Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Friday, April 18, 2014

A prayer for pastors on Easter


It's Good Friday.

Many pastors have already gotten their sermons written and ready to rock 'n roll.

Others . . . . . well, others . . . . .. don't.

There are a million and one details to chase. And, that's just in the church. Those of us who have families also have . . . . . . well, "other duties as assigned".

And then, there are those who are reading the lessons and singing in the choir and polishing the silver and arranging the flowers and . . . .

My prayers are with all those who strive to be faithful, each in their own way, during the remainder of the Paschal Triduum and onto Easter Day.

So, while I keep all those who fuss and fret and chase details in my prayers, here is a special one for pastors by Brian McLaren.

On our way to Calvary, may we always remember and never forget the promise of the empty tomb and the promise of Easter joy.
A prayer for pastors on Easter

Dear Lord, I pray for all the pastors today
Who will feel enormous pressure to have their sermon
Match the greatness of the subject
and will surely feel they have failed.
(I pray even more for those who think they have succeeded.)

Help them to know that it is enough

Simply and faithfully to tell the story
Of women in dawn hush ...
Of men running half-believing ...
Of rolled stones and folded grave-clothes ...
Of a supposed gardener saying the name of a crying woman ...
Of sad walkers encountering a stranger on the road home ...
Of an empty tomb and overflowing hearts.

Give them the wisdom to know that sincere humility and awe
Surpass all homiletic flourish
On this day of mysterious hope beyond all words.
Make them less conscious of their responsibility to preach,
And more confident of the Risen Christ
Whose presence trumps all efforts to proclaim it.

Considering all the Easter choirs who will sing beautifully,
and those who won't,
And all the Easter prayers that will soar in faith,
and those that will stumble and flounder,
And all the Easter attendance numbers and offering numbers
that will exceed expectations
And those that will disappoint ...

I pray they all will be surpassed by the simple joy
Of women and men standing in the presence of women and men,
Daring to proclaim and echo the good news:
Risen indeed! Alleluia!

For death is not the last word.
Violence is not the last word.
Hate is not the last word.
Money is not the last word.
Intimidation is not the last word.
Political power is not the last word.
Condemnation is not the last word.
Betrayal and failure are not the last word.
No: Each of them are left like rags in a tomb,
And from that tomb
Arises Christ,
Alive.

Help the preachers feel it,
And if they don't feel it, help them
Preach it anyway, allowing themselves
To be the receivers as well as the bearers of the Easter News.
Alleluia!

– Brian McLaren

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Bees of Holy Week

 

The Bees of Holy Week
Palm Sunday – April 13, 2014
All  Saint’s Episcopal Church, Rehoboth Beach, DE
(the Rev’d Dr) Elizabeth Kaeton

In the name of God, + who is Mystery, who is Incarnation, who is Spirit. Amen.

As I consider the significance of this day – Palm Sunday – and the beginning of what we Christians call Holy Week, I have been visited by the continued buzzing of piece of a poem called “Last Night As I Was Sleeping” by the great Spanish poet, AntonioMachado. It begins:
Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a spring was breaking
out in my heart.
I said: Along which secret aqueduct,
Oh water, are you coming to me,
water of a new life
that I have never drunk?
It is the second stanza, however, that continues to visit me:
Last night, as I was sleeping.
I dreamt - marvelous error!
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And that the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures
Listen again to that last sentence!
And that the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.
If you listen closely you will hear them. There, in the far distance. – a low hum is beginning  deep in your soul.  The hum will grow steadily into the sound of a buzz, which will grow fuller and deeper and louder as the week continues.

Holy Week begins the gathering of the Golden Bees of Heaven.

The Golden Bees of Heaven need you. They need your regret and your grief, the memory of which causes your heart to ache again in the places where it has been broken. 

They need the sense of loss and anger which have left a sour taste on the back of your palate.   

The Golden Bees of Heaven are especially fond of betrayal and disappointment, but, oh my, how they love the rich, deep, bitter darkness of depression.

All of these human failures are pollen to the Bees. 

They will buzz all ‘round the story of Holy Week, and wait and watch as the story of the Passion of Jesus draws out the pollen of regret, grief, anger, betrayal, disappointment and depression from the depths of your own heart and soul. 

They will take them – all of these human failures – to their very bodies and carry them to the Queen of Heaven where She will make of them a gift to be wept over and blessed with Her tears.

Then the Bees will return them to us and begin to make of these, our old failures and regrets, brilliant white combs of wax, which will provide the framework for us to find our own salvation.

I know. I understand. This is not what you were taught as a child. God, we were very carefully taught, is the Great Master Puppeteer, and we are Pinocchio with Geppetto-as-God-our-Father, controlling all the strings of our lives.

God is supposed to remember the sacrifices you made – the chocolate or wine you gave up for Lent. 

If you sacrificed enough and prayed really hard, He – God – was supposed to bring you that brand new bike or those spiffy new shoes or get you on the team or help you pass the test for your driver’s license which would open the door to unspeakable freedoms. 

Later, that same Geppetto-Father-God, you thought, would get you that job. Or, save your marriage. Or, heal your child. 

And when He – God – didn’t do these things, you would shrug your shoulders and figure you weren’t good enough or deserving enough.  That Santa Claus must have whispered something in God's ear which made it to God's Big Book of Failure. And your shoulders slumped and your heart was heavy and you feared asking for anything else. Of God. Or yourself. Or life.

Or, perhaps you repeated the cheery mantra that “When a door closes, God opens a window,” and you would try to get on with a life of magical thinking, hoping against hope to find a Genie-In-a-Bottle of sorts who would help you find the right mystical incantation to unlock the Gates of The Treasures of Heaven as your own.

Or, maybe you would get angry and blame something or someone – sometimes, even God – and never really trust God enough to let yourself really be vulnerable and pray. Ever. Again.

Some of us grow up and come to be spiritually and emotionally mature enough to understand that life holds an abundance of sophisticated irony and paradox and absurdity. 

That all of these, our human failures, are God’s repeated attempts to offer us the sweet honey of grace and mercy and the opportunity for a new, transformed life.

Ernest Hemmingway once wrote: “The world breaks everyone and afterwards, many are strong in the weak places.”   

Some of us don’t – won’t, can't – understand that. 

Yet God is persistent, battering down our hearts with three-fisted Love in the form of mystery and incarnation and spirit – all of which are especially present to us in the midst of the Passion of Jesus in Holy Week.

