Come in! Come in!

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

Friday, November 30, 2007

The 2007 MadPriest Neighborhood Christmas Appeal

Help the Children of The City of God
Rio de Janeiro

I took all of the following from MadPriest's Blog. Read it here or read it there, but whatever you do, do it quickly so you can head over to his site and make a contribution to Luiz's kiddo's at the PayPal account we've set up over there.

You can also send a check to me. Just follow the instructions below.

The Lord may love a cheerful giver, but I don't care what your disposition is when you write the check. I'll take money from a grumpy curmudgeon on caffeine overload.

Any amount is fine. Honest. Let's make this a wonderful Christmas for these kids!

Give until it feels good!

Here's a picture of some of the children you'll be helping (They're beautiful, aren't they?).

From the Blog of MadPriest at "Of Course, I Could Be Wrong":

Many of you will know LUIZ COELHO, our friend, the young seminarian from Rio De Janeiro. During this past year he worked on placement at CHRIST THE KING ANGLICAN CHURCH in the Cidade de Deus, one of the most impoverished and dangerous neighbourhoods in the world. The following is an English translation of what this church considers its mission to be in this challenging environment:

We intend to be a place where all are welcome to be free, especially in the Cidade de Deus (City of God) neighborhood, where poverty, violence and hunger are so well-known. And in order to live this Gospel of liberation and reconciliation of the entire world through Christ Jesus, we also seek to integrate the Church with society, through several social projects. Our mission is bold: to say that Christ is the King is to say that love has the last word in the midst of this world of calamities. However, we are sure that, with Him, we are victorious.

I decided some while back that I would like to use this blog to give myself and others the opportunity to show that the blogosphere is as much a part of the real world as anything else and I came to the conclusion that a Christmas appeal would be a good way of doing this. I like to make my charitable giving as specific, as useful and as relevant as possible. Because of our connection to Christ The King and because we can get money directly to them with no administration costs, other than the cost of transferring the money, they seemed like a very suitable project for us to support.

So I got together with ELIZABETH KAETON and we have sorted out a very safe and transparent way of organising this. Laura, the financial guru at Elizabeth's church, THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH OF SAINT PAUL, has set up a PayPal account specifically for this venture and we can also accept cheques in the States and in the U.K. The costs should be limited to the 2.9% PayPal charge and the cost of sending the money to Rio.

I see this as very much a community project and I will make sure that the recipient knows this. So please feel free to advertise it on, and link through to it from, your own blogs in whatever way you want to. Make sure you cite the appeal and not MadPriest.

One last thing, and this should be obvious really: if you can't afford to give anything then don't give anything and don't write in to apologise. No apology is necessary. If you feel that you would like to make a donation then be sensible and only give what you afford to give. . . . . . .

So, there it all is except for me telling you how to make your donations:

In the U.K. cheques (made payable to "St. Francis Church") should be sent to:

St. Francis House
18 Cotswold Gardens
High Heaton
Newcastle Upon Tyne

Please write "City Of God Appeal" on the reverse of the cheque.

In the United States, cheques (made payable to "The Episcopal Church of St. Paul") should be sent to:

c/o The Reverend Elizabeth Kaeton
The Episcopal Church of St. Paul
200 Main Street
Chatham, NJ 07928

Please write "City Of God Appeal" on the front of the cheque.

However, the easiest and tidiest way for you to pay is by credit or debit card through PayPal. If you click on the DONATE logo and then follow the instructions your money will be whizzing its way to Brazil in no time.

UPDATE (December 1): Maddy is reporting that, in the first 24 hours of our appeal, we raised $800. Well done, thou good and faithful servants! Thank you. Let's see what we can do together today.

A Visit with the Vicar of a Network Church

From everything one can read in the conservative "orthodox" blogosphere, there is no doubt that this little sketch catches their idea of a warm welcome.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Some Scenes from a Thanksgiving on Rehoboth Bay

A lone gull begins to chant the chorus of Hosannas of praise and thanksgiving . . .

. . .as Thanksgiving Morn dawns on Rehoboth Bay . . .

. . . and a fisherman begins to draw from the abundance of God's grace.

Lenny can almost taste the leftovers.

So can CoCo, and the Turkey isn't even ready yet.

MacKenna Jane and Abigayle Sophie enjoy the 73-degree weather on the deck.

Nana is thankful for a snuggle with her girls.

At the end of the day, MacKenna Jane feeds the fish and the crabs at the end of the dock, so that, when light dawns on a new day, there will an ocean's bounty for the Rehoboth Bay Fishermen.

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Photo credits: Mia Conroy Kaeton
(she's good, in't she?)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Putting Sacred Cows Out To Pasture

I know there are a few sacred cows in every congregation, but I'm willing to bet that one of the most sacred of them all is the monthly newsletter.

We're thinking of taking ours out to pasture.

Here's what we're thinking: In order to do it right, the newsletter is very labor intensive as well as costly. We have a volunteer editor and a group of retired folk who come in to collate, fold, bundle for bulk mailing and schlep to the post office.

But, even before that, every staff member and certain committee chairs and wardens have to get their articles in on time - always an exercise akin to herding cats. If the Risograph machine breaks down, the printing can get delayed, annoying the volunteers and sometimes rendering the information too late to be useful. Delays in delivery can also happen if we hit a month with a high volume of bulk mail.

We have recently begun a weekly email newsletter - sort of the way the national church and our diocese is doing. We keep announcements and sermons on our web page, and link these in the weekly email newsletter. We send the sermon and announcements by weekly snail mail to the two dozen or so of our fragile elderly or those who are ill or without computers.

Our newsletter is also available on line. More and more people are telling us to take them off the snail mail list as they prefer to view it on line. A concern is that, eventually, we won't have enough addresses to qualify for the reduced rate of bulk mail - such as it is.

We are thinking of reducing our monthly newsletter to quarterly - 2 - 5 -8 -11 (February, May, August and November), and mailing it only to those who really want it. It would also continue to be available online (where graphics and color pictures are cleaner and clearer and much easier to read).

We are thinking of starting a 'parish blog' - a place where all staff members can post their own once a month 'thought' pieces about their ministry, along with any announcements and explanations about upcoming events. The Parish Administrator would list these posts in the weekly email newsletter with a link. Members of the congregation can then offer comments and feedback - a great interactive feature.

We've just started a blog for the Church School which seems to be working out very well. It gave us the idea to start a Parish Blog, which we're hoping to launch in January for a one year period of experimentation.

What have you done in your congregation about communication? Are you still finding your monthly parish newsletter a reliable and effective means of communication? What creative ideas have you discovered to be in good communication with your congregation?

What do you think?


Advent Festival of Lessons and Carols
Sung by The Combined Adult Choirs of
The Episcopal Church of St. Paul, Chatham
Brandon L. Dumas, Director
All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Millington
James J. Douglas, Director

On Sunday, December 9th at 4 o’clock P.M. the communities of Chatham and Millington will come together in the Anglican Tradition of an Advent Festive Service of Scripture and Song which will be offered at The Episcopal Church of Saint Paul, Chatham.

Familiar hymns, anthems and lessons of the Advent season will come together to bring alive a musical service of the anticipation and joy of Christmas.

The Rev’d Elizabeth M.C. Kaeton, Rector of St. Paul’s and the Rev’d Victoria Geer McGrath, rector of All Saints’, will lead the service. Chatham Borough Mayor, the Hon. Richard L. Plambeck. will offer one of the readings.

Music of English composers Charles Wood and Andrew Carter and Italian composer Giovanni Luigi da Palestrina will be offered, as well as the World Premier of Comfort, comfort ye my people by James J. Douglas, director of All Saints’.

Admission is free and open to the public. Free-will donations to benefit the music programs of both churches are gratefully accepted. For more information, please call the Church Office at (973) 635-8085, or visit .

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Feast of Christ The King

“This is the King of the Jews.”
Luke 23:33-43
Last Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 29 C – November 25, 2007
The Episcopal Church of St. Paul
(the Rev’d) Elizabeth Kaeton,
rector and pastor

I don’t know about you, but I just stopped eating my Thanksgiving dinner about an hour ago. I jest, of course, but my goodness, there was so much food! More importantly, there was so much for which to be deeply thankful. I trust your experience was much the same.

And so it goes. With the festivities of Thanksgiving over, we celebrate today The Feast of Christ the King, and, as we do, we come closer to the end of another liturgical year. It is unbelievable to me to note that Advent I is next week, and just four weeks later, it will be Christmas.

