Saturday, June 27, 2015

This is what history looks like:

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embod­ies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people be­come something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they dorespe...ct it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find itsfulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be con­demned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civiliza­tion’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.
It is so ordered.

June 26, 2015 -- TBTG

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Called to Be Church

A Sermon for L.A. Pride  | Christopher Street West, June 14, 2015

I grew up in the Episcopal Church right here in the Diocese of Los Angeles.
And when I was about seven or eight
my Aunt Gretchen gave me a gold chain necklace
with a tiny little crystal charm on it --
with a teeny tiny mustard seed inside it.

Because I was a good little Sunday School student,
I knew the story Jesus told –
the one we just heard as our gospel lesson this morning --
but it didn’t occur to me that the story … or the seed …
actually had something to do with my life.

Because – in those early days –
I didn’t so much learn how to BE church.
I learned how to GO to church.

I learned the difference between the Apostles and the Nicene Creed
I learned that I was supposed to love my neighbor as myself
I learned to take the Bible too seriously to take it literally.
And I learned all the verses to Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones
But the “be” the church part I learned later

I am here today – WE are here today –
because today we have chosen to BE church –
not settle for going to church.

I am here today – we are here today –
because of the mustard seeds sewn by those who have gone before us …
seeds that seemed little the smallest of all the earth’s seeds,
yet once sown, it springs up to become the largest of shrubs,
with branches big enough for the birds of the sky to build nests in its shade.

I am here today – we are here today –
to claim nothing less than Jesus’ image of the kingdom of God –
the reign of God – with branches big enough
for not just some but for ALL of the birds of the sky.

I think of seeds sewn by prophetic leaders of in the Episcopal Church:
Like John Hines – who taught us “Justice is the corporate face of God’s love.”
Like Ed Browning – who opened a new chapter when he declared “In this church there will be no outcasts.”
Like Verna Dozier – who shaped a generation with her challenge
"Don't tell me what you believe: tell me what difference it makes that you believe."
And our own Malcolm Boyd – whose “Are You Running with Me Jesus”
fed the hunger of a generation of people
who had given up on the church
or anyone connected with it
having anything relevant to say.

And I think of seeds sown by grassroots activists
Like Jim White: Who walked in the first L.A. Gay Pride parade in 1970
(one year after the Stonewall riots happened)
with no bands, no politicians -- or bishops -- in convertibles.
No one watching from the sidewalks
except some random families
who had come to Grauman's Chinese to see a matinee.

Like Daniel Howells: who marched in 1990
 in an alb with a processional cross –
taking it upon himself to represent the Diocese of Los Angeles.
And by 1991 we had an organized presence in the parade
and by 1992 there was a Bishop’s Commission for LGBT ministry
in the Diocese of Los Angeles.

Like Mac Thigpen, Randy Kimmler and Warren Nyback.
Donna Machado, Marni Schneider and Louise Brooks
and countless other seed sowers …
who year after year have put on their faith into action along this Parade Route –
proclaiming the Good News of God in Christ Jesus available to absolutely everybody.

This morning I also think of the seeds sown in the Equality movement –
Those who have tirelessly worked to make this a nation
where liberty and justice for all really means “all.”

Those who worked so hard to overturn Prop 8 here in California
Who have worked for legislation on hate crimes,
employment discrimination and transgender equality

And those who have been the architects of equality
building the bridge to where we stand today – on SCOTUS Watch –
waiting for what could be a landmark Supreme Court decision on marriage equality.

And I think about all the seeds sown in our own Episcopal Church –
which in 1976 promised “full and equal” claim to its LGBT members
and has spent the last 39 years working to make that resolution a reality
work that will continue next week as we head to Salt Lake City
for the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church
in Salt Lake City
where we will continue to harvest the seeds sown in 1976
and sowing seeds for the future.

