Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day: Make it Memorable

Over the past few days, a couple of significant actions occurred that are positive for the LGBT community. One was the President's declaration that June is LGBT Pride Month (OK, so we all knew that to be true, but we haven't had the White House officially recognize us this way ever before!). The more important and significant event was the vote in Congress to repeal the seventeen-year-old Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy that has resulted in hundreds of servicemen and women being forced out of the military because of their sexual orientation.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 229-186 to adopt the defense spending measure that contains language repealing DADT... and the Senate's Armed Services Committee voted 16-12 for an amendment which will begin the procedure of repealing DADT after the Defense Department completes a study in December of this year. Senate Republicans, most notably Vietnam veteran John McCain, are threatening to filibuster the bill and prevent it from a vote before the Congressional recess in July.

Putting the politics aside, what this is about is service. Service to country, in this case. I am not sure what motivates a person to want to join the military. I wanted to be in the Navy ROTC in college, until I actually spoke with an officer at the University of Kansas campus. That's all I needed to be convinced that me, and military service, would not be compatible. But there are those who feel called to enter the armed forces... either because they feel it is a duty or they see it as the type of structured environment that can give them a purpose in life. Whatever it is, this drive to serve is not restricted to straight Americans, and the ridiculous ban on LGBT people in the military... where they can serve, but only if they keep silent on their sexual orientation... has cost our country in losing really talented soldiers at a time when we need them. That's what Lt. Dan Choi, the decorated West Point graduate, proved when he was dismissed under the policy. And there are many others like him.

As I think about this Memorial Day, I offer prayers for those who are currently serving both here and in foreign nations. I think about their families and how they live with the uncertainty of the safety of those in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan. I pray that God is with them and will continue to move us to the day that we solve our conflicts in ways that do not result in putting our troops in dangerous situations.

At the same time, as countless people will talk about our soldiers "defending freedom", I pray for the Republicans and Democrats and President and Pentagon to simply get on with repealing DADT. Because there is something repugnant to me about asking a young man or woman to defend freedom when they themselves are not free, and (depending where they're from) may live in a state where, even as a civilian, they face obstacles in being truly free.

The Book of Common Prayer offers prayers for those serving in our Armed Forces. But it also has a prayer for those who Suffer for the Sake of Conscience, which includes these lines:

...when they are accused, save them from speaking in hate; when they are rejected, save them from bitterness; when they are imprisoned, save them from despair; and to us your servants, give grace to respect their witness and to discern the truth, that our society may be cleansed and strengthened.

As long as DADT is allowed to stand and military personnel are expelled for being "non-straight", I believe our LGBT troops are in need of the above words as well as those where we call on God to "defend them day by day with your heavenly grace." Hopefully, this will be the last Memorial Day where the gay servicemen and women in our military will have to remain in the closet.

We remember those who have given up their lives for the people of this nation. That's all people, and the soldiers themselves have come from the gay and straight population. It is time to stop making some of our troops suffer in conscience while patrolling for freedom.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Oneness in Trinity

My mentor over in Alabama says that Trinity Sunday is one of those dates on the calendar of the church where a rector who is fortunate to have an assistant punts the sermon to second banana with a "Have a good time trying to explain THAT to the masses!" Since officially our rector at St. John's is the Bishop, that means he has tasked the Canon to be our guest preacher for Trinity Sunday. We'll see what happens.

I've been pondering what to make of all this Trinitarian stuff... while also acknowledging that today, we celebrated the first Book of Common Prayer by Thomas Cranmer, which any Episcopalian will tell you is a literary masterpiece of such magnitude that even the Holy Bible quotes the BCP! (Yes, I'm kidding. I am shocked by how often I have to explain that joke!!). And we praise this wonderful moment in church history amidst the continued fall-out from the Archbishop's Pentecost letter. And the continued bad news about the oil billowing up to the surface in the Gulf of Mexico.

Which, in the muddled up world of my mind, seems to all fit very well with the concept of the Trinity. Multi-dimensional, amazing God whose light must continue to shine through the darkness and dreary despair of our human doings. No wonder our Christian outlook says that the God who is Father is also the Son and is also the Holy Spirit. We need God to be that expandable and interchangeable and incredible to help us deal with our mess!

Strangely, I have found that the song which is repeating itself in my head today isn't a church hymn but rather a hymn from the legendary reggae artist Bob Marley. In its own language, it was speaking to me about what is meant in the Gospel of John about the "truth" that will be with all.

One love, one heart. Let's get together and feel all right.

For me, on this eve of Trinity Sunday, I'm not so worried about trying to "understand" the Trinitarian nature of God. I think to keep trying to parse out the Trinity and "understand" it leads to madness. Or, to put it in Biblical terms, takes us back to the story of Adam and Eve and that desire to have our ways be God's ways... and our thoughts, God's thoughts. Perhaps that is the problem with the Archbishop and the CEO of BP. God looks so good when God looks exactly like us and wants exactly what we want!

But God is a trinity... and so will appear differently for what is needed. Still one love. Still one heart. Still one God.

Will we feel that presence when we consider God as our creator, our redeemer and our sustainer? Will we allow God to be all that and more for us?

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Blogs Are Burning

Well, well, well. The Archbishop of Canterbury has really done it this time!
In yet-another-misguided-missive from the ABC, ++Rowan is seeking a "new Pentecost". Trouble is, his idea of a new Pentecost is one in which the likes of the Episcopal Church are not exactly kicked out. But we are told that we must sit quietly in the corner while those who ++Rowan "likes" will get to call all the shots. Here's the paragraph:
...when a province through its formal decision-making bodies or its House of Bishops as a body declines to accept requests or advice from the consultative organs of the Communion, it is very hard (as noted in
my letter to the Communion last year after the General Convention of TEC) to see how members of that province can be placed in positions where they are required to represent the Communion as a whole. This affects both our ecumenical dialogues, where our partners (as they often say to us) need to know who it is they are talking to, and our internal faith-and-order related groups.

I am therefore proposing that, while these tensions remain unresolved, members of such provinces - provinces that have formally, through their Synod or House of Bishops, adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion and recently reaffirmed by the Standing Committee and the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) - should not be participants in the ecumenical dialogues in which the Communion is formally engaged. I am further proposing that members of such provinces serving on IASCUFO should for the time being have the status only of consultants rather than full members.

