Thursday, December 31, 2009

"Fast away the old year passes ..."

"... Fa la la la la, la la la la!"

As the old year passes into the new, here's a little "year in review" look back at some random moments to remember from my memory banks of the year we're just about to "check off" ... as we move forward into God's future!

Ed Bacon on Oprah (January)

It was the "being gay is a gift from God" comment heard (literally!) 'round the world -- a moment that continues to bring people to All Saints Church and increase our opportunity to get out the Good News of the God who loves absolutely everybody.

Gene Robinson at the Inauguration (January)

More history made during President Barack Obama's historic inauguration events when the Bishop of New Hampshire offered the invocation at opening event at the Lincoln Memorial.

Hail to the ... Secretary of State! (January)

Hillary Rodham Clinton's confirmation as Secretary of State (94-2) was another January moment to mark.


"The Constant Process" (March)

Douglas Hunter's documentary continued to draw attention and find audiences ... from PFLAG gatherings to high school "diversity days" screenings to several film festival showings it was a huge privilege to continue to be part of this "across the divide" offering of folks of different faith traditions coming together around common values of justice and compassion.


Iowa, Vermont (& New Hampshire!)

Iowa and Vermont joined Massachusetts and Connecticut in the "marriage equality column" in 2009 with New Hampshire legalizing same-sex marriage with a deferred "start date" of January 1, 2010. Losses at the polls in Maine and in the courts in California were "one steps back" after these steps forward ... but wise movement leaders advise setting audacious goals and celebrating incremental victories ... so here's to celebrating the gains while we strategize to reverse the losses!

Christ Church, Philadelphia (May)

One of the highlights of 2009 for me was the privilege of preaching at Christ Church, Philadelphia as part of the Equality Forum weekend. As a cradle Episcopalian/ American history geek it was really quite the big deal. (And I loved every minute of it!)

HRC Clergy Call: Capitol Hill (May)

Another spring highlight was the chance to be part of another HRC "Clergy Call" on Capitol Hill -- lobbying for the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act and for an inclusive ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act). Wonderful to see some of those seeds brea fruit with the October signing of the Hate Crimes Act. Still work to do on ENDA, but we press on!

"Marching to Anaheim:" All General Convention All the Time (July)

General Convention 2009 consumed most of our time and energy in the work leading up to it and for the ten days we were in Anaheim. It was a watershed time for the Episcopal Church and I while I'm not going to revisit the all that happened in Anaheim here, suffice to say we met our goals of moving the church beyond B033 and forward on equality for the blessing of same sex unions ... in spite of the best efforts of the Archbishop of Canterbury. (Bless his heart!)

Here's the post-convention post-mortem blog link for a refresher course on the legislative details if you need one.
And then there's this slide show of Anaheim moments to remember:

Vacation 2009 (August)

A great road trip to Colorado for Louise and me and then a quick trip to Kentucky to visit my boys finished up our summer ... time with friends and family and NO Anglican Angst! Hooray

"The Reverend Canon" ... who'd have thunk it? (September)

Being recognized by my bishops and diocese as an honorary canon of the Diocese of Los Angeles at a September Evensong was a huge honor and one I am still "growing into." As noted earlier on this blog, it doesn't some with a paycheck or a parking space -- but it was and is an extraordinary and humbling gift to have the work I've been called to do recognized and celebrated by the diocese of my birth, baptism, confirmation and ordination.

Finally, Diocesan Convention 2009 -- and the historic election of TWO fabulous women as bishops-suffragan! (December)

Here's the picture worth 1000 words ... and what a great way to end a VERY full year!

For great profiles on our bishops-elect, check out these two recent new features in:
The Chestnut Hill Local
The Los Angeles Times

Forward into the future, indeed!

And here's wishing you -- and those you love, serve and challenge -- every best blessing in the New Year and always!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A little New Year's Eve Eve Levity

Click here to get a peek at what is surely THE New Year's Eve Dance Party to end all dance parties! (Disco, anyone?)

It's going to be a Blue Moon New Year's Eve!

Fun facts to know and tell about the New Year's Eve moon from National Geographic:

For the first time in almost 20 years, a bright "blue moon" will grace New Year's Eve celebrations worldwide.

If the skies are clear, revelers looking up at midnight will get an eyeful of the second full moon of the month—commonly called a blue moon. The last time a blue moon appeared on New Year's Eve was in 1990, and it won't happen again until 2028.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Louie Crew on the Idolatry of Unity, the Law & the Prophets and the Anglican Covenant

Words of Wisdom from a Wise One!

Jesus said that when you face rival claims of Scripture, test each part against the first and second commandments. All law and all prophecy hang on those two.

For example, those proposing an Anglican Covenant purport to promote unity, but do so at the expense of homosexual persons and their friends. Scripture can seem on their side: Scripture tells us to value unity. But not above all else. First you must love your neighbor as you love yourself.

Yoo-hoo. Hi there! Yes, us, your Queer neighbors, and with you joint heirs of Jesus Christ.

Scripture tempted Jesus to hurl himself from a cliff to reveal his power, because Scripture promised that he would be rescued by angels. Given his own struggle -- unable to be taken seriously by any but Samaritans, tax-collectors, and drunkards -- he found that prospect very tempting.

"That would show them who I am!," Jesus thought, but then he rejected that use of Scripture as satanic, and trumped it with another, "It is written, do not put the Lord to the test." That is, he followed the first commandment: he loved God with all his mind.

Sola scriptura? Yes, if you test all scripture against the first and second commandments. That requires reason, tradition, and experience.

But love does not come by Scripture, reason, tradition, or experience. To be able to love, you must be born again.. You must get a life -- a life of the spirit.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

New L.A. Episcopal bishop's historic journey

[Nice profile in today's L.A. Times of Bishop-elect Diane Jardine Bruce -- friend, seminary-colleague and partner-in-diocesan-ministry for lo these many years now! We started our pre-seminary Ministry Study Year together, lived through New Testament word studies and GOEs together and --I was the MC when she was installed as rector at St. Clement's, San Clemente. Mazel tov -- to Bishop-elect Diane AND to the Diocese of Los Angeles!]

Raised a Catholic, Diane Bruce felt she'd 'come home' when she attended an Episcopal service officiated by a woman. Now, 23 years later, she is the L.A. Diocese's first female assistant bishop.

By Duke Helfand -- [source link] -- December 27, 2009

The Rev. Canon Diane Jardine Bruce still remembers the moment 23 years ago when she fell in love with the Episcopal Church.

Raised as a devout Roman Catholic, Bruce happened to visit an Episcopal parish in New Mexico, where the mother of a friend was officiating.

Bruce was moved by the joy inside the sanctuary and delighted by the sight of the female priest, something prohibited by the Catholic Church. She found unexpected similarities between the two approaches, including the Eucharist.

"There was something about being in an Episcopal church that felt like I had come home," she said.

Two decades later, Bruce would make history by becoming the first woman elected suffragan, or assistant bishop, in the 114-year history of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.

Bruce's ascent at the diocese's annual convention earlier this month was eclipsed to a large degree by controversy over the election at the same event of an openly gay priest, the Rev. Canon Mary D. Glasspool of Maryland, to a second assistant bishop's post.

