Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Justice O’Connor performs same-sex wedding at U.S. Supreme Court building

It was 1991 and it was the opportunity to hear Sandra Day O'Connor speak at the Episcopal Church's General Convention that got me (and my friend Lori Fehr) to fill up the Camry and head to Phoenix to check out this "General Convention" thing.

We were not disappointed ... in Justice O'Connor or GC1991. Rock on, Sandra ... and TEC!

[And you can read about the DC wedding here.]

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thanks, Pasadena Weekly!

All Saints Church 132 N. Euclid Ave., Pasadena
(626) 796-1172 |

In November 1882, 11 people gathered in a local home for church services that became so popular they outgrew the living room and forced the group to buy a building on Colorado Boulevard and Garfield Avenue; the church was named All Saints. Four years later, the church outgrew that building and moved to its current home at 132 N. Euclid Ave. In 1923, the church outgrew that 600-seat structure and built a new one. Today, All Saints remains one of the few socially conscious local churches, sponsoring numerous programs and services that aim to eliminate racism and homophobia, support veterans, educate the community about the plight of immigrants, abolish the death penalty, protect the environment and assist the area’s poor and homeless.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"a dichotomy wrapped in a paradox covered in tattoos"

I have sometimes joked that the only "B" I've got going in the LGBT acronymn is "bi-denominational."

My mom was Lutheran and my dad was Episcopalian -- and I was raised going to church at an Episcopal Church and to school at a Lutheran Day School ... and so I had the cross cultural experiences of hotdishes and jello in the Fireside Room at Good Shepherd and cucumber sandwiches and tea in the Parish Hall at St. Paul's -- and it was all church to me!

So -- flash forward to 2013 -- and I'm asking: What's not to like about a 6'1" tattooed Lutheran pastor who has been described as "a dichotomy wrapped in a paradox covered in tattoos" proclaiming the Good News of God's inclusive love at All Saints Church ... with a ham raffle?


That's what we're looking forward to here at All Saints Church as we look forward to the upcoming visit from Nadia Bolz-Weber on Tuesday, October 29 for the "Nadia Bolz-Weber's "Pastrix" book event (and ham raffle!)"  

If you've never heard of Nadia, here's your chance. She did an amazing interview with Krista Tippett about a month ago ... here's a link to the vimeo clip -- and it is WELL worth the watch.

No time for video right now? Then here's a little sample of her "style" from a recent interview with Religion Dipatches:

I only preach from my scars, not my wounds. I don't mind putting my stuff out there. It doesn't bother me, but if I do that with a wound and my parishioners respond by wanting to bring me bandages, so to speak, I have failed. Then it is about me.

If I'm going to reveal something about myself in a sermon—which I almost always do—the purpose has to be to show the people how much in need of God's grace we are. If you aren't convicted by something how are you ever driven to the foot of the cross? If nothing can convict me, if I'm great and I have all of my shit together then we just leave Jesus idling in his van on the corner.

Seriously. That will SOOOO preach!

So come by and join us if you're in the neighborhood. 7pm on Tuesday, October 29. And if you're NOT "in the 'hood" tune in and watch the live-stream here ... you won't be able to win the ham, but it should be both inspiring and entertaining!


QOTD: Jimmy Carter Rocks!

Monday, October 21, 2013

A few "short takes" on Marriage Equality in New Jersey

#1 ... Can you say "tipping point" boys and girls?

#2 ... QOTD goes to the Reverend Cynthia Black: "We are finally be able to say to our gay and lesbian members, 'The State of New Jersey has finally caught up with Redeemer,'" said the Rev. Cynthia Black, rector of Church of the Redeemer in Morristown, which has been blessing same-gender relationships since 1991. "For the past 22 years, this church has publicly affirmed that all committed and loving couples are equal in the eyes of God."

#3 ... Check out this clip of Newark Mayor (and Senator-Elect) Cory Booker taking on a heckler at one of the first NJ marriages.

#4 ... Finally, check out what Governor Chris Christie had to say when he withdrew the appeal of the Supreme Court ruling:
"Although the governor strongly disagrees with the court substituting its judgment for the constitutional process of the elected branches or a vote of the people, the court has now spoken clearly as to their view of the New Jersey Constitution," the administration said. "Therefore, same-sex marriage is the law."
Yes, this from the same governor who vetoed marriage equality when the legislature passed it in 2012. (So much for the "constitutional process of the elected branch.")

