Saturday, February 27, 2010

Organizing My Thoughts

This afternoon, I will be taking part in a panel on Florida's death penalty and why it needs to go the way of the Dodo bird.
My particular contribution to the discussion comes from the place of having been a state witness to an execution in October, 1996. The significance of the year is that Florida was still blithely going along executing people in an electric chair fondly called, "Ol' Sparky". I say "blithely" because, as a reporter, I was laughed at--literally--by the state Attorney General's office when I called into question the cruelty of this method of execution.
"This is jurisprudence that's been upheld for over a 100 years!" Hahaha.
But I remained undaunted in my pursuit of this question. And when executions in the chair continued to present "problems" (as in witnesses having to watch inmates heads smoke, or see blood flowing from under the leather death mask), other reporters joined me in asking the question. The state legislature balked at changing the method... until the United States Supreme Court agreed it would hear a case against our use of the electric chair. And then... with much complaining... the state switched over to lethal injection.
End of story. Only sort of.
Away from having to keep up the performance of "objectivity" as a reporter, I am now free as a taxpayer to say that I do not agree with executing people. Period! I spent so many years covering this issue, interviewing countless numbers of people both pro and con, that, for me, there is no question but the death penalty is a sham. There is no such thing as a "cruelty-free" method of execution. Some are more gruesome and grotesque... such as electrocution... but when you end a life by first paralyzing the muscles so that nobody gets to see you choking to death (which is apparently what happens in a lethal injection), how does that make us... the citizens supporting this system with our taxes... any better than the socially-maladjusted murderer that we're putting to death?
And what service are we doing for the families who have had a family member murdered? We put them on a rollercoaster ride in the justice system of waiting for the justice promised to them as the appeals process goes forward. And, no, we can NOT just "kill the bastard" and be done with it because mistakes DO happen, the wrong person DOES end up in jail, and the proverbial "bastard" never pays for the crime committed. We owe it to the families of murdered victims to bring the killer to justice, and make them pay for the crime. If we threw "the bastard" in jail for the rest of his or her life with no possibility of parole, then the person is gone from society. And now they are in a new society, one that is extremely volatile, dangerous, and hardly a picnic. It's not like prisoners get to enjoy the freedom of kicking back and drinking a beer with their buddies on a Saturday afternoon!
I don't know how many people will turn out for the forum today at the public library... even with the promise of a free T-shirt for the first fifteen that walk through the door. But numbers aside, I'm hoping that this forum might get some people thinking about an issue that doesn't usually register as a blip on the consciousness radar. And, if nothing else, get people asking questions, "Are we made safe by the death penalty? Does killing someone of a marginal IQ prevent more murders from occurring? Does retraumatizing families of murder victims serve justice?"

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

False Apostles

O Almighty God, who in the place of Judas chose your faithful servant Matthias to be numbered among the Twelve: Grant that your Church, being delivered from false apostles, may always be ordered and guided by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

We don't know a whole lot about St. Matthias beyond the fact that there was an election held in the upper room, and he was the winner of the ballot to be the replacement for Judas. That's what happens when the person recording the Acts of the Apostles, Luke, was paying attention to others, most especially the apostle Paul. But since Matthias isn't recorded as doing anything bad (like Judas), we assume that he was a "faithful and true pastor"... teaching a belief in Jesus Christ as the savior.

So then, what of false apostles? The collect would make it seem that Judas was a "false apostle" even though he was one of the original twelve. And over the years, I've heard people taking another look at Judas... not to excuse him, but to understand him. I think that this may be a reaction to the physical depictions of Judas: he's often more swarthy than the rest of the apostles... which leads some to unfortunate racist assumptions. When I think about what makes Judas "false", it has nothing to do with how dark-skinned he was, or if he had a stereotypical look of an Arab Jew. I think where he becomes false is in his expectation that Jesus was coming on the scene to overthrow the authorities, and lead the rebellion that Judas wanted. When Jesus (God) didn't do as Judas wanted... he gave in to the temptation of anger, and betrayed Jesus.

So... that's then. What about now? Interestingly, Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson of the group Other Sheep in Asia was commenting on recent remarks by singer Elton John claiming that Jesus is a compassionate gay man. Dobson noted that Jesus IS gay, and Hispanic, and black, and a woman.

If Elton John needs Jesus to be gay for him, Jesus will be glad to be gay. Jesus let the "loose woman" wash his feet and dry them with her hair, and you know what THAT meant. You aren't sure? Well, use your imagination.
The theological problem doesn't come when we are one of those who are tortured, marginalized, abused, terrorized, or suffering, but when we are one of the abusers, the corrupters, the despots or the bigots. When we then claim Jesus is on our side, we will likely hear, "I never knew you" (Matthew 7:23). Strom Thurman, James Dobson (no relation) and Jerry Falwell cannot expect to be in the same line-up as their victims unless they were radically transformed in a process that went unreported. The trouble comes to even more of us when we are decent and basically good, and not involved, just minding our own business and keeping our noses clean. We will be surprised to find the fence is too razor sharp to sit on, and the weight of our non-involvement will weigh too heavily to keep us from being sliced right up the ... well, it isn't a pretty picture.

