Friday, June 24, 2022

Today's SCOTUS Gut Punch

As we continue to absorb the shockwaves of today's Supreme Court decision overturning decades of settled law and removing a constitutionally guaranteed right from millions of Americans, it helps to remember that just because a gut-punch is expected doesn't mean it doesn't knock the wind out of you.

At least for a moment. 

And in this moment -- as we work to collectively catch our breath -- these words from the Right Reverend Jennifer Reddall, Bishop of Arizona -- are among those I have found offer both comfort and challenge:

The Episcopal Church has supported for many decades the rights of people who become pregnant to make decisions about their pregnancy with their doctor. We will continue to do so.

Today we will grieve with those who are grieving; comfort those who are frightened; and stand with those whose rights to contraception, consensual relationships, and marriage were named as worthy of “reexamination” in light of today’s ruling.

And we will pray to a God who is a God of love; a God who became incarnate and knew the struggles of earthly life; who knew deep pain, suffering and death; and who rose from the dead and broke the hold of the power of empire over the faithful.
We cannot diminish the wide-ranging awfulness of this decision.

It is exactly the awfulness those of us who freaked out in 2016 were freaking out about when we were accused of being hysterical and over-reactive. And it is the stunning level of rank hypocrisy of a Supreme Court which yesterday ruled that states did NOT have the right to regulate concealed weapons in their jurisdictions -- and today ruled that states DO have the right to regulate access to abortion as healthcare is almost beyond unbelievable.

Except none of it unbelievable. All of it is out of a playbook determined to hijack our democracy and turn it into a theocracy in the service of a patriarchal worldview that perpetuates the power of White Supremacist heteronormative Christian Nationalists to make decisions about and for the rest of us. 

It has absolutely nothing to do with "liberty and justice for all" and everything to do with "power and domination for some." 

And what we need to "reexamine" are not the SCOTUS decisions that have expanded constitutional rights to contraception, consensual relationships and marriage, but the presumed power of those who would turn the clock back in the effort to trash can the great American experiment of constitutional democracy and replace it with a Putinesque oligarchy.

This is not a drill.
Failure is not an option.
It is an all hands on deck moment.

So ... today we catch our breath. We grieve. We lament. We vent, rage and say "I told you so." And tomorrow we unify, organize and mobilize as if our lives depended on it -- because they do.

La lucha continua. The struggle continues. And as we persist in that struggle we give thanks that together we pray to a God who is a God of love; a God who became incarnate and knew the struggles of earthly life; who knew deep pain, suffering and death; and who rose from the dead and broke the hold of the power of empire over the faithful.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Pride Sunday 2022: Of Audacious Goals and Incremental Victories

Pride Sunday 2022 | All Saints Church, Pasadena | June 12, 2022

AKA Trinity Sunday  Proverbs (8:1–4, 22-31); John (16:12–15)


Drawn by thy quickening grace, O Lord,
in countless numbers let them come
till with this Bread shall all be blest
who see the light or feel the sun.

It was August 1998 and I was a brand new priest serving as the Associate Rector at St. Peter's in San Pedro. It was the Sunday after the Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops had adopted resolution Lambeth 1.10 declaring homosexuality "incompatible with scripture" -- and as the bread and wine was brought forward to the altar -- I stood behind it with tears streaming down my face as I tried to sing those words ... gutted by the disconnect between the words of the hymn and the actions of the church. 

·      Where was there room for quickening grace in the face of oppressive systemic homophobia?

·       What about the countless numbers of God' beloved LGBTQ people who heard the bishops who were called to be shepherds of the flock say there was no place for queer sheep at this table?

·       And how, oh how, were we going to muster the energy, power, drive or resources to engage in the kind of struggle it was going to take to overcome such a massive setback?

And so we wept. 
And then we persisted.

In December 1998, our own Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles took the step -- which others would follow -- of adopting a resolution at our diocesan convention "declining to receive" Lambeth Resolution 1.10 as being contrary to our baptismal promise to respect the dignity of every human being. In 2000 our General Convention adopted a resolution opening the way to the blessings of same-sex covenants -- and eventually to marriage equity. In 2003 Gene Robinson became the first openly gay bishop ... emphasis on the openly ... in the Anglican Communion.

The struggle to become a church where full inclusion is not just a resolution we adopt but a reality we live has continued -- sometimes an inch at a time -- sometimes two steps forward and one step back -- all toward the goal of the church becoming the Beloved Community reflected in today's words of Wisdom from Proverbs:

I was God’s delight day after day,
rejoicing in being in God’s presence continually,
rejoicing in the whole world
and delighting in humankind!

