Friday, July 30, 2010

What a total bummer!

The last thing I needed this summer was something ELSE to boycott, protest, write-letters-about, mobilize-around or take-action-on.

Honest to Pete. I'm keeping my eye on Uganda, NOM & Arizona while we're waiting for Judge Walker to rule on Prop 8 so we can get back to work doing what we need to do restore marriage equality here in California. AND I've got a full time job here at All Saints Church (turning the human race into the human family.) Oh yeah -- and trying to "have a life" in the meantime. My dance card is pretty darned full.

And now we have to take on Target.


I love Target. I love that I can go there and get toilet paper, dog bones, geraniums AND a throw rug for the guest room. And some popcorn. And there's parking. And plenty of shopping carts.

But I don't love that they have donated $150,000 to "MN Forward" -- a group that says it's committed to "Creating Jobs. Right Here. Right Now." (which sounds fine) -- and supports someone named Tom Emmer for Governor. (which does not)

That would be the Tom Emmer who authored legislation prohibiting same-sex marriage AND civil unions. The Tom Emmer who supported a Christian punk rock band that advocated killing gay people -- because "it's Biblical."

As my brilliant partner said in her post on Walking With Integrity:
One thing is clear, you can't say you are pro-gay and then support anti-gay politics. You can't take our hard earned money and then give it to an anti-gay politician and expect us to keep coming back. We enjoyed the bargains we got at Target but frankly, my family can't afford to shop there anymore.
Nope. We can't. So I'm gettin' my geraniums at Armstrong's, my dog bones at PetSmart and if I want popcorn, I'll pop it myself.

In closing, here's a comment from the Boycott Target Facebook page that kind of says it all:
"I love the people in my life more than anything I can buy in this store."
And let the people say, "Amen."

Revisiting "Stuff"

Working on my sermon for Sunday. It's Proper 13C -- AKA lessons about "stuff." And so I revisited the sermon I wrote the last time these lessons rolled around ... 2007 ... and although I'm preaching a whole different sermon on Sunday, I thought the 2007 version was worth revisiting.

So there's the link ... and here are some fun facts to know and tell about Scripture & Stuff:

“It is human nature always to want a little more,” writes psychologist Timothy Miller. “People spend their lives honestly believing that they have ALMOST enough of whatever they want. Just a little more will put them over the top – and then they will be contented forever.”

That pursuit of "more" is something Jesus talked about over and over and OVER again … calling us to live lives faithful to God … not in pursuit of possessions that ultimately end up owning US. In fact, in the stories of Jesus preserved for us in Scripture, Jesus talked about the role of possessions and giving – about stuff -- more than ANY other single theme … WAY more.

Check this out: a tally of how many times Jesus talked about what in the gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John:

Believing … 272. Prayer … 371. Love … 714. Possessions (AKA “stuff”) and Giving … are you ready? … 2172.

Two thousand one hundred and seventy two. It’s not even close. (And just for the record the number of times Jesus talked about sexuality is zero, zip, nada, never, not once.) Instead he talked about “stuff” 2172 times … because Jesus KNEW that letting go of the stuff that owns us rather than serves us is a crucial step in creating those trusting relationshps we’ve been designed to seek: with God and with each other.

So there you have it. Food for thought on the Friday before the Tenth Sunday After Pentecost 2010.

And now I think I'm going to go home and clean out a closet and get rid of some "stuff."

Thursday, July 29, 2010

SCLM work on blessings featured in the New York Times

Episcopal Committee Is Working on Gay Rite

Armed with a new $400,000 grant and the support of the Episcopal Church, a Berkeley seminary is convening priests from across the country to craft the liturgical rite for same-sex couples to receive religious blessings.

The new rite, which will take years to complete, will most likely consist of a series of original prayers, Bible readings and two essays: one on the theological meaning of same-sex blessings, and one advising priests who administer the new rite. If approved, the new blessing would be just the third addition to Episcopal liturgy since 1979.

“This is very significant,” said the Rev. Ruth Meyers, chairwoman of the church’s Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, who is heading the effort. “It does acknowledge a fuller participation of gays and lesbians in the life of the church.” read the rest here

California Faith for Equality Speaks Out

[Honored to be among such a great cloud of witnesses!]


"CFE calls for good people of all faiths to speak out against the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) for allowing a supporter to carry a sign painted with two nooses implying that LGBT people should 'be put to death' and quoting the Book of Leviticus from the Bible or a pastor to compare gays and lesbians to pedophiles, adulterers and alcoholics," said Samuel M. Chu, Executive Director of California Faith for Equality (CFE). "We can no longer tolerate the spread of organized homophobia and spiritual violence perpetuated under the guise of 'protecting marriage. It must be stopped!"

The Rev. Canon Susan Russell, an Episcopal priest, said, "We cannot allow the Bible to be used as a weapon of mass discrimination and disinformation. Good people of faith are outraged at watching their scriptures exploited to condemn the holy relationships of gay and lesbian couples that are blessed by God. As a member of CFE, I join thousands of clergy, lay leaders and congregations who support these couples, who celebrate their love, bless their relationships and lobby for their equality."

"Recent polls reveal that 51% of Californians support marriage equality," said Chu. "CFE will continue to organize a faith based response to organizations such a NOM which spew hatred and fear rather than love and acceptance. It is only a matter of time for marriage equality to become a reality. We represent more than 6000 California clergy and faith leaders committed to equality and we will continue to raise those voices up until there is liberty and justice for all."

Celebrating "Philadelphia 11 Day"

"Happy Anniversary to Us" ... to The Episcopal Church ... to the brave women who stepped out in faith 36 years ago today and became our first women priests (AND to the courageous bishops who stepped out with them!)

More on this later today if I can grab some time in the busy day of doing the work the trailblazing Philadelphia 11 paved the way for me to do 36 years ago today!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Go, Maryland!

Not sure if these came out earlier elsewhere, but I just saw them and like the idea that Bishop Sutton is making good use of good work done in other dioceses to provide resources for pastoral care and liturgical celebration for same-sex couples. Bravo!

Bishop's Guidelines Regarding the Blessing of Same-Gender Unions
Effective July, 2010

These guidelines are for the clergy of the Diocese of Maryland in keeping with Resolution CO56 of the 2009 General Convention of the Episcopal Church that states that bishops “may provide generous pastoral responses to meet the needs of members of this Church,” and that we “honor the theological diversity of this Church in regard to matters of human sexuality.”

1. As to whether or not to engage in performing and blessing same-gender unions within the Diocese, I respect the pastoral judgment and decisions of the clergy under my pastoral oversight. No priest of the Diocese of Maryland, canonically resident or licensed in accordance with the canons of The Episcopal Church, shall be required to bless a union of persons of the same gender, neither shall they be required to bless a civil marriage performed in another state.

2. Before the blessing of a union can take place, the priest shall comply with all diocesan requirements that pertain to marriage, including those relevant to previous marriages that have ended in divorce. Couples shall be prepared to make a lifelong commitment to each other, and must have received adequate pastoral counseling prior to the union.

3. Episcopal priests from outside the Diocese are not permitted to enter the Diocese of Maryland to bless same-gender unions unless they are from a diocese that also permits the performing or blessing of same-gender unions.

4. Persons who reside in other dioceses may not enter the Diocese of Maryland to have a same-gender union performed or blessed by a priest of this Diocese, or a priest from the diocese in which they reside, unless that diocese also permits its clergy to perform or bless same-gender unions.

