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

Monday, July 31, 2006

A Baptismal Love Letter

(Note: It has become something of a tradition at St. Paul's to write Baptismal Love Letters - a way to see the scriptural lessons appointed for the day as having a special message for this particular person's baptism. It is my hope that the parents of infants and children will save the letter so that the child may read it as part of the preparation for Confirmation.)

VIII Pentecost – July 30, 2006

The Episcopal Church of St. Paul
200 Main Street
Chatham, NJ

Dear Sophia,

I’m looking around and waiting because I thought that balloons and confetti might fall from the ceiling or that a band might make an entrance playing something like, “When the Saints go marching in.”

Nothing like that seems to be happening. Darn!

You see, not only is today special because it’s the day of your baptism, or that, according to church records, you are the 987th baptism at St. Paul’s, but it also just happens to be the 50th baptism at which I’ve had the great honor of presiding since I arrived here in Chatham a little over four years ago (Okay, wild applause will do.).

We have a running joke here that the real reason we have so many baptisms is because one of the co-chairs of the Altar Guild, Ms. Betty Williams, puts something in the communion wine because the other co-chair, Ms. Anne Bennett, likes to hear this Baptismal Love Letters (it’s really her fault that they are a tradition now in this church).

I think the real reason we have so many baptisms in this church is because people like your Mommy and Daddy are finding their way to The Episcopal Church. When you are older and read this letter for yourself, as a way to prepare for Confirmation (which is really why I write these letters), you will learn what every kid who has ever gone though Confirmation Class with Tim and me can tell you: this is a church where you do not have to leave your brains at the door.

I think it was my friend, Louie Crew, who actually started that saying, but I have discovered that there’s something more about this particular church that makes us unique even among Episcopal Churches – and especially these days in the Anglican Communion.

And, that is this: You don’t have to leave anything at the door before you come in. You can bring your most deeply felt emotions as well as your most firmly held opinions. You can bring your age along with your gender, your ethnic background and your race or tribe, as well as your sexual orientation. You can also bring your most disturbing questions, along with your wonder and your awe. You can struggle to know Jesus and God and the Holy Spirit for yourself, and not buy into any one image of the Trinity – mine or anyone else’s (we call that ‘idolatry’).

It doesn’t matter what you think, or how you feel, or where you’ve been, or where you’re going, or who you are. Now, that doesn’t mean that in the Episcopal Church, “anything goes.” By no means! You will discover that we do stand for things – important things, including theology and doctrine and principles of justice and peace, compassion and reconciliation. And, we take a stand on many things – often, at great risk and sacrifice.

Okay, by the time you read this, history will reveal that the Episcopal Church just back-paddled on a major issue of justice. As developmental psychologist, Ana Frank, taught, sometimes there is regression before there is progression. Sometimes, before a child can take a first step, they have to go back to crawling or cruising for awhile. As you will soon discover, you who are now but 3 months old, taking your first step is always pretty scary. It’s no different when you are a child of God, walking with Jesus.

You are welcome here, just as you are, because everyone here knows that, like the story we just heard from John’s gospel, we’ll all be changed and transformed, in some way, at some time, when we leave.

This morning’s Gospel is from John (6:1-21) and it is absolutely jam-packed with miracles and wonders. First, there is the feeding of the 5,000 from the little boy who had five barley loaves and two fish. Then, Jesus comes to the disciples, walking on water. But, not only that, before they knew it, in the midst of the strong wind that was blowing which made rowing very difficult, suddenly the boat reached the land toward which they were going.

There is precedent for those miracles, Sophia, as we read in the first lesson from the second book of Kings, when the man who came from Baal-shalishah brought twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain as a first fruit offering to the prophet Elisha. Not only did the people eat their full, but there was some left over.

Now, I know, Sophia. I’ve told you that you didn’t have to leave your brain at the door when you come into this church. And now, I’ve told you some absolutely fantastic stories that defy reason and logic and, because I’ve called them ‘miracles’ you are supposed to believe them.

Well, we’ve got lots of time to talk about these stories, about the nature of miracles, and about how God’s love changes us and this amazing thing called ‘grace.’ But let me tell you now that there are people in this church who can testify to the way God’s love – as they have experienced it in this community – has changed them.

There’s a woman who is a member of this congregation, I think she may well be one of the oldest living members here, who fell recently and broke her wrist. I was talking with her the other day, just checking in to see how she was, and she told me that she was simply overwhelmed by the casseroles that people were bringing her. Oh, I said, concerned that we had gone into Christian over-drive, is it all too much? Do we need to back off?

She got quiet for a minute but there was no mistaking the emotion in her voice when she said, “You know, it was one thing to have casseroles brought by people I didn’t know – some I barely recognized – but I think it was when I saw this young woman, the grown daughter of one of my dear friends, whom I had taught in Sunday School, come up the walk with her young daughter, bringing me a luscious casserole, that I finally lost it.”

“Or, maybe I finally got it,” she said, sighing deeply before she added, “I just don’t know what some people do without church.” And, you know what, Sophia? Neither do I.

That’s just one of the miracle stories of this church. That’s one of the ways this church lives out the gospel story of the feeding of the five thousand. It’s one of the ways we see Jesus, walking into our homes on the baptismal waters of our lives, sometimes bringing luscious casseroles. It’s the way we suddenly find ourselves moored and anchored when we are lost on the stormy seas of life.

There’s a wonderful story author Annie Lamont tells (I think in Traveling Mercies ) about a little girl who was lost. A policeman came by and said, “Where do you live? If you tell me where you live, I can take you home.” “Dive this way,” she said, leading him to her church. When they got to the church she turned to the policeman and said, “It’s okay. You can let me off. I can find my way home from here.”

In these stories are my baptismal prayers for you, Sophia.

May you always know the way here, to this church, for if you can find yourself here, you can always find your way home.

May you know that whatever you bring into this church – no matter how small a gift – it and you will be accepted and blessed.

May you know that this is a place where you can come and grow and celebrate all of the sacramental and life changing events of your life – your baptism and holy Eucharist, your confirmation, the confessions you need to make and the assurance of the forgiveness of your sins, the blessing of your relationship or your wedding, your ordination, if you are called to a vocation of the priesthood, the unction of the church when you are ill, the celebration of your life when you die.

Welcome to the Body of Christ Sophia. There may not be balloons and a marching band, but we celebrate your unique gifts, the special Child of God that you are, today and always.

In God's love,

Rev'd Elizabeth

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Pride and Prejudice - and a Convertible VW Bug

He came toward the table I was sharing with a friend at our neighborhood diner, his Irish eyes still smiling brightly with mischief despite his advanced years. “Excuse me, but I have to tell you something,” he said after introducing himself.

He nervously shifted his weight from foot to foot, like a sixth grade student talking to the Vice Principle of his Roman Catholic school. “I was walking on Main Street with my wife and saw you in your Volkswagen Bug. You had the convertible top down and,” he started to blush, a look of incredulity making its way across his face, “there you were,” pointing at the white band of plastic on my neck, “WITH YOUR COLLAR ON!”

He shook his head, laughing and said, “I turned to my wife and said, ‘Now you would never see one of OUR priests doing that!’ No way!” He lowered his voice and hushed, “They’d be in a Mercedes or Volvo or Cadillac – and they wouldn’t be having half as much fun.” He smiled broadly, extended his hand to me and said, “I just wanted to say, from everything I hear, I think you are doing a terrific job.”

I got back to the office and shared the story with two members of my staff, one of whom said, “You know, I saw you the other day, driving with the top down, singing away, and I thought to myself, I know why we ‘hate’ you. Not because you have a VW Bug, because we could get a Bug if we wanted one. Not because it’s a convertible, but we could get a convertible if we wanted one. No, it’s because you look so happy when you’re driving your damned VW convertible Bug.” She laughed and said, “We ‘hate’ you because you can be so happy.”

It was the word ‘hate’ that caught my attention. My staff – especially this particular woman – doesn’t ‘hate’ me. She was using the word ‘hate’ coupled with the editorial ‘we’ to talk about the larger issue and problems of leadership, specifically the leadership of an ordained woman – okay, a rather unconventional woman ordained in the very conventional Episcopal Church who lives and pastors in the serious and affluent suburbs of Chatham, NJ.

I think there’s something to be said for the envy we feel when someone is living the life they are clearly meant to live – and they are so happy it shows. Every now and again I feel that way when I see a young mom who really, really loves being a ‘homemaker.’ I am aware that, in those moments, envy washes over me in strong waves with whitecaps of guilt and swirls of regret.

Why couldn’t I have been satisfied with taking care of a home and my children? I mean, women have been doing this since the beginning of time! Is something wrong with me – wrong with my genetic makeup – that while I love my children and I loved making a home for them when they were small, I wanted more? Needed more? Needed both?

It’s amazing how easily “What’s wrong with me?” can turn into “What’s wrong with them?” From there, it’s a slippery slope to, “Something must be wrong with them.” Soon, resentment can boil into open animosity, “Something IS wrong with them.” From there, it’s a free fall to creating evil intention where once there was innocent joy.

I think this is how some prejudice begins – with envy. Certainly, we fear what we do not know, and fear, combined with ignorance, continues to be the operating dynamic of much prejudice and oppression. We also know that the dynamic of fear combined with the distortion of power is the root cause of racism, sexism and homophobia.

