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

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Miracle of 'Yes'

The Wedding (Photo credit: Maria Evans)
A Sermon preached at the Celebration and Blessing of the Marriage of
Judith Elizabeth Upham and Lauren Anne Gough
St. Peter's Episcopal Church, Lewes, DE 
May 30, 2015
Well, I’m not sure but I think I know a little of what Lauren and Judy are feeling right now. 

You may also be asking yourselves: What are these two women “of a certain age,” – both Episcopal priests, one from Texas and one from Oklahoma, now both living in Ft. Worth –  what in heavens name are these two doing smack dab in the middle of their own marriage ceremony in the first church in the first town in the first state of Delaware?  

I can tell you what I’m feeling: I’m wondering how in the heck did I end up here? In this pulpit? Preaching to this august collection of Episcopalians about why we’re all here? 

I must be out of my mind! Then, again, that’s probably why Lauren asked me to preach. 

If I were really smart, I’d read that amazing passage on marriage by Madeline L’Engle again, and say something simple and profound like . . .
“LOVE, love, love, love, love, love, love LOVE.” 
 . . . .and then, I’d shut my mouth, turn my back around and sit my sassy self down. 

But, you see, I’ve always been just a girl who can’t say no. Well, I could, of course. Say no. I've said it quite a lot, actually, and more often than not, I've regretted it. But I’ve always looked to Mary, the Theotokos, as my role model. She said ‘yes’ when she had every good reason to say ‘no’. And, look what happened to her and the rest of the world when she did. 

As my friend Ed Bacon once said “Aren’t we all so glad that Mary said ‘yes’ to God before waiting for the church to develop the Doctrine of the Incarnation?”

I’ve discovered that, when you say ‘yes’ even though there’s a good reason to say no, miracles happen. God works through you and you are filled with grace and spirit and give birth to something new. Something different. Something that challenges the status quo – especially your own. 

The Reception at Peckerwood, Lewes, DE
Scripture is filled with stories of people who said yes to God – especially when there were many good reasons to say no – and then, everything changes. 

The story of Ruth and Naomi is but one of those stories. It was crazy – out of her mind! – for Ruth to even think of staying with her mother-in-law, Naomi. Her future couldn’t have looked more dim. 

Her sister-in-law Orpah was very wise to turn her back around and go home, perhaps to find another man to marry. 

But, Ruth follows her heart – which sometimes happens when you are out of your mind – and says yes. And, she became part of the messianic line of David, thus weaving the strands of risk and redemption into the earthly heritage and legacy of Jesus.

Even the Gospel story is a wonderful illustration of the miracles that happen when you say yes – even in a half-hearted, grumpy kind of way. 

We all know the story. Jesus and his mother are at a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee and Mary discovers that they’ve run out of wine. She tells Jesus and Jesus gives her some real sass and attitude. 

It’s a good thing he’s the son of God because if I had spoken to my mother like that – called her ‘woman’?!?! - well, let’s just say it would not have been pretty. 

And Mary doesn’t exactly say yes, but she doesn’t exactly say no. She turns to the servants and says, “Do whatever he tells you.” And, neither does Jesus exactly say yes or no, but with that word from his mother, the pressure, apparently, is off and Jesus turns six jars of water into wine. 

Sometimes, it’s an enormous risk to hold your tongue and let the person you love do whatever it is they need to do. 

Sometimes, it’s an enormous risk to speak the truth from your heart and set something into motion, the outcome of which you cannot know and cannot control. 

So, let me give you an example of that from one of the sacred stories of my own married life with my beloved of almost 39 years. I’m going to have to go into the Way-Way-Back Machine for this sacred story – ten years into our covenanted relationship. 

It was a time of my very first call. Indeed, it was also the time when I first met Mark Harris, who was, at the time, Grand Poobah of All College Chaplains and I was Chaplain at the University of Lowell (MA). In the strange way God often works, I was called to be Chaplain in January – right in the midst of taking GOEs, in fact – then ordained Deacon in April and priest in October. 

For the six months until I was priested, I had to rely on the generosity of local clergy for reserved sacrament in order to provide weekly home Eucharist and spaghetti suppers 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, to which I, of course, said an enthusiastic and appreciative “YES”. 

My beloved Ms. Conroy, still in recovery from her Roman Catholic 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 stopped-dead-in-her-tracks horrified. "YOU CAN'T PUT JESUS IN THE FREEZER" she thundered. 

