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

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Albany: "We CAN Discriminate!"

Taken from OPENLY EPISCOPAL - A new Blog of Albany Via Media.

News from Albany
April 29, 2008

Diocese Says: "We Can Discriminate"

The Rev. Glen Michaels from Trinity Church, Plattsburg, has provided us with an interesting exchange of emails regarding his inquiry to the Diocese of Albany about a possible candidate for ordination. The candidate happened to be a partnered gay man.

Michaels+ was mistakenly copied on an exchange of emails between the Rev. Peter
Schofield and The Rev. Robert Haskell (both of the Diocesan Commission on Ministry) relative to his inquiry. The Rev. Michaels has given us permission to post his notes and the related email exchange:

Dr. Bones & Openly Episcopal,
Our AM readers may want to see how the Diocese treats certain of those in this Diocese who believe they may be called to Holy Orders. Canon Haskell's response to Fr. Schofield below was inadvertently sent to me after I had inquired regarding a member of my parish.

Canon Haskell's is an interesting approach. Perhaps it can be used by "really historically orthodox" bishops who don't want to ordain women: "We don't discriminate against Christians because they ARE women. No... we discriminate against them because they TEACH that women are called to ordained ministry in the Church.

Say... it might even work to exclude people of color and all other heterodox undesirable who hold the radical notion that in Christ there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or canfree, male or female....
(The Rev.) Glen Michaels, Priest Associate, Trinity Church, Plattsburgh, NY
The email exchange alluded to is given below:

March 21, 2008
Holy Orders Question

Dear Fr. Schofield,

I have an individual in my parish who I believe has a call to Holy Orders and have met with him to discuss his vocation. He is interested in further discernment. Does the Commission on Ministry have a blanket rule, either by formal rule or de facto, against accepting gay men in civil unions? If not, does the Commission have a working arrangement with another diocese to whom it will refer such persons?

(The Rev.) Glen Michaels

March 21, 2008
Re: Holy Orders Question


We cannot state we have a rule against accepting gay men or women, because the canons of the Episcopal Church say that we cannot discriminate against people in the ordination process based on their sexual orientation.

What we can do is discriminate against people who teach that sex outside the marriage of one man and one woman is acceptable. We want people who have historically orthodox views on sex and marriage.

However, I would ask you not to reply to Fr. Michaels yet. I think Bishop Love should have a chance to think about how we handle this. I am copying him with this email.


April 14, 2008

Bishop Love, Fr. Schofield,

I am disappointed that you have chosen not to respond - other than accidentally (see Canon Haskell's remarks) to my query, made more than 3 weeks ago, about a member of my parish whom I believe has a call to Holy Orders. I sent a follow-up email to Fr. Schofield on March 31. The meeting on Holy Orders is this Saturday. But still no reply. I will communicate Canon Haskell's responses to my parishioner and others.

(The Rev.) Glen Michaels


Subsequent to this, Michaels+ did receive a reply from the Bishop. His reply is printed below:

Dear Glen+,

Thank you for your email concerning a parishioner at Trinity Church, Plattsburgh, who is interested in Holy Orders. The policy in the Diocese of Albany is that for a person to be eligible to be considered for the ordination process, he or she must live within the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman, or be celibate and abstinent.

If the individual you are counseling is living in a lifestyle other than that mentioned above, he may pursue the ordination process through another diocese that has different standards. It is important for him to realize that the same standards mentioned above apply for clergy seeking to come into the Diocese of Albany from another diocese. We do not have a working arangement with any other diocese to assist individuals outside of the standards mentioned above.

Faithfully Yours in Christ,


I leave the last word to The Rev. Glen Michaels:

As much as I disagree with Bishop Love's theological stance on homosexuality, I believe that he does have the right to reject candidates for Holy Orders who hold theological positions which he believes to be outside the bounds of acceptability within the Episcopal Church.

However, it is an act of hubris for the Bishop to deny that there are many other bishops in good standing within the Episcopal Church who find such positions acceptable, and would welcome otherwise qualified candidates for ordained ministry.

As a pastoral matter, I believe we need to assist such persons in their discernment by connecting them with other Episcopal mentors. Bishop Love's non-response to my suggestion is unfortunately indicative of his pastoral care toward such persons.

Glen Michaels
(who prefers to follow Jesus' injunction to call no man father except our Father in Heaven)

Dear House of Bishops

FROM: Episcopal Life Online

April 30, 2008

For the House of Bishops

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Inasmuch as the past several weeks have involved some significant situations, I thought it would be helpful to review and comment on process. First, regarding deposition for "abandonment of the communion of The Episcopal Church," it is important to remember that such an act is not by definition punitive, but does give formal recognition to a reality already taking place. Once the Title IV Review Committee has certified that a bishop has abandoned the communion of this Church under Title IV, Canon 9, the bishop in question is given sixty days to respond.

During this sixty day period, Title IV has a provision for temporary inhibition of the bishop by the Presiding Bishop with the consent of the three senior active bishops of the Church. These bishops who must consent to the temporary inhibition do not, however, have a veto over consideration of the merits of the deposition by the House of Bishops, any more than those who must consent to temporary inhibitions in other circumstances have a veto over consideration of the charges by a trial court. This understanding of the canon is held not only by my Chancellor, but also by members of the Title IV Review Committee including an attorney who is an original member of the Committee, the chancellors of several dioceses who have been consulted, and the former Chair of both the Standing Commission on the Constitution and Canons and the Legislative Committee on the Canons at the General Convention.

As the actual vote regarding deposition draws near, it is important to recognize what does and does not constitute a relevant response by the bishop in question. A letter of resignation from the House is irrelevant to the charges brought forward by the Review Committee and the deposition proceedings, since deposition concerns a person's ordination in this Church, not simply participation in the House of Bishops. Resignation from the House thus has no bearing on following through with the charges brought forward by the Review Committee. Deposition in this situation makes clear in an official way that the bishop in question is no longer permitted to exercise ordained ministry in this Church.

Regarding how the vote is to be taken, the canon is clear that a vote on deposition must occur at "regular or special meeting of the House." Although we have other canonical consent provisions where consents may be secured by written ballot through the mail, that process does not satisfy the canons here. Every bishop entitled to vote is invited to the meeting and given ample notice that there will be a vote on depositions. Materials surrounding the deposition in question are posted in the "Bishops Only" section of the College for Bishops website. The canon is read that a quorum be present and a majority of all bishops present who are entitled to vote consent to the deposition, as was done in the case of Bishop Davies of Fort Worth in the 1990s and Bishop Larrea of Ecuador Central in 2005. In terms of parliamentary rules of order, any questions about the propriety of a vote are to be raised before the meeting or, of course, during it.

These are weighty matters, and it is important that we take seriously our procedures, as well as their purpose and intent. It is also important that we remember the reason that such canons and procedures are in place. These matters with which we are confronted have ramifications for many outside our House. For those who would like an alternative to deposition, we already have one, in the form of renunciation of vows in this Church, so that anyone may pursue his or her conscience and desires in another part of Christ's Body. This option makes clear and clean an individual's departure from The Episcopal Church. Resignation from the House is quite different, since it only deals with the person's relation to the House, not to The Episcopal Church. Thus, to resign from the House while still claiming jurisdiction over a diocese with its property and assets is not a viable alternative.

Some have misunderstood the impact and intent of deposition. It is this Church's formal way of saying to the world that the deposed cleric is no longer permitted to act as a sacramental representative of this Church. If vows to uphold the doctrine, discipline, and worship of this Church are not voluntarily renounced, how otherwise can a cleric take up new vows to uphold the doctrine, discipline, and worship of another Church?

These are indeed difficult decisions that we at times are called to make, and I have no doubt that all of us would wish things were different. We must respond to the situations with which we are faced, compassionately but not naively, knowing that we make these decisions not for ourselves alone but for the people whom we are called to shepherd and oversee. I remain

Your servant in Christ,
Katharine Jefferts Schori

A cold, rainy Wednesday morning . . .

. . . and, I'd much rather have breakfast in bed.

Or, in this case, make breakfast my bed and stay there until spring weather comes and stays for more than just three or four days.