Antonio Machado’s poem ends with this stanza:
Last night as I slept,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that it was God I had
here inside my heart.
We are more able to find God inside our hearts when we get a glimpse of the failures and fragility of our human lives. When we do that - when we are able to look at the absurdity and paradox and irony of life - we awake from our waking dream and discover our marvelous error.

Something is set in motion. The whole field shifts and sets loose some strange mystery which we can neither comprehend nor control. 

That is the work of Holy Week – to awaken us to the failures of the human enterprise which, paradoxically begin to create the framework for us to find our way to salvation, and open the floodgates of the waters of new life which we taste again as if for the first time.

It is Palm Sunday. The Bees of Holy Week are beginning to gather. If you listen, you can hear the hum of their buzzing. 

They are here to gather to their bodies our human failures – the pollen of regret, grief, anger, betrayal, disappointment and depression from the depths of our own hearts and souls. 

We will walk with Jesus this week, as the story of his Passion unfolds. The Bees of Holy Week will take all these human failures, if you surrender to them and don’t mind if they sting a time or two, and make of them the sweet honey of Easter Resurrection. 

We know the story. We know how it ends. 

The Bees of Holy Week are gathering. 

Let them come.   

Amen. 

Note: I am grateful to my colleague David Anderson for reminding me of Antonio Machado's poem and for his idea of 'the Bees of Heaven' which became, for me, 'the Bees of Holy Week'.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Children of The Light


“Children of the Light” (Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41)
Metropolitan Community Church, Rehoboth Beach, DE
Lent IV – Refreshment Sunday – March 30, 2014
(the Rev’d Dr) Elizabeth Kaeton

Well, that’s quite a Gospel we just heard, wasn’t it? I mean, no one can catch a break from the Pharisees – not the man born blind, not his parents, not even Jesus.

Jesus healed a man who was born blind – with some mud and some spit and some prayers – but he did it on the Sabbath, which is a Big No-No for the Teapublicans – Oh, I mean, Pharisees, of course.

The man who regained his sight is brought not once, but twice before the Pharisees to tell his story. They even drag his parents into the mess to testify – but they wisely defer the question to their son, who is obviously as annoyed at the blind ignorance of the Pharisees as I get with a certain senator from Texas and the former governor of Alaska.

Some scholars theorize that this act of healing the blind man on the Sabbath was the final straw; that it was after this event that the Pharisees began to plot to have Jesus crucified.

The man in the Gospel story may have been born blind but it didn’t take the restoration of his sight for him to know that there are none so blind as those who refuse to see.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes, “Once you were darkness but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of the light!”

You know, some of us are like that man born blind. Ever since we were children, some of us have been told we are not good enough, not smart enough, not pretty or handsome enough, not thin enough, not tall enough – not enough. Some have even been told that we were born in sin. That, who we are is somehow our parent’s fault. And, even now, some of us hear that we are not normal enough – whatever that means – and all of those negative messages can lead us into the darkness of the valley of despair.  

But, St. Paul reminds us that we are children of the Light. In the midst of Lent, it’s easy to forget that. Fortunately, this is the fourth Sunday in Lent. We’re halfway to Holy Week and Easter. Indeed, in the Anglican/Episcopal tradition, which is the source of my spiritual roots, today is known as “Refreshment Sunday”. It’s a wee bit of a break from all the doom and gloom and an opportunity to let in some light and dance and sing .

It’ is also known as “Latare Sunday” and sometimes known as “Rose” or “Mothering" Sunday - probably because in the 16th century, people went to the nearest Cathedral or their "home" church (which was most likely the Cathedral) for worship. In some churches, this theme of lightness is symbolized in vestments that are rose or pink in color.

In England and, indeed, in much of Europe, it was also a time when women employed as domestics were given time off and one of the few times during the year that the entire family could be reunited to share a meal together. And, to celebrate, a special, rich cake was made – known as Simnel Cake. In fact, I’ve made some for you today for Fellowship Hour after church. So, don’t go rushing out the door before you have a piece of my cake.

My Portuguese grandmother made Simnel Cakes faithfully. Every year. Except she called them "Bolos do riso" or "Laughter Cakes".  I’ll tell you why in a minute.

Apparently, in the original British version, on the top of the cake and around the edge one is supposed to put eleven marzipan balls to represent the true disciples of Jesus. Judas is omitted, of course. In some variations Christ is also represented by a ball placed at the center. "Laughter Cakes" were most appropriate on "Refreshment Sunday" because, in the Pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic Church, Lent was taken as seriously as a heart attack.

We fasted every Wednesday AND Friday - I mean, no solid food, just lots of juice and water, and lots of milk and sugar in our tea - and didn't break the fast until AFTER we had gone to church and said the Stations of the Cross. At four o'clock. Promptly.

I think I still might be able to say that liturgy in the original Portuguese from memory.

We moved around the darkened church, Father with his prayer book, reading to us of the various stations in Portuguese. As we processed from station to station, we sang the various verses of Stabat Mater Dolorosa. In Latin. Of course.

I thought it an unbearably sad hymn. It always made me weep - well, once I stopped giggling at all the old Portuguese ladies - "The Widows" - dressed all in black from head to toe, including the black scarf which they wore snugly around their head, tied in a large knot under their more than ample chins.

"The Widows" were also known as "The Wailers" to us kids - which they would start doing as soon as the procession began. Wailing, that is.

As kids, we joked that they were paid to wail. We figured they were as excited for the annual arrival of Lent as we were for Summer Vacation. We surmised that they made extra money every Wednesday and Friday in Lent in addition to being paid to wail at every funeral the church held.

They weren't of course. Paid, that is. We were bad. I know. Actually, we were just being kids trying to make the best of a Very Adult situation. We were being Children of Light.

'Round about the third or fourth week of Lent, we kids stopped rebelling against having to be in church THREE WHOLE TIMES a week during Lent. We were, by then, resigned to our fate and took hope in the knowledge that Lent was Almost Over.

So, by the time it was mid-week of Lent III, rolling right into the fourth Sunday in Lent - having not had ANY meat, not even so much as a hot dog or even my mother's infamous "Hot Dog Stew" (but we were allowed chicken on Sunday). . . AND having given up candy for Lent. . . AND having done Stations of the Cross twice a week in addition to church every Sunday - I was ready for a little Bolos do riso. Any kind of 'riso'. You know what I mean?

We made the cakes on the Saturday before Lent IV. My grandmother and I would put the raisins to soak in the brandy - homemade by my grandfather - before going to bed Friday night. I was the oldest granddaughter, and we lived right upstairs, so I was allowed and nobody else was. Ha!

