Come in! Come in!

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

Monday, June 30, 2008

My 'Christian Century' just arrived!

Okay, I confess: I absolutely DEVOUR every issue of "Christian Century" ten minutes after I discover it in my mailbox at the Church. I want to share with you two brilliant insights - the first about the 4th of July and the other about a prayer for the upcoming Lambeth Conference.

First - a quote from Steven Waldman, cofounder of, and author of the fascinating book (it's in my pile to bring on August vacation): "Founding Faith: Providence, Politics, and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America". Ready? Here goes:

"The Founding Faith" Waldman says, "was not Christianity, and it was not secularism. It was religious liberty - a revolutionary formula for promoting faith by leaving it alone."

Marvelous. Simply marvelous! (Special note to the neo-Puritan and uber-orthodox: Please pay close attention. )

The second is from one of my favorite Anglican priests - Sarah Coakley - who writes an article entitled, "The Vicar at Prayer" - an article adapted from "Praying for England: Priestly Presence in Contemporary Culture", edited by Samuel Wells and Sarah Coakley and just published by Continuum.

Sarah laments the seeming loss of the discipline of prayer among clergy and quotes Evelyn Underhill to Archbishop Lang on the eve of the 1930 Lambeth Conference:

"May it please your Grace: I desire very humbly to suggest with the bishops assembled at Lambeth that the greatest and most necessary work they could do at the present time for the spiritual renewal of the Anglican Church would be to call the clergy as a whole, solemnly and insistently, to a greater interiority and cultivation of the personal life of prayer . . .God is the interesting thing about religion, and people are hungry for God. But only a priest whose life is soaked in prayer, sacrifice and love, can, by his own spirit of adoring worship, help us to apprehend Him."

Sarah further laments, "The apparent clericalism in Underhill's words may strike some as offensive. Surely the clergy cannot bear this responsibility to prayer alone, and does not everyone know by now that the laity is often more soaked in prayer than its harassed and over worked (albeit 'efficient') leaders?"

Sarah continues, "Yet surely Underhill is right about something basic: without the daily public witness of a clergy engaged, manifestly and accountably, alongside their people, in the disciplined long-haul life of prayer, of ongoing personal and often painful transformation, the church at large runs the danger of losing its fundamental direction and meaning. It has lost the public, and therefore densely symbolic, manifestation of the quest for holiness to which all are called. And," she adds, "it should never be underestimated with what longing the laity look to the clergy for an example in this matter."

Sobering words, these, as we shake off the dust of the clerical arrogance of GAFCON and move toward Lambeth.

Oh, and BTW, PS: You won't want to miss "Living The Word" by Bradley Schmeling, pastor at St. John's Lutheran Church in Atlanta and his reflections on the RCL for Sunday, July 6 and 13.

Money quote from July 6 Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30; Romans 7:15-25a): "'Preach better, faster, livelier, with more images and more results,' the market counsels, 'and please - get yourself a phone that can download email'! We dare not stop and breathe, for if we take off the yoke for even an instant, we'll lose momentum, stride and success. . . It's hard to put on Jesus' yoke, to set new standards for what it means to be human."

Money quote from July 13 (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23): "The parable of the seed and the field is not about our power, but about the power of God to grow a harvest."

If you haven't figured it out yet, I LOVE this magazine!

My (not quite but almost 39) Articles of Faith

I have been reading and reflecting and praying about the GAFCON Conference wherein disgruntled bishops spent many hours discussing what it means to be an Anglican Communion. I’ve also been thinking about the upcoming Lambeth Conference wherein bishops will spend many days exploring what it means to be a bishop.

Apparently, all his is a prelude to discussing what it means to live in something called “An Anglican Covenant” – an idea being pushed hard by those who, from all I can tell, are distressed that Anglicanism is going to hell in a hand basket over TEC’s position on human sexuality, ecclesiology and scriptural interpretation. The Covenant seems an attempt to update and finally, officially codify the Thirty Nine Articles which have been relegated to a safe, historical place in the back of the Prayer Book.

Oh yes, and finally have the power to punish, shame, humiliate and cast out into the outer darkness anyone who does not follow the(ir) rules.

Not surprisingly, a discussion has arisen about the value of the Anglican Communion and whether or not we ought to work to keep intact this sacred gift from God.

Many have argued for an Anglican Communion, enumerating the many reasons why we ought to maintain our membership and strive to keep the loosely configured bonds of affection intact.

I have found myself mostly in agreement with this position. That being said, it all depends on what kind of ‘communion’. Here are some of the characteristics of a communion to which I wish to belong:

My (not quite but almost 39) Articles of Faith

I believe in a communion which is less a place and more a state of being.

I believe in a communion where my passionately held beliefs about who God is and why Jesus came among us and how the Holy Spirit works in our lives can be held in healthy, respectful tension with those whose equally passionate beliefs about the persons of the Trinity differ sharply from mine.

I believe in a communion where discussions of the different theological positions about such issues as the atonement, the resurrection, the virgin birth, the ascension, and the assumption of Mary are lively, intelligent, and even hotly debated, and understood to deepen, not threaten or diminish the faith “first received”.

I believe in a communion which honors all sort and condition of humankind – old and young, rich and poor, male and female, and of a variety of skin color, sexual orientation, economic, social, educational, physical or intellectual status and cultural contexts.

I believe in a communion where different thoughts and conditions of humankind can be lived out in peace, without fear of ridicule, humiliation, shame or punitive consequence.

I believe in a communion which understands that, to be human is to be flawed and faulted but not “wretched;” that we are not, by our nature, “miserable offenders,” and that humanity, like all of God’s creation, is “good,” by the gift of grace, freely and undeservedly given.

I believe in a communion which believes that Jesus died, “once, for all,” and that we are made worthy, through Him, to stand, not constantly grovel, before God or each other.

I believe in a communion where my status of ordained priesthood, and that of all my duly ordained sisters and brothers, despite our human condition or theological position, is recognized and respected and we are allowed to love and serve the people whom God has called to our care and leadership.

I believe in a scriptural communion which understands Holy Writ to be ‘the words of the Logos’ - a guide book not a rule book - written by holy people who, inspired by their love of God, attempt to understand God’s action in and love of the world which God created.

I believe in a human communion which recognizes and, indeed celebrates, that no one in this life is infallible and nothing in this life is inerrant.

I believe in a communion where religious intelligence, imagination and creativity are qualities which are held in equal esteem to doctrine, discipline or organizational structure.

I believe in a communion which sees the empty tomb as an invitation not to death but resurrection, not to an ending, but to change and transformation, not to scarcity but abundance.

I believe in a prophetic communion where justice walks hand in hand with mercy as the people of God strive to walk humbly and attentively with God toward reconciliation with ourselves, our neighbor and our God.

I believe in a baptismal communion where the ‘priesthood of all believers’ is not a quaint theological theorem, but a deep commitment to honoring the ministry of all the baptized at all levels of sacramental grace and structural governance.

I believe in a eucharisitic communion where boundaries of time and space are suspended – past, present and future as well as heaven and earth are made one – and we are fed and nourished to become the One we profess to be.

I believe in a worshiping communion whose rich variety of liturgical expression respects and reflects the cultural context from which it has its origins – including language, music, movement, and dress.

I believe in a communion which is driven by the Great Commission of Jesus and ardently believes that love in deed is love, indeed.

I believe in a communion for whom evangelism is a way of life, not a programmatic effort; where members are not only invited through the church door, but welcomed in from the ‘highways and the hedges’.

I believe in a reconciling communion which seeks first the mind of Jesus and the Realm of God in the ordering of our common lives of faith and in resolving disputes and disagreements.

I believe in a communion which, first and foremost, is constellated and held together by the mind and sacred heart of Jesus, and not simply ancient creeds, modern church resolutions, or the invitational whims of prelates in present power.

I believe in a communion which respects human intelligence and reason and is courageous enough to open our eyes, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to see the outstretched hand of God in our human experience, leading us into new understandings of God’s on-going revelation.

I believe in a communion which respects the history and tradition of the Anglican Church, and strives to live into the radical orthodoxy of the Sprit of Anglicanism, which holds fast to its great tradition as the ‘roomiest room’ in all of Western Christendom.

I believe in a communion where the desert is dry enough to bring all of our temptations and all of our sins; a place where we may look squarely into the face of Evil and wrestle with our own demons.

I believe in a communion where limping is seen as evidence of God’s visitation, having wrestled with an angel or two, and we are allowed to continue the pilgrim’s walk, ministered to – and by – human angels in the community of saints.

I believe in a communion where the baptismal water is deep enough to do all our dyings and fresh enough to enter into all our rebirths.

I believe in this communion because I know it exists. I have seen it and lived into it and know it to be true. I have committed myself to being a contributing, faithful member of this Anglican Communion and seek to work with Anglicans around to world as we strive to take the best of our past, our best present selves, and together live into the future, fashioning ourselves into the image God had of us when we were first given this sacred and mysterious gift.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

GAFCON Quote of the week

Step back from the details of this particular document for a moment, and consider the nature of GAFCON.

