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

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ground Hog Day, Lazarus and the Rich Man

A Sermon for XVIII Pentecost
Luke 16:19 – 31
Proper 21- September 30, 2007
The Episcopal Church of St. Paul
(the Rev’d) Elizabeth Kaeton, rector and pastor

Do you remember that movie “Groundhog Day”? Comedian Bill Murray, plays “Phil” an egocentric meteorologist from Pittsburgh who wakes up one morning after a severe blizzard (which he had predicted would not amount to anything), and then discovers himself trapped in the same news day.

The 'Really Big Story' he's covering is that it’s Ground Hog Day. He’s in a hotel room in Punxsutawny, Pennsylvania, waking up to a cold dawn on February 2nd to see whether or not “Punxsutawney Phil” the infamous ground hog, comes out of his hole to see his shadow. If he does, we'll know for "certain" there will be six more weeks of winter.

He awakes that day and everyday, over and over again, at 6 AM when his alarm clock goes off and he hears Sony and Cher sing, “I got you, babe.” Sounds terrible, right? Not to worry. Being the egotist, he soon discovers how to enjoy his fate. He indulges himself in drinking and frivolity, only to go to bed and wake up the next morning to . . . Ground Hog Day.

He even tempts fate and tries suicide – several times. Still, he wakes up and it's February 2nd , it’s still six am and Sony and Cher are still singing, “I got you, babe" - but now the song sounds like a malicious taunt.

Finally, he begins to re-examine his life and opens his heart to Rita, his producer, and her advice helps him to gradually find a goal for his trapped life: as a benefactor to others.

He cannot, in a single day, bring others to fulfill his needs but he can achieve self-improvement by educating himself on a daily basis. For example, after seeing an elderly homeless man die, Phil vows that no one will die on "his" day and performs many heroic services each and every day.

He even learns to play jazz piano, speak some French, sculpt ice, and memorize the life story of almost everyone in town. He also masters the art of flipping playing cards into an upturned hat. This is quite impressive to me since this is a goal I, myself, have set to achieve before I die.

Eventually, he enhances his own human understanding which, in return, makes him an appreciated and beloved man in the town. Finally, after professing true love to Rita, one which she is able to accept, he wakes up on February 3 - though again to "I Got You Babe."

Yet it is a new day, with Rita beside him on the bed. Phil suggests to Rita that they live in Punxsutawney, though he suggests, "We'll rent to start." The closing song is “Almost Like Being in Love” a song from the musical “Brigadoon” which, you may remember, dealt with a village trapped in time.

When I did some research on this movie, with thanks to Wikipedia, I discovered that, just last year, in 2006, the United States National Film Registry deemed Ground Hog Day as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." You may laugh at that, but I see in the movie “Ground Hog Day” a modern parable of this gospel story of Lazarus and the Rich Man.

Much can be – indeed, has been made – by pious preachers over the millenia about the point Luke makes in this gospel. Yes, there is a great chasm between the rich and the poor. And, it is an important point to be made – one that is as difficult to hear in our day as it was for the Pharisees, who first heard these words from Jesus. There is no denying the harsh words of Jesus for those who are rich.

However, to hear this parable simply as an admonishment about the evils of money is to miss the deeper message about the richness we all squander in the gift of life. The harshness of the fate of the rich man is not because he was rich. It was about what he did – or didn’t do – with his riches when he was alive.

More importantly, the harsh judgment came upon the rich man because he lived an unexamined life. I believe it was Socrates who said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

If we get caught up in self-righteous self-flagellation about the wide gap between the rich and the poor, we miss this important point of the gospel story. The point is to do something NOW about closing that gap, that ‘chasm.’ The point is to examine what it is you have – the abundance of your life – and determine what it is you can share to relieve the suffering and poverty of others.

No matter our own personal wealth or social location, it is a natural human dynamic to think that you don't have enough. Moreover, it’s a very easy leap over a very small chasm to deeply resent the wealth we perceive others have.

I confess that when I read this first line, of this gospel story, I had an immediate personal reaction: ‘There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.’ My immediate thought was of the recent statement from the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church at that gathering this past week in New Orleans.

Those men and women in fine linen purple shirts were gathered in the presence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, in part, to respond to the Primates’ Communique. The deadline for response is September 30th. Today.

What? You ask. Again? Didn’t they just do this back in March? Didn’t you tell us, Rev’d Elizabeth, that they were wonderful? Didn’t we read the statement for ourselves? And it was. Wonderful. Wasn't it? What happened?

Welcome to Ground Hog Day in The Episcopal Church! Except, this time, the bishops did what they always seem do in the presence of the Archbishop of Canterbury – or anyone, for that matter, with a purple shirt and a British accent.

They buckled. Big time.

You can read Bishop Beckwith’s response to the statement from the House of Bishops in the bulletin insert. It would seem that our brand new bishop is on a steeper learning curve than even he imagined he’d be.

The point is that he IS learning. He’s open to learning. He is meeting with the Newark Deputies to General Convention and we’ve invited any one else who is interested to come to a meeting with him on October 9th to discuss this situation. Together, we’ll figure a way to respond here in this diocese and stand in solidarity with those who don’t enjoy the religious and theological freedom that we enjoy.

That, my friends, is "JUSTICE." Not, as Fannie Lou Hammer once described, "JUST US."

In our bulletin, you can also read the thank you letter from the folks in Malawi to whom we have recently sent over 2,000 knitting needles and yarn.

You may remember that Ann Bennett read a story about Project CitiHope and learned that the women in Malawi use bicycle spokes as knitting needles. She thought, "Why, I've got lots of knitting needles just sitting around the house. I'll bet other women do, too.

So, she wrote a short article which went into our bulletin and The Epistle. It also appeared in The Independent and The Courier. Within weeks, we had collect over 2,000 knitting needles and miles of yarn.

But, what was even better than that was the stories that poured in. Women told us about their first knitting lesson and their grandmother, mother, aunt or neighbor who taught them. They brought in their grandmother's knitting needles which they wanted to be sure went to someone who would love knitting as much as she had.

With the sharing of these stories came the healing of memories and their generosity was blessed. As Mr. Gabriel Wesley Msonglole wrote, "Your love is amazing!" Indeed!

You'll also note in our bulletin insert a flyer from the National Church about "Recovery Sunday" - a day which highlights the ministry of helping those with addictions to alcohol or drugs to recover from the living hell of the disease of addiction.

So much of life can feel like Ground Hog Day. We can feel as if our lives are trapped living out a script not of our own choosing, in roles that were not meant for us. Our every day, ordinary lives, no matter our financial status, can be as dull and as meaningless and repetitious as to become a living hell.

We can resign ourselves to our fate, even tempting it with destructive behaviors from time to time. We can fantasize our resentments and imagine those who have more than we do as paying the tortures of the damned in eternity for the brief enjoyment of the luxury of their abundance here in this life. Or, we can do something to change that by changing ourselves.

I have a very clear memory of being a child of about 10 or 11 years old. That’s such an awkward age, you know – not yet a cool teenager, not really a child. For some kids, hormones are starting to swing out of balance, taking moods and self esteem and body images with them.

Cliques in school begin to form and it’s important to sit at the lunch table with the cool kids. If you don’t, you think you’re life is going to end – or, you’re afraid it won’t. Being a pre-teen girl is “all drama all the time” – and every day is Ground Hog Day.

I remember having a talk with my grandmother. I was miserable. I hadn’t been accepted at the lunch table with the really cool girls. I was a “greenhorn” – a Portuguese immigrant. My hair was thick and curly and black – not blond and straight and beautiful.

My skirt was beautifully made by my grandmother, but it was not ‘cool’ because it didn’t come from a department store and have a designer label. I didn’t have the money to buy my lunch but brought my own from home which was not the bland frozen pizza or hot dogs the cool kids ate, but something spicy and delicious and actually nutritious.

I felt ugly and foreign and, worse – poor. I hadn’t known that we were poor until that moment – but my classmates certainly made sure I knew my social status.

I wailed and lamented my fate to my grandmother, sobbing that I didn’t have any friends and probably would never have any friends, and that my life was ruined.

The only comfort and solace I could find was to think that “they would get theirs” one day. “They will be burning in hell while I sat in heaven with Jesus, right, grandmother?” I asked.

My grandmother shook her head sadly and said, “Well, if that makes you feel better, then okay, you can believe that. But how will that change things for you now?"

"Listen,” she said, “here’s what I’ve learned: If you want a friend, you’ve got to be a friend.”

“Do you mean I have to be nice to those mean girls?” I said.

“No,” she said. “I’m saying that YOU have got to be the friend you want others to be. Then, if you find a friend, or if one finds you, you’ll have true friendship.”

It took me years to learn that my grandmother was right. If we want a friend, we've got to be the friend we need. If we want leaders, we've got to be the leaders we want - not wait for bishops. If we want heroes, we've got to be the heroes we dream of - not waste our lives being helpless victims.

