Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Fitting End of the Year Statement

From today's Daily Office, there was one line that seemed to jump off the page from the Third Letter of John:

Beloved, do not imitate what is evil but imitate what is good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.--3 John: 11

This exhortation seems the most fitting statement for where I am in my thinking at the close of 2009. This has year has sped by, and in the process, there have been some ups and downs and big bumps in the road. In reflecting on all-things-queer, I remember how deeply stung I felt about the results of the November 2008 election, especially how supposed friends in the straight community could not understand the depth and breadth of pain Florida LGBT people were feeling. My "otherness" had been made very clear... and I entered the year with bitter anger, resentment and feeling numb on some level. What a set up for Lent when I realized that the "thing" I needed to work on was my hardness of heart. And, just as it always seems to happen with me, I served as a Eucharistic Minister the Thursday after Ash Wednesday... and there in the Prayers of the People at the top of page 391:

For this congregation... that we may be delivered from
hardness of heart, and show forth your glory in all that we
do, we pray to you, O Lord.

I can say with certainty that I did not do well with this Lenten discipline because I could not shake that feeling that my "otherness" was being used against me and my fellow "others".

But if there is one thing I think I'm learning about God it's that God doesn't restrict God's work to a season, and won't be held hostage by our human attempts to keep God locked into "seasons". And so this summer, this glorious summer, I was encouraged in Tim Miller's performance workshop to explore my felt "otherness" of queer Christian by pulling the narration of my story out of my body through physical movement, as opposed to simply writing like a mad woman at a computer. The short monologue I developed feels like the seedling for a much bigger piece... if I will make the time to let the sun shine on it and help it to grow.

God also ended the winter season of discontent by blowing life into the actions of our General Convention in Anaheim. Because of the passage of D025 and C056, LGBT Episcopalians could rejoice and be glad in the thought that our "otherness" would not ban our queer priests from becoming bishops, and in those places with marriage equality, Episcopal bishops were now free to develop and work with clergy on rites that could celebrate a same-sex marriage. Hallelujah!

Sadly, winter hangs on in the South in ways that it doesn't normally in nature. And yet, even with bishops in our region stamping their feet and declaring that "nothing has changed", I am deeply aware that things are changing, and no amount of human intervention is going to stop it from changing. Because the good shepherd is aware that one of the sheep was allowed... even encouraged... to wander away from the flock, and the shepherd is not going to stop searching for that sheep, and will brave the wolves and the lions to keep calling out to the lost and lonely one that was told by the liars to go away. And with the election of more and more bishops in this country who recognize that Christ died for ALL people, the icicles are starting to drip.

Of course, there is still Uganda. Burundi. Rwanda. Malawi. Nigeria. The Anglican Covenant. Maine. New York. New Jersey. California. Yes, all of these are painful. All of them have felt like set backs. But there was also Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, Argentina, Mexico City, Washington, DC and State. In those moments when I pause and look at the creche set up on our mantle piece, or the Advent and Christmas candles beside it, I am reminded that nothing about God is necessarily easy. That wasn't the promise. The promise was that God has come, and will be with us always no matter what the circumstances. The light will pierce the darkness, and it prevails with each of us carrying that light inside us out into the world.

Beloved, do not imitate what is evil but imitate what is good.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Holy Innocents

The Massacre of the Holy Innocents by Duccio di Buoninsegna

If there is one day in the twelve days of Christmas that's liable to put a lump in your throat, I would say it would have to be today. For the calendar for this date commemorates the round up of all the male babies in Herod's kingdom for slaughter. The King was afraid; there was a new king that had been born, one more powerful than himself. And so Herod knew what had to be done: kill him.

Isn't that how so many respond to the threat of someone or something else that challenges "the norm"? Kill it. Kill them. Kill the "others". I can't help but think about the situation in Africa with the LGBT community... or the senseless murders of transgender people in this country... when I think of how Herod sought to stamp out Jesus through a massacre of all Jewish males of a certain age. Fear of the "other" has always led to horrible actions.

We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy
innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray,
into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your
great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish
your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ
our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the
Holy Spirit,, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Feast of St. John

Today, our services at St. John's went off the well-worn path of the Christmas lectionary to celebrate our namesake saint, the evangelist and loved disciple John.

The Gospel According to John is much different than the other three synoptic gospels. In fact, in my study of John from EfM, we can see the entire layout of the gospel as being like an opera with the beginning sounding like an overture echoing the first creation story of Genesis ("In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.") There is the announcement from John the Baptist to make straight the way of the Lord as the opening aria of the opera, and then Jesus, the man (not the baby) is on the scene. This Jesus is philosophical and engages in complex discussions with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman at the well. He reveals to his listeners some of the keys to his identity by using the "I am" language ("I am the bread of life" "I am the true vine" "I am the light, the life, the truth"). And, as with the synoptic gospels, there are many who do not believe and the unbelief will eventually be the undoing of Jesus as a human, and will lead to the crucifixion. And, what might be seen as a tragic opera, does not end that way because Jesus is resurrected and returns to his disciple called Simon Peter and reverses the poor man's transgression by asking him three times, "Do you love me?" (Remember, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times at the time of his trial).

The sad part of John's gospel is that because of his references to "the Jews", this book has often been misquoted and misused to demonize the Jewish people and has led to persecution of Jews at the hands of Christians. As with all Scripture, those with evil intent will use the Bible as a bomb, not a book. When reading John, one has to understand that he was writing at a time when there was increasing tensions in the Temples as the olden day Jews for Jesus were showing up, and the Jews who did not recognize Jesus as Messiah were not interested in having Jesus held up to them all the time. In this way, John is the evangelist who might well be seen as the one who brought us closer to having a Christian identity. And that's OK, but shouldn't be seen as giving us license to crack on those who don't think and believe as we do. As I've said often here, God is a whole lot smarter than we are, and we have no idea how God is working to get the light to pierce through the darkness. Our mission is to look for it, and move along that lighted path.

Shed upon your Church, O Lord, the brightness of your light; that we, being illumined by the teaching of your apostle and evangelist John, may so walk in the light of your truth, that at length we may attain to the fullness of eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
--The Collect for St. John

R.I.P. Arthur B. Ward III

Yesterday I learned of the sudden death of 76-year-old Arthur "Art" Ward. Art had a short on-stage association with the Mickee Faust Club.

For many years, he had become a fixture in the background because his late wife, Dr. Maryanne Ward, had been one of our writers and a very large presence in her motorized wheelchair which sometimes doubled as a tank, or Pharaoh's throne. Art's biggest breakthrough as an actor was in a video short I wrote called, "K-Tel Kurt Weill" in which he played the title character at the piano. With the glasses, Art was a near dead-ringer for the German composer. And Maryanne was a very grumpy looking Lotte Lenya. It was fitting to put him at the piano. He loved music, and had picked up the accordian. We also used his sense of rhythm to be our drummer in Maryanne's masterpiece, "MacBeef; a fast-food tradgedie". The "Braveheart" make-up and costume were hysterical.

Art had devoted much of his life caring for Maryanne as her illness debilitated her more and more. Since her passing, he was able to take care of himself and do things he'd always wanted to do. He had bought a place outside of Aspen, so that he could enjoy some R&R there.

Art was an avid runner, so his death by a heart attack was particularly unexpected. I am sorry that his life ended just as he was getting a second-wind. His brother, sister-in-law, and niece, his companion, his running family, and the Faustkateers will miss him.