We would gather in her kitchen sometime on Saturday afternoon, after all the other Saturday chores had been done, including polishing our shoes and laundering our white gloves and starching our white mantilla – a circular piece of lace that every female wore. And, if you forgot your mantilla, you bobby-pinned a tissue to your head. Seriously! Any woman of a certain age in this congregation who grew up RC will attest to this.

On Saturday morning, we would line up all the ingredients on the kitchen table - the older kids measuring the liquid ingredients, the younger ones allowed to measure the dry ingredients. One of us was assigned to greasing the pans, another to chopping the walnuts (which we first had to crack - usually with a hammer - and get the meaty walnut out before chopping).

And I, only I, as the oldest grandchild present, was allowed to sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves into the batter. Ha!

And my grandmother, only my grandmother, was allowed to pour in the hot applesauce. We all stood back when she did that, in a respectful silence which was tinged with a bit of awe saved only for sorcerers and magicians.

And, indeed, she did cook up laughter there in her kitchen. In the midst of the doldrums of Lent, she was making Bolos do riso - "Laughter Cakes".

Oh, but here's the special ingredient - the secret of "Laughter Cakes".

After every ingredient had been added and stirred, and before she poured the batter into the cake pans, she would gather us round the Very Large Mixing Bowl. And then, she would tell us not to worry. That Lent was a very sad time, but that soon, it would be Easter. Jesus would play a wonderful trick on Satan, and death would not kill him.

And, because death could no longer kill Jesus, death could no longer kill us. Because of Jesus, we would know eternal life in heaven where we would all someday be, once again.

She would tell us this and then say, "So, laugh, children. Laugh into the bowl. Laugh into the cake. Laugh at the Devil. He can't win. He can't ever win! Only Jesus can win. Only Jesus! Laugh! Laugh! Laugh!"

And, we would. Laugh. Loud. Right into the bowl. I swear people ten blocks away could hear us laugh.

It was the best part of making - and eating - that cake.

And yes, she would put the brandy my grandfather made in the cake AND the frosting.

Hmm . . . maybe that's also why she called them "Bolos do riso".

Nah, the alcohol in the brandy is baked off.  Laughter was the special ingredient that "made" that cake - special for Refreshment Sunday.

Here’s what I’ve learned about darkness and light, about good and evil. It’s this: Laughter, in the face of Evil, is the greatest statement of faith. Only a fool would laugh in front of Evil if they didn’t believe in God. In order to laugh in the face of Evil, you have to know – deep down in your soul – that ultimately, God is. And, God wins.

In the words of a preacher I once heard, God may not show up when you want God, and God may not even show up when you need God, but when God shows up, God is always right on time. 

So, yes, there are a few more weeks of Lent left on the calendar. And yes, this has been a Very long, Very cold, Very snowy, Very miserable winter. And yes, we’ve still got to make it through Holy Week.

But, take heart! Good Friday is coming, yes, but so is Easter. Remember, we are Children of the Light.  The star that shone over Bethlehem still calls to the wise to find and follow the One who is the Light of the World.  And, because of our adoption in the baptism of Jesus, we are Children of Light.

So, as my grandmother would say, “Laugh, children! Laugh! . Laugh at the Devil. He can't win. He can't ever win! Only Jesus can win. Only Jesus! Laugh! Laugh! Laugh!"

Amen.

Here's the recipe:
 
Bolos do riso (Simnel Cake)

1 1/2  c. raisins
4 tbsp. (or so) Brandy (optional)
1 c. shortening
2 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 c. very fine flour (all purpose will do if you sift it)
2 tsp. Baking soda
2 1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground Cloves
2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 1/2 c. chopped walnuts
zest of one lemon (optional)
2 c. hot applesauce

Soak raisins in brandy overnight. (optional)

Mix together in a large bowl - shortening, sugar and eggs. Into that sift flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Add chopped walnuts and raisins with the brandy. Add 2 cups of applesauce while it is VERY HOT. Blend thoroughly. Add optional lemon zest. 

Laugh into the batter. Laugh, children, LAUGH!

Pour batter into 8 1/2 x 12" pan (greased and floured.) 
Bake at 350 F for about 30 minutes (or until done).

When done, cool cake in pan 5 minutes - then remove to finish cooling on a cake rack. Frost generously with Butter frosting.

Butter Frosting

1/4 lb. (one stick) Butter
1 lb Confectioners Sugar (10-X)
about 3 tbsp heavy cream (or milk)
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Blend together the butter and sugar. Add in the cream (or milk) and vanilla until smooth. Makes enough frosting for the cake above.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

The Transfiguration of the Church

I was at the last General Convention of The Episcopal Church when the resolutions concerning non-discrimination of transgender people easily passed both houses.

I knew it would happen and yet I was stunned.

It wasn't that the resolutions passed. The logic was undeniable, no matter how you felt about the matter - right, wrong, or as some admitted, confused.

If you can't discriminate against someone because of their gender or race or age or sexual orientation or whatever peculiar or particular human condition you might have that isn't part of the "norm" (whatever that is), then it made sense to add "gender identity or expression" to the list.

That's not what was so stunning to me.

What blew me away was that this movement for liberation had not, as yet, claimed any martyrs in The Episcopal Church.

Every liberation movement - especially in The Episcopal Church - has had its martyrs.

In The Episcopal Church, the Civil Rights Movement gave us people like Jonathan Daniels (who was shot and killed), William Stringfellow, Bob Castle, and Malcolm Boyd. 

The Movement to Ordain Women gave The Episcopal Church the women known as Philadelphia Eleven and the Washington Four and the trials of Bill Wendt and Peter Beebe. 

The LGBT Movement in The Episcopal Church gave us Ellen Barrett, Robert Williams, Barry Stopfel, Walter Righter, and Gene Robinson, among many others.

In each of these movements, there were people who took risks and sacrificed themselves for the movement for liberation and equality and justice. Some went to jail, others compromised their career. And, for their efforts, they garnered a certain measure of notoriety and, as is said in the vernacular, "press".

Which, I hate to say, is a critically important component of the momentum of liberation movements.

That has not been so with the Transgender Movement.

That's not to say that Transgender Episcopalians have not taken risks and sacrificed themselves for the movement for liberation and equality and justice.  Their individual stories of transformation within their families and communities of faith are inspiring and amazing.

You can listen to some of them in the documentary Voices of Witness: Out of the Box.