For expert analysis and commentary, I recommend Preludium, Stone of Witness, and Of Course, I Could Be Wrong. And I agree with frdougal: We should go back to our American Revolutionary roots and declare, "No taxation without representation." The Lambeth Conference isn't quite the same party without our financial support. If we are going to get sent to bed without our supper, we should refuse to pay for anyone else's meal. I'm sure our financial resources could be better spent helping the poor, the friendless, and the needy in places such as Haiti, Cuba... or even on the streets in our own country.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Prayers and Medical Updates

It has been a long while since you've heard me talk about my friend Rev. Charlotte Dudley Cleghorn. Good news! She has completed her radiation treatments for breast cancer, and all seems to have gone very well. The nurses and doctors even gave her a certificate commending her for tolerating their "cold hands, hard tables, and busy schedules". I think it's sweet that they "graduated" her from treatment! Now, she and Betsy can prepare for a long-since planned trip to Taos, New Mexico. Charlotte writes:

I will take a week or so off to let the skin heal and then I will begin the five year regimen of an estrogen blocker. I will be taking Arimadex which is a newer drug. The major side effect is aching joints so I will pay attention to how that is and let my oncologist know when I see him at the end of June. Five years from June, I'll have completed the whole regimen. From now on I will have bi-yearly mammograms or MRI's, probably alternating because the left side tumor never showed up on the mammogram. The MRI will give a more in-depth view of the area....
My sense is that I am coming to the end of these postings. I will give an update at the end of June after I see the surgeon, the oncologist and the radiation oncologist for check-ups. I cannot tell you how incredible it has been for Betsy and for me to have this site and this way of being in touch with and you with us. Your prayers, your thoughts, your postings have sustained us both during this ordeal and words can hardly express how grateful we are. I have learned so much about the joy and necessity of being connected to others.

And the heavenly chorus sings, "Hallelujah! Glory to God for such joy!"

Meanwhile, my friend's mom, Gloria, has gone back into the hospital. She was having quite a bit of difficulty at home, and it turns out her sodium levels had plummeted. She is making some progress, but the concern is that there might be some cancer still in the kidney that has caused this latest problem. Please continue to pray for her.

Last week, I ran into a friend of mine who I primarily knew through her late husband. Marc's body finally just gave out from having MS, and he passed away a little over a year ago. Now his widow, Mo, is dealing with one stroke of bad luck after another(a fire, and a bad contractor)... while still coping with the loss of her soulmate. Pray for her, too.

Finally, two of my male friends, Frank and Jeff, each had heart attacks and were informed just how lucky there were to live to tell the tale. Frank, being himself and a member of the Mickee Faust Club, had called my cellphone because mine was the number he could remember while he was in the hospital to tell me what was happening. More importantly, he wanted me to know that he was upstaging our head rat, Terry, who was in recovery from the cochlear implant surgery! I haven't heard much more from Frank except that he has been told no more drinking and no more smoking. Jeff, who had broken his knee in a fall before the heart attack and was dehydrated and going into renal failure, is getting around with a little more ease. And Terry is finally starting to come out of her hazy painful state, but tires easily from having this foreign object in her head. For all of my friends, please offer prayers of support and good health... and no more hospital time.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"The Sun Will No More Be Your Light By Day"

The clouds were pretty thick when I arrived at the entrance to the labyrinth. I wasn't sure if I was going to get soaked in a down pour, so I wore an over shirt. All trips into the labyrinth require me to first stand before the statues that flank the opening of this maze cut into the grass. I soften my gaze and wait for what I am to contemplate on my walk. Normally, I've had some interesting phrase to ponder. But this time, as I stood before the statues, I felt they weren't going to give me some pithy thing to ponder. Instead, one of them seemed to encourage me to breathe deeply and exhale with a "Haaaaaa". The other... sensing my concern with the question, "Do you love me?" snapped back at me, "Do you?"
On the walk, I acknowledged my fears. How a simple question like, "Do you love me?" can cause me to tremble in my soul. As I focused on my fears, the wind began to pick up and I could hear the piercing peals of peacocks on the adjacent Paynes Prairie echoing overhead. At one point, a butterfly landed on my arm forcing me to slow way down so as to not disturb it. It stayed with me for a couple of steps, opened its wings to reveal the black and orange pattern, and then flew away.
I reached the center of the labyrinth and took a seat on the SSW corner of the stone altar. I pulled out my Bible from my backpack and re-read the end of John 21 starting at verse 15. I just sat with that. And as I did, my mind went to reviewing my history with this particular spot.
I chose to attend Florida School of Massage in large part because I wanted to escape from Tallahassee where I had become "famous". Everyone knew me from my reporting on the radio. But I wanted to be incognito. I wanted to be anonymous. I wanted to be a nobody, where no one knew my name.
As I sat there, again, with that thought, the clouds broke up and I found myself almost directly under the sun. The heat of the rays made me strip off the over shirt. I remembered the story of Jonah, sulking when God refused to destroy Nineveh, and gave Jonah a shade bush... only to cause it to wither and die, leaving Jonah exposed to the sun. A new thought arose in my mind:
"Know you?? Who knows you?!"
This is answered in Jeremiah 1:5:

Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you.

And from here I made it back to the question that had so troubled me about whether I love this God. Answer: Yes, I do. Because God knows me only too well, and I have known God.

Next came the trickier part: follow me. I looked back at the exit from the labyrinth... which of course was the same way I had come in. Again, the light of the sun was hitting it so strong that with the breeze blowing the tall grasses, there was a bit of a shimmer. And I remembered the passage from Morning Prayer, the Third Song of Isaiah:

The sun will no more be your light by day;
by night you will not need the brightness of the moon.
The Lord will be your everlasting light,
and your God will be your glory.

I headed back out. As I walked, I wondered if I was really alone on this trek and I got the sense that I wasn't. That, in fact, there were hundreds with me. Only they weren't behind me, but in front of me. My feet were retracing the steps that so many others have taken as they pondered, wrestled with, discerned, panicked, but ultimately did not desert their faith in God.

At the end of the walk were the statues there to encourage me. Time to laugh. Time to smile. And know that all will be well.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

"Do you love me?"

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.’(He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’--John 21: 15-19

I'm on my way to Gainesville today to revisit the labyrinth at the Florida School of Massage. It is, as some might describe it, a "thin place": a spot where I believe one stands in-between the worlds and where God's presence can be felt strongly. That has been my experience anyway. I have known only one other place where I have felt that presence so profoundly and that is in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Unfortunately, they are more than a 2-1/2 hour drive away, so I am happy to have easier access to the labyrinth at FSM.

