Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Now is the Day of Salvation

At the risk of my readership thinking that I have totally flipped my lid (and I'm pretty sure I have not), I am considering some more scriptural passages as the New Year comes upon us.

At the top is the realization that 2009 means the reign of George W. Bush is coming to an end (Hallelujah!!!) But before we get too excited about the incoming administration, take a moment to consider the following line from Psalm 146:

Put not your trust in rulers, nor any child of the earth, for there is no help in them.

This makes a lot of sense to me, especially as a lesbian who has witnessed time and time again politicians make empty promises to the gay community (or other groups) and then selling them out. It seems to happen quite a bit to my gay brothers and sisters, and to be blunt, I'm sick of it. If you don't intend to fight for us, then please stop promising things you won't deliver. I have been asked too many times now about my opinion of the Rick Warren selection for Obama's inauguration, and I have been criticized harshly for having said I think it is a stupid and cynical choice. But what I have also said to people is that Barack Obama is a human being, and (as the above sentence from Ps. 146 indicates) I can't put my trust in Obama because he is more likely to disappoint me.

Not so with God. In these past 13 months, I have found that even in the darkest moments when I feel the world is crushing me, God is still reaching out to me, and keeping me from sinking.

My soul yearns for you in the night,
my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.
For when your judgements are in the earth,
the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.
--Isaiah 26: 9

This passage from the prophet Isaiah was part of today's Daily Office. Like the Psalm, this statement makes so much sense to me, particularly if you think of "the night" being those dark times. And the second half of the verse also makes sense. The more that individuals pay attention to God, and God's never-ending quest to be in loving relationship with all of creation...the more likely we are to arrive at having a "new heaven and a new earth" because all that has kept us apart from this amazing love that is God will fade away.

And the best part about all of this's free for everybody!! Rick Warren might care if you're queer. James Dobson might care if you're queer. But God embraces you and your queerness because to God, you are a beautiful "very good" part of the creation.

I called this entry "Now is the Day of Salvation" and I meant it. Not that you need saving. That's already happened....a long time ago on a hill far away with an old rugged cross and all that.
But if you begin to trust that God is really with you until the end of the age, you will also start to see salvation....and know that you are an important person and very much a part of God's plan. Welcome to the party!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Those Whom God Has Joined Together

I committed my first act as a Notary Public this weekend by serving as the celebrant at the wedding of my friends, Beatrice and Dennis. The couple didn't want a long ceremony, and really preferred to keep the "ceremony" part on point, and simple, so they could enjoy the company of the close friends and relatives they invited as witnesses.
So a brief explanation of the occassion, a couple of questions and repeat-after-me's, rings exchanged, and then the phrase my buddy the bride really wanted me to say:

"Those whom God has joined together let no one put asunder."

This was the only mention of God in our intimate ceremony. Neither of my friends are particularly religious, but they are also not hostile to God. And it seemed fitting to keep this as part of the ceremony. Because even if I am not a priest, and wasn't invoking the name of God during the vows or the exchange of rings, God's presence was very much there with us in the room. And the presence of God came in the form of the love and tenderness Dennis and Beatrice have shown to each other, and the support of the community of friends and family who were with them for their wedding day. Any time love is as palpable as it was at the moment I laid my hand on theirs and said those words, God is also there.

Many, including me, have noted the irony of having me perform this ceremony. I'm a lesbian in Florida who is granted the power by the state to marry people...and yet I am now constitutionally-prohibited from marrying my own partner. I wondered how much this would weigh on my mind as I asked my friends to pledge their love, honor and respect for each other until death did them part. It didn't enter my head at all. Because this ceremony wasn't about me. I was touched and honored to be the one they asked to perform this rite for them; hence my thoughts were not for myself and my predicament here in the Overcast State. Instead, I was joyful that I could play a big part at this important time in their relationship. Especially, since Beatrice and I have known each other for so long, and have been friends who have bonded over cups of tea, and the desire to be authentically who we are. No moment could have been more authentic than this one.

My own wedding day will come, I'm sure. Maybe not tomorrow, and it may not arrive in Florida for quite some time. But it is coming. Because I believe when God brings people together, there is no state, no church, no synagogue...that can keep love down no matter the gender of the two people.

Now, I simply toast my dear friends, and desire for them a life of hope and happiness with each other. And may they enjoy their honeymoon in the aisles of Lowe's and Home Depot! :-)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Kitsch--Florida Style

These are decorations at a house at Lake Ella in Tallahassee. I call the top photo "Santa's Ark". Anyone want to take a stab at captions for the rest? Happy Boxing Day!!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness--on them light has shined. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Mid'ian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.--Isaiah 9: 2-7

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through
Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.--Titus 3: 4-7

On this day, I am hopeful. Because as I ponder the amazing feat that occured in Bethlehem so many thousands of years ago, I am thinking about the will of God, and how will-filled God is. It had to be shear will and determination to be in relationship with all of creation (especially us humans) that led to the act of God being born into the world amidst a bunch of barn animals.

And how 'bout the ones he chose to be the human parents to God's self made manifest in the form of the baby Jesus? When Joseph learned of the pregnancy of his wife-to-be, it was probably shocking, possibly quite hurtful if he realized there was no way he was the father. And Mary? A teenager trusted to bring forth the savior? And yet, like so many others before her who seem like the most unlikely candidates to do something great in the name of God, she said, "Here I am" and not "I'm outta here!"
So rather than go on and on....I ask that we all just take a moment to reflect on the amazing will of God, and to always remember that his journey toward redeeming all of us began with being born as a baby. Blessed be and Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, ‘Be strong, do not fear!Here is your God. He will come with vengeance,with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.’
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water;the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,
* the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing;everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. --Isaiah 35: 5-7;10
Sing a new song today for unto us a child is born! And Merry Christmas Eve, everyone!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Where is Your God Now?

The other morning, I was waking up out of a nightmare that left me feeling a little out-of-sorts.

I was seeing images of my family, and things familiar to me in New Hampshire. And none of it was good. I mean, the people and things themselves were good. But what was happening to them was not. I saw my family was homeless, and nowhere to go. All the houses around my hometown were vacant. The sky was dark, and there was snow falling on an already very wintry scene. And I saw this figure rising up, a shadowy character with flaming red eyes and a fanged-tooth grinning smirk of a smile. His blackened head looked like a lion and his torso was contorted and weird. He stared at me and chortled: "Where is your God now?" Seeing my despair, he kept up the laughter and the taunting.

For a moment I thought, "I don't know where God is." And then I saw myself standing inside a circle. And as I stood there...continuing to ponder the tempter's question....I found myself searching, both internally and externally, for God. The tempter had wanted to know where my God was, and I was determined now to find God. As I searched the circle and the scene beyond it with my eyes, and as I breathed deeply to seek God within, I found myself becoming calmer and realizing that even in this moment of desperation, God was still there for me. All I needed to do was look, find and tap into this powerful source of love and good. The more I could trust in this truth, the calmer I would become. And in the calm of being centered, I could defeat this demon.

And that's when I woke up.

I thought this was an interesting dream to have on the Fourth Sunday of Advent when the lesson out of the gospel was the annunciation to Mary that she's about to have this kid with God; isn't it great?! (say "Yes," Mary. It's the thing you've always wanted to do!) The focus of the reading was on Mary as was much of the music at the service. But, given the dream I'd had, the line that leaped out and zapped me was:

"For nothing will be impossible with God".

