Monday, May 26, 2014

Prayer for Memorial Day

God of love and justice, it is your will that we live together in peace. Yet we live in a world in which war often seems inevitable. May we recognize with humility and sadness the tragic loss of life that comes in war. And as we enjoy freedom, we give thanks for those who have served with courage and honor; for those who resist evil and preserve justice.

We give thanks for those that are willing to serve. Let all soldiers everywhere serve with honor, pride, and compassion. Do not let their hearts be hardened by the actions they must take. Strengthen their families and keep them surrounded and guided by your love. We thank you for those that put the welfare of others ahead of their own safety. Let us all be inspired by their self-sacrifice in service to those who need protection.

We give thanks for those that have made the ultimate sacrifice. We ask that you be with those in pain from their loss and keep us mindful that you have promised to comfort those that mourn and help us to be a comfort to them as well.

And by your grace, may we have the strength and courage to truly honor those who have served by working for peace. May we see in them not only their courage, but also our own call to work for a world that no longer sacrifices life in the quest for peace; that we might envision in our hearts and work in our lives toward that which you have promised through the prophet Isaiah: that day when swords will be beaten into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks, that day when nation shall not rise up against nation, and that day when we shall not learn war any more. Amen.

h/t Tim Schenck  

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Harvey Milk Day 2014

Harvey Milk’s dream was of a better tomorrow filled with the hope for equality and a world without hate. His ground breaking election in 1977 as one of the world’s first openly gay elected officials-and its most visible one- symbolized the freedom to live life with authenticity to millions of LGBT women and men around the world.

Harvey served less than a year in public office before his brutal assassination but his life profoundly changed a city, state, nation and a global community. His courage, passion and sense of justice rocked a country and stirred the very core of a put down and pushed out community, bringing forward new hope and a new vision of freedom.

La lucha continua (the struggle continues.) Happy Harvey Milk Day!

What leadership looks like: Bravo, Bishop Daniel

As posted on FB, this pastoral letter by Bishop of Pennsylvania, Clifton Daniel, is yet another sign that the arc of the moral universe is indeed bending toward justice ... and love, compassion and equality!

Office of the Bishop
Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

May 22, 2014

Dear Friends in Christ,

As of May 20, the marriage of same sex couples is now allowable in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and I rejoice in this development.

The understandings of what constitutes marriage and family have evolved significantly over time and especially the last few generations. The shape of marriage has changed vastly over the centuries and the change continues. It is clear that the definition of what and who constitutes a family is under examination and open to modification and new understandings of the nature of human relationships. It is the work and ministry of the Church to bring people to unity with God and one another; it is the very nature of marriage to show forth through intimate human relationships “…the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church.” (Paul’s Letter to the Church in Ephesus/The Book of Common Prayer, page 423)

For several decades, The Episcopal Church has been faithful in seeking understanding in what God is calling us to in relation to matters of sexuality and marriage. I have come to believe that marriage is the union of two people to live together in fidelity, love and unity until death parts them whether the partners in the marriage are of the same or different genders. I pray that all married persons become ever more signs to a broken world of the unity God intends for all people and that they become channels of God’s love into the lives of those around them.

As Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, I give my permission to the Priests of this Diocese to marry persons of the same gender, though in accord with our Canons, no Priest is required to do so. In addition to following the legal requirements of the State, the Canonical policies and procedures that apply to heterosexual couples desiring to be married are now extended to include persons of the same gender who wish to be married.

Thankfully, The Episcopal Church is part of a broad catholic and reformed Christian tradition that allows for unity even in the midst of disagreement. Not all members of this Church will agree with this decision. In The Episcopal Church, there is room for all people of good conscience and good will toward their neighbor to gather as one around God’s altar.

Only liturgical form approved by the General Convention of The Episcopal Church will be used (attached: The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant). The rubrics of the rite state that the bishop may authorize modifications of the Pronouncement, and I authorize the following modification: "Now that N. and N. have given themselves to each other by solemn vows, with the joining of hands and the giving and receiving of rings, I pronounce that they are married, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Those whom God has joined together let no one put asunder."

May God bless us all, and God “…grant that all married persons find their lives strengthened and their loyalties confirmed.” (The Book of Common Prayer, page 430)

Clifton Daniel, 3rd
Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania

Saturday, May 17, 2014

So here's my question ...

Two widely reported stories last week were:

From the Boston Globe:

Celebrating 10 years of gay marriage in Massachusetts:
For a time, it seemed the gay marriage revolution might stop where it started. Then came a wave of change

And from the Wall Street Journal:

Scientists Warn of Melting Ice Sheet, Rising Sea Level Melt Happening Faster Than Expected; Researchers Point to Broad Climate Change as Cause

So here's my question -- bearing in mind I was a history major in large part because there was no math requirement so I am NOT the one to "do the math:"

Has anyone anywhere totalled up the actual cost in dollars, in blood, sweat & tears, in hours -- be they legislative, judicial, activist, lobbyist, protest and prayer or whatever -- that have been poured into the efforts to either secure or prevent marriage equality over the last decade?

