Thursday, July 29, 2010

Quitting Christianity "In the Name of Christ"

I was fascinated to learn via Facebook that Anne Rice, author of vampire novels turned devout Christian, has decided to call it quits with Christianity. She made the announcement on her Facebook page, and within hours, it was all over the blogs.

What Rice posted:
"For those who care, and I understand if you don't: Today I quit being a Christian. I'm out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being "Christian" or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to "belong" to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outside. My conscience will allow nothing else..."

"... I quit being a Christian. I'm out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen."

Tsk. Tsk. Tsk. Methinks the author is a bit miffed and mystified.
Anne Rice grew up in the Roman Catholic Church, attended Catholic schools in New Orleans, left the RCs and called herself an atheist as she penned vampire stories, and then had a conversion experience that brought her back to the Roman Catholic Church in 1998. And that seems to be the problem. She came back to a Church that couldn't meet her where she was at. What I read in her statements is that she has confused "being a Christian" with "buying into the dogma" of the Roman Catholic Church. How else could she say, "In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity..." and maintain she is committed to Christ? Reminds me of the button slogan: "I have nothing against God; it's His Fan Club I can't stand!"
I have known others like Anne Rice. They get angry at Christ or at God or at Christianity when what is really ticking them off are the institutions that have been ham-fisted, double-speaking holier-than-thou troglodytes out to put God inside a box of their own making. The hurt and dismayed often say they are OK with Christ, but then launch into their complaints against institutions that fail to recognize that the current era bears similarities to First Century Palestine, but is NOT 100 CE and that we must respond in accordance to our own reality, not the one known by Jesus or the apostles. Been there, done that. I've learned from that mistake.

I suppose that with this media splash, Anne Rice has succeeded in getting her name out there again. Seems that she was more popular for the vampire books than the ones extolling the virtues of Christ. And maybe one day she'll try out a different pew and discover a community where she will feel more at home.

The Best Expert Available?

Sometimes, I wish politicians would quit.
In an interview with the Sun-Sentinel newspaper, Florida Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill McCollum says, due to his religious convinctions, he doesn't believe that the "gay model" is a good one for children. He goes on to defend the state's hiring of Dr. George Rekers as a credible "scholar" on the question of LGBT people as adoptive parents. Remember, Rekers? He was the man who asserted during a Miami trial on Florida's anti-gay adoption law that gay people shouldn't be parents because they were prone to drug and alcohol abuse and were basically unstable people... much the same as Native Americans (yes, he did say that!). Rekers then became the center of scandal when the New Times newspaper in South Florida caught him coming back from a trip with a strapping young man he'd picked up off an internet rent-a-boy service. McCollum defends Rekers' testimony... despite this embarassing little gaffe... and goes on to take a swing at Universities that, because of political correctness, don't allow such scholarship as Rekers' to take place.
Maybe McCollum has a point. Universities really have gone all liberal and such and they aren't funneling research money toward other important scholarship... like proving that the earth is flat, and that the sun revolves around the earth, and that you can tell if someone is a criminal, or at least very stupid, based on the bumps on their skull.
Wonder how many lumps are on McCollum's head?!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lessons Learned

