, I've been thinking about it all from a slightly different perspective. I'm wondering what it was about this particular group of eight very disparate folks that ended them up on the "no entry" list in Jerusalem?
What is it about a priest from Pasadena, a professor from Newark, a New England blogger, a bishop from Colorado and a clergy couple who -- as far as I know -- have been singularly absent from these conversations up until now, that combine to make them such a collective threat? And what actually IS going on at Gafcon that we're lumped together with Colin & Davis -- those fearsome Changing Attitude activists -- and "banned"?
David Virtue (who I admittedly rarely read but checked in with this morning) tried this: This conference, like nearly every conference ever held, is by invitation only, unless you want to attend a Billy Graham crusade. Would the LGBT pansexual Episcopal organization possibly invite an orthodox journalist to listen in on their plans? Of course not.
Sorry, David. The answer is "Of course, yes!" David knows better, actually, having never been turned down credentials for any of the conferences we've organized over the years and Ralph Webb of IRD fame is a regular observer of all things Episcopal.
So I'm wondering if the key words are "listen in on their plans." And I'm thinking that paranoia is just a grown-up version of the little-boy game of putting up a "No Girls Allowed" sign outside their clubhouse and posting a sentry to make sure none of them sneak up and listen in on them. (AKA: The Girl Cootie Syndrome)
Besides, I thought we'd just spent a lot of energy spinning this gathering in Jerusalem as a pilgrimage of faithful Anglicans seeking God's will for themselves and the Anglican Communion? +Akinola sure spent a lot of time in his opening remarks making sure it was clear there were "no plans to break away" from the Anglican Communion.
If that is indeed the case, then what "plans" are being hatched that must be protected from Rob O'Neill ... or Deborah Edmunds? And, at the end of the day, what kind of "global future" is there for a Communion committed to excluding those with whom they disagree?
And so, as we countdown to Lambeth Conference and our work and witness there, here's Integrity's answer to the question, Who Would Jesus Ban:
He drew a circle that shut me out
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout
But love and I had the wit to win;
We drew a circle that took him in.
Monday, June 23, 2008
Meanwhile, back at home ...
(But wait ... it gets better!)
Dobson took aim at examples Obama cited in asking which Biblical passages should guide public policy - chapters like Leviticus, which Obama said suggests slavery is OK and eating shellfish is an abomination, or Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, "a passage that is so radical that it's doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application."
"Folks haven't been reading their Bibles," Obama said.
Dobson accused Obama of wrongly equating Old Testament texts and dietary codes that no longer apply to Jesus' teachings in the New Testament.
"I think he's deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview, his own confused theology," Dobson said. "... He is dragging biblical understanding through the gutter."
(As opposed to the grand old tradition of selective literalism which allows the reader to declare some bits 'THE WORDS OF GOD' (like, oh say Leviticus 18 and Romans 1) and other bits "confused theology" (like the over 2000 passages about poverty.)
The Guardian Gets It
Traditionally, the Anglican communion has been a big tent of mutual tolerance and respect. Its bishops have always enjoyed independent authority within their own dioceses. Its conferences, which take place only once every 10 years, are places for discussion and prayer not sessions of a parliament. They are embodiments of a culture of clerical agreement not one in which a quasi-papal authority is enforced.
The Guardian on Gafcon
Clerics at the Global Anglican Futures Conference have been slow to condemn violence against gay people. It's incredible, and unchristian
By Riazat Butt
Monday June 23, 2008
Barely 24 hours into the Global Anglican Futures conference (Gafcon) in Jerusalem and the assembled leaders have already exhausted every synonym for schism, without uttering the word itself, to describe the impact of actions taken by the US Episcopal church and the Anglican church of Canada. The meeting, lasting eight days and costing £2.5m, is the climax of ultimatums and summits, spanning a decade, about the ordination and consecration of gay clergy and the blessing of same-sex unions.
Last night, the Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, said the Gafcon movement would liberate people from religious bondage and would offer a spiritual haven for those who could not live under a 'revisionist leadership'. It sounds appealing to the millions of Anglicans disillusioned with western churches. But a press conference revealed acute differences of opinion between the bishops, especially, and most worryingly, on the subject of raping and torturing homosexuals.