As I go, I am carrying with me in my head this passage from John 21. It was the gospel lesson last Friday at noon day. And I found myself hyper-aware of the question posed to Simon Peter there on the beach: "Do you love me?"

What I realize is that this exchange, while presented as a report from John on the dialogue between Jesus and Peter, is really the eternal question being posed to me and each of us. And if we answer, as Peter did, that we do love Jesus, then we are to feed and tend his sheep. But that's not all that Jesus said. It's the next part that made me grip the edges of the bench where I sat listening to Father Lee Graham's homily. That part about, "When you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go." This is the warning to Peter that he will die by crucifixion. But, as I heard it and have had it playing back over and over in my head, it is the caution to me that an answer of "Yes" and an act of "tending and feeding" means that my will won't be done, but thy will. No longer will I get to do as I pleased.
Is this what is meant by being a "slave to Christ", St. Paul?

Time to go.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pentecost 2010

This was a long day.

Our Pentecost service lasted close to two hours in large part because we had 24 people being baptized, confirmed, reaffirmed and received into the Church. That's a lot!! So, let it be known that the reports of the death of the Episcopal Church... and St. John's Tallahassee... are greatly exaggerated.

I don't have a whole lot to say since I've already said quite a bit in previous entries about what I believe this time should be telling us, and instructing us to do. But just reflecting on today, there was something special about seeing all these people taking their own steps along a spiritual journey. At one point, I could feel myself becoming emotional as we recited the Baptismal Covenant, and acknowledging how I am joined in relationship with all these other people through a common belief in this wacky Trinity. And knowing that this God is moving, shifting, changing, reshaping, and reforming me continuously. I remain a work-in-progress. We'll see where it's going.

"Feed my sheep" and "Breathe on me, breath of God" seem to figure prominently.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Today would have been the 80th birthday of San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk, the first openly-gay man elected to a political office in the United States. Milk was a trailblazer and wasn't afraid to stir things up. And his life ended prematurely when Dan White shot him and Mayor George Moscone on November 27, 1978. Milk had only been in office for 11-months, but in that time, he had championed the change that was coming in San Francisco by passing ordinances that protected the LGBT community. And he had given a previously politically vulnerable group a seat at the proverbial table. This during the hey day of anti-gay crusader Anita Bryant.
Dan White was not convicted of first-degree murder because his lawyer successfully convinced a jury of mostly Roman Catholics (gays and other minorities weren't seated) that White had a "diminished capacity" from the stress of having resigned his position as a City Supervisor. Well, that and all that junk food he'd been eating. When the verdict was announced, a march from the Castro to City Hall resulted in a riot with people hurling rocks and burning police cars. According to one report, a journalist asked a rioter why they were attacking City Hall. The person wryly replied, "Tell 'em we ate too many Twinkies!!"
On this historic day, in Fulton, MS, the seniors at Itawamba Agricultural High School were graduating amidst protests from the truly offensive and off-the-wall Westboro Baptist Church. The rural high school had been in the news because the school canceled the prom to prevent one student, Constance McMillen, from wearing a tux and bringing her girlfriend to the dance. Fred Phelps' hateful group wanted to be on hand to remind all attending the ceremony that they believe gays belong in Hell. Their protest was a moot point. McMillen didn't walk with her classmates; instead, the Associated Press reports that she has transferred to an undisclosed high school in the state capital city and will graduate in two weeks.
These moments in the timeline of LGBT history intersect at an important and pivotal moment in the history of the church... and the calendar of all Episcopalians. We have arrived at Pentecost and the Holy Spirit is coming to blow down the barriers that keep people from hearing one another... and bring a common language of God into the mouths of many. Not everybody accepted that it was true (brushing off the whole thing as ranting by a bunch of drunkards). But many more were in awe and stunned that they were hearing God's word in a way that they could understand it. For this moment, there was a peace across the divided lines.
Ultimately, I believe that is what both Harvey Milk and Constance McMillen and countless others of the "others" look to as the future we want. A time when, despite being different, we all can speak a common language that reflects the Love that lights the world on fire. Differences, while still there, don't serve as barriers because our common denominator, Love, lays down the bridge. This is my hope, any way.
Come, Holy Spirit, make it so.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Odds and Ends

As I am coming to the end of this week, I am reflecting on those things I have left UNsaid, if not UNdone.

I have not talked about the environmental, ecological, economical disaster that is occurring in the Gulf of Mexico because... well... what can I say? The greed is so apparent, the result of that greed is so catastrophic, and the failure of the CEO of British Petroleum to really understand that this isn't a "little leak" in a "large ocean" just leaves me speechless. BP has given $25 million to Florida, so we can promote tourism. As Isabelle and I were discussing this "donation", we figured the best use of the money would be to advertise "working vacations" and have the tourists help clean up the oil on our beaches... and our wildlife.

I have also remained mum on the George Rekers story. Who? You mean, you don't know about the homophobe our Attorney General, Howdy Doody, hired to defend the hateful gay adoption ban?! Well, it turns out that "Dr." Rekers, who is a champion of "curing" gay people and sits on the boards of many of most virulently anti-gay groups, hired a male escort for a trip to Europe... to "carry his bags" (and offer him "sexual" massages). "Carry his bags": I wonder if that's the queer euphemism for "hiking the Applachain Trail". Any way our Republican Attorney General, who aspires to be Governor, personally picked and paid Rekers $122,000 for his crackerjack testimony... which concluded that not only were gays unfit to be adoptive parents (because we're all drunks and drug addicts), but Native Americans were also questionable (for the same reason). Needless to say, the judge in the Miami court wasn't sold on that argument. And now, with this scandal reaching the New York Times, I can only hope that this "wrecker" of lives with his lies under oath will be shamed into obscurity. Equality Florida is demanding that the taxpayers' dollars that bought his bogus testimony be refunded. That would be nice. I'd also like the money back from the other loon the state called in to testify in defense of an indefensible position on adoption. And then I'd like to see the state save lots of money on foster care by ending this ridiculous ban and allowing children to go to homes of LGBT couples who would love them, and give them a permanent home!

And finally, back to the main purpose of this blog being a place for me to explore, examine and express my faith. As such, I ask your prayers for the gay couple in Malawi, Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, who were sentenced to fourteen years in prison and hard labor because they defied the laws of that country, and celebrated their engagement to be married. Such horrible examples of homophobia outside the United States are a reminder of how our struggles here, as difficult as they are sometimes, are not as dangerous as what is happening elsewhere. Human Rights groups are condemning this sentence and vowing to fight on. But political and church leaders are remaining silent. This doesn't surprise me, but it does sadden me. So not only am I seeking the love of God to be with these two men in this terrible period and to rule over Malawi and bring that nation to a new understanding... I am also sending my prayers up to God that all people in positions of authority recognize the importance of looking out for the meek, the lowly, the friendless, the prisoners. Please God: help! Help! Help!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Gifts and Preparation for Pentecost

I am feeling quite a bit of anticipation for this coming Sunday.

