Saturday, December 31, 2011

“Being Gay is a Gift from God:” The Gift That Keeps On Giving

In January 2009 Ed Bacon – my boss and the rector at All Saints Church here in Pasadena – was a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show and spoke the words “being gay is a gift from God.”

Those seven words – offered in response to a call-in viewer from Atlanta -- set off a ripple of reactions that lit up Oprah’s switchboard, almost crashed our parish email server and continues to bring people toward us here at All Saints. The segment recently aired again (on OWN – the Oprah Winfrey Network) and so nearly three years later we are finding that “being gay is a gift from God” is the gift that keeps on giving.

And the gift that it is giving (as the 2009 segment makes the rounds again via YouTube and on Facebook) is a new wave of email feedback in response to a faith leader standing up and speaking out against religious based bigotry aimed at LGBT people.

Here are two examples – which I found literally side-by-side in our inbox the other morning:
Subject: ed bacon

shame on you ed bacon on what you said on oprah, how could you (a socalled man of the cloth) say such blasphumus things against our lord and his good book, shame, shame, shame, i pray GOD will forgive you, you know not what you say......shame
And then there was this one:
Subject: A Message of Thanks to Ed Bacon

I caught your conversations with Oprah and the following media prattle regarding your statement that being gay is a gift from God. I am not sure that I believe in God, but I would have to believe that if there is a God, and he made all people in his own image that I would have to be, even as a gay man, good. I know that I struggle through every day the same as everyone else, trying to understand why I am here. What is my purpose? This is not a new question for anyone, regardless of who they are inclined to share their sexuality with. I know deep in my heart that I am good. If God is responsible for that, then I am grateful.

You made the comment that some of the backlash from that statement came from those who called themselves Christians. You said some of those comments were the most vitriolic you had ever heard. Please understand that there are those of us who have never heard anything but that from Christian organizations and Christians for our whole lives.

There is no war on God. There is no war on the Christian church. There are just a lot of very hurt people out there, like me, struggling to understand why we are here, and trying to find our inner goodness, and worthiness.

I hope your comments go a long way to help promote healing and understanding. I hope that your church will be successful in changing the perception that God is vengeful and will smite those who don't fit into this culture's general ways of thinking. I hope your church is successful in promoting the idea that God's love is unconditional and that we have all been created as he intended us to be, and that we are all good in his eyes.

It will be awhile (if ever) before I am able to make a leap of faith to believing that there is a God. I do hope that those who do will try to err on the side of love and tolerance and not be afraid of what God will think of them if they extend love to all people regardless of their sexual orientation and whatever other differences we find hard to tolerate in this culture.

Keep up the good work!
We will. And whenever we wonder whether that work is making a difference, I hope that these words of thanks to an Episcopal priest from a man who isn’t sure that he believes in God will be another gift that keeps on giving.

The gift of hope that we can – by stepping out and speaking out against LGBT discrimination – heal some of the “very hurt people out there” who have been wounded by the wolf of homophobia hiding in the sheep’s clothing of the Christian Gospel.

And the gift of reminding us what a privilege it is to be a community of love, justice and compassion standing ready to catch those who become able to make the leap of faith and believe in the God who has always believed in them -- in spite of the Church that has rejected them.

Because the shame is not proclaiming that being gay is a gift from God. The shame is not proclaiming it loud enough.

Friday, December 30, 2011

On Economic Justice, Occupying the Rose Parade and God's Preferential Option

It's been interesting timing to have a conversation on the House of Bishops/Deputies listserve about issues of economic justice happening while we're sitting here in Pasadena in the middle of the "Occupy the Rose Parade" thing.

There's been lots of back-and-forth about God's "preferential option for the poor" (as described by liberation theologians) ... leading me to wonder if another description of the biblical narrative might arguably be "God's preferential option for people relentlessly confronting our preferential option for greed."

All of which brings me back to the Occupy the Rose Parade thing and how the Occupy Movement has continued to keep that challenge to choose people over greed (AKA the 99% vs. the 1%) in the forefront of the national discourse.

One question I've gotten from a variety of sources is "What is the All Saints Church “position” on the Occupy Movement in general and Occupy the Rose Parade in specific?" I'm glad you asked:
• While All Saints Church has not officially "endorsed" the Occupy Movement, we share concerns about many of the same policy issues, particularly economic inequity and nonviolence.

• We are proud to be part of this great City of Pasadena which is modeling for the nation how to provide a platform for both beloved American traditions like the Rose Parade and core American values like the free exercise of First Amendment rights.

• It is part of the DNA of All Saints Church to be a headlight rather than a tail light on issues of social justice and speaking out and standing up for social and economic change is absolutely in alignment with our core values of God’s love, justice and compassion.

• What we bring to the ongoing national conversation about economic and social justice is our commitment to both God’s dream of a human race turned into a human family and to the American dream of liberty and justice for all.
Finally, here's the press advisory (incorporating the above-referenced message points) we sent out about the “New Year's Day People's Summit” being held at All Saints Church on January 1:

On Sunday, January 1, 2012, All Saints Church welcomes the “New Year's Day People's Summit” – a faith-based forum on economic & social justice. The event will include a teach-in style conversation focused on the U.S. foreclosure crisis and the role of faith-based action in creating social and economic change.

“I am pleased to begin the New Year with this opportunity to offer hospitality to those coming to Pasadena to have a real conversation on economic justice and reclaiming the American Dream for all,” said All Saints rector Ed Bacon

“We are so very proud to be part of this great City of Pasadena which is modeling for the nation how to provide a platform for both beloved American traditions like the Rose Parade and core American values like the free exercise of First Amendment rights represented by the Occupy Movement,” said Bacon. “What All Saints Church brings to the ongoing national conversation about economic and social justice is our commitment to both God’s dream of a human race turned into a human family and to the American dream of liberty and justice for all.”

It is part of the DNA of All Saints Church to be a headlight rather than a tail light on issues of social justice and so speaking out and standing up for social and economic change is absolutely in alignment with our core values of God’s love, justice and compassion. And while All Saints Church has not officially endorsed the Occupy Movement, many of the same policy issues at the center of the movement – particularly economic inequity and a commitment to nonviolence – are of deep concern to the members of the All Saints community.

Participants in the People’s Summit will include organizers from the Occupy Movement, interfaith leaders and a broad cross section of members of the peace & justice community. All Saints clergy Ed Bacon and Carissa Baldwin-McGinnis will participate along with other interfaith leaders. Peter Laarman in his role as a leader of an interfaith group, “Occupy LA Sanctuary,” is coordinating the program which will be held on January 1st from 3-6 p.m at All Saints Church, 132 North Euclid Avenue, Pasadena CA 91101.

For more information contact:
Keith Holeman, Communication Director or 310.430.9412.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Santa Came Early to Mountain View Street

Yep ... Santa came early to Mountain View Street in Altadena this morning. Only he wasn't wearing a red and white coat and hat ... he was wearing a bright yellow vest and hard hat.

And he wasn't driving a sleigh full of toys to deliver ... he was driving a dump truck full of debris to remove.

