Sunday, October 31, 2010

WARNING: Something else to get outraged about!

I so TOTALLY do not have time for this today. I'm at my desk trying to get some loose ends tied up after a great Sunday morning before what-I-know-will-be a great Halloween party tonight and ahead of leaving Tuesday for a four day visit to the Diocese of Louisiana. (I know ... who'd have thought it? Never say never!!)

ANYWAY ... while I'm working away on all this, in comes an "urgent" email from my congressional representative. (And aren't they ALL "urgent" the week before an election?)

Here's a copy of the urgent email: (if you can't read the jpg click here)

That's right. John Colbert ... the "Tea Party" congressional candidate here in Pasadena is using a stock photo of a woman cancer patient to baldface-lie about the record of incumbent Adam Schiff on healthcare.

Let me check ... I've pulled out my list of "Traditional Values" and I'm not finding LYING.

And I guess the only thing I'm surprised about at this point is that I can still be surprised. Shocked. Horrified. Appalled. Outraged.

But I can. And I am.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

President Obama On Marriage Equality, etc.

And then there's this report from Keen News Service on a conversation this week between President Obama and five "progressive bloggers" who were -- somewhat surprisingly -- given 45 minutes with the president on October 27. Check it out:
Obama said he is a “strong supporter of civil unions” but that he has been “unwilling to sign onto same-sex marriage primarily because of my understandings of the traditional definitions of marriage.

“But I also think you’re right that attitudes evolve, including mine,” said the president. “And I think that it is an issue that I wrestle with and think about because I have a whole host of friends who are in gay partnerships. I have staff members who are in committed, monogamous relationships, who are raising children, who are wonderful parents. And I care about them deeply. And so while I’m not prepared to reverse myself here, sitting in the Roosevelt Room at 3:30 in the afternoon, I think it’s fair to say that it’s something that I think a lot about.

"That’s probably the best you’ll do out of me today.”
It may be the best we could do that day but it is not good enough.

And ... when I think that if we'd had that same conversation with the last guy in the Oval Office -- well, we likely wouldn't have. But IF we'd had the conversation, it would have been with the guy who pushed for a Federal Marriage Amendment.

And now we've got a guy who isn't where we want him to be but who is willing to say "it's something that I think a lot about."

Who recorded a video for the "It Gets Better" project sending a message of hope to LGBTQ youth.

Who supports and inclusive ENDA bill and who's got "a strategy" for ending DADT. It's not MY strategy ... but let's remember he has a strategy for ending DADT ... not a strategy for blocking its reversal.

But let's get back to marriage equality. And let's remember that "it may be the best we could do that day but it is not good enough" ... and then let's keep giving our president what he needs to "reverse himself" and get himself on the right side of history.
UPDATE: Washingon Post agrees: Obama begins shift on marriage equality

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Something Sacred At Stake In This Moment

In the last few weeks we have seen millions of Americans rally around our LGBTQ youth-at-risk by reaching out, speaking up and standing up for equality for all. High profile voices ... from Ellen DeGeneres to the Bishop of New Hampshire to the Secretary of State to the President of the United States have recorded "It Gets Better" videos. Hundreds of clergy have signed the "Clergy Against Bullying" statement. Millions of grassroots supporters wore purple on Wednesday, October 20th as part of a "Spirit Day" witness spawned by a Facebook page.

In this national outpouring I hear the words of Rabbi Abraham reminding us that "in every moment, something sacred at stake" -- and I experience a shared recognition that the sacred at stake in this moment are the precious lives of LGBTQ youth who believe their lives are not worth living. And I rejoice in a shared commitment across theological, ideological and political lines to raise collective voices to offer hope to overcome homophobia.

And then there's this. A comment on my blog in response to the post a few days ago about our Presiding Bishop signing onto the Anti-Bullying statement:

Sadly, innocent jr. hi student, Lawrence King took his cues from the prevalent culture that encouraged him to 'be who you are, be proud of it!, there is nothing to hold you back, go for it If you want something, go after it, acting on your romantic life is accepted by all..."

The advice Lawrence was given by our Culture [you] was wrong, and put Lawrence King in grave danger. Shame on you
. [LGMarshall]
And then there's this. My response to her comment:

LG ... Makes perfect sense.

A child shot in cold blood by a classmate terrified by his expressions of attraction is the responsibility of those calling for equality for all -- not those continuing to fan the flames of homophobia by naming LGBT people as disordered; less-than; abnormal; unnatural; abomination; freak.

By that reasoning the responsibility for Martin Luther King's assassination lies not with the racist segregationists but with those in the "Culture" who dared to dream beyond the racism that contaminated it -- those who believed that liberty and justice for all really means ALL and that "Jesus loves me, this I know" didn't have an * that said "unless I'm black. Or gay. Or transgender."

We're going to win this one. And someday our children and children's children will look back on an exchange like this with the same horrified amazement as we do when we read the medieval arguments about whether women had souls. And the 18th century exchanges about whether Africans were human.

And those who stand for equality for LGBT people will be on the right side of history. And you won't. Shame on you.
Yes, I'm tired of this. Yes, today is supposed to be a "day off" and I'd rather be getting my nails done and checking out the sale at Crate & Barrel and having lunch at Julienne. But I'm blogging instead.

Because letting stand unaddressed, unconfronted and unchallenged this kind of incendiary ignorance is like watching kerosene being used to put out a campfire and then wondering where the wildfire came from.

Because the something sacred at stake in this moment is too important to do anything other than continue to speak up.

Because for too long religion has been responsible for planting seeds of self-loathing that can grow into self-destruction when fed & watered by the bullying, badgering and abuse of our LGBT youth – and it’s time for that to stop. When Jesus said “let the children come to me” he meant all the children – not just the straight ones. Jesus said, “Love your neighbor” – not “love your neighbor unless your neighbor is gay.”

And because the something sacred at stake in this moment is too sacred to do anything other than all we can.

"Send us out to do the work you have given us to do"

At the 2009 General Convention in Anaheim when the Episcopal Church adopted Resolution C056 it sent us out to do some very specific work: the collection and development of theological and liturgical resources for the blessing of same-gender relationships.

I have the privilege of being part of the team sent out to do that work -- and so do you. Because it is the work of the WHOLE church -- not just those who gathered in Anaheim or who will meet in Indianapolis or who gather in-between. The whole church.

And today I'm writing to ask for your help. I'm asking you to accept this invitation from the Task Group on Pastoral Counseling and Teaching Resources (which I co-chair with the fabulous Thad Bennett) to respond to a survey designed to do two things:
Discover what resources are or have already been used in a congregational discernment process to welcome same-gender blessings and to prepare couples for a Christian life together and for a blessing ceremony.

Design materials that would be helpful to congregations and clergy who might start a discernment process and to consider welcoming the blessing of same-gender relationships and preparing those couples.
We recognize that there is a BROAD diversity of practice across the Episcopal Church and our hope is to hear from as broad a cross section as possible as we do this work we have been given to do.