I was commenting on this to one of our kids as we cleaned up the dishes from one of the many meals which seemed to roll right into yet another meal.

She looked up at me and said, “The FEAST of Christ the King? Really? Is that what Sunday is? Mom, I don’t get it! What kind of King dies on a cross? Why do we call him our King?”

I’m thinking that if this child grew up in a house where church attendance was a necessary requirement and talk of Jesus was rampant, and she has to ask this question, someone in this congregation this morning might just have the same question dancing around in their head.

It’s important to note that The Episcopal Church, for oh, about the last 40 years or so, has also elected this Sunday, The Feast of Christ the King, as Addiction Sunday – a day when we celebrate the difficult journey of Recovery of many of our members.

We also take note, on this day, that many of our families continue to struggle on the road to Recovery from the disease of addiction to drugs or alcohol or food or gambling.

This is not an accident – this confluence of Christ the King and Addiction Sunday. The 12 Step Program has provided the path back on the road to Redemption and Salvation for more people than polite Christian folk – especially those of the very polite Episcopal / Anglican persuasion – might care to admit.

That brilliant story teller Madeleine L’Engle writes of a friend who despaired of seeking help from the church for her addiction. Ultimately, she had stopped going to church and turned to a twelve-step program for help and a sense of spirituality.

Madeleine asked her why and was startled to hear her friend’s tearful reply. “Because this simple Twelve-Step Program knows who is the enemy.”

I think that’s right, but I also think “this simple Twelve Step Program” also knows who is charge. They call it, “Higher Power” and not without good reason.

In order to find the path to recovery, to fight the evil of addiction, one must admit that they are powerless over their addiction and surrender their lives to that Higher Power. God, or however the addict wants to name God, is that ‘Higher Power’ –which is a power higher than the power of the enemy of addiction.

For the Christian, the name for that Higher Power is Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. This ‘King Jesus’ is not like any earthly sovereign.

Jesus rules not by intimidation but by identification.

Jesus does not ‘lord it over’ with rigid rules one must follow. Instead, Jesus walks the 12 Steps of Redemption in solidarity and companionship with those who suffer from this dreadful disease.

There’s an old saying in some 12 Step Programs about the difference between religion and spirituality. It is said that religion is for people who are afraid of going to Hell and spirituality is for people who have already been there and come back.

I would hope this is not so of all religions, but I fear it is true for some.

Those addicts who are religious and spiritual are who they are because they know that it was Jesus who walked with them – all the way to Hell and back, because He's been there. In truth, this is the Way of Jesus for us all, if we allow it. The Addict knows something that many of us can only guess at. The truth is that we live in a Culture of Addiction.

My friend, Lane Denison, a fellow priest and grateful alcoholic in recovery says that we must broaden our understanding of addiction.

He writes, “Perhaps we have already learned or will soon learn, Satan to the contrary, that addiction’s tentacles extend far beyond the chemicals such as nicotine, alcohol, and those other paralyzing narcotics. Addiction is our enemy at all levels of life, whether it be addiction to power or to greed or to war or to orthodoxy or to tradition or to whatever. It affects all our relationships. It is habitual, and it is a behavior, and it lurks.”

Addiction lurks. We, in this Culture of Addiction, have become hopelessly addicted to greed and violence. I do believe this addiction is fueling the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Middle East and Ireland. I believe it is also fueling the alarming rise in reported cases of domestic violence and child abuse. It most certainly fuels the violence on our streets.

Addiction lurks, and we have become a Culture of Addiction and our drugs of choice are violence and greed.

From what I have observed over the years in my own Recovery as an Adult Child of an Alcoholic, there is an antidote to the poison of Addiction. It is a simple yet elegant and readily available substance, which may be why it seems so elusive to so many. Often, it is hiding in plain sight.

It is this: gratitude.

The 12 Step Program teaches you that you must develop what they call “An Attitude of Gratitude.” It’s not something one develops easily – especially in the face of the powerful evil of Addiction. But, it begins easily enough. First, you bend your knees.

There’s an old saying in AA: If your knees are knocking, kneel on them. First, you bend the knee. First, you admit your powerlessness over your addiction. First, you surrender to a Higher Power – a power higher than the power of the addiction which has made you powerless over your life.

For those who follow Jesus, that formidable, daunting task of humility is made easier by knowing that you are not alone in the vulnerability of that kind of humility. Jesus is right there with you, kneeling besides you.

Today’s gospel assures us that whenever we are in that crucifyingly painful place of facing into our humanity, sacrificing the great I WAS to the Great I Am, Jesus is besides us, just as he was to the thief who hung beside him on that cross in Calvary.

This is not the kind of benevolent King who can wave a magic wand and make all of our troubles disappear. This is not the kind of King who can take away your pain with promises of riches and wealth beyond your imagination. King Jesus does not make those kinds of promises. He does say this to the thief who hangs next to him: “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

That’s a promise he was willing to die for.

Tidy, proper Episcopalians are not comfortable using this language, but I’m going to say it anyway: That’s a promise written in his blood.

That’s the kind of King Jesus is. Not an earthly sovereign who can only provide material things, but one who gives us the gift of his presence in this life as well as the next.

Indeed, this is the kind of sovereign who will be the first to greet us whenever we allow those things to die in us that need to die so that we may find new life.

When that happens, when the acute suffering has ended and the healing begins, we find ourselves filled with gratitude – and gratitude, I have discovered in my own recovery, is the soil which yields the first and lasting fruit of joy.

You can’t really know the fullness of the joy of Christmas without the pain of Good Friday.

Let me end this sermon by telling you about the 12 Step Program I sponsored in my office as Chaplain at U Lowell. It was an open meeting, so I was graciously allowed to attend, even though I was technically not in recovery from a substance addiction.

Within 4 weeks, my office was filled with faculty, staff and students who had no other weekday meeting to attend, except the one they called “The Noonie Loonies” at City Hall.

One day, a young student, new to recovery, got up to share his story – witnessing is an important part of Recovery. At the end of his story, he finished with words that are familiar to many in AA:

“Well, I guess it’s true that you don’t always get what you want but you always get what you need.”

There was polite applause, a few slaps on the back from his friends, and then he sat down.

As the applause diminished, a voice came from deep in the crowded room.

“Bull!” he said.

We all turned to see an older man, his face lined with a map of the last 100 miles of rough road he had traveled to get to this place in his Recovery. The room hushed to listen to what we knew would be truth and wisdom gained from the crucifying pain of Recovery.

“You don’t always get want you want,” he said, “You don’t always get what you need. You get what you get and you make the best of what you’ve been given. And, be grateful.”

Those could have been the words Jesus spoke to the man next to him on the cross. If you are going to follow a leader, look for One who has known something about suffering.

Follow the One who leads you away from darkness and into Light.

Follow the One who speaks with Wisdom and Truth and teaches you about gratitude and believes Love is the highest power.

If you follow that leader, you will be following The One who will lead you through your own suffering and into Paradise. Today. And, into Eternity. Amen.

'3+Rowan': T-Minus 8-Months From Lambeth (and Counting)

Thanks again to MadPriest for his brilliant Photoshop work. G'won over and tell him how brilliant he is. You know how he thrives on the flattery (so unlike the rest of us, of course).

Friday, November 23, 2007

Classism and the Maze of Schism.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about “The Great Divide”. By that I mean, the difference between Evangelical Episcopalians/Anglicans and the rest of us in North America.

I’m tying to understand the anger and the harsh, often violent rhetoric. Who are these people? Who is their God? Why are they hell-bent on the ruination of The Episcopal Church?

I’m thinking that class issues play an important part in all of this.

Let me explain by way of thinking out loud. I don’t mean this as an essay that is definitive, but rather, evolving. No where will you read, “Thus saith the Lord.”

I do not mean that to vacillate. I only mean what I say: I am trying to understand what it is that exists, way, way down at the bottom of the deep valley of “The Great Divide” in the present troubles in the church.

Why? Because, for all of my glibness and defensive posturing, it simply pains me to see the church in the state of schism. I am looking for some comfort.

I suspect that understanding the dirty little secret of classism which has long plagued the Episcopal Church just might hold one of the keys which may unlock the confusing, chaotic mess of schism. I may not be able to connect all the dots, but there is an odd sort of comfort in the exercise itself.

Then again, I often retreat to my intellect to find solace. It happens a lot in the LGBT community, as well as among many of the oppressed. If we can make sense of it we can live better with it, since we can’t seem to change the human dynamics of oppression, prejudice and bigotry.