Dobson's comments are pretty much in line with what I was thinking about false apostles. But what he doesn't answer--and what I am thinking about as we continue this week in the Episcopal Church to meditate on Christ's temptation in the wilderness-- is what happened to Strom Thurmond, James Dobson, and Jerry Falwell to lead them into the temptation to sin against others? If I presume that they started from a state of grace, what was the "thing" that tempted them to turn on people and, in that process, turn on God? Because I believe that those who call the gay children of God the children of Satan are the real "anti-Christs" described in the First Letter of John. Because I believe that such misstatements ARE against Christ, and therefore anti Christ. Was it the temptation of fear that have made them attack my community? Is it the temptation of the power they gained through financial contributions to wage a war against my community, a community that wants to live in peace? I don't know. Only God knows where they went astray.

And what about me? Am I so much better off than those three?

I've been thinking about temptations. I've been thinking about the temptation to follow my fears and my anger instead of returning to my faith and my joy as my guides. As I head to bed this evening, I turn over my struggles to the liminal space of my dream world. And I trust God will meet me there and guide me in the direction of being faithful and true.... returning to joy instead of dread.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Charlotte Progress Report

Good news! Charlotte had the second surgery and the margins are now clear. On to the next step toward wellness. Here's her report, and please continue to keep her in your prayers.

I saw Dr. Owens today, the radiation oncologist and we continued the conversation about treatment. When we saw her before Christmas, I did not know that I had bi-lateral cancer but she had assured me then, that if that were the case, she could do the treatments.​ She doesn't seem to think I will chemo either so we're 2 for 3 around that issue at the moment! I will see her on the 5th, the same day I see Dr. Medina and she will get me set up for the radiation procedures that will come sooner than later.
My blood pressure was higher than normal while in the office which was not a surprise but lets me know that I am not finding this process to be unstressful.​ I guess one of the pluses of this has been a greater awareness of what my body is doing and letting it be rather than telling myself that I am fine.(There is that word again!)
I am also on the verge of retiring and that reality is becoming more real as the interview process goes on for my successor. As I began to delete messages I have sent since 2005 when I started this work, it began to dawn on me that I was really doing this-I was really leaving my work at the Centers for Christian Studies and moving into the unknown. It feels good and also sad. I have so enjoyed working with the staff at All Souls so the leaving is bittersweet.​ But, it is right and the right time.
I learned an important thing last Saturday as I walked the Labyrinth during a Lenten Quiet Day we offered through the Centers. I found that when I looked ahead at the path before me, I became anxious and scared but when I put my eyes back down on the path and took one step at a time, I knew that all was well. Everything that happens on the labyrinth is a metaphor for life so it was a very important message to me both about my process with the cancer and with retirement and with everything else! In AA, we always talk about one step at a time and Saturday I knew the truth of that deep in my bones.
I am aware that there are some of you reading these journal entries who are going through medical issues of your own and I send you love and prayers in your journey. Being "sick" changes the way one looks at things, and certainly how one looks at life. At least it is doing that to me. I hope that there is goodness for you all as well as you deal with what is before you.
Love to you all. CDC

Box for the Future

From StoryPeople:

this is a dress-up box for the future & it's filled with stuff like courage & love & play because they're the only things that are any use at all when you get Right down to it.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Led and Lent

First off, my apologies to anyone who wanted to see the Queer Carnival video and ran into the wall that is Facebook. If I could figure out how to get Blogger to agree to let me post my video representation of the party, I would do that. Sadly, Blogger doesn't like my video enough to let me post it. I think the file might be a bit too big or something. Trust me, the video is fun, and if you are on FB already, you can always sign in and then view the video.

Apologies out of the way... I move on to what has been on my mind the past couple of days. Being immersed in the season of Lent, I have found myself unusually busy. Taking on the responsibility of organizing our Morning Prayer leaders has made me engage my brain in a more administrative way than I'm normally used to doing. It's been interesting, especially as I encounter various learning styles and curves of our volunteers. I've had to slow down... or speed up... the delivery of information. I've had to send, and re-send, the customary. And I've had to take some physically through the paces of where they will be and when they are to do what at the various points in the service.

And, invariably, at some moment in the explanation, I will look people in the eyes and tell them what I believe is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about all of this: I believe God is just happy that anybody cares enough to try to do any of this at all, so relax and don't worry too much about it.

And that's what I believe is at the heart of what I think God is showing me in this season of Lent. That as much as I am taking on a leadership role in my parish with this Morning Prayer piece, I am still not at the front of the parade. The grand marshall is, and always will be, God and I am to be led as much as I am to lead. The purpose of doing the Morning Prayer liturgy is to begin the day with placing the attention and intentions of our lives on God, our creator, redeemer and sustainer. Whether we are standing, kneeling, sitting at any given moment is not as important as the words we are saying in the General Thanksgiving,

And, we beseech thee,
give us that due sense of all thy mercies,
that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful;
and that
we show forth thy praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up our selves to thy service,
and by walking before thee
in holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with thee and the Holy Spirit,
be all honor and glory, world without end. Amen.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Magnificent Start

Some time back, I wrote about "The Challenge" to bring Morning Prayer into practice at St. John's. This was just one of the multi-faceted approaches my Education for Ministry class was taking in the effort to make Lent at St. John's into a mindful and meaningful period as opposed to this six week "thing" that happens before we get to say, "Allelulia" again. Our class produced a devotional guide, written by us and other members of the parish. Another group of us put together a Lenten Resources guide with a history of Lent in the church and culture, projects that families can do with children to mark the Lenten season and a leaflet with information on all the services and classes that will happen from now until Easter Sunday.