As the San Gabriel Valley continues to clean up from the historic "wind event" that wrecked havoc here the first week of December, the clean up crews made it to our street this morning and we are VERY grateful to finally have the piles of leaves, branches and palm fronds on their way to the landfill.

So this Christmas Eve I'm giving thanks to Public Sector Santa ... represented even as I write this by the workers on our county and city payroll who are working overtime out in front of my house to clean up storm debris and patrolling our neighborhoods to keep them safe and responding to 911 calls when emergencies happen ... and, and, and.



When my boys were little, lighting the candles on the Advent wreath on the dining room table was a really big deal. I'd like to think it was because they had grasped the significance of the holiness of the Advent season as a time of spiritual preparation for the coming of our Lord. However, I'm sure it was because if the Advent Wreath was there, the tree and presents couldn't be far behind! And it was a tradition that “stuck” in our family long after they had outgrown many others.

I’m remembering a particular evening in Advent. The boys would have been about twelve and fifteen. It was after I had come out and their father and I had separated and while we were working away at what my therapist called “reconfiguring the family on the other side of the marriage.” We were at the dinner table together with the Advent wreath in the middle and -- that particular night -- my younger son, Brian, was on about something he couldn’t live without and his father and I were ruining his life by not getting it for him. I think it was a dirt bike.

He didn’t want to hear reasoned explanations that dirt bikes were not in the budget for newly ordained parish priests. “So how long do we have to wait until there’s some money in this family?” he asked. “What about those big jobs at those fancy churches? Why don’t you go be in charge of one of those?” And I must have run out of patience at that point for I remember saying, “You have be ordained longer than I have been to get those jobs, Brian – and besides, they usually go to the straight, white men.”

“Well, so much for that idea!” he said. And then, unable to resist one last parting shot added “I just hope you know I always expected my mom to be straight!” And his father, without missing a beat, piped in, “So did I!” And we all laughed … and Brian did NOT get the dirt bike.

Another thing Brian did not get was the family he expected – but that didn’t mean we quit being family to each other. And that’s because the values that made us family to each other transcended even the expectations we had for each other.

And the icon of what that family looks like for me is my mental picture of the year both of my sons and their father joined my partner Louise in the pew at All Saints Church on Christmas morning – after the traditional Russell family Christmas Eve dinner of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding the night before! And Christmas morning I looked out at them from the pulpit with deep gratitude for the family we had become.

We may not be a family James Dobson focuses on but that doesn’t make us any less family. And it doesn’t make the values that bind us together any less holy.

Joseph didn’t get the family he expected, either – and the Gospel according to Matthew tells us that his first reaction to the “unexpected” was to dismiss his pregnant fiancé … an act which would fallen firmly within the bounds of the traditional family values of his day – and would have made Mary and her child outcasts. Instead of “tradition” Joseph chose love. He did as the angel commanded and took Mary as his wife and named the child Jesus – and the rest is Holy Family History.

The Christ Child made the Holy Family holy – what made them a family were the values that bound them together as an icon of God’s love for the whole human family. And those values have absolutely nothing to do with either the gender or the genetics of those who make up a family and everything to do with the inclusive love of the God whose deepest desire is for this human race – created in God’s image – to become the human family it was meant to be.

Sadly, one of the things that has WAY too often gotten in the way of proclaiming that love to all people is the very thing that was created to proclaim that love to all people – and that thing would be The Church. Yet maybe it’s my own lived experience of reconfiguring a family on the other side of a marriage that gives me the hope we can also reconfigure our churches on the other side of bias and bigotry against God’s LGBT beloved.

That hope is fueled by these words making the rounds on Facebook this week:
We are all equal.
Regardless of religion or geographical region.
Whether you believe we are all created in God's image
or that we all have Buddha nature,
equality is fundamental.
Honoring the divinity within all beings
means ALL beings (period).
And so as Christmas looms my prayer is: O Come, O Come Emmanuel – make us agents of the power to live in the Eternal Now and give us grace to live your Holy Family Values all the days of our lives. And may the God of hope fill us with joy and peace – and equip us to be agents of love, justice and compassion. Always. Amen.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas Eve Eve

Pray for peace and work for justice ... this Christmas and always.
Merry Christmas Eve Eve!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Listen Deeply; Get Upset; Generate Love

A Sermon for the Fourth Sunday in Advent

This one's getting up late because I preached from notes rather than a text ... but decided to take time to tell the stories here. So -- for what it's worth -- here it be!

In his weekly message to the Diocese of San Joaquin, Bishop Chet Talton wrote:

"This Sunday marks the beginning of the last week of Advent. As we light the fourth candle on the Advent wreath I recall the words of the late theologian and mystic, Howard Thurman – who wrote that these candles are for us:
• candles of joy despite all sadness,
• candles of hope where despair keeps watch,
• candles of courage for fears ever present,
• candles of peace for tempest-tossed days,
• candles of grace to ease heavy burdens,
• candles of love to inspire all our living.
The Advent candles are light against the darkness which surrounds us. We light them in anticipation of our hearts being filled again the Christmas promise of that which is true,
"What has come into being in Jesus was life,
and the life was the light of all people.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not overcome it."
And Bishop Talton concluded: “May these candles burn in our hearts all year long to keep us ready.”

I love the idea that Advent isn’t just a time of preparation for Christmas but a way of living in preparation for life’s challenges. And when we look at it that way, there’s a lot to keep ready for, isn’t there?

The nightly news is a barrage of gun violence, political polarization, war continuing to rage in Afghanistan as we mark the end of the war in Iraq, an economic “new normal” that is getting really old …the list goes on and on.

And so this morning I want to tell you about four candles that I saw lit this week against the darkness that surrounds us. They weren’t candles on a wreath in the sanctuary – they were candles of action in the struggle.

The first was on Monday in the lobby of the All Saints office building. Monday is the day Diane Williams and our feeding ministry team distributes food to our neighbors in need and so it’s always a busy morning. I came down the staircase from my office mid-morning just as Diane was greeting one of our neighbors with these words, “Do you need a warmer coat?”

At All Saints Church we talk all the time about “making God’s love tangible 24/7” – and I cannot think of a more tangible way to make that love present than by greeting someone in need of food with the words “Do you need a warmer coat?” on a cold winter’s day. Diane’s words were for me an Advent candle of love.

The second was in these words in a blog post about the Occupy Movement: “[Occupy] is the kind of movement that we venerate in history, yet many who live comfortably fear it in the present. Occupy is no mere ‘protest.’ The brilliance of the movement is its refusal to be reduced to specific policy demands. Occupy remains an insatiable movement of liberating creativity, an irreducible process for generating justice."

And then the Reverend John Helmiere offered this message from Occupy Seattle:
• Listen Deeply
• Get Upset
• Generate Love.
“By listening deeply, I mean allowing the experiences of others to alter your own worldview. By getting upset, I mean being appalled at the dehumanizing forces operating in our world. By generating love, I mean channeling that passion into creative and liberating action.”

The blog post ended with these words “Let there be peace among us, and may we not be instruments of our own, or anyone else’s oppression” … lighting an Advent candle of justice.

