Thursday, July 30, 2009

For The Last Time, It's NOT a Lifestyle Choice!

The following inflammatory and disturbing email comes courtesy of a friend who wanted me to see the type of correspondence arriving in the "in box" of our Leon County Commissioners.

Subject: proposal that will expand the County’s existing anti-discrimination code to include protections for the LGBT community

I am AGAINST the proposal to extend protections to the LGBT community in employment. I believe that there are occupations where sexual orientation should be a point of discrimination. If I have a group in which I am promoting a heterosexual lifestyle, such as a church or private group; or if I am hiring for a position of oversight of children whom I want to protect from the influence of such a lifestyle, then a person's sexual orientation should be considered as a factor of employability.

I believe that giving the LGBT community further protection, contributes to the expansion of this lifestyle. I refuse to be coerced into advancing this lifestyle out of fear of a "brain drain" from FSU and FAMU.

I believe that further employment protection will give the LGBT community a leg-up over the general population, such as is provided in preferential hiring of veterans or with affirmation action hiring practices afforded to minorities according to race and gender or in corporate EEO quotas.

I believe that for most jobs sexual orientation is a non-issue and does not even appear on employment applications or in personnel files. There does not appear to be an overwhelming disadvantage afforded to the LGBT community with regard to employment, in general.

I believe that the LBGT lifestyle is a choice; although some claim that individuals are born with a propensity toward this lifestyle, to act on that propensity is a matter of choice. I believe that people have the freedom of choice in their pursuit of happiness but the choices they make are not are protected from the consequences of that choice and their choice should not be protected from consequences by government.

People choose to further their education or not: this choice plays into a potential employers decision making. A person chooses to use drugs or not: their choice plays into a potential employers decision-making. A person chooses to commit a crime or not: their choice plays into a potential employers decision-making. A person chooses to get a tatoo or not; their choice plays into a potential employers decision-making. A person chooses to dress a particular way: their choice plays into a potential empoyers decision-making. Why should the choice of sexual lifestyle be any different?

-- Doris L. Moss MBA, CAM
Client Services Manager
ParkerFinch Managemet

NOTE: My friend also shared with me that Ms. Moss, in addition to her professional and academic credentials, is also an officer in the local Capital City Democratic Women's Club, once again proving that bigotry knows no political boundaries.
I wonder if Ms. Moss would consider her lifestyle choice of being straight a "choice". Afterall, if we take her logic (such as it is) to its natural conclusion... then all people are faced with choosing whether to act on their hetero or homo instincts. And since she, presumably, has chosen to be straight, she wants the right to discriminate against those who made a different "choice".

Because, just as the Archbishop of Canterbury believes, there are consequences for such choices!

Again... my sexual orientation is NOT a lifestyle choice. It is the gift of my sexuality. Choosing Coke instead of Pepsi is a preference that is part of the "lifestyle choice" of drinking carbonated beverages. Wearing jeans instead of khakis because they are more comfortable is a "lifestyle choice." Choosing to be accepting of other people's differences in sexual orientation or being a fearful and discriminating bigot is a "lifestyle choice". Nuff said!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

On This Day in History...

How interesting that at a time when we have huffing and puffing about the actions taken at General Convention 2009 to include all people in the all the sacraments... the Episcopal Church marks 35 years of ordaining women to the priesthood. It was another time in the history of TEC when actions taken led to much gnashing of teeth and wailing in the wilderness.
Now, we are living through the same sort of nonsense with the Archbishop of Canterbury posing a "two tier" Anglican Communion to appease those who can not accept that in the United States, queers are among the baptized in the pews and could likely be called by God to move from the pew to the pulpit.
Rev. Susan Russell at AN INCH AT A TIME has an excellent retrospective in light of current events.

Happy Mary and Martha Day!

I caused quite a stir this summer during Tim Miller's workshop when, in the course of describing a gay pride parade in Heaven, I envisioned Mary and Martha as dykes on bikes at the front of the line of heavenly queers... leading Jonathan and David with their rainbow flag... and the Virgin Mary with her P-FLAG banner. Leather chaps and bare-breasted on Harleys is hardly the image that anyone would ever imagine for these two sisters of Lazarus.

I don't really either, but it does make for an interesting picture, doesn't it?

No, Mary and Martha were not that radical, at least as far as we know. But they give us a glimpse into the human response to God: both the attentive listener, and the active doer. In Luke's gospel, Mary is the one sitting at Jesus' feet soaking in every moment of being with him, while Martha is cleaning the kitchen, sweeping the floors, and making the house tidy for the guest... much to her consternation after awhile. When she complains, Jesus tells her:

"Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her."--Luke 10: 41-42

Now, one could dismiss Martha as the sister who really needs to take a chill pill. But I think both Martha and Mary, while having different approaches to responding to God... really give us an insight about a Christian approach to living out our faith. There is the Mary approach which is the attentive and deep listening. But if we stayed stuck in "Mary mode", we'd just be sitting still. The Martha way, I think, is the outgrowth of having done the attentive listening. Once we've heard, we allow that hearing to motivate us to action to "do all such good works as thou hast prepared for us to do."

And so, here's to the sisters who give us good guidance in the journey with God!

"O God, heavenly Father, whose Son Jesus Christ enjoyed rest and refreshment in the home of Mary and Martha of Bethany: Give us the will to love you, open our hearts to hear you, and strengthen our hands to serve you in others for his sake; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. "--Collect for Mary and Martha of Bethany

Monday, July 27, 2009

On that "Chosen Lifestyle"

As the dust continues to settle from General Convention 2009, along comes the Archbishop of Canterbury to go kicking it up again with his rather lengthy, numerated missive titled: "Communion, Covenant and our Anglican Future". A good two-thirds of this "pastoral" letter is dedicated to the two resolutions, D025 and C056, that won overwhelming votes of support from both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops in Anaheim. These were the "controversial" resolutions; y'know the gay ones.

And... just to make sure he stirs up the most dust possible... his choice of words about "chosen lifestyle" highlight his complete and utter cluelessness about me and the other "others" in the Anglican Communion. His letter reads in part:

5. In response, it needs to be made absolutely clear that, on the basis of repeated statements at the highest levels of the Communion's life, no Anglican has any business reinforcing prejudice against LGBT people, questioning their human dignity and civil liberties or their place within the Body of Christ. Our overall record as a Communion has not been consistent in this respect and this needs to be acknowledged with penitence.
6. However, the issue is not simply about civil liberties or human dignity or even about pastoral sensitivity to the freedom of individual Christians to form their consciences on this matter. It is about whether the Church is free to recognise same-sex unions by means of public blessings that are seen as being, at the very least, analogous to Christian marriage.
7. In the light of the way in which the Church has consistently read the Bible for the last two thousand years, it is clear that a positive answer to this question would have to be based on the most painstaking biblical exegesis and on a wide acceptance of the results within the Communion, with due account taken of the teachings of ecumenical partners also. A major change naturally needs a strong level of consensus and solid theological grounding.
8. This is not our situation in the Communion. Thus a blessing for a same-sex union cannot have the authority of the Church Catholic, or even of the Communion as a whole. And if this is the case, a person living in such a union is in the same case as a heterosexual person living in a sexual relationship outside the marriage bond; whatever the human respect and pastoral sensitivity such persons must be given, their chosen lifestyle is not one that the Church's teaching sanctions, and thus it is hard to see how they can act in the necessarily representative role that the ordained ministry, especially the episcopate, requires.
9. In other words, the question is not a simple one of human rights or human dignity. It is that a certain choice of lifestyle has certain consequences. So long as the Church Catholic, or even the Communion as a whole does not bless same-sex unions, a person living in such a union cannot without serious incongruity have a representative function in a Church whose public teaching is at odds with their lifestyle. (There is also an unavoidable difficulty over whether someone belonging to a local church in which practice has been changed in respect of same-sex unions is able to represent the Communion's voice and perspective in, for example, international ecumenical encounters.)

