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, January 31, 2007

Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes

The following is a promo for a PBS show scheduled to air on February 20th.

Okay, so you're asking why it is that this priest in affluent, Republican, lily-white Chatham, NJ is concerned about this video?

Well, because Hip Hop Nation is not just about music. Music is the vehicle for the expression of a cultural identity which appeals to people of all ethnicities, all races and cultures.

I've heard Hip Hop played in the barios of Newark, the clubs in Manhattan, and on the streets in Ohio, California, England, Dubai in the Emerits, Lagos, Nigeria and Kumasi, Ghana.

I would guess that 80% of the music I hear coming from the kids in my Chatham Youth Group is Hip Hop.

I admit that there is much about Hip Hop music that I like (Janet Jackson totally ROCKS). That being said, I am still very concerned because much the new Hip Hop - like that from 50 Cent and Nellie - is violent.

And, hear this clearly: that violence is directly aimed at women.

Here's just one of the statements made in the film: "Violent masculinity is at the heart of American identity."

If that were a true or false statement, I would have to say, "True." In the promo, at least, this is used to justify the violence in Hip Hop. See? It doesn't promote violence. It's just an accurate reflection, the implication seems to be, of what already is.

At one point, a young African American woman is asked if she is disturbed because women are constantly refered to as "bitches and ho's" in Hip Hop. "No," she responds, "I know they aint' talkin' about me."

The narrator says, "Yo, they ARE talkin' about you, girl! If President Bush used the 'N' word to describe you, you wouldn't be like, 'Oh, he ain't talkin' 'bout me.' Yeah, he is."

I don't know about you, but I'm thinking, "Stockholm Syndrome."

There are many complex and varied issues raised by this on many levels with a variety of applications.

I think this is "one to watch." And, talk about with your kids.

Word to yo mutha!

A Girl Like Me

If you haven't already, you absolutely MUST see this short video "A Girl Like Me" which is a seven minute clip from a critically important documentary that has re-ignited the controversy about race relations in this country.

The young African American woman who is the videographer of this film is 17 years old. You can purchase the entire documentary online.

Be prepared to be stunned. Please do watch this.

And then we have to get a grip, get up, get going, and start all over again.

If the above link is not hot, you may purase the film at

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

"In memory of her"

The following story was posted at one of my favorite Blogsites “Of course I could be wrong” , which had appeared in a British newspaper (unfortunately, the source is neither named nor linked).

It is the advanced notice of a BBC broadcast about a young man in a Roman Catholic hospice whose wish is to experience sex before he dies.

Now, I can tell you from my medical and pastoral background and experience that this sort of thing goes on all the time. This is not a novel situation, folks. You know it as well as I do.

Given the discussion about the ethics of divorce and homosexuality, a few questions arise:

What does the church (that’s us, folks, the Body of Christ) have to say about sexual ethics and morality in this situation? What would Jesus have us do for this young man? Did Sr. Frances Dominica make the correct moral decision? What would any of us do were we in the position of Sr. Frances Dominica?


A young disabled man who receives care for his life-limiting illness at a hospice run by a nun spoke yesterday of his decision to use a prostitute to experience sex before he dies.

Sister Frances Dominica gave her support to 22-year-old Nick Wallis, who was born with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Sufferers usually die by their thirties.

Mr Wallis told staff at the Douglas House hospice in Oxford that he wanted to experience sexual intercourse. He explained that he had hoped to form an intimate and loving relationship with a woman, but his disability had acted as a barrier.

He told The Daily Telegraph: "It was a decision two years in the making and I discussed it with my carers and my parents. Telling my mother and father was the hardest part, but in the end they gave me their support."

"There are many aspects of life that an able-bodied person takes for granted but from which I am excluded.

"I had hoped to form a relationship when I went to university, but it didn't happen. I had to recognise that if was to experience sex I would have to pay for it out of my savings. My mind was made up before I discussed it with anyone else."

The hospice staff, after taking advice from a solicitor, the clergy and health care professionals, decided to help him.

"I found an advert from a sex worker in a magazine for the disabled," said Mr Wallis. "The initial contact was by email and then by phone."

It was arranged for the prostitute to visit his home in Northampton. "My parents went out," he said.

"It was not emotionally fulfilling, but the lady was very pleasant and very understanding. I do not know whether I would do it again. I would much rather find a girlfriend, but I have to be realistic."

Mr Wallis has decided to talk in public about his decision as part of the BBC documentary series about life inside Douglas House and its associated hospice for children, Helen House.

"I have done so in order that people may understand the issues that face people in my situation. I suppose some people may be judgmental."

He said he did not discuss his decision directly with Sister Frances, who founded the two hospices. "But I know she gave me her support."

Sister Frances described Mr Wallis as "delightful, intelligent and aware young man".

"I know that some people will say 'You are a Christian foundation. What are you thinking about?'. But we are here for all faiths and none," she said.

"It is not our job to make moral decisions for our guests. We came to the conclusion that it was our duty of care to support Nick emotionally and to help ensure his physical safety."

Mr Wallis's story can be seen on The Children of Helen House, BBC2, 10pm Tuesday.

All I can tell you is that I can hear Jesus saying, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her?” (Mark 14:6a) “Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.” (Matthew 26:13).

"Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little. (Luke 7:47)

"And he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.'" (Luke 7:50)

Monday, January 29, 2007

Madonna Live To Tell NBC

I am a HUGE Madonna fan. Always have been. Always will be.

Yes, I am a self-avowed, practicing and unrepentant fan of Madonna.

Yes, this is a controversial performance, but the real controversy is in the stories it tells, for these are the real lives which hang on modern, cultural crosses of our own making.

These are the tales that need to be told - as well as the modern stories of our participation in the ever-unfolding divine drama of salvation.

Take 10 minutes and experience the controversies of our modern lives of faith.

Then, take 10 more minutes and think about the tales you need to tell.

Or, perhaps, the tales you need to hear and see and know.

And, then, consider the salvific, forgiving, redemptive work you are called to do.

Today. In your lifetime. In the shadow of the cross. In the hope of salvation.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Congratulations, Sandye

Sunday, January 28, 2007, marks the 25th Anniversary of the Ordination to the Priesthood of the Rev'd Sandye Wilson, rector of the Episcopal (Anglican) Church of St. Andrew and Holy Communion in South Orange, New Jersey.

I understand that the community of people of SAHC put on quite a celebration for Sandye - as well they might. Her enthusiastic embrace of the gospel, translated into compelling preaching, creative liturgy, social justice and committed pastoral care has earned her the love and respect of the people she serves and the neighborhood and community where she lives.

You have been a blessing of the church and to the church, my sister.

I am reminded that your mentor and my hero, the Rev'd Dr. Pauli Murray, once wrote: "Hope is a song in a weary throat."

Thank you for every verse which the past twenty five years of your ministry has brought to the Song of Hope which Jesus first sang to us from the cross of our salvation.

May you sing out hope in a weary voice for another twenty five years, my sister, knowing that God loves you and continues to expect a mighty work from you, that all who see what you have done in the Name of Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit, may bring honor and glory to God.
Eddie Izzard - Easter and Christmas

Okay, last one. Well, for today, anyway.

I love Eddie Izzard. Can you tell?

No, he's not gay. As he himself says, "I fancy girls. I also fancy their shoes, is all."

Sometimes, it's just important to have a laugh and a half at the end of the day is all.

Anyone who takes their religion too seriously deserves exactly what they get.

And, I suppose, anyone who takes their religion too lightly has also recieved their reward.

But, the one who loves Jesus and can have a bit of an outrageous laugh at organized religion in general and the Anglican Church in particular, now it is s/he who has come very near to the Realm of God.

Somebody say, "Amen."
Religion ala Eddie Izzard

Eileen had posted this on her blog and I refered to it, but now that I've learned how to do this, I want it on MY Blog.

It's hilarious, in that tweaking, outrageous, British sort of way.

And, it's not that far from the truth, either.

A Sermon for Epiphany III

“When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage.”Luke 4:21-30
Epiphany IV – January 28, 2007
The Episcopal Church of St. Paul, Chatham, NJ
(the Rev’d) Elizabeth Kaeton, rector and pastor

Well, now we know. Eventually, the pieces of the story are woven together and we get to see the entire scriptural picture.

Remember two weeks ago? Remember our Senior Warden, Jim’s Mollo’s sermon on the story of the Wedding at Cana? Remember how sassy Jesus was with his mother? Jim’s mother and my mother must have graduated from the same parenting class. Had I spoken to my mother that way, calling her ‘Woman,’ I would have been beaten into next week. (Actually, her threat was, “I’ll beat some sense into you.” Which makes great sense, eh?)

Remember the response Jesus gave to his mother when she asked him to get more wine? “Woman, my time has not yet come.”

Now we know. Now we understand his hesitancy in making public the divinity of his humanity. Now the pieces fit.