So please take a few minutes to
follow this link and fill out the survey. Forward it to others in your diocese or deanery. Our task force meets again the week after Thanksgiving and we'd love to hear from you before then.

Ready. Set. GO! (And THANK YOU!)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

And the understatement of the week award goes to:

Chris Pfauser!

From Wisconsin:

Many people were surprised by the comments from Rebecca Kleefisch - the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor - comparing same-sex marriage to marrying a dog or a table.

But no one was hit harder by these statements than Kleefisch's uncle, Chris Pfauser, a business consultant who has lived in an openly gay relationship for 18 years.

"I was incredibly disappointed," Pfauser said in an interview Thursday ...

Which is why he gets our "understatement of the week" award.
Read the rest here ... and remember why it continues to so critical to speak out, step up and call B***Sh** on this kind of homophobic, dehumanizing rhetoric.

"Welcome to Crazytown!"

It's been a crazy-busy week around here and so blogging hasn't risen to the top of the "to do" list ... but then I got an email with a link to this YouTube spot and I had to take a minute to share.

Just for record: I've already voted. Sent my absentee ballot in on Monday because I'm going to be in New Orleans on election day so I'm good to go.

But check this out and remember: Vote Sanity!! (And if you're not sure if you're sane enough to vote, there's quiz for that!)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Amicus Brief: Signed, Sealed & Delivered!

Yesterday a 52 page amicus brief was filed in support of marriage equality here in California by a great cloud of witness, including California Faith for Equality, the California Council of Churches and -- I am proud to say -- the Episcopal Bishops of California and Los Angeles.

Here's a quote from the brief ... I expect the text will be available online shortly:
"According equal marriage rights for all in our civil law threatens no one’s religious liberty. Allowing same-sex couples the legal right to marry threatens the religious liberty of Catholics, for example, no more than does allowing civilly divorced citizens to remarry in contravention of Catholic doctrine.

Same-sex couples’ civil marriages threaten the religious liberty of those who oppose such unions in their churches and synagogues no more than interfaith marriages threaten the religious liberty of those who interpret their scripture and tradition to prohibit such unions. No one can force clergy of any denomination to solemnize any wedding that conflicts with his or her faith tradition, and no church, synagogue, or other place of worship loses its tax-exempt status for refusing religious rites of marriage to citizens possessing a civil right to marry.

Proposition 8 amounts to an unconstitutional codification of hostility toward loving relationships of gay men and lesbian women, yet does nothing at all to advance anyone’s religious liberty. Quite the contrary, religious freedom is diminished when government imposes the doctrines of some faith traditions on all. And humanity is diminished when anyone is deprived of a basic right."
Bravo! Well done! Amen!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

My new favorite "It Gets Better" video

Thanks to Elizabeth Keaton for sending this and to Louise for making me look at it even though I thought I was too busy and didn't have time and "enough with the 'it gets better' videos" after all.

And if this doesn't remind each and every one of us that something sacred is at stake in absolutely every moment, then we're not paying attention. And we need to be. Paying attention.

So watch. Learn. Cry if you need to. And then pay attention. Make a difference. Speak up and reach out. Because that's what's going to make it continue to "get better."

Rock on, Rabbi!!

My good friend, the fabulous Rabbi Denise Eger, has been tapped to give the invocation tomorrow when President Obama speaks here in L.A. at her alma mater -- USC.

The President of the Southern California Board of Rabbis, Denise is also a member of the Board of California Faith for Equality and on the HRC Religion Council. She's not only smart, savvy and a great preacher -- she's an unrepentent baseball fan and she totally rocks.

So congratulations, Rabbi. Rock on!!

The "film at eleven" from yesterday's press conference

Here's "Part One" ...

... you can find Parts Two & Three on the California Faith for Equality website!

Spirit Day: Showing Solidarity Against Anti-Gay Bullying

"Purple is the color of choice on Facebook today, as millions of users showtheir support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teens."

From the local NBC4 news last night -- I was honored to be among so great a cloud of witnesses ... and delighted to "have the last word" in the news segment:

View more news videos at:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What I Said at the Amicus Brief Press Conference This Morning

There'll be some video "coming soon" of this morning's press conference focused on the amicus brief being filed in support of Judge Walker's Prop 8 ruling by a great cloud of faith based witnesses. The press event was held at the L.A. Cathedral Center and included ALL our Episcopal bishops speaking up and speaking out ... very impressive!!!
More to come on all of this, but for now, here's what I had to say:
I’ve got two minutes and three reasons for supporting this important amicus brief.

I am here because I believe that liberty and justice for all really means all and that same sex couples deserve equal protection from the state just as they receive equal blessing from God.

I am here because I believe that the visible witness of gay and lesbian couples given equal respect through the equal protection of civil marriage also gives to LGBT youth the model of healthy relationships we want all our children to know and understand they can strive to live into as they grow and mature into the adults God created them to be.

Finally, I am here because for too long religion has been responsible for planting seeds of self-loathing that can grow into self-destruction when fed & watered by the bullying, badgering and abuse of our LGBT youth – and it’s time for that to stop. When Jesus said “let the children come to me” he meant all the children – not just the straight ones. Jesus said, “Love your neighbor” – not “love your neighbor unless your neighbor is gay.”

Restoring marriage equality to California is the right thing to do – not only for same sex couples yearning to live happily ever after with the love of their life but for young people yearning to believe that when they put their hand over their heart and pledge allegiance to that flag, the “liberty and justice for all” part includes them – ALL of them. It's always the right time to do the right thing. And the right time to do the right thing about marriage equality is NOW.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

PURPLE: It's not just for bishops anymore!!

Just for the record, when I'm seen about town tomorrow wearing purple I want to be VERY clear it's a solidarity statement -- not a vocational statement.

Purple -- you see -- isn't just for bishops anymore. At least not tomorrow ... October 20th ... which is the day a grassroots group of LGBT youth advocates are encouraging folks to wear purple in solidarity with at risk LGBT youth and toward ending the cycle of bullying, badgering and violence.

You can read about it in USA Today or just go to your closet now and pick out something purple to wear tomorrow.

Because purple isn't just for bishops anymore!

"Hang the Homos:" Uganda's 100 "Top Homos" targeted by tabloid call for violence

No, I don't need one more thing to be outraged about. I really don't. Not this week. .
But here it is..
I'd heard about this publication a week or so ago from Integrity's Albert Ogle -- but today someone forwarded me the link to a site with the photo and this summary of the feature:
The front-page newspaper story featured a list of Uganda's 100 "top" homosexuals, with a bright yellow banner across it that read: "Hang Them." Alongside their photos were the men's names and addresses.
That's right. And there on the front page ... the second face under the "hang them" banner -- is Bishop Christopher Senyonjo. An Anglican bishop who has lost everything for speaking out for the full humanity of LGBT people ... and now finds his life publicly threatened in a tabloid campaign inciting violence against "homos."
I do not have time to be outraged about one more thing. And I do not have the option not to be. Stay tuned for whatever action we come up with. But pray now for Bishop Christopher and his family -- in thanksgiving for his courageous witness and in petition for his safety and protection.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Presiding Bishop Joins in "Clergy Aganist Bullying Call for Action"

From a press release received today -- signed by dozens of national faith leaders, including our own Presiding Bishop:


Today, as leaders of Christian communions and national networks, we speak with heavy hearts because of the bullying, suicides and hate crimes that have shocked this country and called all faith communities into accountability for our words or our silence. We speak with hopeful hearts, believing that change and healing are possible, and call on our colleagues in the Church Universal to join us in working to end the violence and hatred against our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters.