We have received permission from the Diocese of Southern Ohio to offer these theological and liturgical resources, and I recommend them for trial use in this Diocese: the “Theological Reflection” document, and the form provided for “The Blessing of a Sacred Union.”

The Rt. Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton
Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Maryland

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"For the Bible Told Him So"

I do not have time to be irate, shocked, appalled, or mobilized into "blogificating" about anything today! I've got piles of my own work next to piles of covering-for-my-vacationing-colleagues work -- sitting right next to the piles of getting-colleagues-ready-to-GO-on-vacation work. And a sermon for Sunday.

But then I got this email. And it was entitled, "Did you see this?"

So of course I opened it.

<---- And here's what I saw. OMG

Bilerico blogged the story yesterday ... and The New Civil Rights Movement blogged on it here today ... and included this YouTube clip of the guy -- Larry Adams -- who made the sign for a NOM rally in Indianapolis:

There you have it. He "used to be confused." But now he's not. And now that the Bible cleared it up for him, he has a solution to "the problem."


The Courage Campaign is doing a great job of tracking the NOM "tour" and I applaud all the activists out there with their signs and cameras and videos capturing what's going on.

But as I looked over the posts ... the comments ... the photos and the videos, I couldn't help thinking: Where is the church? Where's the organized outrage of people of faith watching their Holy Scriptures exploited as weapons of mass disinformation? Where's the witness to the congregations, clergy and people who support gay and lesbian couples -- celebrate their love -- bless their relationships -- lobby for their equality?

I know where some of them are. They're over posting on the Episcopal HoB/D (House of Bishops & Deputies) listserve going back and forth about what it means to "love the sinner but hate the sin."

Yes, really.

The last time I checked there were 26 posts on the topic. And while that compelling dialogue consumes (once again) leaders in the Episcopal Church, the message LGBT people are getting through the media ... the blogs ... the signs at the rallies and the interviews on YouTube ... is that the Bible tells people to kill them -- not that it tells them that Jesus loves them.

No wonder Jesus wept.

So here's my advice to my Episcopal colleagues in Christ: Give It A Rest. We are a people of God who managed to figure out how to be both catholic and protestant in the 16th century -- we can certainly figure out how to be both gay and straight in the 21st century.

And while we're figuring it out, let's spend more time worrying about those strangers at the gate yearning for a spiritual home and not knowing the "welcome" sign includes them and less time having the same arguments with the usual suspects -- who we know we have as much chance changing their mind as they do ours.

If we sit silent while the Larry Adams of the world speak for Jesus then shame on us. Shame on us.

Bits & Pieces

Playing catch-up from being away for a few days, here are the stories that caught my eye:

Episcopalians NOT voted off Anglican Island:

[Episcopal News Service] The Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion has agreed that separating the Episcopal Church from the rest of the Anglican Communion "would inhibit dialogue and ... would therefore be unhelpful," according to a July 26 bulletin from the Anglican Communion Office. read the rest here

Lutherans make last summer's resolution on gay clergy a reality

[NYT] With a laying on of hands, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on Sunday welcomed into its fold seven openly gay pastors who had until recently been barred from the church’s ministry. The Evangelical Lutheran Church known as the E.L.C.A., with 4.6 million members, is now the largest Protestant church in the United States to permit noncelibate gay ministers to serve in the ranks of its clergy ... read the rest here

Presiding Bishop preaches at St. Paul's in London

[Episcopal News Service – London, England] Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori challenged those attending Sung Eucharist at historic St. Paul's Cathedral here July 25 to be "ready, willing and able" to speak out and take action against the world's injustices and indignities. There is a human tendency, she said, "to insist that some are not worthy of respect, that dignity doesn't apply to the poor, or to immigrants, or to women, or Muslims, or gay and lesbian people." read the rest here

And because there is more to life than just "things Episcopal/Anglican" ... (Really. Honest. I just checked!) ... here's a great feature on the Gulf by my cousin-in-law (AKA Louise's cousin) Jeff Mason:

Plumes, politics and the sultan of spill

[Reuters] - It is a Thursday morning in early July and Thad Allen is ready to start his day. There are three states to visit, an oil company to challenge, and a cleanup process to inspect -- all in less than 12 hours. read the rest here

And now, back to my regularly scheduled Tuesday!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Claiming the Blessing 2.0

We are just back from a long weekend-away at a family wedding in Boulder, Colorado. It was the "first of the next generation" wedding in Louise's family and on a wedding scale of 1-10 it was about a 12.5. We were honored to be included -- and have you ever seen a prouder-than-punch groom than "our" Brian?

Here's the happy couple again ... with the groom's mom, dad & grandpa. And no, the pictures aren't very good ... I just took them with my cell phone trying not to get in the way of the "real" photographers ... but since "mazel tovs" are in order, I figured a few pictures were, too.

Some of my reflections on the weekend will probably end up in Sunday's sermon ... I'm preaching again (uncharacteristically soon having just preached July 25, but that's how the schedule worked out) and the title is "Claiming the Blessing 2.0" -- and so I've been doing a lot of reflecting on what it means to be blessed in order to be a blessing ... and what exactly it is we do when we bless the union of two people ... what it means to vow "til death do us part" and to invite the Holy Spirit to dwell in center of a relationship.

I'm letting my Sermon GPS take the lead on this one so we'll see where it goes. But right now there are suitcases to unpack and email to download and ... well, it's good to be home!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Butler Bass & "But the Bible says ..."

Love this reflection by Diana Butler Bass on yesterday's PRRI poll of Californians on same-sex marriage.

You should read it all here ... but I particularly appreciated her summary/wrap up on the "but the Bible says" argument. She notes that in the same-sex marriage debates:

"... some religious person always shouts, "I don't care about scientists or a bunch of secular ethicists! The Bible says ... "

Well, the California survey found the electorate almost equally divided in their views of the Bible (or other "holy book"): 30 percent believe that scripture is the literal word of God; 27 percent believe it to be God's word, yet not literal; and 33 percent believe the Bible was written by "men and is not the word of God." While the literalists strongly oppose same-sex marriage, the "written by men" folks strongly support it.

Thus, the theological swing group is in the middle -- those who take the Bible seriously but not literally -- and they appear to be moving in the direction of legalizing same-sex marriage. Progressive and mainline clergy seem to be having an impact on ways in which the Bible is interpreted: Californians who heard "positive messages from the clergy" about gay and lesbian people overwhelming supported either same-sex marriage (60 percent) or civil unions (22 percent).

Finally, Californians strongly agree that the Golden Rule -- to treat others as we want to be treated--applies to the issue of same-sex marriage. Some 58 percent said, "We should apply the Golden Rule to gay and lesbian couples who are in long-term committed relationships and allow them the same opportunity to get married as everyone else."
Thanks, California, for the reminder that the Golden State remembers the Golden Rule -- and that religion can help open minds and not just close them.

And thanks, Diana, for helping get that word out. For WAY too long the Religious Right have wrongly presumed to speak for ALL people of faith. Polls like this help continue to turn that tide ... and we can help KEEP it turning by stepping up, by speaking out, by believing out loud!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bottom Line: "Information helps"

New Poll:
Only One-in-Five Californians Say Proposition 8 'Good Thing',
Majority Now Support Same-Sex Marriage

That's the "breaking news" today on the California marriage equality front. The Public Religion Research Institute issued its comprehensive new poll examining religious based attitudes on same-sex marriage -- and while the findings confirmed lots of things we already knew (or believed we knew!) there were also some surprises.