The people of the town have just heard Jesus read scripture in the Temple. You may recall that: Galileans, in their day, were not allowed read scripture publicly. Galilee was considered a ‘backwater’ – a hick town – and the people there spoke with a distinctive accent.

I suppose we might compare it to the accent of someone from the Ozarks or Appalachia. Here comes Jesus, Joseph’s son – someone everybody knew from birth – reading from the Torah and “all spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.”

Imagine that! A Galilean who can actually read publicly and sound gracious!

(Hey, isn’t that Joseph’s kid?!?)

Jesus is onto them. He tells them that he expects them to ask for something more. We all know this dynamic, don’t we? Who among us doesn’t cringe to recall a long-ago memory, hearing one of our parents say, “Go ahead, dance for Grandma. Play the piano for your Aunt Ruth. Sing that song you learned in class the other day for my garden club.”

Jesus, anticipating this, reminds them that Elijah cared for the widow Zarephath in Sidon even though everyone was affected by the famine. And, even though there were many lepers in Israel, Elisha cleansed only Naaman the Syrian.

Jesus is not about to ‘perform.’ That’s simply not how it works with the miracles of God. Moreover, it is simply not good leadership. I have heard it said that a good leader will take you where you want to go. A great leader, however, will take you places you’ve never dreamed you would go. Jesus isn’t going to just do a “miracle on demand.” He’s got greater lessons to teach.

Which gets EVERYONE enraged. I mean, if he’s not the carpenter’s son, carrying on his father’s trade, and he’s going to do something really different, then show us what you CAN do. When Jesus won’t, the people get so angry that they “got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff.”

So, we get it now. This is why Jesus was so hesitant to declare the start of his ministry. This is why he told his mother, “My time has not yet come.” Jesus knew the cost of this all too well.

Whenever I read this story, I’m reminded of the story my grandmother often told about how and why she came to America. She was the youngest and the only daughter of a family with seven sons. When she was 13 years old, her mother died and, even in her grief, she could read the handwriting on the wall. As the only girl, she would have to stay at home and care for her father and her brothers. That would be her life. Until, of course, she married a man and became his wife and cared for their children.

Still, if that were her lot in life, she’d rather have it be her own. So, she feigned exhaustion from her grief and convinced her father’s sister to have her sent away to America to visit relatives – just for a visit. A couple of months. Just to get her bearings. Earn a wee bit of money and then return home to care for her father and brothers.

Except, at age 15, she married my grandfather and together, they had 22 children, raising 15 to adulthood. My grandmother reports that her father and brothers were so angry at her for not returning home that they never forgave her. Indeed, she was never allowed to return to her native land of Portugal, and never saw her father or brothers again.

There was much more to that story she never told, but the fullness of her untold story haunted her. A look of sadness would come into her eyes that almost broke your heart. There was no denying that her heart – and something in her spirit – was broken by whatever had happened to her in her decision to declare her independence and start her life on the path of her own choosing.

I suppose this is why, in the mid-1950’s she made certain to sit me down and show me a pictorial essay in LIFE Magazine. It was about the Red Foxes of Holmes, County Ohio which first appeared in 1944. She had saved the magazine which contained that pictorial essay. She had carefully wrapped it in tissue paper and then in wax paper, placing it in the bottom of her dresser drawer, preserving it as an opportunity to teach her children and grandchildren a hard lesson about human nature which she had learned.

It has come to be, for me, a modern parable.

It appears that the good people of Holmes County, Ohio, hated the Red Foxes that lived in the corn fields of their county. They hated them because they thought they were the ones who were killing their sheep and their pigs. What they didn’t know was that the Red Fox only eats rodents, rabbits, insects and fruit – but mostly, very small prey - not sheep or pigs.

Ironically, it was their predatory expertise, not doubt, which kept the population of the field mice from raiding their granaries or from getting into the farm house cupboards.

No matter. The good people of Holmes County, Ohio, needed to feel that they were doing something to rid themselves of the threat of the Red Foxes. In folklore, the Red Fox is often a wily villain who triumphs over those who would attempt to control or destroy it. In the Uncle Remus folktales, Br’er Fox is a fictional character who is often outwitted by Br’er Rabbit.

So, in the Spring of every year the good people of Holmes County, wanting, I suppose, to feel better about themselves by outwitting the Red Fox, would gather at the edge of the corn field – men and women, their children and grandchildren (to teach them well) – where they knew the Red Fox had their boroughs.

They would begin to beat spoons and ladles onto the backs of the pots and pans they had brought from their kitchens, making a terrible noise to frighten the Red Foxes out of their underground homes.

The Red Foxes would emerge from their boroughs, frightened and scared, and run into the middle of the circle of humans, which would grow smaller and smaller, tighter and tighter, until they were all huddled together with no place else left to go.

Some, out of fear, snarled at the humans around them. Others, out of an uncanny but senseless appeal to the humanity of their captors, tried to lick the hands of those who cornered them. It did no good. Because the good people of Holmes County, Ohio, had a job to do.

At the command of one of the town leaders, they would beat those Red Foxes – beat the mothers and the fathers and the baby Red Foxes – senseless, until they were beaten unconscious and died.

Of course, the killing of the sheep and chickens would go on. Everyone knew that it was the coyotes who were the culprit. But, killing the coyotes took skill – something the good people of Holmes County did not have.

It was much easier to kill the Red Foxes and feel as if they had done something to protect themselves. The pictorial essay in that 1944 issue of Life Magazine reported that they did this every year.

My grandmother showed me this photo essay and said, “People can be mean and cruel. They can be very mistaken about you, and blame you for things that you would never in a million years even consider doing. Still, they will hunt you down and try to kill you – or your spirit. Don’t let them. Be true to who you are. Be what God made you. Be what God wants you to be – not what other people think you are.”

I have seen this happen in families. You have too. I have seen families cut off a sibling or an adult child because a marriage – predicted from the outset to be troubled – finally ended in failure. Or, I’ve seen families cut off and banish another family member who was addicted to alcohol or drugs. Or, a son or daughter who was gay. Or, a child who did not do well at college. Or, who took a path in life that was not part of the parent’s plan for them. Or, a child who did as his parents asked and grew up to be a most unhappy – indeed, miserable – adult.

We’ve seen this on the national and international level as well. We’ve seen it in Palestine and Israel with the Hamas and the Hezbullah. In Afghanistani tension between the Kurds and the Christians. In Iraq between the Shiite and the Sunni’s. In Northern Ireland between the Protestants and the Catholics. In Rwanda between the Tutsi and the Hutu. In the genocide in Dufar in the Sudan. And, ‘lest we forget, in the prison cells of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay..

Last week, Jim Mollo, inspired by the Gospel and by the words of Desmond Tutu, encouraged us to be who we are. To be who God made us to be. Today’s lessons continue that theme. The first lesson was from the Prophet Jeremiah.

“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you,” God says to him; “and before you were born I consecrated you.” Jeremiah responds, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am a boy.” And God says, “Do not be afraid.”

Paul’s eloquent letter to the Church in Corinth reminds us that port of the rite of passage into adulthood is to make a choose. Choose faith. Choose hope. But, most importantly, choose love.

Today’s gospel lesson is a reminder – a frighteningly stark reminder – that integrity and authenticity come at a very high cost. Jeremiah, even as a young boy, knew it. Jesus, in his time, knew it too. And, in our time, so do we. It happens when all the pieces of the story of our life fit together. When we know it is our time. When we understand that we only have one life and it is our life, anyway, and the time has come to put that belief into action.

Sadly, what happened to Jesus happens to many of us, too. We know this. We know this well. So, some of us compromise. Some sell ourselves short. We tell ourselves little lies that haunt us and break our hearts – and, eventually, our wills. This led Henry David Thoreau to say, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.”

Which probably led him to say, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”

There are also many of us who have taken that different step to the different drummer. Believe it or not, we are called Christian. Yes, Christian. Being a Christian makes you a decidedly counter-cultural person. Let’s be honest: that’s a bit of a difficult pill for most Episcopalians to swallow, isn’t it?

Yesterday, as part of the service of ordination and consecration of Mark Beckwith as the 10th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, we were treated to the reading of excerpts of MLK’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail which was read by Newark Mayor, Corey Booker.

I was reminded of the quote in which Dr. King says that the church has become a thermometer for society, giving us indications of how to conform to the cultural climate. He asked, “Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world?” Dr. King said that rather than be a thermometer, the church needs to be a thermostat for our culture, our nation, our world, turning up the heat, when necessary, to meet the challenge of the struggle for freedom and an end to war and torture, poverty and hunger, epidemic and oppression.

Yet, this very act puts us outside the culture. It gives us an identity that will engender such hatred that some will want to run us out of town, hurling us headlong over a cliff, or, like the Red Foxes who are perceived as a threat, circle us up and beat our spirit to death.

Like Jesus, we know what it means to sit in church, listening to the call of the prophets. And, some of us know, deep in our places of knowing, that if we actually acted upon those words, what might happen. And, it makes us very afraid. So we do nothing.