And then there is this daily practice of prayer... at 7:15am. The groans, the shrieks, the looks of utter disbelief that we were proposing that people come to the chapel at St. John's and start their day in prayer was, well, laughable. I mean, I wasn't being mean to people when I'd laugh. But I understood their "pain". I do the office as part of my morning. But because I have no one to do it with (save for the cat), I could do it whenever I wanted between 7 and noon. Now, I am having to be disciplined... and awake!... and in the presence of other human beings at o'dark early in the morning. And today, I was the prayer leader.

And it was good. Better than good. Our inaugural service had eleven people, including both members of our clergy. Our EfM mentor had provided candles to use as Office Lights where the flowers normally are in the chapel. Our liturgy, only slightly shortened from what is in the prayer book, worked. And God took center stage for roughly 20 minutes in the lives of those present. Right now, I'm scheduled to lead three more times, although I've learned that one of our prayer leaders wanted to take on an extra service or two... and so I'm going to shuffle things slightly. I don't know what "the numbers" will be for the remainder of Lent, but this was a really magnificent beginning for something that is a "new"ish practice at the old downtown church.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The True Horrors of the Ugandan Legislation

Just in case you haven't seen this anywhere else, I came across this video presentation of the Anti-Homosexuality bill on AN INCH AT A TIME.

I don't really have anything to say. The rhetoric from Anglican Church leaders in Uganda is to refer to homosexuality as a sexual "disorientation". I will be sending a check to Integrity USA tomorrow to support their work in Uganda under dangerous conditions, now that the last of my contributors has donated to this part of my birthday cause. If you want to help the people of Integrity in their efforts to shelter LGBT people, you can always make an online donation at:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Surreal Shrove Tuesday

This has been quite a day. My mind had been mostly on the impending execution of Martin Grossman. I've been thinking about him, about that room at the Florida State Prison, and about how, again, it appears the death penalty isn't so much about carrying out justice as it is about carrying out an agenda. Again, my mind goes to the words in Psalm 146:

Put not your trust in rulers, nor in any child of the earth,
for there is no help in them.
When they breathe their last, they return to earth,
and in that day their thoughts perish.
Nobody stopped this execution. And so, once more, Florida has answered blood with more blood, more victims. It felt like Ash Wednesday had arrived a day early. I did weep as I prayed before a candle in the St. John's chapel this evening. My tears weren't just for the individual people involved, but for the brokenness of this society where we believe that doing more killing will somehow make a difference.
This issue of the death penalty remains important to me even though I no longer have to follow it as closely as I did as a reporter. Because I spent so much time with this issue as a reporter, I have (unfortunately) a greater understanding of all the facets of the problem than most people. Most folks don't know how many hours I've spent in court rooms and legislative chambers on this issue, let alone the fact that I witnessed an execution in 1996. I was reminded of that this evening when I realized I had arrived at the end of the vigil for Martin Grossman being held at the Governor's mansion. It was 6:15 and folks were already wrapping up the vigil. A woman approached me and explained that they had done some prayers and sung a song.
"It really is over pretty quick. Like how quickly an execution happens."
I bit my lip. "Um, yeah, not always."
Executions are not quick. The ritual lasts several long minutes. And when you are in that death chamber, you feel that time has suddenly dropped out of warp speed.
I lingered for a while and talked to a few folks. And then tried to decide if I was in the mood to head back to St. John's for the rest of the Shrove Tuesday send up fondly called, "The Flapjack Follies". Split-second decision making said, "Yes, go back, and enjoy the silliness."
And it was the correct decision. Not only because I got a good laugh, but it was a reminder of what was missing for me when I was a reporter wrestling with the death penalty as my "area of expertise". At the time that I really could have used a faith community, I had none. Now I do, and I am glad of it.
Martin Grossman prayed the Shema at the end of his life. I'm glad for him. I don't know how the Park family felt about his apology and taking responsibility for having caused them pain. To give forgiveness in that instance takes an act of faith. Believing that Grossman was sincere in his remorse also takes an act of faith. As with all things, one only hopes that those involved are listening to God. May God hold them, and us, at this time.

A Mardi Gras Execution: Martin Grossman UPDATED

I find it a strange paradox that many of us will be celebrating Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday/Shrove Tuesday with parades, fried foods, pancakes and frivolity while in a small, sterile white room in the Florida State Prison in Raiford, a Jewish man with a low IQ will be ritually, quietly put to death by lethal injection.
Martin Grossman is accused of killing Margaret "Peggy" Park, a Florida Wildlife officer, in December of 1984. Grossman, who was 19 at the time of the crime, and a 17 year-old friend were shooting off a stolen handgun in the wildlife preserve where Park was patrolling. When Park confronted the two, Grossman, who his defenders say was high on drugs at the time, begged her not to turn him in. He had just been released from jail for burglary and was on probation. When she refused, Grossman apparently grabbed her flashlight and hit her 20-30 times in the face. Park fired her weapon, but Grossman wrestled her gun from her and shot her in the head. He and his cohort were arrested two weeks later, and then tried together. Grossman's lawyers never presented any mental health evidence at the trial, even though Martin suffered from epilepsy and was on medications for that and had an IQ of 77. After the fact, during what's called the post-conviction appeals, Grossman's new lawyers hired a forensic psychologist to evaluate their client. That psychologist reports that, given Martin's IQ and drug abuse coupled with possible brain damage, his actions, as wrong as they were in beating and killing Officer Park, are not pre-meditated... a standard that is supposed to be the threshhold for the death penalty.

Grossman's case has been appealed, and turned down. Governor Charlie Crist has received petitions and phone calls to stop this execution. He has washed his hands. Jewish groups from across the U.S. and around the globe have been rallying for a 60-day stay of execution to allow for new evidence to be presented. So far, no change on the part of the Governor or the courts.

