Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Beloved, do not imitate what is evil but imitate what is good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.--3 John: 11
This exhortation seems the most fitting statement for where I am in my thinking at the close of 2009. This has year has sped by, and in the process, there have been some ups and downs and big bumps in the road. In reflecting on all-things-queer, I remember how deeply stung I felt about the results of the November 2008 election, especially how supposed friends in the straight community could not understand the depth and breadth of pain Florida LGBT people were feeling. My "otherness" had been made very clear... and I entered the year with bitter anger, resentment and feeling numb on some level. What a set up for Lent when I realized that the "thing" I needed to work on was my hardness of heart. And, just as it always seems to happen with me, I served as a Eucharistic Minister the Thursday after Ash Wednesday... and there in the Prayers of the People at the top of page 391:
For this congregation... that we may be delivered from
hardness of heart, and show forth your glory in all that we
do, we pray to you, O Lord.
I can say with certainty that I did not do well with this Lenten discipline because I could not shake that feeling that my "otherness" was being used against me and my fellow "others".
But if there is one thing I think I'm learning about God it's that God doesn't restrict God's work to a season, and won't be held hostage by our human attempts to keep God locked into "seasons". And so this summer, this glorious summer, I was encouraged in Tim Miller's performance workshop to explore my felt "otherness" of queer Christian by pulling the narration of my story out of my body through physical movement, as opposed to simply writing like a mad woman at a computer. The short monologue I developed feels like the seedling for a much bigger piece... if I will make the time to let the sun shine on it and help it to grow.
God also ended the winter season of discontent by blowing life into the actions of our General Convention in Anaheim. Because of the passage of D025 and C056, LGBT Episcopalians could rejoice and be glad in the thought that our "otherness" would not ban our queer priests from becoming bishops, and in those places with marriage equality, Episcopal bishops were now free to develop and work with clergy on rites that could celebrate a same-sex marriage. Hallelujah!
Sadly, winter hangs on in the South in ways that it doesn't normally in nature. And yet, even with bishops in our region stamping their feet and declaring that "nothing has changed", I am deeply aware that things are changing, and no amount of human intervention is going to stop it from changing. Because the good shepherd is aware that one of the sheep was allowed... even encouraged... to wander away from the flock, and the shepherd is not going to stop searching for that sheep, and will brave the wolves and the lions to keep calling out to the lost and lonely one that was told by the liars to go away. And with the election of more and more bishops in this country who recognize that Christ died for ALL people, the icicles are starting to drip.
Of course, there is still Uganda. Burundi. Rwanda. Malawi. Nigeria. The Anglican Covenant. Maine. New York. New Jersey. California. Yes, all of these are painful. All of them have felt like set backs. But there was also Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, Argentina, Mexico City, Washington, DC and State. In those moments when I pause and look at the creche set up on our mantle piece, or the Advent and Christmas candles beside it, I am reminded that nothing about God is necessarily easy. That wasn't the promise. The promise was that God has come, and will be with us always no matter what the circumstances. The light will pierce the darkness, and it prevails with each of us carrying that light inside us out into the world.
Beloved, do not imitate what is evil but imitate what is good.
Happy New Year!
Monday, December 28, 2009
Isn't that how so many respond to the threat of someone or something else that challenges "the norm"? Kill it. Kill them. Kill the "others". I can't help but think about the situation in Africa with the LGBT community... or the senseless murders of transgender people in this country... when I think of how Herod sought to stamp out Jesus through a massacre of all Jewish males of a certain age. Fear of the "other" has always led to horrible actions.
We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy
into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your
great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish
your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ
our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the
Holy Spirit,, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
The Gospel According to John is much different than the other three synoptic gospels. In fact, in my study of John from EfM, we can see the entire layout of the gospel as being like an opera with the beginning sounding like an overture echoing the first creation story of Genesis ("In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.") There is the announcement from John the Baptist to make straight the way of the Lord as the opening aria of the opera, and then Jesus, the man (not the baby) is on the scene. This Jesus is philosophical and engages in complex discussions with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman at the well. He reveals to his listeners some of the keys to his identity by using the "I am" language ("I am the bread of life" "I am the true vine" "I am the light, the life, the truth"). And, as with the synoptic gospels, there are many who do not believe and the unbelief will eventually be the undoing of Jesus as a human, and will lead to the crucifixion. And, what might be seen as a tragic opera, does not end that way because Jesus is resurrected and returns to his disciple called Simon Peter and reverses the poor man's transgression by asking him three times, "Do you love me?" (Remember, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times at the time of his trial).
