Saturday, May 30, 2009


I suppose it's fitting that with Pentecost coming tomorrow... with it's great tongues of fire... I have flames on the brain. (Either that or I'm just too excited about grilling chicken!)

Fire can bring up so many images. There's the fire in the belly that motivates an action. There's the fire in the head that can make me speak before I've thought out what I'm going to say. There's the walk through fire when I have to do something that I am afraid to do. Of course, there's always that saying of being tossed from the frying pan into the fire. And I have certainly felt that many, many times.

What struck me as I meditated on fire was the story from the book of Daniel, where King Nebuchadenezzer orders three men to be bound and tossed into a furnace and have the heat turned up because they refused to worship a statute of his royal pompous Highness (they were loyal to God, and weren't about to get involved in idolatry). This plan backfires... literally... and the men emerge unscathed, with God in their midst, much to the shock of Nebuchadenezzer. Thinking about this story, I was left with a question: is it not possible that if I put my trust in God, I can survive the fires of my life's challenges? The answer seems to be "Yes".

So, in taking that thought a step further, I can't help but think about the challenges of the past week faced by the LGBT community. Tuesday, we were once again reminded that we are still in a struggle to have our relationships treated fairly and equally under the law. California's Supreme Court upheld Prop H8. President Obama is upholding the military's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, resulting in the high-profile dismissal of Lt. Dan Choi, a gay man who is also an expert Arab linguist (given that some of our biggest enemies right now speak.... umm... Arabic... this would seem to be a bad move.) And as I have become increasingly outspoken on LGBT rights, I have to weigh the practical problems such boldness might cause me in my work life, my income and my future. Figuratively speaking, queer people... me included... are in the line of fire on the ballot, in the church, in the military, and in the world.

But then, just as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego of the Daniel story survived a blazing burning fire in a furnace, I keep thinking that the gay community will emerge from the fires of discrimination without a singed hair on our heads. Because I believe we are part of God's plan, and we are good.

As we approach Pentecost, with the Holy Spirit's none-to-subtle entrance as a rush of wind with divided fiery tongues resting on each of the apostles and causing them to speak in languages foreign to them, I am reminded that the Spirit is in the world... and will give the wisdom of speech to those who must stand up for ourselves and the rest of society's "others". Far from extinguishing the fire, the Spirit is like the bellows that grants us the strength and courage to love and serve God by loving and serving the divinity that dwells within all people, regardless of who they are. And once lit up inside with that fire of the Spirit, it is impossible to go back or be pushed down.

Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people;once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. --1Peter 2:10.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Sneaky Stuff

A quick visit to Fr. Mark Harris' PRELUDIUM site... and a perusal of some of his blog favorites landed me at Katie Sherrod's DESERT'S CHILD. There, I found an old... but informative if not disturbing post... about the latest trick up the sleeves of those in this country trying to undermine the Episcopal Church... and specifically the Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

They call themselves "Communion Partners": bishops and rectors in the Episcopal Church, who believe that really the Diocese, not the General Convention, reign supreme in church governance. That these autonomous dioceses gather in association with the Episcopal Church... but don't actually have to live by decisions made within its governance structure of GC. And, in short, they can do whatever they want with the property that is in the diocese.

Read it all here. You can see which bishops have signed on here. And rectors here.

On the list is a name familiar to those of us here in Florida: retired Bishop Alden Hathaway... who was hanging around St. John's in Tallahassee before, during and some time, after "the split". Yuck!!

Meanwhile, there's a new working group to figure out that sticky wicket of "part four" of the Anglican Covenant. There is a member of the Anglican Church of Canada, but no representative from The Episcopal Church. The goal is to get a draft ready for comment by November.

I have my comment already: Pffffffffttttttttt!!!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Father Oprah: C'mon on Down!

The Episcopal Church in the Diocese of SE Florida just grew by two people this afternoon. Roman Catholic priest Father Alberto Cutie (pronounced koo-tee-'AY) and his girlfriend, Ruhama Buni Canellis, kneeled before Bishop Leo Frade and were received into the Episcopal Church. +Leo gave Cutie a special lay minister designation, giving him the privilege to preach, but not celebrate the eucharist. Cutie will have to undergo a year-long process before he can be licensed as an Episcopal priest.

Cutie had a falling out with the Roman Catholic Church when a Spanish-language magazine published photographs of him making out with Canellis. It caused a scandal for the popular priest, who earned the nickname "Father Oprah" for his charisma on Spanish-language television, and cost him a parish job. While Cutie doesn't bash the church for requiring celibacy of priests, he acknowledged that celibacy wasn't for him. As he told the Spanish-language media about his love for Canellis:

"There is no crime here. [Is there] guilt? Do I feel bad or horrible? No! I am a man. Under this cassock there are pants."

Cutie indicated he'd like to marry his girlfriend.

Who's Your Neighbor

I am not a Biblical literalist. I don’t read the Bible as a recipe for easy living. But when I do the Daily Office, I am struck by how a single part of scripture, or the combination of the scripture readings for the day, can help settle my mind into a contemplative place… and frame how I will live and move and have my being in the world.

Such is the case today with the Luke gospel story of the Good Samaritan, probably one of the most familiar to me from my Sunday School days in childhood. It was one of those stories that left an impression, and I think it’s because of the way the teacher read the story to us.

A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.—Luke 10: 30-34

The teacher (and it was either Mrs. Whitney, or Mrs. McNeil) put the emphasis heavily on the fact that it was the Samaritan who was the "good person". And so, for years, I knew that "Samaritan" was synonymous with "good person." Because Sunday School had taught me so!

What I didn’t understand… until much later… was the broader, and much more meaningful, message Jesus was communicating through this story. This wasn’t about Samaritans as good people who were willing to stop and help another in distress when other people passed by because they were too busy or didn’t want to get involved. For starters, this story has a set up. A lawyer had posed the question to our man Jesus asking for the secret to eternal life (this is a set up to test Jesus). He responds in the way Jesus often answered such challenges… like a good teacher… by posing a question back at the man: "What do you read in the law?" The lawyer quotes a portion of what is known in Judaism as the Shema, the central prayer of morning and evening worship:

He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’ –Luke 10: 27-28

But that’s not where the test ends. Next, the lawyer insists on knowing, "So… who’s my neighbor?" And that’s where we start the story of the Good Samaritan. And Jesus’ selection of the characters (priest, Levite, and Samaritan) are intentional and meant to provoke the lawyer and anyone listening at that moment. Priests, and Levites, would be understood to be the "us", the "in crowd", the "good" people. Samaritans, on the other hand, were the "them". And not just any "them"; really low-rent, unworthy members of the "those people" class "them". To have a Samaritan be the hero of the story would certainly have made the lawyer swallow hard when he’d have to acknowledge that the one who was living the Shema, and sharing in eternal life, was the one thought to be "unworthy". You can even hear it in his response:

Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’ –Luke 10: 36-37

"The one who showed him mercy." Not, "The Samaritan" but "the one". I have this visual of this smug smirky lawyer guy shifting his weight back and forth and beads of sweat gathering on his forehead as he mumbles the "correct" answer.

In the world of 2009, this would be like Jesus telling the same story to a group of students at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, and noting "But a gay man, while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved by pity." (If such a story were told on the Lynchburg campus, having a gay hero would be exactly the choice to make the point!) It’s easy to make broad generalizations, but a good number of us who are gay tend to be sensitive and helpful to strangers. Perhaps because in some ways we are strangers in our own land, and know what it means to reach out to the one who is in need.

