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

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Today's "Attaboy" Award Goes to . . . .

Sergio Carranza, Bishop Assistant, Diocese of La

"And before I am accused of being an irate fellow, let me quote what St. Thomas Aquinas has to say about it: "He who is not angry when there is just cause for anger is immoral. Why? Because anger looks to the good of justice. And if you can live amid injustice without anger, you are immoral as well as unjust."

Read it all here.

Hillary and Melanie and the Power of Sexism

I've been thinking a great deal about the debate at our Diocesan Convention concerning the resolution which called for the diocese to be 'sensitive' about inclusive language used during our corporate, diocesan worship and all diocesan events and communication.

I continue to be stunned by the ordained women and obvious liberal leaders who spoke against it. It's a fascinating phenomenon for this diocese, when it isn't flat-out disturbing.

Here's what I'm thinking. I suspect this is at least part of what I'm calling: "The Hillary Effect"

You know. Bill's "wife". Chelsea's "mother." The "former First Lady."

Yes, that Hillary. The Senator from New York. The candidate for President of the United States, who, by the grace of God and the consent of the majority of people (the Electoral College and Supreme Court not withstanding), will be the first woman to hold that office in this country.

She's got lots of people scared, hasn't she? Even some women - especially those who reap the benefits of all those feminists - men and women - who have struggled to work for equality but do not know (or, perhaps, even care) about the history of the Women's Movement.

As I've been trying to work my way through understanding this, I've found some solace in rereading "Envy and Gratitude," my very worn, dog-eared version of the book written by Melanie Klein

Personally, I think everyone in a position of church leadership - lay or ordained - should read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the wisdom of Klein's work. It's not an easy read, so go gently on yourself when you begin. Stay with it, though, and you will be richly rewarded for years to come.

Klein was a student of Freud, but found herself in disagreement with some of his teachings (Oh, my! What a surprise, right?). In her work with children, she began to apply her Freudian background with her own observations and laid the foundation for the development of a discipline of psychology known as "object relations theory."

This is not a place for scholarly discussions, so don't expect a 'magnum opus' on this topic. I'm just thinking out loud, as it were. Here's a bit of a snippet of her work which will give you a sense of her unique brilliance:

"...feelings of love and gratitude arise directly and spontaneously in the baby in response to the love and care of his mother. The power of love - which is the manifestation of the forces which tend to preserve life - is there in the baby as well as the destructive impulses, and finds its first fundamental expression in the baby's attachment to his mother's breast, which develops into love for her as a person. My psycho-analytic work has convinced me that when in the baby's mind the conflicts between love and hate arise, and the fears of losing the loved one become active, a very important step is made in development. These feelings of guilt and distress now enter as a new element into the emotion of love. They become an inherent part of love, and influence it profoundly both in quality and quantity." (from Love, Hate, and Reparation)

Basically, it builds on Freud's idea about libido and death - love and hate - and how these are made manifest in us as infants and young children at our mother's breast. As we grow older, we learn that we can love and hate the same object. Children, however, have a difficult time with the nuance of the interplay of these two drives or dynamics. Children view objects as either all-good or all-bad, thus only seeing a part of that object instead of the object's whole good/bad reality. Children are too young to understand that objects can be both good and bad; they only see one part of the spectrum.

Envy in adults is one of the immature manifestations of this dynamic between love and hate. What we can't have or feel frustrated or anxious about, we may envy. Envy is among the seven deadly sins and, says Klein, “it is unconsciously felt to be the greatest sin of all, because it spoils and harms the good object which is the source of life. . . . The feeling of having injured and destroyed the primal object impairs the individual’s trust in the sincerity of his later relationships and makes him doubt his capacity for love and goodness” (Klein 20).

I think (and, it has been argued that perhaps I think too much on these things) that what we are seeing in "The Hillary Effect" is the effect of envy. How DARE a woman seek to be elected to the highest political office in this country? How COULD she even think of becoming "The Leader of the Free World"? Clearly there must be something wrong with her. She can't possibly be a 'real woman'. She must be a 'real bitch'.

Next thing you know, we'll have to start changing the language we use. I mean, who ever heard of "Madam President"? Before you know it, that will mess up our images and understanding of God. Look what's happened since we elected a woman to be Presiding Bishop! There you go! See what I mean?

I think what we fear most- what animates our anxiety - is the loss of our 'traditional' cultural understanding about the role of women - especially mothers, in this country where "Apple Pie and Motherhood" reign supreme.

It's all about the primal forces of love and hate. This is nothing new. The Greeks have incorporated this into their earliest mythology in terms of the personifications of Eros and Thanatos. What we can't have or don't want, we seek to destroy. And, envy is a highly destructive force,

This is not to be confused with jealousy, which Klein says is between two individuals. Envy is bigger than that. Much bigger.

In these days of high anxiety, when we're deeply involved in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with no easy way out, when the 'r' word (recession) is hot on everyone's breath, when the genocide in Darfur continues unabated despite global howls of protest, when good, middle class families have to think carefully about whether or not to spend money on fuel or food and we begin to realize that we're all just two paychecks away from financial chaos, and when the political campaign on both sides of the political aisle bring these issues before us as our daily bread, is it any wonder, any wonder at all, that we're all anxious?

Guess what happens when we eat too much of the Bread of Anxiety? We all become little children again, losing our capacity for intelligence and reason, forgetting our history, inadvertently seeking to "spoil and harm the good object" which we learned to identify first at our mother's breast.

The antidote: Gratitude. I'll say more about this in a later post, but let me just say this. I am convinced that gratitude is deeply anchored in our spirituality. One of the real ironies of this new wave of Evangelical religion that is affecting and infecting our national politics at the moment is that everyone - even politicians - has suddenly got 'religion', but I don't think we have a developed sense of spirituality. That takes maturation. Depth. Intelligence. Reason.

And, the ability to let it all go in deep gratitude for the One who loved us first.

I must say: I've gotten some interesting insights from all of this about the dynamics of sexism. The bottom line is this: The "Hillary Effect" says far less about Hillary than it does about the state of our own souls. We can choose to be anxious and become envious children or we can become grateful adults. Neither one insures a victory for Hillary or inclusive language. It does, however, help us deal with the health of our own souls.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Scenes from an American Girl "Little Christmas"

I'm just now catching up after the dreadful 'writing' phase of my life. You remember. It was but a few weeks ago. I was obsessing and making everyone - especially myself - crazy. Could it really have been just a few short weeks ago?

Just to show you how bad this 'catch up' stuff is, we are just now taking down the Christmas tree. I may have all the decorations put away before we begin Lent this coming Wednesday.

Well, back to the end of the 'dreadful writing phase': I mailed my paper to my advisor at 10:42 AM on Saturday morning and MacKenna arrived at 11:30. Off we went on the NJ Transit Train into mid-town Manhattan for our day at American Girl Doll Store to purchase her long-desired American Girl Doll and for her first train ride adventure into "The City."

If you don't know about the whole "American Girl Doll" thing, just move along. This is not for you. Enlighten your self. Wander over to the right side of your screen and check out some of the other blogs. Visit for awhile. Listen to Billy Holiday sing "God Bless The Child." Trust me. You'll be a better person for surfing the web instead of looking at these pictures.

How wonderful was "Little Christmas"? I just got some of the pictures off my phone camera.

This first one is of the American Girl Doll Mackie picked out. Her name is . . . hang on . . . Elizabeth. No way! Yes way. That's the one she chose. She's from the American Colonial period. Elizabeth is a loyalist. Her best friend is Felicity is not.

This is Elizabeth in her party dress.

Can you tell MacKenna is thrilled to be back at Nana and Grammy's with her American Girl Doll?

We did stop off at Rockefeller Center to watch the Ice Skaters. It's right there, across the street from American Girl Doll Store.

What a GREAT "Little Christmas"!

We gave Mackie a choice for her birthday present in July. She may chose one of the following two choices: (1) Seeing "Little Mermaid" on Broadway (her FAVORITE Disney character) or (2) A hot air balloon ride.

Guess which one she chose?

Right. The hot air balloon ride.

Her parents are apoplectic. Her Nana is thrilled.

Clearly, the apple does not fall far from the tree.

"The Bishop has made a mistake . . ."

Letter shows rift among Episcopal conservatives
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
By Steve Levin, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

In the first public sign of disagreement among theologically conservative clergy in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh over the leadership of Bishop Robert W. Duncan Jr., 12 such rectors and priests told him this week they disapprove of his effort to remove the diocese from the Episcopal Church and will, instead, remain with the denomination.