Here are the highlights of the highlights ... which you can read in full on the PRRI website:

Only one-in-five (22%) Californians believe the passage of Proposition 8 was a “good thing” for the state. Most Californians believe Proposition 8 was either a bad thing for California (29%) or believe it has not made any difference (45%).

One-in-four Californians report that their views on rights for gay and lesbian people has become more supportive over the last five years, compared to only 8% who say they have become more opposed.

If another vote similar to Proposition 8 were held tomorrow, a majority (51%) say they would vote to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry, compared to 45% who say they would vote to keep same-sex marriage illegal.

• There are major religious groups on both sides of the debate over same-sex marriage in California. Solid majorities of Latino Catholics and white mainline Protestants say they would vote to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.

There is a striking Catholic-Protestant divide within the California Latino community on public policy issues related to gay and lesbian rights. A majority of Latino Catholics (57%) say they would vote to allow gay and lesbian couple to marry, compared to just 22% of Latino Protestants. The Catholic-Protestant divide in the Latino community is evident across a wide range of public policy issues related to gay and lesbian rights.

And here's another take-away from the analysis of the data from the press conference this afternoon:

A significant number of Californians who initially say they support civil unions but not same-sex marriage are willing to support marriage equality if the law addresses either of two basic concerns about religious marriages.

When presented with an assurance that the law would guarantee that "no church or congregation would be required to perform marriages for gay couples" nearly one-third of Californians who intially only supported civil unions are willing to support same sex-marriage. With this assurance, support increases 12 points -- from 42% to 54%.

Similarly, when Californians are presented with an assurance that the law "only provided for civil marriages like you get at city hall" more than half of Californians who initially supported only civil unions are willing to support marriage equality. This assurance results in a 19 point increase -- from 42% to more than 6-in-10 (61%).

So what does all this mean?

It means that when presented with the truth, fair minded Californians will make the right decision.

And so it means that John 8:32 should become the proof text for the marriage equality movement: "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

It means that the myth that "people of faith" are opposed to equality is exactly that -- a myth.

Finally, in the words of the Rev. Madison Shockley, Pastor of Pilgrim United Church of Christ, Carlsbad, CA -- a member of the panel at today's press conference -- "Information helps." And the education campaign needs to be happening NOW as we continue to tell the truth that will set us free to truly be the nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that ALL people are created equal that we are meant to be.

Because it turns out that religious people have a VARIETY of opinions on everything ... including marriage. And at the end of the day what matters when it comes to civil marriage equality isn't what one pastor says the Bible says -- it's what the Constitution say. And NOBODY has the right to write their theology into our Constitution.

Are you listening, Judge Walker?

Legal Tea Leaves

Thanks to Ed Bacon for the tip on this NYT feature I missed yesterday. You'll want to read all of Looking for Time Bombs and Tea Leaves on Gay Marriage but here are a few snippets to get you started:
The sentence was resolutely bland and nicely hidden in a long Supreme Court decision issued on the last day of the term.

All it said was this: “Our decisions have declined to distinguish between status and conduct in this context.” But the context mattered. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the majority, was talking about laws affecting gay men and lesbians.

Suzanne B. Goldberg, a law professor at Columbia.

“The court is talking about gay people, not homosexuals, and about people who have a social identity rather than a class of people who engage in particular sex acts,” Professor Goldberg said.

Lawyers for couples challenging California’s ban on same-sex marriage wasted no time in offering the judge hearing their case a translation of Justice Ginsburg’s sentence.

“The Supreme Court definitively held that sexual orientation is not merely behavioral, but rather, that gay and lesbian individuals are an identifiable class,” Theodore J. Boutrous Jr. wrote the next day to Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker of the Federal District Court in San Francisco.
Of course there's quibbling about what Justice Ginsburg said actually means ... but as we wait for the Prop 8 decision it certainly gives some intersting food for thought -- and tea leaves for contemplation!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Another inch of the planet growing a little greener

The Diocese of San Diego has joined the joyful chorus of dioceses in the Episcopal Church providing for the blessing of same sex relationships. As The Living Church reports in their story (posted today):

The decision by the Rt. Rev. James Robert Mathes, Bishop of San Diego, reflects the recommendations of the diocese’s Holiness in Relationships Task Force Report [PDF].

“My approach on this matter, and several other things, is to be in conversation with the community,” Bishop Mathes told The Living Church.

The bishop has discussed his thinking with several clergy gatherings. The bishop said he sees the decision above all as making provision for pastoral care by priests.

Parishes aren’t authorized to bless anything,” he said. “Priests are.”

The Rev. Canon Allisyn Thomas, subdean and canon for spiritual formation at St. Paul’s Cathedral, San Diego, referred to the new policy in a sermon she preached July 18.

“Approximately two weeks ago, Bishop Mathes sent a letter to all clergy in the Diocese saying he will permit the blessing of same-gender relationships in churches in this Diocese, under certain conditions,” Thomas said in her sermon.

“Among them, parishes wishing to do blessings must engage in a parishwide study of the issue such as the one found in the Holiness in Relationships Task Force Report and submit a letter or resolution to Bishop Mathes from the vestry, or in our case Chapter, indicating support for their clergy to do blessings. We have done both and Bishop Mathes has said we may proceed.”
Alleluia, Alleluia!

There are still miles to go before we rest -- before the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments is not just a resolution but a reality in The Episcopal Church. But steps like the one taken by the Bishop of San Diego moves us further toward that goal -- and that is something to pause to rejoice and be glad in.

Listen to how Canon Thomas preached it on Sunday:
It is a Martha moment because there is still work, righteous work, to be done in order to accomplish full inclusion—not the least of which is working towards marriage equality. But in terms of doing blessings, at this time there are additional requirements for same-gender couples.

And it is a Mary moment as well because we are finally able to witness to the world, what the fullness of loving relationships, grounded in faith look like; as well as celebrate the love of the couples who come to have their relationships blessed. They will fill this place with a profound joy, a holy joy.

And it will happen. As Bishop Paul Marshall says so beautifully in his book, Same-Sex Unions, Stories and Rites:

[t]o bless a union is to ask God to make it an experience of the kind and intensity of Christ’s love, both for the couple and also for all who are touched by their life together. Thus blessing a union is not to wish it good fortune or merely to give thanks for it, although both certainly occur: it is to set it aside for a holy use, to perceive it to be grace-bearing, to expect God to use it.
So today, mindful of the righteous work still to be done, let us not be distracted by many things but sit at the feet of Jesus and give thanks for the innumerable grace-bearing ways God will put to holy use all the unions blessed in this sacred space. We are witnesses to the new creation and this moment, this holy moment will never be taken away from us.
And let the people say Amen. Amen. Amen!

"And the survey said ..."

No, it's not a remake of Family Feud.

It's an important new survey being released tomorrow at a press event here in Los Angeles. The media release is posted below ... but in a nutshell:
A new survey of over 3,000 Californians being released on Wednesday, July 21, finds only one-in-five Californians believe passage of Proposition 8 is a "good thing" for the state.
More details once we get a look at the data ... but coming on the heels of the DOMA decision this new survey is welcome indeed. Stay tuned!


