Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Historically speaking

I've said before that I really don't like church marquee signs. I think they're tacky. So there!

Or just weird. That would be the category in which I would put the sign outside of a church on Highway 319 in Thomasville. It had an incomprehensible message for travelers:

"History belongs to those who pray."

In the vernacular of the text-speak world: WTF??

I have no clue what this is supposed to mean, but it did stir some thinking in my own head about history, and that idea of "looking back".

This past Sunday, the gospel of Luke was the not-so-nice Jesus on a mission to get to Jerusalem and "Let's do this thang!" There are people who say they want to follow, but.... well, I have to bury my father, I have to say good-bye to my family. As part of this "teaching moment", Jesus talks about how the ones who put their hand to the ploughshare and look back will not inherit the kingdom of Heaven. In the sermon by our interim rector at St. John's, this little gospel nugget was used to remind us, the congregation of St. John's, that we can not continue to look back. Our eyes must be set forward, toward Jerusalem if you will, and not always trying to find our future by staring in the rear view mirror. If we are headed toward Jerusalem, does this mean that we're on a walk toward crucifixion? In a manner of speaking, I say "Yes". A crucifixion and a death of what has been. Old habits, and old scores we want to settle with those who left St. John's to become one with Uganda at St. Peter's. Those "things" of the "way we always have done blahblahblah" are the things we must let die. Dating the "life" of St. John's by its "death" of the schism... that, too, absolutely must die.
Our new priest-in-charge arrives at the end of August. The thought is that Father David Killeen will move from PIC to Rector, and our long-awaited permanent leader will be in place. A chorus of angels will sing, and everybody will be happy.
OK... I don't know about the chorus of angels bit, but happiness or, at the very least, contentment is possible. But it will take some serious doing on the part of the congregation to make that happen.
I reflect back on the sermon that Rev. Dr. Chris Bryan delivered at my mentor's institution service last December. In it, Bryan gently and yet quite clearly and forcefully laid out for all present that the "celebration of a new ministry" was not just Mtr. Lee Shafer's ministry alone; it was the combination of the congregation with the rector to merge and bring forth a "new ministry" for Christ into the world. This is a lesson not lost on me as we await the arrival of Fr. Killeen. If his is to be a ministry that works at St. John's, it will require those of us who are the baptized ministers in the pews to be willing to put out some effort to see him through.
I think I'd change that sign on the church marquee in Thomasville: "Those who pray in the present have a future not governed solely by their history. " I hope that will be true at St. John's.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Rowan Williams: Party of One

It seems that things are just not going well for the man who is the wannabe Pope of the Anglican Communion. Between his "new Pentecost" that puts the Episcopal Church in the United States in perpetual "time-out", and the hopping mad schismatics who want to take their marbles and go off to their homophobic enclaves, the Archbishop appears to be becoming increasingly isolated and alone.
The latest "bad news" for him comes with the resignation of the Bishop of Iran from the Anglican Consultative Council. You can read the story from the Church of England news HERE.
I guess I'm wondering at what point will the Archbishop look around and realize that he is the only one sitting at the table? Will he continue to shove his Anglican Covenant on everybody?
We'll see.

Episcopride on Parade

Images from the gay pride parades in San Francisco and St. Louis. The Episcopal Diocese of CA took part in the celebration and Christ Church Cathedral and Oasis Missouri marched in the St. Louis parade.

We're here! We're queer! And we believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth....

I LOVE seeing Episcopalians boldly proclaiming the welcome to all in a colorful and visible way in pride parades across the United States. I love that there are those in our Church who understand that one must get out there and walk alongside the LGBT community if one wants to demonstrate the love of Christ for God's children. Staying behind the doors of the church and quoting Galatians (in Christ there is neither Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female) in the futile hope that those OUTSIDE your doors will venture in just ain't gonna cut it. When it comes to my particular slice of "otherness" in humanity, the Church must make an effort to be more physically present and visible.

Think of it this way: those who have wrapped themselves in the banner of Christianity while slugging gay people over the head with a Bible have betrayed the love of God in the same way Peter denied Christ three times. Hence, it should be the mission of those who love Christ and understand the radically welcoming nature of God to then make that known to the gay community by demonstrating that love. "Do you love me?" If the answer is "yes", then "feed THESE sheep, too! Tend THIS flock, too!"

They're "getting it" in some parts of the country. The LGBT communities of San Francisco, St. Louis and many other cities are witnessing the love of God for them as shown forth by the Episcopal Church. And that DOES make a difference. As part of the celebrations, the Episcopalians provided eucharist to attendees. In fact, my college friend, the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral, was proudly announcing on Facebook that there would be a "Mass on the Grass" at the pride activities in St. Louis to celebrate Christ and remember and reunite with him in the ritual of the eucharist. How cool is that?
Sadly in Florida, especially north Florida, the gay community doesn't get to see this outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual grace because there is an insistence that it is still the winter season in our church. Never mind the fact that the sun (or is it that son?) is growing stronger and shining brighter. Despite the best efforts of the very fearful in our diocese, I believe there is no stopping or bridling the spirit of God that is blowing new life into the Church. It's simple: you can either ride along with it, or risk getting burned up in its flames. Your choice.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Hands Across the Sand

It's time to draw a line in the sand.

The Gulf coast of the United States has been one of the sites of our addiction to oil. And, like the addicts that we are, we haven't been able to get enough of this juice that makes our car engines run. So we keep drilling another needle into our vein to suck out as much as we can. We've done it in the Gulf. We've done it off the coasts of foreign lands. We even fight wars because "we need that crude, man!!" We've made whole economies dependent on drilling. And when someone offers a new way, a different way, we... like the addicts that we are... make excuses for why we won't kick our habit.