It has brought together bishops from some of the poorest countries on Earth to deliver the residents of some of the richest suburbs in America from living in a Church to which they cannot dictate terms.

Zimbabwe is on fire. Darfur is bleeding. Ethnic strife and pandemic disease rage across the African continent while these bishops devote themselves to rescuing the
Episcopalians of Orange County, California and Fairfax County, Virginia from persecution that does not exist.

And how will they achieve this? By calling the world to faith in the Gospel as it was delivered to them by representatives of an empire that conquered their homelands, stole their resources and denied their ancestors even the most basic human rights.

One doesn’t know whether to laugh or weep. Jim Naughton

You can read the entire GAFCON statement here.

Decide on your own whether or not to laugh or weep.

Here's my prediction: Lambeth Conference will become "The War of the Wor(l)ds."

Friday, June 27, 2008

Beyond Business as Usual

NB: The following Book Review appears in this week's edition of The Living Church.

Beyond Business As Usual: Vestry Leadership Development
Neal O. Michell, Church Publishing

Vestry meetings can be exhausting – intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. I’ve even heard some rectors and vestry members describe them as “necessary evils.”

Not so, says Neal Michell, canon missioner for strategic development with the Diocese of Dallas. Michell’s perspective of the vestry is solidly incarnational, which not only changes traditional ideas about the purpose, role and function of a vestry in communities of faith, but also challenges clergy and other religious leaders to think more creatively and wholistically about this particular religious vocation.

In his clear, accessible style, Michell has written a most helpful book, filled with examples of situations that will be easily recognizable and solutions that are solidly relevant for church communities who live in the tension between the spiritual and material concerns of the church. Michell’s work addresses the particular challenges of ‘the business of doing ministry.’

He challenges clergy to develop the vestry as a ‘community of leaders,’ offering the helpful image of the vestry as ‘learning community,’ which is ‘a microcosm of the church’s vision being lived out.’ Over years of experience, Michell has developed provocative aphorisms such as, “The way to grow a church is not by brining in more people, but by developing strong leaders,” and “Leaders will attract leaders only at their leadership level and below.”

My only disappointment is that Michell seems honestly unaware that his work has joined another conversation already active in many areas of the church in the approach known as ‘family process’, begun by Edwin Freidman. It’s not a major flaw, but since Michell seems to rely heavily on an adaptation of secular books and seminars on leadership and organizational theory, the book would be enhanced by acknowledging and utilizing more of the important work already going on in religious communities, such as the idea of the ‘non-anxious presence,’ which he does discuss and value.

I shared this book with both my Wardens who have embraced it enthusiastically as a valuable resource. They have purchased copies for the vestry as our ‘summer reading project’ and plan to use a few of his wonderful collection of resources and exercises for our Vestry Summer Retreat. I suspect Michell’s bible studies, teachings, mental exercises and reflective readings will prove to be transformational.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

"The Boss" in the Jersey Hall of Fame

Bruce Springsteen was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame on May 4th. Here's a transcript of his speech:

When I first got the letter I was to be inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame I was a little suspicious. New Jersey Hall of Fame? Does New York have a hall of fame? Does Connecticut have a hall of fame? I mean, maybe they don't think they need one..

But then I ran through the list of names: Albert Einstein, Bruce Springsteen... my mother's going to like that. She's here tonight. It's her birthday and it's the only time she's going to hear those two names mentioned in the same sentence, so I'm going to enjoy it.

When I was recording my first album, the record company spent a lot of money taking pictures of me in New York City. But..something didn't feel quite right. So, I was walking down the boardwalk one day, stopped at a souvenir stand and bought a postcard that said "Greetings from Asbury Park." I remember thinking, "yeah, that's me."

With the exception of a few half years in California, my family and I have raised our kids here. We have a big Italian-Irish family. I found my own Jersey girl right here in Asbury Park.

I've always found it deeply resonant holding the hands of my kids on the same streets where my mom held my hand, swimming in the same ocean and taking them to visit the same beaches I did as a child. It was also a place that really protected me. It's been very nurturing.

I could take my kids down to Freehold, throw them up on my shoulders and walk along the street with thousands of other people on Cruise Night with everybody just going, "hey Bruce...."

That was something that meant a lot to me, theability to just go about my life. I really appreciated that.You get a little older and when one of those crisp fall days come along in September and October, my friends and I slip into the cool water of the Atlantic Ocean. We take note that there are a few less of us as each year passes.

But the thing about being in one place your whole life is that they're all still around you in the water. I look towards the shore and I see my two sons and my daughter pushing their way through the waves. And on the beach there's a whole batch of new little kids running away from the crashing surf like time itself.

That's what New Jersey is for me. It's a repository of my time on earth. My memory, the music I've made, my friendships, my life... it's all buried here in a box somewhere in the sand down along the Central Jersey coast.

I can't imagine having it any other way.

So let me finish with a Garden State benediction. Rise up my fellow New Jerseyans,
for we are all members of a confused but noble race.

We, of the state that will never get any respect. We, who bear the coolness of the forever uncool. The chip on our shoulders of those with forever something to prove.

And even with this wonderful Hall of Fame, we know that there's another bad Jersey joke coming just around the corner. But fear not. This is not our curse. It is our blessing.

For this is what imbues us with our fighting spirit. That we may salute the world forever with the Jersey state bird, and that the fumes from our great northern industrial area to the ocean breezes of Cape May fill us with the raw hunger, the naked ambition and the desire not just to do our best, but to stick it in your face.

Theory of relativity anybody? How about some electric light with your day? Or maybe a spin to the moon and back?

And that is why our fellow Americans in the other 49 states know, when the announcer says "and now in this corner, from New Jersey...." they better keep their hands up and their heads down, because when that bell rings, we're coming out swinging."

As the rest of the Anglican world turns

Anglican Church Cartoonist, Dave Walker, has a brilliant look at the church goings on, including this one, which you can find here.

Life does go on, in the face of wars and rumors of war, threats of schism and the backing down from threats of schism, children being born and people dying - and sometimes, for both of them, too soon. Too soon.

I am meeting with Gail's family at 11 AM at the Crematorium, in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, for the formal Committal of Gail's body to God - earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

We'll have lunch together, say our goodbyes as people leave for home tonight and tomorrow - to LA, North Carolina, upstate NY, and parts of England.

And then, I get ready to bury my dear friend Bill tomorrow morning at 11 AM. Bill died a few weeks ago at the age of 80. His family is now gathering from around the country to celebrate his life before they take his ashes to Virginia to be buried with his loving wife, whom we buried about five years ago.

Pray for me and I'll pray for you.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Vines and Branches, Tigers and Strawberries

“I am the true vine. ..” John 15:9
A Sermon in Celebration of the life of Gail C. MacNeil – June 25, 2008
The Episcopal Church of St. Paul, Chatham, NJ
(the Rev’d Dr.) Elizabeth Kaeton, rector and pastor

If you woke me up in the middle of the night out of a sound sleep and asked me in one word to describe Gail MacNeil, I would immediately say, ‘Courage’. I suspect no one in this church would disagree with that. It is an undeniable truth: Gail was the very embodiment of courage. I often called her my ‘North Star of Courage’.

She was also gracious and generous, kind and thoughtful. And, she was loyal – she loved her friends and family with a fierce, bold, uncompromising love. To be loved by Gail MacNeil was to be truly loved – and, the more of a character you were, the more odd or unique or individual you were, the more she seemed to love you. But, no one in this church would know whatever it is I’m talking about. (Right.)

When Gail made a connection with you, you stayed connected. I suppose this is why she left this particular gospel passage marked in her bible. Gail made many arrangements before she died, a kindness and consideration which her family has come to deeply appreciate in these past few days, but we never did get around to selecting the particular passages she wanted read today. I found this marked in the bible at her bedside:

Jesus said, “I am the true vine and my Father is the husbandman.” That would be Vine Dresser in American English. The image of a vine and branches is a wonderful image of Gail’s family and friends. Everyone in this room is connected to Gail in some way that also, mysteriously, connects us to each other. The network of friendships Gail created was nothing less than amazing.

When you consider it for more than a moment or two, looking at Gail’s network of friends is a bit like watching the way a grape vine branches off in various ways and yet still stays connected to the same source. That was how Gail fashioned her life and her love. Unless, of course, you crossed her, and then you would get what I called “the face.” She could stop you cold in your tracks with just one look, couldn’t she?

I’ll have more to say about this image of vine and branches in a moment, but first, I want to let three people come forward to tell you their stories about their connections to Gail. I invite into the lectern her dear friend Mr. Ken Aitchinson who will speak for so many of you who were her friends, followed by her daughters Karen and Jocelyn, who will speak on behalf of their family.

Note: Here followed a wonderful, loving testimony. I will try to get transcripts and post them here shortly.

I want to return to the idea of vines and branches. It’s not just grapes that grow on vines. Strawberries do, as well. Which brings me to the first reading we heard this morning – about Tigers and Strawberries, by which I want to speak of Gail’s courage.