The unexamined life that is lived over and over and over again, aimlessly, pointlessly is hell. This life is an enormous present, and some of us never open it up. Indeed, many of us never even take off the gift wrapping.

Here's the gospel truth of the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man, the truth which everyone learns who lives through the Ground Hog days of our lives.:

The chasms between us are only as wide, or as small, as our imaginations allow them to be.


Louie Crew: Truth in Advertizing

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Father Jake Stops the World: Who is Worth Killing?

Father Jake Stops the World: Who is Worth Killing?

Hopefully, this is simply a matter of a poor choice of words, but since words like these would not be overlooked by security in any airport in any country in the world, I think we might want to consider taking them with equal serious consideration.

In the company of women

A dear friend wrote to me this morning with an important question.

She was reflecting on the Statement of the House of Bishops which attempted to respond to the Primates Dar es Salaam Communique earlier this year. She wondered, "Do you think this statement would have been different if there had been more women in the House of Bishops?"

To which, always poetic and ever articulate, I responded, "BINGO!"

It has been pointed out by many on all points of the theological-political spectrum in our church and the Anglican Communion, that the issues with which we are struggling are not about sexual orientation or scriptural interpretation.

We are struggling with issues of power and control, authority and autonomy in the community of faith and the Household of God.

That includes some of the more "progressive" of the bishops as well as those who are "conservative" - and everyone in between. From all reports, there's an awful lot of "Savior-behavior" coming from white men in purple shirts on both sides of the church aisle.

Some want to "save" The Episcopal Church and/or The Anglican Communion.

Others, bless their hearts, want to "rescue" those poor, suffering lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from the Big Bad neo-Puritan Evangelical wolves.

Still others want to save themselves the difficulty of dissension and angst in The House. These are the "Rodney Kings" in purple shirts, asking plaintively, "Can't we all just get along?"

No matter how you look at it, whether you want it or are repulsed by it, it's all about power and control, authority and autonomy.

Am I saying that women are somehow "above" the nature of this fight? By no means! I think we're just more honest about it most of the time.

If the the issue of power and authority were being framed by the majority of women in the House of Bishops, it would not be about gender and sexual orientation. That's because, at least in my experience and with some notable exceptions, most women are not as influenced by the "ick" factor as most men are. The "ick" factor, of course, has been defined as the visceral reaction some have in response to thoughts about oral sex in general and anal sex in particular.

You can hear the "ick factor" in statements such as that which good Roman Catholic William F. Buckley once said to his equally Roman Catholic gay brother, Andrew Sullivan: "It's not who you are that's a problem, it's what you do."

The "ick" factor also extends, in lesser degree, to the position held by the bishops of Ft. Worth and San Joaquin that women are "ontologically insufficient" to be ordained priests in the church.

Why? Well, for starters, they will throw "thousands of years of church history" at you before they begin to point out that Jesus did not appoint a woman among The Twelve, and Saint Paul had some pretty strong things to say to the church about the submission of women - like, covering their hair and keeping silence.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. We know. How convenient to forget that Luke's gospel is filled with examples of the high, positive regard Jesus had for women. Or, that Paul is always mentioning how deeply grateful he is for the generous ministry of women.

But, we also know, good bishops like Iker and Schofield, are also deeply concerned about the "ick factor" in women. Oh, they talk about "ontology" but what they really mean is that women bleed once a month! Ewwwww! Gross! Can't have that! The only acceptable blood in the church is that of the Blood of the Lamb who was slain for us.

Yes, the House of Bishops needs much more diversity in terms of gender, race, age, class, and sexual orientation. That is quite obvious the first time you see them all together in the same room.

Not to worry. The hour of schism has come and now is. I'm betting that the House of Deputies will look remarkably different when we gather for General Convention in June of 2009 in Anaheim.

I hope we commit ourselves, by formal resolution, to a process of electing bishops that reflect more accurately the whole state of God's church.

Then, and only then, will we make real progress on the important social, cultural and religious concerns of our day.

When we begin to elect more women into the House of Bishops, things will begin to change. It's absolutely amazing what can happen in the company of women.

Friday, September 28, 2007

What if Worship was like an NBA game?

To all my friends who are football fans. You know who you are.

Spew alert: Do not have food or liquid nearby while viewing this video.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Problem With Mediocrity

"You've been very quiet."

I can't tell you how many messages I've gotten like that.

Yes, I've been very quiet about the response from the HOB to the Primates DES Statement. I've been angry. Very angry. And, while I completely understand the strategic nature and necessity of the public statements from our LGBT leadership, I have, I confess, fallen into moments of despair.

I've learned, over the years, that it is neither prudent nor wise for me to speak publicly in anger. Indeed, I have also learned (and, re-learned, in this instance) that it is sometimes wise not to speak privately and among friends in anger.

Truth is, I caught a stomach virus from Ms. Conroy and spent most of Tuesday and Wednesday . . . well, incapacitated. Let's just say I've had time to do a great deal of thinking. And, praying.

Frankly, there's not much to say that hasn't already been said by
others. Even then, there's not much to say.

I mean, truth be told, the bishops acted like bishops. They did what they thought they were expected to do. They preserved the unity of the church. They saved the Anglican Communion from schism.


Furthermore, they did exactly what we asked them to do: they did not act unilaterally. They understood that they could not overturn B033. Only General Convention can do that in 2009. Bishops are one of the four orders of the total ministry of the baptized and they behaved, they thought, accordingly.

We should not be surprised, then, to
learn that the bishop of New Hampshire and the bishop of Western Louisiana (who, oh by the way, voted not to consent to the election of the bishop of NH), said progress was made.

When two polar opposites agree on something it can only mean one thing:


I think that's what hurts most. More than the "reconfirming" of that heinous Resolution B033.

More than the "clarity" (as if we didn't know it before) that the "manner of life" of LGBT people is that which "presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion." (No further clarification about other classifications of "challenge" were apparently discussed, or, at least, reported.)

Mediocrity hurt more than the "double talk" of telling LGBT people that they, bishops in the Church of God, "call for unequivocal and active commitment to the civil rights, safety, and dignity of gay and lesbian persons," after denying us our baptismal rights to full inclusion in the councils of the church.

Yes, mediocrity hurt even more than the duplicity of the statement, "We pledge as a body not to authorize public rites for the blessing of same-sex unions." Good grief! Either wearing a purple shirt destroys brain cells or wearing purple changes one's perspective and makes the wearer believe that everyone else is stupid.

Although, I would like to point out that Bishop Cate Waynick has been quoted as noting:
"I would like to observe that the blessing of same-sex unions also continues to take place in the Church of England, and that a number of clergy in that church are homosexual and living in partnerships. The House of Bishops (UK) released a statement nearly two years ago acknowledging that clergy in same sex relationships were certainly entitled to register their relationships with the government in order to obtain whatever legal benefits such registration would give them. These clergy do, of course, have to promise that their relationships are not only chaste, but celibate....

When asked what is different between what is happening in some places in the US from what is happening in England, Archbishop Williams said, and I quote, "Those blessings are not public."

Where is the outcry from Nigeria? From CANA? From the Network and the AAC? Just wondering......"

Good on her. However, I haven't read anywhere that the speculation about the identity of the one reported curious, mysterious dissenting vote has included Bishop Waynick.

No, as painful as all off these things are, it's the mediocrity that hurts most. The pervasiveness of mediocrity during the meeting of the House of Bishops in New Orleans simply takes my breath away.

Mediocrity, in and of itself, is not an unknown quality in the Body of Christ Indeed, it has a long, painful history. It is the fossil fuel of the institutional church. So, I am not surprised to find its presence in the junior house of the governance of our church.

The problem with mediocrity, I have come understand, is that it is one of the more insidious, if not pernicious, manifestations of Evil.

Case in point: I got an email the other day from a clergy friend. He happens to be a married man with two grown children, and rector of a church that has been a champion of justice for LGBT people, women, immigrants, the environment, the homeless, the hungry and people with AIDS (among many, many others). His was one of the first churches to bless the holy covenants of LGBT people.

He referenced the HOB Statement and said, "Well, we're going to be okay in this diocese; that's the main thing." He was greatly relieved to note that even he could read the duplicity of the bishops' statement that would not authorize "as a body" the "public" liturgical rites of blessing for LGBT people.

Yes, I said, WE are going to be okay, no doubt. But THAT is decidedly NOT okay.

As Fannie Lou Hammer, one of the Saints of the Civil Rights Movement said, "Justice is not about JUST US." Just as surely as justice delayed is justice denied, so is it true that justice denied for one is justice denied for all.

None of us are free if one of us is not.

None of us are included if one of us is not.


Perhaps the greatest evil to arise from mediocrity is that Gene Robinson, duly elected and consecrated bishop of New Hampshire, isolated as the only honestly gay bishop in the house of bishops, was compelled to participate in this, this . . . "straightforward dialogue" and "discernment."

Can you imagine sitting there, being spoken about as being part of a category of people who supposedly threaten the unity of the church and having to enter into "straightforward dialogue" with at least a modicum of civility? Can you imagine the grace and strength and courage it took to exercise that kind of restraint?

