Sunday, January 30, 2011

The question was: "Do you say all will be saved?"

I'm in Washington ... Tacoma to be exact. Here's the view from my very cool hotel window...

... where I've had an hour to "freshen up" before heading over to meet with the good folks from Equal Rights Washington for "Taking the Lead"... conversations about marriage equality and coalition builiding in faith communities. Good work. Exciting work. Work that it's an honor to be part of and work that I'm grateful All Saints supports me in doing on behalf of our wider witness to the church and to the world.

So ... since I had a few minutes here in the hotel ... I checked in and watched the end of the Rector's Forum with Fr. Roy Bourgeois (which was WONDERFUL ... do go visit our Forum Archives and check it out next week when the video's up. Trust me!)

And then I checked this blog to see if there were any comments that needed moderated. There were. And one of them was on the post a few days ago about the Christ Church video. The commenter went on for a bit and then ended with a question -- and the question was: "Do you say all will be saved?"

And what immediately came to my mind was this poem by Tobias Haller. I used it last year in my sermon on Healing Sunday and so am offering here ... somewhat on the run ... in answer to that question and in response to the seemingly overwhelming challenges facing us every time we dare to crawl out from under the covers and put our feet on the floor and head out to spend one more day trying to turn the human race into the human family ... to proclaim God's love, justice and compassion ... to work to make equality "the new normal."

More later. Sunday blessings, all!

Nothing will be lost
by Tobias Haller

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

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

“Yes,” says the Lord, “all will be restored.
Nothing will be lost.”

“How, Lord?” I ask.
“How will they be redeemed
who turn away? How will their blind eyes see?
How will their hard hearts melt?”

God answers patiently, “Love will turn them ‘round.

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

“When, Lord?” I ask.
“When will the wound be healed?”
“Don’t you know, my Child?” God answers.
“The healing has begun.
It started with the coming of my Son.

This was the new beginning,
just as long before,
when through him all that is was made.
The healing has begun.
Nothing will be lost.
All will be restored.”

“Is it really that simple?” I ask. “Can the wound be healed with a touch?”
“The healing will take a bit longer,” God answers, then pauses.

“O.K., I’ll be honest; it’s you subcontractors, the partners in redemption with my Son.

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

But you seem so intent on constructing outhouses, rock gardens and car parks!
Instead of a banqueting hall you construct fast-food stands!
There are times I regret I extended the work force past Yahweh & Son.
But what’s done is done.

The only thing in all my creation
I don’t mind losing is time.
I’ll have the job done right
if it takes forever,
and we’ll keep at it together until we get it right.

I am not a God of acceptable losses.
I won’t cut corners; cost overruns don’t phase me.
Nothing will be lost. All will be restored.”
And so, my beloved in Christ,

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

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


Become what you are and the world will be free. And that, my brothers and sisters, is my prayer for each and every one of you on this day. That the healing risen in the wings of the one who loved us enough to become one of us will surround you, fill you, transform and empower you to be all of who you were created to be. That every part of your body, soul, mind and spirit will be restored to a place of health wholeness -- and will rest in the assurance of divine, unalterable love. That God will send each and every one of us out to be vehicles of God’s love, blessing and healing – out into a world yearning to be free – free of violence, hunger, fear and hatred. To be conduits of that power behind us that is greater than the challenge ahead of us.

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

Friday, January 28, 2011

Statement from the Bishops of New York

Statement on the Murder of David Kato
by the Bishops of the Episcopal Diocese of New York

January 28, 2011

Like many around the world, we are horrified to learn of the vicious murder of Ugandan LGBT rights activist David Kato in Mukono, Kampala. Though the circumstances of Mr. Kato's death are still under investigation, we know that he, along with other activists in Uganda have lived under the threat of violence and imprisonment in recent times. Mr. Kato, who was the advocacy officer for Sexual Minorities Uganda, as well as Anglican Bishop Christopher Senyonjo and many others, was targeted last fall in a Ugandan magazine.

All LGBT persons along with their advocates are at risk due to the general hostility toward them in Uganda and, in particular, due to pending legislation which would call for imprisonment or even death.

We call upon all people of good will, and especially the people of the Episcopal Diocese of New York and our sister and brother Anglicans around the world, to stand in solidarity with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons, and to resist language, laws and actions which marginalize and even criminalize their relationships.

Further, given the current hostile climate in Uganda, we call upon the Anglican church of Uganda to speak up for human rights for all God's children. Further, we call upon the United States government to grant asylum to LGBT persons from Uganda and other nations where the threat of violence is great.

We pray for the repose of the soul of David Kato, for his family and friends as they mourn, and for the LGBT community in Uganda and their allies as they struggle for an end to the fear and violence, which threaten them every day.

The Rt. Rev. Mark S. Sisk
Bishop of New York

The Rt. Rev. Catherine S. Roskam
Bishop Suffragan of New York

The Rt. Rev. Andrew D. Smith
Assistant Bishop of New York

COMMENTARY: Anglicans respond to David Kato's murder with statements from our leaders and prayers from our pews

The news of the murder of gay human rights activist David Kato in Uganda this week was another tragic reminder of how far we have yet to go to become that "kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven" we pray for every Sunday. The power of violent words to incite violent actions has once again born deadly fruit and those who continue to fan the flames of hatred with homophobic rhetoric have blood on their hands as surely as those who bludgeoned David Kato to death.

Today my email inbox was full of reactions, questions, concerns and fears. But it was also full of strong statements by some key Anglican leaders and thoughtful prayers from an Anglican pew.

From the Archbishop of Canterbury:
"The brutal murder of David Kato Kisule, a gay human rights activist, is profoundly shocking. Our prayers and deep sympathy go out for his family and friends - and for all who live in fear for their lives. Whatever the precise circumstances of his death, which have yet to be determined, we know that David Kato Kisule lived under the threat of violence and death. No one should have to live in such fear because of the bigotry of others. Such violence has been consistently condemned by the Anglican Communion worldwide. This event also makes it all the more urgent for the British Government to secure the safety of LGBT asylum seekers in the UK. This is a moment to take very serious stock and to address those attitudes of mind which endanger the lives of men and women belonging to sexual minorities."
From the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church:
At this morning’s Eucharist at the Primates Meeting, I offered prayers for the repose of the soul of David Kato. His murder deprives his people of a significant and effective voice, and we pray that the world may learn from his gentle and quiet witness, and begin to receive a heart of flesh in place of a heart of stone. May he rest in peace, and may his work continue to bring justice and dignity for all God’s children.
And from Sarah in Colorado:
Dear Susan Russell,

My name is Sarah Adams, and I am just a lay person in the church; however, I read your e-mail concerning the murder of David Kato in Uganda. My heart wept wthin me and this morning I made the decision to be in prayer for David Kato, his family and his friends. Thank you for posting the e-mail so that others like myself could join in prayer too.

Many years ago, I wrote this poem based on the 23rd Psalm. I share this poem as a prayer for David today.

The Lord is my Shepherd

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in soft green grass.
And as I lay my head on this earth, my weary soul comes to rest.
My shepherd wakes me and takes my hand; he leads me beside a cool mountain stream..
I dance in her waters, I am refreshed. I leap in his arms and sigh.

As the sky darkens, the thunder roars; the rain pours upon me and I am alone.
But my shepherd's strong hands take me in his great arms, and he leads me along,
he leads me along, safe and warm through the storm.

And the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in soft green grass.
And as I lay my head on this earth, my weary soul comes to rest.

In prayer,
Sarah Adams, Denver Colorado
We pray in our "Prayers of the People" for "those whose lives are closely linked with ours." Today may we be given the grace to pray that prayer realizing that there is not a single member of the human family whose life is not in some mysterious way linked with ours. That all are equally created, loved and blessed by the God who loved us enough to become one of us to show us how to walk in love with each other. And then let's figure out how to work together -- whether we're an Archbishop in Canterbury, an activist in Uganda or "just a lay person" in Colorado -- to speak out, act up and end the blight homophobia once and for all.