Several months before she died, Gail happened on this book, Learning to Fall: The Blessings of an Imperfect Life. Gail recommended it highly to me, but I confess I didn’t start reading it until after she died. It was hard not to miss this passage, as she had underlined it and marked it.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that she was giving me a message in it, and, as unusual as it is, I simply had to include it today because I think there is a message in it for us all.

At one point in the last 48 hours of Gail’s life, she raised her hands to heaven almost as high as she raised her voice and said, “Take me Lord, I’m ready. I’ve fallen, Lord, help me.” Now, you might hear the report of that incident and be tempted to say to yourself, ‘Ah ha, I knew it. No one could be that strong. Gail lost her courage at the end, after all.”

And, I would say to you, “Not so.” Gail did not lose her courage. Rather, in that moment of saying, “Lord, I’ve fallen,” Gail was making a statement not of fear, but of faith. Gail had learned to fall. No longer was life a problem to be solved, but rather, a mystery to be lived. At that moment, I believe she was surrendering to The Mystery.

Over the past 10.5 years, she had found herself on the side of the cliff, holding onto a branch. Above her was her old nemesis, the tiger of ovarian cancer. Below her was the tiger of metastasis – first to her abdomen and then to her lungs.

There were other tigers who had lurked about over the past 10.5 years: Chemo. Clinical drug trials. Symptom management. But, in that moment, in her bed, holding on to the branch, she faced a new tiger: Immanent death.

Gail held onto the branch for dear life while she did the hard work of transforming her hope for a cure to hope in the resurrection. She transformed her hope for a life without ovarian cancer to the hope of life eternal. She also came to understand that the branch she held onto had an identity: it was you – her beloved husband, Dave, her daughters, Jocelyn and Karen, her granddaughters, Skyler, LiLi and Mia, her sisters, Pippa and Jacky, and friends – and that she must let go of that branch and take hold of the Vine – The True Vine named Jesus.

And suddenly, a strawberry appeared in her midst. It was the gift of life, which never tasted sweeter. So sweet, it made her want to hold on for more. So sweet, she knew that life had meaning and value and worth beyond her knowing, beyond the telling.

I believe that you – the branches, and Jesus – the True Vine, were the source of her strength, which allowed her to hold on. I believe it was the tigers and strawberries in her life that were the very source of her amazing, inspiring courage.

All that being said, I also believe that Gail’s greatest act of courage was to enter the great mystery of falling; for it was in falling that she gained that which means the most: she was given back her life even as she was losing it.

One last thing – a few words to Gail’s spirit. Gail, I finally have summoned the courage to tell you that you were wrong about one thing. Your favorite song from your beloved Beatles was “All you need is love.” The words to that song carried you through some of the most difficult days of the last 10.5 years.

Well, Gail, I want to tell you this: if love is all you need, you’d be alive today. Because while we know that you loved us, fiercely, boldly, and courageously – we want you to know that we also loved you right back, with all the fierce, bold, courageous love we could muster.

I’m going to miss you dear friend. We all are. Your light here on earth was so bright, it’s already a bit dark here without you. So, when we look up to the night sky and see a brightly shining star, we’ll know that it’s you – still lighting our way – burning brightly with a fierce, bold love.

You’ll always be our North Star of Courage. Amen.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Celebrate!! Christmas in July: Day 24

The Fundraising effort to provide security for Bishop Gene is moving forward.

This morning's reported 24 day total is:


Thank you to so many who have contributed so much.

If you would like to have some church bulletin inserts about this fundraising effort - especially with PRIDE Sunday coming up on the 29th of June, simply go to the right hand column of your computer screen and click on "All About Me." Then, click on my email and send me your request.

While you're there, you can click on the yellow "Donate" button and make your contribution with your credit card, using our PayPal Account.

Or, you can write a check to The Episcopal Church of St. Paul, mark it "Bishop Gene" or "Christmas in July" and send it to

The Episcopal Church of St. Paul
200 Main St.
Chatham, NJ 07928

Thank you, one and all.

Learning to Fall

So, I've been meditating and praying about my sermon/eulogy for Gail tomorrow. I'm so close to her, my grief is still so fresh that I'm having problems putting thoughts into words and putting them down on paper. I need your prayerful support as I write this sermon.

The gospel is John 15 - the Vine and the Branches. I'm seeing images of how we are connected through our relationships in the One who is Incarnate Love.

The psalm is the 23rd - King James Version, of course - which has influenced a great deal of the music we've chosen.

The first reading is taken from Learning To Fall: The Blessings of an Imperfect Life by Philip Simmons. It was one of the last books Gail was reading and she talked about it with me at great length.

When I picked up her book to look through it, she had underscored this particular passage, so we felt it important to include.

I am haunted by it and the memory of our conversations about courage and hope. Here it is. Tell me what strikes you about it. And, thanks for your prayers.


There’s a well-known Zen parable about the man who was crossing a field when he saw a tiger charging at him. The man ran, but the tiger gained on him, chasing him toward the edge of a cliff. When he reached the edge, the man had no choice but to leap. He had one chance to save himself: a scrubby branch growing out of the side of the cliff about halfway down. He grabbed the branch and hung on. Looking down, what did he see on the ground below? Another tiger.

Then the man saw that a few feet off to his left a small plant grew out of the cliff, and from it there hung one ripe strawberry. Letting go with one hand he found that he could stretch his arm out just far enough to pluck the berry with is fingertips and bring it to his lips.

How sweet it tasted!

I suppose I could stop here and wrap this all up with a neat moral . . . but . . . I’m writing . . .to say that life is not a problem to be solved. . . .at it’s deepest levels life is not a problem but a mystery.

. . .And, what does a mystery ask of us? Only that we be in its presence, that we fully, consciously, hand ourselves over.

That is all, and that is everything. We can participate in mystery only by letting go of solutions. This letting go is the first lesson of falling, and the hardest.

I offer my stories not as illustrations of a problem but as entrances into the mystery of falling.

* If spiritual growth is what you seek, don’t ask for more strawberries, ask for more tigers.

* The threat of tigers, the leap from the cliff, are what give the strawberries its savor. They cannot be avoided, and the strawberry can’t be enjoyed without them. No tigers, no sweetness.

* In falling we somehow gain what means most. In falling we are given back our lives even as we lose them.


Monday, June 23, 2008

The Genius of George Carlin - RIP

Best 50 Carlin Jokes

1. Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.
2. Swimming is not a sport; swimming is a way to keep from drowning. That’s just common sense!
3. A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.
4. Have you ever noticed that their stuff is shit, and your shit is stuff?
5. If the Cincinnati Reds were really the first major league baseball team, who did they play?
6. Honesty may be the best policy, but it’s important to remember that apparently, by elimination, dishonesty is the second-best policy.
7. If it’s true that our species is alone in the universe, then I’d have to say that the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little.
8. It’s never just a game when you’re winning.
9. The very existence of flamethrowers proves that some time, somewhere, someone said to themselves, “You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I’m just not close enough to get the job done.”
10. The reason I talk to myself is because I’m the only one whose answers I accept.
11. Religion has convinced people that there’s an invisible man…living in the sky. Who watches everything you do every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten specific things he doesn’t want you to do. And if you do any of these things, he will send you to a special place, of burning and fire and smoke and torture and anguish for you to live forever, and suffer, and burn, and scream, until the end of time. But he loves you. He loves you. He loves you and he needs money.
12. Weather forecast for tonight: Dark. Continued dark overnight, with widely scattered light by morning.
13. If a pig loses its voice, is it disgruntled?
14. Why do croutons come in airtight packages? It’s just stale bread to begin with.
15. “I am” is reportedly the shortest sentence in the English language. Could it be that “I do” is the longest sentence?
16. As soon as someone is identified as an unsung hero, he no longer is.
17. The IQ and the life expectancy of the average American recently passed each other in opposite directions.
18. When someone asks you, “A penny for your thoughts,” and you put your two cents in, what happens to the other penny?
19. Ever notice that anyone going slower than you is an idiot, but anyone going faster is a maniac?
20. Isn’t it a bit unnerving that doctors call what they do “practice?”
21. I don’t like to think of laws as rules you have to follow, but more as suggestions.
22. Eventually, alas, I realized the main purpose of buying cocaine is to run out of it.
23. Here’s a bumper sticker I’d like to see: “We are the proud parents of a child who’s self-esteem is sufficient that he doesn’t need us promoting his minor scholastic achievements on the back of our car.”
24. I love and treasure individuals as I meet them, I loathe and despise the groups they identify with and belong to.
25. Beethoven was so hard of hearing, he thought he was a painter.
26. Don Ho can sign autographs 3.4 times faster than Efrem Zimbalist Jr.
27. If Helen Keller had psychic ability, would you say she had a fourth sense?
28. What year did Jesus think it was?
29. George Washington’s brother, Lawrence, was the Uncle of Our Country.
30. Have you ever wondered why Republicans are so interested in encouraging people to volunteer in their communities? It’s because volunteers work for no pay. Republicans have been trying to get people to work for no pay for a long time.
31. In America, anyone can become president. That’s the problem.
32. Once you leave the womb, conservatives don’t care about you until you reach military age. Then you’re just what they’re looking for. Conservatives want live babies so they can raise them to be dead soldiers.
33. People who ask, “Can I ask you a question?” Didn’t really give me a choice, did ya there, buddy?
34. Bowling is not a sport because you have to rent the shoes.
35. Atheism is a non-prophet organization.
36. I’m always relieved when someone is delivering a eulogy and I realize I’m listening to it.
37. The reason they call it the American Dream is because you have to be asleep to believe it.
38. Most people work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit.
39. So far, this is the oldest I’ve been.
40. Do you think Sammy Davis ate Junior Mints?
41. When you think about it, attention-deficit order makes a lot of sense. In this country there isn’t a lof worth paying attention to.
42. The Golden Gate Bridge should have a long bungee cord for people who aren’t quite ready to commit suicide but want to get in a little practice.
43. I think I am, therefore, I am. I think.
44. If the cops didn’t see it, I didn’t do it!
45. Capitalism tries for a delicate balance: It attempts to work things out so that everyone gets just enough stuff to keep them from getting violent and trying to take other people’s stuff.
46. I don’t have a fear of heights. I do, however, have a fear of falling from heights.
47. What was the best thing before sliced bread?
48. Life is a zero sum game.
49. I have as much authority as the Pope. I just don’t have as many people who believe it.
50. The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live.