In the past seven weeks, six young and promising teenagers took their own lives. Some were just entering high school; one had just enrolled in college. Five were boys; one, a girl becoming a young woman. These are only the deaths for which there has been a public accounting. New reports of other suicides continue to haunt us daily from around the country.

They were of varying faiths and races and came from different regions of the nation.
The one thing these young men and women had in common was that they were perceived to be gay or lesbian. Each in their own way faced bullying and harassment or struggled with messages of religion and culture that made them fear the consequences of being who they were.

You'll want to read the whole statement but here are some "therefores:"
It's time to talk openly and honestly about the diversity of God's creation and the gift of various sexual orientations and gender identities – and to do that in a way that makes it safe for people to disagree and still abide in love.

It's time to talk openly and honestly about the use and misuse of power and authority by those we entrust with our spiritual well-being. It's time to make it safe for our clergy colleagues who are struggling to live what they preach, to get the help and support we all sometimes need.

The young people who took their lives a few weeks ago died because the voices of people who believe in the love of God for all the people of God were faint and few in the face of those who did the bullying, harassing and condemning. Today we write to say we will never again be silent about the value of each and every life.
I am so delighted to see our Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as one of the signatories to this important witness. Please take a minute and join me in sending her office an email of thanks for stepping up and speaking out.

And then continue to think, pray and organize to work toward becoming the kind of world where all our children are equally valued, loved, protected and celebrated.

7:30 a.m. on a Monday Morning????

The only thing that would get me out of the house this early on a Monday morning is the Pasadena women bloggers table at the annual YWCA "Women for Racial Justice" breakfast. (Well, there MIGHT be a few other things but it's too early to think of them and it would be a VERY short list.)

Friday, October 15, 2010

How Religion Is Killing Our Most Vulnerable Youth

"It's time for "tolerant" religious people to acknowledge the straight line between the official anti-gay theologies of their denominations and the deaths of these young people. Nothing short of changing our theology of human sexuality will save these young and precious lives."
[You'll want to read all of Bishop Robinson's excellent piece in today's Huffington Post, but here's an excerpt:]

Despite the progress we're making on achieving equality under the law and acceptance in society for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, why this rash of bullying, paired with self-loathing, ending in suicide? With humility and heartfelt repentance I assert that religion -- and its general rejection of homosexuality -- plays a crucial role in this crisis.

On the one hand, Religious Right hatemongers and crazies are spewing all sorts of venom and condemnation, all in the name of a loving God. The second-highest-ranking Mormon leader, Boyd K. Packer, recently called same-sex attraction "impure and unnatural" in an act of unspeakable insensitivity at the height of this rash of teen suicides. He declared that it can be cured, and that same-sex unions are morally repugnant and "against God's law and nature."

Just as many gay kids grow up in these conservative denominations as any other. They are told day in and day out that they are an abomination before God. Just consider the sheer numbers of LGBT kids growing up right now in Roman Catholic, Mormon, and other conservative religious households. The pain and self-loathing caused by such a distortion of God's will is undeniable and tragic, causing scars and indescribable self-alienation in these young victims.

You don't have to grow up in a religious household, though, to absorb these religious messages. Not long ago I had a conversation with six gay teens, not one of whom had ever had any formal religious training or influence. Every one of them knew the word "abomination," and every one of them thought that was what God thought of them. They couldn't have located the Book of Leviticus in the Bible if their lives depended on it yet they had absorbed this message from the antigay air they breathe every day.

Add to that the Minnesota Family Council's Tom Prichard recently saying that the real cause of the suicides is "homosexual indoctrination," not antigay bullying, and that the students died because they adopted an "unhealthy lifestyle."

Susan Russell from All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California, points out how ludicrous these statements are in her "An Inch at a Time" blog:

Thirteen and fifteen year olds are not 'adopting a lifestyle,' they're trying to have a life! They're trying to figure out who they are, who God created them to be and what on earth to do with this confusing bunch of sexual feelings that they're trying to get a handle on. They need role models for healthy relationships -- not judgment and the message that they're condemned to a life of loneliness, isolation and despair.

On the other hand, what's the role of more mainline, more progressive denominations such as mainstream Christianity, Judaism, and Islam in these recent tragedies? Mostly silence. And just like in the days of the AIDS organization Act Up, "silence equals death."

It is not enough for good people -- religious or otherwise -- to simply be feeling more positive toward gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Tolerance and a live-and-let-live attitude beats discrimination and abuse by a mile. But it's not enough. Tolerant people, especially tolerant religious people, need to get over their squeamishness about being vocal advocates and unapologetic supporters of LGBT people. It really is a matter of life and death, as we've seen.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

+Gene Robinson's "It Gets Better" Message

Bravo, Bishop Robinson for speaking the truth of God's love to our young people is such desperate need of hope in the face of homophobia! You rock!!!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

So how was my day????

Pictures are, as always, worth 1000 words:

That's how my day was. So if I owe you an email or a phone call ... tomorrow is another day!

Aleluia, Alleluia! Viva la Familia!

Hugo Infante/Government of Chile, via Associated Press

I'm totally hooked on the unfolding miner rescue happening live on television this morning. What a wonderful, wonderful story as one after another the men who have been buried thousands of feet under the ground are brought up through that narrow tube back to the surface and reunited with family and loved ones before being handed over to the health care team for transitional care after their ordeal.

This morning the scene made me think of the Lazarus story -- the part after he comes out of the tomb and Jesus turns him over to his friends and says "unbind him and let him go." And through the "marvels of modern technology" we're all getting to stand alongside that shaft and watch one after the other grateful-to-be-alive man step out of the darkness into the light.
The world hasn't changed in the 70-something days they've been underground. The challenges of poverty and oppression, political differences and ideological divides, family issues and health problems they left behind are still going to be there. But not today. Today it's all about the gift of life. Of hope. Of family. And today -- because of the marvels of modern technology -- we are ALL part of that family. The human family. And we rejoice as we see one after another of our brothers brought back up to safety. Out of the darkness into the light.

Let's pray to be given grace to remember these moments of shared joy and global community the next time we encounter the issues that challenge and divide us. No matter what our differences -- theological, ideological or political, our gender, immigration status, sexual orientation or gender identity, our economic status or class privilege -- we are part of the same human race that God sees as a beloved human family.
And for the last few hours we've been given the grace to see through the glass of our differences a little less darkly. To see 33 men we've never met and never will as our brothers. And that is something to rejoice and be glad in.