But many in the Los Angeles diocese speak of Bruce, the longtime rector of St. Clement's by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in San Clemente, in reverential tones.

A banking executive for 17 years before she entered the priesthood, Bruce is widely credited with saving her San Clemente church from economic ruin. Her banking background has put her in high demand throughout the diocese, with top leaders and church rectors seeking her counsel.

Those who know Bruce, who is married with two adult children, also say she is spiritual, direct and self-effacing, a priest who knows how to minister to rich and poor alike. She is a cancer survivor who speaks three languages -- Spanish, Mandarin and Cantonese -- and understands the diocese's multicultural makeup, they say.

"If people looked at who Diane is, they would be absolutely amazed," said the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, the diocese's primary bishop.

Bruce says she feels no ill will about Glasspool's capturing so much of the spotlight. "It never occurred to me that any attention would be paid to me being the first woman [bishop] because it's been done before" in other dioceses, she said.

Bruce grew up in Pequannock Township, N.J., which, as she points out, is perhaps best-known as the birthplace of New York Yankees star Derek Jeter.

One of five children (she has a twin sister four minutes older), she attended Catholic school as a girl, including daily Mass that gave her "a rich sense of peace."

Bruce fell into banking at 24, when a friend of her father's suggested that she apply for a training program with San Francisco's Crocker Bank (later bought by Wells Fargo). She spent the next 17 years at Wells, managing various units, including those responsible for international banking operations and incentive compensation plans for commercial and corporate officers.

It wasn't until Bruce was 30 that she found her way to the Episcopal Church -- on that chance visit to the New Mexico parish with her college roommate.

A short time later, she attended another service by a female priest back home in suburban San Francisco. Afterward, she said, she heard a voice. "When are you going to stop running and say yes to me?" it asked.

She began taking classes and soon was received into the church.

She decided to pursue the ministry, ultimately being ordained to the priesthood in 1998.

When she arrived at St. Clements in San Clemente in 2000, she found a church that was $10,000 in the red and nearly unable to meet payroll.

Members had fled and pledges had dried up as two rectors left in the 1990s amid accusations of personal or sexual misconduct, according to longtime church members and diocese officials.

Bruce scrutinized contracts for such things as copy machines, and she looked for bargains on items as seemingly insignificant as bathroom soap.

She addressed the financial crunch at Sunday services, telling parishioners at one point that the church could hire a Sunday school director for the monthly interest it was paying on $30,000 in bank debt. Within a short time, the church had raised the money, according to Bruce and Audrey Daigle, who was the church's senior lay leader at the time and also served on the search committee that found Bruce.

"We saw in her a very dedicated, faithful person," Daigle said.

At the end of Bruce's first year, St. Clements was operating in the black, Daigle recalled. The church began to grow again, attracting some who had left and newcomers, including Spanish-speakers.

Jon and Karin Sherman, who had drifted from the church, were among those who found renewed commitment. "We have gone from distance to involved again," Jon Sherman said.

During her years as a priest in the diocese, Bruce has advised other churches on fundraising, and served on the diocese's investment trust board and as president of its standing committee of elected lay and clergy members that approves such things as property transactions and candidates for ordination to the priesthood.

The Rev. Canon Brad Karelius at the Episcopal Church of the Messiah in Santa Ana, where Bruce served as an intern and associate rector, recalled her ability to move comfortably among different groups.

"She's able to speak to very poor immigrants as well as very well-to-do matriarchs," said Karelius, who nominated Bruce last spring for the assistant bishop job. "She can talk to anybody."

Not long after Bruce was nominated, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She decided to continue her quest for the job -- six candidates were vying for the two slots -- even as she underwent chemotherapy, at one point introducing herself in a video to the diocese wearing a head scarf but noting that her doctor had given her a clean bill of health.

Bruce's hair was stubbly when she appeared at the December convention, but she betrayed no sign of fear over the bout of cancer.

"I've never felt alone," she said. "No matter what the struggle, I felt God was walking with me."

Risen with Healing in His Wings

■ Sermon for December 27, 2009 ■ All Saints Church, Pasadena ■
[Click here for video]

Merry 3rd Day of Christmas – a day we mark this morning not with the 12-Days-of-Christmas-traditional three French hens, but with the All-Saints-Pasadena-traditional three services of healing. Three opportunities for us to gather in the beauty of these still-decked-with-boughs-of-holly-halls to celebrate the miracle of Christmas and the love of the God who loved us enough to become one of us in order to show us how to love one another.

“Light and life to all he brings,” the carol tells us. “Risen with healing in his wings!” it reminds us. Light. Life. Healing. All. Words to sit with for a moment. Words to breathe in -- and then to live out as we look beyond these 12 Days of Christmas to what Howard Thurman called, “The Work of Christmas:”

When the star in the sky is gone,
When the Kings and Princes are home,
When the shepherds
are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost
To heal the broken
To feed the hungry
To release the prisoner
To teach the nations
To bring Christ to all
To make music in the heart.

None of this is news to anyone who’s spent any time at all at All Saints Church --where making God’s love tangible is our job description all year long … where we aspire to “turn the human race into the human family” 24/7 … not just for 12 Days of Christmas. But nobody ever said it would be easy.

In fact, there are days when this “work of Christmas” we’ve been given to do can seem you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-hard. Preach peace in times of war? Bring healing to health care? Build bridges of understanding across chasms of interfaith challenges? Convince the Archbishop of Canterbury to shine the light of hope rather than fan the flames of homophobia? Advocate for justice in the streets of Gaza while we meet the challenge of those shivering in the streets of Pasadena? And that’s just part of what’s on the “to do” list.

And so we pause today, on this 3rd Day of Christmas, to sit for a moment. To breathe in. To invite the healing power of God’s abundant love to surround us. To fill us. To heal & empower us.
Because as Bishop Barbara Harris famously said, “The power behind us is greater than the challenge ahead of us” -- but in order to use that power we have to be ready to receive it. And sometimes that takes some healing help.

And so here is the gift I have for you on this 3rd Day of Christmas – on this Healing Sunday: these words of healing help – of encouragement and inspiration -- from my friend and colleague Tobias Haller: Episcopal priest, brother of Saint Gregory, prophet and poet. He calls it: “Nothing will be lost.”


Beloved sisters and brothers, let me tell you a mystery.
Nothing will be lost. All will be restored.
In the economy of salvation, nothing goes to waste.
Our God is not a God of acceptable losses.
Nothing God has made deserves God’s hatred.
Everything that is was created in love.
Each atom, every blade of grass,
and most of all each human soul,
reposes in the assurance of divine, unalterable love.
Nothing will be lost. All will be restored.

“All? All?” I ask. “What, all?
Even those who turned their backs?
Even those who through free will
rejected you, the Will that gave them freedom?”

“Yes,” says the Lord, “all will be restored.
Nothing will be lost.”
“How, Lord?” I ask.
“How will they be redeemed
who turn away? How will their blind eyes see?
How will their hard hearts melt?”

God answers patiently, “Love will turn them ‘round.
My love turns stars, you know,
it turns the universe; and though a human heart is heavier in my eyes
than a thousand, thousand white dwarf cores,
my love will turn it; wait and see!
All will be restored. Nothing will be lost.”