The sad part of John's gospel is that because of his references to "the Jews", this book has often been misquoted and misused to demonize the Jewish people and has led to persecution of Jews at the hands of Christians. As with all Scripture, those with evil intent will use the Bible as a bomb, not a book. When reading John, one has to understand that he was writing at a time when there was increasing tensions in the Temples as the olden day Jews for Jesus were showing up, and the Jews who did not recognize Jesus as Messiah were not interested in having Jesus held up to them all the time. In this way, John is the evangelist who might well be seen as the one who brought us closer to having a Christian identity. And that's OK, but shouldn't be seen as giving us license to crack on those who don't think and believe as we do. As I've said often here, God is a whole lot smarter than we are, and we have no idea how God is working to get the light to pierce through the darkness. Our mission is to look for it, and move along that lighted path.
Shed upon your Church, O Lord, the brightness of your light; that we, being illumined by the teaching of your apostle and evangelist John, may so walk in the light of your truth, that at length we may attain to the fullness of eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
--The Collect for St. John
For many years, he had become a fixture in the background because his late wife, Dr. Maryanne Ward, had been one of our writers and a very large presence in her motorized wheelchair which sometimes doubled as a tank, or Pharaoh's throne. Art's biggest breakthrough as an actor was in a video short I wrote called, "K-Tel Kurt Weill" in which he played the title character at the piano. With the glasses, Art was a near dead-ringer for the German composer. And Maryanne was a very grumpy looking Lotte Lenya. It was fitting to put him at the piano. He loved music, and had picked up the accordian. We also used his sense of rhythm to be our drummer in Maryanne's masterpiece, "MacBeef; a fast-food tradgedie". The "Braveheart" make-up and costume were hysterical.
Art had devoted much of his life caring for Maryanne as her illness debilitated her more and more. Since her passing, he was able to take care of himself and do things he'd always wanted to do. He had bought a place outside of Aspen, so that he could enjoy some R&R there.
Art was an avid runner, so his death by a heart attack was particularly unexpected. I am sorry that his life ended just as he was getting a second-wind. His brother, sister-in-law, and niece, his companion, his running family, and the Faustkateers will miss him.
Rest eternal grant to him, O Lord;
And let light perpetual shine upon him.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Blessed be the Lord,
for he has heard the sound of my pleadings.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
in him my heart trusts;
so I am helped, and my heart exults,
and with my song I give thanks to him.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
CAPTION : "Next time, I'm just going to stay up here and hide behind the soft cushions!"
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Still, THINKING ANGLICANS has been putting up some headlines that indicate that the homophobes may be feeling so much under attack that they're circling their wagons. One can only hope that by exposing the human rights abuses inherent in this legislation, this bill will find its way into the circular file.
May God give us his blessing,
and may all the ends of the earth stand in awe of him.
"Christmas: the holiday that celebrates the only Jewish boy who grew up to meet his mother's expectations!"
I'll be back with more thoughts later, but a little levity is always good.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
he will renew you* in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing
as on a day of festival.*
I will remove disaster from you,*
so that you will not bear reproach for it.
I will deal with all your oppressors
at that time.
And I will save the lame
and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
and renown in all the earth.
At that time I will bring you home,
at the time when I gather you;
for I will make you renowned and praised
among all the peoples of the earth,
when I restore your fortunes
before your eyes, says the Lord.
--Zephaniah 3: 17-20
As we look at the growing brightness of the candles of the Advent wreath, I am reminded that while there are four equal parts light, the spaces between those bright lights aren't quite as illuminated. And in this way, I see this as a metaphor for 'the world'. There is brightness in the corners, but we haven't achieved full enlightenment yet.
Today's international LGBT news is another illustration of what I'm talking about: on the one hand, there is an interview a friend forwarded to me from Christianity Today with David Zac Niringiye, an assistant Bishop in the Church of Uganda in Kampala, who basically is telling westerners protesting the proposed Anti-Homosexuality bill, "Shut up and stay out of our business, you colonial creeps!" It should be noted that the bishop never seems to talk about "sisters in Christ" preferring only to reference his 'brother'. This is not surprising as most homophobes are likely to be misogynists as well.
At the other end of the day, and half-a-world away from Uganda... in Mexico City, the government in this highly Roman Catholic Latin center has termed marriage, "the free union between two people." This opens the door to same-sex marriages, AND the city legislature also adopted a law allowing same-sex couples to adopt children. Wow! Light amidst the dark.
As I've been sitting with Advent this time around and prepping for the entry of God into the world, I am feeling a great sense of anticipation that, indeed, I am part of that grouping of outcasts that will be gathered. I keep hearing and seeing evidence in other parts of the country and the world that the light of Christ is illuminating these previously darkened areas.
But, see, that's the point: I hear and I see... but the light is still just a dim shimmering luminescence seen through the curtain that the opponents of such light keep holding across the window. And I wonder, "How long?" I can see this light, I know it's there, but when will it be allowed to really shine here? This is a concept that I think escapes my brothers and sisters privileged to live closer to the light. It is a reality that my straight brothers and sisters live with in their own homes, and thus can not understand what it means not to have it's warm glow shining in the living room just because there are those who do not believe I am supposed to have this light.
At least I can glimpse it's glow through the curtain-drawn window. My brothers and sisters in Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda... and elsewhere... are threatened by those who would extinguish this light from the world... or at least from their sight.
"Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation,
that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a
mansion prepared for himself..."
I have never before felt such a desire to "prepare a mansion" in me to welcome the one who will ransom this new captive Israel. We need this light to start a fire in the belly of all people to see that we must end the strife and the desire to turn love into a criminal act, one to be despised, imprisoned, and killed.
Ah, but then isn't that Holy Week?
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Amidst all the prep for today, I had an interruption courtesy of my regular visitor, King the Jehovah's Witness. King wanted to know if I thought churches taught Scripture. I thought that a very odd question, and I said I think many do. Not true, according to King. And that's when he started telling me about the "myths of Christianity" which included the Holy Trinity and the belief that Mary is the Mother of God.
A brief pause here. I have been thinking quite a bit about Mary in anticipation of hearing the reading of the annunciation that she is going to give birth to a boy who she was to name Jesus. The way the story in Luke reads to me, Gabriel presents himself to this young Jewish teen-ager and says, "Mary, you lucky girl! Have we got an offer for you!!" Once the plan has been presented, the question becomes: what is Mary going to say. One scenario would be that she says, "I'm outta here, ya freak!" Instead, she said, "Here am I" and Mary gives her body in sacrifice and glory to God. And thus begins the most amazing love story of God for us.
Now, back to King. When King suggested that Mary didn't give birth to God, my ears perked up. "How do you figure that?"
OK... that was a mistake because then he refuted the Trinity. In fairness, I told him that we weren't going to be able to agree on this because I do believe in God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
"But it's not in the Bible," says King. I looked at him in disbelief. He explained the word "Trinity" isn't in the Bible. But I insisted the concept of three aspects of God is in the Bible. This led King to crack open the Bible.
This is where the conversation went further awry. In trying to "prove" to me that Jesus was not God, he told me that Jesus never asserted that he was God.
"True enough, but how do you explain the Gospel of John where the Word was made flesh?"
King turned to the evangelist's words on the Word in the bible. King's bible maintains that "In the beginning" was the Word... and the Word was "a god", not "God".
"That's paganism," I told him. I could see this was frustrating for him to hear.
"There were many gods, but there is only one true God." And for King... that's God the Father.
"So, what are saying about Jesus? Are you telling me he was merely a prophet?"
And this is when it got even trippier. Only angels, apparently, are heavenly beings who appear human.
"Are you saying that Jesus was an angel? Oh, I think he was more than an angel, King."
As King insisted that Jesus was not God, I started to laugh. "Oh, man, King you are ruining my Advent if you tell me Jesus isn't God made incarnate through a woman!" King's sidekick, who had been silent up to this point, chuckled at that. King, realizing that I was sincere in my insistence that we weren't going to agree, handed me the magazines and asked that I please read the article on the myths of Christianity... and he would pray for me.
I will pray for me, too, that I learn to not answer the door when King arrives.
Meanwhile, with the fourth candle coming for Advent, I remain reflective on the waiting for the arrival of the light into this very dark world. It is getting brighter!
His Grace, who has fallen from grace between his inaction and then insipid comments on Uganda while being the bully about the election in the Diocese of Los Angeles, insists on pushing this Anglican Covenant. I can see a scenario in which The Episcopal Church USA signs the stupid thing, and thus kills it because "Ewwww... they have girls and gays!" In this video statement, the Archbishop tries to tell us that this Covenant doesn't have a "penal code". But it would seem that if part four has rules for what makes you 'in communion' or 'in conflict' with the communion, then there must be some UNacceptable behaviors that will be seen as "naughty" (like consecrating LGBT as bishps perhaps??)
I'm with those in the United States who maintain we already HAVE a covenant. It's in our Book of Common Prayer, pages 304-305. Read, mark, learn and inwardly digest what's there.
And for commentary from across the Atlantic on the Archbishop's statement... I advise a visit to Mad Priest and frdougal.
Friday, December 18, 2009
In my household, December has LOTS of light. Hanukkah menorahs (yes, two) and my make-shift Advent wreath help provide a lot of light in a room.
And as I consider the darkness of the shadows some would like to cast on this world, gazing into the flames of these candles can do much to rekindle and remind me that we must all make the commitment to spread the light around. Shine it into every corner, and show it in your face and your eyes as you interact with a stranger.
Don't let the light go out!
I think there is something prophetic that the email announcing the latest foot-in-mouth move by the "leaders" of the Anglican Communion landed in my Spam file!
The Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion passed the following resolution to address the crisis occuring in the world:
Resolved that, in the light of:
1. The recent episcopal nomination in the Diocese of Los Angeles of a partnered lesbian candidate
2. The decisions in a number of US and Canadian dioceses to proceed with formal ceremonies of same-sex blessings
3. Continuing cross-jurisdictional activity within the Communion
The Standing Committee strongly reaffirm Resolution 14.09 of ACC 14 supporting the three moratoria proposed by the Windsor Report and the associated request for gracious restraint in respect of actions that endanger the unity of the Anglican Communion by going against the declared view of the Instruments of Communion.
