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, February 28, 2007

Unexpected Lessons from the Parochial Report

I didn’t listen to the live web cast of our Presiding Bishop and Primate.

I still haven’t.

I will later tonight, when I’ll have time to give it my undivided attention.

I was busy finishing my Parochial Report. They are due every year on the Feast of St. David, March 1, for those of you who, like me, tend to procrastinate.

Well it’s not so much that I procrastinate as I hate the task.

I know. I know. They’ve been made so much easier these days. It’s true. The hardest part is still the financials. Well, it’s not that the financial section difficult, but only that it’s one more damn thing the Treasurer has to do in an already Herculean and thankless task.

I’m convinced that there is a special place in heaven in recognition for the incredible amount of work done by Parish Treasurers. The Rector, Wardens and Vestry tend to be the stars in the constellation of parochial leadership, but it’s the ‘elbow grease’ of the hard working Treasurer who make all of us shine.

I hate the Parochial Report because numbers do not tell the whole story. They can’t possibly.

Okay, so there were 13 confirmations under the age of 16 last year at St. Paul’s, but that doesn’t tell you about ‘Abby’s’ journey. ‘Abby’ is an incredibly bright young woman who brought challenging and discriminating questions about her faith to the class.

Like the time she had attended the Bat Mitzvah of one of her classmates. She came back and said, “A lot of it was in Hebrew, and I got bored.” she said, “So I started to read their Prayer Book. Reverend Elizabeth, do you know what? Jews don’t believe in life after death! They believe that mortality is the price we pay for free will.”

Then she looked at me and said, “What do Episcopalians believe?”

Therein followed a wonderful discussion about resurrection; ‘Abby’s’ face positively lit up and said, “Oh, and that’s the REAL gift of Jesus, right? And then she added, “Resurrection changes the whole way you look at life – and the world – doesn’t it?”

Okay, so there was one baptism over the age of 16 last year at St. Paul’s, but that doesn’t tell you about ‘Sari’. Born 32 years ago in Hawai’i of Chinese parents, ‘Sari’ grew up in the kind of religious climate that is reflective of the gracious Hawai’ian spirit of accommodation and assimilation.

She considers herself Christian because she tries very conscientiously to follow the teachings of Jesus. Until her marriage to an Episcopalian, she has attended a non-denominational, evangelical church all of her life with her parents and siblings, but, like many of her contemporaries, she had never been baptized. “It just wasn’t considered a priority,” she said.

Because she is a member of a very active family in the church, I had never considered that she wasn’t baptized, but a comment I made during a sermon about the canons of The Episcopal Church with regard to the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist brought forth her “confession.”

“Are you telling me that I’m not going to heaven if I’m not baptized?” Sari demanded, “That, in the end, all the good work that I do, or that my parents and sisters and brothers do – the good people we are – will count for nothing?”

We had a series of crucial conversations about baptism, membership, privilege, accountability, the unconditional love of God and the difference between the Body of Christ and the Institutional Church.

She came to understand the uniqueness of her identity in Christ and the requirements of her Baptismal vows within the context of the gracious spirit of Anglican Accommodation. She says she feels “home” at last in The Episcopal Church.

I could go on and on and so, I suspect, could many others.

I suppose we have to have some way of measuring the growth or decline of this church we love.

I suppose this provides at least some measure of accountability.

I suppose in the time it took to write this reflection, I could have filled out another Parochial Report rather than complaining about it, much less missing the Presiding Bishop’s web cast.

The measure of health of any body – even the Body of Christ – is not simply a matter of externals. We need to be able to do a “complete Blood analysis,” and see the results of an EKG of the Sacred Heart of the Body of Christ.

We need to consider the complete picture and get all the data in front of us before we can make any kind of analysis, much less accurate diagnosis.

There are some in this church who make the odious claim that the faith of congregations like ours is “bankrupt” because we read a “counterfeit” bible.

I warmly invite them to come to this church and see the vibrancy of the lives of faith in this congregation.

Indeed, the “great troubles” in The Episcopal Church seem very far from the reality of most of the folk who sit in the pews on the right and the left of The Episcopal Church of St. Paul, which is right smack dab on Main Street in Chatham, NJ. You know, it just doesn’t get more ‘normal’ than this community of faith.

Truth be told, when taken in context of this Northern New Jersey affluent suburb which is 70% Roman Catholics, where people move here for the stability of the affluent suburban life, the numbers on our Parochial Report are not insignificant.

It’s not that I’m not pleased with our success this past year. It’s just that those numbers do not tell the story of the real growth – the spiritual maturity – of people whose souls are growing in leaps and bounds in their relationship with Jesus.

I’m thinking that there has to be a better way to measure the depth of our growth – you know, take a ‘sounding’ of our baptismal waters every now and again. I’m sure I don’t know what that would be.

I’m also sure – sadly so – that we won’t be concerning ourselves with that project any time too soon. We’ve got deadlines to meet, and recommendations which have become ultimatums with which we must now “comply.”

Come to think of it, perhaps my time was better spent working on the Parochial Report and reflecting on these things.

Goodness knows, somebody has to.

This friend speaks my mind

Note: This was posted in the comments section in the article below about Davis, director of Changing Attitudes Nigerian. It was way too good to let it stay buried there.

As our Quaker Friends are of't wont to say, "This friend speaks my mind."

Thank you, Robert H., whoever you are.

I truly believe that the Episcopal Church is at a point were she can choose to develop as a truly autocephalous Church within a re-aligned and re-constituted Communion.

The Anglican Communion was always an entity ad experimentum. There is no scriptural or traditional mandate for its existence as a communion entity--it's essential vocation is within the bound of reason and affection. If it has a 'vocation to disappear' then it will.

To paraphrase Bishop Spong: "women don't go back in the kitchen (unless they *want* to), gays don't go back in the closet, blacks don't return to the back of the bus" and our Episcopal Church is not going to return to its comfortable existence being Catholic lite (A Latinist jab at our lack of credibility as a full Church--and oftentimes a phrase used proudly by the liberal camp as a form of Episcopal slapstick).

In order to claim our true and full Catholicity we need to assert our unique role in the Mystici Corporis--the Mystical Body. We stopped playing Church when we took the words of Amos seriously: (21-24 The Message)

"I (The LORD) can't stand your religious meetings. I'm fed up with your conferences and conventions. I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans and goals.

I'm sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making. I've had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.

When was the last time you sang to me? Do you know what I want? I want justice—oceans of it.
I want fairness—rivers of it. That's what I want. That's all I want."

We are a just Church, a truly biblical Church: and if God wants "rivers of justice" than nothing can stop God's vision.

In regard to ++Rowan he has lost the battle--you can't stay Captain when most of your people are declaring mutany on both sides. ++It seems Akinola may become his deck boss--you may not like the deck boss, but he has enough support to be there. There is no "center" on a ship--you either choose mutany or loyalty.

If His Grace wants our Church to chose exlusion for a "season" or permanently then we have to jump ship--our mutany will not take the ship or most of her crew. I don't have a problem with being Episcopal while mentioning as an aside that we were once in the ship named "the Anglican Communion".

We cannot develop a communion ecclesiology without becoming like the Latin Church--they are even having trouble holding it together under the leadership of the Pope--and the Eastern Orthodox are so divided into New and Old Calendarist Jurisdictions that unity is not possible for them.

The Anglican project is also an experiment in what Dean Allen Jones of Grace Cathedral calls "the Catholic Church that hasn't happened yet." Indeed, the "Catholic Church" has not happened yet--we are just too human to let a divine reality manifest itself without tainting the process.

Unity needs division to clarify itself--like Orthodoxy needs heresy to state its position more clearly. To seperate for a season in order to procure greater visible unity, until the Anglican world has caught up, is a viable option. A traditionalist Catholic once told me that "the Episcopal Church is where the American Catholic Church will be in 50 years."

We are a time capsule into the future Church--of course people will not accept our vision of the universe--just like at one time people laughed at science fiction writers who wrote that we would have light without gas and fire or missions to Mars.

The Episcopal Church is a science fiction look into the human ecclesial destiny--one day everyone will say: "hey, remember when we used to say women cound't be priests and bishops or when gays and lesbians were not able to be partnered and bishops...funny isn't it?" The TEC is the Future Church--we are the Ekklesia of the 21st Century.

I realize Schori is still trying to hold the "centrist" view with nuances to the left occasionally in her speeches, and I also realize she wants to secure a place for women in Lambeth's future--but gay and lesbian mental health and social and spiritual stability is not lesser of a problem than world hunger and disease--It is not a bourgeois construct to develop a knowledge of one's sexuality.

The Church wants leadership and there is one way to do it with integrity: to own up to our baptismal ecclesiology rooted in the 1979 prayerbook and be honest that not only will we "refrain" from compromising that ecclesiology, but we will not tolerate a violation of that baptismal covenant by Global South Churches pushing truncated Evangelical Christianity or an idealised vision of Ango-Tridentine Catholicism down our throats.