Officer Park's family, while not excited by an execution, are nonetheless tired of waiting for justice to occur for their loved one. When the state promises to execute the individual, the victim's family is not given closure until the execution occurs. This leads to anger and frustration with a system that allows for vigourous representation of people on death row. The Grossman case raises two questions: is it right to have put the Park family through this when life imprisonment with no possibility of parole could have been the final sentence? And are we really safer when we execute a man of marginal IQ?

The cynic in me sees this execution as yet another political ploy by Governor Charlie Crist in his sorry effort to convince Republicans in this state that he's a "tough guy". Crist, and the newbies now running Florida's media, didn't talk much during his gubernatorial campaign about how Crist delighted in the nickname "Chaingang Charlie" when he was a state senator from St. Petersburg. Crist was proud that one of his first major bills he passed would require inmates to be in the stereotypical prison garb of black and white striped jumpsuits as they picked up trash along the highways. And they would be chained. And there would have to be a sign announcing that this was a prison work crew (because it wouldn't be obvious enough!)

But somehow Crist must have fallen down on the job of keeping up the "tough guy" image. Why else would he decide that now, when he's suddenly finding himself in a tight race for the open U.S. Senate seat against fellow Republican Marco Rubio, would Crist decide to sign a death warrant? And why Grossman? It wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that the crime occured in Pinellas County, Crist's home base, where the local county Republicans held a straw poll and picked Rubio over their hometown boy. That happened on January 11th. Crist signed Grossman's death warrant on the 12th. Coincidence? Nah, just politics. Will killing Martin Grossman make Charlie Crist a "tough guy"? Sorry, Charlie: you will be far removed from that death chamber. You will not have to eyeball the man you are asking others to kill in our name. I have watched our state kill a man. To be a participant in this ritual of death didn't make me "tough". It tore me up because I saw the man.

Many of us continue to hope and pray that someone will stop this Mardi Gras execution of Martin Grossman. But time is growing short.

Governor Crist is a Methodist, and I'm sure he'll want people to know that he has attended church on one of the most solemn days in the Christian calendar: Ash Wednesday. I wonder if he'll remember Martin Grossman when he hears the words, "You are dust, and to dust you shall return." Will he even make that connection.
UPDATE:  The state of Florida executed Martin Grossman tonight.  He died at 6:17pm.   According to witnesses at the execution, Mr. Grossman expressed remorse and apologized to the family of Margaret "Peggy" Park.  He then recited the Shema, the core prayer of belief for Jews, and his final words were "Ahavos Yisroel"... an expression which links him with his fellow Jews, and one hopes was the fulfillment of Grossman's connection with God.  To have love for Israel comes in a package of having love of G-d and love of Torah.  With those latter two, comes the love of all of Israel.  May the blessings of the God of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob be on Martin Grossman and his family... as well as the family of Peggy Park.  Florida has created another victim, another victim's family.  God have mercy upon us. 

Monday, February 15, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day Birthday...some pictures

I am awaiting the photos that were taken by friends at my birthday party Saturday night. When they arrive, I will share. I know Gena took a really nice one of the Tiger on parade. These are some pictures I took of my "creative arts". Since this party was doubling as a fundraiser for noble queer causes (Queer As Faust, PFLAG-Tallahassee, and Integrity Uganda), and I had developed a silly survey on my invitation that at least 38 people filled out... I wanted to award my guests with some prizes. So... as an example... to those who answered my question about "What's the most pressing question facing the LGBT community today?", I drew the names of five people at the party... and they each received their very own "Do Ask, Do Tell" rainbow army!

The other exciting moment of the evening was the parading of my Chinese New Year tribute... my paper mache tiger head... or as I call it "The Tiger Dragon". Here's documentation of the effort.... before I attached the long red train, and gave the eyes some more color.

But probably the most important element of the party were the people, my friends, who joined with me to celebrate the day of my birth (even if we were doing it a little earlier than the actual Valentine's Day). A couple I knew years ago just happened to be in town, having escaped the snow in DC, and threw lots of party energy into the room... and another former Tallahassee couple actually drove over from Jacksonville to take part in my fundraising fete. And as I looked around the room at one moment, I was reminded of the time in my trauma training class in massage school when everybody put their hands on my back and I was to lean back and let them hold me. It was the most awesome feeling of support I'd experienced. And seeing so many faces in the room smiling and laughing and having fun, I appreciated again not only the feeling of support, but the feeling of love... an incarnated love... in the room.
My fundraising was a success, too! Altogether, my friends offered $1,100 for my three charitable causes. Not bad for 40 people... many of them with the same limited financial resources that I have! Truly, a marvelous occassion. Happy Birthday to me!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Lifting the Veil

OK... first things first: Happy Birthday to me! More on my birthday later when I can upload pictures. I had an awesome birthday party last night, and even with visions of dancing tigers in my head, my mind has landed back on the readings for this Sunday. And I'm jazzed that the readings are clearly connected together with the theme of putting on a veil, pulling back said veil... and the incredible transformation witnessed by only a few where Jesus is transfigured... a massive unveiling, and a brightness that would shine through any drape.
What immediately came to my mind when going through the readings was the thought of how we mask ourselves all the time. Depending on where we are, who we are with, I think many of us don't always show who we truly are because of fear. I know that's why I put on a veil.
But I do find it harder and harder to hide those things which are core to who I am. This includes being a lesbian, and being a lesbian who believes in Christ as God. As God continues to mold and shape me, I feel that part of what comes through is the brightness. Because God drives the darkness out.
And so I reflect back on a poem that I wrote in January 2008.