I have come down off the Sewanee mountain top a humbled and changed person. Humbled in a way that was what I needed, and knew it was what I needed, and was glad to have had it happened. Changed because out of the experience, I made another step in the way of becoming more of the person I am meant to be.
The humbling came in attempting to lead my group in what is called "Theological Reflection". The best description I have for the experience is that I was like that winning coach of the sports team that makes into the big game... and then proceeds to change the team's winning game strategy thinking somehow this would be unexpected? Clever? Put the other team in chaos? And, instead, leads the team to a remarkable... and yet avoidable... defeat. I had allowed myself to be talked out of using a method of reflection that would have been easier for me, the extremely green, to handle. Instead, I went with something more difficult, and abstract, and ultimately, a potato too hot for me to hold my first time out of the box.
I also didn't thoroughly prepare what I was doing. A few notes to self jotted onto a notebook sheet is not exactly the way that I would have wanted to approach my inaugural TR presentation. My normal course of action would have had me working out the steps to their fullest, so I'd be ready to get up in front of the board and "do this thang!" But then brain took over from gut and said, "Oh, no. Don't you know that the group is supposed to be the ones doing this work, so don't do too much or you will be trying to control the group." (Wrong! I needed to have the sketch with the different categories... not just a few notes!)
My TR would be centered on an object from culture. I was going to use a debit/credit card... and that's what I'd been plotting and planning around. Instead, I opened my wallet and thought, "Oh, no. Don't use the debit card; use the key card and guide a discussion about security... a discussion you haven't even written any notes about at all! Oh, and while you're at it: switch which method you're going to use!"
In short, I was sticking nails in the tires of my car and after I'd made it through the first ten minutes of the presentation (which was going fine enough)... the blow-out started happening. I lost my place... tried to keep going... getting futher lost as another tire blew... until finally, I asked the group to help patch up these tires, so I could at least get us to the end. I was mortified. There is nothing in this world more humbling than to stand before a room full of people and have things fall down in a presentation when you're the one standing at the board.
I left that evening feeling like a moron and a failure. I felt as though I'd let everyone down: my group, my church, my mentor, my friends, me. At one point, as I was lying in bed replaying the afternoon meltdown, I questioned why I was doing this training. Why was I even in EfM? Should I bother to go in for the final day? Mind you, the group had been willing to take responsibility for their part in the blow out: my presentation was after lunch, they were tired and getting sleepy, and having a really hard time focusing on what we were doing. Some of the fellow trainees, recognizing that I was looking shaken, assured me that they thought it wasn't as bad as I was feeling, and that I would make a good mentor.
I didn't believe them.
And that was a big realization: even when I am being praised, I can't hear the appreciation through the noise in my own head. What was that song that had been in my head recently?
Open up, open up, baby, let me in.
You expect for me to love you
when you hate yourself my la la la la.
I woke up the next morning at about 5:45am, grabbed my journal, and sat out on the porch of the house where I was staying. After taking in a few breaths, doing my centering prayer, I sketched out my TR again... filling in the steps as I needed them to go in order to lead an effective and enlightening conversation. That made me feel a little better. Then I went to All Saint's Chapel for the 8am service. One of the stained glass windows was of my "power prophet" Jonah. We'd gone over Jonah during one of the earlier TR's, and again, I was struck with how readily I could see the things I do as being very Jonah-like. And here was a stained glsss window with Jonah. I heard the collect that I love... and took in the words of passing through those things temporal while not losing sight of that which is eternal. No truer words could have been spoken to me. And I was soothed by receiving the body and blood of Christ. Taking that in, on this particular morning, reminded me again that no matter what, I am always part of something bigger that will love me still... even when I stub the toe of Christ against the sin of pride and total self-reliance.
Going into class, I felt a little stronger and lighter than I'd been feeling. I thought, "Whatever will be will be. I have learned something valuable, and something more valuable than if I had come in here and blown everybody away with my brilliance."
How did it end? I was accredited as a mentor along with everyone else... and I was able to hear the words of appreciation from my trainer and the others: I was appreciated for my courage, my willingness to say 'I don't know', my deep spirituality, my eagerness to learn and attentiveness and willingness to learn, my contribution to the future of EfM and the hope that it gives for the continuation of the program and, most of all, that I am more capable than I give myself credit for being.
And so with all that, may I mark, learn and inwardly digest my weekend experience as I do my part to build up and support others in the body of Christ. Amen.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Calming Collect

This is one of my faves:

O god, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom
nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon
us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so
pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

I first came across this collect two years ago as the Lambeth Conference was under way sans the Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire. I found the petition that "with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal..." to be spot-on for the moment. Same holds true today.

When things seem chaotic or stressful and become "THINGS", the calm comes with the remembrance that we can get through the temporal... and that as we move beyond the "THINGS", we don't lose sight of the "thing" which is the eternal.

There are lots of things that attempt to become "THINGS" in our life. I reflect on the many events recently, including the aborted special session on the oil-drilling ban, as a "THING" that could disrupt and derail and blur the focus on God as the eternal thing. Sadly I see in the legislature the continued concern with the one false God that drives so many: Money. OK, for them there is also Power... and Greed (see how "things" obscure God?) I was disappointed with what occurred at the Capitol, but I knew that's what was going to happen. And so, again, I fix my eyes and ears on God, and trust that there are other ways to right this terrible environmental wrong.

When I look at the other readings assigned for Sunday, I can see this theme of "passing through the temporal and staying with the eternal" running through it. Certainly, Paul seems concerned with reminding the Colossians that they have THE thing they need, and do not have to submit or give in to the desire for other things, such as idols. And again there is the Lukian passage about knocking on the door which will open to any who rap their knuckles on that door. Because the eternal is there and waiting for that knock, and to give shelter to those who are looking to pass through the temporal b-s.

All we have to do is follow the Nike slogan: Just Do It.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Off to Sewanee

I'm off on an adventure this weekend to Sewanee. I'm getting trained to be a mentor in the Education for Ministry program. I'm nervous. I'm anxious. I'm excited. And I'm hoping that all goes well. I've got a short blog entry prepared for while I'm away which will hopefully automatically post this weekend. In the meantime, please do peruse the "Brilliance in the Blogosphere" and meet some of the witty, smart, and excellent writers out there in the virtual landscape.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Crude Dudes Win Again

I'm not paid any more to go to the state Capitol and listen to the Florida legislature. And that's a good thing. Because it gives me the room to say what I really think of the governance of this state.

Citizens of Florida: you are being ruled by bought-and-paid-for bozos!

Ahhh... that's more like it! I was never allowed to say that as a paid member of the media, a reporter for Florida Public Radio which owed some of its existence to the kindness of state lawmakers funding a budget line for universities to continue having public radio and TV outlets. The money issue never influenced me directly. But the American journalistic ethic of "fair, objective, and accurate" reporting was really the thing that kept me from going off and landing gut punches in my reports. But today, on a day when I witnessed yet another round of infuriating b-s at our state Capitol, I am pleased that I can just say it: the Florida legislature sucks because the crude dudes rule the roost!

The goon squad was summoned to Tallahassee by Governor Charlie Crist to debate and place an amendment on the ballot to ban off-shore oil drilling in Florida's portion of the Gulf of Mexico. Governor Crist is saying he did this because he cares about the Gulf, which I am not doubting. But, let's face it: does it really hurt his attempt to woo support from some Democrats and moderate Republicans as he runs as an independent for U.S. Senator to join in the chant of "Let the people vote"?

