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.

Giving Thanks for Traditional Family Values

Brilliant 2 minute tribute to TRULY Traditional Family Values. Watch. Share. "Like." And then let's make Marriage Equality happen! (Missy, get your Kleenex out first! :)

The Presiding Bishop on the Occupy Movement, Jesus and The Church

Wherein Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori calls us to Occupy the World ... not Occupy the Pews! Brava!

I am profoundly struck, however, by the parallels between the Occupy movement and Jesus’ band of homeless wanderers ... The covenant renewal possibilities around here are mostly about breaking down dividing walls – dividing walls between ourselves and God, between us and all sorts and conditions of fellow human beings, and between ourselves and the rest of creation. Once again live in right relationship, well fed, healed, and at peace, the reign of God will indeed be here in its fullness.
Thanks to my friend Jason Samuel for sending the link to this sermon preached by our Presiding Bishop at the Diocesan Convention held in St. Louis last week: a really great job of weaving the challenge the Occupy Movement is making to the powers and principalities of our culture with the challenge the radical rabbi from Nazareth made to his. It seemed to me particularly relevant reading on this cusp between Black Friday and the First Sunday of Advent.

You'll want to read it all but here's a start:

“Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’” It seems to me that most of these bands of campers have done just that. “Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house.” The Occupiers have shared food, cared for each other, and challenged the rest of us about justice in the size of paychecks. Now those who have been evicted are struggling with how to continue their global demonstration.

We have the same challenge in the Church – both in presenting the good news we have to share, and in how best to do it. Our old settled tradition of staying put in church and waiting for others to come to us doesn’t work so well with younger generations or the unchurched. Our message remains the same as it always has, but we need new ways of telling it and showing an effective response to the hungry outside our doors.

What does Jesus tell his band of wanderers? He sends the 70 out two by two to every city where he plans to go himself. He SENDS them OUT. That’s where our word “mission” comes from. When they arrive in the mission field, they’re supposed to find some place that’s interested in hearing what they have to say, and then stay long enough to build some community and have an effective conversation. They’re supposed to start with good news of peace, and then share food, heal the sick, and tell about the coming reign of God.

Our fall-back habits are rather different. For centuries we’ve depended on an established pattern of building beautiful churches and expecting that people will know where to find good news. That’s not quite the same as what Jesus told those 70 missionaries. Nor is the news that’s always proclaimed. We’ve often heard supposed Christians start out with words of damnation rather than peace – listen up, believe right, or you’re going to hell! And most of us still tend to think that a bit of bread and a sip of wine is the only meal that’s really needed, and that an hour on Sunday morning is enough to build the reign of God.
Read the rest here ... and give thanks for the gift of bishops who lead and colleagues who forward!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Advent Looms

The leftovers are in the tupperware in the fridge; the turkey stock is simmering on the stove; the football game marathon continues; and as we R&R our way through Thanksgiving Weekend we're also on Countdown to Advent as we prepare to ring in a New Church Year on Sunday.

Looking ahead to Advent, here's what Bishop Mary Glasspool wrote in her "Unofficial Letter Volume I, Number 22 November 25, 2011:"
I first learned from Herbert O'Driscoll that Church vocabulary in the Middle Ages had two different Latin words for the future: futurus and adventus.

The word futurus denoted what lay up ahead according to what we humans could learn from the past and thus, predict into the future - weather forecasting, for example.

The word adventus, on the other hand, denoted something up ahead that was coming toward us, not necessarily based on past events, but something new. This future was an invasion from up front, as it were, from what had not yet happened.

Small wonder that the early Christian community claimed adventus as the word for their future in the light of the Good News. What they had once expected of God was not what actually came. It was an entirely new thing. Ed Schroeder of the Crossings Community, Chesterfield, MO, wrote this in 1999:
One Apostolic advertisement for adventus goes like this: "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor human heart even conceived, that what God has coming from the future toward those who trust him." I Cor. 2:9 But can anything so unconceivable be described at all, if it is so radically brand new? Paul answers yes. It is grounded in the Jesus story.
Another thing to give thanks for this Thanksgiving weekend -- The adventus of Advent.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Gay Agenda Revealed: Thanksgiving 2011

Cross-posted from The Huffington Post

I'm risking getting my gay card suspended by giving you all this glimpse behind the rainbow curtain, but I've decided the risk is worth it. So fasten your seatbelts for "the Gay Agenda: Thanksgiving 2011":
•Pick up the free-range turkey we ordered last week from the meat market.

•Make sure the guest room is ready for our son Jamie, who is arriving home for his first Thanksgiving as a veteran (15 months in Iraq and a tour in Afghanistan.)

•Stuff the turkey, bake the pies and chill the white wine.

•Set the table with Louise's grandmother's china and Susan's mom's tablecloth, and make sure there aren't any water spots on the wine glasses.

•Welcome friends and family. Give thanks for all we have received, and ask God to keep us mindful of and responsive to the needs of others.

•Eat some turkey. Have some pie. Watch some football. Tell some stories. Argue about some politics.

•Call Louise's Uncle Joe in Denver and Susan's Uncle Don and Aunt Shirley in Florida. Eat some more turkey.

•Polish off some more pie. Complain because we've eaten too much. Again. And then make a turkey sandwich for the road.
And there you have it: The Thanksgiving Gay Agenda revealed.

Take that, Western Civilization! How are you doing, Institution of Marriage? Are your foundations shaking? Is the undermining almost complete? Or does our Thanksgiving agenda just look a whole lot like yours? Of course it does.

Because here's the deal: I don't pay gay taxes, I don't fold gay laundry, and I don't take out gay trash. On Thursday morning I'm not going to stuff a gay turkey or bake a gay pecan pie. And I don't have a gay marriage. I have a marriage.

A love-honor-and-cherish-in-sickness-and-in-health-until-death-do-us-part marriage. An argue-over-whose-turn-it-is-to-empty-the-dishwasher-or-clean-out-the-litter-box marriage. A set-the-table-together-on-Thanksgiving-and-wipe-the-water-spots-off-the-wine-glasses-together marriage.

What I don't have are the 1,138 federally protected rights some of the other married couples sitting around my Thanksgiving table have -- including health benefits, family medical leave, social security benefits, income tax status, estate tax benefits and the uncontested right to be "next of kin" to each other if we need to. And securing those by ending marriage discrimination is definitely on the agenda.

So this Thanksgiving 2011, when we sit down for dinner, we will have a whole long list of things to be thankful for at my house. For friends and family. For food and fellowship. For sons home safe from war today and for the hope of peace on Earth someday. For the privilege of being part of a great nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all are created equal. And for the hope that someday soon, the Thanksgiving Gay Agenda will include giving thanks for marriage equality taking us another step closer to actually being a nation where liberty and justice for all really means all.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

48 Years Ago Today

(May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963)

Forty-eight years ago today. I'm remembering being at Good Shepherd Lutheran Day School in Highland Park and Mrs. Vordale calling us all into the Fireside Room to tell us the president had been shot and Pastor Lunde was going to help us pray for him, for his family and for our country. And I knew my parents were playing golf and I wondered who was going to tell them. (It turned out it was a groundskeeper on the 11th hole at Eaton Canyon.) The things we remember.

Monday, November 21, 2011

What Autumn Looks Like Here

Just a few quick snaps to debunk the myth that we don't have "seasons" in Los Angeles. (Or blue sky, for that matter!) It was a LOVELY fall day in the neighborhood ...

Super Disgusted

CNN (among others)is announcing what we knew was coming:

'Super committee' fails to reach agreement

Watching "Super Committee" Republicans blame "Super Committee" Democrats for the budget impasse because it's clearly the fault of the Democrats that the Republicans are unwilling to compromise by balancing entitlement cuts to "the least of these" with taxes on the 1%.