Off to a veritable whirl of a day. With the change of season often comes change in health status of the fragile elderly and those who are fighting illnesses with terminal implications.

I seem to have entered the Season of the Very Sick and Dying, sometimes also known as the Hospice Season. It would seem that I am to earn my credential in higher education before I get a chance to frame the sheepskin and hang it on my wall.

So, if I'm not blogging a whole lot, you'll know how to find me. I'll be that blur in the hallway and on the streets of Chatham.

I know. However will the War against Anglican Terrorism proceed without me? However will the "all-Anglican-drama-all-the-time" unfold without scintillating comment and keen observation and dry humor?

Not to worry. Go visit Susan Russell's "Inch" or Mark Harris or Fr. Jake or OCICBW, or Episcopal Cafe or anyone of a hundred sites who report this stuff with more frequency than I do anyway.

In the meantime, pray for me and I'll pray for you.

Off I go, then, to 7 AM Weekly Healing Eucharist. I'll keep you in my prayers.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

'Unwarranted Invasion'

Episcopal News Service

Fort Worth visit an 'unwarranted invasion,' Presiding Bishop tells Southern Cone primate

Episcopalians organize to counter moves to re-align Fort Worth diocese

From staff reports April 29, 2008 [Episcopal News Service]

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has advised Southern Cone Presiding Bishop Gregory J. Venables in an April 29 letter that his planned May 2-3 visit to address a special convocation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth "with the expressed purpose of describing removal to the Province of the Southern Cone is an unwarranted invasion of, and meddling in, the internal affairs of this Province."

"I write to urge you not to bring further discord into The Episcopal Church," Jefferts Schori told Venables, who was, according to reports, scheduled to be in Central California on April 29 to meet with church leaders who last year voted to disaffiliate with the Episcopal Church and align with his Argentina-based province.

"The actions contemplated by some leaders in Forth Worth are profoundly uncanonical," Jefferts Schori wrote. "They also prevent needed reconciliation from proceeding within this Province."

The full text of Jefferts Schori's letter, copied to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, follows.

Dear Gregory,

I write to urge you not to bring further discord into The Episcopal Church. Visiting a special convocation of the Diocese of Fort Worth with the expressed purpose of describing removal to the Province of the Southern Cone is an unprecedented and unwarranted invasion of, and meddling in, the internal affairs of this Province. I ask you to consider how you might receive such a visit to your own Province from a fellow primate. The actions contemplated by some leaders in Fort Worth are profoundly uncanonical. They also prevent needed reconciliation from proceeding within this Province.

I urge you to focus your pastoral ministry within your own Province. May your ministry there be fruitful. I remain

Your servant in Christ,
Katharine Jefferts Schori

During the past year, the Presiding Bishop and Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker have exchanged letters about the vote of Fort Worth's convention last November in which delegates gave the first of two required approvals of canonical changes to amend its constitution and remove accession to the Constitution and Canons of General Convention, as well as several canonical amendments that eliminate mention of the Episcopal Church.

Jefferts Schori has continued to emphasize the possibility of reconciliation between Iker, the diocese and the wider Episcopal Church, said the Presiding Bishop's canon, the Rev. Dr. Charles K. Robertson.

Meanwhile, a group called the Steering Committee North Texas Episcopalians has been formed to help Episcopalians who are opposed to efforts to align the diocese with a province of the Anglican Communion other than the Episcopal Church.

An April 27 news release from the steering committee said the group began work immediately after the November 17 Fort Worth convention.

Since that time, Iker and the diocesan Standing Committee have said that "the structure and polity of the Province of the Southern Cone would afford our diocese greater self-determination than we currently have under the General Convention of The Episcopal Church."

The Southern Cone has about 22,000 members and encompasses Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay. Its provincial synod, meeting in Valpariso, Chile, November 5-7, 2007, agreed to welcome into the province "on an emergency and pastoral basis" Episcopal Church dioceses "taking appropriate action to separate from The Episcopal Church."

The Forth Worth diocesan convention is set to vote on the changes for a second time when the convention meets in November.

"In the wake of the first vote, many people immediately set to work to identify and empower those who intend to remain Episcopalians," the steering committee said in its release. Those people include members of Fort Worth Via Media, North Texans Remain Episcopal in the northern part of the diocese and Remain Episcopal of Granbury in the southwestern part of the diocese as well as by a group in the mid-cities area and a group of diocesan clergy, the release said. Another group, Steadfast Episcopalians, was recently organized explicitly to reach out to conservative Episcopalians.

"There were also individuals representing almost all parishes and missions who had self-identified as wishing to remain Episcopalian," the committee said.

"These groups and individuals realized they needed to work together" and so they formed the steering committee, according to the release. "The inclusion of individuals representing all points of view is crucial as we move forward in mission together," said Robertson, canon to the Presiding Bishop.

Walter Cabe is president and Courtland Moore is vice president. Margaret Mieuli is treasurer and Bruce Coggin is the committee's clerk. Other executive committee members are George Komechak, Kathleen Wells, Victoria Prescott and Fred Barber.

"The primary objectives of this combined group are to remain in the Episcopal Church and to continue the work of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth as a constituent part of the Episcopal Church," Komechak, who is also president of Fort Worth Via Media, said in the release. "Identifying additional persons in diocesan parishes and missions who support staying in the Episcopal Church is one of the Steering Committee's first items of business."

People who will remain Episcopalians can send information to Steering Committee North Texas Episcopalians, P.O. Box 100846, Fort Worth, TX, 76185-0846. A website is under construction.

The committee has been recognized as a Texas non-profit corporation by the Secretary of State, and has adopted bylaws and a statement of mission and beliefs.

According to recent parochial reports, the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is comprised of more than 18,100 active baptized members in some 55 congregations in north central Texas.

The Trouble with Martyrs

Well, when there isn't the loud clamor of those who are standing firm with an undercurrent of hostility, that sound you hear is the rending of garments and the great wailing and gnashing of teeth from the Right side of the Church.

You can read all about the latest martyrs for the cause of orthodoxy at the usual websites. One might wonder, however, how all of these law suits are being financed.

'Telling Secrets' has done exhaustive research and discovered that while the Rev. Ms. Kennedy has been thinking Very Big Thoughts about homeschooling, recipes, and housecleaning, Rev. Mr. Kennedy has been hard at work building up a war chest for the spiritual warfare ahead.

Google his name on YouTube and, when he isn't holding insightful interviews, you'll find him surfing in Tasmania, playing professional hockey, and kicking butt as a really good bass soloist.

But, here he is in what is, perhaps his most controversial role and, no doubt, his most financially lucrative.

The trouble with martyrs is that they are often so boring. Not so with the Kennedy's. No sireebob.

You might not have been able to guess it from his sermons but Their Matt is quite imaginative and creative.

Well here, take a look for yourself. Just a shout out to all straight women and gay men - before you put that $10 bill in his . . . "costume" . . .remember: Your dollars are going to fund Anglican terrorism.

Okay, I'll take my tongue out of the side of my cheek. You can click "play" now.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Fly Qantas

At least, that's the advice I got from Doug . . .along with this:

Remember it takes a college degree to fly a plane, but only a high school diploma to fix one, a reassurance for those who fly routinely.

After every flight, Qantas pilots fill out a form, called a 'gripe sheet,' which tells mechanics about problems with the aircraft. The mechanics correct the problems; document their repairs on the form, and then pilots review the gripe sheets before the next flight.

Never let it be said that ground crews lack a sense of humor. Here are some actual maintenance complaints submitted by Qantas' pilots (marked with a P) and the solutions recorded (marked with an S) by maintenance engineers.

By the way, Qantas is the only major airline that has never, ever, had an accident.

P: Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.
S: Almost replaced left inside main tire.

P: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough.
S: Auto-land not installed on this aircraft.

P: Something loose in cockpit
S: Something tightened in cockpit.

P: Dead bugs on windshield.
S: Live bugs on back-order.

P: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200 feet per minute descent.
S: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.

P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.
S: Evidence removed.

P: DME volume unbelievably loud.
S: DME volume set to more believable level.

P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.
S: That's what friction locks are for.

P: IFF inoperative in OFF mode.
S: IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.