It seems to me, however, that other, more complicated and complex strands of bias can become entwined with envy which can lead to the same end result – perhaps may even be the prelude to prejudice and oppression.

It has ever been thus, from the Eden to Gethsemane. We want most what we think we can not have, be it intelligence, power, status, influence, or affluence, to name just a few.

Conversely, we may not want others to have what we have. We hold onto our power or influence or status or things because we derive a sense of superiority from them, which is really our most prized possession. As long as we “have” and others “have not,” we derive even more pleasure from the envy we perceive from others than even the object of their envy.

I suppose, on one level, that’s part of the human condition. It becomes wrong when we begin to work to insure that no one gets what we have. My friend and fellow priest, Dana Rose, calls this “foot on neck disease.” As we climb the ladder of success, it’s important to some to keep one foot on the rung above and one foot on the neck of the person coming up from behind.

I’m not certain what it took for my old, Irish Roman Catholic visitor to come up to me, share a laugh, and extend his hand in friendship. I only know that as I myself grow older each day, I am beginning to see a different order of the priorities of life.

Perhaps my new old friend and I find it easier to take the risk to seek another out and share a story and a laugh because we are finally beginning to realize that love and laughter, graciousness and generosity, kindness and compassion are the rare, and therefore most precious of life’s gifts to the enterprise we call being human.

If driving around in my old blue convertible VW Bug with the top down and my collar on can inspire that, well then, everybody off the sidewalks! Let the never ending summer begin!

Friday, July 28, 2006

After Columbus


People have begun to speak about it the way they speak about a natural disaster or war.

Say, “Tsunami,” and a vision of orphaned Shri Lankan children immediately comes to mind.

Say, “Katrina,” and you can instantly picture the devastation in Louisiana and the Gulf Coast.

Say, “Hezbollah” or “Hammas” and horrifying images of the insanity of the religious and political war in the Middle East unfold right before your eyes.

Columbus, for many of us, was like that. Like war or a natural disaster, the ripple effects continue. The rescue efforts have ceased and the recovery efforts have begun. The collateral damage continues to be assessed. And, like the healing process after such events, there is a cycle of progression and regression; remission and exacerbation.

The August newsletter from a very large, local, affluent suburban congregation came in the mail yesterday. The rector there, who professes to be an ally, wrote this: “My own view is that our response to Windsor was just right . . . in other words, we didn’t tell the rest of the Anglican Communion to drop dead, but neither did we abandon our own ecclesiastical integrity. We took the true via media option.” He then talked about a “kinder, gentler Christianity,” saying, “. . . at best we are a pastoral church.”

I don’t think I was able to draw a full breath for five minutes after that.

Excuse me if I don’t feel that I’m in the same ‘pastoral church’ in which he happens to live – at least not one that is at its best. Indeed, it feels decidedly unkind and fairly violent right now.

You will pardon me if I wince when told there is room on the Via Media because it means that people like me – and many of you – were kicked off the traditional Anglican high ground to make room for injustice and prejudice. Besides, Via Media – the middle ground – is not an ‘option’; it IS the Anglican Way.

I beg your forgiveness if I take exception with my brother’s claim that we did not “abandon our own ecclesiastical integrity.” Well, perhaps we didn’t abandon it completely; we just compromised it a bit, along with our commitment to our baptismal vows. You know – the one about “respecting the dignity of every human being.” Oh, yeah. That one.

I’m reminded of some of the deputies at General Convention – some of our best straight allies, including one sincere, well-intentioned deputy from my diocese – who said to me and anyone else who might listen, over and over until I thought I might go mad, “I voted for (resolution) B033 with tears in my eyes.”

I suppose I’m to infer that those tears are meant for me. I suppose I’m to take some comfort in those tears. Well, I didn’t. Still don’t. I want to say this as loudly and as clearly as I possibly can to every last one of you who said that to me: Some of you voted like a delegate, not a deputy. Whether you care to admit it or not, you voted your constituency rather than your conscious which is what you were elected to do.

Others of you voted with your heart, not your head. What ever possessed you to vote for a woman you thought competent and strong enough to be Presiding Bishop, but suddenly felt she needed resolution B033, which she herself found, “exceedingly challenging” to be accepted at Lambeth and in the rest of the Anglican Communion?

If you are honest, these are the real reason for your tears. At the very least, please have the decency to admit that you were not crying for me. You were crying because it always hurts when you sacrifice your own integrity and intelligence on the altar of good intentions.

In some ways, our church is a reflection of what is happening in our country. My friend, Lane Denson, recently wrote in his online reflections Out of Nowhere: "The newscasters say we're sending bombs to Israel and medical aid to Lebanon. The president says that stem cell research is taking human life, and that killing 40,000 Iraqi citizens is promoting democracy. What are we supposed to do, smile, take up ironyng, and sing God Bless America?"

There’s a lot of talk in many circles of The Episcopal Church as a ‘constituent member’ of the Anglican Communion in the aftermath of Columbus which uses the sports metaphor of ‘team’. In our country, the preferred metaphor is ‘patriot.’ If you do not cave into the demands for conformity, you are not a ‘team player’ and therefore, not a good Christian, much less a good Episcopalian or (talk of irony) classical Anglican. If you do not mindlessly rubber stamp the present administration’s policy, you are not a good patriot and therefore, not a good American.

It continues to amaze me that the growing analysis of what happened in “Columbus” is that “the diverse center held.” What absolute nonsense! What happened is that most of the Left and the Right, as well as the Middle, caved into strong-arming and emotional manipulation from ‘above’ – as well as ‘across the pond.’

After Columbus and the intellectually insulting, ethically bankrupt, and ultimately cowardly language of “manner of life” in B033, after the announcement from Lambeth about a Covenant Process which assures Episcopalians of the status of ‘downstairs maid,’ after the pronouncement from Nigeria that The Episcopal Church is ‘a cancerous lump in the Body’, the question begs to be answered:

Were we so blinded by our earnest desire to give our newly elected Presiding Bishop what she, after only 72 hours, thought she needed, our determined optimism as Christians who are Americans, our confused tears about the intent of our choices, our desperate longing to belong to something bigger than ourselves, that we missed the trees of justice for the forest of uniformity?

There remains a great deal of work to be done, after Columbus. There are many lessons still to be learned, after Columbus. There remains the reconstruction and the rebuilding.

But first, you cry – for the ways in which we betrayed ourselves and each other – and God.

You bury the dead – the hopes and the dreams and ideals of this church, secure in the promises of new life in the resurrection of Jesus.

You allow yourself to mourn – to enter into the myriad of emotions known to the grieving process, including denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance trusting the Holy Spirit to carry you through.

And then, you wipe your tears, blow your nose, pick up your socks, and get on with the work of mission and ministry.

The Gospel promise calls us to do no less. And, even after Columbus – no, especially after Columbus, as at any other time of devastation – the call of the Gospel, the imperatives of the Gospel have never been more important.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

"Everything is a game, and yet games . . ."

Martin Smith is the former superior of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist and, in my estimation, one of the most articulate theological minds of our church. He is becoming an increasingly important voice for the LGBT Community. Someone sent this sermon to me. I think it needs wide circulation. So, by the authority invested in me by absolutely no one at all, I post it here.

A sermon preached by the Rev. Martin L. Smith at the Church of St Luke in the Fields, New York, during a festal service of Evening Prayer in celebration of Gay Pride on Sunday, June 25, 2006

The emancipation of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people has only just begun and I prefer not to take my text from something fragmentary and incomplete, instead of scripture which often conveys an impression of finality. I quote from a notebook left by the poet Rilke. He paused in the churchyard in Ragaz on a visit to Switzerland in 1924 and jotted down the first line of a poem that was never completed. "Everything is a game, and yet games…" "Alles ist speil, aber speile…" He never finished it, but in a way this one line is enough. If we recite it, we have to finish the poem off for ourselves.

Everything in human culture is a one kind of game or another. We are creatures of ritual and managers of ritual. To be human is to perform. Today on Pride Day, we hardly need convincing. What a game this is! This is performance in overdrive, ritual made as hot as can be, a kind of crazed exaggeration of liturgy, geared to make us drool, laugh, clap, scream and bask. The antics of the drag stars, the gyrations of muscle queens, the banners, the costumes and the lack of costumes, the stylized fabulousness of it all…. "Everything is a game. And yet games…" The poet’s fragment goads us into musing on the possibility that games might be ways of doing something really serious.

The Church’s worship is a game too. We have our costumes and rituals and prescribed actions. It is hardly a big step to come into to St Luke’s from the streets after this parade. And the liturgies of the Church are just as vulnerable as any Gay Pride parade to an analysis that could be quite cynical—Its all just a game, isn’t it? Both of them are regularly dismissed as merely gameplaying. The Pride parade—an overblown event on the calendar of city attractions, a carnival to be marketed as a harmless interlude of hectic fun? And Church services—a kind of optional spice or spiritual condiment, a mere added aesthetic ingredient for those with spiritual leanings.

What might the seriousness be behind both these games? By serious, I don’t mean solemn. By serious, I mean, carrying the intention of ushering into the present a better future.