The angel Gabriel says this after having told Mary, "Congratulations! You're going to have the Most High Son of David! And that barren cousin of yours, Elizabeth, well....she ain't barren no more!" Pretty freakin' amazing stuff. Just as amazing as standing in a circle and fighting off a tempter by simply seeking out God. I think it is in those moments of feeling knocked around by life, or when the world waps you upside the head, that God steps into the breech. I have no idea what Mary thought of this angel Gabriel and his amazing message. From the account in Luke, she's merely puzzled and then submits as a servant of God in the same way others had in the Old Testament (the words "Here I am" are the 'correct' answer when God comes a-knockin' at the door!) One could speculate that this poor, lowly, unwed teenager in Nazareth (which seems to carry the stigma of Newark) would have been more than "perplexed" by Gabriel. But we just don't know.

What we do know is in a moment where she might have wanted to run and hide, she stood in her own proverbial circle and said, "Here I am". And from there....we of Christian belief...know what happened.

I don't know what's happening in any of your lives at the moment, but consider what is possible if you invite God to be part of your day-to-day existence. Because, with God, nothing is impossible.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

It's Not "Just A Prayer"

I have refrained from commenting here on the announcement that Rev. Rick Warren of mega-church fame has been selected to deliver the invocation at President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration. Not because I didn't have an opinion; just because I have been occupied with production of a New Year's Eve radio show by the Mickee Faust Club that airs at 9pm NYE on WVFS-FM(points for shameless plugging!!)

I, like many others in the LGBT community, are very disturbed and disappointed with this selection. Integrity President Susan Russell says:

“Rick Warren has become a recognizable pop culture religious voice but he is not qualified to be ‘America’s pastor,’” said Integrity President Susan Russell. “Warren is a not only a vocal opponent of LGBT equality who does not believe in evolution, he has compared abortion to the Holocaust and backed the assassination of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. His views are far outside the religious mainstream and his credentials are steeped in an “Old Time Religion” of narrow exclusionism that ill prepares us for the challenges of the 21st century.”“This unfortunate choice is particularly painful to LGBT Americans who have experienced first-hand the destructive impact of pastors like Warren who preach “family values” while practicing discrimination against gay and lesbian families. But it should also be a cause for concern to any American concerned that the exclusionism represented by Rick Warren is antithetical to the President-elect’s core values of inclusion, tolerance and the celebration of difference.”

Over at SisterFriends-Together, Anita Cadonau-Huseby further explains some of the fury about this selection.
But what I have found even more disturbing than just the fact that I'm going to be asked to pray along with someone who does not believe that I have a place in the body of Christ is that, because I expressed disappointment in Obama's decision, I have received an email telling me to "toughen up and not be judgmental". Friends have expressed via Facebook that the gay community's outrage is out-of-place and give the guy (Obama) a chance. And that maybe what Barack Obama is doing is a brilliant political tactic. Besides, Joseph Lowery will be delivering the benediction, and he's pro-gay marriage.
I guess what my friends, and others, do not understand is that this is not a balance one-side vs. the-other kind of thing. Why should we have to balance any of it? And why must the balancing act occur on the backs of the gay community yet again? Why must the President-elect, in an effort to show that we're all one nation under God, ask a man who has been outspoken in his disdain for gay relationships to bring us together to pray for this presidency and our nation.
One person said to me, "It's just a prayer". Yeah, it's just a prayer. And I'm just one voice in the wilderness trying to dispell the myth that "Christians hate queers". Making Rev. Rick Warren the face of Christianity at an historic occassion doesn't help.
Sorry, if it's "just a prayer", than that just tells me this was a cynical political move. How sad is that?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Thought of the Hour

But when the goodness and loving-kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water* of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. --Titus 3: 4-7

I read this passage after scrolling through an online article from Newsweek in which two biblical scholars address the firestorm raised by the cover story the magazine ran on a religious argument FOR allowing gays to marry. By the time I finished, I felt that we were no more closer to resolving the fears of the Southern Baptists and other biblical literalists than before. In fact, it seems some of them are sadly very entrenched in their thinking, so much so that they can say they don't think homosexuality is a "choice", but they don't have to accept people as homosexual and encourage them to change. That is scary.
So, the above passage assigned for Christmas Day is a refreshing reminder of the broader picture that is God: we are all part of the body of Christ because Christ poured out his spirit on us. And "us" includes the "me" and the "you" and the "them". If we can strive toward that, I believe, we are striving toward God.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Back From 'Bama

I must confess: as a transplant from New England, and an outwardly and visible "other", I was excited...but a bit nervous about going to northern Alabama for the weekend.
Yes, I would be seeing my mentor, her husband, and their animals.
Yes, I would be taken for an overnight trip up to Sewanee.
Yes, I would get to see this new church where she is interim rector.
Still...northern Alabama?
It didn't help that some of my friends were also less than enthused that I was taking this trip. I was warned about the still active KKK in some areas. I was told that it is "NASCAR country" (code for "Homo, Go Home" attitudes). I was encouraged to wear a wig to hide my crew cut. And it didn't help that the forecast for the afternoon when I was leaving was for possible snow.
But I wanted to make this trip. I have been missing the invisible slingshot Mtr. Lee carried into the pulpit with her that she would secretly pull out, carefully aim it at my head, and then--ping--"Nailed the dyke with the crew cut in Pew Thirteen!" (Of course, she wasn't really aiming at me, but sometimes it sure felt like it!) And, nerves or not, I refuse to continue living life in fear that someone might object to the essence of my being, and let that fear keep me from seeing this place where my mentor now lives and is pinging new victims in the forehead.
So, off I went.
There was no snow. And my hosts didn't leave me abandoned on the roadside to fend for myself. In fact, I was treated quite graciously. And their dogs couldn't get enough petting from a trained petter (aka Licensed Massage Therapist).
But one of the transformative moments for me was the visit to Grace Church in Anniston.
I knew Mtr. Lee was going to be busy (Third Sunday in Advent and Bishop Henry Parsley would be there to do baptisms and confirmations). Lee would be preaching at 8am; the Bishop at 10:30. Her husband, Tom, and I attended 8am. I couldn't believe how many people were there! Most early services draw pretty small crowds, but this one must have had about 60 people. And they were friendly! Really, friendly. Even with me wearing a gay pride rainbow wrist band, these folks were anxious to introduce themselves to me. Tom and I spent a little time in the parish hall after the service before he went home. And then I was on my own with these strangers, a stranger in their midst.
I am a very quiet and reserved person, not prone to extend myself to people I don't know. So I understand people who don't make efforts to talk to somebody like me.
But the people of Grace Church would have none of that! Just when I thought that I would find a place away from everybody else, and remain quiet and fade into the woodwork, a woman reached out to stop me and invited me to sit with her and her friends. Before I knew it, I had been introduced to almost half the choir! Another woman joined the conversation, and soon I was laughing and felt very included...almost this church. Folks wanted to make sure I sampled some of the breakfast food, and had a cup of coffee. And as they found out that I was a visitor from Tallahassee coming from the church where Mtr. Lee had been before, they were delighted and even more welcoming, making sure that I knew how much they loved her as their interim.
"Yes, you're lucky to have her. We'd love to have her back in Tallahassee!"
"Oh, no, you can't have her!", which would start another round of laughter.
By the time I was heading home, I had a good feeling all over. And another example of the dangers of prejudging people and places was put before my eyes. I had been worried that I was going to be viewed with suspicion. I was going to be made to feel like an outcast. My "otherness" held up as a reason to turn away from me. All creations in my own head of what I believe is happening when people don't approach this quiet, reserved one. Instead, I felt embraced and wasn't going to be allowed to go melt into the woodwork.
And this in a church in northern Alabama.
Thanks be to God.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I'm Off to See the Blizzard

Well, from the images on the television, it seems that parts of the Deep South are getting blanketed with a peculiar solid form of precipitation! It's called snow....and it's something that we, the resident yankees in the South, were hoping we'd never have to gaze upon again. Or at least drive in it!