I was called in my baptismal covenant to "respect the dignity of every human being"--and I will be condemned by my conscience if I do not live that out. Amen.

In Christ,

Robert H.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

"If you see a person coming toward you who means to do you good . . .

. . . you should run a hundred miles in the opposite direction."

So wrote Henry David Thoreau.

This just in from a dear friend in North Dakota - but don't tell Peter Jasper Akinola, Moderator Bob Duncan or Martyn the Connecticut British Nigerian or they'll call the bedroom police.

Don't bother, they're here (they arrived right after the clowns).

N.D. Weighs Repeal of Cohabitation Ban

By JAMES MacPHERSON Associated Press Writer

The Associated Press - Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Don Polries and Helen Vetter don't look like outlaws. She's 82 and nearly blind, and he's an 87-year-old World War II veteran whose only brush with the law was a traffic ticket or two, decades ago.

But the retired farmers - and thousands like them - are considered criminals in North Dakota because they're not married and live together.

It makes Polries chuckle and Vetter steam.

"I will not have the state ruling us old people," Vetter said. "All we're trying to do is help each other out ... Boy, I'd like to see the state come and try and split us up."

Without each other, the Bismarck couple say, they'd be in a nursing home. They have lived together for about a year, after dating and living in separate apartments for more than a decade.

"I am legally blind," Vetter said. "I can't read and I can't drive - Don does that for me. ... And when Don had his hip replaced, I helped him out. What's wrong with that?"

North Dakota is one of seven states that bar a man and woman from living together "openly and notoriously" as if they were married.

Florida, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia have similar laws.

The North Dakota law has been on the books since statehood, and lists cohabitation as a sex crime, along with rape, incest and adultery.

"It's misguided and a stain on North Dakota's Century Code," said freshman state Sen. Tracy Potter, a Bismarck Democrat who has sponsored legislation to repeal the anti-cohabitation law.

The attempts at repeal failed in the last two legislative sessions.

This year the Senate approved a bill that would lift the cohabitation ban unless an unmarried man and woman pass themselves off as being married to commit fraud. The bill keeps the punishment at a maximum 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Potter himself approved of the change.

Questioning from House Judiciary Committee members at a hearing Tuesday was generally sympathetic to the revised proposal, and three lawmakers spoke in its favor. The committee took no immediate action on the measure.

"I think that things like this make us more of a joke, and we have a hard time with that anyway," said state Rep. Kathy Hawken, a Republican from Fargo. "It is just one more thing that makes us look provincial, and I don't think we really are."

Tom Freier, a spokesman for the North Dakota Family Alliance, which opposes Potter's bill, said he believed the existing law had important symbolic value.

"I think when we stand up for our principles and our standards, I think that's something to be admired, as opposed to being ridiculed," Freier said.

Speaking earlier, Jennifer Ring, executive director of the ACLU of the Dakotas, said the law has never been enforced, and she called it "unconstitutional and silly." The proposed new version also could be challenged as unconstitutional, and is not needed, she said.

"Defrauding someone through a lie is already a crime," she said.

Census figures from 2000 show 23,000 people in North Dakota living in de facto relationships, Potter said. Census figures from that same year show 5.2 million people nationwide lived in an "unmarried partner household."

Rep. Louise "Weezie" Potter, a Grand Forks Democrat who is not related to Tracy Potter, said her elderly mother-in-law and longtime partner wanted to move from Florida to a senior home in Grand Forks a few years ago. They were not allowed to move in because they weren't married, Potter said.

Potter's mother-in-law, who now suffers from Alzheimer's disease, now lives alone in a seniors home in East Grand Forks, Minn. Potter's husband, Tom, a Presbyterian minister, said he and his family never objected to his 78-year-old mother living with her partner for many years.

"One of the reasons she and her companion didn't get married is because she was receiving veterans' benefits after she was widowed," Tom Potter said. "She would have lost them had she remarried."

Polries and Vetter met at a dance a dozen years ago. Both had divorced after more than 40 years of marriage. She has two children; Polries has seven, all of whom are married.

The couple said none of their children object to their living arrangement. "We're never going to get married - for what?" Vetter said. "You get married one year, and die the next."


A Word of Hope to my lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered brothers and sisters in Christ:
From: +Gene Robinson


In light of the recent Primates Meeting and our Presiding Bishop’s communication to the Church, I received the following plea from a dear and trusted sister:

“Gene, I don't know how you are this night, or if you can summon a word of hope, but the eyes of many LGBT people and our faithful allies are looking to you, tuning the ears of our hearts to hear where you see the hand of God in what feels like deep, deep betrayal.”

After a good number of sleepless nights and prayerful days, let me tell you where this gay man and Bishop of the Church stands, with respect to our beloved Church and our trustworthy and faithful God:

Let’s remember that, for now, nothing has changed. The Episcopal Church has been bold in its inclusion of us, “risking its life” for us in dramatic ways over these last few years. Not perfect, but bold. Just because The Episcopal Church has been invited to subvert its own polity and become a Church ruled by bishops-only, a Church that is willing to sacrifice the lives and ministries and dignity of its gay and lesbian members on the altar of unity, does not mean that we are going to choose to do it. That is yet to be determined. Let’s not abandon hope simply because that is possible. The Primates have the right to make requests of us (nevermind the threatening tone of those requests). We do not have to accede to those requests in exactly the terms in which they are made.

Nothing is surprising in this development. None of us thought this issue was settled, did we? None of us expected our detractors to stop their efforts – whether their goals be genuinely about the authority of scripture and its playing out in our lives as Christians, or whether those goals have more to do with power and money and influence. (BOTH are represented in the actions taken.) We are fighting a larger battle here. As you have heard me say before, we are engaged in the beginning of the end of patriarchy. Did any of us believe that such a battle would be won without resistance? Did any of us believe there would be no more bumps in the road? Did any of us foresee smooth sailing into the future?

We still have countless allies. We are not engaged in this struggle alone. There are countless heterosexual members of this Church who now “get it.” They have heard our stories, felt our pain and taken up our cause as their own. There are countless heterosexual families who have joined The Episcopal Church (they are numerous in my own diocese) because they want to raise their children in such an inclusive Church. There are countless lgbt people who have come to our churches for the comfort and solace and grounding in Christ that we offer – and we dare not lose hope or momentum for them as well as ourselves.

Most importantly, God is still with us. And by “us,” I don’t just mean gay and lesbian people. God is still with God’s Church – frail, cowardly and misguided as it can sometimes be, human nature being what it is. The Church is not ours to save or lose – the Church belongs to GOD, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. I believe that we are meant to use the institution of the Church – yes, even boldy risk its existence – to further NOT our own agenda, but the agenda of God. I do not equate the two. Our vision of the Church is only partial; our grasp of what God wants is as susceptible to our self-focused distortion as anyone else’s. But we are called to witness to OUR vision of God’s will and combine it with all the other imperfect visions of God’s will (yes, even those of our detractors), and come up with as perfected a vision as we can muster. The Church has been wrangling over those different visions since its inception – and that will never change. The question for US, however, is: Will we continue to put forward faithfully and respectfully and tenaciously OUR vision into that mix, or will we be intimidated into doubting our own vision of God’s will for the Church – or worse still, leave?

God will continue to show forth God’s glory and God’s goodness in our lives. The reason that we have made progress with our brothers and sisters in the Church is that GOD has shown forth God’s glory and goodness in our lives so strongly, that God cannot be denied at work in us. Many of the faithful have changed their views on homosexuality because they see GOD showing up in our lives, our ministries, our relationships and our families. That is the witness we can and must continue to make to the Church – not pointing to ourselves, but to the God we know in our lives. As I have said before, and will continue to say: JESUS is our agenda – the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for our sins, and the sins of the whole world, so that we might know God’s love and goodness in our lives. In the end, God will reign, and all will be well. I believe that with my whole heart.

Lastly, I give thanks every day to God for the fellowship we share. Part of what gives me relentless hope is my fellowship with YOU. What an honor and privilege it is to hold you in my heart as brothers and sisters in the faith, colleagues in ministry and faithful members of the Church. Can you imagine a more wonderful, fun and courageous group of “companions along the way?” Let our joy, our humor, our devotion to the Lord and to His Church be signs of the abundant life given to us in Christ. Let gay and lesbian people everywhere witness our joy, let them wonder how we can be so hopeful in the face of such overwhelming odds against us, that they want what we’ve got – a relationship with the living God that brings deep joy and abiding peace. Let us be ready to tell them the story of our own salvation at the hands of a loving God. And let us welcome them into our blessed fellowship, the Church.

I don’t know if this is the “word of hope” my friend asked for. It has little to do with events in Tanzania or even the Episcopal Church, and everything to do with God. But it is the hope that keeps me going. My faith is not in myself or in our “cause.” My faith is not in the House of Bishops or the General Convention to get it “right” anytime soon. It is, rather, the faith that people of countless generations and innumerable circumstances have found in our loving and trustworthy God. It is the faith Jesus said it was “blessed” to be persecuted for. It is the faith that Christians have always found in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – and God’s desire, willingness and power to bring an Easter out of ANY Good Friday. It is the faith that in and through the Holy Spirit, God continues to fulfill God’s promise “to lead us into all truth.”