The greatest evil of this is that, in being compelled to vote for the prayerfully discerned and heavily negotiated "compromise" Bishop Gene secured his further isolation from other, future honestly, open, self-affirming LGBT bishops - many of whom have been his colleagues in ministry and who are his sisters and brothers in Christ.

Mediocrity allows one to quote this scripture at the outset of the statement, "I do it all for the sake of the Gospel so that I might share in its blessings." 1 Corinthians 9:23" and then convinces you that you have.

Mediocrity is the fertile ground in which the seeds of duplicity and deception grow and flourish(don't even get me started on the duplicity practiced by some LGBT clergy who are "known" by their colleagues but not "out" to their congregation).

Mediocrity begets mediocrity. Jesus demands nothing less than excellence. I grieve this loss most, I think. The loss of excellence. The gain of the predictable.

It should come as no surprise that, for our efforts, we have been richly rewarded with the illusion of safety and security.

As our bishops gathered in New Orleans, I prayed for our bishops to be leaders. My prayer, it would seem, went largely unanswered. This time. We live in "sure and certain hope" as Christians, and I find that there are a few sparks of hope left in the smoldering ashes of my anger and despair.

My hope is that our bishops will now engage in "straightforward" if not painfully honest dialogue with the rest of the baptized in Christ about what they have said and what they have done.

My prayer is that, by their next meeting in March of 2008, before they gather at Lambeth in June, they will come to see and know this profound truth:

Mediocrity is a far, far worse consequence than schism.

Reflection from Bishop Mark Beckwith

Reflections on the House of Bishops' Meeting
September 26, 2007

There were a remarkable series of dynamics in play at the just concluded House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans. For starters, there was the dynamic between the Episcopal Church (increasingly identified as TEC by the rest of the Anglican Communion)– represented by the House of Bishops; and the rest of the Anglican Communion – represented by the Archbishop of Canterbury and several leaders of the Anglican Consultative Council (the ACC). The Archbishop and the representatives of the ACC presented to us a rather united front in their disdain/concern/anger at TEC for getting out ahead of the rest of the Anglican Communion in our actions over the last three years (the more gentle presentation) – or abrogating our commitment to the Communion and the Gospel (the more harsh presentation). We later learned that the ACC position may not have been so united – in that some of the ACC members present, who represented different views, were not given the opportunity to speak to us. It was also troubling to learn that an edited version of the most ardent presentation was on the internet within an hour of it being presented to us.

Another dynamic in play was the sense I had that we are dealing with more than one house of bishops. The primary house is comprised of the vast majority of bishops who stayed through the whole meeting – and who worked hard, and well, to build bridges and create solidarity in the midst of diversity. It appears to me that an ancillary or adjunct House is made up of a small group of dissident bishops who left the meeting as soon as the Archbishop of Canterbury did. Their media champions stayed – and seemed to have versions of our work – with their own unique commentary on it, out in public before we even finished that work.

To my mind, the “primary” House of Bishops was able to sort through these various dynamics, and build on the work that we did at our meeting in March. Although it may not be reflected in our final statement, there was a growing sense during the meeting that we are willing and able to honor our differences – which are reflected in our differing theologies and liturgical practices. There was not an attempt to demand conformity – or to diminish any particular diocesan response to the invitations and challenges of the Gospel.

Our final statement, which went through various drafts, and strongly endorsed by the bishops who were present, represents an intention to re-state what had already been said by either General Convention, the House of Bishops (in March 2007) or various subcommittees of the ACC. As one colleague said, “our written response didn’t go forward on any of the contentious issues that challenge the ‘bonds of affection’ in the Anglican Communion, but we didn’t move backward either.” Given all the dynamics that were swirling about, we did some good work. I was disappointed that we didn’t build on our March statement, but there were several who were disappointed that we didn’t retract some earlier positions.

As far as the dynamics of the House of Bishops are concerned, we moved considerably forward in developing a community marked by the paradox of unity and difference – and we more clearly recognized and honored the strong gifts of leadership in Katherine Jefferts Schori. The desire expressed in our statement that Gene Robinson be accorded full participatory status at next year’s Lambeth Conference is a testimony to a growing solidarity of difference.

So what does the House of Bishops’ meeting and statement mean for us in the Diocese of Newark? For me, it means that we continue to do the work and carry out the witness that has been given to us – and which we have claimed. I was much taken with Archbishop Rowan Williams’s frequent reference to the notion of “catholicity”, which for him means wholeness – or fullness. I may be taking his notion a step or two further than he intended by saying that catholicity reflects a desire to identify, embrace and celebrate the full giftedness of the human family. When we can do that, we are made whole – and are then truly catholic in the fullness of the word. What has been my privilege over these past several months in the Diocese of Newark is to hear and see the unyielding commitment to grow into greatness wholeness by reaching out – sometimes boldly, sometimes rather feebly – across cultural, economic, racial, sexual orientation and other fear-driven barriers.

The final and perhaps most important dynamic in play during the House of Bishops meeting was the tension between the work around church matters – and our participation in the repairing and rebuilding of the city and Gulf Coast after Katrina. We spent one day on a field site and four days in meetings. Somehow we all need to learn how to re-orient our time and our commitment. In a sermon that Gene Robinson preached at Grace Church, New Orleans, on Sunday morning, he pointed out a rather significant mistake in the Catechism of our Prayer Book. On page 847, the question is asked: “What response did God require from the chosen people?” And the Prayer Book responds, misquoting from Micah 6:8: “God required the chosen people to be faithful; to love justice, to do mercy, and to walk humbly with their God.”

Micah said no such thing. He said that we have to “do justice”, not love it. Loving justice generates treatises and ideologies – and leads to self righteousness claims about how open-minded we are. Doing justice requires us to repair and rebuild New Orleans and Newark – and Newton and Nutley and North Arlington (and every other community where we are planted); not to mention repairing and rebuilding our own internal landscapes so that they are aligned and inspired by the fierce compassion of the living Christ.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Integrity Responds to the HOB Statement

620 Park Avenue #311 Rochester, NY 14607-2943

September 25, 2007


NEW ORLEANS—The members of Integrity have prayed unceasingly for their bishops as they met this week to consider a response to the primates' communiqué. The bishops were pressured by the Archbishop of Canterbury and other international guests to comply with the primate's demands. The bishops struggled mightily amongst themselves to achieve a clear consensus on how to respond. Integrity is gratified that the final response from the House of Bishop declined to succumb to the pressure to go backwards, but rather took some significant steps forward.

We are encouraged by their strong language against the incursions of uninvited bishops into this province, their commendation of the Anglican Listening Process, their unequivocal support that the Bishop of New Hampshire should receive an invitation to the Lambeth Conference, and their affirmation of safety and civil rights for LGBT persons.

Integrity President Susan Russell said, "In response to requests for 'clarity' the House of Bishops made it clear today that the Episcopal Church is moving forward in faith. I believe today’s response will be received as a sign of great hope that we are committed to working through the hard ground of our differences. I look forward to taking the support of the House of Bishops for the Listening Process with me when I and other Integrity representatives meet with Anglican colleagues in London next month to prepare for our witness at the Lambeth Conference."

"Integrity is confident that The Episcopal Church will continue to move forward," concluded Russell. "Integrity expects General Convention 2009 to be a tipping point for equality. We will be working hard in the months ahead to repeal B033 and to authorize development of a rite for blessing same-sex relationships as steps toward the goal of the full inclusion of all the baptized into the Body of Christ."


The Rev. Susan Russell, President
714-356-5718 (mobile)

Mr. John Gibson, Director of Communications
917-518-1120 (mobile)

The House of Bishops Responds To The Primates

House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church
New Orleans, Louisiana
September 25, 2007

A Response to Questions and Concerns Raised by our Anglican Communion Partners

In accordance with Our Lord's high prienstly prayer that we be one, and in the spirit of Resolution A159 of the 75th General Convention, and in obedience to his Great Commission to go into the world and make disciples, and in gratitude for the gift of the Anglican Communion as a sign of the Holy Spirit's ongoing work of reconciliation throughout the world, we offer the following to the Episcopal Church, the Primates, the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), and the larger Communion, with the hope of "mending the tear in the fabric" of our common life in Christ.

"I do it all for the sake of the Gospel so that I might share in its blessings." 1 Corinthians 9:23


The House of Bishops expresses sincere and heartfelt thanks to the Archbishop of Canterbury and members of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates for accepting our invitation to join us in New Orleans. By their presence they have both honored us and assisted us in our discernment. Their presence was a living reminder of the unity that is Christ's promised gift in teh power of the Holy Spirit.

Much of our meeting time was spent in continuing discernment of our relationships within the Anglican Communion. We engaged in careful listening and straightforward dialogue with our guests. We expressed our passionate desire to remain in communion. It is our conviction that The Episcopal Church needs the Anglican Communion, and we heard from our guests that the Anglican Communion needs The Episcopal Church.