Rest eternal grant to him, O Lord;
And let light perpetual shine upon him.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Feast of St. Stephen

Rembrandt's "The Martyrdom of St. Stephen"
There is a commercial that was playing on television here some time back which showed images of people doing some sort of kindness for another and a person observing this act. In the next image, we'd see the observer then do something for another person which also would be observed and passed on in the next vignette and so on and so on. I have no memory of the product being advertised, but I do remember that "pay it forward" chain reaction.
I mention this because today, on the Feast of St. Stephen, we remember one of the first deacons and martyrs of the fledgling Christian church. Stephen was one of the seven tapped by the apostles to "help out" with the widows. His story, contained in Chapters 6 and 7 of the Acts of the Apostles, shows a young man of some zeal and oratory talent. Like with others before him, the "mainstream" found this man threatening, and so they spread rumors that he was teaching that Jesus Christ had come to toss out Moses' law. In his eloquence, Stephen recounted at his trial the history of the Hebrew people, all the while pointing out that the only ones trying to trash Moses and the prophets were the ones still trying to silence prophetic voices... like all of them in the room now putting him on trial who refused to acknowledge the Righteous One! And, like the Christ in whom he had faith, Stephen's words so enraged the assembly that they dragged him out into the street and stoned him to death. As he was dying, the bloodied Stephen cried out:
"Lord, do not hold this sin against them!"
Watching this whole scene was another young man, Saul of Tarsus. There's no accounting of what Saul was doing, other than witnessing this death. Saul was no friend to the followers of Christ. At least not until he took that trip to Damascus and had the experience that would convert him to be the apostle Paul. And then, like Stephen, this man of extraordinary oratory skill would become one of the huge figures in Christianity and his letters to the Churches would be preserved in the canon.
I have wondered how this scene of watching Stephen's death lodged itself in Saul's mind. I watched an execution. I know it affected me deeply, and has been one of the pieces in the puzzle that is my faith journey and coming to see the incredible redemption and love of God for everybody. I wonder how, for the anti-Christian Saul, the witnessing of Stephen's horrific death might have paved the way for that "pay it forward" conversion later in Acts? Obviously, this is stuff we can't know, but can only wonder and marvel at how God moves and nudges us all in ways that are truly mysterious.
It's in the remembering of these early Christians that I find some hope that those things which currently divide people and cause such strife will one day be put aside. Those of us who find ourselves as "others" and outside the "mainstream" can readily identify with a Stephen. And I have hope and trust in God that our prayers are heard, and that God will work on the hearts and minds of those who currently stand by just as Saul did at that time. It just has to be. And I hope that such change can happen.

Blessed be the Lord,
for he has heard the sound of my pleadings.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
in him my heart trusts;
so I am helped, and my heart exults,
and with my song I give thanks to him.

Psalm 28:6-7

Friday, December 25, 2009

Making the Most of Christmas

It has become a tradition in my household that on Christmas Day, I help with my partner's Temple and serve Christmas Dinner to the homeless at Tallahassee's Shelter. We've been doing this mitzvah with Temple Israel for six years... and during those times of separation from my own faith community, I looked forward to this day of service as a means of practicing my Christianity, even if I had no place to call my church "home".
Even with my return to church, I can not think of a more fitting way for me to spend the day we celebrate the birth of Christ than to do the work that he has prepared for us to do: to love and serve those who find themselves out on the street... much in the same way Jesus wandered from place to place with no permanent home during his earthly ministry.
Temple Israel does this mitzvah as a routine on the fifth Sunday of the month. But the Christmas dinner is really special because it is truly a feast: turkey, dressing, corn bread, green bean casserole, salad, sweet potatoes, and dessert. People either make the food themselves at home, or some donate money if others will shop and prepare. Still others volunteer themselves (and their teenagers) to help serve. I remember the first time we volunteered to help, there was this elderly couple who kept talking about how the Jews volunteered to do Christmas dinner, so that Christians could have a break and enjoy their holiday.

"That's crap!" I thought. I was surprised that a church WASN'T serving the homeless on Christmas. Then it happened one year that Trinity United Methodist Church DID sign up to serve Christmas lunch and dinner, and Temple Israel was forced to put all its turkey and fixings in the freezers until the fifth Sunday... which was New Year's Eve. There were some who were upset about it, and wondered where this church got off taking their mitzvah day. I remember smiling and saying, "What a terrible thing to have happen. Too much food for the homeless."

When I first started helping my partner with this, we would serve approximately 185 men, women and children. Tonight, it was about 250, and of that number, about 40 of them were people who will remain sleeping on the street tonight because the Shelter is so full. Even today, there is still no room at the inn.
I actually wish more Christians would participate in this mitzvah, especially on Christmas. As much as we sing "O come let us adore him", we need to remember that "adoring" Christ can not be a passive act of cooing at the babe in the manger. It has to translate into the action of loving, or we are missing the point.
So, that's how I spent my Christmas. And then we had a great meal with friends who kindly let us sit after we'd been standing and doing food prepping and serving for six hours. It was a good night... with good food... good cheer... and good deeds that were done. Merry Christmas, and Shabbat Shalom, y'all.

Merry Christmas

Non Sequitur by Wiley Miller

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Woman Tackles Pope

No, it's not Man Bites Dog, but apparently, a woman got over the barriers at St. Peter's Basilica, busted through the offensive line of clergy and sacked Pope Benedict XVI with a horse-collar-like tackle. She was arrested, the 82-year-old pontiff got to his feet, and the procession continued with no further incident. One cardinal ended up in the hospital from the melee. News reports call the woman "unstable". She said she just wanted to give the pontiff a hug.

CAPTION : "Next time, I'm just going to stay up here and hide behind the soft cushions!"

"God Is With Us"

The time of waiting is coming to an end as we arrive at the date Christians throughout the world celebrate the birth of the one who will liberate us from our darkness: Jesus Christ, the incarnation of God to live and dwell as one of us. For the four weeks of Advent, we've added more and more light around our Advent wreaths. If we've been paying attention, we've been told to prepare for this arrival... purify our consciences... and make way for this newborn to touch us in ways beyond our wildest dreams.

And that, I think, is the part that may be the most mysterious, and even unsettling for us. Newborns often change the lives of their parents. Lots of my friends who have had babies must turn their attention to this new life... losing hours of sleep and declining social invites because they must tend to their child, and keep their baby fed, bathed, and safe. The new parents end up dropping out of 'the scene', as it were, because their priorities have shifted. Suddenly, living isn't all about their own gratification and doing what they want. They are now responsive to someone else. At times, I will hear in the voice of a new father or mother a reluctant sigh when they explain why they can't come to a party, or why one of them will come early and then the other will come later. This new life is making them work a little harder, and they have to plan their lives a little differently. Still, this child brings them equal amounts of joy, and all the adjustments and changes in their lives seem to pale in comparison to the love of having this new person as part of their own family.

This would seem to be the case with the birth of the Christ child. Yes, we can speculate on how it changed Mary and Joseph's life, and we have a recounting of that in Scripture. But I'm more interested in how we are doing with the arrival of Emmanuel in the here and now.

For many weeks, we've been exposed in one way or another to the tune, "O Come O Come Emmanuel". And in that song, we are clamoring to have God be with us and we are to "Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel" And we should rejoice! This is good news. And with this good news, we, the recipients of this newborn Prince of Peace, will find that if we have truly welcomed this new life into our present-day ways... well, we might find ourselves having to make some adjustments in how we've been living. Perhaps, we start living with a belief that having breath in our bodies is the sign that we're OK. Perhaps, we take stock of the people around us, and realize that they are deserving of the same respect and dignity that we want accorded to us. Perhaps, rather than throwing bottles or orange peels into the trash, we recycle or compost. Perhaps, when we see excesses of clothing in our closets, we'll pack them up and take them to a shelter. Perhaps, for once, we don't live for ourselves, but realize that we are part of a human community and a portion of a creation that is loved deeply by this child we're welcoming into our world. See, when God becomes a focus of the attention, change happens.
I wonder if this is when some would-be parents start having second thoughts. Sure, the newborn baby in the manger is a sight-and-a-half to behold. But will this newborn really demand change in habits and behaviors? Will this baby require our attention? Is this really what we want to think about as we light candles and sing a lullaby such as "Silent Night"?