I may utterly fail; I will undoubtedly disappoint God in my inability to be the person God created me to be; I will predictably confuse my own will with God’s will. But whatever the next weeks, months and years may bring, whether the Episcopal Church “comes through” for us or not, GOD will not fail, GOD will never disappoint, and GOD will never cease to pursue God’s will for my life – and yours – and for the world.

Bishop Robinson Responds to "A Season of Fasting"

A Response to: A Season of Fasting: Reflections on the Primates Meeting, the Presiding Bishop’s message to the Church
FROM: The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire

I have the utmost regard and respect for our new Presiding Bishop. Her leadership in these difficult times, not to mention her sheer courage, continues to inspire me. As I vowed at her investiture as Presiding Bishop, I will do everything I can to support her in this ministry. That includes disagreeing with her views when I think it would build up the Body. What follows are my responses to those portions of her communication to the American Church dealing with the demands/threats made to The Episcopal Church related to those members of Christ’s Body who happen to be gay. Allow me to offer a different reading/critique of our Presiding Bishop’s words, and then propose a different way forward.

“What is being asked of both parties is a season of fasting – from authorizing rites for blessing same-sex unions and consecrating bishops in such unions on the one hand, and from transgressing traditional diocesan boundaries on the other.”

I am reminded of the joke about the chicken and the pig, each asked to contribute to breakfast – the chicken’s eggs require a significantly smaller sacrifice than the pig’s bacon! Let us be clear: what is being asked of both parties is “a season of fasting from” accepting the Church’s gay and lesbian people as full members of the Body of Christ, a season of fasting from “respecting the dignity of every human being.” If The Episcopal Church decides to do that, let’s call it what it is: a sacrifice borne most sacrificially by its gay and lesbian members.

[In citing the early church’s debate over dietary laws] “The needs of the weaker members, and the real possibility that their faith may be injured, are an important consideration in making the dietary decision.”

If there ARE “needs of the weaker members, and the real possibility that their faith may be injured,” they belong to the faithful members of the Church – in The Episcopal Church AND around the Anglican Communion – who are being denied full membership in the Body of Christ because of their same gender love. Is there even a single instance in which Jesus was willing to forego ministry, love and inclusion of the marginalized in order to protect the “sensitivities” of the Pharisees and Sadducees?! What would Jesus’ reaction have been to those same Pharisees and Sadducees if THEY had claimed to be the victims of Jesus’ insensitivity?

“The current controversy brings a desire for justice on the one hand into apparent conflict with a desire for fidelity to a strict understanding of the biblical tradition and to the main stream of the ethical tradition. Either party may be understood to be the meat-eaters, and each is reminded that their single-minded desire may be an idol. Either party might constructively also be understood by the other as the weaker member, whose sensibilities need to be considered and respected.”

There are MORE than TWO parties here. I would maintain that NEITHER the Episcopal Church NOR the vast majority of the Churches represented by the Primates are the “weaker members.” Rather I would say that the “weaker members” are those gay and lesbian members of the Church of Nigeria, whose Church is supporting the criminalization of all association between them in their country. The “weaker members” are the gay and lesbian members of the Episcopal Church, who have to go looking – sometimes in vain – for a congregation who will accept them as full members of the Body of Christ. The stronger/weaker dichotomy is NOT between The Episcopal Church and the rest of the Anglican Communion, but between the Anglican Communion in all its manifestations and the gay and lesbian Christians around the world trying to find a place within it. For the first time in its history, and at the hands of the larger Communion, The Episcopal Church may be experiencing a little taste of the irrational discrimination and exclusion that is an everyday experience of its gay and lesbian members.

“Each party in this conflict is asked to consider the good faith of the other, to consider that the weakness or sensitivity of the other is of significant import, and therefore to fast, or ‘refrain from eating meat,’ for a season. Each is asked to discipline itself for the sake of the greater whole, and the mission that is only possible when the community maintains its integrity.”

I certainly believe Paul when he says that no part of the Body can say to another, “I don’t need you.” On the other hand, I don’t ever recall Jesus saying that the “greater whole” is the be all and end all. Doesn’t Jesus challenge the greater whole to sacrifice itself for those on the margins? Preaching good news to the poor, binding up the broken hearted, releasing the prisoners and proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor involves SACRIFICE on the part of the greater whole. That’s part of what angered his own hometown synagogue when he preached these powerful words from Isaiah. Touching the leper required SACRIFICE of ancient and firmly held beliefs. Eating with sinners was a SACRIFICE of the greater whole’s sensitivities. I would humbly submit that such sacrifice is the only way that our “community maintains its integrity.”

“Justice, (steadfast) love, and mercy always go together in our biblical tradition. None is complete without the others. While those who seek full inclusion for gay and lesbian Christians, and the equal valuing of their gifts for ministry, do so out of an undeniable passion for justice, others seek a fidelity to the tradition that cannot understand or countenance the violation of what that tradition says about sexual ethics. Each is being asked to forbear for a season.”

Where is the “justice, (steadfast) love, and mercy” for the Church’s gay and lesbian people in this threat from the primates? While the vast majority of the Anglican Communion AND the vast majority of Episcopalians may be willing to “forbear for a season,” the world’s gay and lesbian Anglicans long to hear the words spoken to Jesus at his baptism: “You are my beloved. In you I am well pleased.” Who will speak those words to them, while the rest of the Church forbears for a season? How will we explain this “forbearance” to all those gay and lesbian Christians who have come to The Episcopal Church because, for the first time ever, they have believed that there is a place for them AT God’s table, not simply BENEATH it, hoping for fallen scraps? Are THEIR souls not worthy of salvation too? Does anyone relish the notion of trying to explain all this “forbearance” to GOD?

Allow me to offer an additional reading of scriptural references to “fasting.” In addition to St. Paul's “pastoral” fasting, should we not also consider Isaiah’s notion of “prophetic” fasting?

4Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to strike with a wicked fist.
Such fasting as you do today
will not make your voice heard on high.

6Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
7Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin? (Isaiah 58: 4, 6-7, NRSV)

Fasting that focuses only on the self is not, in Isaiah’s mind, the most pleasing to God. For the past many months, the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion has spent far too much time and money and focus on this debate. I believe that the majority of us – certainly in The Episcopal Church, and possibly in the Anglican Communion as well – want to set this aside and get on with the work of the Gospel. What would it be like if we fasted in the way that God, through Isaiah, suggests: to fast from our internal squabbling for a season, and turn our focus to the world’s homeless, hungry and poor, in this and every land? What if we focused on what we say is our top priority – ministry to a world in pain through the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals – and simply fasted from this self-focus?

The changes in our polity proposed by the Primates can only properly and canonically be responded to by the laity, clergy and bishops gathered in General Convention in 2009. The Primates’ demands can be seriously, prayerfully and thoughtfully considered at that time. What if we stated, simply and calmly, that the Primates’ September deadline is impossible under our polity, and pledge ourselves to feeding, housing, and clothing the poor and binding up the physical and spiritual wounds of the world’s neediest for this season, until 2009? What if we gave up our internal squabbling for a season, took no precipitous action, and turned our focus to the world that Jesus Christ gave his life for?

This way forward may not be acceptable to many in the Communion who want this settled now, once and for all. So be it. Nothing we do will settle this once and for all. Does anyone believe that our full compliance with the Primates’ demands, our complete denunciation of our gay and lesbian members, or my removal as bishop would make all this go away?! We cannot determine what the response to our actions will be. We can only decide what our faithful response will be to the demands made of us.

If the response of the Archbishop of Canterbury to our prophetic fasting should result in our not being invited to the Lambeth Conference, then let us offer that denial as part of our fasting. Let us dedicate the diocesan and personal resources that would have been spent on Lambeth to projects involved in furthering the Millennium Development Goals.

During the debate over the consent to my election, I am told that the Bishop of Wyoming noted that not since the civil rights movement of the 60’s had he seen the Church risk its life for something. Indeed, I think he is right. This is such a time. A brief quotation hangs on the wall of my office: “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.” Now is the time for courage, not fear.

I pray that in the days ahead, as the Executive Council meets in Portland, the House of Bishops meets in Texas, and the General Convention (the ONLY body which has the authority to respond to the demanded changes in our polity) meets in 2009, that we contemplate our call to “proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” to those who have been denied it for so long and commit ourselves to the kind of fast that is pleasing to the Lord.

Save the drama for your mama

I am not an official spokesperson for Bishop Gene Robinson - or any other person, for that matter. As his friend of 20 plus years and even more importantly, as a fellow-Christian, I feel compelled to speak.

For almost a week, rumors have been circulating that Bishop Gene is in varying critical states of emotional and spiritual distress or trouble; that the Communique from the Primates in Dar es Salaam, the subsequent statements from our Presiding Bishop and Primate, and the call for him to resign from the director of AAC (as if that would really have any impact on any intelligent human being) have been so grievous unto his soul that he has collapsed into utter and complete despair; that he is in Rehab.