The House of Bishops offers the following responses to our Anglican Communion partners. We believe they provide clarity and point toward next steps in an ongoing process of dialogue. Within The Episcopal Church the common discernment of God's call is a lively partnership among laypersons, bishops, priests, and deacons, and therefore necessarily includes the Presiding Bishop, the Executive Council, and the General Convention.


* We reconfirm that resolution B033 of General Convention 2006 (The Election of Bishops) calls upon bishops with jurisdiction and Standing Committees "to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion."

* We pledge as a body not to authorize public rites for the blessing of same-sex unions.

* We commend our Presiding Bishop's plan for episcopal visitors.

* We deplore incursions into our jurisdictions by uninvited bishops and call for them to end.

* We support the Presiding Bishop in seeking communion-wide consultation in a manner that is in accord with our Constitution and Canons.

* We call for increasing implementation of the listening process across the Communion and for a report on its progress to Lambeth 2008.

* We support the Archbishop of Canterbury in his expressed desire to explore ways for the Bishop of New Hampshire to participate in the Lambeth Conference.

* We call for unequivocal and active commitment to the civil rights, safety, and dignity of gay and lesbian persons.


Resolution B033 of the 2006 General Convention

The House of Bishops concurs with Resolution EC011 of the Executive Council. This Resolution commends the Report of the Communion Sub-Group of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates of the Anglican Communion as an accurate evaluation of Resolution B033 of the 2006 General Convention, calling upon bishops with jurisdiction and Standing Committees "to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion." The House acknowledges that non-celibate gay and lesbian persons are included among those to whom B033 pertains.

Blessing of Same-Sex Unions

We, the members of the House of Bishops, pledge not to authorize for use in our dioceses any public rites of blessing of same-sex unions until a broader consensus emerges in the Communion, or until General Convention takes further action. In the near future we hope to be able to draw upon the benefits of the Communion-wide listening process. In the meantime, it is important to note that no rite of blessing for persons living in same-sex unions has been adopted or approved by our General Convention. In addition to not having authorized liturgies the majority of bishops do not make allowance for the blessing of same-sex unions. We do note that in May 2003 the Primates said we have a pastoral duty "to respond with love and understanding to people of all sexual orientations." They further stated, "...[I]t is necessary to maintain a breadth of private response to situations of individual pastoral care."

Episcopal Visitors

We affirm the Presiding Bishop's plan to appoint episcopal visitors for dioceses that request alternative oversight. Such oversight would be provided by bishops who are a part of and subject to the communal life of this province. We believe this plan is consistent with and analogous to Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) as affirmed by the Windsor Report (paragraph 152). We thank those bishops who have generously offered themselves for this ministry. We hope that dioceses will make use of this plan and that the Presiding Bishop will continue conversation with those dioceses that may feel the need for such ministries. We appreciate and need to hear all voices in The Episcopal Church.

Incursions by Uninvited Bishops

We call for an immediate end to diocesan incursions by uninvited bishops in accordance with the Windsor Report and consistent with the statements of past Lambeth Conferences and the Ecumenical Councils of the Church. Such incursions imperil common prayer and long-established ecclesial principles of our Communion. These principles include respect for local jurisdiction and recognition of the geographical boundaries of dioceses and provinces. As we continue to commit ourselves to honor both the spirit and the content of the Windsor Report, we call upon those provinces and bishops engaging in such insurvions likewise to honor the Windsor Report by ending them. We offer assurance that delegated episcopal pastoral care is being provided for those who seek it.

Communion-wide Consultation

In their communique of February 2007, the Primates proposed a "pastoral scheme." At our meeting in March 2007, we expressed our deep concern that this scheme would compromise the authority of our own primate and place the autonomy of The Episcopal Church at risk. The Executive Council reiterate our concerns and declined to participate. Nevertheless we recognize a useful role for communion-wide consultation with respect to the pastoral needs of those seeking alternative oversight, as well as the pastoral needs of gay and lesbian persons in this and other provinces. We encourage our Presiding Bishop to continue to explore such consultation in a manner that is in accord with our Constitution and Canons.

The Listening Process

The 1998 Lambeth Conference called all the provinces of the Anglican Communion to engage in a "listening process" designed to bring gay and lesbian Anglicans fully into the church's conversation about sexuality. We look forward to receiving initial reports about this process at the 2008 Lambeth Conference, and to participating with others in this crucial enterprise. We are aware that in some cultural contexts, conversation concerning homosexuality is difficult. We see an important role for the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) in this listening process, since it represents both the lay and ordained members of our constituent churches and so is well placed to engage every part of the body in this conversation. We encourage the ACC to identify the variety of resources needed to accomplish these conversations.

The Lambeth Conference

Invitations to the Lambeth Conference are extended by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Those among us who have received an invitation to attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference look forward to that gathering with hope and expectation. Many of us are engaged in mission partnerships with bishops and dioceses around the world and cherish these relationships. Lambeth offers a wonderful opportunity to build on such partnerships.

We are mindful that the Bishop of New Hampshire has not yet received an invitation to the conference. We also note that the Archbishop of Canterbury has expressed a desire to explore a way for him to participate. We share the Archbishop's desire and encourage our Presiding Bishop to offer our assistance as bishops in this endeavor. It is our fervent hope that a way can be found for his full participation.

Prayers Continue to Ascend

Rumors are flying with greater frequency than the planes in Newark Airport after cancellations due to a bad storm.

And, yet, we wait for news from the HOB in NOLA which was also rumored to be coming before they broke for Eucharist, scheduled at 5 PM. As I post this, it is fast approaching 6PM.

Speculation always rises in direct proportion to anxiety.

Prognostication may be an enjoyable past time for some, but it is not helpful to the digestion after eating the bread of anxiety.

The response to the Primates is as important as the bishops message to the church. Everyone wants clarity and consistency. Not everyone will be happy when and if that prayer is answered - that's the only real certainty.

Prayer? Absolutely. Without ceasing. Father Jake has called us to prayer.

Here's mine: Holy, gracious and loving God, surround our bishops with your radical grace. Lead and inspire them to act like bishops, men and women, elected, ordained and consecrated to lead.

Please, do not let them capitulate to anxiety, emotional manipulation or political coercion.

Please, God, lead them not into the temptation to sacrifice God's prophetic call to love mercy, do justice and walk humbly with God for the sake of the illusion of human unity.

If there be anything that unites us, let it be the unconditional love of God made incarnate in the radical inclusion of Jesus Christ.

We don't need anyone to "save" the church or the communion or LGBT people.

We need leaders, not heroes, who have the strength and courage to be bold for the sake of the gospel.

We have a savior. Give us leaders, now and at the hour of our highest anxiety and deepest need.


Golden Tulip Soup

The other day, I mentioned that I was in the midst of making "Golden Tulip Soup." Actually, it is West African Peanut Soup, a recipe I picked up from Chef Oberi at the Golden Tulip Restaurant in Accra, Ghana, West Africa (Hence, the name.)

Several of you asked for the recipe. Well, I'm going to give it to you, but where I come from, you never just give out a recipe. "Nothing good ever came out of a formula," my Portuguese grandmother always said. She said that first and with great disdain about the fact that her daughters were not breast feeding their children, but she came to say it about almost everything in the American culture.

There was always an annotated version to every recipe. Of course, my grandmother would not have approved of communicating this electronically. She even grew frustrated giving recipes over the phone. How could you see what her hands were doing when, for example, she was trying to tell you her specially developed technique for kneading bread or stirring the cream sauce?

The first thing to know about this soup is the Peanut Butter. When I charmed my way into the restaurant kitchen, it was the first thing I asked Chef Oberi. I wanted to know where he got the peanuts and how he ground them.

Chef Oberi smiled a great big, beautiful smile and then crooked his finger to follow him into the supply closet. There he showed me six cases filled with large jars of - hold on - SUPER CHUNK JIFF peanut butter. He said it was the best.

Ah, I said, but the tomatoes? Certainly, he used his sainted mother's canned, stewed tomatoes. Nope. Large cans of Stop and Shop Brand tomatoes lined another shelf. "My mother, who lives in Woodbridge, NJ, always gets them in the January Stop and Shop 'Can Can' sale and ships them to me."

Ah well. He did use local sweet potatoes, which have an earthier flavor and their consistency is quite a bit more dense than the ones grown on American soil. My sense of the romantic continued undaunted.

In a fit of romanticism, I once went to Whole Foods Supermarket and ground my own fresh peanut butter and saved a 1/2 cup of finely chopped peanuts for that "crunch." Chef Oberi was right. Jiff Super Chunk is best.

A few other notes: I START with two tablespoons of curry and cook them in with the sauteed onions. I ALWAYS add more. Much more. Later.

Same thing with the chili powder and cayenne pepper. Use your own judgement and trust your own taste buds.

Finally, I have found that the Thai brand coconut milk is less expensive than the Goya brand, but Goya has just come out with a "Light" version - less fat but just as wonderful to the taste.