I'm supposed to depart for northern Alabama this afternoon to visit my mentor and her husband. I'm watching the weather forecast, and trying to weigh the wisdom of leaving today, or delaying my departure for very early tomorrow morning.

Regardless, I will be absent from the blogosphere during the weekend. Y'all have fun!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Day Without Me

For those of you who enjoy this blog and find what I have to say thought-provoking and interesting, consider this idea from the favorite holiday movie “It’s A Wonderful Life”:

What if I had never been born?

Just like in the movie, the relationships and bonds that I have formed with my immediate family…and some critical events in the timeline of all those I’ve known would be greatly altered. My family would likely have been just my three older brothers and my parents. And, probably, my folks would never have become sensitive to the needs of the LGBT community because they wouldn’t have had a lesbian as their youngest child. PFLAG would never have gotten a hold of Peggy and harnessed her energy to do battle with the Republican members of Congress, pushing them to break ranks with their party and “do the right thing” time and time again for gay people.

But beyond just thinking about what the world would have been like without me, think about what the world would be like without any gay person? Who would deliver mail, make bank transactions, take care of our pets at the animal hospitals, report the news, give massages, deliver meals on wheels, teach our children…you see where I’m going with this.

Contemplate this idea as you go through the next 24 hours, and realize that for December 10, 2008, a number of your gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgendered neighbors will be pulling a George Bailly on society and not showing up…not at work or school or at the coffee shops or the malls. It’s called “A Day Without A Gay Day”, a nationwide “sick-in”. Instead of spending or earning money, and contributing to the economy of a country that voted in four separate states to make gay people into second-class citizens, gays and our allies will pretend that we never existed by calling in “sick”. However, on a slight variation of Frank Capra’s hero, we won’t just “not exist”. Many of us are volunteering, wearing our pride T-shirts and donning white ribbons tied in a knot to signify our grief at the loss of marriage rights.

It’s all part of removing the veil that has hidden our community’s real contributions to society for far too long!

I am closing my business for the day, and am collecting up a box of clothing to take to Grace Mission for the homeless and poor who congregate there. May my queer Christianity guide me through the day.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Advent Reflections

Wait for the Lord,
Whose day is near.
Wait for the Lord,
keep watch, take heart.
--Taize chant

During Advent, the above chant becomes one of the "ever-present" tunes in my brain. The music is hauntingly beautiful...but, as with many songs, what pulls me in deeper are the lyrics (I'm a writer and, yes, words do matter to me). And I think these lyrics are the perfect reflection for Advent...a season of taking time to slow down, observe what is watching the gathering clouds of a rainstorm moving over the plains....

"Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance."--2 Peter 3: 8-9

Often times during this month of December, the urge, both internally with our own pressures and externally with incessant commercials, is to rush around trying to get all the shopping done, gifts wrapped, get to every holiday party invitation, and put the Christmas cards in the mail. Most Decembers, I feel as though I'm on speed or some other kind of hyperactive upper drug, and it's rush, rush, rush to accomplish everything before 6pm December 24th! And, just as if I were speeding, I crash...sometimes landing in a depression that I can't explain because somehow I feel weirdly unfulfilled by the whole holiday experience. So, this time around, I am doing something "hippie-like": I'm going back to my roots, to the simple idea of what these weeks before Christmas (y'know...Advent!) are supposed to be about...

"A voice cries out: 'In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken."--Isaiah 40: 3-5

For me, the preparation isn't about the excessive spending, and shouldn't be about running myself ragged. It should be the opposite: the preparation should be about slowing down and becoming more mindful of what sometimes feels like "The Season of God" stretching from The First Sunday of Advent right through Pentecost. "Advent" is the beginning of what can be a remarkable learning and growing in relationship with God....if we just slow down and allow for God to level our mountains...and smooth out our rough places. As part of my faith journey, I have discovered that if I don't turn away, but instead allow God into my life, into my heart, I am changed. I am not as anxious about unknown "things" and I am discovering more and more how to balance a healthy amount of anxiety vs. outright fear. And I am continually changing as I slow down, pay attention to the Liturgy of the Word and prayers in the prayer book, and stick with this bizarre trip that I find myself on.

"Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, "Here is your God!" "--Isaiah 40:9

There is joy, and anticipation, in the approaching holiday...and the preparations for such can also be as joyous. I think this time is meant to be enjoyed in each day, in each candle that gets lit as we Christians prepare for God's presence in our lives, and reflect upon the story of God's love for us that comes into the world through his incarnation as Jesus. As John the Baptist notes in the Gospel of Mark, "The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

Advent to Christmas to Lent to Easter to Pentecost. What a great opportunity to get to know God in a personal way! Savor the moments.

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Year of Remarkable Change

I'm taking a break for the moment to NOT comment extensively on things in secular or church politics...even though the Ikers and Duncans of the world are providing lots of fertile ground for discussion. If you want a reasoned reflection on those matters, I would pay a visit to Mark Harris' Preludium blog. He's far more informed than I am. And he's not likely to question the mental health of those who proclaim themselves "True Anglicans" as they pick up their marbles, (and try to take marbles that don't belong to them), and attempt to create a new home without "girls and gays" (obviously, I'm not as nice). Clearly, since my partner thought I was a bit...well...opinionated in my Make A Joyful Noise post. However, she admitted, it's my blog and I can say what I want. And I did, thank you very much!
And really...that's the end of my discussion on those least for this entry.
Instead, I am reflective this evening on my anniversary of ONE year of blogging. Truthfully, I hit and ran past the anniversary yesterday...putting up two posts without ever slowing down to think: whoa! I have written (or at least taken the time to post) 162 entries since Dec. 4, 2007. That is the most writing for public consumption that I've done since I announced my resignation from Florida Public Radio on the air in March 2002! At the time, I never believed I would "commit journalism" again. And while I don't see my blogging as adhering to the same rules of "objectivity" that governed my reporting, I have tried to keep my musings from turning into screeching rants about the "right-wingers" in the Episcopal Church. Well, at least, I have tried not to screech....
And this blog has allowed me the time and space to explore and discuss my faith in God, and how I try to "go forth in peace to love and serve the Lord" every day. It isn't easy, and the discoveries through Scripture of what all that entails to serve God in "unity, constancy and peace" reminds me that to truly "take up my cross and follow Jesus" is not for the wimpy. On some days, I do a better job than on others. And regardless for how many times I stumble, I know that God is OK with the stumbling. God's delight seems to be that I'm even trying at all!
So, as a way of celebrating this anniversary, I direct y'all back to my very first entry: The First Wake Up Call. It's a bit of a spiritual autobiography that fills in more details than what's in the "Blogger Profile" section. Enjoy, and come back! I'll have more "theological reflection" in some future posts!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Pope: No Christmas for Gays

This just arrived in my inbox this morning. I would say "Unbelievable", but then that wouldn't be honest....(FYI: Dignity is the Roman Catholic LGBT group).