Here's the truth, if any of the uber-Christians who have been circulating this rumor can stand it:

Bishop Gene has been on mid-Winter vacation with his beloved partner, Mark and their family, as they do every year this time.

I understand many people in New Hampshire (like many people in the Northern most states) if they can, like to head toward warmer climes in the mid-winter, typically sometime after the "January thaw" and before the first few hints of the coming of Spring.

And so, apparently, does Bishop Gene and his family.

Yup, that's it. No immobilizing, incapacitating despair.

No wandering aimlessly in the streets in a thread-bare coat on a cold and snowy night, contemplating his resignation and subsequent suicide.

Just life as usual in the Anglican Diaspora - continuing to work and witness for justice, compassion, reconciliation and leadership. But first, a little time to recharge the batteries with his family.

Sorry to spoil the drama.

Monday, February 26, 2007

No comment. (But, go ahead and giggle. It's okay. I found this at their web site.)

Help spread the word about Davis

Dear Friends,

I don’t know if members of this group can do much to help us in Nigeria?

This morning I got a call from an unknown caller who wanted to find out where I am at the time. I ask him to introduced himself since I don’t know him and he said so you are back from your trip and off the phone on me. I called the number back and a woman picked and said it is a public call phone. My surprise is how he did get my number which is very private.

I have been talking with friends and supporters of how to go to a safe place for some time at list.

The bill to ban us in moving fast to become law.

The worst of all is that +Akinola is the master and brain be hide this bill, recently he has been lobbying the presidency to put pressure on the senate and house of representatives to speed up the process in passing the bill.

This evening I have receive news from Abuja that the bill is likely to be passed be fore the end of March. And members of Akinola staffs boosting that CAN will soon be illegal and me will be sent to prison. Most of my members are now calling and sending me mails to ask what will become of them if this bill is passed?

This is one question that I don’t have the answers to right now, my appeal to everyone is to help use any medium that you can to drew the attention of the world and church leaders to this Nigerian problem.

If tears can changed things I think by now I would have changed the situation of the Nigerian LGBT Christians.

If you can dear brothers and sisters please give a last minute call to your bishops or anyone you know that can add there voices to put pressures on the Nigerian government and +Akinola who is the current president of the Nigeria Chastain Association that is requiting that the bill be passed soon.

Please spread this massage if you can.

Davis Mac-Iyalla

More Divine Sandpaper . . .

Meet Daniel Hayden Martins, self-described 'Anglican' priest (but I believe was ordained in The Episcopal Church) rector of St. Johns, Stockton, CA, married man and father of three grown children.

He also has a Blog (I mean, doesn't everybody?), entitled, "Confessions of a Carioca." While Dan is far more articulate and theolgoical than most of the neo-Puritan, conservative, orthodox evangelical bloggers and therefore often more a 'steel hand in a velvet glove' in his approach, one would still be wise to "mind the gap" in charity whilst reading the comments section of this blog.

You may remember previous posts I've written which include a quote Dan made on the floor of General Convention 2006 which he really wishes I'd forget. I won't repeat it because he tells me it causes him pain, but it was absolutely unforgettable.

He also posted a question, which is often his way, on HOB/D this morning, in which he asked:

I would like to know where Scripture positively says that homosexual genital sex is approved. Obviously, I have missed it.

Well, and didn't a wee bit of Divine Sandpaper fall right down from the heavens once again? I had to respond:

Is there anywhere in Scripture that positively says that heterosexual genital sex is approved - other than that which ultimately leads to procreation?

It seems to me (but, again, I do not have a KJV of the bible, and no one from the Right to interpret it for me), that the only positive view Scripture has of heterosexual genital sex is for the reproduction of offspring.

Isn't this the basis, in fact, for the Roman Catholic theology of sexual activity and the sole idea for marriage? Isn't this why, theologically, there are no "reproductive rights" for Roman Catholics?

Careful here, Don, 'lest you inadvertently steer TEC (and, indeed, the Anglican Communion) closer yet across the Tiber and lead us to say that the only heterosexual genital sex allowed among "orthodox Anglicans" is that which leads to procreation.

Whatever will you and millions and billions and trillions and bazillions of Anglicans do except to pack your bags and leave straight away to hell for your eternal damnation?

Is my natural grain starting to show yet?

The problem with Brad Drell . . .

. . .is that he often pulls my very last nerve.

The good thing about Brad Drell is that he often pulls stuff from my addled brain that I had been unable to articulate.

Brad is an affable enough guy, for a neo-Puritan, conservative, orthodox evangelical. He's a Louisiana lawyer, a lay deputy from that fair diocese, the husband of a woman, who, by everything he says, is patient, strong and wise, the father of three darling little girls (I've seen pictures. Cute. Cute. Cute. The youngest is named Elizabeth, who he has promised to call "Elizabeth" and not "Lizzy" or "Liz" or "Betsey" or "Beth" and so earns an immediate place of affection in my heart), and a deeply committed member of a Prison Ministry Team.

He also has his own Blog, "Drell's Descants," which carries with it an "Asbestos Alert" for any liberal or progressive member of the church. People who comment there have been particularly cruel to me and people you and I know and love. Oh, you know, it's just the usual stuff we've come to expect from the "uber-Christians".

Believe it or not, Brad and I were also members of the Order of St. Verbosia, or "The Verbosians" - a group of people who are deputies to General Convention who frequently post (hence, 'The Verbosians') on the House of Bishops and Deputies (HOB/D) Listserv.

We met before and during GenCon 2006 in hopes that if we could simply keep talking, we might stumble our way onto the path of reconciliation, which, we all felt, might be pleasing unto the sight of the Lord.

Alas, it was not to be. The effort is now deeply buried in that place where all naivety as well as good intentions find their final resting place. I understand that they used to be used to pave of The Road to Hell, but that task was completed a few centuries ago.

Brad has been 'dormant' for a while on HOB/D. Emboldened, I suppose, by what he clearly considers the "victory" of the Communique, he has resurfaced.

Just this morning, Brad wrote: If you don't think we are holding up homosexuality as an ideal for Christians, then why do some in TEC call it a gift? That is far beyond saying homosexuality is morally neutral. I think divorce is also treated in the same way in some circles based on what I have seen.

Interestingly, a regular on the HOBD listserv emailed me off list and said my post was much better than some of the rants I used to post. Eye of the beholder, I guess, as to whether I am ranting or not, or being two edgy.

See what I mean?

So, I responded: Eye of the beholder, Brad, as to whether or not you were being edgy or ranting. So, too, with whether or not homosexuality is a gift or is morally neutral.

Ultimately, it matters not whether you were being edgy or ranting. It matters what you intended. The nature of the human enterprise of conversation is that "intent" often differs radically from "impact." Some of that impact is mitigated by what the hearer wants or expects or is predisposed to hear.

I have been saying for at least as many years as I have been on this listserv that my 30+ relationship with my beloved has been a gift and a blessing. Even the really, really hard parts. Even the parts I wish were different. I would even say that our love is in no way morally neutral. Perhaps the actual physical, genital expression of our love - as it is with any heterosexual couple - is morally neutral. But, our love, our relationship, our family is, I would assert, morally positive.

Eye of the beholder, Brad. You look at my relationship through a particular lens of scripture and the impact is that you see something very, very different than I intend - or that which is truth for me.

Eye of the beholder, Brad. I sometimes hear you ranting but most times I hear you being edgy. Then again, I'm looking at you from a particularly defensive posture. I'm always expecting to be clubbed by those sitting in the pews on the right side of the church. I'm always waiting for the 'sucker punch.' Sadly, that comes largely from experience.

The point is, Brad, that up until most recently when people on the right have been working very, very hard at schism, there has always been room in this church for people like you and people like me and our differences. There's always been a certain level of spiritual maturity which has allowed for the classic Gracious Spirit of Anglican Accommodation.

Sadly, this graciousness is what has been lost. I think I grieve this more than anything else. Indeed, I feel as if I want to put up a grave marker: "Here lies the Gracious Spirit of Anglican Accommodation - bludgeoned to death by those who promoted Christian triumphalism, scriptural hegemony, and ecclesiastical imperialism."

Oh, and just for the record: I think divorce is sometimes necessary; in fact, sometimes it is the only healthy, life-giving thing to do. (You have lived long enough and known enough couples to know this is true.)

But, the breaking of a vow - whether out of frivolity or necessity - is always a tragedy. Perhaps it is more a tragedy when divorce is the result of a frivolity, but that doesn't negate the fact that even when divorce is a necessity, a vow that has been made before God which is now broken is a tragedy.

I think all of heaven weeps when a vow - any vow - is broken.

To state that "homosexuality is an ideal for Christians" is to misstate the case. Committed, life-giving, faithful, monogamous, human relationships, whether found in a sexual expression between people of same or different gender - is the Christian ideal. Many heterosexual and homosexual people - some of whom are Christian and some of whom are not - fall short of that ideal.