Alleluia. Alleluia.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"It Gets Better" video from All Saints Church in Pasadena

Here's the video we recorded Sunday that finally made it up online this morning. I can't think of a better way to honor this anniversary of Matthew Shepard's death than to recommit ourselves to "make it better" for LGBTQ youth at risk. God bless!

Monday, October 11, 2010

The cat CAME OUT!

Thanks be to God: Alleluia, Alleluia!

I don't know if she came out of the closet or out from under the bed or out from some Dick-Cheney-esque "undisclosed location" she goes to hide in when her other mother (AKA her REAL mother) is away.

But I don't care.

All I care about is she's OUT ... putting an end to my 24-fear-wracked-hours that just because she won't come when I call -- even when I open a can of smelly cat food and try to make meowing noises to tempt her out of her hiding place -- does not mean she has somehow escaped into the scary, dangerous outside world in spite of my best efforts at maximum security-total kitty lockdown and I'm going to have to explain to her other mother (AKA my wife) that I lost the cat while she was in Orlando at the Believe Out Loud Power Summit.

So celebrate with me. THE CAT IS OUT! Alleluia, Alleluia!!

"It Gets Better"

It's called the "It Gets Better" project and it's a YouTube based campaign in support of youth facing homophobic bullying, harassment and thoughts of suicide. Saturday I got this email:
Faith voices – clergy in particular – are strongly encouraged to get involved in this campaign to illustrate the love that is available to the LGBTQ teens from the affirming religious community.
And so on Sunday I recorded this message -- which is still finding its way to YouTube: (stay tuned for "film at eleven" -- and do consider adding your voice to this important "cloud of witnesses!"))

I’m the Reverend Susan Russell, a priest and pastor from Pasadena, California and I’m here to tell you that “It gets better.“

There are lots of voices out there right now bringing that same message and if you are a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning teen I hope you are hearing them and I hope you know that no matter how alone you might feel, you are NOT alone and there is a community that wants to support you in the tough times and celebrate with you in the good times.

And as a priest and pastor I want you to know that anybody who tells you that God condemns you is wrong.

And if anybody says to you “But the Bible says …” I want you to remember this: God gave us the Bible as a tool for us to live our lives -- not as a weapon to beat up other people – and history is full of people who were wrong about what the Bible says … using it to support slavery, to oppress women and to condemn Galileo for discovering that the earth revolved around the sun instead other way around.

And it turns out that the same people who were wrong about what the Bible said about slavery, about women’s equality and about astronomy are wrong about what the Bible says about homosexuality.

Jesus said love your neighbor – not love you neighbor unless your neighbor is gay.

Homosexuality doesn’t grieve the heart of God – homophobia does. Bullying does. Violence against any beloved child of God does.

And you are a beloved child of God. Created in God’s image exactly as God intended you to be.
God who doesn’t just want your life to get better – God wants your life to get fabulous. And I didn't always know that.

Growing up trying to figure out who I was supposed to be and what I was supposed to do wasn't easy and I didn't always get it right. But it got better. And now I'm married to a wonderful woman who is the love of my life, I am a priest and pastor in an amazing church and my life didn't just get better -- it got fabulous. And so can yours.

If you need help believing that, reach out. To the Trevor Project. To a Believe Out Loud church. To my church -- All Saints Church in Pasadena. And remember that God loves you beyond your wildest imaginings and wants you to be exactly who God created you to be.

Believe that promise. Know that God loves you and we are here for you – and grow up to be the best “you” you can be. It DOES get better! God bless!

A Coming Out Day Message to Carl Paladino:

It was the lead story on the morning shows on this Coming Out Day: GOP candidate for governor in New York Carl Paladino's unconscionable attack on gay and lesbian citizens in a speech on Sunday:
“I just think my children and your children would be much better off and much more successful getting married and raising a family, and I don’t want them brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option — it isn’t,”
Here's my message to Carl Paladino:

“I just think my children and your children would be much better off and much more successful getting married and raising a family, and I don’t want them brainwashed into thinking that homophobia is an equally valid and successful option — it isn’t.”

It's liberty and justice for all -- not some. It's respect the dignity of every human being -- not just straight ones.
Today is National Coming Out Day. Use it to Come Out Against Homophobia and let Carl Paladino know that we will NOT stand silent while he contributes to the homophobic rhetoric that puts our LGBT youth at risk, dehumanizes LGBT people and devalues LGBT families.

Stand up. Speak out. Just say "No" to homophobia!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Another bishop heard from: +Mark Sisk [Diocese of New York]

from the Diocese of New York website

October 8, 2010

Dear Sisters and Brothers in the Diocese of New York

No doubt you are aware of the recent widely reported incidences of bullying and invasion of privacy that resulted in the suicides of five young people in California, Indiana, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Texas. The tragic story of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University student who jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge last week, may have struck closest to home. But each of these deaths strikes at the body of Christ, and calls us as Christ's disciples to answer cruelty and intolerance with loving compassion.

The Episcopal Church has long affirmed the dignity, equality and inclusion of all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. That these latest deaths should occur so near to the anniversary of Matthew Shepard's murder in Wyoming 12 years ago (Oct. 12, 1998) reminds us that there is much work yet to do to instill these values in the communities we serve.
Last month, New York Gov. David Paterson signed the Dignity for All Students Act, which bans harassment and discrimination against students based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, race, religion, disability and other characteristics, and requires the state's school districts to adopt anti-bullying policies.

I urge all institutions to be responsive to calls for help and relief by any and all who are threatened and treated with contempt.

Our faith communities must also do our part to uphold our young people, particularly those most vulnerable to intimidation and threats of violence in their schools and neighborhoods. We can begin by condemning the attitudes of intolerance and acts of aggression that deliver too many youth into despair.

I urge you to remember lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth in your prayers. May Christ comfort and heal the hearts of those most affected by these recent tragedies. And may their memories inspire us to more vocal expressions of justice, compassion and love.

Faithfully yours,
The Rt. Rev. Mark S. Sisk

"The World Needs Our Witness" -- A statement from our Bishops in New Jersey

BRAVO Bishops Beckwith & Councell!!

A joint statement by Bishop Mark Beckwith [Newark] and Bishop George Councell [New Jersey] on the death of Tyler Clementi

We write as Christian pastors who are privileged to serve as bishops of The Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Newark and in the Diocese of New Jersey in order to express our grief, alarm, compassion and outrage over the suicide of Tyler Clementi. We join our voices with the voices of all those concerned in Ridgewood, where Tyler grew up, at Rutgers University, where he was a freshman and across our nation. Another gay young person has died by suicide. This tragic loss of a promising life would appear to be directly related to an invasion of Tyler’s privacy and a violation of his personal life. Much remains to be considered by law enforcement authorities and the courts in order to determine whether this is also a case of bullying, a felony or a hate crime – or a combination of the three.

Whatever that legal determination may be, we join with other Christian and religious leaders, with the LGBT community and with all people of good will who take their stand against hatred, bigotry and bullying; against every expression of physical and verbal violence; and against any violation of the dignity of LGBT persons. When the rights of any – especially the members of vulnerable groups who have so often been scapegoated – are threatened, the rights of all are endangered.