It just gets curiouser and curiouser. AND -- there is marriage equality in New Jersey. Woo Hoo!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Blast from the Past: "A Persistent People"

A Persistent People

A sermon preached by 
The Rev. Susan Russell
November 8, 2002 | Christ Church Cathedral, St. Louis
Proper 24C: Genesis 32:3-8,22-30; 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5; Luke 18: 1-8

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you, O God, our strength and our sustainer. Amen.

We are a persistent people -- and we belong to a most persistent God. Our mother is the persistent widow who returned to the judge again and again until she received justice. Our father is the patriarch who wrestled the whole night long and declared, as day was breaking "I will not let you go until you bless me." Our brother is Timothy who sends us this morning his words of encouragement down through the centuries: "proclaim the message, be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable."

Our God is the one who formed us in our mother's womb -- who knew us before we were born to be fearfully and wonderfully made. This is the God who has persistently called us to return to that wholeness intended for all people in creation: "Again and again you called us to return.

Through prophets and sages you revealed your righteous Law. And in the fullness of time you sent Jesus, born of a woman, to fulfill your Law, to open for us the way of freedom and peace."

We are here today because we have each and every one of us in some way or the other glimpsed that way of freedom and peace -- have claimed the blessing of belonging to this persistent God -- have experienced the love of the God who loved us enough to become one of us -- and have been changed by it.

Yes, I said "changed." It's a "red flag" word , isn't it? A word being used and abused by those who advocate what they call "Change Therapy." Well, I'm here to tell that I have my own witness in that regard. God's Love Changed Me -- and the Episcopal Church helped. God's love changed and continues to change me in ways most effectively described in this song I learned on a Cursillo weekend:

I will change your name
You shall no longer be called
Lonely or Afraid.
I will change your name
Your new name shall be:
Overcoming One
Friend of God
One Who Seeks My Face

Our persistent God does indeed seek to change us -- but the change God desires for us is not our sexual orientation but our theological orientation. It's not our gender identity but our spiritual identity. That is the Good News we gather to celebrate today in St. Louis -- the blessing we claim as members of the Body of Christ. That is the Good News we will take back to our congregations and our dioceses as we go about this work we have been given to do.

To do it we must be a persistent people indeed.

The battle in front of us is over the blessing of unions -- but the war is being waged over nothing less than the inclusive Gospel of our Risen Lord. Our struggle is with those voices, historically louder than ours, who have claimed the prerogative of offering their version of "Christian Values" for all of us. If we're going to respond to the call we've been given, we can no longer let those voices be the ones the culture is hearing as representing Christianity. We must stand up, must speak out, must WITNESS to the work that God is doing in and through us on behalf of the Gospel: the Good News of God in Christ that is meant for all people.

Benedictine Joan Chittister has written: We are each called to go through life reclaiming the planet an inch at a time until the Garden of Eden grows green again. The inch in front of us right now is securing the approval of liturgies for the blessing of same sex unions -- the "Eighth Resolve" which failed by such a narrow margin when we met in Denver for General Convention 2000.

I believe we will be successful in that effort -- and our work together this weekend will go a long way toward securing that goal.

But an inch is not the planet, a battle is not the war and our work cannot and will not be done until every single person knows that they are beloved of God -- until we can turn our attention to that long list of "isms' which separate us from the love of God and each other -- until we live in a world where celebrating diversity isn't a resolution but a reality and gatherings like this are not so predictably and predominately "white" -- until economic and environmental justice are objectives -- not afterthoughts.

And if I'm honest, it makes me tired just thinking about it all -- tempts me to take the inch and give up on the mile. When that temptation looms I remember my son Brian and his struggle in grade school as he tried to conquer the inch in front of him: mastering the mystery of Long Division! I remember the night he proudly announced at the dinner table that he'd finally figured it out. "First you guess, then you multiply, then you subtract until you run out of numbers! [pause for effect] So, now I understand math."

And I remember his older brother, quickly bursting that bubble with the sobering news of algebra, geometry and calculus yet to come. "Oh no" exclaimed Brian in disbelief and horror. "You mean there's MORE?????"