Dignity Canada Dignitéinfo@dignitycanada.org
Time Magazine, Wednesday, Dec. 03, 2008

The Pope's Christmas Gift: A Tough Line on Church Doctrine
By Jeff Israely
Those nicknames from the past — God's Rottweiler, the Panzercardinal — don't seem to stick anymore. After acquiring a reputation as an aggressive, doctrine-enforcing Cardinal, Pope Benedict XVI has surprised many with his gentle manner and his writings on Christian love. But with the Christmas season upon us, there is growing proof that the 82-year-old Pope is also quite willing to play the part of Scrooge to defend his often rigid view of Church doctrine.
Benedict's envoy to the United Nations, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, has announced that the Vatican will oppose a proposed U.N. declaration calling for an end to discrimination against homosexuals. At first blush, no one should be surprised to find the Catholic Church hierarchy butting heads with gay rights activists. But this particular French-sponsored proposal, which has the backing of all 27 European Union countries, calls for an end to the practice of criminalizing and punishing people for their sexual orientation. Most dramatically, in some countries, including Iran and Saudi Arabia, homosexuality can be punished by death.
Papal spokesman Father Federico Lombardi was forced to clarify that the Vatican continues to condemn the use of the death penalty for any crime, including those associated with homosexuality. Instead, Migliore said the Vatican's opposition to the U.N. proposal was driven by concern that countries that prohibit gay marriage would somehow be targeted. Said Migliore: "Countries that don't recognize the union between people of the same sex as marriage will be punished and pressured."
The U.N. declaration does not in fact mention gay marriage, and most of the nations that support it themselves don't allow people of the same sex to wed. Archbishop Migliore confirmed on Tuesday that the Vatican had also refused to sign a U.N. document last May in support of the rights of the disabled because it did not include condemnation of abortion, and the rights the fetus with birth defects. Vatican officials nevertheless voiced support for the central principles of the disabled rights document, which Migliore helped craft before the final decision to withhold the Holy See’s signature.
The Italian gay rights association Arcigay says the Vatican's opposition to the anti-discriminatory measure is "unprecedented," and the citing of gay marriage is an "excuse" to distract people from the real intent of criminalizing gays. One Rome-based priest was disappointed that the Vatican decided to publicize its opposition to what appears a rather innocuous declaration. "When you're always trying to look for new ways to make your point, you lose credibility," says the priest. "Better sometimes to keep quiet."
Benedict has said repeatedly that the Church is forced to speak out against the tide of secularization, especially in Catholicism's home turf in Europe. His kindly manner notwithstanding, Benedict does not seem to hesitate doing or saying what he deems necessary to keep Catholicism from straying too far from its doctrinal tradition.
And that includes revisiting the Catholic liturgy if necessary. His top Vatican deputies are now studying a change to the mass that would affect the moment when members of the congregation are asked to greet each other with a "sign of peace." Worshippers then exchange handshakes, or sometimes a hug or kiss. In 2007, writing about the exchanging of the peace, Benedict called for "greater restraint in this gesture which can become exaggerated and cause a certain distraction in the assembly before the reception of Communion." It may now be moved earlier in the service. Cardinal Francis Arinze, head of the Vatican's liturgical office, said last month that the affectionate gesture is often misunderstood. "It is thought to be a chance to shake hands with friends. Instead it is a way to tell those nearby that the peace of Christ, really present on the altar, is also with all."
Though there is no indication if or when the proposed movement of the peace would happen, this change would respond to a desire by the Pope to rein in some of the excesses that he sees in the ways the faith is currently celebrated. And to those who wonder why not just let everyone to say 'peace' when and where they please for Christmases to come, one can imagine Benedict flashing that gentle smile, tilting his head ever so slightly and declaring: Bah Humbug!

Make A Joyful Noise

I suppose, one could have also called this post: "Look, Ma: No Eagle!"
It may seem a bit strange to write an entry about the sign outside the church that I attend. Afterall, it's not like there is anything remarkable about the signage: it has the shield with its histrorical crosses of both St. George (England) and St. Andrew (Scotland). The sign tells the onlooker what time they can expect to see a bunch of Episcopalians at "pew aerobics" on Sunday.
Really, there's nothing THAT special about the signage at St. John's....
Except that there is no longer an eagle, no more crown. Not only has Evil(aka Fr. Eric Dudley) left the building, his tyrannical symbolism is also gone.
Still, like a roaring lion, Evil is lurking about on the pages of the Tallahassee Magazine. A recent fluff piece doing a 30-year-retrospective on religious life in our fair city noted the split in 2005 in which Evil and his ilk moved northward up the road from St. John's to start St. Peter's Anglican Church. In a fine demostration of no journalism skills whatsoever, the magazine talked only to Evil. And Evil took the opportunity to promote himself and his church as the "True Anglican" church....because they "wear vestments, kneel in prayer, use prayer books and the Eucharist is the center of the service."
Gee....sounds an awful lot like the church services I've been attending the past year in the "True Episcopal" church! A church where ALL people are welcome to come together and celebrate God (this was definitely not true of Evil, who was wailing and gnashing his teeth over the election and consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of NH on a fairly regular basis).
Things are far from perfect in the world of the Red and Blue books. But I celebrate our new outward and visible sign on Monroe and Call Streets as proof of the inward and spiritual grace that is growing within that congregation.
May God's presence be always with us there to open our eyes, ears and hearts to each other in the spirit of God.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Kingdom is at hand...and yet still far away

Or at least it still seems far off when you consider the many, many countless millions of deaths from AIDS/HIV. We still have some work to do here on earth to make it a better place for all. And this is one area where, I hope, all of us in the Anglican matter which corner we're in on the myriad of "social issues" can agree that we must find a cure, and stop the senseless deaths occuring all over....especially in Africa and Asia.

The church would normally recognize St. Andrew today. However, the recommended readings for World AIDS Day are as follows:

Psalm 122:

A Song of Ascents. Of David.
1I was glad when they said to me,
‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’
2Our feet are standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem.
3Jerusalem—built as a city

that is bound firmly together.
4To it the tribes go up,
the tribes of the Lord,as was decreed for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
5For there the thrones for judgement were set up,
the thrones of the house of David.
6Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:

‘May they prosper who love you.
7Peace be within your walls,
and security within your towers.’
8For the sake of my relatives and friends
I will say, ‘Peace be within you.’
9For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good.

Paul's Letter to the Colossians
For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s* will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled* you* to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.*
--Col. 1: 9-14

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Promises, Promises

From today's online edition of The New York Times :

N.Y. Democrats May Skip Gay Marriage Vote

Published: November 28, 2008
ALBANY — After a pledge from New York Democratic leaders that their party would legalize same-sex marriage if they won control of the State Senate this year, money from gay rights supporters poured in from across the country, helping cinch a Democratic victory.
But now, party leaders have sent strong signals that they may not take up the issue during the 2009 legislative session. Some of them suggest it may be wise to wait until 2011 before considering it, in hopes that Democrats can pick up more Senate seats and Gov. David A. Paterson, a strong backer of gay rights, would then be safely into a second term.

The full article can be accessed here.