The goon leaders, House Speaker Larry Cretal and Senate President Jeff Atwater, didn't want to come to Tallahassee in July. They didn't want to deal with the oil crisis. They complained that this special session was "rushed" and they didn't have time to consider the many issues caused by BP's Underwater Geyser. Actually, I think they are worried that if they put this on the ballot, it will get the necessary 60-percent of the vote, and former Secretary of State Jim Smith and his buddies, who all represent oil interests including BP, wouldn't have had time to work the system to their clients' advantage. "This should be dealt with during a regular session" the goons complained, "When we have more time and not do some knee-jerk reaction to a crisis." (Please see previous comment about lobbyist influence).

Just like the typical plays that I used to witness for a living as a reporter, today's floor debate in the House had a script. In the opening scene, the clerk reads the call issued by the Governor. Enter the House Speaker for Scene 2, where he acknowledges the call, says it's poppycock, puts out a new plan of action that will delay any real response from state lawmakers until after the primary election, and then calls on his henchman to offer the motion to adjourn 'Sine Die'. All those in favor of the Speaker scream, "Aye". Those in opposition shout, "No!". The Speaker declares his idea the winner and then.... Scene 3: Outrage and yelps from the minority party as they protest the Speaker's script. Quickly, five hands... and more... shoot up in the air. Another vote takes place, this time recorded for all to see on the big lighted vote board. And--aha!--the Speaker was right! But the opposition presses on and insists this motion to adjourn is one that should be debated, and we have Scene 4: the debate. Speech after speech. What the citizens want and don't want. Questioning of motivations, politics, taxpayer money wasted. And then the final scene of this One-Act play: the actual vote on the decision to adjourn and--quelle suprise-- it's a party-line vote to adjourn. Ta-da! One side wins, the other side grumbles. And the majority of the public doesn't have a clue what just happened.

My personal favorite argument for why lawmakers were against putting this question to the voters was the one about how off-shore oil drilling is already banned in Florida statues, so why do we need to put it in the Florida constitution? This is a really good point. It was the same argument I and many others made about the desire to ban gay marriage by constitutional amendment back in 2008. Why did we need to do that, when same-sex marriage was already illegal in FOUR places in Florida statutes? Funny, though, I don't recall the Florida Republican members of the state legislature actively campaigning against Amendment 2 in 2008. And I'm willing to bet most of them voted for Amendment 2 because "those people" were angling to challenge the statute in court and the skittish needed to know their sacred special marital rights were protected from "my kind" of pollution!

Now that our state legislature has failed to respond to the people, I'm wondering what else it will take to make the populace realize that they are not being led to a better future? And what is preventing the public from now turning our attention to other leaders, and people with means to get us out of our oily mess? Will the boards of trustees at the universities and the university presidents seek out partnerships within the scientific community and across geographic boundaries to find and fund research on new sources of energy? I think it's time to look toward the non-elected leaders among us to make some headway on long-term solutions.

Leave the bozos to play out their theater under the big top to the pleasure of the crude dudes.

Ain't They The Women

‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.--Luke 11:9-10

This part of Luke's Gospel rings true in the case of those who rallied for the emancipation of blacks and women, four women whom the Episcopal Church commemorates today. Soujourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Elizabeth Stady Canton, and Amelia Jenks Bloomer all contributed to the struggle, the push, the pull, the pain and the joy that now allows blacks and women to vote and have their voices heard. In reading James Kiefer's brief bios of the four, I was struck that both Truth and Tubman found the grounding for their work in the stories of Exodus. Truth, who delivered the speech "Ain't I A Woman?", was likened to the prophetess Miriam. And Tubman, who ran the underground railroad with the aid of white Quakers, was called the Moses of her people.

I, too, have found quiet strength and the ability to persevere in the face of hostility and stubbornness by reflecting on the effort it took for the Israelites to escape Egypt. This same escape from tyranny is all over the Gospels as well. But beyond the realities of Roman rule, the slavery I see Christ speaking against is the one that erects barriers to faith in the brain and the heart as in part of the lesson in this past Sunday's gospel with the Mary and Martha story. Are we focused on the things or on the thing? Are we doing for the sake of doing or out of a deeper belief and trust?

I have spent many years in the struggle for full equality for LGBT people. What I have found for myself is that instead of banging my head against the wall, if I put my trust in God and "knock" rather than "bang", I see and am able to perceive that the Spirit is there, and moving. The world is shifting and changing and with it comes the Church. But it will shift and change and morph into its new realities not on my time, but on God's time. What I must trust in is that it is happening and always remember the promise of Christ that "I am with you to the end of the age". It is with that hope that I think anyone striving for justice and peace and the dignity of all human beings can carry with them and know that their efforts are not for naught, even when they seem daunting.