I'm beginning to think the "Instruments" of Communion actually refer to a hammer and sickle.
How can they expect anyone to take this notion of an "Anglican Communion" seriously if the most dangerous threat to its unity is a lesbian elected as a bishop when there are nations with large Anglican memberships that are proposing to jail and fine people for being gay... or for even being associated with gay people?
If London calls, graciously restrain from answering. It's just harassment at this point.
Meanwhile, in response, the Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles issued this statement:
As we approach the nativity of Christ, we need to remember the admonition of the angels to the shepherds: “Be not afraid.”
The Episcopal Church, a member of the Anglican Communion, for more than the past 30 years has been working on gradual, full incorporation of gay and lesbian people. We have worked to be people of gracious restraint for all these years and have now come to a place in our lives that is normal evolutionary change which compels us to move from tolerance to full inclusion.
As with racial and cultural divides, we can look to the great words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who calls us not to fall prey to the insidious drug of gradualism. Indeed, as he said in his speech titled “I Have a Dream”: “This is no time…to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism…. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”
We must move forward and respect the dignity of all human beings which is called for in our Baptismal Covenant and canons.
The Diocese of Los Angeles has acted in good faith and is moving forward in supporting the full inclusion and full humanity of all people in the Church. Thus, we celebrate the elections of Diane Jardine Bruce and Mary Douglas Glasspool as our next Bishops Suffragan called to share in the work of a strong episcopal team serving this Diocese and all of God’s people.
Thanks be to God for Bishop Jon Bruno of Los Angeles!
Article 217 will criminalize same-sex relationships, and organizations that support LGBT people, with prison terms ranging from 5-10 years, and fines ranging from 2,000-1,000,000 Rwandan francs!
Up to now, homosexuality has not been an issue in Rwanda (because they didn't have any gay people... Yeah, right!).
Will Pastor Rick Warren, and the rest of the United States' Religious Right-wing, use their bully pulpits to speak out against THIS one? Again, these are the people who have exported our so-called "culture war" to Africa. And they have had willing disciples in bishops and pastors in these countries (Rwanda's Anglican Church boycotted the last Lambeth Conference and has been on record opposing homosexuality since 1998).
I hold no hope that the Archbishop of Canterbury will sit down for tea with another journalist to denounce this action. Or that the Pope will dispatch another minion to speak for him before an international panel in New York.
When will people quit this crusade against us?
Thursday, December 17, 2009
I have made strides in opening that closet door. I display both a rainbow triangle and the shield of the Episcopal Church on my car. I have told people in my theatre company that I can not attend clean up and work parties at our space if they schedule them on Sunday mornings because I am at church. And I am speaking up more on Facebook.
For example, I recently posted an item about the knuckle-draggers from Kansas (aka Westboro Baptist Church) who like to protest funerals with signs about "God Hates Fags" and other such nonsense. They were apparently trying to disrupt Hanukkah celebrations in Palm Beach County (which has a very large Jewish populace). Nobody paid attention to them... except for the media there to report that they were being ignored by the people entering a Jewish community center. At any rate, in the article, the intellectually impotent protestors were trotting out the misinformation that "the Jews killed Jesus!" One of my friends commented, "Jews killed Jesus?? Not exactly. Religious extremists killed Jesus!"
I corrected him to point out that it was the Romans who killed Jesus, and noted that religious extremists want to keep him dead because otherwise he'd kick their homophobic asses.
This may not seem like much, but for me to make an assertion that Jesus would be an ass-kicker of such idiots... rather than go along as I used to and lump all people of Christian faith under the label of "religious extremists" and do it in writing is a bold move for me.
Another friend took one of those silly Facebook quizzes and when it revealed that she was most like Mary... in that she was "holy and caring and looked out for others", she scoffed at the "holy" suggestion, but was OK with the other two. I clicked on the comment button and offered that I didn't agree: it was because she did care and looked out for others that made her "holy". She offered back a grinning emoticon, and I took another step out of the closet.
I try not to shove my Christianity on to others, but I also don't want to hide it. And maybe I can encourage a few to see the "good" parts of what it means to believe and trust in Christ. Whether that leads them to following Christ is not for me to push. I believe God is the one who shepherds people that way. Mine is to put an incarnated queer face on the flock... and show that we really are allowed inside the gate. Really. We are!!
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Archbishop Rowan Williams,
I do not doubt that you are a man of God. However, your decision to publicly condemn the election of Rev. Canon Mary D. Glasspool for a Bishop Suffragan in the Diocese of Los Angeles while not swiftly condemning the Anglican Church leaders in Uganda for supporting the Anti-Homosexuality legislation raises questions for me.
God is calling LGBT people to come to the table for fellowship and communion; not for imprisonment and death.
Please, if you really want to save this Anglican Communion, consider the damage of your spoken and UNspoken words.