Probably not. And yet, the demand will be there. This child requires love and attention from all of us, no matter who we are or who we are "in communion" with at the moment. Loving this child is what we've been preparing ourselves for with each week of Advent. Hopefully, we've got the room prepared.
All the candles are lit now. The birthing time is here. Let that new light shine out of us into a world desperately in need of more brightness, and know that God is with us, again.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Circle Those Wagons!

So, the heat in the Ugandan kitchen is really causing beads of sweat to form on the homophobes brows now! According to a report in a Southern Baptist publication, a group of Ugandan pastors have fired off an angry letter to Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in California, denouncing him for making a statement in opposition to their hate-filled Anti-Homosexuality Law. You can read about the controversy HERE. On one level, I can understand their frustration. If Rick Warren, and Scott Lively, and any other number of homophobes have been exporting their homophobia to Africa and helping to whip them all into a frenzy of fear, it must feel like a stab in the back to have somebody like Warren now say, "Well, don't be too mean to them... in fact, maybe don't be mean at all." It may seem like purpose-driven throw-the-car-in-reverse. Of course, I'm glad Rick Warren has finally said at least a peep about all this... but those seeds were sown... and this is the harvest of homophobia, Pastor Rick!

Still, THINKING ANGLICANS has been putting up some headlines that indicate that the homophobes may be feeling so much under attack that they're circling their wagons. One can only hope that by exposing the human rights abuses inherent in this legislation, this bill will find its way into the circular file.

May God give us his blessing,
and may all the ends of the earth stand in awe of him.
Psalm 67:7

Funny Thought for Your Night

One of my favorite NPR programs is the quiz show, "Wait! Wait! Don't Tell Me!" Last year, I laughed out loud when the host, Peter Siegel, was waxing eloquent about the upcoming holiday:

"Christmas: the holiday that celebrates the only Jewish boy who grew up to meet his mother's expectations!"

I'll be back with more thoughts later, but a little levity is always good.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Gathering the Outcasts

The Lord, your God, is in your midst,
a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
he will renew you* in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing
as on a day of festival.*
I will remove disaster from you,*
so that you will not bear reproach for it.
I will deal with all your oppressors
at that time.
And I will save the lame
and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
and renown in all the earth.
At that time I will bring you home,
at the time when I gather you;
for I will make you renowned and praised
among all the peoples of the earth,
when I restore your fortunes
before your eyes, says the Lord.

--Zephaniah 3: 17-20

As we look at the growing brightness of the candles of the Advent wreath, I am reminded that while there are four equal parts light, the spaces between those bright lights aren't quite as illuminated. And in this way, I see this as a metaphor for 'the world'. There is brightness in the corners, but we haven't achieved full enlightenment yet.
Today's international LGBT news is another illustration of what I'm talking about: on the one hand, there is an interview a friend forwarded to me from Christianity Today with David Zac Niringiye, an assistant Bishop in the Church of Uganda in Kampala, who basically is telling westerners protesting the proposed Anti-Homosexuality bill, "Shut up and stay out of our business, you colonial creeps!" It should be noted that the bishop never seems to talk about "sisters in Christ" preferring only to reference his 'brother'. This is not surprising as most homophobes are likely to be misogynists as well.
At the other end of the day, and half-a-world away from Uganda... in Mexico City, the government in this highly Roman Catholic Latin center has termed marriage, "the free union between two people." This opens the door to same-sex marriages, AND the city legislature also adopted a law allowing same-sex couples to adopt children. Wow! Light amidst the dark.
As I've been sitting with Advent this time around and prepping for the entry of God into the world, I am feeling a great sense of anticipation that, indeed, I am part of that grouping of outcasts that will be gathered. I keep hearing and seeing evidence in other parts of the country and the world that the light of Christ is illuminating these previously darkened areas.
But, see, that's the point: I hear and I see... but the light is still just a dim shimmering luminescence seen through the curtain that the opponents of such light keep holding across the window. And I wonder, "How long?" I can see this light, I know it's there, but when will it be allowed to really shine here? This is a concept that I think escapes my brothers and sisters privileged to live closer to the light. It is a reality that my straight brothers and sisters live with in their own homes, and thus can not understand what it means not to have it's warm glow shining in the living room just because there are those who do not believe I am supposed to have this light.
At least I can glimpse it's glow through the curtain-drawn window. My brothers and sisters in Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda... and elsewhere... are threatened by those who would extinguish this light from the world... or at least from their sight.

"Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation,
that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a
mansion prepared for himself..."

I have never before felt such a desire to "prepare a mansion" in me to welcome the one who will ransom this new captive Israel. We need this light to start a fire in the belly of all people to see that we must end the strife and the desire to turn love into a criminal act, one to be despised, imprisoned, and killed.
Ah, but then isn't that Holy Week?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

King and the King of Peace

So, what a day. I was the baking fool doing chocolate chip and snickerdoodle cookies to pass out with information about PFLAG-Tallahassee at the city's Winter Festival down town. I rode on the gay community center's float with our PFLAG banner. Only a few people were openly hostile to us. Lots more applauded and waved, and there was something very sweet about kids shouting, "Merry Christmas" at a group of LGBT people.
Amidst all the prep for today, I had an interruption courtesy of my regular visitor, King the Jehovah's Witness. King wanted to know if I thought churches taught Scripture. I thought that a very odd question, and I said I think many do. Not true, according to King. And that's when he started telling me about the "myths of Christianity" which included the Holy Trinity and the belief that Mary is the Mother of God.
A brief pause here. I have been thinking quite a bit about Mary in anticipation of hearing the reading of the annunciation that she is going to give birth to a boy who she was to name Jesus. The way the story in Luke reads to me, Gabriel presents himself to this young Jewish teen-ager and says, "Mary, you lucky girl! Have we got an offer for you!!" Once the plan has been presented, the question becomes: what is Mary going to say. One scenario would be that she says, "I'm outta here, ya freak!" Instead, she said, "Here am I" and Mary gives her body in sacrifice and glory to God. And thus begins the most amazing love story of God for us.
Now, back to King. When King suggested that Mary didn't give birth to God, my ears perked up. "How do you figure that?"
OK... that was a mistake because then he refuted the Trinity. In fairness, I told him that we weren't going to be able to agree on this because I do believe in God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
"But it's not in the Bible," says King. I looked at him in disbelief. He explained the word "Trinity" isn't in the Bible. But I insisted the concept of three aspects of God is in the Bible. This led King to crack open the Bible.
This is where the conversation went further awry. In trying to "prove" to me that Jesus was not God, he told me that Jesus never asserted that he was God.
"True enough, but how do you explain the Gospel of John where the Word was made flesh?"
King turned to the evangelist's words on the Word in the bible. King's bible maintains that "In the beginning" was the Word... and the Word was "a god", not "God".
"That's paganism," I told him. I could see this was frustrating for him to hear.
"There were many gods, but there is only one true God." And for King... that's God the Father.
"So, what are saying about Jesus? Are you telling me he was merely a prophet?"
And this is when it got even trippier. Only angels, apparently, are heavenly beings who appear human.
"Are you saying that Jesus was an angel? Oh, I think he was more than an angel, King."
As King insisted that Jesus was not God, I started to laugh. "Oh, man, King you are ruining my Advent if you tell me Jesus isn't God made incarnate through a woman!" King's sidekick, who had been silent up to this point, chuckled at that. King, realizing that I was sincere in my insistence that we weren't going to agree, handed me the magazines and asked that I please read the article on the myths of Christianity... and he would pray for me.
I will pray for me, too, that I learn to not answer the door when King arrives.
Meanwhile, with the fourth candle coming for Advent, I remain reflective on the waiting for the arrival of the light into this very dark world. It is getting brighter!