Just a word of warning to the New York State Democratic Party: if you do this, you will guarantee your certain destruction in the next election. Do not underestimate the ire that has been raised in the LGBT community post-November 4th. If you made a pledge to our community that you would fight for this right, you need to do as you said, particularly if you courted our votes and counted our cash in your campaign coffers. Lip service isn't going to cut it any more.
A similar circumstance occurred with the African-American community in Florida. Democrats, who had long taken the black vote for granted, were denying black leaders within the party a place at the top of the ladder in the state legislature. And the Republicans, crafty bunch that they are, seized the opportunity. They gained control through the redistricting process, and set about passing legislation that had long been stalled under good ol' boy Democrats, and did much to woo blacks into supporting Jeb! Bush. In 2002, the Democratic candidate for Governor was scheduled to be on several black radio talk shows on Election Day. But Bill McBride decided he wanted to sleep in rather than make one final push to persuade blacks to vote for him. And we had Jeb! for another four years!
So yeah, go ahead: break your campaign promise. I'm sure all the anti-gay bigots will be ready to fund your campaigns next time....NOT.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

I have to say, in the past week or two, I have found much to be thankful for in the world.
That sight from the old State Capitol steps at the Join the Impact rally was amazing. Word that another homophobe and femaphobe, Jack Iker of Fort Worth, is going to join the ranks of deposed despots of the Episcopal Church makes me say, "Finally!" I offer prayers for those Texans remaining with the ECUSA. And now, Chief Schismatic Gregory Venables of the Southern Coneheads has finally pissed off others in the Anglican Communion and he, as well as the other schismatics, may face exclusion from the Anglican Consultative Council meeting that takes place next spring. One wonders why it took this long for others to see that the schismatics haven't stopped their power-grabbing efforts in the USA. Perhaps next the Archbishop of Canterbury will actually have a conversation with +Gene Robinson of New Hampshire? OK....maybe that's wishful thinking...
And I am still smiling as I think about what happened at the Diocesan Convention in Missouri. What a sign of hope, and evidence that the spirit of God is still at work in the world. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever, Amen!
I am also reflecting on the place of privilege that I have as a homeowner, and a businesswoman with the breath of life still in me. This is a privilege, and as one who has...I believe it only right to share some of what I have with those who have not. My partner and I will be doing a little bit of that this holiday weekend.
But above all, I want to give a shout of gratitude for my animal buddies: my beautiful, four-legged, furry daughter Valkyrie "Kyrie TeKittyCat" Gage...and my niece, Sammy the Dog Queral.

They bring so much love and joy into my life. Looking into their eyes reminds me of the good that is out there in the world...even when the world doesn't seem that great. Because they always look back at me with eyes that are expectant, or joyous, or just filled with love. A look that I often believe is the look of God when we take the time to stop thinking about ourselves and reflect instead on what is before us: Abundance. Life. Love.
A Collect For stewardship of creation
O merciful Creator, your hand is open wide to satisfy the needs of every living creature: Make us always thankful for your loving providence; and grant that we, remembering the account that we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of your good gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
I give thanks to God. And pass the sweet potatoes this way, please!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Step Toward Forward-Thinking in Florida

The Associated Press reports that a judge in Miami has ruled in favor of letting a gay couple adopt the two brothers they've been caring for as foster parents. Florida is the only state that specifically says adoption by gay or lesbian couples is verboten. Ja, wohl! This ban was enacted by the 1977 state legislature under heavy influences of orange juice spiked by Anita Bryant's hatred of homosexuality.

The state says it will appeal the ruling. I wonder if the state plans to bring back their cracker jack crackpot "experts" to help them build their case on appeal?

Food for Thought

So, in this post-election world in which one form of bigotry is still alive and well in the United States, a few notable things have happened.

1.David Caton, aka my favorite homophobe, of the American Family Association of Florida seems to be the first one out-of-the-box to say he’s ready to challenge a municipal domestic partnership policy in light of the passage of Amendment Two. Only took ‘em two weeks, folks!
2. Dan Wentzel of the Washington Post reported a city bus driver in Los Angeles boldly, proudly, and out loudly called those rallying at the Join the Impact rally in LA “Sodomites!” Wentzel responded with telling the driver, “I’m one of those sodomites!” And he reported the driver to the transit authority.
3. Sodom and Gomorrah has been a popular theme in the past for homophobes, but has seemingly regained usage in the wake of all the anti-gay votes. According to the blog “Stone of Witness”, the ill-fated biblical cities came up on the floor of the Diocesan Convention in central New York state. And not to discuss the proper way to treat a stranger, but to vilify the LGBT community.

This photo is one I took circa 1992 Tallahassee, FL. I guess they considered themselves the UNwelcoming party for our gay pride celebration that year!

Still…I marvel at the amazing story out of the Diocesan Convention in Missouri. As one who lived in Columbia, MO, for four years to attend college and was a congregant at Calvary Episcopal Church, I am so grateful that the DC is on record as supportive of full-inclusion of LGBT people. And to have such an overwhelming vote even after so much apparent negative venting about gays says something to me about the power of God. It kind of reminds me of the story of Balak and Balaam, in which Balak wants Balaam to curse the Israelites…and instead of a curse, the words that come out of Balaam’s mouth are a blessing.
I have been quite amazed with the haughtiness of the homophobes, the boldness of their speech. For people who claim to have Christ on their side, they aren’t paying close attention to what happens to those who persecute another. Hint: it isn’t pretty. Think about it the next time you want to call me “Sodomite” or “Bulldyke” or any other countless names I’ve been called over the years. Your words will come back on you.

“For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing wrath for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you, says the Lord, your Redeemer.” –Isaiah 54: 7-8

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sheeps and Goats and Gays and Votes

I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.
As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord GOD: I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats.
Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD to them: I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep. --Ezekiel 34: 15-17; 20-22

I was heartened this morning when I woke up and read the news that was coming from Lisa Fox in the Diocese of Missouri. At their convention this weekend, the Show-Me staters approved all the resolutions that affect the LGBT faithful and will (hopefully) lead to the undoing of the church resolutions that bar the blessing of same-sex unions and allowing LGBT persons to be elected as bishops. Please go over to My Manner of Life and read her account of this major shift in the Missouri mindset. And to me, it seems to say that God is continuing to unfold the plan, and God will see that all those who seek him will be allowed to come into his courts...and his church!

All the readings assigned for today in the Episcopal Church seem to me to point back to one simple idea: God's the shepherd, and God alone knows who is the sheep and who is the goat; who has been seeing the Divine in the eyes of their neighbor, the stranger, the opponent, and moved from a place of love toward that person rather than judgement. Look at what's said in Matthew 25:

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, "Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.' Then he will say to those at his left hand, "You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' Then he will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.'

