Monday, February 28, 2011

A Fair Debate

The No Anglican Covenant Coalition, an international group of bloggers including yours truly, is calling on the leadership in the Anglican Communion to play fair and allow for an honest debate on a document that will greatly change the way Churches in the Communion go forward with living into their call to serve Christ in all persons. You can read the whole release HERE on the No Anglican Covenant Coalition website. Some might think we're being unreasonable in saying that the process has not been "fair" or "honest", but consider the following timeline:

• November 2010 — When the Church of England debated the Anglican Covenant, official materials prepared for General Synod members made no reference to the concerns of critics or to the case against the Covenant. This was in marked contrast to what happened in 2007, when the House of Bishops agreed that an additional briefing document presenting opposing arguments should be circulated to all General Synod members in advance of the debate.

• November 2010 — When Modern Church and Inclusive Church placed advertisements critical of the proposed Covenant in the church press, and when the No Anglican Covenant Coalition was launched, Covenant sceptics were criticized by senior church officials for going public and “campaigning” instead of remaining silent.

• December 2010 — When the draft Covenant was formally referred to English dioceses, the referral document provided a random list of quotations from the last General Synod debate, with pro‐ and anti‐Covenant remarks mixed up together, followed by a purely pro‐Covenant presentation.

• January 2011 — A request by Covenant opponents to the Business Committee of General Synod to circulate material setting out the case against the Covenant was rejected.

• February 2011 — The Anglican Communion Office issued an official study guide and list of questions and answers for international use that neither provide a balanced look at the issues nor fairly represent the views of those critical of the Covenant.

This last bit about the study guide is a real kick in the pants. One of our Coalition members, Rev. Alan Perry of the Anglican Church of Canada, has an excellent post on the proposed study guide being pushed for Lenten reflection this year. I will not be joining the Anglican Communion Office in this practice especially since it's skewed toward us "rejoicing" in the proposed covenant.

Now, what was it I was just saying about the Church's ability to find ways to block the sun from the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Casting off Fear

Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for
all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all
our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless
fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life
may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal,
and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ
our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the
Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

This is the perfect collect to be paired with the reading out of Matthew's gospel where we are told in the last line, ‘So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.' So true, and yet so hard to remember, especially in these trying times. How does one tell the state worker who has gone into combat mode in fear of losing his or her job, "Don't worry about what might happen; live in the present!" It is true, of course. But it is also true that they may not be able to hear that right now. The threats are too imminent, in some cases.

Life, the world, the machinations of humans in "the Church" all can contribute to the "fears and worldly anxieties" that make us lose sight of God. The Church has done a fine job over the centuries to blot out the sun that shines from the Son and the Father and the Holy Spirit, all at once. (Can you tell that I'm immersed in reading about the Reformation?) Even today in the Anglican Communion, we are sometimes too caught up in those things which separate us rather than focusing on our common bond as believers in God made manifest in Christ, and what his death and resurrection tells us about our own ability to cycle out of the depths of hell and get back to living again. Perhaps there is comfort in living inside the prison of fear rather than living as liberated from that prison. We know the walls of fear; quite often, we are the ones who built them so well in the first place. Getting outside of those walls creates new fears: how will I live without my prison?

When I went through my transformation from public radio reporter/producer to licensed massage therapist, I had tremendous fears. Public radio was providing me with a steady paycheck and health insurance. My days and nights were moderately predictable during the legislative session. It also gave me status. I was "known". I would have complete strangers approach me in restaurants as if I were a movie star, and tell me how much they admired my work. And I had access to those with power, and I could ask them questions. Sure, the reporter's life was soul-sucking, and my superiors at the public radio station were back-stabbing nutjobs. But I had fame. I had a salary with benefits. What more could I want? As a massage therapist, nobody was going to recognize me or care what I said. I could feel the presence of those prison walls that were trapping me in an otherwise miserable job, just because I thought I would be losing something too great. "The public needs me!" my ego would cry. I remember waking up in the middle of the night, a few weeks before I was going to resign. I was sweating, and my mind was racing with the recurring thought: "If I'm not Susan Gage of Florida Public Radio, then who the hell am I?"

Lying there in bed, I realized just how much my identity as me, the real me, had become entangled and confused with what I did. "Doing" had replaced "being". And this was another revelation which made me see how right it was for me to make this transformation, and learn, again, who the hell I am.

I would not trade the experiences I have had coming out of journalism and into massage school for anything. Living on a goat farm, having to depend upon the kindness of friends to cook me food in exchange for being massage guinea pigs, and coming into touch with my body were all so much more important than reporting on Jeb! Bush or following the twists and turns of Florida's death penalty laws. Massage school also began the steps toward returning to God, and finding God in the simple, experiencing God's presence on the walk of the school's labyrinth. Overcoming my fear of the uncertainty of a career change and going into the unknown was all part of the necessary changes I needed to make to move back toward God, and an understanding of who I am in God.