That's not it.

It's just that they haven't had anyone who has gained any notoriety and press for his/her efforts.

That is, not until this past week.

On February 26th, Bishop Larry Benfield of Arkansas dissolved the relationship between the Rev. Gwen Fry, a transgender priest, and Grace Episcopal Church in Pine Bluff.

The Rev. Fry, whose name given at birth was 'Greg', had informed the congregation on Sunday, that she was in transition and had invited them to make the journey with her.

You can read all the backing and forthing of announcements and statements from the bishop and the priest as well as statements of support from IntegrityUSA.

Episcopal Cafe has them all here.

There are also links to "conservative"/ "orthodox" sites with cruel and horrid articles and comments about this event, but I won't send you there. It's embarrassing to see people who purport to be uber-Christians behave in this manner; that is, when it doesn't induce nausea and vomiting. 

Here's the thing: While the General Convention resolutions to change canon law and provide transgender equality gave Gwen some cover with her bishop when she came out to him, the reality is that, in the trenches of parish life, those canons and resolutions do not have any traction. 

Yet. 

But, it has begun.  

Yes, there is a Transgender person who is the Executive Director of IntegrityUSA. Vivian Taylor is doing a magnificent job.  She gets 'press' all the time.  We've come a long, long way from just adding the "T" and stirring well into the alphabet-soup of being Queer. 

I don't make the rules about these things, but it seems to me that, before any movement of liberation is considered legitimate in the church - especially The Episcopal Church - blood must be spilled on the altar.  There has to be a martyr. 

The Rev'd Gwen Fry now has the dubious distinction of that identity. 

There will be others. 

Before this is over - or, as this really begins - rest assured, there will be others. 

That's the bad news. There is good news. Several pieces of it, in fact.

Martyrs may be wounded - even mortally - but they give life to the movement they represent.  Indeed, the movement gets new life and becomes even more difficult to deny or deflect or destroy.

Yes, Gwen lost her job. That's not necessarily a bad thing.  She had just come out to her bishop and community of faith. Transitioning takes some time. She - and her family, her wife and her daughter, as well as her friends and her community - are going to need that time. 

Gwen will come back to parish ministry changed. She will be stronger and more spiritually centered and secure.  So will her relationship with her family, and they will change as well. That will make her even more desirable as a parish priest in many spiritually mature communities of faith.

That's another thing I want to say about this event: No one 'comes out' alone. Neither does anyone transition alone. It feels like that. God, it can feel heart-breakingly lonely and alone. But, it's not.

Spouses. Children. Parents. Family members. Friends. Communities. Churches. 

Everyone - Every. One. - goes through their own process of transition. 

Every. One. Comes Out. 

Some do it better than others. Some do it with grace and style. Others do it in pain and agony. 

But, when someone you know and love transitions, everyone they know transitions. 

When someone you know and love comes out, everyone they know comes out. 

They may not do it with the person who is transitioning and coming out. They may be totally antagonistic to the person who is transitioning and resistant to coming out. But, they are, nonetheless, like it or not, transitioning and coming out. 

So, please keep Gwen in your prayers - YES! - but also hold her wife, Lisa and their daughter in your prayers. Pray also for their families and friends. And, of your mercy and kindness, pray for their communities of faith, for the diocese of Arkansas and for their bishop. 

Everyone is transitioning. Everyone is coming out. Each in their own way. 

Along the way, they will make mistakes. Pronouns will be confused, misused and abused - or, used awkwardly. Very awkwardly. Names will switch from Greg to Gwen and back again. Even Gwen will do that. Faces will grow red with embarrassment. 

The PC police will get on their high horse and lecture and judge about not judging, because, you know, they are only being "prophetic" or "righteously angry".

The important thing to remember is that we're all human. The person who is transitioning as well as everyone else. 

Here's a link to a handy-dandy little resource called "How to Respect a Transgender Person" which provides some eduction, practical advice and instruction. 

Just know that you will probably make a mistake. Or two. Or, three.  God knows, I have. Probably will again. And, I have to say that, every time I have, I have been treated with such compassion and kindness and generosity of spirit by the transpeople I've known that it makes me want to do better next time. It makes me want to be a better person.

I think that an open mind and an open heart will carry you far as you transition with a person who is transitioning in terms of their gender identity / expression. 

This is a watershed moment in The Episcopal Church. We are going deeper in our spiritual journey as a people of faith. We are delving into what I think of as "the original sin" of The Garden: Sexism. 

Transgender people open and expose stereotypes and gender roles assigned by culture, some of which are buried so deeply in our subconscious that, when we see them laid bare, it makes us so uncomfortable and embarrassed that we squirm.

Transgender people, male to female or female to male, will lead cisgender people to the intersection of gender and sexuality, where, I think, all our images of God are tied and tangled in confusing knots of myth and culture and projection. 

Like it or not, ready or not, we're all beginning to transition. 

We are on holy ground.

As individuals and as a church, we'll be changed and transformed and never again be the same. 


In Matthew's version of the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus (Chapter 17), the disciples fall on their faces when they hear a voice from heaven say, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

Jesus said to the disciples, “Get up! Don’t be afraid.”   

And, when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

In the process of transition, we will all have times when the truth we discover or uncover will make us fall flat on our faces. 

Transgender. Intersex. Cisgender. We'll all do it.

But, when we get up and allow perfect love to cast our fear, we will see no one except Jesus.  

That, at least, is my prayer.  

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Very Queer Golden Jubilee

My very dear friends, Sheri and Lois - I call them my "adopted mothers," because, well, they are - celebrated their 50th Anniversary this weekend in Boston. It was a grand party, filled with laughter and story-telling and gourmet food and a lovely wedding cake and, because they are lesbians with many Queer friends, more than just a slight touch of drama.
 
I'll get to the drama in a minute.

Sheri and Lois were the founders of the Boston Chapter of D.O.B.  - Daughters of Bilitis , - the first lesbian civil and political rights organization in the United States - which they led for more than 20 years before turning over the reigns to a new generation of lesbian women.

It is now defunct, as most DOB chapters are, but has pretty much morphed into the LGBT Aging Project which is making new roads of progress for Marriage Equality and access to health care in hospitals and nursing homes for LGBT Seniors.

It's far from perfect but much easier, now, to be open and honest about LGBT relationships, but, in a former time, it could be flat out dangerous.

Back in the day, gay couples and lesbian couples often traveled together as cover for each other, but there were gay bars and then there were lesbian bars - the only real way most gay and lesbian people could meet and socialize with each other - and no one frequented the other.