The third candle came in the words of actor George Clooney. In a statement announcing his casting in an upcoming play about the Prop 8 struggle here in California, Clooney said:
"It is astonishing that gay and lesbian Americans are still treated as second-class citizens. I am confident that, very soon, the laws of this nation will reflect the basic truth that gay and lesbian people -- like all human beings -- are born equal in dignity and rights."
As an Oscar winning actor twice voted “the sexiest man alive” by People Magazine, George Clooney could so totally be “phoning it in” from his villa on Lake Como … but instead he is stepping up to use his voice to speak for those bullied and badgered into silence. For offering an antidote to the homophobia infecting our political discourse and for bringing the power his celebrity gives him to the fight for liberty and justice for all George Clooney lights an Advent candle of equality.

And the fourth and final Advent candle of action was lit on the steps of the All Saints chancel on Saturday morning. Youth choir director Jenny Price was rehearsing the high school choir as I was washing up in the sacristy after an Integrity Board Eucharist. They were singing beautifully and as I came out from the sacristy to listen a bit from the chapel she stopped them and said, “That was GREAT … but it could be better. You’ve got the notes. Now let’s talk about what it is you’re singing about.”

And she proceeded to engage the high schoolers in a dialogue on what Christmas really means; why it matters that a baby was born in a manger, for Pete’s sake; what it means that “Jesus saves” … and what a miracle the whole marvelous story not only was but continues to be in our lives as we claim that love, power and wonder for ourselves. And as she spoke to them I saw the fourth candle of the week: An Advent candle of wonder.

How about us? Can we hear this story again this morning and recognize what a miracle it is? Can we light the candles of Advent not just on this wreath on this last Sunday of Advent but in our hearts all year long to keep us ready … not just for Christmas but for the work of Christmas ... as famously described in another great work of Howard Thurman:
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among others,
To make music in the heart.
And what I believe equips us for Howard Thurman’s Work of Christmas is John Helmiere’s Advent Advice:

Listen Deeply; Get Upset; Generate Love

So let us light our candles this morning in anticipation of our hearts being filled again with the Christmas promise of that which is true: What will come into being on that “O Holy Night” is life -- life that is the light of all people. Light that shines in the darkness – and light that the darkness will never overcome. Amen.

Dear Sarah, What WOULD Jesus Do?

No, I shouldn't be bothering to blog about this as it [a] only draws more attention to the pathetic state of political discourse in this country right and now and [b] the Christmas countdown clock is now hours instead of days and there's still LOTS to get done.

However. I can't resist.

Yesterday the story broke that Sarah Palin (erstwhile Governor of Alaska and would-be political pundit) had her knickers in a twist over the White House Holiday Greeting Card. This would be the card:

"It's odd," Palin told FOX News Radio, asking why the card focuses on the dog instead of traditions like "family, faith and freedom."

Well, maybe it's odd to Ms. Palin but -- as noted on the "Business Insider" -- this year's White House card follows a long line of cards that "focused" on snow, buildings, fireplaces ... even a piano. In fact, the Bush White House (2005) sent this card with not one but two dogs ... and the sentiment: "With best wishes for a holiday season of hope and happiness."

Seen in that wider trajectory [pictured here] this year's card falls firmly in "the tradition" of White House Cards Through the Years.

All of which kind of begs the question: So Ms. Palin asked herself "WWJD" on the day after the GOP Congress put unemployment insurance for Americans most in need and tax increases for the middle class on the altar of partisan politics and the answer she got was "take pot shots at the White House Holiday Greeting Card?" Seriously???

The best gift Ms. Palin could bring Baby Jesus this Christmas is to stop making him look bad -- especially so close to his birthday!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

From the "Makes the Heart Glad" File

It's the week-before Christmas and all through the house not a staff member's idle ... because this is ALL SAINTS CHURCH and we've got four services Christmas Eve, two Christmas Day ... and as soon as we get baby Jesus safely asleep on the hay we've got the Occupy the Rose Parade folks coming to town. Oy!!

ANYWAY ... all of this to say there is no elbow room for blogging but a girl has to eat (lunch ... at her desk) and whilst eating lunch at my desk I came across this story which was too good not to share ... in brief ... and in the "Makes the Heart Glad" category:

Lesbian couple share Navy's 'first kiss' homecoming honors

Seems they decide who gets to be first off the ship and plant one on their beloved by a lottery system ... and Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta was the Big Winner.

Here's the story in USA Today ... and we now return to our regularly scheduled Christmas preparations. Ho, Ho, Ho!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

And now a word from Buddhist Bootcamp

"Buddhist Bootcamp" is one of my new favorites -- a site that describes its mission with this quote from the Dalai Lama:

"Don't try to use what you learn from Buddhism to be a Buddhist; use it to be a better whatever-you-already-are."

Here's the piece making the rounds on facebook today!

We are all equal.
Regardless of religion or geographical region.
Whether you believe we are all created in God's image or that we all have Buddha nature, equality is fundamental.
Honoring the divinity within all beings means ALL beings (period).

Monday, December 19, 2011

An Open Letter to George Clooney (from the Archlesbian of the Episcopal Church)

Dear Mr. Clooney,

I read with delight the announcement last week that you have been cast in the West Coast premiere of 8, the play based on the Prop 8 trial, and I am writing to thank you for putting your talent where your mouth is by stepping out and standing up to support equality for gay and lesbian Americans.

These words of yours in the statement from AFER (American Foundation for Equal Rights) will, I know, be a source of encouragement and empowerment to so many in the LGBT community who still struggle to believe that it really will get better: "It is astonishing that gay and lesbian Americans are still treated as second-class citizens. I am confident that, very soon, the laws of this nation will reflect the basic truth that gay and lesbian people -- like all human beings -- are born equal in dignity and rights."

Martin Luther King Jr. famously said that "the arc of history bends toward justice," and I want to be among those thanking you your willingness to help bend that arc toward justice for LGBT people. Being designated the "Sexiest Man Alive" -- not once, but twice -- gives you a tremendous platform of privilege. Your willingness to use that platform to speak for LGBT equality is an enormous gift, not just for LGBT Americans but for all who believe in liberty and just for all, not just some, Americans.

And frankly, your timing could not be better. Your statement was a welcome contrast to the barrage of stories about GOP presidential candidates busily outdoing each other in their efforts to get out the anti-gay vote. We saw Rick Perry's ill-advised video spot using gay and lesbian troops as canon fodder for his campaign, candidates falling all over each other to sign the "marriage pledge" sponsored by NOM (National Organization for [Straight] Marriage) and Newt Gingrich's promise to reinstate Don't Ask Don't Tell and to investigate those who support marriage equality for alleged harassment. Just to name a few.

Read the rest here

Think it can't get worse?

Think again!

In a story being widely reported this morning, Newt Gingrich on Sunday hammered at the nation’s judiciary system, saying that if a court’s decision was out of step with American popular opinion, it should be ignored. There’s “no reason the American people need to tolerate a judge that out of touch with American culture,” Gingrich said on CBS’ Face the Nation.