Forum Discusses New Poll Examining Religious Based Attitudes Toward Prop. 8

A comprehensive new poll examining religious based attitudes on same sex marriage says only one-in-five Californians agree that Proposition 8 is a "Good Thing" will be released and discussed by a distinguished panel on Wednesday, July 21.

LOS ANGELES - A new survey of over 3,000 Californians being released on Wednesday, July 21, finds only one-in-five Californians believe passage of Proposition 8 is a "good thing" for the state. The results are being released as California voters await U.S. District Court Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker's decision on whether Proposition 8 violates the U.S. Constitution.

The survey is the most comprehensive breakdown by religion of where Californians stand on same sex marriage since Proposition 8 was approved nearly two years ago. The report, which will be released in its entirety at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, July 21, 2010 in the Crocker Room at the Omni Los Angeles Hotel (251 South Olive Street), examines the role of religion on attitudes about a number of gay and lesbian issues including: marriage, adoption,gay and lesbian people serving in the military, and workplace discrimination. The report highlights shifting attitudes within the African American community, deep divisions within the Latino community, the influence of clergy on parishioners, and insights about the role religion plays in the Proposition 8 debate.

The bilingual (Spanish and English) poll was conducted by Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and funded by the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund with additional support provided by the Ford Foundation. Over a two week period at the end of June, PRRI surveyed 2,801 Californians and additional oversamples of African Americans and Latino Protestants to allow for in-depth analysis of these groups.

Public Religion Research Institute will release new findings from a survey of Californians on support for same sex marriages and a range of other gay and lesbian policy issues. The PRRI
report will include the most comprehensive breakdown of support by religious groups to date and analysis of the impact of religious beliefs on issue support.

Robert P. Jones, Ph.D
Founding CEO, Public Religion Research Institute

Daniel Cox
Director of Research, Public Religion Research Institute

Rev. Madison Shockley
Pastor, Pilgrim United Church of Christ (Carlsbad, Calif.)

Diane Winston, Ph.D.
Knight Chair in Media and Religion,
Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California

Wednesday, July 21, 2010
1:00 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. PST

Omni Los Angeles Hotel at California Plaza
The Crocker Room
251 South Olive Street
Los Angeles, California 90012

Sunday, July 18, 2010

"Recalculating" -- Proper 11C, All Saints Church, Pasadena

It's good to be back at All Saints and it was good to be back in the pulpit this morning.

I really had fun putting this sermon together ... and was amazed that Keith (our communication director) already has it up on video on the All Saints website. Text is "Coming Soon" ... I preached from notes rather than a manuscript so that'll take a little more work to "fill in the blanks."

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Spot-On Brilliant from Scotland

Why won't men in frocks let women wear the trousers?
[source link]

Now let’s see …assorted wars still being waged?

Check. Famine, pestilence and poverty undefeated? Check. Inequalities in life expectancy unresolved? Check. Global warming still rampant? Check.

With that kind of in-tray, what else would the General Synod of the Church of England find to furrow its brow for two days of internecine warfare but that burning issue of the day: women bishops. If God wasn’t so darned busy, she’d doubtless despair. What is it with these men in frocks that they won’t let women wear the ecclesiastical trousers? Heaven knows they spent long enough letting them tiptoe from the kitchen to the pulpit.

By the time some 32 female priests were finally ordained in Bristol in the mid-1990s, 14 were well on the way to retirement and one was about to meet her maker.

Yet lots of the boys in the black stuff were still very unhappy.

Many, many toys were flung from the evangelical wing’s prams. There were schemes for a sort of flying bishop corps who could swoop into dioceses contaminated by female ordination, so that no dissident member of a flock should be deprived that brand of clerical wisdom and pastoral care which can apparently be dispensed uniquely by men.

It wasn’t dressed up as anything so crass as misogyny of course. It was a matter of the highest learned and theological principle. As it should say in the good book: “Aye, right.” And the muttering went on when the numbers of women priests slowly rose until, good grief, there seemed to be hundreds of the besoms. Just as well a huge proportion of them couldn’t actually find paid employment.

But just as you finally get an axe through one stained glass ceiling, as if by magic another one appears above. The monstrous regiment of women priests might have got to first base, but promoted posts?

Forget it.

Female bishops? An outrage too far.

And while the lads were working themselves into a decent lather over this proposition, the newish Pope popped up with a probably repeatable offer. Join the Roman Catholic Church. You know it makes sense. Some did. Some more will. And some have had the nerve to demand severance payments and compensation en route to a faith where women know their place. Or at least their menfolk know their place on their behalf.

Even this week, as the rows raged and the Archbishop of Canterbury ran round the pitch trying to quell the cloggers but seemed disinclined to issue yellow cards,

the forces of clerical darkness were still demanding the right to have their own breed of bishop, not just comfortingly male, but with a clean preaching licence which had no prior convictions ordaining women, or approving anyone else who did.

The far from unspoken fear was of schism and decline. Though, in fact, both are already a fact of life. The Church of England is effectively at war with itself and has been these many years, if not over women

getting ideas above their due station, then over its twin obsession on gay priests. Or, as we say in the lay world, persistent homophobia.

Church at war, and obsessively navel gazing. Dwindling band of the faithful.

Could these two by any chance be related? Neither are women bishops a done and dusted deal. It’s a bit like finding yourself in the qualifying rounds for the Champions League and then clocking you have two more stages to negotiate before you get to play with the big boys. So what they’ve signed up to is a sort of first draft which will bounce around the mini synods for a couple of years and needs to win majority support before it can be debated all over again in 2012.

Perhaps as an additional Olympic event: very high hurdles for dog-collared women. Just in case they manage to get to that finishing line, church law then requires a two-thirds majority from the C of E’s three constituent parts. And if it fails, the women have to start the campaign all over again.

Even if it doesn’t, 2014 is the earliest date for the big pointy hat to ruin its first female blow dry. Make these hurdles a marathon. But we should not be sniggering too loudly from behind the tartan arras. Let us remind ourselves that the Church of Scotland took the best part of 500 years to let women enter the ministry. And that it held fast to an all-male cast list for the Moderator’s role well into the 21st century.

The redoubtable Margaret Forrester was unsuccessful in no fewer than three bids. Mary Levison and Ruth Page also found their names strangely stuck to the bottom of the hat. And when the breakthrough finally came, thanks in no small measure to an all-female shortlist, the Kirk voted in the elder rather than the meenister just five short years ago.

That it has managed one more of the female persuasion since doesn’t make up for years of scarcely veiled prejudice. Or the fact that women ministers, in a country where 52% of the populace is female, still make up less than 20% of the ministerial troops. And don’t let us forget that the General Assembly, too, had its moment of non-glory in 2009 when it expended a ludicrous amount of energy on the appointment of a gay minister.

It’s one thing to be otherworldly; flocks quite like the chap or chapess in the pulpit not to be obsessed with the more trivial earthly pursuits which fascinate the rest of us. But you do want the churches, of whatever stripe, to try to stay in the same century as those they seek to lead into better ways of living.

If I were that all-purpose Martian, landing in the vicinity of the York Synod these past few days, I’d be pretty staggered they thought nothing on this troubled planet mattered more than bishops wearing bras.

So here's my question ...

[... also asked on Facebook:]

How come my brain is so totally brilliant, clever and original when it's in the car on the freeway and there's no way to write anything down and so freakin' stupid, empty and banal when it's in front of a blank word.doc staring shamingly at me from my computer screen?