Let me respond by simply stating that I have never, never, ever chosen to be a lesbian. I would not ever chose ON PURPOSE to be stared at in bars, refused service in a restaurant, denied a job promotion, or otherwise be treated with less dignity than is afforded anyone else. Choosing to where a T-shirt instead of an oxford to work is a "lifestyle" choice. Choosing to drink coffee instead of tea in the morning is a "lifestyle" choice. Having sexual and affectional desire for a member of the same-sex is a "sexual orientation."

So, what in the world could he mean by "chosen lifestyle"? I think that comes clear in his explanation about why he is opposed to ever blessing same-sex unions. Because same-sex couples might be engaging in same-sex sex. This seems to be the "choice" that would have "certain consequences." Those consequences being that no sexually-active LGBT person should be allowed to "go behind the curtain" and become a deacon, priest or bishop. And, what if the civil authorities have already determined that same-sex marriages are legal? Well, ++Rowan has an answer for that, too! "Since when do we let matters of 'the world' influence 'the Church'?"

Of course, he also acknowledges that violence committed against LGBT people in the name of the Church is wrong and abhorrent and the Church should apologize for such actions (Nigeria! Uganda!). But when does the Archbishop recognize that the tortured language of his letter is yet another form of violence against gay people in the Church? No, he's not physically attacking me. But he is bolstering the bigotry that's out there that says I am a second-class citizen and should be treated as such.

One can take solace in the fact that the Archbishop resides in jolly ol' England... and what he says or does is not binding on The Episcopal Church. At least I hope not!

One can also take solace that God is watching, and notes the prayers of those who truly turn to him:

You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your record?

--Psalm 56

Sit Down!

When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, "Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?" He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, "Six months' wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little." One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?" Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. --John 6: 5-11

This description from the Gospel of John on the feeding of the five thousand is only a small portion of what was read in Episcopal Churches throughout the United States Sunday morning. And, in all likelihood, the sermons preached put more focus on the fact that everyone was fed at the feeding of the five thousand. Or that Jesus withdrew when the crowds wanted to make him a King, or that Jesus finally reappears out on the water, panicking the disciples half-to-death and leading to another time of Jesus saying, "Do not be afraid." I suppose some could even twist it into yet another lesson to be learned out of the General Convention. There's plenty to look at in the first 21 verses of John 6! But what I thought was interesting was the command to "Make the people sit down." This is what really struck me.

The act of having the people sit was a way of making sure that everybody calmed down. And it likely slowed them down, something that had to happen in order for the crowd to receive what Jesus was about to give them: the fish and the bread that they wanted and would satisfy them.

This "quieting" of the anxious spirit is something massage therapists do as a matter of course every day. Through the simple act of placing a hand on the back of a neck or shoulder or feet I can sometimes see a person's body undergo a change that indicates they are ready to receive the work. My hands sink in deeper and I know that this attention, and the client's gradual slowing down of the breath, will lead to a change in this person's spirit... as well as the loosening and stretching of the connective tissue wrapping their muscles. They will emerge from the session renewed, having had everything they wanted and now feeling satisfied. But in order to get there they need to "sit down" or "lie down" as the case is in a massage.

So having Jesus order everyone to "sit down", to me, seems like he's looking to get the crowd into a place of being ready to receive whatever they were going to get. Literally, it's a piece of fish with a slice of bread. But in a broader, figuarative sense, it's the feeding of the spirit.

And this leads me to a question: how often do we sit down and take time to prepare ourselves to really receive God? And will we know it when it happens? Or will we keep ourselves all abuzz, so that we remain disconnected?

I have experienced the order to "sit down" in my faith journey. There have been those times when I have wanted to grab hold of the wheel of the boat and take charge of piloting this vessel in one direction or another. And that's usually when the command comes from within that I am to "Sit down!" I don't always like that command. I don't always want to obey that command. But inevitably I usually do because to not do so often times feels like the wrong choice.

I have been feeling that choice a lot lately. A choice to try and take command of the boat, or to simply sit down and receive whatever it is that I am to receive. Sitting is not always easy, but it seems the best course of action.

At least for me.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Where Does His Faith Lie?

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."--Phil. 4: 4-7

I have to wonder: if the bishop of Florida attended a noon day eucharist yesterday, these are the words he would have heard. My question is: would he really hear them? Does he hear the invitation not to worry?

Information about, and observation of, this bishop and his "pastoral letter" to the diocese have made me concerned for the man. His "fearing" for the state of the Anglican Communion seems grounded in a deeper "fear" of those who he thinks of as "other". From his letter, it is clear that he believes the only people fit for ministry in the Church are "married heterosexuals" or "chaste heterosexuals". LGBT Episcopalians are not even on his radar; afterall:

We Florida Episcopalians have agreed that we can live with these differences and we have long since concluded that debate over human sexuality will not be allowed to further divide us or to distract us from the important work which God has called us to do.

This would indicate that we have had a "deep listening process" in the diocese of Florida on these matters. I guess I must have missed it. I believe the time has passed for many of us to have such a process because we've already gone through the pain of schism. Those who didn't care to listen have left. Those who have stayed don't really talk about "it". But I have heard repeatedly from people within this diocese that if a person of "otherness" on the human sexuality scale were to approach the bishop about ordination, for example, the response would be one of "gracious restraint." Why? Not for reasons of theology, but for reasons of human sexuality. Because such a "manner of life" seems to pose a problem. How very sad.

In a previous entry, "Remaining Hopeful, Part Three", I talked of needing to find a way to pray for the bishop of this diocese. And I continue to do so, and hope that many other people will continue to recognize Bishop Howard as among the fearful who, because of their fear, can not and will not rejoice and be glad in the work of General Convention 2009. They fail to see that, in ways I think we should all see and make us pause in awe, the outcomes of this convention surpassed many of us in our understanding of what was going to happen. In many ways, the words of Isaiah 55 apply:

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord."

I believe this is true. The actions taken at this GC were "of God" and were not the ways of human manipulation and politicking.

So, then, if that's true: where does the bishop's faith lie?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Prophetic Stands of Conscience

I don't know if this will become a movement that starts sweeping across the nation, but there are at least two California Episcopal Churches that I am aware of who are opting out of having clergy sign state-issued marriage certificates until ALL people can pledge to love and honor their beloved.

Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, and others in the Church, have been saying that there needs to be a separation between what is a state function vs. what is the function of the church at the time of marriage. The Church's role is to bless the couple; it should NOT be in the position of acting as an agent of the state by having clergy sign the marriage the licence. So far, All Saint's Episcopal in Pasadena announced, in the face of the bigotry rendered by Prop. 8, that they would no longer have clergy serve as state agents. Now, St. Michael and All Angels in Studio City has joined the resistance movement. Here's the resolution adopted by the church leadership.

Adopted by the vestry, July 21, 2009
WHEREAS, on November 4, 2008, a majority of the California electorate voted to approve Proposition 8, which amended the California Constitution to state"[o]nly marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California;"
WHEREAS, on May 26, 2009, the California Supreme Court voted to uphold the constitutionality of Proposition 8, a decision which not only deprives same-sex couples of the fundamental right to marry, but, in the words of dissenting Justice Carlos Moreno, "places at risk the state constitutional rights of all disfavored minorities";
WHEREAS, the institution of civil marriage in the State of California is, asa result of Proposition 8 and the Court's decision, a constitutionally-mandated instrument of discrimination, which furthers injustice and denies same-sex couples the fundamental dignities to which each human being is entitled;
WHEREAS, our active participation in the discriminatory system of civil marriage is inconsistent with Jesus' call to strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being; and
WHEREAS, Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church is called to make the sacrament of marriage equally available to all couples, regardless of their sexual orientation;
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Rector, Wardens and Vestry do declare that the sacramental right of marriage is available to all couples, but that the clergy of Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church will not sign civil marriage certificates for any marriage so long as the right to marry is denied to same-sex couples.

Presiding Bishop's Letter

Well, after having read Bishop John Howard's letter to the Diocese of FL, it is with some great relief that I post our Presiding Bishop's letter to the Church. This was posted at The Lead.