"Go and do likewise." Want eternal life? Live out that commandment and put it into action, not just recitation. Saying the words correctly is easy. Doing the action of the words means stepping outside yourself. Be like that "other" who didn’t turn away from a person in need, or quiz them on whether they had the same beliefs, political affiliation, color, creed, or sexual orientation. Don’t put your own self-interest, and self-preservation ahead of helping out a person lying in the ditch…. no matter who that person is.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mixed Bag and Madness

As you have likely heard, read, seen or all three... the California Supreme Court today upheld Proposition Eight; thus signaling that it is OK to put civil rights up for a popular vote, especially if you are not the one with anything to lose. The upside of this decision is that at least the court understood the ridiculousness of suggesting that the 18,000 same-sex couples married in California before November 5th should be divorced. That would have taken an already mean-spirited mandate and made it beyond punitive.

Naturally, I am extremely disappointed with this ruling. It is wrong to allow the majority to write discrimination against a minority into a state constitution. This is no small matter. We are talking about allowing people who have access to the rights (r-i-g-h-t-s) of marriage to say, "I've got mine, and screw you!" Votes, such as Proposition 8 in California or Amendment Two in Florida... or even 102 in Arizona, that exclude LGBT couples from the r-i-g-h-t of survivor's benefits, or the r-i-g-h-t to make medical decisions on their partner's behalf in cases of emergency, or the r-i-g-h-t to simply live and let live are WRONG!

There are plans to protest in cities across the United States this ruling today. But I am at a place of being tired of standing on street corners, or in front of the state Capitol Building, screaming at motorists to pay attention, and having some redneck holler homophobic hatred at me. I am fed up with constantly having my life, and my love, trotted out for somebody else's political agenda because something deep within them makes them fear me (or some warped vision of me). I am finished with being a victim of the Exclusionary agenda that not only doesn't want to see me as a child of God, they don't want to see me as human at all (Mad Priest found a real dandy example of this). We've got to stop the insanity of this fear of the "other". We've got to stop waiting for the kindness of straight people to see the light, and we have to start coming out of our closets, and taking charge. We need straight allies, for sure. But we can't have allies if we hide.

I do believe that change is coming. And it's ironic that Iowa is now more progressive on LGBT rights than California. Today, we are hurting. But the next step is to channel this hurt into action to start standing up for ourselves in ways we have not done before. I am ready. How 'bout you?

T-minus 90 minutes... and counting

I don't think there is a queer person in America who isn't sitting on the edge of their seat in anticipation of the California Supreme Court's ruling in a short while on Proposition Eight.

And if my anxiety is high here in Florida, I can only imagine what it must be for those in the Golden State.

I was heartened to read this in the Associated Press report this morning:

In tense anticipation of the news to come, about 400 same-sex marriage supporters attended an interfaith prayer service held Monday night at San Francisco's Episcopal Grace Cathedral.

The Rev. Roland Stringfellow, with the Pacific School of Religion, said the service was meant to show how many communities of faith stand with gay couples on this issue. Among those to offer prayers were a Sikh mother, a Buddhist nun, a Jewish rabbi and Episcopal Bishop Marc Andrus.

The folks on the other side have a different approach:

If a court majority invalidates the measure, angry voters would funnel their energy into unseating the justices who went along with the decision, predicted Frank Schubert, who managed the successful Yes on 8 campaign.

God, watch over us. I'll be posting later whatever the decision.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Taking It All In

Give us all a reverence for the earth as your own creation, that we may use its resources rightly in the service of others and to your honor and glory. --Prayers of the People, Form IV, pg. 388 BCP.

I spent a few days recently in my native New Hampshire, visiting my mom and making some important personal contacts while I was there. But there was no more important contact that I felt I was making than with the place itself. I was taking in the natural environment of this corner of the planet where I was born and raised, and enjoying it immensely. Normally, on a trip to New Hampshire, I would jump in the car and drive north into the White Mountains to be surrounded in such a way that I feel my smallness in comparison to the great rocky granite mountains and the purity of the water in the lakes. Or I might drive the 10 miles or so to get to the Atlantic Ocean, and watch the waves crash in and soak down the sand and the rocks.

But this time, I stayed pretty much close to home. And it was good. My partner and I would take walks into the downtown area, noticing and smelling the lilacs in bloom. We appreciated the robins hopping through the grass before taking off for flight over the Exeter River. It was peaceful and simple. And I found myself reflecting on the prayer that I put at the beginning of this entry.

So much of my hometown was so green. So much of it seemed so alive. And so much of it was a reminder that God dwells in the world and shows us the glimpses of heaven when we stop to see what has been created to sustain us. Our job is remember that we are stewards of this creation, and it is our responsibility to care for it. It's not that I will fall down and worship a tree, but I know that the tree, like me, is part of God's creation. I know that what I do to the earth should be as respectful as what I do to another person. And I know that it's important for me, and everyone, to use the resources of the earth rightly because my actions have repercussions for future generations... and the animals and creatures who share the planet with us.

I'm currently reading Barbara Brown Taylor's new book, "An Altar in the World". BBT makes the point that people can commune and seek God in places that are outside of the stained-glass windows of their houses of worship, and I couldn't agree more. And I think if more people did take in their environments as Godly creations, there would be the kind of reverence that our Pagan and Native American brothers and sisters have already put into practice. Ours is a variation of their path, but still recognizes the Divine's handiwork in the natural wonders of our planet. I mean, if we saw our rivers as being God's well in the world, would we be OK with dumping Dioxin into it?
We must remember that we are part of the creation, and not the creators. We've been leased this opportunity to be on the planet, and the landlord expects us to do right by his property. I think sometimes we forget that. How do we remember? All we have to do is take time to stop and smell the roses.
Or the lilacs.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Year of the Bible

So I had to laugh when I saw this story on Yahoo this morning that there is a proposal in Congress to make 2010 "The Year of the Bible".

Comment: Congress should be careful what they ask for. If they were to really read the Bible, it might make them more than a little uncomfortable when they're instructed to "do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God". Such a command might cause a mass resignation! Hmmmmm.....

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Marriage Stalled

Sometimes, progress hits a pothole. Or, in the case of my native New Hampshire, a frost heave.
It could have been a glorious, victorious, triumphant day in Concord. My partner and I, who are on a brief visit here, could have been at the state Capitol for a 5pm bill signing with Governor John Lynch and witnessed New Hampshire becoming the sixth state in the country to approve same-sex marriage.
But the bill is limbo... also known as going to a conference committee between the House and Senate.
Here's apparently what happened.
You may remember that NH's legislature passed the marriage measure a few weeks ago. Up to that point, Gov. Lynch hadn't said much of anything. Once the bill was really going to be on its way to his desk, the Governor suddenly remembered, "Oh, yeah: before you give that to me, you better make extra-double-triple sure that it protects religious institutions and their employees from lawsuits if they refuse to marry a lesbian or gay couple." Fortunately, the bill had not actually left the Senate to head to the Governor, and after working out some comfort language for Lynch, the chamber passed the newly-amended bill.
Then it was time to take it up in the House... a 400-member body of pure New Hampshire Yankeeism. And this is when the same-sex marriage car ran over a frost heave.
Some members, including a gay Republican Rep.Steve Vaillancourt of Manchester, switched their votes from the last time, and the measure failed on 188-186 vote. Mind you, this wasn't about evil, nasty, horrible, frightening gay people... the type of talk you might expect to hear out of a legislature such as Florida's. No, the reason for some of the key vote switches was... "How dare the governor demand we make changes to this bill! He has some nerve speaking up now, and we aren't gonna let him jerk us around!" (This is not a direct quote, but a paraphrase of what was being said).
In other words, it was good ol' fashioned New Hampshire stubborn bull headedness that bumped the bill off its path to the Governor.
Vaillancourt was quoted on New Hampshire Public Radio this morning, mouthing off about the "homophobic" Governor who was making them amend the bill to protect religious groups. And while I agree this amendment seems completely unnecessary, and is a creation of Roman Catholic guilt on the Governor's part, the fact is that had Vaillancourt and others NOT switched their votes, gay marriage would have been signed into law at 5pm yesterday. Instead, it will linger in conference... and supporters can only hope that it will come back when everyone's hot heads have cooled off. And some Roman Catholic lawmakers might consider going to the confessional at their local church rather than being on the floor at the time of the vote.
New Hampshire. I love it... even when it makes me crazy.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Seeking and Finding

"I ask your prayers for all who seek God or a deeper knowledge of him. Pray that they may find and be found by him." Prayers of the People, Form II, BCP pg. 386.