Color me Super Disgusted.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I couldn't resist

I know, I know ... the last thing I need is ANOTHER coffee mug. But who could resist one with President Obama's "Made in the USA" birth certificate on it?

Fun Facts to Know and Tell About Christ the King Sunday

‘Christ the King’ Sunday

by Melissa Hayes, Director of Liturgy
All Saints Church, Pasadena

When we first started exploring this history of the feast of ‘Christ the King’ Sunday, I assumed it had been in our lectionary since the publication of the King James Bible (1611) – or at least the composition of Handel’s Messiah (1741). I decided to research its history going to the library (i.e., Google) and learn a bit more about it. I thought the first link (Wikipedia) was a joke – or at least a mistake….it claimed the feast day was established in 1925! Other links confirmed that:

Pope Pius XI instituted the Feast of Christ the King in 1925 to remind Christians that their allegiance was to their spiritual ruler in heaven as opposed to earthly supremacy, which was claimed by Benito Mussolini.

The encyclical Quas Primas, symbolically marked that Christ must reign now temporally. In its replacing of the feast on the last Sunday of Pentecost, the later Mass of Paul VI calendar symbolized the new orientation of the Second Vatican Council in that Christ will reign, not now among nations, but at the end of time.

The Anglican Church, Lutherans, Presbyterians and Methodists joined in adding this Feast Day to their lectionary. I couldn’t find the Feast Day in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, but it does appear in the 1979 version (our current version.)

I took this information to my Language & Liturgy group and we had a field day with it. To 21st century ears the language of “Christ the King’ Sunday can sound like heavy-handed, hierarchical hold-over from our patriarch dominated past – and yet it makes perfect sense when you realize it was a response to the growing fascist movement in Europe.

Our group discussed Jesus standing against the empire and what that leadership looks like. We admitted our human response to someone of great spiritual authenticity is to venerate them – even if titles and hierarchies are not important to them. Our findings led us to conclude that Jesus “kingship” does not involve domination or triumphalism -- but the radical, all-powerful compassion and love of Jesus seeking justice for all.

Happy Christ the King Sunday, Church!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

"Let your light so shine ..."

Yes, it's been a busy week or so. Between "thank-you notes" to Kim Kardashian, Maryland Bishops Behaving Badly, action at OccupyLA and then the Prop 8 decision on Thursday there's been a lot to write, respond and blog about.

Meanwhile, the All Saints beat goes on. We've got my rector back on Oprah on Sunday, some amazing speakers coming to All Saints in the weeks ahead, a cold-weather coat drive going for Pasadena school kids and tomorrow ... Sunday, November 20th ... we will baptize eleven adults and welcome 21 other new members at the 11:15 service at the culmination of our Fall 2011 new member class.

Yep. Baptize ELEVEN.
And welcome TWENTY-ONE more.

THIRTY-TWO new members of All Saints Church ... folks who have decided after our 8-week new member class that they want to (as the rector puts it) make All Saints their spiritual headquarters and be part of the adventure of putting their faith into action as we work together to turn the human race into the human family.

Don't tell me there aren't people out there in the market for what the Episcopal Church has to offer! And it isn't just where I hang out ... if you missed the piece in the New York Times about St. Bart's don't. Miss it. "To Capture the Mystery."

I'm filing it all under Matthew 5:15 in hopes that the light shining out from St. Bart's in the New York Times and from All Saints in Pasadena tomorrow as we welcome these new folks into the household God and invite them to share with us in Christ's eternal priesthood will spread a little light unto everyone in the house.

So let your light so shine. And have a great Sunday, everybody! We certainly plan to!

Andrew Dietsche elected in DioNY on 3rd ballot

Cross-posting Integrity's press release on the election today of Andrew Dietsche as bishop coadjutor in the Diocese of New York.

Integrity responds to the election of the Reverend Canon Andrew Dietsche as Bishop Coadjutor in the Diocese of New York

Today, the people of the Episcopal Diocese of New York have concluded months of discernment by electing the Reverend Canon Andrew Dietsche as their Bishop Coadjutor. Integrity joins the Diocese of New York in celebrating the election of an able pastor and with the whole Church in praying for continued joy in mission and ministry for this trailblazing diocese.

“What we have seen in the Diocese of New York during these weeks and months of discernment is our church at its best,” said the Reverend Dr. Caroline Hall, President of Integrity. “This diocese opened itself up to the power of the Holy Spirit to guide and direct it through a transparent discernment process that resulted in an exemplary and diverse slate of candidates.”

“They have led the Episcopal Church another step toward the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments becoming a reality in the Episcopal Church – not just a resolution of General Convention. We owe them our thanks and gratitude for their visionary leadership.”

Integrity looks forward to the day when the inclusion of qualified LGBT candidates for the episcopate will be the norm whenever slates for the election of a new bishop are presented to diocesan conventions. We are grateful for the legislative progress made at our last General Convention that opens the way for each and every diocese to choose from all the qualified candidates the best bishop for as the chief pastor for their diocese – regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, national origin or gender identity.

We look forward to working with bishop-elect Dietsche as we continue to work together toward the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments in living out our baptismal covenant commitment to respect the dignity of every human being.

For more information or further comment contact:
Louise Brooks, Director of Communications, 714.356.5718

Friday, November 18, 2011

Together Again: Ed & Oprah!

It was an email from Harpo Studios and it read:
Super Soul Sunday News! On Sunday, November 20, 2011, we will be airing The Oprah Winfrey Show: When Life Breaks You Open featuring Ed Bacon, Elizabeth Lesser and Michael Beckwith
Ah, yes. We remember it well. Ed described it in a recent Huffington Post blog:
As a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show in January 2009, I said, "Being gay is a gift from God." Those seven words -- spoken to a call-in viewer from Atlanta -- set off a ripple of response that lit up Oprah's switchboard, almost crashed our parish email server and continues to bring people toward us here at All Saints Church in Pasadena. And that moment continues to be for me an iconic example of how important it is for people of faith to confront discrimination against our LGBT brothers and sisters by standing up and by speaking out.
So if you missed it the first time -- or you just want to watch it again -- then tune in (or "TIVO on") to "Super Soul Sunday" on OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network) on Sunday morning between 8-11am ... details here ... and check it out!

Equal Protection Isn't Equal Protection Unless It Equally Protects

Commentary on the decision of the California Supreme Court to grant legal standing to the proponents of Proposition 8 to appeal the 2010 judgment invalidating it.

What is at stake in the Proposition 8 challenge is not just the future of marriage for some Californians but the history of fundamental values for all Americans.

Are we a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all -- not just some -- are created equal? Do we believe that equal protection isn't equal protection unless it equally protects all Americans? And is it fundamentally unconstitutional to put the fundamental rights of American citizens up to a "majority rules" vote?

Read the rest here

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Response to today's Prop 8 Ruling by CA Supreme Court

The CA Supreme Court issued an opinion this morning that the opponents of Prop 8 do have “standing” to appeal Judge Walker’s ruling that Prop 8 is unconstitutional. There’s lots of analysis coming in but Jon Davidson’s from Lambda Legal (received via email) … on quick read is the one I found the most concise and helpful:
While today’s ruling from the California Supreme Court is disappointing, the good news is that the Perry case is now back in federal court, where we expect a quick victory. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that today’s ruling addresses only a procedural legal question. The key issue in this case is whether the U.S. Constitution permits a state electorate to treat one group of people unequally to everyone else by depriving them of what the state’s high court has held to be a fundamental right. A federal court has already ruled that the federal Constitution prohibits the voters from doing that and that Prop. 8 therefore is unconstitutional. We look forward to seeing that decision upheld so that same-sex couples in California may once again enjoy the freedom to marry.