Delighting in humankind -- wonderfully and marvelously made is all its extravagant diversity -- each and every one us made in the image of the God who loved us enough to become one of us in order to show us how to love one another.

Where the church has too often gotten it wrong -- and continues to get it wrong -- is when it conflates AN image of God for THE image of God ... and then starts creating dogmas and doctrines and structures and strategies to protect "the" image at all costs ... rather than delighting in humankind in all its glorious diversity.

Which could lead me -- on this Trinity Sunday -- to launch into a discourse on the mysteries of doctrine of the Trinity ... up to and including how veneration of the narrowly binary male-centric language finite human beings came up with in an attempt to describe the infinite creator of all being led to the deification of maleness and the entrenchment of a patriarchal worldview that has done nothing to serve the Good News of God's inclusive love available to absolutely everyone proclaimed by the radical rabbi from Nazareth.

But I'm not going to go there today. More on that on July 3rd -- when I plan to preach about reclaiming both our theology and our democracy from toxic patriarachalism. Mark your calendars.

Today, however, is the day we celebrate Pride Sunday -- which is many things to many people -- and one of those things is a day to celebrate the struggle.

It is a day to mark how far we've come as a church and as a nation in the journey toward both full inclusion and equal protection for every single beloved child of God ... no matter where they fall on the continuum of gender identity or sexual orientation ...
 no matter what letter they claim in the LGBTQ+ alphabet song.

It is a day to regroup, recharge and recommit ourselves to continue that struggle – for even while we mark with pride and gratitude the tremendous progress that has been made, we recognize that there is still work to do: not only to continue to move forward, but to challenge those who would push us back.

It is an opportunity to remember the work of those on whose shoulders we stand; AND it is an opportunity to harness the celebratory energy Pride creates to get back to the work of the fight that remains before us.

George Regas -- our rector emeritus of blessed memory -- described that work with these words:

We live out the Gospel in the world
by setting audacious goals
and celebrating incremental victories.

On this Pride Sunday 2022, the audacious goal we have set before us is nothing less than the kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven we pray for every time we gather –  a world where respecting the dignity of every human being is not just a promise we make but a reality we live.

It is work we are all called to as members of the Body of Christ in the world –  called to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves.

And this morning I think of all those who have gone before us ... tilling the soil and planting the seeds of radical inclusion and courageous justice ...  prophetic leaders in our own Episcopal Church:

 Presiding Bishop Ed Browning – who opened a new chapter when he declared “In this church there will be no outcasts.”

Like Priest and Poet 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.

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.

And I think of Daniel Howells of blessed memory: 
who marched in 1990 the L.A. Pride Parade 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 an official Bishop’s Commission for LGBT ministry in the Diocese of Los Angeles.

These stories are but the tip of the iceberg of the great cloud of witnesses on whose shoulders we stand this morning as we continue the work they have passed off to us.

 On this Pride Sunday 2022 the awesome truth is that we have MUCH good news to tell … and we live and move and have our being in a culture literally dying to hear it.

To hear that they are loved. 
To hear that they are welcome. 
To hear that those who pass "Don't Say Gay" bills and attack LGBTQ youth in general and transgender and non-binary kids in particular do not speak for us and do not speak for Jesus.

La lucha continua -- the struggle continues -- and the struggle is real.
And yet  ... here we are.

On Friday night we had a Gay Prom here on the quad lawn at All Saints Church.

On Saturday we ordained Tim Hartley into the sacred order of deacons ... with his City Councilman-elect husband and ridiculously fabulous sons by his side.
And today we are gathered here to celebrate a Pride Sunday that includes the baptism of August Quinn -- as the Progress Pride flag flies proudly over the Northwest door and is draped on this pulpit ... and the Spirit of Wisdom is right here with us ...
delighting in humankind in all its extravagant diversity.

If you'd told new-priest Susan who stood weeping behind that San Pedro altar in 1998 that in twenty-four years later all that would be possible I'm not sure she would have believed you.

And yet ... here we are.
Audacious goal still on the horizon  to be sure --|
but SO many incremental victories to celebrate. 

That’s the Good News of God in Christ Jesus AND the Episcopal Church that we have each and every one of us been commissioned to proclaim and that is the work to which we have been called to do.