To be known is to allow all that is within you
to also live outside of you.
To remove the uniform, unveil the eyes.
To allow light into the shadows of your heart,
and air to flow freely through your body.
To be known is exposure of the soul
to a trust of universal love and unconditioned good.
To be seen in all beauty and imperfection and still deemed worthy.
To be known is redemption.
Step out into the light, and laugh out loud!

Happy Valentine's Day! I'll give y'all a full birthday report later today!!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Charlotte Rests After Another Surgery

For all who have been so wonderfully supportive of my friend Rev. Charlotte Cleghorn, this latest post came in this afternoon following the "clean up" surgery:
Greetings All,
I am propped up in bed looking at the snow beginning to fall and feeling a little groggy and very grateful that the sugery is over. Not surprisingl​y, I felt much better this morning as I arose at 5:00, an ungoldly hour for me but for some of you, your regular rising time. I took half of a valium which moved me to a more mellow place and off we went to Pardee for the procedure. I was interested as I looked at the other folks in the day surgery waiting room, in what each was having done this morning. It would have never occurred to me years ago that someone sittiing in day surgery would have breast cancer surgery or arthoscopic surgery or any of the surgeries that used to take days in the hospital. In 1972, I had knee surgery and was in the hospital of close to a week. In 2003 I had arthoscopic surgery on the other knee and was in and out in half a day. It is amazing what can be done these days in such a short period of time. Better to be home anyway than to be in the hospital!

Will read the affirmation​s again and Dr. Albers is such a perfectioni​st that after the incision was all closed, he noticed a little pucker. So, he asked Will to keep me under until he could fix it. It's a beautiful piece of artistry he did which I think must be a part of a surgeon's craft. I was reminded again this morning, as Betsy and I sat in my little room before the procedure, of how amazing it is that someone can be a surgeon!
So, we will hunker in as the snow falls-make a fire later, have soup brought by a friend and the medicinal Ben and Jerry's that just showed up from another friend and let the healing continue. I will see Dr. Albers next Thursday and the medical oncologist on March 5th. Then, I hope we will begin the radiation and keep moving towards full recovery.

She again expresses tremendous gratitude for the prayers and the love coming her way, especially having Betsy there with her through all of this. A nice reminder as we head into Valentine's Day weekend that having love in your life is probably the sweetest gift of them all.

Movement toward Forgiveness

As I said in an earlier post, I read with interest and a bit of trepidation, the apology from the Archbishop of Canterbury for his behavior and statements made about LGBT people of faith. I don't take it lightly when a man of his intellect uses the term "profoundly sorry." Intellectual people, people who spend most of their time living in their heads without remembering the heart that pumps the blood to the brain is in the same body... those folks are not the best "feelers" in the world. And so a phrase like "profoundly sorry", to my ears and heart, seems to be a genuine effort toward feeling remorse for what has occured in the past.
But as genuine as his effort is, in the same speech, the Archbishop made an unfortunate statement in regards to the difficulties presented by the consecration of a gay man as a bishop (+Gene Robinson) and what that does to a Christian in Malaysia (a country with a large Muslim population).

"The freedom claimed, for example, by the Episcopal church to ordain a partnered homosexual bishop is, simply as a matter of fact, something that has a devastating impact on the freedom of, say, the Malaysian Christian to proclaim the faith without being cast as an enemy of public morality and risking both credibility and personal safety. It hardly needs to be added that the freedom that might be claimed by an African Anglican to support anti-gay legislation likewise has a serious impact on the credibility of the gospel in our setting.”
OK... I DO get the tension that our actions in the United States might cause for someone in Malaysia, particularly since in Asia, there has been a rise in violence against Christians. But +Gene isn't the reason for that violence; hatred, fear, power-struggles, politics and anger at the Gospel are the reasons for that danger in Asia. All of those existed PRIOR to 2003, the year of his election and consecration. Likewise, the ABC equates the freedom of the Episcopal Church to consecrate a man who is truthful about his sexual orientation with the freedom of Ugandan Anglicans to support witch hunts and imprisonment of LGBT people for the crime of love? As a lesbian, that is the most insulting comparison of apples to oranges I've ever heard! Allowing faithful LGBT people called into ministry to follow the calling wherever God takes it doesn't jeopardize anyone else's life and liberty. Even those Christians living in hostile parts of the world. Remember, it's not +Gene that is at the center of the attacks on them; it's centuries old anger that makes being Christian a risky business.
So, in one part of his speech, the ABC says he is "profoundly sorry" for anything he might have said or done to exacerbate the wounding that has occured to LGBT people. And then he misses the boat--again--and insults us--again--in an effort to straddle the middle and maintain unity.

I have not forgotten that he has said he is "profoundly sorry". I want so to believe that he really is. I want to be in a place with the Archbishop where I can take his "profoundly sorry" into my being, and respond with "I forgive you." I want that type of relationship with all people, especially in the Church because the Church has been a source of deep pain for so many of us. I hear that pain expressed in the ugly words that emerge from the lips of my friends who proudly pronounce the death of God... which isn't about God, but about their own feelings of separation because the Church (usually Roman Catholic) has put up not just a stumbling block, but a concrete barrier in their path to understanding and knowing of God.

So, here's where I stand: I have heard the "profoundly sorry." And I am keeping that "profoundly sorry" in my heart. And there's room for many more such statements as evidenced by actions that I hope will come in the future.