My brothers and sisters in Christ:

The 76th General Convention is now history, though it will likely take some time before we are all reasonably clear about what the results are.

We gathered in Anaheim, as guests of the Diocese of Los Angeles, for eleven full days of worship, learning, and policy-making. The worship was stunning visually, musically, and liturgically, with provocative preaching and lively singing.

Our learning included training in Public Narrative, as well as news about the emergent church, in the LA Night presentation.

We welcomed a number of visitors from other parts of the Anglican Communion, including 15 of the primates (archbishops or presiding bishops), other bishops, clergy, and laity.

You can see and hear all this and more at the Media Hub:

The budget adopted represents a significant curtailment of church-wide ministry efforts, in recognition of the economic realities of many dioceses and church endowments, which will result in the loss of a number of Church Center staff who have given long and laudable service. Yet we will continue to serve God's mission, throughout The Episcopal Church and beyond. This budget expects that more mission work will continue or begin to take place at diocesan or congregational levels. Religious pilgrims, from the Israelites in the desert to Episcopalians in Alaska or Haiti, have always learned that times of leanness are opportunities for strengthened faith and creativity.

As a Church, we have deepened our commitments to mission and ministry with "the least of these" (Matthew 25). We included a budgetary commitment of 0.7% to the Millennium Development Goals, through the NetsforLife® program partnership of Episcopal Relief & Development. That is in addition to approximately 15% of the budget already committed to international development work.

We have committed to a domestic poverty initiative, meant to explore coherent and constructive responses to some of the worst poverty statistics in the Americas: Native American reservations and indigenous communities.

Justice is the goal, as we revised our canons (church rules) having to do with clergy discipline, both as an act of solidarity with those who may suffer at the hands of clergy and an act of pastoral concern for clergy charged with misconduct.

The General Convention adopted a health plan to serve all clergy and lay employees, which is expected to be a cost-savings across the whole of the United States portion of the Church. Work continues to ensure adequate health coverage in the non-U.S. parts of this Church. The Convention also mandated pension coverage for lay employees.

Liturgical additions were also included in the Convention's work, from more saints on the calendar to prayers around reproductive loss.

What captured the headlines across the secular media, however, had to do with two resolutions, the consequences of which were often misinterpreted or exaggerated. One, identified as D025, is titled "Anglican Communion: Commitment and Witness to Anglican Communion." It
* reaffirms our commitment to and desire to pursue mission with the Anglican Communion;
* reiterates our commitment to Listening Process urged by Lambeth Conferences of 1978, 1988, and 1998;
* notes that our own participation in the listening process led General Convention in 2000 to "recognize that the baptized membership of The Episcopal Church includes same-sex couples living in lifelong committed relationships 'characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God'";
* recognizes that ministry, both lay and ordained is being exercised by such persons in response to God's call;
* notes that the call to ordained ministry is God's call, is a mystery, and that the Church participates in that mystery through the process of discernment;
* acknowledges that the members of The Episcopal Church, and of the Anglican Communion, are not of one mind, and that faithful Christians disagree about some of these matters.

The other resolution that received a lot of press is C056, titled "Liturgies for Blessings." The text adopted was a substitute for the original, yet the title remains unchanged. It
* acknowledges changing circumstances in the U.S. and elsewhere, in that civil jurisdictions in some places permit marriage, civil unions, and/or domestic partnerships involving same-sex couples, that call for a pastoral response from this Church;
* asks the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, and the House of Bishops, to collect and develop theological and liturgical resources for such pastoral response, and report to the next General Convention;
* asks those bodies to invite comment and participation from other parts of this Church and the Anglican Communion;
* notes that bishops may provide generous pastoral responses to the needs of members of this Church;
* asks the Convention to honor the theological diversity of this Church in regard to matters of human sexuality.

The full text of both resolutions is available here: I urge you to read them for yourself.

Some have insisted that these resolutions repudiate our relationships with other members of the Anglican Communion. My sense is that we have been very clear that we value our relationships within and around the Communion, and seek to deepen them. My sense as well is that we cannot do that without being honest about who and where we are. We are obviously not of one mind, and likely will not be until Jesus returns in all his glory. We are called by God to continue to wrestle with the circumstances in which we live and move and have our being, and to do it as carefully and faithfully as we are able, in companionship with those who disagree vehemently and agree wholeheartedly. It is only in that wrestling that we, like Jacob, will begin to discern the leading of the Spirit and the blessing of relationship with God.

Above all else, this Convention claimed God's mission as the heartbeat of The Episcopal Church. I encourage every member of this Church to enter into conversation in your own congregation or diocese about God's mission, and where you and your faith community are being invited to enter more deeply into caring for your neighbors, the "least of these" whom Jesus befriends.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

Better than Silver and Gold

"The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold or silver pieces."--Ps. 119:72

There is no amount of money that I would accept to undo the journey I have been on since November, 2007.
It is a journey that has taken me out of my certainity of my future and turned it into a day-to-day experience of "Where is this all headed?" Just like when I was in prep school and was certain that I would be a journalist forever, a funny thing happened on the way to winning another Sigma Delta Chi award.
I had an awakening. And I realized that being the observer was killing me. And my desire to reach people was thwarted by a structure that would not allow itself to be changed, certainly not by a public radio reporter.

Having had another awakening, or re-membering in the body of Christ, has so completely changed the way I view the world. And just how much that has happened became apparent to me in these days of our new "season" in the Episcopal Church. Much as it may seem like winter in Florida still, those of us who were watching and following the events in Anaheim know that we are in a thaw. And as I contemplate how to reach out to our Bishop, I find that the more prudent step is to stay still... and pay attention to the wisdom offered in the Daily Office. Yesterday, it was Psalm 119.

You have dealt well with your servant, O Lord,
according to your word.
Teach me good judgement and knowledge,
for I believe in your commandments.
Before I was humbled I went astray,
but now I keep your word.
You are good and do good;
teach me your statutes.
The arrogant smear me with lies,
but with my whole heart I keep your precepts.
Their hearts are fat and gross,
but I delight in your law.
It is good for me that I was humbled,
so that I might learn your statutes.
The law of your mouth is better to me
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

Ps. 119: 65-72

God has dealt with me. When I was happy to keep going along, separated and apart from any community of Christians, God laid down the command to me to "Show up!" and then "Pay Attention!" I had gone astray, but now I've been humbled. Boy, have I ever! I have wondered why they don't install a Kleenex box in the pews for the likes of me as I sit hearing these words of love and welcome from God... even for me. And I have asked:
"Teach me good judgement and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments." In order for me to be in relationship with those who I don't agree with, I must seek out God's wisdom first to know how to see them, so that I might listen to them. "Fat and gross" hearts sounds awful, almost like a heart attack about to happen. Or, as I see this verse, the ones who smear me with lies are taking confidence in their own self-satisfied righteousness... focusing on themselves and not on God, as they view me from their perch of judgement.

But I have been knocked off that perch and will continue to be in this place as I seek out God's wisdom, God's statutes. And it is from this place that I am able to feel unburdened by the fatness and grossness of those smearing me with lies. God sees me for who I am, and sees the fat and gross-hearted for who they are. I put my trust in God to see and judge us rightly.

Monday, July 20, 2009

In Praise of Four Women Day

So, coming upon the heels of a day when across this part of the United States, many priests were likely trying to do their best "calming the seas" sermons to keep "Anaheim anxiety" to a minimum, the Episcopal Church calendar brings us the lesser Fast and Feast of four "uppity" women. This was the day set aside for Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Amelia Bloomer, Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman. Each of these women were bold. They sacrificed to aid in the struggle for freedom for the African slaves, and win women the right to vote. They faced ridicule for raising their voices, and yet many were flocking to hear what they were sharing. And, in the case of Sojourner Truth, she spoke of the Word from memory and her heart to black and white audiences.