Has anyone anywhere wondered whether headline number two might read differently if we had spent the last decade pouring all those dollars, all that blood, sweat & tears and all those hours into education and research on reversing the damage the human family is doing to our planet rather than fighting over whether a percentage of the human family should have access to equal protection for their marriages?

Seriously. You'd be hard pressed to find someone more committed to achieving marriage equality than I have been and I continue to be.

Nevertheless, the juxtaposition of those two headlines -- to steal a phrase from the old Anglican Digest -- Makes the Heart Sad. Or at least it makes MY heart sad.

Sad that we are still a human family so shackled by varieties of the sin of tribalism -- in this case, heteronormative tribalism determined to keep LGBT people as strangers at the gate -- that we can't muster the common will to work together to heal the planet we're screwing up by our greed and exploitation.

And sad that in the wake of the 60th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education as we approach the 40th anniversary of the first ordinations of women as priests in the Episcopal Church and mark the 10th anniversary of marriage equality in Massachusetts we still have so many miles to go before we're done with the racism, sexism and heterosexism/homophobia that infects our human family.

So Mazel Tov, Massachusetts! Thanks for leading the way. And kudos to all those who continue to labor, lobby and legislate toward the day when equal protection equally protects and when liberty and justice for all really means ALL. Tomorrow I'll get back to work. Really. But today I need to take a minute to be sad -- and to count the cost this human family of ours continues to extract from "this fragile earth, our island home" in our blindness, in our bigotry and in our fear of "the other." Kyrie eleison.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Marking Ten Years of Marriage Equality ...

Tomorrow (May 17) is the 10th Anniversary of the first same-sex marriages in Massachusetts. It's been a busy decade.

Here's a map of what's going on where about marriage equality ... thanks to Vox ...

... and Freedom to Marry has great detailed info on their site, including a state by state breakdown AND this helpful summary:
Seventeen states - CA, CT, DE, HI, IA, IL, ME, MD, MA, MN, NH, NJ, NM, NY, RI, VT, and WA - plus Washington, D.C. have the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.

In an additional eleven states, judges have issued rulings in favor of the freedom to marry, with many of these rulings now stayed as they proceed to appellate courts: In AR, ID, MI, OK, TX, UT, and VA judges have struck down marriage bans, and in IN, KY, OH, and TN, judges have issued more limited pro-marriage rulings.
And -- this just in -- Monday, May 19th at noon is when the Oregon case ruling is expected. Stay tuned.

(And Happy Anniversary, Massachussetts!)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

"Do you have anything to say about the HGTV/Benham Brothers Story?"

That's the question I got from the Huffington Post's Yasmine Hafiz via email last week. In case you misssed it, the Benham brothers are the guys who had their reality show un-optioned by HGTV when a bunch of their anti-gay, anti-women's reproductive freedom rhetoric surfaced.

Well, yes -- as a matter of fact -- I did have something to say. And here it is:
The First Amendment absolutely protects the right of the Benham brothers to preach, practice and believe whatever they choose – whether that choice is anti-gay or anti-gluten. That’s part of the beauty of this country. Another part of the beauty of this country is that free enterprise allows networks – like HGTV – the freedom to decide what kind of values they want represented by the talent they hire. And this week HGTV made the decision that it does not want to give air time to two brothers who, when they are not flipping houses for profit, are proclaiming that equal protection LGBT families is “demonic” and protesting a woman’s right to reproductive freedom.

As a Christian priest and pastor, my response is a big fat “Amen.”

The HGTV decision is not a war on Christians. It is not an attack on free speech. And it is not “anti-family” (whatever that means.) It is a business decision made based on the welcome reality that we are becoming a country where prejudice against LGBT people and their families is increasingly understood as counter to American values of liberty and justice for all.

I serve a church where we believe in family values that value all families and support a protect marriage movement that protects all marriages. When Jesus said “love your neighbor as yourself” there was no asterisk that said “*unless your neighbor is gay or lesbian” – and there are many, many Christians – as well as other people of faith and conscience – who find the views of the Benham brothers antithetical to their faith and values.

It is not fun to be fired. It is not pleasant to find your perspective disagreed with. But what has happened to the Benham brothers does not make them victims of the gay agenda. It makes them a footnote in the story of the arc of history that is bending toward justice for LGBT people.
And yes, I got a quote in her story. You can read that here. And THAT resulted in another email ... this one from Mali (I know -- I had to look it up, too.)
My partner and I just read your quote about the cancellation of "Flip It Forward" on HGTV, We are cheering you on from West Africa where we live and teach! Bravo for putting this issue in the proper perspective, and for putting in their place those who preach intolerance and hatred.

Keep up the good work ...
Will do, guys. Thanks for taking time to write. Happy Mother's Day, Everybody!

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

What Gene Robinson's divorce teaches us about marriage

There is always sadness in the news that a marriage has ended in divorce. Whatever the circumstances, a divorce marks the death of the dream of happily-ever-after and the end of a relationship that was entered into with hope, joy and the intention that it be until-death-do-us-part.