Host Bob Schieffer asked Gingrich how he planned to enforce that. Would you call in the Capitol Police to apprehend a federal judge, he asked. “If you had to,” Gingrich said. “Or you’d instruct the Justice Department to send the U.S. Marshall in.”

Seriously??? Like those judges so "out of step with American culture" that they ruled for Brown and against the Board of Education in 1954 ending segregation in our schools?

Balance of powers, anybody??? (Oy vey!!)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

What a difference five years makes

"A member of the U.S. Cavalry in Kirkuk, Iraq Private First Class James Russell, a Blackhawk helicopter crew chief and the son of the Rev. Susan Russell, senior associate at All Saints, is ready to deliver some of the more than 400 Christmas cards that were sent to soldiers stationed there from parishioners of All Saints Church, Pasadena" [The Living Church: December 2006]

An American soldier walked last week through Contingency Operating Base Adder, where the last convoy of the military withdrawal left early Sunday under cover of darkness. [The New York Times: December 2011]

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Cookies: Anglican Style

This one's making the rounds in "church circles" ... I got it first from Elizabeth Kaeton -- adapted from this post on Commonweal -- and then quickly from a legion of fowarders. ENJOY!

Cream these ingredients, that by their commingling, you may begin to make the dough:

1 chalice of butter, 2/3 chalice of sugar.

In a similar way, when the butter is consubstantial with the sugar, beat in One egg

Gather these dry ingredients to yourself and combine them, so that you may add them to the dough which you have already begun to make:

2 1/2 chalices sifted all purpose flour, 1/2 tsp. Salt, 1 tsp. Vanilla

Mix the precious dough with your venerable hands.

Into the refrigerator, graciously place the dough so that it may be chilled for the duration of 3 or 4 hours, before the rolling and cutting of the cookies.

When, in the fullness of time, you are ready to bake these spotless cookies, these delicious cookies, these Christmas cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Roll out the dough and take up a cookie cutter or stencil of your choosing, and fashion the cookies into pleasing form.

Sprinkle colorful adornments over the cookies like dewfall.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the cookies have just begun to manifest the brownness that is vouchsafed to them by the oven’s heat.

May these cookies be found acceptable in your sight, and be borne to a place of refreshment at your table, there to be served with milk or hot chocolate, or with your spirits.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Wanna see some Traditional Family Values?

Then check this one out ...

I know today has kind of been a "all videos all day blog day" but I just couldn't resist sharing this great moment that's "making the rounds."

[And MAZEL TOV ... to the expectant couple AND to the excited Grandpas!)

+Gene Robinson on MSNBC

Bravo, Bishop Robinson!! Great job on MSNBC this morning!
It is breathtaking (and not in a good way) when someone who aspires to be the Commander in Chief denigrates the soldiers he means to command. Just like all the other soldiers in our military, our gay and lesbian soldiers are dodging bullets and IED’s to preserve our rights as Americans. The right of all Americans to represent their country in our military is now the law of the land, a law that Gov. Perry apparently disagrees with and presumably would work to change if elected president.

The blood of gay and lesbian soldiers flows as readily and as redly as that of other young Americans fighting in Afghanistan, yet Gov. Perry feels free to use them as political cannon fodder for his campaign. In an attempt to garner conservative Christian votes, he would stigmatize these brave young men and women who are, as we speak, risking their lives on our behalf. If this is patriotism, count me out!

A Christmas Message from All Saints Church

This year we decided to "multiplatformize" the rector's annual Christmas letter to the parish by turning it into a video. Here's a little glimpse of what Christmas looks like at All Saints Church in Pasadena. ENJOY!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Rick Perry's 31 Seconds of Shame: The gift that keeps on giving

A lot has been written -- including by me -- about Rick Perry's offensive-in-so-many-ways video ad posted just a week ago tomorrow. My Huffington Post piece is up to over 500 shares/70+ comments (nowhere near the Kim Kardashian record, but hey ... ) and the YouTube video itself is over 4 million hits with 20,300 likes and 648,866 dislikes. That's a lot of attention to a 30 second spot. But no one summed it all up like +Gene Robinson in his Washington Post piece entitled "What Rick Perry gets wrong about religion" ... which opens:
"Rick Perry would be pathetic, if he weren’t so infuriating."
Episcopal Cafe has a great round up of many of the parodies of Perry's 31-seconds-that-will-live-in-infamy ... including this observation:
One of the beautiful things about the Internet is that if you're as far off base as Perry, you can be the recipient of (instant and red-hot) feedback. And if your message is as far out so as to lend itself to parody, you best thicken up your hide.

But here's another observation: The response this week to the Perry video is actually a great illustration of the Advent Admonition to "keep alert" ... to "stay awake" ... to "pay attention."

Because it turns out a lot of people were paying attention to the teachable moment of Rick Perry's ill-advised effort to bolster his failing campaign by bashing gays in the military, perpetuating the "war on religion" myth and generally making Christianity and Jesus look really bad.

There are a lot of folks stepping up to offer powerful (and sometime playful) rebuttals to Perry's "crackpot Christian" perspective -- including the video clips over at ECafe and Bishop Robinson's piece in the Washington Post. And I have had the opportunity through the Huffington Post platform to engage with some fascinating conversations with commenters around faith, the Bible and reconciling sexuality and spirituality.

Stay awake. Pay attention. Keep your lamps trimmed and burning -- and your iPads charged and churning. Great Advent themes playing out in teachable moments as we wait in expectation for the coming of the One who loved us enough to become one of us in order to show us how to walk in love with each other.

I'm still not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian, but you certainly don't need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there's something right in this country when people of faith who recognize 31 seconds of "shinola" when they see it who step up to say so ... turning a travesty into a teachable moment.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Obamas Spend "Stir It Up" Sunday at St. John's, Lafayette Square

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama and his family attended a worship service Sunday morning at an Episcopal church just across the street from the White House where presidents frequently have visited.

The president, first lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia made the short walk across Lafayette Square to St. John's Church.

The sermon by Rev. Dr. Luis Leon was based on the story of John the Baptist, who told the religious leaders he was neither the Messiah nor the prophet, but a voice calling in the wilderness.

Leon likened the story to the president and the expectations Americans may have of him. People have illusions about the nation and about God, the pastor said, and urged the congregation to open its eyes not "to the God we have created, but to who he really is," he said.

Read the rest here. (So how did YOUR preacher "stir it up" today? Or not?)

We gave thanks for the life of Ed Watson today

Ed Watson died Wednesday at the age of 78.

His partner of over 40 years, Derence Kernek, was at his side when he succumbed to complications from the rapid-onset Alzheimer’s he was diagnosed with just last year.

Kernek and Watson videotaped a plea to the 9th Circuit in March, asking that the court allow Walker's ruling to take effect so they could marry while Watson could still remember their 40-year relationship. If you missed it in March you can still watch it here:

All Ed wanted to do was marry Derence before he passed or lost the ability to even remember who he was on their wedding day. But he died before that dream could be realized while the court hears arguments about whether tapes should be released and whether Judge Walker's verdict should be vacated because he's gay and might or might not want to marry someday. Of course, none of that matters to Ed and Derence now.