And no matter what happens, we will not be done yet.
Marriage equality will not end discrimination
against LGBT people in this nation
Equal marriage for same-sex couples
will not end homophobia in this church

And so we are charter members of the Guild of the Persistent Widow.
You remember her story from the Gospel of Luke:
She went back again and again demanding justice
Until she finally got it –
not because they wanted to give it to her
but because she wore them down --
and that’s the work we are about, my brothers and sisters –
going back again and again, sowing see after seed –
until justice rolls down.
Until there are no strangers left at the gate.
Until that kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven.

And yes, it’s sometimes discouraging –
when for every two steps forward there seems to be a step back;
when we achieve one milestone only to see so much work still ahead.

I'm reminded once again this morning of the story of my son Brian
faced with trying master 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!"
And he said gleefully:
"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 was more. More for Brian and more for us.

The greatest challenge we face in this moment
is settling for where we've come
rather than being open to where God is calling us to go.

As Gandhi famously said, "We must be the change we wish to see in the world" –
and to be that change we cannot stop at long division –
at partial inclusion – at less than full equality.

One notable mustard seed sower is Jayne Ozanne
a long time leader in the Church of England
who will be with us in Salt Lake City.
In a recent interview about LGBT inclusion Jayne said:

This is not just a theological debate but one that affects the lives of people -- and I for one really wish that we could just get our heads around it because if we do not we ruin people's lives.

I can have political discussions with Lambeth Palace about what it will mean for Africa and the politics of the communion -- but there are millions of gay people in Africa too who are dying and I wish we had the courage to talk about that.

The time is come for a fresh revelation of what it is to be church so that were fit for purpose for this 21st-century world that we're in. The church is in a lot of pain right now but a question to ask is: Is it the pain of divorce or is it the pain of childbirth? Is it about dead religion or is it about a live Christian gospel giving birth to new understandings?

An English Evangelical
sowing tiny little mustard seeds of hope and inclusion
“across the pond.”

Remember Jayne the next time someone tells you
it’s the American Episcopal Church vs. the rest of the Anglican Communion.

Because that is most certainly NOT the case.

I close with another great mustard seed sower:
Barbara Mudge – who was the Vicar of St. Francis in Simi Valley
and one of the first women ordained here in the Diocese of Los Angeles.
Barbara ended every service with these words of dismissal:

The holiest moment is now – 
fed by word and sacrament go out to be the church in the world.

That is precisely what we are called to do –
not just this Sunday as we march down Santa Monica Blvd
but each and every Sunday each and every day
as we take our place in the long list of mustard seed sowers who
choose to be church
choose to proclaim love
choose to make God’s justice roll down like waters
and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.

Now let’s go be church.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Asked and Answered: Tick Tock #GC78

Yes, we are on final countdown to #GC78 (otherwise known as the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church.) You can tell because both blog posts and anxiety are multiplying like rabbits.

The Living Church shared a reflection today by Bishops Benhase and McConnell (of Georgia and Pittsburgh respectively) contending that the proposals by the Marriage Task Force were contrary to "good order." You can read that here.

Happily, Tobias Haller offered a clear and concise rebuttal to their premise, writing:
"... this canon change actually advances the "good order" the bishops are calling for. It introduces no new conflict with the BCP -- that conflict is already there, if you accept their logic -- but it does remove the canonical dissonance, which is actionable under Title IV, in spite of the wink and nod of "generous pastoral provision." That no one is going to take clergy to ecclesiastical court, in those dioceses in which the bishop has permitted use of provisional rites for solemnizing same-sex marriages, is a nice promise, but from a canonist's perspective it is disorderly. We desire good order rather than ambiguity."
You can and should read it all here.

All of this engendered this question from a FB friend -- which I submitted to Tobias for a response and which he quickly provided. Because I think it's a commonly asked question am re-posting it here in hopes that it will be illustrative for others either asking or being asked about the "conflict" between the canons and the prayer book. Hope you find it as helpful as I did!
Q. I've heard concern raised over the proposals for marriage equality because it would be a *canonical* change and not a *constitutional* change. The canons and the constitution would then be out of compliance. I understand that a change to the constitution (aka the prayer book) would require a resolution be adopted at this convention, and then the exact same language would have to pass at GC79 in 2018.