The bars were frequently raided by the police and then, the next morning, newspapers printed and published the names of those who had been arrested in the local paper.

Which is why many lesbians and gay men took other names. Indeed, Sheri isn't really Sheri; her name is Claire but she took the name Sheri just in case she ever got picked up and arrested.

During their time in leadership in DOB, their home phone was tapped by the FBI, and their "activities" were closely monitored by the police. Still, they persisted and persevered, providing education and information, legal advice and emotional support for women who were isolated and persecuted for the bigotry and prejudice that affected them in terms of housing and jobs and education and their ability to have custody of their own children. 

There is no doubt in my mind that the DOB in general and Lois and Sheri in particular saved lives. And, when they didn't save lives, they saved the sanity of many women.

I remember with painful clarity the first conversation I had with my father after I had come out. Well, I didn't really "come out". I had been forced out.

I'll spare you all the details for another time but, out of the blue, my father called one night to try and "talk some sense" into me. He started by telling me that, when he has been diagnosed with "a touch of emphysema", the doctor told him that he had to quit smoking.

My father said, "I loved cigarettes, but on the way home I threw that pack out the window and never went back. Now, if I can do that, you can throw that woman out of your life."

It went downhill from there.

His last attempt was to tell me about the time he was a young boy, living on his father's farm. He said, "I used to watch the cows and, every now and again, one cow with try to jump another cow. I would ask my father what they were doing and my father would say, 'they are just overheated'. "

Then, thoroughly disgusted and frustrated, he delivered his final salvo, "Elizabeth, get a hold of yourself! You are smarter and better than an overheated cow!"

I was devastated. Sobbing and inconsolable, I called Sheri in Boston. She listened carefully and patiently, trying to affirm my goodness and graciously explaining that my father's world view was simply too small to try to fit in this new understanding of how the world worked in general and the implications for my life in particular. 

It didn't matter. I was inconsolable. And, rapidly getting hysterical.

When I got the the story about the overheated cows, however, Sheri started to giggle. Her response was so incongruous to what I was experiencing in that moment, it had exactly the effect she wanted. It stopped me in my tracks long enough to think about the absurdity of my father's words and the reality of my situation.

"Mooooooo!" she said. It was a low, slow sound, working up to a full bellow.

"Overheated cows!" she laughed. "Oh please! Oh, please! Stop! You're killing me! Lois! Lois! You've got to hear this one. I've heard a lot of descriptions of lesbians over the years, but that one is a first and it takes the cake."

"Overheated cows!" she shrieked! "MoooooOOOooooo!"

Suddenly, a switch was flipped inside my psyche and I heard my father's words for what they were. Sheri's laughter was just the medicine I needed, allowing me to move past the absurdity and recognize his inability to move past his simple, uncomplicated view of the world and into an affirmation of the goodness of my love and my life.

Sheri found an old pastoral print of some cows, cooling themselves in a stream. She tastefully colored two of the cows a light lavender, framed the print professionally and gave it to us as a present the very next Christmas.

That picture has hung in every home we've ever lived in, a reminder that laughter in the face of blind prejudice and ignorance is not only the best response, it is also the best antidote to that kind of psychic and emotional poison.  

I have Sheri and Lois to thank for that - and so many, many other wonderful lessons about how to navigate my way through life complicated by the prejudice and bigotry that comes with a "love that dares not speak its name."

There were many "Lois and Sheri" stories that were shared at their celebratory party, each one a testimony to their generosity and love and deep commitment to each other and the newly emerging Queer community. 

Oh, I almost forgot the drama.

After we had feasted on an amazing gourmet meal expertly exercised by Penny, another dear, dear friend of more than 30 years, some of the guys got up to start cleaning up the dishes.

One of the guys, John, dropped something into the garbage disposal and stuck his hand in to it to fetch it. Except, his hand wouldn't come out.

As Sheri and Lois continued to hold court in the dining room, some of us quietly attempted to help John.

First, we tried pouring liquid soap. Nope.

Then, some cooking oil. His hand wouldn't budge.

Michael, one of the guys who was there, is a doctor, so I quietly called him aside and told him what was going on. We decided that some cold water to reduce the swelling and then to slather the hand with some petroleum jelly might just do the trick.

Nothing.

I even tried using a plastic spatula and delivering his hand like a forceps delivery of a baby's head.

No way, Jose.

Michael then suggested we check it out on Google.

Duh! Of course! Except, it wasn't much help.

I did find a story about a cat who had gotten her head stuck in the sink and the only way they finally got her out was to sedate her and then put some petroleum jelly all over her before they were able to slide her head out of the sink.

No one had any Valium. We considered whiskey but figured that was probably not a good option. A drunk with his hand stuck in a garbage disposal didn't make for a very pretty picture.

Michael and I decided that we had exhausted every option and now it was time to call 911.

Before we knew it, our festive party of 12 Queer people was expanded to include sixteen (16!!!!) of Boston's finest firefighters, police, paramedics, EMTs and assorted other first responders, all huddled into our host's kitchen, trying to figure out the best way to handle the situation.

It took a little over an hour and included a blow torch to cut out the garbage disposal and some oxygen for John and much backing and forthing and, of course, some picture taking to document the saga because, you know, being Queer people, we are going to be dining out on this story for YEARS to come and someone is bound to say, "Get outta town!" and then we'd have the pictures to prove it.

Indeed, "The Liberation from The Insinkerator" was dramatically announced by two of Boston's finest who came into the dining room, one tapping a spoon on a champagne glass while the other held up the garbage disposal.

"Your friend is free," announced the fire captain to wild applause, "and this," he added, "is going to hang on my office wall. I'll use it for future training purposes."

And, because we are part of God's Rainbow Tribe, we simply had to serenade Boston's finest in thanksgiving for their work in rescuing one of our own from the many dangers, toils and snares of the garbage disposal.

We broke out into a wonderful version of "YMCA" - complete with all the appropriate dance moves.

They loved it.

Of course, our host was left with a sink and dishwasher and kitchen counters filled with dirty dishes and pots and pans and utensils but she won't be able to clean anything until she can get a new garbage disposal and a plumber to come and hook everything back up.

But, hey, we're the Queer community. Someone at the table knew someone from our Tribe who is a plumber and, last I heard, he was coming out first thing in the morning to make things right again.

And, John did spend a few hours in the ER at the local hospital trauma center. I talked with him this morning and he's doing just fine. His hand is in a soft cast and he's a bit sore and more than a bit embarrassed, but, as he says, "What a story, huh?"