(And just for the record, Sarah: there is no such thing as "just" a lay person. You rock!)

BREAKING NEWS: Archbishop of Canterbury on David Kato's Murder

released today from the Anglican Communion Office.

Archbishop condemns murder of Ugandan gay human rights activist
Friday 28 January 2011

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who is currently in Dublin for the Primates' meeting, has made the following statement regarding the murder of the gay human rights activist David Kato Kisulle in Uganda:
"The brutal murder of David Kato Kisule, a gay human rights activist, is profoundly shocking. Our prayers and deep sympathy go out for his family and friends - and for all who live in fear for their lives. Whatever the precise circumstances of his death, which have yet to be determined, we know that David Kato Kisule lived under the threat of violence and death. No one should have to live in such fear because of the bigotry of others. Such violence has been consistently condemned by the Anglican Communion worldwide. This event also makes it all the more urgent for the British Government to secure the safety of LGBT asylum seekers in the UK. This is a moment to take very serious stock and to address those attitudes of mind which endanger the lives of men and women belonging to sexual minorities."
Please take a minute to click here and thank Dr. Williams for this important statement. (It's never the wrong time to do the right thing!)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

US Secretary of State speaks out on David Kato murder. The Archbishop of Canterbury ... not so much.

Here's what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had to say in her statement about the murder of Ugandan human rights activist David Kato:
This crime is a reminder of the heroic generosity of the people who advocate for and defend human rights on behalf of the rest of us -- and the sacrifices they make. And as we reflect on his life, it is also an occasion to reaffirm that human rights apply to everyone, no exceptions, and that the human rights of LGBT individuals cannot be separated from the human rights of all persons.

Here's what the Archbishop of Canterbury has had to say so far:

That's right. NOTHING.

Stay tuned. And if you want to help turn up the pressure, join our Facebook Group ... created last year "in response to the Archbishop of Canterbury's failure to lead in overcoming homophobia in the Anglican Communion, this group is for those who want to send a respectful message of dissent to Lambeth Palace." We're at almost 6,000 strong. Join us!

"Kill the Gays" bill opponent killed in Uganda

from BBC News:

A Ugandan gay rights campaigner who last year sued a local newspaper which outed him as homosexual has been beaten to death, activists say. Police have confirmed the death of David Kato and say they have arrested one suspect. Uganda's Rolling Stone newspaper published the photographs of several people it said were gay next to a headline reading "Hang them."

Even more shocking, CNN reports that the editor of the paper disclaimed responsibility, saying, "When we called for hanging of gay people, we meant ... after they have gone through the legal process ... I did not call for them to be killed in cold blood like he was." Yet he was. Killed in cold blood. Yet another example of the power of violent words to incite violent actions.

The Human Rights Watch issued a statement calling for immediate investigation in Kato's death including this tribute to his work and witness by their senior Africa researcher:
David Kato’s death is a tragic loss to the human rights community. David had faced the increased threats to Ugandan LGBT people bravely and will be sorely missed.
So where's the voice of the church condemning this and other acts of violence against LGBT people? When will the Archbishop of Canterbury speak out on behalf of the voiceless victims of homophobia across the Communion he is so anxious to preserve? (And yes, this is the same article that included the name and photo of our friend, Anglican Bishop Christopher Senyonjo.)

If we -- all of us -- everywhere across this Big Fat Anglican Family of ours -- from Canterbury to Kampala to Kalamazoo -- spent more of our time speaking out for "the least of these" who are members of the Body of Christ and less of our time fretting about the institutional unity of the Anglican Communion maybe, just maybe, we'd make some strides in eradicating the scourge of homophobia and the kingdom would be a little closer to coming.

Prayers for David Kato. For the repose of his soul and for comfort to those who loved him and grieve his passing. May he rest in peace and rise in glory. And may we be given the grace to continue his work and witness.

Christ Church, Philadelphia: Celebrating our history and growing into God's future

Fredrica Harris Thompsett once wrote that knowing our history is how we get a running start on our future.

So today take the ten minutes you'll need to set aside to watch this ... a truly inspiring look into the work and witness of Christ Church, Philadelphia. It's a great follow up to our discussions yesterday about the demise of the Episcopal Church being as greatly exaggerated in our time as Mark Twain's was in his. And it's a look into the history of The Episcopal Church that continues to grow into God's future ... firmly planted in its history.

Because it IS part of our history to change -- to grow -- to adapt -- yes, to "revision" -- as we grow more fully into the church God is calling us to be. Not everybody is happy, comfortable or on board with that. And that is nothing new. In fact, it's part of our tradition.

As long as we've had Evensong, incense, acolytes and vestries we've had arguments about music ("Who picked THAT hymn?"), incense (for and against), acolytes (what kind of shoes they should wear and who got to serve) and vestries (a list too long to note here!) And -- as you'll see in this video -- churches have over and over again had to meet the challenge of changing demographics and discern how they are called to serve the neighbors God calls us to love as ourselves.

Christ Church is just one example of how the Episcopal Church has and is meeting that challenge today as it has in the past. So sit back. Take ten minutes. Enjoy.

Transforming Churches - Christ Church, Philadelphia from The Episcopal Church on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Lo, how a camellia e'er blooming!

Signs of spring outside my office door!

The Episcopal Church: We're kinda like Mark Twain

According to this Lead article on The Episcopal Cafe, The Institute for Religion & Democracy has lowered its expectations:
This strife within the third largest family of Christian churches worldwide will not conclude in decisive schism. Instead, liberal and conservative Anglicans will continue to realize a de-facto separation over time.
So I guess that gives us something in common with Mark Twain in that the rumors of our death have been as greatly exaggerated as his were! Looks like we'll all just keep muddling along in historic Anglican style -- putting up with those we dislike and disagree with in spite of the histrionics on the sidelines.

All of which reminds me of a piece I wrote "way back" in 2003: What if they gave a schism and nobody came?
Again this morning my email inbox was full of warnings of impending schism in the Episcopal Church. The drum beats of division that have been pounding as the Claiming the Blessing initiative gained momentum and support have risen to a crescendo with the election June 7th of the Reverend Canon Gene Robinson as Bishop Coadjutor in the Diocese of New Hampshire. "Grave concern over a great crisis" write the bishops of South Carolina. "Never before has the church faced such a challenge," wrote a General Convention Deputy. "Schism is inevitable," say the leaders of the American Anglican Council.

"Or not," is my reply.

What it takes to create schism is for someone to leave - and I am sick unto death with the unity of this church being placed on the shoulders of those of us who have committed to stay. When are we going to hold accountable those who threaten to leave? When will we name the actions of those who have conspired with factions of the larger Anglican communion to actively oppress and marginalize its GLBT members with what it is: fomenting schism - creating conflict - sacrificing the unity of the church to their own agenda of power, control and heterosexism?

If schism happens - and I am convinced it will not - the blame will lie not with Claiming the Blessing, the Diocese of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson or the countless GLBT Christians living out their faith journeys in the Episcopal Church. It will lie firmly at the feet of those whose will to power is greater than their willingness to embrace the other, whose commitment to crisis is greater than their faith in the Gospel and whose singular obsession with things sexual has blinded them to the Spirit's revelation via things incarnational.