A. This comes from a misunderstanding of the place of the BCP (Book of Common Prayer.) It is not "constitutional." Only the Constitution is constitutional. The BCP is sometimes mistakenly called constitutional because its amendment process takes two conventions -- but unlike the Constitution itself, amendments to the BCP can be "tried out" -- real amendments to the Constitution are null until approved by two conventions, then they are the law.

The problem arises when people treat the BCP as a lawbook instead of a liturgical book. Beyond that, the BCP itself provides (on page 13) for other liturgies to be authorized. These liturgies would not be needed if they were not in some way different to the BCP, so to argue that such liturgies have to be congruent to the BCP doesn't stand. Besides that, the SSM liturgies do not "contradict" the BCP; they simply offer a liturgy for something the BCP did not conceive of.

The BCP is descriptive, not proscriptive, when it comes to marriage -- otherwise all those second marriages would be ruled out because the BCP says marriages are "life-long."
Asked and Answered! (More later, I'm sure!)

Monday, June 08, 2015

Time for TEC to Catch Up With Tony Campolo on Marriage Equality

[Reposting here from "Walking With Integrity"]

As we continue the journey toward the 78th General Convention -- where marriage equality will arguably be one of the major items on the agenda -- the "let's slow down and wait a little longer" chorus is singing their song and turning up their volume. Here's the version being offered by Craig Uffman from the Diocese of Rochester:
I begin with the premise that the task before us is to imagine a robust theology that makes our actions comprehensible to this broader audience, which also includes future generations of Episcopalians ... My conclusion is that such a theology is possible, but we still need to flesh it out ... My hope is that our next step will be to pause, let everyone catch up, answer those questions, and take the next step together.
So here's my premise: We HAVE "done the theology" -- what we haven't done is overcome the objections of those who insist we haven't done the theology because there isn't enough theology in Christendom to convince those with sole possession of the Absolute Truth that it's possible to come to different conclusions on these issues and still be part of the same Body of Christ.

In point of fact, there are still those who maintain we haven't "done the theology" on women's ordination either. And as my rector Ed Bacon famously said, "I'm so glad Mary didn't wait for the formulation of a Doctrine of the Incarnation before she said 'Yes' to God."

I'm all for doing theology. The more "faith seeking understanding" the better as far as I'm concerned.

But when our theological reflection becomes more important than our mission to proclaim the Good News of God's abundant love then I think we need to think long and hard about whether we're not doing the Peter thing and trying to build a booth to sit up on the mountain and theologize rather than get down on the ground and evangelize.

And that's why I think we have something to learn from the example of noted Evangelist Tony Campolo -- who "came out" for marriage equality today:
It has taken countless hours of prayer, study, conversation and emotional turmoil to bring me to the place where I am finally ready to call for the full acceptance of Christian gay couples into the Church.

Rest assured that I have already heard – and in some cases made – every kind of biblical argument against gay marriage, including those of Dr. Ronald Sider, my esteemed friend and colleague at Eastern University. Obviously, people of good will can and do read the scriptures very differently when it comes to controversial issues, and I am painfully aware that there are ways I could be wrong about this one.

However, I am old enough to remember when we in the Church made strong biblical cases for keeping women out of teaching roles in the Church, and when divorced and remarried people often were excluded from fellowship altogether on the basis of scripture. Not long before that, some Christians even made biblical cases supporting slavery. Many of those people were sincere believers, but most of us now agree that they were wrong. I am afraid we are making the same kind of mistake again, which is why I am speaking out.

I hope what I have written here will help my fellow Christians to lovingly welcome all of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters into the Church.
Rest assured, Tony is going to get a boatload of blow-back for this ... so if you're inclined to send him an "attaboy" via twitter he's @TonyCampolo. Meanwhile let those with ears to hear listen -- not only to the theology we've "done" over the last thirty years but to the example of Tony Campolo.