You just can't make this stuff up.

The Gaffe-Capades, The Greatest Show on Earth, has arrived in Jerusalem, and the "Cirque du Ironic" is in full swing.

The Lead reported this morning that eight people (pictured above) have been placed on the "No Entry" list at GAFCON.

Ruth Gledhill of The Times London reports:

The eight men and women pictured here are on the official list of those to be denied entry to Gafcon should they try to show up. They are Colorado Bishop Robert O'Neill, Nigerian gay activist Davis MacIyalla being embraced by the Church of England's Rev Colin Coward, Louie Crew, Susan Russell, Scott Gunn and Deborah and Robert Edmunds. (pictured above)

Bishop O'Neill has been asked to serve as the 'eyes and ears' of the US church's Presiding Bishop and is staying with Jerusalem primate, Bishop Suheil Dawani, who never wanted the conference here in the first place. Should these or any other activists attempt to breach the security around the conference at the Renaissance Hotel in west Jerusalem the 1,000-plus delegates have been instructed to start singing the hymn: 'All hail the power of Jesus' name.'

The wicked part of me wants to raise funds to send them all there, and send them in, one by one in continual procession, so the gathered uber-Calvinists and neo-Puritans will have to continually sing 'All hail the power of Jesus' name' and not get a lick of work done.

To be perfectly honest, I am sorely disappointed and totally jealous. In 2003, David Virtue wrote up a "Deck of Cards" (ala Dubya's Deck of Cards 'Hit List' in Iraq). I earned the distinction of being "Seven of Hearts" (Louie Crew was Queen of Hearts, of course.)

My Vestry had a T-shirt made for me with the Seven of Hearts on it, which I wore all over General Convention.

The ironic part is that Gene Robinson, duly elected and consecrated Bishop of New Hampshire, has been intentionally dis-invited to Lambeth, but apparently is not barred admission to GAFCON as he did not make the "No Entry" list.

You just can't make up this stuff.

I've been listening and watching the conversation about Covenant and GAFCON as I go about my pastoral duties here in the burbs where the church is still alive and well and far removed from the language of discord, desperation and schism.

Indeed, one of our members died on Saturday morning, a woman who has been battling ovarian cancer for 10.5 years, and we are all in grief when we're not planning for a funeral that will, no doubt, attract more than 500 mourners to the church which seats 300. The logistics boggle the mind.

So, you'll excuse me when I say that GAFCON has been a bit of a diversion in the midst of this, most often providing a sick sort of comic relief - not unlike 'foxhole humor' I suppose.

The GAFCON crowd released a book in advance of their gathering which spoke loudly in the angry, strident tones of schism - "no longer any hope of a unified communion" but then when they gather, they speak in the plaintiff tones of the poor banished children of Eve with "no place else to go."

Meanwhile, the neo-Puritan and uber-Calvin journalists for the schismatics are a veritable reporting whirlwind - pushing out three and four and five reports a day, before anything has really happened, one furiously typing verbatim notes of the press conferences while his wife complains on her blog that he's selfishly hogging the laptop.

It's all humorous in a raw and real human sort of way and simultaneously terribly, terribly sad.

I do have this image, however, given to me by a Nigerian classmate of mine, whose father was a tribal King. My memory is a bit rusty but I believe there are over 350 - perhaps closer to 400 - distinct tribes in Nigeria. He belonged to the Ebu tribe which, when he was about 9 years old, was under attack by the Yoruba tribe and was sent to live with an aunt in America for safety.

The Yoruba, I believe are known for their penchant for the dramatic. They will try to intimidate their enemy with lots of spear rattling and noise long before they attack. When they do attack, it is usually after a long period of yells and yelps and threats, which they hope will come to catch the enemy off guard - just when they have begun to think, "Ah, they'll never attack. They are just making noise."

I think we're seeing a very similar strategy with GAFCON.

This is schism, folks. Make absolutely no mistake.

Oh, Akinola may be waiting and stalling for more "traction" but it has begun. When he says, "We've got no place else to go" he really means, "We've got no place else to turn. We've got to move forward on this schism, but for now, we may have to march in place and make noise."

Meanwhile, life goes on - all over the Anglican Communion - in villages in Nigeria and in the suburbs of New Jersey. The church will continue to administer the sacraments, bring comfort to those who are sick and succor to those who mourn, and shield the joyous, all in the name of Jesus.

Send in the schismatic clowns. Don't bother, they're here.

UPDATE: You can always tell when the neo-Puritan and uber-Calvinist orthodox conservative evangelicals have really blown it when there is absolute radio silence on the topic from the Bullies. There's nothing, nada zip on the GAFCON 8. Even Ruth Gledhill has added her name to the FaceBook "I want to be banned from GAFCON, too!" What's even more amusing is that they really believe they are not conspicuous by their silence. Perhaps they're embarrassed, you ask? Nah! Not a chance! Too much hubris to be embarrassed. Besides, exceptionally high testosterone levels always serve to block a sense of humility or shame.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Telling Secrets

“ . . .nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known.” Matthew 10:24-39
VI Pentecost – June 22, 2008 – The Episcopal Church of St. Paul
(the Rev’d) Elizabeth Kaeton, rector and pastor

This is a real “mean and potatoes” gospel lesson this morning, our plates are filled to overflowing with lots of substantial gospel food. There are not a lot of frills or unnecessary “good news” calories for our consumption. This is not ‘gospel-like’ food. This is 100% natural stuff.

However, among this gospel banquet we have been served this morning, I want to focus in on the few morsel words of these sentences: “ . . . .for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.”

As I listen to these words from St. Matthew’s gospel, I can hear a few other voices. First, I hear my grandmother saying, “Live your life as if everyone will know everything about you, because eventually, everyone will.”

Over the years and through many painful experiences, I’ve learned that she was right. The truth is a very pricey commodity – especially the truth we understand and the truth we tell about ourselves.

You know what I mean. The ‘private truth’ verses the ‘public truth’ – the story about ourselves that we keep to ourselves and, perhaps, a few dear friends, and the story we make public – the image of us we want others to know.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with this ‘public’ verses ‘private’ truth about ourselves, under two conditions: First, that there are others in our lives to whom we reveal our true selves and second, that we tell the truth about ourselves to ourselves.

I think the biggest falls I’ve seen people take are those who have come to believe their own press releases.

I remember being at a James Taylor concert a few years ago. We were out on the lawn at the open theater in Brunswick, NJ. People had brought their lawn chairs and blankets. Some had brought picnic baskets and had their supper out on the lawn. Some brought wine; others brought, well, LOTS of wine.

And some brought other . . . substances. You could smell its sweet, pungent odor wafting in the air. The only reason I recognized it was because I remember smelling it in dorm rooms at nursing shcool where I only inhaled. (You should have known me before I knew Jesus).

At the top of the second set, James was tuning up his guitar and someone yelled into the thick anticipation of his singing to us again, “I love you, James.” The voice was male; it was thick and slurred and came from a place where his consciousness had obviously been altered.

James Taylor is a man who has fought his own demons of addiction. You might remember him singing something about having seen “fire and rain,” and ‘lonely days that I thought would never end.”

Something in him instantly recognized the source of that professed love through the haze of addictive substances. James moved swiftly to the microphone, looked out over the crowd to find the source of the voice, leaned into the microphone and said, “That’s because you don’t know me.”

Jesus said, “There is nothing covered up that will not be uncovered; there is nothing secret that will not become known.”