In addition, today’s ruling does not settle the federal law question of whether Prop 8 proponents have standing in federal court. It remains up to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to decide whether or not the U.S. Constitution allows initiative proponents to defend a challenge to the measure the proponents supported when elected state officials don’t. Regardless of today’s decision, we at Lambda Legal believe that the U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that initiative proponents don’t have that right.

In the end, the proponents of Prop. 8 are just people with an opinion. That does not make them entitled to stand in for the government when they don’t agree with its decisions. We believe the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit should rule that Prop. 8′s proponents lack standing under federal law and, if the judges who originally heard the appeal rule otherwise, that the full Ninth Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court should rule that initiative proponents are not entitled to take over the government’s role.

Even if the federal courts find that the proponents have the right to appeal, we continue to believe that Prop. 8 is unconstitutional and that the appellate courts will agree. As Judge Walker ruled, there is not even a legitimate government interest in denying same-sex couples access to the title and status of marriage when the state provides them all of the rights, benefits, and duties afforded different-sex couples through marriage.

Prop. 8′s only purpose was to send the message that the same-sex couples don’t deserve to be seen as equal to different-sex couples and that message is one the federal Constitution prohibits. That is especially so when, as here, the state supreme court has ruled that denial of access to marriage violated the state’s guarantee of equal protection.

What Prop. 8 did was amend the California Constitution’s equal protection clause to create a gay exception and provide that all people in the state have equal rights except for lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals. That too is something the U.S. Constitution does not allow.

We therefore remain very optimistic that, one way or another, Prop. 8 will eventually be overturned.
I also could NOT agree more with Rick Jacobs from the Courage Campaign who wrote (also in an email:)
"Allowing any random, unelected, unaccountable website like to represent the entire state of California in court will turn California from a democracy to a mob-ocracy. We can’t have it." -- Rick Jacobs, Courage Campaign
And here's my own statement ... for what it's worth:
While disappointed in today's ruling giving legal standing to an unelected, un-appointed mob committed to taking away fundamental rights from LGBT Californians, more important than today's decision that they have the right to appeal is the decision they're appealing. And that decision is Judge Walker's ruling that taking fundamental rights away from equally protected American citizens is fundamentally unconstitutional.

The Prop 8 challenge isn't a "gay" issue -- it's a fundamentally American issue.

We are a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all -- not just some -- are created equal. Equal protection isn't equal protection unless it equally protects all Americans. And it is fundamentally unconstitutional to put the fundamental rights of American citizens up to a "majority rules" vote. Judge Walker was right. It's time to put Prop 8 in the dustbin of history along with DADT and become the nation we say we are -- to make liberty and justice for all a reality and not just a pledge.

And as a priest and pastor let me be perfectly clear: The issue before the courts isn't whether God equally blesses same-sex marriage -- the issue is whether the Constitution equally protects them. And the answer -- in alignment with the traditional American values of democracy -- not "mob-ocracy" -- must be a resounding YES!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

NOM Blowing smoke where there is no fire

Here's what the so-called National Organization for Marriage (more appropriately the National Organization for SOME Marriages) is running on their blog as an Emergency Alert:
Reports out of Washington are now indicating that – just a week after forcing a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) through the Judiciary Committee on a party line vote – Senator Diane Feinstein, Senate Judiciary Chair Pat Leahy (D-VT) and Majority Leader Harry Reid may now attach the DOMA repeal bill to the 2012 Defense Authorization bill, a bill that must be passed in order to fund our servicemen and women through the next year.
Is it true? Not according to "our" Washington sources. From the Courage Campaign:
Reports out of Washington” = making stuff up. Notice they didn’t cite any source. Beyond that, Courage Campaign and its members have been working on the Respect for Marriage Act since it was introduced in March, and our Senate allies tell us there are no plans to do so. Our friends at HRC confirmed. It’s just false. And sad.
There may be no fire behind the smoke NOM is blowing on this one but two things are clear:
One is that we have committed supporters in Senators Feinstein & Leahy and they are going to keep at it until DOMA is in the same dustbin of history as DADT.

The other is that this is another great example of how little regard these so-called defenders of Traditional Biblical Values have for the Traditional Biblical Value of Telling The Truth.
Anyway, stay tuned. With DOMA repeal in the air in Washington and "The Supremes" ready to rule on Prop 8 here in CA it looks like a busy time for marriage equality.

So what happens next with Prop 8?

Glad you asked!

And even MORE glad that thanks to our good friends over at the Courage Campaign's "Prop 8 Trial Tracker" here's an answer (summarized from their web page):

Tomorrow the California Supreme Court will rule on the "standing issue" -- whether or not the Prop 8 supporters have legal standing to challenge Judge Walker's ruling Prop 8 unconstitutional. This is not a binding decision on the case. The binding action will come when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals eventually rules.

Earlier this year, when the 9th Circuit heard the appeal of Judge Walker’s striking down Prop 8, they heard arguments on two matters:
1 - constitutionality of Prop 8
2 - whether the proponents of Prop 8 (, et al) even have standing to appeal when CA Governor and Attorney General Harris decline to do so.
Rather than immediately rule on those arguments, the 9th Circuit decided to kick the ball over to the California Supreme Court on the issue of standing, asking an important question:
Do proponents of ballot initiatives in California — in this case, those who collected signatures and raised money and helped pass the initiative — have the authority to represent the state when the state’s public officials decline to defend the initiative?
If ultimately the answer is NO then Prop 8 goes without a defendant and our side (the plaintiffs) win and Prop 8 ends and marriage equality is restored to the State of California.

The California Supreme Court accepted the question from the 9th Circut Court, heard arguments and tomorrow we'll hear its opinion. From there, the 9th Circuit 3-judge panel will read the opinion and then issue its own ruling some time after, which actually functions as a decision in the case. The Prop 8 Trial Tracker folks conclude:
It’s important to note that tomorrow’s opinion, while influential, is more of a “hey 9th Circuit, here’s what we think about your question.” It’s not a binding decision per se. That said, many legal observers believe that the 9th Circuit will follow what the California Supreme Court decides on standing. The issue of whether Prop 8 is constitutional is another question.From there, the ruling can be appealed to the full 9th Circuit en banc, and of course the Supreme Court, both of which may or may not take up the case.
So there you have it. Hope you found it as helpful as I did. For updates tomorrow follow @equalityontrial on twitter.

CA Supreme Court to rule on Prop 8 "standing" issue


PERRY (Kristin M.) et al. v. BROWN JR. (Edmund G.), as Governor, etc., et al.
S189476 (9th Cir. No. 10-16696; N.D. Cal. No. 3:09-cv-02292-VRW)
Argued in San Francisco 9-06-11
The court granted the request of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to address the following question: “Whether under Article II, Section 8 of the California Constitution, or otherwise under California law, the official proponents of an initiative measure possess either a particularized interest in the initiative’s validity or the authority to assert the State’s interest in the initiative’s validity, which would enable them to defend the constitutionality of the initiative upon its adoption or appeal a judgment invalidating the initiative, when the public officials charged with that duty refuse to do so.”

Opinion(s) in the above case(s) will be filed on:
Thursday, November 17, 2011 at 10:00 a.m.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Note to Bishops: First Amendment & Ninth Commandment are NOT on the Optional Reading List

A cross-post from the HuffPost, this piece is one I wrote last week in response to an article in the Baltimore Sun describing the call of Maryland's Roman Catholic bishops to parishioners to act against marriage equality and other measures that they say threaten "religious liberty." Keep it in mind as the Conference of Catholic Bishops meet this week in Baltimore.

Bishops Behaving Badly

The Nov. 10 Baltimore Sun headline read "Maryland Bishops: Same-sex Marriage Erodes Religious Freedom." There's a theological term for that: it's "bunk."

And there's also a Commandment for that: it's number 9 of 10, which reads, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor."