P: Suspected crack in windshield.
S: Suspect you're right.

P: Number 3 engine missing.
S: Engine found on right wing after brief search.

P: Aircraft handles funny.
S: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right, and be serious.

P: Target radar hums.
S: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics.

P: Mouse in cockpit.
S: Cat installed.

And the best one for last.................

P: Noise coming from under instrument panel. Sounds
like a midget pounding on something with a hammer.
S: Took hammer away from midget.

Rainy Days and Mondays

It's good to have a rainy day, every now and again.

Today is one of those days. And, it is good.

Of course, I'd much prefer staying in my PJs and drinking an extra cup of coffee, curling up in my still-warm bed and reading the paper, my puppies by my side.

Later in the morning, still in my jammies and having switched to a hot cup of tea, I'd write poetry or dig out my journal and write a little essay on a Very Big Thought.

That is the perfection of a rainy day.

But, it's onward into the day, pretending that it's just another day calling to get work done.

It isn't. It's a rainy Monday at the end of April. These are the days custom designed for contemplation and easy rhythms, and we ignore them at our own peril

Today is a day to sit and let life soak in, to drench oneself in the dreariness of life so that, when the sun returns, we can rejoice all the more.

Both are gifts, rain and sun. But, Longfellow said it far better than I.

The Rainy Day

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the moldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the moldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast
And the days are dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

And of the Holy Spirit

“ . . .and he will give you another Advocate . . .”
John 14:15-21
VI Easter – April 27, 2000
The Episcopal Church of St. Paul
Chatham, NJ
(the Rev’d) Elizabeth Kaeton
rector and pastor

I must confess that sometimes, when reading the Gospel of John, I can get myself so tangled up in his use of words and convoluted sentence structure that I either get frustrated and annoyed or, well, sometimes I just get downright silly. I mean, listen again to this: “On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”

I confess that as I tried to pray into these words, I was interrupted by the words of another John – Lennon, that is – which buzzed into the quiet of my meditation like a mosquito in the thick of summer: “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together." That of course, is from Lennon's "I am the Walrus."

Free association being what it is (and, of course, potentiated by a lovely glass of wine) it’s not a far jump from there, to Lewis Carroll’s poem of ‘The Walrus and the Carpenter’:

"The time has come/the Walrus said/“To talk of many things/ Of shoes and ships and sealing-wax / Of cabbages and kings /And why the sea is boiling hot/And whether pigs have wings”.

See what I mean? Reading the Gospel of John can lead you through quite a jumble of words and thoughts and lead you to take flights of fantasy. Take, for example, the idea of the Holy Spirit. This section of John’s Gospel is from the Farewell discourses of Jesus. We use them now because we are preparing for The Ascension of Jesus – which is this coming Thursday – and then Pentecost, which is May 11th.

Jesus is preparing his disciples for his eventual departure by consoling them with the idea of The Holy Spirit, whom he names “The Advocate” and “The spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him.”

One of the kids in Confirmation Class nailed me on the question of the Holy Spirit just last week. We were doing one of my favorite series of classes on The Creeds, after which, the kids get to write their own Creed. They were cool with the idea of God and they completely got Jesus, but they were stumped about the Holy Spirit. “Who is it?” they wanted to know. “How is the Holy Spirit part of the Trinity?”

My usual explanations didn’t seem to work. “Well,” I said, think of the Trinity as water. It can exist in three states, liquid, ice and vapor, yet it is a single element.” I saw a few light bulbs going on above the heads of some, so I pressed on.

“This is really very simplistic and doesn’t really convey the mystery of the Trinity and the uniqueness of each person, but think of the liquid state of water being God, the ice being Jesus, and vapor being The Holy Spirit. They are three different states of water, but they are, each in their own way, still water. See?”

There were a few sparks of insight in some of their faces. Others seemed nonplussed. Still others had that unmistakable look of teenage boredom. I might have been the Walrus talking about shoes and ships and sealing wax and whether pigs have wings, or John Lennon, sitting on a cornflake singing “Goo-goo-gachoo.”

One of the darling cherubs gave me “The Face.” You know. You’ve seen it on your teenaged kids. “Vapor?” she asked incredulously. “The Holy Spirit is a vapor?” “No,” I said, “The Holy Spirit is LIKE vapor. You can’t always see it, but you know it’s there.” She rolled her eyes up to heaven and I could tell she was silently praying for a merciful end to my explanation. Well, I thought, at least she’s praying something, even if it’s just for her priest to shut up and go away.

It’s difficult to believe in these concepts, isn’t it? The Trinity. The Resurrection. The Holy Spirit. The Ascension of Jesus. I suspect it was as difficult for the ancient mind as it is for the postmodern intellect to wrap itself around these great mysteries of our faith.

St. Paul told the people of Athens that “God . . .does not live in shrines made by human hands . . . and ‘in him we live and move and have our being’, adding ‘ . . .we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals.” (Acts 17:22-31) Jesus reassures us that the Holy Spirit lives in us, to guide us and lead us to believe impossible things and, in fact, do impossible things.

Let me give you an example: I don’t know much about either Bob Arnot or Ruth Pring. I met Bob once when he was in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s Disease and a resident of the nursing home on Main Street. I never met Ruth, however, I know this to be true: They were once members of this church. They loved this church. Their bodies sat in these pews. The memory of their prayers may still lie hidden in the deep nooks of this sanctuary. The recollection of the distant sound of their voices lifted in song may still vibrate in the wood of the church ceiling.

They both died about five years ago and, while they left no living relative, and no great legacy, their love or and generosity to this church lives on in the garden we have planted in the front of the church. It may be difficult for you to remember what this church ever looked like without that garden in the front. I remember. Stark. It looked stark.

Shortly after the garden was planted and the fence went up, Ann Bennett remarked that they gave the church ‘definition.’ She’s right. We had to begin to define ourselves outwardly before we could describe ourselves inwardly.

The miracle is that it took the spirit of Bob Arnot and Ruth Pring, their generosity, their love for this place, to help us do that. Immediately after the service, we will bless the garden on this Rogation Sunday for having blessed us with a sense of our past, an understanding of our present, and hope for our future.

That, for me, is evidence of the Holy Spirit at work. That garden is living proof of the obedience of the commandment Jesus gave us to “love one another as I have loved you” - foolishly, lavishly, wastefully.

I am reminded of Alice’s conversation with the White Queen in ‘Through the Looking Glass’. The Queen said, “‘Now I’ll give you something to believe. I’m just one hundred and one, five months and a day.’

‘I can’t believe that!’ said Alice.

‘Can’t you?’ the Queen said in a pitying tone. ‘Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.’

Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said. ‘One can’t believe impossible things.’

‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.’

The White Queen is quite right. Believing takes practice. Belief in the Holy Spirit is not an easy thing. We might as well be talking about shoes and ships and cabbages and kings. When you try to understand the Holy Spirit or the Trinity, it is good to take the advice the White Queen’s gave to Alice . Draw a long breath and shut your eyes. Breathe in. Breathe out. And you will find yourself smack dab in the midst of an impossible thing – a paradox of sorts.

There it is: two very different actions and yet, one breath. Life cannot be sustained without breath and yet it takes two completely different actions to make a complete breath. One is incomplete without the other. We human beings are a living paradox, our lives are an impossible miracle, and we live into the paradox of life every time we take a breath.

That’s because love is a paradox. The Love that is the second person of the Trinity and the Love that resides within us, guiding us to know the Truth. The Love that inspires two people to leave their life’s legacy to the church, that we may continue Christ’s legacy of love and hope for the world. Just as Jesus did for us. Just as Jesus commands us to do.

Now, when you look at it that way, unpacking St. John’s words and unwinding St. John’s convoluted sentences, it’s really pretty simple, right? As simple as the sun knowing when to rise and set each day. As simple as the mysterious beauty of a flower in the Arnot-Pring Garden. As simple as the force that keeps the world revolving slowly on its axis.

If you find yourself having a hard time believing in the impossible thing such as a flower, just remember the advice of the White Queen – draw a deep breath and shut your eyes and before you know it, you’ll begin believing as many as six impossible things before breakfast.