We want to call attention to another, potentially deeper, issue here. It is the invasion of intimacy. Intimacy is a holy place within every human being; an innermost sanctuary where we develop our ultimate beliefs and values, nurture our closest relationships and maintain our deepest commitments. No one has the right to disclose that intimacy for someone else without consent. Such a violation is tantamount to the desecration of a sacred space. It is, in fact, a sacred space. It is the territory of the soul.

Technology, however, now provides tools to record, seize and disclose the most intimate matters of our lives without our consent. Identities can be stolen, hearts broken and lives shattered. Technology has placed powerful tools in human hands. Will they be used for building-up or for breaking down our neighbor? Tyler Clementi’s death certainly poses some important legal issues, but it also raises some critical moral concerns. Hubris has outstripped humility. And that is a serious problem. We can do better. We must do better, with God’s help.

In our Episcopal tradition, whenever we reaffirm our faith in worship, we are given a challenging question: “will you respect the dignity of every human being?” And we answer, “I will, with God’s help.” It is an important commitment. Whatever our religious tradition, we can agree on the need to respect one another’s dignity. With God’s help, we can stand together and stand up against bullies who would damage and destroy the lives of LGBT persons, their partners and families and friends. With God’s help, we can offer safety, support and sanctuary to all LGBT persons who are at risk. With God’s help, we can remind our society that every LGBT person is made in the image of God. The world needs our witness.

The Rt. Rev. Mark M. Beckwith, Bishop of Newark
The Rt. Rev. George E. Councell, Bishop of New Jersey

The world needs our witness and the bishops deserve our thanks for this powerful and prophetic statement. Click on their names above to send an email and join me in thanking them for their courage and clarity on behalf of the Gospel.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Of Happy Endings and New Beginnings

It was a BeUUUUUUtiful day in the neighborhood -- as this snap of All Saints will (I hope) illustrate. After a crazy week or so of weather going from 113 to 60's-and-pouring-rain, the pendulum has swung back to 80's & sunshine, clear skies & gentle breezes -- and so today was totally a day to rejoice and be glad in. And not just because of the weather.

My beautiful day started out at the Children's Court in East L.A. for the final adoption hearing for a wonderful couple and their (as of 9:15 this morning!) adorable son. And after a grim week of news dominated by tragic stories of children at risk what an absolute delight it was to be part of a happy ending/new beginnings story instead!

It's actually kind of a long story and since it's their story to tell (not mine!) suffice to say these two great guys found All Saints a couple of years ago and not long after shared with us their hopes of starting a family. It has been SUCH a joy to watch them bloom and grow as exactly that as they figured out fatherhood and today was really just the court system saying "AMEN" to the family they have already become.

So we were about 20 folks -- friends, family and colleagues -- crammed into a court room for a ten minute paper signing process with a family court judge presiding. And when the judge got through all the leaglese and pronounced that they were "officially" a family ... well, there wasn't a dry eye in the room. Including the judge.

And when we all gathered up around "her honor" for a group photo, it was family values incarnate ... everyone from the uncle from one side of the family -- who flew down from San Francisco for the morning -- to the grandpa, grandma and GREAT-grandma from the other who drove down from the San Joaquin Valley -- to the parish priest who wouldn't have missed it for the world. And I still get a little teary sitting here picturing "Grandpa" with the tears streaming down his cheeks as he sat in that courtroom and watched his son raise his right hand and become a father right before his eyes.

So Mazel Tov to the new official family. We're going to be talking about a family blessing service down the road a bit and I'm sure that will be fun and fabulous and a wonderful celebration. But today -- in a frankly rather grim little courtroom in East L.A. -- we were all already blessed by the love and commitment and traditional family values incarnate as we watched a new family "birthed" into the world. May God bless them and keep them -- and may the joy of this day of new beginnings warm their hearts -- and ours! -- always.

Happy Birthday John Lennon!

I was hoping someone would put today's GOOGLE doodle into a sharable format. ENJOY!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Boycott Boys Are Back!

As reported in today's CHURCH TIMES:

"If Jefferts Schori is at meeting, I won’t come, says Primate"

I guess it wouldn't be a Primates Meeting if someone didn't threathen not to come if someone else DID come but it's starting already for the January meeting of the Anglican primates in Ireland. And because I swear you would not believe it if you didn't read it yourself, here ya go:

Primates of the Global South are expected to meet this month to discuss whether they will refuse en masse to attend.

They are being encouraged to attend by, among others, the presid­ent of the American Anglican Coun­cil, the Rt Revd David Anderson, a suffragan bishop within the Con­vocation of Anglicans in North America, who has posted a letter on a website urging traditionalist bishops to go to the meeting.

In a bizarre suggestion, he advises that Dr Jefferts Schori be shut out of the room, or removed “by force of numbers” if she attends. If Dr Williams objects to this, the meeting could go ahead in a separate room without him.

I would strongly advise the orthodox Prim­ates to: 1) organise before the Prim­ates’ Meeting; and 2) attend and remove by force of numbers the Pre­sid­ing Bishop of the American Epis­copal Church (not physically, but by either voting her off the ‘island’, or reces­sing to another room and not letting her in.)
I guess the only surprising this is that we can still be suprised at what comes from David I-Like-A-Good-Fight Anderson. Honestly -- does this sound like a Monty Python skit or WHAT???

Anyway, that's the lastest from Bishops Behaving Badly. More news as it breaks.

And just in case any of them are reading this, if they DO decide to recess to another room and not let her in, they might want to bring bath towels from their rooms to stuff along the crack under the doorjam lest the girl cooties crawl under and BITE them where they least expect it! (It could happen!)

In the "don't confuse me with the facts" department:

BRAVO Julian Bond!

A number of years ago I had the privilege of hearing Julian Bond give the keynote address at the National HRC Dinner in Washington DC. He rocked then and he rocks now! From his op-ed in today's Amsterdam News:

Bigotry fuels the scourge of AIDS in Black America ..."

We need to sweep these prejudices away, as the Supreme Court did in 1967 when it eliminated the ban on interracial marriage.

If you’re worried, as many ministers profess to be, that your church will someday be forced to perform same-sex marriages, never fear. Our Constitution protects the autonomy of any religious community to determine to whom they will or won’t offer the matrimonial rite.

Your sanctuary is safe, but please, don’t block the doors to city hall to those loving couples who want the same marriage and civil rights protections you now enjoy.

More Memory Lane

That's what happens when you start digging through the archives -- one thing leads to another and before you know it you're finding all kinds of things you'd forgotten about ... or at least hadn't remembered to remember in a very long time.

This one was on the Oasis California website ... they called it "Letter from Susan Russell" and it was a blog I wrote in the spring of 2003 just after something called "The National Reconciliation Conversations" -- held at St. James' Church on Wilshire here in L.A. and intended to be an opportunity for national leadership from both sides of the aisle to find ways forward in spite of our differences. The Steering Committee from Claiming the Blessing showed up. The leadership of the American Anglican Council did not. But nevertheless, I called the reflection:

Longing To Hope Again [Spring 2003]

We filled a parish hall for four days -- lay and ordained, gay and straight -- men and women from the east and from the west. We were gathered together for conversations about reconciliation -- focused on the issue "Conflict in the Episcopal Church." What brought us to those ubiquitous round tables set up for small group discussion was the "conflict du jour": the blessing of same sex unions. What kept us at them was the deep desire for a ray of hope that there was indeed a way to be reconciled with each other in spite of our deep differences of opinion.