And, like with most addictions, there are consequences for us becoming so dependent. We don't see those consequences and remain in denial until we have an intervention and we're forced to take a look at ourselves unfiltered and uncensored. It can get ugly, and it can hurt to face the truth of what our addiction is doing to others. In this case, the needle is jammed so deep into the vein that the vein is now just spewing forth like an Underwater Geyser (a more appropriate name for what BP called Deepwater Horizon). Mammals and birds of the air are getting coated in the thick goo. Microorganisms are dying in the Gulf waters. Beaches are blighted with tarballs amidst the seashells. And that's just the beginning of the problems created by our addiction. The New York Times has run stories noting that people halfway around the world are bitter about the attention to this environmental disaster in the Gulf. Why does the Gulf of Mexico rate such press when the Niger Delta has suffered a constant flow of oil for the past FIVE decades? Shrimpers were put out of business there; why are they not considered worthy of billion dollar fixes which end up not fixing a damn thing the way it's happening in the Gulf?

Good question. Ask the addict!

I've heard on a couple of occasions in the past few years sermons by "the Lees" (that's Graham+ and Shafer+) in which they focused on repentance. The word can cause one to stiffen the spine, particularly if you've ever been on the receiving end of the screaming fundamentalist wagging her homophobic finger in your face. But "to repent" is to "rethink" and "reconsider". To take notice of the consequences of those things "done and left undone". And then, once the recognition comes, to then make a turn toward change. In the context of spiritual and religious thinking, the turn toward change means to return to God, and the recognition that if we believe that "all things come of ye, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee", we reach an understanding that all that there is in our selves and our lives really belongs to God. This is why I believe we are now called on, as addicts to oil, to true repentance. I believe that if we are going to survive this addiction, we must stop poking holes in the vein of creation and change our habits. That means reconsidering how much we depend on oil. I say this as much to me as I'm saying it to anyone out there reading these words.

For me, the commitment to repent is made manifest in an act of solidarity with others who are of like-mindedness on the need to stop drilling for oil. I will be participating in an event at Tallahassee's "beach", Lake Ella, to join "Hands Across the Sands" tomorrow at 11:30AM and visually demonstrate a need for us to do things differently. This is not an easy addiction to break, but I am always hopeful that we will one day learn from our tragedies, and move in the direction of funding those researchers and scientists who are finding newer, less-destructive ways to harness energy.

It is time to draw a line in the sand.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Happy St. Jean Baptiste Day

Almighty God, by whose providence your servant John the Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of your Son our Savior by preaching repentance: Make us so to follow his teaching and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and, following his example, constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth's sake; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sounds of the Universe

I am in awe. This is a moment of extreme sound Geekdom... and I love it!

Scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (known also as CERN) have been working on the Higgs boson, often called "the God particle" because its existence, it has been said, will shed light on our ability to grasp the beginnings of the Universe. Now the scientists are using sonification (converting energy waves into sound) to help researchers "listen to the data". You can hear some samples HERE in the BBC News article.

Transforming the smashing of atoms into actual sound recalls for me what Franz Joseph Haydn was trying to achieve with his musical masterpiece "The Creation". Haydn's music begins with a murmuring of discordant cacophony of instruments to represent the formless void before God says, "Let there be Light!" and the voices and the instruments burst into a cohesive musical note that can give the listener goosebumps. If Haydn were alive to hear what noises are coming from this accelerated smasher called the Large Hadron Collider, I wonder how it would have influenced his composition?

And then there is the idea that scientists may be getting to hear the sound of creation:

Although the project's aim is to provide particle physicists with a new analysis tool, Archer Endrich believes that it may also enable us to eavesdrop on the harmonious background sound of the Universe.

He said he hoped the particle collisions at Cern would "reveal something new and something important about the nature of the Universe".

And Mr Endrich says that those who have been involved in the project have felt something akin to a religious experience while listening to the sounds.

"You feel closer to the mystery of Nature which I think a lot of scientists do when they get deep into these matters," he said. (BBC News)

Closer to the mystery. Indeed, but not close enough to "have all the answers". But what that must be like to tap into this energy smashing about in tubes and creating the sounds that may have been echoing at the time of the Big Bang, the moment of "Let there be Light!" Perhaps what they're hearing is the indescribable voice in these "God particles". How cool for them, and for us, to have these sounds which are part of the make up of everything around us.

It's awesome!

The Silence Speaks Volumes

When we allow ourselves to go quiet, we can actually hear in the silence the voice of God guiding us.

And perhaps listening for that "still, small voice" was what Canon Kenneth Kearon was attempting to do as he proceeded to further infuriate the representatives of the Episcopal Church during a question and answer session at the Executive Council meeting. In case you've forgotten, Canon Kearon is the "Enforcer" for his Holiness, Pope Rowan I. Canon Kearon wrote to the Episcopal members of various standing committees in the Anglican Communion informing them that the Pope had declared a "New Pentecost" and that TEC was being cast into the outer darkness (OK, that isn't exactly how it was worded, but I'm not exaggerating the way the Canon responded to the Archbishop's letter). You can read council member Katie Sherrod's excellent reporting on the event at the church's Executive Council meeting HERE.