To be serious is to place oneself under the authority of the future. Some of the games we play as human beings carry no such intention. Indeed a lot of ritual is dedicated to preventing change, to maintaining the status quo. Even wild celebrations have a traditional role of keeping things the same. Take the Saturnalia festival in ancient Rome. Every December 25th, in a wildly popular carnival of role reversal, masters would wait on their slaves in memory of the golden age of Saturn. Great fun was had by all, but it was a mere game. Saturnalia was tantamount to an admission that there was something desperately wrong with slavery and that nothing could or would be done about it. The day after, everything returned to normal. Even the traditional Mardi Gras celebrations permitted by the Church played the same game. The people were allowed to let off steam once a year in carnival. There was a temporary respite of lewd hilarity. But it was just a safety valve. Lent began the next day. No serious shift was 2 expected to occur in the prevailing anti-erotic ethos of the Church, and it all served as a foil for the regular preaching of control and continence.

For most of human history, most religious rituals were concerned with repeating and conserving. They were based on what the gods were supposed to have revealed to ancestors in ages past. The rituals were about precedent and tradition. They found their justification in the past. The purpose of the rituals was to perpetuate, not to innovate. Which is why Gay pride parades and rituals which celebrate the good news of Jesus may both be laden with seriousness. They are both concerned not with maintaining the status quo, but inaugurating a future the likes of which has never been seen before.

What makes a Gay Pride Celebration different from a mere carnival for queers and their friends? What makes authentic Christian liturgy different from a niche activity for the few who like nostalgic religiosity? Gay Pride and the Christian sacramental worship are meant to signify that something new and entirely unprecedented is coming into the world. Both are subversive in the strict sense of the word. They represent the intention to undermine rigid structures governing the status quo. They are the activities of cheerful sappers who can bring down vested interests and towering walls and open up the space for kinds of freedom and community that have never been seen before.

For thousands of years of human history, what we call now call heterosexuality has been compulsory. Though from the dawn of time some men have always loved men, and some women have always loved women, most societies held together through a compulsory ideology of sex and gender identity, woven by myth, promoted by religion, enacted by ritual, instilled by custom and enforced, often violently, by law. What we, this blessed generation, have the privilege of participating in is the collective task of ushering in the end of compulsory heterosexuality. We have been given the grace to take part in opening a space never seen before in history in which women who love women and men who love men and some who love both can not only stand out together in the full light of day but claim an equal joy and an equal dignity and an equal responsibility and an equal authenticity. We are announcing the long overdue but still premature news that heterosexism, the age-old ideology of unearned privilege for the majority attracted to the opposite sex, has had its day. There is a new day in the making, and we will die proud for having been present in its dawning.

Gay Pride, if it serious, is about acting out the future in advance, stamping out a dance floor in an open space in which a new kind of freedom to be and to flourish can be made visible. And if it is serious, it knows that the revolution has only just begun. It is easy to make the mistake that liberation is more or less accomplished. I can’t get out of my head the scenes that took place at the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camps. Homosexuals who had survived years of agony and torture must have imagined when the allied troops arrived that freedom was just round the corner. Instead hundreds and hundreds of them were dragged off to jail to serve further years of incarceration to finish off their sentences because the statues against homosexuality used by the Nazis still remained in force. This terrible and little known fact haunts me as a symbol of the tenacity of the structures which degrade and oppress gay people. Beware of those you 3 think are your liberators. The ‘freedom’ they have in mind may be rather different from what you imagine.

And a revolution it is. Perhaps on Gay Pride day we should at least recognize that religious and social conservatives who are reacting with such violence and passion against the progress of gay folk have understood its enormity correctly. Unlike the liberals who affect to think that gay liberation is simply a banal consequence of tolerant attitudes, the religious and cultural right know perfectly well that it actually is subversive. They know that it presents a serious threat to religious and political ideology which is geared to the defense of monopoly and privilege.

And what of the church? Is our worship serious? It is if it stays faithful to Jesus who dared to proclaim that God’s future was reaching into the present and opening it up to transformation. The Reign of God, the era of justice and communion which everyone found convenient to postpone to the end of time was actually here already. There is another world but from now on it is this one. It was yeast already raising the dough, a brushfire already set going, a chain reaction emanating from Jesus’ own ministry of welcome and healing. Our worship is serious if it places us under the authority not of the past but of the future and holds us accountable not to maintaining the status quo but to creating communities that are models of God’s future. Jesus invited people to unplug from the compulsory structures of family and gender—"Call no one Father on earth"— and create new webs of kinship open to all, where differences and otherness are celebrated precisely because they make no difference to our common oneness, but make all the difference to the richness of our common life. If our worship is serious it can c celebrate the emancipation of gay and lesbian people as yet another effect of God’s future taking hold in the present.

Tonight’s reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans (8:15-27)reminds us that those who have received the spirit of Jesus are more vulnerable than anyone to anguish at how slowly freedom is taking effect in God’s creation, groaning with sorrow because so many of our brothers and sisters all over the world are still suffering in the meantime. We groan because there is much more to hope for and work for. We groan, and the Spirit prays within us with sighs to deep for words.

But it is also true that those who receive the Spirit are more prone to joy. On this Gay Pride day, everyone is having fun, but some of us are experiencing joy, which is something we catch from God who rejoices in the exuberant variation of creation and allows joy to spill down from heaven whenever there is real freedom to celebrate. Gay Pride day is lots of things, and it is ridiculous to pretend that there isn’t a lot of bad taste, lust, and druggy excess mixed in. But there is a whole lot of bliss going on and a kind of blessed, unruly ecstasy, which is truly spiritual. A breaking in of the Spirit who is tired of our craven dreariness and the deadening effects of self-destructiveness and wants us to be spirited and fired by love and desire. Gay Pride is about bliss as our birthright, and for those of us here worshipping the Love which is the source of all life, it is about God promising us bliss, gay and straight, and giving foretastes of it in this life.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Something there is that doesn't love a wall

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56, Ephesians 2:11-22
VII Pentecost, Proper 11, July 23, 2006
The Episcopal Church of St. Paul, Chatham, NJ
The Rev’d Elizabeth Kaeton, rector and pastor

I don't know about you, but I've had enough of sheep and shepherds.

I want to talk this morning about walls.

Jesus doesn’t seem to have many of them – indeed, even though he and his disciples are weary and ‘on retreat’, still he allows the sick to be brought to him for healing. Paul, in his letter to the church in the ancient church at Ephesis, speaks of a wall rather pointedly:

“For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.”

Paul probably wrote this when he was a prisoner, about the same time he wrote his letter to the church at Colossae, which, together with Ephesis, are rather insignificant towns of Phrygia in Asia Minor. As a very serious student of the bible (I studied with the Jesuits, after all), I have written in the margins of my seminary study Bible, “The Church becomes important.”

Apparently, I thought I was, too. Becoming important, that is.

Paul is writing this letter from behind walls, because walls were going up everywhere in the early Christian community. There were scandals of divisions and splits and infighting among the churches. Paul was writing to these communities about uniformity in their lives so that there might be unity in the churches.

You’ll excuse me if I note that this sounds altogether uncomfortably familiar. It seems that the old saying is true: The more things change, the more they stay the same. We are presently engaged in a Christian jihad of sorts, attempting to enforce uniformity in the name of unity. Then, it was about circumcision. Today, it’s about sexuality.

Since the inception of the church, some form of division always seems to be brewing, some order of wall is always in the process of being built. We heard it in the first hymn we sang, “By schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed;” and, “Midst toil and tribulation and tumult of her war.” The media, however, never seems to pick up on the importance of church unless there is a scandal of some sort – the most current one being the scandal of division. Isn’t it interesting that the church becomes important only when there is division or scandal?

Our own personal families are no different from our church family. I know you well enough to know some of the walls your families have created. I, too, have learned a few things about walls over the years – in the church, in the nation, and in families – the most important of which came from my father. It’s probably the nature of things that, after more than four years of being with you, that I’ve probably begun to retell some of my stories, but this one is worth while, I think.

It is a gift from my father, who did not intend it as a gift, I think, but it is a gift I treasure none the less. It stands for me as a modern parable and a cautionary tale which helps to explain St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, and Jeremiah’s message about scattered sheep, as well as this morning’s gospel lesson about the need to “come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest awhile.”

My father fought in what he always proudly referred to as "the Pacific Theater" of WWII - the longest time being spent, as he would say, "deep in the jungle" of the Philippines. One night, taking cover from some enemy fire, my father got separated from the rest of his battalion. He wandered around for hours in the pitch blackness of that tropical night - unable to see his hands or feet in from of him, much less "the enemy."

Suddenly, he came upon a wall. He put his hands along it and followed it for what seemed like miles and miles and miles. It seemed never ending. He cursed that wall, thinking that it kept him from returning to his battalion. He cursed that wall, fearing that it placed him in grave danger. He grew more and more fearful and weary with every passing hour. Finally, the extreme heat and humidity overcame him and he slumped exhausted at the base of the wall, resigned to face his death in the morning's light. Before long, he fell into the deep sleep of the doomed.

My father says he awoke to hear Pilipino voices not far off in the distance. He looked and saw the wall and suddenly, the truth dawned on him even more gloriously than that tropical morning. The wall that he had followed with his hands for miles and miles and miles, the wall that had been the only thing he knew as a tangible certainty in that jungle besides himself and his gun, the wall he had cursed long into that dark tropical night because he believed it separated him from safety, that very self same wall had actually provided protection for him.

