Sunday, September 29, 2019

On Rowan Williams, Communion Across Difference and the Ghosts of Lambeths Past

This week the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles was treated to a visit from the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury -- Dr. Rowan Williams. He visited several congregations, presided at several services, got a chance to check out some cool ancient artifacts of the faith at the Huntington Library -- and he spent some time in conversation with diocesan clergy in the Great Hall of our Cathedral Center in Echo Park.

At one level it was just the ordinary stuff of the calendar of someone like the former Archbishop of Canterbury -- and at another level it was really rather extraordinary.

Rowan Williams is no stranger to the Diocese of Los Angeles. I remember when he and Martin Smith led a clergy conference for us way back when he was just that smart bishop from Wales. I'm thinking it was around 1999 and we joked about it being our "Rowan & Martin" year. I experienced him as wise and grounded and accessible and really quite a wonderful example of a scholar, pastor and teacher. I was honored to meet him and wished he could have stayed longer -- and I was thrilled when he was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury.

I also remember when he joined us in Anaheim in 2009 for our General Convention. We were in the vortex of the "inclusion wars" and deep in our resistance against those lobbying to vote the Episcopal Church off the Anglican Island for ordaining gay and lesbian people in general and Gene Robinson in particular. I experienced him as cold and distant and judgmental and really quite a sobering example of the institutional church failing to live up to its call to both be and act like the Body of Christ in the world. I was sorry he came and relieved when he left.

So it's fair to say I had mixed feelings about his 2019 visit.

Pat McCaughan -- writing for the Episcopal News -- did a great job with her feature on his address to the gathering on Tuesday morning. I commend it to you here. And of course I had my own reactions.

I deeply appreciated all his wise words on family, community and the critical importance of proximity. One of the quotes I tweeted during the morning read:

And ... because life is complex and history has happened and there's a lot of water under the Big Fat Anglican Communion Family bridge ... I was struck in the moment that these wise words were being spoken by the very man who had himself excluded Gene Robinson from the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Bishops -- making the kind of "contact with the other" he was calling for quite literally impossible: at least in that moment, at that time and in that place.

So that was then and this is now.

In the intervening years the Episcopal Church has "stayed the course" ... has kept showing up ... has survived all the threats to vote us off the Anglican Island and continues to move forward toward the goal of making the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments not just a soundbite but a reality. Rowan Williams has retired as Archbishop of Canterbury, TEC has now consecrated  three -- soon to be four -- gay or lesbian bishops and has both adopted rites and amended canons to make marriage accessible to all couples.

And we're not done yet. There is still work to do to assure that your access to marriage rites does not depend on your zip code, we are still on the journey to make our language in worship reflect the rich diversity on the continuum of God's beloved children and we are still working to live out our baptismal promise to respect the dignity of every human being. Even those we disagree with. Even those who wish we weren't part of their Big Fat Anglican Family. Even those whose actions have fallen short of their ideals.

And one of the ways we do that is by taking seriously Dr. William's call to “... look very, very, carefully and imaginatively at where it is that mutual understanding really comes alive” and at his example of the Mother's Union.
“The Mother’s Union, as it exists in many of our provinces, is a much more important cement of unity in the communion than the primates’ meeting ... and does incalculable work in binding together people across different cultures and environments.We need to ask how we do more in that sort of way, building those relationships between active and committed lay people, not just hierarchs and committees across the communion.”
Those are exactly the questions we are asking as we begin to implement our "One in the Spirit" initiative here in the Diocese of Los Angeles ... as we work to build relationships between difference in our congregations and communities ... as we work to be an antidote to the polarization and division that afflicts our church, our nation and our world ... as we work to create opportunities for mutual gratitude, connection and understanding. while we continue to dismantle oppression and stay the course toward becoming a church where there are no strangers left at the gate.

It's a tall order ... but no one better to attempt it than the Diocese of Los Angeles and no time better than now.

And so for all my mixed feelings going into this third encounter with Rowan Williams -- that smart bishop from Wales AKA the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury -- I was grateful he came and grateful for the opportunity to literally be in communion across difference.

Grateful for the chance for some conversation about the Indaba process which was such a cornerstone of his archepiscopate and grateful for his sermon on love and truth. And at the door on the way out after the Eucharist, grateful for his handshake and kind words, "Thank you for your work. It's been quite a journey, hasn't it?"

Yes it has been quite a journey. And the journey continues: an inch at a time.

Friday, September 06, 2019

Diocesan Dodger Night 2019 #edladodgernight #GoBlue

And it's once again time for Episcopal Night at Dodger Stadium.

Introduced by Bishop Fred Borsch of blessed memory during his tenure as our Bishop Diocesan, for this cradle-Episcopalian/second-generation-Dodger Fan it has for decades now been one of my favorite of all mashups ... getting to root for my team surrounded by Episcopeeps from all around this Big Fat Episcopal Church Family of ours.

I remember bringing my boys when they were kids ... the year Brian caught a foul ball during batting practice and we had Bishop Borsch autograph it for him. (There's a picture of that somewhere in the Episcopal News archives.) I remember schlepping down from Ventura in my St. Paul's days and in from Claremont during seminary and then up from San Pedro.

I remember years when we had huge turnouts and years when it was a faithful remnant. I remember wins and loses and seventh inning stretches and the fun of running into familiar faces in line for Dodger Dogs. And I remember the year I got to be the catcher for Bishop Glasspool's ceremonial first pitch. For this life-long Dodger fan being down on the field was totally a #BucketList item!

And once again tonight is the night.

We'll be taking on the San Francisco Giants (historic rivals!) as we close in on this year's pennant race. Our magic number is 4 (any combination of Dodger wins and Arizona losses will wrap up the National League West race), Kershaw is on the mound and Bishop Taylor will be throwing out the first ceremonial pitch so we are primed for another "best ever" Dio Dodger Night.