“When, Lord?” I ask.
“When will the wound be healed?”
“Don’t you know, my Child?” God answers.
“The healing has begun.
It started with the coming of my Son.
This was the new beginning,
just as long before,
when through him all that is was made.

The healing has begun.
Nothing will be lost.
All will be restored.”

“Is it really that simple?” I ask. “Can the wound be healed with a touch?”
“The healing will take a bit longer,” God answers, then pauses.
“O.K., I’ll be honest; it’s you subcontractors, the partners in redemption with my Son.

The specifications are clear,
‘Love God and each other,’
and the plan is concise:
‘one house, many mansions.’

But you seem so intent on constructing outhouses, rock gardens and car parks!
Instead of a banqueting hall you construct fast-food stands!

There are times I regret I extended the work force past Yahweh & Son.

But what’s done is done.
The only thing in all my creation
I don’t mind losing is time.

I’ll have the job done right
if it takes forever,
and we’ll keep at it together until we get it right.

I am not a God of acceptable losses.
I won’t cut corners; cost overruns don’t phase me.
Nothing will be lost. All will be restored.”

And so, my beloved in Christ,
I give you this word:
now is the time for the children to grow up,
now is the time for the heirs to inherit.
Nothing will be lost.
All will be restored.
And now is the time.

The whole world is waiting,
the stars hold their breath,
the wild beasts and cattle regard us with growing impatience,
the birds hover over us, the fish all tread water,
the trees shrug in wonder, or stand limbs akimbo,
and deep in our hearts God’s Spirit is groaning:
“Be reborn, beloved, become what you are and the world will be free.”

The Spirit is crying:
“Look up to the light, your hearts will be whole
and the wound will be healed.”
The Spirit is singing: “My children, my children are home!”


Become what you are and the world will be free.

And that, my brothers and sisters, is my prayer for each and every one of you on this Healing Sunday at All Saints Church. That the healing risen in the wings of the one who loved us enough to become one of us will surround you, fill you, transform and empower you to be all of who you were created to be.

That every part of your body, soul, mind and spirit will be restored to a place of health wholeness -- and will rest in the assurance of divine, unalterable love.

That the prayers for healing offered this morning at this altar rail in this community gathered will send each and every one of us out to be vehicles of God’s love, blessing and healing – out into a world yearning to be free – free of violence, hunger, fear and hatred. To do the work of Christmas. To be conduits of that power behind us that is greater than the challenge ahead of us.

Because now is the time for the children to grow up, now is the time for the heirs to inherit. Nothing will be lost. All will be restored. And now is the time. Amen

[Illustration is from a Christmas card I got and loved and scanned: the art is entitled "Heal the World."]

Saturday, December 26, 2009

On the 2nd Day of Christmas ...

... I made a donation to the "12 Days of Christmas Campaign" to support Integrity Uganda.

Won't you join me in putting your money where the Archbishop of Canterbury's mouth ISN'T? (No donation too small ... OR too large! ... to help make a difference! Click here to donate now! )

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day 2009: “The Blind Side of Christmas”

On this Christmas Day in the morning, I ask you to imagine with me where we might be on the “kingdom come continuum” if the church had spent the last two thousand years turning itself into an offensive line focused on protecting the blind side of the Gospel rather than into a defensive unit protecting its institutional authority.

All Saints Church, Pasadena ■ December 25, 2009 ■ 10:30am

We made it! It is finally “Merry Christmas Day” -- the day we’ve prepared for, decorated for, waited for, budgeted for, organized for and dressed up for. It is the day we hear again the familiar words, sing the familiar songs and rest in the security of the familiar message: REJOICE! Look the baby is in the manger -- the Star is in the sky and the shepherds, the angels and all of us are all in place. Merry Christmas!

The challenge with all that beloved familiarity, of course, is that the Christmas story is SO familiar that it is possible to lose the amazing impact of its glorious message in the shopping-baking-decorating-festivating frenzy that surrounds the Christmas event.

Or maybe that’s just at our house. Because the truth is, we LOVE Christmas at our house. Between Louise and I we have a positively unseemly number of red-and-green plastic storage bins packed full of “signs of the season” we’ve collected over our collective many years of loving Christmas. And once they come down out of the attic, watch out! We don’t just deck the halls – we even deck the dogs. And we’d probably deck the cat, too, if she’d put up with it. (Which she will not.) From the stuffed Santa her Uncle Hal gave her when she as a girl to ornaments I’ve had since grade school to the iconic half-melted Santa Candle from my boys’ growing up years – there’s a place for everything and at my house everything is in its sentimental place on this Christmas-day-in-the-morning.

And it is precisely because I am so sentimental about Christmas that I am convinced it is so important on this Christmas morning that we take care to separate the sentimental from the sacred. It is important to make sure the signs meant to point us the eternal truths of the Christmas story do not become ends in themselves but serve instead as the icons of the incarnation they were intended to be. It’s not just important – it’s critical. Because as Rabbi Abraham Heschel famously said, “In every moment something sacred is at stake.”

Those words take on a renewed sense of urgency for me as we gather on this “O Holy Day.” Gather to claim a Christmas Truth greater than any of the traditions it inspires. Gather to wonder again at the power of a love great enough to triumph over death. Gather to celebrate the mystical longing of the creature for the creator -- the finite for the infinite -- the human for the divine – all wrapped up in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

The stakes don’t get much higher than the sacred at stake in the Christmas morning moment.

For the “something sacred” at stake this morning is nothing less than the promise born again this Christmas Day in the child who is the incarnation of peace, joy, compassion and justice. The hope of the ages for a world redeemed from sin, death, violence, hunger and hatred is here in our midst -- as vulnerable as a newborn baby. For that hope was born not once-and-for-all in a Bethlehem stable but is born again and again as we tell and re-tell the miracle of the Christmas story as a church that has brought that hope to birth year after year, Christmas after Christmas, for over two thousand years now.

You’d think we’d be a little closer by now. To the “Peace on Earth, Good Will to All” part. We’ve put a lot of choruses of “O come let us adore him” in the books down through the ages and yet that kingdom hasn’t come on earth as it is in heaven. At least not the last time I checked the news. The Prince of Peace does not yet reign on earth as He does in heaven while troops are mobilizing for deployment in Afghanistan. The herald angels who sang “risen with healing in his wings” have not managed to bring healing to a health care system that fails again and again to meet the needs of the most vulnerable. And if you’re following the situation in Uganda, then “you hear what I hear:” that the head of the Anglican Communion continues to sit in Lambeth Palace warm while gay and lesbian Ugandans shiver in the cold of dehumanizing homophobia.

And that’s just the beginning of a LONG list of “somethings sacred” at stake on this Christmas morning moment as we gather to “O come let us adore him.”

So my wondering on this Christmas morning 2009 is if it isn’t time to find a new way to put some of that adoration into action. And I’m wondering if the church doesn’t have something to learn about that from ...Sandra Bullock.

Or at least from the character she plays in the now-playing film, “The Blind Side.”