Yesterday, I would imagine for many priests in the Episcopal Church, they found themselves in that position of facing possible ridicule from the masses, or at the very least, anger from some of the congregants who still find more assurance by living in their fears rather than trusting in their faith. Yet, they spoke the Word from memory or notes... and from their heart. And so it is to those priests, deacons, and other ministers who were willing to take a stand with their LGBT brothers and sisters in Christ that I think today's "lesser" saints day collect applies:

O God, whose Spirit guides us into all truth and makes us free: Strengthen and sustain us as you did your servants Elizabeth, Amelia, Sojourner, and Harriet. Give us vision and courage to stand against oppression and injustice and all that works against the glorious liberty to which you call all your children; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Welcome, Happy Morning

Today, when my enthusiastic friend, Angel, arrived at my house for a meeting, he looked at me closely.
"Are you OK? Your eyes are glassy."
I smiled, "Oh, yes. I'm fine. I've been crying for joy. The sermon at my church was incredible!"
"Oh, mine, too!! It was about equality action! It was amazing!"
Good to know that at least two Episcopal Churches in Tallahassee, St. John's and St. Francis, the priests saw the memo from their bishop, and then returned to the Scriptures, and used their God-given brains to reason and develop a message of faith and hope from the pulpit. A message which says, "Christ is our sure foundation, the head of the Church. And the rumors of the Episcopal Church's demise are greatly exaggerated!"
This was a Sunday where I entered St. John's feeling good. Better than I have in months, really.
I gave myself enough time, so that I could pray quietly, and to offer up a petition to God to watch over all of us, and remove the mantle of fear that some have put on, and allow them to become wrapped in a mantle of light. And thank you.
"Thank you" became the theme of the service for me.
Our first reading, taken from Jeremiah 23, read like a retelling of how I have felt:
Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. Therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord. Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord.--Jeremiah 23: 1-4
Already, the tears were coming to my eyes as I nodded and said, "Yes!" So many entrusted to lead have abused their positions to make the gay people in this city, this diocese believe that they were not welcome and drove us away. But God has called us back because God will not be denied his will on earth. And that will means bringing ALL the sheep back into the fold.
But wait: there's more! Our second reading from Ephesians goes even further:

So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by those who are called ‘the circumcision’—a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands— remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, so that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body* through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.* So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, --Ephesians 2: 11-19

These are the words of Paul, a favored son of all who call themselves 'conservatives' in our Church! And this message screams, "Inclusion! Inclusion! Inclusion!" What some humans may say is unclean was made clean... and thus is now family. And while we may be able to pick and choose our friends... we are related to our family by blood... in this case, the blood of Christ, the cup of salvation. So, at this point, the tears of joy are coming into my eyes as I listened deeply to this welcome from Paul; a man previously a stranger who has become increasingly a friend. In my heart, I could feel it. "Us" and "Them" are "We" in Christ. He has brought the two together, and we are all citizens with the saints, and invited to sit together at God's table.

That's plenty for one morning, right? No! There was EVEN more!

Fr. Lin Walton began his sermon in the present, noting that every three years, the Episcopal Church meets in General Convention.

"Oh, boy," I thought. And yet... because of what the Spirit was saying to the Church in the preceeding 20 minutes, I was not getting defensive. Rather, I went quiet and did the second thing I feel God has commanded me to do: Pay Attention. And so Fr. Lin went on.

He was clear, and unambiguous in his message: our Church took action to include a previously excluded group...gays and lesbians. Our Church has followed this action in a most Episcopal, most Anglican way. Christ is the head of the Church, and those assembled in Anaheim considered our traditions, kept our eyes on Scripture, and employed reason to reach the decisions we did. Our Church will be criticized for this both outside and inside. But the wounds that any one may feel have been inflicted will heal, and they won't kill us. And Christ directs us not to just seek out those who are like us, who talk like us, look like us, and act like us. And we must be willing to embrace the neighbor who is different... because those who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Because he is our peace... he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, the hostility between us.
Hallelujah!!! And the tears streamed down my cheeks as I took in all of this. By the time we had had the recessional anthem (amazingly, "Christ has made the sure foundation"... same arrangement as the video at the end of my post from Friday!) I was smiling, I was crying, and all I could say is, "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"

Thank you to God for being the rock, the true Shepherd of the flock.
Thank you to all the clergy who have been preaching faith, not fear in dioceses which remain conflicted over human sexuality.
Thank you to the people of St. John's who have been welcoming, and inclusive.

It is not Lent in Tallahassee. At least not at St. John's, and apparently not at St. Francis, either.

"Welcome, happy morning!" age to age shall say;
hell today is vanquished, heaven is won today!
Lo! the dead is living, God forevermore!
Him their true Creator, all his works adore!

"Welcome, happy morning!" age to age shall say.

-- Hymn 179, The Hymnal 1982

Saturday, July 18, 2009

An Excellent Commentary

Going about my business of reading what other bloggers are saying in the "wrap up" on the General Convention in Anaheim, I came across this piece published in the English newspaper The Guardian. I think it is an excellent commentary and explanation about where we, the Episcopal Church, now stand. It's by Jim Naughton of the Diocese of Washington. Go check it out!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Remaining Hopeful, Part Three

Now the word of the Lord came to me saying,
‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’
Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.’

But the Lord said to me,
‘Do not say, “I am only a boy”;
for you shall go to all to whom I send you,
and you shall speak whatever I command you.
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
says the Lord.’
Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me,
‘Now I have put my words in your mouth.
See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.’

--Jeremiah 1: 4-10

I LOVE when Scripture comes at the most opportune moments! This reading from Jeremiah was assigned for "William White Day" in the Episcopal Church. Huh? Who? William White, the very first Presiding Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church... now known as The Episcopal Church... and the chaplain of our Congress starting in 1777. He's credited with the creation of the governance structure of our church that exists to this day of a House of Bishops and a House of Deputies made up of clergy and laity. So, how appropriate to have had his Saint's Day at the conclusion of our 76th General Convention in Anaheim. The collect for his day includes this:

O Lord, who in a time of turmoil and confusion raised up your servant William White, and endowed him with wisdom, patience, and a reconciling temper, that he might lead your Church into ways of stability and peace: Hear our prayer, and give us wise and faithful leaders, that through their ministry your people may be blessed and your will be done.

I, for one, believe that God bestowed a good dose of William White's energy into this General Convention, leading our Bishops and Deputies to make moves toward reconcilliation with the LGBT faithful that I NEVER thought they would do. As I had to admit to one friend on Facebook, "OK, I will take a side of crow with that cake, please."

We, as a Church, have approved a process for allowing same-gender blessings in dioceses where it is allowed by law; have opened the possibility of another "gay bishop"; have affirmed that people who are transgender deserve the same respect and dignity of every human being as we state so boldly in our Baptismal Covenant; and passed resolutions as prophets to call on Congress to end DOMA*, pass ENDA, and allow immigration for the partners of LGBT Americans. With each day, with each piece of news, I kept wondering if someone was going to pinch me and tell me, "You're dreaming again!" But it all happened. It really did happen. Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

And then I opened an email, and I was directed to the pastoral letter from Bishop John Howard on the Diocese of Florida website. It reads in part:

I and the majority of our Florida deputation did not vote in favor of the resolution, fearing that it would be given undue attention, fearing that it could be the occasion for further division in an already divided and hurting Church, and fearing, too, that it would be misinterpreted as saying things that it did not. I am already reading some who are saying that it has ended the resolution of Convention in 2006 when we said that we would exercise restraint in consenting to the consecration of bishops whose manner of life would be unacceptable to our Anglican Communion partners. This resolution does not end that resolve. Only the future can tell just who will and will not be put forward as candidates for the Episcopate or how the Church will deal with them.

I felt the air leaving the balloon. But I read on:

We Florida Episcopalians live under some rules regarding these matters(human sexuality): We will love, respect and care for all of God's people...we will respect the traditional Christian norms and understandings of human sexuality which call us to chastity or to monogamous Christian marriage in ordained ministry and in the blessing of sexual relationships. We will deal with all of these important matters prayerfully, with love, with dignity and in the way in which Jesus Christ has called us: Loving the Lord our God with all that we are and all that we possess and loving our neighbor as ourselves.