Okay, here you go. Enjoy:

Golden Tulip Soup
West African Peanut Soup
(I got this recipe from the chef at the Golden Tulip Restaurant in Accra, Ghana)


2 - 3 tablespoons peanut oil
2 tablespoon curry powder
2 large onions, sliced or minced
2 tablespoons minced garlic (more or less to taste)
4 medium – large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
4 cans (14 oz.) vegetable or chicken broth
1 (28 oz) can stewed, whole tomatoes, cut into bite-sized chunks
One pound ground beef, pork and/or turkey
One pound shrimp, scallops, fish
Or, one pound of combination of shrimp and chicken
Salt to taste (1-2 tsp.)
Black pepper to taste (1-2 tsp.)
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 small (18 oz) jar chunky peanut butter (Skippy or Jiff work well)
1 small (14 oz) can coconut milk (I find the Thai brand less expensive)

Heat 2 T peanut oil in large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium-high heat. Add curry powder and cook, stirring constantly for one minute. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally for two minutes. Add garlic and cook for one more minute. Stir in sweet potatoes, broth and tomatoes, and bring soup to a boil. Simmer, covered, thirty to forty minutes.

Optional: In a large skillet heat the remaining peanut oil. Add the meat or fish and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon to break any clumps until cooked through. Season with salt and pepper. Drain on towels. Add cooked meat to the pot.

Add salt, black pepper, cayenne, peanut butter, and coconut milk to the soup, stirring to combine. Bring mixture to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Adjust seasonings according to taste.

Serve hot, garnished with chopped chives. Great with a light salad and croissant or flaky, crescent rolls. I think a light white wine, like Pinot Grigo is a nice compliment to this meal

Public Rites and Pastoral Care: Reverend Elizabeth Explains It All

Okay, boys and girls. There appears to be some confusion - even from some bishops (God love 'em) about Public Rites and Pastoral Care.

Take out your Book of Common Prayer - that's the red book in your pews. (Yes, the one that says '1979'. I know. Grandfather refers to that as "THAT New Book." Yes, he does seem a bit angry, doesn't he? We'll have a talk about that later.)

Okay, now turn to page 13. The title on that page should read, "Concerning the Service of the Church."

Everybody got it? Matt? Jon? Greg? Jackie? Sarah? Brad? Oh, hello, little 'Anonymous'. That's become quite a popular name. There seem to be so many more of you signing in these days. Welcome.

(I know, Brad. You rarely pray with the BCP. It's hard to hold onto a book while your hands are in the air, isn't it? Or to read the words when you've been 'slain in the Spirit'. I know. Just try to pay attention and follow along. There's a good lad.)

Okay, everybody read aloud with me the third paragraph on that page. Ready? Okay, all together, here we go:

"For special days of fasting or thanksgiving, appointed by civil or Church authority, and for other special occasions for which no service or prayer has been provided in this Book, the bishop may set forth such forms as are fitting to the occasion."

This means that the bishop can authorize priests, and when appropriate, deacons and members of the laity, to develop and preside over liturgical rites that have not been authorized by the General Convention of The Episcopal Church which meet the pastoral needs of the people we are called to serve.

For example, 'The Blessing of the Animals' which we do out on the Great Lawn of The Church on the Feast of St. Francis is not a public rite which appears in either the Book of Common Prayer or the 'Book of Occasional Services'.

We do it, however, because there are many people who love their animals so much, they consider them members of their family. So, as matter of pastoral care, the bishop allows us to provide a public rite of blessing that suits the particular needs of the community the priest is called to serve.

Reverend Elizabeth did the same thing when the Smith's got that wonderful, shiny new Mercedes Benz convertible from their children and grandchildren on the occasion of their 50th Wedding Anniversary. You remember that Greg, don't you?

And, remember when Reverend Elizabeth blessed and commissioned the Youth Group on their Car Washing Fundraiser? I developed that whole public rite of blessing. Yes I did. Yes, it was pretty good. Thank you, Jackie.

I also like the blessing of the Day Care and Pre-school here at St. Paul's. Yes, I developed that one, too. Thank you, Sarah. I liked the blessing prayer for the Macaroni and Cheese, too. Yes, it did taste good.

And yes, I also developed a public rite of blessing for heterosexual couples. Why? Well, remember Steve and Mailin? Well, Mailin comes from China. She needed to have a marriage certificate for the deadline set by her immigration papers. So, with the bishop's permission, I did a "civil marriage" and then, 6 weeks later when we could get the families here, I did a public blessing of their marriage.

Yes, that was fun, wasn't it, Jon? Everybody got all dressed up and the bride looked beautiful in her wedding gown - even though she was already married.

That's just a few examples of a pastoral concern that turns into a public rite.

Understand now? I know, Greg. But, you don't have to like it. We're Episcopalians who are members of the Anglican Communion. Well, it's like this:

Who remembers the author of the book, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe"? Good man, Jon. That's right! It was C.S. Lewis. Yes, Matty, he was a fairly conservative evangelical. Good remembering! So, you'll be glad to know that C.S. Lewis once said that of all the rooms in the household of God, the Anglican church was the 'roomiest' of all.

That means that there is room in our church for disagreement. We call it the 'Anglican Spirit of Gracious Accommodation'. Can you say that, boys and girls?

'Gracious Accommodation'. Good job! Please try to remember that in the future.

Oh, Little Anonymous, what's wrong? You've been pouting the whole time and now you are making quite a fuss. I know. It's hard to be one of the few who disagree. But, if you are going to behave in this way, you are going to have to leave the room.

Oh, I see. You are going to transfer to another school anyway? And, Matty, Sarah, Greg and Jackie are going with you? Well, okay. That makes me sad, and I'm sorry to see you leave, but one of the rules of this place is that it is safe to ask difficult questions and for all of us to disagree on the answers.

I know. That's a difficult thing to do. No, it's not "duplicity," Matty. It's a little something we call 'Spiritual Maturity.' It means that we can hold in tension two different thoughts, two truths, that seem quite opposed to one another. That's known as a 'paradox.'

We even tolerate things that are not always crystal clear. We call that 'ambiguity'. In the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion we have a high tolerance for paradox and ambiguity because we understand that God is a Great Mystery.

In order to do that, you have to develop something called 'Spiritual Maturity.' Can you say that boys and girls?

'Spiritual maturity'. Good job! Well done.

Now, Brad, you must stop singing, "Liar, liar, pants on fire! Your nose is longer than a telephone wire." That's not an example of 'spiritual maturity.' That is an example of 'bad behavior' and, as tolerant as we are, we do not allow bad behavior to go uncorrected.

I see. Well, if you want to go with Sarah and Greg and the rest of the other kids, you may. Yes, I know. Africa does seem to be very far away. Not to worry. I understand the African bishops are only as far away as a phone call or an email.

What's that? Is Africa farther away than heaven? I don't know for certain, but I have a hunch that it's no farther from America to heaven than it is from Africa to heaven. I've never been to heaven, but I have been to Africa, and I can tell you that it is a long, long way from America - in almost every way imaginable.

I do know this: as beautiful as both places are, we may not all get to go to Africa, but we're all going to heaven. Jesus promised us that.

Okay, class dismissed. Please put your Books of Common Prayer back in the pew where you found them. Neatly, please. Our theology may be messy, but we do like to keep some semblance of order in the house.

Thank you. Have a great day!

Day 7: A Message of Justice to the Bishops

September 24, 2007

A message from The Consultation to the House of Bishops as it deliberates its message to the Church.

The thirteen constituent members of The Consultation, representative of the independent justice organizations of The Episcopal Church, meeting September 23-24 in Newark, wish to remind the members of the House of Bishops that they represent one house of the General Convention, and one constituency of the baptized in The Episcopal Church.

Any message you make must be mindful of the fact that the Executive Council has made a very clear statement on the matter before you and that General Convention will not speak on this matter until its meeting in 2009.

We have in mind the language of the Baptismal Covenant which calls us to respect the dignity of every human being. It is not respectful of our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender sisters and brothers when we tell them that they are full participants in the church and then place restrictions on their participation at any level of the church’s life.

In the preamble of the 2006 platform of The Consultation we affirm that we see the image of God and the Christ in others and ourselves. We believe that all the baptized are called to share in the governance and mission of the Church at all levels. We see the increase of power claimed by the episcopate as imbalance in The Body.

We urge you to have these things in the forefront of your minds and hearts as you craft this statement. The sacred vows of The Baptismal Covenant and the tradition and heritage of the participatory governance of The Episcopal Church must not be squandered for a single Lambeth conference.

We urge you as bishops not to walk apart from the rest of the priesthood of all believers in The Episcopal Church, and to embrace the unconditional love of God as made incarnate in the radical inclusion of Jesus Christ. May the Holy Spirit be with you to guide you in all strength and courage in these difficult days as ordained leaders in the Church.