You could say, this is where it all began. It started when I was in church every Sunday as a child, barely paying attention, but remaining on task because I was an acolyte and had to follow the service. Christ Church Exeter generally used Form II for the Prayers of the People, and so I became accustomed to its wording and moments of silence for personal reflection. And it was there that I heard the above prayer... many, many times.

So, when I went to see Mtr. Lee Shafer to talk about the "how I came to be showing up again at St. John's AFTER my dad's funeral"... we got to a point in the conversation where she said, "What is it that you need?"
"I don't NEED anything!", I thought. And then it hit me.
"Y'know, there's a prayer in the Prayers of the People..." and I went on to recite the above. And I came to understand, in that moment, that if I had a need, it was to enter the process of seeking God in the hopes that I would find God. Somewhere. Anywhere.
As it turns out... everywhere.
Just as it says in Luke's gospel reading for today:

‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’ --Luke 11: 9-13

I don't have any other way of putting this than to say, "It's true!" And this is the kind of thing that can really blow your socks off if you allow it to sink in. God meets you wherever and however you are. You don't have to be inside a pretty sanctuary with gorgeous stained-glass windows to seek and find God. It can and does happen there. But you can always knock on God's door while you're standing in a field, or a parking lot, or at the bedside of a dying loved one. And the real kicker is... the only credentials God is looking at is what is in your heart in the asking. Not how much money do you have? Who'd you sleep with last night? Do you have clear skin? What is your heart's need.

Since I asked to seek God and find a deeper knowledge of him, I have been granted that request... and then some... for about 18 months! And the really trippy part is, the more I find, the more I find there is to find. The more knowledge I seem to gain, the more I see that I have only scratched the tip of the tip of the iceberg. And that piques my curiousity, and makes me want to knock again.

If you haven't started seeking for yourself, I encourage you to do so. The places this journey has taken me have been amazing... a little unsettling at times... but never too much. And I'm never alone.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Eighteen Years

Today officially marks the 18th year of my relationship with my partner, a romance that began with heat stroke, a trip to the walk-in clinic... and a tearful acknowledgement that we did want to be together. Not exactly the story of a steamy romance novel, but that's true life lesbian love, or at least my true life lesbian love.
We met where any two good lesbians in the 1990s would meet: the softball field. I had been living in Tallahassee for about six months at that point, and was seriously interested in leaving. I had gone out on some dates. I frequented the bar downtown when it had its "Gay Night" on Saturdays, and seen the drag shows, and left depressed each time because the bar wasn't exactly the place to meet Ms. Right. Or to meet anybody at all. Not having any family in Florida (save for my dad's uncle who was in a nursing home in Pensacola), I wasn't feeling Tallahassee was the place for me. And with no romantic interest, or any outside interest besides doing my laundry and trying to find a home in the very-conservative Episcopal Church in the south... well, let's just say Rochester, MN, was beginning to look like the next career destination.
Then I was introduced to a group of women, in their mid-thirties, who played softball. And there was this one woman on the team who I thought was very interesting. She played right field as if she were right halfback on the soccer field: she'd trap the ball rather than charge it, glove to ground to scoop it up and throw. She wore mismatched socks to all games and practices, and I quickly gave her the monniker "Two Socks". And she had a peculiar accent that wasn't American, but I couldn't place it. The fact that I could hear her accent at all was amazing to her. In the course of talking, I learned that she was a French native, but her father was an American, and she had lived in France, Morocco, Spain and the U.S; hence the untraceable accent.
"Two Socks", in the meantime, was blown away to discover that the quiet, stand-offish 23-year-old with a flattop was that voice she heard on the radio... a voice she knew had to belong to a woman who resembled Cokie Roberts in pearls.
Our first date, she thought I was trying to kidnap her. We were going to see a movie at the Tallahassee Mall. I offered to drive. And then I revealed to her, through my unusual route, that I am a direction-challenged individual. And little did I know that her computer brain which comes with built-in GPS was going into a meltdown when I took us about 10 miles out of the way because this was the only way I knew how to get from Amelia Circle to North Monroe Street... and it was via the interstate. (I didn't know any better, OK??)
We date our anniversary on the day that our team had to play two make-up games in typical Tallahassee spring weather: 90-degrees, beating sun, and rising humidity. I didn't know any better, and I wore my 50/50 sweat pants with my 50/50 Naiad Press team T-shirt and happily drank coffee and ate donuts before we started the games. By the early part of game #2, I was feeling faint, and I wasn't sweating. I knew something wasn't right. I went to bat, and swung as hard as I could, so that I would at least get the ball to a place where I could make it to first base. And there, I collapsed. One of the women on our team, a nurse with a reputation for getting women into the sack, took me in the dugout and insisted that I take my pants off now. I looked at her, and she said, "No, I'm not saying it for that reason! Get your pants off!" Another person brought a bucket with ice and I had women rubbing me down on my face and wrists. This wasn't erotic; it was necessary.

Before long, I was whisked away to a Patients First walk-in clinic where they had me lie quietly, drink water mixed with Gatorade, and more ice to the body. The girlfriend of the coach was with me in the room, and we were having a moment, trying to suppress laughter, as this very slow-moving doctor explained that I should drink more Gatorade. "It's like sweat, but it tastes better."
Meanwhile, Two Socks had followed behind to check on me, and fill out my information for the clinic. This is how many of the team learned that I was born in... (gulp)... the year they went to their first prom? The year they graduated from high school? The year they went to see "Rosemary's Baby" in the movie theater??
When I was released, this gaggle of women went back to my tiny apartment. They bought sandwiches, and ate with me, and continued feeding me more water with Gatorade. Eventually the party broke up and it was just me and Two Socks. We talked. We shared. We cried. And we discovered that we were more interested in each other than just being teammates or going to a movie.
That was 18 years ago today. Remarkable.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Inner Circle of Friendship

‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another. --John 15:12-17

This was today's gospel and in a word: Wow!
I have had a few days to contemplate what's in this particular passage because I got it first on Friday at noon as part of the eucharistic service at St. John's. And, given the state of mind I was in and particularly what I was imploring from my heart in seeking guidance from God, I found myself back in that position of being pinged in the forehead by these words. Because in these words, I am hearing that I'm no longer an "acquaintance", I am now a "friend". And I am not a friend because I choose to be a friend, but because Jesus picked me as a friend. And Jesus didn't pick me as a friend to make me feel good; I'm picked as a friend because I am to go forth into 'the world' and act out of love. And when I act out of love, love spreads out beyond my being. And if I'm not the only one doing this, but all who have heard this passage actually do this... then think of how much love could be in the world?
OK... this sounds like fluffy bunnies and rainbows. And I know it's not like that. Because friendship with Jesus, friendship with God, comes at an expense when you're living in "the world". I experience it regularly in my life. As someone who is queer, many of my friends in "the world" could give a damn about God or Jesus. In fact, some are openly hostile, and take swipes at Christianity. For many, I assume, it is a reaction to what they have suffered at the hands of 'christians' (yes, my use of little 'c' is intentional). Their experience of 'christianity' is one of being ostracized, criticized, marginalized, and demonized. I have certainly felt this same exclusion, so I understand it. And I continue to try to live and act out of a love that is more in keeping with the love that I know comes from God, a love that knows no boundaries, or barriers, and will overcome all things that kill the soul. I keep presenting, through action more than words, that not everyone who believes in God and attends church is "like that".
I don't know how well this is working. I don't know if my worldly friends get it. Sometimes I think, they don't understand me at all. Sometimes I feel that they see me as a pod person, and that some alien has body-snatched Susan and replaced her with some strange and changed Susan that doesn't laugh at all their put downs of 'christians'. Don't get me wrong; I make snide comments about "holier than thou" types. But I am much more aware that they are NOT the majority, nor are they representing Christ in a way that I recognize as "Christian" (use of capitalization is intentional).
My friends are right. I have changed. But the change that I feel is in me isn't a bad one, nor is it one that would lead me into "a way" of condemning others. On the contrary, I wish that more people could experience what it's like to be loved so liberally and completely. I wish that more people would hear that message, take it deep into their beings, and then let that love flow out through their fingertips, their eyes, and their mouths. It is then that I think we'd really see that earth is... can... and will always be like heaven.
I've been in hell. I prefer heaven. The view is better.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Om Nama Arf Arf


Want to know how to do the "Downward Dog" yoga posture, go to an authority: your dog! Seriously, I have done massage on dogs and they LOVE it, so why wouldn't they love focused stretching with their owners? Once doga has caught on, I'll be teaching CEUs in "Kitta Yoga". The video is short. My apologies that you have to sit through the Tallahassee Democrat's embedded ad. Enjoy!

Friday, May 15, 2009

A small step closer

Word is that the Governor of New Hampshire, John Lynch, will sign the same-sex marriage bill... only after there are some changes made to the legislation to further protect religious institutions and their employees from lawsuits if they refuse to perform same-sex weddings. You can read the Reuters story here.

Of course, we need to make sure that religious institutions are protected because gay and lesbian people are all about suing the church if priests or pastors don't perform their weddings! Whatever! I think the biggest issue for the vast majority of gay people in this country is not which "unwelcoming" church will I go to for my wedding, but in which state can I get married!

When I read the Reuters story, and the AP story, and the Boston Globe story, on this news item, I had this image of Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch with the Spanish Inquisition poking Gov. Lynch with the "soft cushions"! Lynch is a Roman Catholic. The Roman Catholic church is one of the prominent Christian churches in New England. The Roman Catholic Church, while it doesn't control the government, does exert considerable pressure on RCs who are in government. That's why Rhode Island is a hold-out on the same-sex marriage bill: if you think Massachusetts is "little Vatican City", dahlin', you haven't been to Providence!

Word is that everyone is willing to play along with Governor Lynch, and since the bill hasn't actually arrived on his desk, then there is still time to make the fixes he wants so that he can sign it, and not feel guilty, and still face God in the morning. Facing the Pope might be another thing. Facing the slam campaign that is likely to come from right-wing forces... I think Lynch, and most others, will survive that. Religious fanaticism is frowned upon in the Live Free or Die State.

I hope that Lynch does sign the bill, and my home state does become part of trend toward marriage equality. And then I ask, "When will Obama say something about that nagging federal Defense of Marriage Act and actually do something about it"? I guess, as they say on the radio: Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

In Case You Missed It...

If you can't be in Anaheim for the General Convention, you can witness the Episcopal Church's governance through the power of the internet!

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori joined with other leaders in the church for a webcast yesterday afternoon, giving an overview of the convention and taking questions. You can watch it here.
As you might expect, there were a number of questions about B033 (the "we-won't-push-the-envelope-too-far-on-this-gay-thing" resolution that was adopted a few years back to place a moratorium on any more gay bishops, same-sex blessings and so forth). And the Anglican Covenant also drew some questions. As always, ++Jefferts Schori was poised and quietly persistent in her desire to keep from demonizing individuals and holding fast to the idea that it is through our "incarnational encounters" that hearts and minds are open. She is not advocating the repeal of B033, but is keeping the door open to the possibility of adopting a resolution that would supercede its authority.
We also know when to expect the Archbishop of Canterbury. He'll be there on July 9th to preach about the global economic situation. Fine. But I still say that if he attempts to push us into a corner on our progress toward full inclusion of the LGBT community, I think the Diocese of Los Angeles might want to give him some passes to visit the Magic Kingdom... and keep him occupied for the remainder of the convention.
And I liked +Bruno's comments about the youth of the church. Meet them where they are, and bring them into the picture. I would add, from my queer perspective, that it is the young people who are more likely scratching their heads and wondering what the fuss is about all this "gay stuff". More and more of the coming generations of Episcopalians... and those seeking a liberating God... have had the "incarnational encounters" with gay people and don't understand the on-going nonsense. Perhaps if our church would make positive moves in the direction of inclusion, more and more young people would be inclined to see us as "OK" rather than some dying breed of hypocrites. Don't think they don't see the line, "They will know that we are Christians by our love" as hypocritical when queers are kept from full sacramental rites in the church!!
Watch the webcast, and take an interest in the many directions of this church.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Big Welcome

This Sunday, I'm scheduled to serve as a Eucharistic Minister. At St. John's, that means I'm a chalice bearer, and either a lay reader or a prayer leader. My assignment for this date is "lay reader" and it's a particularly wonderful passage from Acts that is "on the menu" for the morning:

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, "Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days. --Acts 10:44-4

That's right: can ANYONE withhold the water for baptizing "these people" who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have? Does any person have the authority to deny God's Holy Spirit? And I would expect anyone who has ever felt pushed to the margins, relegated to the fringe, or otherwise excluded from the community of God would say, "No!"
Passages such as this one are the clarion call to all queer people that it is NOT unusual or perverse or satanic for those with "ears to hear" to find themselves in relationship with God.
Because God does not hide from those who seek, and does not deny those who ask. We saw that in last Sunday's reading, also from Acts, in the story of the eunuch and Phillip:

Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Ga'za." (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Canda'ce, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isai'ah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, "Go over to this chariot and join it." So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isai'ah. He asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?" He replied, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this:
"Like a sheep he was led to the
slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer,
so he does not open his mouth.
In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth."
The eunuch asked Philip, "About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?" Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, "Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?" He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azo'tus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesare'a. --Acts 8:26-40

"Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?" In some circles within our own Anglican Communion, there are those who might turn to the eunuch and say, "You must repent your castration first!" Not true of Philip who, with God's help, must have seen in the eunuch a true and contrite heart. The eunuch was baptized and happy, and Philip got swept away to continue proclaiming God's power through Jesus to a whole set of untapped people.

And to this we say, "Thanks be to God!" Thanks be to a God who doesn't deny access to a liberating love, but rather continuously reaches out to all of humanity hoping to bring as many in to the party as possible. Thanks be to a God who handpicked the right people, and gave them enough wisdom in the moment, to see that this love reached more and more "others" in the world. And thanks be to a God that didn't just do this kind of outreach centuries ago, but is continuing to seek and find the "others" in an effort to share the gifts of being alive and awake.