A question from Iain Baxter, a media representative from the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, aroused expressions of disbelief and outright denial from the primates. The name of his organisation raised a discomfiting titter. Homosexuality is illegal in Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya and is punishable by a fine, imprisonment or death.
Archbishops from these countries were on the panel. They said they could not influence government policy on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) legislation, nor could they condone homosexual behaviour because their churches would be shut down. They added one could not break the taboos of African society without suffering the consequences.
Presumably, these cultural constraints justify the punishment meted out to Prossy Kakooza, Baxter's example of someone tortured because of her sexual orientation. She was arrested, marched naked for two miles to a police station, raped and beaten.
Akinola did not condemn these acts. Neither did the other African archbishops. Orombi said he had never heard of people being tortured because of their homosexuality, that when he learned about incidents – from the western media – he was at a loss to understand why he had not heard of them. He refused to accept that persecuting and torturing gay people was done openly in Uganda.
It was clear they failed to grasp how homophobic rhetoric from the pulpit led to violence and intimidation, as described by Colin Coward from Changing Attitudes. Still no condemnation was forthcoming. As a follow-up I asked whether the lack of condemnation meant they condoned torture of homosexuals. It took the Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, to articulate opposition to all acts of violence towards all people. The Africans didn't even nod in agreement.
Their muteness – either because they did not understand the question or did not understand why they had to issue a condemnation – is a harrowing glimpse of a dogmatic and draconian narrative that has not been explored thoroughly; least of all, it seems, by those who have allied themselves with the populous Anglican churches in Africa.
Failure to condemn acts of torture is inhumane, incredible and unchristian. Three characteristics that no Anglican movement should be proud of.
Honored, I'm sure!
I woke up this morning to an email from my friend Jenny Ladefoged -- longtime L.A. Deputy and former ECW President -- which cryptically said:
Dear Susan, Congratulations - good company! love Jenny
Hmmm ... I wondered. What's THIS about?
Well, pretty soon the email inbox starting "pinging" and I found out.
It was "about" what Episcopal Cafe is labeling "The GAFCON Eight" ... a list of eight folks pictured on a "watch list" described by Ruth Gledhill as "The eight men and women pictured here are on the official list of those to be denied entry to Gafcon should they try to show up."
In case you can't make out the pictures, the list includes Colorado Bishop Robert O’Neill, Nigerian gay activist Davis MacIyalla, Louie Crew, Colin Coward, Scott Gunn and Deborah and Robert Edmunds.
Honored, I'm sure, to be in such august company! (And I'm going to email Ruth and see if there's any chance of getting a copy of this for my scrapbook!)
And, just for the record, Integrity never had any intention of "showing up" for GAFCON ... in fact, we haven't even bothered to send a member of our media team to this one. There are indeed times and places and gatherings about the Anglican Communion where Integrity has felt called to show up -- but this isn't one of them.
The gathering in Jerusalem which at one point painted itself as a alternative Lambeth Conference (which makes as much sense as the bishops of Fort Worth and Pittsburgh having a conference and calling it an alternative to General Convention!) is so busy back-pedaling it's hard to keep track of the spin du jour.
Jim Naughton does his usual excellent job of helping keep it all straight (so to speak:)
And that, my friends, is why the GAFCON security guards can rest easy tonight.
GAFCON’s high profile leaders don’t have the strength to force the schism they yearn for. Too few provinces are on board, and not all of those provinces are united in their desire to leave the Communion. Indeed, the people I have spoken to at the conference suggest a wide range of opinion on the issue of schism, even among those devoted enough to fly to Jerusalem to talk about it.
So the leaders of GAFCON are attempting to dress up strategic failure as the dawning of a new phase of their march toward victory, hoping that the media will bite. After five years of schismatic maneuvering, they have said, in effect, that they will associate closely with some Anglicans while trying to make life miserable for others--a state of affairs in no way different today
than it was last month, last year or last decade.
I actually have a full-time job and it isn't lurking around other people's conferences "without portfolio." Sorry to disappoint!