So -- contrary to Craig Uffman -- my conclusion is that it is time to "let our yes be yes" and to finally make full inclusion a reality and not just a resolution. And my hope is that in taking that step forward, others will indeed follow as we catch up with Tony Campolo and journey together into God's future.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

On ending the war in order to win the peace

Thoughts on the road toward our 78th General Convention --thoughts that started out as a FB comment!

Last summer I attended a consultation on same-sex marriage that included ecumenical as well as wider Anglican Communion colleagues. One of the comments that has continued to echo in my head and in my heart was from a clergy colleague from the Church of England.

What he said was that he hoped that as the American Church continued to move toward marriage equality it would learn from the mistakes the English Church had made on the movement toward the ordination of women. And what he hoped we would learn was -- wait for it -- "in order to win the peace you have to be willing to end the war."

We have been at work on the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments for 40 years. It is time to end the war -- and then get to work winning the peace. Get to work making this church a place where there is room for absolutely everybody and nobody is excluded because of who they are or what they disagree about.

And I will get push back from people who will say "How can you be part of a church that includes people who think your marriage isn't real?" And my answer will be because I'm already a part of a church that includes people who think my ordination isn't valid. And since I've been able to live with that reality for the last 20 years -- and the church has been living with that tension for the last 40 years -- then we can certainly live with the tension of differences of opinion on marriage.

What we can NOT live with is the tension of being blackmailed into inaction out of fear that if we fully include the LGBT baptized someone will leave. It is time to Reimagine the Episcopal Church on the other side of the Inclusion Wars and -- in the process -- to be willing to win the peace.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

#TBT: GC2000/Denver -- Of Salt and Guacamole and the 8th Resolve

In preparation for the 78th General Convention in Salt Lake City I have spent a considerable time reviewing the actions and history of General Conventions past. Today's #TBT (ThrowBackThursday) offering is this article -- from the 2000 post-convention issue of "The Voice of Integrity" -- offered as another in my personal series of illustrations in response to the argument that we need more time for conversation before we make full inclusion of LGBT people in the sacramental life of the Episcopal Church a reality and not just a resolution. Here's some of our history:

General Convention: What a Difference Three or Six Years Make
by Scott Larsen

That, in a nutshell, is how many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) Episcopalians felt after attending General Convention in the Mile High City July 5-14. For the first time, the Episcopal Church passed a resolution stating the Church should offer “pastoral support” to couples in relationships outside of marriage.

Three years ago, Episcopalians met in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, and turned back steps to permit same-sex holy unions in the Episcopal Church by a handful of votes. Six years before in Phoenix, Arizona, both liberals and conservatives considered that conclave as rancorous.

By a vote of 119 to 19 with four abstentions, the House of Bishops concurred with the House of Deputies in passing Resolves 1-7. It was this resolution which called for the Church to recognize the value of relationships “characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and holy love which enables those in such relationships to see each other in the image of God.”

“With the passing of this resolution by both houses, the question is no longer whether our relationships exist or are of God,” said the Rev. Michael Hopkins, President of Integrity. “The question is how they should be celebrated,” added Hopkins.

The harder-to-pass resolution came in the form of Resolve 8 that called for the study for the creation of rites of relationships outside of marriage which would have been presented to the next General Convention in Minneapolis in 20003: “Resolved, that desiring to support relationships of mutuality and fidelity other than marriage which mediate the grace of God, the 73rd General Convention directs the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to prepare for consideration by the 74th General Convention rites for inclusion in the Book of Occasional Services by means of which the Church may express that support.”

The House of Bishops voted down Resolve 8, 85 to 63. This happened two days after the Deputies split their vote with the clergy voting in favor but the laity voting it down. Conservative bishops tried to play up the point that the Church was divided over this issue with both the clergy and laity voting it down in the House of Deputies. However, when a recount was made, it showed the clergy deputies had in fact voted in favor of Resolve 8 while the laity voted it down by only two delegations.