Before I go any further, I have to say no one is more surprised than I am that a feel-good-football-movie ended up in this Christmas Day sermon, but there it is. Life is full of surprises! If you haven’t see the film, you’ve probably seen the previews of the true story of a fallen-through-the-cracks-of-the-foster-care-system kid named Michael who blossoms into a world class athlete because a pushy, feisty, no-nonsense woman reached out to him with what one reviewer called: “an authentic, compassionate response to vulnerability and need.” And if that was the end of the story, then that would be a good story.

It would be one of those feel-good, Hallmark-Hall-of-Fame kind of movie of the week along with dozens and dozens of others. And it wouldn’t have ended up a Christmas sermon illustration this morning.

Because here’s the thing. The “aha” moment for me came not in the reaching-out-to-the-kid in need part … touching though that certainly was. It came – surprisingly to this fair-weather football fan – in a new understanding and appreciation for the role of the left tackle on the offensive line of a football team. .
It turns out the job of that particular football player is a crucial one: to protect a right-handed quarterback from what he can’t see coming. To protect his blind side. And it turns out that Michael was uniquely gifted with exactly what he needed to be an extraordinarily good left tackle. What it took to connect his gifts with the team’s needs was his adopted mom – the Sandra Bullock character -- putting it all in context for him … in one of the movie’s great moments when she marches out into the middle of football practice and explains it to him like this:

This team is your family and you have to protect them … Tony is your quarterback. You protect his blind side. When you look at him think of me. How you have my back.
And once Michael “got it” he never looked back. Once he “got” that his job was to protect that quarterback like he would a member of the family he loved, nothing got in his way. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Now here’s where it gets weird. At least for me. All of a sudden – in the middle of a feel-good-football movie I hadn’t planned to see much less like – in the words of a feisty, pushy woman challenging a left tackle to protect his quarterback -- I got this glimpse of a connection between Abraham Heschel, Sandra Bullock, the baby in the manger and the kingdom that hasn’t come on earth as it is in heaven – yet.

And it looked like the something sacred that is at stake in every moment needing a left tackle standing ready to protect it – and it looked like a church that’s still figuring out how to play that position.

It looked like the child who is the incarnation of peace, joy, compassion and justice looking to us … to you, to me, to the church … to not just “come and adore him” but to “go and protect his blind side” – to fend off all those things that line up ready to take down the good news of Christmas just like football players lined up on a football field are lined up itching to take down the quarterback.

And I imagined Sandra Bullock marching out into the middle of “the church” -- oh, let’s just pick the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops as a place to start, shall we? -- and giving them a version of the same speech she gave Michael on the football field:
This whole human race is your family and you have to protect them … all of them.
And just imagine how the world might be a different place if the whole church finally “got it’ in the way Michael finally did that it has – that WE have – been uniquely gifted with exactly what we need to do the work we have been given to do: To bring good news to the poor; to proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind; and to let the oppressed go free; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

The stakes don’t get much higher than that sacred work at stake in this Christmas morning moment.

And so, on this Christmas Day in the morning, I ask you to imagine with me where we might be on that “kingdom come continuum” if the church had spent the last two thousand years turning itself into an offensive line focused on protecting the blind side of the Gospel rather than into a defensive unit protecting its institutional authority.

Just imagine if everyone who had “come let us adore him’d” over the centuries had then gone out into the world and put as much energy into protecting the blind side of Christmas they had put into decorating for it. Or shopping for it. Or decking the halls for it.

Imagine if each and every one of US found our own place in that offensive line and poured as much of our energy, love, determination and tenacity into speaking up, reaching out, and protecting this WHOLE human family from violence, hunger and hatred.

I’ve been blessed to see glimpses of exactly that during this Advent season. In the over 1000 coats collected here at All Saints to protect those in our human family who shiver in the cold in Southern California. In the 5379 people who joined a Facebook group urging the Archbishop of Canterbury to speak up to protect those in our human family at risk in Uganda because of their sexual orientation.

In the ongoing determination of those who labor tirelessly to make a way of peace in a time of war – to bring healing to our health care system – to protect the last, the least and the lost who are the most vulnerable in these times of economic challenge.

“In every moment something sacred is at stake.” So let us give thanks that in this moment – in this Christmas day in the morning moment – we are blessed to celebrate together the promise born again in the child who is the incarnation of peace, joy, compassion and justice. And then let us turn our adoration into action as we go out into the world to protect the blind side of Christmas from all that the world will throw at it in the days and weeks and months to come – as we work together to realize that dream of Peace on Earth, Good will to all … God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

Merry Christmas! Alleluia. Amen.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

One down, four to go!

A few pictures from the just-completed 3:00pm Christmas Pageant service here at All Saints Church ... featuring our fabulous Minisingers ...

It was standing-room only:

Complete with Hark-the-Harold-Angel:

Mary and Baby Jesus:

And the whole Christmas kit-and-kaboodle!

On to 5:30 we go!

Tick Tock!

The poinsettias are poised:

The wreath is ready:

The pageant is rehearsed:

And the halls are decked:

Let the Christmas Eve Games Begin!!
(It'll be all church all the time at All Saints Church: 3pm, 5:30pm, 8:00pm & 11:00pm today and 10:30am Christmas morning. Service info here if you're in the neighborhood ... and wherever you are, here's wishing you a joyous celebration of this mystery of the Word made flesh coming once again among us! O come, let us adore him!)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Blind Side

I hadn't really "planned" to see this movie. I also hadn't planned to like it as much as I did. And I for CERTAIN hadn't planned to preach about it on Christmas Day.

But I did. And I did. And I am.

And in case you haven't seen it yet, here's a preview to watch while I get back to sermon writing.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Christmas Letter to Cantaur

In case you missed this one over the weekend, it's WAY too fabulous not to repost here.

It's a bit long -- as Christmas letters tend to be -- but well worth the read. (The writer is, after all, author of arguably the "definitive" thicker-than-a-phone-book-biography of Thomas Cranmer -- Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch.) And I started trying to pull out a few of my favorite bits and was cutting and pasting the whole darned thing so ... without further ado, from Sunday's Guardian.UK Observor ... I give you (with a few of my more favorite bits highlighted for emphasis!):

Why we should be thankful for Rowan Williams and his church of common sense

The Church of England has taken a pounding from critics, but Rowan Williams has reasons to be cheerful as Christmas approaches, says a leading Anglican historian and commentator
Dear Archbishop Rowan,

Even though I'm not sending Christmas cards this year – ran out of time – you are not going to escape my seasonal circular letter. It is filled not with the record of my many achievements, holidays taken, operations survived and the GCSE results of my imaginary children, but instead has a few tidings of great joy, because you seem to need them at the moment.

You sounded a bit down the other day when you were talking to the Daily Telegraph, complaining that our government assumes "that religion is a problem, an eccentricity practised by oddities, foreigners and minorities". Well, the government is often right about that, so if I were you I wouldn't worry about it too much. I'd be more worried if the government didn't think religion was a problem.

The Telegraph came up with more why-oh-why material last week, publishing the results of a survey indicating that only half those questioned in this country called themselves Christian. I wouldn't pay too much attention to that either. God will no doubt cope. Let me draw on the words of the Blessed Ian Dury and give you some reasons to be cheerful: one, two, three.