I think we might even agree that is the goal of the Church, Christ's body, to help ALL couples live up that ideal. Not judge or enforce or punish, when they miss the mark, but help and support and edify the very members incorporate in the Body of Christ.

That, I think, is what God intends. The impact depends on how you hear what God has said, and whether or not you believe God is still speaking. That God might still have a word of truth to bring to people who live in this time and in this particular place. That God might still have more of the truth of the history, the present and the future of God's love for humankind to reveal to us - and through us - to the world.

The problem with Brad Drell is not that he's not intelligent, or deeply committed to Jesus, or even a genuinely nice guy who is precious in the sight of the Lord.

It's just that he thinks he's always right.

And, nothing gets my Portuguese up faster than someone who claims to be right. All the time. In all things, but especially all things theological.

So, thank Brad Drell for his ministry to me. I am grateful that he challenges me to think and to consider and reconsider my position. I am deeply grateful for that.

I once had a Spiritual Director who would have listened to me go on about Brad and her response would have been, "Divine Sandpaper."

She maintained that God puts people in our lives who "rub us the wrong way." They are supposed to, she would say. They work like sandpaper sent from God to remove all the old buildup of dust and scratches and allow our true grain and our inner shine to come forth.

Let us give thanks and praise to God for the life and ministry of Brad Drell: 'Divine Sandpaper' extraordinaire.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Pictures from a Civil Union

Abbott Koloff
Photos by Karen Mancinelli
02/25/07 - Posted from the Daily Record newsroom

Cindy and Maureen prepare to walk down the aisle with Maureen's 90 year old father, Lawrence Kilian.

MORRISTOWN -- Two smiling brides left the church, holding hands, to a standing ovation. They wanted their civil union ceremony to be ordinary, like any other wedding, even if the state does not call it a wedding. They like to refer to themselves as boring.

Then the crowd at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer applauded as Cindy Meneghin and Maureen Kilian left the altar Saturday, and people began to stand and shout.

Meneghin gave high-fives and raised a fist into the air. They will go back to their ordinary lives this coming week. They promised to be as boring as ever, taking kids to school, going to PTA meetings, baking cookies. But on Saturday they were not just another happy couple getting hitched in front of 300 people who wanted to cheer.

Cindy and Maureen sign their Civil Union license, witnessed by Maureen's sister and their children, Josh and Sarah.

They have been pioneers as part of a lawsuit that led to the creation of civil unions for same-sex couples, a law that went into effect this past Monday. On Saturday, they became perhaps the first couple in Morris County to be joined in a civil union.

"I was elated to see so many happy faces of friends and family," Kilian said.

They had come down the aisle together at the start of the ceremony, pushing Kilian's 90-year-old father in a wheelchair. Lawrence Kilian was listed in the program as being father and father-in-law of the brides. Kilian and Meneghin, both 49, of Butler, wore black pants suits. Their 14-year-old son Josh wore a dark suit and their 12-year-old daughter wore a pink top. The first cheers started then.

The Rev. Phillip Dana Wilson, who presided over the civil union, said in his sermon that he had good news and bad news for those who were gathered. The good news is that Meneghin and Kilian are getting legally joined after being together for 32 years. The bad news is that it's called a civil union, and not marriage.

"What is this animal that walks like a duck ... and still you call it a turkey?" he asked.

Under direction from the state Supreme Court, state legislators decided to give same-sex couples access to the same legal rights as heterosexual couples who get married. They just would not call it marriage. Gay rights advocates point out that creating civil unions, a separate institution for same-sex couples, makes them unequal, at least in terms of social perception.

> Maureen and Cindy walk down the aisle, having had their Civil Union blessed by the Rev'ds Elizabeth Kaeton, Phillip Wilson and John Rollins

Traditional ceremony

So Meneghin and Kilian decided to have a traditional ceremony, using traditional marriage vows instead of creating their own. They used the term "wedded partner" but replaced "matrimony" with the legally correct term. They were entering into a "holy civil union." They took each other "for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish ..."

They wanted to make it clear that they were getting married in every way that matters -- as long as you use a word other than marriage.

"This was a statement," Meneghin said. "We should have the same thing as everybody else."

They have spent the past five years making statements, being part of a lawsuit, losing some privacy. They invited reporters into their home to record moments of their lives. They became the public face of a lawsuit so people would see they are not threatening. They are just two women who happen to be gay and who have loved each other for much of their lives. They have been together since DePaul High School in Wayne. They are raising two children.

"Their life together, I have to tell you, is the most traditional life I have ever seen," Phillip Dana Wilson said during his sermon.

That got a laugh from people who know Meneghin and Kilian. Wilson went down the list -- PTA, owning a house, going to church, owning a van, working in the soup kitchen. But they also are pioneers, and last week some same-sex couples around Morris County who are planning civil unions in the near future, and who never met Kilian and Meneghin, said they wanted to thank them.

Maureen and Cindy rejoice with their friends

'Not over'

"They gave up their private lives so we can be here today doing what we are doing," Wilson said. "The struggle is not over. But because of you, we have come a long way. Someday there will be no such thing as civil union, no such thing as separate but equal."

So the cheers at the end were not just for Meneghin and Kilian. Wilson said he plans to perform a civil union service for 10 same-sex couples from his church in a couple of months.

People wiped back tears when Meneghin and Kilian kissed. They seemed to hold their breath when they said simple, ordinary words, when Meneghin loudly emphasized this phrase: "In the name of God."

They applauded when Meneghin and Kilian invited other couples who had been part of the lawsuit to stand with them at the front of the church.

"Peace and God be with you all," Meneghin said at the end, wiping tears from her eyes.

The First Temptations of Christ

Luke 14:1-13 - Lent I
February 25, 2007
The Episcopal Church of St. Paul, Chatham, NJ
(the Rev’d) Elizabeth Kaeton, rector and pastor


Not a surprising topic for the first Sunday in the Season of Lent. Those of us who have given up something for Lent (like wine, chocolate, or dessert), or taken on something, or a new discipline (exercise, reading, or a course of instruction) are already struggling with temptation – only five days into Lent.

And so it is that we read of the three temptations of Christ in the wilderness: to turn stone to bread, to worship false idols, and to turn the tables on temptation and tempt or test God.

We ought not be surprised by these three temptations of Christ. However, his is not like being tempted by chocolate or skipping time in the gym. Neither are they particulaly extraordinary, if you think about them. Indeed, I believe that these are three very common temptations in the enterprise of being human.

Let me explain.

I had a conversation a few weeks ago with a woman whose son is in the Army. He had enlisted several years ago and had completed one tour of duty in Iraq, where he was seriously injured and traumatized.

He spent several months recovering in a hospital in Germany and then was transferred to Walter Reed in Washington, D.C. and eventually made a full physical recovery. When the government offered him a substantial sum of money to reenlist, it also came with assurances that he wouldn’t go back to Iraq.

His mother was very suspicious of the offer, but very proud of her son.

Last week he was told that he would be deployed to Baghdad in April. He is beside himself with anxiety. His post traumatic stress syndrome is back in force. He’s been sent to a psychiatric hospital to make sure his claims are valid.

His mother is beside herself. There is absolutely nothing she can do for her son, and yet her anxiety about her son is now almost incapacitating. When she isn’t completely depressed, she schemes about things she might do to sabotage her son’s deployment to Iraq – including illegal measures.

She had fallen prey to the temptation to eat the bread of anxiety, changing that bread into the stone of incapacitation of her normal daily life.

Like Jesus, she has been tempted to deny reality.

Let me give you another example.

Perhaps you’ve been following this story. This past week has been a fairly traumatic one for The Episcopal Church. Some of the evangelical Global South Primates and a few of their North American counterparts are not at all pleased with The Episcopal Church’s response to the requests of The Windsor Report to repent of our actions to confirm the election of Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire.

They called for a complete moratorium on the election of any further LGBT bishops and one on the authorization of Rites of Blessing for same sex relationships.

At the beginning of their meeting at Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, the Windsor Report Sub-group, consisting of three conservative bishops and chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury himself, the Primates heard that The Episcopal Church got a passing grade on our response. We satisfied the first two requests but got an incomplete on the third request.

That passing grade incensed some of the Global South Primates, who staged the equivalent of an ecclesiastical hissy fit. We saw the same bullying tactic used during General Convention which gave us the dreaded resolution B033. That resolution pleased neither Progressives nor Conservatives, but had bought us a passing grade by no less than the Archbishop of Canterbury.

So, some of the Primates pushed back. Hard. At the 11th hour. The Primates meeting was to have ended at 5:30 PM but ended instead at 10:30 PM with a Communiqué that was positively draconian in its demands for “full compliance” with what had been “recommendations” to a “process” of reconciliation.

The Primates – all 35 of them – had succumbed to the temptation to worship the sense of unity over their own integrity.