I realize I have the benefit of a seminary education, but even for a first-time reader it should be patently clear that the Ninth Commandment does not read, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor unless thy neighbor is gay or lesbian, in which case all bets are off." The Maryland bishops know that. And if they don't, here's a little remedial reading:

Same-sex marriage will have exactly the same impact on religious freedom that no-fault divorce did. And that would be none. And that would be because the First Amendment to the Constitution makes it ever so clear that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

What that means is exactly what it says. No law in these United States of America can prohibit the free exercise of religion. Period. And that includes Roman Catholic priests choosing not to marry same-sex couples -- just like they already choose not to marry divorced ones. Or Orthodox Rabbis who choose not to marry interfaith ones. Or other clergy who choose not to marry couples who don't go to their church, practice their faith or color inside their theological lines. Bottom line: clergy cannot be compelled by the state to preside at any marriage. Never have been. Never will be. To say otherwise just isn't true.

Which brings me back to the Ninth Commandment. "Bearing false witness" (a.k.a. "lying") is not a traditional Biblical value. I've checked.

And yet over and over again, we hear faith leaders -- like the Maryland bishops -- perpetuating the fiction that extending the equal protection of civil marriage rights to same-sex couples is somehow a threat to religious liberty. Somebody needs to call them on it. And we are who we've been waiting for.

The First Amendment protects the right of the Maryland bishops to believe whatever they want to about the sacrament of marriage. It does not protect their right to write those beliefs into our constitutions and deprive same-sex couples of the same protections civil marriage provides for opposite-sex couples.

The brilliance of the First Amendment is that it guarantees not only freedom of religion but freedom from religion. As a Christian I believe that when Jesus said, "Love your neighbor as yourself," he didn't just forget the caveat that said "unless your neighbor is gay or lesbian." He meant love all your neighbors. And you don't love your neighbor by discriminating against them. And as an American I believe that "liberty and justice for all" really means all -- not just some.

And while I'll defend to my last breath the right of the Maryland bishops to believe whatever they think they know about what God does or doesn't bless, I will also challenge with my last breath, blog, tweet, email, letter-to-the-editor, sermon, speech and soundbite their right to inflict their theology on the rest of us. And I invite you to go and do likewise.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Multiplatform Evangelism Moment

It started with a blog I called "A Thank-you Note to Kim Kardashian"... in which I thanked the reality show star for her high-profile illustration that "respect for marriage" had nothing to do with the gender of the couple making the vows. (The very week the Respect for Marriage Act debate was happening on Capitol Hill -- how timely was that?)

The piece was posted on The Huffington Post on November 3 ... and when I last checked it had 7,225 "shares," 318 "tweets" and 32,729 "likes."

From there it caught the attention of someone named Joseph Backholm who is the Executive Director of something called "The Family Policy Institute." He posted a slam that started with:
Over at Huffington Post, a pastor at the First Universalist Church of We Believe in Nothing (I actually made up that name) wrote a thank-you letter to Ms. Kardashian for making it obvious that extending marriage recognition to two people of the same gender does not diminish the institution of marriage in the least ... The argument that "marriage is meaningless now anyway, so you might as well let us get married too" is both bizarre, and, I would think, insulting to those in same-sex relationships.
It was also nothing LIKE the argument I was actually making, which the good folks over at Pam's House Blend picked up:
Apparently unable to think of a logical way to refute Rev. Russell’s thesis, Backholm slipped into schoolyard bully mode and simply impugned the religious convictions of Episcopalians. Rev. Russell never made statements like “marriage doesn’t matter” or “marriage is meaningless now anyway”, nor would any marriage equality advocate. Quite the opposite. Marriage equality advocates find great value in civil marriage. That is why they fight to have discriminatory marriage laws repealed.
Let's hear an "AMEN" for blogger Laurel Ramseyer. (But wait ... there's more!)

Then yesterday Daily Kos picked up the story in a piece entitled:Episcopal Church: “First Universalist Church of We Believe in Nothing” which reads (in part:)
Happy Sunday, day of the Lord, people of the Episcopal Church, did you know you believe in nothing? This was news to me. Not my words. The words of Joseph Backholm, Executive Director of the Family Policy Institute. In a posting at the Family Policy Institute website, Joseph Backholm refers to the Episcopal Church as:"the First Universalist Church of We Believe in Nothing."

The Reverand uses the media maelstrom surrounding Kardashian's 72-day marriage to frame a tongue-in-cheek essay on the absurdity of the current state of marital law. Miss Kardashian, by virtue of her heterosexual lifestyle choice currently enjoys unlimited access to the "sacred union" that is marriage, and she can also abandon that covenant on a whim. By contrast, LGBT Americans, some of whom have sustained decades of mutual love and support and inter-dependency find themselves denied simple legal protections of their families.

Russell's point is not that "marriage doesn't matter," but rather, Alec and Jamie's marriage does matter. They are a part of her family of faith, they are a member of her community and she respects them, and their family. And it is her wish that someday United States government will respect Alec and Jamie's marriage as well.
If there is anyone here who thinks "marriage doesn't matter" it is clearly Backholm.

MEANWHILE ... back over the Family Institute webpage, I took the opportunity to clarify for Mr. Backholm the argument I was actually making in the comment section of the blog:
In point of fact, the argument being made in the Huffington Post piece (which I wrote) is not that "marriage doesn't matter because Kim Kardashian can't keep hers together" ... it is marriage DOES matter -- and what matters are the values that make up a marriage; not the gender of the couple who pledge to love, honor and cherish each other until death do they part.

The Reverend Canon Susan Russell
All Saints Episcopal Church, Pasadena ... where we believe in the Good News of God's love, justice and compassion made known to us in our Lord Jesus Christ. (Just for the record.)
Mr. Backholm posted the following comment "clarifying" his position about the Episcopal Church. (Yes, it gets better.)
Since I have obviously offended some Episcopalians with my tongue-in-cheek comment about a possible name of a church, I should clarify. Once an individual or an organization puts themselves in the position of deciding that the the unambiguous words of the Bible are wrong, they have decided that they, not God, are the final arbiter of what is right and wrong.

In my opinion, that position is antithetical to Christianity, particularly of the protestant variety which was founded on the concept of Sola Scriptura (by scripture alone). It also puts such a person in a position of having them appoint themselves to effectively be God, since they consider themselves free to ignore what they claim to believe God said in scripture.

Ergo, they don't believe in anything more than their own opinion. Or one might say, they believe in nothing.

At this point, scripture just has nice suggestions and stories that make them happy or hopeful. But it is no longer authoritative. While I enthusiastically defend someones right to hold that position, I do not consider it to be on the reservation of Christian orthodoxy. I also do not understand why people would bother to concern themselves at all with what the Bible says about anything if they are just going to selectively edit it according to their own preferences. If you value what it says that little, why bother? I don't expect this to make anyone feel better about the comment, but I thought a more thorough explanation was in order given the attention that comment received. Thank you all for the respectful feedback. I appreciate the conversation.
And yes, of COURSE I chose to post again ... deciding this was a teachable moment to let anybody who MIGHT be wandering by know just a little bit about what Episcopalians (or at least THIS Episcopalian) believes:
Mr. Backholm,

Just to make sure I'm clear here, your strategy to "clarify" having offended Episcopalians by suggesting we "believe nothing" is to dismiss hundreds of years of Anglican ethos grounded in scripture, tradition and reason because it fails your "sola scriptura" litmus test?

As a cradle Episcopalian I was raised in a church that taught that we take the Bible too seriously to take it literally. Reading the Bible as the Living Word of God -- not to be confused with the "literal words" of God -- is the foundational principle for living a life of faith committed to aligning our lives with God's love, justice and compassion.

It is the context that allowed us to hold in tension our identity as both catholic and protestant during the 16th century and continues to call us into the challenges of the 21st.