Indeed, if that wall had not been there, he might have wandered off and walked directly into enemy fire or been taken prisoner and tortured, only to beg to be killed. Turns out, the wall saved his life. My father would always end the telling of that story with these words: “So, before you make a judgment about anything, just wait to see it in the light of another day. Because, you know, some things in this life are not always what they appear. That's because the ways of God are a deep mystery to the minds of mortals.” (Okay, he said 'man' but it's my story so I'll make the editorial changes.)

There was once a wall separating East from West Berlin, Germany. There is a wall separating the Protestants and Catholics of Belfast, Ireland. There is a wall separating the Israeli’s and Palestinians in Jerusalem. Neither of those walls succeed in keeping anyone safe. There is a virtual wall between Mexico and the United States. There is a wall which grows stronger in the proposed changes in our immigration laws.

There are proposed walls which will be erected, over time, in our church. The proposed Anglican Covenant will create walls which separate those who believe the church should be guided by a strict rule of conduct and belief from those who believe the church should be guided by an open door for all who profess a love of God, a belief in Jesus, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Whether any of these walls are being constructed for exclusion or our safety will be determined over the test of time – examined, as my father cautioned, in the light of the dawn of a new day. As he said, some things in this life are not always what they appear because the ways of God are a deep mystery to the minds of mortals.

I only know one thing for certain: When the wall in Berlin came down, there was great rejoicing. I also know that there is nothing sweeter than when the walls of hurt and pain that have grown between individuals or families finally come tumbling down and there is reconciliation.

And, this – a poem about Mending Walls by Robert Frost, with which I will leave you to consider:

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.

Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.' I could say 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me~
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."

The words of my father are that some things in this life are not always what they appear, because the ways of God are a deep mystery to the minds of mortals.

And the words of the gospel are these: “And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.”


Thursday, July 20, 2006

A Point of No Return for the Episcopal Church in the USA

Charles Willie, past Vice-President of the House of Deputies of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church and honorary trustee of Episcopal Divinity School, wrote this reflection following the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church. Dr. Willie asked EDS to share this reflection with its distribution lists. This reflection may be reprinted in its entirety, including author information. Please contact Nancy Davidge at for additional information.

A Point of No Return for the Episcopal Church in the USA

By Charles V. Willie, PhD

The contentious relationship between the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America and the worldwide Anglican Communion is appropriately called a “civil war over homosexuality” by The New York Times. I, also, think it is an event of “civil stress” about love and justice. In 1966, Joseph Fletcher, an Episcopal priest on the faculty of the Episcopal Theological School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, wrote a book titled Situation Ethics in which he declared that “love is the boss principle of life” and “justice is love distributed”.

While other institutional systems in society like government, the economy, and education identify principles other than love that are central to their mission, certainly love is the foundational principle of religion – all religions. It is our religious responsibility in society to remind other institutions to do what they are called to do in loving and just ways.

Thus, it is a shocking experience to see a religious institution like the Anglican Communion demonize gay couples and lesbian couples who wish to marry and homosexual people who wish to make a sacrificial offering of their leadership skills to the church as priests or bishops. There is no evidence that one’s sexual orientation limits one’s capacity to love others. So, why is the church so upset about women and homosexual people serving as church leaders?

If a group like the Anglican Communion is unwilling to accept the proposition that “all . . . are created equal” as stated in our Declaration of Independence” and that all institutions should “derive their just powers from the consent of the governed”, the Episcopal Church in the United States may have no alternative but to withdraw from a Communion that proclaims homosexual people are not worthy of being church leaders. It is an inappropriate proposal to suggest that the Episcopal Church in the USA may be willing to remain as an associate member of the Anglican Communion without decision-making status if it does not wish to conform to a covenant which may deny gay people the privilege of serving as bishops.

In 1789, the United States established a democratic nation state governed by a Constitution that did not resolve the undemocratic issue of slavery. Two-thirds of a century later we paid dearly for this miscarriage of justice with a civil war that resulted in more that 600,000 deaths and lingering mistrust to this day between some civil districts in the South and North. Can the Episcopal Church in the USA expect a different outcome if it permits itself to be governed by a covenant of the Anglican Communion that discriminates against gay people? I do not think so! For this reason, I believe that the Archbishop has mentioned a proposal that will not work.

Now may be the time when the Episcopal Church in the United States may have to suffer the redemption of its friends elsewhere in the world by showing forth its love for all sorts and conditions of people and by refusing to compromise on this human rights matter.

Dr. Charles V. Willie is an educator and sociologist and is a past Vice-President of the House of Deputies of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the USA. He delivered the ordination sermon when the first eleven women were ordained as priests in this church in Philadelphia, PA, July 1974. He is an honorary trustee of Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

© Dr. Charles V. Willie, 2006

Nancy Davidge
Director of Communications
Episcopal Divinity School
99 Brattle Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
Phone: 617.682.1502
Cell phone: 617.901.4200
Fax: 617-864-5385

Monday, July 17, 2006

Saving Each Other

Sometimes, a picture says a thousand words. Other times, cartoons make the point you just can't make any other way.

Married, but Certainly Not to Tradition

I didn't write this, but I wish I had. Indeed, I could have. I've had the honor and privilege of presiding at a few of these kinds of services - probably the most notable of which was the "Mickenburg-Fitzgerald" Blessing Ceremony - a delightfully rich blend of Jewish, Irish-Roman Catholic, Feminist Ritual, "in the Episcopal tradition."

Read. Be inspired!

Married, but Certainly Not to Tradition
Alison Luterman

THE groom’s mother wore a peach silk suit and an expression of mingled happiness, anxiety and bemusement. The other groom’s mother wore a peacock-blue dress and a similar expression, one that seemed to combine “I can’t believe this is happening” with “What a beautiful day, what a lovely chapel, what nice well-dressed people — just like a real wedding.”

One groom’s father needed to step outside and smoke a lot. The other groom’s father was dead. Nieces were in abundance, though — a bouquet of skinny adorable girls, dressed in hot pink and giggling with excitement.

But I didn’t have a lot of time to gawk at the family members because I was a huppah holder at this gay Christian wedding, and our routine was intricately choreographed.

The huppah, in the Jewish tradition, is a canopy, often made from a prayer shawl, whose corners are held up on poles by four people close to the wedding couple. But these grooms, Randy and Michael, were Catholic — super Catholic in fact. Michael had been a seminarian, preparing for the Jesuit priesthood in a former life, and Randy a Benedictine monk, deeply steeped in prayer, contemplation and service.

So why, as my Brooklyn-raised father carefully asked, would they want a huppah? The thing is, when you put “Catholic” and “gay wedding” together, you come out with one inevitable conclusion: an extravaganza of rituals.

And that’s what this was. We started in a circle of 100 people, holding hands, blessing and thanking earth, sky and the four directions. We then moved into some Christian sacred dance, all about breaking bread and feeding one another. While the rest of the wedding party proceeded into the chapel, wearing burgundy and orange ribbon stoles and holding long-stemmed gerbera daisies, three fellow Jews and I struggled outside to mount the huppah.

In a typical Jewish wedding, our task would have been simple: Don’t let the huppah sag, and don’t sneeze during the ceremony. But this huppah was not just a huppah. First, it was a quilt, created by the grooms’ families and friends, with squares that read “Two Boys Dancing” and “I don’t even know how to think straight.” Then it was to become a kind of medieval coat of arms, which we were to carry folded to the altar where we would unfurl it into a backdrop for the ceremony. And later it would become an altar cloth, an anchor for the Bible and a robe.

Michael, a veteran actor and director, has had a lifelong love affair with props. I met him six years before, when we did a children’s play together, and I quickly came to appreciate his wit and gallantry. But he was reserved about his private life, so we didn’t engage in the usual banter about ex-lovers and current flings.

When he met Randy, who radiates the kind of sincerity that I had only before seen in Jehovah’s Witnesses, something came loose in Michael, and here, at the wedding, it was on full display.

When the communion part of the ceremony rolled around, the priest in Michael took over; he grabbed the plate of bread and held it aloft.

“Bread! What does it make you think of?”

Answers poured forth: “Earth.” “Seeds.”

“Our bodies!” Michael cried.

And I realized why monastics can be so sexy. It’s not just the repression. It’s also the sense that the miracle is contained within the body, the body within the miracle. Seeing Randy watching Michael with the same realization written all over his face, I blushed.

“Michael and Randy don’t want you just to witness their ceremony,” said the minister, a petite lesbian with spiky platinum-tipped hair. “They want you to be co-celebrants with them, and they promise — we promise — that if you open yourselves fully to this experience, you will be transformed. Are you willing?”

“Yes!” the assembled roared.

As greedy for transformation as the next girl, I held up my corner of the huppah as the first hour of the ceremony rolled by. A unity candle was lighted, hymns were sung, and a monk with a beautiful tenor voice played sacred music on the guitar. Everything — the music, the decorations, the grooms’ outfits (black pants, white shirts imprinted with the motif of a sacred Hawaiian flower) — had been selected with exquisite care.

I snapped out of my reverie when the huppah changed roles to become an altar cloth for communion.

I had never taken communion, out of respect and also out of a vague fear that, as a Jew, I would be struck with thunderbolts if I did. But the minister and Michael and Randy said this communion was for everyone, that it could mean whatever we wanted it to, and after all it was challah. So I stood in line, dunked my bread in the cider, and was generously showered with a Jesus-free blessing by a minister friend.