Friday, July 16, 2010

And the John 8:32 Award goes to ...

Louie Crew draws our attention to the fact that today is an important anniversary:
On this day In 1991 Jane Garrett+, a deputy from Vermont, and Pat Waddell, a deputy from El Camino Real, came out as deputies at General Convention in Phoenix, the first deputies ever to do so. General Convention has never been the same since.
Nineteen years ago yesterday there were no "out" gay or lesbian deputies to the Episcopal Church's General Convention.

Nineteen years ago today Jane and Pat ended the silence and spoke their truth to their Episcopal Church -- a giant step forward in living out the scriptural promise in John 8:32 that the truth WILL set us free.

Tomorrow is another anniversary. One year ago -- on July 17, 2009 -- the House of Deputies concurred with the 104- 30 vote two days earlier in the House of Bishops to adopt Resolution C056 which called for a renewed pastoral response from this Church for marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships for gay and lesbian persons.

What a difference nineteen years makes. Here's the statement we issued from Anaheim last year, marking the movement forward by our General Convention -- the same body that nineteen years before had not known itself to even HAVE any gay or lesbian members:
The Episcopal Church turned an important corner at this General Convention and Integrity applauds the hard, faithful work of the bishops and deputies who brought us closer to the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments. We came to this convention committed to moving the church beyond BO33 and forward on equality for the blessing of same sex unions -- and we are beyond gratified that we have realized both of those goals.

Thirty three years after promising “full and equal claim” to the gay and lesbian baptized, the Episcopal Church has affirmed equal access to ordination processes for all orders of ministry for all the baptized, has approved a broad local option for the blessings of our relationships and has called the church to work together toward common liturgical expressions of those blessings.

It is a great day for the church and a greater day for the witness to God’s inclusive love.

“While Integrity’s advocacy work is not yet done,” said Integrity President Susan Russell, “the actions here in Anaheim liberate us to get on with our evangelism work – proclaiming the good news of an Episcopal Church that welcomes not only LGBT people looking for a spiritual home but ALL those seeking a faith community that shares their core values of justice, compassion, inclusion and love.”

“We celebrate this historic movement forward and we commit ourselves to this church we love and serve to continue to witness to the good news of Christ Jesus present in our lives, our vocations and our relationships – and to call others to “come and see” what we have found and seen and experienced in the Episcopal Church.”

“Integrity applauds the hard work of all our allies in this struggle and lifts up particularly the witness of our TransEpiscopal colleagues whose courageous work at this convention has been truly extraordinary. We look forward to working with all our allies as we move forward together into God’s future, giving thanks for the good work here in Anaheim that has brought us closer to that church with “no outcasts” former Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning called us to be.”
A year later, the Episcopal Church is hard at work making that resolution (C056) a reality. The Standing Commission on Liturgy & Music has convened three task forces to implement the call to "collect and develop theological and liturgical resources" through an "open process ... inviting participation from provinces, dioceses, congregations, and individuals who are engaged in such theological work, and inviting theological reflection from throughout the Anglican Communion."

I am honored to be co-chairing one of those task forces with Canon Thad Bennett from the Diocese of Vermont and delighted to report that our work got off to a great start with an energetic first-meeting here in Los Angeles last week -- and I look forward to our work together over the next two years and to the resources we will present to our church through its General Convention in 2012 in Indianapolis.

And I'm thinking today how much we owe Jane and Pat. And Louie and Michael and Kim and Elizabeth and Carter and, and and ... and countless others in that cloud of witnesses who were willing to speak their truth in order to set their church free -- free to live into its call to fully include all the baptized in all the sacraments of the church.

No, we're not "done" yet ... but years ago George Regas+ taught us to "set audacious goals and celebrate incremental victories." We have not yet achieved the audacious goal of eradicating homophobia and fully including the LGBT baptized in the work and witness of the Episcopal Church, but today we celebrate the anniversary of the incremental victory in 1991 when Jane Garrett and Pat Waddell stood up and spoke out.

What a gift they gave us all. And in honor of that gift, let us pause today to give thanks for them and for that incremental victory -- as we continue the struggle toward that audacious goal of a church where there truly are NO outcasts!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Revisiting a history lesson

I just got a news article forwarded to me by a colleague ... some startling statistics about same-sex marriage coming on the heals of Argentina's vote to legalize marriage equality. It's called Gay Marriage Chart-of-the-Day and it illustrates that there are now about 250 million people worldwide living in jurisdictions which provide for marriage equity.

Let's say that again. 250 million people. Wow!

We're not "there" yet, but we're certainly getting there. And all that reminded me of this piece we did last year -- just before General Convention 2009 -- with some fun-facts-to-know-and-tell that I thought were worth re-telling ... especially on a day when not only marriage equality is back in the news but so is women's ordination (with all the foolishness going on across the pond in the CofE.) Anyway ... here you go -- 3 minutes and 20 seconds of Episcopal Church history for a summer afternoon:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

So it's DOWN to 98 ... at 7pm

Oy vey!

Adoption Agency Adopted by Diocese of Los Angeles*

Thanks to Episcopal Cafe for picking up this well-worth-re-telling story of Holy Family Adoption Agency and its good work here in Los Angeles:

The Huffington Post reports on the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and Bishop Jon Bruno helping an adoption agency when the Roman Catholic Church withdrew funding when the agency allowed same sex couples to adopt:
Community-based nonprofit organizations are struggling for their organizational lives these days. ... Maintaining one's donor base is supremely critical for any struggling nonprofit group.

Which is exactly why the recent story of a tiny organization named Holy Family Adoption Services in Los Angeles is pretty courageous.

Holy Family Adoption Services provides adoption, foster care, and family support services for infants and toddlers who are often born into very high-risk situations and require placement into a loving home. Since 1949, they have been helping these children whose mothers have been victimized themselves by family violence, or who suffer from addiction, or who are just ill-prepared for motherhood.
In 2007, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles made it clear that Holy Family would have to stop placing children with same-sex couples. Instead of giving in, the Holy Family Adoption Services board of directors ultimately decided that nothing was more important than providing loving and supportive homes for at-risk infants and children and that no otherwise qualified home should be closed to these children simply because of the gender and sexual orientation of the family members within it.

Enter Bishop Jon Bruno of the Episcopal Diocese. When Bishop Bruno learned of Holy Family's courage and fate, he invited the organization to be housed under the auspices of his church. This kept the organization alive.
Read the rest here ... and visit the Holy Family Services website to find out more about their great work and how you can support it!


*headline credit goes to Tom Smarek, Jr. via his comment over at Episcopal Cafe! (Thanks, Tom!)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Same-sex marriage sanity

This editorial in today's Los Angeles Times gets an "A+" ... check it out and consider clicking here to write a "Bravo" Letter to the Editor in response ... you KNOW the "other side" is probably already reaching for the "send" button on theirs!

Same-sex marriage sanity
The judge deciding the Proposition 8 case should recognize that the arguments advanced against same-sex marriage fall short.
July 13, 2010 [source link]

What is the rational basis for laws that deprive gay and lesbian couples of the right to wed? The arguments that have emerged so far — that same-sex marriage is bad for child-rearing and that it damages heterosexual unions — fall apart under the slightest scrutiny. A judge in Massachusetts recognized this in a case involving the federal Defense of Marriage Act; now the judge in the lawsuit against California's Proposition 8 should do the same.

