Monday, January 18, 2016

Statement from the No Anglican Covenant Coalition on the Primates Meeting

We're baaaack! And not because we were chomping at the bit for an opportunity to sound the alarm bells about the ill-fated Anglican Covenant. But the meeting that ended last week in England in which the Primates have--what is it now?--"strongly suggested," "desired," "petitioned?"--that the Episcopal Church be scolded for our inclusivity requires us to release the following statement from our expert leaders about this attempt to enact the Covenant by fiat. You can read it HERE

On this Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, let me just say that we in the Episcopal Church are going to continue standing for freedom, for justice, and for the love of Jesus Christ which is a love for ALL people. And in the words of the civil rights song:

Ain't gonna let nobody turn me around, turn me around, turn me around
Ain't gonna let nobody turn me around
Keep on walkin' 
Keep on walkin'
Walkin' to the freedom land.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Go To Your Room

The meeting of the primates of the Anglican Communion (or is it a gathering...or is it a hazing?) that has been occuring in England isn't over, but a leaked document indicates that The Episcopal Church is being told to, essentially, "Go to your room!" for three years as a punishment for changing the canons to allow for same-sex marriages. According to the primates' statement, TEC will not be allowed to participate as representative of the Anglican Communion on various councils. 

What does this mean for the average person attending the Episcopal Church? Not much. Scripture will be read. Hymns will be sung. Eucharist will be served. And, in the Episcopal Church, people of all walks of life and all political opinions will be side-by-side at the Communion rail to be re-membered into the Body of Christ. 
What does it do to the LGBT membership of the Episcopal Church? Well, aside from being as annoyed and pained as we had expected, it gives us a glimpse into the leadership of our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, who did not buckle and throw us under the bus or make us the sacrificial lambs on the altar of Anglican Communion "comfort."


Bishop Curry's full statement can be found HERE.  Follow the link. You'll be glad you did! 

As the Rev. Cn. Susan Russell so eloquently stated, "I am proud and grateful that being considered second-class Anglicans is a price we are willing to pay to treat God's beloved LGBT people as first-class Christians." Amen. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Bowie Before Bishops

There has been much scuttlebutt on various blogs and Facebook postings over the weekend about the impending, and expected, walk out of African Anglican bishops at a meeting that started today with the Archbishop of Canterbury. As always, the huffing and puffing is over the presence of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in Canada at this meeting because those two churches have allowed the likes of me to be full participants and have even embraced us by allowing some of our kind into the Episcopate Clubhouse.
Yes, from my tone, you can see that I am weary of this debate, and this continued demand that our church be punished. They tried to exercise their muscle through Archbishop Rowan Williams and the ill-fated Anglican Covenant (search this blog for commentary on that). It didn't work. Now the titular leaders of churches in Nigeria, Uganda, Sudan and South Sudan, Congo...just to name a few...are threatening that they will leave this gathering of all the Anglican Communion leaders prematurely, and shake the dust off their feet as they leave. Because it's more important to raise a stink about human sexuality in North America than to face the growing problems of civil war, intra-and-interreligious fighting and poverty that afflict their own people.
And just as everyone was ready to get their eyes affixed on this Anglican affair, the news that shook so many more people to the core shot 'round the globe this morning: David Bowie, a legend of English rock 'n roll and an original gender bender, died of cancer at age 69. Most people, and I include myself here, had no idea that Bowie was sick, and given that we were told he lost a courageous "18-month battle" with cancer, he and his publicist did an excellent job of keeping his illness under wraps.
In the greater scheme of all things in life, if I had to choose the more important story emerging out of England today, I would pick David Bowie's passing. For so many of us, who were young or younger in the 1970s and 1980s, Bowie's music was the soundtrack of our lives, particularly for those of us who they say..."different." I was one of those kids who, when I listened to music on the radio, was tuning into the stations that didn't play all the usual pop songs, and definitely didn't bother with the heavy metal bands who all seemed like a whole lot of flash and noise to me but not artists and rockers the way Bowie was, or Brian Eno or Talking Heads. Bowie was sexually ambiguous and changed his look to be whatever he wanted...whether it was in loud outfits and make up or an ascot. He was beautiful and handsome and talented.
Probably the best tribute I've read today comes from the Mad Priest of Saint Laika's and "Of Course I Could Be Wrong." He captured the wonderful irony of Bowie's death bouncing the bishops off the front page:

Those who know the true God will not be surprised at the irony of Bowie's death occurring on the same day a bunch of so-called Christian bishops got together to argue about which people can love which people. Bowie, who was theatrically bisexual but basically straight, had worked out that being puritanical about gender was not only illogical but also very boring even before being gay was decriminalised in Britain. Not only that, he made it virtually impossible for a whole generation of music fans to ever understand why anyone would regard minority expressions of gender identity as being out of the ordinary let alone a bad thing, myself included. Glam is often dismissed as an embarrassing aberration in the history of rock and roll and it has to be admitted that a bunch of skinheads like Slade having to doll themselves up as the world's least convincing transvestites because that was the in thing to do at the time, was a wee bit pathetic. However, glam, coming just a couple of years after gay sex was legalised, was as much a reflection of the cultural zeitgeist as punk was to be four years later and I do not think you can underestimate the effect that it had on British attitudes towards the LGBT community. The Brits have always loved their drag queens and glam made sexual ambiguity even more mainstream. Glam was revolutionary and David Bowie was the most glamorous of them all. He is a major reason why the bigoted, self-hating hierarchy of the Church of England has not been able to convince the English public to embrace the homophobia that remains the church's official policy. Heck, they haven't even managed to convince the majority of their own church members. So, yes, David Bowie is more relevant and more important, bigger to the man in the British street than the fake Jesus of a sham church that proclaims "God is love" whilst preaching hatred.

Well-said! God is love and gave a whole lot of love to the odd people  who were able to dance, dress up, and rock out because of the gift of music made by an amazing performer named David Bowie. Ascend to be with the saints, Major Tom. Ground control has called you home.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Don't Turn Back Now

This past Sunday, there were three choices for a Gospel lesson, one of them being the story of the wise men searching for Jesus, bringing him gifts of frankincese, gold, and myrrh. And then, rather than returning the way they came and telling King Herod where to find the newborn, they go home by another route. The other offerings include Joseph's dream directive to take his young family to Egypt to keep Jesus safe from Herod or the Luke Gospel lesson about Jesus as a 12-year-old disappearing into the Temple to converse and learn when he's family is on their way home. All of these stories have something to say, some "a-ha's" for me. But the biggest "A-ha!" I had Sunday morning that has been on my mind is the odd, and informative, positioning of the characters in the nativity scene on a table in my living room.

Here's how this has gone: I have decorations that are mine, and a few that belonged to my late mother, especially her depictions of Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus. I dutifully set this up on a table near our front door. What I didn't realize is that every time a person walks in the door or through the room, the vibration on the floor has made the characters on the table move. There is the poor three-legged sheep who keeps keeling over (that just can't be helped), a deer or a horse might start to look like they're grazing on the the church steeple. But on this particular morning, what caught my eye was that Joseph, who had been looking down lovingly at Jesus had turned his back on the baby. I had to laugh.

And then I thought about it, especially given that one of the options for the Gospel lesson included Joseph...our New Testament Joseph who dreams many dreams that offer him warned to take Jesus to Egypt, the same place where his namesake predecessor had been carried off when his dreams, and his big mouth about those dreams, got him sold into slavery by his brothers. Here's the little figurine Joseph, back turned to Jesus, as the Mary figure is kneeling over the crib. What does this say?

For me, lots!

Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, is a curious figure in that he's not, according to our belief, really the father of Jesus. And yet, this man raises Jesus as his own son, and shares with him the trade of being a carpenter. We don't get a whole lot of information about Joseph. We know that he was going to dismiss Mary, quietly, so as not to create a scandal when she told him she was pregnant. This makes me think he's a sensitive and thoughtful sort. The fact that he dreams dreams and trusts enough in the possibility that this is really God directing him makes me think he has a strong introverted streak and a good intuition. The positioning of him turning his back on Jesus in this particular nativity scene? This speaks to me of what may have been going on in this poor man's head. He's human, after all. Beyond being a caretaker and a good-hearted dude who obeys his obligation to watch out for children...and even this young woman to whom he's betrothed...Joseph could have turned away. Other dads in our world today who find themselves, for one reason or another, raising a child as their own who isn't their biological child do leave and become the absent father. When my spouse was teaching a college-level criminology class, a question of paternity came up in the discussion and the vast majority of the students at that time thought a guy who wasn't the father owed nothing to the upbringing of a kid that wasn't their own biological offspring. What if that was the approach that Joseph took to Jesus? What if he decided he didn't have a connection, so he didn't care? Perhaps Herod would have liked that type of Joseph!

Turning away from this young possibilty and burgeoning entry into the world of God being with us is something that does happen even today. We are reminded at Christmas time that this new light, this new heaven and this new earth, that has come into our lives will require us to foster and care for it in order for that light to beome the true essence of our visible being in the world. That may require us to accept this light and believe that this light is good and good for us and others. And invariably making that commitment will mean that somethings get burned away by the fire of this light in us, and dark corners of our soul might find themselves exposed by the light all of which can feel a little--well--uncomfortable because it means we might have to do that terrifying thing: change. Faced with that possibility, it might seem easier and feel better to simply deny this light so one can go on living life per usual without the heat generated from the light which yearns to burn brightly for the world to see. 

Perhaps what this Joseph figurine in his unusual position testifies to is how easy a few rocky, or hard vibrating steps can turn a person away from the light. Perhaps then, what I should draw from this Joseph figure is the importance to tread lightly as we enter into the season of Epiphany. Take care, and don't turn back now from accepting the responsibility of caring for this new light of the new heaven and the new earth that has come into the world.