Peace be with you,
To this, the Press Secretary to the Archbishop sent me the following:
Thank you for your message and for taking the trouble to write about this deeply painful issue.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is very clear that the Private Member’s Bill being discussed in Uganda as drafted is entirely unacceptable from a pastoral, moral and legal point of view. It is a cause of deep concern, fear and, to many, outrage. The Archbishop has publicly stated that “the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I can’t see how it can be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades”.
For its part the Church of Uganda has clearly restated its opposition to the death penalty. As the Ugandan Church continues to formulate its position on the bill as a whole, the Archbishop has been working intensively behind the scenes (over the past weeks) to ensure that there is clarity on how the proposed bill is contrary to Anglican teaching.
Three important notes: one is that I wrote of my concerns about the ABC's conduct before his interview last week with the Telegraph in which he made the public statement. As far as I know, that's the only statement he's made on the topic.
Point two: While it is true that the Ugandan Church has publicly stated that it is "considering" the legislation, there have been reports of Ugandan clerics... including Anglicans... publicly stating that they are in favor of "the private member's bill". They may not be speaking on behalf of the Anglican church; however they are members of the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda. Why are they not being "called out" for subverting the so-called "Listening Process"?
Final point: While Ms. Papworth was kind enough to address the issue of what had, at the time of my initial email, been the UNspoken words from the Archbishop, she refused to acknowledge that ++Rowan had said things in re: the election of Rev. Canon Mary D. Glasspool which were out-of-line. I think I was clear enough that my concern was for what was SPOKEN as well as UNSPOKEN. Obviously, Ms. Papworth felt no need to comment further on THAT argument.
I have remarked elsewhere that it would be one thing to be angry with the Archbishop for not taking a stronger stand earlier about this horrid legislation in Uganda. But what was the tipping point for me, and I think many others, was that the ABC had been so publicly silent on Uganda while being so publicly the bully about the election in Los Angeles. And within a half-day of the vote!! Where are your priorities, man? That Lambeth still can not see the hypocrisy is really mind-boggling.
Today's morning office had one of the best sections of Psalm 119:
I implore your favour with all my heart;
be gracious to me according to your promise.
When I think of your ways,
I turn my feet to your decrees;
I hurry and do not delay
to keep your commandments.
Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me,
I do not forget your law.
At midnight I rise to praise you,
because of your righteous ordinances.
I am a companion of all who fear you,
of those who keep your precepts.
The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love;
teach me your statutes.
Psalm 119: 58-64
As always, I must remember to keep my eyes focused, my ears alert, and my heart open to the light, the truth and the love.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
Thank you for convening this panel discussion and for providing the opportunity to hear some very serious concerns raised this afternoon. My comments are more in the form of a statement rather than a question.
As stated during the debate of the General Assembly last year, the Holy See continues to oppose all grave violations of human rights against homosexual persons, such as the use of the death penalty, torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. The Holy See also opposes all forms of violence and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons, including discriminatory penal legislation which undermines the inherent dignity of the human person.
As raised by some of the panelists today, the murder and abuse of homosexual persons are to be confronted on all levels, especially when such violence is perpetrated by the State. While the Holy See’s position on the concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity remains well known, we continue to call on all States and individuals to respect the rights of all persons and to work to promote their inherent dignity and worth.
Thank you, Mr. Moderator.
This statement comes after LGBT Catholics have been lobbying the Vatican to say something for over a year. Better late than never!
Thanks to the Institute for Welcoming Resources for this information
Such was the case yesterday during our Sequence hymn which was "Prepare the way, O Zion". You can hum along if you wish, but the lyrics that leaped out at me were in verse two:
He brings God's rule, O Zion;
he comes from heaven above.
His rule is peace and freedom,
and justice, truth and love.
Lift high your praise resounding,
for grace and joy abounding.
Oh, blest is Christ that came in God's most holy name.
Year C is still in its infancy, but as we progress through this time of Advent, I have been more and more aware of the liberation that comes from God, and Jesus as the emancipator, the one who releases us from prisons, real or imagined. "His rule is peace and freedom, and justice, truth and love." This 'new thing' that we are waiting for during Advent is coming to counter the adversity, imprisonment, and hatred that engulfs us in bitter disputes and darkness.
Of course, the attempt to bring us to peace and freedom causes more anxiety, more anger, more resistance. Especially as we make our way through the Gospel of Luke, those who would like to draw lines in the sand or shut the door that Christ kicks open for everyone's entry, will likely amp up their noise. Luke's gospel is full of examples of a God on a mission to seek out the least and the last, and bring them into the story as important people... even if they happen to be "outsiders". I would think such words in Scripture would irritate the crap out of those who want to exclude people from God's kingdom. On blogs that tilt more to the conservative side, progressive voices in the blogosphere are not only being ridiculed, they're being banned! It's almost as if there is a desire on the part of conservatives to be in "lock-down" within the prison of fear, and anything that might suggest that the fear is self-generated is seen as an assault. That's really too bad.