The paragraph that stands out for me in this report:

Then Bishop Wendell Gibbs, Bishop of Michigan, asked the stumper, “The Church of England remains in full communion and ecumenical dialogue with the Old Catholic Church, which blesses same-sex unions, and the Church of Sweden, which has a partnered lesbian bishop and blesses same-sex marriages. Given this fact, how are we to reconcile the removal of Episcopal Church members from ecumenical bodies?

LONG silence ensued. He looked at Wendell like a calf looks at a new gate. He clearly didn't know where to go.

Canon Kearon hemmed and hawed and finally said that there are different types of full communion and that the sticking point is being able to represent the Communion vis a vis faith & order. Wendell stressed the point of who the Church of England is in communion with, but Canon Kearon had nothing more of substance to say.

Listen for it, Canon. In your silence, listen for what the spirit is saying to the Church. I have a feeling it will NOT come with the lilt of a Welsh accent!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Allez les Bleu?? No,Sacre Bleu!!

This pretty much sums up why the French get no sympathy from me in the early exit from this World Cup. Finger-wagging, name-calling, back-biting. Bet Irish eyes are smiling over this one! It never looks good when you allow anger to consume you, Monsieur Domenech.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Seeking and Finding on a Sunday

I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask,
to be found by those who did not seek me.
--Isaiah 65: 1a

For whatever reason, St. John's chooses to use what are called the "Track Two" readings during this "ordinary" season of After Pentecost. These readings are supposedly "thematic" rather than taking us through one book in the OT week-after-week. At any rate, yesterday was a real ping between the eyes, starting with the above quote from Isaiah. No sooner had the words left the reader's mouth that I felt overcome with joy and sadness all mixed together.

I've mentioned before here that I am a rather strange Episcopalian in that I will cry during services listening to Scripture or prayers or hymns. This was another one of those times, but I couldn't quite put my finger on what about those words was making me cry.

I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask,
to be found by those who did not seek me.

On reflection, I know that I did consciously say that I was seeking God "or a deeper knowledge of him." But prior to that out loud statement to my mentor, I didn't have a desire for God. Or, at least, I didn't have an appetite for inwardly digesting anything about Scripture. In fact, I would say, I think some Scripture was like the dreaded liver, or it would get lodged in my throat like a bone to choke on. There's a sadness in the fact that I can tell you roughly what Paul says in Romans 1: 26-27 or 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10 because they are passages that have been used for evil intent against the likes of me.

But ask me today what I think of the apostle Paul, and you'll hear a much different understanding of what his words mean to me. Even those passages carefully selected for maximum condemnation of gays do not scare me nor make me think that I am the abomination that other people say I am. Ask me today what I think of Paul and I will tell you he is more like me than many in the Bible. A man in perpetual seek and find mode, wrestling with how to articulate what he's gained having been delivered from being one who persecuted the Christ followers to one who has joined with them with his whole heart. (This is always highly entertaining for some to think that a lesbian actually likes and appreciates Paul!)

I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask,
to be found by those who did not seek me.

There is enormous power in just those words. To know that God is always there, always willing to be found... even when we don't know that we need to ask, need to seek. God is not just the possession of those "in the know" but stands on the mountain top to be seen by anyone. Having sought God, my experience has been one where once found, God dashes further down the path with a gleefulness that the pursuit will continue. "Think you know me now? I'm a lot more than you think!"

Of course, this is not just a fun game of hide and go seek. I wish it were. But after the readings, the sequence hymn reminded me of what goes into the pursuit:

"Take up your cross and follow Christ,
nor think til death to lay it down;
for only those who bear the cross
may hope to wear the glorious crown."

Ugh. This was a whole lot easier when it was just a pursuit! But I am reminded of what Bishop Gene Robinson is fond of saying, "Jesus wants followers, not cheerleaders!" If we are going to believe in the freedom and redemption offered through Jesus' death and resurrection, it's not enough to say it on Sunday and then leave it behind at the church door. This is about changing habits, and recognizing that we have the ability to touch others and remove stumbling blocks. I just had the boyfriend of a Mickee Faust cast member share with me how I did that for him. He was new to this group of people, and was coming to a party at my house. When he walked in, he said he felt the looks from the crowd as they tried to figure out, "Who's this guy?" I then came out of a room. When I saw him, I beamed and opened my arms, "Welcome! You know that the first requirement is that you have to hug the birthday girl!" I remember he gave me a big ol' squeeze (and this guy is no shrimp!). In his retelling, he shared that my act of welcoming had made him feel at home and like he really was part of the scene. Acceptance is a huge deal. And it is the radical welcome of God that says, "Come to the party! There's plenty of food and drink for everyone!"

Whether you sought it out or not!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Happy Birthday, Peggins!

Today, the irrepressible Peggins (aka Mom) turned 83. Sadly, she is spending this birthday in a rehab clinic in New Hampshire. All accounts are that she is doing well, and will be able to go home on Tuesday. Trouble is, she is still in pain, and her surgeon has not cleared her to do any bending or twisting. The normally fiercely independent Peggins will need some help. Fortunately, the team of caregivers at the rehab hospital have done a home evaluation, made recommendations of what modifications will have to occur in the house, and will see to it that she and my older brother make use of the Meals on Wheels program.

So eat a piece of cake in her honor, and continue to hold her in your healing prayers.

A Gentle Reminder

I started to put together more thoughts on the Gulf, on BP, on the sinking horrible feeling that there is no end in sight for the poisoning of our water. But, that's about as far as I can get with that.