I know, I know. I'm an Episcopal priest. I should be able to wring at least one sermon or theologically reflective essay from the metaphor of an aging gay man who had his hand trapped in a garbage disposal, but just this once, I think I'll pass.

If someone had said to me, even twenty years ago, that I would one day be in Jamaica Plain, MA, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of two very dear friends in a room filled with Queer people and just a touch of drama, I would have said, "Shut the Front Door!"

But, there we were. Male and female. Lesbian and gay. Ages 50 to 80 something. Mostly married to the people we love. Celebrating 50 years of so much love and devotion and commitment that is so strong, it spilled over and helped a few generations of people.

If we are blessed to be a blessing to others, then there was ample evidence of the truth of that assertion.

May there be many more celebrations of Golden Jubilees in our Rainbow Tribe. 

Happy 50th Anniversary, Sheri and Lois.

May the light of your love continue to be a beacon of inspiration and hope to us all, and may it be a continued source of joy and consolation to you both.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Lena Dunham's Nudity

So, I'll start with a confession: I love GIRLS - the new series that HBO calls, "a comic look at the assorted humiliations and rare triumphs of a group of girls in their mid-twenties."

That said, it's clearly for adults and decidedly not for the faint of heart.

At the close of the last episode of the first year, the lead character, Hannah, concerned that she might have contracted a sexually transmitted disease, is being examined by a woman who is a gynecologist.

Her friend Jessa says, it's just "something that happens to all sexually adventurous women."

As Hannah rambles on and on about possibly having been infected and considers the possibility of being HIV positive (the minuses and - gasp! - the pluses), the doctor shakes her head and says something like, "I wouldn't want to be twenty again if you paid me."

My thought exactly. 

Watching Hannah and her friends Marnie, Jessa and Shoshonna try to navigate adult life is painful and embarrassing - sometimes because it calls up some of my own memories of being a twenty-something and other times because I would have never - EVER - gotten myself into those situations.

I was no saint and I'm hardly a prude, but this show is filled with explicit and, more often than not, unpleasant sexual encounters - often casual, other times obligatory and impersonal and sometimes even violent.

And then, there's the nudity.

Specifically, Lena Dunham's nudity.

Look, it's HBO. If you've watched any one of their series, you know there's going to be a lot of sex and a lot of nudity.

If you don't want to see a lot of sex and nudity, don't tune in. You have been warned.

If you watch HBO's Game of Thrones, you know that there's so much gratuitous nudity and sex, the comedy writers of SNL have spoofed that one of the major consultants to the series is an over-sexed 13-year old boy who writes in "boobs" and "sex scene" into the script at least every sixty seconds.

The women on Game of Thrones, however, meet the physical standards of Playboy and Hustler. They are impossibly anatomically perfect.

Lena Dunham is not.

Unlike many women in the media spotlight - especially TV - Dunham is short and pear-shaped. She is the writer, producer, director of and actor in the series, so she could make herself look gorgeous, or use the other actors to do the heavy lifting in the nudity scenes.

Instead, Dunham films herself nude, with her skin breaking out, her belly in folds, chin doubled, or flat on her back with her feet in a gynecologist’s stirrups. These scenes shouldn’t shock, but, surprisingly enough, they do.

So many women in Hollywood seem to be so obsessed with Botox and plastic surgery, that women and men who watch "life on film" begin to believe that "altered" is the norm.

The message is that those of us who don't look like that should feel ashamed and inferior. 

When a few people recently questioned  her nudity, saying that they didn't "get it," Dunham responded, "I totally get it. If you’re not into me, that’s your problem and you’re going to have to work that out with professionals.”

I get the very clear sense that Dunham's nudity - which is random and frequent and clearly not meant to be salacious and titillate people - is her big middle finger to any attempt by anyone, male or female, to define or control her or her body.

There seems to be a lot of that going around.

Take, for example, the "A Beautiful Body" project.

It's a women's media platform which features a collective of photographers who are "dedicated to therapeutic truthful photos" - including moms with pregnancy stretch marks.

There's also Taryn Brumfitt's The Body Image Movement which addresses women's honest acceptance of their post-pregnancy bodies for the sake of their mental health as well as the future healthy attitudes of their daughters.

I have to give mention to Beth Whaanga's controversial photographs of her cancer scars. Beth Whaanga, a mother of four from Brisbane, Australia, found out just how radical and provocative an honest image of a woman can be after posting images on Facebook of her body following surgery for breast cancer late last year.

Taken by Nadia Masot, the pictures are astonishingly direct, documenting Whaanga's ongoing hair loss, total bilateral mastectomy, navel reconstruction and hysterectomy scar. Whaanga lost more than 100 friends on Facebook after posting the pictures – and then they went viral. A registered nurse, she describes herself as a "breast cancer preventer", and hopes to make people more aware of the physical changes that might signal a problem.

Her nude pictures of her surgically ravaged body - what's "under the little red dress" - convey a stunning message about the ways in which women are taking control of their own body images.

And, they don't look at all like the cover of People Magazine with Christie Brinkley at 60 - looking more like she's a 30 year old in a swimsuit.

For the past 15 years, NOW (National Organization of Women) has hosted a Love Your Body Day in October, whose goal it is to "Wipe out narrow beauty standards, superficial gender stereotypes and the portrayal of women as a sexual commodity to help erode sexism in other areas and advance our goal of full equality for all."

Last year, NOW published the results of their Love Your Body Day survey.  I was especially interested in this question

What would you most like to see change in relation to images of women and girls?

The answers seemed to provide the inspiration, at least in part, for Lena Dunham's nudity: 
  • More different body types of women and girls in the media - 9%
  • More women of color in the media - 1%
  • More women of all ages in the media - 3%
  • More women who break the conventional mold of gender presentation - 4%
  • More women with disabilities in the media - 0.5%
  • No more images that exploit violence against women - 7%
  • All of the above! - 73%
  • Suggest your own - 2%
Well, with the exception of more women of color or with disabilities.

Ms. Dunham and her "girls" are decidedly white, middle class, affluent, privileged, and spoiled with a tendency to be self-destructive.

And, they don't apologize for any of it.

In one of early scenes of the debut episode of this series, Hannah is having an argument with her parents.

She simply doesn't understand why her parents are not on board with her request that they continue to support her for several more years so she can write a book.

"I don't want to freak you out," she said, "but I think I may be the voice of my generation."