New $5 Bill To Be Issued

Thanks to Doug, supplier of all good chuckles (even when they hurt) and tickle-box repair man extraordinaire.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Happy, happy! Joy, joy!

It is finished.

I passed.

Woo hoo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh, there are some minor revisions to my thesis (Of course. No one ever gets out of a room with three white straight male egos that have been super-sized by The Academy, without one of them wanting to put his mark on it.), but it's DONE.

I'll have more to say about the process later (of course), but now that I have come up for air, I must say that I am just so struck by the inherent narcissism of The Academy. It's really quite amazing.

I know. I know. The word on the street is that clergy - especially Episcopal/Anglican clergy, have the biggest egos in the world. Well, that may have some truth to it, but, in my experience, while most of us have pretty solid ego development, we tend to be more 'characters' than narcissists - if you catch my drift.

For example, the tedious process of 'minor revisions' to the drafts - even at the llth hour - have nothing to do with improvement of the final paper or the search for higher learning or deeper truth. Rather, it's all in service of feeding the egos of the professors. I mean, their names go on the title page, after all.

I know that may sound harsh, and I may well be over-reacting to the stress of the last six months, but I saw it in action on the committee: the posturing, the orchestration, the particular formation of the questions, "I'm toying with your notion of 'counter cultural' and I have this thought . . . ."

Next thing I knew, I was being asked to 'expand' this so that the paper would have . . . What was it they called it? Oh yeah . . . 'more flow.'


It was, at times, breathtaking in its transparency.

Okay, thus endth the minor rant.

So, now I'm going to go sit on the deck and enjoy this beautiful spring afternoon. I think I hear Stevie Nicks calling for me to sing with her: "I was born with an age old desire to be on the edge of seventeen."

Yup. My feet are already starting to move. I feel a 'happy, happy, joy, joy dance' comin' on all over ma bodeeee.

Woo hoo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Got Gas?

Well, today's the big day. After last night's fitful sleep, I awoke at 5 AM and studied a bit more. I realized that what I really needed was a laugh. Thanks to Doug, my supplier, for providing these. He now has me completely addicted.

You know, I know this stuff cold - Bowen and Freidman, Erickson and Fowler, Buber, Whitehead and Tillic - but, put me in a room with three men asking questions and well, I suspect that at the end of it, my clergy shirt will be ruined with perspiration stains.

Thanks for your notes of encouragement, support and prayer. I find myself feeling lighter, knowing that you are lifting me in prayer.

Well, off I go, then. There are worst crisis in the world. It's all a matter of perspective. So, have a laugh at the latest gas crisis. I've got one of my own brewing - and, it's not in my car.

Film after 3 PM.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

"It has never been a legislative body"

Graphic by Madpriest. Of course.

Transcript of the Archbishop's YouTube Videogram (see and hear it below).

Every ten years the Bishops of the Anglican Communion worldwide meet for the Lambeth Conference. They have been doing it like this for over a century now. It was an idea which one of the Archbishops of Canterbury in the 19th century had as he recognised that what had begun simply as the Church of England and the Church in other bits of the British Isles and in Ireland; that Church had become something rather different. It had become an international body drawing in people of many, many different languages and cultures and it was growing very rapidly in Asia and above all in Africa because of the efforts of heroic missionaries.

The Archbishop who began the Lambeth Conference, Charles Longley, was somebody who had a vision of the Anglican identity, the Anglican way of being Christian, as something that was no longer just confined to the British Isles or to North America but that was in principle becoming a universal reality and he wanted Bishops speaking for those new communities, those different Anglican communities across the world, to be able to share with one another what their priorities were, their concerns and their hopes, and that has always been at the very heart of the Lambeth Conference.

It has never been a legislative body, though it has made decisions and recommendations. It has never just been a talking shop. It has been a place where Bishops come to pray together, to read the Bible together and quite simply to help one another to be Bishops.

This year's Lambeth Conference has a very special focus on just that. We want to see this year's conference as an occasion when Bishops learn how to be better Bishops; and because of what we believe about the Church overall, we believe that Bishops learn to be better Bishops when they are learning from one another - learning from people working in very different contexts with very different ideas and challenges to deal with.

We've focused this years planning on equipping Bishops for their mission that means that we've had a think quite seriously about the way we do our business this year. That is why we have created a number of different levels at which Bishops will be able to meet; the small Bible study groups where people will we hope feel safe enough to share some of the most intimate things about their faith and their situation, the middle sized groups for discussion of larger issues.

We have given these the African name of indaba groups, groups where in traditional African culture, people get together to sort out the problems that affect them all, where everyone has a voice and where there is an attempt to find a common mind or a common story that everyone is able to tell when they go away from it. This is how we approached it. This is what we heard. This is where we arrived as we prayed and thought and talked together

And of course there'll be the occasions when the whole conference meets together to consider what it wants to say as a whole to the world and to listen to the speakers we have invited from the world of politics and international affairs, from other Churches and so on, what those other people have to say to us.

At the heart of the whole Anglican Communion is relationship. We have never been a body that is bound together by firm and precise rules and that is often, as it is at the moment, a matter of some real concern and some confusion in our life as a communion.

We don't want at the Lambeth Conference to be creating a lot of new rules but we do obviously need to strengthen our relationships and we need to put those relationships on another footing, slightly firmer footing, where we have promised to one another that this is how we will conduct our life together. And it is in that light that at this year we are discussing together the proposal for what we are calling a covenant between the Anglican Churches of the world. A covenant. A relationship of promise. We undertake that this is how we will relate to one another; that when these problems occur, that this is how we will handle them together, that this is how advice will be given and shared and that this is how decisions and discernment can be taken forward.

That is a very a big part of what we will be looking at this year but it is not everything because no covenant, no arrangement of that sort is worth the paper it is written on if it doesn't grow out of the relationships that are built as people pray together and share their lives together over tow and a half weeks. And to try and underline, we have also decided that this year we are going to begin the Lambeth Conference with a couple of days of retreat, of quiet prayer and reflection. There will be addresses. There will be a lot of open space and open time where people can just be alone with God, to think deeply about what they want from the conference and perhaps have the opportunity to talk quietly with one of two others about their hopes and fears.

What I would really most like to see in this years Lambeth Conference is the sense that this is essentially a spiritual encounter. A time when people are encountering God as they encounter one another, a time when people will feel that their life of prayer and witness is being deepened and their resources are being stretched. Not a time when we are being besieged by problems that need to be solved and statements that need to be finalised, but a time when people feel that they are growing in their ministry.

And for that to happen once again, we are going to need the prayers and the support of so many people around the world. Yes this is a conference for Bishops, not for Bishops with their clergy and laity as so often happens but primarily for Bishops. A recognition that Bishops just do have distinctive responsibilities in the Church and that they need to think about what those special responsibilities mean, but all of that will only make sense if those responsibilities are exercised with and for all the Christian people of the Communion. And that is why I have encouraged people across the Communion to prepare for the Lambeth Conference not only by praying for Bishops as they gather but also by sharing some of the material that has been provided for Bible study at the Conference- sharing in reflection on St John's Gospel - so that Bishops and their people and their clergy will in the months ahead be going through the same kinds of processes of thinking and praying around St John's Gospel that will lay the foundations for what we hope to achieve at the Lambeth Conference.

So please pray for the Conference and please share in that process of preparation, that reflection of God's word in the Gospel of John that will open up to us the horizons that we need in order to be better Bishops for the sake of a better Church. Bishops who are more deeply bound together in Christian fellowship so that their Churches may be more deeply bound in Christian fellowship; Churches that are bound deeper in fellowship so that they can witness more effectively, more convincingly, more transformingly in the world around.

Archbishop's Reflections on Lambeth Conference 2008

You may have missed it, but voices on the "Right" have been harping that the ABC was going to send out a letter to certain bishops warning them that if they were not "on board" with the Windsor Report and reading to work on an Anglican Covenant, they might as well stay home.

So, I'm wondering if THIS is Papa's 'strong rebuke'.

YouTube ain't exactly the 'wood shed' that was predicted.

