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