Funny, yet Sadly Accurate

This arrived courtesy of a friend, and excellent timing as I had just finished another debate session with King, the Jehovah's Witness (you don't come to my door telling me that Mary is not the mother of God incarnate during Advent... and the day before the readings with the annunciation!!) Bad timing, King. No cookies for you!


His Grace, who has fallen from grace between his inaction and then insipid comments on Uganda while being the bully about the election in the Diocese of Los Angeles, insists on pushing this Anglican Covenant. I can see a scenario in which The Episcopal Church USA signs the stupid thing, and thus kills it because "Ewwww... they have girls and gays!" In this video statement, the Archbishop tries to tell us that this Covenant doesn't have a "penal code". But it would seem that if part four has rules for what makes you 'in communion' or 'in conflict' with the communion, then there must be some UNacceptable behaviors that will be seen as "naughty" (like consecrating LGBT as bishps perhaps??)
I'm with those in the United States who maintain we already HAVE a covenant. It's in our Book of Common Prayer, pages 304-305. Read, mark, learn and inwardly digest what's there.

And for commentary from across the Atlantic on the Archbishop's statement... I advise a visit to Mad Priest and frdougal.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Light One Candle

In my household, December has LOTS of light. Hanukkah menorahs (yes, two) and my make-shift Advent wreath help provide a lot of light in a room.

And as I consider the darkness of the shadows some would like to cast on this world, gazing into the flames of these candles can do much to rekindle and remind me that we must all make the commitment to spread the light around. Shine it into every corner, and show it in your face and your eyes as you interact with a stranger.

Don't let the light go out!

London Calling? Don't answer!

I think there is something prophetic that the email announcing the latest foot-in-mouth move by the "leaders" of the Anglican Communion landed in my Spam file!

The Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion passed the following resolution to address the crisis occuring in the world:

Resolved that, in the light of:

1. The recent episcopal nomination in the Diocese of Los Angeles of a partnered lesbian candidate

2. The decisions in a number of US and Canadian dioceses to proceed with formal ceremonies of same-sex blessings

3. Continuing cross-jurisdictional activity within the Communion

The Standing Committee strongly reaffirm Resolution 14.09 of ACC 14 supporting the three moratoria proposed by the Windsor Report and the associated request for gracious restraint in respect of actions that endanger the unity of the Anglican Communion by going against the declared view of the Instruments of Communion.

I'm beginning to think the "Instruments" of Communion actually refer to a hammer and sickle.

How can they expect anyone to take this notion of an "Anglican Communion" seriously if the most dangerous threat to its unity is a lesbian elected as a bishop when there are nations with large Anglican memberships that are proposing to jail and fine people for being gay... or for even being associated with gay people?

If London calls, graciously restrain from answering. It's just harassment at this point.

Meanwhile, in response, the Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles issued this statement:

As we approach the nativity of Christ, we need to remember the admonition of the angels to the shepherds: “Be not afraid.”

The Episcopal Church, a member of the Anglican Communion, for more than the past 30 years has been working on gradual, full incorporation of gay and lesbian people. We have worked to be people of gracious restraint for all these years and have now come to a place in our lives that is normal evolutionary change which compels us to move from tolerance to full inclusion.

As with racial and cultural divides, we can look to the great words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who calls us not to fall prey to the insidious drug of gradualism. Indeed, as he said in his speech titled “I Have a Dream”: “This is no time…to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism…. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”

We must move forward and respect the dignity of all human beings which is called for in our Baptismal Covenant and canons.

The Diocese of Los Angeles has acted in good faith and is moving forward in supporting the full inclusion and full humanity of all people in the Church. Thus, we celebrate the elections of Diane Jardine Bruce and Mary Douglas Glasspool as our next Bishops Suffragan called to share in the work of a strong episcopal team serving this Diocese and all of God’s people.

Thanks be to God for Bishop Jon Bruno of Los Angeles!

When Will They Ever Learn?

It's bad enough that Uganda wants to imprison and "cure" gay people, but not to be outdone, Rwanda has also jumped on the homophobic bandwagon.

Article 217 will criminalize same-sex relationships, and organizations that support LGBT people, with prison terms ranging from 5-10 years, and fines ranging from 2,000-1,000,000 Rwandan francs!

Up to now, homosexuality has not been an issue in Rwanda (because they didn't have any gay people... Yeah, right!).

Will Pastor Rick Warren, and the rest of the United States' Religious Right-wing, use their bully pulpits to speak out against THIS one? Again, these are the people who have exported our so-called "culture war" to Africa. And they have had willing disciples in bishops and pastors in these countries (Rwanda's Anglican Church boycotted the last Lambeth Conference and has been on record opposing homosexuality since 1998).

I hold no hope that the Archbishop of Canterbury will sit down for tea with another journalist to denounce this action. Or that the Pope will dispatch another minion to speak for him before an international panel in New York.

When will people quit this crusade against us?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Getting Bolder

I have commented before on the difficulty I have being queer and Christian within my circle of friends. The uneasiness comes from the fact that while my friends may be queer, or queer-friendly, they are sometimes openly hostile to Christianity. Hence, I tend not to discuss anything remotely related to my life as a church-going queer with my friends. Most of them do not know this blog exists, or if they do, they never speak to me about it. They know I attend St. John's, they know my partner attends her Temple, but they don't really want to "know" anything more than that. It's the closet revisited.
I have made strides in opening that closet door. I display both a rainbow triangle and the shield of the Episcopal Church on my car. I have told people in my theatre company that I can not attend clean up and work parties at our space if they schedule them on Sunday mornings because I am at church. And I am speaking up more on Facebook.
For example, I recently posted an item about the knuckle-draggers from Kansas (aka Westboro Baptist Church) who like to protest funerals with signs about "God Hates Fags" and other such nonsense. They were apparently trying to disrupt Hanukkah celebrations in Palm Beach County (which has a very large Jewish populace). Nobody paid attention to them... except for the media there to report that they were being ignored by the people entering a Jewish community center. At any rate, in the article, the intellectually impotent protestors were trotting out the misinformation that "the Jews killed Jesus!" One of my friends commented, "Jews killed Jesus?? Not exactly. Religious extremists killed Jesus!"
I corrected him to point out that it was the Romans who killed Jesus, and noted that religious extremists want to keep him dead because otherwise he'd kick their homophobic asses.
This may not seem like much, but for me to make an assertion that Jesus would be an ass-kicker of such idiots... rather than go along as I used to and lump all people of Christian faith under the label of "religious extremists" and do it in writing is a bold move for me.
Another friend took one of those silly Facebook quizzes and when it revealed that she was most like Mary... in that she was "holy and caring and looked out for others", she scoffed at the "holy" suggestion, but was OK with the other two. I clicked on the comment button and offered that I didn't agree: it was because she did care and looked out for others that made her "holy". She offered back a grinning emoticon, and I took another step out of the closet.
I try not to shove my Christianity on to others, but I also don't want to hide it. And maybe I can encourage a few to see the "good" parts of what it means to believe and trust in Christ. Whether that leads them to following Christ is not for me to push. I believe God is the one who shepherds people that way. Mine is to put an incarnated queer face on the flock... and show that we really are allowed inside the gate. Really. We are!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I Said, and then They Said...

The following is the exchange that I had with Lambeth Palace over the proposed Anti-Homosexuality bill in Uganda.

Archbishop Rowan Williams,

I do not doubt that you are a man of God. However, your decision to publicly condemn the election of Rev. Canon Mary D. Glasspool for a Bishop Suffragan in the Diocese of Los Angeles while not swiftly condemning the Anglican Church leaders in Uganda for supporting the Anti-Homosexuality legislation raises questions for me.
God is calling LGBT people to come to the table for fellowship and communion; not for imprisonment and death.
Please, if you really want to save this Anglican Communion, consider the damage of your spoken and UNspoken words.
Peace be with you,

To this, the Press Secretary to the Archbishop sent me the following:

Dear Susan,

Thank you for your message and for taking the trouble to write about this deeply painful issue.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is very clear that the Private Member’s Bill being discussed in Uganda as drafted is entirely unacceptable from a pastoral, moral and legal point of view. It is a cause of deep concern, fear and, to many, outrage. The Archbishop has publicly stated that “the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I can’t see how it can be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades”.