Maybe it's just me, but while I'm certain that Rowan will still love us in the morning, I'm not believing the other lies White men tell.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Just what I needed to end this day


It was mealtime during a flight on American Airlines. 'Would you like dinner?' the flight attendant asked John, seated in front.'What are my choices?' John asked. 'Yes or no,' she replied.

A flight attendant was stationed at the departure gate to check tickets. As a man approached, she extended her hand for the ticket and he opened his trench coat and flashed her. Without missing a beat, she said, 'Sir, I need to see your ticket not your stub.'

A lady was picking through the frozen turkeys at the grocery store but she couldn't find one big enough for her family. She asked a stock boy, 'Do these turkeys get any bigger?' The stock boy replied, 'No ma'am, they're dead.'

The cop got out of his car and the kid who was stopped for speeding rolled down his window. 'I've been waiting for you all day,' the cop said. The kid replied, 'Yeah, well I got here as fast as I could.' When the cop finally stopped laughing, he sent the kid on his way without a ticket.

A truck driver was driving along on the freeway. A sign comes up that reads, 'Low Bridge Ahead'. Before he knows it, the bridge is right ahead of him and he gets stuck under the bridge. Cars are backed up for miles. Finally, a police car comes up. The cop gets out of his car and walks to the truck driver, puts his hands on his hips and says, 'Got stuck, huh?' The truck driver says, 'No, I was delivering this bridge and ran out of gas.'

A college teacher reminds her class of tomorrow's final exam. 'Now class, I won't tolerate any excuses for you not being here tomorrow. I might consider a nuclear attack or a serious personal injury, illness, or a death in your immediate family, but that's it, no other excuses whatsoever!'

A smart-ass guy in the back of the room raised his hand and asked, 'What would you say if tomorrow I said I was suffering from complete and utter sexual exhaustion?'

The entire class is reduced to laughter and snickering.

When silence is restored, the teacher smiles knowingly at the student, shakes her head and sweetly says, 'Well, I guess you'd have to write the exam with your other hand.'

Thanks to Doug, the indefatigable provider of humor and graduate summa cum laude from the School of the Differently Abled at the University of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, Waco, Texas.

Caption Contest

Last night Ms. Conroy and I went to the Convent of St. John Baptist for the gala kick-off of their Capital Fund Drive to repair their Convent and St. Marguerite's Guest House (a former orphanage), both of which are in very bad need of repair. Their former Day School is now Day Top, a wonderful residential addictions rehab facility for adolescents.

The Sisters pulled out all the stops - and as many bishops as they could. The bishops of Newark, NJ, and NY were there, with regrets sent from the bishop of Bethlehem. Bishop Donovan, retired bishop of Arkansas and the bishop visitor of CSJB was also there, and always a delight to my heart.

Our Katharine also came and spoke to us about the need to "come apart for a while" as Jesus did and take a retreat. She was, as always, elegant.

I was able to introduce her to Ms. Conroy, and in less than ten seconds flat they both discovered that they were educated by the Mesdames of the Sacred Heart - Ms. Conroy at the convent school in Portsmouth, RI and Bishop Katharine at the convent school in Seattle, WA. (BTW - Caroline Kennedy attended the convent school on 92nd St. in Manhattan and actress-comedian Jane Curtain was Ms. Conroy's room mate one year).

They chuckled together about having had to 'dress for dinner' in Jonathan Meyer suits and white gloves, and followed the house rule, "If it moves, curtsey to it."

It was a delight to watch them together.

My friend Nina snapped this picture of Bishop Katharine and me, obviously engaged in a highly animated conversation. For the life of me, I have no idea what it was we were discussing, but obviously, we were having a grand time.

Okay, so let's have a wee bit of fun, shall we? The best caption wins three years off from your time in purgatory. Or, one of Ms. Conroy's old Jonathan Meyer suits from boarding school.

Your call.

A Milestone

I'm not sure when it happened, exactly, but somewhere in the middle of the evening, late last evening, this site had its 200,000th visitor. Well, that is since I installed the site meter at the end of July 2006.

I first started blogging early in June, just before General Convention 2006 in Columbus. I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. As I have said, I really thought I was doing this for my congregation, to keep them informed while I was away and to help teach them about the intricacies of how our church works.

About half-way through General Convention, I began to get comments from those on both sides of the aisle and around the world. Well! What a rude awakening THAT was!

I've made so many cyberfriends, had so many interesting conversations, strayed over to the deep end of the baptismal pool and over my head more than a few times, and learned more about technology than I could ever ask for or imagine.

There are people who read my blog that I have never met - people who know more about me an my deepest thoughts on certain subjects than my own mother or some of my children.

It's an amazing thing.

And, I am deeply grateful.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Birthday, Ms. Conroy

Today is my beloved Ms. Conroy's birthday. This is her birthday present. Here's the story behind it:

This is actually a puzzle. I found it in January in the gift shop of the Massachusetts hospital where my mother was staying. One of our daughters is the Family 'Puzzle Queen'. Ever since she was a little girl, we've always had a puzzle out on a card table while on summer vacation. This one would beat us all hands down getting the most of it completed. She still does.

So, at her suggestion, I bought the puzzle and she put it together. She then had it framed and everyone contributed to the cost of this beautiful framing job (this photo simply does not do it justice).

Ms. Conroy was THRILLED. The picture will go up in the family room near her favorite chair from which she watches her beloved Red Sox and Patriots.

Our daughter was right. It was a great idea for a present.

What an even better present to see the delight on her face.

Moving toward the light

As the old saying goes, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and, unlike the above picture, it's not an oncoming train.

I spent an hour yesterday with my second reader on the fourth draft of my doctoral paper. I've got probably another four or five hours of research and revision to do - nothing major, just some formatting, and a few flourishes and minor expansions of some of my points.

As my advisor said, "You need to write this as 'Pastoral Care and Counseling' for those who are completely unfamiliar with the subject." Given that this has to do with the spiritual journey of LGBT people, the first of its kind on the doctoral shelves of the theological shelves at the Drew Library, he suspects it will become a reference for all sorts of folk.

Grrr . . . okay, okay. I'll do it.

Orals are on Friday at 11 AM. I'll be studying all this week.

The faculty votes on graduation and admission to doctoral status on May 2nd.

The final draft, ready for copyright and reproduction on bound library copies is due on May 9th.

Graduation is scheduled for May 17th.

I'm almost there. Woo hoo!

Prayers are fervently solicited and deeply treasured.

The 1,000th Baptism

Late last night, I got some wonderful news. We have FINALLY heard from the adoption agency in Mainland China that the sweet little girl who is being adopted by a young Asian couple in my congregation has been cleared to leave her homeland and make a new home here, in this community of faith .

The elated and relieved parents have been invited to China to pick her up (they've named her Sabrina) in six weeks. They emailed me from Hawai'i last night where they are visiting in-laws to ask if the baptism could be scheduled for two weeks after that.

That means, of course, a Father's Day Baptism.

That also means my 72nd baptism which I will be privileged to perform since it became my privilege and joy to be rector and pastor in this place.

But, here's the Really Big News: This will be the 1,000th recorded baptism St. Paul's.

We want to 'do it up brown', as they say in some parts of the country - at the very least, a festive reception/coffee hour. I'm thinking this calls for some champagne mimosas and chocolate covered strawberries, which has become our tradition after The Great Vigil of Easter.

I've been preaching "Baptismal Love Letters" since arriving at St. Paul's six years ago, wherein I look at the gospel through the lens of this baptism in hopes that the parents will put this little Love letter in the child's baby book, along with all the other mementos of the day. The greater hope is that, as part of the preparation for Confirmation, the child will read the Love letter and gain a better understanding of the significance of the vows taken for her that s/he will affirm.

This particular Love letter will also lift up some of the history of this church and how the founders could not have possibly imagined the great diversity of The Episcopal Church which this little child now represents.

Insofar as possible, we're also going to send out special invitations to all those who have been baptized at St. Paul's along with the number of the order of their baptism and encourage them to come to church wearing their baptismal number.

Never one to miss a great opportunity for evangelism, we're going to write up press releases and invite the local press to attend our celebration. Of course, that wouldn't necessarily work in The Big City, but it is one of the advantages of living in small "Mayberry USA" kind of hamlets. The local press will be all over this like Old Bay on Steamed Crabs.