"Lift high your praise resounding, for grace and joy abounding." This is where I'd rather be. This is the place where I'd rather stand which matches with the words of the Proper Preface for Advent:
Because you sent your beloved Son to redeem us from sin and
death, and to make us heirs in him of everlasting life; that
when he shall come again in power and great triumph to
judge the world, we may without shame or fear rejoice to
behold his appearing.
I would much rather have my head up without shame or fear at Advent and await expectantly the entry of the God who marches ALL of us on the road to freedom and liberation and leads us past the protesters on our parade route. There is no promise that we won't get yelled at, or spit on, along the way. But the promise is that we are on a journey out of darkness if we stick to this path with him, and he won't leave the walk and abandon us.
Oh, blest is Christ that came in God's most holy name.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
This is a huge moment in gay politics in this country. Congratulations to Annise Parker and to the city of Houston.
The stirring is happening faster and faster.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins,
let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver
us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and
the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.
What a time to encounter the message of "stir up your power, O Lord"!
I have been sensing deep within me that we are in a time of much stirring and shifting in ways I don't recall feeling at Advents past. All the commotion in the Anglican Communion (as "Anglican" and "communal" as it is at this point), and the elections of many bishops, some thought to be long shots, are just a small example of the stirring that I am sensing as the "great might" of God comes in to save us from the sins of exclusion, division, pride, and greed.
I keep thinking the waters that God is troubling at this time run much deeper than what splashes on the pages of major newspapers. And the waters are moving, the current is swift, and the ice that we have been standing on for decades is beginning to thin and crack and break. Beware to those who believe that they can "ice" the fire of God! God's bountiful grace and mercy will overtake you.
I suppose the image of water is an appropriate one as we prepare the way for the birth of God as Jesus Christ. One of the amazing parts of this entry of God into the world is that he comes to us the same way most of us came into the world ourselves: through the water of our mother's birth canal. And in a way that speaks to the mystery of God, this appearance to us comes in the innocence of a baby boy, born in an unsanitary stable and dependent upon a young teen-aged mother Mary and her not-really-the-father husband, a carpenter named Joseph, to keep him alive. This whole plot seems like risky business! But God was determined. There were sheep that were lost, a nation scattered, depressed and broken. People were needing to be ransomed, reclaimed, reconciled, redeemed. And thus, the mission to rescue these lost and lonely ones began in a barn in Bethlehem.
The feeling that I've been having, the odd rumbling of a timpani drum in the back of my brain, is that this is a mission God has been on, is on, and will be on, always keeping the waters moving beneath the icy surface so that it can never totally freeze God out. I have been surprised, in my own community, to encounter more and more LGBT people who hunger and thirst for something that is bigger than themselves. I got a sense of that this past summer when, during our Queer As Faust cabaret, my parody video of the Mac vs. PC ads called "Queer vs. Christian" garnered not only loud applause from the audience, but a number of people cornered me afterward to tell me they really appreciated an affirming message about queers and Christianity. I sense a growing desire for some who have found themselves estranged from their faith communities to feel welcomed back into those places again. This longing I see as a people who are hearing the call to "come home" amidst the static that attempts to disrupt that call. Or perhaps, these are the people who have grown tired of the cold and icy place where they stand, and long to be closer to the hearth.
I would say now, even amidst what appears to be the chaotic upheaval in many parts of mainstream Christendom, this is as good a time as any to respond to that stirring power that is beckoning to us. Prepare the way, indeed! Come into meeting and welcoming this "new thing" that promises to intervene in the chaos, and break-up the ice. Know that it is good, and it's for you always.
One of the people commenting on Brown's post I think hit the nail on the head. The Archbishop is basically out-of-his-league in these matters of worldly... real-life affairs. He is a great scholar. He is no doubt a valued voice in academia. But the threat of prison and the persecution of LGBT people, especially at the hands of Christians and fellow "anglicans", is something that doesn't fit neatly into a thesis. And my own perception is that the man is too proud to see that he may be on the wrong path, and that he may not be able to apply his book knowledge to solve the issues of bigotry and hatred. That's just my observation. For these reasons, I'm actually very sad for the Archbishop, but that doesn't excuse him from his Johnny-come-lately statement (such as it is) when he so quickly condemned last weekend's vote in Los Angeles where two women, one a lesbian, were elected Bishop Suffragans.
So, thanks for the crumbs. But even the crumbs are stale.
Meanwhile, the Diocese of Upper South Carolina has elected a new bishop, Rev. W. Andrew Waldo. Bishop-elect Waldo spent some time in my native Diocese of New Hampshire, serving as a curate in the "Queen City" of Manchester; hence he is not only aware of Bishop Gene Robinson, but apparently calls him an "old friend and mentor." The Archbishop will be happy to know that this particular Bishop-elect is a non-celibate white heterosexual man, so there will be no need to fire off terse statements questioning his election, and encouraging bishops and standing committees to reject him. Congratulations to the Upper South Carolina folks. The bio on your new bishop sounds like you will make beautiful music together!