But it should matter to us. It should matter to all of us.

It should matter that this couple who built a life together for over 40 years and loved each other -- in sickness and in health until death did they part -- had none of the protections for their relationship that come automatically to opposite sex couples before the ink is even dry on the marriage license. To Britney Spears and Jason Alexander for 55 hours. To Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries for 72 days. To Newt Gingrich and ... (all three times.)

But not to Ed Watson and Derence Kernek. And because of their inability to marry, Watson had been denied coverage under Kernek's retirement plan causing incredible financial hardships. The L.A. Times reported that after Ed's death Derence could not be reached for comment -- because their phone had been disconnected.

The arc of history bends toward justice -- and I believe with all my heart that it is bending toward marriage equality. I trust that we WILL become a nation where equal protection equally protects all Americans -- as the Constitution intended. And I know that someday our children and grandchildren will look back on this struggle over whether gay and lesbian Americans have the right to marry with as much disbelief and dismay as we look back on the arguments over whether American women had the right to vote or African Americans had the right to sit at lunch counters.

But someday isn't today. And so today -- at All Saints Church -- we gave thanks for the life of Ed Watson in the Prayers of the People. And we prayed for comfort for Derence Kernek. And we recommitted ourselves to the struggle to make justice roll down like waters for all the Eds and Derences out there waiting for "liberty and justice for all" to include them.
O God of grace and glory, we remember before you this day our brother Ed. We thank you for giving him to us, his family and friends, to know and to love as a companion on our earthly pilgrimage. In your boundless compassion, console us who mourn. Give us faith to see in death the gate of eternal life, so that in quiet confidence we may continue our course on earth, until, by your call, we are reunited with those who have gone before. Amen.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Update on SCLM "Blessings Project"

The Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs
Press Release: December 09, 2011

Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music offers updated and new resources, materials online

Episcopal Church Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) has updated and posted new educational materials and resources online, offering easy access and free downloading for a myriad of references, resolutions, etc., on Resolution C056, “Liturgies for Blessings.”

The materials are available in English and Spanish here:

“The purpose of these materials is to inform people about the work of SCLM, in preparation for the release of the resources next spring, prior to General Convention 2012,” noted the Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers, SCLM Chair. “They are designed particularly for deputies and diocesan conventions, but could be used in other contexts.”

Among the items are: Educational Material for Diocesan Convention; Educational Material for Diocesan Meetings of Deputies; Liturgical Principles; Overview for Deputies; Theological Reflection; Understanding Resolution C056.

General Convention 2009 (GC09) Resolution C056, "Liturgies for Blessings," called for the SCLM to gather and develop theological and liturgical resources for the blessing of same gender relationships.

For more information contact SCLM at or visit the SCLM blog

Friday, December 09, 2011

Gay & Christian

A few weeks back I got a call from a local student working a piece for her college magazine. The college was Azusa Pacific University and the article was on being gay and Christian. Of course I was delighted to be interviewed for the feature -- which is running int the December issue of APU's Collide Magazine.

By Sarah Rogers, staff writer English major

“I’ve always known I was gay,” said Rod López, a May 2010 biblical studies APU graduate. “I’ve never been sexually attracted to women ever since I was a child. I knew I was supposed to like girls, but I didn’t.”

Dr. Mark Yarhouse, who was invited by APU to speak to professors on homosexuality, found in his 2009 research of gay Christian college students that they had differing understandings of their sexual preference’s origin. Yarhouse is the Endowed Chair of the School of Psychology and Counseling at Regent University and the developer of the Institute for the Study of Sexuality. Most participants for his research article, “Listening to Sexual Minorities on Christian Campuses,” believed their same-sex attraction was biological (10%), environmental (53%), or had not formed an opinion and could not answer the question (17%).

According to the American Psychological Association’s website, other explanations for same-sex attraction have pointed to psychological problems. Since 1975, the organization has been attempting to remove homosexuality’s social stigma as a mental disorder.

Gay and Christian: these two factors in identity, faith, and sexuality meld together amidst controversy. But what does it mean to be both?

Studying the Faith

López, who is currently a teacher through Teach for America, grew up in the Catholic church and transitioned to an evangelical one in high school. If he told people his sexual orientation, he would say he was struggling with homosexual thoughts and tendencies. But no longer does he define his homosexuality as a struggle.

“I think someone can be gay and Christian,” López said. “I also think that person can be not only gay, as in sexual orientation, but also can be actively gay and in a same sex relationship.” He had always accepted he was called to celibacy, but some of his APU Bible classes challenged his understanding of human sexuality. According to López, the Christian academic world is not as unanimous on homosexuality as he previously believed.

“In Romans 1, Paul talks about people giving themselves over to sin like same-sex lusts,” López said. “When you think about the Roman world, men of equal economic and cultural status rarely had sex with each other. Often, sex was a power dynamic and they would have sex with younger boys and slaves.” In ancient Rome, López believes penetration was an act of power, not one of love. For two men to be in love and committed to each other was unheard of, as far as he knows.

The Bible is silent on the modern version of homosexuality, according to López. “Same sex relationships now are not about power or status, but two people genuinely in love who want the best for each other,” said López. He would not say the Bible promotes homosexuality, but loving homosexual relationships did not exist and therefore are not addressed in the Bible.

“The Bible doesn’t address every single thing in modernity,” said López. “Christian couples are in love, centered in Christ and want to be disciples of Christ together. I see that and I say, ‘Is that really the same thing being talked about in Romans, Deuteronomy or Philippians?’”

This is not to say López discounts the Holy Bible. “The Bible is the Word of God and I think there’s life and hope to be found in Scripture, but I just don’t see it applying to the situation,” López said. “I think we need to address every part of it and figure it out.”

Wrestling with biblical teachings on homosexuality also brought disagreement with his church. While at APU, López attended an evangelical church and served as a high school youth group leader. When Prop 8 was on the ballot, members of the church organized a booth in the lobby, handing out pamphlets against gay marriage.

“I didn’t think it was appropriate for the church to do that,” said López. “My thing was, if a gay couple walked into church right now, they were going to feel unwelcome.” He began to bring up the subject, but as a well-known church leader, López was asked to step down.

“I was there to mentor the youth. I went for the community and I wasn’t going to go if I couldn’t be involved in the high school ministry,” said López. He started a house church with some friends instead. After he finishes his two-year commitment to Teach for America, López hopes to find a new church in California.

“I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a believer being with other believers,” said López. “I would never dream of doing things on my own because that’s not Christian or what the body of Christ is supposed to be.”

Losing the Faith

For some, churches have been a place of exclusion and hurt. For Abigail Cirelli, a 2010 journalism and sociology APU graduate, her conception of the world was “God is love and people are gay.” She was searching for an understanding of God that allowed for both truths to be harmonious. “I was into liberation theology for a while that teaches God is the God of the oppressed and they are His cause,” said Cirelli. “That allowed me to see the coexistence of Christianity and the acceptance of the reality of the human experience, which is a spectrum of sexuality.”