This Sunday, we'll be baptizing and confirming more people into "the family". With the bishop's laying on of hands, or the water of baptism, I will be gaining a new set of brothers and sisters in Christ. They won't necessarily look like me, talk like me, walk like me, or be queer like me. But, like Philip and Peter, just because they aren't "exactly like me"... they are as worthy in God's sight as I am... and the labels and outside 'things' don't matter. Because, in Christ, as Paul notes in his letter to the Galatians, there is no longer Jew or Greek, male or female, slave or free... just one body in Christ. God's body in the world.

Welcome to the big welcome!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Breaking the Moratorium

From the reports I'm reading, it seems the Anglican Covenant is on-hold... for now. It's been sent back for further work, as the Communion continues it's Listening Process.

In light of that news, this is a snippet from the Changing Attitudes blog site, the LGBT Anglican group based in England. This is from Rev. Colin Coward, the director of Changing Attitudes:

Last week I had a brief conversation with the Ven Dr Abraham Okorie. I introduced myself as Director of Changing Attitude and said we worked for LGBT Anglicans. Later in the week he contributed to the debate on the Anglican Covenant, referring to The Episcopal Church as satanic because they want to create more problems rather than heal wounds.Satanic was the word he used about lesbian and gay people in his conversation with me. Lesbian and gay people are only welcome to come to church if they repent, he said. Their activities are satanic. For Dr Okorie, and possibly for bishop Nwosu, there is no place for LGBT people in Nigeria. They are a satanic presence. There can be no listening process when church leaders hold this attitude. The support of the Church of Nigeria for further punitive legislation against gay people and gay marriage is perfectly logical in their mindset.

COMMENT: Rev. Coward is absolutely correct, and the situation in Nigeria is scary for LGBT people. The Archbishop of Canterbury has condemned violence against gay people living in Nigeria, but saying, "Bad, bad, bad" is not enough. And it doesn't work if the people saying, "Bad, bad, bad", then call for the Episcopal Church to show "gracious restraint" about embracing LGBT people as full participants in the life and sacraments of the Church. You can't have it both ways.

Trampled seeds

I realize the calendar of the Episcopal Church is marking the "Easter Season"; however, I'm thinking this is "Luke Season" in the Daily Office. Or we could just rename it, "Especially-Deep-Contemplation-for-Susan-on-Only-One-Cup-of-Coffee Season". At least that's how I was feeling this morning as another light bulb turned on in my head when reading the parable of the sower.
To set this up, Jesus has just had the scene with "a woman" who is "a sinner" at the house of Simon, the Pharisee. And she's shown more courtesy and love for Jesus than his host... so Jesus makes a point of highlighting her, forgiving her of her sins, and sending her off in peace. Next, we have Jesus on the move, doing more teaching in villages and cities. Along with the twelve disciples, he has also collected a following of women: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna... "and many others". People are hearing about this Jesus, and a great crowd gathers to hear him speak. And so he tells this parable:

A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell on the path
and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on the rock;
and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture. Some fell among thorns, and
the thorns grew with it and choked it. Some fell into good soil, and when it
grew, it produced a hundredfold.’ As he said this, he called out, ‘Let anyone
with ears to hear listen!’Then his disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but to others I
speak in parables, so that“looking they may not perceive, and listening they may not understand.” ‘Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones on
the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word
from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. The ones on the
rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have
no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away. As
for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on
their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and
their fruit does not mature. But as for that in the good soil, these are the
ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and
bear fruit with patient endurance.--Luke 8: 5-15

I usually pause after reading the Gospel. Today, I sat very, very still. Because it hit me: I've experienced being each one of these types of soil in my life.

My youth was spent in church... physically. I did listen. I did participate. But I was battling demons while I was there. I don't mean to suggest that I was battling a real Devil character, but I had a strong pull toward death... and I believed that God had no use for me and had dumped me out on the roadside. These were the days of the seed getting trampled on the path. When things came to a head, and I was put on anti-depressants and in therapy, I moved along to phase two of the soil: the rock. Yes, now I believed that God didn't hate me. But I wasn't so convinced that the People of God didn't hate me because what I heard and witnessed several times was seeing the branches of the vine growing out of the windows of the church. And it wasn't the branches of a grapvine, it was poison ivy. I didn't want to hear the Word because the Word was being corrupted and used to beat up gay people. This phase led to the life in the thorns, trying to find meaning and satisfaction not necessarily in riches, but in "stuff" and in anything but the church because that wasn't a safe place any more.

But the undaunted gardener... aka God... has cleared the thorns, broken up the rocks, and sodded the path. And God has built up a fence around the garden to keep the scavengers out. I feel that now, more than ever before, I can not turn a deaf ear to what God intends for me to hear: "You are wanted. You are needed. You are mine."

As the Pagans say, "So mote it be!"

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Nameless Many

Now that I have declared a personal moratorium on any more posts about the Anglican Consultative Council, I’m taking my own advice, and turning my thoughts back to God and meditating on God, and specifically reflecting on some things that have been occurring to me recently in this never-ending, ever-unfolding journey.

In the Daily Office gospel reading for today, we get the story from Luke’s perspective on the woman, who is a sinner, and washes Jesus’ feet with her tears, dries them with her hair and anoints him with costly oil on his feet. This is all taking place in the home of a Pharisee, who we learn from the conversation with Jesus is named Simon. We don’t know the woman’s name. We don’t know what her sin was. All we know is that she is showering Jesus with all the customary greetings of that period (bathing the feet with water, kissing, and anointing with oil).

Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.’ Jesus spoke up and said to him, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ ‘Teacher,’ he replied, ‘speak.’ ‘A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?’ Simon answered, ‘I suppose the one for whom he cancelled the greater debt.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You have judged rightly.’ Then turning towards the woman, he said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.’ Then he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’ And he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’—Luke 7: 39-50

There’s a lot that went through my head as I read this passage. I found myself reflecting on the story in John’s gospel of the foot-washing scene with the disciples, where Jesus takes on the role of the servant as a means of teaching his followers, “This is what it means to love one another.” Here, a woman who apparently must have been notorious, serves Jesus in a way that his host has not. I am also reminded of the story from Mark before Jesus’ arrest where the woman anoints Jesus’ head with oil much to the chagrin of the disciples who start mumbling about how much money they could have made for the poor with that oil that she’s wasting on Jesus’ head. In that story, Jesus basically tells them all to quit their complaining because what this woman was doing is preparing his body for burial, and reminds them that they’ll always have the poor with them, but they won’t always have him.

But chiefly what I thought about is that we don’t know her name. She’s “a woman” and “a sinner”. And, like so many others (“a blind man”, “a servant”, “a Syrophoenician woman”, “a Samaritan woman”)… all these “others” in the Bible stories of Jesus are incredibly important and powerful examples to us so many centuries later. They are the nameless many who encounter him, are touched by him, and through their faith in these encounters they become part of the Kingdom of God. These are the people that society, back in those days, had left behind or were seen as unworthy of such an invitation. But here in the gospels, they become the very illustrations of what Jesus was showing as “the way”, “the truth”, “the life”: love of God… love of neighbor. We don’t really need to know their names, or to know the why’s and what for’s behind how they came to be in the conditions they’re in. What we need to do is to pay attention to what’s happening in these stories, and to understand the liberation that comes to these nameless people through these encounters. And to see, feel, taste, touch, hear, and experience how liberating God’s love is for them.