The Consultation

Episcopal Urban Caucus
Episcopal Peace Fellowship
Episcopal Women’s Caucus
Union of Black Episcopalians
Episcopal Ecological Network
National Episcopal AIDS Coalition
Province VIII Indigenous Ministries
Episcopal Church Publishing Company
Episcopal Network for Economic Justice
Episcopal Asiaamerica Ministry Advocates
Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission

Monday, September 24, 2007

We Don't Need Another Hero - Tina Turner

A little inspirational song for the House of Bishops on the eve of their last day in NOLA.

HOB Day 6: Mood music for a response statement

Well, the drama has been high to over-the-top in the Episcopal Blogosphere today.

Everytime I find my way over to one of the blogs, I can practically hear the tension and expectation and anticipation crackling in the air.

Matt Kennedy (over at "Bullies on Viagra"), ever serious and always intense, is doing his part as the good and faithful foot soldier, no doubt shooting "arrow prayers" of thanksgiving every now and again to which ever parent said to him in high school, "You know, son, you really ought to take a course in typing. You never know how it will help you in college, or, for that matter, in the rest of life."

He's just been typing his little fingers to the very bone, God bless him, taking almost verbatim "live blogging" notes as various speakers are at the podium. Really. He's been amazing. I just wish I knew that sometime during the day or before the poor dear goes to bed tonight, someone tells him a raucous joke that makes a direct hit on his ticklebox and he laughs so hard he weeps.

T'would do his poor, weary soul some good, methinks.

Just for a change of pace, ultra-conservative Blogger "Baby Blue" is broadcasting live in the downtime, graciously showing us 'round the newsroom where they had all been banished after supper so the bishops could meet in executive session. She's also taken pictures of the room where the bishops are meeting. She's trying to keep it light, but even through her natural "on camera" nervousness, you can see the tension on her face.

South Carolinian Sarah Hey reveals her anxiety in her usual fallback position and has drawn complex analogies of the House of Bishops to a few characters from the last book of the trilogy "The Lord of the Rings." Whatever.

Even the Progressive Blogs are all abuzz. Walking With Integrity's John Gibson and John Clinton Bradley have been veritable saints in terms of giving us a good perspective of the goings on in NOLA, with religious and secular press, locally and around the globe. Father Jake and Jim Naughton and Susan Russell have all been keeping us up to date. ENS has been ever professional, even-handed and thorough.

(If you want links to these sites, scroll down a bit. I did this all the other day and quite frankly, I'm just too tired to link everything again. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima nissan stanza. And, get over it.)

The word tonight is that the bishops on the various drafting committees have taken their first draft and scrapped it and that they are starting fresh tonight. They hope to have something to present in the morning.

I do believe this is good news. Indeed, I'm heartened by it.

I've been working since yesterday afternoon in Newark with constituent members of The Consultation, an organization comprised of the 13 independent justice organizations of The Episcopal Church. I was part of a three-member drafting committee which composed a message which we sent to the bishops this afternoon as they struggle to compose their message to the church. I will post it here tomorrow morning.

Until then, you will excuse me if I offer an opinion about what the good men and women in purple need to do in order to be able to work together and get the job done. Well, that's why some of you read this blog, isn't it? To read my opinion. God only knows why you think it matters, but since you've gotten this far, I won't disappoint you or make you wait any longer.

The good bishops need to remember that they are bishops. Their job is to lead, not save. We have a savior. That would be one, Christ Jesus.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people don't need to be saved from the big bad 'fundevangelical' - in The Episcopal Church or anywhere in the Anglican Communion.

This doesn't mean that we don't deeply appreciate the hard work done on our behalf, but with all due respect, this is not about us. It's not about them. It's not even about the church or the communion.

This is about the work of the gospel. This is the work we are ALL called to do.

It just happens, this time, to be about LGBT people. It will come around again, to women. It always does. Until it goes around to some other group. It always does.

The Episcopal Church does not need to be rescued or saved. She's doing just fine, thank you very much. Just a little necessary housecleaning and self-corrective pruning going on, that's all.

And, despite rumors to the contrary, neither does The Anglican Communion need to be rescued or saved. Even the most cursory read of her history will reveal that She's been through far worse than this, the Old Girl, and come through just fine.

And why is that, you ask? Well, not because of any salvific action on the part of anyone in a purple shirt, or a tiara for that matter.

We don't need heroes. We need leaders.

If the HOB does its job and LEADS, we'll be fine.

If the HOB is mindful of its place as only one of the four orders of the baptized (that would be: laity, deacon, priest, bishop), and keeps the sacred vows of the Baptismal Covenant close to its heart and mind as it takes pen to paper, they will, I have no doubt, find a way to lead This Marvelous Ship of Fools out of the present storm on the High Seas of Anglicanism and help us find our way safely to dry land.

We already know how the story ends. As Bishop Gene reminds us, we're all going to heaven. The bishops simply need to act out in their lives what they say with their lips. Or, as the rappers say, they "need to put their bodies where their mouths have been."

So - here's some mood music for the bishops to write their response statement. A little theme song, if you will, for the House of Bishops tonight.

Someone cue Tina Turner. Hit it, girl.

Out of the ruins
Out from the wreckage
Can't make the same mistake this time

We are the children
The last generation
We are the ones they left behind
And i wonder when we are ever gonna change it
Living under the fear till nothing else remains

We don't need another hero
We don't need to know the way home
All we want is life beyond the thunderdome

Looking for something we can rely on
There's got to be something better out there
Love and compassion, their day is coming
All else are castles built in the air

And i wonder when we are ever gonna change it
Living under the fear till nothing else remains
All the children say

We don't need another hero
We don't need to know the way home
All we want is life beyond the thunderdome

What do we do with our lives
We leave only a mark
Will our story shine like a life
Or end in the dark
Give it all or nothing

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Baptismal Love Letter to Mia Beatrice

"If you are faithful in little things . . .”
(Luke 16:1-13)
September 23, 2007
Pentecost XVII
The Episcopal Church of St. Paul

Dearest Mia,

Well, much to the joy and delight of your grandmother and your priest, and the eternal relief of your parents, godparents and grandparents, the day of your baptism has finally arrived.

It’s been a bit of a feat, coordinating this around schedules and cross-country trips and unexpected and unwelcome trips to the hospital. But, you are here and the hour has come and now is, and, by the endless grace and mercy of God, we are about to have us a proper baptism.

I wish we could have provided a better gospel story for you today, but the truth is that they’ve all been a bit difficult the past few weeks.

The parable of the “Dishonest Steward” hardly seems appropriate for the baptism of a very sweet little girl. It raises many difficult questions which can not be easily answered and are clearly not the appropriate topic for a less-than-ten-minute ‘love letter’ for your baptismal sermon.

You’ll find, Mia, that the gospels in general and Jesus in particular tend to do this – raise difficult questions at inappropriate times in your life.

The gospels often raise questions that tell inconvenient truths and the church does not have a history of handling these questions well. This is one reason many people turn away from the institutional church.

And, well they should. As you grow older, Mia, you’ll have questions, too. I have always loved the questions kids ask me. Questions like:

What does God look like?

When my pet hamster Ernie died, did he go to heaven?

Is it okay to get angry with God?

Does God really know what I’m thinking or what I’m going to do – every minute of every day?

If God is so good, why is there so much bad?

If there is one God, why are there so many religions?

I don’t always have answers to all of those questions, Mia. As you grow older, you will discover the larger answer to your questions – that having the right answer is not always the stuff of faith.

Faith is, more often than not, having the right question, and following it faithfully – courageously, expectantly, hopefully – into the answer.

Part of the problem is that the institutional church, (bless her heart) in an honest effort to try and help, offers us easy answers about some of the more complex questions raised by the gospel.

For example, author James Breech (Jesus and Postmodernism), reminds us that this parable, this story, is not about the dishonest steward, as the church has named it. Rather, it is about the rich man who had no concern for his wealth.

He seems to live out of a radical freedom that was as prodigal (or extravagant) as the father of the self-absorbed son in so-called parable of the Prodigal Son that immediately precedes this story.

That radical freedom from concern about wealth led him, ultimately, to care more about the intention with which the manager tended his money.

The wealthy man in this parable is, obviously, representative of God, who ultimately has such a radical freedom from concern about wealth that God can be, and indeed, is prodigal or extravagantly lavish with the gifts God bestows upon us.

More importantly God also gives us this gift of radical freedom from concern about how it is we use these gifts. God’s only concern is that we don’t squander them senselessly – that we use them with some intentionality and thought.

That we use the gift of our intelligence when we use any of the other gifts God gives us, saying, ‘if you are faithful in a very little, you will be faithful also in much; if you are dishonest in the little things, you will be dishonest in big things, as well.’

Jesus ends the parable by reminding us that we can not serve two masters. Jesus, the great Teacher, is providing a lesson in this parable that that tells us that, in truth, when we serve the higher good we are, in fact, serving God.

When our impulse is first to altruism, of selflessly serving others, this provides endless delight to God. When we serve others, we enjoy the radical freedom that God comes from the very heart and mind and soul of God.