I'm looking for other ideas - little creative ways to celebrate this major event in our congregational lives of faith - that also lift up and celebrate the importance of this sacramental aspect of our common lives.

Got any ideas? Has you church ever celebrated a landmark of baptism like this? I'd love to hear what you did.

In the meantime, rejoice with us as we prepare for the arrival of little Sabrina, who was born in October 2007 in the Republic of China, who will soon become the newest little soul to be reborn in Western Christendom.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Guess who came to my birthday party?

Yup. The Big Guy himself.

The best part is that this is a spice cake with cream cheese frosting, homemade from scratch by Laura, St. Paul's almost world renowned financial guru of The Christmas Appeal fame. Yummy.

You have to know that Laura is a Unitarian, so the staff teased her unmercifully about where she might have gotten that Jesus candle. She smiled slyly and said, "At the UUA gift shop, of course."

Can't wait to show you what we got Ms. Conroy for her birthday. She's gonna LOVE It.

Thank you for all your wonderful birthday greetings to me. You've made my day. I am deeply blessed.

They say it's my birthday

Well, not until 9:36 PM tonight, which is followed at 12:08 AM on the 22nd by the celebration of the nativity of Ms. Conroy.

We were born in the same city. In the same hospital.

Amazing but absolutely true.

So, lift a cuppa and sing with us. Our lives are deeply enriched for having known and loved you.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I am The Way, The Truth and the Life

“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” John 14:1-14
V Easter – April 20, 2008
The Episcopal Church of St. Paul
(the Rev’d) Elizabeth Kaeton, rector and pastor

There is a deep pastoral irony in this passage of scripture. Whenever I sit with a bereaved family who has just lost a loved one, nine times out of ten, this is the passage they will select to be read at the funeral mass. There is something deeply comforting about the image of “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.”

However, nine times out of ten, that same family will ask, “Um . . .but . . . could we end it at “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life? Could we not use that one line: “No one comes to the Father except through me.”

We live in a pluralistic culture which knows pluraform truth. Many of us have either intermarried or have very dear friends whose ethnicity as well as religious belief and spiritual expression are vastly different than our own. And, we believe, deeply and with all our hearts, that we will all be together in Paradise.

The old joke is told that a man dies and goes to heaven and is given the grand tour by St. Peter. At one point, they approach one room of the many roomed mansion of heaven, and St. Peter cautions the man to be very quiet and, in fact, walk on tip toes. After they pass the room, the man turns to St. Peter and asks, “Why did we have to do that?”

“Oh,” says St. Peter, “that’s the room for the Roman Catholics. They think they’re the only ones here.” Well, the same can be said for some Evangelicals. Indeed, some of them are Anglican.

But, there’s another part of that story. At one point, St. Peter beckons the man to look down to a particular place in hell. “My goodness!” exclaims the man, “What did those poor souls do to deserve such punishment?”

“Oh, them?” says St. Peter. “Those are the Episcopalians and Anglicans who couldn’t tell the dessert fork from the salad fork.” The man gasps, “Oh, but look! There’s a special place in hell for those who can not tell their bread plate from their neighbors.”

Just so you don’t all end up in hell, I’ll give you a little hint that I was taught in seminary: put your fingers together to form a lower case “b”. The hand that looks like a “b” is the side your bread plate belongs. The hand that looks like a “d” is the side your drink belongs. There, now you are all assured of getting to heaven!

It’s all a bit silly, isn’t it? Except, some folk take this stuff very, very seriously. Dead seriously. So do I. So let me say this clearly: I believe Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. I don’t believe He is “a” way. I don’t believe he is “a truth”. I don’t believe he is “a life.” Indeed, he has become the centerpiece of my life and vocation.

I can scarcely sing the words of George Herbert’s poem put to that magnificent hymn “Come my Way, My Truth, My Life,” without becoming all girly-blurby, as the English say. In a few moments, we’ll be singing that great hymn, which I will sing from the deepest place of truth in my heart and my soul.

And . . .and, . . and . . . I believe what Ellie Weisel is quoted as having said: I believe there are many paths, but one way to God. My path is, I believe, also my way. It may not be the way of others but that does not mean that they are not on their way to God.

I believe that Mahatma Gandhi is in heaven. So is Anne Frank. Oscar Schindler is there with her. So is every living person who has ever made the ultimate sacrifice and laid down his/her life for a friend, as well as those who have done other amazing, albeit anonymous deeds of courage and faith.

Indeed, I believe that there are special places in heaven that even Calvinist Evangelicals won’t get to see which will be inhabited by Muslims and Jews, Sikhs and Hindus, Shintos and Buddhists.

Someone is crying “Blasphemy!” Well, okay. You are absolutely entitled to your belief. And, my friend, so am I. Why do I believe this? Well, let me tell you this story before I answer your question.

While traveling separately through the countryside late one afternoon, a Hindu a Rabbi and a Critic were caught in the same area by a terrific thunderstorm. They sought shelter at a nearby farmhouse. “That storm will be raging for hours,” the farmer told them. “You’d better stay here for the night. The problem is, there’s only room enough for two of you. One of you’ll have to sleep in the barn.”

“I’ll be the one,” said the Hindu. “A little hardship is nothing for me. He went out to the barn. A few minutes later there was a knock on the door. It was the Hindu. “I’m sorry,” he told the others, “but there is a cow in the barn. According to my religion, cows are sacred, and one must never intrude into their space.”

“Don’t worry,” said the Rabbi. “Make yourself comfortable here. I’ll go sleep in the barn.” He went out to the barn. A few minutes later there was a knock at the door. It was the Rabbi. “I hate to be a bother, “ he said, “but there is a pig in the barn. In my religion, pigs are considered unclean. I wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing my sleeping quarters with a pig.”

“Oh, all right,” said the Critic. “I’ll go sleep in the barn.” He went out to the barn.

A few moments later there was a knock on the door. It was the cow and the pig.

The point is, of course, that while we may be tolerant of religious diversity, what most of us can not tolerate is arrogance and the pretense of superiority and illusion of perfection. Let me fill you in on a little secret, if you haven’t already figured it out: no one, no thing, is perfect on this side of Eden. The only way you get to perfection is to enter the Gates of Death.

Which is how I want to answer your question: Why do you believe that heaven is also for those who are not Christian? My answer comes from the very lips of Jesus who said, “In my Father’s house, there are many dwelling places. “ It’s just that some of us will think we’re the only ones there. That’s not true, of course. It’s just that we’ll each have our own room in which to ‘dwell.’

What does this have to do with the church? Well, one last story. It may be apocryphal, but I understand that it is true. It happened in France, during WWII, in the last days of the war. Four US soldiers had been through the war together. They had shared their dreams and laughter, their fears and longings. Each felt the other was a brother.

One of the men was shot and mortally wounded. His three friends deeply grieved his loss and wanted him buried before they left the country. So, they went to see the local priest at the church in the center of town which had a very large graveyard, and asked if their friend could be buried there. The priest asked, “Well, was he baptized?”

The three men looked at each other and were completely dumbfounded. “You know, Father,” said one, “I know that he was a man of prayer. I know he loved God. But, I don’t think he ever mentioned being baptized.”

The men were sorely disappointed when the priest told them that only the baptized could be buried in that cemetery. Finally, the priest took pity on them and agreed to bury the man’s body in a plot of land just outside the fence which enclosed the graveyard.

Five years later the three men got together for a reunion and returned to that little town in France to visit the grave of their buddy. But, when they got there, they were startled not to find his grave. They searched high and low but could not find it. Finally, they found the priest and, deeply upset, asked him what had happened.

“Oh,” said the priest, “I remember you. Well, I thought and prayed about it, and, well, I decided to move the fence.”

Given the realities of our world, understanding the great diversity and plurality of our culture, I think the church is going to need to consider moving a few well-constructed church fences around some of the graveyards where our most cherished ideas are buried.

I believe there is room enough in heaven for everyone who loves God and does the will of God, because no matter what particular path they follow, there is one way to God. That won’t make everyone happy with me. Thank goodness that’s not in my job description.