Thank God we live in a country where the First Amendment protects your right to believe "the Bible said it, I believe it, that settles it." But that same First Amendment also protects us from you writing your theology into our Constitution. That's what the marriage equality struggle is about -- whether narrow ideologues have the right to take away fundamental rights from American citizens because they do not believe God blesses same-sex marriages.

The issue isn't whether God blesses them. The issue is whether the Constitution protects them.

So, Mr. Backholm, if you really want "clarify" what Episcopalians believe then ask us. Or visit our websites. (My church is Engage in some dialogue. We may not believe what you believe. But I respectfully suggest that our beliefs deserve more respect than to be dismissed as "believing nothing" -- particularly by someone who purports to stand for Traditional Values. Or perhaps respect isn't on that list.

The Reverend Canon Susan Russell,
All Saints Church, Pasadena CA
So we'll see where this goes. That may be the end of it and it may be the beginning of something more. I don't know.

But what I do know is every opportunity to witness to God's inclusive love in public platforms of communication are opportunities for evangelism. Opportunities to tell the Good News of the God of Justice to many who have only heard about the God of Judgement. Opportunties to counter the voices of those who have God confused with their own homophobia. Opportunities to take the ancient call to "preach the good news, in season and out of season" to a multiplatform 21st century world ... and preach the good news: online and offline; by blog, tweet, comment, "forward" and "share."

So thanks, Ms. Kardashian and Mr. Backholm for some fertile soil for Multiplatform Evangelism. and to HuffPost, Pam's Blend and Daily Kos for helping spread the good news. Feel free to keep it coming!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A New Bishop for the Diocese of Washington

Due to the marvels of modern technology we were able to watch the Consecration of a Bishop service streamed from Washinton's National Cathedral this morning and share in some part the joy and challenge of new beginnings for Bishop Mariann Budde [pictured left with her family] and the Diocese of Washington.

Here are a few "screen shots" of the service -- not great photography but should give you a sense of the service. Enjoy!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Here's what 11:11 on 11/11/11 looks like at my house:

Now we can do it all over again next year on December 12!

Prayer for Veterans Day

On this Veterans Day here's a prayer of thanks for all veterans (including mine!) and for all those still in harm's way in a war-torn world. Pray for peace and work for justice!

Almighty God, we commend to your gracious care and keeping all the men and women of our armed forces at home and abroad. Defend them day by day with your heavenly grace; strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give them courage to face the perils which beset them; and grant them a sense of your abiding presence wherever they may be; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

General Convention Countdown: Status of C-056 on Deputy Forum Next Week

Cross posting this piece from Walking With Integrity ... if you're a deputy please do read the white paper ... if you're not then please do lobby yours to get informed.

November 11, 2011

Dear Integrity members,

Next week the Episcopal Church will take another important step toward achieving one of Integrity’s long-time goals: the approval of liturgies for the blessing of same-gender unions. On November 9th House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson announced that the next topic on the Deputy Online Forum will be launched on Monday, November 14th – and the topic of discussion is the Status of Resolution C-056: Rites for Blessings.

Deputies and First Alternates will be invited to reflect on the work of the Standing Commission on Liturgy & Musis (SCLM) Blessings Task Force as represented in the white paper posted on the PHOD website from November 14th -27th.

As a member of the Blessings Task Force it has been a tremendous privilege to be part of the work of creating the resources that the SCLM will present to the Church in Indianapolis. And it was a high honor to be part of the Integrity leadership team that worked so hard to move the Episcopal Church forward on blessings through the years. Today I am writing to call all Integrity members to encourage the Deputies from their diocese to [a] read the C-056 white paper and [b] participate in the Deputy Online Forum discussion.

We can use our grassroots networks to reach out to our Deputies and let them know we expect them to lead the Episcopal Church in taking another important step forward toward the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments. Together we can prepare our Deputies to head to Indianapolis and General Convention 2012 equipped to make history by authorizing liturgies for the blessing of our relationships. Call or email your Deputies today. Together we can make this happen.

All best blessings,

Integrity past-President
SCLM Blessings Task Force co-chair

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Quote of the Day: "Equality is never a special interest."

They don't exactly time Senate Judiciary Hearings to make it easy for westcoast wonks. I'm just sayin' ...

Nevertheless, I woke up, booted up my laptop and managed to watch most of the hearing (thank you CSPAN!) ... where my pick for best quote of the day came from Senator Chris Coons of Delaware:

Close seconds were Al Franken (Minnesota) taking exception with a statement by Chuck Grassley (Iowa) stating that marriage had "always" been defined as between one man and one woman."
“In many cultures, men have been able to marry many women and young girls. For centuries, women have been treated as chatel in marriage. Further, if the religious purpose for marriage is procreation, why would we sanction marriage between an 89-year-old widower and an 80-year-old widow?” Franken said. “I just think we need to be accurate when we talk about the history of marriage, the history of man and woman, the history of our institutions.”
And Patrick Leahy (Judiciary Committee Chair) responding the argument that this was not the "right time" to bring the issue to the Senate:
"It is never the wrong time to right an injustice."
Finally there was this encouraging quote from Senator Dick Durbin (Illinois):
“I voted for DOMA. I believe that I was wrong. Upholding marriage equality is the right thing to do now. I don’t care if it wins me votes or loses me votes … . I don’t want to be on the wrong side of history on this issue.”
The vote was 10-8, with all committee Democrats favoring appeal and all Republicans opposed. The repeal bill would need 60 votes in the 100-member Senate, and sponsors acknowledged the votes aren't there. The measure would have no chance in the House, controlled by conservative Republicans.

So why bring it up now? Because it's never the wrong time to do the right thing. And because every touchdown starts with a kickoff and we had that today in the Senate Judiciary Committee's willingess to mark-up the bill and get the ball moving.

So it was a good day for liberty and justice for all -- even if it did start a little early for a west coast wonk. And I'm proud of the statement issued by my rector and parish ...

Respect for Marriage Act: Statement from All Saints Church, Pasadena

It is long past time to overturn the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) – a shameful piece of legislated discrimination that does nothing to defend marriage and everything to make second class citizens out of gay and lesbian couples and their families. And so at All Saints Church in Pasadena we greet with delight the news that this morning the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the Respect for Marriage Act. By that action our nation takes a much needed step toward making liberty and justice for all not just a pledge but a reality.

“God does not discriminate against same-sex couples and neither should our federal government,” said All Saints’ Rector Ed Bacon. “The time has come for a Protect Marriage Movement that protects ALL marriages and for a Family Values coalition that values ALL families – and as a priest and pastor I want to be part of helping realize that goal.”

At All Saints Church in Pasadena we married forty-six same-sex couples when marriage equality was the law in California from May – November 2008. When a slim majority of California voters passed Proposition 8 and wrote discrimination into our state constitution, our governing board passed the following resolution:

WHEREAS, the institution of civil marriage in the State of California is, as a result of Proposition 8 and the Court’s decision, a constitutionally-mandated instrument of discrimination, which furthers injustice and denies same-sex couples the fundamental dignities to which each human being is entitled;and

WHEREAS, our active participation in the discriminatory system of civil marriage is inconsistent with Jesus’ call to strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being; and

WHEREAS, All Saints Church is called to make the sacrament of marriage equally available to all couples, regardless of their sexual orientation;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Rector, Wardens and Vestry do declare that the sacramental right of marriage is available to all couples, but that the clergy of All Saints Church will not sign civil marriage certificates so long as the right to marry is denied to same-sex couples.
The Respect for Marriage Act will allow All Saints Church to get back into the business of ministering equally to all who come to us seeking to live lives committed to each other and in alignment with God’s love, justice and compassion. And by granting the same federally protected rights and responsibilities to all married couples it will help us live into our DNA as a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all are created equal.