Poet William Blake once said, “All that is necessary for evil to flourish is for good men – good people – to do nothing.” That is true on a personal level, as well as in our families, our neighborhoods, our churches, our nation and the world.

Yesterday, at the end of the service of consecration of our new bishop, Mark Beckwith, gave a very powerful benediction. I suspect we’ll be hearing it at the end of every service we share with him. It is one I wish to leave with you today as inspiration and hope,

“May God give you the grace to never sell yourself short; grace to risk something big for something good; grace to remember that the world is too dangerous now for anything but truth, and too small for anything but love. And the blessing of God Almighty – the God who creates us, the Son who sets us free, and the Spirit who promises to be with us – even to the end of the age, be with us all evermore.”

And the Award for the 'Quote of the week' goes to . . . . . .

... . . . .The Rev'd Liz Zivanov, rector of The Episcopal Church of St. Clement Honolulu, Hawaii, and deputy extraordinnaire to General Convention.

"The Windsor Report is a plowshare that's been beaten into a sword."

Scenes from a Consecration

Please do enjoy these photos taken by Steve Boston and Nina Nicholson of the Ordination and Consecration of Mark Beckwith as the 10th Bishop of the Episcopal (Anglican) Diocese of Newark.

The High Altar at NJPAC (New Jersey Performing Arts Center) in Newark. Isn't that Red Rose, Carnation and Heather Cross simply stunning?

The changing of the guard. Bishop Croneberger hands off the staff to newly ordained Bishop Beckwith.

More than 3,000 people attended the Service of Ordination and Consecration.

(Oh, yes, hadn't you heard? The Episcopal Church is dying, and the Diocese of Newark is going right down the hopper. These headlines brought to you by Chicken Little).

Tracey Lind, Dean of the Cathedral in Cleveland, OH and dear friend of +Mark, was one of the concelebrants of the Eucharist. I am so proud to call Tracey my good friend as well.

Keep your eye on Tracey. The solid money is that she will be the first ordained woman who also just happens to be lesbian to be elected a bishop.

I can't think of better company for +Gene in the House of Bishops.

More importantly, I can't imagine a more qualified person to be Bishop.

Note to MadPriest: I'm wearing a red suede coat, darling, with red fringes. The word had gone forth from the Office of the Bishop that all in attendance were to wear the color red.

I had thought of wearing my red zip-up leather jacket, but it looks a bit too, well, 'randy' I think is the word. My beloved Ms. Conroy, my partner of 30+ years, said that this red coat made me look a bit more like an 'crunchy-granola' type priest, with just a bit of an 'edge' to cause a stir.

I wore it, of course, thinking of you and basking in the wonder of your completely unearned and undeserved love for me.
Pink- Dear Mr President - Live

I'm not a big fan of PINK, but this is outstanding.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Louie Crew offers a first look at today's consecration

Here's Louie with our Presiding Bishop Katharine at NJPAC after today's most amazing service.

He has graciously sent around this note, which offers us a first look at today's consecration.

I'm quite certain that there will be more pictures as well as the Presiding Bishop's sermon on our diocesan website before too long. I'll direct you there as soon as I read the announcement.

BTW, I have been told that the "official" count was over 3,000 people in attendance.

You may now join the heavenly hosts in the post modern chant, "Go head, be goin'".

At you may
view the pictures which I took at the consecration today.

As you will quickly discover, I am not a professional photographer.
Nevertheless, I hope they capture some of the splendor and joy that we

Share these freely with anyone who would like to see them.

Clerk of the Vestry of Grace Church

Almost heaven.

After an absolutely amazing service of ordination and consecration of our new bishop, Mark Beckwith, I thought that perhaps, just perhaps, I had died and done gone to heaven.

The NJ Performing Arts Center may not have been designed for liturgical functions, but you would never have known it from today's service. I couldn't have imagined a more perfect place to ordain and consecrate a bishop.

The house was packed. If the Episcopal Church is dying, you'd never have been able to tell from the amount of people and the incredible energy in that theater. I'm going to make a wild guess and say that there were well over 2,500 people there. Easy.

The 260 member choir was magnificent! The heavenly hosts and choirs of angels must have been so proud! Bishop Beckwith's daughter was one of the featured soloists and sang like a very angel for her father. The psalm and gospel alleluia's were set by our own James McGregor of Grace Church, Newark.

The readings (a passage from Jeremiah 1:4-10 and Luke's version of the Ascension 24:44-49a) - including excerpts from Dr. King's "Letter from the Birmingham Jail" read with passion and conviction by Mayor Corey Booker - were perfectly chosen.

Our Bishop Katharine preached a powerful sermon on the tensions of our faith as embodied in the office and ministry of a bishop of the church, on this the feast of St. John Chrysostom, bishop of Constantinople.

Bishop Katharine spoke of the tension of the commandment of Jesus to "stay in the city" and King's prophetic question of the church being "too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world."

She told Mark that, when he got his "new hat" she would have him name one of the tails "stay" (and pray) and the other "go" (and make disciples of all nations). She urged him to forge his episcopacy in the tension of those two commandments of Jesus.

Bishop Mark sent us out with this blessing: May God give you the grace to never sell yourself short; grace to risk something big for something good; grace to remember that the world is too dangerous now for anything but truth, and too small for anything but love. And the blessing of God Almighty - the God who creates us, the Son who sets us free, and the Spirit who promises to be with us - even to the end of the ages, be with us all evermore.

If the world doesn't hear that there is a new Spirit blowing in the church - and in this diocese - they must be comatose or just not paying attention. I understand the excitement of the early disciples who dropped everything to follow Jesus. That's precisely the kind of energy that was in church . . .um . . . that theater . . no, it was CHURCH . . . today.

I couldn't have been happier.

And then, the mail came, and with it the CD I had ordered almost two weeks ago.

"Too Close" by Bishop Perry Tillis, founder of the Savior Lord Jesus Pentecostal Holiness Church out of Samson, Alabama, was lying there amidst the bills and letters and advertisements. (Birdman Recording Group, Inc.)

The good bishop is singing to me even now - and to all "Whiskey-palians". GOD DON'T LIKE IT: "Now, they said you cut out whiskey. Said they not let you drink that wine. Now, you preachers, deacons and teachers, you getting all drunk up in that moonshine. You know, God don't like it. God knows, you know he don't like it. You know God don't like it. I know God don't like you up in that sin and shame."

Now he's singing, DO YOU KNOW THE MAN? "Do you know the man from Galilee? Do you know Mary's Baby? Do you know that man's a mighty good doctor? The man woke me up this morning . . . the man from Galilee. He walked on out on the water (Oh, oh, oh), and he calmed the raging sea (Lord, have mercy), I said, Do you know that man from Galilee?"

But, it's when he sings the title track TOO CLOSE that he blows the roof off the church: "I'm too close not to get my goal. I'm savin' my soul. I can't turn around. Oh, no, I can't turn around. I'm too close, I can see my old mother and friends. Let me run home till I make it in. Oh, I wouldn't take nothin' for my journey right now. I'm too close that I can grab God's hand. Don't want to miss my final chance to the Promised Land. I can't turn round."

No siree, as hard as it has been, as difficult as is the road ahead, I wouldn't take nothin' for my journey right now.

Some days - not every day - but every once a while, I swear, it's almost heaven.

Mdimi Mhogolo, Archbishop of Tanganyika, bids TEC welcome

Anglican Diocese of Central Tanganyika
P. O. Box 15, Dodoma, Tanzania
26 January 2007

Dear Friends in Christ.

Grace and Peace from our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

In our times, everybody is called to define himself/herself and the faith one holds. It is a time of great confusion. For those who wish to know our position on matters of our faith, here are our reflections as we try to prepared all the time to answer anyone who questions the integrity of our faith.

Our salvation comes from God through Jesus Christ, the only one of grace and truth. It is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that draws us to God the grace we receive unconditionally.

As we received grace, we too try to live according to His grace and become gracious in holding the truth, in how we treat other people and as we relate with one another.

The grace of Jesus Christ has called us not only to renounce evil [the expression of the Mosaic Law] but more so to bear the fruit of the Spirit of God which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self-control.

Our new life is not characterized so much by avoiding or renouncing evil and sin, but actively doing what is good a reflection of our new life in Jesus Christ. As notorious sinners used to run to Jesus for help, the Church too should become a safe place of refuge, a gracious space where sinners come. If sinners continue to reject and run away from the Church, we will soon know that Jesus is no longer there - in the Church!

Our mission statement expresses it well:

To communicate in word and deed the love of God to everyone in the Diocese, whatever their conditions might be, so that they may know him as Savior; Be committed to him as Lord;

Rejoice together in the fellowship of the Spirit; Worship him as Father, And go out with this message of Jesus Christ love to others.

We show our faith with our neighbors by our words, lives and deeds. The Church keeps on growing because of the witness of Christians expressed in their daily living. We firmly believe in the growth of the Church. If we stop growing, we will soon die. For us the growth of the Church is our life and service to the world.