The cornerstone of the Claiming the Blessing initiative has been this citation from the second chapter of Genesis: "I will bless you so that you will be a blessing." The blessing of life-long, committed relationships of people who love each other and love Jesus will not split this church - they will bless this church. The election of one of the finest priests in the communion to take his place in the House of Bishops will not split this church - it will bless this church. Committed to stay in conversation with each other we will weather this storm as we have weathered the others that doomsayers have predicted would destroy this great church of ours - and we can get back to the business of being a blessing.
Now even the IRD weather report says we're weathering the storm. And that, my brothers and sisters, is very good news, indeed!

Note to Chicken Little: the sky isn't actually falling, either.)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

So whatja think????


[The President] shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient. -- U.S. Constitution, Article 2, Section 3
Here was my favorite quote ...
"What comes of this moment is up to us. The question is not whether we can sit together tonight but whether we can work together tomorrow."
... which led to my summary of SOTU-2011:
THAT'S the country we want back: the one that works together to solve problems led by a smart president who has both a vocabulary and a vision.
And then there was the Fox "News" "fair-and-balanced" online poll:

Were You Swayed By Obama's Speech?

  • More -- He seems sincere in his desire to create jobs and get America back on track. I'm willing to give him a fair chance.

  • Maybe -- I'm still not convinced he "gets it."

  • Less -- I heard more of the same liberal agenda and not enough of what most Americans want and this nation needs.

  • (Onward and upward!)

    Nothing to do with "all" at all!

    This just in via Episcopal Cafe:
    The Anglican Communion needs to give the Lambeth Conference and the Primates’ Meeting a Conciliar authority in matters of faith and order, including the area of interpretation of the Scriptures. The principle of: ‘What affects all, should be decided by all’ is crucial to avoid further crisis.-- Archbishop Mouneer Anis
    That would be the principle of "decided by all" that excludes priests, deacons and laity from the decision making process. A "decided by all" that under-represents women and excludes LGBT voices. In other words, a "decided by all" that has nothing to do with "all" at all!

    The mind boggles.

    Monday, January 24, 2011

    Why it pays to know our history

    You can set your clock by it: the "you people are trying to re-write the Bible" arguments from those who take Holy Scripture as the Literal Words -- rather than the Living Word -- of God. Here's a great response to one of those arguments from a frequent commenter on this blog. (Thanks, "uffda51")
    It’s not about the myriad translations and versions of the BibleIt’s about the historical and cultural context in which it was written and the recognition of the influence of the Holy Sprit over time.

    This was the language used by my Rhode Island Puritan ancestors in the 17th century to justify slavery.

    "Unless the heathen were acquainted with the Gospel, eternal misery would be their lot in the after life. Therefore, any suffering that the slaves might experience on the slave ship or in slavery was more than compensated for by their fortunate delivery from a life of idolatry and savagery.

    A slave trader could piously rejoice that an overruling Providence had been pleased to bring to this land of freedom another cargo of benighted heathen to enjoy the blessings of a Gospel dispensation." (Of course the “land of freedom” (New England) first had to cleared of Native Americans, who were either killed or enslaved, in King Phillip’s War, arguably the bloodiest war in American history.)

    The “majority of practicing Christians in the world” at the time used the Bible to "feel superior" to Africans and Native Americans just as many Christians still use the Bible to feel superior to LGBT persons. Pious and patriarchal “delivery from a life of idolatry and savagery” is simply an earlier version of “love the sinner, hate the sin.”

    Sunday, January 23, 2011

    A moving tribute to life, love and family values

    My Sunday paper is still in the blue plastic wrapper (it's been that kind of Sunday) but this moving tribute to the life of Maurice Mannion-Vanover was posted by my friend Susie Erdy on Facebook ... and I wanted to share it here, as well, in celebration of his life AND in tribute to life, love and family values.

    Against All Odds, a Beautiful Life [source link]

    Some things we know for sure — a little boy dealt a seemingly impossible hand, the two gay men who decided to give him a home and a life, the unlikely spell cast by the only horse in Montclair.

    Beyond that, well, it was what you could never quite know as much as what you could that drew 500 people, friends and strangers, to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on Saturday to ponder the lesson in grace and resilience, the parable of good lives and deeds outside the prescribed lines, in the remarkably long and way-too-short life of Maurice Mannion-Vanover, dead at the age of 20 on Jan. 14.

    Few people begin life with so many strikes against them as Maurice had when he was born with AIDS on Sept. 11, 1990, to a crack-addicted mother in a hospital in Washington. There were physical and developmental issues severe enough that his twin sister, Michelle Reed, lived only 20 months. Deserted by his parents, he got his first break in 1993 when two men, intent on caring for a baby with serious physical needs, agreed to take him in.

    The two, who came to be known as the Tims, Tim Mannion and Tim Vanover, were told he would probably live six months. But, to everyone’s amazement, he began to thrive. He gained weight. His T-cell count steadily increased. In 1996, they adopted him, becoming the first gay couple in Washington to adopt a child. A year later, they adopted a second son, Kindoo, eight years older. When Tim Vanover got a new job in New York, they moved to Montclair in 1998.

    Eventually, the family of two white gay men and two black children became two men, two children and one horse, Rocky, short for Rockefeller. The Tims bought Rocky, a 4-year-old cross between a Morgan and a quarter horse, for $3,500 in 2002 and gave him to Maurice on Christmas Eve.

    Montclair, a densely populated suburb, isn’t exactly horse country, but they had a double lot with an old carriage house near downtown. And Maurice had fallen in love with horses, almost transformed by their presence. Atop a horse, seemingly glued to the saddle, the slender child seemed to blossom, his back straighter, his eyes brighter, as if on top not of a horse, but of the world.

    To say this was a blessing for Maurice is an understatement. But it wasn’t just for Maurice. Before long, everyone in Montclair, certainly every kid, knew about the house with the horse and the incredibly lucky kid who owned him. And before long, the intersection of Union and Harrison was a mecca for children and a magnet for passers-by, invariably greeted with a wave from Maurice and often a greeting from Rocky, who trotted up to view neighbors each day on their way to work.

    It’s not as if everything went smoothly. Far from it. Maurice’s health could be precarious, like the heart condition that almost killed him in 1998.

    Rocky sometimes got free, galloping down busy Harrison Avenue, where the New Jersey Transit buses go, then eating some of the neighbors’ flowers. And the Tims — stout, outgoing Tim Vanover and thin, more reserved Tim Mannion — broke up, but only as a couple, not as Maurice’s fathers, choosing to live together and continue to raise him.

    None of that affected Maurice, who became a fixture in his neighborhood and church, a Buddha smile always on his face, the iPod — full of Ella Fitzgerald, Edith Piaf, “The Lion King” — seemingly permanently attached. He graduated from a special-education high school, traveled to Central America, Europe and Africa with his fathers, volunteered at the church food ministry. On Dec. 12, he became a black belt in tae kwon do. He wanted to live on his own and become an elementary school teacher’s aide.

    And then on a trip to Toronto in January with Mr. Vanover, he got sick. Then he got sicker. There was pneumonia, sepsis, acute renal failure. “It’s time,” he said several times, seemingly in his normal, slightly Delphic voice. No one knew quite what he meant, but it didn’t occur to anyone it meant that this was all the time he had. But it was.

    Making sense of it all goes far beyond the known facts of Maurice, the Tims and Rocky the Horse: the way his beloved dog, Hunter, keeled over and died a few hours after Maurice passed on; the way Rocky took Mr. Vanover’s head with his own and drew it close to him, as if sharing grief in a hug. Before the funeral service, Rocky, the Tims and Kindoo walked to the church in front of the hearse. Maurice’s priest and friend, the Rev. John A. Mennell, recalled his incandescent smile, his cut-to-the-chase greetings, his unerring instinct for doing the right thing, if not always the proper one.

    He recalled the day Maurice was helping with the collection plate.

    “You can do better,” Maurice said amiably to one congregant. It was the story of his life. You can do better, he said, and without quite knowing it, everyone did.