Some of the kids who went on the mission trip to Belize learned this. At the end of a very long and hot day, filled with the hard work of painting a building or lifting and cutting heavy pieces of mahogany to build the playground, the last thing anyone wanted to do was to run around a school yard and play football for an hour.

And yet, at 3 PM every day, at the end of the day, when the little boys from the village came around the worksite in their sandaled feet and beautiful brown skin, their charming smiles melted away our exhaustion when they asked, “American football?” Up we would go to the field where God’s radical freedom turned everyone – even the little boys from San Antonio – into their favorite football hero.

I call this “everyday ordinary altruism”. There are, of course, examples of the kind of altruism that turns ordinary everyday people into heroes.

Disasters have a strange way of bringing out the best in people. I am haunted by the words spoken by a survivor of 9/11 who said, “On that day, we didn’t try to save ourselves. We tried to save each other.”

I submit to you, Mia, that heroes are just ordinary people who are faithful in the very little things of their ordinary lives so that, when life brings Very Big Things into their lives, they are faithful in much.

Your grandmother Gail is one of these heroes, Mia. Her ‘Kaleidoscope of Hope’ foundation does this for so many other people, yes, but it is the courage with which she lives out her daily life that brings me hope.

You will understand this more as you get older and prepare yourself for the Very Big Things in your life and begin to look for examples and role models of how to be faithful in a very little.

Your parents and godparents will help you, as well. They will tell you stories about where you came from and who your grandparents were, and all this will help you understand where you’ve been so you can better know where you are going.

That’s really all the gospel stories are about, Mia. They are stories filled with everyday people who live ordinary lives of whom God, in God’s radical freedom, bestowed opportunities to find the centers of their own divine spark – to be prodigal and extravagant and lavish and even foolishly wasteful with love, as God is prodigal and often foolishly wasteful in God’s love for us.

I want to close by sharing with you some words written by Garrison Keillor, one of my favorite preachers in the church. Oh, he would never call himself a preacher, but I listen to him faithfully (my family says ‘religiously’) every Saturday night on his radio program ‘A Prairie Home Companion’. It is my sermon.

This week, Keillor was reflecting on the life of Frederick Douglass, an African American man who was an inspiration to the other Abolitionists, working to free those held in the cruel bondage of slavery. Many do not know that Douglass was also an inspiration to the Suffragettes, women and men who worked for the right for women to vote. Douglass understood something about freedom – that if one is not free, none are free. I think Keillor’s words about Douglass’ life provide yet another parable for us: He writes:

"When it is finally ours,
this freedom,
this liberty,
this beautiful and terrible thing,
needful to man as air, usable as earth;
when it belongs at last to all,
when it is truly instinct,
brain matter, diastole, systole,
reflex action;
when it is finally won;
when it is more than the gaudy mumbo jumbo of politicians:
this man, this Douglass,
this former slave,
this Negro beaten to his knees,
visioning a world where none is lonely,
none hunted, alien,
this man, superb in love and logic,
this man shall be remembered.
Oh, not with statues' rhetoric,
not with legends and poems and wreaths of bronze alone,
but with the lives grown out of his life,
the lives fleshing his dream of the beautiful, needful thing.”

The beautiful, terrible, needful thing of radical freedom is ours, Mia.

It is yours now, in baptism, this liberation in Christ Jesus. You are free to do the right thing, even if the world will tell you its wrong.

It is your foolish mistake to make, your imprudent lesson to be learned. And God will love you for it, anyway – foolishly, imprudently, prodigally – so you can do the same.

Because, if you are faithful in the little things, Mia, you will be faithful also in much.


Reverend Elizabeth

Saturday, September 22, 2007

HOB Day 3, post 2: Of Blog Buzz and Plotters of The Resurrection

Well, not only is it a slow news day, but, as I write this, there is a steady downpour of rain which completely foiled my plans for planting bulbs in the rectory garden this afternoon.

Robert Raines, ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and former director of Kirkridge Retreat and Study Center, tells a wonderful story about an old woman who, as her legacy, planted thousands and thousands of jonquil bulbs on the land of her hillside home. He calls people like that 'Plotters of The Resurrection'.

I always think about that phrase whenever I plant bulbs. The hope that arises in my soul always infuses my weary fingers and aching back with strength to go on.

Raines also loved to quote Walter Wink, who reportedly once said, "History belongs to the intercessors who believe the future into being."

Tomorrow. I'll plant bulbs tomorrow.

I'm now getting ready for the First Annual Vestry and Staff Appreciation Dinner, an event of the leadership of The Episcopal Church of St. Paul in Chatham, NJ. We talk a great deal about the concept of 'gratitude' in our Stewardship Campaign. We figured, as leaders, we ought to model what that looks like - so, we're making dinner tonight and feeding everyone.

As of Friday, over 125 people had sent in their RSVP's. We'll add another 25, and keep some frozen soup at the ready, just in case. We've got about 40 kids in the day care, so between pizza and mac and cheese, they should do well.

I've made a huge pot of what I call "Purple Tulip Soup." It's a recipe for African Peanut Soup I got from Chef Oberi at the Purple Tulip Restaurant in Accra, Ghana, West Africa. This version is strictly vegetarian, made with Vegetable Stock, so that the vegetarians in the church will have a delicious alternative to the usual chicken casseroles that are the mainstay of church suppers. It can be made, however, with a chicken or seafood stock, and chicken or shrimp can be added. Yummy.

So, if you are looking for the latest episode in the ever-unfolding drama, "The Anglican World Turns," you might try tuning into one of the many blogs that actually do carry news - what there is of it - from the HOB meeting in New Orleans.

There is never a paucity of Blog Buzz in the Anglican/Episcopal cyber-neighborhood.

I always start with Walking With Integrity You'll find a great roundup of news sources there.

Fr. Jake Stops The World is the favorite of my heart. Don't miss "Recalling The Executive Council."

A stop at The Episcopal Cafe is also required in the neighborhood. Drink deep while there. The brew is strong but quality stuff. Try "The Lead" and then sample "Odd Lots and Remnants" by Howard Anderson, dean of the College of Preachers in Washington, DC and "Live from New Orleans" by June Butler (AKA Grandmere Mimi from Wounded Bird)

I'm never disappointed when I stop by Susan Russell's "An Inch At A Time" Her essay "Sophie's Choice" is classic Russell. The undisputed "Queen of the Soundbite" also knows her way around a cultural metaphor or two.

I fell in love with Jesus after my divorce. Mark Harris was the first man I fell in love with after I was ordained. I love his intelligence and creativity, his wit and his quirky sense of humor. And, he loves the church almost as lavishly and foolishly as I do. The essays at his blog "Preludium" always challenge my complacency and smugness.

The "News Flash" link over at "Anglicans Online" is always a good source of information about all things Anglican. Sort of the BBC of the Anglican Communion.

Lisa, the webmistress over at Episcopal Majority is brilliant about offering more in depth analysis and thought. The recent essay by Doug Theuner, retired bishop of New Hampshire is nothing less than brilliant. The latest essay "NFS" by the Rev'd Willaim B. Easter provides a good read in the midst of the deliberations and discussions in the HOB.

Of Course, I Could Be Wrong
and the best place for fast-breaking, hard-hitting, in-depth reporting could only come from the one and only "Mad Priest." But, I'll leave that to your own personal discretion.

A conservative blog that is way out of my way but, more often than I like to admit, worth the trip, is Titus One Nine (or T19). It's Kendall Harmon's Blog - the Canon Theologian of the Diocese of South Carolina and the Doctor of Spin for the evangelicals. If you're smart, you'll read his posts and pass right by the Comments. Trust me. Bad for the digestion.

If you want wailing and moaning and gnashing of teeth served up as a side order to the main course of some of the most mean-spirited, neo-Puritan, evangelical commentary in all of Western Christendom . . .or, anywhere on earth, for that matter (with the possible exception of Ann Coulter) . . . well, I'll let you find your own way over to "The Bullies" and "The Virtue-less One."

Just make sure you wear your best Kevlar vest and asbestos tennis shoes. And, remember: Shhhhh . . .be very, very quiet. Try not to let them know you are there. It only encourages them to act out in even more outrageous ways. They have been known to bite, spit, kick and throw stones and other . . . stuff.

Well, that's it. Actually, that's not it. There's much, much more. That's more than enough for now.

There's been a brief break in the rain. It's just a light drizzle right now, but it's near 80 degrees so it feels great.

Given all the choices on a day like today, I'd much rather be a "Plotter of the Resurrection" than a listener to all the Buzz on the Blogs.

I'm quite sure we'll all be better for the bishops rolling up their sleeves and hammering a few nails into future homes for the people of New Orleans.

What was it Walter Wink said? Oh, yes:

"History belongs to the intercessors who believe the future into being."

By all means, let us pray.

Day 3, Post 1: Tom Woodward: Asked and Answered

Over at The House of Bishops in New Orleans, the lights are on but nobody's home.

That's because they are scheduled to do some construction work today.

No, not in terms of repairing any rips or frays in the fabric of the Anglican Communion or The Episcopal Church.