In declaring the federal marriage act unconstitutional last week, U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro noted that when Congress passed the law in 1996, supporters said it would "encourage responsible procreation and child-rearing" and protect traditional heterosexual marriage. The law recognizes only heterosexual marriage for federal purposes. Supporters of Proposition 8 used almost identical language during the 2008 campaign to ban recognition of same-sex marriage in the state.

In this year's trial on the proposition, however, even its defenders were unable to show that same-sex marriage threatened the traditional institution of marriage. And not only is there ample reason to doubt that the children of gay and lesbian couples are any worse off than those in traditional families, that's not reasonable grounds for denying marriage based on sexual orientation. Many people make less-than-ideal parents. They aren't denied a wedding license because of it.

District Judge Vaughn R. Walker, who is expected to rule in the Proposition 8 case this summer, has been asked to consider the more complicated question of whether homosexuals constitute a "suspect class," or a group of people who have suffered unreasonable discrimination; if he did so, laws that could adversely affect that group would have to meet a stricter level of judicial scrutiny.

But even if Walker does not go that far, Proposition 8 could still be struck down. Tauro, in his opinion on the Defense of Marriage Act last week, wrote that denying marriage to homosexual couples was so clearly a failure to provide equal protection that it qualified as unconstitutional discrimination even without considering the question of a suspect class, because it was based on nothing more substantive than a belief in the immorality of homosexuality.

Tauro referred frequently to a 2003 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Texas anti-sodomy law directed solely against gay sex; the decision said: "The fact that a governing majority in a state has traditionally viewed a particular practice as immoral is not a sufficient reason for upholding a law." The lack of a solid justification for laws against same-sex marriage suggests that, like the sodomy law, they're based only on a traditional moral belief. That's why the Supreme Court should reject them.

Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times

Monday, July 12, 2010


That's the title of Sunday's sermon-in-progress: "Recalculating." I've just started working on the text ... the lessons are Genesis 18:1-10 (Abraham at the oaks of Mamre) and Luke 10:38-42 (Martha & Mary AKA "Our Lady of Perpetual Triangulation") but I'm finding the "recalculating" image a really rich one for framing the ways the Holy Spirit calls us into God's future.
More later.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

What Andrew Brown has to say about the CofE vote on women bishops

I have been watching this story, more or less, for nearly 25 years now, and in all that endless wrangling this is only the second time I can remember the synod making an unequivocal choice. From now on, things really will be different.

Read the rest here.

Thought for the day on "Go and Do Likewise" Sunday

I know, I know ... LAST week I said it was one of my favorite Sundays in the church year ... but today is Proper 10 ... when we get to hear my favorite Collect of the Day ...
O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
... AND the story of the Good Samaritan (AKA the "go and do likewise" parable) so let's just call it ANOTHER one of my favorite Sundays in the church year.

Until next week! :)

Meanwhile, here's a great quote du jour ... (thanks to Robert Morrison.)
The test of worship is how far it makes us more sensitive to the "beyond in our midst," to the Christ in the hungry, the naked, the homeless, and the prisoner. Only if we are more likely to recognize him there after attending an act of worship is that worship Christian rather than a piece of religiosity in Christian dress.
-- John A. T. Robinson in "Honest to God"
Let the people say "AMEN" ... and go and do likewise!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A woman bishop without a "co-ordinate" is like ...

(you got it!) ... a fish without a bicycle!

It's an old joke ... the "woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle" one. And it's one I thought about today as I read the details of the "compromise" proposed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York about the "problem" of women bishops in the CofE.

Although that debate is far from over, a significant step was the CofE clergy holding back efforts to write into their polity "concessions" to the "traditionalists" that would -- among other things -- require that a woman bishop have a male "co-ordinate" ... you know ... a REAL bishop ... to fill the gap between the things women can do as bishops and men can do as bishops.

Which would be ... ?????

(And if you want to take a minute to go check and make sure it actually IS the 21st century go right ahead ... don't blame you a bit.)

The very IDEA that a woman bishop ... or any OTHER kind of woman, for that matter ... needs a man to "validate" her orders ... or her existence ... is an Exhibit A/Gold Star/E-Ticket reason why the church is perceived by SO many to be an utterly irrelevant remnant of our shamefully sexist, patriarchal past.

So "way to go" CofE!

BREAKING NEWS FROM ACROSS THE POND: CofE rejects +Rowan's "Orwellian" proposal for women bishops

Watching the World Cup 3rd place match between Uruguay & Germany and catching up on email I just got this BBC link from a Facebook Friend:

A general synod vote went against compromise proposals, offering safeguards for objectors, put by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.
I'm sure there will be more to come on this one, so stay tuned ... but -- for my money -- it is VERY good news that the Church of England has been willing stand up and "just say no" to this ill-conceived and last ditch effort to "institutionalise intolerance" (as yesterday's Guardian editorial so aptly put it.)

And ... for the record in general and for those who might think I'm being too hard on his Archbishop of Canterburyness in specific ... here (from the BBC piece) is what was rejected in the synod today:

They proposed that a female bishop would have full authority in her diocese but "in practice refrain from exercising" certain functions in a parish which objected to her.

A "complementary bishop" would have independent powers, and the powers of the two bishops would be "co-ordinate".

The general synod also voted against an amendment that proposed three new dioceses to cater for objectors to women bishops.

Also proposed in the rejected amendment was the idea that male bishops appointed to minister in these dioceses would declare that they would not participate in the consecration of a woman bishop or priest.

If accepted, these proposals would have created a kind of Orwellian episcopacy making some bishops more equal than others and reducing the Church of England into a 21st century "Animal Farm."

Disaster narrowly averted. Good job, CofE ... Bravo!

Friday, July 09, 2010

Two pieces of note in today's Guardian

The first is an editorial which I've nominated elsewhere for best opening sentence in an editorial. Ever.

Entitled "The state and religion: The church risks looking absurd" it begins:
England's state religion is an accident sustained by apathy: lacking any logical existence at the heart of the nation, it survives because it is already there.
Read the rest here ... but here's the heart of the editorial challenge:
The Church of England now expects both the benefits of establishment and the cultural freedom of private religion. At the very least, a national church should not become disconnected from the best values of the country it serves. But as the general synod, which begins tonight, will again confirm, the Church of England is strangely unwilling to do this. It devotes a shocking amount of energy to debating the supposed inferiority of women, gay men and lesbians. These issues matter intensely to some believers inside the church, but they make it look intolerant to the much larger number of people outside it.
And to one of its conclusions ...
The internal agonies of a church caught between its Protestant and Catholic, and its liberal and conservative, tendencies cannot excuse this official institutionalisation of intolerance.
... I can add only a hearty "AMEN!"

The second piece of note is what we would call an op-ed by Jim Naughton ... who is always worth reading and never more so than today.

Entitled "Rowan Williams destroys his credibility," Naughton writes:
It isn't clear that Williams or other Church leaders understand how thoroughly this undermines their credibility nationally and internationally, or how wide a gulf it opens between themselves and the English public. It isn't evident that they grasp the impossibility of speaking truth to power when one has so clearly capitulated to the power one's self.
You'll want to read it all here.

And for those of you wondering if perhaps all this critique isn't a wee bit strong ... maybe a trifle overstated ... possibly even verging on harsh, my response is that John 8:32 doesn't say anything about the truth being easy to hear.

Let those with ears to hear, listen.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

BREAKING NEWS: TODAY Show opens up wedding contest to same sex couples

Check it out ... from ... more later!