    Friday, January 21, 2011

    BREAKING NEWS from the Diocese of Virginia

    With thanks to Episcopal Cafe for the link to the Bishop of Viriginia's 2011 Pastoral Address -- which included the call for the election of a Bishop Suffragan (in April 2012) and this statement on the blessing of same-gender unions:

    You may remember that I have always affirmed that committed, monogamous same-gender relationships can indeed be faithful in the Christian life. Therefore, I plan also to begin working immediately with those congregations that want to establish the parameters for the “generous pastoral response” that the 2009 General Convention called for with respect to same-gender couples in Episcopal churches.

    Personally, it is my hope that the 2012 General Convention will authorize the formal blessing of same-gender unions for those clergy in places that want to celebrate them. Until then, we might not be able to do all that we would want to do but, in my judgment, it is right to do something and it is time to do what we can.

    Bravo, Bishop Johnston! Bravo!

    [If you'd like to join me in sending him a note of thanks for his powerful prophetic and pastoral words, then click here.]

    Thursday, January 20, 2011

    LOVE this "Google" Doodle for today: The 50th Anniversary of JFK's Inaugural Address

    "Now the trumpet summons us again—not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are—but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, "rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation"—a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself." - JFK

    Wednesday, January 19, 2011

    It's never to late to do the right thing

    The Anglican Cycle of Prayer for 2011 has been updated (hat-tip to Christian Paolino) to include the current bishops suffragan of the Diocese of Los Angeles.

    Saturday 22-Jan-2011
    Psalm: 98: 1-4 Isa. 45: 9-13
    Los Angeles - (Province VIII, USA) The Rt Revd Joseph Jon Bruno
    1. Suffragan Bishop of Los Angeles - (Province VIII, USA) The Rt Revd Mary D Glasspool
    2. Suffragan Bishop of Los Angeles - (Province VIII, USA) The Rt Revd Diane Jardine Bruce
    O God, by your grace you have called us in this Diocese to a goodly fellowship of faith. Bless our Bishops Jon, Diane and Mary, our other clergy, and all our people. Grant that your Word may be truly preached and truly heard, your Sacraments faithfully administered and faithfully received. By your Spirit, fashion our lives according to the example of your Son, and grant that we may show the power of your love to all among whom we live; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

    Monday, January 17, 2011

    A Post-Tucson Observation

    I saw it on Facebook this afternoon ... PBS's Mark Shields sharing this Post-Tucson observation by Maine historian Allen Ginsberg:
    "Last week we saw a white Catholic male Republican judge murdered on his way to greet a Democratic Jewish woman member of Congress, who was his friend. Her life was saved initially by a 20-year-old Mexican-American gay college student, and eventually by a Korean American combat surgeon, and this all was eulogized by our African American President. That's a remarkable statement about our country." ~ Mark Shields, PBS<>
    And I couldn't resist sharing it (there and here) on this Martin Luther King Day.

    I think it's a window of hope that while we may not yet be the nation Dr. King dreamed we will be one day, we are further on the road toward that dream because of him and others who dared to dream, to challenge and to love our country into making liberty and justice for all a reality we live -- not just a pledge we make.

    Random thoughts on MLK Day 2011

    The first email I got this morning was from Louie Crew reminding me that today is the 13th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. (Thanks, Louie!) And the second was a link to the 1974 essay Louie wrote reflecting on the work and witness of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Thanks, Walking With Integrity.)

    So all mushed together in my reflections this morning are thoughts about priestly vocation and prophetic voices; about history observed and future unfolding; about how far we've come and about how "stuck" we are.

    For example this quote that seems so very germane to our striving to be a "Post-Tucson" America ...
    "Hate at any point is a cancer that gnaws away at the very vital center of your life and your existence. It is like eroding acid that eats away the best and the objective center of your life. So Jesus says love, because hate destroys the hater as well as the hated." -- from a 1957 sermon by MLKing Jr.
    ...written over a half-century ago. If only we could have learned that lesson then, how different our world would be now.

    And this excerpt from "Martin Luther King, Jr: A White Southerner's Perspective" -- Louie's 1974 essay written for "The Living Church:"
    It did not take long for me to see that the violence my people feared from Dr. King was the violence of our own nature. His doctrine of love exposed us, as spiritually impoverished. Without this painful exposure, few of us would have done much to remedy our plight.
    ... which still speaks to us thirty-plus years later as we continue to work to expose and heal the deeply internalized diseases of racism, sexism, heterosexism/homophobia ... of all those spiritual impoverishments that keep us from living into the full stature of our lives in Christ.
    And I'm still thinking about the Susannah Heschel quote I posted the other day on this blog ... one the rector used in his sermon yesterday:
    “Words, [my father] often wrote, are themselves sacred, God’s own tool for creating the universe, and our tools for bringing holiness—or evil— into the world. He used to remind us that the Holocaust did not begin with the building of crematoria, and Hitler did not come to power with tanks and guns; it all began with uttering evil words, with defamation, with language and propaganda. Words create worlds." -- Susannah Heschel, speaking of her father, Rabbi Abraham Heschel

    (You can watch Ed's sermon here.)
    And I'm thinking about the challenge of challenging the evils that confront us while still respecting the dignity of every human being ... even those we most disagree with; who most challenge us; who TOTALLY push our buttons; who use "evil words" to create worlds of division, polarization, discrimination and death.

    So back to Dr. King's 1957 sermon:
    “There is a power in love that our world has not discovered yet. Jesus discovered it centuries ago. Mahatma Gandhi of India discovered it a few years ago, but most men and most women never discover it. For they believe in hitting for hitting; they believe in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth; they believe in hating for hating; but Jesus comes to us and says, “This isn’t they way”.

    ...There is another way. And that is to organize mass non-violent resistance based on the principle of love. It seems to me that this is the only way as our eyes look to the future. As we look out across the years and across the generations, let us develop and move right here. We must discover the power of love, the power, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that we will be able to make of this old world a new world. We will be able to make men better. Love is the only way."
    Jesus incarnated it. Martin proclaimed it. May we be given the grace to follow it.

    Here endeth the blog.

    Saturday, January 15, 2011


    In the beginning was the Word.
    “Words, [my father] often wrote, are themselves sacred, God’s own tool for creating the universe, and our tools for bringing holiness—or evil— into the world. He used to remind us that the Holocaust did not begin with the building of crematoria, and Hitler did not come to power with tanks and guns; it all began with uttering evil words, with defamation, with language and propaganda. Words create worlds." -- Susannah Heschel, speaking of her father, Rabbi Abraham Heschel
    Food for thought -- with thanks to Ed Bacon for the quote -- as we continue think about what it means to "recalculate our rhetoric" and align both our work and our words with God's love, justice and compassion.

    Words of Wisdom for Would-be Presbyters

    I’m writing this on the plane flying home from Atlanta where we just finished a VERY packed 48 hour planning meeting. It was a “site visit” for the coming-up-in-March church-wide consultation on the process of implementing General Convention 2009 Resolution C056 and its call for the collection and development of resources for the blessing of same gender unions.

    I continue to be so very excited, gratified and honored to be part of such an extraordinary opportunity to engage so intentionally in these wide ranging theological, liturgical and pastoral reflections – in consultation with the House of Bishops – with the wider church. So there’ll be lots more about all that to come. [Keep an eye on the SCLM blog in the meantime.]

    But – speaking of the “wider church” – this flight seemed like a good time to make good on my intention to follow up with some reflection on my week-before-last invitation to leaders from around the Episcopal Church to send “words of wisdom for new presbyters” as part of the pre-ordination retreat I had been asked to facilitate here in the Diocese of Los Angeles. [I blogged a bit about it at the time.]