Rather, they are going out into New Orleans to lend a hand on a construction project as part of the on-going effort to rebuild that city after the destruction of Hurricane Katrina and the even more damaging effects of the incompetence of this Administration. That is wonderful gospel work, and I applaud them.

That also means that it's probably going to be a slow news day. And, for that, I applaud them with even more enthusiasm.

Here's a delicious little morsel for all you "church news junkies."

Tom Woodward is a priest in the diocese of Rio Grande. He is a creative thinker and one of my favorite commenters on HOB/D (House of Bishops/Deputies Listserv)I NEVER hit "delete" when I see Tom's name, unlike so many of the others.

He has written some wonderful stuff for
The Episcopal Majority and has a great blog called "Turning Things Upside Down".

Catch his most recent essay "The Undermining of The Episcopal Church" which you can find either at TEM or on his personal blog.

One of the pieces of news that didn't get widely reported is that the Archbishop of Jerusalem, Mouneer Hannah Aris, addressed the House of Bishops with a stinging rebuke which ended with these words, "Please forgive me if I have said anything that offends you."

Well, here's Tom's response to that, which were originally posted on HOB/D and for which Tom has generously and graciously given me permission to repeat here. The text of Archbishop Aris' address follows.

See what you think.

1. The Muslims with whom we live will dictate the terms of what is essential in our faith and we dare not deviate from their judgment.

2. The American Church no longer values the historic Creeds, the Bible, Jesus or much else central to the Christian faith. What is the evidence for that? We just told you that it is so.

3. The Lambeth Conference, which at no time previous to its last meeting was ever considered a legislative body, has legislated the one and only one interpretation of seven verses of the Bible. If you don't agree with those interpretations, it is likely that, as others have told me, you are not Christian.

4. The Anglican Communion values diversity -- but only within the confines of uniformity. Some of my best friends are different from me.

5. Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, which enters into dialogue with complete openness to embracing our truths and discarding their own, the Americans have a real stake in the outcome of sitting around a table.

6. I am aware that I have hinted that you are a non-Christian religion and have been more than clear that you have no regard for standards or communion, but please forgive me if, by any means, I might have offended you.

In all charity, I can find little else.

Tom Woodward

NB: In all charity, here's the address of the good bishop of Jerusalem

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Thank you so much for inviting me here to come and listen to you and for giving me the opportunity to share my heart with you. I am very aware of my own shortcomings and weaknesses, but every word I want to say is out of love and concern for the unity of the Church of Christ.

I do not come with great authority, nor am I the primate of a province with a great number of Anglicans; I do however, come from a region where Christ walked and where the Church was born. I come representing the Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East.

The Church ion this region has faced many challenges since the first century. Our brothers and sisters in the early centuries were ready to sacrifice their very lives to stay true to the Faith they received from the Lord and his Apostles. Their blood was not in vain; rather it became the seed of the Church across our entire region. Many disputes and heresies took place in our region. In face of all the challenges, persecutions, and heresies our ancestors—people like St. Athanasius, St. Clement, Origen, and Cyril from Alexandria, along with Tertullian, Cyprian, and St. Augustine from North Africa—kept the faith of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. We are constantly learning from our ancient martyrs and forebearers how to serve the Kingdom of God faithfully.

Today our Anglican Church in the Middle East still lives within a very exciting and challenging context. We live among the Oriental Orthodox, the Greek Orthodox, the Catholics, the Jews and the Muslims. We greatly value our ecumenical relations and continue to work for unity.

We also deeply respect and appreciate our Muslim friends and value our interfaith relations while in no way compromise our faith. I have to tell you that many of these relations were severely strained after your decision to consecrate Gene Robinson as bishop in 2003. We are seen as the new heretics and this has hindered our ecumenical and interfaith relations as well as our mission in the region

My friends, like you, we want to be relevant to the culture in which we live. More importantly, we want to be salt and light to our societies. That is not an easy calling but it means we must remain distinct and humble at the same time. Without being distinct we cannot be salt and light; without humility we will not represent the one who said, “I am meek and lowly in heart.” We are also continuously challenged whether we should allow the culture to transform the Apostolic Faith we once received, or if we should allow the Gospel of Jesus Christ to transform our culture as it has in the past. As we struggle to answer this question we must never divorce ourselves from the faith that countless men, women and children died to protect. I believer that if we faithfully serve the Church of Christ, He will continue to fulfill his promise that the gates of Hades will not prevail against her.

Rupertus Meldenius said, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity”. Our hope is to be united on the essentials of faith which are defined only by the whole church. WE are not in any way trying to impose rigid views on you. Like you we celebrate diversity, but we believe that such diversity should not be unlimited and should not contradict the essentials of our faith. We are not schismatic, but we are diligent to preserve the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. We want unity but not unity at any expense.

Anglicans are aware with humility that we are not “the” church but we are one member of the body of Christ, the one Holy Catholic Church. We proclaim this every week in our churches. This places upon us the responsibility to listen to and respect our ecumenical partners.

My friends, you may believe you have discovered a very different truth from that of the majority in the Anglican Communion. It is not just about sexuality, but about your views of Christ, the Gospel, and the authority of the Bible. Please forgive me when I relay that some say you are a different church, others even think that you are a different religion.

I understand that it is difficult for you in your context to accept the standard teaching of the Anglican Communion. That is why you refused to accept Lambeth Conference Resolution 1.10. You also ignored all the warnings of the Primates in 2003, 2004, and 2005. Your response to the Windsor Report is seen by the Primates as not clear. You cannot say you value being a member of the Anglican Communion while you ignore the interdependence if the member churches. The interdependence is what differentiates us from other congregational churches. I would like to remind you and myself with the famous resolution number 49 of the Lambeth Conference of 1930 which declares “the Anglican Communion is a fellowship of churches that…are bound together not by a central legislative and executive authority, but by mutual loyalty sustained through the common counsel of the bishops in conference.” With respect, I have to say that those who would prefer to speak of laws and procedures, constitutions and canons, committees and process: you are missing the point! It is our mutual loyalty and fellowship, submitting to one another in the common cause of Jesus Christ that makes us of one Church one faith and one Lord.

It is clear that you actions have resulted in one the most difficult disputes in the Communion in our generation. You may see them as not core doctrinal issues. Many like me see the opposite but the thing that we all cannot ignore is that these issues are divisive and have created a lot of undesired consequences and reactions. For the first time in centuries, the fabric of our Communion is torn. Our energies have been drained and our resources are lost and it is difficult for both of us to continue like this.

My friends, if you really believe that the truth revealed to you is different from that shown to the rest of the Communion, then you need to uphold that claim with boldness even at the risk of losing unity. If you think it is right and necessary to ordain and consecrate practicing homosexuals and that you should bless same sex partnerships or even marriages, you should be true to what you believe is right and accept the consequences.

However, if you appreciate being members of the global Anglican family, then you have to walk along side the members of your family. Those who say it is important to stay together around the table, to listen to each other and to continue our dialogue over the difficult issues that are facing us are wise. We wholeheartedly agree with this, but staying around the table requires that you should not take actions that are contrary to the standard position (Lambeth 1.10) of the rest of the Communion.

Sitting around one table requires humility from all of us. One church cannot say to the rest of churches “I know the whole truth, you don’t”. Archbishop Rowan reminded us in his paper “Challenge and Hope” that “the whole truth is revealed to the whole church”. Sitting around one table requires that each one should have a clear stance before the discussion starts. It also requires that true openness and willingness to accept the mind of the whole. We do not have to be in the communion to sit around the one table. We do so when we dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox and with other faiths. It would be extremely difficult to sit around one table when you have already decided the outcome if the discussion and when you ignore the many voices, warnings and appeals from around the communion.

Today I appeal to you to respond with great clarity to the requests that were made in Dar Es Salaam. If you accepted the Primates’ recommendations, would you be able to give assurances to the Executive Committee of the General Convention of TEC would ratify your response? It is the responsibility of the bishop to guard the faith as we promise during our consecration. In many of not most parts of the Communion and the historic churches, present and ancient, matters of faith and order, is the responsibility and therefore the authority of the Bishops to safeguard and teach.

If you don’t commit yourself to the Dar Es Salaam recommendations would you be willing to walk apart at least for a period during which we continue our discussions and dialogue until we reach a common understanding, especially about the essentials of our faith? Forgive me when I say that for many of us in the Communion, we feel that you have already walked apart at least theologically from the standard teaching of the Communion.

I know that you value personal freedom and independence. The whole world learns this from you. You need to demonstrate this by securing freedom for the American orthodox Anglicans who do not share your theological direction. Show your spirit of inclusiveness when you deal with them. I am afraid to say that without this more and more interventions from other provinces is going to happen. No one wants this.

I pray for wisdom and grace, for myself as well as for you, and I pray that God will lead us both in the right direction. Remember the illustrious history of God’s church and remember future generations who will sit in judgment on us. Remember also that the whole world is waiting and watching what you do.

Please forgive me if I have said anything that offends you.

May the Lord bless you.

+Mouneer Egypt