Worship is also the life of our mission. The Church is there to give God the glory through worship and service. We are known by others as a worshipping community. We come together to worship and give thanks to God through Jesus Christ, by the power and fellowship of the Holy Spirit, for who God is and the way God has become in our lives. God receives our worship and renews us, comfort us and sends us into the world to live and worship God through lives of service and mission. Our lives become our daily offerings to God.

We are here not for ourselves, but for others. Our mission is to make God known in people lives and to show them how God creates, upholds and nourishes each person. We try to express Jesus Christ in the sufferings and challenges of our communities. We cry with those who cry and bring hope for a better future to those who suffer. We share the sufferings and hurts with the people we serve and become a prayerful sign before God on behalf of them all.

We also work for the hope of glory in trying to transform the lives of our people regardless of their color, gender, religion, sexual orientation and social status.
In this effort, we have friends who work with us in health and medical work, primary and secondary schools, HIV/AIDS programs, Water, Food security, Agriculture and livestock, Christian education and TEE.

We have friendly governments who work with us, such as the governments of UK, Australia, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, France, Holland, and the US.

We also have friends from secular organizations, such as Oxfam, Care International, Intermon, VSO, Peace Corps, Water Aid, the French ADEN and Resource Center.

We have friends in Christian organisations working with us, from such as CMS UK, CMSA, NZ CMS, Crosslinks, CBM, and NZ Board of Missions, ECUSA, USPG, The Anglican Church of Canada, and German Christians to Many Lands, DU, EED, Bread for the World, Christian Aid, ERD, the Diocese of New York and the Diocese of Atlanta.

We have societies of friends such as Friends of Mvumi Hospital, Friends of Buigiri School for the Blind, Friends of Mvumi Secondary School, Friends of Msalato Theological College and Friends of DCT.

In addition, we are approached by friends through the internet who come to work with us in our schools, development work and in our hospitals.

We work together with all the above organisations, governments and people in
trying to realise the Millennium Development Goals and transform the lives of our people for God's sake.

We see God working in peoples lives using all our partnerships to realise His reign in our world. We believe God works outside the Church as much as in the Church. For this reason we too have widened our partnership to work with all people with good will for God's mission in the world.

In this we value and cherish our independence and interdependence. We are a Church with all the rights, privileges and grace we have in Jesus Christ. We are an African Church that has come from Western Christian exploitation through slavery, colonialism and paternalism.

We know how the Bible has been used in the past to terrorize our people, our cultures and the values we hold dear; questioning the dignity of our being and our faith in God, as though we were made a little less than in the image and likeness of God. We still know how the Bible is used selectively to affirm people's intrinsic understanding on the place of women in the society, the Church and Christian families; and Women's ministries and ordination, in the Church.

We value our freedom in Jesus Christ and protect it with all the power of the Holy Spirit. We will not relapse into being held captive again by anybody, even by a brother or sister in Christ. We are responsible and accountable to God in Jesus Christ as much as any other diocese or individual.

It is in this confidence that we also express our interdependence with others as equals. In our interdependence, we can share our lives with others, learn from others, and share our people skills, knowledge and resources with them. We are very open to working and living together as brothers and sisters of the Faith, and with those of other faiths.

Respect, love, freedom and dignity for all are values we hold dear in our interdependence and partnership. As much as we do not choose friends for our partners, we too hold dearly our freedom to choose our friends.

We too don't choose our friends lightly. We do not work with racist Christians, be they Southerners or Northerners, Easterners or Westerners; whether they are Bible believing or Liberals, Evangelicals or Charismatics, Orthodox or Conservatives, Black
or White, Yellow or Purple.

We will not work with anyone who questions our dignity, our intelligence, our spirituality and the integrity of our faith in, and the freedom we have in, Jesus Christ.

We also do not work with those who put strings to their skills, money or knowledge, those who tell us to sing their songs instead of singing ours; those who give help and demand our support and those who wish to propagate their agendas instead of standing for ours.

Insisting that we behave this way is another form of slavery and Christian colonialism.

It is only in our mutual respect and love that we come together and work together for the benefit of the society we serve under the overarching mission of God. We have partners from different backgrounds: Roman Catholic, Baptists,Methodists, Pentecostal churches, Anglicans, Episcopalians, Lutherans, House Churches and Charismatic Churches.

We also have people of other faiths such as Moslems, Hindus and African Traditional Religions who work in our schools and hospitals.

So it is from this context that our response to ECUSA is expressed.

The way we do God's mission is to strategize our mission and then look for resources for the mission. The recruitment of people, both within and outside the country becomes part of our efforts in realising God's mission.

The material funding for God's mission impacts our goal to see God's mission is well resourced. ECUSA with its relief and development agencies is only a small part of our funding and partnership organizations.

The issue of homosexuality with its various understandings is not only an ECUSA issue, but involves all of our development and mission partners. If one is realistic, the issue of homosexuality and their money affects all our partner organisations, Churches, missionary agencies, governments and secular organisations.

We then ask ourselves, why should we single out ECUSA and treat it differently?

We know that a substational amount of money and funding that governments,=20
Churches, and missionary societies, comes from gay and lesbian people.

We live in our cultural context where gay and lesbians are regarded as criminals punishable to long term imprisonments. We also live in a country where gay and lesbians are violently persecuted, mistreated, hated and ostracised.

We as Black Africans know the hurts and permanent damage caused by our past experiences which still linger on to the present. We have gone through all that and we know how it hurts.

Once we were regarded like animals to be shot at, less than humans, to be turned into slaves and without God, to be taught the Western Christian gods. We have gone through that and we don't want to go that way again.

We hold the Gospel of grace and love where all people are welcomed, loved, cared for and treated with dignity. We preach a Gospel of restoration, reconciliation, love, peace, grace and healing. Many people are already feeling bad, hurt, disoriented, frustrated and bitter.

We do not want to make life worse for them; instead we provide spaces for grace, love, and care to grow, and healing to take place for all.

For this reason, we will continue to welcome all our true brothers and sisters, children and adults, adolescents and mature, black and white, African American and White Americans to work and have fellowship with us; as much as we also welcome all Christians from the rest of the Christian world, both Anglicans and non-Anglicans; Christians and non-Christians.

If Episcopalians visit us, we ask them to honor and respect our Faith, our cultures, our traditions and our way of life in Jesus Christ. People or mission partners do not come to change us. They come to appreciate, share and learn of our faith, our Christian culture we have developed and our way of life as we work together for the kingdom of God on earth.

We are not a closed Church where we reject some and welcome others. We are an open Church where even our enemies can find food, love, care and shelter. We always try to become like Jesus Christ our master, to everyone who comes into our home.

The issue of homosexuality is not fundamental to the Christian faith, although many try to make it that way!! We would have become wiser if we had learned how the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran World Federation, the Presbyterian Church, the Reformed Churches and the Society of Friends are dealing with the issue. We are in a mess because we do not want to learn from other world Christian Communities!!! The source of our faith and mission in God is Jesus Christ.

If someone has a different understanding on the essence of our faith,then we all should be alarmed. But as long as individual Episcopalians hold the one, holy, Apostolic and Catholic Faith, who am I to pass judgment now that they are not my brothers and sisters in Christ?

I wish you every blessing from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ in
the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

Epiphany 2007

NB. We are also aware of the statement of the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Tanzania that expresses a severely impaired relationship with ECUSA, and that no money will be received by the Anglican Church of Tanzania from ECUSA from entities that condone homosexual practices.

My understanding is that the statement of the House of Bishops, though it carries a lot of weight, it does not express the will and wishes of the whole Anglican Church of Tanzania. It is only when the other two Houses, namely the House of Laity and the House of Clergy are involved in the thinking and decision making that the statement becomes the whole Anglican Church of Tanzania.

Besides, any statement should reflect the dynamic and real life of the Church concerned. Since the Statement did not express the real life of the Church, i.e. some diocese have had and continue to have links with ECUSA, and others do not; and that some dioceses are sympathetic with the Anglican Network and AMIA, whereas other dioceses have had major disagreements with them over the ordination of women; the statement then equips our Archbishop and the General Secretary to work on our provincial common ventures.

"There's a party goin' on, there's a party up in he-ah"

Rejoice with us as the Episcopal (Anglican) Diocese of Newark ordains, consecrates, invests and flat out celebrates the ministry of Mark Beckwith as our tenth bishop at 11:30 this morning.

We are delighted and honored that our Presiding Bishop and Primate, Katharine Jefferts-Schori, will be with us as chief consecrator and preacher.

Even as I speak, the entire diocese is traveling from the farthest reaches of the North, South, East and West of our borders; from rural, suburban, exurban and urban centers of the great diversity and multi-ethnicity of our congregations; and from places we do not yet know wherein live those who have known and loved and been ministered to by our bishop-elect to gather at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in the hardscrabble but phoenix-like rising "Brick City" of Newark.

The presence of your spirit and prayers are most welcome.