Sitting in that audience, the pristine truth of that moment cut through the thick haze and fog of the sweet, pungent, mind-numbing odor of the lies we tell ourselves and found a place of deep resonance with me.

I had come to hear Sweet Baby James sing, but, in the words of a song by Phoebe Snow, he was “strumming my pain with his fingers, singing my life in his words, killing me softly with his song, killing me softly . . .” so that I could also learn to tell the truth about myself.

Some of you know that I have spent the past few weeks with Gail MacNeil as she moved from fighting ovarian cancer to fighting off the indignities of death. She had to make the difficult transition from searching for hope for a cure to holding onto hope in the resurrection.

In her typical fashion, she asked questions that nailed me to the truth. There is nothing – absolutely nothing – that will put your faith to the test than to stare into the face of death – your own, or that of a person who is dying.

Gail asked, “What happens when you die? Don’t give me the saccharine version. Tell me the truth, Elizabeth. Don’t pull any punches. I want 100%, gospel truth.”

Right. What to say? How to describe the indescribable? How to explain a mystery? So, I told her the truth about what I believe: I believe in the Holy Spirit, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins the resurrection of the body and life ever lasting.

She sighed wearily, “I’ve heard those words somewhere before. I’ve even said them myself.” Clearly, I was not going to get a way with simply reciting the words of the Creed. Not with the likes of Gail MacNeil.

“Now, tell me, Elizabeth,” she demanded, “what does that mean?” So, over the last three or four weeks, we’ve talked about each one of those things. We told secrets to each other about why we believe what we believe – secrets wrapped up in the truth of the stories of our lives.

And, somewhere in the midst of it, we came to know peace. Gail MacNeil died yesterday morning at around 8:35. She died the way she lived, with enormous grace and dignity. She died the way she lived, willing herself to wait until every person in her family had gotten to be with her by her bedside.

She was ready. She had brought out from the dark and into the light the complexities of the truth of her life, the public and the private, She stood in the presence of the mystery of her faith, let go, and lived into it. She now lives in another realm, in another reality, bathed in the eternal light of the One who is Truth.

Writer and Presbyterian minister, Frederick Buechner, in his book, Telling Secrets, writes of the family secret he kept of his father’s suicide. He had no idea how sick that secret was making him – and his entire family.

It took facing the truth of his daughter’s struggle with anorexia and bulimia to begin to finally face the truth of the shame of his family’s secret.

In the preface of that book, he writes, “Finally, I suspect that it is by entering that deep place inside us where our secrets are kept that we come perhaps closer than we do anywhere else to the One who, whether we realize it or not, is of all our secrets the most telling and the most precious we have to tell.”

It has long been said that we are only as sick as our sickest, deepest secrets. I believe we are only as healthy as the deepest truths we know about ourselves and our faith.

That, ultimately, is the important work we do here, in the community we call church – to learn to tell the truth about ourselves, our lives and what we say it is we believe about God and our relationship with Jesus before we take our leave of this place, ‘this planet Earth, our island home’.

The work we do together, as unique individuals who live in community is the work of deep liberation from the not-so original sin of the secrets and lies we tell about ourselves to ourselves and others.

By opening our hearts to the mysteries of The Truth, we begin to understand the words of Jesus in this morning’s gospel – the 100%, unadulterated, all-natural stuff:

“So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. “


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Friday, June 20, 2008

Dying yet behold we live.

I woke up early this morning to the sound of a woman's cry.

I thought it was Gail and, even though it slowly dawned on me that I was in my own home, my body pressed on, my rational brain misfiring the messages to my legs. Still, I went from room to room, searching for her.

I had spent most of the night sitting with the family of Gail, my parishioner who has become a dear friend, who is dying.

"Actively dying" as she reminded me. That's a hospice term which I happened to mention in conversation with her a few years ago. It stuck in her head and popped up a few days ago when she was clearly failing.

She could barely breathe but as we struggled to get her up out of her reclining chair, and she paused a bit to catch her breath before taking the next steps. She looked at me and asked, "Actively dying?"

"No, not yet my love," I responded. "Not quite yet." She nodded her head and, as she took another breath and momentarily searched her body for the strength to move, she stuck out her chin and took a few steps before she turned to sit in her wheel chair.

Gail will tell you that she has been fighting ovarian cancer for 10 years and 7 months. Please highlight the word "fight". Anyone who knows will tell you that her longevity has forever changed the statistics on longevity. Ten years ago when she was diagnosed, life expectancy was about two years. Remember: Gilda Radner.

Gail is now, and will forever be, my North Star of Courage. She has fought an amazing fight. And now, she is fighting with God about when to take her. She has people she wants to see. People she has called to be around her bedside.

She called her family together yesterday. One daughter flew in from North Carolina with her two small children. The other daughter flew in from California - arguing with the airline personnel to please put her on that plane - yes, that one right there - the one she had booked her flight for but hadn't made it to the airport to present her boarding pass before the required 15 minutes when the gate closes.

They told her they were sorry, but these were just the rules, lady. Nothing personal. Security, you see. Blame it on the terrorists. Like the persistent woman in Luke's gospel, she pressed on, telling her story about her dying mother to whomever would listen. She finally found someone - a ticket agent with a heart - who took pity and did and let her on the plane. She arrived at her mother's house at 9 PM, followed a half hour later by her sister and nieces.

The apples do not fall far from the tree.

So, late last night, amidst enough tears and sadness to break the heart, her daughters, her husband ("my one true love"), her sister and her husband, the nurse's aid and my beloved Ms. Conroy, Hospice Nurse extraordinaire, gathered around Gail's bed. To tell her we love her. To tell her we are going to miss her terribly. To tell her that while we were happy for any time we had left with her on this earth, to go whenever she wanted or needed.

"Jackie!" she said, calling for her other sister in England, who seems not to be able to get a flight out of either Gatwick or Heathrow. At that point, I knew she wouldn't leave us last night. Not if she could. Not until Jackie gets here. If she can possibly make it.

It's almost 9 AM. I'm heading over to see Gail in about 30 minutes. Later, I am scheduled to have lunch with a dear friend. Meanwhile, the air conditioning is being installed in the undercroft of the parish hall where all our offices are located. And, Jose is here to install the new garage door openers. The persistent but as yet unfounded rumor is that today is my day off.

I sat out on my deck around 6:30 this morning and heard the birds chirping while the garbage trucks came to pick up the trash and young adolescent boys and girls called to each other as they walked to high school.

A phrase from some of the words of St. Paul found their way to me and whispered themselves in my ear, ". . .dying, yet behold we live. . ." (II Corinthians 6:9)

It is, in one sense, a description of everyday experience, the fact that all of life is fragile, and yet, in the midst of it, we are sustained by God's presence and love.
It is also a beautiful, poetic summary of Christian faith and hope.

Long after she's gone from this earth, every time I hear a woman's cry, my brain will probably always misfire, and I will hear it as Gail's voice.

Whenever I get scared, even though it makes no logical sense, I will continue to look for her. She will always be my North Star of courage.

Gail is now, finally, "actively dying", yet behold, she will always live.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Uh-oh! GAFCON Gaffe-capades

Maybe it's the "gaf" in GAFCON - that group of uber-orthodox Anglicans who are meeting in Jerusalem

Over at Episcopal Cafe, The Lead reported yesterday that super-duper-uber-orthodox Anglican Pimate, Peter Akinola of Abujar, Nigeria, had been denied entrance into Jordan. No reason was given, but you may remember that Akinola, a fierce critic of Islam, has refused to answer questions about his knowledge of, or involvement in, the retributive massacre of some 700 Muslim in the town of Yelwa in northern Nigeria in 2004.

Today, The Lead is reporting that the gaffes continue. It is being reported by The Church Times that GAFCON book, "The Way, The Truth, The Life" contains an essay that was demonstrated last August to have actually been written written by (my new neighbor) Martin Minns (just up the road in Morristown, NJ). However, Akinola's name is on the essay.

The Telegraph (UK) is also reporting that "schism has been declared." As The Lead points out, however, they seem to be the only ones doing so. Hmm . . .when is a schism really a schism?

If that's not enough, "Their Ruthie" (Gledhill) of the Times UK Online, is reporting that Gafcon clashes with next Thursday's Jerusalem Pride, the seventh Gay Pride march in the city.

Ms. Gledhill asks, "Is this an extraordinary coincidence or God's strange sense of humour?"

Perhaps it is the movement of Ruach trying to send them a coupla few messages.

I'm not taking any bets on the fact that they'll listen any closer to Her than they have to LGBT people. Then again, of course, I could be wrong.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Christmas in July: Day 18

Laura,our trusty Financial Coordinator, has reported an update

The grand 18 day total for the effort to raise funds to provide security for Bishop Gene at Lambeth is now:


Thank you to all who have generously contributed!!

I know Bishop Gene will also greatly appreciate those of you who send him personal notes of encouragement and support.

There's still time to be a part of this important effort.