The 12, including the president of the diocese's clergy association and its longest-tenured rector, mailed a signed, one-paragraph letter yesterday to the diocese's 66 churches saying that while they supported the "reformation of the Episcopal Church ... we have determined to remain within, and not realign out of" it.

Three members of the group, including the Rev. Scott Quinn of the Church of the Nativity in Crafton and the Rev. Jay Geisler of St. Stephen's in McKeesport, met Monday with Bishop Duncan at his Downtown office for about an hour to tell him they were going public.

The group does not support ordination of openly gay clergy or conducting same-sex blessings, the so-called "innovations" at the forefront of denominational disputes since 2003. However, members said they do not believe it is necessary to leave the Episcopal Church, the American arm of the worldwide Anglican Communion, to make that point.

"The bishop has made a mistake," said Father Quinn, with 25 years of service the longest-tenured priest in the diocese. "He seems to be going in a different direction than we are."

That direction was set in an overwhelming vote by clergy and lay delegates at the November Pittsburgh diocesan meeting to leave the Episcopal Church for a more biblically conservative province elsewhere. While a second vote at the 2008 diocesan meeting is required to make the action final, the national church already has struck back.

Earlier this month, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori warned Bishop Duncan he could be removed from office because of his efforts.

The uncertainty of the diocese's future -- and its own parishes' property, congregations, pensions and missions -- had led the group of priests to begin meeting monthly last fall.

"This [action by the group] was not unexpected," said Peter Frank, a spokesman for Bishop Duncan, "but it's still sad to see friends signal their intention to end in a different place than many of their fellow priests.

"The bottom line is that we all face momentous decisions in the Episcopal diocese this year."

Some members of the group said the prospect of protracted court cases evolving from the diocese's realignment effort played a role in their decision to disagree with Bishop Duncan. In this year's budget, the diocese set aside several hundred thousand dollars for legal issues.

Father Geisler's 123-year-old church has an endowment of more than $500,000; balance that, he said, against spending it all in a single year on legal fees.

"We are unified [with Bishop Duncan] on a vision," said Father Geisler, president of the diocese's clergy association. "We are not unified on a tactic."

The significance of the group's action may far outweigh its numbers. Bishop Duncan is moderator of the Anglican Communion Network, an alliance of biblically traditional dioceses and parishes that comprises about 10 percent of the Episcopal Church's 111 dioceses and 2.2 million members. Several of those dioceses, like Pittsburgh, want to leave the national church and realign with one of the more conservative provinces in the more than 70-million-member Anglican Communion.

The perception has been that conservative Pittsburgh Episcopalians unanimously support the bishop's leadership. Father Geisler acknowledged that the group's public repudiation could create a backlash.

"Some will think of us as traitors," he said. "But each priest is saying that for the good of our parish this doesn't seem to be where we should be going."

The Rev. James Simons, rector of St. Michael's of the Valley in Ligonier, said his decision to sign the letter was a "stewardship issue."

His church's outreach programs include a pension for a Ugandan bishop and support for a school in Guatemala City and a medical missionary in Bombay, India.

"I don't think it's good stewardship to use that money for legal fees," he said.

"When all the dust is settled, the real issues are how we're going to live beside each other once this is settled. The big picture is there's an irretrievable breakdown in the Episcopal Church," said the Rev. Jonathan Millard, rector of the Church of the Ascension in Oakland.

"Some sort of split is inevitable."

The group

Signees of the open letter to the Pittsburgh Episcopal Diocese are:

• The Rev. Nancy Chalfant-Walker, priest in charge of St. Stephen's, Wilkinsburg

• The Rev. Jay Geisler, rector of St. Stephen's, McKeesport

• The Rev. Daniel Hall, priest associate, assigned to First Lutheran Church

• The Rev. Norman Koehler, priest, chaplain at Presbyterian Senior Care, Oakmont

• The Rev. Jeffrey Murph, rector of St. Thomas', Oakmont

• The Rev. Scott Quinn, rector of Church of the Nativity, Crafton

• The Rev. Bruce Robison, rector of St. Andrews', Highland Park

• The Rev. James Shoucair, rector of Christ Church, North Hills

• The Rev. James Simons, St. Michael's of the Valley, Ligonier

• The Rev. Stephen Smalley, rector of St. Barnabas', Brackenridge

• The Rev. Philip Wainwright, rector of St. Peter's, Brentwood

• The Rev. Don Youse, priest in charge, Emmanuel, North Side

Steve Levin can be reached at or 412-263-1919.
First published on January 30, 2008 at 12:00 am

Bonnie Prince Charlie

Darling of the Anglo-Catholics.

My favorite kind of Queen.

There's actually a statue of him, complete with a full bank of votive candles, at Grace and St. Peter's Episcopal (Anglican) Church in Baltimore, MD. No doubt, there are other shrines in The Episcopal Church to his honor and for his intercessory prayer - but I haven't seen them. That was the first time I realized just how serious some Anglo-Catholics can be.

In honor of his feast day, everyone make a fashion statement. Something in silk with TONS of brocade and up to your armpits in lace. Votive candle mandatory. Incense and rosary beads optional.

Don't know about Bonnie Prince Charlie? Here you go:

Stuart, Charles Edward, called The Young Pretender, The Young Chevalier, and Bonnie Prince Charlie (1720-88), claimant to the British throne who led the Scottish Highland army in the Forty-five Rebellion.

The son of James Francis Edward Stuart and grandson of James II of England, Charles Edward was born December 31, 1720, in Rome. In 1744, after his father had obtained the support of the French government for a projected invasion of England, Charles Edward went to France to assume command of the French expeditionary forces. Unfavorable weather and the mobilization of a powerful British fleet to oppose the invasion led to cancellation of the plan by the French government.

The Jacobite cause was still supported by many Highland clans, both Catholic and Protestant, and the Catholic Charles hoped for a warm welcome from these clans to start an insurgency by Jacobites throughout Britain, but there was no immediate response. Charles raised his father's standard at Glenfinnan and there raised a large enough force to enable him to march on the city of Edinburgh, which quickly surrendered.

On 21 September 1745 he defeated the only government army in Scotland at the Battle of Prestonpans, and by November was marching south at the head of around 6,000 men. Having taken Carlisle, Charles' army progressed as far as Derby. Here, despite the objections of the Prince, the decision was taken by his council to return to Scotland, largely because of the almost complete lack of the support from English Jacobites that Charles had promised. By now he was pursued by the King George II's son, the Duke of Cumberland, who caught up with him at the Battle of Culloden on 16 April 1746.

At Culloden his forces were utterly routed . He was hunted as a fugitive for more than five months, but the Highlanders never betrayed him, and he escaped to France in September 1746. Two years later he was expelled from that country in accordance with one of the provisions of the second Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748), which stipulated that all members of the house of Stuart were to be driven from France. For a number of years Charles Edward wandered about Europe. Secretly visiting London in 1750 and in 1754, he attempted without success on both occasions to win support for his cause.

In 1766, on his father's death, Charles Edward returned to Italy, where he spent his last years. Charles died in Rome on 31 January 1788. He was first buried in the Cathedral of Frascati, where his brother Henry Benedict Stuart was bishop. At Henry's death in 1807, Charles's remains were moved to the crypt of Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican where they were laid to rest next to those of his brother and father. When the body of Charles Stuart was transferred to the Saint Peter's Basilica, his "praecordia" were left in Frascati Cathedral: a small urn encloses the heart of Charles, placed beneath the floor below the funerary monument

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A little easier on the eyes, eh?

It all started when Klady taught me how to add a permalink to my posts.

Then, suddenly, I discovered the font changes. Then, I thought about upgrading the look - the color - the feel.

You change one thing and well . . . now you know how the conservatives feel.

You know, I may not like not being the 'Pepto Bismol Pink Lady'. It seemed to annoy the neo-Puritans so.

I've been meaning to do this for awhile.

I'll live with it for a bit and see how it feels.

So, what do YOU think?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Is it true?

I have it on good authority that Matt and Ann Kennedy have renounced their orders as priests who were ordained in The Episcopal Church.

I have checked the webpage of the Diocese of Central NY and Anne Kennedy is not listed there; interestingly enough, neither is she listed in the Episcopal Clerical Directory.

Matt, however, continues to be listed as rector of Church of the Good Shepherd, Binghamton, NY as well as in the Episcopal Clerical Directory.

I have written to Matt and, thus far, he has declined to respond to my inquiry. However, in all fairness, I'm told that his wife's blog indicates that he is out of town for the week.