" . . .let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord."

And let the church say, "Amen."

(You can also join the seraphim and cherubim and all the company of heaven in the postmodern chant, "Woo-hoo!" and "Go head, be goin'")

Friday, January 26, 2007


Louie Crew: Publication of Private Email a Betrayal

The publication of details from a private e-mail message sent by the Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Consultative Council to Episcopalian Louie Crew was a betrayal, according to Mr. Crew, a five-time deputy to General Convention from the Diocese of Newark and a former member of Executive Council.

“I shared the message with a limited number of trusted friends, one of whom betrayed me,” Mr. Crew told a reporter for The Living Church. “I have harmed an important leader in the Church and I deeply regret that.”

In the message, details of which were published on the internet by a British weekly newspaper, Church Times, Canon Kearon is quoted saying he shares some of the same concerns that Bethlehem Bishop Paul V. Marshall made public in an open letter sent Jan. 16 to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

“Our relationship to the one who is expected to be first in a world-wide college of bishops is distant, confused, and multiply triangulated,” Bishop Marshall wrote. “We are ceaselessly told by those who would destroy our church that the [Archbishop] endorses this or that crudely divisive action or position. Questions to Lambeth on these occasions are sometimes met with silence and sometimes with stunning equivocation. This distance, confusion, and triangulation ought not to be. Can the Archbishop of Canterbury not come to meet us just once at a regular or special meeting in any city he would care to name?”

In a related development, Anglican Journal, the official source for news about the Anglican Church of Canada, reported that Archbishop Williams will make his first visit to Canada since he became Archbishop of Canterbury in 2002.

Archbishop Williams is scheduled to lead a full-day retreat for the Canadian House of Bishops April 17. Archbishop Williams is scheduled to arrive in Niagara Falls, Ont., in the evening on April 16 and leave after the retreat concludes. The bishops’ April 16-20 spring meeting is significant because they will be choosing candidates for a successor to Archbishop Andrew Hutchison. The election of a new Canadian primate is scheduled for June 22, midway through the Anglican Church of Canada’s triennial General Synod.

“He is a brilliant theological thinker whom we want to have access to,” Archbishop Hutchison told Anglican Journal. “I anticipate he’ll give a series of addresses that the bishops will be reflecting upon.”

Although political subjects won’t be on the agenda for the House of Bishops’ April 17 retreat, Archbishop Hutchison said, “there are mealtimes and coffee breaks” at which such discussions might take place.

Steve Waring

An insight from MadPriest (Of course, he could be wrong)

I shamelessly poached this from MadPriest's website, along with his comments posted below which shed some light on the goings on in the office suits at Lambeth Palace.

"When Rowan Wiliams was appointed, I remember there was some disquiet about the staff at Lambeth Palace. Because of the length of time George Carey had spent in office he had managed to replace all the key staff members with people sympathetic to his own view of what the Church should be. The CofE system does not allow an incoming primate to dismiss the existing staff.

Since being in office the Grand Tufti has had no choice other than to rely on George's people for advice and research. A strong willed archbishop like Carey would be able to cope with this situation and make adjustments to the advice given, accordingly. But the Grand Tufti was chosen for his mildness and it seems obvious to me that he has not been able to stand his own ground when faced with unanimous contrary advice from his staff.

The Anglican Communion is being run by a an unelected steering group that is following an agenda set well before the arrival of the present archbishop."

Kearon "Disquieted" at Rowan's attitude

Secretary-general hints at `difficulties´ with Dr Williams
by a staff reporter

DISQUIET at the attitude of Dr Williams to the Episcopal Church in the United States (ECUSA) is shared by the secretary-general of the Anglican Communion, Canon Kenneth Kearon, it was revealed this week.

Last week, the Bishop of Bethlehem in Pennsylvania, the Rt Revd Paul Marshall, criticised the Archbishop for cold-shouldering the Episcopal Church (News, 19 January). The relationship was "distant, confused, and multiply triangulated", wrote Bishop Marshall.

In an unguarded email to Louis Crewe, who runs the pro-gay Integrity organisation in the US, Canon Kearon writes that he had sent Bishop Marshall´s criticism to Dr Williams.

"Sadly, it´s very accurate, and is almost the script for a very difficult meeting
I had with him last Wednesday," he writes. "We discussed absolute limits of appeasement, and also how a future direction might be identified."

More cryptically, he ends his email: "Advisers (and sadly I´m not one of them) are at the heart of this."

A "Jan-Term" Class: Spin 101

Compare and contrast: The letter from the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion with these words from the President and CEO of the American Anglican Council.

I expect a 2,000 word essay on my desk at 4 PM on Monday.

Class dismissed.

The Anglican Communion Office has issued this statement:

From the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion

In response to a number of queries, and following consultation with The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion has issued the following statement:

“The Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) is, to my knowledge, a “mission” of the Church of Nigeria. It is not a branch of the Anglican Communion as such but an organsation which relates to a single province of the Anglican Communion. CANA has not petitioned the Anglican Consultative Council for any official status within the Communion’s structures, nor has the Archbishop of Canterbury indicated any support for its establishment.”’

The Revd Canon Kenneth Kearon

January 25, 2007
Press Release: AAC President Clarifies Status of CANA
January 25, 2007
For Immediate Release

Who is really Anglican? Would the real Anglicans please stand up!

A Statement by the Rev. Canon David C. Anderson, AAC President and CEO

In recent pronouncements, the Episcopal Bishop of Virginia, the Rt. Rev. Peter Lee, has stated that the new Anglican organization called CANA (Convocation of Anglicans in North America) is not a part of the Anglican Communion. He says this to undermine the credibility of the northern Virginia district of CANA (the Anglican District of Virginia) in the eyes of Virginians and others. This is in part because he feels that he has a franchise right to Anglicanism in his part of the state, much as a medieval lord might have rights to his domain, his serfs, and the property located therein. Bishop Lee feels that in the Anglican world one piece of land can only have one jurisdiction, or at least one Anglican jurisdiction (since the Methodists, Lutherans, Baptists and Roman Catholics seem to have overlapping jurisdiction on land he claims).

There is, as you might guess, more to the story.

First, in the Anglican world there are often anomalies, such as is the case with Europe, where both the Church of England and the Episcopal Church USA (now called TEC) both claim the same territory, and each has churches and bishops overseeing the same geography if not the same churches. This should inform Bishop Lee’s concerns about his singular claim to the Virginia topography: Bishop, it’s time to share.

Second, Bishop Lee and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, which comprises the middle and northern portions of the state, would claim that they are a part of the Anglican Communion, even as they would deny this about CANA. In fact, Bishop Lee’s connection, and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia’s connection, to the Anglican Communion are not direct, but subsequent to being a part of the Episcopal Church USA/TEC. It is the province of TEC that has global membership, and Bishop Lee and his diocese are members through TEC. The only problem is that TEC’s membership is currently in a stand-down mode and is under critical review. Further sanctions may in fact be levied against TEC, and this would weaken Bishop Lee’s standing in the Anglican Communion as well.

CANA, on the other hand is also a part of the Anglican Communion, but through the Anglican Province of Nigeria instead of The Episcopal Church in the United States. CANA was formed legally within the Constitution and Canons of the Nigerian church, and CANA’s bishop, the Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns, was consecrated with other Nigerian bishops at a service in the cathedral in Abuja, Nigeria, last summer. Bishop Minns sits in the House of Bishops of Nigeria as a voting member along with the other Nigerian bishops. CANA’s connection to the Anglican Communion is through Nigeria, which is not under any stand-down protocol or critical review within the Anglican Communion. It is, in fact, the largest and fastest growing of all the Anglican provinces.

The irony of Bishop Lee’s remarks is that he gets the exclusive claim wrong. The Diocese of Virginia and The Episcopal Church (of the United States) are both tarnished at present, whereas the Province of Nigeria and her CANA mission in the United States are untarnished and in good standing. Although both the Diocese of Virginia and CANA exist as churches under their representative provinces, the status of the U.S. province is clouded; furthermore, TEC is diminishing numbers, representing just over 2 million individuals on the roles, whereas the Province of Nigeria is rapidly growing and has approximately 20 million in church on Sundays.

It finally becomes quite a study in contrasts; no wonder Bishop Lee is anxious about the future.

The Rev. Canon David C. Anderson
President and CEO, American Anglican Council

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Black History Month at St. Paul's, Chatham

The Episcopal Church of St. Paul
200 Main Street – Chatham, NJ
“Your neighborhood church”

All film sessions begin with
Evening Prayer at 6:30 PM in the Church

All films shown in the Parish Hall from 7 – 8 PM
Discussion from 8 – 8:30 PM

Tight work schedule?
Bring your dinner or order something to be delivered to the church!

A GREAT evening at the movies for the entire family!