And then I embarked on a project to help my mentor by searching for some of her past sermons as part of her studies this summer at Sewanee. Since I was often "pinged" in the forehead by her preaching, this was an assignment I couldn't refuse! And I'm glad that I didn't. As I listened back over her sermons, and her insistence and persistence that the Gospel "really is GOOD news", I was reminded that even at times like these when I look at images from the Gulf, and feel the wounds being inflicted on us through our addiction and habit of oil, God still has not left the picture. Even if God may feel far away, and even if I sense that everybody is more than a little on edge around me in light of our plight, God really is holding this space as well. The question then becomes not one of "Where is God?" but "Where are we?" If God is hanging in there with the Gulf of Mexico and all the creatures, human and mammal, who depend on those waters... if God is continuing to call out to us to repent and return, to truly give reverence for the earth as God's creation, then we are commanded to make a response. Are we going to turn away because we don't have time? Or are we going to change? Are we going to make an effort to cut down on our personal pollution and addiction to oil? We can not just walk off. We must make demands that those who have the power put that power to good use, and to protect the common good of this planet. That means finally allowing for the further funding and exploration of other sources for energy.
And when the oil giant BP starts offering up a pittance to pay for the damage they've done, we don't have to apologize for that (like the Republicans in Congress believe we should!) The money is necessary and important, but the bigger issue is that we must stop getting strung-out on oil. Perhaps British Petroleum could look to re-tool and create fuel through algae.
One can hope BP will change too!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Grow up, ++Rowan!!

I heard the news yesterday--Oh, boy!

As part of showing his good manners and hospitality to a visiting Presiding Bishop, Pope Rowan I of Anglicanism apparently made ++Katharine Jefferts Schori produce documentation of all her ministerial credentials, dates of ordinations, etc. Presumably this is a requirement for visiting clergy in the UK, but... are you joking??? You want her... who has been to Lambeth and countless other international purple-shirted gatherings... to prove that she has been through all the steps, and been ordained??

It gets better: she also was told she couldn't wear her bishop's mitre while celebrating at Southwark Cathedral in London... orders of his holiness Pope Rowan I. You can check out her remarks on these matters HERE.

As we say here in the South, bless your heart, Archbishop, but please-- get back on your meds! Are you really that afraid that if the natives see a woman in a mitre they might get to thinking, "Say, that's not so bad afterall". Hint: probably a number of them already think that.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I Am Alive!!

This is probably the longest stretch I've gone without writing anything on the blog. Again, not for lack of wanting to, but I have been preoccupied and tired and just haven't had it in me to do it. Rather than force myself to write, I chose to just pause.

However, with the closing arguments coming up today in California in the Proposition 8 lawsuit... and a Mickee Faust staged reading performance of the Prop 8 trial transcripts... it's time for me to break the silence and simply say, "Let's do this thang!"

Judge Walker has taken time to read through the 12-days of testimony from this past January, and has submitted a lengthy list of questions to the attorneys to answer. The sense from the plaintiffs attorneys, which includes Ted Olson and David Boies, is that the judge will likely rule in favor of the plaintiffs. This wouldn't be a complete shock if you paid attention to the testimony during the two week trial. Apparently, the defendants (those who were the sponsors of Proposition 8) initially had a dozen expert witnesses slated to testify. However, when they got to trial... they decided to dump all but two of their witnesses. And those two, David Blankenhorn and William Tam, both sounded... well... not very convincing. In fact, Blankenhorn's testimony about the political clout of the LGBT community at times was laughable, and was doing more to make the case FOR gay marriage rather than against.

How do I know what they sounded like? Weren't broadcast media banned from the trial?

Yes! But not the Courage Campaign and their Twitter and Facebook friends who kept blogging about the highlights of the trial made sure the community was informed. And they have provided transcripts of the trial for performance artists, including the Mickee Faust Club, to videotape staged readings and get the words of the testimony out there (have I mentioned that we will be doing our staged reading this coming Sunday at 8pm?). It's a wonderful way to subvert the attempt to maintain the hush-hush nature of the hatred they pushed at the polls. With exposure of their pretzel logic comes the whittling away of popular support for the measure.

Should the Judge rule in favor of the plaintiff couples who brought this case, it would seem that gay marriage could be legal again in those states that are in the ninth federal judicial circuit. The prediction is that no matter which way this case goes, there will be an appeal to the US Supreme Court.

What of us in states where the voters have already banned gay marriage "or the substantial equivalent thereof"? I imagine a ruling in our favor in California could aid in any suits to overturn the vote that took place here. But isn't our Florida Supreme Court conservative? Yes, over time, it has become increasingly so. However, it has been the behavior in the past of the LGBT rights groups to be shrinking violets rather than purple panthers when it comes to fighting back. At the rate that all these groups continue to raise lots and lots of money, I am expected to see some action rather than talk.

Today, however, will be primarily more talk: the closing arguments. Stay tuned!

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Keep hope alive! Not a win. But, from our underdog persective, it might as well be registered as a win. Especially against England.

Friday, June 11, 2010

World Cup: Revolution Revisited

I am making a wild guess here that there are more people out there who are interested in the World Cup than not. It's just that most of the true fans are not here in the United States. But I'm guessing in Europe, Asia, South America... and especially this time in Africa, there are going to be a lot of people glued to some media outlet to keep up with "their team." That's what sports fans do.
We'll see what interest gets sparked here on Saturday when Team USA takes on... of all teams... England in their opening match in South Africa.

Sports sometimes becomes symbolic for much bigger, political struggles. And that's how I am feeling as we head into this match. It is really just a game between men on a field with a ball and a couple of nets. But this is an international match-up of an "us" vs. "them" that has lots of symbolism for the soccer underdog USA.