The contrast between this ceremony and my previous night’s outing could not have been more profound. I’d gone to see a documentary from 1972, “Winter Soldier,” that featured recently returned Vietnam veterans testifying about atrocities they had witnessed or taken part in. One after another, these cherubic young men, cigarettes smoldering between their fingers, leaned toward the microphone and described memories of bound prisoners pushed out of helicopters, 3-year-old children stoned to death with ration cans, whole villages torched for sport. Their eyes were dry as they spoke, their voices steady. They had been well trained to suppress any signs of emotion, no matter how horrific their memories. I think many of them were still in shock.

When asked why they had participated in such atrocities or stood by and watched as others committed them, one answered: “You don’t start out that way. You wanted to cry when your friend got killed.” But you couldn’t, he said, because that would have made you look weak.

“It was about being a man,” another said. “The more kills you had under your belt, the more of a man you were.”

Now, in the chapel, a decidedly different version of manhood and male emotion was being played out. Randy and Michael’s eyes were wet as they turned to each other to recite their vows. I stood behind them, conscious of beautiful masculine energy that was cascading between them.

They promised to cherish each other, fight side by side for justice and dedicate their marriage to protecting the earth. Then Michael looked at Randy and said, “Randy, I would die for you.”

I blinked back streaky mascara tears. Marriage does involve a kind of death of self, as I had learned the hard way. It’s all or nothing. You can’t be less than fully present in your marriage or it will collapse when the cold winds blow. And they always do blow. When I had married, years before, I hadn’t been truly ready, or at least not as ready as these two seemed to be.

“Michael, I would die for you,” Randy said. Rings exchanged, they turned and faced friends and family, a sea of loving faces. Not one dry eye in the house. We wrapped the huppah around them, so they were like two tall teddy bears swaddled in well-wishes. It would be nice if we could protect them this way, from the hatred and fear of those who might find their union abhorrent, but we knew that was impossible. Linking themselves solidly and visibly to each other, they become twice targeted, and yet infinitely strengthened.

My own wedding history started on a less uplifting note. As a young woman I stood bridesmaid for a friend. My dress was pink taffeta with pouffy sleeves, a tiny waist and a full skirt. I looked like Glinda, the Good Witch; the only thing missing was the wand. The day before the ceremony, I somehow managed to lose the dress and was punished by having to wear the dress intended for the maid of honor (who wore a lavender substitute from the bride’s aunt). The dress was several sizes too small, and I had to endure the wedding and reception without taking a full breath or sitting down.

Maybe it was this experience, maybe just my own particular brand of feminism, that has made me dislike traditional weddings ever after. In particular, I always hate when the minister or rabbi turns the couple to face the congregation and says, “Let me be the first to present to you Mr. and Mrs. X.” In that moment, I always feel the woman’s identity wiped out.

When I became a bride myself — barefoot, in a yellow dress, no train, no veil — I was so on the outs with tradition that we didn’t have a rabbi, just friends and family with poetry, music and blessings. We had youth and optimism and hubris and mad love for each other.

At the time, it seemed like enough. But marriage is tricky; you go in seduced by sweet idealism and can end up confronting your worst monsters in the mirror. A good wedding can be a kind of grounding for all the psychic chaos that comes unleashed when two people commit themselves fully. Honest, intimate community is essential. And the humility to ask God or Spirit or whatever you call It for help. When I married, I didn’t even know I could do that.

I HAD never heard God called upon so openly, unashamedly, ecstatically and often as I did during Michael and Randy’s ceremony. And the walls of the little chapel were still standing at the end and lightning didn’t strike anybody, and when it was finally over the grooms’ mothers were no longer looking bemused or anxious, just teary and happy. And the nieces and nephews who had sat so patiently were tugging on Randy and Michael’s hands and asking to be lifted up and twirled as the music began.

Together, we all marched onward and outward to bright sunlight and chicken breasts in apricot sauce: the gay Catholics, the nominally straight Jews, the Midwestern families who had traveled long distances in more ways than one, the whole motley collection of pagans, ex-priests, Buddhists, actors and singers, each of whom had absorbed the ceremony in their way.

It wasn’t a legal wedding. Even so, it made me think the Right is correct in fearing same-sex unions. There is such power in this kind of brave and naked love that it may make the walls of Jericho come tumbling down.

Alison Luterman, who lives in Oakland, Calif., is the author of “The Largest Possible Life” (Cleveland State University).

From the Sunday Times.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Never make a promise you can't keep

“Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” Mark 6:14-29
VI Pentecost – July 16, 2006 – The Episcopal Church of St. Paul, Chatham, NJ
The Rev’d Elizabeth Kaeton, rector and pastor

You have often heard me quote my Grandmother over the past four plus years I have been with you. I can’t imagine any other person in my life having a greater impact on who I am today and how I try to live my life. One of my favorite pieces of her advice is: “Live your life as if everyone will know every detail because eventually, everyone will.”

She also taught me this: “It is better to keep silent and have people think you a fool than to open your mouth and prove them right.” I think about that every time I sit down to write a sermon. One of her aphorisms which has direct bearing on today’s scripture is this: “Never make a promise you are not absolutely certain you can keep.”

That was certainly a problem for Herod, wasn’t it? Herod liked John the Baptist. He liked to listen to him, even though when he heard him, he was very perplexed. Perhaps that had something to do with the fact that John the Baptist preached the truth. The particular truth that was perplexing to Herod is that John told him straight up that he had broken the law because he had married his brother Philip’s wife, Herodias – which seriously annoyed her. That made Herod a little more than uneasy, so he sent his men to arrest John. They bound him and threw him into jail.

Now, his wife Herodias wanted John dead – beheaded, in fact – but Herod protected him while he was in jail, knowing him to be a holy man. My grandmother used to say, “Opportunity is never a lengthy visitor.” Apparently Herodias knew this, too. She waited for Herod’s birthday banquet as the perfect opportunity to have her daughter, also named Herodias, dance for Herod and elicit from him a promise.

“Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it,” Herod solemnly swore to his daughter Herodius. After a consultation with her mother, Herodius said to her father, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” Consider the bind in which the King suddenly found himself. Scripture says that “the king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests he did not want to refuse her.” There are some promises that shouldn’t be made – especially open-ended ones.

My grandmother would say, “Never make a promise you are not absolutely certain you can keep.” These wise words, like many wise words, were no doubt forged in the crucible of painful experience. I suspect they were born in the presence of heartbreaking disappointment and bitter disillusionment as well as deep frustration. When she spoke these words, there was an unmistakable tone of sadness in my grandmother’s voice which I can hear even now as I call up my memory of her. I often wonder what experience – or experiences – gave shape and form to her elegant wisdom.

What is it that turns one person’s disappointment into retaliation and another’s into wisdom? What is it that caused Herodius to turn her bitter anger at John the Baptist into a vendetta that spread its poison to her own daughter, involving her in murder? What was it that prompted Herodius to connive and scheme such a cruel fate for her nemesis out of the enthusiastic, spontaneous generosity of her husband’s birthday festivities? What was it that caused my grandmother to become a mentor and a teacher for three generations of women in my family?

I recently saw the movie, WATER. If you haven’t seen it, you must. It is a story about colonial India in 1938, just before Gandhi’s rise to power, and how his deep wisdom challenged thousands of years of religious assumptions which had shaped culture and society and government. And, it is much, much more than that.

It is the story of Chuyia, a little girl who, in ancient Hindu custom, was married off at age eight to a man many years her senior. It was, to be sure, a financial arrangement, women being considered just slightly above cattle in worth, but lower, of course, than the sacred cow. Chuyia’s husband dies and, in accordance with religious custom, she is sent to atone for his untimely death by living the rest of her life in a house where Hindu widows must live out their lives in penitence.

Imagine! An eight year old girl, sentenced to a life of poverty, ignorance and mind numbing drudgery for her husband’s death – as if she had anything to do with it! But Chuyia’s feisty presence affects the lives of all the other residents, including a beautiful young widow, who falls in love with a Gandhian idealist. The telling of this story was such an embarrassment, such a threat to the status quo of some of the religious extremist groups in India that for five years, Deepa Mehta, the film maker, was threatened with arson and violence during the making of the film.

Yes, the story of young Chuyia and these widows is that powerful – and that dangerous. As my grandmother would say, “Live your life as if everyone will know every detail because eventually, everyone will.” Secrets can kill. Telling secrets dissolves their power to hurt and spurs healing, bringing change and transformation – which is why telling the truth of our stories is so dangerous to the status quo.

In many ways, WATER is the not-so-secret story about the promises and choices we make in our lives. Even when we seem to have had all of our choices taken from us. Even if we have surrendered our choices to fear – of what we have come to believe religion has promised or the tyranny of an unjust government, or even more commonly, in the unchallenged beliefs of a family system. It is the story of how powerful it is to make a choice for the good, and not give into despair, especially in the face of the evil of having had the choices of our basic humanity denied or unwillingly stripped of us.

It is the story of what happens to us when love is denied, and the perversions that are created when we make love a commodity. It is a complicated story, as complex as the human experience but told through, what is for many of us, the exotic lens of Indian culture and Hindu religion. And yet, we see it in this morning’s gospel story of ancient Jewish culture and religion. I hear traces of it in my grandmother’s voice in her Portuguese culture and Christian religion. Perhaps you know it, too, in someone’s life in this time and culture which has touched your own. Perhaps parts of your own story are in Chuyia’s story.