Both houses approved overwhelmingly a resolution that the Episcopal Church—which hosts numerous Boy Scout troops—begin dialogue over the Scout’s anti-gay policies. As a result of a Supreme Court decision, the Scouts can exclude gay boys and gay Scout leaders. Even though Episcopal Church parishes sponsor many Scout troops, General Convention has said that the Episcopal Church should be a “safe haven” for GLBT people.

But the first week of the convention seemed like it was choreographed by Barnum & Bailey Circus. On July 4, one day before the convention got underway, Soulforce members staged a protest in front of the Colorado Convention Center. Founded by the Rev. Mel White, a former speechwriter for the Rev. Jerry Falwell, the two-year old gay faith movement wants to knock doors down on discrimination toward GLBT people in the Christians churches.

All summer long, Soulforce members spent thousands of their personal dollars flying to Methodist, Presbyterian, Southern Baptist, and Episcopal convention sites, getting arrested and paying fines. It was their way of protesting the anti-gay policies of each of these denominations.

However, their tactics of “fly-in and fly-out” while committed GLBT folk in each of these four denominations work on the inside to try and change church policy have not set well. Further, Judy Collins had been billed to perform at the Presiding Bishop’s Fund for continued on next page World Relief concert where millions of dollars are raised and allocated to people in need throughout the world. However, it was believed SoulForce “got to” Collins and asked her to cancel her performance over the Episcopal Church’s anti-gay policies. It was an attempt to embarrass Episcopalians. It didn’t work. In fact, it backfired.

In the words of the Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, the pro-gay dean of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., “Judy, Judy, you’ve been talking to the wrong people.” He spoke these words at the Integrity Festival Eucharist, held at the Cathedral of St. John in the Wilderness, Denver, where over 1,200 people turned out for the historic service: it was the first time a General Convention Eucharist was celebrated by an openly-gay priest, the Rev. Michael W. Hopkins, our president. Michael invited all other openly gay priests and ministers to concelebrate at this service, and a total of 33 participated

Integrity welcomed convention deputies and bishops every day by holding a banner welcoming all deputies to General Convention. When the Rev. Fred Phelps of Topeka showed up with venomous signs and scurrilous epitaphs, a number of conservative deputies and bishops came up to the Integrity banner, shook our hands and embraced Integrity members, some saying, “That’s not our Church!”

Clearly, Phelps was helping moderate and conservative Episcopalians turn and embrace their GLBT brothers and sisters. One action early during the convention put a damper on the proceedings. A clergy deputy, the Rev. Nelson W. Koscheski from Dallas, placed salt under the tables of two liberal dioceses including that of Dr. Louie Crew from Newark. Dr. Crew brought the action to the attention of the president of the House of Deputies, Pamela Chinnis, who suspended the proceedings until the salt could be cleaned up. The priest said that he did what he did to wipe out the “wickedness” of homosexuality among those delegations that had introduced pro-gay legislation or had gay or lesbian deputies.

Integrity’s message every day of the convention was that they represented GLBT people inside the Church. Over 70 volunteers from around the nation spent two weeks in Denver, monitoring each piece of legislation, coordinating communications and press coverage, maintaining a booth in the exhibition hall, and being one of the groups that make up The Consultation, a consortium of progressive Episcopal groups such as the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, Union of Black Episcopalians, and the Episcopal Women’s Caucus.

Another bright light for Integrity was that Dr. Crew was elected to the Executive Council of the Episcopal, garnering the highest number of votes. “It is a new day for the Church when the founder [of Integrity] is elected to the major decision-making body other than General Convention. We rejoice in it,” said our president. The Rev. Cynthia Black, an Integrity member and former president of the Episcopal Women’s Caucas, was also elected.

Perhaps, one of the best tongue-in-cheek lines was made by the Rev. Susan Russell, Associated Rector of St. Peter’s in San Pedro, California, and a member of Integrity’s communications team. “It’s not the whole enchilada but there’s enough guacamole for me,” said Susan about seeing the first seven resolves pass the houses but the eighth resolve fail. “This is a huge step forward. I am thrilled to be a priest in this Church!”