My father was a simple man. A working class man. Although he had a sixth grade education, he was, by no means, dumb. Just uneducated. He would never, EVER, have been an Episcopalian.

That’s not just about education, much less theology or ecclesiology. Being a Portuguese immigrant and Roman Catholic were inseparable – you know sort of like being a Jew. It's your nationality and your religion. The same was true for any immigrant group. Consider the Irish.

Even more than that, however, my farther would have felt singularly out of place in an Episcopal church. The central, albeit least talked about reason for that would have been an issue of class.

Oh, he would have been met and greeted warmly on his first visit – even his second or third. But, he wouldn’t have become a member. He wouldn’t have felt comfortable. More importantly, no one would have encouraged him to do so.

His great gifts to me were his stories. I don’t believe he ever considered them gifts. Rather, he simply told them as story – an answer to a question from his eldest daughter. His duty as a father to try and explain and impart his understanding of the wisdom of the world.

I just read an essay entitled, “Not My Father’s Religion” by a man named Doug Muder, an Unitarian Universalist pastor which calls his religious denomination on their classism and elitism.

He says, succinctly, “Unitarian Universalism has a class problem. Like our race problem, the class problem seems paradoxical to many UUs: We try to stand for all people, but when we look around, we’re usually standing with people like ourselves.”

He continues, “One reason this paradox is hard to talk about, I think, is that a lot of us believe an explanation that we don’t’ want to say out loud: Working-class people are stupid. The powers-that-be have duped them into pining for Heaven instead of changing Earth.”

He could be talking about The Episcopal Church.

Here’s the thing that caught my imagination. Muder uses a very apt metaphor of baseball. He talks about his father, a factory worker in the cattle feed industry, a Missouri Synod Lutheran by religious affiliation, who often worked the night shift and overtime. Muder describes how he’d race home from school on his bike and they’d play baseball – father and son in the front yard.

“Dad had a method for teaching me not to be afraid of the ball. ‘Let it hit you,’ he said. Because that’s how Dad thinks: If the worst has happened already and you survived, what’s to be afraid of?”

He could have been talking about my father.

“Consider baseball helmets,” Muder writes. “The major leagues didn’t make batting helmets mandatory until 1971. You know who fought that rule? Hitters. The league had to grandfather the active hitters in, so that they could keep facing Nolan Ryan’s fastballs without helmets until they retired. The last batter who didn’t wear a helmet was Bob Montgomery in 1979. The same thing happened in hockey, whose last helmetless player retired in 1997.”

“Now, from the outside it sounds crazy that the players would fight against people who were trying to protect them, but it makes an odd kind of sense. You see, the players knew the lesson my Dad taught me in the front yard: If you’re afraid of the ball, you can’t hit it. They just took it one step further: If you’re really not afraid, why do you want a helmet?”

“When you’re doing something hard like hitting a baseball,” Muder writes, “sometimes the mind-set you need, the one that works, is not the objective, big-picture view. It’s the one that tells you to be brave, not the one that tells you to wear a helmet.”

I’ve been thinking about this image, and applying it to the rhetoric I hear from the Episcopal Evangelical Right. I’ve had to look beyond my disdain for the religious machismo in order to hear strains of this metaphor in everything that is said and done from that side of the church pew.

Don’t believe me? Here are the scriptural mantras of two of the major Evangelical Blogs:

“Be on your guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be brave. Be strong. Be loving in everything you do.” (Oops. Well, not so much on that last part., but yes, that is ‘Stand Firm’.)

"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it." (T19)

Stand firm. Hold firm. Firm, no matter what comes at you. Let the ball hit you.

Got it?

I think of my own working-class parents – my mother was a ‘presser’ in a dress factory, my father, a rubber worker for Firestone Tire and Rubber. If they knew what it was to ‘follow your bliss’ they also knew enough to resist the temptation.

‘Discernment’ was something clergy did in seminary or “Father” talked about on spiritual retreats which they would have loved to attend, but never had the time because, well, there may be overtime available and that paid ‘time and a half.’

They didn’t go off to work in some dirty, dingy factory because they had discerned this as the work they were called to do. They went to work every day and to church every Sunday because if they didn’t, they were convinced something bad would happen. They’d be punished. Get fired. Go on (gasp!) welfare (‘The Dole’ as my father called it).

And, in the long run, if they were to be punished, so would their children in the form of some awful illness. And, THAT was just not gonna happen. No way. Not if they could help it.

My parents didn’t need help discerning what to do. They just needed to make themselves do it.

Is this starting to sound even vaguely familiar?

The maze is another metaphor Muder uses to explain the Great Divide. “Picture it like this,” he writes. “Imagine society as a giant maze, with success as a prize at the end. Some people are born right by the exit. Others start in more difficult places. They can’t just wander out. They have to make all the right moves.”

“Now,” he continues, “if you imagine yourself standing in a high place overlooking the maze, compassion for the people deep inside might raise questions like these: Why does it have to be so hard to find the prize? Couldn’t we knock out a few walls? Why can’t the minimum wage be higher? Why can’t the government hire the unemployed? Why can’t college be free?”

“From a God’s-eye view,” continues Muder, “those are great questions. But, if you’re inside the maze, that mind-set won’t get you out. It doesn’t help. No matter how good those question are objectively, if I’m so deep in the maze that I seriously doubt I’ll ever get out, I don’t need them in my head.”

I have a clear childhood memory of the times my father would get frustrated and angry with me. That was when I was curious and asking lots of questions. Questions, to him, were the enemy. Follow them, and they could lead you down the path to sin and perdition.

“Curiosity killed the cat,” he would warn. My father also used to say. “Ask me no questions, I’ll tell you no lies.”

I always thought it was a joke. Now, I understand.

I think I’m also gaining an insight into the Evangelical resistance – no, repulsion, actually – to ambiguity and paradox, which, for me, are two of the compelling parts which form the nexus of the Spirit of Anglicanism.

If your world is black and white, however, I suspect you might tend to read the Bible from that same color lens.

If your working class world is harsh, your God is bound to be harsh; so, too, will be your theology. Ordain women? You mean, ‘the weaker sex’? How could a woman be ‘proper matter’ for the Herculean task of fighting against Satan, the incarnate form of Evil which is as present and real on Earth as the goodness of God.

Ordain homosexual people? Those men who appear feminine? Those ‘sissies’? See the argument about ordaining women above. And, if you don’t believe that, well, just read the Bible. It’s all there. In black and white.

People of color? That just adds to the difficulty of the task of getting out of the maze. Might take the job that is the one chance I have to escape. They might get out before I do, and you know that ain’t right. There is an order to the world. White men first. Just read the Bible. It’s all there.

Often, this harshness is communicated in the language employed in daily conversations – especially if the carefully balanced order of the harsh world is threatened in any way. Then, there is no hope for ‘dialogue’.

I can hear my father, “Talk. It’s TALK, Elizabeth. I don’t know what the hell ‘dialogue’ is supposed to mean. Whatever happened to people just TALKING with one another? You want to know what’s wrong with the world?” he’d ask, his face flushed with anger.

“People don’t TALK to each other anymore. They DIALOGUE! I’m the father. I talk. You’re the daughter. You listen. Easy, see? Jesus Christ!” he’d mutter under his breath and walk away in absolute disgust.

Professionals tell their kids to find something they love and do that as your life’s calling. If you do what you love you’ll be brilliant, creative, and energetic. You’ll succeed – and the road to success is paved with inspiration.

It’s the way out of the maze. Or, at least, it’s one way. The good way. There’s also the bad way, driven by fear and greed – those who sell their time and money for a lot more money than the folks in the factory who work for them.

In the working class families, the road to success is paved with self-control. Children are taught to resist temptation. Walk the narrow path. Do the hard thing you don’t want to do, so that you and the people who are counting on you won’t be punished.

Unlike the professional class kids who get a second chance – and even sometimes, a third and a fourth – you only get one shot out of the maze. And that shot is usually through education. Sometimes, it’s a combination of things. Sometimes, you get a lucky break – being at the right place at the right time.

Whatever. You got one shot. If you blow it, you not only ruin your dream, but the dreams of everyone who worked and sacrificed to get you to this country and have this opportunity. That’s an enormous burden.

All of this has helped me understand the harshness of the rhetoric from the Right. The need to shame and blame. The impulse to destroy. The drive for power and control. To take the hits in order to win.