The first reason is the established Church of England. It's true, as that Telegraph survey suggests, that it's not what it was, and the change has been astonishingly quick – encompassing my own still not over-prolonged lifetime. When my father, an Anglican parson, moved in the mid-1950s to become rector of a little country parish in Suffolk, there were still old ladies who would curtsy to him in the street, just because he was the rector.

Worldly power has gone out of the established church, and that is why so many of its adherents have fallen away. Thank goodness for that; churches never handle power well. Think what 1950s England was like when you and I were small boys: the stodgy conformity, the sexual hypocrisy, the complacent, monochrome white Anglo-Saxon Protestant culture. The Church of England, in its funny, messy, unwitting way, helped us to get out of that – giving vital help, for instance, to the tentative and much opposed moves in that same decade to decriminalise homosexuality. Compare the grim-faced, negative reaction of the Roman Catholic church in Spain in recent years to new freedoms as democratic Spain has thrown off General Franco's legacy; give public thanks for the Church of England's bumbling liberalism.

The C of E doesn't deliver strident moral or doctrinal judgments to make an easy headline. Journalists and broadcasters often sneer at such indecisiveness, even though rarely would they be inclined to subject themselves to any system of moral stridency. The history of Anglicanism is confused and contradictory, and because the C of E never succeeded in achieving the monopoly over national religion that it undoubtedly sought, the church has become an icon of diversity and plurality for the nation.

Its doctrinal statement, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion of 1563, is pleasantly anchored in past history, fighting ancient battles. Any Anglican would be happy to acknowledge the importance of such history, while not having to believe personally, for instance, that "the laws of the Realm may punish Christian men with death for heinous and grievous offences". Instead, this established church can be a home for those who go to it to express their doubts as well as their faith. It can be a shelter also for the kaleidoscope of culture, faith and no faith that now makes up our cheerfully diverse nation: an inoculation against the fanatics, both religious and anti-religious.

As the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish withdraw into their own search for national identities, please tell the English, whoever they are, to cherish this ecclesiastical symbol of a rainbow nation. At the moment the English church is afflicted by humourless, tidy-minded souls who want everyone in it to think just like them, and who frequently use the Bible to achieve their aim in the manner of a blunt instrument in an Agatha Christie mystery. Resist them, firm in the faith! Remember what Neil Kinnock achieved against the entryism of Militant in the Labour party of the 1980s. You and archbishop John Sentamu could together witness in the same way for sanity in the C of E.

My second reason to be cheerful is the ordination of women in the Anglican priesthood. Anglicans were the first episcopally governed church grouping to ordain women, way back in the Second World War, in a dire emergency in Japanese-occupied Hong Kong, when the only person available to do one priestly job was a woman, Florence Li Tim-Oi. Loud were the condemnations then, and there has been much angry noise since. But what riches the Church of England has gained since it joined sister-Anglican churches in ordaining women in 1994!

Women priests have faced some extraordinarily childish behaviour from many male counterparts: bullying, condescension and frank undervaluing of their ministry. Besides this has been the glass ceiling that prevented them from being eligible for choice as bishops. Now all that is about to change, and not least among the considerations behind the General Synod's overwhelming vote for change has been the grace so many women have displayed in the face of masculine bad manners. But there is also an everyday grace that women have brought to the ministry: a general reluctance to join in the theological party strife so common among male clergy, who like nothing better than to line up as Anglo-Catholics or evangelicals, as if they were a set of football hooligans out on the streets after the match.

Consider, Archbishop Rowan, that one of the most positive images of the Anglican parish priest in the English media is the now evergreen Vicar of Dibley. There's what the Great English Public think of their women clergy: a bit daft, fond of a box of chocolates or two, but, underneath it all, a source of love and common sense for a community that always has the potential to behave badly. When you think of some of the other stereotypes of priests around at the moment in these islands or beyond, just thank your lucky stars for the folksy silliness of the vicar of Dibley.

My third reason is the election of a bishop in a diocese of the American Episcopal Church in California who happens to be a lesbian. There's maturity for you. Faithful, seriously worshipping Christian folk have made a free decision in an open election that the best candidate for the job is a woman, who has shown by her decisions in life that fidelity, love and honesty are demanded by her practice of the Christian gospel.

These Californian Anglicans are grown-up enough to believe that it is entirely irrelevant that such fidelity, love and honesty are expressed in a same-sex relationship rather than a heterosexual one. Perhaps they have come to the conclusion that it would be a strange sort of supreme being who cared that much for a particular configuration of genitalia in her servants.

The Episcopal Church of the United States of America has been subjected to continuous abuse and carping from fellow Anglicans, attempted poaching of its churches by dissidents and demands that it curb its understanding of love and sexuality to fit in with the sexual mores of an entirely different society. So American Anglicans have decided that enough is enough: that they should just get on with being Anglicans and elect the best person for the job.

It would be nice if the election of bishops in the Church of England were that democratic and so effectively took into consideration the wishes of all the diocesan faithful. That's a job to be tackled in Lambeth Palace once the mince pies have gone down and the archiepiscopal sherry decanter put back in the sideboard.

Meanwhile, I hope that you may rejoice at Christmas in this multiform church over which you so graciously and thoughtfully preside – give a welcome to the continuing unobtrusive and untrumpeted trickle of converts, not least from your sister church of Rome, join in the worship at one of your cathedrals, so packed to the gills, so well cared for and cherished as never before in their history, and enjoy the heritage of beautiful music that is one of the treasures of Anglicanism.
The Christmas story may be expressed in biblical forms that are not very good history and which some of your congregations may find difficult to take literally, but Christmas music can sweep past the puzzles of words to celebrate a new human life, weak, vulnerable and humble, which is glorified precisely for that. You will know the saying of Thomas Aquinas, which a wise old Dominican friar once quoted to me over a great deal of Irish whiskey, that God is not the answer, he is the question. As long as your church, and all other churches, go on asking the question, they will never die.


Diarmaid MacCulloch is professor of the history of the church at Oxford University. His latest book is A History of Christianity: the First Three Thousand years (Allen Lane).


AND scheduled to come to All Saints Church, Pasadena on March 24, 2010 as part of his North American book tour! Mark your calendars now!

Viva la Mexico!

Breaking News from the Associated Press:

MEXICO CITY -- Mexico City lawmakers have become the first in Latin America to legalize gay marriage.

City legislators passed the bill 39-20 on Monday with five lawmakers absent.

Gay marriage is currently allowed in only seven countries and some parts of the United States. Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard is widely expected to sign the decision into law.

The bill calls for changing the definition of marriage in the city's civic code. Marriage is currently defined as the union of a man and a woman. The new definition will be "the free uniting of two people."

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Proud, proud, proud of my bishop!

As we approach the nativity of Christ, we need to remember the admonition of the angels to the shepherds: “Be not afraid.”

The Episcopal Church, a member of the Anglican Communion, for more than the past 30 years has been working on gradual, full incorporation of gay and lesbian people. We have worked to be people of gracious restraint for all these years and have now come to a place in our lives that is normal evolutionary change which compels us to move from tolerance to full inclusion.

As with racial and cultural divides, we can look to the great words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who calls us not to fall prey to the insidious drug of gradualism. Indeed, as he said in his speech titled “I Have a Dream”: “This is no time…to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism…. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”

We must move forward and respect the dignity of all human beings which is called for in our Baptismal Covenant and canons.