Thanks be to God that I passed through fear. Thanks be to God that I trusted the new path for my life. And thanks be to God for all the changes in my life.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Do It In Love

This week, I've been praying the following collect with the Anonymous Peggins as we do Morning Prayer:

O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we
do is worth nothing; Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our
hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace
and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted
dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son
Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy
Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

We don't get to hear this particular one very often because we don't usually get a full eight weeks of "ordinary time" before Lent. So, I have taken pleasure in hearing this one again and again. It reminds me of the song I've mentioned before here on the blog, "Love is my Religion" by Ziggy Marley.

I don't condemn, I don't convert.

This is the calling have you heard.

Bring all the lovers to the fold.

Nobody's gonna lose their soul.

Love is my religion.

All you need is love.

I heard that song every time I went to Gainesville for my continuing education training in working with those who had been through trauma. One of my classmates would play it during our breaks at lunch, and it was a great reminder of the work we were embarking on as healers. The "religion" of massage therapy is one grounded in love. The love we show through our touch is one that gently makes contact and connection with the person on our table in places where our clients may be unaware that they are hurting. Or possibly they are holding pain in their body. We make contact with people in the areas of their body where they hurt or have gone numb.

This is what I imagine is a very "God-like" approach. The love poured into the heart, and flowing out through the fingertips to meet people where they are feeling pain, or even where they may feel joy. The closer I move to God, the more I believe God moves through me, in my hands to bring love to the world. The more I can stay "in love" the more I can share it with clients and others with whom I run across during the day.

Pour it into my heart, so I can do all that I do in love.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Good News in the Good News Place

Today was one of those crazy busy days in a crazy busy week. So, it took me a couple hours to flip open my phone and check the text message that had been delivered:

Obama administration announces it will stop defending DOMA in court! We did it!

This I read as I was sitting in the parish hall at St. John's. I did a fist pump, and then shared the message with the Anonymous Peggins who is visiting from New Hampshire. And then, I just looked up at the ceiling so as to not start crying. Not out of fear, but out of amazement and joy!

And it couldn't have come at a more providentially perfect time. We were at St. John's for a lecture on Julian of Norwich by Fr. William Meninger, a Trappist monk and a leader in centering prayer. This seemed like the perfect backdrop for news that the U.S. Justice Department has found parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. Fr. Meninger painted a picture of the recluse Julian who had divine visions as she survived the Black Plague for a third time. He said she had a simple message that she lived and breathed as she had her being grounded in the Trinity.

"For Julian, love is the overwhelming and dominant thing in her life. And it's about time we Christians learn that. There is one foundation for the Church and that is Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ is love. We are made to love, and that means the Church was made to make love possible."

So often, those who claim the mantle of Christ have been the very ones to push for laws that divide us, such as the Defense of Marriage Act. In fact, the reason I've heard so many argue for laws to "defend" marriage goes back to the fear that somehow same-sex couples getting married are a violation of "God's law". "God's law" usually means Adam and Eve, which is oft-cited as the first "married" couple (do I bother to mention that they weren't really married?). To have Fr. Meninger, a man in monastic garb, hint at the need to make real love the center of our being, especially the being of the Church, was refreshing and felt like the perfect complement to this amazing news.

"We were made to love, and everything else was made to make love possible!"

What good news to hear on a good news day! May this love continue to grow.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

StoryPeople Story of the Day:Slumber Party

I don't know if I really believe in all the saints, she said, but I pray to them anyway. It makes every night feel more like a slumber party.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Love Toward Perfection

Check out the gospel assigned for Sunday:

‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. --Matthew 5:43-48

So, in other words, don't go by the words of Anita from West Side Story when she sings in anger to her fellow Puerto Rican Maria: One of your own kind/Stick to your own kind! Anything but that! In fact, it seems Jesus would have been all for the inter-ethnic romance of Maria and Tony.
This portion of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount is another one of those challenges to get outside the comfort of "kinfolk" and get along with people who might not be the ones with whom you'd normally spend an afternoon drinking beer around the grill and swapping stories. In a way, returning to church was possibly one of my steps toward loving my enemy. I had written off Christianity, in general, and the Episcopal Church in Florida, specifically, as irrelevant and not a place or a group of people I wanted to be around. Two of the local churches had been actively speaking out against gays, and none of the other Episcopal groups were offering a counterpoint, so I wasn't exactly running to go attend services. Between the split that took most of the homophobes out of the Episcopal Church to start their own parishes, and the death of my father, I found my way into the pew again after a sixteen-year absence. It was odd coming back. But what was the strangest thing was how I was hearing all those prayers, hymns and Scripture with new ears. I was really hearing them. And I was gleaning from them something that I hadn't known was there; a love that was liberating for me and anyone else who cared to listen.

With my re-entry, I was aware that there were still some who looked at me with suspicion. I imagine that this may have been conditioning from the previous rector, who encouraged the homophobia in people. But, taking a cue off this lesson from Jesus, I persisted in being friendly and meeting their dour facial expressions with a smile and a "Good morning." Slowly, I noticed they changed, and were not nearly as cold toward me. It's hard to remain aloof when somebody smiles at you. And those who have not changed? Well, I just keep smiling. I would rather be happy than looking like I'd just sucked on a lemon.