Thursday, December 10, 2009
News out of Uganda is that the horrendous attack on homosexuality bill has been "toned down".
Gone is the provision that calls for the death penalty in cases of "aggravated homosexuality" and the life imprisonment for other types of same-sex relations. This may have happened because of the growing international outrage over this legislation. And, well, the Ugandan Church was a little uncomfortable with that whole DEATH thing.
But make no mistake about it: just because some of the more extreme elements, such as the death penalty for HIV+ or disabled queers having sex, are out of the legislation... this measure is still disasterous and draconian and thoroughly ANTI-Christian.
It still requires family and friends to turn in their LGBT loved ones, or face prison sentences.
It still punishes with imprisonment anyone involved in "promoting" homosexuality. This would include western aid agencies.
It still seeks extradition of Ugandans abroad who have fled to avoid persecution for being LGBT.
And, of course, since this bill has the backing of some of our most notorious homophobes in the United States, the ultimate goal is to arrest LGBT people and offer them a choice: go to prison, or undergo "therapy" to "cure" them of their "illness".
I'm sorry, but this does not make me feel better about the bill or its intention. And, sadly, the news seems to be that it will be ready for a vote in two weeks... just in time for Christmas!
The bill's sponsor is David Bahati, but the measure has the backing all the way up to the President of Uganda who has made statements about Europeans coming into his country "to recruit" Ugandans into being gay. Yes, friends: it's the ol' recruiting argument again. Only this time, it's more serious and dangerous because it's not just some whacked-out person standing on a street corner screaming at a gay pride parade: it's the head of state, a country that Evangelical leader Rick Warren has called "a purpose-driven nation." Warren, by the way, has chosen to duck his head in the sand on this. Perhaps he didn't realize that his homophobia could spread like purpose-driven wildfire the way it has!
As our Presiding Bishop noted in her statement, the colonialism we have brought to Africa is exporting our homophobic "Ex-Gay" movement and imposing on them our rotten culture war. For shame!
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Once you have watched this video, please take a moment to pray for those who struggle against the tide of God's inclusive love.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Monday, December 7, 2009
St. John's Episcopal Church does one thing extremely well: pomp and circumstance through music. Our choir is just that good, and when the music is good, it aids me in moving into a ritual headspace that allows the Word of God to richochet around and around, and can take my thinking to a new level.
And so, back to my argument with myself that this entry is called "Advent Lessons IN Carols and Such".
The processional and recessional anthems were two of the Advent standards: O Come, O Come Emmanuel and Lo, He Comes With Clouds Descending. I love both hymns, but I was reminded last night how O Come, O Come Emmanuel had made an early appearance a few years ago as my poor brain was stuck with the never-ending jukebox of Episcopal hymns. Last night, as we were singing and processing up the aisle, I became aware of why THAT hymn, of all the Advent ones, had been in the playlist:
O Come, O Come Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
Israel, or the ones drifting after destruction of their Temple and scattering of their people and assimilating into other cultures and being dogged by opponents: feelings anyone who has ever felt scorned or set aside or put upon can say, "Oh, baby, I know that feeling!" Certainly, as a lesbian in Tallahassee, I had that "special" feeling of exile from the Episcopal Church that had been my spiritual grounding, and it was a very lonely exile and I did mourn. And so, as God commanded me to "Show up!", my understanding was that I, like Israel, am to be ransomed by the coming Emmanuel. Now, this old familiar tune becomes a song of freedom and liberation.
O Come, Desire of nations,
bind in one the hearts of all mankind;
bid thou our sad divisions cease,
and by thyself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
In this time of Advent, as we who profess to be Christian are awaiting the entry of God into our realm, we are again at each others throats over matters of mankind. If it's not our uneasiness and disturbance with the economy, it's the latest efforts to rob joy from this season of celebration by raising the spectre of possible ex-commuication from the Anglican Communion if our Church allows God to call LGBT people to the episcopate. This morning, I included the Collect for the Unity of the Church in my morning daily office. This evening, I offered a silent prayer for the Archbishop of Canterbury as a classmate read from one of Rowan Williams' essays on icons. Clearly, ++Rowan is not stupid. But his actions on Bishop Suffragan-elect Glasspool, and INactions on the Anti-Homosexuality legislation in Uganda, are making him increasingly irrelevant for many of us. I am deeply saddened that such divisions have arisen now. But then, there may be something for all of us who are in this struggle to consider as we sing these words, and come to the Lord's Table while bickering with each other in the world.
And so we recess out of the Church on another old familiar tune which concludes:
Yea, amen! let all adore thee,
high on thine eternal throne;
Savior, take the power and glory;
claim the kingdom for thine own:
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou shalt reign, and thou alone.
Amen to that!