For its part the Church of Uganda has clearly restated its opposition to the death penalty. As the Ugandan Church continues to formulate its position on the bill as a whole, the Archbishop has been working intensively behind the scenes (over the past weeks) to ensure that there is clarity on how the proposed bill is contrary to Anglican teaching.

Marie Papworth

Three important notes: one is that I wrote of my concerns about the ABC's conduct before his interview last week with the Telegraph in which he made the public statement. As far as I know, that's the only statement he's made on the topic.

Point two: While it is true that the Ugandan Church has publicly stated that it is "considering" the legislation, there have been reports of Ugandan clerics... including Anglicans... publicly stating that they are in favor of "the private member's bill". They may not be speaking on behalf of the Anglican church; however they are members of the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda. Why are they not being "called out" for subverting the so-called "Listening Process"?

Final point: While Ms. Papworth was kind enough to address the issue of what had, at the time of my initial email, been the UNspoken words from the Archbishop, she refused to acknowledge that ++Rowan had said things in re: the election of Rev. Canon Mary D. Glasspool which were out-of-line. I think I was clear enough that my concern was for what was SPOKEN as well as UNSPOKEN. Obviously, Ms. Papworth felt no need to comment further on THAT argument.

I have remarked elsewhere that it would be one thing to be angry with the Archbishop for not taking a stronger stand earlier about this horrid legislation in Uganda. But what was the tipping point for me, and I think many others, was that the ABC had been so publicly silent on Uganda while being so publicly the bully about the election in Los Angeles. And within a half-day of the vote!! Where are your priorities, man? That Lambeth still can not see the hypocrisy is really mind-boggling.

Today's morning office had one of the best sections of Psalm 119:

I implore your favour with all my heart;
be gracious to me according to your promise.
When I think of your ways,
I turn my feet to your decrees;
I hurry and do not delay
to keep your commandments.
Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me,
I do not forget your law.
At midnight I rise to praise you,
because of your righteous ordinances.
I am a companion of all who fear you,
of those who keep your precepts.
The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love;
teach me your statutes.
Psalm 119: 58-64

As always, I must remember to keep my eyes focused, my ears alert, and my heart open to the light, the truth and the love.

For Those on Christmas Carol Overload

I got this from a fellow church member. It's very clever, especially the tribute to the band Toto at the end of the piece. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Wedding Bells for Washington, DC!

Remember what I was saying about Stir Up Sunday?

The city council in Washington, DC, by an 11-2 vote, has approved marriage equality for LGBT persons. All things being equal, the first tolling of the same-sex wedding bells in our nation's capital will be mid-March 2010. Some of the council members voted, "I do" during the roll call... and the final decision was met with much cheering from the assembled crowd. This is NOT the end of the line; Congress has the ultimate authority over all decisions made by the District of Columbia, and has 30 days to act on this vote. The good news is that, with Democrats in control, the likelihood of a Congressional override is highly unlikely.

But that hasn't stopped the opponents from vowing to fight this. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington has announced that it will stop handling adoptions because they do not want to be "forced" into placing children with same-sex couples. And Bishop Harry Jackson, who really ought to have tea more often with +Henry Orombi and +Peter Akinola, is planning to use his Stand4Marriage group to rally for a city-wide referendum on the matter. It is very sad when a black man wants to put up rights conferred on another minority group for a public vote! Is he serious?!

Naysayers and nincompoops aside, this is wonderful news. And it makes sense, not just because it's the right thing to do. It is a politically smart thing for DC. Think about it: DC is where "the world" converges in this country, and there are plenty of European nations that have approved same-sex marriages... and slowly, the religious communities are coming around on this issue, too. Thus, DC really needed to take this step lest it be seen as UNfriendly to its compatriots on the planet.

Our nation's capital will be joining Vermont, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire in offering marriage equality. Again, provided that nothing scuttles the council's vote.

Boy, the stirring and whirring is happening quickly! Come, Holy Spirit, and splash some of that soup over the edges of the pot to those places where the powers-that-be are cranking up the freezer!!

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Pope Hath Spoken

Just in time for International Human Rights Day, a representative for Pope Benedict XVI delivered the following statement before a panel at the United Nations General Assembly that was hearing from LGBT activists from Honduras, India, the Philippines, Uganda and Zambia about the violence and oppression they face in their homelands, as well as progress on gay civil rights. Father Philip Bene read this statement into the record:

Mr. Moderator,

Thank you for convening this panel discussion and for providing the opportunity to hear some very serious concerns raised this afternoon. My comments are more in the form of a statement rather than a question.

As stated during the debate of the General Assembly last year, the Holy See continues to oppose all grave violations of human rights against homosexual persons, such as the use of the death penalty, torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. The Holy See also opposes all forms of violence and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons, including discriminatory penal legislation which undermines the inherent dignity of the human person.

As raised by some of the panelists today, the murder and abuse of homosexual persons are to be confronted on all levels, especially when such violence is perpetrated by the State. While the Holy See’s position on the concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity remains well known, we continue to call on all States and individuals to respect the rights of all persons and to work to promote their inherent dignity and worth.

Thank you, Mr. Moderator.

This statement comes after LGBT Catholics have been lobbying the Vatican to say something for over a year. Better late than never!

Thanks to the Institute for Welcoming Resources for this information

Love in the Lyrics

It's not uncommon for me to be going along and singing a hymn during a service and then--BOOM--there it is! The best message of the day, right there on the printed page of the hymnal!
Such was the case yesterday during our Sequence hymn which was "Prepare the way, O Zion". You can hum along if you wish, but the lyrics that leaped out at me were in verse two:

He brings God's rule, O Zion;
he comes from heaven above.
His rule is peace and freedom,
and justice, truth and love.
Lift high your praise resounding,
for grace and joy abounding.
Oh, blest is Christ that came in God's most holy name.

Year C is still in its infancy, but as we progress through this time of Advent, I have been more and more aware of the liberation that comes from God, and Jesus as the emancipator, the one who releases us from prisons, real or imagined. "His rule is peace and freedom, and justice, truth and love." This 'new thing' that we are waiting for during Advent is coming to counter the adversity, imprisonment, and hatred that engulfs us in bitter disputes and darkness.
Of course, the attempt to bring us to peace and freedom causes more anxiety, more anger, more resistance. Especially as we make our way through the Gospel of Luke, those who would like to draw lines in the sand or shut the door that Christ kicks open for everyone's entry, will likely amp up their noise. Luke's gospel is full of examples of a God on a mission to seek out the least and the last, and bring them into the story as important people... even if they happen to be "outsiders". I would think such words in Scripture would irritate the crap out of those who want to exclude people from God's kingdom. On blogs that tilt more to the conservative side, progressive voices in the blogosphere are not only being ridiculed, they're being banned! It's almost as if there is a desire on the part of conservatives to be in "lock-down" within the prison of fear, and anything that might suggest that the fear is self-generated is seen as an assault. That's really too bad.
"Lift high your praise resounding, for grace and joy abounding." This is where I'd rather be. This is the place where I'd rather stand which matches with the words of the Proper Preface for Advent:

Because you sent your beloved Son to redeem us from sin and
death, and to make us heirs in him of everlasting life; that
when he shall come again in power and great triumph to
judge the world, we may
without shame or fear rejoice to
behold his appearing.