"...for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous."

Friends or enemies: we're all going to enjoy the good and bad in this life. The sun will shine on the head of the homophobe, and I will be left standing out in the rain without an umbrella. And the reverse is true also. Friend or foe, we are still children of God. Rather than have a food fight with one another, we should be making room at the table so more guests can join us at the banquet. This is an idea that I see spreading in some quarters.

Sadly, there are still places and people who refuse to believe that God's Table has enough elbow room for all. Does that mean I might find myself sitting next to someone such as Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda? Well, in God's seating chart, I suppose anything and everything is possible. If that were to happen, I imagine it might be an Alka-Seltzer moment for both of us! And yet, if I understand God's commandment, we are to sit together, and perhaps not speak. Not at first. But learn to listen in silence and allow God to do the ice breaking. Might take a pick ax to get through the frozen tundra between us, but the only way to perfection would be for both of us to trust in God, and try to find some common denominator for a discussion. This effort does require both of us to try.
This is fantasy, of course. I am never likely to meet Archbishop Orombi... and I'm OK with that. But I may meet someone similar. So it is best for me to remember the better strategy is to deal with an enemy through love rather than to beat the person, screaming expletives. That wouldn't exactly be the thing Jesus would do.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Is Anyone Listening?

O God, whose Son the Good Shepherd laid down his life for the sheep: We give you thanks for your faithful shepherd Janani Luwum, who after his Savior’s example, gave up his life for the people of Uganda. Grant us to be so inspired by his witness that we make no peace with oppression, but live as those who are sealed with the cross of Christ, who died and rose again, and now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Episcopal Church is commemorating the life of martyred Ugandan Archbishop Janani Luwum, who was killed by the Idi Amin government in 1977. You can read the background on ++Luwum at the Holy Women, Holy Men site.

The operative phrase in this collect for me is that "we make no peace with oppression, but live as those who are sealed with the cross of Christ..." Absolutely, and Amen! As I reflect on what is happening in Uganda today, I see these words as the food for the soul of all who are asserting themselves as God's LGBT children. It is sad to think that at one time, it was an Archbishop of Uganda who stood up for his people against a repressive regime, and paid for it with his life. Today, the one holding the office of Archbishop is aiding and abetting in the destruction of some of the flock. It is a corrupt system which has turned away from the gospel message that all are welcome.

When you live as one sealed with the cross of Christ, oppression of any kind becomes a foreign concept. Through Christ, we are liberated and the chains of the oppresssor, both internal and external, are broken. This doesn't mean you go through life with a holier-than-thou approach or "I'm right and you're wrong." But it does mean that you live and move and have your being as a person worthy of love. When that is what you feel in your core, that is what pores out of you as you encounter others and encourage them to also seek freedom from whatever is oppressing them. This, I believe, is the healing work that a Bishop Christopher Senyonjo does. Bishop Christopher, and others like him who are models of Christ's compassion, are encouraging the LGBT people to remain steadfast in their self-worth. His efforts were made evident in the defiant act of the woman who seized the microphone away from the oppressor at David Kato's funeral. That takes a courage that comes from the certainty of self-worth in the face of those who would deny it.

So on this day, when we are remembering Archbishop Luwum, let's all commit to standing against the oppression that denies love and life. Listen deeply for the word that guides us in our various ways, and grant us the strength and courage to persevere and be the people of God that we are called to be.

Downtown in Dialogue

I was invited to the table yesterday for a meeting between St. John's and First Presbyterian Church as the two try to work out a plan for a joint Lenten series. The main part of the partnership will be a Wednesday night lecture and small group discussion on four readings from the Gospel of John that we will hear during Lent.
In looking at the stories (Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman at the well, the blind man given his sight on the Sabbath, and the raising of Lazarus), I saw something that I hadn't been aware of before. Each of these stories is a complex dialogue as God (Jesus) tries to engage us in relationship. And the dialogue is different than in the synoptic gospels where we get Jesus teaching in parables. Sometimes there are a lot of words; sometimes very little is said. In each one, there is a shift in understanding... even if it is just one person coming to a new realization at the end of the conversation. Each one involves a type of dialogue that makes one member of the party a little uncomfortable at first as they struggle to comprehend what's going on. Again, we get this same thing in the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. But it's not as personal. And we don't hear the phrase that would have been familiar to the Israelites, "I am".
I don't know if I'll make it to this class, which is being co-taught by our priest-in-charge and the pastor of First Presbyterian. However the topic intrigues me. And it will be interesting to hear interpretations of these stories in the Cranmer vs. Calvin context and what kind of dialogue we have between these two downtown churches.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Episcoblues

Perhaps it was the reading from 1 Timothy this morning about what a bishop should be like and how a deacon should behave.

Perhaps it's being enrolled in Year 3 of EfM, and reading how repeatedly there were calls from various corners to return to the gospel... only for those in charge to stray away again and become enamored with power and money and bright shiny objects.

Perhaps it's my low-lying irritation with the mantra from those in close rank with the Archbishop of Canterbury that the Anglican Covenant is "the only way forward."