Cirelli grew up in a small, blue-collar church that she always saw as a loving community. One day, her pastor mentioned they would be going through a video series on homosexuality and how to love the sinner, but hate the sin. “The first time they mentioned it, I burst into tears,” said Cirelli. “A group of people I know are good and loving people created a space that wasn’t safe for everyone.”

Feeling betrayed and tricked, Cirelli couldn’t understand why her church would ask her to separate her body and soul. “You can’t love someone and hate who they are,” Cirelli said. She identifies as queer, being neither straight nor completely gay.

Now, Cirelli has left the church and considers herself agnostic. Treatment of the homosexual community was not her reason for leaving. Christianity felt artificial to her. Cirelli said, “I think the most holy and sacred things are or reside in the connection between people.”

Arguing the Faith

Reverend Susan Russell is on staff at All Saints Church in Pasadena with LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) inclusion as part of her portfolio. She is also the chair of the LGBT group for the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and serves on the Religion Council of the national Human Rights Campaign.

“Often, I get the question, ‘Show me in the Bible where it says homosexuality is okay,’” said Russell. “I will say, I can’t find a text that will tell me that. I also can’t find a text that will tell me we should ordain women, be against the death penalty, or abolish slavery.”

Discernment is necessary to read the Bible in context, Russell believes. Texts in the Bible state stoning was the penalty for children talking back and the idea that the sun revolved around the earth. “I believe in the 21st century we have a different understanding of the psychology and biology of homosexuality,” said Russell.

“There are a percentage of people who are, for lack of a better word, hard-wired to form their best, most authentic relationships in terms of emotional and sexual intimacy with partners of the same gender,” said Russell. “Given that that is a scientific given, I think as a theologian my response to that is, ‘Where is God in those relationships?’”

Common arguments against homosexuality tend to be Scripture-based, but Russell believes Christians should look at the wider message of the Bible. God’s wider message, to Russell, is His love, justice, and compassion. “If you belong to a tradition that reads the Bible literally, I would challenge you to read it all literally. I think it becomes a challenge,” said Russell. “We take the Bible too seriously to take it literally.”

To allow the issue of homosexuality to polarize and divide the greater church is to miss the high calling of being followers of Jesus, she said. Russell said, “Good people of deep faith reading the same Bible come to different conclusions about God’s will. But we should not allow ourselves to be distracted from the wider work of the church by allowing gay and lesbian families to be the sacrificial lambs of partisan politics.”

Note to the reader: This article’s purpose was to look at a part of identity that is an important discussion to college-age readers and the greater church. The Collide staff chose to examine a narrow aspect of a large discussion regarding homosexuality and to answer the question, how do people identify as both gay and Christian? Most sources interviewed speak personally on this question.

Rick Perry Decks the Halls with Homophobia

This is a piece I wrote for the Huffington Post in response to the despicable ad campaign launched by Rick Perry earlier this week. If you haven't seen it, here's the link ... and I was delighted to hear on the news this morning that the video is on track to be "the most 'disliked' video in the history of YouTube."(As I post this the tally is 10,587 likes, 434,564 dislikes)

Rick Perry Decks the Halls with Homophobia

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas - but sadly Rick Perry is decking the halls with homophobia rather than holly. His new December ad campaign promising voters that as president he would "end Obama's war on religion" and "fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage" begins:
I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian, but you don't need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there's something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.
So here's the deal: I am likewise not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian. In fact I'm proud of the foundational values of love, justice and compassion that ground me in my own tradition and connect me to others committed to the same traditional values held sacred by their own faiths and religions.

But I am ashamed when a presidential candidate uses gay and lesbian Americans as sacrificial lambs on the altar of partisan politics while they're on the battlefield putting their lives on the line to protect the constitutional rights Perry is unwilling to grant to their families.

Because you don't need to be a Christian - or a constitutional scholar -- to know that there's something wrong in this country when candidates for president can openly express their ignorance about the First Amendment but gay and lesbian families can't count on the equal protection the Constitution equally guarantees all Americans.

The First Amendment protects the rights of all Americans to believe whatever they choose about what God blesses or doesn't bless; sanctions or doesn't sanction; intends or does not intend. It does NOT protect anybody's right to impose those beliefs on other Americans - in fact, remaining neutral on matters religious is not a "war on religion" but a safety net for the religious liberty that is our American heritage. And nobody said it better than Ronald Reagan:
"We establish no religion in this country, we command no worship, we mandate no belief. Nor will we ever. Church and state are, and must remain, separate. All are free to believe or not believe, all are free to practice a faith or not, and those who believe are free and should be free, to speak of and act on their belief. At the same time as our constitution prohibits state religion, establishment of it protects the free exercise of all religions. And walking this fine line requires government to be strictly neutral."
It also requires leaders who actually understand the Constitution enough to defend it against all enemies, foreign and domestic. And sadly those seem to be in very short supply at the moment.

There is something wrong in this country - but what's wrong has nothing to do with gay and lesbian troops defending it on the battlefield or gay and lesbian parents raising their children to believe that liberty and justice for all really means "all." Rather, it has everything to do with presidential candidates using homophobia as a weapon of mass distraction calculated to mobilize their political base.

What's wrong with this country has nothing to do with those committed to building bridges between faith traditions and working to defend First Amendment rights of both freedom of and freedom from religion. Rather it has everything to do with narrow ideologues so busy putting Christ back in Christmas that they forget to live out Jesus' call to love their neighbors as themselves the other 364 days of the year.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian, but you don't need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there's something wrong in this country when the Christmas message of "Peace on Earth, Good Will to All" is hijacked by politicians decking the halls with homophobia instead of holly.

Christmas deserves better. The country deserves better. And Rick Perry should know better.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

MISSION -- A Sermon by Bishop Mary Glasspool

I posted a link to the text earlier this week ... but thanks to the marvels of modern technology you can watch it being well preached by our Bishop Suffragan Mary Glasspool. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

BREAKING NEWS from the White House

Presidential Memorandum -- International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons


SUBJECT: International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons

The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States commitment to promoting human rights. I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting LGBT persons around the world whether it is passing laws that criminalize LGBT status, beating citizens simply for joining peaceful LGBT pride celebrations, or killing men, women, and children for their perceived sexual orientation.

That is why I declared before heads of state gathered at the United Nations, "no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere." Under my Administration, agencies engaged abroad have already begun taking action to promote the fundamental human rights of LGBT persons everywhere. Our deep commitment to advancing the human rights of all people is strengthened when we as the United States bring our tools to bear to vigorously advance this goal.

By this memorandum I am directing all agencies engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons. Specifically, I direct the following actions, consistent with applicable law:

Read the specifics here. ...

... and please, please, PLEASE do take a minute to make your mama proud and say "thank you" the way you were brought up to. Here's the Contact the White House link to make it easy for you.

Monday, December 05, 2011

My, My, My! All is evidently not well in the House that Schism Built!