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Saturday, December 5, 2009
As always, our Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori exercises amazing graciousness in her response. She has been a target for scorn and derision from the "boys" in purple shirts worldwide who are having a bit of a problem with a skirt being in their company. And so each statement she makes must be "that much more". Read the full text of her statement HERE. The highlights, from my perspective:
- Citing past actions of both General Convention 2006 and Lambeth Conferences to support why this legislation is WRONG!
- Carefully framing her response as being one that is representative of the laws and understanding in the United States which, while it may not be Africa, is still part of this fragile earth, our island home.
- Noting the sin of exporting our culture wars over homosexuality to Africa as a painful and hurtful form of colonialism
- Her continued persist call on all of us to never forget that Christ is in each of us, no matter our sexual orientation, race, creed or theological perspective and to always strive toward living the Gospel of Jesus Christ and returning to the table of God, especially if we are to continue any kind of real listening process as laid out by the Anglican Communion.
So, a great big thank you to our Presiding Bishop for speaking out and encouraging our political leaders to make provisions for people who are trying to escape a worsening situation.
She has placed her cards on the table. Will the Archbishop of Canterbury trump her, or choose to fold?
Friday, December 4, 2009
And, much like my first trip to Grace Episcopal in Anniston, the people out-did themselves in hospitality. They remembered me from a year ago! I attended their church one Sunday, almost 365 days ago, and I was getting intercepted left and right in the reception hall with folks greeting me, hugging me, offering to put me up in their homes WHEN I come back (IF I come back is not allowed!). And I heard again, and again, and again how blessed they felt, how happy they were to have this woman in charge. I even saw the joy of this congregation in their young acolytes ringing the bells: two boys gripping the ropes and riding them up off the floor, letting their legs swing as the bells pealed out across the city. I couldn't help it: the kid in me chuckled and egged them on with a, "Yeah! Yeah!!"
My gift to my friend and mentor was to take away the burden of recording this service, so the church can post the sound on its website. Sometimes it's useful to have a technical talent!
So, Anniston proved itself to be a welcoming venue to the stranger, the obvious stranger, in their midst. This is in stark contrast to what I got when I arrived at a McDonald's in Opelika, AL. McDonald's is not my favorite food fare, but the coffee is passable, and more importantly, the restrooms tend to be clean. So, I left my traveling companion... the famous Peggins or Hurricane Peg... to attend to the call of nature.
Unfortunately for me, a McDonald's worker saw me entering the women's bathroom. And this is where things start to fall apart. As I'm in the stall, the worker, a middle-aged African-American woman, yelled out, "Sir, you're in the wrong bathroom!" I knew this was directed at me. I am used to the gender confusion when I'm in line at a check out counter and increasingly public restrooms are becoming a problem, too. I ignored her, but she persisted.
"Sir, you are IN the WRONG bathroom!!"
My anger overcame me.
"I am a WOMAN!!!" The worker started to stammer and try to explain that my short-hair had been confusing, but I would hear none of it. "I know what you thought!! Now please: LEAVE!!" She did, but nature's call had now been emptied through my anger and shouting over a bathroom stall. Upon exiting, I found this worker talking to the Hurricane who was at mere Tropical Storm strength as she was explaining to this woman that my flattop hair cut was akin to the actress Grace Jones. The worker looked at me.
"I am sorry. Please, forgive me."
I glared into her eyes. "You are forgiven." I noticed the crucifix lapel pin on her McDonald's uniform. "May God bless you!"
"Bless you, too," she said, as she started to sweep the floor.
You'd think that would be it, right? I had forgiven, and even asked for God's blessing on her. But I was bothered, deeply bothered, for next 30 or so minutes of the trip. Not so much about the incident any more, but about the fact that, in my heart, I really had NOT forgiven this person for her error. She represented for me the culmination of hundreds of times when I have been mistaken for a man. I sometimes joke about it, saying that if I'm going to be called, "Sir" then somebody better start paying me like I am a sir! I felt awful. And I reflected on this place of feeling like a fraud, a forgiveness fraud. In Matthew, Peter asks that question about, "If someone sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?" And then Jesus answers, "Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times." So, here I am... still enraged, even after having said, "You are forgiven." And realizing that while I used the second-person forgiveness, I had not forgiven her. And I was still bothered, and angry... and at least seventy-six steps away from having done the forgiveness I could have done at one time... if I'd been sincere. That's a sobering thought while traveling toward Columbus, GA! But a good one. A teaching one.
Perhaps, she reflected on the situation and will be more careful about her gender assumptions. But I would not be surprised if she does not amend her ways because she may have felt the coldness and insincerity of my forgiveness because I had not made it a first-person "I" forgive you. And in this way, I feel I have not done either of us a service. Still, I am sincere in hoping that through this, God has still blessed both of us in ways that are God's own. For me, it is the realization of what it takes to live up to that commandment from John's Gospel heard last night at the service: "To love one another as I have loved you." A hard, but good, lesson from the road.