Yes there's more -- for Brian and for us. And just as my mother's heart ached for him that night at the dinner table -- wanting him to celebrate the achievement, yet knowing how much further he has to go -- how many lessons he has yet to learn -- I imagine God who is mother and father to us all feeling much the same about us every time we think we're finished: every time we're tempted to think the inch we've just reclaimed is enough.

I believe the greatest challenge we face is settling for where we've come rather than being open to where God is calling us to go. I'm told that Gandhi once said, "We must be the change we wish to see in the world" -- and the blessing we gather to claim today is a church changed and changing -- the challenge we face is an inch reclaimed and miles yet to go.

"God's Love Changed Me: And the Episcopal Church Helped." This is the church of my birth and baptism -- and when I returned to it as a young mother (after what I call my "obligatory young adult lapsed phase") I found a church where the Presiding Bishop said, "There will be no outcasts" -- and I believed him.

I found people who loved me and sent me on that Cursillo weekend, where I also learned to sing "Just As I Am" -- and they told me that meant me and I believed them.

I found a diocese where when I came out I met with my bishop and he asked me two questions: "How can I help?" and "How are your boys?" -- and told me that everything would be OK: and I believed him. In so many ways and in so many places we are being the change we wish to see -- and yet God is not finished with us yet.

God is clearly not finished with us yet, but we stand today on rare and holy ground. That "harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few" part -- that's us: the laborers. And we are few indeed in contrast to the multitudes out there at this very moment having no idea there is a place they could come and sing "Just As I Am" without worrying that if anyone knew who they were, they'd be outcast.

When I hold up a new baby in front of the congregation and ask, "Will you support this person in her life in Christ" the congregation answers, "WE WILL!" And just for the record, I've checked. There's no * there with a qualifier: "Unless she turns out to be a lesbian."

Nowhere is it written, "Certain limitations apply." No disclaimer in the baptismal covenant saying "in the event the candidate is determined to be gay or lesbian, bisexual or transgender the above offer is null and void." What we have to offer is the amazing grace of God's love available to all -- the empowerment of Christian community in action -- the sustenance of the holy food and new and unending life -- food for the journey we will soon gather around this altar to share.

That's the Gospel we have to proclaim -- the Good News we have to tell a hungry world starving for it. We have "food enough" in this Church for everyone yearning to be fed. We have love enough and blessings enough and pews enough -- what we need is chutzpah enough to both claim it and proclaim it -- and then to go about the work of inviting others to "come and see." If we can get about that work together, the 20/20 vision of doubling the size of the Episcopal Church in 20 years will be as simple as feeding five thousand (besides women and children) with five loaves and two fish. At least it will "with God's help."

Yes, there are those like the disciples at that famous feeding who say, "Send them away -- we don't have enough" -- but that my brothers and sisters is not the message of the Gospel we claim. The God who gave us food enough in the wilderness has given us blessings enough to share. The Savior who fed the hoards with a handful calls us to follow him and do the same.

And the Spirit who dwells within us will sustain us as we go.

For we belong to a persistent God. And we -- my brothers and sisters -- are a VERY persistent people!

And the Cards head to the World Series and we do not.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Yes, I've been on vacation ...

Just back from a wonderful few days in Santa Fe/Taos ... more to come.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Meanwhile, on the Immigration Reform Front:

President Jennings took this photo this morning at a meeting that she, Bishop Katharine, Bishop Johncy Itty, Peter Persell of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and 20 other ecumenical leaders had with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and six other members of Congress about immigration reform.

"Leader Pelosi told us that the faith community is critical in the struggle for just immigration reform. She emphasized that the immigration reform bill currently before the House of Representatives (H.R. 15) is bipartisan and has the votes to pass. It simply needs to be brought to the floor for a vote," said Jennings

Monday, October 07, 2013

The ACA -- When "the simple" isn't so simple

On an email list serve, one colleague made the following comment in the discussion about the debate over the Affordable Care Act (ACA):
This can all be worked out - a simple one year extension to the rollout of the ACA so everyone starts on the same footing seems like a decent compromise.
Two years ago today -- October 7, 2011 -- my wife was diagnosed with an abdominal tumor ... a metastasis from her bout with renal cancer 11 years before. Without the ACA ... which for all the talk of "roll out" has been having a positive impact on health care for Americans since it was signed into law in March 2010 ... she would not have had access to the insurance she needed to cover the treatment her aggressive cancer called for because of her "pre-existing condition."