Those of us living in the Gulf Coast region of the United States would probably delight in our team kicking the crap out of the English and leaving their players bloodied and bruised... much like the ecology and economy of our poorest pockets down here in the south. If only Tony Hayward were allowed to play midfield! He wants his life back so badly. Cry that one to the fishermen who have seen their livelihood destroyed by the oil leak (which is more like a geyser), or to the people who live in the coastal communities watching the tarballs come ashore, or the wildlife and sea creatures who have lost their habitat. When we see the whites of the forwards eyes, will our team see the green and yellow of BP? Or just the images of what our greed has done to the Gulf of Mexico?

And then there is the rift between ++Rowan and reality and his punitive "new Pentecost" plan to boot our Church off the Anglican Consultative Council. How fitting it would be if it were a gay baptized member of the Episcopal Church who sends one sailing into the upper right corner of the net and leaves some sad loyalist and apologist for that wiggy Welsh man with the eyebrows... crawling back to the pub to cry in his beer. Let the poor sap blow his nose in a draft of ++Rowan's precious Anglican Covenant.

This is all fanatical fantasy on my part. I am pretty sure we are going to get our clocks cleaned in this match.

But, just as it is for this fan of the New England Patriots when we face the Oakland Raiders in American football, there is an additional history that makes Saturday's game more meaningful. No New England fan over 40 will soon forget watching Daryl Stingley lying paralyzed on the field of play, and Jack Tatum being totally unapologetic for crippling the man. "They Call Me Assassin". No, we just call you an asshole!

So it will be on Saturday between the United States and England. Current events have added new meaning to this game, bringing us 200+ years up to speed from when the real tea partiers were dumping his majesty's favorite beverage into Boston Harbor as a symbol of our discontent with the whole set-up.

May the best team win, and I hope it is us. Hope does spring eternal.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

O, No, Canada!!

After Pentecost is supposed to be the "green" season. But apparently, if you are in the Anglican Church of Canada, this is the "yellow" season. The General Synod meeting in Halifax decided not to decide anything on blessing of same-sex marriages. You can read it HERE. The statement is the usual blah blah blah that is commonly used to defend a defenseless position of maintaining a pattern of discrimination. How I interpret the Synod's statement: "We're frightened of the big hairy scary man in England who is threatening to take away our chance to attend the keg parties with the other purple dudes, and so we'll just quiver in our boots and tell the queers, 'Not at this time' and hope they aren't offended."

Well, sorry, but I am offended. Probably every gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person is offended. And hurt. And frustrated. Queers can get married legally in Canada. The government says it's OK. But the Anglican Church can't go along with this and offer to bless those self-same marriages?

The paragraph in the statement that grabbed my attention:
We are deeply aware of the cost to people whose lives are implicated in the consequences of an ongoing discernment process. This is not just an ‘issue’ but is about people’s daily lives and deeply held faith commitments. For some, even this statement represents a risk. For some the statement does not go nearly far enough.

And for some... we are tired of your statements and your "deep awareness". If you are that deeply aware, then you'd realize that continuing to hold a group of people off to the side as "other" is not a Christian act!

If I'm "deeply aware" of anything it's the place of the Episcopal Church in all of this. Our ECUSA is obviously going to have to go it alone. Peace be with us!

Yes, Virginia: There is Good News

From the Falls Church News-Press:

In a stunning development this morning, the Virginia Supreme Court issued a decision reversing a lower court ruling that favored the ability of breakaway congregations to occupy Episcopal Church properties. The ruling will have profound consequences for occupancy of the historic Falls Church in the downtown of the City of Falls Church.

Since the vote by a majority of congregants of the Falls Church in 2006 to join the Rev. John Yates and to defect from the Episcopal Church denomination, the Falls Church has been occupied by Yates and his followers, who subsequently aligned with a group of like-minded defectors known as CANA (Council of Anglicans in North America). Those members of the Falls Church who did not align with the defectors were denied access to the church property, and held their allegiance to the wider Episcopal communion while being forced to worship off-site as guests of the nearby Falls Church Presbyterian Church.

Read the complete story HERE.

I am sure this comes as a great relief and celebration for those who have remained Episcopalian in Falls Church and the other parishes affected in Northern Virginia!

It must have been very painful to have been denied access to the place that had come to be their church home, and then to have it occupied by schismatic squatters must have been even worse.

So now the lower court will have to reassess, based on real estate and contract law, who gets to have the buildings and property that have an estimated market value between 30-40 million dollars. I think the answer is plain: they go with the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, and those who are aligned with CANA are kicked to the curb. I'm sure there is some vacant strip mall storefront somewhere that will be happy for their "orthodox" occupancy.

This case is likely to be appealed. So I'm sure we haven't heard the end of it. But at least on this day the Episcopal faithful in Northern Virginia can smile. Thanks be to God!