The Diocese of Los Angeles has acted in good faith and is moving forward in supporting the full inclusion and full humanity of all people in the Church. Thus, we celebrate the elections of Diane Jardine Bruce and Mary Douglas Glasspool as our next Bishops Suffragan called to share in the work of a strong episcopal team serving this Diocese and all of God’s people.

The Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, Bishop Diocesan

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Do you hear what I hear?

"Do you hear what I hear?" isn't just one of the Christmas carols echoing in the airwaves this week-before-Christmas.

It is also the question I'm asking about the responses we've gotten from Lambeth Palace regarding the "disconnect" between the Archbishop of Canterbury's readiness to issue a formal statement on the election of a bishop suffragan in Los Angeles and his reticence to "go and do likewise" on the draconian anti-gay legislation pending in Uganda.

Like many of you, I received a "boilerplate" response in an email from Marie Papworth in the Lambeth Palace office. (text posted below) If you "heard what I heard" in that response, you heard words like "unacceptable" and "deep concern."

My question is: how deep does concern have to be before the Archbishop of Canterbury uses his moral authority to speak out on behalf of gay and lesbian Ugandans who cannot speak for themselves? How unacceptable does it have to get before he says so?

And to be clear: a comment in response to a question from a journalist does NOT an "official statement" make.

Do you hear what I hear? In the email from Lambeth Palace and in the deafening silence on this pressing human rights issue I hear that speaking out to protect gay and lesbian lives in Uganda is less important than speaking out to protect the Anglican Communion from a lesbian bishop.

If you hear what I hear, you hear that the leader of the Anglican Communion is more concerned about preserving institutional unity than he is protecting innocent Ugandans.

If you hear what I hear, then I invite you to do what I'm going to do:

Send another email.
Write another letter.
Post another blog.

The Facebook group "Anglicans who want THIS statement from Canterbury" has grown to ALMOST 5000 members -- a truly awesome accomplishment.
Let's use the power of our collective voice to keep urging the Archbishop to use the power HE has as the moral leader of this worldwide Anglican family of ours to speak the truth of God's inclusive and abundant love for ALL people.

Let us urge him to send a word of hope to LGBT Ugandans who "mourn in lonely exile" that the Emmanuel whose coming we prepare to celebrate in a few short days came not just for the Archbishop of Canterbury in his Lambeth Palace warm ... but for those who shiver in the cold of dehumanizing homophobia.

O come, O come, Emmanuel!


Wednesday, December 16, 2009 4:50 AM

Dear Canon Russell,

Thank you for your message and for taking the trouble to write about this deeply painful issue.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is very clear that the Private Member’s Bill being discussed in Uganda as drafted is entirely unacceptable from a pastoral, moral and legal point of view. It is a cause of deep concern, fear and, to many, outrage. The Archbishop has publicly stated that “the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I can’t see how it can be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades”.

For its part the Church of Uganda has clearly restated its opposition to the death penalty. As the Ugandan Church continues to formulate its position on the bill as a whole, the Archbishop has been working intensively behind the scenes (over the past weeks) to ensure that there is clarity on how the proposed bill is contrary to Anglican teaching.

Marie Papworth
Press Secretary to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lambeth Palace, London, SE1 7JU,

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

COMMENTARY: They will know we are Episcopalians by our gay bishops


(RNS) When I heard that the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles had elected a lesbian as assistant bishop, my reaction was, "Here we go again."

I knew the anti-gay lobby would kick into overdrive with dire warnings about violating "biblical principles" and offending the Anglican Communion. I knew partisans on the other side would celebrate her election as an epic victory.

The warnings are nonsense, of course, and not at all supported by the entirety of biblical ethics. Nor do casual observers understand that the Anglican Communion is a tired and artificial construct of the post-colonial era, not a form of divinity. The celebrations over an ordination decision, meanwhile, sound tinny in an era of recession and expanding warfare.

My reaction was weariness: once again, my church would be known for nothing more enlightening than sexuality. It's better than our former reputation as "the country club at prayer," but it's no closer to the truth.

Yes, we have gay bishops, gay clergy, and gay lay members. So do other denominations, even the most conservative. So do other fields of endeavor, from banking to bridge building, from cutting hair to cutting federal budgets.
I just wish we were known for something more than sex.

Things like the hospitals we founded, for example, or the schools and colleges, the homeless shelters and food banks, and support groups for the wounded. I wish more people saw the missionary work we do among Native Americans, the ball fields we build for needy children, the teams that follow storms and do unsung ministry, from patching roofs to patching lives.

I wish more people stood in a typical Episcopal narthex on Sunday and watched the lonely be loved, the stranger be welcomed, the child be heard, and young and old find common ground -- the "radical inclusion" that is so necessary in our divided, intolerant and ideology-driven society.

The same could be said of any denomination. Progressive and conservative alike, our churches are more than mere social venues for debates about sex. A few diehards will always fulminate about homosexuality, but most Christians have more serious work to do.

Even now, singers of every skill level are holding extra rehearsals for heralding the Messiah. Children are learning their lines for Christmas pageants. Clergy are preparing their Christmas sermons. Food donations and cash-for-food donations are flooding into churches. Pastoral teams make sure that shut-ins get a visit and tend to the seasonally distressed. Evangelism teams are preparing for the many strangers who will drop into churches for reasons they don't understand but that God does.

Small groups gather in homes. Support groups hug saints and sinners caught in human suffering. Millions of Christians, home alone, drop to their knees in prayer, worry about the state of our broken world, write an extra check, make an extra phone call, shed an extra tear.

Some attend a performance of Handel's "Messiah." They hear alto and soprano give voice to the ancient promise, "He shall feed his flock like a shepherd." Will anyone ask if the two women are lovers? No, they will hear angels and feel within themselves a hunger that starts deep in the soul and draws them inexorably to God.

The sexuality of a bishop-elect is as nothing compared to this holy work. The controversy over it is a tragic diversion of the human spirit. Let's remember who we are and what work we are called to do.

(Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the author of "Just Wondering, Jesus," and the founder of the Church Wellness Project, His Web site is

BALTIMORE SUN: "Anglican objections have no bearing on Rev. Glasspool"

[Baltimore source link]

Matthew Hay Brown's fine article about the election of my colleague, the Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool, as a bishop suffragan in the Diocese of Los Angeles ("Annapolis cleric's election is making waves and history," Dec. 9) adds to the joy felt by those of us those in Maryland who have been graced by her ministries among us since 1992. She will take office when approved by a majority of the other dioceses and consecrated by our Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori. Our loss will be California's gain.

It is unfortunate that one element of her story has been made an object of controversy. She would not be the first woman, nor the first bishop living in a committed same-sex relationship, to be elected, but some Episcopalians in this country and many Anglicans elsewhere oppose her election.

There is no question of the canonical procedures having been observed in Los Angeles; it followed the Constitution of our Church as adopted in 1789. What many people do not know, and others, I'm afraid, choose to ignore, is the legal independence of the Episcopal Church from other jurisdictions. In fact, it was in Chestertown, Maryland, in 1780, that a convention of clergy and laymen began the process of making an American Church separate from the Church of England, in the spirit of our declaration of political independence of 1776.