Balloon flat, and on the ground. As well as the tears rolling down my cheeks.

So, I had to pause. I had to reflect. And I had to ask for advice on "How do I pray for my Bishop?"

More pausing. More reflecting. First, acknowledge the pain I was feeling in having read these words which seemigly dismiss D025 and the other resolutions as "irrelevant". Second, recall my own Lenten practice of asking God to help me with the hardness in my heart. And then remembering that phrase from the previous Lent: "Fast on fear, and feast on faith" and realizing that, in one sentence of his pastoral letter, the Bishop used the term "fearing" three times. So, my starting point in prayer was to ask God to soften his heart and lift the burden of fear from him.

My mentor suggested I take that same idea a step further, and imagine one of my worst fears... such as being told that I will be tossed into a deep lake... because that's where everybody else is going. (Note: since I am not a good swimmer, this would be quite frightening!) In other words, put myself in his place... real or imagined as it might be... but just know that this is where he is. I balked at first. But then I tried it on in my body. And I realized an important factor in how I venture into "deep lakes".

I don't go in alone.

I always make sure the people with me know that I am, at best, a crappy swimmer, and please don't try to surprise me or "dunk me" or do anything to me that might make me panic. I am careful, and usually go in slowly, but eventually I will be in the water, and may even dip my head under the water quickly. And while I may never fully relax in the water, I am also enjoying it and realizing that I have support in case I should get into trouble.

I think, to return the metaphor back to the Bishop, the answer may lie in the need for me... and for all of us who are the more experienced and skilled swimmers in these particular waters, to assure the ones who are deathly afraid of drowning that we will be in the lake with them. We will watch out for them, and we promise that we know their fear; hence we won't start playing impish dunking games to panic them needlessly. It's OK. The water feels good, and once you've been in it, your body temperature will adjust and it won't feel so cold.

In other words, those of us who have felt "unheard" for so long know that place of hurt and fear. And even when we were in that place, we still stayed in that particular lake, swimming as best we could under the circumstances. So we, of all people, are the ones who will make sure nobody drowns. It is the Christian thing to do.

God calms and controls the waters of chaos. And God is alive and well and working God's purpose out with what has happened in Anaheim... just as at other conventions and Lambeth conferences. I'm reminded of the passages of how the weak and the strong must be there for one another. We all, at one time or another, will face that feeling that we're in a place of weakness when we're in the minority. But, speaking as one of those made strong by the resolutions in Anaheim, I will support the weak with my offer to not let you drown. Just dip a toe into the water.
I am with you. And so is God.

*UPDATE: just read through Intergrity's listserve that the resolution on DOMA passed the House of Deputies but then went to the House of Bishops Executive Council. Still, this is amazing what they've done for LGBT Episcopalians.

While You Wait...

I don't have time to post my own thoughts at the moment, but I wanted to share this particular update from the Integrity folks via their IntegriTV. Much more from me later! I promise! :)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

It's Like Easter... with Christmas, too!

I just don't know what to say any more.

The House of Bishops, on a 104 to 30 with 2 abstentions vote, have sent to the House of Deputies Resolution C056 dealing with blessing same-sex marriages. Here's the language:

Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 76th General Convention acknowledge the changing circumstances in the United States and in other nations, as legislation authorizing or forbidding marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships for gay and lesbian persons is passed in various civil jurisdictions that call forth a renewed pastoral response from this Church, and for an open process for the consideration of theological and liturgical resources for the blessing of same gender relationships; and be it further
Resolved, That the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consulation with the House of Bishops, collect and develop theological, and liturgical resources and report to the 77th General Convention; and be it further
Resolved, That the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consulation with the House of Bishops, devise an open process for the conduct of its work inviting participation from provinces, dioceses, congregations, and individuals who are engaged in such theological work, and inviting theological reflection from throughout the Anglican Communion; and be it further
Resolved, That bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church; and be it further
Resolved, That this Convention honor the theological diversity of this Church in regard to matters of human sexuality; and be it further
Resolved, That the members of this Church be encouraged to engage in this effort.

This is a step forward in the many steps toward blessing of same-sex marriages in the Episcopal Church. This will have no effect in jurisdictions, such as Florida, which has made it quite clear in its state constitution that gay people are not equal under the law.

The House of Deputies also has passed D012, in which the Church is taking a stand against discrimination aimed at transgender people. The resolution asks the Church to take the roll of the prophet by calling on elected officials to pass anti-discrimination measures protecting the transgender community.

It's amazing!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Remaining Hopeful, Part Two

"Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.’ When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then he said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ He said further, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
Then the Lord said, ‘I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.’ But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’ He said, ‘I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.’" –Exodus 3:1-12

It was by chance of friendship (or perhaps it was the doing of the Divine) that I read this passage about the burning bush this morning. It’s actually the assigned passage for the noon-day eucharist for Wednesday, and hence was the jumping off point for a sermon by my mentor. Still, it seems like an appropriate read for a day when so many of us who are LGBT Episcopalians are feeling as though God has finally heard our cry for justice. There is no way to accurately articulate what it feels like to be gay in a country where the core of who you are, the very basic and intimate part of you, is constantly up for debate, and votes, and denials of all kinds by the majority. Believe me when I say I feel like an insect under a microscope every time another politician goes off on a rant about the ‘gay agenda’ or the media examines a question like, "Should same-sex marriages be legal?"
Knowing how crappy that is, it becomes compounded when an institution such as the Church decides to open its lens of scrutiny on my being. Suddenly, all those Scriptural readings about God knowing me and consecrating me long before I was born seem good enough for God, but not good enough for the Anglican Communion. The fact that in this country, even in the parish where I worship, the presence of gays has been the excuse for breaking relationship with the Episcopal Church and attempting to take the property has hurt deeply. And these court battles over buildings and land continue to this day.
So the actions in Anaheim, which are far greater than I had expected, have really felt like God has noted the misery of the LGBT faithful… and has, in fact, now delivered us. Don’t know if there’s any milk or honey just yet, but at least I know it’s available on the menu.
And even in my glee, I am reminded that while I am happy, others are not feeling the freedom that I am feeling, and would probably resent the characterization of being like the Egyptians. Where I live, here in the southeastern United States, the vast majority of our dioceses were the ones who voted "No" in the House of Bishops (I don’t have numbers on the House of Deputies). No doubt, the ones who lost on the D025 vote are feeling the same way I felt when a woman became Presiding Bishop… and then aided in passing B033, which put the moratoria on same-sex blessings and allowing LGBT people to be bishops. Or, to use a secular analogy, Obama becomes the first African-American president… and my state votes to write a ban on same-sex marriage into the state constitution.
Many advocated for taking things slower, being more cautious. One deputy from Central Florida, sensing the mood that seems to be pervasive in Anaheim, scoffed: "What Integrity (the LGBT Episcopal Group) wants, Integrity gets!" And I know he wasn’t talking about the desire to spread the Good News. In other words, that kicked in the teeth feeling, and even righteous anger, is something that the LGBT faithful have felt and we understand it. All the more reason for us NOT to walk away from each other. If there’s anybody who is going to know the pain of feeling "unheard", it will be your gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

Still, I wish it were that people wouldn’t see the gains made by the LGBT community as losses to them. The assumption seems to be that if I get a pork chop, then I must have been given the whole pig. Believe me when I say, "It’s just a pork chop, and there’s plenty of loin and bacon for you, too!" To put it in terms of Scripture, one need only look at the feeding of the five thousand to see that all who come and sit down on the grass will be given exactly what they need, exactly the portion they need… and there still will be left-overs. Do not be afraid.

So, I do understand that not everybody is going to be happy with this result. But I also believe that if we are going to be people of God then we must trust that God has a reason for these results… and that anything that is of God is good. If this means adjusting our relationship, then let’s see how we’ll make it work. I speak only for me as one lone lesbian in the Church when I say that I have been called back into the fold after being in exile, and I have been patient with my straight brothers and sisters in Christ. Remember that I live in your world, and must obey your laws which do not treat me equally. To know that the Church is beginning to resemble St. Paul’s words that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female… and now straight or gay… is really the good news that I would hope we both can enjoy!