Somewhere, deep in the human psyche, it is a story we all know so well because it is part of a common, collective, unconscious knowledge. Somewhere, in the divine spark which quickens life in us all, there is an understanding of the promise of the dignity and worth of every human being. When that promise is broken, when the dignity and worth of a human being is not respected, is not cherished, we feel it deep in our soul. When that promise is claimed and lived into and out of, it is then that we soar to new heights of discovering the full potential and greatness of our simple, common humanity – no matter the limitations imposed on us, - or, those we impose on ourselves.

Somewhere, deep in the collective unconscious of the human enterprise, which crosses all cultures and time and religion, we understand that God never makes a promise to us that can not be kept. I think this is what perplexed Herod about John the Baptist. Indeed, this is what I suspect compelled Herod to keep his promise to his daughter, even though he knew it was wrong. The story of Herod is a cautionary tale which challenges our understandings about promises and choice.

I believe we know, in the intuitive places of our knowing, that God makes to each of us a promise of God’s constant and abiding presence – which allows someone like Amos, a simple “herdsman and dresser of sycamore trees” to make choices for the greatness of prophetic ministry. I believe we carry in the mystery of our souls the promise hidden deep in the words St. Paul writes to the ancient church in Ephesis, “God destined us for adoption as children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of God’s will, to the praise of God’s glorious grace that has been freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”

With these unspoken but profoundly known promises hidden deep in our hearts and minds and souls, we make choices with our lives – sometimes for good and sometimes for ill. By examining those choices we discover something author Fred Buechner calls “the way God speaks through the hieroglyphics of the things that happen to us.” It is in the midst of deciphering these hieroglyphics that we discover or uncover or recover our own wisdom. We come to understand, I believe, that even through tragedy and adversity – or perhaps because of it – God never makes a promise that can’t be kept. And so, in the simple wisdom my Grandmother taught, we strive to do the same. Amen.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Blowin' in the Wind

I understand Dylan and Baez are making a comeback. That would be Bob and Joan, respectively, for those of you who are, shall we say, ‘generationally challenged’.

I remember them performing at the Newport Folk Festival – a creation after the manner of the Newport Jazz Festival – on stage together with Peter, Paul and Mary, The Weavers, Buffy-Sainte Marie, and Odetta.

The atmosphere was heady with revolutionary ideas about universal soldiers, love, peace, amazing grace, and justice. The air was thick with the smell of patchouli and . . . um . . . smoke.

At the end of the concert, the audience joined those performers, singing what would become the anthem of the time “blowin’ in the wind” from the bottom of our hearts and at the top of our lungs.

I was brinked on the second decade of my life, a ‘young blood’ full of myself and the idea that if I was not part of the solution, I was part of the problem.

The so-called ‘Korean Conflict’ had just ended.

The evil war in Viet Nam was raging.

Civil Rights had been won but the daily battle to dismantle racism continued unabated.

My parents were thoroughly perplexed and confused by the idea of – much less the need for – the movement known as ‘Women’s Liberation’, but when I applied for a credit card in my name, my application was denied because I needed the signature of my father or husband.

The Stonewall Riots in late June of 1969 provided the surprising spark which fueled the so-called ‘Gay Liberation’ movement.

‘Father Knows Best’ was off the air, abortion was legal, and the birth control pill was readily available.

My car – an orange VW Bug – had a bumper sticker that said, “If you aren’t outraged, you are not paying attention.”

My room at nursing school had two posters, each with a quote from Daniel Berrigan. One said: “Don’t just do something, stand there.” The other said something like: “If Jesus had just stayed on that cross, the revolution would never have begun.”

Thirty years later finds me well ensconced in the fifth decade of my life. The television last week carried images of North Korean soldiers marching in readiness.

The evil war in Iraq continues to rage.

An African American man has been elected to the Municipal Council of the serious suburban town were I live, and I have a debit card and three credit cards in my wallet, but the daily battle to dismantle the oppressive systems of racism and sexism continue unabated.

The Righter trial settled, once and for all, the issue of ordination of LGBT people and the 2003 election in New Hampshire placed an honestly gay man in the episcopacy, but another hate crime was reported last week in New York City – one of about a dozen so far this year.

Teen pregnancy is still epidemic, and abortion rights are under attack, being seriously tested this fall in North Dakota.

And, I still drive a VW Bug – a more subdued metallic blue with a convertible top.

What’s that old saying? The more things change, the more they stay the same. It was never more true.

Some would look at the progress we’ve made and say, “You’ve come a long way, baby.” It was Flo Kennedy, I believe, who once said, “If we really had come a long way, they wouldn’t be calling us ‘baby.’”

And yet . . . we have made enormous strides, even if we seem to take three steps forward and two back. We elected a woman of the laity to be President of the House of Deputies. We also made history when we elected the firs the woman Presiding Bishop who is the first woman Primate in the Anglican Communion.

Two days later, in a stunning reversal, we passed B033, a subtly crafted resolution designed with the erroneous notion that in ‘true’ reconciliation, no one is happy and everyone sacrifices something. (Where did that ridiculous idea come from? Certainly not from any scripture I can remember. Where, in this notion, is there even the hope of resurrection?)

Turns out, that’s precisely what happened.

Well, almost.

Neither the Archbishop of Canterbury, the neo-puritan bishops of the Global South, nor the variety of conservative, orthodox, ‘reasserters’ of our church were happy. Indeed, schism continues to be hot on the breath of many in the church.

The sacrifice, however, came only to the fullness of the vocational lives of LGBT people. And, to the church, which sacrificed its own baptismal vows on the altar of the false gods of unity and communion.

The work of mission and ministry is before us and it is daunting and never more important.

I find myself continuing to be deeply moved by the aphorisms of my youth. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention. The revolution has begun – has been ongoing since the moment of the resurrection.

It’s time for us to stop doing the things we have been doing, hoping for change, and take a stand to work for change. It’s time to "stand in the Temple and tell" - and then ask questions, hard questions, of ourselves and of our church.

How can we remain consumed with ‘compliance’ and 'submission' to the ‘invitations’ of The Windsor Report when there are three dioceses in our own church which are in flagrant disobedience to the ordination of women in accordance with the constitution and canons of our church?

How can we continue to make real changes in the status of all women – baptized or not, laity or ordained – in the church, in this country as well as in the global village?

Where is the next generation of leaders and how will we identify, prepare and equip them for the next movement of change? I’m talking about change. Real change. Not just changing the faces at the top.

Where are the ‘young bloods’? Who will lead us in that systemic change?

In what seems to be the rapid unfolding of the second phase of the Reformation which seeks to redefine authority and power, magisterium and ‘foreign rule,’ what role will women play?

The answers, my friend, are blowin’ in the wind – and the name of that wind is Ruach, the divine feminine and Holy Spirit, for whom the revolution never has to make a comeback. Revolution is always “in style,” because it’s simply part of Her nature.

Let us reclaim our role of co-creators with God. Let us also commit ourselves to be midwives to this new creation which is being called forth from the chaos and calamity and confusion of our time.

Behold, God is still doing a new thing. And, it is still good.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

"If you are being run out of town . . ."

An Early Morning Meditation on Mark 6:1-13

July 12, 2006 – 7 AM Healing Eucharist
The Episcopal Church of St. Paul, Chatham, NJ
The Rev’d Elizabeth Kaeton, rector and pastor

Well, there being no saints on the calendar today, we deal one last time with Sunday's propers and find that we are faced once again with this call to prophetic ministry in Mark’s gospel.

I’ve always heard these words of instruction from Jesus to his apostles in terms of the urgency of his mission. “No bread, no bag, no money in your belt . . .” But, this morning I hear them a little differently.

If you are expecting to get run out of town, it is to your distinct advantage to travel light, isn't it? Makes it ever so much easier to beat feat and get the heck out of Dodge.

I've also been thinking about prophets I've known and loved. Recently, I’ve been introduced to a character in cyberspace. She has become for me a prophet of sorts in that she calls me to a very uncomfortable place in my comfort zone about religion. Her name is Betty Butterfield

And she is an absolute hoot. She recalls for me every place I’ve ever worked where there are homeless people – or people who live right on the very fringes of society where the fabric is frayed and tattered. There's always someone there like Betty who not only lives on the fringes, she dances there.

Betty, poor darlin’, just “wants to know the Lawd” (except to hear her say it, that last word really has three syllables). Her reports of her visits to various churches and temples is caught on tape. The camera is “this close” to her face which is hideously made up with way too much rouge and lipstick and hair so “big” it can’t be caught in the tight frame of her features.

What she says, however, is only funny because it has a ring of truth. So, you laugh, but some of it isn’t so funny because it makes you uncomfortable – because you know she’s right.

Take, for example, her visit to the Episcopal Church.

“Lawd,” she says, “They give you 18 things to hold, a book of this, a hymn book, and papers . . .I said, “Lawd, am I gonna have to take all this stuff home?”

Later, she says, “Talkin’ bout ‘thee’ and ‘thy’ . ..(she is now breathless with tears) . .. it’s like Shakespeare . .’s like talking in tongues . .(which she does for a while and then, pleading, through breathless tears) I just want someone to explain it to me, is all.”

And, you know what? She’s right. She’s absolutely, painfully right. We forget, we who love our liturgy and the beautiful words of our Book of Common Prayer, that most people who come into the church just want an experience of God. They want comfort and solace. They want healing and peace.

They come in with their pain and their questions and their wonderings and they’d like someone to explain it to them, is all. And, do we do that?