Ironically, news of the impending divorce of Bishop Gene Robinson and his husband Mark Andrew "went public" while my fiancé and I were shopping for rings for our June wedding. And I found myself dealing not only with my own sadness for a couple I know and love, but with reporters calling for comment. Here are some of the questions I got:

1. Does Gene and Mark's divorce "undermine the case for marriage equality?"
No. On the contrary, I think it strengthens it. I think it helps make the point those of us advocating for marriage equality for same-sex couples have been making for many years. And that is simply that our marriages are equal. They are equally blessed and equally challenging. They are equally full of joy and equally full of disappointment. We equally love and cherish each other and we equally hurt and misunderstand each other. And, when a marriage fails, we are equally sad, scared and heartbroken. Just as the values that make up a marriage transcend the gender of the couple in the marriage, so do the challenges. And because all of our marriages are -- for better or for worse -- equal, they deserve equal protection under the law.

Read the rest on the Huffington Post

Friday, May 02, 2014

Yin and Yang: Two Diaconal Moments in the Diocese of Los Angeles

As a native of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles I don't know that I've ever been prouder to be a daughter of the diocese than I was last Monday, April 28. (AS proud, perhaps, but never prouder.)

It was the day my friend and clergy colleague, John Crean celebrated the 40th anniversary of his ordination as deacon with a High Mass at St Thomas, Hollywood -- "according to the Tridentine Rite Latin Missale Romanum (1570)." There were more smells and bells than you could shake a stick at and, as the upper photo above ably demonstrates, the clergy cut very fine figures in their very zippy vestments.

Meanwhile, on the 40th anniversary of John's ordination, on the other side of the diocese Scott Claassen was ordained as a deacon by Bishop Jon Bruno. No smells. No bells. No incense. And the liturgy for ordination took place in a the Venice Beach Laundromat where Scott is part of a ministry called "Laundry Love." You can read about Scott's ordination -- pictured above -- here in this piece from the Huffington Post.

Those two diaconal moments -- literally on either end of the liturgical spectrum -- were both firmly planted within the broad range of Anglican comprehensiveness. And they were both celebrated here in the Diocese of Los Angeles on Monday, April 28, 2014.

And I, as noted above, have never been prouder -- to be an Episcopalian and to be a daughter of the Diocese of Los Angeles, where "the Episcopal Church welcomes you" isn't just the sign we hang out on our curbs, it's the value we live out in our lives: from high church liturgy to emergent church laundry love.

"The Case Against 8" -- COMING SOON!

Start popping the popcorn ... this one is coming to HBO and/or a theater near you in June! (Just in time for the anniversary of the Pro8/Windsor [DOMA] SCOTUS decisions!)

Thursday, May 01, 2014

I get mail

It's been a long, full, challenging day and before I pack it in and head home to get back to my Thursday Evening Gay Agenda -- fold laundry, get the trash cans out to the curb and make a run to the grocery store for cat food and half-and-half -- I thought I'd share this gem that came in today in my email inbox.

Seriously. I couldn't make this stuff up. (And if even if I could, I wouldn't have to!)

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Thursday, May 01, 2014 1:18 PM
To: Susan Russell
Subject: my new book about same-sex marriage

Rev. Russell:

I invite you to read my new book. I'm not sure you will like my book, but I thought you might be interested in it, and you might like it. It does not criticize homosexuality but does suggest that people should not make a binding commitment to remain homosexual. Same-sex marriage is a binding (the bonds of marriage) commitment to remain homosexual for life. My position is the same as the Catholic Church’s position (I realize that you are with the Episcopal Church) on same-sex marriage (marriage certificates should be granted only to male-female couples) but my reasons have nothing to do with religion.

My book also tells how one man—me—dealt with his own same-sex tendencies and eventually channeled them into a happy, lasting marriage with a woman. There was no “therapy,” no “cure,” no “conversion.” I don’t use those words. I am a man. No one had to “convert” or “cure” me into being a man. In fact, as I say in the book, I try not to use the words “heterosexual,” “homosexual,” “gay,” “bisexual,” or any other such words. I don’t think people can be labeled like that. There are really only two labels: male and female. People who have same-sex tendencies but want to marry someone of the opposite sex should read my book. I’m not a doctor, psychologist, therapist, or minister. I'm just an ordinary man who can identify with many men who identify as gay.  

I invite you to read it. If you like it, I hope you will tell other people about it.

Thank you.

-----Original Message-----
From: Susan Russell
Sent: Thursday, May 01, 2014 1:45 PM
Subject: RE: my new book about same-sex marriage

Bless your heart.

I'm actually getting married in June to my fabulous fiancé Lori and so I am quite frankly too busy being a parish priest with a wedding to plan to read your book.

I wish you every best blessing in your marriage and -- with all due respect -- suggest that your energies would be better placed focusing on that than on writing books defending your marriage by critiquing the marriages of other people. Or maybe that's something you want to work on with your therapist.

(The Reverend) Susan Russell