Whatever it is, I know that I am feeling that I've got the Episcoblues.

I used to be one of those who railed against "organized religion" until my mentor told me, "There's nothing organized about religion." True enough. So let me just call it the "institutionalized church".

The Dublin meeting of the Primates showed, once more, that those who would settle for nothing less than heads on the platter of the TEC and Anglican Church of Canada are not interested in reconciliation or communion... or "listening processes"... or anything else, really. They don't like gays. They don't like women. And they won't talk to anyone who doesn't represent "their kind". And yet, this is the group that has had the Anglican Communion twisting itself into knots trying to keep them happy. As part of the contortion posture, the Archbishop of Canterbury keeps pressing the need for an "Anglican" covenant. He insists we find the "common bonds of affection" that unite us. How 'bout faith in God? Belief in the Holy Trinity? Recognizing the grace of God that is there for us and our salvation won through Christ?

Or are those just too common? So common that we have to develop a plan to assert the superiority of some in the Communion over others, and have vague courts of hurt feelings evaluate when a Communion partner has used Scripture, reason and tradition to become a little more inclusive making someone else half-way around the globe pout in his corner, (while ignoring the murders happening right under his nose?)

I look at all of this and shake my head. Then I read about the build up to the German Reformation. Or the various councils in the early church with accusations of heresy flying every which way. And I realize, this institution called "the Church" has been mired and plagued by controversy and upheaval from the time Christ crashed onto the scene to introduce a new thing to the people of Israel.

Either we are slow learners, or we are just numb.
Or maybe it's just human nature to want to harness and control the movement of God in the world. I wish we'd stop. I wish we'd trust more. The writhing of the Communion is giving me stomach cramps!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I Love Moms Like Her

And this is why I say, "Never tell the parent of a gay child that her kid wants 'special rights'!" Standing ovation for this 80 year-old Iowan who loves her son and her son-in-law enough to tell it to the world via YouTube! The Iowa House of Representatives has passed a resolution to put marriage equality on the ballot. The Democratically-controlled Senate has the chance to put the brakes on this stupidity. Listen to the mom, Senators!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Choosing Life

I laughed out loud at St. John's yesterday when our priest-in-charge, Fr. Dave, read the gospel, ascended into the pulpit, prayed, looked out at the congregation and said:
"Bet you're wondering what I'm gonna do with this one!"
Yeah, I was!!
The Matthew gospel is the one that makes people squirm. If you are angry with your neighbor, you are committing murder in your heart. If you lust after a woman in your heart, you are committing adultery. If you marry a divorced woman, you are committing adultery. Smack, slap, gut-punch, take that!! Welcome to what it means to follow God.
I liked what Fr. Dave had to say in regards to addressing the small fires (petty fights, words spoken in anger, etc.) before they gather steam toward the murderous, adulterous acts that break us apart from each other and from God. Really, if you think about it, if you want to walk humbly with God, consider how you are walking with your friends, family, strangers that you meet during the day. Treat people right.

Which brings me to the title of this post, "Choosing Life" which, I believe, was the underlying message of all the readings yesterday. We got it fully in the Deuteronomy passage, where Moses challenges Israel by laying before them God's message of choosing life over death. For me, this is the bass drum beat of all of the messages that are in Scripture. Each choice we make will lead us to a new set of choices which move us further along the path of eternal life or eternal death. Choose life! It's more liberating than death! And even when we stumble (because we will) there is always the choice to pick ourselves up, shake the dust off and keep walking the path toward life. Forgiveness is available for the asking. Grace is given for free.

As one who aspires to stay on a path of eternal life, I listened to the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians, talking about being a planter, and another being the waterer... but God providing the growth. And here, too, I feel this is about choosing life. Planting and watering are the works of a gardener encouraging a seed to grow. But ultimately, that growth happens because there was a seed planted at the start... and God provides the light to foster its growth. There have been people in my life who have influenced my growth in understanding of God's love... which translates into a love of all that is around me, people and animals and nature. In turn, this is the love I offer back as best as I can. It's not proselytizing; it's just being.

And that's my Happy Valentine's Birthday message to all of you.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Be My Valentine?

I was born on Valentine's Day, 1968. My mom was busily working on another NH Presidential Primary election when her water broke. About four hours later, I arrived. I had made my deadline (the doctor had told my mother I would be born on Valentine's Day. She laughed.) I used to hate it when kids would tease me about my birthday, calling me "Val-en-tine's BAY-BEE!" I quickly figured out, however, that being born on Valentine's Day means that I will be more likely to receive cards and gifts. And, as a youngster who sensed that my affections were 'different', I thought this was a great way to fill the void that I feared would be there in my life... that lack of a special someone.

Born amidst my mom's political activism, I think it must have entered my blood in utero because I have always been aware of the comings and goings of "the world." I was the child in my elementary school who knew who Anwar Sadat was. I understood inflation by the sudden increase in the price of comic books from $0.25 to $0.35. I had been moved deeply when we read about Martin Luther King, Jr. in my second grade class, and I fought with my father over the merits of the man's life and why didn't New Hampshire honor him with a holiday?!