Make out your check - in whatever amount - to The Episcopal Church of St. Paul and mark it either "Bishop Gene" or "Christmas in July" and mail it to:

200 Main Street
Chatham, NJ 07928

If you wish to contribute by PayPal, simply click the yellow "DONATE" button on the upper right hand corner of your screen. Once you're done, click on the button just above it and receive a special blessing from Bishop Gene.

NOTE: If you wish to include your congregation in this effort, I can provide you with a bulletin insert. Simply go to the right column on your screen, go to "About Me" and go to the bottom and click on "View My Complete Profile." Click on my email address. I will send you an attachment which you can download, print and copy as you need.

Celtics Crush Lakers

The NBA has gone "Green"!

For the first time in 22 years, the Boston Celtics won the NBA Championship over the Los Angeles Lakers 131-92 in Game 6 of the playoffs.

This was their 17th NBA title - the first since patriarch Ray Auerback won the first 16 for the Boys in Green. In the closing minutes of the game, the crowd chanted "Sev-en-teen" and "Beat LA".

Surely our beloved Auerback was proudly lighting a cigar in heaven.

Sorry, Susan, but the Lakers simply didn't stand a chance. If it helps, I'll lend you the saying every kid who grows up in New England learns from the time s/he is knee high to a grasshopper:

"Wait until next year."

No matter where we are and no matter the sport, there ain't nothing like a Boston fan. We chant that whether we win or we lose.

Love that "Dirty water, um, um, Boston your my home!"

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

June 17, 2006: Alive with joy!

June 17, 2006. Katharine Jefferts Schori was elected the first woman to be Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and first woman to be Primate in the Anglican Communion.

I just found my Blog from that day. Here it is:

Monday, June 19, 2006
Alive with joy!
Legislative Day # 6 Sunday, 06.18.06

I hardly have words to explain.

So, let me quote scripture.

Imagine Pentecost.

Read Acts 2 – especially vs. 15 when Peter says,

“Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning (substitute 4 o’clock in the afternoon).”

“No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

‘In the last days it will be,
God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all
and your sons and your daughters
shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall
dream dreams,
Even upon my slaves, both men and
in those days, I will pour out
my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
And I will show portents in the heave above
and signs on the earth below.

Got the picture?

That’s what it was like.

At least, that’s what it was like when I walked into the floor of General Convention a little after 3:30 PM.

The place was absolutely alive with joy!

The exact moment of the election? Well, that’s another story.

I had decided that I would take the afternoon off. I had arranged with one of the alternate deputies to cover for me. I had the whole afternoon planned: I would walk the 8 blocks to the local CVS and buy some laundry detergent to wash my blouses and, (as my southern friends say so delicately), “smalls.”

I also picked up some healthy munchies for the convention floor table: almonds, pistachios, goldfish. The legislative process is painstakingly slow. It takes an enormous amount of energy to watch paint dry. A body has to find strength somehow.

It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining. It was hot, but tempered by a lovely breeze that kept the sun from being too strong. People were out walking, enjoying the day. Father’s Day.

Around 3:05 PM, I was walking back down High Street, just crossing Gay Street (I kid you not), when a sudden gust of wind just about blew me off my feet. My General Convention name badge twirled round and round, and my skirt got caught in the scaffolding of the construction site I was walking under. It literally took my breath away.

Then, into the sudden calm, my cell phone went off. A friend in Convention Hall text messaged me to say that he had just heard a rumor from a very reliable source that Katherine Jefferts-Schori had been elected Presiding Bishop. Had I heard anything? No, I typed back. Within five minutes, the information was confirmed. We had elected a woman as Presiding Bishop with the necessary vote on the fifth ballot.

I smiled broadly, looking for all the world and the people passing me on the side walk like a fool. Then, I felt a chill go through my entire body, over taking me and waking every nerve with joy. I whooped and danced a dance to Shekinah, the Holy Spirit.

People looked at me with startled looks. A homeless man looked up absently from his place on the park bench and smiled. Although he had no idea of the particulars, he immediately recognized joy when he saw it and waved his hand in the air and whooped with me. I dug into my pocket, found a dollar bill and some change and gave it to him. He whooped and hollared and danced with me. A few well dressed folk made a wide path around me on the sidewalk.

I didn’t care. I knew. I had known it in the morning. I think I had known it all along.

I had awakened at 5:30 AM to be at the Triennial Episcopal Women’s Caucus Breakfast which began at 7 AM. I have served on the board for a term and as the incoming national president, I wanted to be there to help with the set up.

As I looked over the possibilities of choices, I decided to honor my hunch about Bishop Katherine’s election by wearing purple: my skirt, blouse and sandals were purple.

I love the color purple, but for years I had not worn it, always concerned that someone would suspect me of having “purple fever,” meaning that I had ambitions to become a bishop. When asked, I would always laugh and say, “Oh, I hope God loves me more than that.” And, I suspect God does – at least I pray s/he does.

Finally, when I turned fifty, I decided that I was not going to let the insecurities of others influence my choice of clothing. I decide that I was self-differentiated and confident enough to have finally achieved a measure of healthy autonomy (the second milestone after trust, as described in Eric Erickson’s Stages of Development), to wear what I wanted to wear without being dictated by the neurotic concerns of others.

So, today I wore purple for Bishop Katherine. It was my outward sign and symbol of the inward and spiritual hope I carried into the day.

And, I was not disappointed. The Holy Spirit has not yet ceased to disappoint.

There are some continued evidences of the aftermath of her presence:

Marge Christie was the first lay deputy to confirm Bishop Katherine’s election. Marge, now in her mid-70’s, was one of the founding members of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus and one of the major pioneers for the ordination of women. This is, no doubt, her last convention. Hearing her confirmation at the microphone was like hearing the Song of Simeon,

“O Lord, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word;"

I’m told that, after the election was announced, Bishop Barbara Harris, tears streaming down her face walked over to Bishop Katherine to embrace her. As she did, she was overheard to say, “I never – ever – thought that in my lifetime, I would see this.” And then, they both sobbed in each other’s arms.

“ . . . for mine eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

I’m also told that Bishop Gene Robinson was heard to say, “Thanks be to God. At last, I’m finally old news!” And the place erupted in hearty laughter.

Bishops came wandering into the House of Deputies looking absolutely awed and amazed. Over and over and over again they said, “My God. My God. Isn’t this amazing?”

And, they said, “What is the Holy Spirit doing to The Episcopal Church?”

The House of Deputies was absolutely alive with joy. People weeping in a kind of happiness which approached bliss. People hugging and rocking each other. People bursting into whoops and cheers and peels of laughter. People stunned into awe and wonder, scratching their heads and looking off into space.

And then, there was the deputation from Ft. Worth: glum faces talking on cell phones. People were respectful and let them have their space, but it was painful to see this little island of misery and sorrow in the midst of unabashed joy.

It wasn’t twenty minutes later and the politics had begun. Well, the progressives had “won” this one. Now, would the LGBT community be willing to sacrifice themselves for the Windsor Report? The Anglican Communion has already been "seriously impaired" (Gee, I thought it had already been "broken") by the election of a woman as Primate. We wouldn’t want to further compromise the communion, would we?

As if the LGBT community had somehow engineered the election of the Presiding Bishop!

Never mind. Tomorrow is another day. I suspect that the mood of the house is not predisposed to sacrificing anyone on the altar of the false idol that has become The Windsor Report.

I heard someone say, "We are to be compliant to the Gospel, not the Windsor Report."

That won’t stop the bloody battle. Swords are drawn. Battle plans are made. War has unofficially been declared. By Monday afternoon, it is bound to get very, very ugly.

Some expect the LGBT community to fall on their own swords in the name of unity.

We won’t, of course.

How could we?

Shekinah is in the house!

For the first time in the history of the Episcopal Church, we have a woman as a Presiding Bishop.

When a woman who is a priest holds up a host and says, “This is my body,” the Incarnation comes alive in a whole new way.

When a woman who is a bishop holds up the host and says, “This is my body,” we begin to understand something new about the power of God to raise up and empower the lowly.

I have never seen it, but I suspect that when a woman who is a Presiding Bishop holds up the host and says, “This is my body,” we will be invited even deeper into the mystery of our Triune God.

Listen! Can you hear it? The Magnificat is being chanted by the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.

Is it any wonder that the church is alive with joy!

Elizabeth 06.18.06

Christmas in July: UPDATE

I've been remiss in keeping up with the fundraising effort to provide security for Bishop Gene while he's at Lambeth.

The grand total thus far:


Thank you all for your generosity. I know Bishop Gene will deeply appreciate your contributions as well as the many, many personal notes you are sending to him along with your contributions.

If you've been putting off sending in your contribution, there's still plenty of time left.

You may send your checks made out to The Episcopal Church of St. Paul, marked either "Bishop Gene" or "Christmas in July" and send them to the church at

200 Main Street
Chatham, NJ 07928

OR - you may click on the "Donate" button up on the right of your screen, under the blessing from Bishop Gene, and use your credit card to send along your donation.

No amount is too small or too large!