This just in from Rwanda:

The head of the Anglican Mission in America has been threatened with ecclesiastical discipline for contumacy. Unless Bishop Chuck Murphy repents of his disobedience and apologizes for his offensive statements within seven days, the Rwanda House of Bishops will assume that he has “made a de facto choice to withdraw as primatial vicar” of the AMiA.
To save you having to look it up (like I had to) contumacy is:
a stubborn refusal to obey authority or, particularly in law, the wilful contempt of the order or summons of a court
So the pattern continues. Evidently Chuck Murray's conviction that having Sole Possession of the Absolute Truth provides free reign to follow the rules they like and ignore the others wasn't just an Episcopal Church thing. And it looks like his new boss is a LOT less patient with that than his old one was.

Just IMAGINE for a moment if Katharine Jefferts Schori gave ... oh, let's just pick Mark Lawrence out of a hat ... seven days to "recant or resign." Seriously.

You'll probably want to read it all here -- even if it is by George Conger. And stay tuned for future developments. Odds are there'll be some.

Archbishop of Canterbury blind to historic Anglican comprehensiveness?

The evidence grows that Rowan Williams is itching to revision the historic comprehensiveness of Anglicanism into something tidier and more manageable. In his Advent Letter to the Anglican Primates -- a thinly veiled opportunity to bemoan (once again) the lamentable communion-wide resistance to the ill-conceived proposed "Anglican Covenant" -- Williams asks:
"If the moratoria are ignored and the Covenant suspected, what are the means by which we maintain some theological coherence as a Communion and some personal respect and understanding as a fellowship of people seeking to serve Christ?"
Seriously? The question coming from the Archbishop of Canterbury this Advent 2011 is how do we "maintain theological coherence?" And the answer is a moratorium creating sacramental apartheid for LGBT Anglicans and a covenant that institutionalizes a profoundly un-Anglican response to the classically Anglican dilemma of living into our historic ability to hold in tension the challenge of being a both/and people (catholic and protestant) in an either/or world?

If "theological coherence" had been the presenting goal for our Anglican forbears there would have been no Elizabethan Settlement and the Tower of London might at this very moment be full of heretics waiting for their turn at the stake.

Maybe the lectionary cycle is different across the pond -- but I can't help wondering this morning if the Archbishop would have written the same Advent Letter if he'd heard the reading from Matthew 25 we heard on the Last Sunday After Pentecost ... the one where Jesus gives "the final exam" where the essay question is NOT "did you maintain theological coherence" but "did you minister unto the least of these?"

And don't get me wrong. I'm all FOR "personal respect and understanding as a fellowship of people seeking to serve Christ" ... which at the end of the day IS a hallmark of classical Anglicanism. What I'm NOT so keen on are the efforts of the Archbishop of Canterbury (and others) to throw out the baby of Anglican comprehensiveness with the bathwater of global Anglican politics.

You cannot achieve "personal respect and understanding as a fellowship of people seeking to serve Christ" by scapegoating LGBT Anglicans within the church and leaving as strangers at the gate the LGBT un-churched yearning for a spiritual community where they can live their lives in alignment with God's love, justice and compassion.

The Great Anglican Experiment -- for all that it is untidy and at times somewhat unmanageable, disorganized and downright messy -- remains for me a desperately needed "both/and" light shining in the darkness of an "either/or" world. And "maintaining theological coherence" seems a pitiful bowl of pottage to trade for our Anglican birthright.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Recommended Reading: "The Mission of the Church" (A Sermon by Bishop Mary Glasspool)

I mentioned in an earlier blog that Bishop Glasspool preached a quite-fabulous sermon at our just-completed diocesan convention. Entitled "The Mission of the Church" I was delighted to find that it's already up on the diocesan website. (Go, "Digital Diocese!")

The link to the PDF is here.

And here's a little bit to get you started:

The Mission of the Church [December 2, 2011 ~ Riverside CA ]

I am not a very good traveler. It takes very little, on any given trip, for my civility to go down, my anxiety to go up, and for me to lose what little patience I have to begin with. So perhaps you can imagine the general state of affairs last week on my way to New York, when, after a thorough body pat down by the Transportation Security Agent at LAX airport screening, the agent picked up my Prayer book/Bible, shook it slightly at me, and asked: "Is there anything in this that could set off an alarm?" I looked her straight in the eyes and replied, "Plenty!"

Abraham and Isaac would have never made it up Mt. Moriah had they gone through Security. John the Baptist would have been on the No Fly List and Jesus, Himself, ... but I digress.

The lessons you have just heard are the Propers For the Mission of the Church, and I wonder if any one of them has set off any alarms in this gathering? The lesson from Isaiah is that prophet's concrete announcement of salvation for the whole world. Salvation. All the nations. And the people will voluntarily turn their weapons into tools for harvesting food. The lesson from Ephesians was written at a time in the life of the early church when the first, significant controversy had been resolved - that is, Gentiles would be admitted to the church and enjoy equal status with Jews.

What? People who have done nothing, religiously speaking, all of their lives will now have equal status as those who have been religiously disciplined from the day of their birth? And the Gospel Lesson from Luke is the familiar, perhaps too familiar, story of Jesus sending out seventy others to go ahead of him to places he, himself, intended to visit, to do his mission and announce The kingdom of God has come near to you. Others. Mission.

Any alarm bells yet? Do we pay as much attention to these lessons as we do to any one of the resolutions coming before us at this convention? I hope so. Because in the context of this Convention, whose laudable theme is One Light, One Peace, One World, this sermon is about the Mission of the Church, what it is, how we pursue it, and who does it, with the concomitan challenge to all of us to test the depth, or lack thereof, of our commitment to it.
From The Catechism in The Book of Common Prayer:
Q. What is the mission of the Church?
A. The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ. (BCP, p. 855)
There are three key words in this statement of the mission of the Church: restore, unity, and Christ.

Restore indicates that at some point in the past, perhaps even primordially in the mind or essence of the Almighty, all people were in unity with God, and that part of our story is that at some point early on, we've fallen out of unity with God. Call it original sin. Call it the fall. Call it anything you want, but understand that the mission of the Church is to do everything we possibly can to make broken people whole again; to heal the divided, wounded places in our world; and to put aside our weapons of war and concentrate our efforts on making sure everyone on this planet has enough to eat.

Unity is not uniformity. It is simply a way of saying that every person in this world is a child of God and we are all related to one another whether we like it or not! That wonderful Collect in our Prayer Book entitled For the Human Family (BCP. p. 815) has the audacity to talk about the whole human family. Take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts we pray, break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love.

And then there's the word Christ or the words in Christ. Christ can certainly be a stumbling block instead of a cornerstone if we take those words to mean that every single person in this world ought to be a Christian, which is simply a loftier way of saying that every single person in this world ought to believe as I believe.

For me, Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I can't get to God in any other way than through Jesus, whom I know as the Christ. Yet I observe that there are people of other faiths, of different origins, speaking numerous languages who also feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give shelter and care to the homeless, free those who are oppressed, and do a whole lot of other things that I, with my limited vocabulary, would call Christian. How arrogant of me if I were to insist on that designation!

As Desmond Tutu says, provocatively, God Is Not a Christian [the title of his most recent book. Even so, my job, as a Christian, along with the rest of the Body of Christ in the world, which we call, the Church, is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.