So, of course, that’s exactly when I realized that I had no other choice but to put Jesus in the freezer.

Here's one of the first rules of a successful committed relationship. Pay attention, Lauren and Judy: 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 as an instrument of playful torment. 

Lauren and Judy at the reception
It’s the Irish way. Actually, the Portuguese do it, as well. Come to think of it, so do the Italians and people from Brooklyn and Denver and LA and . . . .

Actually, I’m not unconvinced that there was a bit of torment afoot between Jesus and his Mother back at that wedding feast. 

He says, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come,” 

And that’s exactly the moment when Mary knew he would do it. Which is why I think she said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you to do.”

Married couples are loathed to admit this but if you push at them, some will be brave enough to risk telling you the truth. Playful torment is part of the glue of a good relationship. It’s true. If you don’t playfully torment each other every once in a while, marriages get very, very stale.

So, I brought the consecrated bread home, wrapped it carefully (and in fact lovingly) in several layers of aluminum foil, and put it all in the freezer. 

And it was evening and it was morning, the first day. 

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. 

And it was evening and it was morning, the second day. 

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." Just think of it as the modern, more caustic equivalent of Mary saying to the servants: “Do whatever he tells you.”

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 two loaves of consecrated bread out of the freezer and tucked them under each of her arms. 

"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 birds ate of the Real Presence than to have Our Lord go through this!" 

And, with that, she stormed out of the room.

When I opened the freezer door, I noticed that there was still one loaf of bread in the freezer. I had three. She took two. That was more than enough to get me through. 

Playful torment is a two way street. And, it’s important to ease the tension of the enormous responsibility of vocation.

Now, that was 29 years ago. And, here we are. Still. About to celebrate 39 years together in October. 

Why? Well, besides the importance of playfully tormenting each other every now and again, I think it’s because we’ve always said yes, even when there are lots of good reasons to say no. 

Thirty-nine years ago we were daft to think we could be together. And, in many ways, we were. Daft. Indeed, we really are still crazy after all these years.

At left Nancy and Bob Ihloff and Mark Harris
How did we make it? The same way you two have these past 40 years you’ve been together. The same way you two will. 

Because marriage - in its heart, at its very core - is not about the government and it’s not about the church. 

It’s about God. 

It’s about the fact that God has called you to be together in a relationship that requires an enormous risk – at all times and in most places, but specially in the place you have chosen to call home, where you will challenge the status quo – for yourselves and your community. 

Even on a good day, marriage requires mutual sacrifice and presence and witness.

We have a word for that in the church. We call it vocation. 

This covenant you have come to have blessed in the church is a vocation. You have been called together by God to do something together neither one of you could do by yourselves – to bring forth new life in a barren land.

We have a word for that in the church and the state. We call that marriage. 

Marriage - at its very core, in its heart - is a vocation. 

It is the calling together of two people who take the risk of love, of saying yes when there are good reasons to say no, and create new life, a new way of being.

You have been called together by God on this day to gather up this amazing assortment of people from various times in your life who have witnessed the vocation of your relationship deepen and grow over the years. 

And they will be blessed in the doing and be a blessing and a witness of the miracle of 'yes'.

You have been called by God to be blessed so that you might continue to be a blessing to each other and your family and friends and the world and be a witness to the Truth of Incarnate Love.

You have been called together by God to take this risk of saying yes to marriage here in Delaware so that you might go back to Ft. Worth, Texas and be a witness to the miracle of saying ‘yes’ to each other when there are many, many reasons to say ‘no’. 

To quote Madeline L’Engle:  
But ultimately there comes a moment when a decision must be made. Ultimately two people who love each other must ask themselves how much they hope for as their love grows and deepens, and how much risk they are willing to take.…It is indeed a fearful gamble.…Because it is the nature of love to create, a marriage itself is something which has to be created, so that, together we become a new creature.”
So, off we go, then. To take a risk together and say yes to God. 

Not to worry. You’re not alone. All of the people in this church are here to support you. 

All of the people who have gone on before, who have been witnesses of God’s peace and justice and sing God’s praises in the heavenly chorus are here to support you in what you are about to do.

So, what in heaven’s name to we think we’re doing here? What is this all about? 

Well, I don’t know about you, but for me: 
This is about friendship. 

This is about community. 