Not because of the visit of our Assistant Bishop Charles Keyser.

Not because we have 25 confirmations, baptisms, reaffirmations, receptions scheduled (and that's just for the 11:15 service!)

And not just because it is Pentecost, and we'll be "painting the Church red" as it were.

All those things together are great... on an intellectual level. But I find my heart is stirring because, in this celebration of that wacky moment in the upper room when the Holy Spirit lit a fire in the mouths (and under the butts) of everybody to get out there and tell everyone, "Yo! It's Good News time!"... I have a sense of the here and now.

What if this is really still happening? What if, in the re-telling of our ancestral story, we are rekindling that flaming moment in our own 21st century lives? Could it not be true that such wild and crazy stuff continues... if we just sit still and allow ourselves to be moved by it?

Perhaps, this is the purpose of having the Ephesians readings as part of the Daily Office. I was reflecting on this passage from yesterday:

But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it is said,
‘When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive;
he gave gifts to his people.’
When it says, ‘He ascended’, what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things. The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love. --Ephesians 4: 7-16

What I heard in this passage is a call to examine ourselves and to see what it is that we contribute to the promotion of this growing body. Because we are all contributors, especially if we live as people of love and freedom. And, with Sunday coming, those gifts that we have will become the ones that get set ablaze to be the light that we carry out into a sometimes dark, murky, messed-up world. Get ready to give the gift!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Preparing to Enter the Ring

In a recent exchange with my mentor, I was talking about the practice of daily Morning Prayer and I likened it to being like a boxer who, after getting pounded, goes to the corner where the trainer pours water on the head and gives guidance on how to get back into the center and hold up against the blows of the opponent and land a few good ones for a knock out, too.

I am the boxer. God is the trainer. The Scriptures are the guidance. Ding! Ding! Ding! Go!!

I got a good dose of that, I felt, this morning when reading the passage from Ephesians:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.--Ephesians 3:14-19
"The breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge..." Those words remind me of a song that Brian Eno and David Byrne have on the album "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts". They recorded a preacher who was paraphrasing the Psalmist:
"He's so low you can't get under him! He's so high you can't get over him! He's so wide you can't get around him! If you make your bed in Heaven, He's there! If you make your bed in Hell, He's there! He's EVERYWHERE!"

And, for some reason on this day, that infinity of God and that unbounded Love was just the statement I needed to enjoy my day, half of which was spent with my partner. Besides our lunch date, what we did was pretty pedestrian. We did some food shopping, went to the bank, stopped by my office to unload some clean sheets, and then just chilled at home. In the back of my mind, I thought, "This is the way to show forth our love for one another. Just enjoy being together, without an agenda." In many respects, I think this might be how God sees us, too. Sometimes, it just feels nice to enjoy the time together without needing to put on a show of love because the love simply is. All we have to do is chill, and let it be in our hearts.

A Date Worth Noting

I have some thoughts brewing and stirring in my head. But above all else, I am thankful on this day for the nineteen years that I have shared with my partner, the French-Texan Isabelle. As one friend noted on Facebook:
"Pas une petite affaire dans l'adversité, félicitations" (No small affair in adversity, congratulations)
To celebrate, we ate lunch at Waterworks... a place I used to frequent when it was at its previous location a few blocks from the state capitol building. It was a treat to have the Capri (an eggplant sandwich with fresh basil and mozzarella). Isabelle had fish 'n chips. And all was good!

Tonight is Erev Shuvuot at Temple Israel... commemorating the day the Jews received the Torah at Mount Sinai. Isabelle is facilitating a discussion, so we won't have an evening together. But we'll have some tea before she heads off... and I'll take advantage of the quiet in the house to finish composing my thoughts for a couple more entries. In the meantime, happy 19 years of unmarried, non-state-sanctioned bliss to us!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Blown Open

It happened again.
I'm in church, minding my own business, paying attention to the readings, and then--WHAM-- a portion of the lesson from Acts grabs me by the shirt collar and makes me sit up and take notice.
When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, "These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe." The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were unfastened.--Acts 16: 20-26

We go on to learn that the jailer, who was so distraught by this freeing act that he was going to kill himself, instead has himself and his family baptized and became believers in "The Way".

The part that caught my attention was this idea that Paul and Silas, who were praying and singing hymns to God as they sat bloodied and in prison, witness the earthquake that was "so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken". And, in that moment as I sat in the pew, it was as if there were a thousand bells ringing. Had my ears just heard what I thought I had heard? Two faithful guys were trapped in a prison. They turned their hearts and minds over to God... and God responds full-force to free them from their bondage. And in that process, makes a new believer out of the very person in charge of keeping them held hostage. The scene reminded me of the Easter hymn:

He is risen, he is risen
Tell it out with joyful voice
He has burst his three days' prison
Let the whole wide earth rejoice:
death is conquered, we are free,
Christ has won the victory.

And while this moment is related as a physical breaking of bondage, I couldn't help but see this as a metaphor for the freeing of one's mind. So many of the "prisons" we find ourselves in are ones of our own making. And as I sat with that thought, along comes the reading of the Luke gospel from Ascension Day... which was last Thursday...

Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." --Luke 24: 45-49

Here again--WHAM--"he opened their minds to understand the scriptures". And why? Because he is about to leave them, this time really leave them, and he needs them to be ready to carry on the work which he began, and he can't afford to have them held prisoner to believing that it is not within their ability to go on, and teach others "the way".

This remains true to this day. As we get closer and closer to Pentecost, the time when God appears for Act III as the Holy Spirit, we are (or should be) preparing to take all that we have been given, all that we have been taught, and get out there in the world knowing and living as people of freedom, people who have known, touched and tasted Love, who can offer those things to other people. At its root, this is what the twelve apostles who knew Jesus, and Paul who knew the resurrected Christ, were really doing. They were being the embodiment of "the way". And that embodiment means that their minds and hearts were blown open... and will be filled with "the love and knowledge of God and of his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord."

Let's try to live in the same way.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

There Are NO Outcasts

Diane Bruce and Mary Glasspool share a moment of mutual support. From the LA Times.