Gee, I wonder why?

There's been nothing on her blog or that of her husband's. No announcement. No bells and whistles. Nothing. Zip. Nada.


I also understand that Tony Seel, another priest in the diocese of Central New York, has been deposed. He now claims to be a priest of CANA, with Martyn Minns as his bishop. Apparently, Tony has not been reticent about his deposition. You can find his statement on his blog here.

Warning - this is a man who clearly does not have clarity about the polity of TEC or the Anglican Communion. If you are able to read beyond the angry, confusing rhetoric, the pain is palpable.

I wonder why this has not been picked up as Really Important News about how TEC is going to hell in a hand basket and see, look how many people we're "hemorrhaging" every week! Minute! Second!

Why do I care? Why do I have the least bit of interest in this?

Why? Because it's very important, that's why. First of all, from everything I've been able to read, Matt and Anne are fine priests. Anne is an exceptional preacher. Really fine. Articulate. Accessible. She clearly has a heart for the gospel - not one that I agree with, but that's beside the point. It's always good to hear an intelligent, cogent, articulate preacher, even if I disagree with almost everything she says. I agree with her belief in God, her love of Jesus and her trust in the Holy Spirit. That's good enough for me.

Matt, on the other hand, is all serious and pedantic. Up in his head. Way up. Way, way up. He gets so very serious in his argument and works so hard to make his point that he actually makes me laugh out loud sometimes, when he doesn't bore me to absolute tears. His buddy, Gregg Griffiths has described him as 'the uber-Calvinist'. From everything I've read, I'd have to agree. I have no doubt of his sincerity, his passion, his energy, his love of Christ Jesus. I'm sure he's also a fine pastor and a good dad to their four small children.

Beyond the personal, there's an important political reason to take note of the possible loss of two priests and the actual loss of one priest from the councils of the church. As more priests leave TEC, this will eventually represent a shift in how we define "orthodox," 'conservative', 'evangelical' and 'catholic'.

If all those who are "orthodox" have aligned themselves with African or Southern Cone Provinces, it begs the question: "Can one be orthodox and Episcopalian?" What might that mean?

With the loss of the radical Right, the shift in the more "moderate middle" will also be perceptible. Without more of the Right to take the hit, they may well become more beleaguered as well as more entrenched and begin to look more and more like conservatives.

The 'movable middle' will become far less pliable in the transition. That will deeply affect some of the leading Liberals in our church, who are always ready to "give away the farm" anyway. A true Liberal who gets anxious about the moveable middle moving more to the Right? Well, let's just say it's not a pretty sight. Trust me. I've seen it.

However, those few and ever dwindling numbers on the Right fringe will seem even more 'out there' to more and more people - even the 'moderate' and 'moveable' middle.

This is not a bad thing.

Nevertheless, all of this has serious considerations for progressives and liberals. We don't like to admit it, but we need the conservatives in the moderate middle to keep us honest - just as much as they need us to keep them honest (and they don't like to admit that anymore than we do).

Without our internal controls, a Covenant might just begin to look good to some folk.

This is not a good thing.

Don't ask me why - it's just a hunch - but I suspect things will soon begin to implode on the Right. Round about July, I figure. We're just now seeing the first strikes of the match. As the flame gets closer and closer to the source of the ignition fluid, it will get more and more dangerous.

Don't count on anybody from Lambeth Palace doing anything helpful.

I wonder if The Living Church will begin publishing Renunciations as well as Depositions, Transfers, Resignations, Deaths, etc.

Stay tuned.

Oh, and faretheewell, Matt and Anne (if the rumor is true) amd Tony. May God continue to bless the work you do in the name of Jesus - no matter where in God's one, holy catholic and apostolic Church you find yourselves.

The church at its best

This past Sunday, at the 8 o'clock Eucharist, I was setting the table for Holy Eucharist when I noted a commotion. I suddenly realized that something was very wrong with Jerry, our 91 year old faithful parishioner, and left the altar to see what was going on.

Jerry was cold and clammy and unresponsive. There was no facial muscle response to stimuli. His pulse was weak and thready and his breath was shallow.

I immediately called 911. Without my saying a word, members of my staff who were present and the liturgical leadership and ushers snapped right into the informal protocol we had established two weeks ago when we had held a church-sponsored CPR training for staff, Church School faculty and ushers:

Someone went outside to guide the first responders to the sanctuary, someone moved the people in the congregation to the front of the church to make sure there was room for the first responders to work, others provided pastoral care to those who were distressed, two of us continued to closely monitor Jerry's condition, ready to administer CPR if necessary, one person stood ready with the cell phone, another went to the Vestry room to get a pillow for Jerry's head and someone got a coat to fold and place under his legs.

I loosened his tie, unbuttoned his shirt, undid his belt and continued to monitor him closely. Still, he remained unresponsive. His color was getting ashen and he felt cold to the touch. In anticipation of performing CPR, I checked his chest for apacemaker and discovered that he was not breathing.

I checked his pulse again and could no longer detect one. At that point, it was clear he had nine toes out the door, getting ready for the real presence of Jesus on the other side of Eden.

Four of us lifted Jerry from the pew and placed him in the aisle. The jarring had the effect of a 'precordial thump' (those of you who have taken CPR training in the past will know exactly what that is), and soon after he was on the floor, while I had my hand to his sternum, ready to begin CPR, his eyes opened wide and he was back with us. Within seconds the EMTs were there, administering oxygen and rendering him treatment.

The good news is that Jerry is doing well today. The doctors believe he had a mild cardiac episode which may be related to some medication he was taking which led him to an electrolyte imbalance, which, in turn, caused his cardiac episode.

I remain deeply committed to providing yearly CPR training for my staff and congregation. This is the first time this has happened during a church service, but it's not the first time we've saved a life on church property.

We debriefed at staff meeting this morning, and a few questions emerged:

1. Do you have a protocol or guideline or "emergency plan" for your staff/ushers that you might share? Can anyone help me by sharing examples with me? I want to make sure I have covered all the bases.

2. Does your church have a portable defibrillator? Where do you keep it? How much did it cost? What did the training entail? Would you recommend that a church have one in a sanctuary or parish hall?

3. Do you or your staff/ushers/etc. have yearly CPR training? If not, why not? (That's not a statement of judgement. I'm really just curious.)

Say what you want about TEC going to hell in a hand basket or about me being 'unsuitable matter' for ordination. And think what you will about the "evil, slimy, slippery thing that is our mortal flesh" (That's evangelical theologian John Stott talking), but you know what? Not that I want this to happen again anytime soon, but church just doesn't get much better than that.

UPDATE: I just spoke with Jean, Jerry's wife. He was also diagnosed with a 'bleeding ulcer' - considered a side effect of Plavix (those of you with coronary or cholesterol problems will know this drug). Unfortunately, drugs like these are life-saving in and of themselves, but they are not well monitored in the elderly - an entirely different conversation but one just as serious for pastors with a congregation whose members are "of a certain age."

He received two units of blood yesterday, one this morning, and when I left him tonight, they were setting him up for another. The hope is that he will be home sometime late tomorrow afternoon. The doctors told me that he could have died from the complications to his heart. "Nine toes out the door," they said, "was an apt description." Fortunately, there are no long-term affects to his heart, but at age 91, no one can be too sure. Of your kindness and mercy, please keep Jerry and Jean in your prayers.

P.S. Over at HOB/D they are having a wee contest to define what it means to be Christian. Imagine!

So, here's what someone wrote me, after reading the above post about Jerry: "You want your definition of 'Christian'? I got your definition right here:

"A Christian is a person who loves Jesus so much and is so grateful for the gift of a life redeemed that s/he is ready, willing and able to do whatever it takes, by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, to save a life that God has created."

Isn't that just the BEST? I can't wait to tell Jerry that he inspired such a definition. That ancient, cranky, loyal Republican, cradle Episcopalian will be so very pleased I'll bet he'll smile - even though that would be against his better judgment.

"The Spirit blows where it wills . . ."

Well, I was right and I was wrong about our diocesan convention.

I was right about a 'new spirit' being present in the diocese. I was wrong about which resolution would be controversial.

I knew, even before I allowed my name to be placed in nomination for re-election as deputy to General Convention that I wouldn't be re-elected. The nomination slate was filled with new candidates - stellar people that represented new skills, new perspective, new expertise and a diversity that was much more reflective of the reality of this diocese.