Of course we will be at Lambeth Conference next month -- a very different kettle of fish altogether. Our extraordinarily gifted media team will be providing daily updates. Our national leadership team will be collaborating with allies from around the Anglican Communion to offer the opportunity for an LGBT witness to the Good News of God in Christ Jesus manifest in our lives, our relationships and our vocations. And we will be working with our bishops to support their witness to their brother and sister bishops during their time together as they strive to strengthen the bonds of affection that bind us together as part of the this Great Big Fat Anglican Family.
If you haven't yet contributed to the Canterbury Campaign making this witness possible, it's not too late. Click here to donate online ... or visit the Canterbury Campaign website for more information.
As for me, it's hi-ho, hi-ho and back to work I go. Eucharist at noon, a counseling session at 2, a communication meeting at 3 and then a Memorial Service. (See also: the full time job that isn't lurking about other people's conferences)
Blessings, all! Onward and upward!
Saturday, June 21, 2008
And now, a voice from across the pond
Gay Rights vs. Religious Freedom?
So here's an Op-ed from earlier this week in the L.A. Times. Note that it ran on June 17th -- the first official "Marriage Equality Day" here in California. And note that it offers a concise summary of what are guaranteed to be some key points in the argumentation we'll hear as we move toward the November election and the "let's put bigotry back into the Constitution" ballot initiative.
Will gay rights trample religious freedom?
By Marc D. Stern
June 17, 2008
Early this morning, gay and lesbian couples were surely lining up at county clerk's offices across the state to exercise their new right to marry, bestowed on them last month by the California Supreme Court.In its controversial decision, the court insisted that these same-sex marriages would not "diminish any other person's constitutional rights" or "impinge upon the religious freedom of any religious organization, official or any other person."
Religious liberty would be unaffected, the chief justice wrote, because no member of the clergy would be compelled to officiate at a same-sex ceremony and no church could be compelled to change its policies
And yet there is substantial reason to believe that these assurances about the safety of religious liberty are either wrong or reflect a cramped view of religion.
Read the rest here ...
It's a page off the same playbook the Episcopal neo-cons have been using "lo these many years" -- trying to reframe the story to spin the inclusion of the LGBT faithful as an act of discrimination against "the orthodox" (See also: We're The Victims Here!) and dragging out a whole school of red herrings to sling around in the process.
(Reminder: There is an ontological difference between FEELING discriminated against because you're disagreed with and BEING discriminated against because of who you are!)
That said, as tempting as it might be, we'll be well served to not just "blow off" this op-ed or the others like it that are already in the pipeline.
The battle to secure Marriage Equality by defeating discrimination in November has already begun.
So we need to be simultaneously celebrating with GREAT joy those couples who are now living "happily ever after" in the state of wedded bliss AND concentrating with GREAT intentionality on owning the message and framing the story to preserve that right for those who come after us.
Kudos to Stephanie Campbell, Welton Gaddy and Kari Tervo who all had Letters to the Editor printed in today LATimes in response to Stern's op-ed. Let's get working on our OWN "talking points" ... and be ready to get them out there in the days and weeks and months to come!
Friday, June 20, 2008
Happy Summer Solstice!
Today another beloved canine companion left this early life when Cuthbert (AKA "Bert") Bradley-Hopkins joined Harvey and all those others who have gone before us.
Michael has written a loving tribute -- "Untroubled Joy: For Cuthbert"-- on his blog "From Glory Into Glory" and I commend it to you:
The GAFCON Spin Cycle Has Begun
As it turns out, the team’s cheerleader, the belligerent Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, was denied entry to Jordan and the conference is having to transfer precipitately to Jerusalem, with its spokespeople stammering about hotel bookings becoming unexpectedly available there. The Anglican Church in Jerusalem, headed by Bishop Suheil Dawani, is a reluctant host to these schismatics, which is why their preliminary meeting was in Jordan in the first place.
It appears that the whole exercise was undertaken remotely and with arrogance, taking little or no regard for local middle-eastern sensibilities over how the presence of a bunch of Evangelical Christian hard-liners would play with painstakingly constructed relationships with local Muslim authorities. The GAFCON caravan will, nevertheless, issue demands and statements.
And the quote of the week award goes to ...
The biggest threat to my marriage is the driver (of either sex) of the black SUV going 85 MPH in the next lane, slurping a latte, while on a cell phone with tech support, attempting to find out why the DVD player isn't working.