I would much rather have my head up without shame or fear at Advent and await expectantly the entry of the God who marches ALL of us on the road to freedom and liberation and leads us past the protesters on our parade route. There is no promise that we won't get yelled at, or spit on, along the way. But the promise is that we are on a journey out of darkness if we stick to this path with him, and he won't leave the walk and abandon us.
Oh, blest is Christ that came in God's most holy name.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Houston, We Have Lift-off!

Houston, that Texas city with great barbecue and an airport named after the first Bush, has just elected a lesbian mayor! Read the results HERE and the story HERE.
This is a huge moment in gay politics in this country. Congratulations to Annise Parker and to the city of Houston.
The stirring is happening faster and faster.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Stir It Up!

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come
among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins,
let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver
us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and
the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

What a time to encounter the message of "stir up your power, O Lord"!
I have been sensing deep within me that we are in a time of much stirring and shifting in ways I don't recall feeling at Advents past. All the commotion in the Anglican Communion (as "Anglican" and "communal" as it is at this point), and the elections of many bishops, some thought to be long shots, are just a small example of the stirring that I am sensing as the "great might" of God comes in to save us from the sins of exclusion, division, pride, and greed.
I keep thinking the waters that God is troubling at this time run much deeper than what splashes on the pages of major newspapers. And the waters are moving, the current is swift, and the ice that we have been standing on for decades is beginning to thin and crack and break. Beware to those who believe that they can "ice" the fire of God! God's bountiful grace and mercy will overtake you.
I suppose the image of water is an appropriate one as we prepare the way for the birth of God as Jesus Christ. One of the amazing parts of this entry of God into the world is that he comes to us the same way most of us came into the world ourselves: through the water of our mother's birth canal. And in a way that speaks to the mystery of God, this appearance to us comes in the innocence of a baby boy, born in an unsanitary stable and dependent upon a young teen-aged mother Mary and her not-really-the-father husband, a carpenter named Joseph, to keep him alive. This whole plot seems like risky business! But God was determined. There were sheep that were lost, a nation scattered, depressed and broken. People were needing to be ransomed, reclaimed, reconciled, redeemed. And thus, the mission to rescue these lost and lonely ones began in a barn in Bethlehem.
The feeling that I've been having, the odd rumbling of a timpani drum in the back of my brain, is that this is a mission God has been on, is on, and will be on, always keeping the waters moving beneath the icy surface so that it can never totally freeze God out. I have been surprised, in my own community, to encounter more and more LGBT people who hunger and thirst for something that is bigger than themselves. I got a sense of that this past summer when, during our Queer As Faust cabaret, my parody video of the Mac vs. PC ads called "Queer vs. Christian" garnered not only loud applause from the audience, but a number of people cornered me afterward to tell me they really appreciated an affirming message about queers and Christianity. I sense a growing desire for some who have found themselves estranged from their faith communities to feel welcomed back into those places again. This longing I see as a people who are hearing the call to "come home" amidst the static that attempts to disrupt that call. Or perhaps, these are the people who have grown tired of the cold and icy place where they stand, and long to be closer to the hearth.
I would say now, even amidst what appears to be the chaotic upheaval in many parts of mainstream Christendom, this is as good a time as any to respond to that stirring power that is beckoning to us. Prepare the way, indeed! Come into meeting and welcoming this "new thing" that promises to intervene in the chaos, and break-up the ice. Know that it is good, and it's for you always.

At Last, A Crumb Falls to the Floor

Not only has President Barack Obama finally issued a statement condemning the proposed Anti-Homosexuality legislation in Uganda, but the Archbishop of Canterbury, in an interview with the London Telegraph, offered some words of concern for what is happening in that African nation. You can read the snippet posted in Andrew Brown's blog HERE.

One of the people commenting on Brown's post I think hit the nail on the head. The Archbishop is basically out-of-his-league in these matters of worldly... real-life affairs. He is a great scholar. He is no doubt a valued voice in academia. But the threat of prison and the persecution of LGBT people, especially at the hands of Christians and fellow "anglicans", is something that doesn't fit neatly into a thesis. And my own perception is that the man is too proud to see that he may be on the wrong path, and that he may not be able to apply his book knowledge to solve the issues of bigotry and hatred. That's just my observation. For these reasons, I'm actually very sad for the Archbishop, but that doesn't excuse him from his Johnny-come-lately statement (such as it is) when he so quickly condemned last weekend's vote in Los Angeles where two women, one a lesbian, were elected Bishop Suffragans.

So, thanks for the crumbs. But even the crumbs are stale.

Meanwhile, the Diocese of Upper South Carolina has elected a new bishop, Rev. W. Andrew Waldo. Bishop-elect Waldo spent some time in my native Diocese of New Hampshire, serving as a curate in the "Queen City" of Manchester; hence he is not only aware of Bishop Gene Robinson, but apparently calls him an "old friend and mentor." The Archbishop will be happy to know that this particular Bishop-elect is a non-celibate white heterosexual man, so there will be no need to fire off terse statements questioning his election, and encouraging bishops and standing committees to reject him. Congratulations to the Upper South Carolina folks. The bio on your new bishop sounds like you will make beautiful music together!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Joke for Your Evening

This comes by way of Phoebe. Always good to break up the serious with the silly:

A burglar breaks into a house one night. He shined his flashlight around, looking for valuables, when he heard a voice in the dark:

"Jesus knows you're here!"

He nearly jumped out of his skin, clicked his flashlight off, and froze.

When he heard nothing more, after a bit, he shook his head and continued.

Just as he pulled the stereo out so he could disconnect the wires, he heard clear as a bell:

"Jesus is watching you!"

Freaked out, he shined his flashlight around frantically, looking for the source of the voice.

Finally, in the corner of the room, his flashlight beam came to rest on... a parrot.

"Did you say that?" he hissed at the parrot.

"Yep", said the parrot and then squawked, "I'm just trying to warn you that he is watching you!"

The burglar relaxed. "Warn me, huh? Who in the world are you?"

"Moses" said the parrot.

"Moses?!" the burglar laughed, "What kind of people name a bird Moses?"

"The kind of people that would name a Rottweiler Jesus!"

OK... We Won't Kill You, We'll Just "Cure" You

David Bahati introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill on Oct. 14th

News out of Uganda is that the horrendous attack on homosexuality bill has been "toned down".
Gone is the provision that calls for the death penalty in cases of "aggravated homosexuality" and the life imprisonment for other types of same-sex relations. This may have happened because of the growing international outrage over this legislation. And, well, the Ugandan Church was a little uncomfortable with that whole DEATH thing.

But make no mistake about it: just because some of the more extreme elements, such as the death penalty for HIV+ or disabled queers having sex, are out of the legislation... this measure is still disasterous and draconian and thoroughly ANTI-Christian.

It still requires family and friends to turn in their LGBT loved ones, or face prison sentences.

It still punishes with imprisonment anyone involved in "promoting" homosexuality. This would include western aid agencies.

It still seeks extradition of Ugandans abroad who have fled to avoid persecution for being LGBT.

And, of course, since this bill has the backing of some of our most notorious homophobes in the United States, the ultimate goal is to arrest LGBT people and offer them a choice: go to prison, or undergo "therapy" to "cure" them of their "illness".

I'm sorry, but this does not make me feel better about the bill or its intention. And, sadly, the news seems to be that it will be ready for a vote in two weeks... just in time for Christmas!

The bill's sponsor is David Bahati, but the measure has the backing all the way up to the President of Uganda who has made statements about Europeans coming into his country "to recruit" Ugandans into being gay. Yes, friends: it's the ol' recruiting argument again. Only this time, it's more serious and dangerous because it's not just some whacked-out person standing on a street corner screaming at a gay pride parade: it's the head of state, a country that Evangelical leader Rick Warren has called "a purpose-driven nation." Warren, by the way, has chosen to duck his head in the sand on this. Perhaps he didn't realize that his homophobia could spread like purpose-driven wildfire the way it has!