Yes, it's self-absorbed. Yes, it's egocentric. And, as I recall, it's exactly what many 20-somethings of every generation think. It's part of the developmental process.

Oh, and it's funny. Very funny. 

But, the nudity is different. It's raw. No illusions to traditional male sexual fantasy. No back lighting or candles. No sexy lingerie. It's real. It's brutally honest. It's shocking.

I think it's intended to be, but not for the typical, traditional understanding of shock value. It's not just nudity. It's the "in-your-face-I'm-far-from-perfect-*^@%-you" kind of nudity which, I think, carries a strong message about the issue of control over a woman's body.

It's pretty clear that Lena Dunham's nudity is saying, "I'm in control here. Not you."

"I get to say what I do with my body, even if it does tend to be self-destructive. This is what most real women look like when they take off their clothes."

"If you have a problem with that, get some professional help."

It's tremendously liberating and incredibly terrifying, all at the same time.

If the Republicans have a War On Women, this is one heck of a defense.

And, offense.

As a "woman of a certain age" I am appreciative of this new Body Politic, as parts of my body are, shall we say, less "perky" and "firm" than they once were.

Oh, someone is shaking his or her head and tut-tutting about how this country is going to hell in a hand basket and what do you expect when abortion is legal and . . . . .

I'm really not exactly sure what is going on here, but I do think Lena Dunham's nudity and the efforts of other feminists are part of a whole and I don't think it's as bad as some think it is.

I think every generation that begins to emerge into adulthood seems Really Bad to the previous generations of adults. 

These are the next generation of women who were no doubt delivered by a woman obstetrician, cared for by a woman pediatrician, and saw women functioning as police, fire fighters, lawyers, judges, elementary and high school teachers, college professors, real estate professionals, priests, ministers, scientists, financial experts, talk show hosts, athletes, bus drivers, actors, poets, musicians, soldiers, veterans, disabled veterans, governors, representatives, senators, Secretary of State, and campaigning for President of the United States of America.

Oh, and wives and mothers.

Sometimes simultaneously.

That's something I did not grow up with and once thought I'd never see in my lifetime.

And, here we are.

All these women - but especially women in their 20s - have a very clear message about their bodies.

If the church is wise, it ought to sit up and pay attention.

What does the institutional church have to give to these young women, besides judgment and condemnation? Who will listen to them and walk with them as they make their way through the 'salad days' of their youth? Who will be there when they fall? Who will love them through to the other side of their experiments and mistakes and successes?

Who will help them make sense of it all?

If the church is not there for them when they fall - without saying, "See? I told you so," -  why should they trust the church when they get back up on their feet again?

I'm glad these 20-somethings are figuring it out. Publicly and honestly. Boldly and fearlessly. Naked or fully clothed. Making mistakes along the way.

That's how they'll learn. That's how we all learned.

And, you know, you couldn't pay me to be 20-something again.

Naked or fully clothed.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

The Episcopal Church: Abortion & Contraception

I was recently asked a simple enough question: Where does The Episcopal Church stand on Reproductive Justice issues such as contraception and abortion?

The answer is very simple and yet not easily expressed.

I think that's because our discussions on this issue have been emotionally charged and filled with hyperbole, exaggeration, inaccuracies and, well,  drama.

If one is "pro-life," one is, therefore, "anti-abortion" and, necessarily "bad" for limiting a woman's choice but "good" for "protecting the un-born or pre-born" but "bad" for not making provisions to care for the life of the child after it is born.

If one is "pro-choice" one is, therefore, "pro-abortion" and, necessarily "bad" for "murdering babies" but "good" for "respecting the sacred right of a woman to be her own moral agent" but "bad" for "not respecting the 'personhood' of the fetus". 

It's all black and white with no shades of gray and heavily sprinkled with double doses of drama.

That's a difficult position on a good day for The Episcopal Church, which is a faithful pilgrim on the 'via media' or 'middle road' of classic, traditional Anglicanism.

While it may sound like a batch of classical Anglican Fudge, if you read our official resolutions on the matter, it is fair to say that The Episcopal Church seeks to promote the sacredness of human life - all human life - including that of the woman and the children for whom she is responsible.

The bottom line is that The Episcopal Church has voted in strong opposition to any abridgment to a woman's access to a safe means of terminating pregnancy.

That means that The Episcopal Church wants the means of legal abortion to continue while working to address conditions - such as poverty, inadequate education, unemployment, etc., as well as access to information about human reproduction including effective, affordable contraception methods, devices and medicines - which would make abortions a less frequent occurrence.

Though the fact that The Episcopal Church is regularly identified as being pro-choice is accurate, it would be a misstatement to suggest that TEC is "in favor of abortions" or "promoting abortion."

Which means, we're not so different from most Americans.

A recent article in Atlantic magazine maintains that public opinion about abortion is remarkably stable. "Since the 1970s, we have seen considerable changes in attitudes towards gay marriage and marijuana legalization but not in opinions about abortion."

"Take a question that Gallup has asked more than 50 times since 1975: Should abortion be legal in certain circumstances? That year, 54 percent said yes. When CNN’s pollsters asked the same question in May 2013, 54 percent gave that response, with 20 to 25 percent at the extremes."

To my knowledge, no poll has ever been done specifically asking these question of those who are baptized members in good standing or are ordained to lead a congregation, much less simply sit in the pews of The Episcopal Church of a Sunday morning.

My sense, however, is that Episcopalians are like most Americans - we hold two differing opinions simultaneously in tension with each other, and our official position, as stated in resolutions passed by our General Convention, reflect that tension.

Two major pollsters that ask people whether they are pro-choice or pro-life show narrow divisions on the question. Gallup’s May 2013 poll showed that 45 percent called themselves pro-choice and 48 percent pro-life. In Fox News' April 2013 poll of registered voters, 49 percent called themselves pro-choice and 44 percent pro-life.

If you want to know what The Episcopal Church, in General Convention, has said about Reproductive Rights like contraception and abortion, you'd have to dig through the Archives of The Episcopal Church to discover that answer.

You can find resolutions which have been passed by General Convention here .

You will have to work a bit to "connect the dots" but, with some diligence you will discover that, as early as 1930, The Lambeth Conference (an international gathering of Anglican bishops at Lambeth Palace, the official residence of The Archbishop of Canterbury) "approved contraception for the purposes of family planning." (Resolution 15)

Of course, there is the curiously worded Resolution 115 by the 1958 Lambeth Conference which essentially reaffirmed Aquinas's appeal to conscience in terms of husband and wife's decision about the size of their family.