    I had no idea what I’d get … what we’d get. I wondered if any of the really busy, faithful, fabulous people I sent that after-8 p.m.-on-a-Tuesday-night email would either have or take time to respond.

    But respond they did! In all twenty-eight emails from a decidedly unscientific cross-section of folks in my Outlook Contact List. Parish priests and seminary deans. Activists and academics; clergy and laity. Bishops and Deputies. A priest who’s been retired for 20 years and one who’s been ordained for 6.

    One sent a sentence:
    "Love them" first, last and always.

    Another sent two:
    God is immensely good, all the time, whether we are at our best or not.
    We have the privilege of pointing to God's goodness in the work that we do, and not be thought fools for doing so!

    One sent “bullet points” to consider:
    Transparency leads to authenticity
    • Anxious leadership causes flaps but non-anxious leadership moves people ahead
    • We learn more from our mistakes than our successes so take appropriate risks

    Another sent a question to ask:
    Ask yourself: Am I living my vocation, my ministry, my job, my relationships, my life in such a way it would make no sense did God not exist?

    Others sent poems, quotes from novels, and … well: why don’t you see for yourself? Here’s just a sampling of the wisdom for new presbyters – culled from the wisdom offered in those email offerings from the church they have now been ordained to serve.

    In reading through them again this evening … on this plane somewhere between DFW and BUR … and I’m impressed, amazed and inspired all over again at the grace-filled power of these words offered by these many faithful servants to ordinands they mostly do not know, likely will never meet and with whom they have no connection. Except of course that “tie that binds” we sing about and those “lives closely linked with ours” we pray about.

    So read. Mark. Learn. Inwardly digest. And give thanks – with me – for them. For their work, for their witness and for their words. AND for the church we serve together – for the Good News of God in Christ Jesus we offer in our varied and wonderful ways.
    Words of Wisdom for New Presbyters: (bits and pieces from a great cloud of witnesses!)
    Take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both: The challenge is to "interpret newspapers from your Bible." And when you tell your congregation your interpretation, keep it simple. And have fun!

    I would encourage all those about to be ordained to sacramental ministry always to remember to engage with each and every body with as much reverence as we are taught to treat the bread and wine on the table at which it is our privilege to preside.

    Take the time to learn Robert's Rules of Order. People in power have long used them to hang onto their power. We who desire to enact the words of the Magnificat would be well advised to 'read, mark, learn and inwardly digest and then USE Robert's Rules.

    Love the people you serve. Notice them. They carry gifts and experiences that will take your breath away. Even the difficult ones are often difficult because they walk through their lives damaged and burdened by things no one would ever guess. But you don't have to guess -- they'll let you in if you give them cause to trust you. The degree to which people let us in to their lives, show us their wounds and their griefs and concerns, is (literally) awesome -- wondrous and terrifying. It's a breath-taking gift they offer us and a stunning responsibility.

    There are basically two rules for ministry:
    1. You cannot do everything.
    2. You cannot change number 1.

    Remember who you are. Remember Who God is. Wake up every morning "in love with the unexpected visitations of the Spirit." And when you cease to weep with your people who are grieving, you know it is time to retire.

    Ordination is never a reason or an excuse to cease to exercise our prophetic voices. The prophetic voice of the Gospel of Jesus Christ has always carried consequences with it. If we are not willing to take on the responsibilities and the consequences for exercising that prophetic voice, then we should question whether we have really been called to be ordained as a minister of that Gospel. Laying hands for ordination should not result in the removal of the spine.

    “Even the colors of the world can switch headquarters and meanings on you and in minutes. The right answer one second is such a wrong answer the very next one.”

    "Be watchful not to put the church before God's mission. Remember, it's not about the church but rather God's restoring, reconciling love for all people in Jesus Christ. There is nothing the evil one wants more than for us who are ordained to be so worried about the church that we neglect God's mission in the world."

    A Poem for Priests in These Difficult Times - Author unknown

    The day you were called
    to break bread for a living,
    was the day you were called
    to be broken.
    The days you spend bending over bread
    are spent
    around a mystery of fraction.
    If you are indeed, broken,
    you need to gather up each other’s fragments,
    and remember how,
    through you,
    God feeds so many
    with so little.

    And finally:

    Fear not. Embrace the joy of this weekend and then roll up your sleeves. The kingdom of God needs you.

    And let the people say, AMEN!

    Thursday, January 13, 2011

    Recalculating Our Rhetoric

    Yes, I'm still thinking about the whole GPS thing. The idea of "recalculating" as a key component on our journey is one that's been rattling around in my head ever since our "Excellent European Adventure" last summer ... and the sermon I preached about the GPS as a metaphor for how the Holy Spirit works in our lives.

    And it's certainly been "front and center" for the last week as we've listened to the rancorous ramping-up of the rhetoric ABOUT rancorous rhetoric. It's what I thought about when I listened to these words from Keith Olbermann in his special commentary on the Tucson shootings:
    "Violence, or the threat of violence, has no place in our Democracy, and I apologize for and repudiate any act or any thing in my past that may have even inadvertently encouraged violence. Because for whatever else each of us may be, we all are Americans."
    In that apology Keith was recalculating his rhetoric and repudiating any language that might have -- inadvertently or otherwise -- encouraged violence. And in that moment I heard a call for us ... whatever our political, theological or ideological perspective .... to take a long, hard look at both the words we use and the way we use them. Not just some of us. All of us.

    I do believe we are on a journey as a nation toward what has been called "a more perfect union." But we're not there yet. And I am convinced -- never more so that this week -- that in order to someday "arrive at destination" we must THIS day listen to the GPS calling us to recalculate our rhetoric.

    Here's how my president -- our president -- said it last night in his knock-your-socks-off, grand slam, give-you-chill-bumps, pass-the-Kleenex speech/sermon from the University of Arizona.
    At a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized - at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do - it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.

    To pause. To recalculate our rhetoric. And then to move forward again -- no less committed to the values that fuel our journey and feed our souls but equally committed to respecting the dignity of those who disagree with us -- and to finding ways to challenge their perspective while honoring their personhood.

    Tall order? You betcha. If we're honest I think every single one of us has a list of people we would happily take a "get out of the baptismal covenant free" card if there was such a thing. Which there is not. Instead there is the call to respect the dignity of EVERY human being ... and the challenge to recalculate our rhetoric when it falls short of that core baptismal value.

    And there is a story we know that tells us how to meet that challenge:

    An elder Native American was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said to them, "A fight is going on inside me. It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

    The other stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith."
    "This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too," he added.
    The Grandchildren thought about it for a minute and then one child asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?"

    The old Cherokee simply replied ... "The one you feed."
    The one we feed will win.

    So which one will we feed? Which rhetoric will we applaud, tweet, "share" and repeat? Which candidates will get our support, our contributions and our votes? The ones who continue to polarize, victimize and demonize or the ones who are willing to pause -- to reflect -- to recalculate?

    We hear a lot about the "new normal" these days ... and maybe, just maybe, that "new normal" can become about more than just a changed economic reality that challenges us to rethink old paradigms and expectations. Maybe it can be about refusing to feed the wolf of polarization, victimization and demonization within us. And to challenge our politicians, our pundits and ourselves to recalculate our rhetoric. To -- in the words of President Obama's tribute to Christina Taylor Green -- "do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children's expectations."

    Ready. Set. Recalculate.

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011

    If you missed it ...

    You can read it here.

    Or you can watch it here.

    And yes, I cried. The kind of tears your President is supposed to cause you to shed. Here in my chilly Atlanta hotel room "at work in the fields of the Lord" with the SCLM C056 Blessings Bunch. I missed it "live" but caught it on a CPAN replay ... and I'll have more to say tomorrow. Or the next day -- tomorrow's a pretty full planning agenda. But for now, a couple of favorite quotes from an extraordinary speech and an extraordinarily powerful moment of hope and healing.