I am confident in one thing: God is with both me and the Archbishop and all others as we keep moving in a direction that I hope will lead to a better, safer world for all of us as we come to believe in a kingdom where we are all equal.

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring,* heirs according to the promise.--Gal.3:28-29

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

It Has Come To This...

I'm so sorry, friends. I am going to have to turn on word verification for the comment section of this blog. I know that some people hate that, but I hate the amount of spam coming in even more. Hopefully, after a few weeks, the spammers who write in English, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, and whatever else will find another place to post their obnoxiousness.
Sigh! :(

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Archbishop Asks for Forgiveness

Across the pond, Anglicans are gathering for what they call their General Synod, and in his opening address, the Archbishop uttered words that are long overdue:
The debate over the status and vocational possibilities of LGBT people in the Church is not helped by ignoring the existing facts, which include many regular worshippers of gay or lesbian orientation and many sacrificial and exemplary priests who share this orientation. There are ways of speaking about the question that seem to ignore these human realities or to undervalue them; I have been criticised for doing just this, and I am profoundly sorry for the carelessness that could give such an impression.
You can read more about his statement to the Synod in the Times Online article HERE.
Needless to say, the fact that he is "profoundly sorry" for things he has done, or left undone, that have caused such widespread hurt is a phrase that stops me in my tracks. This apology requires a response. ++Rowan had, at one time, been a supporter of LGBT people and our place as members in the Body of Christ. But in recent years, as reactionary liars and thieves screamed that we were trying to take over the church and must be thrown out (or killed... depending on the level of rhetoric), the Archbishop has been mealy-mouthed, insulting and increasingly irrelevant as he has refused to call off the hounds hunting for our blood.
Now, he is "profoundly sorry". And if that's so, is it not reasonable for me to think that maybe, just maybe, he has done some meditating, praying, indaba listening, or a combination of all three to finally see LGBT members of the Communion as three-dimensional human beings who are loved by the creator as much as he is? Frankly, I am a little whelmed at his choice of words: 'profoundly sorry.'
OK... I'm beginning to see a pattern emerging.
A few weeks ago, I was left in a state of slackjawed awe as I experienced what can happen when I put it out there to God that anger is blocking my way to living fully in Christ. To be fully in Christ requires an acceptance of the forgiveness, grace and mercy that God is forever extending to us... and did so in the ultimate way through Jesus Christ. Once we accept that this is true, we are like Isaiah when the seraph touches the coal to his lips. Our guilt has departed and our sin is blotted out, and we are now fully in Christ able to live as forgiving people because we are forgiven.
Shortly after this experience came word that our diocese will host Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori at our convention next January. ++Katharine has been persona non grata in these parts because our bishop has made it clear on many occassions, "Of course, you know I didn't vote for her." Like ++Rowan, I don't know if Bishop Howard believed that by distancing himself from our national church leader would somehow score him points with those who had already left the Church in a huff. What does this mean, this decision to make ++Katharine our keynote speaker? I don't know, but this, too, has stopped me in my tracks and made me think that maybe, just maybe, there is something afoot here that is signaling a future of spring in Florida... even if it won't arrive until January 2011.
And so the question returns to me.
When one professes that one is 'profoundly sorry', and if I desire to enter into that state of being forgiving because I know in my bones that I have been forgiven, I must consider what the Archbishop is saying here. I'm going to give this matter some prayer. I think it needs that attention.

Preparations for A Party

Sunday, I will be turning 42. But since Sunday is Sunday... and Valentine's Day is never a good day to have a party... I will be gathering with friends the night before for revelry and raising the roof for good causes!

Yes, you read correctly... raising the roof for good causes. It is my choice and desire that my birthday take on a theme of breathing life into queer organizations that need as much help as they can get.

And so, this Saturday, I will be throwing a "Queer Carnival" celebrating my birthday, Mardi Gras, Valentine's Day, and the Chinese New Year all into one crazy, creative, costumed fete! The Chinese are celebrating the Year of the Tiger starting Feb. 14th... and so, provided the weather holds... we will take our tiger energy into the street and fearlessly proclaim the goodness and rightness of equality for all! I've been busy creating the Tiger head that we will carry along with our noisemakers. Pictures to be posted in the future! That's the fun part.

But what about gifts? Isn't that what birthdays are about? Yeah... sure. But I have been given lots of gifts already... ones that I feel inside the marrow of my bones. And so, with the money one would have spent on a gift of some extravagance... I'm asking my friends to put those dollars and cents into the donation jars for three excellent causes:

*Queer As Faust 3: the Mickee Faust Club's now annual gay pride festival during June. Our theatre troupe has put all our money into a major renovation project... and so QAF3 needs some seed money to afford to put on the programs we want to bring to Tallahassee.

*PFLAG-Tallahassee: our new little chapter that could is building momentum, but has a very meager bank account. We could use some extra cash to purchase materials, books and DVDs for our library.

*Integrity Uganda: talk about folks who need our help NOW! LGBT people in the African nation are living in fear as are those who want to bring services and affirmation of their worthiness to them. I'll have "Voices of Witness: Africa" playing in one room for people to see the folks they will be helping with their donations.

I was hoping to include some donations to Haiti, but sadly the group that was collecting on behalf of the gay community has chosen not to respond to requests for information. And past experience tells me that if someone won't respond to an email, or a phone call, they don't want the money. Sad, but there it is.