The Diocese of Los Angeles made history with the consecration of its first two female bishops, one of whom is a partnered lesbian.

And, as predictable as the Tallahassee summer being unbearably hot and humid, the heat and humidity of stupidity is rising elsewhere in the Anglican Communion. There are forecasts of frogs and plagues coming from those who describe themselves as "Anglo-Catholic, Evangelical, Orthodox, Charismatic, Mainstream" (aka Anglican Mainstream) who see this as the death knell for the Anglican Communion. And I say, "Blah, blah, blah."

Reports from the service in Long Beach are that some 3,000 people were in attendance to witness this new life in the Church. Two people had to be removed from the arena, a man and a young boy, both of whom decided to use the moment to spout off the 1 Corinthians 6:9 passage about "homosexuals shall not inherit the kingdom of Heaven." My bible doesn't actually say that, but apparently some have decided to translate Paul's Greek to reveal that he acquired a term that didn't appear until centuries later. When the official moment in the service came for people to raise an objection, the arena was silent. And LA Diocesan Bishop Jon Bruno could continue.

"Today, as we pray over these two magnificent women, bring into your hearts those things that you bear against any other human being and cast them away... For we cannot be separated from each other if God is for us and with us. . . . There are no outcasts."

It was former Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning who originally used that phrase "there are no outcasts." And the Episcopal Church has been battling, struggling, crying, and praying its way to actually live into those words for the past several decades. Saturday's ceremony was another growth spurt as the whole Church moves more and more in the direction of seeing Christ in each other, whatever "other" that happens to be.

Bishop Suffragan Mary D. Glasspool, the lightening rod in all of this, didn't speak to the media on Saturday, but did take part in a news conference the day before. She notes that the inclusion of women and gays in the hierarchy of the church is a sign that the Episcopal Church isn't about lip service.

"We are being the church we say we are," Glasspool said. "We're not just saying it, we're doing it and there's something very powerful about that."

Amen, my sister in Christ! And congratulations to you and +Diane Bruce!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Reflections on Victory And The Journey Ahead

People waiting in the Leon Co. Commission Chambers for HRO hearing. Photo by Phil Sears.
Many of us are just coming down from Cloud Nine after the achievement of passing a Human Rights Ordinance that covers many people who work, live and play in our county, including the LGBT community. As I reflect back on Tuesday night, and look forward into the fall, there are some things that keep rising to the top of my "stuff we still need to work on" list.

As noted at our PFLAG meeting last night, we all must be concerned about the upcoming elections in August and November. Three of our majority (John Dailey, Bob Rackleff, and Cliff Thaell) all face opposition in the coming months who are determined to crush them and repeal the ordinance. I mean, our foes bought a private plane to circle around the County Courthouse Tuesday afternoon flying a message: "Dailey and Thaell: Vote Yes and You're Out!" Now's the time for people standing on the side of love and freedom to not quibble amongst ourselves, but to put the power of our feet, our wallets and our votes into the singular effort to retain these three members of the commission. And if we can pick up another sure vote by unseating the ones against us, great!

For me, the next bit of education has to begin with ending the use of the term "lifestyle" or "lifestyle choice" to describe someone who is openly-gay. Being a person of lesbian orientation is NOT a lifestyle or lifestyle choice: it is my life. My lifestyle choices would be that I prefer to drink my coffee black, to wear 100% cotton clothing in summer, cut my hair short so I don't melt in the Tallahassee heat, attend church regularly, act with a troupe of adults who are silly and wear balloon ears and call themselves Faustkateers, etc. etc. My life is that which I believe began at my birth. The knowledge and the understanding of that life I believe began well before that. And it is the essence of my being. Dismissing my life as a lifestyle, as if it were something I tried on one day and thought it fit well, is insulting. Sadly, it is not just my opponents who use that term, but a number of my friends... even LGBT people... who have succumbed to using that term. Let's practice: it's a life, not a lifestyle.

In that same vein, I heard a disturbing trend threading through the testimony on Tuesday night. Many of the speakers in favor of the ordinance wanted to take on our opposition full force and in their face. Since the opposition was claiming and proclaiming their "christianity", some of our proponents took the bait, and fired back: "If you think homosexuality is a choice, how about your religion?! That's a choice, too, and you're protected. You chose to be religious." Trouble is, fighting with fundementalists over whether they "chose" to be religious goes nowhere. Some believe that they did NOT choose Christ; Christ choose them. Another way of saying it: God knew us from the beginning, and we were made in the image of God. So trying to make that kind of "choice" argument is pointless... especially with folks who don't want to listen to you anyway.

And it raises for me that feeling of loneliness of being an "other" within my own "other" set. I left religion out of my comments Tuesday night because it wasn't pertinent to what I was going to say. Instead, as with most things in my life, I kept my religious beliefs in my heart... and was routinely tapping into them to keep from becoming mean. I don't think religion and faith of any sort, and particularly faith in Christ, is bad. It is actually very good. But it can become bad in practice.

The whole reason I started this blog two-and-a-half years ago was to deal with this weird awakening I was having as a member of the Body of Christ... and to square that with being gay in an LGBT community that was hostile to Christianity. During this ordinance process, I was again seeing the same struggles of "us" vs. "them" and feeling pained that neither side could see past the labels. That's why when Commissioner Cliff Thaell in his closing comments noted that we have an environmental disaster looming in the Gulf of Mexico, and it would behoove us to be thinking as "We" rather than "us and them" to deal with a serious and big issue, I was glad. I couldn't agree more! But beyond that, I find myself having to recommit to being the incarnation of a Christian to my queer community and the queer in the pews for my Christian community.

I look forward to the day when I can be a human with both groups!

MY Question About "The" Consecrations...

Integrity USA sent out a call for its membership to feed them one question, any question, we'd like to see asked and answered at a news conference before the scheduled consecrations of Rev. Canon Diane Bruce and Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool as the first female Bishops in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Bishop Jon Bruno will be on hand at the news conference.
Donning my reporter cap, I posed the following thought-provoking and urgent question:

What took you so long?!