God knows more than just the names of the nameless ones. God knows their hearts, and has seen in their hearts a faith that says, “Here I am”. That was true then, and I believe it remains true to this day. God knows each of us completely. And he will liberate… and is liberating… all those who seek him out… each of us in all our perfect imperfections, and self-imposed prisons of fear, and beliefs that somehow we aren’t worthy of such love.

All the more reason why we, who have felt this liberation, should seek to serve God in others and not assume that we know “who’s in and who’s out” because we don’t.

In the words of the General Thanksgiving:

And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies
that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise
not only with our lips, but in our lives
by giving up ourselves to your service,
and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days.

And so, nameless people, let us go forth to love and serve the Lord. Episcopalians… you know what to say next!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

And herein lies some of the problem...

Apparently, there's still some dissention and disagreement over parts of this so-called Covnenant being debated in Jamaica. Meanwhile, I checked in on the Episcopal News Service for their break down on that news conference with Rev. Canon Phillip Groves a few days ago about continuing the listening process. A section of the story highlights comments from the bishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East.

ENS reports:
Jerusalem and the Middle East President Bishop Mouneer Anis questioned the goals of the Listening Process, saying that "if we are to achieve better pastoral care and combating homophobia, this would be an honorable achievement because I don't think we all know how to care for people with homosexual orientation and some [people] are actually homophobic."
"Homophobia is not good and it doesn't go with our Christian love at all," he said. "We should be loving, we should be caring for homosexuals." However, Anis said that the goal cannot be toleration of homosexual.
He told the council that he knows there are "people of homosexual orientation" in his province. He said that while he was a medical doctor before becoming a bishop he edited a youth magazine and often received what he called "secret letters" from young people.
"They all the time seek help," he said. "They feel that there is something abnormal and they want to corrected, but I could not really encounter them and sit and talk with them because it's a shameful thing in our country and practicing homosexuality … is a crime." Thus, he told the council, "it is very difficult in some provinces to have this listening."
"I don't know how I [could] listen within the province," he said, adding that he would like to see a theological conversation across provinces.
Anis also warned the council about "another dimension" to the Listening Process. He said "several people," including at least one bishop, have told him that they do not disapprove of people with a homosexual orientation, but that they disapprove of homosexual practice because they know it is against Scripture. However, Anis said, they can't say so because their dioceses are "dependent on the donations that come from the west."

Is he saying that we're blackmailing African churches by saying we won't give money unless you embrace homosexuality? I can't say if this is happening in the communion or not.

Here's another statement from the article:

Dato Stanley Isaacs of the Church of South East Asia told the council "there's a need to consider a process of healing and reconciliation for the Episcopal Church … and we believe this cannot come about without also having a listening process for those who have been affected and are in some ways suffering" from what he called the "affirmative actions" of the Episcopal Church "on homosexuality -- on human sexuality."
He said he hoped an upcoming resolution would require the Listening Process to include a provision "for those who have been affected and are in some ways suffering" because of choices made in the Episcopal Church.

Again, I am sorry if the Church of South East Asia has suffered. But we in this country can NOT have healing and reconciliation when those who oppose gay people continue to insist that we've "done something to them". We can not have a true listening process if a bishop in Jerusalem believes that there was something "abnormal" about the young people who used to contact him when he was a doctor. Because that attitude tells me you AREN'T listening!!

I think this might have to be my last post on this topic. Until the ACC wants to talk about God, and the love of God for ALL that God has created, and how we as a communion can come together for social justice rather than finding fault with each other over "bright shiny objects"... I have nothing further to offer. Oh, that's not true.

Parting shot: you want to know what Jesus thinks of this sort of bickering and backstabbing, go read Luke 6: 39-49. Hint: you might want to check your eyes in the mirror!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Breaking out the Brass Knuckles

And so, I have encouraged my readership here to seek out information on this Anglican angst-ridden Covenant by heading over to Fr. Mark Harris' PRELUDIUM blog. He has the information. He breaks it down. And he doesn't become inflammatory about it.

On the other hand, Mad Priest at OF COURSE, I COULD BE WRONG has reduced the basics of this meeting in Jamaica down to its sum and substance. This post is quick, and worth it! MP doesn't pull punches ever... and I'm afraid the more I hear and read, the less I feel inclined to hold back from doing a little pounding myself.

Words fail me. At MP's OCICBW, I listened to a 35-minute press conference with the Rev. Canon Phillip Groves of Tanzania and England who is assisting in the leadership of the Continuing Indaba and Mutual Listening Project. Briefly, for those who didn't tune in to this blog or follow any of the big Bishop Bash at Lambeth Palace last year: Indaba is an African listening tradition that the purple-shirts practiced during their two-week meeting last July as they tried to learn about cultural differences within the Communion. It is NOT designed to come up with easy, knee-jerk answers; hence, I think it's a good exercise as everyone tries to learn from each other.
Anyway, there's going to be more "listening" is what I gather... and Canon Groves seemed quite pleased with how these straight, mostly male, people can "listen" on the topic of human sexuality. When a reporter from the Anglican gay-rights organization Changing Attitude asked a question about the lack of gay people involved in the discussions and listening at the ACC... Groves stumbled, bumbled, fumbled and seemed flummoxed at the idea. And in his answer, he committed the sin of sarcasm... noting that there were no youth members present either because you can't really have "a 15-year old Primate". (Please, sir, stay on task and answer the man's question!)

Since he couldn't give much of an answer, I will say that it is impossible to have an honest dialogue about me if I'm not in the room. And this listening process, which I think is very important, will only work if there is a good faith attempt to listen to the LGBT community. Sadly in Africa where, in some places, homosexual behavior is a crime... it's going to be hard to find people to dialogue with on human sexuality. Meanwhile, a great opportunity to have such a dialogue last summer was made much more difficult because the Archbishop decided he didn't want "the gay bishop" at Lambeth. How much further along would the Indaba process have been if they had included +Gene of New Hampshire, and not reduced him to a "fringe event"?

Rev. Canon Groves made a remark about how difficult this listening process is, and how things are not as simple as I had previously suggested about reading the Baptismal Covenant. He didn't elaborate on that point, and I was not there to challenge him. I believe he is correct in saying that the listening process is difficult because in order to hear, and not simply listen, requires an effort to let go of ego and assumptions. But I maintain that the Baptismal Covenant is the covenant that we need to define ourselves as Anglican.

So take your Ridley Cambridge Draft Covenant... and Windsdor Group Report... and B033 and all the other mularkey and toss it in the toilet. They are stumbling blocks, folks!

Thursday, May 7, 2009


Photo by Peter Michaud

This is the sort-of story that belongs in the movies! The movie theater in my home town, built in 1915, was closed and its future was looking bleak... until a group of citizens and a willing buyer stepped up a campaign to save the old place with its huge heavy curtains and balcony seating and revive it back to life as a performance and movie house. Marc Murai signed an agreement on April 23rd with the current owner and pledged that he would come up with $10,000 by May 6th as a good faith deposit. As of May 5th, he was still several thousand dollars shy of what was needed. And so word spread like wildfire over the internet... especially through Facebook... appealing to all of us with childhood memories of movies and popcorn at the IOKA to please, please, please make a financial contribution. We had until 7pm on May 6th. Could it be done?

The answer: Yes, it can! In something akin to Frank Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life" when all of Bedford Falls emptied its pockets to save George Bailey... people from across the country, and around the world, made donations to save the IOKA. By 8pm on Wednesday... the lights were back on on the marquee... and the final take was more than $10,500!

Well done, everybody!!