Late to the Party

And so it has begun. The Archbishop of Canterbury with the help of his Secretary General has set the wheel in motion to hook up the Episcopal Church to the back of the pick-up truck and take us for a drag through the mud. Others have written more expertly on this topic, most especially Fr. Mark Harris at PRELUDIUM. I have lost interest in Pope Rowan I, our Presiding Bishop has decided she is no longer amused by his "new Pentecost", and the Canadians seem to be siding with us in this latest round of "Let's Make God in Our Image".
The ABC has decided that including us makes things too messy. We aren't going to be allowed to sit at the adult table anymore because we believe that God calls all kinds of people into service, and that's just childish, isn't it?
Pope Rowan I knows what God likes. He knows what God wants. And he knows that any church that allows women and gays to don the purple shirts is not anybody he wants to be forced to sit with at the table.
Because that's what God's all about, right? Exclusion? Wrong!
I have said it over and over: there is nothing, NOTHING, in the Bible that should lead a person who is seeking God to believe that they are not worthy of being found.
Archbishop's letter and subsequent follow up from the Secretary General: another cancer cell in the Body of Christ.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Cancer in the Body of Christ

One of my Facebook friends posted this "gem" on her page this morning, and as you might imagine, it caused a stir.
I don't like church marquee signs as a general rule, and this one, from a church in Blacklick, OH, on the outskirts of Columbus, definitely wins in the highly-offensive category. The lyrics of the Katy Perry song it references are bad enough ("I kissed a girl just to try it. Hope my boyfriend don't mind it"); this sign adds additional insult and is yet another barrier designed to keep the LGBT community from knowing the love of God. Signs such as these don't just keep gay people away from Havens Corner Church; it repels them from Christianity as a whole.
Checking into the church's website, I learned that they "love God's Word and people". They want to "meet the spiritual needs of our community and provide opportunities for fellowship". They clearly believe that one must accept Jesus Christ to be saved, and be a member of the Allison family in order to lead (the pastors are father and son... with another son as the assistant music minister).
This marquee message is a symptom of what I believe is the cancer in the Body of Christ. That cancer being the noxious hatred of the LGBT community, and the use of homosexuality to conjure up fear and loathing among the faithful. Like cancer, this attitude and belief about gays spreads itself throughout the Body. Once inside, it kills off the healthy cells in the Body until it overwhelms the Body in the effort to destroy it.
Any time Christians fall prey to the cancer of hatred of the "other", they are helping to spread a cancer. Pastors who preach using a song that is thought to be lesbian and then saying that leads to "Hell" are infecting the Body with cancer.
The motto of Havens Corner Church is "Finding and Feeding His Sheep". But if this sign is any indication of how they plan to do that, it might be better to say that they are finding and feeding some of the sheep to the wolves.

Blues for the Gulf

I have not written much about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Not because I am unconcerned and not because I haven't been thinking about it. Actually, I have had a war in my head around this whole issue. I am thinking about it, but the thoughts associated with it are so overwhelming that I feel paralyzed.
It really came to a head yesterday during the Prayers of the People portion of the service. It's "After Pentecost" so we are using Form IV... which includes the line:

Give us all a reverance for the earth as your own creation that we may use its resources rightly in the service of others and to your honor and glory.

I started to cry.

What have we done?! We have poisoned our water!!! Our ancestors knew the power and the precious nature of water. Over it the Holy Spirit moved, and all of that. And here we are... one failed attempt after another at containing this leak... and talks that we won't get this thing under control until the fall. Meanwhile, the oil is choking the wetlands of Louisiana and Mississippi; washing up on beaches in Alabama and Florida; killing birds and sea life in the Gulf of all kinds. And the meager living of many coastal residents dependant on fishing and tourism is destroyed. And for what?

Greed. Our insatiable appetite for cheap oil. Such a desire that our state legislature actually thought about passing a bill to allow for off-shore drilling closer to our coast, a position that a decade ago would have resulted in the burning in effigy of the fool who would propose such an idea. Now, our governor has appointed a guy with ties to BP to advise the state on our legal recourse! You can read Julie Hauserman's article HERE.

Who is to blame? Well, it is easy to see British Petroleum as public enemy number one. And then there is our federal government that put corporate profits ahead of conservation. And then there is us: all of us who drive cars that use gasoline. We are the ones who make demands that an oil industry and an auto industry are all too happy to oblige if it means they can make some money. When are we going to learn to demand new sources of energy? When are we going to stop poking holes in our planet to suck out all that its got to give?

When will we take seriously that prayer that we are to have reverance for the earth as God's creation and use its resources rightly?

O Lord, make haste to help us.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Successful Surgery

I spoke with my mom's doctor yesterday and he explained the surgery. It would be either a vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty, he wouldn't know which until he was underway. I haven't learned yet what he ended up doing, but the basic premise is that the surgeon makes two insertions and then cements shut the crack that is in the spine.

He left a message on my phone that all had gone well in the procedure. And a good thing he did it, too. My mom's "crack" was apparently even larger than what had been revealed on the x-ray or CAT scan!

When I talked to her yesterday afternoon, she was still a little groggy, but was sitting up in a chair. She said that she still felt sore, but thought that normal given that she had just had an operation. The next question is whether she will be released today and sent home, or if they will recommend a stay at a rehab facility. I'm voting for the latter, so she can get the attention and the PT that she needs.

I am grateful to all of you for your prayers and offers of support. I know it helps! My mom... the Anonymous Peggins of Hurricane Peg fame... I hope will be back to right soon. I have found it perfectly her that throughout this ordeal, and even in the haze of morphine, she has managed to track the ups and downs of her beloved Boston Red Sox. Nothing, and I mean nothing, stands between her and baseball!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Peggins Update

My mother underwent a CAT scan at Portsmouth Hospital where they discovered a crack in her back at L1 (the area of the spine right below the rib cage). She has to have surgery; otherwise she will remain in pain for the rest of her life because there are too many nerve endings at that spot.
The nurse I spoke with explained, in layman's terms, that this surgery is not as dramatic as fusing discs, but it is still a surgery. It will involve an insertion at the point of the crack where the surgeon will--to put it in these terms--glue the crack shut.
I am not thrilled by any of this, but there is nothing that I can do from here besides pray and look for flights home.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Prayers for Peggins