Tuesday, January 30: "Amazing Grace"
PBS Documentary with Bill Moyers on the roots and wings of this great song

Tuesday, February 6:
“Mine Eyes Have Seen the Savior – Part I”

The National Episcopal Church documentary on the
history of African-Americans in The Episcopal Church

Tuesday, February 13:
“Mine Eyes Have Seen the Savior – Part II”

We continue the journey through the history of African-Americans in
The Episcopal Church

Note: Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper will be held on February 20th
Ash Wednesday, February 21st Holy Eucharist and Imposition of Ashes:
7 AM – 12 Noon- 7 PM.

Come. Grow. Celebrate!

Absolutely EVERYONE is invited!

Gender and the Pulpit

Workplace difficulties can arise for trangendered persons in nearly all professions, but what about those who are called to work for God?By

Lauren McCauley
Special to Newsweek
Updated: 4:42 p.m. ET Jan 23, 2007

Jan. 23, 2007 - In 1973, Eric Karl Swenson was ordained in the Presbyterian Church and went to work doing what he’d always dreamed of: ministering to a congregation of the Southern Presbyterian Church in Atlanta. More than 20 years later, one dream almost ended when another began.

When the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta discovered in 1996 that Swenson had finally fulfilled another lifelong desire—having sex-change surgery to become a woman—it started proceedings to revoke Swenson’s ordination.

At the time of her "transition," Swenson did not resist the church’s questions nor blame its reluctance. "I had been in the closet for 30 years, learning to accept myself," she says. "It is difficult for me to be angry at others for not accepting."

Married with two daughters before her transition, Swenson described her struggle, years later, in a sermon: "I had spent the better part of four decades wrestling secretly with the unreasonable and incorrigible desire to be female."

After almost three years of grueling questions and debate, the Presbytery finally agreed, 181-161, to sustain her ordination, making Swenson the first known Protestant minister to transition from male to female while remaining in office.

Now 59, Swenson is tall and blond, with shoulder-length hair and an assertive manner. Erin, as she’s called, continues to work as a pastoral counselor and, she hopes, as an inspiration for others who find themselves living out, what may be, the last taboo in society, let alone organized religion.

This past weekend, Swenson and her peers gathered in the hills of Berkeley, Calif., for the first National Transgender Religious Summit at the Pacific School of Religion, an ecumenical seminary that prepares students for ordination in the United Church of Christ, the United Methodist Church and the Disciples of Christ.

The conference, open to members of all faith traditions, is a joint project of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) in Washington, D.C., and the Pacific School’s own Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry (CLGS).

Sixty-five religious leaders attended, from Lutheran, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Unitarian, Quaker, Jewish and Agnostic communities across the country.

On the agenda: denominational policy and outreach to transgender communities.

At the heart of almost every conversation that occurred during the conference was this: how does a person who chooses to live "with permanent gender ambiguity," as one handout put it, also participate as a leader in an institution as traditional as religion?

Conference organizers think the time is right for transgendered persons of faith to come out of the closet.

"Transgendered people are beginning to find their public voice with more advocates and opportunities for protection," explains Justin Tanis, an ordained minister who helped put together the summit—and who was born female.

With the House and Senate now under Democratic control, Tanis says, activists in the transgender community feel that they may finally be heard, and they are working hard to put together legislation on Capitol Hill, especially on the issue of workplace rights.

No one knows how many people in the United States live with an ambiguous gender identity, either because of a firm conviction that they were born in the wrong body or because of a political ideology or youthful experimentation. But the issue has gained great resonance on college campuses of late, as well as in local legislatures and in gay activist circles. Last weekend’s conference was evidence that at least some of these people have strong religious identities as well.

The transgender issue is so new that most religious denominations have not yet made policy statements about it. In 2003, the Roman Catholic Church announced that transsexuals suffer from "mental pathologies" and should be barred from religious orders and the Catholic priesthood.

Often using Biblical language to make their point, conservative Christian groups have treated transsexuals and other people with ambiguous gender as having psychological defects that can be cured with psychotherapy.

Swenson, not surprisingly, objects to this characterization. "To pick out small pieces of Scripture and use them in a hateful way is damaging to me and to the Scripture," she explains. "God says to love one another; should anything else matter?"

Swenson finds evidence of God’s love, for her unique case, in Isaiah: "To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than songs and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off." (Isaiah 56:1-5).

Transgendered people say another difficulty is that many religious denominations reinforce gender stereotypes—conventions about women’s and men’s roles in the life of a church, for example, that pose problems for people who want to live outside those rules.

"The Bible has been used incorrectly throughout history to justify slavery and to oppress women," says Joshua Holiday, a female-to-male pastor at the LIFE (Love Is For EveryBODY) Interfaith Church in Louisville, Ky. A year and a half ago, Holiday organized a gathering of African-American transgendered people, The Transsistahs, Transbrothahs Conference (TSTB), to promote greater acceptance in the black community.

Transgendered clergy say they know that parishioners can become distracted by thoughts about what lies beneath their robes, but they hope that people in the pews can learn to see them as ministers with a holy mission.

Religion, says Tanis, "is about compassion and human dignity"; he hopes the seminar will teach transgendered clergy to embrace their uncommon situation and use it for good.

After going through his own transition, he says: "I had a greater sense of internal peace; I was wiser and could be a better religious leader. It is a gift to be able to see the world through more than one gender’s eyes."

© 2006 Newsweek, Inc.

One more lesson from the history of Phillips Brooks

Okay, so today the liturgical calendar celebrates the life and ministry of Florence Li-Tim Oi, the first women to be ordained priest in the Anglican Communion, but before I say something about her, let me say this one last thing about Phillips Brooks, who had his day on the Calendar yesterday (January 23).

This essay by R. William Franklin, at the time, at least, associate for education at Trinity Church in Boston and dean emeritus of the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University, appeared in what I remember to be an early 2004 edition of "The Episcopal Times," the diocesan newspaper of the Diocese of Massachusetts.

As we consider the current "unpleasantness" in the church as well as the controversies now becoming more keenly focused on the consent process of the bishop-elect of South Carolina, it appears that Phillips Brooks, the best preacher of his day, has yet another sermon to preach to us about the church.

Things theological...
The Trials of Phillips Brooks
By R. William Franklin
From Episcopal Times of the Diocese of Massachusetts

A Massachusetts historian tells how conservative opposition to Phillips Brooks election as Bishop broke the heart of the greatest preacher of his time.

The election and consecration of Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire has been treated by many members of the Anglican Communion as an unprecedented controversy. Similarly, Episcopalians in the Diocese of Massachusetts with memories will recall that when Barbara Harris was elected bishop suffragan of Massachusetts in 1988, it was said by some that the Anglican Communion would be fractured forever. Those with very long memories indeed will know that the most controversial confirmation of an Episcopal election in New England was not in 2003 or in 1988 but in 1891, when Phillips Brooks was elected bishop of Massachusetts.

Phillips Brooks, Rector of Trinity Church in Boston, was elected bishop of this diocese by an almost unanimous vote of the Diocesan Convention on April 30, 1891. Brooks was descended from two old and distinguished New England families who had come to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the early 17th century. The stories of the Brooks and Phillips families were intertwined with the venerable institutions of this region: with the founding of Andover Academy, with the founding of Andover Divinity School, with Harvard, with the Boston Latin School, with the First Church of Boston and with St. Paul’s Cathedral in Boston. Brooks was most famous for moving Trinity Church to Copley Square and for standing behind the building of the current church designed by H. H. Richardson.

He was related through family to Boston leaders in many spheres of activity, and he was beloved by the population of this state, partly because he was the author of “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” and also because he was the greatest preacher of his day. Moreover, he was deeply loved because of his friendship with the leaders and people of many denominations of the region, from Unitarian and Congregationalist to Roman Catholic. When he was elected, the Unitarians and the Congregationalists said, “At last we have a bishop of all of Massachusetts to whom we can look for leadership.”
And that was a problem. Though loved in Massachusetts, the confirmation of Phillips Brooks’s election by the other bishops of the Episcopal Church took longer than any process of confirmation in our church, then or now.

Then, as now, a bishop’s election had to be confirmed by a majority of the standing committees and then a majority of the bishops of the church. Usually this process took only a few weeks. In Brooks’s case, though a majority of the 52 standing committees quickly affirmed his election, the agreements of the 52 bishops took more than two months to come in. After weeks of a vicious campaign in the secular press and the church press, and a pamphlet war between church parties, a majority of bishops finally telegraphed the presiding bishop their positive votes in early July 1891, and on July 11 the presiding bishop announced to the world that Phillips Brooks would be consecrated as bishop of Massachusetts in Boston on October 15, 1891. In the end 30 percent of the bishops of the Episcopal Church voted against Brooks, refused to attend his consecration and were reluctant to acknowledge his authority.

What was the issue that bothered the opposing bishops? It was Brooks’s views on bishops, the apostolic succession and the validity of ministry in the American Christian denominations without bishops. Brooks believed that episcopacy was the best form of church government., but he regarded denominations without bishops as still part of the one church of Jesus Christ. Though he was sure that bishops are the successors of the apostles, he also thought that all Christians, by virtue of their Baptism, are the successors of the apostles, and he was reluctant to pass negative judgment on other denominations that were without the institution of episcopacy. He said, “We know where the Church is. It is not for us to say where the Church is not.”