One more "happily after story ..."
They ordered flowers for the tables with their names and the wedding date (how original is that!) ...
They decorated the lawn at the church where the reception would be with their favorite colors ...
And while their faithful "flower dog" waited outside for the reception to begin ...
... they gathered with friends and family at the altar of All Saints Church ...
And then -- hand in hand and married in the sight of God AND the State of California -- they went in peace to love and serve the Lord ...
Susan Craig and Bear Ride said they didn't care about being first. All the two retired Presbyterian ministers wanted was to be married in the sight of God.
All Saints Rector, the Rev. Ed Bacon, called the wedding of the two longtime church members "historic" for All Saints. "We have believed with all our hearts that to refuse the blessing of the church to such relationships would be an abusive act of injustice," Bacon told the congregation.
Any relationship based on love and fidelity, he said, "always improves the social order and fabric - strengthens the state of marriage - rather than the opposite."
(Here's the photo gallery the Star News posted)
Thursday, June 19, 2008
And now, back to ...
Laurie Goodstein reports on GAFCON in her feature, Rival Conferences for Anglican Church in today's New York Times, writing about bishops who are:
"... boycotting the Lambeth Conference and attending a rival meeting for conservative Anglicans in Jerusalem.
Setting the tone for their meeting, the conservatives released a strongly worded theological manifesto on Thursday in Jerusalem, declaring that they see no possibility for reconciliation with the Episcopal Church in the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada, which have accepted a gay bishop and same-sex unions. The conservatives say that after years of emergency meetings and ultimatums, they have been “ignored,” “demonized” and “marginalized.”
“There is no longer any hope, therefore, for a unified Communion,” the document said.
The London Telegraph weighs in on GAFCON:
Gafcon is dominated by the single issue of homosexuality; its relative failure should remind us that ordinary Anglicans – and especially members of the Church of England – are not obsessed with sexual mores or gay marriage. The challenge of Lambeth is to revive Christianity in a secular age. Dr Williams is well aware of that fact, and we wish him well.
Finally, because they're not having QUITE enough fun at GAFCON yet, it seems that the uber-orthodox are going to be sharing Jerusalem with the 2008 Jerusalem Pride Celebration and Parade.
What are the odds?
More from Wedding Central
But before I head off to the OTHER things on my "to do" list (the ordinary stuff of parish priest life: a Liturgy Cluster meeting, Newsletter deadline, a Memorial Service to plan with the family and Sunday morning staffing still to do!) I wanted to add a little update to Mel & Gary's wedding yesterday and life-at-marriage-central in general.
Nice piece in Episcopal Life today, by Pat McCaughan (who was with us yesterday):
"The whole issue for us is a pastoral issue," said Zelda Kennedy, who said she first met Mel White when she baptized his grandchild. She added that 23 other same-gender couples have planned weddings at the church so far this year. The next one on the schedule will unite two women "who have made a difference in our community," Kennedy said. "They have come in and focused attention on the homeless, on people on the margins of society. It's a pastoral issue, but it's also a peace and justice issue, and as an African-American woman who is heterosexual I feel it's the right thing to do."
The Los Angeles Times has this piece entitled "California's gay marriage law revives religious debate"
"Homosexual intimacy is out of bounds. It's not what God created us for," said Richard Mouw, president of the evangelical Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena.
Mouw cites Romans 1 in the New Testament that decries men and women abandoning "natural relations" and men "inflamed with lust for one another" committing "indecent acts with other men" -- behavior that carried death as punishment."Sexuality within the context of marriage is the order of creation," he said.
Nonsense, says the Rev. Mel White, a former Fuller professor and evangelical author who married his partner of 27 years in a ceremony Wednesday at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena.
White calls the Bible a living document that must be understood in its historical context -- a view shared by reform-minded clergy and theologians from other faiths.Early Jews and Christians, White said, defended a heterosexual ethic to ensure the continuity of tenuous tribal communities.
These religious pioneers, he added, had no way of foreseeing modern advances in psychology and other fields that would reveal homosexuality as an orientation rather than a choice.
"The Bible says as much about sexual orientation as it does about toasters or nuclear reactors," White said.