When I think about the events of the past few weeks following this election, I am struck by how important this message really is for all of us, and how hopeful it is for those of us who are the "others". Because us of the "others" category have felt judged. Here in Florida, where our community hadn't raised a ruckus to overturn the marriage ban already in the state statutes, the vote on Amendment Two was just a nasty, mean, and bullying judgement. An attempt to drive a wedge between those in the majority and those in the minority. And one of the saddest parts of the vote was the number of churches or religious institutions that were financial contributors to the Florida For Marriage group, leaving the appearance that this Amendment was done in the name of Jesus Christ.
But appearances aren't everything.
And again the readings this Sunday leave me with the inescapable truth of what Matthew and others were capturing for audiences long ago....and today. There is one shepherd, one king, one judge. And that judge is not me, and it's not you. It's God. And he is the only one with the authority to decide who comes to the eternal kingdom party, and he doesn't require a popular vote to figure that out. If you want an invite, just say so. It will be there for you. Once you've believed in the truth of that invitation, you will start seeing how many others also have a place with God, some who are like you, and some who are different than you. And once you recognize the Divine in others, you have a choice: will you clothe the naked, feed the hungry, take time for the prisoner (both the actually incarcerated or those living in a prison of their own design)? Or will you ignore the needy, crossing the street to avoid the homeless person, and cling to all that you have and refuse to share?
In other words, will we be "people of faith" or "people of fear"? Maybe this was on the minds of those at the Diocesean Convention in Missouri!
God's call is for us to live into the life he has given us together in unity, constancy and peace. I'm willing to give it a go. As the apostle Paul notes in Romans: "If God is for us who can be against us?" All of us.

Friday, November 21, 2008

And the Beat Goes On...

So, among the many distinctions Florida holds is the one that is a throw-back to the Orange Juice Lady's days in 1977: the Sunshine State won't allow gays and lesbians to adopt children. Mind you, many other people are allowed to be adoptive parents. Murderers, for example, or drug dealers, I suppose, could provide a more stable and loving home environment than a gay couple.

People who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender can be foster parents. But when they prove to be the right match for a kid in need of a permanent home...well, their crack-addicted in-laws are really more appropriate, doncha think? There have been lackluster challenges to this discriminatory law in the state legislature. A state representative or senator will file a bill, and it will either get lost somewhere in the committee paperwork (buried somewhere under some resolutions proclaiming March "Florida Loves Flowers" month or something) or a committee will hear the bill on condition that the sponsor agree to "table the bill" (a.k.a kill it) after a discussion in which supporters will plea to stop the madness, and opponents will spew forth with hateful homophobic vitriol into the public record.

There is a case in Miami challenging this law which you can read about here. Note that the two experts the state brought in to testify both want to mix their brand of Christianity into social policy. And one went so far as to say that not only are gay people unfit to be adoptive parents, so are Native Americans!

What a world we live in...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Incarnational Encounters

What will it take to change this world and to make it a place where all can live in peace, in love, and in happiness?

This is one of those nagging questions that run through my head in the course of an average day. That, and a couple of hymns, or fractional anthems. My mind travels down such strange pathways that I often wonder if "My thoughts are not my thoughts, but somebody's idea of an ironic wordplay to keep my head spinning."

Back to my reflexive question. The phrase that comes back to me as the answer is one that I heard Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori use during one of her webcasts. She spoke of the importance of "incarnational encounters." Of course, this is in reference to gay and lesbian people...and that's where I'm headed with this. If people who are LGBT would come out, in a simple and matter-of-fact way, I think hateful legislation such as the anti-marriage amendments, and the Arkansas adoption law, would go down in defeat. If more people understood...through knowing somebody who is gay or knowing a gay couple...that the amendments on the ballots were meant to do harm to the gay community, I am about 80-percent sure they'd have voted against it. I'm leaving the 20-percent for those who are the hard-core opponents, the ones who know a lesbian, like their lesbian friend, might even have her over for dinner, drinks and football....and would have still voted "Yes" because of a strange attachment to the word "marriage". There's no way to have a dialogue with the hard-core because they are so certain of how right they are.

But the 80-percent...and I do think it's that many...are the reachable ones. The ones who have the ability to see the humanity of another. And who are able to recognize that a person who has a different sexual orientation than their own is first and foremost a person, not simply a sex act. I wonder how many of that 80-percent are aware of the consequences of the votes taken on "same-sex marriage" in Florida, California and Arizona? My guess is that many of them didn't think about it. And it's not because they hate gay people. It's because this isn't an issue that rises to the top of their consciousness because it doesn't effect them personally. But what if they had been made to see the inherent wrongness of voting to limit the rights of Bill, or Karen, or Tanya who was Tony?

And the only way I can see to make the majority more aware is for us "others" to claim our identity as LGBT people and be out. If we live our lives openly with the grace and love that is within us, minds and hearts will start to change. If we make contributions to our communities, be it the neighborhoods where we live, the religious institution we attend, or the shelters that are housing "the least and the lowest" among us and we do so not hiding our orientation, we will start to shed some light onto the dark descriptions our opponents put out there about who we are. Baby steps such as this will lead to greater distances gained in the long run. If fear of the unknown is what motivates people to vote "Yes" on a Prop. 8 or Amendment 2...then let them know who that "unknown" is!

Get involved. And don't hide your rainbow light under a bushel, but instead let it burn bright. Perhaps its brightness may pierce through the fog in which the majority seem to wander and make them see that this world HAS to change.

Captions Sought For Rally Photo

OK, this photo captures the one lone protestor who showed up to spit in the faces (figuratively) of the some 350-400 people assembled for the Join the Impact rally in Tallahassee.
Please note: he doesn't know how to spell "marriage".
I mean, how can we let people like this protect this "sacred institution" if they don't even know how to spell the word?! So, what caption would you give this photo...hmmm? I yield the virtual floor to you! Have a blast! (photo by Lisa Liveny Comingore)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Look At All These Equal People!

Amazing! I mean, really, truly amazing! On November 4th, I had the horrible experience of being surrounded by a nation of joyful people, and feeling like I was some kind of party-pooper because I just couldn't be happy. The state of Florida had done the unthinkable. It had voted to write discrimination against the LGBT community into the state constitution. And I felt terribly, painfully alone.
Today, November 15th, I looked out from the steps of the old State Capitol Building and saw what I never thought I'd ever see in Tallahassee: lots of gay people, and our allies, marching and chanting, and crying out for justice, and demanding that we right a wrong.

The "Join the Impact Tallahassee" rally started out in front of Florida State University's Westcott Building, where we "others" were interspersed amidst all the happy Homecoming Seminole fans. It was quite fun watching the football junkies observing this gathering of...ummm....people holding signs that don't exactly say, "Go 'Noles". In the photo to the left, a heterosexual couple is posing in front of the Westcott the queer couples mingle to talk politics....and in some cases greet friends they hadn't seen in years, and meet folks who traveled from outlining counties and south Georgia.

The members of the Mickee Faust Club turned out in force, both straight and gay. Give us a chance to be loud and colorful and we're not going to shy away. Give us a chance to make a political statement, damn right we'll do it!