The Bishops of Los Angeles and The Gospel According to Margaret Mead

This morning I am SO proud of my bishops -- the Bishops of Los Angeles -- for their strong words at yesterday's Diocesan Convention condemning the effort to legislate homophobia in Nigeria. A full text of the bishops' statement will be posted by our diocesan communication office soon ... but in the meantime, here's what happened:

The theme of this year's convention was "One Light, One Peace, One World" and the focus was a call to continue our commitment to God's love, justice and compassion with our interfaith partners. The program included video messages from Dr. Maher Hathout and Rabbi Mark Diamond (from the 9/11 observance at L.A. City Hall) and Muslim and Jewish speakers on the floor of convention. Bishop Glasspool preached a brilliant sermon on mission -- framed in the Q&A of our catechism questions about "what is the mission of the church?" (A. The mission of the church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.)

In the context of his Annual Convention Address, Bishop Bruno extended that theme of "all" people to include LGBT Nigerians and those who speak for equality now facing imprisonment because of the draconian bill passed last week by the Nigerian Senate.
The Bishops of Los Angeles join with the international human rights community -- including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission – in condemning the draconian anti-LGBT bill passed this week by the Nigerian Senate. Our commitment to our baptismal promise to respect the dignity of every human being demands that we speak out today on this important issue and we urge others to join us.
Bishop Bruno went on to encourage those present to sign onto the bishops' statement by visiting the LGBT Program Group booth in the Exhibit Hall before leaving convention. When we had to take down the tables at 3pm there were four pages of legal paper filled with signatures. I haven't had time to count them, but I will.

The bishops' statement concluded:
As we live into our Diocesan Convention theme of One Light, One Peace, One World, we call on the Archbishop of Canterbury and other faith leaders to speak out and stand against this act of legislated homophobia. And we urge the Nigerian President and the Presidents of the Senate and the House of Assembly to guarantee safety and protection for all human rights defenders and all individuals irrespective of their sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or religion.
So please consider this a call to action to "go and do likewise." Email me if you'd like me to add your name to our "sign on to the bishops' statement" list. If you've got your bishop's ear, encourage her/him to issue their own statement. And if you've got a minute to drop a note to the Archbishop of Canterbury, then give it a shot. (File it under "nothing ventured/nothing gained!")
Can we really influence policy to end discrimination against LGBT Nigerians and cure homophobia with statements and blogs and emails and tweets? Maybe not this week. But remember the Gospel According to Margaret Mead:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Another Diocesan Convention in the books!

More details later ... for now, here are some pics from Diocesan Convention 2011 -- L.A. Style.

Thursday, December 01, 2011


If you haven't heard of StoryCorps, it is an oral history project, recording what they call "meaningful conversations" throughout the United States. They are in Los Angeles until December 18. StoryCorps in Los Angeles is made possible by a grant from the David Bohnett Foundation ... and I was honored to be invited to participate by local public radio station KCRW.

The "conversation" is taped for 40 minutes and then archived by StoryCorps -- and sometimes segments are selected to air on stations like KCRW.

Here's a link to what they aired earlier this week from the conversation Louise and I taped last month.

Monday, November 28, 2011

All Saints @OccupyLA | November 28

"Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night,
and give your angels charge over those who occupy."

photos by: Kristin Bedford

Sunday, November 27, 2011

ADVENT Week One: Hope Will Never Be Silent

At church this morning -- the first day of the New Church Year -- we lit the first candle of the Advent wreath with a prayer that began: "The first candle of Advent is the candle of Hope."

And I'm struck this afternoon by the connection between that First Sunday of Advent prayer and the fact that this year the first Sunday of the new church year falls on the 33rd Anniversary of the Assassination of Harvey Milk. From an online tribute:

On this date in 1978 (33 years ago), Mayor George Moscone and councilman Harvey Milk -- one of the most prominent national leaders in the legal protection for gay and lesbian citizens -- were murdered in city hall in San Francisco. The murderer's defense was dubbed "Twinkie Defense:" he'd eaten too much junk food and that's why he planned and carried out the murders. The jury bought the defense, And 33 years later, we have not yet reached the goal of equal protection under the Constitution for all Americans.
And yet, Hope Will Never Be Silent.

Whether that candle of Hope is on an Advent Wreath in an Episcopal Church in Pasadena or in the hand of the icon of a martyr in the gay liberation movement it is the same light shining out in the darkness of all that keeps us from being the human family we were created to be.

It is the light of respect for the dignity of every human being in our baptismal covenant and the light of liberty and justice for all in our pledge of allegiance.

It is the light of love that casts out fear; of Isaiah's proclamation of the Year of the Lord's Favor to the oppressed and captive and of Mary's Song exalting the humble and filling the hungry with good things.

It is the light of hope that burns with those standing in solidarity with the Occupy Movement and its challenge to corporate greed and compromised capitalism and with those claiming the legacy of Harvey Milk as they work for Family Values that value all families and a Protect Marriage Movement that protects ALL marriages.

"The first candle of Advent is the candle of Hope." Happy New Year, Church!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Susan Russell's Remedial Reading Assignment for Crabby Christians

Yesterday in President Obama's three minute Thanksgiving address he wished the American people a Happy Thanksgiving -- and gave special thanks to the brave men and women serving overseas and those giving back to their communities during the holidays.
"We're especially grateful for the Americans who defend our country overseas," Obama said in his Thanksgiving Day address. "To all the service members eating Thanksgiving dinner far from your families, the American people are thinking of you today."
He gave thanks for pilgrims, pioneers and patriots. He talked about the many blessings we share as Americans. And he thanked those who were stepping up to help neighbors in need ... in shelters and soup kitchens ... modeling a sense of mutual responsiblity that (in his words) shows that we "are our brother's keeper ... we are our sister's keeper."

So what's not to like about that? How much more "traditional Thanksgiving Values" can you get than thanking the troops and feeding the needy? (Wait for it ...)

He didn't say the word G.O.D.

And if he didn't "say it" (the argument goes) how are we supposed to know who he's thanking? Examples include:
President Obama ripped by GOPers for leaving out God in his Thanksgiving speech
-- New York Daily News
Obama criticized for Thanksgiving remarks omitting God -- L.A. Times

And then there was Fox News columnist Todd Starnes who complained that the president's "remarks were void of any religious references although Thanksgiving is a holiday traditionally steeped in giving thanks and praise to God."
(Seriously -- this is all it takes these days to get Crabby Conservative Christian panties in a wad?)

So here's Chaplain Susan's remedial reading assignment for Crabby Christians Creeped out by President Obama's Compassionate Thanksgiving Address:
Matthew 7:21: Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
And if that doesn't do it, then take two Micah 6:8s and a Matthew 25:40 ... and DON'T call me in the morning. Go feed somebody who's hungry or donate some clothes to the shelter or visit a shut-in.

Because THAT'S what Jesus would do. Seriously.

UPDATE: Breaking News from
Conservatives are criticizing President Obama for not mentioning God in his weekly Internet address, which was about Thanksgiving. The President did, however, mention God in his Thanksgiving Proclamation. Sadly, for Republicans, neither of the top two GOP front runners mentioned God in their Thanksgiving statements. Oops.