They have forgotten the Anglican heritage of “gracious accommodation” of holding two dramatically different beliefs – like the founding Anglican polarities of Protestant and Catholic belief – in tension. It would seem that there is to be no graciousness, much less any accommodation of Evangelical and Catholic beliefs in the Anglican Communion.

We have, like Jesus, been tempted to worship the false god of Unity, rather than the God who created the wondrous paradox of the diversity of humanity.

Finally: Yesterday, I had the privilege of co-presiding at the Civil Union of Maureen Killian and Cindy Meneghin at the Church of the Redeemer in Morristown. Yes, I know. According to the Windsor Report, I'm not being "compliant." That's okay. The Windsor Report is filled with recommendations - not requirements.

Some of you know that, five years ago, I was privileged to serve as Associate Rector there while I was also the Canon Missioner to The Oasis. Cindy and I were remembering, just before the service, that it was 14 years ago last week that we had gathered in that space to baptize Josh, their eldest son. Both of us thought that the idea that we would be in this same place, 14 years later, for this service of Civil Union seemed then like a distant, unattainable dream.

It was a surprisingly traditional service. Pretty much right out of the Prayer Book. As Phillip said in his sermon, these are two of the most delightful yet boring people he knows. One is a Computer Specialist for a University and the other is a Parish Administrator. They attend PTA meetings, live in a big old house that needs constant attention, serve the church in various capacities, help with homework, drive the kids to sports and other school events - well, you get the picture.

My favorite part of the service was when Maureen and Cindy came down the aisle, wheeling Maureen's 80-something year old (staunchly Roman Catholic) dad in his wheel chair, as he held their hands. Everyone spontaneously applauded. There wasn't a dry eye in the house.

So, I'm standing there, watching all this happen and thinking, "And this is the deal breaker? This is what the present drama is all about in the Anglican Communion? THIS? Commitment? Love? Mutuality? Fidelity? Faithfulness? Monogamy? The Value of Families?"

I believe it’s simply a matter of time before Civil Unions become Marriage Equality –in the State of New Jersey, in this country, and around the Globe.

Indeed, I believe that the church should get out of the marriage business altogether. I believe our priests ought to be agents of God, not agents of the state. Whatever the state decides about Civil Union or Marriage, the priests of this church ought to continue to be allowed to pronounce God’s blessing on that which is good and noble, excellent and holy.

Judging by the number of young people in the more than 300 people in attendance in the congregation - many of whom were Josh and Sara's class mates and neighbors - I think honesty and integrity about what we are doing is not far from our grasp.

Twenty years from now we're going to look back on this time and have two reactions. First, we'll scratch our heads and ask, "What was all that drama about, anyway?" And then we'll shake our heads and say, "Shame on them!"

In another generation, many will have discovered then what we know now: that we have given into the temptation to play God and judge people and parceled out civil rights and liturgical rites on that basis.

Yes, we have provided for a civil right, but we have done so in a way that compromises the fullness of the dignity of every human being. It’s like the Jim Crow Laws of Segregation. Separate is rarely equal. Eventually, those Jim Crow laws - like apartheid - were overturned.

It’s like inequality for women – in position and pay. We’re not completely free of it, but we continue to make significant gains. Indeed, one of the real triumphs of the Primates Conference in Dar es Salaam is that Our Katharine was not humiliated by not being allowed to attend. Neither was she "kicked out" of the meeting. Indeed, she was elected to the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates - having equal say in decision making with the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.

I believe with all my heart that Civil Rights and Liturgical Rites of Blessing will be available for all of God’s children long before I finally take my leave of this earth. For now, we, like Jesus, have been tempted to control control the liberation which has been promised to ALL of God's children.

If you haven’t already noticed, I take Lent very seriously. So seriously that we have cut down parts of the service in order to take our time and be intentional about our worship together. There are lots of silences in this service – even the Exchange of Peace and the Announcements have been moved in order to create a more somber mood.

We all lead such busy, frenetic lives that I am hoping to create – at least once a week in our lives of faith – a place where we can take the time to find the depth of our souls. In this space, in your lives, I pray we can contemplate the four major spiritual issues of ‘Coming Out Christian’: our identity, our mortality, our intimacy and our vocation.

I want to create a space wherein we can examine for ourselves how it is that we, as very members incorporate in The Body of Christ, continue to be sorely tempted to sin – by denying reality, worshiping false idols, and controlling the inevitable.

The work of resisting these Three Temptations is quite serious. Jesus took forty days in forty nights in The Wilderness. I’m hoping we can take the forty days and forty nights of Lent in our homes and at work, as well as in our church and our lives of faith.

So, here are some question for you on the First Sunday in Lent:

How is it that you, like Jesus, are being tempted to deny reality?

How is it that you, like Jesus, are being seduced to create and worship false idols –and what are those false idols in your life?

How is it that you, like Jesus, are being enticed by playing God in your own life and in the lives of others?

These are the serious questions of Lent – for Jesus and for ourselves. I welcome you to this most holy work in this most holy season.


Saturday, February 24, 2007

This is the deal-breaker? Really?

I got home a bit ago from co-presiding at one of the first Civil Unions in New Jersey.

It was at the Church of the Redeemer, Morristown, NJ, where Phillip Wilson is rector and where, five years ago, I was privileged to serve as Associate Rector while also Canon Missioner to The Oasis.

The Civil Union was between two women, Maureen and Cindy, who were two of the six plaintiffs who brought civil suit against the State of NJ for the civil right to marriage. They and their family including their two children, Josh and Sara, gave up the last five years to this struggle. Four of the six plaintiffs were there, including one woman whose partner, tragically and ironically, died last year of Lou Gehrig's Disease.

Cindy and I were remembering, just before the service, that it was 14 years ago last week that we baptized Josh in that very church. David Noregard, then the Executive Director of the Oasis and the reason for their return to the institutional church, had served as officiant. Both of us thought that the idea that we would be here today for this service of Civil Union seemed then like a distant, unattainable dream.

It was a surprisingly traditional service. Pretty much right out of the Prayer Book. As Phillip said in his sermon, these are two of the most delightful yet boring people he knows. One is a Computer Specialist for a University and the other is a Parish Administrator. They attend PTA meetings, live in a big old house that needs attention, serve the church in various capacities, help with homework, drive the kids to sports and other school events - well, you get the picture.

My favorite part was when Maureen and Cindy came down the aisle, wheeling Maureen's 80-something year old (Roman Catholic) dad in his wheel chair, as he held their hands. Everyone spontaneously applauded. There wasn't a dry eye in the house.

So, I'm sitting there, watching all this happen and thinking, "And this is the deal breaker? This is what the present drama is all about in the Anglican Communion? THIS? Commitment? Love? Mutuality? Fidelity? Faithfulness? Monogamy? The Value of Families?"

And then I thought, "Shame! Shame on them! Shame on the Global South Primates. Shame on the North American prelates who fan the flames of bigotry and prejudice in the name of Jesus. Shame on good people who do nothing, which is all that is necessary for evil to exist."

Phillip began his sermon by announcing that this was "Good News and Bad News. The Good News," he said, "was that the struggle had come to the assurance of some civil rights for LGBT people in Civil Union. The Bad News," he continued, "was that the struggle was not yet over. This is still not Marriage."

Phillip quoted my critique of the passage of Civil Union vs. Marriage as saying, "If it walks like a duck, and looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, why are we calling it a turkey?" Indeed. How can the liturgical rite of blessing and the provision of legal rights for a 32 year old relationship possibly be a "threat to the sanctity of marriage"? Why do we have to play games? Why can't we be honest about what we are doing?

Judging by the number of young people in the more than 300 people in attendance in the congregation - many of whom are Josh and Sara's class mates and neighbors - I think honesty is not far from our grasp.

Twenty years from now we're going to look back on this time and say two things. First, we'll scratch our heads and ask, "What was all that drama about, anyway?" And then we'll shake our heads and say, "Shame on them!"

But for today, we'll rejoice for Cindy and Maureen, and for Josh and Sara, who also get my vote for "Family of the Year." This is one for the history books! Congratulations. We're so very proud of you!

How long, O Lord, how long?

The Primates who met at Windsor, Dromantine and Dar es Salaam continue to uphold the Lambeth resolution on human sexuality to be the "standard" of the church, which conservatives want "enforced" so that all are in "compliance."

They have apparently forgotten, these princes of the church and teachers and guardians of the faith, that words like "enforce" and "compliance" are absolutely antithetical to the long tradition of the gracious Anglican Spirit of Accommodation.

In her conversation with the staff at the National Church Center, Our Katharine points out the incremental progress of some Global South Primates who can now no longer claim not to have met LGBT people. She muses that it's simply a "matter of time" before the rest of the communion allows "reason" to take it's place along side classical Anglicanism of scripture and tradition.

So, here are my questions. There are three:

1. How long, exactly, does it take, for the church to correct its "standard" when the church's standard is at least significantly different from the experience of others in other parts of the world, not to mention that the scientific evidence in the West is significantly different from that of the church?