I want to close with these words from Barbara Mudge – the one-time Vicar of St. Francis in Simi Valley  -- who 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.

In a moment we will turn our attention to this altar – the center of our life in Christ – to be fed by the bread made holy … strength for the journey and sustenance for the struggle ...

the struggle of choosing to be church, even when it is hard;
of choosing to reclaim that inch of the planet in front of us;
of choosing to make God’s justice roll down like waters;
of choosing to love absolutely every one of our neighbors as ourselves;
and of refusing to rest until all who are hungry have been fed.

Drawn by thy quickening grace, O Lord,
in countless numbers let them come
till with this Bread shall all be blest
who see the light or feel the sun.

Now -- let’s go be church.



Sunday, June 05, 2022

Pentecost 2022: A Statement on Baptism and Eucharist in The Episcopal Church

On this Day of Pentecost, I am honored to be amongst the great cloud of witnesses signing onto this letter on baptism and communion, addressed to the respective Chairs of the House of Bishops or House of Deputies Committees on Constitution and Canons or Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music.

It suggests some options to consider as they address the issues of Communion and Baptism at the upcoming 80th General Convention of the Episcopal Church -- and I believe it calls us to our best selves as members of a church which is blessed with the DNA of Anglican comprehensiveness coursing in our ecclesial veins.

As the letter notes, I signed as an individual -- not representing either my parish or diocese. But to be clear,  I serve a congregation (All Saints Church, Pasadena) which has had an open table since the 1980's and the days of our Rector Emeritus George Regas and I serve as Canon for Engagement Across Difference in the Diocese of Los Angeles, where we are committed to creating bridges that span differences ... not building walls that exacerbate divisions. 

So when I was asked to consider adding my name to this letter, they had me at "It feels as though there are two opposing camps on the topic of “open communion,” choosing up sides and talking past each other."

I believe we can, should and must do better than that ... and so I hope these words will be received as part of that work of finding a better way to move forward together in these perilous times when our beautiful and broken world so desperately needs the Good News of God's love, justice and compassion we have to offer.


June 5, 2022 |  Day of Pentecost
A Statement on Baptism and Eucharist in The Episcopal Church

 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”    Matthew 9:9-13


Dear Bishop Klusmeyer, Bishop Lee, Dr. Meyers, and Canon Simmonds Ballentine,

Greetings on this Feast of the Pentecost.

We are writing on behalf of ourselves and not our respective churches, dioceses or institutions. We are a group of church folks, lay and ordained, scholars, and seminary professors. We write out of deep concern at the vehemence of opposition to C028(“All Are Welcome At The Table”), particularly a letter from twenty-two of our colleagues. Some of us are from the Diocese of Northern California which has sponsored this resolution.

The resolution in question proposes to repeal the Canon I.17.7, which states: “No unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church.”

Many of the signatories are friends whom we respect. We agree with them that baptism is the “fountain from which the other sacraments flow” and that Holy Baptism and Holy Eucharist are “a gift of supernatural grace.”

But on this Day of Pentecost, we are especially aware that the gifts of supernatural grace from the Holy Spirit do not always come in the neat order required by canons.

It feels as though there are two opposing camps on the topic of “open communion,” choosing up sides and talking past each other.

We therefore have the following proposal for you (and others to consider):

1 -    Refer C028 to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to examine the underlying biblical, theological and liturgical issues, history and practical impact of Canon I.17.7, including whether eligibility requirements for the sacrament of Holy Communion appropriately belongs in the canons.

 2 -    Ask the commission to consider developing an invitational rubric to Communion in the Book of Common Prayer.

 3 -    Ask the commission to consider replacing the language of the canon with a positive statement affirming that the fullest meaning of our Holy Eucharist is lived out through our Baptismal Covenant.

We fully support the resolution passed in 2012 by General Convention (2012-C029) stating: “That the Episcopal Church reaffirms that baptism is the ancient and normative entry point to receiving Holy Communion and that our Lord Jesus Christ calls us to go into the world and baptize all peoples.”

We believe that the 2012 resolution wisely recognized that while the “normative” entry point to Holy Communion is baptism, there are other entry points as well.

Those of us who have served in local churches are aware of instances where the unchurched have been drawn to baptism only after first receiving Holy Communion. We have experienced how the Holy Spirit does not always work in linear ways or respect the “good order” of the Church.