    "Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together."

    "We recognize our own mortality, and are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame - but rather, how well we have loved, and what small part we have played in bettering the lives of others."

    And let the people say, AMEN. And pass the Kleenex.

    Monday, January 10, 2011

    Yes, God is an Omnipotent Homophobe with Anger Management Issues and Dead Birds are the Result of the Repeal of DADT

    You can't make this stuff up, kids. (Or rather: You CAN make this stuff up ... and they are ... and they're making God look REALLY bad as a result.)

    Sunday, January 09, 2011

    Muslim "Human Shield" Defends Coptic Christians From Terorism

    [Ready for a little GOOD News?]

    Thousands of Egyptian Muslims Show Up as "Human Shields" to Defend Coptic Christians From Terrorism

    by: Zaid Jilani ThinkProgress Report

    On New Year’s Day, a devastating terrorist bombing at a Coptic church in Egypt killed 21 people and injured 79 others. Although the identity of the culprits was not known, it was assumed that they were Muslim extremists, intent on targeting those they saw as heretics. Religious tensions immediately rose in the country, and angry Copts stormed streets, battled with police, and even vandalized a nearby mosque. The riots and heightened tensions between the Muslim and Coptic communities was likely what the terrorists wanted — to divide the Egyptian community and create sectarian strife between different religious groups.

    Yet by Coptic Christmas Eve, which took place Thursday night in Egypt, things had changed completely. As Egyptian Copts attended mass at churches across the country, “thousands” of Muslims, including “the two sons of President Hosni Mubarak,” joined them, acting as “human shields” to protect from terrorist attacks by extremists.

    The Muslims organized under the slogan “We either live together, or we die together,” inspired by Mohamed El-Sawy, an Egyptian artist.

    Read the rest here.

    Saturday, January 08, 2011

    We pray for those whose lives are closely linked with ours.

    Of priests and preachers and speaking for the soul

    It was ordination day here in the Diocese of Los Angeles.

    As I noted in this blog a few days ago, I had the privilege of leading the retreat for the ordinands -- and so today's celebration of their joining the ranks of "presbyters in the Church of God" was ... for me ... a particular delight.

    It was a great service ... as I hope this slide show of snaps will illustrate ... and it was in some ways a deeply holy irony that as we were ordaining these new priests to go out into the broken world to proclaim the Good News of God in Christ Jesus the broken world got a little more broken by the sad and shocking events in Tucson, Arizona. (More about that in a moment.)

    The preacher today was Canon James Blair White -- a long time lay leader here in the diocese and the co-chair of our Commission on Ministry. Jim is also a founding member of Claiming the Blessing and Integrity's diocesan coordinator -- and one of my best friends. You can read his whole sermon here ... but I want to excerpt "the charge:"
    This assignment didn’t come with an instruction manual, but at every ordination I’ve ever been to, the preacher always has the ordinands stand and gives them a charge. So I don’t want you to be cheated just because you drew a preacher who didn’t know what he was doing. So, Ordinands, will you now stand?

    I don’t know if you know it, but the Commission on Ministry publishes several documents that describe what it is we’re looking for in people called to ordained ministry – and I mean pages and pages. And while I’ve been part of developing some of that material, there are really only three things that I look for.

    First, does this person have an infectious love of Jesus? You may have been hearing for some time now that it’s all about the sacraments – or the liturgy, or preaching or pastoral care or whatever. And, yes, all of those things are important. But in the end, it’s all about Jesus. George Regas – by the way, whose sermon prayer I used to begin here today – thank you, George – anyway, George once told me that a preacher can’t preach about the transforming power of God’s love if that person hasn’t been transformed by it her (or him) self. So, tell us your story. Help us get to know the God who has changed you. Help us to be changed ourselves. Bring more people to that love.

    Secondly, is this a person who can gather a community? Some of that is about inborn charisma, but much of it is about making your community of faith a place that people want to be a part of. Develop your skills as a speaker and teacher and friend – and help the people with whose care you have been entrusted to develop an attractiveness, too. Teach graciousness, hospitality and friendliness – and teach it by being it yourself.

    Finally, I ask, will this person be an example of a holy life? Even though we know that God’s love is given freely and unconditionally, most of us think that we’re supposed to be doing more – maybe not so much to earn it, but at least to be holding up our end of the relationship. So we need you to show us how to do that. Teach us to pray. Teach us to give. Teach us to see Jesus in everyone we encounter. And teach us to help bring about God’s kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven.

    Do all these things and the church – and the world – will be blessed by your ministry. God bless you.


    The church and the world will be blessed by their ministries -- just as we were blessed by Jim's words today. As we were blessed by Bishop Glasspool presiding at the first ordination of priests of her episcopate. And as I was blessed by the opportunity to be invited into the privilege of preparing new presbyters for their work of living God's love into the world.

    Finally, if you -- like me -- are still trying to work through all the emotions and feelings and fears and joys of this rather extraordinary day, I commend this Beliefnet piece by Diana Butler Bass ... challenging preachers to "Speak for the Soul."

    At their best, American pulpits are not about taking sides and blaming. Those pulpits should be places to reflect on theology and life, on the Word and our words. I hope that sermons tomorrow will go beyond expressions of sympathy or calls for civility and niceness. Right now, we need some sustained spiritual reflection on how badly we have behaved in recent years as Americans--how much we've allowed fear to motivate our politics, how cruel we've allowed our discourse to become, how little we've listened, how much we've dehumanized public servants, how much we hate.

    Sunday January 9 is the day on which many Christians celebrate the Baptism of Jesus: "When Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.'" Jesus' baptism in water symbolizes life, the newness that comes of cleansing. But there is a darker symbol of baptism in American history: that of blood. In 1862, Episcopal bishop Stephen Elliot of Georgia said, "All nations which come into existence . . . must be born amid the storm of revolution and must win their way to a place in history through the baptism of blood." Baptism as water? Baptism as blood? Baptism accompanied by a dove or baptism accompanied by the storm of revolution?

    American Christianity is deeply conflicted, caught between two powerful symbols of baptism, symbols that haunt our political sub-consciousness. To which baptism are we called? Which baptism does the world most need today? Which baptism truly heals? Do we need the water of God, or the blood of a nine-year old laying on a street in Tucson? The answer is profoundly and simply obvious. We need redemption gushing from the rivers of God's love, not that of blood-soaked sidewalks.

    If we don't speak for the soul, our silence will surely aid evil.
    And let the people say "Amen."

    Friday, January 07, 2011

    A Muslim reflection on Islamist radicalism

    From an op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal:
    The holy texts of Islam emphasize that one's greatest allegiance should be to justice—superseding family and co-religionist ties. "Be strict in observing justice, and be witness for Allah, even though it be against yourselves or against your parents or kindred," the Quran says in chapter 4, verse 36.

    Justice is the cornerstone of Islamic life—despite the appalling reality of many Muslim-majority countries today. Every faithful Muslim must contribute to the preservation of justice within their society.
    Read the rest here.

    Thursday, January 06, 2011

    This one's a "keeper"

    Every once in awhile you read something that clearly and concisely says something that you wish you'd said so clearly and concisely the dozens of times you've tried to say the same thing and not ended up with anything nearly so clear and concise.