Meanwhile, the Integrity folks were all over my request for information. In fact, I received a very nice email proclaiming, "Thanks be to God for Susan!" Awww, shucks. :)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sweetness for the Saints

After winning the biggest game of his professional career by downing the Indianapolis Colts 31-17, I thought this image of Saints quarterback Drew Brees holding his son was wonderful. Brees was talking to his kid and and kissing his cheeks on national television. And the sportscasters on CBS were praising this moment of father-son bonding, something I found a tad surprising. Usually, if a guy, especially an athlete, shows sensitivity, people are quick to question their manliness... as if being a loving father is a "bad thing". So, it would seem, we had two firsts this evening: a first Super Bowl victory for the one-time hapless and hopeless New Orleans Saints, and a first moment of sports announcers praising a male athlete for showing tender affection.

It was a great game by the way. Very exciting and suspenseful. It wasn't clear that the Saints were going to pull this thing off. They started out down by ten points early on, and showing absolutely no "oomph" in their offense. But when the Saints began the second half of the game by using a bit of trickery, doing an on-side kick and recovering the ball, the momentum definitely shifted to their side. Then Tracy Porter's pick-off of a Peyton Manning pass that Porter ran in for a touch down, sealed the game for the Saints.
No doubt, the city of New Orleans is partying even more this evening... and they well deserve it. Even Grandmere Mimi at WOUNDED BIRD, who last Super Bowl was listening to opera, is feeling pretty good about Who Dat Nation tonight. After getting crushed so cruely by Hurricane Katrina, and the neglect of governmental leaders, New Orleans and the Gulf Coast of Louisiana needed something to bring them cheer. And that's really what sports is about. It's a business, but it's an entertainment business which, when the team is a winner, can make the mood of a city a little lighter and brighter.
Who Dat? Dem Saints who are marching in with a Super Bowl trophy! Congratulations, y'all. Well done!


I don't care what the pundits are saying, I don't care if people think Peyton Manning hung the moon, I don't care if the spread has the Colts by ten. GEAUX SAINTS! New Orleans needs a pick me up. This blog will be on hold for the next couple of hours to indulge in this slice of Americana. The offense be with you...

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Here Am I; Send Me

"Isaiah's Lips Anointed with Fire" by Benjamin West

Tomorrow's readings set for the Episcopal Church seem to have a basic theme, set in the First Reading from Isaiah Chapter 6. The prophet sees the Lord sitting on the throne, and the Seraphs are calling out praises to God... and Isaiah responds:
"Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!" Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: "Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out." Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I; send me!"

Ahh... that's the spirit (even if the going forth and speaking to the nation is not easy). This lesson is getting paired with the portion of Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians in which he recounts how the risen Christ appeared to the apostles... and finally to Paul, "the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them--though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me."
And finally, we get to the Gospel with the story of Jesus taking the boat out into the middle of the water to teach the crowds from there. He orders Simon to cast a net off the side. Simon protests, but Jesus insists, so he does it and--et voila--look at all that fish!

But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!" For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zeb'edee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people."
I'm struck in all of this-- Isaiah, Paul, and Simon Peter-- the progression goes from "I'm not worthy" to "Oh, yeah, you are! Get out there!" Sometimes, that's how it feels. Certainly, I've given a laundry list of reasons why I'm not the person to do (fill-in-the-blank), and then I inevitably find myself falling into place and doing whatever was the fill-in-the-blank.
Where this is becoming more of a wrestling match, however, is in the direction of my journey with God. In this relationship, I still think I resemble Isaiah from these readings... or Simon Peter. I feel for Paul because certainly I am guilty of making blanket statements of hate toward people who profess a belief in Christ. Now, here am I, one of those folks, and I live in a world with people who make blanket statements about "how Christians are..." and I find myself saying, "SOME 'c'hirstians" (the little 'c' because I can't accept anyone who preaches hatred as a person who really understands Christ.) And with each step I am taking in this journey, I find myself falling back on the "But I'm not worthy" line... only to be met with some "thing", a sign, a hymn, a prayer, that answers, "Oh, yeah, you are! Get out there!" I whine. I cry. But I somehow am still stepping forward. Am I a fisher of people? Possibly. Am I a prophet encountering insolent people? Sure seems like it sometimes. Am I alone in this? No. Never.
And when I make the greater steps forward, like that experience of what it is to seek forgiveness and the turnaround of feeling as though I could really be forgiving, I know in my core that my journey has moved miles, rather than mere inches. So I listen, even more carefully, to what I must do next in this walk. And it does feel like a walk now. It was a boat ride, but something tells me that I have been taken out of the boat and I am walking on new ground. And I have miles to go before me. Here am I. Send me.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Followers (not Admirers) of Jesus

Today in Washington, DC, a group of neo-conservative religious fundamentalists nicknamed "The Family" are gathering for their National Prayer breakfast. President Obama has been invited to address the group which raises a question: what will the President say on Uganda... given that Ugandan legislator David Bahati, the sponsor of the Anti-Homosexuality bill in his native country... reportedly will be in attendance. Author Jeff Sharlet has written a book on "The Family" and been interviewed on NPR and highlighted on MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show". In interviews, Sharlet has made it clear that "The Family" has been largely behind sowing the seeds of hatred toward the LGBT community in Uganda, and that David Bahati is one of the group's African disciples.

In response to this, there are groups in several cities that will be joining in an American Prayer Hour at the same time as the National Prayer breakfast to call for justice, mercy, compassion, love for LGBT Africans, especially in Uganda.