And so, we pray:

O God, whose Spirit guides us into all truth and makes us free: Strengthen and sustain us as you did your servants Elizabeth, Amelia, Sojourner, and Harriet. Give us vision and courage to stand against oppression and injustice and all that works against the glorious liberty to which you call all your children; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

St. Cecilia Choir of Girls Goes Off to England

I am one very proud and excited auntee! My niece, Charlotte, is part of a girl's choir at her Greenwich, CT., church. This past winter, she sent me a calendar that the choir was selling which features photos of their church and some of the activities that they have there. Proceeds would go toward sending the girls on a singing tour in England. Well, obviously, it all paid off, because she and her mates are over there now... having arrived at Heathrow airport in the middle of our night, and they are on their way to Exeter, England! The St. Cecilia Choir of Girls will be singing Choral Evensong at the Exeter Cathedral (pictured above) as well as at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. Pretty nifty, eh? I'm really delighted for her. Charlotte was born in London and I know misses her native home land. My partner and I still delight in remembering when we first met her as a wee 22-month old who wanted to watch "101 Dalmations" over and over. She was enthralled with horses, which she called "Bubbies" (actually, if memory serves, all four-legged furry critters were Bubbies). She's going to spend some time with friends taking care of their "Bubbies" during this trip. I am hoping for her this will recall great memories and create new ones she can carry with her.

Meanwhile, my brother and my nephew had an experience of a lifetime last month when they sang at the installation service for their new rector. Not only did they have their own bishop of CT at the service; Archbishop Desmond Tutu was the homilist! What a fantastic opportunity to pass the peace with one of the really great leaders in Anglicanism.

Gee, I may have to stick to wearing T-shirts. Too many more stories like this will burst all the buttons off my oxfords! :)

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Felt Infinite

As a child, I always chuckled on Sunday mornings at Christ Church Exeter when I'd see in the bulletin that we'd be using Eucharistic Prayer C from the Book of Common Prayer. My brother Tom and I had dubbed this "The Carl Sagan Prayer" because of the line:

At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home.
This sounded so "New Age" and bizarre that we had to laugh.
And now, I suppose, the joke is on me. Because I'm finding this phrase "the vast expanse of interstellar space" is at the forefront of my mind as I contemplate God's infusion into my every day consciousness. I feel at times that my relationship with God has a depth and breadth that may be like the vast expanse of interstellar space. In prayer, I've been experiencing something that feels almost like elastic. This stretching and moving feeling I associate as being God's Love. It has a way of reaching farther and farther, then deeper and deeper with no end to how far it will go. At least that's the sense that I've been having about it. This cognitive understanding of Love is not new for me. But this deeper felt sense of it is.

The times when I have had that experience of the "felt infinite" have been when I have stared up into the night sky, especially in a place like Missouri where out on I-70 you could see for miles across the flat plains as you head toward Kansas City. Sky and land would meet on the horizon and I could gaze into this and lose myself in the beauty of the Midwestern landscape. I feel that same loss of self in the White Mountains of New Hampshire when I stand at the edge of a lake surrounded by these giants of creation reaching up and up into the clouds. I am so aware of how small I am in comparison and yet not insignificant because I am still part of the scene, not separated from it. This isn't a case of I'm on the outside looking in; I'm on the inside looking around and experiencing being part of what is there and knowing that there is something--a great I AM-- that is there in all things.

Something greater than me. And yes, I say, "Thanks be to God" for that!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Day 86.... Could this Cap Be Working?

Supposedly, the Underwater Geyser is... for the first time since April 20th... NOT gushing oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Thus far, the estimate is that 163-million gallons of crude of been spewed forth into the Gulf. Still everyone is cautious to say that this cap, which appears to have stopped up the well, is not the final solution to the problem and there remains a risk that BP's Underwater Geyser may burst again before the relief wells are finished next month. Let's hope that's not the case. You can read the NY Times article HERE.

Meanwhile, the state legislature is due back next week for a special session on a constitutional amendment to ban off-shore oil drilling. Many of us would like to see lawmakers take this a step further by encouraging and funding efforts to find new alternatives to oil. This disaster in the Gulf should be an incentive to get our scientists at various university campuses and at research labs along the coast together to look for answers to our insatiable appetite for oil. That would be the best result out of an otherwise horrible ecological situation, and a gift for future generations.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Body House

LORD, I love the house in which you dwell
and the place where your glory abides.
--Psalm 26:8

I don't know that my massage practice informs my spiritual life, but my spiritual life does a lot to inform my massage practice. I was reminded of that today.

The verse from Psalm 26 jumped out at me as I went over the readings assigned for today in the Daily Office. Because I had a morning client, I did the Office at my office. When I hit that verse, I took a moment to consider "the house". One way to see this is the house as in a building... the tabernacle... where God dwells. However, as I sat with the Psalm this morning, I thought of "the Christ within". The house, in this instance, is the body... where God's glory abides. Too often, I think it's easy to forget that our bodies need attention and love. They are the exterior house of our interior soul. To love the body, in my opinion, is not a negation of the soul but a means of keeping the house of the soul in order and open to receive all that is God through the senses.

With that thought in my head, I greeted my client, had her fill out the necessary paperwork, and did the session with a further appreciation of the work. Caring for the bodies of my clients is a way of tending to the house where "glory abides". It's a special kind of work, and one that is as rewarding to give as it is to receive.
I'm reminded of the Collect for this week:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who
call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand
what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and
power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ
our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Amen to that!