Clearly, sexism is one of the driving factors. It messes up the ‘natural order’.

However, I think some of it also has to do with our own classism. At least, that’s the way it seems to me as I listen to some of those who leave comments the three or four Evangelical conservative Blogs I check into periodically.

Here’s the thing: my own classism is not helping the situation. Yes, I’m as guilty of it as anyone else. The simplicity of some of their arguments and the fundamentalism of their logic may cause me to cringe, but these folk are not ‘stupid.’

If I consider their theology as too focused on the wretchedness of the human condition and ‘otherworldly’ matters, it’s only because their understanding of the human condition and their world view are so very different from mine.

I am coming to understand that class status – mine and theirs – has a primary role in informing that perspective.

I’m working hard to understand these things because I’m tired of banging my head against the wall and going nowhere in the Maze of Schism in our church. Which leads me to end with one of my father’s best stories – one I’m thinking is more and more a parable about the Maze of Schism.

My father fought in World War II in what he always called, alternatively, “The Pacific Front” or “The Pacific Theater.” He saw most of the action deep in the jungles outside of Manila. One night, in the heat of battle, he and two of his buddies got caught off from the rest of his battalion. It was very, very dark. They were tired and scared.

They had come upon a wall, which seemed to be preventing them from finding their way back home. The more they moved along it, the more their frustration and anxiety grew. Finally, in exhaustion, they fell asleep for a few hours.

As morning began to break, they awoke to hear voices. Carefully peering over the wall, they could see, not too far away, a battalion of Japanese soldiers. “Turns out,” my father said, “the wall we had been cursing had actually protected us.”

He would get quiet and pensive and then add, “So, if you are ever in a dark and scary place and there’s a wall, don’t curse it. Don’t try to take it down. Just move along it for a while. Rests when you need to. Sleep if you have to. It may not be a bad thing. It may actually save your life.”

Let those who have ears, hear.

UPDATE: Check out the very thoughtful comments on another verse of this conversation over in MadPriest's Neighborhood.

Happy Belated Thanksgiving

So, we arrived at Llangollen, our wee cottage on Rehoboth Beach, for our first ever Thanksgiving Dinner in this place.

Everything was really wonderful - three of our daughters and our son in law were here, along with MacKenna Jane and Abigayle Sophie. We talked and laughed and ate and helped the kids feed the fish and the gulls, and picked up clam and crab shells for Mackie's collection.

The temperature was a balmy 74 degrees and we ate our dinner in the 'Florida room' surrounded by Rehoboth Bay and our dessert and coffee out on the deck.

However, our ISP was down until about an hour ago. I had over 400 email messages and have not even started to catch up on my blog surfing. Turns out, our neighbor inadvertently cut the cable cord when he tried to repair the electricity to his lighthouse. I will be writing, the working title of which is "When did they take the service out of 'Customer Service'?"

All was not lost. I did write a reflective essay about The Great Divide which will follow this one momentarily.

I hope your Thanksgiving celebration was as wonderful as ours, even though we were apart, one from another.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Give us this day our daily laugh . . .


Shamelessly 'borrowed' from MadPriest

Now go on over to his part of the neighbourhood and tell him how funny it is. Because, you know, it's really wickedly brilliant, isn't it?

Something About Mary

In the Season of Advent, we, like Mary, await the coming of Jesus.

Our liturgy is intentionally pregnant with possibility: quiet, contemplative, introspective, expecting joy. Our Vestments are blue, in honor of ‘Holy Mary, Mother of God.”

Who is Mary of Bethlehem? What does it mean to be ‘theotokos’, a God-bearer? Why is Mary sometimes called a ‘co-Redemptrix and why is that a controversial statement? What do Episcopalians who are members of the World-Wide Anglican Communion believe about Mary? Of all the beautiful prayers in our Book of Common Prayer, why are there none specifically to Mary?

An Advent Series

Tuesday, December 4, 11 & 18

6:30 PM Evening Prayer in the Sanctuary

7 – 7:30 PM Simple Soup and Bread Supper

7:30 – 9 PM Program in the Parish Hall


Monday, November 19, 2007

The End of the World

"By your endurance you will gain your souls.”
Luke 21:15-19
XXV Pentecost – Proper 28C
November 18, 2007
The Episcopal Church of St. Paul
(the Rev’d) Elizabeth Kaeton
rector and pastor

There’s no getting around it. Today’s scriptural lessons are pretty grim. Every last one of the scripture lessons is laced with the same theme of ‘the end of the world as we know it.’ All of it is ‘gloom and doom’, or as the Germans would say, “sturm und drang.”

We begin with the prophet Malachi and his prophesy about the day that is coming “burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all the evil doers will be stubble.”

Jesus seems to have been reading Malachi, for his mood is no better. “As for these things that you see,” he says, “the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.”

Right. Well, there it is, then. If you came to church this morning, expecting to hear happiness and light, you’ve come on the wrong Sunday.

If you came to church this morning, hoping to hear something to get you into the Thanksgiving spirit, well, hang on. All is not lost.

In order to understand this piece of scripture, you’ve got to understand the context in which it appears. You’ve got to understand that the Feast of the Unleavened Bread, or Passover, was about to be upon them.

Jesus is beginning to understand something about the connection of that festival and the purpose of his time on earth – his mission and ministry. ‘The end of time’ for him is not a frivolous idea; not the passing of a season. Rather, it is coming from a place of deep truth and understanding in his heart and in his soul and in his mind.

Jesus points to these end times, the signs around him, as he begins to prepare for the end of his time on this earth. In the very next chapter of Luke’s gospel, Jesus begins to make preparation for the Feast of the Passover.

This feast has become our Eucharist – our prayer of remembrance and celebration of thanksgiving for the gift of the life and death and resurrection of Christ Jesus.

It seems to be in our religious DNA that, in the midst of the darkest days of anxiety and uncertainty, we pause to give God thanks and praise.

Every school child knows that the holiday of Thanksgiving commemorates the feast celebrated by the first Pilgrims, those faithful citizens of the Crown who fled Briton to find freedom of religious expression in the place they called ‘New England.’

They reportedly came together, having lost many of their own to the perils of the sea in their crossing, as well as the challenges and rigors of the new land, to give thanks for all they had, nonetheless, been given.

You probably also know that it was Abraham Lincoln who called the holiday into being with the famous Thanksgiving Proclamation on October 3, 1863. It was in the end times, right in the midst of the Civil War (1861-65).

One can hear Lincoln having been influenced by the apocalyptical imagery of this passage from Malachi and Luke: “You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name.”

Indeed, that was precisely what was happening in the land.

You may not know that it was a woman who encouraged Lincoln to have a national holiday of Thanksgiving. That woman was one Sarah Josepha Hale. Widowed and penniless at 34, with five small children to raise, Hale supported herself with sewing and poetry.

Then, at 39, her first novel, Northwood, was a huge success. A year later a British publisher asked her to serve as the first editor of The Ladies Magazine and the rest, as they say, is history. Sarah Hale continued to write and edit until she was 89. She died at a robust 91.

Hale had advocated a national celebration of Thanksgiving as early as 1827 To Sarah Hale Thanksgiving would be a therapeutic holiday. She wrote, "There is a deep moral influence in these periodical seasons of rejoicing, in which whole communities participate. They bring out . . . the best sympathies in our natures."

Hale saw this spiritual dimension of Thanksgiving as a means for preventing the insanity of civil war in America. This is why, as hostilities heated up between North and South, she bombarded both national and state officials with requests for the national holiday.

By 1863 when Lincoln issued his now famous Thanksgiving Proclamation, Sarah Hale had penned literally thousands of these letters in her own hand. Hale wrote in a 1859 editorial, "If every state would join in Union Thanksgiving on the 24th of this month, would it not be a renewed pledge of love and loyalty to the Constitution of the United States?"

Speaking of America's blessings, even in its darkest hour, Lincoln wrote in the Thanksgiving Proclamation: "In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union."

"Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore”.

“. . . .No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People."

And so Americans celebrate Thanksgiving together on the fourth Thursday of November each year. It is hard not to speculate if perhaps that celebration has helped as much as anything to keep us from the insanity of fighting against ourselves again.

It is harder, still, in the midst of all that divides us in the world, to pause to give thanks and praise.

A Civil War continues to rage in Iraq and Afghanistan and threatens in Iran and Korea.

A wall divides the city of Jerusalem as an uneasy peace has been worked out to boost consumerism for the 60th Anniversary of the nation of Israel.