    In this case, it's Katherine Ragsdale's rebuttal to the "marriage equality threatens the sanctity of marriage and violates the religious liberty of those in favor of marriage discrimination" argument. It's what we call "a keeper" -- and here it is:
    Let's be clear. The fact that the State authorizes a marriage in no way compels any Church to perform or recognize it. As priests, we are entitled to refuse to perform any marriage for any reason. Roman Catholics routinely demonstrate this liberty when they refuse to perform marriages of divorced persons, even though the State allows them to do so. Similarly, they refuse to recognize marriages of non-Roman Catholics even though the State has issued a license. Political arguments against states allowing same-sex marriages and the federal government recognizing these marriages that claim it would violate the “sanctity” of marriage and force churches to do something contrary to their teaching or their conscience, are blatantly misleading and dishonest. Marriage equality merely guarantees equality under the law to all citizens; it does not compel churches to do anything.
    And let the people say:

    (And if "the people" want to read the rest of Katherine's reflection on her recent marriage, they should click here.)

    Requiescat Bishop Paul Egertson (ECLA)

    Sad news just received from our bishops' office -- the passing of our friend, Bishop Paul Egertson.

    "The Diocese of Los Angeles, together with the wider Church, joins in remembering a beloved friend and colleague, retired Bishop Paul Egertson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, who died suddenly yesterday afternoon at his home in Thousand Oaks, California.

    We pray for his wife, Shirley, their six sons, and all the Egertson family, as well as Bishop Dean Nelson and the people of the Southwest California Synod. Funeral arrangements are pending, and services will be announced as soon as further information is available.

    Bishop Egertson led the ELCA's Glendale-based Southwest California Synod from 1995 to 2001. An active and esteemed partner in ministry, he shared deeply in ecumenical and interfaith collaboration -- and together with the Bishops of this Diocese, he joined in shaping a vibrant local expression of the full communion between the ELCA and the Episcopal Church.

    Full communion between the two denominations was inaugurated 10 years ago today, January 6, 2001, the Feast of the Epiphany, with a widely attended service in Washington National Cathedral.

    Bishop Egertson was a regular participant in the life of this Diocese and will be greatly missed. He was a caring pastor, a compelling professor at California Lutheran University, and a tireless advocate for peace and justice, especially the civil rights of LGBT sisters and brothers in the Church and beyond.

    Bishop Egertson's bold, prophetic leadership was instrumental in changes of policy enacted by the ELCA General Assembly in 2009 by adoption of the statement "Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust." The Assembly also passed a resolution that changes be made to churchwide policy documents to make it possible for people in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve as rostered leaders in the ELCA.

    Locally this summer, the LGBT ministries of the Synod and this Diocese came together for a street Eucharist in West Hollywood. Bishop Egertson was celebrant, and Bishop Glasspool preached. We could not have known then it was one of the last times we would see our beloved brother bishop.

    Paul Egertson was born in 1935. In 1955 he earned a B.A. degree from Pepperdine University, and subsequently received a master's degree in theology from Luther Seminary and a doctorate from the Claremont School of Theology. He served as a pastory in several congregations in addition to his academic work.

    Together with Bishop Diane Jardine Bruce and Bishop Mary Glasspool, and with the retired Bishops of this Diocese, please join me in prayers of thanksgiving for the life, ministry and continuing legacy of Bishop Paul Egertson.

    Rest eternal grant your servant Paul, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon him.

    Your brother in Christ,

    +J. Jon Bruno

    "God willing and the people consenting ..."

    Those are the words that begin the invitation to the ordinations to the priesthood next Saturday -- January 9th -- of five new presbyters-in-the-Church-of-God here in the Diocese of Los Angeles.

    I was honored to be asked to help facilitate their pre-ordination retreat and so I'm presently ensconced at our Cathedral Center Retreat Center overlooking Echo Park in the middle of that two day time of reflection, prayer and community.

    In preparation for our time together, I sent out this email to a cross section of folks snagged from my email contact list:
    You are getting this email because you are on my list of those whose leadership has inspired and encouraged me one-way-or-the-other throughout my ministry. (And no, this is neither a fundraising pitch nor a chain letter.)

    Rather is it an invitation to help me – and the Diocese of Los Angeles – as we prepare five transitional deacons to become “Presbyters in the Church of God” next Saturday at St. John’s pro-Cathedral.

    I’ve been asked by +Jon to lead the retreat for the ordinands … which begins with supper tomorrow and goes through lunch on Friday … and as I was working today on some thoughts and meditations to offer I found myself calling on the wisdom I’ve learned from so many of you through the years.

    And it occurred to me to write this evening and ask you to consider sending me a note (to this email address) with whatever thought or advice or quote or poem or prayer you might have to offer those embarking on the adventure of priesthood in the Episcopal Church in “the new normal” of 2011. I would love to be able to share some of your wisdom – or encouragement or challenge – with our ordinands during our time together this week. When we ordain them on Saturday they will be ordained to the “whole” church … and I love the idea of inviting some of the “whole church” to have a little part in both that preparation and celebration.
    I was blown away by the response. Almost everybody I emailed responded ... some with a sentence or a few bullet points. Some with a poem or a prayer. Some with an anecdote about their ordination or ministry. Others with words of advice for clergy from their perspective as members of the laity.

    We've been reading through them together as part of our retreat time. The emails have been printed out and folded up and are being drawn out one by one from the basket in the center of the retreat house table -- read out loud by one of the ordinands -- and then we sit with each epistle for a bit before reflecting or moving on to the next.

    It occurred to me as I watched and listened to the holy process of hearing and receiving the wisdom of the words offered from this great cloud of witnesses around the church that we were in a small way incarnating that versicle from the prayers of the people ... the one about "those whose lives are closely linked with ours."

    The link may be a digital one. And for the ordinands being moved and fed and challenged by the words being offered as wisdom from the wider church these are lives closely linked with theirs through somebody else's contact list. But linked we are. And fed we are. And stretched and encouraged and challenged we are. And while I've been writing this blog, three more emails came in ... so I'm going to trot down the hall and get somebody to print them out for me so I can add them to our basket for tomorrow morning.

    When I have a little more time I'd love to sift through and give you all a taste of what we've been receiving here ... in the Julian of Norwich room at the Cathedral Center of St. Paul in the Diocese of Los Angeles. But for now, here's just one ... "a letter to the ordinands for you to do whatever you want to with" ... from Dr. Bonnie Anderson (AKA President of the House of Deputies:)

    Peace and congratulations to you as you prepare for ordination as a Presbyter in God’s Church. You have been called and the Church has affirmed your call. Your baptismal ministry will continue, but in a new way.

    As you embrace this new ministry, with God’s help, you will continue to be challenged to live a life of spiritual leadership. After all, that is what this is about, isn’t it? Spiritual leadership is a foundational element of our baptismal ministry and it is truly an art form.

    I have been told that one of my “strong suits” is giving unsolicited advice. So here is my advice to you about spiritual leadership:

    Get wrapped up in the power of the Christian Community of which you are a part.

    Lift up other people – you will have a new capacity to do that, as many people give their power for ministry away to you because you are “ordained”. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Let God take you seriously. Give your power back to your community, watch for and affirm the gifts of the people of the community, enable their ministry and truly love them. Like love, when you enable the power of others it comes back to you and everyone is stronger together to do God’s work. This is harder than it sounds.

    Ann Patchet in her book, “What Now?” writes that spiritual leadership is “a little bit like a garden snake swallowing a chicken egg. It’s in you, but it takes a while to digest”. Don’t give up on this idea. Keep on lifting up others and sharing your power for a long time, and keep asking God to help. Being a priest can be seductive.

    Spiritual practice is the foundation of spiritual leadership.

    The late Rabbi Ed Friedman used to tell faith communities that he worked with “primarily they were paying him to work on his relationship with God.” You can lift up other people if you are sure of your own strengths, and if your life is ordered around scripture and the holy practice of watching for how God is acting in your life. Tend to yourself. In short, “put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others”.

    Live into your “human-ness.”