As our Presiding Bishop noted in her statement, the colonialism we have brought to Africa is exporting our homophobic "Ex-Gay" movement and imposing on them our rotten culture war. For shame!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fleeting Thought of the Night

In the next room, the television is watching my partner as she snoozes on the futon. And like every late night in Tallahassee, there is an ad for one of the plethora of erectile dysfunction drugs on the market. Funny that as I heard the pitch for the product, in which a man should only take it if he is fit for sexual activity, I came across THIS ARTICLE in The Times about the Church's obsession with what adults are doing in their bedrooms... and with whom they are doing it. Granted, if the activity is abusive or violent in any way, that's reason for some concern. But if it's sex between consenting adults... the Church should get over it.

Or better yet... not get into it.

Given how often these erectile dysfunction ads play in a night on TV here, is it any wonder that our culture and our Church are constantly thinking about sex?

In Her Own Words

Introducing the Reverend Canon Mary D. Glasspool, Bishop Suffragan-elect in the Diocese of Los Angeles and the latest "threat" to the Anglican Communion.

Once you have watched this video, please take a moment to pray for those who struggle against the tide of God's inclusive love.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Are You on Facebook?

This may sound like a light-hearted question, but I have a reason for asking. Rev. Susan Russell of Los Angeles, the immediate past President of Integrity, posted an entry on her blog that was a re-write of the Archbishop's terse statement on the election of Rev. Canon Mary D. Glasspool. The revised ABC statement would substitute "Church of Uganda" for "Diocese of Los Angeles", and otherwise switch ++Rowan's language to reflect the statement many of us here in the west would like to see: namely, why not condemn actions that actually threaten the lives of a minority group as opposed to the votes that might make conservatives in the Church uncomfortable?! There's a huge difference between death and feeling a little "itchy"!

Here's the LINK to the Facebook group. Make sure you also find the address to send a message directly to Lambeth Palace. Let the Archbishop know that he must repent of his deeds done and left undone on the matter of Uganda vs. the Diocese of Los Angeles. That is, if he still values an Anglican "Communion".

Monday, December 7, 2009

Advent Lessons In Carols and Such

OK, I know: the service is called, "Advent Lessons and Carols", but bear with me on this, and enjoy the trippy ride of my thought process.
St. John's Episcopal Church does one thing extremely well: pomp and circumstance through music. Our choir is just that good, and when the music is good, it aids me in moving into a ritual headspace that allows the Word of God to richochet around and around, and can take my thinking to a new level.
And so, back to my argument with myself that this entry is called "Advent Lessons IN Carols and Such".
The processional and recessional anthems were two of the Advent standards: O Come, O Come Emmanuel and Lo, He Comes With Clouds Descending. I love both hymns, but I was reminded last night how O Come, O Come Emmanuel had made an early appearance a few years ago as my poor brain was stuck with the never-ending jukebox of Episcopal hymns. Last night, as we were singing and processing up the aisle, I became aware of why THAT hymn, of all the Advent ones, had been in the playlist:

O Come, O Come Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

Israel, or the ones drifting after destruction of their Temple and scattering of their people and assimilating into other cultures and being dogged by opponents: feelings anyone who has ever felt scorned or set aside or put upon can say, "Oh, baby, I know that feeling!" Certainly, as a lesbian in Tallahassee, I had that "special" feeling of exile from the Episcopal Church that had been my spiritual grounding, and it was a very lonely exile and I did mourn. And so, as God commanded me to "Show up!", my understanding was that I, like Israel, am to be ransomed by the coming Emmanuel. Now, this old familiar tune becomes a song of freedom and liberation.

O Come, Desire of nations,
bind in one the hearts of all mankind;
bid thou our sad divisions cease,
and by thyself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

In this time of Advent, as we who profess to be Christian are awaiting the entry of God into our realm, we are again at each others throats over matters of mankind. If it's not our uneasiness and disturbance with the economy, it's the latest efforts to rob joy from this season of celebration by raising the spectre of possible ex-commuication from the Anglican Communion if our Church allows God to call LGBT people to the episcopate. This morning, I included the Collect for the Unity of the Church in my morning daily office. This evening, I offered a silent prayer for the Archbishop of Canterbury as a classmate read from one of Rowan Williams' essays on icons. Clearly, ++Rowan is not stupid. But his actions on Bishop Suffragan-elect Glasspool, and INactions on the Anti-Homosexuality legislation in Uganda, are making him increasingly irrelevant for many of us. I am deeply saddened that such divisions have arisen now. But then, there may be something for all of us who are in this struggle to consider as we sing these words, and come to the Lord's Table while bickering with each other in the world.

And so we recess out of the Church on another old familiar tune which concludes:

Yea, amen! let all adore thee,
high on thine eternal throne;
Savior, take the power and glory;
claim the kingdom for thine own:
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou shalt reign, and thou alone.

Amen to that!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Challenge of Canterbury

Once more, I find myself dumbfounded by what the Archbishop of Canterbury does and does not do. He does NOT feel the need to speak out in opposition to the horrendous Anti-Homosexuality legislation in Uganda, legislation which undermines all Christian values of respecting the dignity of every human being and basically thumbs its nose at the very meager offering made by the Archbishop that we Anglicans should "listen" to the experiences of homosexuals.
But, the election of a partnered lesbian as a Bishop Suffragan in Los Angeles? My goodness, the ink probably wasn't yet dried on the pages of the LA Times before the fuzzy-faced man in Lambeth Palace was firing off his "concerns" about the actions in California!!

In a short set of remarks, Archbishop Rowan Williams says her election raises very serious questions for the Episcopal Church, and its place in the Anglican Communion, as well as the Communion as a whole. And his statement is clearly a clarion call to all his Purple-Shirted Posse in the United States to try to block Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool's consecration:

"The process of selection however is only part complete. The election has to be confirmed, or could be rejected, by diocesan bishops and diocesan standing committees. That decision will have very important implications."

How much meddling the ABC does in our Church and our decisions will also have very important implications as well! But I digress: the ABC concludes:

"The bishops of the Communion have acknowledged that a period of gracious restraint in respect of actions which are contrary to the mind of the Communion is necessary if our bonds of mutual affection are to hold."

Again, what amazes me is that a decision that came after SEVEN ballots ending in the election of a woman noted first and foremost for her social justice commitment and pastoral care abilities is far more threatening to the figurehead of the Anglican Communion than a piece of legislation being egged on by Ugandan Church leaders that proposes death and imprisonment for LGBT people. Which part of the Gospel is ++Rowan reading? Which God is he following? Does his Bible not contain the message that God arrived in the world to reconcile us and redeem us and to bring as many of us into eternal life as would be willing to receive the Word?

Has he grown deaf to the voice in the wilderness that notes that every valley will be lifted up and mountain will be made low?

Prepare ye the way of the Lord, ++Rowan. Repent and return to the God who is calling back those lost sheep who have hungered and been thirsting for the inclusive love promised through Jesus Christ.

And we are coming to the banquet whether the Anglican Communion is "mutually affectionate" or not!!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

You Go, Los Angeles!

Congratulations to the Bishop-elect Reverend Canon Mary D. Glasspool, who prevailed in the vote as the second Bishop Suffragan in the Diocese of Los Angeles. It took seven ballots (a Biblical perfect number, eh?) to arrive at the election of the second partnered and out gay person to be elevated to the episcopate. Glasspool, in accepting the news of her election, issued a statement that started with acknowledging that there were others in the "other" category also being considered for the post:

"Gracias con todo mi corazon. I am not unaware of the many complicated dynamics that have been part of the election--and I want to acknowledge them. Any group of people who have been oppressed because of any one, isolated aspect yearns for justice and equal rights. My own heart has been stressed deeply today. To Martir (Vasquez of Hawthorne, CA), I honor you and pledge you my ongoing love and support. To my Latino and Hispanic brothers and sisters, I say we're all in this together. We are all working to bring forward the reign of God on earth. So thank you with all my heart."