Oh well, at least I can tell my bread plate and my water glass! Now, you so do, too! See you all in heaven! And I believe we’re ALL going to heaven. Amen.

Behold, here cometh the dreamer*

I'm wondering if, instead of being asked to affirm the recommendations of The Windsor Report and work towards the development of an Anglican Covenant, what if. . . .

The Archbishop of Canterbury sent out a letter to all bishops who intended to be at Lambeth and asked them to bring documented evidence of the following things:

1. Have you preached and proclaimed the gospel? What evidence do you have of the efficacy of your work?

2. How are the gospel imperatives being acted out in your diocese/province? Are the hungry being fed? The sick visited? The naked being clothed? Those in dark prison being brought the Light of the gospel? The poor being brought the Hope of Christ? Have you defended those who have no helper, been merciful to all, and shown compassion to the poor?

3. How have you guarded the 'faith, unity and discipline' of the Church?

4. Have you been faithful in prayer and in the study of scripture? How so?

5. Have you stirred up the conscious of the people in your diocese/province? Please elaborate.

6. How have you encouraged and supported all baptized people in their gifts and ministries?

7. Of all that you do, what is it that makes your heart sing with joy for this impossible vocation to which you have been called?

Just seven little questions that begin to hold everyone accountable for the vows they have made. Take one question per day and have the bishops and primates talk with each other about their responses.

You know, the more I think about it, THAT might make one hell of a Lambeth Conference.

I know. I know. Still, a girl can dream can't she?

And, we know what they do with dreamers (* Genesis 37:19)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

ABBA - I Have A Dream

In grateful thanksgiving to my Angel Benefactor.

You know who you are. God knows what you've done.

I have no doubt that all the angels and archangels, each and every cherubim and seraphim, and all the company of heaven, are singing right now:

"I believe in Angels, something good in every thing I see."

I Believe in Angels

Some of you may have read my little essay on "Monsters."

Well, apparently, so did an angel.

As part of that post, I included my shameless pitch for an OED = Old English Dictionary. I've wanted one for years. It appears on every "wish list" for Christmas, Birthdays, Bat Mitzvahs, and Supermarket openings. Like I said, I'm shameless.

Well, someone was watching. A very angel, in fact.

A twenty-volume set of the OED was delivered to the church on Thursday.

I was stunned beyond description.

I HAVE MY VERY OWN OED!!!!!! Look! Look! Here it is:

I spent the better part of this afternoon clearing off the shelves in my home office to make a place for them. I have never been happier in my entire life.

They were dedicated to the deceased parents of my Angel Benefactor.

Of you mercy and kindness, please pray for Samuel and Vera Aloise, in whose memory they were given. And join me in a prayer from my deeply grateful heart for my Angel Benefactor who took part of the proceeds from the sale of his parents home to purchase this extraordinary gift for me.

And no, the irony of the fact that an essay on Monsters prompted the generosity of an Angel is not lost on me.

I believe in Angels, and, as I've said, some of my favorite Angels are those with muddy feet. I don't know for sure, but suspect my Angel Benefactor's feet are quite muddy, which is why s/he was moved to generosity and kindness to bestow such a wondrous gift for a scoundrel such as I.

Solo Dei Gloria!

Secrecy, Conspiracy & Lies: A Case of Arrested Development

I've found myself "stewing" every time another news story comes on about the Pope's visit to America. That's not surprising, really. I'm not unlike many former RC's who grit their teeth at the adulation given to this 'foreign curia.' What surprised me, however, is the anger I felt when the Pope met with the victims of child abuse.

I wrote this piece in May of 2002. I found it archived in a monthly column I used to do for The Witness Online. Then, I remembered why I was so angry that the Pope apologized to the victims.

His apology didn't go far enough. The proposed changes to Vatican law will probably not go far enough. He should also be deeply ashamed that the perpetrators of the abuse are also, more often than not, victims themselves of child abuse who are perpetuating the system of secrecy, conspiracy and lies which, I have no doubt, continues today - in the American Church and elsewhere in the world.

It's what I call A Case of Arrested Development.

Here's my essay from 2002. It's a bit long, but heck, it's Saturday. Take your laptop outside on the lawn and read it. That this piece has held up fairly well over time is a real indictment of just how badly the institutional church has responded to this terrible situation.

Secrecy, Conspiracy & Lies: A Case of Arrested Development

The Roman Catholic Church of my youth broke my heart. I thought I had been healed. The current crisis of widespread allegations of child sex abuse involving Roman Catholic priests has opened old wounds — for me and for many former Roman Catholics who are now Episcopalians. I, like many former Roman Catholics, have recovered memories I didn’t even I had.

Even though it was part of the reason for my leaving, I am still astounded by the arrogance of some members of the Roman Church’s hierarchy who think they are above the law. As young adults, we used to jokingly call the moral code of the church "truth by blatant assertion." Even so, my jaw drops as another of those "Princes of the Church" innocently looks into the camera like "Bambi in the headlights" and openly admits his complicity in the crime by continually transferring known pedophiles to other churches and dioceses. All in the name of "forgiveness" — which they now assume will be extended to them — and "absolve" them of any criminal charges.

Even though I know the dynamic all too well because it exists in our church, it breaks my heart to witness the scapegoating of the entire tragic situation on gay men. The now-enlightened men of the Church’s hierarchy have suddenly seen the light with regards to pedophilia, but some remain completely in the dark with regards to human sexuality.

These otherwise intelligent prelates seem to have their ability to reason inhibited by fear and are unable to understand that there is absolutely no connection between homosexuality and predatory child sex abuse — indeed, medical reports and criminal records indicate that most pedophiles are heterosexual.

Like many former Roman Catholics, I’ve known some of these men. Some were priests in the parishes of my childhood. Others were contemporaries and colleagues in ministry. Ironically, some of us even have childhood memories of the boys who received "special attention" from Father, and at the time, we — especially the girls — were jealous. Only now do I understand the look some of those boys gave us when we teased them about being "Father’s special boy." Only now do I remember the worried look on Sister’s face when Father came into the classroom to fetch his "special boy."

I also remember — and worked with — the now 71 year-old Roman Catholic priest who was recently extradited from retirement in San Diego to Boston where he faces charges of three counts of rape with a child. He had an "apostolic ministry to street people" in Boston and maintained a weekly advertisement in the local gay paper, "Bay Windows" claiming to have a "ministry of pastoral care and counseling to the gay community." Everyone "knew" that he was sexually active — often with the very gay men who came to him for his "ministry." Everyone "knew" that he espoused sex between men and boys. But no one asked, so no one told. And now, some of us are feeling the burden of the complicity of our silence.

The "moral monsters" like this are the exception to the rule — mostly because "the rule" protected them and, in so doing, enabled and perpetuated their life of crime. As many of us former Roman Catholics know, most of the other priests who are being implicated were good men. Good men from good, devout families. Young men who entered the priesthood filled with altruism and noble impulses about service to God and humankind. Some were gay. Some were straight. Most were too young to have any clarity about their own sexual identity.

I, like so many former and practicing Roman Catholics, am plagued with questions. What went wrong? Why are there so many predatory pedophiles in the Roman Catholic Church? Does it have anything to do with an all-male priesthood? Is this a by-product of the mandatory vow of celibacy? Is the mechanism of institutional accountability too remote, having its locus in Rome where the cultural understanding of human sexuality lags definitively behind progressive American thought? Is this a case of "don’t ask, don’t tell," which has taken a uniquely bizarre and unexpected path?

After experiencing the words of one of the prayers of my youth, "mourning and weeping in this valley of tears," a theory has emerged — one that helps to explain, but does not, in any way, shape or form, intend to excuse. Many who spent our youth in Roman Catholic schools know only too well the boys who were chosen for "junior seminary." "Father" or "Sister" chose one or two of these boys per class to be part of a special educational track which would be more rigorous academically, elevate their class status, and involve what we then knew then as "priestly formation." They were to spend their junior and senior high school years preparing to travel the path that the wisdom of their elders informed them would lead to seminary and the priesthood.

What we now know is that many of these young men experienced what psychologists term "arrested development." They were not allowed to develop their own emotional and psychosexual potential because of what was then termed "priestly formation." For many of these young men, it became their destiny to grow into men in adult bodies whose emotional and psychosexual development remained arrested at 12 or 13 years old.