In fact, out of eight slots (4 clergy, 4 laity) we elected three first time deputies - two in the clerical order, one of whom is a man of color, and one in the lay order, who is also a man of color. In doing so, we finally achieved parity in terms of people of color in our deputation - a first in this diocese. And, for the first time, women are a majority of the deputation. Louie Crew was re-elected, the only openly gay deputy, also a first.

I will be at Lambeth and at Anaheim as president of the Episcopal Women's Caucus, so I'll be doing my work from behind the scenes, where I do my best work anyway. I ran into two diocesan delegates after the balloting, one of whom was distraught that I had not been elected. The other said, "Elizabeth has a voice - in some ways, a voice that is given a much wider audience than the diocese has right now. She'll be able to speak prophetically without the incumbrance of conforming to the diocesan body-politic."

He's right. My non-election is a gift, really. The vote from this diocese on all the important issues will not change. I now have the freedom to say things that used to make some in this diocese cringe. That's a great freedom and I'm glad for it.

It was far more shocking to me who didn't get re-elected to the deputation. Two former, long-time deputies who are responsible for writing most of the resolutions and canons in The Episcopal Church were not elected. That was stunning to me. So was the unseating of one of the longest sitting deputies at General Convention, who now attends as an alternate.

Then, there were the positions of diocesan leadership.

I won't go into specifics here, because most of the readers of this blog won't know the nuances anyway, but it was shocking. One person who was running for re-election to a very important diocesan position of leadership would have, upon re-election, been the first person of color to hold that position as its leader. Instead, a senior Caucasian person, one who has never previously served in that capacity, was elected to the slot.

Not that the person elected wasn't a good candidate or will not do a good job. I'm just shocked that the highly qualified person of color was not re-elected.

I think, with the new bishop, there is a new spirit in the diocese and that's a wonderful thing - one in which I celebrate and rejoice. However, I don't think most of the diocesan deputies understood either how these bodies work or the importance of the qualifications and expertise of the candidates are needed and required. The operative dynamic seemed to be name recognition and the association with those who are working on the new bishop's 'team.'

The surprise was the resolution that brought about controversy. There was a wee bit of a whimper about the resolution to have a sign language interpreter available for diocesan convention. One clergy person got up and said if we allow this, then in order to be truly inclusive, we must also have translators available for other languages - Spanish, Haitian, etc. That was not heard, and we moved to adopt the resolution.

There was also some controversy about the increase in compensation for supply clergy. It is now recommended that we increase the remuneration from $150 to $200 per service, plus travel. If there are two services on the same day (Sunday, 8 and 10 AM) it would be $100 for the first and $200 for the second service.

The argument was that, at $300 (plus travel costs) that makes a supply clergy unavailable to many small churches. The result would be that congregations would have to say Morning Prayer without communion for the principle Sunday service. The resolution passed because the question about this was made after the resolution was passed.

The thing of it is this: Canons are binding. Resolutions are not. Clergy who do supply ministry can state their charges up front. That does not mean that congregations have to accept them. Congregations can also negotiate with clergy for the cost of remuneration. We've always done that. We do it now. I think passing this resolution was the right thing to do.

The surprise controversy came in the resolution to reaffirm a previous resolution (1980 something) for inclusive language at all diocesan worship services, events and communication. The resolution we passed now requires the diocese to 'be sensitive' to the language we use - except in diocesan worship services. That was removed from the list of 'requirements'.

I was amazed by the clergy who are women who argued against the original wording of the resolution - and even the change to 'be sensitive' to inclusive language. One fear-monger tried to tell convention that if we passed the resolution, we would not be able to use the Book of Common Prayer. This is simply not true. We would, as we always have, adapted some of the references to images of God and humankind.

Another deputy, who should know better (but he was running for office) said he didn't want to see us be poorer for not 'struggling' with the rich diversity of the heritage of our language at worship.

No one was able to see that the resolution was not about enforcement but a suggestion to 'be sensitive' about the language used when we meet together as a diocesan family at prayer. That was a call to diversity of expression which was not heard.

I'm not sure why it was not heard. It was a curious thing.

Bottom line: this bishop will be sensitive to the language we use in the worship of diocesan events anyway. Warning to others: Never re-affirm a resolution which is already working. You may lose whatever ground you already have.

But, suddenly I feel anxious about Hillary Clinton's nomination. Is it the high-testosterone level which is present whenever we're at war that gives rise to a sexist back-lash? Is it the whisper of the 'r word' (recession) that raises people's anxiety? Is it a function of the 'post 9/11' anxiety that makes us all a wee bit more conservative?

I don't know. But, it is a curious thing, indeed.

It was a good convention. We are off to a wonderful start with this new bishop. A wee bit slower for my tastes - I really missed the excitement of the Spong years, when there would be a whole room filled with journalists and photographers from around the world, waiting to see what the Diocese of Newark was up to now.

No real excitement. No magic. Yet. We'll give this guy some time. How much? Oh, no more than 3 - 5 years. You just wait and see. Then, get out your helmet and put on your seat belts. My guess is that we'll be in for the time of our lives.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

"Follow Me"

“Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”
Matthew 4:12-23
Epiphany III
January 27, 2008
The Episcopal Church of St. Paul, Chatham
(the Rev’d) Elizabeth Kaeton, rector and pastor

My grandfather was a fisherman, as were my father, and my uncles. They had friends who had fishing boats which they kept out at the marina in New Bedford, MA, where their ancestors before them had been sailors and whalers. The men I grew up with in my family, however, went fishing off the shores of the east end of the island known as Cuttyhunk.

Cuttyhunk Island is the outermost of the Elizabeth Islands in my home state of Massachusetts, located about 12 miles south of New Bedford and 8 miles west of Martha’s Vineyard. It’s a tiny island – about 580 acres and population 52 (as of the 2000 census). That population changes drastically in the summer, of course, when those who own summer homes, or come to play golf and stay at the country club, swell the numbers,

I’ll get back to Cuttyhunk in a minute. First, let me tell you something I know about fishing. When we say ‘gone fishing’ most contemporary Americans think of a leisure hobby, something you do when you want to relax – or a reward for a hard day’s work – a vacation. A sure sign of leisure activity:

When you see the sign “Gone fishin’” hung on shop door, you know it means "I'm on holiday."

That wasn’t so for the men in my family. Fishing was both a source of food as well as a source of income. It was how we ate and how we made some extra money to fill the budgetary gaps. While others were still in bed, enjoying their weekend off, my grandfather would get ‘his boys’ up at the crack of dawn.

While other children were sneaking downstairs to watch Saturday morning cartoons, I would awaken to the sounds of male voices downstairs in my grandparent’s apartment. My grandmother would be cooking eggs and bacon and toasting bread in the oven while supervising the organization of boxed lunches. They wouldn’t be home much before close to sundown, so they had to pack enough food and homemade beer to get them through the day.

Fishing was hard, backbreaking work. Hauling nets teaming with fish takes brute strength, as does reeling in a stripped bass or large, ocean eels. The work doesn’t end there. The fish had to be kept on ice so large buckets had to be layered on top of the pile of fish. That was the job for my boy cousins (one I was jealous of with almost the same intensity as I was jealous of their role as altar boys.)

Then, the men would have to bring home the haul - 'the catch of the day" - where the fish would be scaled and gutted and filleted, before being frozen. The nets also had to be cleaned and mended. I would often fall asleep hearing them tell their fishing stories as my bedtime stories.

They would be up early on Sunday morning to go to church – that was not debatable - bathed, hair combed, clothes ironed, shoes shined. This was a sight far from the one right now as they sat around, drinking beer in their work pants, smoking too many cigarettes, reeking of fish and beer and cigarette smoke, their bodies tired, their muscles aching and their hands cut and bruised from hauling the net or the line.

Drinking beer was their anesthesia; playing poker was their diversion.

They would be up early on Monday morning, back to work in the factories - work which did not provide a living wage. Their salaries were, in no way, compensation for the work they did. Union labor organizing would come later, but right now, fishing kept their families living just above the poverty line.

I imagine it wasn’t much different for Simon Peter and Andrew or those 'Sons of Thunder', James and John, the sons of Zebedee. I imagine them, there on the shores of Galilee, fishing for the days catch which would be taxed and then taxed again. The Governor believed that, as the occupied force, the Lake belonged to him and he had a right to tax whatever cam out of it or had the privilege of going into it. Whatever they were able to make from the ocean’s bounty would be taxed by the governor, and they again, by Caesar. Hard work and no play not only makes very little pay, it makes for scant hope for the future.

The injustice of the corrupt Roman occupation was breaking their backs and not putting much food on their tables. Even though they thanked God for the way and means to make money, as business men, they knew that they would never be rich. Their hard work simply kept some food on the table, and some coins for the Temple to support widows and orphans, those who were ill or infirm. They, too, lived just above the poverty line.

“Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” I can only imagine how these words were first experienced by Andrew, Simon Peter, James and John. They must have fallen like the sound of sweet freedom on their ears. It makes perfect sense, now, doesn’t it, that scripture reports, “Immediately, they left their nets and followed him.”

Immediately? I’ll just bet it just was! I imagine it didn’t happen soon enough. Doing the work of justice and peace always comes at a cost – a high price, indeed – but, as my grandfather, father and uncles discovered, working for liberation (in their case, in the Labor Union Movement) was worth whatever it cost.

A short story about Cuttyhunk Island to end this sermon.

The Island was originally owned by some folks in Newport, RI, who, in the 1600’s stripped the island of all its lumber leaving it windswept and bare. In 1864, a Mr. William Wood, disgruntled by the politics of his country club in Sakonet Point, RI, built a Country Club there, renowned for its lavish parties. The Country Club was staffed by the newest wave of immigrants – brought in for their cheap labor and their dark – but not ‘offensively dark’ skin – the Portuguese. Bottom line: They worked for far less wages than the locals did.

He could not have known that one of his grandsons, William M. Wood, would fall in love with and marry one of those Portuguese women. It was considered a huge scandal and he was scorned and shunned by his socially elite circle. He was a deeply spiritual man, however, a devout Christian and student of Holy Scripture who believed that the liberation promised in the gospel was not for a few elect but for all.

In 1921, Mr. Wood bought out all the interest in the Country Club as well as any land holdings on the Island, and began to hire the Portuguese at the same rate of pay as any other worker. In gratitude for this, the Portuguese, who lived in the surrounding towns, always made it a point to fish off the waters of East Cuttyhunk, where the stripped bass ran thick in the chilly waters. They always offered their first, best catch to Mr. Wood at the best price, in grateful recognition of his generosity and devotion to the liberation promised of the gospel. I understand from some family members that this practice continues to this day.

When I was a young child, my family told this story to me as gospel. Later, as I grew older and became an Episcopal Priest, I found myself one day having tea with a colleague, another Episcopal priest, in the kitchen of her apartment in Cambridge, MA. She began to tell me the story of her husband’s family and the Island they owned not far from where we were. I had always thought the story a bit of a fairy tale.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that every word I had been told as a child was true. And, here it was – right in front of me – in the image of a sister cleric who, together with her husband, had worked for economic justice for the newest wave of immigrants. Only in The Episcopal Church!

“Follow me,” said Jesus, “and I will make you fish for people.”

For some, that can sound like a simple, clever play on words and leave it at that. Or, it can sound like a bell, calling you to the path of your own liberation on the road to justice and peace. Simon and Andrew heard it first as a manifestation of the glory of God: Hope.

Hope. One of the manifestations of the glory of God. A bright and shining light, bathing those who dare to come near its glow with expectation and encouragement - the strength and courage to lift up their heads.

Depending on their circumstance, the people of God have been hearing it in the same way ever since. Even in our day, gospel miracles can continue to be found whenever Jesus is followed and the good news of the Realm of God is proclaimed.

That never been the question. The question is, how is the glory of God made manifest in your life when you hear Jesus say to you, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people."


"You are The Episcopal Church!"

Episcopal News Service
January 26, 2008

[An image gallery of this service is available at: ]

- - - - -
You are the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin': hundreds offer support at 'Moving Forward, Welcoming All' celebration

By Pat McCaughan

[ENS - HANFORD, California] Hundreds of people—from as far south as San Diego and as far north as Seattle—packed the historic Church of\the Saviour in Hanford January 26 in joyous celebration and support for remaining Episcopalians who are"Moving Forward, Welcoming All"and claiming their status as the official Episcopal Diocese of SanJoaquin.

"You are the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin," House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson told more than 350 people amid sustained applause and a standing ovation. The Saturday gathering was organized by Remain Episcopal, a group of Episcopalians who are reconstituting the diocese after 42 of 47 congregations voted to leave The Episcopal Church (TEC) at a December 8 convention.

Cindy Smith, president of Remain Episcopal, said the organization has received generous financial, liturgical and emotional support from all over the country, including from clergy from across the nation who willing to serve congregations on an interim or permanent basis.

Organized in 2003, Remain Episcopal is "planning for the day we cease to exist, a day the renewed leadership of the Fresno-based Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin can once again continue the reconciliation, work and mission of the church," said Smith, who called for patience as the way forward as communities of faith continue to form and grow and the future of the Central Valley churches continues to unfold.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori sent both written and videotaped greetings to the gathering. "We expect to work next to clarify the status of members of the clergy in the Diocese of San Joaquin, and the status of any former diocesan leaders who wish to remain in The Episcopal Church," she wrote in a letter read by the Rev. Canon Bob Moore, the designated interim pastoral presence for the diocese.

Jefferts Schori added that financial and other support is forthcoming. "We are already working to ensure continued salary for mission clergy who were recently removed from their posts by John-David Schofield," she wrote. "We will similarly work to continue diocesan functions such as ensuring insurance coverage for congregations and clergy."

Focused on the way forward Jefferts Schori and others focused on the future, sessions available to online viewers through streaming video coverage, at:

"Once the ultimate status of John-David Schofield is adjudicated by the House of Bishops, and if he is deposed, I will seek to gather the remaining members of the Diocese in a special convention to elect new leadership and make provision for an interim bishop. I will work with diocesan leaders to clarify ownership of the personal and real assets of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin," the Presiding Bishop's letter said.

On January 11, Jefferts Schori inhibited Bishop John-David Schofield of San Joaquin from continuing to serve after a Title IV review committee determined he had abandoned the communion. He has the options of recanting his position, renouncing his orders or declaring that the Title IV assertions are false.

If a majority of bishops concur with the Title IV review committee's findings during the March 7-13 House of Bishops meeting at Camp Allen in Navasota, Texas, the Presiding Bishop will depose Schofield and declare the episcopate of the San Joaquin diocese vacant.

While acknowledging that there may be "bumps in the road" Jefferts Schori declared that TEC seeks "the continued functioning, new growth, and renewed flourishing of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of San Joaquin."

House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson also advised the gathering to work for reconciliation while exercising humility and reaching out to others, adding: "It's not going to be real easy for the next little while."

"This process of reconciliation will take courage," she reminded participants. "People will need to truly reach out to each other in the name of Christ. I encourage those present to reach out to others in the diocese who are struggling with their decision. Be open and encouraging, including everyone. Some people will need to let go of newly-found power. Some people will need to let go of long-held power.

"Safe places for conversations and safe ways of talking together will need to be developed. Everyone must be committed to this work."

Remaining Episcopalians face complexity and chaos, she said. Some are willing to litigate to keep church property while others aren't. Still others "voted to remove the Episcopal Church from the diocesan constitution but have now indicated they are willing to stay, and some who are simply on the fence, … some have disavowed themselves and no longer consider themselves Episcopalian. A fifth group of people simply want things to get back to normal so they can worship without all this disagreement."

Anderson's remarks followed a rousing worship service during which the Rev. Canon Robert Moore, who was appointed as the interim pastoral presence for remaining Episcopalians, presided and served as homilist.

"It is wonderful to look out here and see so many faces," said Moore who told the gathering they are in the process of recreating and reforming a "new and wondrous" church. "It's happening as we speak, " he said amid hearty applause.

"We are not establishing a new Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, we are celebrating, worshipping and working for the continuing Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. You are the Episcopal Church in this part of the world," he said.

National, provincial leaders help to 'sing a new church'

The theme of inclusion and joyous celebration extended throughout the Eucharist and subsequent morning program. Michael Gardner, director of Music Ministries for the Remain Episcopal Bakersfield Faith Community, offered hymns such as "All Are Welcome" and "Sing a New Church."

National and provincial representatives also attended the gathering. Executive Council members Dottie Fuller of the Diocese of El Camino Real and Hisako Beasley, of Seattle, were on hand to offer support.

"It's important to be here, to offer support," said Fuller, who added that she spent the night in a motor home in the church parking lot.

The Rev. Charles Ramsden and Holly McAlpen of the Church Insurance Corp. fielded property and other questions. San Rafael attorney Michael O. Glass, who represents several local congregations and individuals, was also a featured speaker during an afternoon question and answer session to which the media was not invited.

Province VIII President, the Rev. Dr. Jack Eastwood, along with provincial coordinator Patricia Erskine, offered information about
network ministries and resources available to assist in the rebuilding.