The Affordable Care Act made Louise's battle with kidney cancer in 2000 a part of her medical history that informed her treatment in 2012 -- not a pre-existing condition that prevented her from receiving treatment in 2012. Because of the ACA (aka "Obamacare"), not only did Louise have options for her fight with cancer, but she had the health insurance she needed to exercise those options. She had phenomenal doctors, nurses, and health-care teams at the Norris Cancer Center and at Keck/USC Hospital who did absolutely everything they could until there was nothing left to do -- and then with grace and abundant sensitivity enabled us to send her off with peace and dignity on Sept. 2, 2012.

And I was left "just" coping with the grief and loss of a beloved spouse, not the helpless anger of not having been able to give her the best possible health care she needed and deserved. So by all means, let's fix what needs fixing with the ACA. Nothing worth doing isn't worth improving.

But do not use words like "a simple one year extension" without recognizing that there is nothing simple about that for the people who today will receive the diagnosis Louise received two years ago today. There is nothing simple about the journey to make health care available to all. And there is certainly nothing simple about forgetting that behind every single statistic there is a beloved child of God deserving of healing and hope.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Ready for some GOOD news? So was I ...

... which is why I enjoyed this story so much!

Bruce and Lori Fehr have been sharing each others’ lives since they met at a bus stop as eighth-graders in southern California during the early 1970s.

They were together through junior high school, senior high school, college and law school. They married just before starting their junior years in college and raised two daughters while living in Ventura, Calif., and in the Pensacola area of Florida.

Now, they’re starting to share another experience: being pastors at St. Francis of the Islands Episcopal Church on Wilmington Island.

Read the rest here ... and MAZEL TOV to two of the newest presbyters in the Church of God!

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

#GOPShutdown - Day One

It's been all #GOPShutdown all the time in the news ... and the trending hashtag #EnoughAlready has been getting a super work out. One of my favorite moments had to be Speaker Boehner proclaiming vehemently that "Republicans were not in the business of shutting down the government" -- which was followed by a long series of campaign speeches by GOP candidates-now-congressional representatives stumping on a platform of (wait for it!) ... shutting down the government!

Then there was this "Jon Stewart explains it all" video ... which reminds me why when my son was deployed in Iraq he said that The Daily Show was the only news worth watching because it was the only one that told the truth.

Finally there was this from Progress Texas -- Q&A's I found super helpful:

Everyone has friends and family members who love to debate politics even though they have no clue what they are talking about. Whether it’s your crazy Tea Party uncle, an obnoxious co-worker, or Senator Ted Cruz, some people just need to stop talking.

The amount of nonsense can be overwhelming, and their bumper sticker logic can be mind-boggling. But don’t despair! Here is some information to help you get through the government shutdown.


Crazy Uncle says: A government shutdown doesn’t matter - we could use a little less government.

You say: A shutdown doesn’t mean less government - it means less services to the taxpayers who have already paid for them. This includes those who oversee veterans’ benefits, run our national parks, and process gun permits. That’s 140,000 federal employees in Texas - the third highest in the nation [1].

Crazy Uncle says: Why will Obama negotiate with Iran but not with Congressional Republicans?

You say: Republicans have rejected requests for negotiations 18 times this year [2]. Unlike House Republicans, Iran actually shows a willingness to negotiate. Also: Republicans comparing themselves to general, not a winning strategy.

Crazy Uncle says: Congress exempted itself from Obamacare. Why can’t Congress abide by the same rule as everyone else?

You say: Congress is not exempt from the Affordable Care Act. They follow the same rules as any large employer in the country [3].

Crazy Uncle says: Obamacare won’t work - it’s a job killer that will bankrupt America.

You say: It’s the opposite - Obamacare offers access to affordable care so that people don’t go bankrupt when they get sick. Insurance companies cannot deny coverage on pre-existing conditions. And since the bill passed, health care costs have grown at the slowest rate in 50 years [4].

Crazy Uncle says: Stopping Obamacare is the “will of the people” - it’s time for politicians to listen to the people.

You: True, that's why Congress should listen to the 69% of Americans who want the law to work, and not the just 1-in-4 Americans who support a government shutdown [5]. The Affordable Care Act passed with a congressional majority, was upheld by the Supreme Court, and reaffirmed in the 2012 presidential election.