Maine Makes it Five

Mount Katahdin and Baxter State Park, ME

Well... it's becoming obvious to me that I have finally found "Queer Nation" in America, and it's New England! The state of Maine yesterday became the fifth in the country to approve same-sex marriages... and my home state of New Hampshire could become the sixth. A bill is on its way to the desk of Democratic Governor John Lynch. The Governor seems to have mellowed some on his adament anti-gay marriage stance, but hasn't committed to signing the bill. There is a possibility that he will let it become law without his signature. Meanwhile, John Sununu, the former Governor and tyrant for the dwindling Republican Party of New Hampshire, is calling on Lynch to veto the legislation. All the more reason for us to pick up the phone and call Governor Lynch to encourage him to stand up for the constitutional R-I-G-H-T of couples to marry if they want to marry.
In Maine, Governor John Baldacci signed the bill inspite of his own discomfort with same-sex marriage because he believed he had to follow what is in the constitution. And that's how it should be. I don't care if politicians like it or not. That's immaterial. Is it constitutional to deny two consenting adults the right to marry; thus allowing them to protect their joint assets... as well as celebrate their love for one another? We should know the answer to that one.
Maine voters could still repeal this law. And so there will need to be some education done, and I hope church leaders will take part in that. Religion, and faith communities, have been the breeding ground for much misunderstanding and hatred toward LGBT people. And that is a shame. As I've said time and time again... in all that I have read in the Bible up to now, and everything that I have listened to and studied... I have yet to hear where God says, "I only love straight people." God is interested in those people who turn their attention and place God at the center of their lives. People who place God at the center of their lives and recognize that in God we "live and move and have our being" can not then cast out their LGBT brother or sister. It just does not compute. Because God is love... and if love is your motivator... then how can you look at another person as an "other"?
And so I look to God as the Holy Spirit to hold us all in love, and to assist those who have the power of governance to see the Christ in me and my people... and to enlighten our lawmakers by having them contemplate a simple idea: "How is it right to keep these "others" as strangers at the gate?"

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

More of that Love Thing

In light of all the Anglican Covenant carrying-on in Jamaica this week, I am amused... and in awe... of the readings assigned for the Daily Office. Because today's gospel reading from Luke is the "Love your enemies" message:

But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
‘If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.
* Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.--Luke 6: 27-36.

It seems important to me that the passage starts with, "But I say to you that listen." Because I sometimes wonder if that isn't part of the problem. It seems to me that so much strife in the world... and particularly within the Anglican Communion... comes from a place of NOT listening. I'm sure there are those on the opposite side of gay people who will say we don't listen to their concerns. But that's simply not true. It is not that we haven't listened. We have. We know that there are cultural differences between those of us in the United States and other parts of the world around the issue of homosexuality and the role of women. What we have said, and maintained all along, is that we here in this country have to be who we are. Those in this country who are opposed to gays and women in the ministry are a minority within the Episcopal Church. Vocal, yes... but still a minority. Should we listen to them? Yes. Should we worship with them? Yes. But should they be allowed to set barriers to full participation of those who are different from themselves? No. And that's where, I think, we've had a break down.

To this day, I have not understood those bishops and dioceses within our own Episcopal Church who are still frothing at the mouth over +Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. Is he your bishop? If the answer is no, then what are you afraid of? There are also those bishops who openly advertise that they did not vote for Gene's consecration, nor that of our Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. I wonder, why is it so important to announce this? Again, +Gene is in New Hampshire, and he should not be of much consequence to the workings of a diocese elsewhere. But why would you want to draw a bright line for everyone that you didn't consent to the election of your own leader? Can they not see the Christ in her... or would they prefer to stew in seeing the devil in her?

Another thing that occurs to me is that when I read this passage, I can easily conjure up the image of my "enemy". And I have to think that my enemy, when reading this passage, conjures up an image of me. And therein lies the brilliance of God. If both sides are taking in this message, for real, then presumably both sides will have to act on the message that we must love each other... even if we don't really like each other. Thus, when I read that some archbishops and bishops within our Anglican Communion refuse to go to God's table to receive the eucharist with those who they believe are "apostate" or whatever... I believe they are committing a mortal sin. Yes, deadly sin: the failure to love one another as God taught us to love each other.

God, I wonder if we'll ever get this right.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Oh, Come On! The Anglican "Covenant"

I am not the best authority on the machinations of all that is happening with the Anglican Consultative Council meeting and their Ridley draft of the Anglican Covenant... blah blah blah. To get the detailed account of all this, you can do as I do and read Fr. Mark Harris' blog here and here.

From what I've read at Harris' PRELUDIUM, and at STONE OF WITNESS, there is this Ridley document which purports to be some kind of "Take it or leave it" letter to the various provinces and churches of the Anglican Communion which is supposed to define what it is to be a member of the Anglican Communion. However, no one really has to sign on to this thing. But if they don't sign on, then they will be outside of "the covenant". I don't really understand what that is supposed to mean... and I honestly don't know that I'm willing to take the time to try to understand what that is supposed to mean.

So much of what has driven this desire to adopt a new covenant (which should not at all be mistaken with the "new covenant" Christ made with humanity at the Last Supper) all comes back to the retirement of NH Bishop Doug Theuner. When +Theuner retired, the Diocese needed a replacement (duh!) and when it came time for that election, the people of the Diocese voted for V. Gene Robinson, a priest well known to all of them because he had run the Sign of the Dove Retreat Center in central New Hampshire for years... and been the Canon to the Ordinary. His election was, is, and always will be legitimate, fair, Godly, and a no-brainer. They didn't... and won't ever... need a "focus group" approval from the rest of us to pick their leader. No diocese, or province, should need to get prior clearance from people with NO clue about the needs of the folks living and worshipping in that diocese or province.

But because of +Gene, and the ordination of women, and the 1979 BCP, and any number of other "things" that might have caused some members of the Anglican Communion to get their knickers in knots, we now have this Covenant craziness coming into play as a last ditch stand to keep everybody together. Unfortunately, it may end up having the opposite effect of driving us further apart, especially if it (a) doesn't require everyone to actually sign it and (b) if consent to the covenant means sacrificing LGBT people. Let's be clear: that seems to be the real intent of the thing: to find a common ground that commonly punishes queers and the bishops who support them. That's not going to fly. Certainly, that seems to be the attitude that the GAFCON crowd is pushing. That, and a demand that the "liberals" in North America repent for what they have done. Sorry: electing a qualified person to the episcopate does NOT require repentance. And if we're expected to repent for that action, then I would ask Orombi of Uganda and Akinola of Nigeria to repent not only for trying to interfere and instigate theft of church property in the United States... but also for encouraging the persecution, beatings, and terror inflicted on gay Anglicans within their own African provinces. On your knees, gentlemen!! It starts, "Most merciful God: we confess that we've sinned against you in thought, word AND deed..."

But I digress. What I believe the Anglican Consultative Council, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, and all the other members of the church hierarchy ought to be doing is cracking open their prayer books to one of the most important, and God-centered, covenants we already have. It's called the Baptismal Covenant. Truly, if we (and I mean EVERYONE) would spend a good long time studying the words and commitments we make to God and each other in that covenant, and mark, learn and inwardly digest them... we would not need this Ridley document, or any other document.

God has made the covenants with God's people and I believe God is at work in the world, calling those sheep who have felt estranged back into the fold. Bishops and clergy are empowered to serve as the earth-bound shepherds of all of these members of God's people. They shouldn't supercede the authority granted them through Jesus Christ by thinking they can "do it better" than what has already been done through the act of baptism. Please, folks: get a grip and get back to God!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Thought for the Night

It's a good thing that in the evolution of the species we lost our tails. Because I'm sure if I still had one, I would spend an inordinate amount of time chasing it.