After that, the Archbishop of Canterbury had no more legal jurisdiction in this nation than King George III, the "Supreme Governor" of the established Church of England. So when Archbishop Rowan Williams says that he regrets Canon Glasspool's election and urges the American church to reject her, he does not speak in any official capacity.

"The Anglican Communion" exists as a fellowship of very diverse national churches with a common English reformed catholic heritage. We join for conversations and consultations in "mutual responsibility and interdependence" as a community of faith in Jesus Christ rather than as members of a corporation.

The Rev. Kingsley Smith, Towson

The writer is a retired priest who has been serving in the Diocese of Maryland since 1956.


V - "I hear that the ++ABofC will speak on Human Rights at the Tutu center in NYC Jan 26th."

R - "I would as soon listen to Tiger Woods speaking on Family Values."

"There are none so blind as those who will not see" ... that their moral authority is being squandered in a futile effort to preserve illusory "bonds of affection" that have become institutional shackles of homophobia.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Never say "never"

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

I grew up in the Episcopal Church here in Los Angeles. I learned to sing these words to the Magnificat – one of the scriptures appointed for this Fourth Sunday of Advent – as a Junior Choir member in a church that wouldn’t let me be an acolyte because I was a girl. I met my first woman priest in the 1980’s – a decade after the “irregular” ordination of eleven women in Philadelphia in 1974 opened the way for women in the priesthood in the Episcopal Church. And I remember the great drama that unfolded over those ordinations here in the Diocese of Los Angeles – including the four congregations who tried to leave the diocese (and take their buildings with them!) in protest.

And on December 4th & 5th I watched with awe as this diocese – my Diocese of Los Angeles – elected not one but two women as Bishops Suffragan to help lead us in our work and witness into the 21st century. My spirit rejoiced – in God my Savior and in Los Angeles, my diocese.

And I will never say “never” again.

Faced with the challenge of electing two new bishops from an extraordinary field of six deeply faithful, diversely gifted priests – including our own incomparable Zelda Kennedy – I watched with such deep gratitude as the careful, prayerful work that went into the months long discernment process unfolded. And in the end, when the last ballot was counted and the last declarations signed by the delegates and Bishops-elect Diane Jardine Bruce and Mary Douglas Glasspool stood together at the podium and led us in Evening Prayer I knew that we who were privileged to be part of that electing convention were also privileged to be witnesses to history.

The bishops-elect took very different paths to that historic moment. One was raised in the Roman Catholic Church and found the Episcopal Church as a young mother. The other was raised in the Episcopal Church as the daughter of a priest who disapproved of the ordination of women. Both are extraordinarily qualified to serve in both the pastoral and prophetic roles we expect in our bishops and both will be tremendous additions to the House of Bishops – where they will be the 16th and 17th women to be seated in that house after their May 15th consecrations.

As we come to the end of this Advent season of preparation we will open our hearts and our minds once again to the amazing mystery of the Word made flesh and dwelling among us in the miracle of the Christmas story. We will rejoice once again in the scandal of the incarnation – of a God who loved us enough to become one of us in order to show us how to walk in love with one another. And this year, let us rejoice as well that we belong to a God whose capacity to draw us into ever-widening understandings of peace, joy, justice, compassion and incarnation didn’t end in Bethlehem with the birth of Jesus. Or in Philadelphia with the ordination of eleven women priests. Or in Riverside with the election of two bishops-suffragan.

Let our souls proclaim and our spirits rejoice in both the challenges and opportunities ahead – for us, for All Saints Church and for this Diocese of Los Angeles -- as we watch and wait to see what our “never say never” God will do next!

[from Saints Alive -- the weekly newsletter of All Saints Church, Pasadena]

On the radio

Click here to listen to the Monday, December 14, 2009 segment of KPFK 90.7's "IMRU" radio show focused on the Diocese of Los Angeles episcopal elections and the challenge to the Archbishop of Canterbury to speak out against the anti-homosexuality legislation pending in Uganda.

ANGLICAN ANGST: LA Times Op-ed du jour

"A faith rooted in the denial of papal authority and kingly authority, a faith that in the United States has increasingly championed egalitarian principles, should hardly be cowed by contingent bigotries masquerading as universal truths."

By Harold Meyerson [source link] --December 15, 2009

Those Angeleno Anglicans are at it again.

For decades, the Episcopal Church in Los Angeles has been home to some of the most liberal pulpits and congregations in town -- and in the worldwide Anglican Communion. A few years back, Pasadena's venerable All Saints Church was investigated by President George W. Bush's Internal Revenue Service after its former rector delivered a vehement antiwar sermon shortly before the 2004 election. Local Episcopal priests have marched for striking janitors and helped organize the poor.

So it should have come as no great surprise when the L.A. diocesan convention recently elected as its new assistant bishop the Rev. Canon Mary D. Glasspool -- the senior assistant to the bishops of the Maryland diocese, the daughter of an Episcopal priest, and an open lesbian. Her ordination must now be confirmed by the U.S. bishops, who have already been told in no uncertain terms by the Archbishop of Canterbury himself to back off.

"The election of Mary Glasspool by the Diocese of Los Angeles as suffragan bishop elect," wrote Archbishop Rowan Williams, "raises very serious questions not just for the Episcopal Church and its place in the Anglican Communion, but for the Communion as a whole."

The archbishop can hardly be blamed if he sometimes shudders at the thought of pesky American progressives. In 2003, the U.S. bishops ordained a gay bishop for their New Hampshire diocese. In 2006, they elevated the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori to the post of presiding U.S. bishop, the first woman to head a national branch of Anglicanism -- and not just a woman but a woman who allowed the blessing of same-sex couples within her diocese.

Within months of Schori's elevation, a number of more traditionalist Episcopal dioceses around the nation announced that they were leaving the U.S. church and affiliating with more conservative dioceses -- in some cases, with African dioceses where the thought of a woman priest, let alone a gay or lesbian bishop, had yet to cross many minds.

The conservative Anglicans, chiefly in Latin America and Africa, vastly outnumber the American Episcopalians -- there are more than 80 million members of the worldwide Anglican Church, while the American Episcopal Church is home to about 2 million members, including the secessionists. And because the conservative wing has made it clear that there's no place for gay bishops and the like in its vision of Anglicanism, a formal schism is at least a possibility.

Even as the archbishop gazes in dismay at the Episco-libs to his left, a meddlesome pope has now popped up on his right. Without any advance notice to his Anglican brother, Pope Benedict XVI recently announced that the Roman Catholic Church would take to its bosom any Anglican clergy or congregations that want to affiliate with a reliably orthodox church in which the pope's word is law. The congregations could keep their liturgy; the priests (the male priests, that is), their wives.

What the archbishop is really up against is the relativism, the historic particularism, of religion itself. It is sheer folly to expect traditionalist African Anglicans and progressive Pasadena Episcopalians to adhere to the same norms of gender equality, absent either a stunning cross-cultural agreement or a top-down Roman Catholic-style structure. Conservative Episcopalians, who decry the increasing egalitarianism of the American church, want traditionalist transnational norms in every Anglican diocese.