Those of you who read the comments section of this blog might notice that one of the "regulars" who posts her thoughts here is the Anonymous Peggins. And, naturally, Peggins will dialogue with me through the comments section because she is my mom. That's what moms are for, right? :)
A little over a week ago, my mom, who walks gingerly with a cane, took a spill on the floor of Macy's when she was knocked over by the door. Since that fall, she has been in quite a bit of pain. She went to the local hospital in Exeter where they took x-rays and sent her home without reading them.
At my urging from afar, she and my brother went back to the same hospital, where she sat for seven hours before a doctor evaluated her (remind me again how we have come to believe that we have this 'greatest health care system' in the world?) The answer was no broken bones, take two Vicodin and call me in the morning.
At about 9:30 yesterday morning, I received a call from my mom who was in tears. She was still in pain, and things were getting worse, and she was on her way this time to Portsmouth Hospital.
What they discovered, thus far, is that my mom was severely constipated, and had an irregular heartbeat. The doctors there decided to check her in, and are keeping her on the cardiac wing.
I will be checking in with her more today as well as with my brothers. It is hard to be a medical advocate from 1100 miles away.
Please keep her in your prayers.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

My Picks for PIC

The community of St. John's is sitting on the edge of its pew as we receive letters, and bits and pieces of information, about the "unnamed person" who our Bishop will be luring to come be our priest-in-charge (aka PIC). We have been given a few clues about this person's identity:

  • "He" is a "he";
  • "He" is someone we'll "really like";
  • "He" says his prayers and is pastoral;
  • "He" is married with children (so we won't get any of that "gay" new thing happenin' in the church, and we won't have to worry about him marrying a parishioner).

And then, naturally, we have heard all about how this "He" will plant new families in the garden of Episcopal Church Growth, and water them so they produce lots of children, and he will love grandma and grandpa, too. This seems to be the standard line with all searches for Episcopal priests. It's about as predictable as hearing a beauty queen tell the pageant judges that she is for "world peace".

The important thing here is that the Bishop has said that rather than us going through a search process which would take 18-months to two years, the Bishop plans to select a person and then our vestry will give a thumbs up, and he'll be put in as "priest-in-charge" and ultimately made the rector.

So, who is this "unnamed" PIC? Inquiring minds (read everybody who attends services on a semi-regular basis) wants to know!! Since what we know is that "He" is a he, I thought I'd toss out names of male priests who I would like to see as the PIC.

Let's see.....

Men. Who I would "really like". Hmmmmm....

1. Rev. Jonathan Haggar (aka Mad Priest). I love his wit. I love his gospel outlook and no holds-bar approach to expressing it on his blog (Of Course, I Could Be Wrong) And the man needs to be rescued from England! Don't know if he has any kids, but I know there is a Mrs. Mad Priest.

2. Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson (aka the Bishop of New Hampshire)... but I'd doubt he'd give up his current gig to be our PIC at St. John's. Oh, and then there is that whole gay thing.... dammit!

3. The Very Rev. Mike Kinman (aka one of my college buddies). Well, OK... so he IS the dean of the cathedral in St. Louis. But that's so far from the oil-front property of the Gulf Coast! Mike loves baseball. We have decent COLLEGE baseball in Tallahassee. And he's a he. And he's married... with a child! Hmmm... do ya think it could be him?

4. Rev. Rich Weymouth (aka that really cool curate we had at Christ Church Exeter for a couple of years). I think he's a chaplain at a prep school in New England. He's married with kids, too. Oh, but I think they're grown up now. And Rich must be in his early 60s. This "He" is supposedly "young". (I hope that does not mean Rev. Doogie Howser!)

5. Rev. John Penman (aka Frdougal) but I doubt he'd want the job. And then there's that whole gay thing again.... geez, why does that keep tripping me up??

Is there any way to do age reversal on Fr. Lee Graham??

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

To Everything, Turn, Turn, Turn

It was a 1960s kind of start to Morning Prayer. Ecclesiatces 3:1-15, the basis for the lyrics to a tune by The Byrds. But besides those familiar words about a "time to love and a time to hate" I'm so struck by how this language hit me and resonated with me this morning, particularly verse 11:

He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover, he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

I had to exhale as I read that verse. To me, this is the essence of "THE MESSAGE" that I wish, so wish, that more people especially those in the hierarchy of Anglicanism would take into their very beings. For all the "talk" that some in the Communion have given year-in and year-out about seasons of "gracious restraint" and constantly saying, "Not at this time" to whatever group is deemed 'other', the truth of the matter is... the only one who sets these seasons and times is God. And even though we can perceive it on one level, ultimately we have no way of being definitive about what is that God has done, is doing, or will do because we are NOT God. As I considered the whole of the lines 1-15, I had what felt like an important realization: all times and all seasons rest with God, and God's spirit will blow the winds that shift and change seasons. No people are expected to live in winter forever.

So, with that in mind, why in the world did the Archbishop of Canterbury write a letter that would advocate for the exclusion of the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada for recognizing that we are living in a new season, or different one, than in other parts of the globe?

Our Presiding Bishop ... and California Bishop Marc Andrus... have responded to the ABC. Both make excellent and forceful arguments in favor of following the Holy Spirit and calling into question what exactly the Archbishop is hoping to achieve cloaking a punitive letter in the form of a "pastoral" letter at Pentecost. After all, isn't the Spirit the Sustainer of Life and not the Purveyor of Death to 'Others'?

Who Exactly is Expendable?