Jane Chynoweth, 87, a parishioner at Christ the King, Riverbank said she was a parishioner at St. Dunstan's Church in Modesto before it was closed and sold by Schofield in 2005. "I still have questions about what happened to the money he got for it," she said.

Bill Knutson, a parishioner at St. Paul's Church in Ventura, in the Diocese of Los Angeles, said he felt it was important to attend the gathering, despite battling snow and inclement weather.

"I represent dozens of people who wanted to be here today," said Knutson, noting that winter storms had closed roads and that another storm was expected on Saturday afternoon.

Leslie Watson said she had been unchurched since moving from San Jose five years ago, until she discovered the Remain Episcopal Bakersfield Faith Community.

"We were affiliated with St. Philip's, San Jose, and when we moved to Bakersfield we visited churches there but discovered at the very first meeting it wasn't anything like what we were used to," she said.

Joining the Bakersfield faith community changed all that, said Watson, enthusiastic about the gathering's strong turnout and future prospects. "What we're doing is historic, avant garde," she said. We're meeting in hidden places like the first century Christians, it's like Luther nailing the theses to the door.

Meanwhile, the way forward includes organizing donated liturgical and worship resources for developing faith communities and an upcoming March 1-2 workshop on growing the church will feature the Rev. Dr.
Dennis Maynard, author of "Those Episkopols."

Nancy Key, a co-founder of Remain Episcopal, said she's excited to be part "of rebuilding." She said the group's original intention was to prevent a split in the diocese. But, she added, "today represents the beginning of healing between the Diocese of San Joaquin and the national Episcopal Church."

-- The Rev. Pat McCaughan is Episcopal Life Media correspondent in Province VIII (the Province of the Pacific). She is based in Los Angeles.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The letters are in the mail

One of the great things about diocesan conventions is that there is ample opportunity for multi-tasking.

While other, very important work of convention was going on all around us, sweet Melissa, the director of my Sunday School program, and I hand wrote thank you's to every last one of you who contributed to the City of God Christmas Appeal. It took most of today and part of yesterday afternoon. One of us even signed Maddy's signature (I'll let you guess which one.)

I was humbled - deeply, deeply humbled - to see such ample evidence of your generosity. There were contributions as high as $500 (1) to several in the $5 and $10 range. Lots of $100, $50 and $25. Several times. By the same person.

I also want you to take advantage of any tax exemption you might be able to get with your generosity - hence the need to get your contributions in writing and in the mail before too long. If we've made a mistake and you need a corrected copy, please don't hesitate to email and let me know, and I'll make the correction and have it in the mail to you right quick.

I don't have an exact final figure for you, but it was in slight excess of $10,000.

Well done, good and faithful servants. Well done, indeed!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Diocese of Newark Meets in Convention

And, it's off to Diocesan Convention this weekend. While others are watching the live stream of the consecration of Mark Joseph Lawrence as the XIV Bishop of South Carolina at 11 AM on Saturday morning, we will no doubt be debating what is, perhaps, the most controversial resolution to come before us.

Nah, not the one on Hate Crimes. Not the repeal of (hold your nose and vote) B033. Not even the one that asks to "affirm the full particpation of the LGBTI Community in The Episcopal Church."

No, my hunch is that it will be this one:

Resolution 2008-07: Resolution on the Provision of Interpreters for the Deaf at Diocesan Programs and Events.

Imagine - the deaf asking that they hear! What do they expect? A miracle? I mean, don't they know it will cost money to hire an interpreter(s) (up to $125 per event).

Well, first it was people of color, then women, then LGBT people and now, THIS!

I suppose it will simply never end. Before you know it, everyone will want to be included in the church.

You know, like Jesus said.

Film, as they say, at eleven.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Ain't nobody gettin' hitched there

A Moratorium on Weddings

Published: January 14, 2005

NEW HAVEN, Jan. 13 - In a protest against the Episcopal Church's refusal to allow same-sex marriages, the leaders of a church in the stately East Rock section of this city have announced that they will perform no marriage ceremonies at all.

The decision, conveyed on Thursday in a letter from the priest to the 115 families of St. Thomas's Episcopal Church, is a novel challenge to the social and religious barriers to marriage between homosexuals.

Some Episcopal churches have handled the problem by offering gay couples a blessing ceremony that is not legally considered a marriage. Lay leaders at St. Thomas's have decided that the absence of a ritual at the heart of a church's spiritual and social functions is a powerful way to protest what they consider a form of religious discrimination.

The church has adopted the new policy even though no gay couples have asked to be married there.

Only about five heterosexual couples a year seek to be married at St. Thomas's. The Rev. Michael F. Ray, the church's priest, said he would refer those couples to one of a dozen other Episcopal churches in the area. He also said he would ask the couples "to postpone their marriage and stand in solidarity with same-sex couples so they understand what it's like not to have that privilege."

Officials of the Episcopal church say priests are under no obligation to perform marriage ceremonies, so that Father Ray's decision to enact a moratorium on them violates no canon law.

Two couples who had already booked the handsome Gothic church for their weddings will be able to proceed, Father Ray said. But one long-planned wedding will not take place there: his daughter's.

In his letter to parishioners, Father Ray cited the decision by his daughter, Catherine, a graduate student in Arizona, to forgo a religious ceremony for now. "I am overwhelmed by their expression of support and solidarity," he wrote of the couple, who will proceed with a civil ceremony.

Father Ray said that St. Thomas's had lost some families since discussion of a possible moratorium began in November. Parishioners said the conversation about the issue has been bubbling up for at least four years.

As many other religious groups have done, the Episcopal Church has been wrestling with the issues of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. The issue came to a head in 2003 when the church confirmed its first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

That decision threatened to splinter the church, and it continues to cause tension in some corners of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

The Right Rev. Andrew D. Smith, who heads the Episcopal Church's Connecticut Diocese, supported Bishop Robinson's confirmation. But he has denied parishes the right to encourage or legitimize same-sex marriages or blessings.

"The issue of gay marriage is real clear," said Bishop Smith, citing language in the Episcopal prayer book and canon law that defines marriage as being the union of a man and a woman. "It's prohibited. We don't go there."

But he added, "We have to reach some understandings about the ways to support persons in same-sex relationships within the church, and we haven't yet."

St. Thomas's was founded in 1848. Father Ray, who came to the parish in 1985, is only its fifth rector. "Once we come, we stay forever," he said.

According to Father Ray and some congregants, the church has been largely middle-of-the-road in its policies. But in 2000, it issued a proclamation welcoming all worshipers regardless of sexual orientation or other differences. Parish leaders also sent the diocese a message in 2003 expressing their support for Bishop Robinson's confirmation.

Louis Nemeth, a vestryman, or member of the church's lay administrative council, said the primary backers of the marriage protest were heterosexual parents with children in the church's day school, not gay members of the congregation.

"St. Thomas's is just a very inclusive parish," he said. "It's just part of who we are."

Some parishioners said they had met with officials from the diocese last year and received some quiet encouragement to "make some noise if they felt strongly about the issue" of same-sex marriages, according to Mark Branch, the church's senior warden.

Bishop Smith said he had been the host at dinners for gay and lesbian members of the clergy and their supporters in recent years, including one that was well attended by representatives from St. Thomas's. He said he considered St. Thomas's "a lively and engaged congregation, and that he advised guests who had concerns that they have "a right to address policy."

In November, the members of the vestry voted 10 to 1 to ask Father Ray to "treat same-sex couples and different-sex couples equally when it comes to marriage." They left it up to him about how to proceed.

Father Ray, 62, a divorced father of three, said he struggled over the decision. "The generation I grew up in, you didn't talk about these things," he said. "I grew up in Texas thinking I was the only gay person I knew." He said his children and the congregation had been accepting when he and his wife separated in 1986, a year after they arrived in New Haven. Congregants now speak comfortably about his 17-year relationship with another man.

Dorothy Asch, a longtime parishioner, said she supported equal treatment for all those in committed relationships, but was not sure "whether it should be called marriage."

"At 83, you have to think a little longer about it," she said.

Father Ray said he, too, had had difficulty at first "using the marriage word." But, he said, same-sex couples were deprived of many benefits available to married people, and "if the church takes the lead, it will help the civil issue."

"We're pushing the envelope," he said, but "our feeling is any change requires somebody making waves."

Pentecostal Episcopalians?

Working on my doctoral project has sent with it a tidal wave of memories which have been keeping me company for the past couple of months. They refuse to leave.