    Like all the baptized, your authority to serve God comes from God. We are vulnerable creatures and it is within that vulnerability we develop true relationship and love. We have been given a mysterious mix of vulnerability and authority. We are called to live in that tension with others. Share your insights, make mistakes, fail and succeed. It’s all part of embracing a life in Christian community. The model for the tension between vulnerability and authority is Jesus on the cross. That’s the picture to keep in your mind’s eye.

    I have never felt called to a sacramental ministry. I am thankful that you have been called. I hope I can receive the Eucharist from you someday.

    Bonnie Anderson,

    And let the people say, AMEN!

    Epiphany Fun!

    My favorite thing about this one is that it's from the t-shirt my ex-husband gave me for Christmas!
    Happy Epiphany, everybody!

    Monday, January 03, 2011

    Mazel tov, Katherine & Mally!

    It sounds like it was quite a wedding and we were sorry to miss it.

    Sadly, travel to Boston on New Year's Day for the wedding of Katherine Ragsdale and Mally Lloyd wasn't an option for us ... but we sent our prayers and best wishes across the miles and were "there in spirit" with the 400-or-so who gathered on Saturday at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul.

    It's a wedding anniversary that will be easy to remember: 1/1/11 ... a great date for a fabulous couple to officially begin living happily ever after.

    It was not just a great day for a couple of great women ... it was a great day for the all who believe that the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice ... inclusion ... liberty and justice for all ... the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments ... pick your favorite.

    From the Episcopal News article on the wedding:
    The marriage at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston took place just more than a year after [Bishop Tom] Shaw gave diocesan clergy permission to solemnize marriages for all eligible couples. Massachusetts allows same-gender couples to marry.

    "God always rejoices when two people who love each other make a lifelong commitment in marriage to go deeper into the heart of God through each other," Shaw is quoted in an EDS press release as saying during the service. "It's a profound pleasure for me to celebrate with God and my friends Katherine and Mally their marriage today."
    And let the people say "AMEN!"

    Dr. Fredrica Harris Thompsett was the preacher at Saturday's wedding and here's a quote from her sermon:
    Could it be that in the midst of today’s celebration we are once again learning to look with God’s eyes? Could it be that we are learning again and again to recognize that every child is conceived in the image of God. Could it be that the presence of God in all living things – in “All creatures of our God and King” – is what makes them beautiful! Could it be that in this celebration and blessing of a marriage we are doing our best to model, to teach society by our example to look with God’s eyes, proclaiming no one, no community, no part of God’s beloved creation is ugly or unclean
    And that calls for another "AMEN!"

    I had a press inquiry last night about the wedding asking:
    Would you tell me, is this the “first lesbian marriage” conducted in the Episcopal Church, or the first in the Diocese of Massachusetts? Have others taken place? Also, would you comment (on or off the record) on the significance of this ceremony?
    My comment is as follows:

    My first comment is on the terminology "lesbian marriage." I believe the values that make up a marriage transcend the sexual orientation of the partners who vow to love, honor and cherish each other until death do they part. My partner and I don't pay lesbian taxes, take out lesbian trash, make a lesbian tithe to our church or fold lesbian laundry. Marriage is marriage. Period.

    But if your question is whether or not this is the first marriage between two women in either the Episcopal Church or the Diocese of Massachusetts the answer is an unequivocal "Of course not." Marriage equality is an increasing reality in this country and in this church and the significance of Saturday's wedding is in offering yet-another icon to the church, the communion and the world of the affirmation of the Good News of God's inclusive love made available to all. It is an opportunity for both celebration and evangelism.

    It is also an historic step forward for the Diocese of Massachusetts -- as noted in the EDS press release -- as it was the first such wedding officiated by Bishop Shaw. And that is good news ... not just for Katherine and Mally and all who gathered to wish them happily-ever-after on January 1st ... it's good news for the diocese and for the church as we all work together to move beyond the "inclusion wars" and forward into God's future of love, justice and compassion.

    Saturday, January 01, 2011

    Happy New Year & Happy 400th Birthday to the King James Bible

    The Rose Parade is behind us, the Rose Bowl game is yet to kick off so am doing some New Year's Day blog surfing ... and came across this great piece by our friend-across-the-pond Giles Fraser ... which I'm subtitling "Fun Facts to Know & Tell About the King James Bible." Published in 1611 it is celebrating its 400th birthday ... check it out ... and BRAVO, Giles!!

    A Fetish for the Bible -- by Giles Fraser
    [December 20 "Comment is Free" in The Guardian]

    Have a guess who said this: "We are a Christian culture, we come from a Christian culture, and not to know the King James Bible is to be, in some small way, barbarian." No, it's not former archbishop George Carey complaining again about Christianity being marginalised in modern Britain. In fact this is Richard Dawkins, lending his support to next year's 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. Fans of the feisty atheist need not worry that their hero has gone soft. "It is important that religion should not be allowed to hijack this cultural resource," he added. I had a little chuckle at that one. Religion? Hijacking the Bible? Whatever next.

    Except, of course, that is precisely what the KJB was: an attempt by the Church of England to control the religious and cultural agenda. A team of academics was established in 1604 to translate the Bible in such a way that it bolstered the authority of the established church. James I gave the specific instruction that the translation must toe the official line on the importance of bishops. The Greek word ekklesia was to be translated as "church", rather than "congregation" or "assembly" – the translators thus giving the impression that the Bible proposes a top-down form of ecclesiastical authority. James insisted no notes were to be made in the margins of the text; it was in this dangerous commentary that the previous, more radical Geneva Bible had dared to question the divine right of kings.

    Next year cultural Britain is set to go "Bible bananas", as the Telegraph recently put it. The King James Bible will be everywhere, feted alongside Shakespeare as one of the formative influences on the English language. We are going to be reminded, repeatedly, of those phrases of everyday use that originated with the KJB: "am I my brother's keeper?"; "all things to all men'; "the salt of the earth". In this there is much nostalgia for some golden age of dignified public speech. But even at the time of its publication, there was something artificial about the KJB's use of language. The use of "thou" had almost disappeared from common use by 1611, as had words ending in -eth: their reintroduction was part of a deliberate strategy to invoke historic authority.

    Perhaps this is why the KJB had a lukewarm reception. Lancelot Andrewes, a leading light of the translation project, rarely used it in his preaching. And Hugh Broughton, then one of England's leading Hebrew scholars, loathed it: "It is so ill done. Tell his Majestie that I had rather be rent in pieces with wilde horses, than any such translation, by my consent, should bee urged upon poore churches." Little wonder some of the translators were a bit embarrassed about their creation. When Richard Kilby preached at the funeral of his fellow translator Thomas Holland in 1612, he made no mention of the KJB as being among Holland's achievements.

    The explosion in popularity of the KJB came much later, in the mid-18th century, and was driven by a restoration nostalgia for the mythic romance of Stuart monarchy. Indeed, what really delivered the KJB into the cultural bloodstream was things like Handel's Messiah, the libretto for which was a compilation from the KJB by the deeply conservative non-juror Charles Jennens.

    It is quite true that the translation trips off the tongue with style and elegance. And that's because it has always been about performance – it was designed to be read aloud in church, where its meaning could be controlled (as opposed to studied at home). Hence early editions were vast tomes, to be placed on a lectern – unlike the tiny Tyndale Bible, made pocket-sized because it was contraband, banned by the church. When it comes to Bibles, size matters.

    Throughout 2011, a myriad of cultural events are planned to celebrate the KJB. And rightly so. It marks an influential turn in our cultural history. What will be irritating, however, is all those who want to make a fetish of the text itself: American fundamentalists who think it is the only acceptable translation – "the Bible fell from heaven in 1611"; windbag actors intoning thees and thous in a knowing sonorous baritone; public school bores who couldn't care two hoots if the Bible is a faithful translation just as long as it's the one they remember from chapel. The Bible needs saving from all of these.