This entry began with the burning bush story. A powerful image, a moment where God speaks directly to humankind in the person Moses. And even as that fire is burning, the bush is not consumed, and God promises to be with Moses who has no idea how he’s going to stand up to Pharaoh and lead the Israelites. And so rather than us worrying too much about what’s next with our relationships with the rest of the Anglican Communion, why don’t we remove our sandals and stay still at this moment to hear what God is saying. Perhaps it’s that beating heart our Presiding Bishop described: "Mission. Mission. Mission."

The "Season" is Over

Tonight, the LGBT faithful of the Episcopal Church are experiencing the end of Good Friday... finally!
Tonight, we are entering Easter.
Our House of Deputies, again, overwhelming approved D025, effectively ending the season that began with B033 and denied LGBT people the opportunity to be considered for the episcopate.
Rev. Susan Russell of Integrity hails this vote as a step toward truth and inclusion.

"Today's action put the 'Amen' at the end of one of the prayers we have prayed for an inclusive church--ending the BO33 'season' by stating unequivocally that the LGBT baptized can and will have equal access to ordination processes in the Episcopal Church," says Russell. She went on to encourage the House of Bishops to also move the Church forward on blessings for same-sex marriages.

Alleluia, allelulia, alleluia!
The strife is o'er
the battle done
The victory of life is won
The song of triumphant has begun

Monday, July 13, 2009

D025 amended, and approved!

I have tears in my eyes as I type this. Our House of Bishops, by a vote of 99 yes 45 no and 2 absentions, has approved Resolution D025, which means that the majority of our bishops have recognized that it makes no sense to continue denying faithful LGBT people from fulfilling their call to the episcopate. I honestly wasn't sure it would happen, especially with the Archbishop of Canterbury cautioning that he hoped the bishops wouldn't do this, and the constant cry to take more time to study the issue.

THREE-LEGGED STOOL has the scoop, along with the list of "No" votes, which include several of the bishops from this corner of the United States, including the Diocese of Florida. THE EPISCOPAL CAFE has an Imperfect Roll Call tally here.

Again, nothing is set in stone yet. The Bishops did make an amendment which many of the bloggers at the Convention say is minor. But it means that the resolution goes back to the House of Deputies for approval. The HOD had given a 2-1 margin of approval to this resolution.

I think I'll stop writing, and simply say, "Thanks be to God!" This is amazing!!

Forward progress, but It Ain't Over

Oh, my goodness... how I LOVE getting news from Integrity when it reports such wonderful outcomes at the General Convention. It seems that the LGBT community can feel pretty confident that there are LOTS of people who recognize the time has come to stop keeping us as strangers at the gate when God has already said, "It's all good!"

Two resolutions... D025 and C056... were approved and sent to the House of Bishops. The House of Deputies (these are clergy and laity) were overwhelming in their approval of D025, which among other things will allow for the usual procedures involving discernment, ordination or consecration, of LGBT people. Since 2006, the Church has lived with a rule that specifically barred us from the episcopate. This rule (B033) was adopted to keep everybody in the Anglican Communion happy as they were still reeling from the idea that LGBT people existed (odd, but true, folks!) We in the United States had to be anti-Christs, or of the Devil, to think that LGBT people were actually sitting in the pews. (I wish I was making this up, but I'm not. Just look into the vitriol that has been put out there about us.)

C056... which came out of what's called the Prayer Book, Liturgy and Church Music Committee, takes a step closer to recognizing same-sex blessings in the Church. It seems it must have the temporary blessing of the Bishops Theological Committee... the one chaired by +Parsely of Alabama, that has the "top secret subcommittee". The intent is to come up with a formal proposal not for this convention, but the one in 2012.

Yippee, right?! Yes, of course, we should cheer. But, from across the pond, the fuzzy-faced Archbishop of Canterbury fired a shot across the bow. In an interview with Chris Sugden of Anglican Mainstream, the ABC is quoted as saying:

‘As for General Convention it remains to be seen I think whether the vote of the House of Deputies will be endorsed by the House of Bishops. If the House of Bishops chooses to block then the moratorium remains. I regret the fact that there is not the will to observe the moratorium in such a significant part of the Church in North America but I can’t say more about that as I have no details.’

He regrets this?? And, again, maybe it's living in the schismatic Southern United States, but I read what he's saying as an attempt to circumvent our process and tell our HOB to say, "Hell, No" to these resolutions.

I do recognize that these actions cause discomfort in other parts of the Communion, as well as within our own Church. But I believe these actions are meant to be a call to all of the Communion to recognize that LGBT people are people!

Tonight, in Anaheim, Integrity is screening the film "Voices of Witness: Africa". I have not seen this movie yet, but it documents the level of cruelty inflicted on our African brothers and sisters-in Christ on their own continent. Worse, this persecution is supported by the likes of ++Akinola and ++Orombi. That should make any Christian concerned.

The HOB is debating the merits of some of the proposals from the HOD right now. We'll see what happens.

May God's Holy Spirit move in and amongst and through all of those assembled in Anaheim.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Deputies Make the First Move

So, Integrity is reporting that the House of Deputies has moved forward with a resolution of their own making... called D025... which has the following elements:

1. Reaffirm our commitment to the Anglican Communion
2. State our desire to remain in the highest degree of communion with other Anglican provinces
3. Pledge to participate in contributing to the Communion budget
4. Remind the church of the relationship values established in 2000-D039 (I admit, I don't know what this is).
5. Recognize the response of LGBT Episcopalians to God’s call to service
6. Affirm that God has called and may call partnered gay and lesbian people to any ordained ministry and that their call will be tested by the discernment process provided for in our canons
7. Acknowledge that we are not all of one mind about this

THREE-LEGGED STOOL had posted on this resolution Saturday, showing the language that was struck. It is a very straight-forward document now that much of the extraneous explanations and attempts at 'clarity' were eliminated. The vote was not close at all: the Laity accepted this resolution with a vote of 77 Yes 31 No... the clergy the same thing: 74 Yes 34 No. There were attempts to eliminate the LGBT element... or separate D025 into two different resolutions... an A and B, if you will. Point A would contain points 1-3 and Point B would have all the rest. All of those, which would have weakened the intent of what the Deputies were doing here, went down in defeat.

So, what were the Deputies doing here? From my perspective, they are attempting to find a way back from the dead end road B033 had put the Episcopal Church on in 2006. And they are trying to do it remaining mindful that not all the other members of the Anglican Communion are going to be happy with our acceptance of the LGBT community. But God's Holy Spirit has been calling more and more of us back into the Church... and we are being encouraged to bring our full selves into service. And part of that self is our identity as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. To ask us to check that part of ourselves at the door is simply un-Christian. While the apostle Paul is correct to say that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female and...logical extension... black or white... Anglo or Latin... straight or gay... the body of Christ does know that the feet are feet and the hands are hands. But the feet and hands are still part of that body, playing distinct and important roles. And each can be seen as equally valuable in the service of God, and being the stewards of creation.

And so, D025 moves along. But it must find approval from the Bishops, the purple-shirt gang who were the crafters of the troublesome B033. Will they allow for this resolution from the other house to, in effect, annul their rule adopted three years ago?

Stay tuned!

Convention Quotes

I don't really have time to write out a full-length blog on the news coming out of the General Convention... or really my thoughts and musings on that news. But there are a couple of quotes that I really wanted to share:

“If we can develop rites and blessings for fishing fleets and fisherfolk, and for hunts, hounds, horses and houses, including the room where the indoor plumbing is located, we should be able to allow clergy in the exercise of their pastoral ministry to adapt and to appropriate the pastoral office of the blessing of a civil marriage for use with all couples who seek the church’s support and God’s blessing in their marriages. Friends, yes we can do that,” she said. (referring to Bishop Barbara Harris)--Tracy J. Sukraw, Diocese of Massachusetts

Retired Bishop Barbara Harris and NH Bishop Gene Robinson were the main officiants at the Integrity Eucharist, which drew 1600 people! And Bishop Harris really laid it on. Integrity reports:

If the Church honestly believes that LGBT people should not be bishops, she said, then don’t ordain them deacons. ‘Better still be honest… don’t bestow on them the blessing of baptism…. How can you initiate someone and then treat them like some half-assed baptized?’