Congratulations to Rev. Canon Diane Bruce and Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool, and to the Diocese of LA. I will raise a glass in your honor on Saturday.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that as we believe your
only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended
into heaven, so we may also in heart and mind there ascend,
and with him continually dwell; who lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
--Collect for Ascension Day

COMMENT: I think this is the essence of the idea: "And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil." May we strive to treat one another as the incarnation of the Divine, and continually being stewards of our world. In this way, our hearts and minds remain lifted up and not mired in the muddiness of meanness.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


What a night!! After almost five hours of public testimony, attempts at last minute changes, and many years of hard work... the Leon County Commission voted 5-2 Tuesday night to adopt a Human Rights Ordinance that bans discrimination on the basis of traditionally protected classes such as race, sex, disability and religion... and now adds to it gender expression, gender identity and sexual orientation.
I cried. I didn't think I would, but as this reality hit me, that a growing majority of the Leon County Commission was willing to go on record to support an ordinance that protects minority persons from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation, I couldn't help but cry a little. Times have changed from when I first moved to this community twenty years ago. We used to have to beg to have a proclamation from local government for Gay Pride Week... and even when we finally got it, the city commissioners would only agree to call it "Pride Week" because to call it "gay pride" would somehow cause a problem. Our Gay Pride committees would plan our big celebrations to occur in remote locations because the LGBT community was afraid to be seen. Hell, art students didn't want the local paper to photograph their paintings because then "people at the FSU Art School will know I'm gay!" (Freakin' art school?!?! Are you serious?!?!)
Luck of the draw had me testify early in the evening. And, as prepared as I thought I would be, all the back and forth... threats of new language and delaying the public hearing to the next month... not to mention the nagging voices in my head about what I should or shouldn't say... I was totally unprepared. Thank God I had taken time in the hour before the meeting to go to St. John's, light a few candles, and pray aloud the words of Psalm 35. Coming from that place of being centered, I spoke my truth. Yes, I knew what it meant to experience discrimination because in my prior life as a reporter, I almost didn't get a promotion due to a manager who was concerned about "the way I dressed" (a popular euphemism at the time for "lesbian"). I was careful not to use names, but I am still well-known in this community, and people could figure it out.
Commission chair Bob Rackleff had called for civility in the debate. By and large it was civil. There were a couple of people who obviously missed that request as they launched into talks of "bestiality" and having a feces fetish. And there was one man who was highly disrespectful and awful about my friend, Margeaux, who is a transgender transsexual hair stylist. ("That man or whatever it is, I don't know what to call he/she"). I still had my Book of Common Prayer with me, and a few times, made a point of opening back up to the "Prayer for our Enemies" to keep me from losing it.
But probably the most stunning part of the evening came during the preliminary discussion of the ordinance. Commissioner Bill Proctor, who came in for a good deal of earned criticism on this blog, calmly talked about how he has felt under attack... and maintained the attacks were unfair because he "has always been in support of anti-discrimination"... and he felt the Human Rights Ordinance had a 'blood line from the 14th Amendment' of the United States Constitution. In a seven minute statement, the Commissioner told us (a) I want to vote on the ordinance tonight (b) I'm for it and (c) this is a legitimate civil rights issue. What a HUGE change from two weeks ago where he was talking about "homosexual church people". I don't know what changed in two weeks. Perhaps the furor in the wake of his letter about another friend, Terry Galloway, and her deafness, made Proctor do a turnabout.
The reasons for the change aren't as important. The important part was that he finally saw this as a civil rights issue that would benefit all people, not just gay people.
And so, I go to bed tonight happier with and prouder of my local government officials. You done good!!

Monday, May 10, 2010

An Open Letter to All My Communities

Dear Everybody,

I am writing this letter to all of you, wherever you are. This is to my friends in the gay community, the Christian community, the Mickee Faust community, the Leon County/Tallahassee, FL, community... all of which have the common bond of being part of the overarching human community.

I am just one person, one voice, one human being trying to muddle through this world we call life. And I am sad and depressed by what I witness in the world. Today, I read in the gospel of Matthew about the parable of the seed and the sower. I read about what happens to the seed thrown on rocky ground, or amidst the thorns, and then what happens when the seed lands on "good soil". And the passage ended with these words:

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. (Matt 13:16)

And I thought, "Are you serious?? Blessed??" What have my eyes seen and my ears heard lately?

Cowardice. Fear. Control. Anger. Hurt. These are very loud, incessant and ever-present noises that blow tons of smoke and drown out the beauty and the joy in the world. Even on a gorgeous, spring day in Tallahassee, I found it hard to find what was the blessing of this life. And I'm tired. I'm tired of the pitting of my rights as a gay person against the rights of a business owner to deny me a job or services. I'm tired of having to beg for the indulgence of being allowed such rights in the first place. I'm tired of Christians who keep quiet about injustice, and the others who claim to put on the mantle of Christ and then use that mantle to wrap themselves in their cowardice, fears, control, anger and hurt toward other people. I'm just plain tired!!

And I'm blessed? My mentor once told me that the closer I move toward God, the more the forces that are not "of God" will try to interfere and push me away. And "blessing", in this instance, means "possessing an inward contentedness and joy that is not affected by physical circumstances".

So clearly, I have to get back to contentedness and joy because the physical circumstances are burying me. I have a plan on how to do that.

The upside: I have received word from many of my Episcoposse that they have heard my cry for prayerful help, and are doing so. Thank you all, and peace be with you.

In the meantime, know that the bad behavior of 'the world' as of late has been making me very tired. Take responsibility for yourselves, and stop projecting all your fear and anger stuff onto me. Is there something wrong with letting people be people (be they gay, straight, Christian or atheist)?

Peace. Out.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

"Love One Another"

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

In the garden at my church, there is a fountain with the words, "Love One Another". It's a calming and lovely piece of art to look at. Water runs down from doves and a crucifix in a steady flow. When I've looked at this fountain, I've imagined this to be representative of God's love flowing down over all that is.

Good thing to keep in mind as you read this post. The lesson of the new commandment Jesus was giving to the disciples was yesterday's gospel lesson at noon-day. It was an amazing contrast to the week as it was in Tallahassee, FL.

The spill-over from the contentious review of the Human Rights Ordinance sunk to yet another new low when Commissioner Bill Proctor sent a letter to Sheriff Larry Campbell requesting more security due to the actions of "alleged deaf citizen" Terry Galloway. With a stroke of the keys on a keyboard, Commissioner Proctor went from offending not only the LGBT community, but alienating the disabled as well. Further hitting a flat note was the Tallahassee Democrat's editorial board. In an effort to call for civility in the public discourse, they chided the LGBT community for threatening a "buycott" of businesses that oppose the HRO and seemed to lend defense to Commissioner Proctor's right to go on and on ad nauseum referring to the LGBT community as pedophiles. The "threat" made to Commissioner Proctor by my friend and neighbor was nothing akin to the violence and bullying we've been witnessing from the Tea Partiers. Sheriffs deputies were right to remove her, and she did not resist them escorting her from the room. But her words (No! You compare me to a pedophile! Shame! This is the kind of hatred we are trying to get rid of!) do not rise to the level of "threat"... not on the Homeland Security scale... nor even on the school playground. Buycotts and protests are all in keeping with the history of any minority group trying to wield what little power it has to stand up to the majority. Clearly, the editorial board does not understand this, and does not understand or appreciate what we of the LGBT community face from the majority.