More often than not, I think we fail miserably.

We may not be the ones run out of town, but I wonder how many people who come to church seeking God find themselves on that road paved with our good intentions – and we all know where that road leads, don’t we?

One last thought about prophets. On my ordination day, my bishop, Fred Wolf, sat me down and gave me this advice. He said that, if I did my job right, I would make some people very angry with me. Indeed, he said, some people would be so angry with me, that they would try to run me out of town.

If that happens, he said, here’s what you do (I’ve never forgotten his advice and I pass it along to you, that you may not fear the call to a prophetic work of ministry):

“If you are being run out of town, get in front of the crowd and make it look like a parade.”

And let the church say, 'Amen'.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

On Being a Prophet in a 'Not-for-Prophet' Church

V Pentecost – July 9, 2006 –
The Episcopal Church of St. Paul, Chatham, NJ
(the Rev’d) Elizabeth Kaeton, rector and pastor
(2Cor 12:2-10, Mark 6:1-13)

We’re going to start off this morning with a pop quiz. See if you can identify the author of this quote: "A prophet is meant to be a nuisance, asking such questions precisely when we think we have so ordered our Church, community, society or relationships as not to exclude."

How many think it was Bishop Jack Spong? Nope. How many think it was our Presiding Bishop Elect, Katharine Jefferts Schori? Nope. Actually, it was the present Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. He wrote those words eight years ago. I suspect he never thought he’d have to eat them.

You may know from reading the New York Times or listening to NPR that he has just revealed his grand scheme for the unity of the Anglican Communion, which looks to be designed to exclude nuisances from the Church – that would be people like you and me. ‘Revisionists,’ we’re called – the newest way to say ‘nuisance.’

We’re the ones, in the Archbishop’s terms, who ‘ask such questions precisely when we think we have ordered our church, community, society or relationships as not to exclude.’ On one level, you have to have pity on the man. It’s really hard when you become your own worst nuisance.

Many of the historic prophets were nuisances. Their job, as someone once said, is to ‘comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable’. You can hear that in the words of Ezekiel, calling the people of Israel “a nation of rebels,” and their descendents, “impudent and stubborn” – asking difficult questions on behalf of the God of mercy and justice while assuring them of God continual presence among them.

Ezekiel was a priest who wrote as a prophet to the exiles, who literally ate his words – or, more accurately, God’s words. So that he will speak only what the Lord has written, Ezekiel must eat a papyrus scroll filled with words of woe. I kid you not. Your ‘vacation bible school assignment’ is to check your Bible for Chapter two of the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel and read verse 8.

I have always loved reading the prophets. There’s lots of passion and poetry in their prose. They always ask the tough questions, but they never ask them before wrestling with the questions or the issues long and hard themselves. We hear this in Paul’s second epistle to the early church in Corinth. In the earlier chapters, he has indicated that his relationship with them has deteriorated; making what he calls “a painful visit to the church.”
This may be the reason he tells that very strange story about a person who was in Christ in whom God had placed a thorn in his flesh, he says, “to keep me from being too elated.” Three times he asks the Lord to remove the thorn from his flesh, but God says to him, “My grace is sufficient to you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”

He ends by saying, this of’t quoted sentence: “For whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” It is important to note that, by the time he has written these words, his relationship with the Corinthian had vastly improved. I suspect that Paul is attributing that small miracle to the grace of God.

Jesus tells us, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their own hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” So, we ought not be surprised to hear him instruct his disciples with this admonition: “If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on you feet as a testimony against them.”

One of these days, I’m going to write a book, the title of which will be: “On Being a Prophet in a ‘Not-for-Prophet’ Church.”

Actually, I like my prophets – like my angels – with dirty feet. I like the ones like Jonah who try to run away from their call. I like the ones like Ruth, who hang around even when they are not wanted. I especially like the Davids and the Samuels, the Mariams and the Esters, the Zacheus’ and all the unnamed and unnumbered women who were persistent in enacting what they knew they were called by God to do, even when there were those to whom they were merely nuisances.

These are the men and women who were ‘holy nuisances’ in their day and time, so that you and I could stand in that great tradition in ours. We, the baptized, need to ask questions, tough questions, of our church – indeed, of all of our institutions. As any parent can tell you, when kids question the status quo, or challenge the rules, they can be quite the nuisance. Indeed, some of my favorite prophets not only have dirty feet, they have small feet.

I have lots of images of them still fresh in my mind from General Convention. There was a large contingency of youth there, who didn’t just hang around and observe. They were assigned resolutions to follow and committees to observe and hearings in which to testify.

Some of you who have read my Blog know about one of those prophets with dirty feet – Charlie Hererra, one of the kids in my congregation when I was priest-in-charge at House of Prayer in Newark, who testified brilliantly in my committee, Social and Urban Affairs, concerning the right of workers to organize and encouraging employers to consider offering not simply minimum wage, but a living wage.

I haven’t told you about Sam. Sam Gould, the son of a seminary classmate of mine, Jane Gould who is presently rector of a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic church in Lyn, MA which holds services of Eucharist in Spanish, French and Swahili. Sam’s testimony caught everyone off guard – not just because he was a 16 year old boy who spoke movingly and eloquently about the LGBT people in his congregation and community whom he loved, but mainly, perhaps, because of the way he looked.

And, he looked . . . well, there’s only one way to describe Sam: unabashedly, unashamedly, outrageously, preppy. Kaki pants. Red tie (YES! A red tie!). Navy blue blazer. Penny loafers. I haven’t seen a kid that age dressed like that at a church function except, perhaps, at a funeral or a wedding. If the old guard was bemoaning the loss of “the good old days” of the church, while wringing their hands with worry about Her future, here it was, staring them right in the face: the way it used to look and the way it now sounds. And, clearly, this church of ours is not your father’s Oldsmobile.

Sam started off by reporting a conversation he had had with a young member of the his Sunday school class – an African kid, as I recall – who didn’t want Sam to miss the next Sunday’s class. “But why do you have to go, Sam?” asked the child. “Because,” said Sam in a tone mature beyond his years, “I have to go and tell the people in the ‘Big Church’ about Jesus.” “Don’t they already know about Jesus?” asked the young boy. “Well,” said Sam, “I’m going to tell them about the Jesus I know who wants everyone to come to him. I want to tell them about the Jesus I know who gets very sad when we try to keep people out of the church.” “Tell them about Jesus,” responded the kid, with no small amount of enthusiasm.

Thusly commissioned, and, with that preface, the young boy Samuel began to prophesy to the church, making more than one adult in the so-called orthodox aisle uncomfortable, and causing some in the ‘movable middle’ of the church to raise an eyebrow, but amazing us all – including his mother. “Isn’t that Jane Gould’s kid,” we asked. “Where did he get all this?” we inquired of each other. “What is this wisdom that has been given to him?” we wondered silently.

St. Paul reminds us that, in the economy of God, not only is God’s power perfected in our weakness, but that God often chooses the weak to shame the strong. Prophets are like that. But, here’s the thing my friends, we are all called to be prophets in this not-for-prophet church of ours. Even though we feel inadequate to the task, the vocational call of our baptism demands that we speak out against injustice, that we ask the difficult question – even if (no, especially when), it is disturbing to the status quo.

Don’t worry if you feel that you aren’t smart enough or articulate enough or qualified. God has promised us grace – abundant grace – whenever we do a work of justice or mercy in his name. And, sometimes, by God’s grace, you don’t even have to think of clever words yourself. Sometimes, you just have to remind prophets of the words they, themselves, once spoke. Then, like Ezekiel, all you have to do is get them to eat them. (Perhaps, for this Welshman, with a side of Haggis.)

I know. What a nuisance! Pray that God send us more prophets with dirty feet; more holy nuisances to ask annoying questions. It’s the only way I know to bring an end to hatred and division, injustice and oppression, and help us to live more fully into the unconditional love we know in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Inevitability of Rules

I suppose it was inevitable.

The time has come, my friends, to speak of sealing wax and wallpaper paste . . . and rules.

The comment section of this Blog has begun to attract certain folk who think, somehow, that they can say what they want, no matter how vile or outrageous, and reprint as many articles from whatever current source they consider THE TRUTH.


My dear friend Dave Golub, with whom I rarely agree on matters of doctrine or scripture, is absolutely correct in this matter: This is MY 'living room' and I do have rules and I am able, by the grace of God, to enforce them.

I have absolutely no need to censor anyone's speech or to squash true dialogue, but here is my bottom line, basic rule:

We WILL be courteous and we WILL be kind to each other.

At least that, as Christians who are Anglican - these two minimum standards:

Courtesy and kindness.

I have just this day completed all of my course work for my doctoral program (woo hoo!) - I have one HUMUNGA paper due on July 19th and then I start my colloquium in the Fall. (Don't hesitate to hold back on the applause - or the Maker's Mark.)

All that is to say that I will have a wee bit more time to monitor this site and I promise, on my blessed Grandmother's soul, to pull the comments of anyone who is neither kind nor courteous.

My blog. My call. Sorry. (Not.)

You know, I really don't give two figs what you think the bible really says about homosexuality, or what the Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of all Nigeria (and Exaulted Grand Poohbah of the Universe) REALLY said about the Episcopal Church, and if you want to present your argument about that here, you may.

Even though I'd rather you start your own blog and post your stuff there, I do this because I think it is much more a reflection on you than anything Jesus knows about LGBT people - or you.