The Catholic Revival within the Episcopal Church in the 19th century had made the identity of the bishop as successor of the apostles—and the consequent invalidity of non-episcopal churches—a core definition of the Episcopal Church’s identity in the United States. The Anglo-Catholics were convinced that the Episcopal Church possessed an “apostolic order” in its bishops that was key to its mission. To deny this would lead to disaster.

And so it was within the Anglo-Catholic party of the Episcopal Church that opposition to Brooks arose. A campaign to discredit him began, in which both the secular and the church press were willing accomplices. It was said that the Nicene Creed was not recited at Trinity Church, that Brooks had participated in an interdenominational service in a Congregational church on a Good Friday, that he had invited Unitarians to the Lord’s Table, that he himself had not been baptized in the name of the Trinity.

Of Brooks’s election George F. Seymour, the former dean of the General Theological Seminary in New York City, wrote: “Satan has now insinuated himself in the very stronghold of Christianity, and sought to enter into a truce with its leaders and its militant hosts.” An anonymous circular was sent to the bishops saying a crisis had been reached in the history of the church, a fundamental question of maintaining the faith pure and undefiled had been raised and no one could foresee “the horrible consequences if Dr. Brooks were confirmed as a bishop.”

A Roman Catholic priest, formerly a Baptist minister, published a pamphlet that said that by electing Brooks “the Episcopal Church is yielding to the rationalistic and agnostic tendencies of the age to a deplorable extent….the surging tide of infidelity will soon destroy it.”

In fact, Brooks’s views of the apostolic succession and of our relations with other denominations eventually did win the day. They stand behind the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, our key ecumenical charter confirmed by every General Convention of the Episcopal Church since the 1890’s, and formulated by Brooks’s Massachusetts friend William Reed Huntington. Brooks’s regard for the ministerial authenticity of non-episcopal churches has now been realized concretely in our full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Yet Brooks’s victory was won at great personal cost. He was humiliated by the press campaign. He refused to acknowledge it by never uttering one public word of self-defense. Brooks remained consistently silent through the 10 weeks of the negative campaign, explaining nothing, giving no answers to defend his positions, making no apologies, no pledges. But privately he was devastated: “We have talked of the old days of witch trials and torture chambers and patted ourselves on the back and said—those things were in the days of our fathers. But scratch us a little and the medieval temper comes freely back to the surface.”

Worn down, he was dead 14 months after his consecration. As the news of his passing spread, the city of Boston came to a standstill. For in a somber generation, bowed down by the terrible losses of the Civil War, he offered Christian hope, his own enchantment with Scripture and the possibility that people of faith might stand together. It is through such vision, and at such a cost, that Christian progress is made.

R. William Franklin is associate for education at Trinity Church in Boston and dean emeritus of the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Phillips Brooks and Helen Keller

This essay was preached as a sermon to Integrity/New York on January 23rd, 1992 and appeared in Outlook March 1992, 3-5. It is re-published at Louie Crew's Website JOY ANYWAY! with the permission of the Rev'd Barbara Crafton the author, and Nick Dowen, the editor of Outlook at that time.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man.... Ephesians 3:14-15

Phillips Brooks was the most famous preacher of his generation in America -- an honor few clergy of his Church have been able to claim. His name was synonymous with the fearless and passionate proclamation of the word of God to the people of his time, which was the latter half of the 19th century. His Lectures on Preaching is still one of the best books a person contemplating the practice of that art could read, and it is still assigned in seminaries where the craft of preaching is taken seriously. Which is probably why it's out of print.

He believed that a preacher's entire self needed to be in the preaching event, yet that to preach in order to impress others or in order to butttress a slender ego was a terrible abuse of the pulpit.

He believed that the right to preach was grounded in the faithful relationship a pastor had with his people -- it was only "hims" who preached in those days, but we know what he meant.

He believed that the faithful preacher always pointed to a God of love whose love walked the earth in a form so like God, yet so like us, that we called it "The Son of God." As if God were a father, a parent like we can be parents, love like the most unselfish love we know about.

He believed that the preacher needed to be up and about, walking through his world, part of things, part of the joys and sorrows of human life. Just about the worst thing he could think of to say about a preacher or a pastor would have been that he was "otherworldly."

And so Phillips Brooks did that: traveled, met people, wrote to people, found out about them.

One of his friends was Helen Keller. Blind and deaf from the age of two, she had lived a life of isolation, unable to speak words she could not hear, unable to know what a word was. She was taught to communicate by a dedicated teacher in a process that has inspired people ever since. She learned to speak, to read, to write. She went to college and graduated with honors. She dedicated her entire life to educating the world about its responsibility to its disabled members.

Until her death in 1968, Helen Keller was consistently among the world's most admired women, and her name was always on lists people made of those women.

Helen and Phillips Brooks wrote letters back and forth. The young girl with such a heavy burden and the elderly cleric with so many natural gifts, they were so unlike each other.

Yet Brooks recognized that Helen and he did the same thing. Reaching out of the total darkness of her isolated life, Helen was already touching people's hearts with her courage and noble spirit, already challenging people to look at what could be. She lived in silence. She lived in darkness. But out of her silence the Spirit burst forth with grace and power. And out of her darkness, light shone.

This was what Phillips Brooks had dedicated his life to bringing about: Let the people hear of what can be. Let them know what astonishing good can come from God, even in the face of terrible sorrow.

In one of her letters, Helen told Bishop Brooks that she had always known about God, even before she had any words. Even before she could call God anything, she knew God was there. She didn't know what it was. God had no name for her -- nothing had a name for her. She had no concept of a name. But in her darkness and isolation, she knew she was not alone. Someone was with her. She felt God's love.

And when she received the gift of language and heard about God, she said she already knew.

Phillips Brooks was thrilled by this. This was the God he knew, the God who would come to a lonely child, a frustrated and lonely little girl, and find a way to speak love to her without a word. He wrote a hymn we have loved ever since; I wonder if he had Helen in mind when he wrote:

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is giv'n!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of his heav'n.
No ear may hear his coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him, still
The dear Christ enters in.

Love without words. Love that knows of love even before it knows anything else. God who comes to the meek, to those who are hidden, to those whom the world discounts. The old preacher, famous for his eloquence, was like old Simeon at the temple when he heard this from Helen Keller. It was a confirmation of his ministry of proclamation. It was all true. God was really among us.

What Helen knew proved it.

Phillips Brooks knew something of what it was to be hidden. Few people knew that he knew it, or how he knew it, but he did. Nobody in his Church had words to talk about it -- the topic was outside the Church, something that could not be spoken. Phillips Brooks could not reveal everything about himself, for he knew that to do so would have been to sweep everything away.

Nobody would have listened to him speak of the loving God he knew so well.

Nobody would have thought that God could possibly have loved him if it had been known that he was gay.

I hope that he did not think that way about himself; I hope that the did not build a wall around his sexual orientation in his own soul and say to himself, "Except for this one thing. Except for this."

But he may have.

People did in those days.

They do in these days too.

I cannot help but think of the silence imposed upon this great man of the spoken word by the centuries of prejudice to which he was heir. No wonder Helen Keller moved him so profoundly.

He couldn't speak either, not about this. But he spoke about other things. His silence was not total, although a part of him as basic as any part of ourselves we know about could not speak its name. Love matters. He knew that.

And he must have known how much it matters, even though he could not tell the truth about all the ways in which it had mattered to him. God could still speak through him and did so; spoke in a way so powerful that its equal has not been seen again in this Church.

Perhaps some of that was out of his pain, out of his silence, love denied expression forcing its way into the open in some other way. How much that has flowered among us has flowered from this sad beginning: unable to be who we are and trying, trying, sometimes with brilliant success, to be something else.

It is time to stop, though. Our gifts cannot depend on our true selves being dammed up.

We can manage without the truth, but we're better off with it.

Helen Keller made brilliant use of her gifts under the burden of a terrible handicap, but it still would have been better if she could have seen and heard.

Phillips Brooks was a gift to the ages, but it still would have been better if he could have been accepted and celebrated in the totality of who he was.

That was then.

This is now.

It is time for the truth.

"Strengthened through his might in the inner man," the lesson says.

Let the inner man come forth.

It is time now.

© 1992, 2002 by The Rev. Barbara C. Crafton


"The Season of Epiphanies"

I love the Season of Epiphany for many reasons, but especially because no one really seems to know what to do with it, much less an entire season of epiphanies.

At St. Paul's, someone - at least once - will insist on changing all the vestments and altar hangings back to green, forgetting that their priest chooses the liturgical option of keeping things white until we have to change to the somber purple of Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday.

After a few weeks, someone will say, “Um . . .haven’t we been forgetting the confession?” And, I’ll say, “Soon enough, my friend, soon enough, and we’ll be saying it EVERY Sunday in Lent.”