Glasspool has been the Canon to the Ordinary in Maryland, and has served in rich and poor parishes throughout her career in the priesthood. Her election makes her the first openly-gay person to be selected for the episcopate since New Hampshire elected Bishop Gene Robinson in 2003. The Episcopal Church, and the Anglican Communion, have been fumbling and bumbling their way toward acceptance of the simple fact that God will ALWAYS call whomever God wants to the ministry in the Church... and that means LGBT people, too. Some refuse to believe this... and thus, we've endured years and years of struggle with issues of human sexuality. The Diocese of Los Angeles, considered by some to be the most liberal, doesn't seem to be wrestling as much as others. And so it is no surprise to see them arrive at this decision.

The Los Angeles Times is already framing this vote as the first TEST since our General Convention this summer of the newly-adopted D025, the resolution which has allowed dioceses to once more consider LGBT candidates for the episcopate (there had been a moratorium since 2006). In fact, Minnesota did have an openly-gay candidate in the pool. So while LA is the first to act, others have been willing to at least consider gay candidates. Still, the media frenzy that is likely to begin will center solely on her sexual orientation. May God grant her grace and patience as she fields their questions, some designed to provoke her into a fight.

She still must gain the consent of Standing Committees and Bishops. One hopes they will not stand in the way of this election. Seven ballots, again that perfect number, tell you how carefully the lay and clergy electors were considering all kinds of factors in picking this woman. She seems to bring skills of pastoral care and a heart for social justice that will make her a valuable contributor to the loyal order of Purple Shirts.
Let her in, let her in, let her in.

Huzzah, ++Katherine!!

Lo, it comes with clouds descending!! The letter from our Presiding Bishop, published on Thursday as I traversed the mountain roads of Alabama, was a measured and forceful statement of condemnation of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda. As you who visit this blog know, I have been shaking my head in disbelief that our church leaders have been so slow to speak out against a proposal that has dangerous and deadly consequences for the LGBT people of Uganda, as well as any group that attempts to serve this small population. Finally, the head of our Church has spoken!

As always, our Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori exercises amazing graciousness in her response. She has been a target for scorn and derision from the "boys" in purple shirts worldwide who are having a bit of a problem with a skirt being in their company. And so each statement she makes must be "that much more". Read the full text of her statement HERE. The highlights, from my perspective:

  • Citing past actions of both General Convention 2006 and Lambeth Conferences to support why this legislation is WRONG!
  • Carefully framing her response as being one that is representative of the laws and understanding in the United States which, while it may not be Africa, is still part of this fragile earth, our island home.
  • Noting the sin of exporting our culture wars over homosexuality to Africa as a painful and hurtful form of colonialism
  • Her continued persist call on all of us to never forget that Christ is in each of us, no matter our sexual orientation, race, creed or theological perspective and to always strive toward living the Gospel of Jesus Christ and returning to the table of God, especially if we are to continue any kind of real listening process as laid out by the Anglican Communion.

So, a great big thank you to our Presiding Bishop for speaking out and encouraging our political leaders to make provisions for people who are trying to escape a worsening situation.

She has placed her cards on the table. Will the Archbishop of Canterbury trump her, or choose to fold?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Lessons Learned From the Road

It was amazing! The Celebration of New Ministry of Mtr. Lee Franklin Shafer was a wonderful event with incense, and bells, and paper doves, gorgeous chanting of the Gospel of John, and a sermon by Rev. Dr. Christopher Bryan that needs to be packaged and delivered and played for every single Episcopal congregation and priest. Bryan highlighted not only the awesome responsibility that a rector takes on, but the importance of the congregation doing its part to support the ministry of their new rector by rising to the occasion and taking part in that ministry. The two-way street... and the give-and-take... is what grows a parish; not just "Super Priest" who magically makes everything run like clockwork... and grows money on trees... and plants bushes full of new young families. One person is still just one person... even with a title. Amen and Amen!

And, much like my first trip to Grace Episcopal in Anniston, the people out-did themselves in hospitality. They remembered me from a year ago! I attended their church one Sunday, almost 365 days ago, and I was getting intercepted left and right in the reception hall with folks greeting me, hugging me, offering to put me up in their homes WHEN I come back (IF I come back is not allowed!). And I heard again, and again, and again how blessed they felt, how happy they were to have this woman in charge. I even saw the joy of this congregation in their young acolytes ringing the bells: two boys gripping the ropes and riding them up off the floor, letting their legs swing as the bells pealed out across the city. I couldn't help it: the kid in me chuckled and egged them on with a, "Yeah! Yeah!!"

My gift to my friend and mentor was to take away the burden of recording this service, so the church can post the sound on its website. Sometimes it's useful to have a technical talent!

So, Anniston proved itself to be a welcoming venue to the stranger, the obvious stranger, in their midst. This is in stark contrast to what I got when I arrived at a McDonald's in Opelika, AL. McDonald's is not my favorite food fare, but the coffee is passable, and more importantly, the restrooms tend to be clean. So, I left my traveling companion... the famous Peggins or Hurricane Peg... to attend to the call of nature.

Unfortunately for me, a McDonald's worker saw me entering the women's bathroom. And this is where things start to fall apart. As I'm in the stall, the worker, a middle-aged African-American woman, yelled out, "Sir, you're in the wrong bathroom!" I knew this was directed at me. I am used to the gender confusion when I'm in line at a check out counter and increasingly public restrooms are becoming a problem, too. I ignored her, but she persisted.

"Sir, you are IN the WRONG bathroom!!"

My anger overcame me.

"I am a WOMAN!!!" The worker started to stammer and try to explain that my short-hair had been confusing, but I would hear none of it. "I know what you thought!! Now please: LEAVE!!" She did, but nature's call had now been emptied through my anger and shouting over a bathroom stall. Upon exiting, I found this worker talking to the Hurricane who was at mere Tropical Storm strength as she was explaining to this woman that my flattop hair cut was akin to the actress Grace Jones. The worker looked at me.

"I am sorry. Please, forgive me."

I glared into her eyes. "You are forgiven." I noticed the crucifix lapel pin on her McDonald's uniform. "May God bless you!"

"Bless you, too," she said, as she started to sweep the floor.

You'd think that would be it, right? I had forgiven, and even asked for God's blessing on her. But I was bothered, deeply bothered, for next 30 or so minutes of the trip. Not so much about the incident any more, but about the fact that, in my heart, I really had NOT forgiven this person for her error. She represented for me the culmination of hundreds of times when I have been mistaken for a man. I sometimes joke about it, saying that if I'm going to be called, "Sir" then somebody better start paying me like I am a sir! I felt awful. And I reflected on this place of feeling like a fraud, a forgiveness fraud. In Matthew, Peter asks that question about, "If someone sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?" And then Jesus answers, "Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times." So, here I am... still enraged, even after having said, "You are forgiven." And realizing that while I used the second-person forgiveness, I had not forgiven her. And I was still bothered, and angry... and at least seventy-six steps away from having done the forgiveness I could have done at one time... if I'd been sincere. That's a sobering thought while traveling toward Columbus, GA! But a good one. A teaching one.

Perhaps, she reflected on the situation and will be more careful about her gender assumptions. But I would not be surprised if she does not amend her ways because she may have felt the coldness and insincerity of my forgiveness because I had not made it a first-person "I" forgive you. And in this way, I feel I have not done either of us a service. Still, I am sincere in hoping that through this, God has still blessed both of us in ways that are God's own. For me, it is the realization of what it takes to live up to that commandment from John's Gospel heard last night at the service: "To love one another as I have loved you." A hard, but good, lesson from the road.