The Respect for Marriage Act isn’t just the right thing to do for same-sex couples. It’s the right thing to do for America.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

This is what "a dog's life" looks like at my house:

"A Dog's Life:" The Morning Version

"A Dog's Life:" The Afternoon Version

Here we go: Next steps to repeal DOMA start tomorrow on Capitol Hill

From House Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy:
Tomorrow, the fight to repeal DOMA will reach a critical juncture.

That’s when the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on the Respect for Marriage Act, our legislation to ensure that the federal government recognizes all state-sanctioned marriages, including gay and lesbian couples.

The Committee will also consider amendments to the legislation -- changes that could strengthen the bill, as well as some that threaten to weaken it.

Forward this information to your friends and family and ask them to join you in urging Congress to support a strong Respect for Marriage Act that ends the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) once and for all.

We must end the federal government’s discrimination against same-sex couples and its interference with states that want to marry same-sex couples.

The Respect for Marriage Act would move us much closer to those ends, but we still face several legislative hurdles to get it passed.

I’ll need your help every step of the way to finally repeal DOMA.

Thanks for making your voice heard, and letting Congress know you won’t accept half-measures or delay.

Thank you,
Patrick Leahy
U.S. Senator

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

No wonder Jesus wept.

This video clip of Michele Bachmann speaking to the Family Research Council in Washington is making the rounds. After vowing to weaken social safety net programs such as Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, and unemployment benefits, Bachmann said that if you are not working, you should not be eating
.“Our nation needs to stop doing for people what they can and should do for themselves. Self reliance means, if anyone will not work, neither should he eat."

Contrast that to what Bishop Robinson had to say about the Occupy Movement last night on The Rachel Maddow Show:
"It seems to be about the dollars – and of course it is and the figures are terrible as the wealth has become concentrated in the hands of so few. But the emotional content is that it seems that we as a people are mourning that we are becoming a society. I don’t want to live in a country where it’s every man, woman and child for themselves. I think that’s an awful existence and I think the cries of pain we hear from this movement are the cries of the loss of that kind of community."
And then "Choose this day" people.

Choose this day.

Monday, November 07, 2011

+Gene Rocked on Rachel Maddow

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Rachel: “In your role as a bishop why are you supporting this movement? Why do you think it’s important?”

+Gene: “Part of what a bishop does is look for God at work in the world and I think I saw God at work in Zuccotti Park.

It’s astounding to me that what I come away with down on Wall Street is a sense of this grieving I feel – and I think there is grieving over a loss of community.

It seems to be about the dollars – and of course it is and the figures are terrible as the wealth has become concentrated in the hands of so few. But the emotional content is that it seems that we as a people are mourning that we are becoming a society of every man, woman and child for themselves and not a society where we really care about each other as a community.

So this cry for help that we hear … I think it remains to be seen if it’s the birth pangs of something new and creative and positive or whether it will just filter away. I think that’s why getting involved in this movement is so very important – to start conversations all over the country in living rooms and at cocktail parties – asking the questions: Have we really lost our way as a nation? Whatever happened to contributing our fair share to the well being of all of us -- to the “common good.”

The prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures said very difficult things to those in power – and the nation of Israel was saved because some of those kings and those in power listened to what they had to say.

We have to become reconnected to one another. My well being is dependent on your well being – and I don’t want to live in a country where it’s every man, woman and child for themselves. I think that’s an awful existence and I think the cries of pain we hear from this movement are the cries of the loss of that kind of community.

Rachel: “I feel like I’m unexpectedly talking about religion way more than I usually do in American politics but I think it’s because we are starting to have a morality based discussion about economics.”

+Gene: “I think you’re absolutely right and I think we should look forward to that because we all know there’s something wrong.”

Theological Reflection on Econmic Challenge: Bishop Gene Robinson on the Occupy Wall Street Movement

Just received word that Bishop Gene Robinson is scheduled to be a guest on the Rachel Maddow show this evening ... in the 9:45-10:00 portion of the show ... talking about religion and economics in general and the Occupy Movement in particular.

Here's a foretaste ... tune in tonight!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Turning Back the Clock

Today we turned the clock back an hour -- like we do every year at this time. Some us are grateful for the extra hour of sleep. Some of us hate that it gets dark so much earlier. Some of us are grateful for the extra hour of sleep AND hate that it gets dark earlier. Such is life.

Next year at this time we'll turn the clock back again. But we'll also be doing something else at this time next year. We'll be deciding as a nation whether we want to turn the clock back on women's reproductive rights, on LGBT equality, on environmental protections, on just immigration reform, on workers' rights, etc, etc, etc. (It's a long list.)

I don't know about you but those are not clocks I'm willing to turn back. So we've got a year to figure this out. And we'd better figure it out.

Because there are things that are inconvenient -- like the sun going down before we're ready for it to. And there are things that are incomprehensible -- like not supporting an incumbent who isn't moving as fast as you'd like him to when the alternative is turning back the clock on women's reproductive rights, on LGBT equality, on environmental protections, on just immigration reform, on workers' rights, etc, etc, etc.


"For All the Saints"

Today is All Saints Sunday ... the day we observe our patronal feast at All Saints Church with a Requiem Eucharist, solemn prayers and the 'Book of Rembrance' listing all those we love but see no longer placed on the altar along with the other oblations of our lives and labor.

The rector's sermon was entitled "Life is changed, not ended." You can watch it here.

And this year the music was the extraordinarily moving Lauridsen "Lux aeterna" -- and we were blessed by not only our fabulous choir but a chamber orchestra on the chancel ... made possible by a bequest received this year from one of those listed in the red Book of Remembrance: George Unger.

George was not a church goer and not an All Saints member. But his best friend Danny is -- and it was in thanksgiving for that friendship and for the leadership All Saints provides on inclusion that George make All Saints one of the beneficiaries of his estate.

And so today as I was privileged to be part of an extraordinary liturgy of live and love and hope and beauty I thought about George. And Art and Bob and Lucile and Rod and all those we lost this year. Only, of course, they're not really "lost." I still remember an All Saints Day sermon from years and years ago when the preacher reminded us that when something is "lost" it means we don't know where it is. And so none of these beloved of God are "lost" ... we know where they are. With the one who created them in love and then loved us enough to come and show us how to love one another.

And our response to that love was spelled out in the opening words of this morning's liturgy:
"Grant us so to follow thy blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys which thou has prepared for those who unfeignedily love thee."
For those who unfeignedly love thee. Not for those who pass some theology quiz. Not for those who digest the right dogma. Not for those who second guess God about who's welcome at the banquet table and who's not. For those who unfeignedly love thee.
un·feigned adj \-ˈfānd\
Definition of UNFEIGNED
: not feigned or hypocritical : genuine
And what does that look like ... to "unfeignedly love?"

Jesus told us. In the 25th Chapter of Matthew. "Inasmuch as you've done it unto the least of these, you've done it unto me." To the hungry. The cold. The sick. The lonely. The outcast. The stranger. The naked. The prisoner. Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself.

So here's to all the saints -- who from their labors rest. Hapy All Saints Sunday!

Saturday, November 05, 2011

CBS, Google, Levi's, Starbucks: 70 Companies Say DOMA Hurts Business

Today's New Civil Rights Movement is running a piece about the amicus brief calling for the repeal of DOMA by 70 companies and the cities of Boston, Cambridge and New York.

“In essence, the amicus brief argues, ‘the employer becomes the face of DOMA’s discriminatory treatment’,” writes Janet Tu at the Seattle Times.
To attract the best employees, companies have to offer robust benefits and a “workplace ethos of transparent fairness,” the brief says. But “DOMA forces amici to investigate the gender of the spouses of our lawfully married employees and then to single out those employees with a same-​sex spouse. DOMA enforces discriminatory tax treatment of spousal health care benefits.”
“The companies paint the law as an overburdening government regulation that should be repealed,” writes Lucas Grindley at The Advocate.
The companies say DOMA “forces” them “to investigate the gender of the spouses of our lawfully married employees and then to single out those employees with a same-​sex spouse.” For example, HIPPA laws usually consider marriage a “qualifying event” that automatically enrolls a spouse in an employee’s health insurance. Companies now spend time and money weeding out any gay employees who get married.