I'm preparing for a major funeral on Friday - one of the dear members of my congregation died early Monday morning. I shall miss Eleanor greatly. She would have been 83 in April, but she was a very young spirit. Very active. Lived alone in the house where she and her beloved 'Andy' raised their children. Andy died in 2000.

She drove her car everywhere - especially to attend her grandchildren's activities and events which she enjoyed enormously and retold with great pride. Faithfully attended Wednesday morning Eucharist and, of course, was in church every Sunday. There at 9:45 AM. Like clockwork. Fourth pew on the right. Sat with her 'buds."

Eleanor was diagnosed with two brain tumors shortly after Christmas. About two weeks ago, after the diagnosis and radiation at the hospital, she had been sent to a hospice care center. She caught a virus that was going round the facility - affecting staff and patients alike. Because her immune system was weakened by the radiation, she was unable to fight it off. The blessing came in a surprisingly swift death. The only comfort we have been able to gain is that she did not have to endure the indignities she would have had to face had the cancer progressed.

In the custom and tradition of The Book of Common Prayer, her funeral will be a reflection and celebration of the dignity and worth of her humanity and the uniqueness of her life, as well as our belief in the resurrection.

Perhaps because of that, I've been thinking of some of the funerals I attended when I used to "live and move and have my being" on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic in Baltimore, when another kind of virus weakened immune systems and death came with equally surprising swiftness. The affected population was much younger, of course. Death came like an early frost.

A great deal of my work was with LGBT people but there were lots and lots of 'straight' people, too. I worked with people of diverse ethnic and racial origins whose religious origins and/or faith practices were in all of the mainline churches - Roman Catholic, Lutherans, Methodist, Presbyterians, Baptism, Episcopalians, non-denominational Evangelicals, Charismatics and Pentecostals.

In the Pentecostal Churches of color, wakes and funerals were an amazing event - filled with deeply felt and expressed emotion and faith unheard of in the Episcopal Church.

Not so much anymore. Well, and that's my point.

In the rise of the 'evangelical' wave which is sweeping all of the mainline religions - even in the Roman Catholic church - we're seeing a tangental rise of a 'charismatic' expression of that faith. Some of it is beginning to sound like some of what I heard in the Pentecostal churches back in Baltimore.

I'm hearing similar strains from the 'far Right' in The Episcopal Church. Lots of talk about "Jeeesssuuus" and "The Holy Ghost." If you listen closly enough, you can hear whispers about "The Rapture" which seemed at home in the store-front churches, but singularly out of place in the great stone edifices of The Episcopal Church. This is combined with an insistence on conformity to specific sets of behavior - and not just gender roles or sexual behavior. There's an insistence on dress, language and even dietary purity. It seems to me a Levitical sect gone modern and dressed up in fair linens and fine liturgical vestments.

Which leads the little corner of my brain that is interested in the sociology of religion to wonder: Are we seeing the rise of a neo-Pentecostalism in The Episcopal Church?

Not that this is necessarily bad or good. I'm just curious, is all.

What do you think?

Oh, and of your mercy and kindness, please pray for the repose of the soul of our dear Eleanor.

May she rest in peace and rise in glory (Hmmm . . . I think we may have borrowed that phrase from out Pentecostal friends).

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Love, Sex and the Bible, Part Deux

I've promised myself one hour to do this. I'm up to my armpits in pastoral work, but I've also promised to respond to the thoughtful and intelligent and uncomfortable comments posted below at the essay, "For the Bible Tells Me So." You've all be brave and wonderful and you deserve a response from me.

I'm going to go way out on a limb and say this first: As one who has been a devout practitioner of faithful, covenanted monogamy for the past 33 years, I think that it may well be true that monogamy is a social construct (clearly not a biblical one) which has its greatest value in supporting patriarchy.

As a spiritual discipline, however, it is not without merit. Indeed, I have found that in my own life, it has enormous merit.

Am I 'aping the cultural stigmata" (that was Tillich, I think. No footnotes here. I'm done with my doctoral paper)?

I would no doubt, be found guilty by a jury of my peers.

Here's the thing: As a priest, I am duty-bound to uphold the 'doctrine and discipline' - as well as the Constitution and Canons - of The Episcopal Church. The majority of the Anglican Communion not withstanding (well, the men in purple, anyway), the 'standard' which is upheld in The Episcopal Church is pretty clear.

Institutional memory being as short and as flawed as it is, I am going to remind everyone that in the year 2000 General Convention, meeting in Denver, passed Resolution D039 which said,

Resolved, That the members of the 73rd General Convention intend for this Church to provide a safe and just structure in which all can utilize their gifts and creative energies for mission; and be it further

Resolved, That we acknowledge that while the issues of human sexuality are not yet resolved, there are currently couples in the Body of Christ and in this Church who are living in marriage and couples in the Body of Christ and in this Church who are living in other life-long committed relationships; and be it further

Resolved, That we expect such relationships will be characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God; and be it further

Resolved, That we denounce promiscuity, exploitation, and abusiveness in the relationships of any of our members; and be it further

Resolved, That this Church intends to hold all its members accountable to these values, and will provide for them the prayerful support, encouragement, and pastoral care necessary to live faithfully by them; and be it further

Resolved, That we acknowledge that some, acting in good conscience, who disagree with the traditional teaching of the Church on human sexuality, will act in contradiction to that position; and be it further

Resolved, That in continuity with previous actions of the General Convention of this Church, and in response to the call for dialogue by the Lambeth Conference, we affirm that those on various sides of controversial issues have a place in the Church, and we reaffirm the imperative to promote conversation between persons of differing experiences and perspectives, while acknowledging the Church's teaching on the sanctity of marriage.

I voted for that resolution in 2000. I'd vote for it again. In fact, I think we ought to pay much closer attention to what we've done in the past so we don't have to reinvent the ecclesiastical wheel.

Does that mean that I do not think there is a place in the church for those who practice polyandry or who are promiscuous? By no means! Hell, if there's a place for a sinner like me, there's a place for absolutely everybody!

Yes, I even mean homophobes. Yup, bigots, too.

Ah, but you can't mean even the pains in the rump neo-Puritan, orthodox, conservative evangelical reasserters?

Yup, them too.

When I say 'absolutely everybody' I mean ABSOLUTELY everybody.

They don't, of course. And therein lies the problem. But that's another issue for another discussion.

Bottom line: I think the challenge to the status quo - even my comfortable niche in it - is critical to the integrity of the church. Jesus challenged the status quo of the Temple in his day. I think the Body of Christ should do no less in our own day and time. And, Jesus welcomed absolutely everyone. So should those of us who purport to follow His Way.

But, that's not the question I asked originally. My original question was whether or not Jesus or Moses had anything to say about celibacy outside of marriage. The answer is they did not. Neither did they have anything to say about abortion.

One old sour-pus wag reminded me that neither said anything about incest, either. You know, somethings are so obviously heinous, with such an instinctive sense of wrong, especially when it involves (as it most often does) an adult who is perpetrating this act against a child, they don't even need mention.

It's like rape - of any kind. Rape is not an act of sex. It's an act of violence that involves a sexual act. Incest and rape are abuses of power. Period. End of sentence. To try and equate them with the love shared by LGBT people doesn't even deserve the dignity of a response.

Besides, this is not about playing a game of 'theological gotcha' - which the neo-Puritans take such delight in.

While I'm at it, I want to mention that I got more than my fair share of hate mail on this. I just want to say to the anonymous coward who wrote that hateful post (which I obviously did not publish) who asked if my beautiful daughter, who many of you know died three years ago, didn't died of AIDS:

You may call yourself a Christian but you clearly don't know anything about Jesus. May God have mercy on your soul - and, as a tribute to the eternal mystery which is our God, S/he no doubt does.

I'm deeply grateful for the discussion - painfully honest and frank - which has gone on here. I don't profess to understand polyandry. I don't judge it. I just don't understand it, is all. That probably says more about the lack of my moral imagination than it does about the person who is able to love and be intimate with more than one person.

I've got another question - well, two, actually - to ask which I hope will also stir some imagination and provoke further intelligent conversation. I want to continue the discussion about polyandry.

I'm not asking for a refutation of the position. I know that most of you who read this blog probably share most of what I've written. I'm asking you - and I'll do the same thing - to use your religious imagination.

I'm asking you to consider what has been written in the comment section of the posting "For the Bible Tells Me So" and imagine that 'Firenel' is right. I'm asking you to consider that these three Christian people have come before the church, asking for a blessing on the covenant they have made. (Note: Not a blessing on their relationship(s). A blessing on their covenant to be faithful to each other. Yes. All three of them. One covenant between the three.)