Sam, the Second Class Citizen, was with me in the shepherding role (I knew there was a reason I insisted on being a shepherd in the Christmas pageants as a child!) Our job as marshalls was to keep people moving along on the sidewalks and helping to get folks safely across intersections. We had a help for some of the parade route from an FSU police officer on a motorcycle. Without us asking, without any expectation of kindness from this man, he rode his motorcycle, with his flashing lights on, into some of the streets where crossing would be a little more difficult to help us get across. Once we reached the edge of the "campus jurisdiction", he told us, "You're on your own from here!" Many thumbs up to that man. Only fifty years the days of the Johns FSU officer would have been calling in back ups to have us all arrested!
We had fantastic speakers at the Capitol. Rev. Brant Copeland of First Presbyterian Church not only led the crowd in an ecumenical opening prayer, he made the point that he knew the face of Christianity that has been shown to the gay community hasn't been pretty. "Because I have 'Rev.' before my name, I get a lot of mail!" he said. And some of the mail was making the assumption that he agreed with the thieves and the liars who are posing as Christians when they send him letters and videos that condemn the LGBT community. But Copeland, like some other clergy members in Tallahassee, prefer the God that says, "Love thy neighbor" and that includes neighbors of all races, political persuasions and sexual orientations!
Cantor Tanya Tamarkin from Temple Israel not only offered her personal family story of having a transgendered sibling, she also offered that Amendment Two took away from her, as a clergy person, the opportunity to bless same-sex couples. Regardless...she offered us a blessing and a song! Also moving was a moment of silence, taken at 1:30pm Eastern time, to allow each of us a chance to send out our collective prayers and energies to our brothers and sisters rallying in other parts of the country. Anita, did ya feel it?!
There were so many people who spoke out with passion, sometimes pushing through their tears, as they voiced a desire to create a world that is more loving, more accepting, and more willing to live and let live. And there was a desire to not let today be the end of the line. We must continue to work with each other, and take interest in the things that affect other minority groups who may not think that their struggle for equality, and ours, is one in the same. The United States has elected an African-American president, and while that is one barrier we seem to be moving past, there are still many others that remain standing that must be knocked down.
Many congratulations to Tom Bendle, my sweet partner, Isabelle and all the rest of us who helped to make this march and rally a peaceful, and forceful, demonstration of our community's spirit. Now, let's make it soar toward some real change and return the sunshine to the Partly Cloudy State.
"You do well if you really fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself....So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgement will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgement." James 2: 8; 12-13.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Come March with Me

This is it, friends. Don't let this moment pass you by. Stand up for your family, your friends...YOU!

Do I have to be gay to care about this issue? No! Absolutely not. And I don't want to be rude, but that's like asking if you need to be a dog to care about animal rights. And if you are straight, and marching with us, you deserve much love and praise because you are standing with the marginalized. And if you are a person of faith, you are amazing because certain "faith communities" have made it their mission to put up stumbling blocks on the path to God to convince the LGBT community that they are hated.

Of course, today those same liars and thieves of Christianity say they don't "hate" gay people; the same way they don't "hate" murderers, adulterers, and robbers.

Gee, thanks!

If you come to the rally, be sure to pick up after yourself, and treat everyone and everything with respect. Our fight isn't with the flower beds in front of the old state capitol. Our struggle is to get the four million plus Floridians who voted "Yes" on 2 to consider the human consequences of their action, and to start the ball rolling toward a better day for ALL people in the state of Florida. See ya there!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thank God for the Reformation!


COLUMBIA, S.C. – A South Carolina Roman Catholic priest has told his parishioners that they should refrain from receiving Holy Communion if they voted for Barack Obama because the Democratic president-elect supports abortion, and supporting him "constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil."
The Rev. Jay Scott Newman said in a letter distributed Sunday to parishioners at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Greenville that they are putting their souls at risk if they take Holy Communion before doing penance for their vote.
"Our nation has chosen for its chief executive the most radical pro-abortion politician ever to serve in the United States Senate or to run for president," Newman wrote, referring to Obama by his full name, including his middle name of Hussein.
"Voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exists constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil, and those Catholics who do so place themselves outside of the full communion of Christ's Church and under the judgment of divine law. Persons in this condition should not receive Holy Communion until and unless they are reconciled to God in the Sacrament of Penance, lest they eat and drink their own condemnation."
During the 2008 presidential campaign, many bishops spoke out on abortion more boldly than four years earlier, telling Catholic politicians and voters that the issue should be the most important consideration in setting policy and deciding which candidate to back. A few church leaders said parishioners risked their immortal soul by voting for candidates who support abortion rights.
But bishops differ on whether Catholic lawmakers — and voters — should refrain from receiving Communion if they diverge from church teaching on abortion. Each bishop sets policy in his own diocese. In their annual fall meeting, the nation's Catholic bishops vowed Tuesday to forcefully confront the Obama administration over its support for abortion rights.
According to national exit polls, 54 percent of Catholics chose Obama, who is Protestant. In South Carolina, which McCain carried, voters in Greenville County — traditionally seen as among the state's most conservative areas — went 61 percent for the Republican, and 37 percent for Obama.
"It was not an attempt to make a partisan point," Newman said in a telephone interview Thursday. "In fact, in this election, for the sake of argument, if the Republican candidate had been pro-abortion, and the Democratic candidate had been pro-life, everything that I wrote would have been exactly the same."
Conservative Catholics criticized Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry in 2004 for supporting abortion rights, with a few Catholic bishops saying Kerry should refrain from receiving Holy Communion because his views were contrary to church teachings.
Sister Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said she had not heard of other churches taking this position in reaction to Obama's win. A Boston-based group that supports Catholic Democrats questioned the move, saying it was too extreme.
"Father Newman is off base," said Steve Krueger, national director of Catholic Democrats. "He is acting beyond the authority of a parish priest to say what he did. ... Unfortunately, he is doing so in a manner that will be of great cost to those parishioners who did vote for Sens. Obama and Biden. There will be a spiritual cost to them for his words."
A man who has attended St. Mary's for 18 years said he welcomed Newman's message and anticipated it would inspire further discussion at the church.
"I don't understand anyone who would call themselves a Christian, let alone a Catholic, and could vote for someone who's a pro-abortion candidate," said Ted Kelly, 64, who volunteers his time as lector for the church. "You're talking about the murder of innocent beings."

Oh, Henry VIII: you were a bastard in so many ways. But at least you had the wisdom...and the want your own Church separate from Rome!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Turning Good Friday into Easter

I am, for better or for worse, on perma-hold with my anger and frustration at the vote that occured last week on gay civil rights in Florida, California, Arizona and Arkansas. And as I process my feelings, read my scripture, get inspired and cared for by psalms, there's one clear message for me: it may feel like Good Friday....but the promise of Easter is always there. I just need to allow for it to happen.

I want resurrection of my soul, and a restoring of justice to the world. And that's why I'm channeling my energy toward raising a ruckus on Saturday. One big ol' temper tantrum. One long, hard cry for mercy. One more chance to release myself from the bitter taste this has left in my mouth. Truth is, the acuteness of the pain is wearing off. Now I'm just aware of how wrong it is to allow a majority to vote on an amendment that has profound and far-reaching language to oppress a minority.

Again, I am reminded of the story of the Syrophoenician woman in Mark's gospel where Jesus initially refuses to help a woman of "other" status when she asks him to use his gifts to heal her daughter. His immediate response is to tell her his gifts were meant for the children of Israel, and not the dogs. And her reaction was to go all New Jersey on him and remind him that it is the dogs who eat the crumbs under the table of Israel's children. And Jesus does a 180, praises her for her faith, and sends her home to her healed daughter.

One interpretation of this could be that Jesus was testing this woman's faith with his reluctance to help her. But, as one who so often sees the world through my eyes as an "other", I think of this as a moment where the human Jesus is schooled into understanding that the gifts belong to the many, and not just "the chosen". Imagine if the apostles had never taken the good news anywhere but within the temples? What if Paul hadn't had his moment of "seeing the light" as it were, and becoming a man on a mission to bring the message of God as expressed through Jesus to the Gentiles?