This is about vocation. 

This is about the truth that love is, as Madeline L’Engle says “not possession but participation”. 

The Chocolate Avocado Wedding Cake
This is about commitment.  This is about vows that make a sacred covenant which we bless. 

This is about being blessed so that you may be a blessing. 

This is about risk. It is, as Madeline L'Engle says, "a fearful gamble".

This is about going back home and being a witness to the miracle of new life that happens whenever you say yes even when there are many reasons to say no.
Now, I said all of these things to you so that I could say this one simple, profound thing, and you would know, and you would understand: 

LOVE, love, love, love, love, love, love LOVE.

Can someone in the church give me an Amen? 

Amen. (And now I’ll shut up, turn my back around and go sit my sassy self down).

Friday, May 22, 2015

Infinity and Beyond

 NB: This was a meditation I recently gave at the beginning of our IDT (Interdisciplinary Team) Meeting a few weeks ago.

I want to talk a little bit this morning about something I believe.

I believe that what we believe informs what we do.

I want to begin to do that by telling you a story of a patient I admitted long, long ago in another galaxy far, far away. I'll call her "Martha" a 71 year old woman with End Stage COPD. Her husband - I'll call him "Joe" - was, at the time, 81 years old.

When I heard that “Martha” and “Joe” had just celebrated their 51st wedding anniversary, I congratulated them and then asked, “Tell me a love story. Tell me how you met.”

A lovely man with a wonderful sparkle in his eyes, “Joe” looked at his wife and they exchanged a lovely, knowing smile. Suddenly, they were both teenagers.

She looked down at her lap, shyly and he giggled a bit before he said, “You know that cartoon character? What's his name? The guy in the space suit? Oh, yeah, Buzz Lightyear. Remember him? Remember how he always says, 'To infinity and beyond'? Well, he got that from us!”

He laughed and slapped his knee and said, “That's what we said to each other after I asked her to marry me and she said yes."

"'I love you to the moon and back. To infinity and beyond!'”

And then, he looked at his wife, and she looked at him, and for a moment, they had a moment. There was electricity in the air. I heard it softly crackle. So did their two daughters who were sitting by me.

They both smiled broadly as one leaned into me and said, softly, “Ain't they somethin'?”

We had a wonderful visit and, after I said a prayer, “Joe” said he would walk me to the door. It was all of ten feet from the bed but I've learned that there's nothing to be done with a man of that generation than to let him be the gentleman he was brought up to be.

We got out on the porch and “Joe” took hold of my elbow and said, “So, do you believe in 'infinity and beyond'?”

I'm a good Hospice Chaplain. I know Medicare regulations state that I am not to 'proselytize'. Unless pressed, I'm not to state what I believe. Rather, I am to support the patient and family's belief system.

So, I smiled gently and said, “I think 'infinity and beyond' is a wonderful concept that must bring you great comfort and hope.”

I was just mentally patting myself on the back for such a good, innocuous response when he pressed again on my elbow, looked me square in the eye and said, “No, I asked you if YOU believe in 'infinity and beyond.”

I considered myself pressed into an answer.

“If you are asking if I believe in eternal life, my answer would be 'yes'. I do. And, personally, if I didn't, I don't think I could do this work.”

“Joe” sighed deeply and you could see the weight drop from his shoulders. “You know, I've always said I believed that. For 51 years, I've said I believe that. But now . . . you know . . . now that the end (cough). . . now that . ..  the end . . . is near . . . . "

He cleared his throat and wiped the tears from his eyes. "Now . . . I'm not sure. I mean, I need to believe that . . . she needs to believe that . . .  WE need to believe that, if we're going to get through the next few days and weeks, and . . . Oh, God, might it be possible? . . . the next few months."

I held his hands in my hand, looked him square in the eye and said, "I believe anything is possible. And, everything is possible. Things I couldn't even ask for or imagine. My faith teaches me that 'life is changed, not ended'. Science teaches that, too. 'Matter can neither be created nor destroyed.' I learned that in the 6th grade, I think."

Joe looked up at me, his eyes brightened and he said, excitement in his voice, "That's the first law of Thermodynamics! Huh!" he said as he looked away and then looked back at me, his face beaming broadly, "I just never heard it connected to faith."

He giggled a bit and said, "That's quite a sucker punch to atheists."