I understand there will be about 1200 of us in attendance and am proud that 260 will be from All Saints Church in Pasadena: 160 parish members and 100 scholarship tickets from generous donors for youth in foster care. I've got my jersey on already ... and my Dodger earrings ... and can't wait for game time.

And I was also thinking driving into Echo Park this morning on my way to the office that in some ways what we do when we gather each year for Dio Dodger Night is a tiny icon of the work we're imagining as we build our Engagement Across Difference initiative: One in the Spirit.

Tonight we will be coming together from different congregations, communities, and contexts -- representing different cultures, ethnicities, identities, and orientations -- across economic, political and theological differences -- bound together by our common love of Jesus and baseball.

And if you're a Giant fan ... hey: come on down. There's a Dodger Dog (or equally attractive vegan alternative) with your name on it and may the best team win. Because maybe -- just maybe -- what we need most at this moment in our polarized and divided nation and world is to hold on tight to those moments and opportunities to come together across differences for common goals ... even if it is "just" a baseball game.

So tick-tock game time. See you at the stadium! #edladodgernight #GoBlue

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

And it was morning and it was evening and it was the second day

So here's the view outside my office window as I write this ... on the second day of my tenure as the Canon for Engagement Across Difference for the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.

I'm looking out at Echo Park and the lake where I used to go paddle boat riding with my dad and brother growing up in L.A. in the 1960s ... at the lawn where I sat with a boatload of other Episcopalians twenty-some years ago now when we broke ground to build this Cathedral Center when Fred Borsch was our bishop 1990s in the ... in a building with a ton of muscle memory of countless meetings, events, liturgies and highs-and-lows over decades of ministry in this diocese of my birth, baptism, confirmation and ordination. And I'm still trying to wrap my head around how I ended up here doing work I couldn't have imagined doing that I can't wait to get started at.

I'm still figuring out logins and logistics as we gear up to begin this new program year and this new initiative which is the brainstorm of our Bishop Diocesan John Taylor ... in his words:

"What we will build together over the next three years is our capacity as a diocese to expand relationships and deepen connections across differences in order to strengthen our shared commitment to follow Jesus. In response to the Gospel call to be agents of reconciliation, we envision a recovery of our deep connection to each other and our world so we can participate more fully in the transforming work of love."

 “Our aspirations include creating conversational communities to drive bridge building across the differences that simultaneously enrich and challenge us as a diverse, multi-cultural diocese utilizing existing diocesan programs and resources as well as creating new ones."

“Ours are audacious goals: but the challenges of this present day call for nothing less if we are going to be the change we want to see in our beautiful and broken world. And we believe that as Anglicans we are uniquely wired to offer an antidote of hope and joy to the destructive and pervasive narratives that fuel division and polarization."

"We remember that we come from spiritual ancestors who found a way to hold together the seemingly irreconcilable tensions of being both catholic and protestant in the 16th century – and we believe that DNA of Anglican comprehensiveness will equip us to do the work of bridging the differences that challenge us as 21st century disciples."

If any of it touches a nerve or stirs an idea or inspires a connection please do reach out. The first phase of this project will be "research and development" so if you have ideas, resources, stories or suggestions email me at This is wild and crazy work to take on in these wild and crazy times in which we live ... and we're going to need lots of wild and crazy people committed to the wild and crazy idea that we can indeed strive for peace and justice while respecting the dignity of absolutely every human being.

“Increase in us true religion” was part of the Collect of the Day that began our worship last Sunday ... a Sunday I had the privilege of being the preacher at All Saints Church in Pasadena, and here's some of what I said. (You can watch and/or read the whole sermon here.) Can't wait to see what Day Three brings!


When we pray for God to increase in us true religion we are asking to be to deployed into the hard, challenging, joyful gospel work of tearing down walls and building bridges; of living out that promise we make to simultaneously strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every single human being … even those whose actions, policies and worldview we deplore.

 It is work we have been committed to for decades in this church and in this diocese and it is work that our bishop John Taylor is calling us to focus on with intentionality as we launch “One in the Spirit” a diocesan initiative with four goals:

• “To live more fully into our baptismal promise to respect the dignity of every human being.
• “To understand better how barriers of class, race, language, nationality, culture, politics, geography, orientation, and identification blind us to the burning image of the divine in one another.
• “To proclaim in Christ’s name that we will not submit to our era’s epic division and polarization.
• “To feed hearts that are hungry for connection and community in a secularizing, isolating age.”

Starting this week I will be dividing my time between continuing to serve as a member of the All Saints clergy staff team and leading this initiative as a member of the bishop’s staff.

There will be much more to share and explore in the weeks and months ahead but today is a day to rejoice and be glad in this opportunity to make true religion — that which binds together people in their quest for the divine — not just something we pray for once a year but a reality we try to live all year long.

Nobody ever said it was going to be easy.
And yet that is the work we have been given to do.

It is why we gather around the altar table week after week, year after year, to be fed by the holy food and drink of new and unending life — reminding us that it is in the broken that we are made whole and that until all of us are gathered in none of us are truly home.

Reminding us that our true religion — that which binds us together in our search for the divine – is the ligament of love intimately linking us with all creation as we strive to make God’s love tangible in this beautiful and broken world.

Monday, September 02, 2019

United in the Fight Against White Supremacy

So honored to be among the great cloud of witnesses speaking out and working to challenge and dismantle white supremacy.

Here's a great summary video our colleagues at MPAC ... the Muslim Public Affairs Council ... put together of our recent event with Congressman Adam Schiff at All Saints Church. Together we CAN be the change we want to see!