A wall also divides Belfast, as ancient tensions and Civil War between northern and southern Ireland continue to play themselves out.

In this country, there continues to be the cry to build a wall to ‘secure our borders’ in these days of illegal immigration and the hysteria of terrorism.
In our own church, the threat of schism has come and now is.

The diocese of Ft. Worth voted in convention this weekend to begin to take its leave of the Episcopal Church, joining the diocese of San Joaquin and Pittsburgh. All indications are that we will be locked in a religious civil war for years to come. Property disputes will no doubt consume most of the episcopate of Katharine Jefferts Schori, our Presiding Bishop, and the resources and finances and leadership of the church along with her.

These are undoubtedly dark days in our country and in our church. And yet, it is right to make a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Indeed, there can be no better time to praise God and offer thanks.

Even as we hear Jesus preparing for the Feast of the Unleavened Bread, today, we, ourselves, celebrate Bread of Life Sunday. We do so in the midst of concern about our finances and the launch of one of the most aggressive Stewardship Campaigns in anyone’s memory. We do this as the stewardship of our buildings requires us to spend thousands of dollars of our endowment.

Well, some have called our stewardship goals aggressive. I am choosing to call it ‘faithful.’ It will take the courage of our faith to meet our goals.

Then again, it takes the courage of faith to choose to be positive in the face of so much negativity; to choose the life of Christ, in the face of all the death in the world.

It takes courage to choose to be happy in Jesus in the midst of all the unhappiness in the church.

Jesus reminds us, “By your endurance you will gain your souls.” We can endure because we have faith. It is audacious, in these days of the scarcity of human kindness to believe in God’s abundance.

We believe because we, like Lincoln, know that “No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God.”

I believe the path to true happiness can be found on the road that is paved not with gold, but with praise and thanksgiving, ministry and mission.

It takes courage to make, what our Eucharist calls, ‘a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving’.

As Christmas approaches, our culture will soon enough become frenzied by rampant consumerism and corporate greed. Perhaps our ability to stop and give thanks may well bring about the end of the world as we now know it.

And perhaps that’s not such a bad thing.

Perhaps this simple act of giving thanks and praise from people of all religious persuasions, all races, colors and creeds, will be such a radical act of deep spirituality, that it will also signal the beginning of the Realm of God.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Anglican Security Alert Reduced to Code Green

Well, the rest of the Anglican Communion may have been at war for all we knew.

There may have been bishops and priests with Kevlar vests and security guards with guns at the closing Eucharist in Ft. Worth as they closed the door and walked away from The Episcopal Church.

But from 10:30 AM on Saturday until 7 PM on Sunday night, we were just Nana and Grammy, two women who are so completely in love with our 6 year old granddaughter MacKenna Jane and her 16 month old sister, Abigayle Sophie, about whom we are so completely and absolutely stupid and giddy with love that we didn't care what else was going on in the church while we were with them.

We ate supper at Friendly's on Saturday night where Abby fed her Nana some of her Macaroni and Cheese (see picture above). We made four loaves of bread - banana, cranberry nut and two cinnamon swirl - for the Bread of Life Stewardship Campaign today.

We also made chocolate chip cookies and cut out angel sugar cookies and decorated them with chocolate icing (MacKenna and her mother's favorite) with rainbow sprinkles (AKA "jimmies" if you're from New England).

We made a 'movie bed' (which includes filling a muffin tin with a variety of treats like cheese and pretzels and pop corn and M&M's) and watched Shreck the Third and giggled and squirmed and laughed until our sides hurt.

We made chicken fingers and rice and corn for supper tonight and had one of our cookies and home made ice cream for dessert.

Oh, and we went to church this morning and flirted with everyone and sang and clapped our hands and danced.

You know. We were otherwise the reason that Ft. Worth, San Joaquin and Pittsburgh are leaving The Episcopal Church, and Jack Leo Iker had to wear a Kevlar vest and be protected by armed guards at Eucharist.

The girls just left to go home with their parents. The house is awfully quiet tonight.

You can sleep well tonight. The Anglican Communion is safe again.

Code Green.

Someone tell the Bullies on Viagra that they can put away the guns now. The babies are back home with their parents, and their grandmothers are absolutely, positively, without any doubt too exhausted to be a threat to anyone - even themselves.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Step Right Up! Step Right Up! Don't be shy! Welcome to the Anglican American Circus, where a fool is born every second!

Re: Deputies from Ft. Worth to General Convention: A few questions and a comment

1. Isn't 'deputy from Ft Worth to General Convention' an oxymoron?

2. Why are they still electing deputies to General Convention? They hate, hate, hate (with a burning passion) everything that stands for TEC and that TEC stands for.

3. Why are they allowed seat and voice, much less vote at General Convention? They haven't contributed a dime to TEC in YEARS. They don't want to be part of TEC. Whaaaaat???? Whhhhyyyyy????

4. Do they really intend to be in Anaheim in 2009????? They've been invited to be part of the Province of the Southern Cone, for goodness sake! All indications are that they, like San Joaquin, will accept. I mean, why bother???

Comment: Okay, I'm a graying brunette and I'm far from dumb. I don't get it.

I Scream, You Scream, We all scream. . . . .

FRESNO, CA - November 16, 2007 – The Diocese of San Joaquin today announced that the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone of South America has extended an invitation to offer the Diocese membership on an emergency and pastoral basis.

The announcement comes three weeks before the Diocese is scheduled hear the second and final reading of Constitutional changes first adopted on December 2, 2006. Should the second reading of the Constitutional changes be approved at the Diocesan Convention on December 8, 2007, the Diocese is free to accept the invitation to align with the Province of the Southern Cone and remain a diocese with full membership within the Anglican Communion.

According to the Rt. Rev. John-David M. Schofield, Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin, “We welcome the invitation extended by the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone. The invitation assures the Diocese’s place in the Anglican Communion and full communion with the See of Canterbury.”

He added, “This is a sensible way forward and is by no means irrevocable. During the 1860’s, the Dioceses of the Southern States left the Episcopal Church and then returned after the Civil War. As the Southern Cone invitation makes clear, the Diocese may return to full communion with the Episcopal Church when circumstances change and the Episcopal Church repents and adheres to the theological, moral and pastoral norms of the Anglican Communion, and when effective and acceptable alternative primatial oversight becomes available.”

The Bishop’s pastoral letter will be read in churches of the Diocese on Sunday, November 18, 2007. For a full text of the letter, visit or contact Joan Gladstone,

The Diocese of San Joaquin was founded as a missionary diocese in 1911 and became a full autonomous diocese in 1961. The Diocese encompasses churches in the counties of San Joaquin, Alpine, Stanislaus, Calaveras, Mono, Merced, Mariposa, Tuolumne, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare, Kern and Inyo.

Well, SOMEBODY'S Listening.

Royal College of Psychiatrists

Submission to the Church of England’s Listening Exercise on Human Sexuality.

This report is prepared by a Special Interest Group in the Royal College of Psychiatrists. We have limited our comments to areas that pertain to the origins of sexuality and the psychological and social well being of lesbian, gay and bisexual people (LGB), which we believe will inform the Church of England’s listening exercise.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists holds the view that LGB people should be regarded as valued members of society who have exactly similar rights and responsibilities as all other citizens. This includes equal access to health care, the rights and responsibilities involved in a civil partnership, the rights and responsibilities involved in procreating and bringing up children, freedom to practice a religion as a lay person or religious leader, freedom from harassment or discrimination in any sphere and a right to protection from therapies that are potentially damaging, particularly those that purport to change sexual orientation.

We shall address a number of issues that arise from our expertise in this area with the aim of informing the debate within the Church of England about homosexual people. These concern the history of the relationship between psychiatry and LGB people, determinants of sexual orientation, the mental health and well being of LGB people, their access to psychotherapy and the kinds of psychotherapy that can be harmful.

1. The history of psychiatry with LGB people.
Opposition to homosexuality in Europe reached a peak in the nineteenth century. What had earlier been regarded as a vice, evolved into a perversion or psychological illness. Official sanction of homosexuality both as illness and (for men) a crime led to discrimination, inhumane treatments and shame, guilt and fear for gay men and lesbians (1). However, things began to change for the better some 30 years ago when in 1973 the American Psychiatric Association concluded there was no scientific evidence that homosexuality was a disorder and removed it from its diagnostic glossary of mental disorders. The International Classification of Diseases of the World Health Organisation followed suit in 1992. This unfortunate history demonstrates how marginalisation of a group of people who have a particular personality feature (in this case homosexuality) can lead to harmful medical practice and a basis for discrimination in society.