The crux of the present issue does not stem from a lack of respect for and belief in baptism. Rather, it stems from how the 1979 Book of Common Prayer eliminated the requirement that a person must be confirmed to receive Communion. The 1979 prayer book remained silent about any other eligibility requirements for receiving Communion. The canon requiring baptism was adopted at a subsequent General Convention.

At worst, eliminating Canon I.17.17 brings us back to where the prayer book left us in 1979.

We are concerned that the language of the canon carries a tone of control and gatekeeping. That the canon begins with the word “No” underscores how this canon is essentially a negative rule rather than an invitation to the grace of the sacraments.

The current canon has the unintended effect of diminishing both sacraments. The canon makes it sound as if one sacrament — Baptism — is a dinner ticket to the other sacrament — Communion.

In practical terms, the canon is virtually unenforceable. No priest or bishop we know checks for baptismal certificates at the altar rail. No priest or bishop we know has been disciplined for serving Communion to an unbaptized person.

As followers of Jesus, we resist such barriers to those seeking the grace and mercy of the sacraments from whatever doors they enter.

We are also concerned that the letter writers assert that “God’s people” are restricted only to the baptized. That assertion has a narrow, tribal tone that does not serve our church well. Moreover, their assertion, perhaps unintentionally, creates a barrier to interfaith relations.

Indeed, when the presider at the Holy Eucharist raises the elements and proclaims the words “The Gifts of God for the People of God,” we hear in that an invitation to all of humanity. For as the apostle Paul wrote in the Letter to the Romans 8:14, which we hear on this Pentecost Day, “All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.”

Faithfully submitted, through the Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ,

Dr. Diana Butler Bass, Ph.D.  
Author and historian 
Diocese of Virginia

The  Very Rev. Penny Bridges
Dean, St Paul’s Cathedral, San Diego
Diocese of San Diego

The Very Rev. Dr. Donald G. Brown
Dean Emeritus, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Sacramento
Diocese of California

The Rev. Dr. Linda Lee Clader
Professor Emerita, Church Divinity School of the Pacific
Diocese of Northern California

The Rev. Cookie Clark
Deacon, Church of the Epiphany, Vacaville
Clergy Deputy
Diocese of Northern California

The Rev. Robin Denney
Rector, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Napa
Clergy Deputy
Diocese of Northern California

Jay Elmquist
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Sacramento
Lay Deputy
Diocese of Northern California

The Very Rev. Gail Greenwell
Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Cincinnati, retired
Diocese of Southern Ohio

The Rev. Dr. Robert Gregg
Professor and University Chaplain Emeritus,
Stanford University

The Rev. Canon Rosa Lee Harden
Executive Producer, Faith+Finance
Asheville, North Carolina

Peter Juve
Saint Mary’s Church, Napa
Lay Deputy
Diocese of Northern California

The Very Rev. Nathan LeRud
Dean, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Portland
Diocese of Oregon

The Rev. Dr. Daniel DeForest London, Ph.D.
Rector, Christ Episcopal Church, Eureka
Diocese of Northern California

The Rev. Dr. Rebecca Lyman,
Samuel Garrett Professor of Church History, emerita
Church Divinity School of the Pacific
Diocese of California

Canon Charles R. Mack, Chancellor Emeritus and Vice Chancellor
First Lay Alternate Deputy
Diocese of Northern California

The Very Rev. Kristi Maulden
Dean, Cathedral of St John, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande

The Very Reverend Ronald D. Pogue
Dean (interim, retired), Saint John’s Cathedral, Denver Colorado
and St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Jackson, Mississippi
Diocese of Texas

The Rev. Br. Simeon (Lewis) Powell, C.G.
Clergy Deputy, and Chair of the Deputation
Diocese of Northern California

The Rev. James Richardson
Former Associate Dean and Interim Dean, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Sacramento
Former Rector, St. Paul’s Memorial Church, Charlottesville, Virginia
First Clergy Alternate Deputy
Diocese of Northern California

The Rev. Canon Susan Russell
All Saints, Pasadena
Diocese of Los Angeles

The Rev. Dr.  Susanna Singer, Ph.D.
Professor Emerita of Ministry Development
Church Divinity School of the Pacific
Diocese of California

The Rev. Dr. P. Donald White, Jr.
Former Chair, Board of Trustees, Church Divinity School of the Pacific
Diocese of Louisiana

DonnaJo Woollen
Emmanuel Church, Grass Valley, California
Lay Deputy
Diocese of Northern California