I'm asking now for those who think that marriage should be for "one man and one woman only" to consider what the benefit is to society to keep this "gift" to themselves. How have you really helped children, especially the foster children of Arkansas, to be raised in a loving household? Do you really believe that marriages of convenience or appearance or default are helping to strengthen the "institution of marriage" and keep it "sanctified"? To paraphrase MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann, "What are you thinking?!"

Again, when I consider the road ahead for me and my queer brothers and sisters, I know that we have a difficult path to walk. But I look to the prophets of the Old Testament, and I look to Christ, and I know that while many have faced huge obstacles, they leaned on their faith, pushed on through, and kept going. And just like Moses, just like Christ, just like Paul, just like Philip....there is also the hope that when us "others" start showing up, and saying, "Me, too!", the reward does come, and God's will is done...on earth as it is heaven.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Join The Impact and Fight for Rights


All across the nation, we're gathering in communities big and small to organize and rally and make some noise to say we're dissed, we're pissed, and voting on the rights of a minority group is WRONG.

Go to and find your state and city to take part in this protest.

In Tallahassee, FL, we're gathering at the Westcott Building at FSU on Saturday, November 15th at noon. There will be a march toward the Capitol building with a rally in front of the old state capitol at 12:30pm.

This is part of the nationwide Join the Impact protest.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Tit for Tat

The Mad Priest has posted a link to a website that is retaliation on one element of the religious right wing. Go sign the petition, and start putting the financial screws to those who think it is the will of God to stomp on the heads of the gay community by popular vote!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

And This is Why I Keep Coming Back

I suppose it is hard for some of my friends, or even some of you reading, to understand why I remain with Christianity or the Episcopal Church in light of some of the recent events.

Perhaps this Psalm...Psalm 70 which is the one we used at St. John's this morning...can give you some insight. For your benefit, I will give a play-by-play of my internal and external response to these words. The refrain is below...for those who want to sing along...

1Be pleased, O God, to deliver me;
O Lord, make haste to help me!

2Let those who seek my life be ashamed
and altogther dismayed;.Let those
who take pleasure in my misfortune
draw back and be disgraced.
(Sing refrain...and reach for the hankerchief in left pocket as tears form in eyes).

3Let those who say, ‘Aha!’ and gloat over me
turn back because of their shame.
(Reflect on Yes2Marriage group's news release, and sob as if at a funeral)

4Let all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you.
Let those who love your salvation
say evermore, ‘Great is the Lord!’
(Sing refrain, while wiping tears from eyes)
5But I am poor and needy;
come to me speedily,
(Nod in agreement. Tears are stopping)
6 O God! You are my help and my deliverer;
O Lord, do not tarry!
(Sing refrain with sense of calm and peace of soul).
Et voila! God continues to send the message that God remains with me until the end of the age.
Trust me, the reason I stay is because I belong. And it really doesn't matter two bits what any person thinks, or says, or tries to impose on me and call it the will of God. Because none of us really knows God's will. We just try our best to decipher it. And while those who are "Gloating in the name of God" today like to call upon the same old seven passages in the Bible that they say condemn me to Hell, I will tell you there are hundreds and hundreds of verses in Scripture that communicate an enormous love that is for me. For example, the above Psalm...which was almost like receiving a telegraph from the unseen God who knows all too well that I have been feeling pretty crappy since Tuesday night, and knew what I needed to see on this Sunday.
I have been in mourning. And now I want to be in motion. I want to fight back. And I look to God for the wisdom to know how to do it with love, strength and courage.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Like A Roaring Lion...

The statement sent out to the Florida media from John Stemberger, chairman of the Yes2Marriage campaign:
A Special Report:
Passage of the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment
The Triumph of the Common Man over Cultural Elites
Dear Friend,

We did it -- You did it -- And ultimately God did it! After four long years of hard work and some rather stunning opposition along the way, the Florida Marriage Protection Act is now a permanent part of the Florida Constitution under Article I, Section 27. This is simply a remarkable and historical victory. Well over four and a half million Floridians comprising 62.1% of the electorate voted for the common sense idea that marriage will remain between one man and one woman.

Thank You So Much
Yesterday Dr. James Dobson called to congratulate me and to interview me on the national Focus on the Family broadcast. Dr. Dobson asked me to personally thank every single person in Florida who labored and supported this great cause. I also wish I could speak face to face with every single one of the hundreds and thousands of pastors, county coordinators, phone bankers, sign waivers, volunteers, and people who just asked their family and friends to vote “Yes on 2” and personally thank them also.

Educating Ourselves into Imbecility
From my perspective, this victory is really a triumph of the common man over the cultural elite. This vote represents the views of the vast majority of Floridians who are hard working, have families and children, love their country and whose faith is not some rabbit’s foot in their pocket but a real and vibrant part of who they are and what they stand for. On the other hand, every single daily newspaper in Florida (all 27 of them) openly opposed Amendment 2 not just once-- but several times in their editorial pages. All this reminds me of what English Journalist Malcolm Muggeridge said about the modern man: “We have now educated ourselves into a state of complete imbecility.”
(Please allow me to interrupt here to note that I agree: they are imbeciles.)
What does this means for Florida’s Future?
What the passage of Amendment 2 means for Florida is that as a matter of law marriage will be held in esteem and respected as a special and unique relationship which is vital to our success. Gender differences and words like “mother and father” not be removed from the law and declared bigoted. It means that kindergarten girls and boys will not come home with “diversity” packets containing brochures entitled “Am I gay?”. It means that second graders will not learn to read from books like Heather has Two Mommies and the King and King. It means that crafty homosexual activists will not be able to create gay marriage and try and call it something else like what happened in California and Connecticut. It really means that a whole of array of legal and policy nonsense aimed at radically redefining natural marriage and family structures will never see the light of day.

Major Thanks!
While the leaders and staff of the Florida Family Policy Council were the primary force behind spearheading this historic effort, there was a diverse coalition of thousands of churches, demoninations, businesses and organizations that participated on and off along the way. But there are some organizations and persons that have to be thanked and recognized for their full and unconditional support of this effort the entire way through this four year process. They are: Focus on the Family, Focus Action, Florida Baptist Convention, Liberty Counsel, Florida Catholic Conference, Knights of Columbus, Family Research Council, American Family Association, National Organization for Marriage, The High Impact Coalition, Christian Coalition, Community Issues Council, Exodus International, Eagle Forum of Florida, Florida Family Association and the Christian Family Coalition. Senator Dan Webster, State Rep. Frank and Juda Atkisson, former Senator Tom Lee, Pastor Clayton Cloer, Pastor Tom Messer, Bishop Harry R. Jackson, and Pastor Guillermo Maldonado. In addition to the above major supporters there were also thousands of others who participated and supported the effort at various stages along the way. These volunteers have spent hours, weeks, months and in some cases years working tirelessly for this effort. These men, women and young people too many in number to list are the real unsung heroes and have my respect and admiration above all else. And finally to the members of the staff and campaign team you all were simply amazing! To all of them we offer our heartfelt thanks.
Again, thank you for your tireless efforts. I am so grateful to God and so proud of for your help and support. We changed the course of history and generations of children yet unborn will someday thank you for your efforts.
Sincerely, John Stemberger
State Chairman,
And now some words from Scripture that I think Mr. Stemberger might have missed in his cherry-picking of favorite Bible quotes:
"God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this; that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as his is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, "I love God," and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen."--1 John 4:16-20.