"Well," I smiled at him, "I can't prove anything, you know? I mean, if I were to make this argument in a court of law, I'd probably lose. Badly. Perry Mason would be shaking his head."

"But, that's not faith!" Joe said. "Faith is not just based on facts. It's what you choose to believe!"

"Yes, of course," I said. "And, I hope you continue to chose to believe in 'infinity and beyond'. Because you're right. It will help you get through this last part of your earthly journey together. Before one of you goes on ahead. Until you meet again."

"Beyond infinity," he said.

"Where love lives," I said.

"To the moon and back," he said.

"Right, because life is changed, not ended."

"And, matter can neither be created nor destroyed."

Now, I told you all that story to say this: You have heard me say that, of the three Hospice agencies I've worked for over the years, you all are the best Hospice professionals I've ever had the privilege to work with. You are all smart and dedicated and compassionate. I'm so proud to say I work with you. And, you know me well enough by now to know that I don't blow smoke."

"So, here's what I've come to know. Here's what you all have taught me:

I have come to know that you can not do this work of Hospice - this labor of love - without a belief system."

"Most of you are Christians, but there is a great variety of expressions of that belief in Christianity, right in this room. That includes those of you who were baptized but are really not yet sure what to make of that, how to live into or  out of what that means for you."

"Some of you are Buddhist. Others are secular humanists. Still others may be atheists."

"Some of you are combinations of all of that variety of belief."

"Others may belief only one thing: That this life is good. That there is nothing after this life. And, because of that, you fight like hell for the living. You honor that belief by making damn sure that every minute of your patients' lives are without pain or distress."

My point is not what you believe. My point is that you believe.

And, what you believe informs how you behave. More importantly, your belief informs how you do your job. How you behave as a Hospice professional, in whatever capacity.

Otherwise, without that belief system, I believe you could not do this job. At least, not to the standard of excellence with which I see you carry it out, day in and day out.

So, whatever you believe, be clear about it.

Embrace it.

Know that your belief will carry you over the difficult days, the challenging days, the days when you're out in the middle of Nowhere, Sussex County, Delaware, and you're scratching your head and saying to yourself,

"And, just why is it that I'm doing this work? Aren't there at least five other things I could be doing? And earning way more money doing it?"

Just remind yourself of what you believe, what you treasure, what you hold dear.

And, if you like, you can sum that all up by picking up your chin, holding your arm straight out, opening your mouth and saying,

"To infinity and beyond!"

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Suffer The Little Children

 Honest to Ethel!

I can't imagine you haven't heard about the brouhaha coming out of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida concerning the "postponement" of the baptism of Jack, the adopted son of two fathers.

You can find the perspective of Eric and Rich McCaffery, Jack's parents, here in The Blade.

You can find the perspective of Greg Brewer, the bishop, here in the Orlando Sentinel.

And, the story from the Dean? Anthony Clark? The one who canceled postponed equivocated needed more time , said "It's not never, just not now"?

He's been away all week at a conference.

The story has struck such a deep cord in Christians in general and Episcopalians in particular that Faithful America ("Love thy neighbor. No exceptions.") has started a petition which began late Monday afternoon with a goal of 15,000 signatures and will, I have no doubt, surpass its new goal of 25,000 before the end of Friday.

The issue has stirred up debate on every conceivable tangential issue, from the age old controversy of infant vs adult baptism, to the relatively new controversy of whether or not LGBT people should be able to adopt children.

Everyone is pretty clear that baptism ought never be denied anyone. Well, everyone except those Uber-Calvinists who think the efficacy of the sacrament is dependent upon the state of grace - or lack there of - of the parents.

The real problem, you see, is that The Episcopal Church has gotten "soft" (as opposed to, ahem, "standing firm") on "membership requirements."

Note: If you do click on the above link and have the stomach to watch and listen to the entire video, you will notice that, while his logic is absolutely pristine, it is completely devoid of any compassion. It's as narrow a legalistic interpretation of scripture as you are apt to find. If you look closely, you will also notice not a drop of the milk of human kindness on the man's lips. 

According to the Uber-Calvinist position, if the Dean had been doing his job, he would never have admitted the boys fathers as "members in good standing" of The Cathedral.

Problem solved.

Unless, of course, they repented of their "sin" and lived separately.

I suspect they'd also have to walk ten miles backward, barefoot, covered in sackcloth and ashes, calling out every ten feet, "I am a worm and no man."