Valentine's Day and political activism have come full circle in my life as I have entered my forties with a spirit of giving rather than receiving at my birthday. I do like cards. I do like gifts. But I also like to spread the love further and to those who could use a virtual hug and a kiss to know that somebody appreciates them.

As a lesbian, it is my choice to extend the love to others who love as I do, and whom some in the world see as pariahs to despise. It's not that I don't care about other causes; it's that I care to share my birthday love with LGBT groups that are making it possible for others like me to live and love freely.

Want to be My Valentine? Please consider donating whatever amount feels right to you to the following:

  • St. Paul's Foundation for International Reconciliation. This is an organization headed by Rev. Canon Albert Ogle in San Diego, CA. Its focus is on helping communities commit to reconciliation particularly around LGBT issues, HIV/AIDS, women and literacy. They are supporting the work of retired Ugandan Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, who has risked his life to help LGBT Ugandans (+Christopher shared the front page of the scurrilous Ugandan rag "Rolling Stone" with the late David Kato. The newspaper called for the hanging of "homos". ) As anyone who has followed my blog or postings at Facebook knows, I have been deeply troubled by Kato's murder and the subsequent circus that happened at his funeral. Please follow this link to make a donation.

  • Unfit: The Documentary. I was surprised to get an email last year from a movie producer looking for copies of my reports on the infamous Ward vs. Ward case. Mary Ward was a lesbian mom, living in the Florida panhandle, who lost custody of her nine year-old daughter to her ex-husband, John. John's credentials included time served on a charge of killing his first wife. The trial judge, Joseph Tarbuck, stated from the bench that he felt the girl needed to live in a "non-lesbian world." I covered the case on appeal, both for Florida Public Radio, and NPR and "This Way Out". Mary Ward lost the appeal... and months later died of a heart attack. The case sent a chill through the gay and lesbian community, especially among LGBT parents. Now, more than a decade later, FOMO Films is making a documentary about the case. They're close to being finished, but could use some more funds. This is a story that needs to be told. Please follow this link to make a donation.

  • This Way Out. I shared with my PFLAG group that this half-hour radio magazine did so much to make my life as a college student who felt isolated from the gay community in Columbia, Missouri, much more tolerable. Every week, I knew I could tune into KOPN-FM and find "my people". When I graduated from Journalism School, and began working in Florida, I could return the favor by providing news of the LGBT community of our state to the program. It's a very lean outfit with co-producers Greg Gordon and Lucia Chappelle, and a variety of supporting staff. They put this product together for distribution to community radio stations and some international outlets. And they are always in need of funds. Please follow this link to make a donation.

  • PFLAG. A heart has four chambers, and so my final Valentine goes to the organization that helped to answer my mom's questions when she needed to talk to someone other than me. It has been there for so many young people who are looking for a community of moms and dads and allies who will love them for who they are. And it has been a force to contend with when our requests for equal treatment under the law are met with scoffs of "special rights." Don't ever tell a PFLAG mom or dad that their child is seeking "special rights"! You can contact me if you want to donate to our local chapter. Or please follow this link to make a donation to our national organization.
This is not an exhaustive list. If you have your favorite, please make a gift to help somebody else know that living "in the life" is OK. That's the best way to be My Valentine!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Response from Lambeth Palace

In my inbox:

Thank you for your message to the Archbishop of Canterbury in relation to the murder of David Kato, the Ugandan gay human rights activist. Thank you also for sharing something of your own personal experiences and reflections.

The Archbishop was in Ireland at the time, meeting with other Primates of the Anglican Communion. The Archbishop issued the following statement, which was then endorsed by fellow Primates gathered for the meeting. See

Yours sincerely
Press release from Lambeth Palace
Friday 28th January 2011
For immediate use

Archbishop condemns murder of Ugandan gay human rights activist

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who is currently in Dublin for the Primates’ meeting, has made the following statement regarding the murder of the gay human rights activist David Kato Kisule in Uganda:
The brutal murder of David Kato Kisule, a gay human rights activist, is profoundly shocking. Our prayers and deep sympathy go out for his family and friends - and for all who live in fear for their lives. Whatever the precise circumstances of his death, which have yet to be determined, we know that David Kato Kisule lived under the threat of violence and death. No one should have to live in such fear because of the bigotry of others. Such violence has been consistently condemned by the Anglican Communion worldwide. This event also makes it all the more urgent for the British Government to secure the safety of LGBT asylum seekers in the UK. This is a moment to take very serious stock and to address those attitudes of mind which endanger the lives of men and women belonging to sexual minorities.

They couldn't even sign a name?? Of course, this statement... and even much of the email... reflects events that happened last week, and I've even commented on those things. I'm still very happy that the Archbishop notes that "no one should have to live in such fear because of the bigotry of others." But this statement still doesn't answer the question about the Church of Uganda's behavior in all of this, especially the actions and in-actions of Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi, who has done nothing to speak out against the murder of David Kato. Dear Archbishop Williams, now that you are asking the UK government to give asylum to LGBT Ugandans, could you also answer what Bishop Christopher has said in regard to Anglicans who not only don't listen to gay people but are participating in our permanent silencing?