A recent news item hit too close to home in that Kevin Bacon, six-degrees-of-separation kind of way.
A young woman named Sunday went missing in Tifton, GA. Her sister owns a local new age shop which I frequent for items for my massage business, and Sunday was also friends with a young woman, Millie, who is the daughter (step-daughter) of the couple I married in December 2008. For about a month, I would receive messages every few days via a Facebook Group looking for tips on her disappearance, or calling on people to help search, or hold a vigil, or otherwise keep Sunday's face circulating so that someone with information on her whereabouts might come forward.
Sadly, the worst has come to pass. Her body was found on May 27th. And with it, a story that sickens the soul.
Arrested in this case are her in-laws and one of their friends. Her estranged husband, who had a history of violence, is already in jail and it's unclear at this point if he had anything to do with her murder.
Worse yet is that friends of the victim say the Georgia Bureau of Investigation are the ones who took the lead in the search for Sunday. Why were state resources brought in on a missing person case in rural southwest Georgia? Because, apparently, the Tifton police department was dragging its collective feet on hunting for Sunday. In fact, it seems that if it hadn't been for Millie's phone call to the FEDERAL Bureau of Investigation, there would have been very little effort made to find this missing young woman. I mean, the in-laws, who seem to be less than stable, were burning a couch outside their property on the day Sunday went missing! And that didn't raise a red flag for the cops?
I have heard this same story before. Police departments making decisions about who is worthy of the time and effort to follow a case, and those who are basically expendable.
It's not just law enforcement with this kind of prejudice. Academic studies of the death penalty indicate that if a jury can empathize with the murder victim (i.e. can put themselves in the dead person's shoes) they are more likely to vote for a death sentence. But if the victim was engaged in an activity that doesn't resonate with the individual jurors (i.e. a drug deal), then they are less likely to recommend death.
Even in churches, you'll sometimes hear about those who God loves more than others. I was stunned to hear in a sermon that a birth mother of an adopted child was a drug addict; thus the baby was born with health problems. The bishop preaching this sermon stated he was having a hard time forgiving the addicted woman. This was a moment of disconnect for me. Are we not supposed to pray for those who need it? Are we not suppose to see the addict as one in need of God's love big time?? And is this a bishop telling me that some people are not worthy of forgiveness?
Am I just crazy, or does this lead to a mentality of who will we be willing to throw away next?
I'm reminded of the hauntingly beautiful song by Sweet Honey in the Rock called "Would You Harbor Me?"

Would you harbor a Muslim, a Christian, a Jew
A heretic, convict, or spy?
Would you harbor a woman or runaway child,
a poet, a prophet, a king?
Would you harbor a Tubman, a Garrett, a Truth,
a person living with AIDS?
Would you harbor a Haitian, Korean, or Czech,
a lesbian or a gay?

Who is our neighbor? And who is not worthy of that dignity? Tell me, world.

Terry Update

Great news from Gainesville from Terry's wife, Donna Marie. There have been some tears shed, and much joy as Terry's life makes a huge shift from deafness into sound:

For an hour they were fine tuning the cochlear via Terry listening
only to sounds on the computer. Unlike most people who get "turned
on", Terry loved (not hated) the high pitched sounds (as if she'd
never heard them before, or hadn't heard them for 40 or more years,
she was quite excited.)

Then they turned the cochlear on in the room itself, and Terry freaked
out at the sound of the computer next to her, her own voice and the
sounds of other voices. Audiologist said "speech is complicated and
takes time." Audiologist then took out kid's musical instruments,
and Terry was particularly thrilled at the sound of the xylophone and
adored the bell.

Look out world! Terry can hear you!!!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Mad Priest's Challenge

The Mad Priest has thrown down the gauntlet.

In light of the Archbishop's latest insulting drivel wrapped up in lovely language about Pentecost, the Mad Priest notes that many of us on this side of the pond are satisfied to say we'll keep our wallets closed and tucked into our pants' pockets and to hell with everybody. This, for MP, is unacceptable. What he wants is some good old-fashioned, ham-fisted, American diplomacy of "We know what's better for you than you do, and we're gonna ram it down your throats." But, unlike the export of war to foreign lands, he's calling on us to enact "Operation Inclusive Church" and export THAT for once!

Of course, we'll need a general to get it done. As I noted for MP, Bishop Gene Robinson did his part when he was cast in the role of "sideshow freak" at the last Lambeth Conference. +Gene made in-roads and won admirers from many Brits who are long-since fed up with their state church which keeps getting further and further out-of-touch with where God's people now stand on many 'social' issues. The only people who seemed bothered by the Bishop of New Hampshire were the idiots in the Archbishop's office, and that one motorcycle helmet waving jackass at the church service where +Gene preached.

But Mad Priest is looking for someone STRAIGHT. And, clearly, the only timbre of voice that England will hear is a male one.

So, who can lead this American Invasion and bring the shock and awe of the Good News of an inclusive Jesus Christ to Her Majesty's church?

Who should we task with this mission?

And when we win (because 'mericans NEVER lose), will we have video of a band of Episcopalians toppling a bust of the ABC and dragging it around the streets of London? That alone might get some 'piskies enlisted in the fight!!

Prayers Ascending for Terry

Today is the day that my friend, Terry Galloway, will take a brave step toward hearing. The doctors will be "turning her on" (yes, please snicker: she'd approve!) Prayers for her and her medical team as medical technology attempts to give her what medical treatment took away from her in utero.

And while we're at: blessings and thanksgiving to those celebrating birthdays today (Delray, Phoebe and my brother Tom). If it's your birthday, know that I add your name in secret!