My Episcopal hero Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire says prayer is good, but be careful what you ask for in it. Speaking to the National Press Club, Robinson said:

"We have a duty to confront those who are praying for those things that would break God's heart... you can talk about Jesus all day long, but if you are not doing what Jesus would have you do, then it matters not. God save us from the admirers of Jesus!"

Amen to that!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Thoughts on "You Are Accepted"

I mentioned last week that a classmate in Education for Ministry had read a section of the materials aloud, a portion of a sermon by the theologian Paul Tillich entitled "You Are Accepted". He wrote this in 1946, on his 60th birthday, and in the margin wrote the words "to myself!":

"Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of meaninglessness and empty life. It strikes us when we feel our separation is deeper than usual, because we have violated another life, a life which we have loved, or from which we were estranged... It strikes us when, year after year, the longed for perfection of life does not appear, when old compulsions reign within us as they have for decades, when despair destroys all joy and courage. Sometimes at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying: "You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. Do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later. Do not try to do anything now; perhaps later you will do much. Do not seek for anything; do not perform anything; do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted."

I sat riveted listening to this. Tillich may have meant those words for himself. But what he is saying here about grace and salvation touched me more than a half-century later and captures what I have experienced to be true. It is enough in that moment when grace strikes to sit still and know that we've been tagged as the object of God's desire.

Not-so-good news from Charlotte

This in from North Carolina last night:

I feel like I am back on the roller coaster, or better, that I am on the mat again. The pathology report came back. I wasn't going to call and ask. Had decided to wait until Friday when I could take it in and ask any questions but Dr. Albers called me. I could tell that it wasn't all sweetness and light. Everything is fine on the right side. Sentinel nodes were clear and the margins were clear. The left side was a different story. The sentinel nodes were clear but the margins were not. There is still non-invasiv​e cancer in the area where the tumor was taken out so I have to go back into surgery to have more taken so we can get clear margins. The conversatio​n happened so quickly that I didn't get the details but I did get that we need to operate again on the left and take care of what stayed behind. The surgery will be day surgery, again, with nothing else but in and out-no tests, mammos, x-rays, etc. I will be at Day Surgery on Friday, Feb. 12 and the surgery will be at 7:30 AM. I'll be the first one in this time so no waiting-I hope.
I have to say that I know this is not uncommon and I know several people who have had to go back into surgery to get clear margins. And, again, I know it will be alright. But it was a blow nonetheless.​ When I hear the nodes were clear, I assumed (and that is the danger) that everything else was fine. It is such a roller coaster, again. So, as Yogi Barra would say, "it ain't over til it's over" and it ain't over.
I know I'll be okay. It just feels as if the CA isn't giving up without a fight, a word I didn't want to use. Maybe it isn't the right word but at the moment that is what it feels like. I am committed to doing what I need to do to take care of all that needs my attention. That needs to be my priority.
Thanks for your continued thoughts and prayers. CDC

Ugh!! I hate cancer! And today is her 61st birthday, so that's not much of a present to get for such an occassion. Prayers ascending for her and Betsy.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Boomerang Effect

More realizations, and another day of being grateful for this long, strange trip I'm on.

There were two lines that Charlotte had requested her anesthesiologist repeat to her frequently while she was undergoing surgery last Friday:

You are being healed in body, mind and spirit.
You are going to recover quickly and fully.

I repeated these words, silently, almost like a mantra as I placed my hands on the necks and backs of my clients during the day. And I knew that I was part of a large web of people all doing the same thing, in some form or fashion, to send healing energy to a friend. As I worked, what I became aware of was how these words were moving through me and then--amazingly--returning to me. Charlotte's desired affirmations for herself were going out to her and returning to me. Odd, in that I had no cancer and I'm not aware of anything that would require a quick and full recovery.

Unless we are talking about other wounding, that of the emotional or spiritual nature. I reflected on the forgiveness that I had experienced around her. And I'm aware that there are likely other places, other doors, other alcoves in my soul that contain "sins" of "the world" that will eventually require forgiveness. A paragraph in our EfM materials really leaped out at me as I read it last night:

What does it mean to rise with Christ? Often Paul comments on the fact that Christ, the Risen One, should have appeared graciously to the one who had persecuted him. It was clear that to meet the Risen One was also to be forgiven. What then does it mean to be committed to that risen Christ? Inevitably it means committing oneself to forgiveness as a basis for living, and so to living not only as forgiven, but also as forgiving (cf. Matt 18:23-25). For those who identify with Christ, it is not enough to wrestle with the world's evil simply in obedience; they must also wrestle it in forgiveness, since they know that they are forgiven.--Education for Ministry, Year Two, NT, pg. 306
I have been immersed into that feeling of being forgiven and hence able to live as forgiving. Having my heart cleared then allowed for me to fully connect with Charlotte and her loving community of friends and family in such a way that the prayers were going out from me and, like a boomerang, returning to me. It reminded me of lines in Isaiah 55:

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.


And what of my clients? They reported feeling "amazed" at their massages on Friday... amazed in ways that were beyond what they normally experience. I've left a copy of the affirmations on the shelf with my shea butter at my office. Perhaps they'll become as much of a part of my routine as holding a client's head in my hands.

Protesting Obnoxious Protestors

This counter-protest of the Westboro Baptist Church outside the Twitter headquarters in San Francisco is hilarious and very much in the tradition of Tallahassee's Mickee Faust Club. We, at Faust, have often joked about standing at one of our busy intersections and holding up protest signs of randomness as a joke. You can read more about this mockery of the morons HERE.

Thanks to Phoebe for passing this along!