New Practice

I have started doing "centering" or "contemplative" prayer as part of my faith journey process. I'm new to this in some ways; old to it in others. Thus far, the experience has been very much like times when I would do sitting meditation in massage school. There would be the "noise" that would try to grab my attention and keep me from quieting down my inner being. But at some point, there would be a shift, and I would find that all the extraneous matter had fallen away and I was in a different space.
I'm working with Thomas Keating's "Open Mind, Open Heart". I've also glanced at some parts of "The Cloud of Unknowing" which is fascinating and dense with thought-provoking concepts. Keating is very accessible, and I like the way he presents the practice. I am taking this addition into my prayer life as a way of doing some of what I would call "spiritual strength building".
I doubt I will chronicle here all that I experience during my "work out" sessions. I'd rather let what I garner from this practice feed into how I perceive and write on the blog. However, I will share that one of the marvelous kernels that popped out at the end of one of my sitting experiences was a simple prayer: "Tune my ears to your Word."
Let the music begin.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Cheers for the Women in the Church of England

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York failed to get support for a half-baked idea of bishop male-body doubles for those people in the Church of England who won't accept a woman in the episcopate. And now word from the Mad Priest is that the acceptance of mitre-wearing women is moving right along in their Synod. Read it HERE. The cartoon was too good NOT to share.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Mixed Minneapolis Bag for Presbyterians

There's some good news, and some bad news from the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.'s General Assembly meeting in Minneapolis.

On the one hand, the group gathered for the 219th General Assembly voted to allow non-celibate LGBT people to be called as pastors in their church (YAY!). The vote of 53-percent in favor vs. 46-percent against indicates that there is support, and still some work to do at assuring everyone that a gay person in the pulpit is NOT going against the Gospel. That will happen with time and God's grace, I'm sure.

On the other hand, a move to approve the blessing of same-sex marriages and civil unions failed to garner the votes necessary to make the PCUSA one of the most progressive mainline Christian denominations in the country. Eleven members of the pro-LGBT group Soulforce were arrested when they held a silent "pray-in" protest of the vote. The group reportedly marched to the front of the assembly hall, holding up signs that read: "Prayer: Ordination, Marriage, Pension". To read more about what is happening in Minneapolis, check out the More Light Presbyterians blog HERE.

To me, this seems like a situation where one can either see the glass as half-empty or half-full. It would have been AMAZING if the the Presbyterians had adopted a standard of marriage being between "two people" as opposed to "a man and a woman". But just because it didn't happen this time doesn't mean that all is lost. Especially given the vote on ordination orders. That is huge, and gives me as an Episcopalian hope and joy as I continue to bear witness to God's inclusive love. When our fellow brothers and sisters on the Christian path begin chipping away at long-held prejudices that we in our Episcopal Church are also struggling with, there is a true sense that we are not alone... not in the temporal or the eternal. And I think that when congregations begin to see LGBT people in leadership roles, and realize (again) that this is the Gospel fulfilled not flaunted, then it will ease the pain that comes with recognizing, "Oh, yeah: why did I think gay people couldn't form loving partnerships in marriage?"

When the scales fall from the eyes, that's when people will truly see. I keep trusting that God's ways will win out in the end... even when people try to interfere.

Friday, July 9, 2010

GA Court to Savannah Squatters: Get Out!!

Good news from the neighbors to the north of us here in Florida! A Georgia appeals court has upheld a lower court decision which says Christ Church in Savannah belongs to the National Episcopal Church.

In reading this case of The Rector, Warden, And Vestrymen of Christ Church in Savannah v. Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia, Inc. et. al., it is clear that the secular courts "ain't buying what the squatters are selling." It seems that those who wish to disaffiliate with the National Church have it in their heads that they get to keep the property, prayer books, polished silver, and so forth. Trouble is, there is this little issue called "history" coupled with "church business" that keeps tripping them up. As noted in the 25-page opinion, up until 2006 Christ Church in Savannah owed its very existence to the National Church by having clergy trained in Episcopal seminaries, had a perfect attendance record at all the conventions, signed all kinds of documents and conformed to the canons of the National Church... including an implied trust called the Dennis Canon, adopted at the 1979 General Convention, which puts all church property in the hands of the National Church and its dioceses. The only thing that has changed is that a group of malcontents decided they didn't like gay people, and seized control of the building valued at about three million dollars and the endowment estimated at between $2-3 million. Those who didn't go along with the plan to merge with homophobes in Uganda have been forced to hold services elsewhere.

You can read about the GA case in this article and the opinion at Episcopal Cafe.

Of course, those who are currently unlawfully occupying the church building in Savannah have a right to continue appealing this case. Or, they can admit defeat, and go rent a store front in an abandoned shopping plaza beginning July 18th.

To quote the house in The Amityville Horror: "Get out!!!"

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Dumping DOMA in the Commonwealth

Let the screeching begin!

U.S. District Court Judge Joseph L. Tauro has found that the federal Defense of Marriage Act violates the rights of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts where same-sex marriage is legal.

Judge Tauro issued his ruling in two cases, one brought by the Massachusetts Attorney General and the other by the LGBT rights group Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders. In the case from the Commonwealth, Judge Tauro agreed it was wrong for Congress to force the state to discriminate against some of its married citizens in order to receive federal funds for certain programs. In the other case, Tauro sided with the plaintiffs argument that DOMA violates the equal protection clause by granting some benefits, like Social Security, to heterosexual but not same-sex married couples.