Again, this is not to excuse behavior, but to try to understand the extraordinary phenomenon of so many so-called pedophiles in the Roman Catholic priesthood. I do not believe this to be the case. With the exception of one or two, I do not believe that these men are true pedophiles, as sound medical research will indicate this to be a statistical improbability. I believe that, when these men entered into sexual relationships with 12-13 year old boys they were, in fact, having sex with their emotional and psychosexual peers. Often, they were repeating the behavior which had been perpetrated on them when they were that age — as part of their "formation" as priests.

There is, of course, no excuse for this behavior and this is not intended to provide such an excuse. It is to say, however, that while the criminal justice system should, indeed, hold these men accountable for their crimes, it should also hold the institution which created them accountable — and, in fact, should provide some measure of punishment for their participation in these crimes. Unfortunately, that will end up manifesting itself in punitive monetary damages, and may, in fact, bankrupt many Roman Catholic dioceses, just as it has the Anglican diocese of Caribou. I’m not an advocate of that, but I do see it as a distinct, albeit unfortunate, probability.

As if things couldn’t be worse, the witch hunts and scapegoating of male clergy whose sexual orientation is gay has already begun. This dynamic is, of course, a way to deflect attention from the real crisis, but the sad truth is that the institutional church is now revealing its own arrested moral development. This is most clearly evident in the culture of secrecy, conspiracy and lies by priests, bishops and cardinals which has become part of the climate of the institutional church.

Secrecy, conspiracy and lies are the elements of the environment in which the seed of predatory sexual behavior is allowed to grow and flourish. It is a deep insult and embarrassment to the entire Body of Christ. It is breaking the heart of those whose faith and sense of ministry was born in that church, even as it convinces us of the rightness of our decision to leave it.

My own deep concern is that scapegoating gay men in the church will be interpreted by those on the Christian Right as an "Open Season of Violence" on LGBT people. When cardinals — like Anthony Bevilacqua of Philadelphia who called homosexuality "an aberration, a moral evil," or Adam Maida of Detroit who said "it’s not truly a pedophilia-type problem but a homosexual-type problem," or the Pope’s spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls who suggested that the cause of the "scandal" was "too many homosexuals in the priesthood," or Bishop Wilton Gregory who discussed the "on-going struggles to make sure the Catholic priesthood is not ‘dominated’ by homosexual men," — provide the media with that kind of rhetoric, it can only lead to an increase in emotional, verbal and physical violence against LGBT people.

As those who have studied the sociological issue of domestic violence have learned, violent language always leads to a violent expression of that language.

One positive note is that, as difficult as it has been for the Episcopal Church to enter into discussion about human sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular, I think we are in a healthier place for it. This is not to brag or boast, or to diminish the pain many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and straight people have had to endure to keep the conversation open and on-going. It is to say that while many would say that we have paid a very high price for these conversations, and wish they would end, we have, in fact, been participating in our own health and well being.

To those who say that these conversations about sexuality have been at the expense of mission I say that our mission has greater clarity, and our church is in a healthier place in order to carry out the mission of Christ Jesus because of these conversations. Our Presiding Bishop likes to point out that in the gospel stories, conversion is always a result of conversation. In many ways, we’ve only just begun the conversation about human sexuality. Indeed, if true conversion is to happen, if the church — small ‘c’ — is in the process of the second great reformation, as many have pointed that the tragedies of the Roman Catholic Church are indicative of, then on-going conversation about the full range of human sexuality becomes even more imperative.

We have learned that when violence or abuse has occurred, the best salve for the wound is this: for the truth to be told, for authentic apologies to be made, for punishment, if merited by the extent of the crime, to be administered, and for honest efforts to make certain that the abuse and violence will never again be perpetrated. There can be no greater indictment of the policy of "don’t ask, don’t tell" than the current crisis in the Roman Catholic Church. Silence, we know, does nothing to protect anyone — neither the victim nor the perpetrator. Enforced silence, we are learning, leads to arrested development — of our hearts, our minds, our bodies, our spirit, our faith, our moral and ethical codes of conduct, and the mission and ministry of the church.

We would do well to remember the prophetic words of Audre Lourde. "When I use my power in service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether or not I am afraid. Your silence will not protect you."

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Creed of St. Paul's Confirmation Class 2008

I love Confirmation Class. I love to sit with the kids and discuss the issues of our faith. I love to challenge their thinking. I love the way they challenge my well thought-out and treasured theological positions.

Our class runs a little over 12 months, depending on the diocesan schedule. One of the real delights is that I co-teach the course with Tim Wong, the incomparable Missioner to Youth and Young Families at St. Paul's. He does all the community-building exercises with the kids, takes them on Mission Trips and their required Community Service Projects.

I teach the "stuff" - the meaning of the architecture - why the altar and font are where they are, the shape of the ceiling, etc., all the various vestments, and all the symbols of the church - for example, why we ascribe certain images to the four gospels, We also study the history of the Church in general and The Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion in particular. It's all the usual stuff of Confirmation Class.

We also have a component about Human Sexuality, along with other contemporary issues like dating, dress, drugs and alcohol, but we talk about it in terms of making moral and ethical choices.

We give them our cell phone numbers and tell them that if they are ever in a situation where they feel uncomfortable about the choices they are being asked to make, they are to call us and we'll come and pick them up. No questions asked. Their parents know this and agree to it.

What happens after that is really between the kid and his/her parents. The only thing we know is that they made a choice not to make a bad choice, and that's enough. The idea is to keep them safe.

Both Tim and I feel strongly that, other than building a sense of community, none of the other 'standard fare' of Confirmation class makes any sense without helping these kids, who are on the brink of adulthood, to understand the importance and consequences of their choices.

We tell them that they will make mistakes as they test out the boundaries of their lives and faith, but that there is always repentance and forgiveness and the opportunity to make amends and change.

My favorite part of the class is the Creeds. We go over the three in the Prayer Book and then look at the Creeds of other denominations. Then comes the real fun.

Using the Nicene Creed as the basis of faith, we ask them to consider adding their own voices to the ancient voices of the church and write their own Creed. We ask them to consider how they would describe concepts like "the Son of God" and "born of the Virgin Mary" and "the Resurrection" to their contemporaries of the faith.

Once we have broken through the initial, expected resistance ("This is soooo dumb") the conversation can get very spirited. This class was especially so. The biggest challenge is to get everyone to agree on all the wording. After three weeks of negotiation, they finally settled on the following.

The other Very Big Challenge is not to put my words in their mouth, even if I think their Creed could be strengthened by my beliefs. It's their Creed, after all, based solidly in the Creeds of the Church. It's their voice, not mine, and their thinking will change over time, even as mine has. Even so, it's hard to hold back.

We finally finished this in yesterday's class. I am so very proud of them, I could just burst. This Creed will be used at the service we'll have the morning of their Confirmation Day. We also have sweatshirts made which has the St. Paul's logo on the front and their Creed written on the back. This year, they all wanted "hoodies" - in red, with white lettering.

They are not only smart, they have a great sense of style. Here's what they wrote:

The St. Paul’s Confirmation Creed of 2008

We believe in God, the Holy Being and Unseen Spirit
whose presence is felt in all good things around us.
There is no sin too big that cannot be forgiven by God.
We believe there is a piece of God in all of us.

We believe in Jesus, our Teacher and Rabbi
a prophet, messenger and the Lord,
our leader who shows us The Way.
We believe that He loves us with a selfless love,
He died for us and the sins of the world.
He performed many miracles and always puts His people first.
We believe that Jesus lives in each one of us
to spread the word of God’s love in the world.

We believe in the Holy Spirit who is
a gift of the Resurrection of Jesus
and part of the mystery of the Trinity.
We believe that the Holy Spirit lives inside us
to guide us to The Truth. 

We believe that the Church is God’s gift to us:
A sanctuary – a safe place from the world
A Holy place where we can pray
and express what we believe.
A place to find forgiveness and hope.
A place to know Jesus.
We believe that the Church is God’s house,
our home, our community.
now and forever.