Stop me if you've heard this before:

For centuries, the church's teaching about the shape of the world was that it was flat, in accordance with what was written in scripture, despite scientific evidence that it was not. People were excommunicated - not to mention tortured and tried and sent to jail and murdered for disagreeing with the official church "standard" of teaching.

For centuries, the church's teaching about seizure disorder was that it was demon possession, in accordance with what was written in scripture, despite scientific evidence that it was not. People were excommunicated - not to mention tortured and locked in asylums because the outward manifestation of their lives were contrary to the official church "standard" of teaching.

For centuries, the church's teaching about left handedness was that it was the sign of evil, in accordance with what was written in scripture, despite scientific evidence that it was not. People were excommunicated - not to mention tortured and shunned and exiled because the outward manifestation of their lives were contrary to the official church "standard" of teaching. (My beloved can tell you stories that will raise the hair on the back of your neck about the abuse she and others suffered in Roman Catholic elementary school because of their left handedness.)

2. If we agree that the colonialism and cultural imperialism perpetrated by the North and the West on the Global South were evils of which we repent, why are we now allowing the attempted ecclesiastical colonialism and imperialism of the Global South Primates to be visited upon the churches of the North and the West? I never remember Jesus teaching that "two wrongs make a right." Then again, I don't have a King James Version of the bible, so I may be missing something.

3. Who will take responsibility for the emotional, psychological and spiritual damage done to the church and her people for perpetuating the evils of this deficient standard of teaching? And, let's be clear: it's not simply LGBT people who will suffer. As we have learned from the evils of slavery, racism, sexism, and the ignorance which once taught that the world is flat, people who have seizure disorders are possessed of demons and left-handed people are the Scribes of Satan: when the dignity of any human being is compromised or insulted, a mortal wound is created in the Body of Christ.

I think our Baptismal Covenant has something to say about "the dignity of every human being," as does the Outline of Faith (Commonly called The Catechism).

Who will take responsibility for the damage that is done while a deficient standard is upheld and promulgated in the church? Knowing what we know about the irrationality of prejudice, who could claim innocence? Knowing what we know about LGBT people and social sciences and lived experience, why isn't the church's "standard of teaching" being challenged - if not absolutely rejected? And, what would the consequences be if they were? Could anyone live with the consequences if they were not?

How long, O Lord, how long, must we wait for reason to prevail over errant teaching? And, what price are we willing to pay for the damage done to the Sacred Body of Christ while we wait?

If nothing else, these questions underscore what I see as the need for a Season of Discernment, Study and Prayer so that we are very, very clear what it is we are being asked to do.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Our Katharine Speaks!

Note: I encourage you to give a listen to this presentation, which takes about 24 minutes.

I suspect Our Katharine is one heck of a Chess player. She certainly knows how to use Bishops, Kings, Queens, and Pawns.

Somebody que the Rolling Stones. I need to hear them sing, "Time is on our side."

Episcopal News Service
February 23, 2007

Presiding Bishop briefs Church Center community on Primates' Meeting

By Mary Frances Schjonberg

[ENS] Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on February 23 told the community of people who work at the Episcopal Church Center in New York that the new structures asked for by the Primates in Dar es Salaam, and the clarifications they want about the Episcopal Church's stance on blessing same-gender relationships and partnered gay and lesbian priests becoming bishops, can be a "container" in which the Anglican Communion can continue to discuss issues that many Anglicans would rather avoid.

She told the gathering that the Episcopal Church is called to ensure that the conversation about the inclusion of gays and lesbians in the church continues in the Communion.

"It is part of our mission as a church," she said. "This conversation that has been going on for at least 40 years is not going away. God keeps bringing it back to us."

Jefferts Schori said that she understands that some people feel that the Primates' recommendations are a "hard and bitter pill for many of us to talk about swallowing." But, she said, worldwide attitudes about the inclusion of gay and lesbian people are changing and "I don't expect that to end."

An mp3 audio recording of Jefferts Schori's remarks is available at:

A full ENS story will follow later today.

-- The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is national correspondent for the
Episcopal News Service.

Postcard from a man on the edge

Canon David Anderson President
of American Anglican Council
response to the Tanzania Thingy
Thursday February 22nd 2007

‘We are pleased. The American Anglican Council is pleased. We feel the communique is a workable document. It takes some of the slack out of the previous approach of TEC. It puts in place realistic demands and deadlines for compliance. It provides options for those in TEC that are in impaired relationships and allows border crossings, although lamentable, to continue until the situation in TEC is resolved. It gives a special status to both CANA and Amia. Even if the situation is resolved, CANA and Amia would have the option if they wished to negotiate in or not.

“It makes it so clear that Gene Robinson is unacceptable in his capacity as Bishop that he is going to have to go. He could either go gracefully and resign or he’s going to have to be removed. Otherwise, TEC cannot meet the demands of the communique.

“It is very difficult to say if he will go gracefully. He has been the poster boy for the gay and lesbian community. He might actually be at some risk from his own community if he steps down voluntarily. It might be better for him to be forced out than to step down voluntarily.

“A case could be brought against him in an ecclesiastical court, based on his personal moral conduct. If the court was hand-picked, as many courts are, to find the verdict that was desired, he could be found guilty. Once a complaint was filed in the ecclesiastical system, Bishop Jefferts Schori would call an ecclesiastical court of bishops for a trial. That is how proceedings would be instigated. A complaint could be put in by a group of bishops, presbyters or laity.”

TEC at this point is a wounded, cornered animal. Knowing how things have been, I believe that they will willingly leave the communion before they will sacrifice their ideals, their integrity. Many of the most influential bishops deeply believe in the gay and lesbian cause and believe that it is approved and blessed by God. I cannot imagine a situation where they would sell that out. In one sense, this is the flaw in the communique. In another sense, this is the brilliance of the document. They have given an option to TEC, but it is an option that is equivalent to leaping Mount Olympus. So TEC will know full well that if it does not do this, these are the consequences. But they are consequences they will have brought on themselves.”

Thursday, February 22, 2007

A Season of Discernment, Study and Prayer

It seems to me that the church, being "in the world, but not of this world" is asking worldly questions.

I think the central, crucial questions being overlooked, in this rush to power and punishment for the sin of colonialism from the Nigerian Lion Who Roars, are essentially, deeply spiritual.

Forget my pain. Forget the pain of LGBT people. Thank you for your sympathy and empathy, your mercy and loving kindness, your concern and prayers. It is truly, deeply appreciated.

I am overwhelmed by the loving notes I have gotten in the past few days - even those who have expressed concern about the anger which occasionally finds expression in sarcasm. Thank you for tending so lovingly to my heart and my soul and my mind. It is awesome to feel so loved.

Yes, betrayal always hurts, and often the only sensible response is anger. Betrayal hurts the betrayed, the ones who betray, and the entire church. It is odious in the sight of the Lord, grievous unto the Sacred Heart of Jesus and a sin against the Holy Spirit - and we all know what Jesus had to say about that.

Carolyn Myss talks about this as "The Judas Experience." She writes,
"The lesson of the Judas Experience is that putting faith in human justice is an error and that we must shift our faith from human to Divine authority. It is to trust that our life is governed 'with Divine justice', even though we cannot see it. We must strive not to become bitter or cling to victimhood when we are betrayed or cannot attain what we want . . .We need to trust that we have not been victimized at all and that this painful experience is challenging us to evaluate where we have placed our faith." (Anatomy of the Spirit, pg. 125)

We are not helpless victims. LGBT Christians know we are children of God - and not just because General Convention passed a resolution that says that. This we know for the bible tells us so.

We have been fighting the good fight for many, many years - over 30, in fact. We, and our allies, will continue to do so. I am in no way tired. The Fat Lady has not even warmed up on this latest development, and I do believe the Holy Spirit has something really, really big up Her billowing sleeve.

As Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, "The arc of history is long, but it always bends toward justice." I think that when this kind of outrageous injustice occurs, something in the cosmos shifts. And, when that happens, the bending of the arc of history is accelerated even further toward justice.

There need not be any concern about retaliation from the left side of the church. Retaliation is not necessary. God has a way of taking care of the faithful who are oppressed - as well as those who oppress.

Jesus once cautioned: "Woe to you! for you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering." (Luke 11:52)

We overlook the spiritual questions of this at the peril of our souls - and the very soul of the church..

There are many, important spiritual questions. I heard the first of them articulated by the Rev'd Jennifer Phillips in a book of essays with a title, "Our Selves, Our Souls and Bodies: Sexuality and the Household of God."

I can't lay my hands on the book just now (I've just learned that Charles Hefling is the editor and Cowley is the publisher, although it may be out of print. Among the contributors is Rowan Williams. ISBN 1-56101-122-3), so I'm going to paraphrase her questions (and Jennifer, if you read this, please correct me if I'm wrong, or clarify/amplify a particular point you want to make):

"What, do you suppose, is God doing? (If we assume the authenticity of at least some of these vocations), Why is God calling and sending LGBT people to us, at this time in our common lives of faith, to positions of leadership in the church? What have we to learn from this? What might God be trying to reveal to us?"