“This court has determined that it is clearly within the authority of the Commonwealth to recognize same-sex marriages among its residents, and to afford those individuals in same-sex marriages any benefits, rights, and privileges to which they are entitled by virtue of their marital status,” Judge Tauro wrote. “The federal government, by enacting and enforcing DOMA, plainly encroaches upon the firmly entrenched province of the state.”

To put this in very immature terms: nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah!! I look forward to all those... like Justice Antonin Scalia... who love to crow about "state's rights" try to overturn this decision.

This comes as we await the decision of federal Judge Walker on the west coast, where Proposition 8 in California hangs in the balance.

As for those of us who live in states such as Florida, where we now have it in statute and the state constitution that LGBT people can't have a wedding... or even the "substantial equivalent thereof"... well, we're screwed. Judge Tauro's rulings, if upheld (because--yes--I'm betting the Obama administration appeals these cases), did not address the issue in DOMA that allow states to ignore marriage licenses legally issued to LGBT couples elsewhere. So Florida bigotry remains safe. But I'm sure that as lawsuit upon lawsuit chips away at this iceberg, and as attitudes in society at large reject homophobia, the laws in states such as Florida will fall. May not be for another generation, but it will happen one day.

And Love will really see its light spread in the world!

More Lies From Abroad

I received a notice in my ebox from Integrity USA that the drama about the beheaded and mutilated body of an Integrity Uganda member... and the priest who went missing after making pro-gay statements in a speech... was all a lie. It is true that there has been a horrible death of a farm hand. But Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, the founder of Integrity Uganda, says there is no connection between this dead man and his group.

"I have never worked with anyone who goes by the name Pasikali in my organization. I also did not make any comments as quoted in earlier statements by Rev. Erich Kasirye. Rev. Erich Kasirye no longer has any legitimate connection to Integrity Uganda and the email address is no longer available as a link to the leadership of Integrity Uganda."

Bishop Senyonjo was recently in the United States and Europe, touring and speaking about the real dangers that do exist in Uganda as a result of the export of homophobia via Exodus International and other "christian" evangelicals and their end product, the the anti-homosexuality Bahati legislation.

Box Turtle Bulletin, a pro-gay blogging site, unravels the mystery behind the beheading story HERE. Apparently, the source of this faux news is this Rev. Erich Kasirye, an opportunist who has defrauded concerned Westerners and now has ties to the virulent homophobe Bishop Henri Orombi.

How did I get duped? Well, I read the initial story on Changing Attitude like everybody else... and after a day, I saw where it was referenced on a couple of other sites including Box Turtle Bulletin. That made me think this story was legitimate... and since I'm responding and not reporting on this blog, and since I am interested and concerned about what is happening to the LGBT people of Africa... I offered my thoughts. I am angry that such a serious issue has been toyed with in this way. It only serves to undermine the real trouble that exists on the ground in places such as Uganda.

How can you actually help the work of Integrity Uganda in fighting homophobia and providing safe haven for those in fear for their lives? Make a contribution to Integrity USA's Hopkins Fund. Here's the link.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Jerked Around... Again

Another day, another disappointment from the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Church of England. After such excitement and possibility of real change with the renomination of Dr. Jeffrey John to ascend to the episcopate in England...nothing! Turns out that when the spotlight shines on the ABC, he shrivels and wilts like an unwatered flower in the Florida sun.

The reporter who broke the story Sunday in the Telegraph, Jonathan Wynne-Jones, explained on his blog that his initial report was based on leaked information, a leak that apparently greatly angered his Holiness:

Although he (the Archbishop) is only one of 14 members of the Commission, liberals will be perplexed as to why he allowed John’s name to be included on the shortlist if it was only to be rejected at the last minute. To be fair, he didn’t know that this fact would be leaked to me, and he is said to have been livid with the Commission that it was. But, given what happened in 2003 and his apparent distress at forcing his old friend to stand down from becoming Bishop of Reading, it will surprise many that he didn’t use his influence to try and sway the few undecided members who could have secured his selection.

The Archbishop has appeared increasingly resolute and self-assured over recent months, but liberals will be left wondering why he loses his backbone when it comes to fighting their corner. Even conservative evangelicals made clear that there was no reason to object to the dean’s appointment this time round, pointing to the fact that he has stressed that his homosexual relationship is celibate.

(This need for LGBT clergy to be "celibate", even when partnered, is insulting. Perhaps I'll re-post my rant on that at another time).

Needless to say, this is a huge disappointment. This was an opportunity for ++Rowan to redeem himself, make amends, and come to the light about the inclusive nature of God's love. Instead, he has stabbed his "friend" in the back again, presumably this time out of being pissed that the news was leaked to the London media. Meanwhile, Dr. Jeffrey John has been thrust back under the microscope... again!... had his credentials and whether he engages in sex examined... again!and put back in the lab animal cage... again! What a sad, sad state of affairs.