Monday, June 16, 2008


This is Del Martin. She's 87. She's just married Phyllis Lyon. She's 84.

I first met them in 1977 in the living room of my friends, Sheri and Lois, who were recently married in Boston, MA. (You may recall that I had the privilege of blessing their marriage just a few weeks ago.)

In 1978, Del wrote a book, 'Battered Wives', which was on domestic violence - the first of its kind, which was almost as much of a taboo as homosexuality.

Groundbreaking work was not unfamiliar territory for them. In 1972, they wrote 'Lesbian Woman', which offered a portrait of lesbian life. Their book became a model for many, many women who were lesbian who did have any role models.

They were in Boston because they had founded a social organization for women called Daughters of Bilitis - also the first of its kind. Sheri and Lois were the founders of DOB Boston and had invited Del and Phyllis to celebrate the 5th Anniversary of that organization.

I remember young, vibrant, passionate women who spoke about one day being married to each other. "It's possible," they assured us. "As long as you can dream."

"Never let anyone take your dignity, your integrity, your hopes or your dreams," they said.

I never forgot that. Neither did they.

Tonight, I celebrate with Del and Phyllis and all the other Californians who are being allowed their constitutional rights.

And they said it wouldn't last.

Headline: "Milquetoast Evangelical Manifesto meets Anglican Covenant Fudge: Have Nothing Much To Say"

It would appear that the Anglican Communion is not the only one to be beset by the Evangelical need (read: neurosis) to put things down on paper, carefully numbered, and signed on by absolutely everyone.

And, we’re not the only ones to see the proposed “Anglican Covenant” watered down to a point where the very ones who were its most ardent proponents, and indeed, authors, are now walking away from it. (Can you say GAFCON?)

I’m probably the last one in the universe to know this, but I was talking with a friend at lunch today who told me about the recent (within the last 5 or 6 weeks) publication of something entitled “An Evangelical Manifesto.” I googled it and discovered that apparently, it’s been discussed quite a bit in the secular press.

Hmmm . . . I guess I missed it in my weekly swing of some of the more evangelical blogs (Right now The Bullies are wetting themselves over some documents just released in the Bennison Trial. Can you say "uber-Christian hypocrites? Sad. Sad. Sad).

It was reportedly written to be a “decisive document” a credo that unified American evangelicals around the Christian principles that form the foundations of their faith (sound vaguely familiar)?

You can read about it here: ( The date on the document is May 7, 2008.

Who knew?

From what I can gather, it was born three years ago in the mind of Os Guinness, a Virginia based evangelical. So, together with people like the president of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA, Richard Mouw, and David Neff, editor of Christianity Today, Guinness drafted seven Christian principles that every evangelical could agree on.

Problem is, the manifesto was so vetted that it didn’t say anything that anyone who even heard the word ‘evangelical’ couldn’t have made a wild guess about and been right.

It begins with this: “Evangelicals are Christians who define themselves, their faith and their lives according to the Good News of Jesus of Nazareth.”

Get outta town! Really?

They also say: “Jesus Christ is fully God become fully human,” and, they also believe that salvation comes through grace, not deeds.

Son of a gun! All this time and I didn’t know it: I’m an evangelical.

You know, I’ll bet most of you who are reading this right now are saying, “Whoa! I’m an evangelical, too.”

Interestingly enough, while the document describes scripture as “our final rule for faith and practice,” it does NOT tackle the issue of the inerrancy of Scripture.

Neither does it deal with what I always thought prevented me from ever having a hope of being numbered among the ‘real’ Evangelicals: the obligation to convert the unconverted to Christ and the appropriateness of doing that in the public square.

They also make this amazing statement (well, amazing to me, anyway): “Evangelical belief is expressed as much in our worship and in our deeds as in our creeds.”

Sounds downright Anglican, doesn’t it? Do the words “lex orendi, lex credendi strike a familiar note?

The other fascinating thing I’ve learned is that some of the Evangelical heavyweights have not signed on: Not James Dobson of Focus on the Family.

Not Chuck Colson of the Prison Fellowship.

Neither has Richard Land of the Southern Baptists.

Also missing are Bill Hybels of Willow Creek, and although Rick Warren apparently had a hand in helping draft the document, his name does not appear among the signers.

However, Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourner’s Magazine is a “charter signatory,” along with Mark Balley, President of The Dallas Seminary, Don Argue, chancellor of Northwest University, Sam Moffett, professor emeritus of Princeton, and Dean Hirsch, President of World Vision.

I didn’t see any Anglican or Episcopal signers, which I find absolutely fascinating.

All of that apparently makes no nevermind to the authors of the Manifesto. They write: “As followers of “the narrow way,” our concern is not for approval and popular esteem.”

Well, there it is, then.

Alan Jacobs, professor at Wheaton College, says that the problem with the Evangelical Manifesto is that it’s not a manifesto at all. It’s polite and embracing, he says, and a welcome change in religious discourse, but it’s porridge.

Hmm . . . I suspect ‘Evangelical Porridge’ and ‘Milquetoast Manifesto’ will taste just fine with ‘Anglican Covenant Fudge’.

Guess we’ll find out ‘round about August 3 from Lambeth Palace, Canterbury, England. Stay tuned.

Except, of course, if you are a 'narrow way' Evangelical - then you wouldn't give two figs about any of it, anyway.

Happy 73rd Birthday of Sobriety

From the pen of my friend and brother in Christ.

The personnel department of a head office sent out a letter to all branches requesting a listing of their staff “broken down by age and sex.” One local office replied: “Attached is a list of our staff. We currently have no one broken down by age or sex. However, we do have a few alcoholics.”

Alcoholics Anonymous was seventy-three years old June 10. It got started in Akron, OH, by a stock broker and a proctologist who found out that the best way to keep from drinking was to spend time with other people who wanted to keep from drinking and to talk about it. Through the both of them together with an Episcopal parson, they developed the Twelve Steps and the main traditions of AA — anonymity, confession, and mutual support.

AA is said by some to be the only truly indigenous American religion. It is said by others not to be a religion at all, indeed, to be anything but. If the question ever comes up, and believe me, it does, the notion of what is a religion is about as ambiguous — and tendentious — at an AA meeting as it is in society as a whole. It’s no wonder. The difference is that AA pretty much knows about ambiguity a lot better than does society as a whole. The difference is that AA is about as unorganized an organization, sometimes even disorganized, as you could ever imagine. And that’s surely one reason why, whatever it is, it works.

A while back, I spent a few years as chaplain for a big long-white-coat major-satrap medical center addiction treatment program with more than its share of psychiatrists nosing about. They were mostly psychopharmacologists, whatever that is, doing “research.” Their residents were required to rotate through our service but always, they avoided the group twelve-step meetings like the plague.

Their researchers were working on perfecting a pill you could take so you could drink all you want. Most of us had already tried that and even more. Nobody ever seemed to ask why drinking all you want was so important as to deserve a federal grant. Lewis Thomas, the physician-philosoper, wrote that the only thing worse than calling a scientist’s work anecdotal was to call it trivial. The shrinks in our program openly called the Twelve-Step Program anecdotal. Sometimes, we had to use it on the sly, anonymously.

My name’s Lane, and I’m an alcoholic. AA is just now seventy-three years old. I was twenty-nine about the same time. I got a late start. I’m catching up one day at a time, anecdotally, please.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The REAL Weapon of Mass Destruction

The New York Times
June 15, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist
The Weapon of Rape

World leaders fight terrorism all the time, with summit meetings and sound bites and security initiatives. But they have studiously ignored one of the most common and brutal varieties of terrorism in the world today.

This is a kind of terrorism that disproportionately targets children. It involves not W.M.D. but simply AK-47s, machetes and pointed sticks. It is mass rape — and it will be elevated, belatedly, to a spot on the international agenda this week.

The United Nations Security Council will hold a special session on sexual violence this Thursday, with Condoleezza Rice coming to New York to lead the debate. This session, sponsored by the United States and backed by a Security Council resolution calling for regular follow-up reports, just may help mass rape graduate from an unmentionable to a serious foreign policy issue.

The world woke up to this phenomenon in 1993, after discovering that Serbian forces had set up a network of “rape camps” in which women and girls, some as young as 12, were enslaved. Since then, we’ve seen similar patterns of systematic rape in many countries, and it has become clear that mass rape is not just a byproduct of war but also sometimes a deliberate weapon.

“Rape in war has been going on since time immemorial,” said Stephen Lewis, a former Canadian ambassador who was the U.N.’s envoy for AIDS in Africa. “But it has taken a new twist as commanders have used it as a strategy of war.”

There are two reasons for this. First, mass rape is very effective militarily. From the viewpoint of a militia, getting into a firefight is risky, so it’s preferable to terrorize civilians sympathetic to a rival group and drive them away, depriving the rivals of support.

Second, mass rape attracts less international scrutiny than piles of bodies do, because the issue is indelicate and the victims are usually too ashamed to speak up.