But, I digress.

Well, maybe just a little.

As often happens in church, the 'shame and blame' game is in high gear. It's the Dean's fault. It's the Bishop's fault. No, it's the fault of the "deep pocket" members of the Cathedral congregation who think they can buy whatever they want - or get rid of what they don't want.

No, this never would have happened without the "militant progressive LGBT community" who, like the immature, adolescent brats they are, always "want more".

The truth is that the Diocese of Central Florida has been highly toxic to LGBT people for years. The previous bishop, John Howe, was a particularly virulent homophobic influence in that diocese.

Which was not a real stretch for him in that particular geographical area.

With the exceptions of a few pockets of tolerance and acceptance - especially the Diocese of Southeast Florida where Bishop Leo Frade has created a climate of acceptance - the State of Florida has been noted for being home to almost as many intolerant knuckleheads and right wingnuts as in any of the other states which Louie (Crew) Clay describes as being "Behind the Cotton Curtain".

It's bad enough to deny (or, postpone "not never, just not now") baptism to a child, and even to deny the baptism because the parents are two gay men, but to do so in the Diocese of Central Florida which is known, at best, to be "intolerant" of LGBT people, is to create a theological hurricane in the church which thought it was heading into an endless summer of justice.

If people had gotten complacent about the Supreme Court making Marriage Equality the law of the land just before The Episcopal Church changed the pronouns of the marriage canons, well, this was a pretty cold slap in the face. 

My best hope which I share with many, many other LGBT people and our allies, is that this 'El Nino' of hot baptismal water will provide the opportunity for a real 'climate change' in the church.

It's going to take a great deal of work, getting rid of the toxins of intolerance and pollutants of prejudice, but this baptism could not only provide a means of grace and hope for this child and his parents and family, but it just might transform hearts of stone into hearts of flesh.

Here's my suggestion for that climate change in the Diocese of Central Florida - indeed, in The Episcopal Church: Before on more baptism is allowed in any church by any priest or bishop anywhere, everyone has to wash each other's feet.

You know, just the way Jesus did with his disciples, saying:  
Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (John 13:14-17)
Nothing like a little dose of humility to bring an end to the Climate of Arrogance.

That same night, after he washed their feet, Jesus said to his disciples:
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13:34)
I think a good way to understand what that means is on your knees, washing someone's feet.

Then, we also might understand what Jesus meant when he said, "Suffer the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 19:14. Luke 18:16)

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Where are the women?

The nominees for Presiding Bishop were announced yesterday.

 The nominees are:
Le sigh.

Okay, so yes. There are some good, strong candidates in that list. And, yes, okay, the point is not the gender of the person but the qualifications.

As Susan Russell wrote on the FaceBook page of The Episcopal Women's Caucus: 
The nominee pool is bishops diocesan with at least 5 years of tenure and the only woman with that standing -- Mary Gray-Reeves -- didn't stand for election. The list is not an indictment of the search process -- it's an indictment of a churchwide process of undervaluing and under-deploying the gifts of women in senior leadership and an indication of how deeply systemic sexism continues to challenge us.
the Rt. Rev'd Thomas Breidenthal
Which is why I'm sighing.  There has been a real dearth of women elected bishops anywhere. We are seeing the result of that in the nominations for Presiding Bishop. 

We have not only not made progress, we have not kept up with the progress we once made. 

As women bishops retire, we are not reelecting them. 

Indeed, make no mistake: We are going backward.

With the exception of the one African American male, this list of older, straight, established men is a glaring reminder of that fact.

So, where are the women?

I have - as have many in The Episcopal Women's Caucus membership - spoken to several women about putting their names forward for election to the episcopacy. The responses have been overwhelmingly negative based on a variety of negative issues. 

Here's a brief summary:

(1) When we say "bishop"we really don't know what the word means, much less what we want.

The position of bishop as currently defined is more CEO than spiritual leader. Indeed, with the exception of a notable few, there are not many dioceses willing to live into the tension of what it means to be a "Spiritual" person who is a "Leader." 

the Rt. Rev'd Michael Curry
Admittedly, that's not an easy combination to attain or maintain. 

Try this:  Entertain an exercise of "free association" and put those two words, "Spiritual" and "Leader" in two columns on a sheet of paper. In each column, write down the first words that come to mind, first "Spiritual" and then "Leader". 