Interesting that today's Morning Prayer reading out of Romans 9 gave us a bit of foreshadowing for today's news:

What then are we to say? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses,
‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’
So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy. For the scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.’ So then he has mercy on whomsoever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomsoever he chooses.
--Romans 9: 14-18

Clearly, it seems God means to harden the Archbishop's heart.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Merrily, We Go Along...Death in Uganda

And so, as the debate heats up over whether the Archbishop of Canterbury is or is not actually supporting the nomination of Dr. Jeffrey John to be among those considered for Bishop of Southwark... another disturbing story emerges out of the troubled African nation of Uganda.

A gay man, who went missing on June 3rd aka Ugandan Martyrs Day, has turned up dead. Pasikali Kashusbe, a farm worker and youth leader for Integrity Uganda, was beheaded and his genitals were also cut off. His head was discovered in latrine on the farm where he worked. The torso was found elsewhere a few days earlier. In addition to the horror of this crime, the discovery of Kashusbe's mutilated remains came as there is an on-going search for a pro-gay Anglican priest named Henry Kayizzi Nsubuga who has been missing for two-and-a-half weeks. Rev. Nsubuga bravely delivered a speech in support of homosexuality at St. Paul's Church in Kanyanya. He is nowhere to be found. All of these events highlight the true dangers that exist for LGBT people, their friends, their lovers and their allies. And it again shines a bright light on the need for those in positions of leadership, especially in the Anglican Communion, to speak out and demand an end to the holocaust in that nation. It is a cruel irony that Kashusbe went missing on Ugandan Martyrs Day, a day in that country that commemorates the tipping point that led to the rise of the Anglican Church when several Catholic and Anglican missionaries including bishops were executed for refusing to reject Christianity for the customs of Bugandan King Mwanga II (there are claims he made homosexual advances on the Christian martyrs).

Perhaps a new tipping point is in order. And I continue asking, "What is it going to take to get the Anglican leaders to see that their continued marginalization of the LGBT community contributes to this madness??"

Monday, July 5, 2010

More on the Bishop of Southwark

There is a blog post from "Changing Attitudes" that I think is worth reading on this development with the Bishop of Southwark and Dr. Jeffrey John. You can get to it HERE. Really, I think it's best that you read what Colin Coward is saying rather than have me attempt to pontificate on something that is happening so far away, and yet is so important.

From that post, the speculation that Dr. John may have the approval necessary to ascend to the office of Bishop:

"... it would help to usher in God’s new paradigm for church and creation, in which old, dualistic ideas are being overturned by (to quote James Alison) “God who is brilliantly alive, totally without violence, in no way circumscribed by death, who has revealed himself as loving humanity by giving himself to us to allow us to live outside, and beyond the culture of death.”

Go read the blog post.

Pitiful in Kentucky

This very amateur video shot by Greg Skilling of the Louisville Independent Examiner shows what happens when you mix nationalism, theocracy and a healthy dose of fear: a T-shirt proclaiming, "Yup, I'm a racist."

The creators of this slogan are among the angry mob that makes up those rallies with the tea bags. They resent being called "racist", yet if you look at what they stand for... is it really wrong to call them what they are? We do have freedom of speech in America. That's how I can have a bumper sticker that was a mock-up of Dubya's "W"... with a "Whoops" instead of "W '04". But I can not imagine wanting to wear a shirt that says, "Yup, I'm a racist"... even if it means to counter the argument that wanting to carry a concealed weapon, close the borders, support the tea partiers, carry on about freedom of speech and declare that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior would lead one to the conclusion that you are--well--a racist.

But then, I don't live in their reality.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Thoughts for Independence Day

Last Friday, Fr. Lee Graham read the Collect for Independence Day at the noon service:

Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this
country won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the
torch of freedom for nations then unborn:
Grant that we and
all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our
liberties in righteousness and peace;
through Jesus Christ our
Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one
God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The italicized line is the one that made the greatest impression on me as he read it. If we accept that we are free, and can live as free people in our own individual lives, then we must also extend such freedom to others around us. That includes those within our borders and abroad.

Perhaps an even better collect for our times is the one on page 258 in the Book of Common Prayer:

Lord God Almighty, you have made all the peoples of the
earth for your glory, to serve you in freedom and in peace:
Give to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the
strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in
accordance with your gracious will; through Jesus Christ our
Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one
God, for ever and ever. Amen.

It serves us well to remember as we celebrate our journey of independence from the Crown that we are a free nation... but that freedom is not one to be used for our own advantage and do whatever we want but for the good of all people in accordance to God's will. Remember: "God's will be done on earth as it is in heaven." As the "works-in-progress" that we are... let's remember that portion of the Lord's Prayer and recommit ourselves to move our country in the direction of true justice, freedom and peace for ALL people.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

An Openly Gay Bishop in the Church of England?

I was intrigued to see this headline on the "Thinking Anglicans" blog:

"Southwark episcopal election makes news."

OK, what kind of news.... let's see here... a story in the London papers that there is an OPENLY GAY cleric nominated to be the Bishop of Southwark?? You can read the story in the Sunday Telegraph HERE.

And, adding to the "Oh, My, God" nature of this announcement... the openly-gay cleric is none other than Dr. Jeffrey John... the same openly-gay cleric who had to stand down for consideration in 2003 as the Bishop of Reading. ++Rowan Williams was involved in that decision. Now, seven years later, here's Pope Rowan giving his approval for Dr. John's nomination for the Bishop of Southwark.