In Sudan, the government has turned all of Darfur into a rape camp. The first person to alert me to this was a woman named Zahra Abdelkarim, who had been kidnapped, gang-raped, mutilated — slashed with a sword on her leg — and then left naked and bleeding to wander back to her Zaghawa tribe. In effect, she had become a message to her people: Flee, or else.

Since then, this practice of “marking” the Darfur rape victims has become widespread: typically, the women are scarred or branded, or occasionally have their ears cut off. This is often done by police officers or soldiers, in uniform, as part of a coordinated government policy.

When the governments of South Africa, China, Libya and Indonesia support Sudan’s positions in Darfur, do they really mean to adopt a pro-rape foreign policy?

The rape capital of the world is eastern Congo, where in some areas three-quarters of women have been raped. Sometimes the rapes are conducted with pointed sticks that leave the victims incontinent from internal injuries, and a former U.N. force commander there, Patrick Cammaert, says it is “more dangerous to be a woman than to be a soldier.”

The international community’s response so far? Approximately: “Not our problem.”

Yet such rapes also complicate post-conflict recovery, with sexual violence lingering even after peace has been restored. In Liberia, the civil war is over but rape is still epidemic — and half of all reported rapes involve girls younger than 14.

Painfully slowly, the United Nations and its member states seem to be recognizing the fact that systematic mass rape is at least as much an international outrage as, say, pirated DVDs. Yet China and Russia are resisting any new reporting mechanism for sexual violence, seeing such rapes as tragic but simply a criminal matter.

On the contrary, systematic rape has properly been found by international tribunals to constitute a crime against humanity, and it thrives in part because the world shrugs. The U.N. could do far more to provide health services to victims of mass rape and to insist that peacekeepers at least try to stop it.

In Congo, the doctors at Heal Africa Hospital and Panzi Hospital (healafrica .org and repair the internal injuries of rape victims with skill and humanity. But my most indelible memory from my most recent visit, last year, came as I was interviewing a young woman who had been gang-raped.

I had taken her aside to protect her privacy, but a large group of women suddenly approached. I tried to shoo them away, and then the women explained that they had all been gang-raped and had decided that despite the stigma and risk of reprisal, they would all tell their stories.

So let’s hope that this week the world’s leaders and diplomats stop offering excuses for paralysis and begin emulating the courageous outspokenness of those Congolese women.

I invite you to comment on this column on my blog,, and join me on Facebook at

A Baptismal Love Letter for Sabrina Yu Shan

“The Kingdom of Heaven has come near.” Matthew 9:35 – 10:8
V Pentecost - June 15, 2008
The Episcopal Church of St. Paul, Chatham

My dear Sabrina Yu Shan,

By the time you read this, you will be on the brink of your adolescent years. Hopefully, you will be preparing to take these baptismal vows made for you today by your parents and godparents, and confirm them for yourself in the Sacramental Rite of Confirmation.

By then, you’ll be just another St. Paul’s kid. You’ll have been through training to be an Acolyte, Torchbearer or Crucifer and you’ll have had your ‘big debut’ in one of those featured roles. Your giggles and laughter will have been absorbed into the wood or these walls and pews, along with the tears you shed and the outrageous howls you’ll have made when your mother or father have tried to get you to behave because you don’t yet understand all that’s going on here. Or, perhaps because, on some level, you already do.

Ah, but today. Today. Right now, I want to savor today. I want us all to marinate and stew in it. Your very special day has been made even more special because you will be the 1,000th person to have been baptized in this amazing church. You are, in fact, the 65th person I have been privileged to baptize in my 6 years here as rector and pastor.

Looking back on that, on all the pictures and the videos, I’m sure you’re asking, in classic adolescent form, “Yeah, well, so what! Big hairy deal! I was the 1,000th baptism. Why did everyone get all excited and make such a big fuss? It’s so gross! So embarrassing!”

I’m going to try to explain that to you, Sabrina. You, and every person – infant, child or adult – that has baptized into this church takes her place in what St. Paul called, “the priesthood of all believers”. It is a royal priesthood, descendant as we are from the priesthood of Christ Jesus.

We are baptized into what we call ‘the communion of Saints’. That means that we take our place in a community of people who have been, who are now, and who are yet to come. And, not just in this place, but throughout the cosmos. We are baptized into a mystery, as deep and unfathomable as life, as mysterious as the constellation of atoms and cells that configure themselves just so, in the particular way that makes us unique, and at the same time, binds us together in a intricate web of connection and relationship.

That 999 people before you have been baptized into this mystery is a remarkable enough thing. That you are the 1,000th baptized person is a unique milestone, as precious and beautiful as coral and jade, which are your Chinese names: Yu Shan.

In the gospel appointed for this day, Jesus appoints the twelve apostles and we are given their individual names. In a way is their ‘baptism’, the sign and seal of their membership into an extraordinary community that set their hearts on changing the world by serving and teaching, healing and loving others in the name of Jesus. Jesus did this, we are told, because he “looked at the crowds and had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

Your baptismal vows, which you will one day confirm for yourself, also makes you a disciple and places you, like the first twelve, into a community of laborers for the Lord of the harvest. You see, Sabrina, our baptism isn’t just about us, it’s about all of us. It’s about what we, individually, can do for the whole. It’s about what we, as a community, can do for the world. It’s about the change and transformation that will happen in our individual souls so that the very soul of the world and all the souls therein may be healed and changed and transformed.

Mother Theresa is a saint dear to the heart of your grandfather, Sam. She has said that we are God’s eyes and ears, God’s hands and feet in the world, and that the mission of God in this world can only be fulfilled though our help. She looked around the city of Calcutta in India and saw the extreme poverty and suffering of the people and had great compassion on them. So, she set about to get laborers for the harvest and began a religious order of sisters who would, like the apostles, have authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out and to try to find a cure for every disease and every sickness.

We all can’t be Mother Theresa. We aren’t supposed to. English play write, Oscar Wilde once said, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” That’s really good advice from one who lived that philosophy almost to a fault. You are supposed to be Sabrina Yu Shan Wang, and, with God’s help, your parent’s love, the guidance of your family, and the support of this community, you will become the person God had in mind when you were called into creation – as unique and precious as jade and coral.

We all won’t do great, dramatic things like Mother Theresa. Today, on the day of your baptism, the sanctuary bays are filled with pictures. These are pictures of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Oh, it may not look to you like an extraordinary thing in that picture of those women gathering up knitting needles and yarn to be sent to Malawi in Africa. They were doing that because the women there didn’t have knitting needles. They were using bicycle spokes. So, a couple of the women in this community had great compassion and tried to change that for the better.

In another bay hung the picture of three little girls dressed up as angels. Very bored angels. They are dressed like that because they are part of the Annual Christmas Pageant. They help us to retell the story of the birth of Jesus. When they do that, they brighten the lives of their parents and this church family. They remind us of hope. They remind us of the great story of the even greater mystery that binds us all in the Incarnation of Love. It may look silly, but it’s a very important ministry.

In the back of the church, was the picture of two women in the sacristy. It may look to you like they are just polishing silver, but they are, in fact, polishing the sacred vessels which carry the sacred elements of bread and wine – the outward and visible signs of the inward and spiritual grace we receive from of body and blood of Jesus in the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist. What they are doing helps to remind us of the great honor it is to celebrate Eucharist, that we are, in fact, worthy to receive and be received by Jesus when we get to heaven. In a world that will try to tell you that you are worthless, this simple, small act of service testifies against that.

And, that’s the thing of it, Sabrina. We’re all going to heaven. Others may wonder if they are, but by our baptism, we are assured of it. It is promised. In the meantime, however, there’s lots of work to be done. Big, important things and little, seemingly insignificant things, but all these things are a part of the whole. “ Everything works together for the good for those who love the Lord.”

Your job, as a newly baptized disciple of Christ, is to do whatever it is you are called to do – very small things, sometimes, and very big things at other times – with an awareness of the gratitude that God has already placed in your heart. You are always to have an awe and wonder of the glories of God’s creation as well as the will and the strength to protect and preserve it. You are to become a fierce, bold warrior for the dignity and justice of every human being as well as a kind, compassionate healer of the souls and bodies broken by the darkness and burden of the world.

It’s a very tall order, Sabrina, but it is a task you have been called to do – to lift up your head and see the suffering in the world and feel the compassion that calls you to change things for the better. Like your elder brothers Simon, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James Thaddaeus, Simon and Judas, the original twelve, before you.

Like your elder sisters, Mary and Mary of Magdala and Mary and Martha of Behtany, before you. And like those who we will honor today, Erin, David, Sarah, Bryan, Billy, Stan and Max, who are graduating from high school and are going off to do even greater things then they have already done. You won’t do it exactly like them. You’ll do it in the unique and particular way God needs you to help transform the world.

What is so special about today? Well, Sabrina, it comes down to this: today, in your baptism, we are privileged to enter into a holy moment. Time has been marked as sacred. Today, Sabrina, the kingdom of Heaven has come near, that we may be inspired and nourished for this day, so that we might persevere to do God’s work all the days of our lives. Amen