Thus sayeth the INFJ.

About love

You may remember that song of the 80's by Tina Turner, "What's Love Got to Do With It?" If you knew her history with the abusive late Ike Turner, you'd understand why she asked the question!

But I find the cool thing in this Easter season is that 1 John has been prominent in our Daily Office as well as our Sunday readings. And if I were to come up with a description of 1 John, I'd say it's the book of love because that's what he talks about... a lot. It is in 1 John that we hear that "God is love". And the words of 1 John 4:20 give us an unambiguous understanding that we must love each other... no matter our differences... in the same way God loves 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.

To love as God loved us, I think, may give reason to pause. I mean, for Christians, the way God loved us was through his Son's willingness to be killed on our behalf. And while that is important... there are many other examples that Jesus had shown his disciples and those who were following him on the "I am the way" idea that are not quite as drastic as laying down your life for another... and I think are equally as important as we attempt to do as 1 John asks when he says, "Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action."

Recently, Fr. Lee Graham did a homily in which he talked about the "I am the way" passage in John's gospel. And as Fr. Graham noted... the "way" was about how to be with one another... not a mandate that if you don't accept Jesus, then the door to God's amazing love party is locked shut to you, a common misinterpretation over the years. By the time Jesus is telling the disciples, "I am the way, the truth, the life", he has demonstrated to them... again... what it means to serve and love your neighbor by wrapping a towel around himself and washing the disciples feet. A simple, welcoming, loving gesture where the host... even this host... takes on a servant role for his friends. That is love, that is "the way". If we are willing to do that sort of simple action for each other, regardless of who we are, we are doing more than lip service to God.

In the gospel reading from John this Sunday, Jesus is again giving some clues to what it takes to be part of the flock of "the Good Shepherd". And the most interesting line I heard, after he noted that he would lay down his life for his sheep, was:

"I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd."--John 10:16

From this statement, I heard two things: one is that God's love is for all... and the second is that God will pursue and find people to bring them into the fold, no matter who they are, what they look like, and who they love. When God calls and we hear it, we will respond... if we are listening. And as I've noted in a previous post, it's sometimes been hard for me to hear the shepherd when the liars and thieves of his message try to imitate that call as a means of keeping me, and other "others", apart from the flock. But the good news is that God of endless love, who is out to find as many sheep as possible, has a way of amplifying the sound of his call... thus breaking through the noise of whacky right-winged liars and a culture of materialism that steals the life out of the soul. The fact that I could hear that call above the din still amazes me. And thus... I believe that's what love has to do with it!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

"We are the Shepherds of Change"

Well, we had a lovely protest! The music was great, the coffins were striking, and the motorists... many of whom were people in town for FSU and FAMU's graduation ceremonies... honked in agreement that the future of our state is, indeed, in peril thanks to a punitive legislature.
Lawmakers were still debating... and destroying... bills as we eulogized the state of Florida last night... the end of the 60th day of a 60-day legislative session. But legislators, who were locked in political posturing, back-biting, hair-pulling, fights over the budget were not able to vote on the state spending plan; thus, they'll be back next week to complete their work. Little reported fact: it seems the House Appropriations Committee had co-chairs... both Cuban-American Republicans... who are vying for the same Senate seat next year. Hmmmm... wonder why they weren't able to get anything done??
Yours truly delivered one eulogy; Desmond Seymour delivered the message of hope... and then we danced to "When the Saints Go Marching In". Below is the text of our messages:

Dear friends,
We gather this evening to remember our beloved Florida. Florida had the potential to be a great state, to show the way toward justice for minorities… and be a leader in environmental stewardship. Instead, we must once again bear witness to the death of her dreams of better days in the face of a state legislature that lacks the ability to lead.
She had a good life, once upon a time. But the sunshine is fading behind the failures to hear critical legislation:

Her legislature failed to act on behalf of children in foster care. House Bill 413 and Senate Bill 500 would have removed the ban that prevents gay and lesbian people from adopting these kids and providing them with permanent and loving homes. Instead, the legislature prefers to use Florida’s financial resources to maintain an overstretched foster care system. Senator Ronda Storms calls gay and lesbian families “at risk”. But truly what remains at-risk is the future of Florida when her children can not be placed in a permanent home.

They failed to review the effectiveness of sex education in Florida… preferring to leave our children believing falsehoods such as Mountain Dew can prevent pregnancy… and not teaching them the facts on safe sex practices. And don’t even bother mentioning same-sex attraction! Such a narrow approach only leaves children in the dark… instead of being enlightened about the facts and choices they face.

Florida’s legislature could find no time to debate a bill to expand her civil rights law to cover those oppressed for their sexual orientation or gender identity. Yet, there was time wasted on yet more license plates… and how to make it harder for people to vote in our democracy.

And Florida Forever… designed to save her delicate environment which is the very life-blood of all life in her… is asterisked for oblivion… and asphalt!

Once again, those proPHets—with a PH—for progress and hope are ignored in favor of the profits with an “F”. And Florida is lowered into the grave of greed… to be signed… sealed… and paved over forever.

Dear friends, the cost of such short-sightedness of Florida’s future is too great! Our children need homes, our seniors need adequate staffing in assisted living facilities, and our environment can not be despoiled by development… and fossil fuels.

We have heard it was “all about the budget” this year, but there are economic costs to social and environmental injustice. Companies… who could hire a large number of our unemployed and skilled laborers… will not locate to a state that shows such lack of vision on LGBT rights. Why move a company here when they could locate to the northeast… or Iowa? And what are we really doing to create “Green Jobs” when an army of lobbyists are dispatched to push for oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, and refuse to say who is really footing the bill?

And Florida, your legislature was not even able to accomplish its supposed “chief priority” on time… resulting in a glaring Incomplete on the 60th day. I ask, “Who are the lard bricks now?”
Where are the leaders? Where is our future? How many times must we bury Florida? Who will resurrect our state?

Take it away, Desmond....

As we deliver the works of this past session into the earth and as the sun sets, like the clauses laced within our legislation, I would like to speak to the nature of progressive change. To the shores of our great state, which are both slated for drilling and poised for greatness. The tide is rising, the progressive ideas that move the many minorities within our state to action is driving upon the sprawling mangroves and golden coasts of our state.

The word Florida comes from the Spanish language, meaning feast of flowers. We must be very clear. In order to have flowers there must be seeds, the seeds of progressive work, the desire to unite, a sustainable budget for future leaders to maintain, and a desire to pollinate the minds of rising seedlings everyday. Our soil must be healthy, not poisoned by the tilling of hands drenched in interests other than that of the people whom this legislature serves. Frederick Douglas said “if there is no struggle, there is no progress”. Grassroots organizations have been struggling for long enough in our state. The overwhelming swell of support is not for progressive issues; but for the right issues.

As we lay our legislators forgotten progressive promises into the ground this day, know that tomorrow brings a new horizon, new issues, and new support. The needs of tomorrow must not be inundated by the stagnation of today; and they won’t. We will be here in the days to come, we will not blow gently into the unchanging winds of inefficiency, and we will not be washed away by the flash floods of reckless government.

The tide is rising. The sweeping change that is set rise from the depths of our collective interests will deliver unto the shores of this great state the true will of the people. As we give this session to the earth we know it is forever a part of our nature, the nature of progressive change. We are here as the Shepards of that change.