Here are my questions:

First: How would you, the church, respond pastorally to their request?

Second, if you were a priest in the present climate of the church, might your response be any different?

I look forward to your remarks.

Monday, January 21, 2008

RCRC Statement on the 35th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

Statement of Reverend Carlton W. Veazey, President and CEO of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, on the 35th Anniversary of the Landmark Decision

January 21, 2008

Washington, DC--On the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, our country is on the brink of abandoning its commitment that abortion will be safe, legal, and available if and when it is needed. The U.S. Supreme Court's Gonzales v. Carhartopinion and the "fetal personhood" initiatives and outright abortion bans being promoted in at least 17 states are sounding the death knell for the landmark constitutional decision.

At this point of crisis, compassionate clergy leadership is needed to awaken the silent majority of Americans who are pro-choice. Americans know that abortion is a profoundly personal decision and that women who struggle with that decision deserve respect. They know there is no one right or wrong decision about abortion and that criminalizing abortion will drive women to dangerous illegal providers but will not eliminate the procedure. They deserve to know that the majority of their religious communities support abortion being legal and available to all women, including those who are poor and need government assistance.

Government is failing in its responsibility to protect women's health, lives and dignity. As in the dark days before Roe v. Wade, when abortion was illegal, dangerous and deadly, clergy and religious leaders are taking up that sacred responsibility. Hundreds of clergy and religious leaders in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice are speaking out to protect reproductive health decisions based on individual faith and conscience, and our voices will continue to grow stronger.

The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice is the national interfaith coalition of religious and religiously affiliated organizations from 15 faith traditions that support reproductive choice on religious and moral grounds. Founded in 1973, RCRC programs and services include Clergy for Choice, Seminarians for Choice, The National Black Church Initiative, La Iniciativa Latino, Spiritual Youth for Reproductive Freedom, All Options Clergy Counseling, faith-based sexuality education, and public policy, advocacy and education.

Contact: Marjorie Signer, 202-628-7700 ext 12, cell 202-341-5559,

RCRC Black Church Initiative

La Iniciativa Latina

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Remembering the Rev'd Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Many people in this country will have Monday as a holiday to honor the memory of the Rev'd Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Some will spend it without a moment of thought to the man or his mission.

If you do nothing else today to remember Dr. King, take the next three minutes to listen to what Dr. King had to say about War and offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the life, the brilliance, the witness of the life of this man of God.

He said, "Justice is indivisible. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. "

Pray God send us another voice of one crying in the wilderness, that we may one day study war no more.

It's the Epiphany Season: LIGHTEN UP!

“Here is the Lamb of God” John 1:29-42
January 20, 2008 – Epiphany II – The Episcopal Church of St. Paul
(the Rev’d) Elizabeth Kaeton

The gospel for this morning is another manifestation of the glory of God in Christ Jesus. That is what this Epiphany Season is all about – how the Light of God has come into a dark and broken world.

This morning’s gospel begins with John the Baptist’s witness to the incarnation. When he sees Jesus coming toward him, he declares, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” It ends with Andrew and Simon Peter being called to serve as disciples. Jesus is named by Andrew as “Messiah” and Jesus renames Peter ‘Cephas’ which means ‘Rock.’

This is very serious stuff, this business of being a disciple of Jesus who is the manifestation of God’s glory. Everything changes – the way you view the world, the work you do, the way you seem to other people, why, even your name changes.

I chuckle now as I think back on my own Confirmation process. I was a very devout Roman Catholic child who was caught up in the fantastic stories of the early Christian martyrs. I think the martyr stories are especially attractive to pre-teens who are consumed with the changes happening to their external and internal bodies. I even took on a ‘Confirmation name’ – something I understand RC kids still do – Stephanie, in honor of St. Stephen, the first martyr.

The nuns used to read us a story about someone being martyred for their faith as a prelude to just about every single event in the church. Whether it was a class or a bus trip to an amusement park or before the start of a league game or a dance, the nuns would huddle us together and tell us an horrific story in graphic detail about the martyrdom of some poor soul to the lions or some other torture.

The telling of the story would end with some pious nun saying sternly, “So, children, now you know how much your faith is worth – how Jesus suffered and died for your sins and how people suffered and died for the faith you have today.

(No one ever just ‘died’ they ‘suffered AND died’. That was such a key element to the story we children would often chime in ‘suffered AND died.’)

The nuns would smile and continue, “Don’t squander the rich heritage of your faith. So, children, there’ll be no foul language or inappropriate behavior on the dance floor. Remember,” sister would say, “Jesus died for your sins, and these martyrs died for your faith. The least you can do is behave like proper ladies and gentlemen.” Wait! Pepetua was tortured, suffered AND died so I could be a proper lady?

Jeesh! Those nuns were a barrel of laughs! Jesus may have been the Light of the world, but they weren’t about to let any of that light shine on them - or, us, for that matter. They were drop-dead serious about being disciples of Jesus. Perhaps this is why I have grown up thinking that one of the best manifestations of the Light of God is humor. Actually, I think there is rich humor at the cross roads of the sacred and the profane.

I’ve never told this story before from the pulpit, but these dark days require the extra courage of humor. I’ve always maintained that laugher in the face of any evil is the best statement of faith. I think this story illustrates my point about humor as an epiphany or manifestation of the glory of God – and how the way in which we view Jesus influences how we see Hm.

(NOTE: The readers of this blog will recognize this story from a few days ago. I decided to take a risk and preach it here in Rebublicanville, where things have been pretty grim these days.)

I was hired as Chaplain at the University of Lowell (MA) in January, ordained Deacon in April and priest in October. Until I was priested, I had to rely on the generosity of local clergy for reserved sacrament in order to provide weekly Eucharist for my students. No one at that time (1986) and in that Diocese was using bread - only wafers.

A friend had been ordained to the priesthood and her family had made the communion bread. There were three consecrated loaves left over and she asked me if I wanted to take them home, which I gladly accepted.My beloved Ms. Conroy, still in recovery from her RC days, was troubled. "That's a lot of bread," she remarked. "How are you going to store it?"

"Oh," I said, "I'll just put it in the freezer." She was horrified. Completely horrified. "YOU CAN'T PUT JESUS IN THE FREEZER" she yelled.

Well, here's one of the first rules of a committed relationship: When your beloved lets you know what will disturb her, especially at the crossroads of the sacred and the profane, you have an absolute obligation to use it to torment her. So, I did.

I brought the consecrated bread home, wrapped it carefully (and in fact lovingly) in several layers of aluminum foil, and put it in the freezer. The next morning, while she was sitting at the kitchen table, drinking her coffee, I opened the refrigerator, and in a high, squeaky voices said, "Barbara. It's me. Jesus. I'm right here behind the chicken and in between the packages of frozen broccoli and peas. Help me. I'm so cold."

Ms. Conroy, thoroughly disgusted, got up, took her coffee and snarled at me as she left the room.The next morning, I did the same thing, much to her disgust. When she left the room she called over her shoulder, "You're going to rot in hell for that."

On the third morning, I did it again, but this time I bumped the torment up a notch. I did my impersonation of a very cold Jesus, ending with, "Barbara, help me. Save me." I opened the freezer door wide and yelled into it, "If you are really the savior, save yourself!"

At which point, Ms. Conroy slapped her hand on the table, got up and took the two loaves of consecrated bread out of the freezer and tucked them under her arm. "Where are you going with that?" I asked.

"To feed the birds!" she replied, adding over her shoulder as she walked out of the room, "I'd rather they ate of the real presence than to have Our Lord go through this!"

We laugh about it now, but she didn't talk to me for a week after that. Yes, we still torment each other. Regularly. Perhaps that's one of the reasons we'll be celebrating our 33rd Anniversary this year.

Jesus is the Light of the world. Yes, that’s a serious vocation – especially in these dark days when the word ‘recession’ hangs heavy in the air. And, feeling the fullness of His presence at the Eucharistic banquet is a holy and sacred moment. We, too, believe that Jesus is fully present in the elements of the Eucharist. That being said, I fear we can take our faith so seriously as to contribute to and, in fact, become part of the darkness.

Jesus is the Light of the world. Jesus is the Lamb of God. But, do remember that Jesus is that-same self ‘Joy to the World’ that we sang just a few weeks ago at Christmas. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had the week from hell this week. Even so, if there is no joy in your life in Christ, something is seriously missing.

It’s the Season of the Epiphany.

So, everybody (myself included): LIGHTEN UP.