The Huffington Post had this to say:
All Saint's rector Ed Bacon presided over the intimate service with approximately 20 friends and family in attendance. He may have surprised a few parishioners and reporters present by noting that the marriage rites were not magic, that after exchanging vows the couple would be no more married than they were before. "Mel and Gary have been living these vows for almost three-decades already," he explained. What they now were, however, was legal, he continued, "a sacred rite of love and justice at the heart of Jesus' teaching and the California Supreme Court's decision" legalizing same-sex marriage.
Meanwhile, over at Stand Firm, the "loyal opposition" has reached a new benchmark in civil blog discourse with this thread posted yesterday: Liar, Liar Pants on Fire.
No quotes from that one, kids. You'll have to venture over there yourselves to "feel the love." (And before I get deluged with "why do you dignify that stuff with a link" let me just say that I find an episodic reality check on just how low the defenders of Christian Values will sink is helpful to keep it all in context.)
And this just in from our friends at HRC ... a chance to "share the joy" with couples all over the country AND to support the important work of seeing Marriage Equality is here to stay: HRC's Wedding Registry
+Bruno Reiterates Diocesan Policy
I continue to be in dialogue with the other bishops throughout California on these issues. In addition, I have established this past week a panel of advice comprised of 18 clergy and laity of the diocese to prayerfully join with me in addressing the effect of the Supreme Court's decision on our diocese and the ramifications pastorally, canonically and on our prayer book. Within the next few weeks this group will have its first meeting and I anticipate that we will meet for at least five two-hour sessions.
Bishop of Los Angeles
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
They went to the chapel, and they got ...
Ed Bacon signing the marriage license.
The newly married couple preparing to
serve as ministers of communion.
Mel White and Gary Nixon
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
A Homily preached by the Rev Ed Bacon
All Saints Church, Pasadena, California
Dear friends, we are gathered today with great joy to celebrate two of the strongest forces God ever gave us human beings to help us be fully alive and to help us express the truth that every person carries within him or her the image of God. Those forces are love and justice. It should be emphasized – love for all and justice for all.
Last month the California Supreme Court took a stand for justice for all, holding that marriage is a “basic civil right of personal autonomy and liberty” “to which all persons are entitled without regard to their sexual orientation.” Within a week of that legal decision, the Vestry of All Saints Church gathered and voted on a resolution* stating that All Saints Church, Pasadena will treat with equality all couples presenting themselves for the rite of marriage. This is in keeping with a now 16-year practice at All Saints of recognizing that when members of our faith community find the love of their lives and commit to live in a life-long loving relationship that we would bless those covenants regardless of sexual orientation. To use the language of resolutions of the Episcopal Church, we here at All Saints have been blessing relationships “characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God."
We have believed with all our hearts that to refuse the blessing of the Church to any such relationships would be an abusive act of injustice. Dr. King, in his Letter From a Birmingham Jail, challenged religious communities not to be “adjusted to the status quo, standing as a tail-light behind other community agencies rather than a headlight leading [people] to higher levels of justice.”
So we are gathered together today refusing to be a tail-light. Rather we are here to set the light of God’s justice and love on a lamp stand before others so that they may see the wonderful works of God in bringing people together in love and fidelity so that the holy maturity and generosity that comes from loving relationships always improves the social order and fabric – strengthens the state of marriage – rather than the opposite.
After we marry Mel White and Gary Nixon, in a few minutes, we will sign their marriage license here before this altar. We will transform a thin piece of paper into a substantial sacrament of justice.
Gary and Mel informed me that there are 1,047 federal and state rights and protections that have heretofore been denied couples because they could not be married and which could not be accomplished by domestic partnership arrangements. This marriage license is a door into rights and privileges which have been denied in a discriminatory fashion.
In this act of holy matrimony this day, this church states that it will not be party to discrimination and disrespect and the violence and abuse that always accompany discrimination. For St. Paul wrote, “human standards have ceased to count in our estimate of any human being.” (1 Corinthians 5:16) What counts, rather, is whether the fruit of God’s Spirit is present: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, generosity, faith, kindness, and self-control. (Galatians 5: 22)
But before we get to that point in our gathering, let us say something about the deeper force, the more enduring force that has brought us here today.