++Rowan: You've Got Mail!

From retired Ugandan Bishop Christopher Senyonjo to the Archbishop of Canterbury:

If Anglicans in one country dehumanize, persecute and imprison minorities, we must be true to the Gospel and challenge such assaults on basic human rights. The key to our ministry must be to educate our people and encourage LGBT people to tell their stories and the impact of homophobia in their lives. Listening to the stories of LGBT people was the beginning of my own transformation.

You can read more about +Christopher's correspondence at Box Turtle Bulletin.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Light of the World

The gospel reading from yesterday is among my faves out of Matthew. It's the portion following the Beatitudes which talks about "You are the salt of the earth" and "You are the light of the world". It also gets into the part where Jesus says he didn't come to abolish the law and the prophets but to fulfill what was already there. I'll have to leave my reflection on that for another time.

Today, I'm thinking about the light of the world. This is something like what I've tried to say to my PFLAG parents and allies. We all talk about the fact that our group has such good energy and more people should find us and become a part of our chapter. Our people encounter friends and family members who say they are OK with gay people and granting rights to LGBT citizens to live, work, get married, serve in the military, etc. etc. Hence, they don't feel they need to be part of a group that advocates for the rights of LGBT friends and family members.

That's where I say, sadly, they do. They do need to be part of this organization because they are among those who are "enlightened". The fact is that in some parts of our country, and the world, the streets outside are very dark. In some places, so dark that one can barely see three feet in front of them. These are the places where activists meet with reporters in alley ways and look over their shoulders for fear that someone might see them. In cities such as Tallahassee, that is becoming less and less the case. But that's because more people have taken the light of their own lamp and walked it out into the streets to illuminate the darkness of homophobia and fear. Where we allow our lights to shine brightly outside the comfort of our own homes, we create a beacon that will draw more people to be out, not just as gay themselves but as parents, families and friends of gay and lesbian people. That is the work of PFLAG.

I appreciate that so many people are saying, "I don't have a problem with somebody who is gay." That's wonderful! But as long as there laws that deny marriage rights, and as long as there are Governors who talk of re-instituting adoption bans or groups that will put such a thing up for a public constitutional vote, there is still darkness in the street that requires more lights to leave the comfort of their own homes and join in the movement to make our future brighter.

Come and stand with me. Let your light shine before others so that they may see ALL our good works.
PFLAG-Tallahassee meets on the second Thursday of the month at St. John's Episcopal Church.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Prayer to the Pittsburgh Pantheon

With love (and humor) for my pagan friends.

Hail to the Powers of the First Quarter... cornerstone of tone-setting. We invoke the gods Bradshaw and Stallworth... to bring you offensive strength and mighty fine play calling. Hail and welcome!

Hail to the Powers of the Second Quarter... cornerstone of the running game. We invoke the gods Bettis and Harris... to bring you fleet of foot and determination of forward motion. Hail and welcome!

Hail to the Powers of the Third Quarter... cornerstone of defense. We invoke the god "Mean Joe" Green to give you brawn and gridiron grit to ward off the spirit of cheeseheads. Hail and welcome!

Hail to the Powers of the Fourth Quarter... cornerstone of victory. We invoke the god of Coach Chin to rain down a hailstorm of black and gold steel resulting in the ultimate seventh championship title! Hail and welcome!

Now, time for cakes and ale... also known as pierogies and Iron City beer. Go Steelers! May the best Patriots win.... Oh, I'm sorry. Just wishful thinking on my part.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Day of Small Things in This Communion

Saint Anskar
Yesterday's noon day service gave me some food for thought. We were celebrating St. Anskar, the patron saint of the Church of Sweden:

Almighty and everlasting God, who sent your servant Anskar as an apostle to the people of Scandinavia, and enabled him to lay a firm foundation for their conversion, though he did not see the results of his labors: Keep your Church from discouragement in the day of small things, knowing that when you have begun a good work you will bring it to a faithful conclusion; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

That line, "Keep your Church from discouragement in the day of small things, knowing that when you have begun a good work you will bring it to a faithful conclusion..." leaped out at me in a way that screamed, "Pay attention to this!" The collect was referencing Anskar's toils to convert the people in Scandinavia to Christianity which didn't happen initially, and he had to go back to Germany. However, he did consecrate the first bishop of Sweden and the work he had done paid off later.
What I heard in this collect was the reminder, again, that those things "temporal" should not supersede those things "eternal". Something that continues to get lost in the shuffle, I'm afraid, in the struggle to define Anglicanism in a covenant, and to avoid those stinky bits of rot in corners of the Communion which we keep trying to placate.

There are lots of "small things" that have become HUGE things. The presence of women and now openly-gay and partnered bishops really should not affect anyone so personally and profoundly that they can not come to the Lord's Table and break bread with others in the Communion. But it has. There were at least seven bishops who refused to be at the Primates meeting in Dublin last week because "she" was there (the "she" being TEC's Presiding Bishop). Then you have the Church of Uganda committing a sin of refusing the proper burial for a gay Anglican... because he was gay. Wrong on so many levels. The "things" have become so huge that the God that all these folks claim to love and serve is blotted out.