Let me be clear: I am thrilled about this development, and am quite aware of the stir this is going to cause in the Church of England... and the Anglican Communion, as communal as it is at this time. If memory serves me, Dr. John's withdrawal came at or about the same time that New Hampshire gave the thumbs up to Gene Robinson. In fact, that was part of the "issue" the Archbishop was having about +Gene ("Well, I told my gay man he couldn't be a bishop for the good of the Anglican Communion. Where do you get off approving this man and not showing 'gracious restraint'?") Conservatives rallied to get Dr. John's name scratched off the list and the Archbishop relented. Now, as liberals in the CoE rejoice, I'm sure conservatives will be turning their eyes toward Africa for help. Sound familiar?

This news about Southwark raises a number of questions for me.
  • When did ++Rowan Williams decide to travel along the road to Damascus and have this conversion experience... if that's even what happened? Seriously, he has been such a bully and jerk toward the Episcopal Church in the States about our ethic of inclusion, I have to wonder what happened?

  • Is ++Rowan going to rethink the decision to put the Episcopal Church in "time out" on all the standing committees?

  • Is this a signal that ++Rowan has resigned himself to the understanding that the schismatics will not back down on their anti-Christian behavior?

  • Did ++Rowan need the Episcopal Church to lead him to this promised land? I mean, why else would Dr. Jeffrey John now become an acceptable candidate for the episcopate?

Perhaps there is something to the "new Pentecost" the Archbishop talked about this spring. Perhaps this is the workings of the Holy Spirit finally blowing some sense into the brain of the fuzzy-faced Welsh man. I have to believe that God is at work here because I really can not make heads nor tails of what has changed in the worldview of the Archbishop. I have all kinds of suspicions: the continued resignations of the more conservative voices on the standing committees, even with the punitive actions toward the Episcopal Church, might be a factor. Or maybe it's that they've waited the Biblically perfect number--seven years--before bringing Dr. John's name back into the mix. Or maybe the Archbishop began seeing the err of his recent ways and how much needless hurt he has caused with his words and inactions.

Whatever has happened... or happens in the early part of this coming week... we all here on this side of the pond should rejoice and be glad in this news. And I will hold the Archbishop and the Church of England in my prayers because they're gonna need it!

God is working his purpose out as year succeeds to year....

A Song for Your Saturday

Besides hymns, I find sometimes that some of my favorite songs of rock and roll also contain hidden messages to me about God. This one by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young is a prime example. Close your eyes and listen to the Love.

Lost in Translation

I subscribe to a number of different listserves, but admit I don't always read all the ones that come in to my various email accounts. Some days, I just don't have the energy to keep up with all that is happening in the world. And since I'm not a journalist (or at least a paid one) any more, hey--I don't have to follow every bloody news item!! Thanks be to God!

But today I did check out the Institute for Welcoming Resources exchange over a post called, "Nation of God; Is Uganda Better Now?" You had to wade through the long description of how Ugandan President Museveni called for a day of prayer and repentance. OK... we have the National Day of Prayer, so this is nothing new... except, with the impending legislation to severely punish or kill LGBT people... this part of the email message was alarming:

Wanton stealing of public resources, bribery, illicit enrichment, poor time management, witchcraft, human sacrificing, prostitution, adultery, idolatry, pornography, homosexuality plus a coterie of other vices have conspired together and invaded Uganda in a mighty way.

Really? This is when I started wondering, "What's wrong with this picture? Isn't this a pro-gay 'welcoming' religious list?"

A few hours later... an apology from one of the list administrators. She hadn't read the post closely enough as things were coming in fast and furious into her ebox. The post has been removed from the archives. This was followed by a note from the original poster, Kirumiga M. Mpagi, saying that the intent of the post was to highlight the dangerous hold theocracy is having in Uganda; hence the subject line asking, "Is Uganda Better Now?"

I smiled, and realized that the problem must have been that there was no set up. If you don't issue the disclaimer in very plain, simple terms, most of us Americans will assume that what we're reading is, in fact, the opinion of the person posting the message, and not a "Hey; can you believe this is happening??".

So, in answer to that question about, "Is Uganda Better Now?", if they are having a national call of prayer to God... and (as mentioned in the email posting) likening this call to similar massive calls for repentance as outlined in 2 Chronicles and such... well, no... I think Uganda is getting worse. It believes itself to be living in a time before Christ... or as it is now called "Before the Common Era".

The anti-gay bill, which had tacit help from Christian evangelicals in the United States, remains in play. The fact that the Ugandan President is holding ceremonies to pray for God's deliverance from the scourge of "witchcraft" and "homosexuality" is worrisome, and an indicator of what the post to IWR was trying to get out there. Namely, that this African nation is tilting more and more toward a theocracy and that is scary for anyone deemed "unfit for the kingdom" by those who are in power. Have we established amnesty for LGBT Ugandans yet?

Next Thursday, our PFLAG-Tallahassee chapter will air the 30-minute documentary "Voices of Witness: Africa" at 6pm at St. John's Episcopal Church. It's my hope that by sharing the story of LGBT Africans, we here in the States will be aware that our struggle for freedom is global as well as local.

Hold the people of African nations such as Uganda in your prayers. They need them.