2. The origins of homosexuality
Despite almost a century of psychoanalytic and psychological speculation, there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in the formation of a person’s fundamental heterosexual or homosexual orientation (2). It would appear that sexual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of genetic factors (3) and the early uterine environment (4). Sexual orientation is therefore not a choice, though sexual behaviour clearly is. Thus LGB people have exactly the same rights and responsibilities concerning the expression of their sexuality as heterosexual people. However, until the beginning of more liberal social attitudes to homosexuality in the past two decades, prejudice and discrimination against homosexuality induced considerable embarrassment and shame in many LGB people and did little to encourage them to lead sex lives that are respectful of themselves and others. We return to the stability of LGB partnerships below.

3. Psychological and social well being of LGB people
There is now a large body of research evidence that indicates that being gay, lesbian or bisexual is compatible with normal mental health and social adjustment. However, the experiences of discrimination in society and possible rejection by friends, families and others, such as employers, means that some LGB people experience a greater than expected prevalence of mental health and substance misuse problems (5, 6). Although there have been claims by conservative political groups in the USA that this higher prevalence of mental health difficulties is confirmation that homosexuality is itself a mental disorder, there is no evidence whatever to substantiate such a claim (7).

4. Stability of gay and lesbian relationships
There appears to be considerable variability in the quality and durability of same-sex, cohabiting relationships (8, 9). A large part of the instability in gay and lesbian partnerships arises from lack of support within society, the church or the family for such relationships. Since the introduction of the first civil partnership law in 1989 in Denmark, legal recognition of same-sex relationships has been debated around the world. Civil partnership agreements were conceived out of a concern that same-sex couples have no protection in law in circumstances of death or break-up of the relationship. There is already good evidence that marriage confers health benefits on heterosexual men and women (10, 11) and similar benefits could accrue from same-sex civil unions. Legal and social recognition of same-sex relationships is likely to reduce discrimination, increase the stability of same sex relationships and lead to better physical and mental health for gay and lesbian people. It is difficult to understand opposition to civil partnerships for a group of socially marginalised people who cannot marry and who as a consequence may experience more unstable partnerships. It cannot offer a threat to the stability of heterosexual marriage. Legal recognition of civil partnerships seems likely to stabilise same-sex relationships, create a focus for celebration with families and friends and provide vital protection at time of dissolution (12). Gay men and lesbians’ vulnerability to mental disorders may diminish in societies that recognise their relationships as valuable and become more accepting of them as respected members of society who might meet prospective partners at places of work and in other such settings that are taken for granted by heterosexual people.

5. Psychotherapy and reparative therapy for LGB people
The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy recently commissioned a systematic review of the world’s literature on LGB people’s experiences with psychotherapy (13). This evidence shows that LGB people are open to seeking help for mental health problems. However, they may be misunderstood by therapists who regard their homosexuality as the root cause of any presenting problem such as depression or anxiety. Unfortunately, therapists who behave in this way are likely to cause considerable distress. A small minority of therapists will even go so far as to attempt to change their client’s sexual orientation (14). This can be deeply damaging. Although there is now a number of therapists and organisation in the USA and in the UK that claim that therapy can help homosexuals to become heterosexual, there is no evidence that such change is possible. The best evidence for efficacy of any treatment comes from randomised clinical trials and no such trial has been carried out in this field. There are however at least two studies that have followed up LGB people who have undergone therapy with the aim of becoming heterosexual. Neither attempted to assess the patients before receiving therapy and both relied on the subjective accounts of people, who were asked to volunteer by the therapy organisations themselves (15) or who were recruited via the Internet (16). The first study claimed that change was possible for a small minority (13%) of LGB people, most of whom could be regarded as bisexual at the outset of therapy (15). The second showed little effect as well as considerable harm (16). Meanwhile, we know from historical evidence that treatments to change sexual orientation that were common in the 1960s and 1970s were very damaging to those patients who underwent them and affected no change in their sexual orientation (1, 17, 18).

In conclusion the evidence would suggest that there is no scientific or rational reason for treating LGB people any differently to their heterosexual counterparts. People are happiest and are likely to reach their potential when they are able to integrate the various aspects of the self as fully as possible (19). Socially inclusive, non-judgemental attitudes to LGB people who attend places of worship or who are religious leaders themselves will have positive consequences for LGB people as well as for the wider society in which they live.

Professor Michael King
Report prepared by the Special Interest Group in Gay and Lesbian Mental Health of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
31st October 2007

Reference List

(1) King M, Bartlett A. British psychiatry and homosexuality. Br J Psychiatry 1999 August;175:106-13.
(2) Bell AP, Weinberg MS. Homosexualities : a study of diversity among men and women. New York: Simon and Schuster; 1978.
(3) Mustanski BS, DuPree MG, Nievergelt CM, Bocklandt S, Schork NJ, Hamer DH. A genomewide scan of male sexual orientation. Human Genetics 2005 March 17;116(4):272-8.
(4) Blanchard R, Cantor JM, Bogaert AF, Breedlove SM, Ellis L. Interaction of fraternal birth order and handedness in the development of male homosexuality. Hormones and Behavior 2006 March;49(3):405-14.
(5) King M, McKeown E, Warner J et al. Mental health and quality of life of gay men and lesbians in England and Wales: controlled, cross-sectional study. Br J Psychiatry 2003 December;183:552-8.
(6) Gilman SE, Cochran SD, Mays VM, Hughes M, Ostrow D, Kessler RC. Risk of psychiatric disorders among individuals reporting same-sex sexual partners in the National Comorbidity Survey. Am J Public Health 2001 June;91(6):933-9.
(7) Bailey JM. Homosexuality and mental illness. Arch Gen Psychiatry 1999 October;56(10):883-4.
(8) Mays VM, Cochran SD. Mental health correlates of perceived discrimination among lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults in the United States. Am J Public Health 2001 November;91(11):1869-76.
(9) McWhirter DP, Mattison AM. Male couples. In: Cabaj R, Stein TS, editors. Textbook of Homosexuality and Mental Health.Washington: American Psychiatric Press; 1996.
(10) Kiecolt-Glaser JK, Newton TL. Marriage and health: his and hers. Psychol Bull 2001 July;127(4):472-503.
(11) Johnson NJ, Backlund E, Sorlie PD, Loveless CA. Marital status and mortality: the national longitudinal mortality study. Ann Epidemiol 2000 May;10(4):224-38.
(12) King M, Bartlett A. What same sex civil partnerships may mean for health. J Epidemiol Community Health 2006 March 1;60(3):188-91.
(13) King M, Semlyen J, Killaspy H, Nazareth I, Osborn DP. A systematic review of research on counselling and psychotherapy for lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender people. Lutterworth: BACP; 2007.
(14) Bartlett A, King M, Phillips P. Straight talking: an investigation of the attitudes and practice of psychoanalysts and psychotherapists in relation to gays and lesbians. Br J Psychiatry 2001 December;179:545-9.
(15) Spitzer RL. Can some gay men and lesbians change their sexual orientation? 200 participants reporting a change from homosexual to heterosexual orientation. Arch Sex Behav 2003 October;32(5):403-17.
(16) Shidlo A, Schroeder M. Changing sexual orientation: A consumers' report. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice 2002;33:249-59.
(17) King M, Smith G, Bartlett A. Treatments of homosexuality in Britain since the 1950s--an oral history: the experience of professionals. BMJ 2004 February 21;328(7437):429.
(18) Smith G, Bartlett A, King M. Treatments of homosexuality in Britain since the 1950s--an oral history: the experience of patients. BMJ 2004 February 21;328(7437):427.
(19) Haldeman DC. Gay Rights, Patient Rights: The Implications of Sexual Orientation Conversion Therapy. Professional Psychology - Research & Practice 2002;33(3):260-4.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Burnout on the God beat

Burnout on the God beat - second top religion writer calls it quits
November 15th, 2007, filed by Tom Heneghan
Reuters News Service

Covering religion may be harmful to your faith. Two leading religion journalists — one in Britain, one in the United States — have quit the beat in recent months, saying they had acquired such a close look at such scandalous behaviour by Christians that they lost their faith and had to leave.

Stephen Bates, who recently stepped down as religious affairs writer for the London Guardian, has just published an account of his seven years on the beat in an article entitled “Demob Happy” for the New Humanist magazine. Bates followed the crisis in the Anglican Communion for several years and even wrote a book on it, A Church At War: Anglicans and Homosexuality.