If you want to be a disappointment to Jesus, well, as my grandmother would say, "that's on your soul."

But, you will NOT be snarky about what you post. Neither will you be violent. You WILL be courteous and you WILL be kind.

As for the dear lamb, the Roman Catholic woman from New Zealand who invited us all back to Rome: Your note made me realize, even with all the troubles here, how fortunate I am to have left Rome 30 years ago and be an Episcopalian.

I thank you for your note. It made me realize that I wouldn't trade the struggle to rediscover the Via Media of Anglicanism for the certainty of Rome for all the tea I could dump in Boston Harbor.

I have come to realize and am loathed to admit, but we have become two churches. There are several people who have been working very hard over the last several years to make this a reality.

And, now, it has happened.

Conjoined twins, is the image given to us by our new Presiding Bishop Elect.

So be it.

And so, we wait for the morally correct, ethically astute time to perform the long, complicated surgery to make the two whole, healththy, independently sustainable, one.

I really didn't expect (or want) to continue this blog after General Convention. Perhaps I underestimated the power of this form of communication. Many of you have told me how important it has become to you.

Reluctantly, I will continue it for a time, with this prayer:

May this place be the waiting room outside the surgical suite. May it be the place for crucial conversations about the latest piece of information - the latest analysis - the latest diagnosis. May it be a place for the truths we have to tell and the truths that tell more about us than we care to admit. May it be a place of despair and hope, joy and sorrow, confusion and clarity.

Yes, there will be anxiety here. That's really what I hear as I listen in to most of the conversation - anxiety.

It's okay. We all need a place to discharge that anxiety.

This can be that place.

But, you WILL be kind.

And, you WILL be courteous.

Or, you WILL be pulled.

Because, this is MY blog.

You don't like it?


Get your own blog.

Haven't you heard?

It's all the rage.

PS: Want to send a private, personal comment? Don't hesitate to send it to me:

See you in church!

Stand Firm: Betty Butterfield

Who is "Betty Butterfield"?

Someone recently directed me to the STAND FIRM (a stridently conservative Episcopal organization) video blog to watch an interview with Susan Russell, president of Integrity.

While I was there, I also watched several other interviews with the ubiquitous Kendall Harmon, the always nattily dressed David Roseberry, and the ever passionate Moderator Bob Duncan.

While I did not miss one iota of the humor on both videos, I have a question: What exactly is Betty Butterfield doing on the Stand Firm video Blog?

Wait! Don't answer that. I'm afraid I think I know.

Oh, and if anyone knows of the next Betty Butterfield gig, please send me the date and time. I absolutely don't want to miss a performance by “Ms. Thang.”

I'm still giggling over her report of her visit to an Episcopal Church,

"Have you ever went to a 'Piscopal church? Lord, I didn't know . . . sit down, stand up, squat down. . .and they gave me 18 things to read . . .a book of this, a hymn book, a program . . . I said, 'Lord, I don't have to carry all this home' (she trails off, as she is of’t want to do, overcome with the emotion of it all). . . . and the thing is, they don't have any women's committees . . . when someone dies (choking up, breathless, barely able to ask the unspeakable question) . . . who makes all the casseroles?"

Forget the theology of the ordination of women. This is the REAL reason for the adamant opposition to the ordination of women.

I think Ms. Betty just might have a career, but let me speak directly to her now: Honey, here’s a piece of advice: Don’t quit your day job.

(Oh, Lord, I’m afraid to ask what that might be.)

Check it out:

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

"Birds of a feather flock together"

These days, one can hardly keep up with the missives from Nigeria.

The Psalmist may be right and "joy comes in the morning" (Ps. 30:5) but so does yet another missive from Himself, the self-proclaimed, "Archbishop, Metropolitan, and Primate of all Nigeria."

Just how much hubris does it take, exactly, to sign your name to a
Communique that congratulates yourself "with much delight and enthusiasm" and then
encourages you, your very self, "not to relent in his efforts in exercising his

I never cease to be amazed by ++PJA.

As for a "Global South Conference" alternative to Lambeth, well, Deputy
Kaeton, Newark, agrees with . . . . um . . . ."Synod" . . . that "The need
therefore, to redefine and/or re-determine those who are truly Anglicans becomes
urgent, imperative and compelling."

If you must speak about yourself in the third person, I'd say you already
have an identity problem.

Let's have at it.

Birds of a feather, an all that . . .

(You know, I've been thinking. When the movie gets made of this time in the life of the Anglican Communion, perhaps we shouldn't have Samuel L. Jackson play Akinola. I think someone like Eddie Murphey or Russell Simmons might have just the right kind of 'edge'.)

ACNS 4162 | NIGERIA | 4 JULY 2006

Communiqué from the Episcopal Synod of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican

Episcopal Synod held at All Saints' Church Wuse Zone 5 Abuja from
Tuesday 27 - Wednesday 28 June 2006


The Episcopal Synod of the Church of Nigeria met under God at All
Saints' church Abuja from 27th - 28th June 2006 with His Grace, The
Most Rev. Peter J. Akinola, CON, DD, Archbishop, Primate and
Metropolitan of All Nigeria presiding. After sessions of deliberations
on issues affecting both the Church and Society, the Synod under the
guidance of the Holy Spirit issued this Communiqué.


Synod notes with satisfaction the efforts of the Primate of the Church
of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), His Grace, The Most Rev. Peter J.
Akinola, in giving the Church of Nigeria, (CAPA and Global South a
purposeful and effective leadership. It further expresses its approval
of his actions and pronouncements against errors of revisionist
ideologies. With much delight and enthusiasm, Synod received his citing
by TIME Magazine as one of the 100 persons that shaped the World in
2005, and encouraged him not to relent in his efforts in exercising his


Synod is satisfied with the move by the Global South to continue with
its veritable project of defending the faith committed to us against
present onslaught from ECUSA, Canada, England and their allies. The need
therefore, to redefine and/or re-determine those who are truly Anglicans
becomes urgent, imperative and compelling. Synod therefore empowers the
leadership of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) to give assent
to the Anglican Covenant.


The Lambeth Conference which is one of the accepted organs of unity in
the Anglican Communion is due for another meeting in 2008. the Synod,
after reviewing some recent major events in the Communion, especially
the effects of the 'revisionists' theology', which is now making wave in
America, Canada and England, observed with dismay the inability of the
Church in the afore­mentioned areas to see reason for repentance from
the harm and stress they have caused this communion since 1988
culminating in the consecration of Gene Robinson, a practicing
homosexual in 2003 as a bishop in ECUSA. Synod also regrets the
inability of the See of Canterbury to prevent further impairment of the
unity of the Church. It therefore, believes strongly that the moral
justification for the proposed Lambeth Conference of 2008 is
questionable in view of the fact that by promoting teachings and
practices that are alien and inimical to the historic formularies of the
Church, the Bishops of ECUSA, Canada and parts of Britain have abandoned
the Biblical faith of our fathers.


Synod underlines the need for maintaining the age-long tradition of a
ten-yearly Conference of Bishops in the Anglican Communion for
discussing issues affecting the Church. It therefore calls on the
leadership of the Global South and Council of Anglican Provinces in
Africa (CAPA) to do everything necessary to put in place a Conference of
all Anglican Bishops to hold in 2008 should all efforts to get the
apostles of 'revisionist agenda' to repent and retrace their steps fail.


Synod is worried that months after the mayhem unleashed on the nation in
February 2006 by criminals, murderers and arsonists hiding under the
cloak of religion, no one has been brought to book neither any
compensation paid for the properties especially churches destroyed and
lives lost in the riots. It therefore, calls on the Governments of the
land to take urgent steps to prosecute these enemies of mankind and pay
necessary compensations in order to restore the confidence that every
Nigerian is protected any where in this nation.


Synod continues to note with concern the ravaging effects of HJV/AIDS
and the threat it is posing to human society. More worrisome is the
mismanagement of funds meant for prosecution of the war against this
scourge in Nigeria; leading to the de-listing of Nigeria by foreign
Donor Agencies. While noting the efforts of Church in the HIV/AIDS
Programme, it calls on all Dioceses and Churches to be actively involved
in this project with a view to ensuring that this ugly monster does not
further endanger the lives for which Christ died.


While noting the spread of Islam in hitherto predominantly Christian
cities, especially in Europe and America, and their insistence on
minority rights, Synod is worried that this same Muslims have refused to
allow people of other faiths into their (Muslim dominated) areas to
enjoy such rights. It therefore calls on our Muslim brothers in the
spirit of reciprocity to have a change of attitude and put an end to
intolerance and hostilities to Christians all over the world.


Synod is happy that the processes leading to the general elections in
Nigeria come 2007 are on course. While underscoring the need for
emergence of credible, committed and patriotic leaders for the nation,
it calls on all Christians to actively participate in all electoral
processes to forestall a situation where e lections are used to recycle
past leaders. Synod further enjoins the Independent National Electoral
Commission (INEC) to ensure a very high degree of transparency in all
elections slated for 2007, so as to avoid the ugly consequences of any
electoral result that did not truly reflect the wishes and aspirations
of the electorate. While calling for a truly independent judiciary, the
synod insists that all petitions arising from the forthcoming general
elections should be handled with dispatch in the spirit of justice,
equity and fair play.


The Most Revd. Peter J. Akinola, CON, D.D.
Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria

Article from: The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)

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