From the TODAY Show statement:

Over the past few days TODAY has received a considerable response regarding our wedding contest application. The rules stated that eligible couples must be able to be legally married in New York, where we will host the wedding, therefore excluding same-sex couple applicants. Our intent was not to be discriminatory or exclusive. In 2005 when the wedding took place outside of New York, the application process was open to same-sex couples. We have listened to every voicemail and read every email. We take this feedback seriously, and we will change our application process. TODAY is a longtime supporter of the LGBT community, and GLAAD considers us an ally. We are committed to keeping those relationships strong and positive. We have opened up the application process to same-sex couples, and will extend the deadline to Monday, July 12. Moving forward, we ensure that our future wedding contests will be inclusive of all couples.

Federal gay marriage ban is ruled unconstitutional

By DENISE LAVOIE (AP) – 34 minutes ago

BOSTON — A U.S. judge in Boston has ruled that a federal gay marriage ban is unconstitutional because it interferes with the right of a state to define marriage.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro on Thursday ruled in favor of gay couples' rights in two separate challenges to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA.

The state had argued the law denied benefits such as Medicaid to gay married couples in Massachusetts, where same-sex unions have been legal since 2004.

Tauro agreed, and said the act forces Massachusetts to discriminate against its own citizens. The act "plainly encroaches" upon the right of the state to determine marriage, Tauro said in his ruling on a lawsuit filed by state Attorney General Martha Coakley.

In a ruling in a separate case filed by Gays & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Tauro ruled the act violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

"Congress undertook this classification for the one purpose that lies entirely outside of legislative bounds, to disadvantage a group of which it disapproves. And such a classification the Constitution clearly will not permit," Tauro wrote.

His rulings apply to Massachusetts but could have broader implications for other states where gay marriage is legal if it's upheld on appeal.

The Justice Department argued the federal government has the right to set eligibility requirements for federal benefits — including requiring that those benefits go only to couples in marriages between a man and a woman.

Opponents of gay marriage said they were certain the rulings would be overturned on appeal.

Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition, called Tauro's ruling "judicial activism" and said Tauro was a "rogue judge." Gay marriage advocates will keep pushing their agenda in the courts, she said, but noted voters often reject gay marriage at the ballot box, including in a recent California vote.

"We can't allow the lowest common denominator states, like Massachusetts, to set standards for the country," Lafferty said.

The law was enacted by Congress in 1996 when it appeared Hawaii would soon legalize same-sex marriage and opponents worried that other states would be forced to recognize such marriages. The lawsuit challenges only the portion of the law that prevents the federal government from affording pension and other benefits to same-sex couples.

Since then, five states and the District of Columbia have legalized gay marriage.

source link

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

That'll preach

"Our communities are still pretty well divided up between the haves and the have nots, the white and those of darker hue, the straight and those who aren't. Yet we're all meant to cross over those boundaries that keep some enslaved to others' definitions," she said. "We are all invited to bathe in the river of freedom, to be washed clean of the shame of thinking that some are different enough to be pushed out of the community, away from the feast God has set from the beginning of creation.

"Healing and reconciling need our active labor and participation," she added. "Disciples are supposed to build bridges wherever possible."

It's a crazy-busy day and I have no business starting it off by posting a blog -- but here I am: moved by the witness of our Presiding Bishop's July 4th sermon and wanting to make sure if you missed it, you get a chance to read it, too!

4 July 2010
Christ Church, St. Lucia, Brisbane, Australia

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

Greetings from around The Episcopal Church. Today is the day Americans celebrate the beginning of their struggle for independence from England – 234 years of it, to be exact. This annual Independence Day celebration is our reminder of civic freedom. It's also a prayer book feast, a holy day, born out of the awareness that the gospel is most fundamentally about the liberation that God works in Jesus – liberation from slavery to all sorts of sin and bondage.

I gather that Australia doesn't really have anything comparable. The release of transported convicts after their sentences were served, however, must have been met with a measure of rejoicing and a sense that life now held more promise. A ticket of leave was an invitation to cross into freedom. Other kinds of liberation must surely have attended the end of wars in which Australians fought, and the return of soldiers and sailors released from service.

In Elisha's day, the Jordan River would have had a resonance with all those sorts of liberation or release from imperial control, occupation, slavery, prison, or wartime service. The Jordan River marked the border of the promised land, where Egypt's former slaves crossed over into safety and the promise of plenty. The Red Sea crossing began their liberation, but it wasn't finished until they crossed the Jordan into their new home. Naaman's search for healing from leprosy is also a search for freedom from what his skin disease means. In his leprous state, he is unfit for office or leadership – his social freedom is severely restricted.

In the ancient world illness was often understood to be a curse. Healthy people avoided those who were sick, out of fear that they too might be infected or contaminated. Lepers became outcasts, unfit for human society. Throughout the existence of the disease, lepers have almost always been isolated and forced to keep apart from the rest of the community. In Europe in the Middle Ages lepers were so feared that they had to ring a bell and shout, "unclean, unclean" so that others could know and stay away. It's very much like the way in which people with HIV or AIDS are still treated in many parts of the world.

When the bishops of the Anglican Communion and their spouses gathered at Lambeth two years ago, we spent one morning divided by gender – men on one side of the tent and women on the other. The organizers recognized that many of the women present would be unable to speak freely in the presence of their husbands or other men. Indeed, in the small group I was part of, bishops' wives from Africa spoke about women in their own churches whose husbands had died of AIDS.

Those widows, even if uninfected themselves, would be pressured by their cultures to return to their husband's village and marry one of his brothers, even if he already had a wife. It was an almost certain sentence of death by HIV. If the widow refused, the husband's family would come and take her children and any land, house, and possessions she might have. If she resisted, they would simply put her out on the street. She had no legal recourse, and the church would not support her in either case – either in becoming a second or third wife or in resisting the cultural pressure to keep her children as a newly single woman. That position of being damned if you do and damned if you don't is a pretty good definition of slavery, and AIDS makes many sorts of slaves.

Naaman goes looking for healing and escape from his sort of slavery when he hears that a prophet in Israel might be able to fix his isolation. He makes a big withdrawal from his bank account, and goes off to find Elisha, expecting that the prophet will be able to heal the great general of Aram, for a price. But Elisha won't even come out to talk to him. The prophet sends a servant to tell the soldier to go wash in the Jordan. Naaman is sorely insulted and turns for home, but his servants gently challenge him – "if he'd asked you to do something difficult, wouldn't you have done your best to take the cure?" So Naaman goes down to the riverside and takes a bath. That river of freedom becomes his release from social slavery.

Would that curing AIDS were so easy. Yet curing the isolation of the leper or the one with HIV is that easy – but it's the supposedly healthy ones who have to wash away their uncleanness. It may take seven repetitions or more, but we're the only ones who can fix the isolation of the leper or the different one – the other. That sort of social isolation or cultural imprisonment is a disease that comes from the supposedly healthy, from those who don't want to be contaminated.
Our communities are still pretty well divided up between the haves and the have nots, the white and those of darker hue, the straight and those who aren't. Yet we're all meant to cross over those boundaries that keep some enslaved to others' definitions. We are all invited to bathe in the river of freedom, to be washed clean of the shame of thinking that some are different enough to be pushed out of the community, away from the feast God has set from the beginning of creation.