If companies don’t want to discriminate, because it hurts their recruiting efforts or they’re just opposed to it in principle, then DOMA causes a bunch of “workarounds” that come with wasteful administrative costs of their own.

Companies complain that when a same-​sex couple legally marries, it requires them “to maintain two sets of books.” That’s because the couple is considered married under state law but not married under federal law. “The double entries ripple through human resources, payroll, and benefits administration,” they write.

Some of the companies have had to pay consultants to jury-​rig systems used to track benefits and taxes so they can accommodate the double records. “These dual regimes have spawned an industry of costly compliance specialists,” they complain.

“The burden on the small employer is especially onerous,” the companies point out. Small businesses can’t afford to hire consultants, and “such burdens, standing alone, might chill a smaller employer from employing an otherwise qualified employee because she happens to be married to a same-​sex spouse.”
The New Civil Rights Movement piece includes a list of the amicus brief signatories. Might be nice to tell 'em "thanks."

Huffington Post Platform

As readers of this blog know I pretty much have no unexpressed thoughts ... and a great many of them end up here. Or on Facebook. Or Twitter.

And now they're ending up on the Huffington Post ... which (I have to say, since I have no unexpressed thoughts!) ... is quite a high honor.

They've given me a "blogger platform" on the HuffPost ... and the current post ["A Thank-you Note to Kim Kardashian"] has attracted a very gratifying number of readers, sharers, likers, tweeters and commenters. It was a piece I pretty much dashed off as a follow up to a smart-alec comment I made at a Tuesday staff meeting ... a piece I wrote because the 20 minutes between the end of the aforementioned staff meeting and the upcoming vestry meeting didn't give me time to knock any of the various items off my "to do" list ... so I figured I'd might as well get this one off my chest.

Check it out here ... and stay tuned for any unexpressed thoughts -- coming soon to a blog near you!

BREAKING NEWS: Church of England reaches "tipping point" in ending discrimination against women as bishops

BREAKING NEWS (from clergy-colleague no-relation Michael Russell) ON WOMEN BISHOPS FOR THE CofE:
"I have been tracking the numbers and just confirmed with Simon Sarmiento that more than a majority of English dioceses have approved women Bishops and rejected the various "following" motions that would have limited their authority."
Champagne, anybody?

Friday, November 04, 2011

Three years ago today ...

... history was made. Twice.

 Americans voted to elect an African American as President of the United States.
 Californians voted to take fundamental rights away from same-sex couples.
It was for so many of us both the best and worst of times all rolled into one.

From the message HRC President Joe Salmonese issued in November 2008 that still speaks truth:
In 2000, a similar marriage ban in California was passed by a margin of 61% to 39%. So the closeness of this race and the positive shift in public opinion underscores that it is only a matter of time before we add more states to the march for marriage equality. As Obama said last night, “That's the true genius of America – that America can change.”

Yesterday, an unfortunate majority of voters stood with the most extreme and negative elements of society to deny the rights of loving and committed gay and lesbian couples. But it’s not the first time that has happened to us, and it won’t be the last. It doesn’t change the fact that we are married. It doesn’t change the fact that we have families. Make no mistake. We are bowed, but not discouraged. We are sad, but not disheartened. We grieve, but not as those who are without hope.

Remember, our marriages didn’t begin with a decision of the court, and they will not end with a vote of the people.
"We grieve, but not as those who are without hope." Words from 2008 that continue to inform and inspire in 2011 ... as we work to turn hope into reality -- and poll numbers tell us that arc of the universe IS bending toward justice:
Public acceptance of same-sex marriage has grown at an accelerating pace, with approval jumping by nine percentage points in the past two years and the nation now evenly divided on the issue, according to a new Pew Research Center survey released Thursday.
Maybe not as quickly as we would like, but it IS bending. And today ... three years after history was made ... Twice ... we're ready to make it again as the Prop 8 case wends its way through the courts and the Senate Judiciary Committee prepares to mark-up the Respect for Marriage Act.

Tick Tock Justice!

"Snow Day"

Yes, it was just a "dusting" but there was definitely "snow on them there hills" ... the foothills of Altadena. This from my front porch:

Thursday, November 03, 2011

I Have Seen The Signs of The End Times

House Democrats file Amicus Brief supporting repeal of DOMA


Delighted to see that 132 House Democrats have signed onto an amicus brief challenging DOMA (the discriminatory so-called Defense of Marriage Act)

Here's a PDF of the brief

If your representative IS a signer CALL AND THANK THEM. RIGHT NOW. JUST DO IT. [Here's a link to find the number if you need it. Mine's in my speed dial. I'm just sayn']

If your representative is NOT a signer then use the same link to call and tell them how disappointed you are NOT to see their name and remind them there's an election coming up.


Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Grace in Action: 1775 Hours a Week

Here's the final installment of our stewardship season series here at All Saints Church in Pasadena ... where mission and ministry are alive and well:
Throughout the month of October we've told stories of the many ways All Saints has touched the lives of individuals in our church community. What does it take to make all this happen? Today we give you a glimpse "behind the scenes" - a look at how our 55 full-and part-time staff members put in 1,775 hours every single

And - for the record - we're still counting pledges but we're ahead of where we were last year at this point in both pledge numbers and dollars ... and Sunday night I will have 9 adults in my baptismal preparation class. All of this not to brag on my church (well, not ONLY to brag on my church :) but to give voice to those who are finding fertile ground for the Good News of God's inclusive love in the work and witness of the Episcopal Church.


Eight years ago today the Holy Spirit and the Diocese of New Hampshire made a bishop out of V. Gene Robinson. And so -- just for fun -- I dug through my blog archives and found these two posts from "back in the day" ... when I was blogging for the Every Voice Network ... and wrote from New Hampshire my own "first person" accounts of that historic day.


This Is The Day That The Lord Has Made
Date: Sunday, November 02 2003 @ 08:39:29

So here I am in New Hampshire – “the morning of” the much anticipated consecration of V. Gene Robinson as Bishop Coadjutor of the diocese he has served for nearly 20 years as a priest and pastor.

At a reception last night for friends and family Gene posed for innumerable photo ops, hugged and kissed all comers and generally basked in the well deserved admiration and appreciation of those who elected him, supported him and look forward to his ministry as the Bishop of New Hampshire. The security was extraordinary – at least it seemed that way to me: a police escort waiting outside the parish hall and burly security guards stationed throughout the room, watching Gene’s every move.

I spoke to one briefly – saying I knew he wasn’t there to chat with me but that I wanted to take a second to thank him for his work in protecting Gene. “You’re welcome,” he said withouttaking his eyes of the bishop-elect. A minute later he leaned over and said, “It’s my job but I’m also an Episcopalian so this is important to me, too.” So there you go.

The service begins at 4:00 p.m. eastern time and I’ll be heading over to the arena shortly. (A hockey rink is being turned into a cathedral for the estimated 5000 who will attend.) The press is there in force – we’ve seen several live CNN reports from the site already this morning – and the CBS folks working a piece for 60 Minutes were with us for breakfast this morning. I’ll post reflections on the events of the day as soon as I can, for it promises to be a grand and glorious celebration. But this morning I’m already looking past the liturgy we are about to celebrate this 2nd of November to the work we – the mainstream of the Episcopal Church – have ahead of us beginning November 3rd.

And that work BEGINS with taking back the word “mainstream” from those who have hijacked it to use as one of the weapons in theirarsenal of schism.