The Crèche can stay assembled as well as the white candles on the pews because The Season of the Epiphany is also known as the ‘Season of Light’ – Christians know Jesus as the ‘Light of the World.’

Some folk will want to leave up other Christmas decorations while others will grumble, not knowing exactly why they sound so crabby, and ask, “When are we going to take down those wreaths? Isn’t Christmas over YET?” And, their priest answers, “Yes, but it’s the Season of the Epiphany.”

Confused looks will abound, no one knowing quite how to respond.

I’m willing to bet that most people reading this column know about the Season of Christmas. Fewer know about the Season of Advent – that time of preparation immediately before Christmas. Perhaps a few more readers than that will know about The Feast of the Epiphany itself, on January 6th, because of the traditional celebration, especially in the Hispanic culture, of ‘Los Reyes,’ the ‘Feast of the Three Kings’.

Many know the story about the Magi – at the very least from the hymn, “We three kings of Orient are . . .” – who came to Bethlehem by following the Star. The ‘epiphany’ was the glory of God made manifest in the surprising package of the Infant Jesus in that humble manger.

That was just the first of the many surprises God has in store for us in the Incarnation. Which is why there is an entire Season of Epiphany.

The gospel lessons we hear on Sunday are chock-full of ephanies including the story of the Visit of the Magi, the Baptism of Jesus, the time Jesus was ‘lost’ in the Temple, the miracle of the Wedding at Cana, his first sermon in the Temple, his first sermon on the Mount, and a whole raft of healing miracle stories.

In common, every-day parlance, an epiphany has come to mean a realization or comprehension of the essence or meaning of something. Usually, there is an element of surprise – a moment of “Aha!” that catches us off guard. Unfortunately, this has become the stock and trade of many sitcoms on television – all hokey and sentimental and romantic - which reveals something about the nature of the best of the human enterprise.

The Epiphanies of God reveal something about the nature of God, as revealed in Christ Jesus, whose essence we carry within us but which we can neither fully embody nor completely comprehend. Which is why, I think, we get exasperated if we do not completely comprehend the Season of the Epiphany.

Having an epiphany is never planned. It is always a surprise. It always gives us just a little glimmer, opens a tiny window, into the mystery that is the nature of God. It is never hokey or romantic, but it can be shocking or disturbing.

The Season of the Epiphany is a wondrous time to take in the miracle of God’s creation. In the midst of the ‘bleak midwinter’ when the sky is dark gray, the trees bare and brittle, and the ground is hard and cold, take time to ponder the common, everyday miracles all around you:

The complex simplicity and individuality of a snowflake.

The cloud of vapor that forms at your lips in the midst of the cold – a human smoke signal.

The way sound travels.

The way, as the psalmist says, “One day tells its tale to another, and one night imparts knowledge to another.” (Psalm 19).

“These are the days of miracles and wonders, this is a long distance call.”

At the risk of dating myself, I will identify that for you as a line from Paul Simon’s then-miraculous and highly controversial album from pre-apartheid South Africa. The verse continues in what I have come to know as the best cultural Epiphany hymn:

“The way the camera follows us in slow-mo. The way we look to us all. The way we look to a distant constellation that’s dying in the corner of the sky. These are the days of miracles and wonder and don't cry baby, don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry.”

We couldn’t imagine, then, the miracle of the end of Apartheid.

Some of us can’t imagine an end to the genocide in Darfur.

Or, the end of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Or peace – lasting peace – in modern Jerusalem or Bethlehem, or Northern Ireland, or Pakistan, or between North and South Korea.

Don’t rush through this season. Take your time.

The manifestations of God are all around. Some are just there – waiting to be discovered or uncovered or recovered.

Others are waiting to be prayed into being.

Others need your hands, your feet, your mind, and your heart, your “Yes!” (like Mary’s) in order to be born.

You see, the real gift of the Season of the Epiphany is that which can’t be bought or sold: It is the gift of imagination.

And, human imagination is one of the epiphanies of the miracle of God.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Eileen The Episcopali-fem

Okay, everybody, listen up!

Go now - yes, right now - and visit this brilliant website and meet "Eileen The Episcopali-fem."

She's part of the new wave of Episcopalians, just officially welcomed as a new member of her North Jersey church this past Sunday. (note: Eileen tells me it's CENTRAL Jersey. Whew! I'm glad to know that. I've been wondering why she hasn't poked her nose in this particular Episcopal Tent - just to say 'hello'.)

And, by Jove, she's got it. I wish she could teach a course in The Spirit of Anglicanism to the splinter people at CANA, AMiA and AAC.

Check out the video she has up of THE HISTORY OF THE CHURCH.

You owe it to yourself to have this kind of laugh on us.

It's brilliant. Just brilliant.

Warning: Do not watch this while eating or drinking as you may do damage to your computer screen. And, if you are over 50 you should probably not drink for an hour before watching this as . . . well, those of you over 50 know what I'm talking about.

Go on now, go. You know you need this laugh.

TAGGED! (Twice!)

Brother Causticus issued a challenge a few days ago to play "Seven Things." I got tagged on Saturday by Lisa Fox over at My Manner of Life" and then again today by Susan Russell.

Jeesh! So, I'm posting my answers to Lisa below ... and now (drum roll) ... the tag goes to MadPriest over at "Of course, I could be wrong."

Having just done a childhood photo tribute to him, he can hardly turn me down, now can he? (Of course, I could be wrong, but then, he'd get all embarrassed and he HATES to be embarrassed - see childhood picture of him in wet nappies!)

1. Name a book that you want to share so much that you keep giving awayy

HOW TO BE YOUR DOG'S BEST FRIEND by the Monks of New Skete. I often use parts of it in spiritual discernment for the priesthood.

2. Name a piece of music that changed the way you listen to music.

Theonious Monk. I had never heard the themes in Jazz music before. Suddenly, there it was and I was in absolute bliss. I adore Jazz because of TM.

3. Name a film you can watch again and again without getting fatigued.

Oh, there are so many, but I think CASABLANCA would do it. At least, tonight. Second choice: The HBO Series: ANGLES IN AMERICA. Third: Anything by Monty Python's Flying Circus, but especially LIFE OF BRIAN. I make everyone who comes to me for spiritual discernment to priesthood watch it.

4. Name a performer for whom you suspend all disbelief

No problem: Meryl Streep. Lord, have mercy. She is the best. Well, she and Susan Sarandon. And, Halle Berry. Denzell Washington is amazing. Well, so, if it has to be: Meryl's the one.

5. Name a work of art you'd like to live with.

Anything by Monet or Paul Cezanne. Romantic. Dreamy. Perfectly lovely and beautiful which, as Dorothy Day often reminded us, if you're going to do the work of justice, you need to have beautiful things around you all the time.

6. Name a work of fiction which has penetrated your real life.

Anything by Mark Helprin, but especially my all time favorite: A WINTER'S TALE

7. Name a punchline that always makes you laugh.

"The moon must be in Uranus." This is me, laughing already.

MadPriest: The Early Years

I have long been investigating the background of MadPriest. At first, I thought him a hoax. Then, I discovered he was actually who he claimed to be. Intrigued, I sought out more information, hiring a Private Investigator to learn everything I possibly could about this man I have come to adore.

Last night, round about midnight, the PI appeared at my door, having come into possession of a box of his baby pictures. I can only show a few here, but they provide early evidence of his proclivity to traverse the landscape between the sacred and the profane.

Here he is, pen in hand, having practiced creative arts on the face of one of his younger siblings.

There he is with his Mum. As you can tell, it's washday. You can see the source from whence he inherited his creative traits. His mum certainly employed creative parenting techniques to keep her naughty little lad under control. Quite ingenious, given the apparent humble poverty of his youth. This is also, apparently, where he cultivated a different perspective on life.

Here he is on a walk with his Dad.

MP always hated to have wet nappies, but I'm willing to bet his Dad hated it more! As you can see from the expression on his face, what MP hated more than wet nappies was being seen in wet nappies!

As everyone knows, MP loves animals. Here he is, chomping away on the tail of the family cat. MP, ever precocious, called her "Black Pussy". He's apparently always fancied them, and here we see the origins of that life-long obsession. Later, in the 70s as I recall, he would try to dress them in shiny high-heeled boots. Fortunately, however, he was able to channel that creative energy and learned to chase a pen instead. Thus it was that he capitalized on his natural inclination for the absurd and honed the skill of sarcasm and wit.

Finally, here's the little bugger, sound asleep on his 'Willy' - the family pup. Such a beatific smile, eh? Who knew there was such mischief and mayhem, insanity and chaotic thought all bundled up in that precious little boy?

And thus it is that we have come to a better understanding of the early years of the child who would one day earn the distintive title and vocation: "MadPriest."

There are more pictures - some rather curious, others downright bizarre - which I will share with you at a later date.

This is quite enough for now - I think even MP might agree with me on that.