That longing was expressed in these words set to music by Missouri Lay Deputy Mike Clark:
God who embraces all of this Earth
Heal those in sorrow, burdened with pain.
For many are broken
Many are fearful
Many are longing to hope again
Longing to hope again.
Longing to hope that this "faith based reconciliation process" might actually offer tools to enable us to communicate beyond the sound-bite, position paper rhetoric to which our discourse has been reduced. Longing to hope that there is a way to maintain the integrity of our deeply held convictions and yet stay in relationship with those who differ from us. Longing to hope that this church we love can continue to hold us all in the embrace of Anglican comprehensiveness.

For me, the most powerful exercise of the conference was the opportunity for a representative of each constituency -- progressive, moderate and conservative -- to offer a list of both the hurts we have received and those we have inflicted in the course of this now decades long conflict. Speaking for "the progressive side," I offered the following:

We have been hurt by:

● the assumption that we're driven by a "non-faith" agenda -- by having our desire to fully include GLBT persons in the Body of Christ dismissed as "purely political."

● the constant questioning of our salvation and by the threat of judgment,

● the lack of trust that we mean what we say -- by accusations of "hidden agendas" and threats of "future coercion" which attack our integrity and block conversation
● the dishonoring of our relationships by defining them in terms of sexual acts. Andrew Sullivan has written, "We'd never talk about heterosexual marriage primarily in terms of vaginal intercourse or merely sexual needs; it would slight the depth and variety of heterosexual relationships." It hurts that our relationships do not receive the same level of respect.

● name calling: Sodomite. Pervert. Morally Corrupt. By being lumped with pedophiles and prostitutes -- by those who speak the words and those who do not speak out against the hate mongers.
● having the truth of our experience as GLBT Christians denied as valid -- having our sexual orientation become more important than our theological orientation.

● hearing again and again that our presence in the church will cause others to leave --by having the truth of our experience held hostage by threats of schism -- having the burden of unity placed on the shoulders of our silence.

We have caused hurt by:

● the times we have participated in "then show them the door" thinking as a means to resolve our differences with conservatives.

● stereotyping those with biblical hermeneutics which differ from ours as fundamentalists -- by dismissing them as ignorant.
● not acknowledging the very real pain being experienced by those who see the church changing in ways that they find incompatible with their understanding of scripture.

● not always remembering what it is like to be in a minority -- by not acting with sensitivity in those places where we have become the majority.
● proclaiming a Gospel of God's inclusive love and yet only tolerating those with conservative political and theological perspectives.

Not a complete list. Not a definitive process. But a beginning. An effort. A baby step forward on the journey toward reconciliation. At least I hope so. And that hope is more than I had when I entered the parish hall four days ago. It isn't about changing minds or ignoring differences or tabling resolutions. It's about engaging in the hard work of both encountering and understanding " the other" -- and coming to see each other as equally beloved of God, equally entitled to respect, equally longing to hope.

I am as committed as ever to seeing this church authorize liturgies for the blessing of unions already blessed by God. I understand that commitment to be both a vocation and a gift. The gift I took from these "National Conversations" is the understanding that the work of advocacy and the vocation of reconciliation are not mutually exclusive. And that's enough to make me hope again!


It turned out there -- sadly -- wasn't enough hope left to reconcile those who had already mapped out their "exit strategy."
But all these years later as I work with the SCLM C056 task forces and think about our experience with the House of Bishops last month in Phoenix, as I hear reports back from the "Moving Forward" conference in Houston last week and as I prepare for a visit to New Orleans next month that I couldn't have even imagined happening not so very long ago ... yes, I'm still hopeful. More and more all the time.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

"Pastorally irresponsible and theologically unnecessary"

It was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away -- before Gene Robinson was elected Bishop of New Hampshire or there were any Windsor Reports or Prop 8s or even marriage equality in Massachusetts. It was 2002 and Claiming the Blessing convened a theology committee to think through the question "What does it mean for the church to give its blessing?" The result of their thinking-through became part of our CTB Theology Statement --which I commend to you in full.

But today -- partly in response to the questions Jay Johnson is posing at the forum he's leading this weekend at Good Shepherd in Berkeley ...

... I'm posting this portion of the statement here because even though it was written a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away it's still one of the best foundational statements on blessing I've seen or read ... and I think its conclusion is still very much germane:

The question remains as to whether “marriage” is appropriately defined as the covenant relationship between a man and a woman only, as is the church’s long tradition. The church must continue to wrestle with this issue. To wait until it is solved, however, in order to celebrate the blessing of a faithful same-sex relationship is pastorally irresponsible and theologically unnecessary.

It was true in 2002 and it's true today!

What does it mean for the church to give its blessing?

“BLESSING” is perhaps the most controversial word in the church’s consideration of the treatment of same-sex households in its midst. Because of this fact, we must take great care to be precise about what we mean when we use the word. The following are the building blocks for a theology of blessing: Creation, Covenant, Grace and Sacrament.

Creation itself is the fundamental act of blessing. Creation is a blessing (gift) to humankind from God and humankind blesses (gives thanks to or praises) God in return. The Hebrew word for “blessing,” barak, means at its core the awesome power of life itself. A fundamental claim of the Bible in regard to creation is that there is enough, in fact an abundance, of creation, and therefore of blessing, to go around.

“Blessing” is a covenantal, relational word. It describes the results of the hallowed, right, just relationship between God and humankind. Blessing is what happens when God and humankind live in covenant. It is important to remember here that the relationships between human beings and the relationship between God and human beings cannot be separated. “Blessing” and “justice” are inseparable biblical concepts.

When we ask for God’s blessing, we are asking for God’s presence and favor. In Christian terms this favor is what we call “grace,” God’s disposition toward us that is not dependent upon our merit, but is a sure and certain gift to the believer in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In our tradition, the sacraments are the primary ways the grace/blessing of God is communicated to us (“a sure and certain means,” BCP, p. 857). The two “great” sacraments “given by Christ” (BCP, p. 858) are Baptism and Eucharist. In them we see the two fundamental aspects of blessing: the blessing of life from God and the blessing of God for that life.

Five other rites are traditionally known as sacraments, but they are dependent for their meaning on the two sacraments and are not “necessary for all persons.” A whole host of other actions in the life of the church, and of individual Christians, are “sacramental” in nature, i.e., they mediate the grace/blessing of God and cause us to give thanks and praise/blessing to God.

In our tradition, priests and bishops have the authority to pronounce God’s blessing within the community of faith. They do so not by their own power, but as instruments of the grace (blessing) of God within the church. Their authority to bless, too, finds its meaning in the two great sacraments.