Archbishop Rowan Williams' answer to the issue of these small things is to place his hope on an Anglican Covenant. He picked up another supporter last week with the Archbishop of the West Indies, who endorsed the covenant as a "workable document that can help the Anglican Communion to move forward while addressing issues that face its member churches." The problem that I see is that the document is an unnecessary attempt to keep a community of churches together that are moving at different speeds when it comes to understanding such things as human sexuality. Archbishop Holder of the West Indies thinks such a concern shows a narrow focus.

"Today it is human sexuality; tomorrow it will be something else," he says. But that's my point. We're going to keep chasing our non-existent tails every time somebody in some part of the "covenanted Communion" does something that another somebody says is "tearing the fabric" of the covenanted relationship. The small things continue to get in the way of the work that Church should be about. The Church should be about finding its common relationship in Christ, right? It should be about spreading the good news of the gospel and rejoicing at the return of those who once turned aside from the church due to its past transgressions, right?


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Year of the Metal Rabbit

The year of the Metal Rabbit promises to bring some much needed peace and tranquility. If you are like most people, you probably feel like you were on a roller coaster in 2010, the year of the Tiger. That will generally not be the case in 2011, as the Rabbit is everything the Tiger is not.

Let there be peace, and let it begin with me is the Rabbit motto. The Tiger makes waves, but the Rabbit mends fences. Diplomacy reigns. If you want to improve your chances of success, you most often want to negotiate and cooperate rather than try to force your ideas and methods on others. It’s also a time to kiss and make up. Forgive and forget. Let’s all get along. Make love not war. If last year the emphasis was on excitement, it now is on harmony.(Read more about the Year of the Metal Rabbit HERE.)

We will be parading the above pictured Rabbit Head around Railroad Square for First Friday, and then it's off to eat Chinese food.

Join The Revolution

No, I'm not talking about Egypt or Tunisia. I'm talking about the growing call for more forceful and broader cries for justice from religious leaders for Uganda's LGBT population in the wake of David Kato's murder. Several people have spoken out, including the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Presiding Bishop of the U.S. Episcopal Church. And while the Archbishop correctly condemned the beating death of this LGBT rights activist in Africa, he backed away from calling out the head of the Anglican Church in Uganda, Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi. Orombi continues to carry on about how LGBT people are not part of God's creation. The Anglican Church in Uganda refused to send a priest to preside at David Kato's funeral because of Kato's sexual orientation. And the lay reader who did attend launched into yet-another attack on LGBT people.

I appreciate that the Archbishop denounced the killing of David Kato, and that he pointed to the offensive headlines in the Ugandan rag "Rolling Stone" as contributing to the degradation of LGBT people, something the ABC says is wrong... and has been condemned in the Anglican Communion (well, that was a bit of hyperbole on his part...) However, the Archbishop then defended Bishop Orombi (who has told us he knows why the 'great creator' made men's parts and women's parts different from one another). He said that Orombi has objected to homosexuals in the roles of ministry "on grounds of behaviour, not orientation." I don't know how ++Rowan can condemn a newspaper for inflammatory language, and NOT recognize how his own language contributes to the demonization of LGBT people. Our "behaviour" is no different than what may or may not occur between heterosexual people. So you can't separate "behaviour" from "orientation". I do give him credit, though, for using "orientation" and not "preferance" which is a word I despise hearing in reference to my innermost being. Still, c'mon ++Rowan! Go the next step toward recognizing the complicity of the Church in creating the hostile environment that kept David Kato constantly looking over his shoulder.

The Archbishop of Canterbury wields no real control over anyone else in the Anglican Communion. He can't "do anything" to Orombi. But given that the ABC has been so quick to criticize the Episcopal Church in this country for our inclusion of gay people... he could condemn the Church of Uganda for refusing to send a priest to an Anglican funeral. And he could consider whether or not the so-called "listening process" established during the Windsor Report is even possible in a place like Uganda and what is Orombi doing to live up to that pledge anyway?

You can, of course, join the revolution by writing to the Archbishop at Tell him (again) why he must connect the dots and see that all is not well in the Anglican Communion.

This is important... especially with the National Prayer Breakfast hosted by "The Family" in Washington, DC happening today. "The Family" is a business and political machine that has helped funnel money and homophobia to Africa. Florida's Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat, is among the members of "The Family" which owns a house on C Street in Washington. Bishop Gene Robinson is calling on those attending the National Prayer Breakfast to remember David Kato, a victim of "The Family's" agenda in Uganda, during their prayers (to read more about "The Family", check out Eruptions at the Foot of the Volcano ) LGBT activists are planning to greet the attendees outside the doors of the Hilton Hotel with their "Breakfast Against Bigotry". Other activists will be assembling outside the United Nations in New York.