Now, I'm keenly aware that there are wildly different answers to these questions, depending on which side of the aisle is responding.

My point (and I do have one) is to repeat what I said a few days ago. I think we ought not do what Rowan has obviously done. I think we ought not feel pressured by some Global South Primates, and their North American minions, who are on a painfully obvious power trip.

I continue to call for a Season of Discernment, Study and Prayer about how to respond to Windsor, Dromantine and Dar es Salaam.

Let's put aside, for a season, what the Global South Primates and their North American minions have demanded, the timelines they've constructed, and the ultimatums they have made. "Fear not!" says Jesus. Let us ask ourselves and struggle among ourselves with what God may be asking of us.

Please! Let's not do this at a Special General Convention. What a colossal waste of energy and resources!

The money to stage that kind of event is better spent helping the lives of desperately poor, starving, oppressed women and children in those very Global South countries who want to do unto LGBT people as they have done unto some of their own.

If membership in the World Wide Anglican Communion is so desperately important, then let us take the time - A Season, as we are so fond of saying, and not seven months - in the fullness of all four orders of the Body of Christ, to carefully discern, study and pray about our response to these ultimatums.

Let's do this with congregations having conversations among themselves and with congregations who think differently from them. Let's do this province by province and deputation by deputation, so that we can come to General Convention 2009 fully informed and ready to make important decisions about our identity and vocation and mission and membership as the Body of Christ.

It would be a most excellent way of "defending the faith" which is one of the sacred tasks of the episcopacy.

That doesn't mean, BTW, putting the faith of the church in deep freeze, relegating the faith of our church to museum status. Defending the faith means helping it to live and grow and deepen. Indeed, defending the faith means not killing it, which this request from Tanzania, if followed, most surely will succeed in doing. Defending the faith not only means defending it from false teachings, but defending it from those who would close the books on any learning, much less allow others or themselves, to enter a newer, deeper understanding of God's revelation (See Luke 11:52).

This would require an act of courage on the part of the House of Bishops. I trust they are sufficiently outraged to summon the moral and spiritual courage to do this.

And, I must say, if you are not outraged by these things from Windsor, Domantine and Dar es Salaam, you are simply not paying attention.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Episcopal Majority: "RESIST!!"

PLEASE NOTE: The following is written by Bill Coats, a retired priest of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, and a member of Episcopal Majority. It is a personal assessment and not an "official" statement of either the Diocese of Newark or the Episcopal Majority.

The Communique from the recent Anglican’s Archbishops’ meeting in Tanzania was to be expected.

It continues in the same spirit first exhibited in the Windsor Report.

It purports to be a document designed for reconciliation, but in fact its true intent is to rein in the Episcopal church and force its capitulation on the key matter of homosexuality.

In short the price of unity remains as it has been for three years: the debasement and humiliation of gay and lesbians persons in the church.

Thus under the proposed heading of reconciliation has appeared the ugly reality of and legitimation of bigotry and hatred.

This communique makes a division in Anglicanism all but certain.

The Communique, released with the approval of the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, our Presiding Bishop, presents a challenge to this church that in the Name of Jesus Christ cannot and should not be met.

The Communique makes two interrelated demands on the Episcopal Church. The first, couched in the rhetoric of reconciliation, seeks to provide a way for dissident elements to stay within the church.

The second, uttered with little reconciling language, demands a cessation of a number of actions favorable to openly gay and lesbians persons as the price of continued regular status within the Anglican Communion.

The contradiction is obvious. If the dissidents can gain some regular, legal status within the Church then if the larger Church fails to meet the demands for actions against gays and lesbians required by Primates, then the dissidents are in a much more favorable legal position when the inevitable split occurs within Anglicanism. They, therefore, would constitute a fifth column

The Communique, as a price of unity until the formation of an Anglican Covenant, demands that the Episcopal church, in order to provide for the pastoral care of a small number of dissidents participate in the creation of a Pastoral Council and a primatial Vicar. These two offices are to have supervisory power in matters dealing with unhappy congregations or dioceses. They are to report to the Primates.

We are appalled at such a notion. In our view such creations amounts to foreign control over our church and clashes with the our constitution and canons. Moreover authority in these matters do not rest with either the Anglican Primates or any overseas body. We do not think it lies in the purview of our Presiding Bishop, nor of our bishops. Only General Convention can establish structures that deal with our polity.

These measures, which effectively put the Episcopal Church in "receivership" purportedly are meant to deal with parishes and dioceses in the American Church who are estranged from the larger church.

The reasoning is that if these recalcitrant groups can have some official recognition they can be said still to be in union with the larger American church. In fact such structures will not be a pastoral haven for such groups; instead they merely serve to legitimize these groups in their hope to overthrow the present Episcopal Church.

Furthermore as these intermediate and intervening structures continue to maintain a tie to the "instruments of Communion" they provide the means for further pressure and demands by hostile foreign elements who will be "monitoring" the American church’s actions.

It is clear these new structures have nothing whatsoever to do with reconciliation but serve merely to exacerbate the situation in the American church by giving new and official standing to a body of people intent upon expelling us from the Communion.

We must say: Neither our Constitution and Canons nor our history as a church involve a suicide pact.

It is suggested that once the American church installs these new arrangements the effort to establish, as has already been done, an extra ecclesiastical province in the US for the disaffected will cease.

Since the purpose of this jurisdiction was simply to provide a temporary way station until the Communion expelled the American church we see no reason to legitimate this strategy by other means. Again this is not reconciliation but rather a veiled strategy for disunion now legitimized by the Primates.

To suggest as the communique does that this new arrangement then should lead to a cessation of legal actions in regards to property and that the secessionists elements should be allowed to continue using the property simply serves as reward for secession.

It should be further noted that these arrangements, by which greater authority over our church is given to foreign bodies, now feeds into the legal strategy of some American dioceses by which they propose at a later date to seize the property of their diocese in the event of a church split.

Their strategy is to negate our national canons by claiming they have a tie to Anglican structures beyond the Episcopal church. The establishment of the Pastoral Council and primatial vicar would now further enable this strategy.

We call on our bishops to repudiate and resist all of these actions.

The Communiques goes on to make radical demands on the Episcopal church, once again, before the time of the Covenant. These consist of a virtual permanent moratorium on the consecration to the Episcopacy of partnered Gays and Lesbians and the immediate proscription of the blessing of same-sex couples everywhere in the Episcopal church. Should the church fail to implement these demands our status within the Communion will remain "damaged".

Dire consequences are then hinted. In other words the primates now seek to gain a form of immediate capitulation from the church it could not get either from our bishops or from General Convention. They have now come forward with naked threats.

The communique blithely assumes that the presenting issue of homosexuality has been solved by the 1998 Lambeth resolution 1.10. This resolution maintains that lifelong heterosexual marriage is the only possible arrangement for intimacy open to men and women.

This resolution, itself a product of extreme political machination, may be the approved "standard" of the Lambeth Bishops (though, it should be noted it was not adopted unanimously) but has never been presented to the national churches.

In demanding capitulation from the Episcopal church the primates have now designated themselves as a mini "college of Cardinals" We reject this role outright as an arrogant violation of Anglican polity which always and everywhere must include the laity

The primates’ demand amounts to a simple proposition:


The attempt is made to assure us that some "listening process" within the Communion will somehow over time help in this disagreement. This is nonsense. There has been no serious listening process over the last few years.. A large number of provinces have already made up their minds on the basis of "Scripture" and have no intention of listening either now or later. We will not be fooled by false promises

We are appalled that the matter of homosexuality has now become the virtual doctrinal cornerstone of Anglicanism. We had thought that the dogmas of Incarnation and the Trinity were the central and mandated matters of belief for the church.

We thought we could live in love and respect with certain disagreements over sexuality. This Communique puts to rest any such naive notions.

A form of theological hysteria has now overtaken the Communion. And out of this hysteria has come the demand for capitulation and the surrendering of gay and lesbians persons on the altar of unity.

We reiterate that the proscription on homosexuality rests on a reading of Scripture which can no longer stand. The Bible knew homosexuality as an act of choice by heterosexuals with other heterosexuals.

We know now homosexuality is an unchosen condition and thus the reasons offered for its present day proscription are not the reasons offered in Scripture. In this event, since no inherent harm is involved in homosexual relations the older proscription must give way to the wider love of Christ.

Moreover since we are created in the image of the Triune God, to forbid some persons from living within this Trinity and being able to mirror acts of self-giving love and intimacy is, for us, unacceptable. All persons are called to mirror the Trinitarian love of Father, Son and Spirit in their own relationships of self-giving love. We cannot deny to this to any on the basis of gender or race or sexual orientation (as we have in the past).


We are prepared for the consequences of resistance. We are not daunted by the prospect of walking apart from a church we now find hardly recognizable, one taken over by the power of death. As Martin Luther said: "Here we Stand"

William R. Coats

of the Episcopal Majority