When the church chooses “to bless” something it is declaring that this particular person or persons or thing is a gift/blessing from God and his/her/its/their purpose is to live in (or, in the case of things, to assist in) covenanted relationship with God (and with all creation), i.e., to bless God in return.

To bless the relationship between two men or two women is to do this very thing: to declare that this relationship is a blessing from God and that its purpose is to bless God, both within the context of the community of faith. If the church believes that same-sex relationships show forth God’s blessing when they are lived in fidelity, mutuality and unconditional love, then this blessing must be owned and celebrated and supported in the community of faith.

Clearing up some questions:

Just what are we blessing when we bless a same-sex relationship?
We are blessing the persons in relationship to one another and the world in which they live. We are blessing the ongoing promise of fidelity and mutuality. We are neither blessing orientation or “lifestyle,” nor blessing particular sexual behaviors. “Orientation” and “lifestyle” are theoretical constructs that cannot possibly be descriptive of any couple’s commitment to one another. And every couple works out their own sexual behaviors that sustain and enhance their commitment. We don’t prescribe that behavior, whether the couple is heterosexual or homosexual, except to say that it must be within the context of mutuality and fidelity.

Isn’t marriage and same-sex blessing the same thing?
That they are similar is obvious, as is taking monastic vows, i.e., blessing a vocation to (among other things) celibacy. Each (marriage, blessing unions, monastic vows) grounds a relationship that includes sexual expression in public covenant which gives them “a reality not dependent on the contingent thoughts and feelings of the people involved” and “a certain freedom to ‘take time’ to mature and become as profoundly nurturing as they can” (Rowan Williams, “The Body’s Grace,” in Our Selves, Our Souls and Bodies, Charles Hefling, ed.).

The question remains as to whether “marriage” is appropriately defined as the covenant relationship between a man and a woman only, as is the church’s long tradition. The church must continue to wrestle with this issue. To wait until it is solved, however, in order to celebrate the blessing of a faithful same-sex relationship is pastorally irresponsible and theologically unnecessary.

Is same-sex blessing a sacrament?
We can say it is sacramental. Strictly speaking, in our tradition there are only two sacraments (Baptism and Eucharist). Five other rites are commonly referred to as sacraments because of the church’s long experience of them. But in a sacramental understanding of creation, everything in creation has the potential to be sacramental — to mediate the presence/blessing of God. Priests and bishops “pronounce” blessing on those things the community lifts up as showing forth this blessing. The New Testament word for “blessing” is eulogein, literally “to speak well of.”

Can the church withhold blessing?
Certainly, in its official, liturgical sense. Priests and bishops should only “pronounce” blessing over those things or persons the community of faith lifts up as being mediators of blessing. That means that the authority to pronounce blessing over particular persons or things can change over time within a community and vary from community to community, particularly from culture to culture. Our Anglican Communion has long said that the only truly universal “blessings” are Baptism and Eucharist. (per the Lambeth Quadrilateral).

Prepared (in 2002) by the Claiming the Blessing theology committee: Michael Hopkins, Elizabeth Kaeton, Joseph Lane, Mark Kowalewski, Katie Sherrod, and Sarah Dylan Breuer.

Calling All California Clergy!!

Here's your chance to sign on to the interfaith amicus brief being filed with the 9th Circuit Court stating that the principles of religious liberty and human dignity support Chief Judge Vaughn Walker's order invalidating Proposition 8 and urging the U.S. Court of Appeals to affirm Judge Walker's landmark ruling.

The call is out to CALIFORNIA clergy, congregations and faith-based organizations to add your names as supporters of the brief by October 19, 2010.

Click here to add your name NOW.

For more information, email California Faith for Equality

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Love this video message

Thanks to Randy for pointing me to this great 2 minute video reminder of why I'm glad to be an Episcopalian:

Monday, October 04, 2010

Why the Mormons, the Minnesota Family Council and Maggie Gallagher are WRONG

Even as the epidemic of suicide among LGBT youth continues to dominate the headlines, some of those responsible for the climate of homophobia, marginalization and dehumanization that drives young people to believe their lives are not worth living are back at it.

The Human Rights Campaign points to Boyd K. Packer -- the second-highest Mormon leader -- who said in an October 3rd address [captured on YouTube] that "same-sex attraction is "impure and unnatural" and can be overcome, and that same-sex unions are morally wrong and "against God's law and nature."
Take that you LGBT teen struggling to figure out who you were created to be and how you're going to live a life the includes integrity, love and relationship! Being told that the deepest yearnings of your heart are against God's law AND nature are the seeds of self-loathing that lead to self-destruction.
Meanwhile, The Minnesota Independent reports that the Minnesota Family Council's Tom Prichard says the real issue is “homosexual indoctrination,” not anti-gay bullying -- and that "the students are dead because they adopted an “unhealthy lifestyle."
Thirteen and fifteen year olds are not "adopting a lifestyle" they're trying to have a life! They're trying to figure out who they are, who God created them to be and what on earth to do with this confusing bunch of sexual feelings that they're trying to get a handle on. They need role models for healthy relationships -- not judgment and the message that they're condemned to a life of loneliness, isolation and despair.
And finally, NOM's Maggie Gallagher weighed in to say, "I do not think the absence of gay marriage is the cause of these tragedies or its presence will resolve them."

And here's why she's wrong. Here's where the PRESENCE of gay marriage -- or more arguably of "marriage equality" -- could in fact be exactly the sign of hope and health ... of a future worth living for and aspiring to ... that could rescue these children from the message that they are inherently unnatural, abnormal and broken.

The visible witness of gay and lesbian couples given equal respect through the equal protection of civil marriage also gives to LGBT youth the model of healthy relationships we want all our children to know and understand they can strive to live into as they grow and mature into the adults God created them to be.

What Gallagher names as "the absence of gay marriage" is in fact a symptom of the failure of this nation to live up those values we pledge allegiance to when we proclaim that we are a nation of "liberty and justice for all." And the rhetoric of the "protect marriage" movement -- of which she is arguably a chief spokesperson -- has been all about fomenting fear and then denying their part in fanning the flames of homophobia.

And they can't have it both ways. They can't produce videos that warn of "The Gathering Storm" and then deny that they're fomenting fear. And they can't call our children unhealthy and unnatural and then deny their responsibility for the self-loathing that leads to depression, despair and self-destruction.

It's time for it to stop. When Jesus said, "Let the children come to me" (Matthew 19:14) he meant all of them. Not just the straight ones.

So let's get our voices out there -- wherever and whenever we can. And let's let them know that Maggie, the MFC and the Mormons are WRONG -- that Jesus loves ALL the little children of the world -- and that we're here for them as they grow up and grow into exactly the fabulous grown ups God created them to be.

Go. Do it. Now!

A Blog Surfing "BRAVO!" to Colin Coward!