As I stood with Fr. Lee Graham outside the chapel yesterday, he asked me how things were going with this ordinance debate. He is no stranger to civil rights struggles as one who found himself in the thick of things in Alabama during the brave stands of Martin Luther King, Jr. I told him my version of the truth: that while I understand small businesses of five or more employees being afraid to be sued, fear of litigation is not reason enough to deny protections to minority groups... including those of a different sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. And I sighed, "I have again witnessed new and amazing ways in which people can be hateful and mean to one another."

Fr. Graham shook his head. "Well, isn't that the lesson for today? 'Hate one another as I have hated you?'"

And that brings us full circle, back to the garden, and the water that flows like God's love over all that is. In his homily, Fr. Graham noted that we don't get to choose God because God is the one choosing us. I would add, "whether we want to be chosen or not!" God has long since made the promise to be with us to the end of the age, and there was no asterisk on that statement. That means being with ALL of us. Amidst the rancor, I have struggled to quiet myself and stay tapped into the Love that keeps flowing like a fountain... and not allow those who are projecting and preaching fear and hatred to suck me into their vortex. It is very hard. It would be easy to go through that gate, and meet them in the Hell of their own creation.

So, in an effort to remember... and re-member myself to that source of Love... I offer up this prayer:

O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love
our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth:
deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in
your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
--Book of Common Prayer, pg. 816

Friday, May 7, 2010

True Grace

Pictured above is Grace Mission Episcopal Church. It sits at the edge of what's known as the Frenchtown neighborhood, a predominantly African-American part of the inner city of Tallahassee. It's only about five blocks away from the local homeless shelter, and close to both the city and Greyhound bus depots. It started from the will of a few committed Episcopalians... according to the website:

The idea was for a radical kind of ministry that crossed racial, social, and economic lines to minister to the whole person. In January 1977, the Diocese of Florida accepted Grace Mission as a mission station attached to its founding Tallahassee parish. Shortly thereafter, Grace Mission became an outreach mission of the Diocese of Florida and the Apalachee Council on Ministry. That is its status today.
Grace Mission has become the church home and anchor in the lives of many men, women and children who find themselves living at the homeless shelter, and struggling with poverty and the problems of addiction. There are after school programs, worship services and Bible Study times, as well as the practical needs of food and a place to shower and launder clothing. Grace is one of the outreach efforts of St. John's Episcopal Church, and those from St. John's involved with the Mission speak with love and pride in what it is doing to give people in need a place to open their hearts and be present with God.
But Grace Mission hit a financial pothole this winter when St. Peter's Anglican Church took it's $24, 500 contribution away from the little church that could. More on that in another post at another time.
Needless to say, this "take-away"can be seen as the completion of what started in October, 2005, when Evil departed the Episcopal Church... and, like the Pied Piper, led the gullible down the street and began hatching plans for his Tower of Babel to be built in the affluent NE section of Tallahassee.
You are reading that correctly: they took $24, 500, away from the poor, the needy, the friendless... y'know, the people Jesus told us to meet as our neighbor and build up, so they could have something to put toward the eight MILLION dollars in seed money for a cathedral. What's wrong with that picture?!
And this at a time when Grace Mission's original vicar team was retiring... and a search was on to find a new person to lead them!
But, just like the founding of Grace, there are committed Episcopalians pitching in and doing what they can to make up that difference. On Saturday night, May 8th, jazz singer Pam Laws will lend her talent for "An Evening of Amazing Grace", a fundraiser put on by some of the folks from St. John's. The hope is to raise at least a third or so of the budget shortfall brought on by the withdrawal of St. Peter's support. Last I heard, ticket sales were going well, but there still are probably more, available through St. John's.
Of course, not everyone wants to or can possibly attend a soiree with alcohol, hors d'oeuvres and Pam Laws belting out gospel tunes. In that case, make your checks payable to: Grace Mission, and then send it to:
Grace Mission Episcopal Church
PO Box 10472
Tallahasseee, FL 32302
Any help will go along way toward helping them continue to be True Grace to a world in need.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Medical Updates

Word from the land of the Gators is that Terry's surgery went fine. A little too much excitement with a blockage at the "left branch bundle" of her heart. According to words flying about in emails, such a thing is NOT atypical and indicates a heart rhythm issue. She was kept at Shands overnight, and we're hoping she'll be released and on her way home soon.

Dona's mother Glo is also making a turn toward recovery, although has been in some pain from the operation and the after effects with nausea. The good news is that her kidneys are functioning well.

Keep the prayers going and the candles lit!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Prayer Request

Terry Galloway has shown up on this blog so often recently that I should probably give her her own category!

Today, though, I'm not talking about "Citizen Tay" who bravely defied the rules of politeness in a political forum to tell a homophobic County Commissioner to shut up. Today, I'm asking those of you reading who are believers in prayer to send one up for my friend as she undergoes a life-altering surgery at Shands Hospital in Gainesville.

Terry is getting a cochlear implant, the beginning of a new life with new ears. Her surgeon, Dr. Antonelli, has been doing cochlear implant surgeries since 1989. Wife Donna reports that all went well in the pre-op meeting, and the documentary film crew that is following Terry through this procedure got great interviews with him and others. If all goes according to plan, Terry, who is almost 60, will be able to hear for the first time since she was a toddler.

Understandably, Terry has been anxious about this surgery. Evidence of that is that she, the atheist who dismisses all religions equally, asked me if I'd pray for her. I said I would.

I also ask your prayers for Gloria, mother of my friend and fellow Faustkateer, Dona. Glo just had a 5-cm malignant tumor removed from her kidney. Word is that she made it through surgery, and is doing OK at the hospital. May she be restored to good health soon.

Heavenly Father, giver of life and health: Comfort and relieve Terry and Glo, and give your power of healing to all those who minister to their needs, that they may be strengthened in their weakness and have confidence in your loving care. Lord, hear my prayer, and shed your mercy and loving kindness upon us. All this I ask in your name. Amen.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Poor Proctor Needs Protection from Mean Little deaf Queer

I think Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor must be feeling pretty miffed that someone upstaged him at the last County Commission meeting.