Neither were exactly ringing endorsements of contraception, and there's lots high church language, but the approval is clear.

The 1994 General Convention reaffirmed this position, which appeared under a primary concern "that rapid global population growth adversely affects the prospects for peace and justice by exacerbating poverty, deprivation and suffering, and depleting environmental resources . . ."

I don't have links to the following facts because the Episcopal Church didn't begin making resolutions available online until the early 90s. However, in looking through some old convention journals, I discovered that The Episcopal Church at its 1964 General Convention stated, "The Church continues (from a resolution in 1958) to condemn non-therapeutic abortions...." 

However, three years later, at the very next General Convention in 1967, we approved abortions where "the physical or mental health of the mother is threatened seriously," and in cases where the child would be born with disability or was conceived in rape. 

In 1976, the Episcopal General Convention reaffirmed this statement and went further.  It expressed "unequivocal opposition to any legislation on the part of the national or state governments which would abridge or deny the right of individuals to reach informed decisions in this matter and to act upon them." 

We did so again in 1982. 

In 1985, we passed resolution A085 which also reaffirmed our position and asked
That this 68th General Convention request the several dioceses to initiate studies to consider the pastoral, personal, sociological and theological implications of abortion. We suggest appointing appropriately representative diocesan commissions to oversee a process of study which includes those local congregations willing to be involved. We commend to all a study of the official position of this Church as expressed in the resolutions on abortion adopted by the General Conventions of 1976, 1979 and 1982. We suggest to all a study of the paper of the House of Bishops Committee on Theology: "Theological Reflection Paper on Abortion." Finally we direct the Standing Commission on Human Affairs and Health to receive all information arising from these diocesan studies.
I couldn't find either a study of the dioceses or the bishop's theological paper on abortion online (I'm sure someone has copies buried in their files somewhere), but at the1988 General Convention, we were condemning violence to abortion clinics and those persons who seek services there and issued a statement essentially reaffirming our previous position.

In 1991, we were opposed to the requirement for parental consent or notification of parents when minor women seek safe abortion, and we firmly rejected conception for the sole purpose of harvesting fetal tissue for medical research.

In 1997, we did not reject but rather expressed "grave concern" about third trimester abortions, except in "extreme circumstances".  

In 2000, we passed a resolution which, interestingly enough, commended the work done by a Commission on End of Life Issues and asked for a similar study be done on Beginning of Life issues, such as - and I quote - "babies born alive during induced abortions".

I have not found evidence of the existence of that study, much less that a commission was convened. I have serious doubt that either entity ever saw the light of day.

In 2000, we also acknowledged the existence, for men and women, of something called "post abortion stress" and asked for pastoral care for all who suffer from it. 

I think we've come to know that, while some are certainly stressed after the termination of a pregnancy, either through abortion or miscarriage, there is no official medical condition known as "post-abortion stress" and I do not know of any official action regarding this issue from The Episcopal Church.

Officially, we can hardly be described as "pro abortion". However, it can be said that we are unequivocally "pro choice" - in a very traditionally nuanced Anglican sort of way.

Let's take a closer look at our "official" position on Abortion which can be found most succinctly stated in Resolution 1994-A054.  Allow me to lift up some of the language to show you what I mean:
All human life is sacred from its inception until death.

As Christians we also affirm responsible family planning.

We regard all abortion as having a tragic dimension, calling for the concern and compassion of all the Christian community.

While we acknowledge that in this country it is the legal right of every woman to have a medically safe abortion, as Christians we believe strongly that if this right is exercised, it should be used only in extreme situations. We emphatically oppose abortion as a means of birth control, family planning, sex selection, or any reason of mere convenience.

In those cases where an abortion is being considered, members of this Church are urged to seek the dictates of their conscience in prayer, to seek the advice and counsel of members of the Christian community and where appropriate, the sacramental life of this Church.

Whenever members of this Church are consulted with regard to a problem pregnancy, they are to explore, with grave seriousness, with the person or persons seeking advice and counsel, as alternatives to abortion, other positive courses of action, including, but not limited to, the following possibilities: the parents raising the child; another family member raising the child; making the child available for adoption.

We believe that legislation concerning abortions will not address the root of the problem. We therefore express our deep conviction that any proposed legislation on the part of national or state governments regarding abortions must take special care to see that the individual conscience is respected, and that the responsibility of individuals to reach informed decisions in this matter is acknowledged and honored as the position of this Church;

Resolved, That this 71st General Convention of the Episcopal Church express its unequivocal opposition to any legislative, executive or judicial action on the part of local, state or national governments that abridges the right of a woman to reach an informed decision about the termination of pregnancy or that would limit the access of a woman to safe means of acting on her decision.
Now, I may quibble about the phrase about human life ". . . from inception . . .", and some have taken exception to "the tragic dimension" of abortion or that it should be utilized only in "extreme situations", but there's no arguing with the "unequivocal opposition" to anything that "abridges the right of a woman" or "limit(s) the access of a woman to a safe means of acting on HER decision.

We are pro-choice but that doesn't make us pro abortion.

You can not possibly make the claim that "The Episcopal Church promotes abortion" - unless, of course, your penchant or preference is to consistently utilize hyperbole or exaggeration or drama as your primary rhetorical device.  

Indeed, I think the position of  The Episcopal Church makes us decidedly pro-life in the sense that we hold ALL life sacred - including the lives of women - as well as those unwanted pregnancies which lead to the birth and the life of a child who has basic human rights to shelter, food, clothing, access to adequate medical care and, oh yes, love.

The issue of reproductive justice in general and abortion in particular will continue to be pushed into national conversation by special interest groups, most of which are religiously-based.

I predict that, ultimately, we will see the same result from this issue as we have with issues of marriage equality. All the hyperbole and drama and appeals to scripture as the only rationale for undermining abortion or reversing Roe v Wade will begin to fall, more and more, on deaf ears.

At the end of the day, I do believe that the position of The Episcopal Church is reflective of and articulates the position of the majority of Americans:

+ Keep abortion safe and legal, accessible and affordable while we continue to work on conditions that would make abortion a less frequent occurrence.

+ Contraception is an integral part of normal, preventative health care for women which should be affordable, accessible and covered under her health insurance plan. 

+ Respect for the sacredness of all life - from womb to tomb - including the life of a woman to be her own moral agent and make the decisions that are right for her and her family, as well as respect for every child to have the basic human rights of food, clothing, shelter and love.