The Episcopal Church in its healthiest expressions has distinguished between magic and sacraments. Rituals do not have magical powers to turn, for instance, a couple from one minute not being married into in the next minute a married couple. Yes, that will happen on the legal plane to Gary and Mel, to be sure.
And these are vows that express a relationship that has given comfort, courage, and hope to thousands upon thousands of teenagers and men and women. That is the goal of every loving relationship – to use the words from the story of Ruth and Naomi – the whole town was stirred because of them. Not only the residents of Lynchburg, Virginia, where through Soulforce, Gary and Mel have bestirred people to hope and courage but throughout the world where people have known of the call to truthforce, soulforce of Gandhi’s satyagraha.
My friends, Gary and Mel, chose not to go to a secular venue for this wedding. Rather, they chose their spiritual headquarters, All Saints Church, Pasadena, where they met and where they were surrounded by a community of faith, whose members are nourished from the riches of God’s grace in the weekly Eucharist. It is this love made tangible that abides when all else fails and fades. It is this love made tangible that is the rock upon which each human being is called to build his or her soul, his or her life, his or her hope, his or her relationship.
Look upon Mel and Gary, yes, as walking witnesses of justice this day. But look upon them even more deeply, my friends, as love made tangible. Love is the strongest force in the world, the greatest of the three things that abide into eternity along with faith and hope, the only thing with the power to heal, to forgive, to persevere, and to transform this beautiful but broken world from the human race into the human family.
*MARRIAGE EQUALITY RESOLUTION
WHEREAS, our baptismal covenant commits us to “strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being;”
WHEREAS, Holy Scripture reveals that we are all created in God’s image and that God embraces all people as equally precious;
WHEREAS, the Vision Statement of All Saints Church, Pasadena, calls us to “embody the inclusive love of God in Christ” and our Foundational Values urge us to be “dispersed throughout this multicultural region for courageous and risk-filled work of peace and justice;”
WHEREAS, All Saints Church, Pasadena, currently blesses same-sex unions, but does not perform the rite of marriage for same-sex couples;
WHEREAS, on May 15, 2008, the California Supreme Court issued its decision holding that marriage is a “basic civil right of personal autonomy and liberty” “to which all persons are entitled without regard to their sexual orientation;” and
WHEREAS, as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision, on June 16, 2008, the State of California will begin to license and recognize same-sex marriages;
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Rector, Wardens and Vestry do declare that, as of June 16, 2008, All Saints Church, Pasadena will treat all couples presenting themselves for the rite of marriage equally.
Breaking GAFCON News
Episcopal Cafe is commenting on the story reported in Ruth Gledhill's blog:
The GAFCON planners have issued a press release saying that the archbishop flew into Tel Aviv, but was not allowed to cross into Jordan because "previously granted permission was deemed insufficient." The Jordanians apparently told Akinola that he needed clearances beyond those afforded by his diplomatic passport.
Readers of the Café will remember that Akinola, a fierce critic of Islam, has refused to answer questions about his knowledge of, or involvement in, the retributive massacre of some 700 Muslim
in the town of Yelwa in northern Nigeria in 2004.
The massacre was carried out by a para-militia wearing clothing
associating it with the Christian Association of Nigeria of which Akinola was then president.
NOT what I said!
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
"Film at Eleven"
Clergy affected by same-sex marriages
"For some spiritual leaders, performing a same-sex wedding ceremony means as much to them as it does to the couples joining in marriage."
Sexism at All Saints on Sunday
We're thrilled to welcome our friend, Ellen Snortland, to the All Saints Church Rector's Forum this Sunday -- June 22nd -- at 10:15! Be there or be REALLY sorry you missed it!
Writer and documentary film maker Ellen Snortland reflects on the impact the recent primary season had on her as a leader whose work focuses on freeing women to claim the liberation, respect, and power every person deserves. Her book and film Beauty Bites Beast is the fruit of her work as a tireless advocate for women and girls, and the need to equip everyone to be physically safe.
A regular columnist for the Pasadena Weekly and frequent contributor to Ms Magazine, she has a law degree from Loyola, and has produced a one-woman show, Now That She’s Gone, a comic memoir about growing up Norwegian American in the Midwest. A clip from her film will be shown and copies of her book will be available.