When my friend, Terry Galloway, stormed across the room shouting at Proctor that he should be ashamed of likening LGBT people to pedophile priests in the Roman Catholic Church... I think the Commissioner was shocked. His bullying tirade about "homosexual church people" had been interrupted. And worse for Proctor, people were applauding the five-foot-two deaf woman for her protest.
Realizing that the spotlight had moved off him, Proctor decided to do something to get himself back at center stage: write a letter to the Sheriff insisting that there be more security at the next public hearing on the Human Rights Ordinance, and--for the sake of safety--don't let that "allegedly deaf citizen" back in the chamber. Here's his letter, with my commentary:

Dear Sheriff Campbell:

I am requesting enhanced security for the Board of County Commission May 11 meeting. The Commission will hold a public hearing on whether to adopt an anti-discrimination policy against gays and lesbians.
Actually, the Commission will be holding a public hearing on whether to adopt a Human Rights Ordinance that would extend protections for currently listed classes... and ADD sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

At our meeting on Tuesday (April 27, 2010), I suffered an uncivil reaction from an alleged deaf citizen who charged the dais toward me as I was speaking and the Commission was deliberating.
Terry is not an "alleged deaf citizen"; she is, in fact, deaf since she was a toddler. She did not "charge" the dais, but did leap from her seat and wagged her finger at Proctor as she crossed the room. True, Proctor was speaking... but the Commission wasn't deliberating. I think they were waiting for him to shut up.
Compliments to the two deputies posted in the chamber that evening. They escorted her out professionally.

They reacted hastily and alertly to the emotional woman who was running toward me and shouting. I have never seen this occur at our meeting before. Her eyes were on fire. Her face appeared dangerous. I believe she would have fired at me if she had a weapon or thought to grab the deputy’s gun. You did not see her face and eyes, but I did.
Excuse me, but, bwahahahahahahaha! Yes, Terry was emotional. Yes, Terry was shouting. Her eyes on fire? Her face "dangerous"? She was no menace to him. She knew when the deputies approached her that she was going to be taken from the room. And she would not have been so stupid as to grab one of their guns and started shooting him. Can you say, "drama queen"?

I recognize there exist a broad horizon that people identify as reality and normalcy.
And you, Commissioner, live on a planet all of your own making!

Tuesday’s meeting further confirmed this recognition. Yet, we, nor county staff should have to sustain bodily injury from the public while discharging our responsibilities at an official County Commission meeting. The price of being a public servant should not include physical attacks. Given the context of the era we now live, I interpret angry charges toward me as having deadly potential. I don’t know what this deaf woman was hearing….maybe demons?
Again, Terry got nowhere near him and was of no threat to him, bodily or otherwise. As for what "this deaf woman was hearing..." well, I would agree Commissioner. As a hearing person, I believe what you were saying about me, her and the thousands of others like us was demonic!

Sadly, no one “who could hear” ran toward me or acted so uncivil.
Ahhh.... now we see what was really bothering him. He didn't want to have the deaf going after him; he wanted a hearing person. I will remember that next time, Commissioner.
Given the experience I had and the comments from others who saw the moment I respectfully request that citizens are searched for weapons and that additional deputies are posted for the next public hearing on the anti gay discrimination ordinance. Moreover, I request that this lady not be allowed into the chamber for the next meeting on this ordinance.
Because, dammit, it's all about ME... Bill Proctor... me, me, me!! How dare that deaf woman upstage me in my own theater!

It is interesting to note that Bill Proctor, an African-American, would call on the Sheriff to use intimidation such as metal detectors or searches or additional law enforcement to deal with us uppity gay folk. Does he not see the irony in that?
Oh, that's right. It's Bill Proctor, the allegedly sane County Commissioner.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

What God Has Made Clean

"I was in the city of Jop'pa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, "Get up, Peter; kill and eat.' But I replied, "By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.' But a second time the voice answered from heaven, "What God has made clean, you must not call profane.' This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven."--Acts 11: 5-10

This is among my favorite scenes in Acts. OK, I admit: I actually find almost everything in the Acts of the Apostles really cool. I am a big fan of the way things played out with Saul's conversion to being Paul. Phillip's "a-ha" when he encounters the eunuch on the road... that's a good one. And then there's this moment when Peter is trying to tell his fellow circumcised Jews how he reached the conclusion that the uncircumcised are worthy of inclusion in the family of God's chosen children.
Interesting to me is that Peter, in his argument with God, tries to say that he has never let anything profane or unclean enter his mouth. That statement, for me, recalls the passage in the Gospel of Mark, when the scribes and the Pharisees wanted to know where Jesus and his disciples get off eating food with "unclean hands". Jesus answers, "There is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile." According to Mark, this was Jesus' declaration that all foods were made clean. And once more, we see how little the disciples really understood Jesus until after he was no longer there with them.
In our Sunday readings, I saw this lesson as one piece to a bigger puzzle. Next came the words in Revelation, again starting with the proclamation of a "new heaven and a new earth":

"See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them as their God;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away."
And the one who was seated on the throne said,

"See, I am making all things new."
--Revelation 21: 3-5

I put these words together with that idea that what "God has made clean, you must not call profane." Because, for me, this statement in Revelation is the affirmation that God is not some absentee landlord, deadbeat dad, or far-away entity. God is with us... dwelling within us... and as God emerges from behind the curtains in our minds, and reveals God's self to us by whatever means necessary, then do we experience what it means to have things made new. I think this might have been a little of what Peter was going through with his vision. The veil pulled back, the sheet lowered with the various animals, Peter learns the lesson Jesus had hoped he had understood the first time in Mark's recounting of Jesus' actions. An action that I think gets summarized nicely in the Gospel reading from John:

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." --John 13: 34-35

For Peter, that meant learning that this love... the agape type... needs to be extended beyond his own kind to include those who are "other". And Peter had to learn to see in those who are of the "other" variety the light of God that shines out through their eyes. Accepting this will lead to "things" in Peter's world becoming "new"... and the old earth and old heaven give way to the new.

Of course, the context, purpose and timing of the writing of Revelation lends itself to other understandings. Nonetheless, in light of all-things-gay being seen as a "threat" to some "christians" in my fair city, I found the timing of the readings prophetic. How can a person encounter these readings and not hear the call to all of us to stop labeling those who we don't like or don't agree with as the "unclean" of our society?

How dare anyone say they are Christians while referring to fellow members of the body of Christ as pedophiles. Is that the love that we were supposed to follow?

I don't think so.