So I was blog surfing as I'm home today with a head cold and it seemed a good "low energy" way to spend a rainy Monday morning when there's nothing on television and I don't have the attention span to read an actual book. In my surfing, I found this post I loved by Tobias Haller over at "In a Godward Direction" wherein he describes:
... a previously identified, but extremely furtive and secretive form of Anglican wildlife, thought by many to be very rare (although no one knows how rare due to the aforementioned furtiveness). The shy and reclusive mammal belongs to the family Anglicana, genus Episcopus, and the species is denominated E. closeti after its normal habitat.
That post led me to this one -- by Changing Attitudes' Colin Coward -- who is a long-time colleague and was one of our partners in 2008 at Lambeth Conference. You'll want to read it all, but here's the "Bravo!" part:
Until the culture of fear and secrecy in the Church of England changes, the bigotry is challenged and our Church becomes a place which is free from prejudice against LGBT people, the Episcopal Church will remain the only place where LGBT people can come out and be elected as bishops. I’m tempted to start a new campaign. The culture of secrecy, intimidation and abuse in the Church of England has got to be challenged, undermined and changed.
Amen. And again I say, AMEN!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

St. Francis Celebrated @ All Saints Church

It was an "all things bright and beautiful" day at All Saints today where the Feast of St. Francis was celebrated with a wonderful sermon about the radical discipleship of Francis as peacemaker and bridge builder -- AND the blessing of MANY beasts on the lawn during the 9am "Eucharist al fresco" celebration.

Take a look at a just a few of the blessed beasts here:

And watch an excerpt from the rector's sermon here:

(See the entire sermon on the All Saints website sermon pages ... due to be posted momentarily.)

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Why Anti-Gay Bullying is a Theological Issue‏

It's a Saturday afternoon and the laundry is humming and the dogs are snoozing and I'm catching up on bills and email -- and one of the emails included a link to Religion Dispatches and a piece by Cody Sanders entitled "Why Anti-Gay Bullying is a Theological Issue." It's a great piece, but here's the quote that hooked me:

If this were a hostage situation, we would have dispatched the SWAT team by now. And in many ways, it is.

Our children and teenagers are being held hostage by a religious and political rhetoric that strives to maintain the status quo of anti-gay heterosexist normativity. The messages of Focus on the Family and other organizations actively strive to leave the most vulnerable among us exposed to continuous attack.

The good news is that we don't need a SWAT team. We just need quality education on sexuality and gender identity in our schools and more faithful and courageous preaching and teaching in our churches.

Let the people say "AMEN!" And then let the people read the rest here and THEN let the people get busy!

A theology of anti-gay bullying

Anti-gay bullying is a theological issue because it has a theological base. I find it difficult to believe that even those among us with a vibrant imagination can muster the creative energy to picture a reality in which anti-gay violence and bullying exist without the anti-gay religious messages that support them.

These messages come in many forms, degrees of virulence, and volumes of expression. The most insidious forms, however, are not those from groups like Westboro Baptist Church. Most people quickly dismiss this fanaticism as the red-faced ranting of a fringe religious leader and his small band of followers.

More difficult to address are the myriad ways in which everyday churches that do a lot of good in the world also perpetuate theologies that undergird and legitimate instrumental violence. The simplistic, black and white lines that are drawn between conceptions of good and evil make it all-too-easy to apply these dualisms to groups of people. When theologies leave no room for ambiguity, mystery and uncertainty, it becomes very easy to identify an “us” (good, heterosexual) versus a “them” (evil, gay).

Additionally, hierarchical conceptions of value and worth are implicit in many of our theological notions. Needless to say, value and worth are not distributed equally in these hierarchies. God is at the top, (white, heterosexual) men come soon after and all those less valued by the culture (women, children, LGBT people, the poor, racial minorities, etc.) fall somewhere down below. And it all makes perfect sense if you support it with a few appropriately (mis)quoted verses from the Bible.

With dualistic conceptions of good and evil and hierarchical notions of value and worth, it becomes easy to know who it is okay to hate or to bully or, seemingly more benignly, to ignore. And no institutions have done more to create and perpetuate the public disapproval of gay and lesbian people than churches.

If anti-gay bullying has, at any level, an embodied undercurrent of tacit theological legitimation, then we simply cannot circumvent our responsibility to provide a clear, decisive, theological response. Aside from its theological base, anti-gay bullying is a theological issue because it calls for acts of solidarity on behalf of the vulnerable and justice on behalf of the oppressed.

But this imperative to respond reminds us that the most dangerous form of theological message comes in the subtlest of forms: silence.

The longer we wait, the more young people die

There is already a strong religious presence in the debate around anti-bullying education in schools. Unfortunately, it is not a friendly voice for LGBT teens. There is also no lack of rhetoric on sexuality stemming from theological sources. But the loudest voices are not the voices of affirmation and embrace. In a recent article, I urged churches that rest comfortably in a tacitly welcoming or pseudo-affirming position to come out and publicly proclaim their places of worship as truly welcoming and affirming sanctuaries for people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.

I cannot count the number of times I have heard well-meaning, good-hearted people respond to this appeal, saying, “Things are a lot better for gay people today than they were several years (or decades) ago. In time, our society (or churches) will come around on this issue.” To these friends and others, I must say, “It’s time.” For Lucas, Brown, Clementi, Walsh, and Chase the time is up. For these teens and the myriad other bisexual, transgender, lesbian and gay youth lost to suicide, the waiting game hasn’t worked so well.

As simply as I can state the matter: The longer we wait to respond, the more young people die.

If this were a hostage situation, we would have dispatched the SWAT team by now. And in many ways, it is. Our children and teenagers are being held hostage by a religious and political rhetoric that strives to maintain the status quo of anti-gay heterosexist normativity. The messages of Focus on the Family and other organizations actively strive to leave the most vulnerable among us exposed to continuous attack. The good news is that we don't need a SWAT team. We just need quality education on sexuality and gender identity in our schools and more faithful and courageous preaching and teaching in our churches.

Catholic theologian M. Shawn Copeland offers profound words to any individuals and churches seeking to wash their hands of this issue. She states,

“If my sister or brother is not at the table, we are not the flesh of Christ. If my sister’s mark of sexuality must be obscured, if my brother’s mark of race must be disguised, if my sister’s mark of culture must be repressed, then we are not the flesh of Christ. For, it is through and in Christ’s own flesh that the ‘other’ is my sister, is my brother; indeed, the ‘other’ is me…”

If anti-gay bullying is a theological issue, perhaps what is called for is a creative theological response. A theological response that challenges the systematic violence that upholds an oppressive religious and cultural ideology will not be a response through which we can hedge our bets. It will be a full-bodied, whole-hearted giving of ourselves to the repair of the flesh of Christ divided by injustice and systematic exclusion.

Ministers who remain in comfortable silence on sexuality must speak out. Churches that have silently embraced gay and lesbian members for years must publically hang the welcome banner. How long will we continue to limit and qualify our messages of acceptance, inclusion and embrace for the most vulnerable in order to maintain the comfort of those in our communities of faith who are well served by the status quo?

In the current climate, equivocating messages of affirmation are overpowered by the religious rhetoric of hatred. Silence only serves to support the toleration of bullying, violence and exclusion. In the face of what has already become the common occurrence of LGBT teen suicide, how long can we wait to respond?