“Now I am moving on,” his article concludes. “It was time to go. What faith I had, I’ve lost, I am afraid – I’ve seen too much, too close. A young Methodist press officer once asked me earnestly whether I saw it as my job to spread the Good News of Jesus. No, I said, that’s the last thing I am here to do.”

Bates announced his move back in September in another interesting article, this time for the website Religious Intelligence. Writing from New Orleans, where he was covering the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops meeting with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, he said: “Writing this story has been too corrosive of what faith I had left: indeed watching the way the gay row has played out in the Anglican Communion has cost me my belief in the essential benignity of too many Christians. For the good of my soul, I need to do something else.”

Bates, who says he still regards himself as a Catholic, said he was turned off by the intolerance he saw towards gays and the self-righteousness of Christians who “pick and choose the sins that are acceptable and condemn those – always committed by other, lesser people – that are not.”

Shortly before Bates called it quits, William Lobdell, who gave the Los Angeles Times first-class coverage of the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal in California, threw in the towel with a wrenching story of his own struggle with organised religion. His farewell story in July, “Religion beat became a test of faith“ was a moving testimony of a journalist who started off as a Presbyterian, was active with evangelicals and seriously considered becoming a Catholic.

But, during his eight years on the beat, the Catholic clerical sex abuse scandal put him off religion so badly that he lost his faith altogether. For an example of what he came across, take a look at Missionary’s Dark Legacy, a powerful story from 2005 about the trail of sexual abuse a Catholic missionary left behind after seven years among the Eskimos. Nearly every boy in the settlement was abused.

What do readers think? Can you understand how Bates and Lobdell reacted? Do you think a journalist has to be a believer to be a good religion reporter?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"Not a small misconception"

After posting Jerry and Marvin's testimonies about their experiences in Pittsburgh and Ft. Worth, respectively, I was contacted by someone from yet another diocese in "The Network", desperate for someone to hear another personal testimony and witness of abuse and oppression.

It took two emails to convince this person to allow me to reproduce this personal story - that is how fearful this person is of personal reprisal as well as that of this person's daughter.

I apologize for the tortuousness of this writing, but I am trying even to protect the gender identification of this person, to allay fears and anxieties.

This is a brave and courageous act on this person's part. I hope you join me in applauding this bold act as well as being appalled at what this person has had to endure.

For yet another testimony of institutional bullying see Louie Crew's natter on what's going on in the Diocese of SW Florida.

Blessed are the truth-tellers, for they shall liberate the human spirit.

I am an Episcopalian in an Anglican Communion Network (ACN) diocese. I have corresponded with you several times in the past and actually introduced myself to you at our Presiding Bishop's investiture last November. My daughter, a lesbian, is in a discernment process in a more open diocese. She was recently recommended by her COM to proceed to the next step on this journey. I have worked as a family system’s trained mental health professional for over 20 years.

I want to say that Martin's (Marvin) story, recorded by Katie Sherrod, is being played out in this diocese, as well. And, I imagine without much effort that this sort of blatant ostracism is happening in most, if not all, ACN or Common Cause dioceses across TEC. There are many, many similar and painful individual stories of solid, long-time parish and diocesan lay ministers and clergy persons who have been relegated to the back pew or the churchyard because we don't/won't/cannot submit body and soul to the local powers that be.

I won't trouble you much further with my experience, except to say it includes being accosted by three prayer warriors in the aisle after a parish meeting that was held (with the unstated purpose) to discredit anyone who disagreed with the rector and his supporters.

I had spoken out at the meeting, passionately, against a manipulative leadership and financial decisions the vestry had made. These prayer ministers literally backed me into a pew and blocked my exits, laid hands on me and prayed that I'd be healed of my anger and come to know Jesus as my Savior.

That was March, 2003. I stayed two more years....because of the sick, crazy, toxic system of this parish and because I was made sick by it. I thought, "If only I could say (..X..) in just the right way, then, they would understand what they were doing and change things and become a healthy hospitable parish again.....................

Not a small misconception.

I want to say from my place on the back pew that the organizational system of these radically conservative, fundamentalist and evangelical neo-Anglican churches seem more than a little cult-like, if not actually and fully cultic.

Are you familiar with the (rather fundamentalist, IMO) self-help book Toxic Faith by Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton? I first learned of it by something Mike Russell (I think) posted to HoB/D a few years ago. There is a summary of this book by “b jackson,” posted online in several places. [ ]

I have no clue who “b Jackson” might be. The summary actually transposes the content of two paragraphs, I believe, on an essential topic: The roles of toxic faith: persecutor, co-conspirator, enabler, fearful enabler, victim, outcast. In spite of the errors, etc, there is enough TRUTH in this summary to describe in some detail the Episcopal Church that I've experienced in this ACN diocese.

Following Martin’s (Marvin's) story, posted by Katie Sherrod, I wanted to make folks aware of this link again and to add an empathic ‘me, too’ to Martin’s (Marvin's) experiences. Unfortunately, I’m not as brave as Martin (Marvin).

I am fearful of having my name posted, so I’m counting on you to protect my identity.

Perhaps my fearfulness will add something significant to the larger story of faithful Episcopalians in dissident dioceses that may be just emerging.

I pray TEC will pay attention to our experiences.

NB: Yet a third email:

These stories do indeed need to be told, for the telling and for the hearing of them. It's a healthy thing for TEC.

I don't think my name is important. I am pretty sure that the file I sent to you will find me labeled once again as an angry woman, but I no longer am angry. Just deeply saddened by the ripping of the fabric of this good church and the raw grief of it all.

I do have hope that all will be well, probably not in my lifetime, but, B033 notwithstanding, I think TEC is headed along more solid path under +Katharine's leadership.

I believe that Jesus is standing here and there in the midst of it all. No magic wand, just an empty cross and a gospel hope. Many small deaths have happened for faithful Episcopalians in these ACN dioceses, and the gospel promise is that good will be redeemed from evil and that new life will grow from the ashes and dust. That is my prayer. Amen.

And, thank you again. If ever you need a passionate storyteller who must remain part of the underground, the woodwork, let me know.

"I ain't done crashin'"

You absolutely MUST check into Katie Sherrod's Blog, Wilderness Garden, on a regular basis.

Once you get past the feeling of being Alice down the rabbit hole, if you aren't outraged, you clearly are not paying attention.

Here's today's offering. Read it and weep.

(You'll also want to head over to "Father Jake Stops the World" and read some of the comments by the Dean of the Cathedral in Ft. Worth. 'Nuff said.)

This is the story of what happens when someone in Fort Worth dares to offer a counterargument to the bishop and the standing committee's efforts to leave The Episcopal Church.

First, let me introduce Marvin and Gloria Long . Marvin and Gloria are long time members of Christ the King Episcopal Church in Fort Worth. They have been deeply involved in the parish for years, giving of their time, talent, and treasure in countless ways.

Christ the King has long had a special place in my heart because my husband, Gayland Pool, was rector there back in 1976. (This was many years before we were married.)

That was when they located an abandoned Methodist chapel being used to store hay. They bought the Texas Gothic building, moved it into Fort Worth and restored it in time for the July 4 Bicentennial celebration. The little white church on the west side of town soon won the heart of the city with its simple elegant beauty.

These days, the rectors and interims at the parish are firmly in the bishop's pocket, even if many in the congregation are not. The reference to "saddle your own horse" was from a speech given by Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies, in Fort Worth in September.

I'll let Marvin tell his own story:

By way of introduction, my name is Marvin Long, a parishioner of Christ The King Episcopal Church in Fort Worth Texas since 1992. I am 67 and was confirmed an Episcopalian in 1963. I have served on the vestry and as Senior Warden and as Lay Minister. Until last week I edited Celebration, the church news letter. I would like to recount what happens in the diocese of Fort Worth when one `saddles up his own horse and stands up for ECUSA.'

On October 2, 2007, the diocesan office released the amendments to the diocesan constitution and canons that would "begin the process of affiliating with another Province of the World Wide Anglican Communion." Subsequently, my wife and I wrote the vestry of Christ the King parish and requested that they pass a resolution stating their intention to remain with ECUSA and withdrawing the congregation from the Anglican Communion Network.