And let me be perfectly clear: I am not talking about faithful Episcopalians who disagree with the decisions of General Convention 2003, those who have different theological perspectives than I do or the people in the pews who are yearning to get on with the business of being the church and leave these debates about sexuality behind. I believe that there is more than enough room for all of us in this roomy Anglican tradition we inherit.

I am challenging instead a small segment of the leadership of the American Anglican Council who – in partnership with the Ahmanson funded Institute for Religion and Democracy – have made a decision for schism and are determined to succeed in their quest to split this church apart regardless of the cost.

I was quoted in a post-Plano/Dallas interview as saying “The AAC ‘is not a mainstream organization. This is the radical militant fringe of the church.’"* What I actually SAID was"what we are hearing here in Dallas are not the words of a mainstream organization but the rhetoric of an increasingly radical militant fringe.” It is a fine but important linguistic distinction.

For there was a time when I did indeed considered the AAC “mainstream” -- "the loyal opposition" which offered a conservative perspective here in the Diocese of Los Angeles. I spent an entire YEAR having lunch once a month with David Anderson, Ron Jackson, and Bill Thompson -- reading thecatechism with other clergy together as part of a reconciliation conversation initiated by Bishop Jon Bruno.

There were years when we managed to craft substitute resolutions at our Diocesan Convention with David and others which ended (for a season) the annual ritual of the same old voices at opposing microphones saying the same old things. And I attended expanded Reconciliation Conversations around the diocese modeled after the work of the New Commandment Task Force and led by AAC founding member Brian Cox.

I learned from those conversations. I grew in my understanding of those who approach Holy Scripture differently than I do. I heard the stories of those who felt that the church they loved was being taken away from them: for whom a church with a "new prayer book" and women priests was not a place of spiritual nurture. But time and again when our work together had ended -- when we stood in those "closing circles" and prayed for each other -- we also prayed together for this church we allloved as we committed to work together through the hard ground of our differences. In the end we found, as did our Primates when they met together at Lambeth Palace last week, that what bound us together was far greater than the differences that threatened to divide us.

Was our communion “impaired” for those standing in that circle who could not accept as valid the orders of the women clergy who stood with them? Or for those who stood knowing that the relationships that they experience as holy gifts from God werenot celebrated by all who stood with them? I suppose so – but we weren’t thinking in those terms at that point. Rather than dwelling on the issues that might have divided us we were focused instead on the Gospel that united us. Because our unity in Christ did not require uniformity in our opinions we were able to “go in peace to love and serve the Lord” in communion – if not in agreement – with each other.

Fast forward to Dallas 2003. In order to participate in “A Place to Stand” one had to sign a “Statement of Faith” which excluded anyone who supported the actions of General Convention 2003. During the conference words like “apostate” and “heretic” were used to refer to the majority of the Episcopal Church as it had spoken through its elected representatives in General Convention. Respected Episcopal media representatives were denied credentials to cover the event for their publications. In an explanation given to a FOX News reporter as to why the Presiding Bishop’s offer to send representatives bearing greetings was rebuffed, AAC leaderDavid Anderson made the comparison of “asking a rape victim to sit down at the table with her rapist.”

The conference concluded with nothing less than a demand to the Primates to – in effect – vote ECUSA off the Anglican Island. And in an interview soon after the conference, Anderson used the word “contamination” to refer to those who will be laying hands on Gene Robinson when he becomes a Bishop in the Church of God on November 2nd.

These are not the words of a mainstream organization: it is the rhetoric of an increasingly radical militant fringe. These are not words that respect the dignity of every human being: they are words that create a climate where the Matthew Shepards of our world live in fear for their lives. The time has come for us to cease to allow them to set the context for this debate. The day has arrived when the church is ready to get past being reactive to conservative threats and become proactive in telling the Good News of a church where everyone is welcome at the table – where the true mainstream includes a gay bishop AND faithful Episcopalians who voted against his election.

Today is a great day for the Episcopal Church. Let us rejoice and be glad in it – and then let’s get to work!


Live From New Hampshire
Date: Monday, November 03 2003@ 07:32:40

It was, to say the least, a grand and glorious celebration as we gathered with the people of New Hampshire to make Gene Robinson a Bishop in the Church of God. Which isn’t to say there weren’t a number of things that could have dampened the enthusiasm of the crowd gathered.

The drizzle of rain falling most of the day, the long lines snaking around the building waiting to pass through the metal detectors required by the security ordered for the historic day, the gauntlet of press and protesters which flanked the walkway from the parking lot – none of it added up to “church as usual” but then this WASN’T “church as usual” – it was Church as prophetic witness: the Body of Christ gathered to claim its history in the ancient process of apostolic succession AND to vision its future as a community of faith where there were no strangers left at the gate – where all the baptized were finally fully included in the Body of Christ – where the Good News we have to offer is truly made available to all people.

I’ll leave it to the news reports to outline the “facts” of the day … here are a few of the feelings:

The wonderful energy of the 200+ New Hampshire college students who gathered to offer a counter voice to the God Hates Fags folks who had predictably shown up to spew their
hateful rhetoric from the sidelines. “Two, four, six, eight – Jesus loves you gay or straight” was the cheer they sent up – representing the hope of a new generation ready to claim the blessing of the inclusive Gospel.

The music was wonderful – from the young people’s bell choir to the massed choir: the congregational singing (in the acoustic challenged hockey rink!) was glorious and as so often happens for me it was in the music moments that reached the deepest. I was clearly not alone – there was hardly a dry eye in the altar party when we finished “I Want To Walk As A Child
of the Light.”

Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold presided with grace and dignity with just enough of his dry wit evidenced to keep the service moving forward during even its most challenging moments, interrupting the objector who insisted on voicing graphic details of specific sexual acts with a gentle but firm, “Spare us the details.” What a wonderful icon of the episcopate to see gathered around him in front of the altar Barbara Harris – the first woman bishop in the Anglican communion AND Ed Browning – the Presiding Bishop who said with such conviction “There will be no outcasts” in the Episcopal Church – along with other representatives from around the
country and communion.

Touching moments included the presentation of gifts to the new bishop when Gene’s partner Mark and his two daughters, Jamee and Ella presented him with the gold miter he would wear for the rest of the service and into his episcopate and Gene’s heartfelt thanks and greetings to the congregation gathered.

After the service a reception “appeared” on the arena floor and hundreds of elated congregants milled about greeting old friends and making new ones, everyone saying over and over, “Wasn’t it great? Isn’t this wonderful?”

During the service I was seated in the press area and admit to a moment of crankiness that I wasn’t processing with the other clergy and having to “work rather than worship” up there with secular journalists who kept leaning over saying, “I hate to bother you but what are they doing now? What did he mean by that? Can you point out Bishop Fill-In-The-Blank.” It was just a moment, however – as the liturgy was powerful enough to even seep up into the press box and I got yet-another-opportunity to tell the Good News of this church to a media at least momentarily interested in what we have to say!

And speaking of the press, thanks be to God for Bishop Barbara Harris! From Stephan Bates’ report in The Guardian:
[Bishop Harris] told the Boston Globe: "This is a power struggle as to who is going to run the church, the white boys who have always run it, or some different kinds of people. White men see their church being changed and they don't like it."
And there you have it. In the end they can argue scripture, tradition, polity and biology all they want but when it really comes down to it it’s not about theology or even sexuality – it’s about power. And it’s about time for us to get on with the work we have ahead of us and step away from the arguments which have surrounded us. The joy of yesterday’s celebration will linger for many days to come and the gift of Gene’s episcopate will bless this church for many years to come. The work immediately in front of us is to “catch the wave” of the attention the Episcopal Church has received and reach out to those for whom a church where there are no outcasts is good news – who long for the spiritual community we offer – who will find a home here in this inn where all may be joyfully received.

And now I’m off to pack a suitcase and catch a plane – full of gratitude for the blessings of these last amazing weeks and months and full of enthusiasm for the work ahead.