I'm betting that by the fourth or fifth round, you will see such a conflicting set of definitions as to wonder whether or not the term "Spiritual Leader" is an oxymoron. 

You know. Like, "jumbo shrimp". 

What does it mean to be bishop in a post modern world which is still doing battle with ancient evils like sexism, racism, slavery, government and political corruption, greed, and poverty? 

Indeed, what does it mean to be a Christian in the Third Millennium in a wildly diverse global village which holds pluriform religious beliefs and truths? 

What kind of Christian leadership is required in our current reality and desired future at the local, diocesan, national and international level?

(2) The election process reveals our ambivalence about women in leadership.

The election process - intentionally or unintentionally - often sets up two women nominees who split the "woman" vote and the white, straight guy gets elected. Meanwhile, search committees pat themselves on the back saying, "But, we nominated TWO women!!" 

I should note that, in those places where women have been elected, it's because the women who are of the laity and ordained have caucused and developed a strategy for election.

The other part of the election process - intentionally or unintentionally - sometimes sets up a woman and a person of color who also split the vote and the white, straight guy gets elected.

the Rt. Rev'd Ian Douglas
Don't believe me? Go look over the last few episcopal elections.

(3) When women are nominated, it's often the most conservative women who get the nod. 

Here's the truth: The church is, basically, a not-for-prophet organization. We don't elect prophets to be our leaders. Not any more. Gone are the days of John Hines and Jack Spong. 

But, a woman who is a truth-teller? With a real vision for the church that does not involve "speaking eloquently" while keeping things pretty much the same? As a bishop? 

Not. Going. To. Happen.

Someone once said, "Prophets don't get paychecks." That was nevermore true these days.

Or, as they say in the South, "Heavens! You don't want to scare the horses!" Especially when the horses are already nervous about whether or not they are going to get their next bale of hay. You definitely want to keep the "nags" out of this. Unless, of course, they are suffragans.

(4) Truth be told, many women I've spoken with are not at all interested in being bishop. 

I know many, many women who are priests who act like bishops and talk like bishops and have all the "gifts and graces" to be bishop and seem genuinely called to be bishops but they are unwilling to put on a purple shirt and deal with all the non-relational crap that the office seems to call for these days. 

One woman said to me, "I know it's said that when all the bishops lay hands on the head of someone who is being ordained, they are really removing the spine. That may be true, but, I think they are actually removing the soul."

the Rt. Rev'd Dabney Smith
Another example: I was consulting with two congregations recently - one white, one Hispanic - talking about merger. 

The white congregation thought their bishop was "a real leader, really helped to organize this diocese, has helped the diocese to make a real financial turn around." 

The Hispanic congregation made polite noises about the bishop until one woman said, almost above a whisper, "I don't know. I mean. Well. I just wonder. Do the man pray? I mean, do he know Jesus?"

Le sigh. 

Anyway, that's what I've heard from women around the church. This is what I've learned.

Unless and until we - and, I'm talking 'us' here, you and me, the baptized, laity and ordained - can re-imagine what it means to be bishop . . . . .

. . . . . as long as we call bishops to "talk" mission but allow them to maintain the status quo . . .

. . . . . who talk about being "nimble" but don't do anything to "nimblize" their own diocesan staff . . . 

. . . . . who talk about "sacrificial giving" but show no shred of evidence of that in their own lives - professional or personal . . . . .

. . . . . whose travel budget is more than the total budget of half the congregations in their diocese - or, who allow the building and maintenance costs of the diocesan offices to be more than the salaries of half their diocesan clergy . . . .

. . . . . who are deeply spiritual but not leaders;  or who are leaders but not spiritual. . . . 

. . . . . who know the joy the apostles once knew and are not afraid to express it and share it. . .

. . . . . who do not feed the hunger and thirst for justice with the Bread of Anxiety and the Wine of Complacency . . . . .

. . . . . who strive daily to model the unconditional love and acceptance of God in Christ Jesus for all - yes, ALL - of God's children of whatever color or gender or sort and manner of condition - and, oh yes, even Creed . . . . .

. . . . . as long as we continue to treat Bishops like ecclesiastical royalty and not as ways to see God more clearly and love God more dearly and follow Jesus more nearly . . . . .

 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . we're not going to get women - or too many Christian spiritual leaders - in the episcopacy. 

Le sigh.