I LOVE it! How true... as was the rest of Harris' message which took everybody to task to stop trying to decide who's right and who's wrong. The sacred, she says, is that which focuses on God. The profane is that which does not. And I say, Thank you!!!!

So, I am trying to keep my chin up and hope that all in Anaheim will hear the words of our Collect of the Day:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Wow! And the Plot Thickens...

The General Convention started first thing on Wednesday and seems to have been moving at warp speed on the issues of interest to the LGBT community. Today, it was an intense two-hour-plus meeting of the House of Deputies, the body which is clergy and laity, who met as a whole to get the "feedback from the field" about B033.

And did they ever! Young people told heart-wrenching stories of friends who choose death, literally, over life because being gay and only finding acceptance for one week in the year at a church camp was crushing them inside. And when young people aren't finding their church home welcoming, not only does the Church lose that particular queer individual... rest assured, you will lose their straight friends, too! Nobody wants to hang out in a place where they don't feel they and their friends are welcome. Something to remember when you hear leadership in the church, wringing their hands and fretting over how to make the Church attractive to the younger generation!

I know this to be true, albeit an ancedotal truth, through my own journey. I have had people approach me to say that my service as a lay eucharistic minister has made them feel, "Oh, this (St. John's) is a welcoming congregation." One can have candles, incense, and inclusion! And, thus far, I haven't felt that the clergy is ashamed to have me serve or request that I grow my hair and wear pearls. So all's good.

There's a really great assessment of the testimony in the House of Deputies meeting on THE LEAD which was "live blogging" the event earlier today. Clearly, the Deputies understand the pain caused by B033. What's not clear is where our House of Bishops stand on the question. And since this rule has a "B"... it was THEIR idea, THEIR way of insuring that they could get a trip to England last year, and hang out in Jamaica this Spring. By adopting B033... and offering up the LGBT community as a sacrifice on the Altar of Unity... they thought it was going to re-stitch the tear in the fabric of the Anglican Communion.

Well, it did not do that. Those opposed to TEC were still opposed and remain opposed and will stay opposed to us. And the only thing it really did accomplish was to hurt me and my community, again, and give some Bishops cover for their prejudices.

Tomorrow, the Bishops will continue to seek shelter from scrutiny by holding a closed-door session on B033. The House of Deputies held an open hearing, and gave room to hear from all ends of the spectrum on B033. Most of the Bishops were absent from that hearing, leading one to think that they believe they know best. Afterall, they wear purple.

So does Tinky Winky.

As I have said before, if we are to be a people of God, then we must become quiet and allow God to lead. And the more I listen, the more I read what is being said, the more I pay attention to God's presence in my own life... it seems that God's intent is to show us the way, in that same fashion he gave Peter the vision that said, "nothing I've made is unclean". It is time for this Abrahamic Church to put the knife down and untie the LGBT community from the altar of sacrifice.

Oh, that today you would hearken to His voice!

This Ain't Rocket Science

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, ‘Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days. --Acts 10: 44-48

I have found that many of the people who are so vehemently opposed to the LGBT community being actively engaged and part of the Church like to say their arguments are "biblical". Well, the above passage which is part of today's Daily Office readings for Morning Prayer seems to indicate that I'm just as "biblical" in asserting that LGBT people have a place at God's table.
What Peter experienced is what Phillip experienced with the eunuch is what Paul understood when the scales fell from his eyes: God has a purpose... and they are not to get in the way of that purpose to redeem more and more people, but are to go forth and baptize and bring more people in. And out of those newly-reclaimed people, God will call forth more to do that same work of showing the way to the party of eternal life.
Something to think about, folks, as the Church begins Day Three of the General Convention in Anaheim.
I was reading a transcript of some of the testimony on B033 as it was being discussed yesterday in California. And, again, it was a delegate from the "Overcast State"... this time from the Diocese of Central Florida... who defended the need to keep a moratorium on blessing of same-sex marriages and consecrating more gay bishops. The man, sensing he was in the minority, flippantly said, "What Integrity wants, Integrity will get."
Naturally, Integrity President Rev. Susan Russell noted that what Integrity "wants" is for us to live into the promise of the gospel and the good news. Hopefully, then, we WILL get what Integrity wants.
As my friend and brother-in-Christ +Gene Robinson says, "My 'gay agenda' is Jesus!"

Almighty Father, whose blessed Son before his passion prayed for his disciples that they might be one, as you and he are one: Grant that your Church, being bound together in love and obedience to you, may be united in one body by one Spirit, that the world may believe in him whom you have sent, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. --BCP, pg. 255

Ummm, OK...

As those of you who regularly read this blog know, I have been highly suspect of the Archbishop of Canterbury's visit to our General Convention. Maybe it's living in the schismatic South that makes me always look over my shoulder, but I just figured that the man wasn't coming here to simply observe our process and then party at Disneyland.

I have a hunch, I am right to be leery of ++Rowan.

As members of Integrity, and supporters who donned colorful T-shirts, came together for a eucharist with the ABC... ++Rowan dropped a few hints about what he would like to see (or rather, not see) come out of General Convention 2009. The Archbishop, who had met with eight LGBT delegates on Wednesday for a whopping half-hour, seem to acknowledge their pain...

"I do realize that this engagement has been and still is costly for different people in different ways: some feel impatient, some feel compromised, some feel harassed or undervalued, or that their good faith has been ungraciously received. I'm sorry; this has been hard and will not get much easier, I suspect," Williams told the assembly.

Ummmm... OK... that's NOT very encouraging to hear. And I'm going to give the ABC the benefit of the doubt that he is referring to the "Anaheim Eight" as they're being called as the ones who have felt harassed or undervalued... and not, say, Peter Akinola or Jack Iker.

The ABC also said he hoped the GC attendees wouldn't do anything that might cause further strain in the Anglican Communion. Ummm...OK... so I guess I can rest assured, then, that he probably has been having tea with a few of our more conservative bishops and giving them a "Hold that line!" pep talk. Uh-huh.

We'll see what comes of all this, but my sense is that the line is going to move... whether ++Rowan wants it to or not. When God is involved, things get messy and complicated. But, ultimately, they do work out. Try as he might, the ABC will have to concede that not even he can keep God locked in a box. And if the Episcopal Church is going to be a people of God... then we will be bound to follow wherever the Spirit moves us.

Meanwhile, INTEGRITV... the YouTube Channel for Integrity... had a nice interview with Katie Sherrod, who is a delegate at the General Convention from the resurrected Diocese of Fort Worth. Being one who is attending a church that had been rocked by homophobia and schism, I recognized the pain she spoke of with regard to people feeling exiled from their church, and the battle scars of schism. We should all pray for those Dioceses that have been in Hell. The folks who remained faithful and stayed with the Episcopal Church have suffered personal loss and pain. But they have survived Good Friday and are coming into their Easter moment. Please take pause to remember them in your prayers. With God's help, they will occupy a chamber in this new heart of the Episcopal Church.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Remaining Hopeful

As church politics prepare for Day Two in Anaheim, I find solace again in the assigned readings from the Daily Office, and how well they correspond to the events occuring in the life of the Church.

The gospel readings have been from the end of Luke, which includes the story of the walk along the road to Emmaus. Two disciples, distraught, despondent, and disbelieving (of course!) of the news the women delivered to them of Jesus' resurrection, are walking toward Emmaus where a "stranger" meets them on the road. The stranger is Jesus, but they don't know it. Even as he talks about the Scripture with them, they still don't know exactly who he is. It isn't until he breaks bread with them at the dinner table that they say, "Ooohhh!!!"