But a common complaint of American and European conservatives against Muslims is that Islam itself is a monolithic faith unsuitable for the pluralistic West. We don't have to accept this characterization of Islam to recognize that it is close to what Anglican traditionalists are advocating for their own church.

Besides, if ever a church were rooted less in timeless truths than in historic particularities, it is Anglicanism, and the Episcopal wing of Anglicanism most of all. Anglicanism began, after all, because the pope would not sanctify Henry VIII's divorce, and Henry used the opportunity to seize the church and all its properties. Episcopalianism began when the leaders of the American Revolution (two-thirds of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were active or, like George Washington, nominal Anglicans) realized they could hardly stay religiously affiliated with a church headed by the very king against whom they were rebelling secularly.

Given the schismatic and distinctly secular nature of Anglicanism's and Episcopalianism's origins, the pending ordination of L.A.'s lesbian bishop seems well within the church tradition. A faith rooted in the denial of papal authority and kingly authority, a faith that in the United States has increasingly championed egalitarian principles, should hardly be cowed by contingent bigotries masquerading as universal truths.

Harold Meyerson is editor at large of the American Prospect and an Op-Ed columnist for the Washington Post.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Scriptural literalism pays off @ All Saints Church!

From yesterday's Gospel:

And the crowds asked [John the Baptist], "What then should we do?" In reply he said to them, "Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none ... "

And here's the tip-of-the-iceberg of the outpouring of coats being dropped off at ASC today in response to the rector's sermon yesterday ... urging everyone to go home and clean out their closets of extra coats on behalf of those who have none.

You can watch the whole sermon -- "We need to expect more" -- on the All Saints Church website. And if you're in the Pasadena neighborhood, do consider dropping off coats and jackets that we can add to the pile.

And if you're NOT in the Pasadena neighborhood, what the heck -- clean out your closet anyway and help share the warmth with one of the agencies reaching out to those in need in your neck of the woods.

(See also: Inasmuch as you did it unto the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you did it unto me!)

Yes, Virginia: There IS a via media!

Convergence trumps compliance in Dallas debate

Giving up on the television news this morning when I couldn't find anyone talking about anything other than Tiger Woods, I turned to cyber-news land and found this feature on Saturday's "debate" between bishops Katharine Jefferts Schori and William Frey in my inbox. It is totally "a keeper."

I'm posting the whole piece below and hoping you'll not only read it but forward it and save it for future reference re: the story I'm more tired of than I am of Tiger Woods. And that story is: "The Episcopal Church Splits: Film at Eleven."

Or not.

In spite of the uber-efforts of the schismopalians to spin that story for lo these many years now, the truth reads more like this: "The Episcopal Church Stretches: And there's room for you." Really.

If a three hour theological debate between Bishops Jefferts Schori and Frey can end with a hug and Bishop Frey's summation, "I heard a great deal of convergence," then I say we declare victory for the via media and get on with the mission and ministry of the church!

Because here's the real "breaking news:" If there's room for Katharine and Bill then there's room for you -- and for me. And for countless hungry souls out there yearning for hope and community and the spiritual sustenance that will empower them to go out into the world as agents of love, joy, compassion and justice. And that is precisely what is on the menu for the feast "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You" to!

There is some sad news: There are going to continue to be those who put themselves outside that banquet hall because their criterion for being included is being agreed with and because convergence isn't enough for them: they need "compliance."

But no matter how much we yearn to gather absolutely everybody into this Big Fat Anglican Family of ours, the gospel we serve will NOT be served if we allow it to be hamstrung by those who insist our differences have to be divisions. The church will not grow if we focus more on those who might leave if we include everyone than we do on those who will come if welcome all. And the kingdom will not come closer if we allow the mission of our church to be held hostage by fights over consents to a qualified and duly elected bishop in Los Angeles when the world is calling us to fight injustice & oppression.

Yes, Virginia: there IS a via media. It is ours to rejoice and be glad in. AND it is ours to protect and preserve. And may the God grace give us the grace we need to do both of those things as we celebrate these waning days of Advent and look forward with joy to coming of our Lord Emmanuel!


No fireworks at Episcopal bishops' debate in North Dallas
By SAM HODGES / The Dallas Morning News

[Dallas - source code] One bishop spoke deliberately, professorially, with flashes of droll humor and poetic phrasing. The other told stories from his long ministerial career, rounding them off with insights into Christian faith and practice.

But what had been billed as a debate between the Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, and the Rev. William Frey, retired Episcopal bishop of Colorado, yielded much common ground and no outright conflict on the identity and meaning of Jesus.

"I heard a great deal of convergence," Frey said afterward.

The three-hour Saturday morning event packed the 700-seat sanctuary of Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in North Dallas, which brought the speakers in as part of a lecture series.

Jefferts Schori, the Episcopal Church's first female presiding bishop, has been criticized by theological conservatives on a number of fronts, including for refusing to say that belief in Jesus is the only way to heaven.

The Rev. Robert Dannals, rector of Saint Michael and All Angels, sought to balance the program with Frey, a longtime leader of the Episcopal Church's traditional wing.

That wasn't enough for one local Episcopal priest, who said he and five colleagues wrote a letter to Bishop James Stanton of the Diocese of Dallas, protesting his decision to allow Jefferts Schori's visit. (Under Episcopal law, a diocesan bishop must give permission for a working visit by another bishop.)

"She hasn't guarded the faith. She has attacked the faith," said the Rev. Canon H.W. Herrmann, rector of the Church of Saint David of Wales in Denton.

But at times on Saturday, Jefferts Schori sounded like a pitch-perfect voice of orthodoxy.

"Jesus is the ultimate sacrament of God in human flesh – that's what we're getting at when we say he's the only son of God. He's the unique demonstration of divinity in human flesh," she said.

Other times, Jefferts Schori took risks, including referring to Jesus as the "green savior" who requires that Christians protect the environment as part of God's creation.

She also wasn't afraid to get topical.

"The challenges of our current age include the ancient human desire to find a scapegoat, with the familiar targets in this society right now being Muslims and immigrants and gay people," she said. "Jesus' own witness is to continually reject that kind of response, for it always ends in violence and diminution of life."

Frey, much more anecdotal, also noted the requirements of Christians to work for justice and help the poor and marginalized.

But he stressed fidelity to the Bible, the personal transformation offered by faith in Christ and the importance of sharing the gospel.

"The church that doesn't evangelize will be evangelized by the culture in which it finds itself," he said.

During questions and answers, the bishops took on abortion, the role of faith in healing and whether non-Christians can get to heaven.

"It's not up to us to say this person's out" of heaven, Jefferts Schori said. "It's up to God."

At the event's conclusion, the bishops embraced and drew a standing ovation. Among those who were pleased was Stanton – the Dallas bishop and a well-known conservative who has differed with Jefferts Schori on church issues.

"I thought it was a very constructive dialogue," Stanton said. "It was nourishing to everyone, I think."

At a news conference afterward, Jefferts Schori would say little more than that "prayer and discernment" were needed as Episcopal Church leaders decide whether to approve the recent election of a lesbian as bishop suffragan of the Diocese of Los Angeles.

The question of gay bishops has roiled the Episcopal Church and exacerbated its tensions with the worldwide Anglican Communion.