Where will you be assembling? If you have no place to go, then I ask you to grab a cup of tea or coffee, and pray with me:

The Lord be with you.
Gracious and merciful God, who gave your servant David the courage to stand up to intolerance and hatred; let his light be the fire in all our hearts as we carry forth his desire to see a world modeled after your kingdom, where all people are treated with dignity and fairness. And lead us all to a new understanding, us and our enemies. Deliver us from prejudice, hatred and cruelty, so that we may all know true love of neighbor and be reconciled before you. Amen.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Doing My Best George Herbert

I once read where the poet and Anglican priest, George Herbert, was so dedicated to prayer that he would perform the Daily Office in the church... whether anyone was there with him or not. And that's a little how I felt this morning when I found that I was alone in the chapel for our Morning Prayer service. This is not the first time this has happened. I could have bagged it and gone home, but I stayed on.... just in case. And I read the service to mark today as the Presentation of Jesus at the temple. Hey, I was present.

Or was I?

That was the question for me as I went through Psalm 42 which seemed to be like staring into a mirror as I read it aloud:

1 As the deer longs for the water-brooks, *
so longs my soul for you, O God.

2 My soul is athirst for God, athirst for the living God; *
when shall I come to appear before the presence of God?

3 My tears have been my food day and night, *
while all day long they say to me,
"Where now is your God?"

4 I pour out my soul when I think on these things; *
how I went with the multitude and led them into the
house of God,

5 With the voice of praise and thanksgiving, *
among those who keep holy-day.

6 Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul? *
and why are you so disquieted within me?

7 Put your trust in God; *
for I will yet give thanks to him,
who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

I was feeling heavy in my soul, and I was struggling to focus. It is one thing for me to go through the ritual of the morning daily office in the privacy of my home. But the Wednesdays have been a time to gather with others... sometimes as many as ten others... to share a sacred space. Now, here I was alone in this chapel with the enormous Corpus Christi. There was no escaping it. I felt alone.

Then there was the repeated mantra, "Put your trust in God..." This has been the biggest test for me lately. Do I trust God completely? On some days, I do. At other times I wonder if I've gone off my rocker. The days when I'm "there" on the trust issue are generally good ones. I can keep a steady handle on things in my life and very little can knock me off center. Those are the days when I think I'm most "there" for my clients, my friends and my family. It's when I can't sense that trust that I find myself wrestling with that feeling of "Why the hell did I bother waking up this morning?" And that's where my mind had gone as I read through Psalm 42.

"Where now is your God?" That is a taunt that actually came up in a nightmare that I had a few years ago. I was facing a tempter in this nightmare...

I found myself searching, both internally and externally, for God. The tempter had wanted to know where my God was, and I was determined now to find God. As I searched the circle and the scene beyond it with my eyes, and as I breathed deeply to seek God within, I found myself becoming calmer and realizing that even in this moment of desperation, God was still there for me. All I needed to do was look, find and tap into this powerful source of love and good. The more I could trust in this truth, the calmer I would become. And in the calm of being centered, I could defeat this demon.

Just as with this nightmare from 2008, the secret to overcoming the doubts raised by the question, "Where now is your God?" came later in the day for me as I could have some time of quiet away from the chapel to reflect and seek the God source within me. Once I went to that place... my morning angst fell by the wayside. Which leads me back to the "trust" piece. If I know it works, why do I find it difficult at times to remember it?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Let's Hear It For the Boy!

This video deserves to make the rounds of the internet! Found on Facebook through Elizabeth Kaeton. This testimony is on a House Resolution in Iowa attempting to amend the constitution and end the right to marry for LGBT couples in that state.

For Him We Prayed

As I noted in this post, the Mad Priest had suggested that all Episcopalians and Anglicans work to undo the travesty committed at Ugandan LGBT activist David Kato's funeral by conducting a proper funeral service in our own houses of worship. Mother Phoebe McFarlin took up that call, and yesterday, she and I read Burial Rite II from the Book of Common Prayer for our brother in Christ.

The scripture readings were the same ones from Sunday as noted in my post from that day. And we shared in a Eucharist dedicated to his life and the desire to see his life in resurrection lived out by many who will continue the drumbeat for full equality for all of God's children.

Mtr. Phoebe gave me her sermon notes:

David showed tremendous courage in speaking out against hate. He was a powerful advocate for fairness and freedom. David tirelessly devoted himself to improving life for others.

I will add that he was a conscience in the body of Christ and a light that will not be so easily extinguished.

There is a memorial service planned for David Kato in New York City at Riverside Church, 490 Riverside Drive at 12th Street on Monday, Feb. 7th at 7pm.

Meanwhile, "The Family", the group that has funneled money and helped prop up the homophobia and evangelical evil in Uganda is hosting the annual National Prayer Breakfast for U.S. politicians this Thursday. Gay rights activists are planning to be outside the Washington Hilton to offer an alternative "Breakfast Without Bigotry". I'm half-tempted to have my own "B w/o B" at Black Dog Cafe. We'll call it "Coffee without the Crap".

New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson has joined with Auburn Theological Seminary to call for the National Prayer Breakfast organizers to pray for David Kato.