Funny thing that. Interesting that it takes almost a figurative bonk on the head sometimes to realize what is right in front of your eyes. Odd that those who are supposedly so devout can not see God until he is 'known in the breaking of the bread.' How often do we remain blind as we go about scratching out our living? And how often is it that the ones who think they have a handle on God aren't really seeing God? In the story, after Jesus breaks the bread, he vanishes. And the two, dumbfounded and delighted, think about their walk with him, and start comparing notes:

They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ --Luke 24: 32-34

Now that they've experienced him for themselves, they are willing to believe that what the women had said was true. And they realized it was true by the burning in their hearts.

As I think about what ++Katharine Jefferts Schori was preaching with regard to new hearts, and realizing what is the will of God coming from within the heart, I hope and pray that those gathered in governance of our Church will follow the intellect of their hearts. Because I believe it is through a heart-to-heart connection that this diverse group of people with any number of opinions will make better, more mindful decisions about the future of the Episcopal Church.

Interestingly, the Daily Office is also following the Acts of the Apostles, which is a very timely read for GC2009! We are at the point of Paul's conversion, and Peter has seen the sign from God that he should not profane and call "unclean" what God has created. Wow!! I don't think you can top the power packed in that punch! This is God working God's purpose out to get the disciples... the very first priests and bishops of the early Church... to see that their mission is not exclusive to the Jews; they must take God to the Gentiles, and when a Gentile desires to know God, they are not to say, "Well, first I want you to repent of who you are because you're not just like me!"

This is an important lesson as General Convention prepares to start legislative hearings on issues of interest to the LGBT community. Yesterday, a committee gave overwhelming approval to B012, a resolution designed to help those dioceses in areas where same-sex marriage is legal. There was little dissent expressed. In fact, Integrity reports that the only person who raised counterpoints to the resolution was a delegate from the Diocese of SW Florida (imagine!). In other reports, bishops from outside the USA who are attending as observers of our process are getting the idea that, in the United States, our structure allows for greater influence from the House of Deputies... which includes lay people... and is NOT a top down model of Bishops and their peons. This is a different concept for many of them. But what they are gathering from it is an appreciation that we are NOT the devil as some schismatics have portrayed us. Perhaps these bishops of the Anglican Communion will share their insights with their brother Primates, and we can quit the name-calling?!

So, I am remaining hopeful. I am hopeful that those who expected us to keep "the status quo" are going to find that God's Holy Spirit doesn't sit still, and to keep us frozen in time will not take this Church along the road to Emmaus or Damascus.

Almighty and everlasting Father, you have given the Holy Spirit to abide with us for ever: Bless, we pray, with his grace and presence, the bishops and the other clergy and the laity now assembled in your Name, that your Church, being preserved in true faith and godly discipline, may fulfill all the mind of him who loved it and gave himself for it, your Son Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. --BCP, p. 255

Smattering of Thoughts

Now I lay me down to sleep... and I am going to bed with a sense of hope after listening, and reading, about the opening day of the General Convention in Anaheim. Our Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, was her usual steady, forceful, and unwavering self... and spoke words in both her opening address and her sermon on Ezekiel 36 at the daily eucharist. You can see video on demand of both by clicking here.

Jefferts Schori, in her sermon, spoke of the "new heart" and the need for the Church to listen to the beat of "mission, mission, mission". And, as part of that, she made it clear that it can not happen by staying inside our pretty sanctuaries, talking to ourselves, and swinging our incense and thinking all is right with the world. She is absolutely right.

In her opening address to the Convention, Jefferts Schori acknowledges that there is "crisis" within the Church. And she wasn't just talking about the "crisis" around human sexuality issues, but also about the environment. We have been pretty lackluster stewards of God's creation, and it's time to snap-to-it and take responsibility. God's creation is not only the earth, water and plants and animals... I believe it stretches to that last piece of creation: us, human beings, and how we treat each other and take care of each other--or not!

The line that gave me the most hope was when Jefferts Schori said:

"This crisis is a decision point, one which may involve suffering, but it is our opportunity to choose which direction we'll go and what we will build. We will fail if we choose business as usual. There will be cross-shaped decisions in our work, but if we look faithfully, there will be resurrection as well."

She finished with saying that we can make decisions in hope, and we can do it together. Again, she is absolutely right. And I hope there are more than a few members of the House of Bishops, which really isn't the strong arm at these conventions, who got that line about "business as usual". Change will happen. Status quo is not a winning position.

Meantime, the Archbishop of Canterbury took a half-hour to meet with eight LGBT delegates to the House of Deputies in a private meeting to listen to their stories. That's a half-hour more than he's given to +Gene Robinson! The privacy of this private meeting, apparently, has kept anyone from saying exactly what happened beyond that these eight people got to share their stories of being gay with the ABC. Sadly, I'm sure he'll decide this BRIEF meeting constitutes his required "listening" as part of the listening process. We'll see.

And in the meantime, you can watch the convention live at the Media Hub.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Let's Go!!

This sign has meant so much to me in my lifetime.
It has meant family. It has meant worship. It has meant fun. It has meant potlucks. It has meant music. It has meant struggle.
The "You" has sometimes felt as though it required an asterisk. I wasn't always sure, as a gay person, if the Church really meant me. I believe, now, most everybody who has remained in the Episcopal Church USA believes the "You" includes me and "my kind". After all, when you want pageantry, "my kind" really know how to put on a show!! :-)
And, as our General Convention gets under way in Anaheim, I think it's time to consider the asterisk that still seems to reside on our sign. The one next to the word "welcomes".
I do believe there are many within the Church who feel genuinely welcoming of the LGBT community into their places of worship. I do believe there are many priests who would like to extend that welcome a little further to include our partners, our families, by blessing our marriages. And I am sure there are some LGBT clergy who have the patience, and the talent, to be bishops in the Church, if only the Church would welcome that service. I hope that, as this Convention moves forward, our Church will also move forward with considering the resolutions that will erase the asterisk some of us perceive next to the word "welcomes". This will not only mean something to me and others who are the faithful in the Church; it will speak volumes to those standing on the outside of the doors where this sign hangs, letting them know that they really are welcome to come inside and experience a liberating God.
And so, I pray:
"Almighty and everliving God, source of all wisdom and understanding, be present with those who take counsel in Anaheim at the General Convention for the renewal and mission of your Church. Teach us in all things to seek first your honor and glory. Guide us to perceive what is right, and grant us both the courage to pursue it and the grace to accomplish it; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen"

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

DC Decent

We break away from our count down to the General Convention to celebrate this news:

From the Washington Blade:

Same-sex marriages performed in other states and countries became legal in the District of Columbia at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, when Congress completed its 30 legislative day review of a marriage recognition law passed by the D.C. City Council in May.
Gay activists hailed the development as an historic landmark for same-sex couples throughout the country and noted that it opens the way for the Council to pass a separate law later this year allowing same-sex marriages to be performed in the District.
“I think there’s tremendous significance and opportunity in Americans seeing legally married gay couples treated with respect in our nation’s capital,” said Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom To Marry, a national same-sex marriage advocacy group.
The measure that took effect Tuesday, the Jury and Marriage Amendment Act of 2009, immediately provides the city’s same-sex couples married in other jurisdictions with more than 200 rights, benefits, and obligations associated with marriage under D.C. law.
Read more on this here.

Gay and married? Our nation's capital welcomes you!!

A Great Resource

So many blogs. So little time. Certainly, from my perch here in Tallahassee, I can't possibly follow the goings-on in Anaheim as well as some others. But I won't shy away from offering my thoughts... and my prayers... for those assembled at the General Convention.

If you want to find out more about GC 2009, I recommend a visit to THREE-LEGGED STOOL. There's a column highlighting various news sources for the GC, plus the blog itself is highlighting resolutions that would be of interest to any of the readers at this blog. Check it out, and then check back with me to see what's on my mind as we muddle along! :)

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all evermore.