On Sunday morning Oct. 21 at both services our interim priest preached a sermon maliciously attacking ECUSA. The senior warden attended the vestry meeting that day and handed out the old attack on ECUSA by Bishop Harold Miller of the Church of Ireland with a cover letter from Bp. Jack Iker.

I decided to include four polite articles in the November issue of Celebration that support ECUSA. For my efforts, I was removed by the interim priest as editor of the newsletter and from all other church functions. My lay minister's license was revoked (an act reserved for the bishop) and I was forced to shut down the church's web site. The small weekly healing service I and a few other liberals regularly attended was cancelled until further notice.

On Sunday, Nov. 4, I was publicly excoriated for the Celebration in both church services by the priest and the Sr. Warden. So there you have it: what happens when you saddle up your horse in Ft. Worth.

The bright side is that there is support for ECUSA here. Although I am saddened by the current state of affairs, I hopefully look for the national church to reassert itself. Come soon. I'm still on my horse.


Marvin posted this on the Fort Worth Via Media listserve, and received many replies sympathizing with him and offering encouragement. His reply is below:


I want to thank you all for your expressions of love and support. You keep me with my head up and a smile on my face. That goes for Gloria, too.

As far as giving up is concerned, I will share one of my favorite stories.

After an aircraft is repaired, it must be test flown and certified OK by a pilot. An old Cessna Citation (Number 123WB) had some repair work done at Alliance airport and was taken for a spin by a test pilot. As he approached for a landing, he saw the three green lights that say the landing gear is down and locked, but when he touched down the gear collapsed and he went screeching down the runway at 125 mph trailing a plume of sparks and smoke.

The tower operator saw him go by and shouted into the radio, “Citation Whiskey Bravo! Do you need assistance!?”

The pilot radioed back calmly while keeping the wreck lined up on the centerline, “I don’t know yet, I ain’t done crashin’.”

Well, I ain’t done crashin’. I’ll stay ‘til the end and I plan to come out on top. Good things are going to happen at CTK because of this.


No, we ain't done crashin' yet here in Fort Worth. We know it's going to be an ugly wreck. But we're hanging on and we plan to walk away from in in one piece -- spiritually battered, physically and emotionally exhausted, but steadfast in our resolve. We are Episcopalians, whether Bp. Iker and his minons like it or not.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Pittsburgh Schism

Sunday Forum:

Conservative activist
takes issue with
the conservatives' split
from the Episcopal Church,
finding no support for it
in biblical or Christian tradition

Sunday, November 11, 2007

My wife is a reader at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in McKeesport. This means that she sometimes leads the people in prayer, including a prayer "for Katharine, our presiding bishop; Robert and Henry, our bishops; and Jay, our priest." These are our leaders. Katharine Jefferts Schori is the elected head of the U.S. branch of the church. Robert Duncan along with his assistant, Henry Scriven, leads the diocese, and Jay Geisler is the priest at St. Stephen's in McKeesport.

This past summer, Bishop Duncan instructed my wife and hundreds of other readers in the diocese to omit the prayer for Katharine. Katharine Jefferts Schori has been a frequent target for conservatives in the U.S. church ever since she was elected presiding bishop in 2006. Coming on the heels of the installation of an active and outspoken homosexual bishop, the elevation of a woman of liberal sympathies seemed a bridge too far for many conservatives.

It appeared at the time that omitting the prayer for Katharine was a steppingstone to where the bishop was really trying to take us -- outside of the Episcopal Church. You see, to include Katharine in the prayers was to acknowledge her office, and to acknowledge her office was to acknowledge our obligation to her.

Our suspicions were confirmed on Nov. 2, when the Diocese of Pittsburgh voted overwhelmingly to change its constitution to permit separation from the Episcopal Church USA.

When my wife, Susan, asked me for advice about the prayer directive, I told her that Katharine was elected lawfully under the standards of the Episcopal Church. Robert was using his authority to tell her to disregard Katharine's authority. When there is a disruption in the chain of authority, I said, "look to the highest authority." He said, "Love your enemies, pray for those who despitefully use you." If you should pray for your enemies, should you not pray even more for friends with whom you disagree?

I am not a liberal. I think the Episcopal Church made a terrible mistake when it installed Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire in 2004. It did the church no favors when it trod the historic standards of Anglicanism under foot in a rush to make some sort of political point. It did Father Robinson no good to turn this deeply wounded man into a cause celebre with no thought to the pressure it would impose (driving him eventually into rehab). It did the world no favor to turn the church into an echo of the sexual revolution rather than a beacon out of it. Many commandments were broken, most notably that "they should be one, Father, even as You and I are one."

But the solution does not lie in breaking more commandments. The priests who voted overwhelmingly for secession this month had taken an oath of loyalty to the Episcopal Church at the time of their ordination. That oath holds whether our guys win every battle or not.

I know Republicans who simply refused to acknowledge Bill Clinton as president in the 1990s. I know Democrats who did the same regarding George W. Bush. But both presidents were elected under the rules laid out in our national Constitution.

The same thing has happened in our church. My side lost on the Gene Robinson issue. It was bitter, but it was fair.

Secession is not the biblical pattern of resistance to flawed authority. Young David served under a tyrannical and apostate King named Saul. David submitted to Saul's authority and he resisted the urge to revolt or secede. He remained faithful to Israel and Saul until the end, and then, because of his patience, became king himself.

David's great (28 times) grandson, Jesus, was a reader in the synagogue despite its shortcomings. He worshipped in the temple despite its corruption and oppression. King Herod was a murderous crook and the temple priesthood were his hired cronies and yet Mary and Joseph and Jesus were there year after year, making offerings, saying prayers, talking with rabbis.

When St. Paul was beaten by the high priest he showed him deference, not contempt. "You salute the rank," as they say in the military, "not the man."

That's because the authority of a priest or bishop doesn't come from him; it comes from God. The failings of the man, or woman, don't erase that authority. Saul would regularly try to murder David. He disregarded God and took on the responsibility to offer sacrifices himself. He murdered faithful priests. Through all of this, David saluted the office long after the man had outlived his merit.

On Oct. 31., the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church USA sent a letter to the bishop of Pittsburgh, directing him not to split the diocese from the denomination. Bishop Duncan replied by quoting Martin Luther, "Here I stand. I can do no other."

It's a powerful quote, but a misuse of history. Martin Luther didn't leave the Roman Catholic Church; he was kicked out. He decided to "stand" and fight. It's ironic that Bishop Duncan quoted Luther's pledge to "stand" in order to justify his intention to "walk."

Are my fellow conservatives fully aware of the biblical and patristic teachings on schism? How do they justify a break with the Episcopal Church to which they have literally sworn loyalty? How do they justify taking Episcopal property with them? Given Paul's command to the first-century Corinthian Church not to address church issues in secular courts, how do they justify the inevitable legal battles that accompany a schism? How much will the litigation cost? Will the money come from our offerings?

There are moral questions, too. If we break with the Episcopal Church in America over gay priests, how can we then align ourselves with African bishops who tolerate polygamist priests? Paul says that a church leader is to be "the husband of one wife." Do we think that the word "husband" is inerrant but the word "one" is not?

If the Episcopal Church really has become apostate and its current leaders really are enemies of God, then how can we justify leaving the church, its resources and its sheep in their care? If not, how can we justify this separation?

Yes, there are times when it's necessary to leave one authority for another. When the New Testament writers were forced to deal with this issue, they concluded that they were compelled to obey higher authority at all times, except when it commanded them to disobey God. Roman Emperors were monstrous beasts. The church preached against them and prayed for them to repent, but Christians still obeyed the law. It wasn't until Rome ordered them to stop preaching the gospel and to offer sacrifices to Caesar that the early church was forced to disobey.

By analogy, New Hampshire can install a whole pride of gay bishops, but we don't break our oath of loyalty to the Episcopal Church until they order us to start installing them here.

Until then, the pattern of David and Jesus holds: Be faithful. Be patient. Be active in good works. And be in prayer for all in authority ... "for Katharine, our presiding bishop; Robert and Henry, our bishops; and Jay, our priest, I pray. Lord, hear our prayer."

Jerry Bowyer is an Episcopal vestryman, a financial journalist and the chairman of Bowyer Media (

Correction/Clarification: (Published Nov. 12, 2007) Part of the name of the Episcopal Church presiding bishop was misspelled in this essay, "The Pittsburgh Schism," as originally published Nov. 11, 2007. She is Katharine Jefferts Schori, not Jefferts. Also, she was elected presiding bishop in 2006, not two years ago.
First published on November 11, 2007 at 12:00 am