That's at least partly what Jesus is telling his followers when he sends them out. Travel light – don't bother with all that other baggage. Let go of all the impedimenta that want to tie you down to pre-conceptions, cultural taboos and expectations. Go and proclaim peace. Eat with anybody who offers to share a meal, offer healing to anyone who's hurting, and tell them that God is near. And if you aren't accepted, don't fuss, just move on and try the next person. Healing and reconciling need our active labor and participation. Disciples are supposed to build bridges wherever possible.

Who or what needs healing around here? Who's still enslaved, who needs cleansing, release, and restoration to community? Immigrants? Aboriginal peoples? Those with AIDS or the mentally ill? Who isn't welcome at our tables – atheists? People who come from the other end of the theological spectrum?

There is at least one sort of division that your context and mine share – between the inside and the outside of the church. There are growing numbers of people who think that Christians are bigots, hypocrites, and uninterested in those who differ from them. The only real way to cross over that boundary is to leave these communities of safety and go on out there to find those who think we're unclean. We're going to have to wade into the river, even if, like the Brisbane, it does have a few bull sharks in it. There are far more dangerous creatures walking around on both banks. It's past time to go swimming.

Will you let go of the extra sandals, bags, and preconceptions we so love to haul around? That river of life is filled with healing and freedom – thanks be to God!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Just because you're not surprised doesn't mean it doesn't suck

Hawaii gov. vetoes same-sex civil unions bill

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii's governor on Tuesday vetoed legislation that would have permitted same-sex civil unions, ending months of speculation on how she would weigh in on the contentious, emotional debate.

Republican Gov. Linda Lingle's action came on the final day she had to either sign or veto the bill, which the Hawaii Legislature approved in late April.

"There has not been a bill I have contemplated more or an issue I have thought more deeply about during my eight years as governor than House Bill 444 and the institution of marriage," Lingle said at a news conference. "I have been open and consistent in my opposition to same-sex marriage, and find that House Bill 444 is essentially same sex marriage by another name."

Had Lingle not vetoed it, the measure would have granted gay and lesbian couples the same rights and benefits that the state provides to married couples. It also would have made Hawaii one of six states that essentially grant the rights of marriage to same-sex couples without authorizing marriage itself. Five other states and the District of Columbia permit same-sex marriage.

Lingle's decision is expected to be the last say on the proposal this year, because state House leaders have said they won't override any of Lingle's vetoes.

She said voters should decide the fate of civil unions, not politicians.

"It would be a mistake to allow a decision of this magnitude be made by one individual or a small group of elected officials," Lingle said.

Nope. We don't want some "small group of elected officials" making decisions for us. Because, that would be like -- what do they call it? Oh yeah ... representative democracy. The kind you have when you're a republic. Which the last time I checked, we still were. But then, the last time I checked we also had a Constitution that promised equal protection to all Americans -- not just straight ones. So maybe I need to go back and retake Poli Sci 101.

(If you want to read the rest of the AP article, it's here.)

Back in the saddle

Today is "back in the saddle" day ... back to my regularly-scheduled-life after a our month-long "Excellent European Adventure." It's a June Gloomy Tuesday morning ... quite a contrast to what looks like record head on the east coast ... and while I'm sorry to see the end of a great month off, I'm also ready for re-entry and the work ahead.
And there's plenty of it.
At All Saints Church we're bringing new colleagues on board, getting ready to launch a fabulous new website, moving ahead with our new building & capital campaign and working on refining and reorganizing our new member incorporation program while continuing the ongoing work of preaching, pastoring and turning-the-human-race-into-the-human-family that goes on all year long.

In the Diocese of Los Angeles we're living into a new era of mission and ministry with our two new bishops suffragan in general and building up the work and witness of the Diocesan Program Group on LGBT Ministry in specific.

And in national church work, the first meeting of the SCLM (Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music) task forces charged with implementing GC2009 Resolution C056 happens in L.A. this week and I am honored and delighted to be part of that important work.
Meanwhile the ongoing saga of "As the Anglican World Turns" continues to turn in the Anglican Communion. The shocking news of the tragic death of an Integrity Uganda youth worker contrasts with the ongoing dither about +Katharine's mitre , women bishops and Jeffrey John.
Diana Butler Bass said it best:
This is why people are rejecting Christianity. It isn't because some Christians chose women to lead their churches, ask questions about traditional renderings of theology and the Bible, doubt God's existence, or want their gay and lesbian friends and relatives to be part of their church communities. Canterbury, please know that western people are rejecting Christianity because--as noted in a recent survey of young Americans--Christians are "out of touch with reality."

Worldwide, Anglicans do care about any number of profound social justice issues and are working to make the world a better place in God's name. But if the Archbishop of Canterbury's staff can issue a directive about Katharine Jefferts Schori's mitre, then they have too much time on their hands. Being worried about ecclesiastical millinery while Rome burns certainly counts as being out of touch with reality.

And now ... hi ho, hi ho -- it's off to work I go!

Monday, July 05, 2010

What Bruce said

Love this comment from "Bruce" on my 4th of July postcard:
While we are in communion with Canterbury, we have always been and still are an abberation in the Anglican Communion, since our very existence came from rebellion to the English Crown, whereas the other provinces of the Communion developed within the framework of English colonialism. We are, in fact, the reason there is an Anglican Communion, as opposed to a worldwide Church of England, and Parliament had to change the law of the land to effectuate the consecration of the first American bishops to resolve an issue that was not a problem with the first Canadian or Australian bishops.

We should not discount or belittle our historic connections to Canterbury. Neither should we forget that our forebears, both in politics and religion, took enormous personal risks to blaze a new pathway for themselves and, 234 years later for us, both in politics and religion.

Happy Independence Day!
Indeed! And the risks continue and the rewards are great.
Meanwhile, over on Facebook, the "Anglican Resistance Movement" ... begun from a hotel room in Paris and described as "for those who are not willing to sit by and let ANYONE throw out the baby of historic Angican comprehensiveness with the bathwater of hysteric Anglican politics" ... now has 2588 members:
We are Anglicans united in our commitment to the historic comprehensiveness of Anglicanism and in our resistance to "a process of excluding those Provinces of the Communion most committed to the visible inclusion of all Anglicans in the life of the Church.

This process and the proposed Anglican Covenant are not building unity, they are turning disagreement into institutionalised disunity - even inventing mechanisms of exclusion to facilitate the process. "
Yes, the beat goes on and la lucha continua -- long live the Revolution!

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Postcard for the Fourth of July

We LOVED our "Excellent European Adventure" and ... there's no place like home!
Back home for what is arguably my favorite Sunday of the year ... Independence Day @ All Saints Church -- when we start with "O beautiful for spacious skies" and end with "Lift Every Voice and Sing" ... and inbetween we celebrate what Ed Bacon has named as part of the DNA of All Saints Church:

We are boldly political without being partisan. Having a partisan-free place to stand liberates the religious patriot to see clearly, speak courageously, and act daringly."
The service included this versicle and response:
Minister: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

People: For the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
And the Collect of the Day for Independence Day:
Lord God Almighty, you have made all the peoples of the earth for your glory, to serve you in freedom and in peace: Give to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
And this year the flag presented during the offertory was brought forward at 9:00 by a WWII Tuskegee airman vet and at 11:15 by a Viet Nam vet -- and the "put your faith into action" action on the lawn was supporting comprehensive immigration reform.

Like I said ... there's no place like home!