Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Banned by GaffeCon

I trust you all have seen the silly shenanigans from GaffeCon's conference pilgrimage in Jerusalem. The idiots issued something like a "wanted poster" for people who aren't even in the Middle East ... much less threatening to barge in among the GaffeProne dyspeptics. And the GaffeProne have instructed The Faithful to break out into song if any of those Undesirables are spotted before the armed security guards carry them out.

Several members of the mainstream media are in Jerusalem covering the conference pilgrimage, and they've already described it as a shambles, joke, and farce.

This tour de force from the Gaffers is exactly as if our local vestry or Integrity chapter here in Missouri were to post "wanted posters," declaring that folks like Akinola, Jensen, Duncan, or Iker were to be banned from our wee meeting. How laughable! As if those blokes would try to come to our meeting.
The Gaffers have tried to puff up their meeting as a sensational, world-shaking meeting. How very disappointed they must be that nobody even cares enough to go there and protest. It is so sad when a self-appointed martyr doesn't get a chance to be martyred. The poor dears. .... I'm reminded that many of these guys are the ones who are afraid to attend the Lambeth Conference because they might be "assaulted" by placard-waving queers. LOL!

Father Christian Troll has done well in his commentary:

It’s no secret that I love a Banning. Excluding, shaming and casting out sinners is one of the great joys of being a Bible-believing Christian. Yet few things are more distressing for a Teacher of my standing than to see a good thing spoiled by incompetence. Which, I regret to say, is exactly the only way to describe how Big Pete and his Pilgrims have mishandled the important task of preventing undesirables from raining on their Jerusalem parade.
Shunning someone from the Fellowship of the Righteous is supposed to leave them humiliated and rejected in an amusing foretaste of their eternal torture at the hands of Our Loving Father. It’s something to be feared; under no circumstances do you want people asking to be Banned.
Clearly Big Pete and his Pilgrims have forgotten the cardinal rule of Banning: Only ever pick on the sensitive, weak or vulnerable. Anyone else will simply laugh at you, which makes you look ridiculous.
He is right. Throngs of people who are neither senstive, weak, nor vulnerable are now flocking to the "I Want to Be Banned from GafCon" site. Many of us are jealous of the notoriety that the GaffeProne have given to the GAFCON Eight. We are overwhelmed by jealousy. Why didn't the GaffeProne ban Katharine Jefferts Schori, or even Father Jake, Mark Harris, and Elizabeth Kaeton?
Inquiring minds want to know. How did the GaffeProne select these particular eight, when so many of us are yearning to be Banned by Gafcon?
If you, too, want to be banned from GAFCon, go join the group here.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Once Again

I wrote back in December about my delight in being part of the altar party for my friend and fellow parishioner in his ordination to the diaconate. Thanks be to God! I got the call a couple of weeks ago: The Cathedral wants me again to serve as subdeacon tomorrow when Marshall and three others are ordained to the priesthood.

All this week, I've been counting down the days and hours, trying to prepare myself. I've been studying the ordination liturgy, trying to prepare to serve at the Cathedral, which has a different customary than my parish.

So I'll be offline tomorrow. I hope I may get photographs this time.

Edit (06/21/08): I didn't get any photos, but the service was marvelous. Follow-on remarks are in the comments below.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

TEC Pravda

Several of our Worthy Opponents have criticized the Episcopal Church's official news organs. For several months, I defended them. But now I have had it with TEC's "news organs."

I used to rely on ENS and epiScope as sources of real, hard-hitting journalism. But no more. I don't know what has happened at 815 in the last few weeks. But I no longer count on them for any real news. I can't put my finger on it, but it seems they have quit trying to report news and are simply offering propaganda.

So I have now eliminated those two former "news sources" from my sidebar over on the right.

I wonder whether they have gotten rid of the real journalists on their staff or something. Of course, I don't know. But the decline in actual journalism is noticeable. Maybe they have taken a new direction, and maybe they no longer care to be journalists.

ENS and epiScope have become propagandists. They are no longer on my list of reliable sources of news. For a while there, they were doing real journalism. But they seem to have quit being journalists and become simply the "party organ" lately.

I am disappointed.

I'll go back to relying on the Episcopal Café, Father Jake, and Thinking Anglicans to learn what the heck is actually happening in the Episcopal Church. I no longer trust ENS and its puppets.

I thought our church could be and do better than the ACN and AAC. Apparently not.


While I was writing this, Andrew Plus was writing something quite similar. But his is more articulate than mine. Go there and read.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Oh, Sweet Schadenfreude

The Lead reports that Archbishop Akinola has been denied entry into Jordan, where the GaffeProne conference was to begin. They report:

This is an embarrassing beginning to the GAFCON conference of conservative Anglicans who now plan to leave Jordan for Jerusalem three days early.
The GAFCON planners have issued a press release saying that the archbishop flew into Tel Aviv, but was not allowed to cross into Jordan because "previously granted permission was deemed insufficient." The Jordanians apparently told Akinola that he needed clearances beyond those afforded by his diplomatic passport.
Readers of the Café will remember that Akinola, a fierce critic of Islam, has refused to answer questions about his knowledge of, or involvement in, the retributive massacre of some 700 Muslim in the town of Yelwa in northern Nigeria in 2004.
It may be that Akinola has encouraged terrorism. Without a doubt, Akinola is a leading "bad guy" on the human rights front, as even the Bush administration and the United Nations have decried his support for draconian measures against those who might advocate gay rights in Nigeria.

So … Jordan has found "something amiss" and won't let him into the meeting where some of us believe he was expecting coronation as the Leader of the Really Truly Orthodox Bible-Believing Twig of the Anglican CommunionTM. Wouldn't it be nice if the U.S. government would take similar actions to this hate-spewing man?

No … That's too much to hope.

For now, I'll just enjoy the Jordanian action.

Ruth Gledhill also has the story, including this:

So the 100 or so who are at the small, behind-closed-doors meeting in Amman are packing their bags and tomorrow morning, getting on a bus to Jerusalem. The plan originally was not to go to the Holy Land until Sunday.
Sources at the conference tell me that the Nigerian delegation landed in Tel Aviv and went to the northern crossing point. Archbishop Akinola was travelling on his diplomatic passport. After being questioned for four hours, he was turned back, although the rest of the Nigerian delegation was allowed in. He got his passport back, and apparently was told that they needed a particular clearance on a diplomatic passport which he did not possess.
Wouldn't you love to know what motivated that four-hour period of questioning?

Incidentally, remember that language on the GAFCON registration pages said the conference organizers wouldn't be liable for any financial losses? Well … now that the whole gang is going to hustle off to Jerusalem earlier than planned (in hopes, I suppose, that Akinola can get into Israel), I wonder how many prepaid travel costs will be forfeited. … I'm just wondering …

Gledhill also quotes a report from the infamous David Virtue as saying:
Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola was not given a visa to Jordan, even though he holds a diplomatic passport, thus throwing the leaders of the consultation into dismay because of the important role he was to play at this assembly of orthodox Anglicans.
Now, because these are Really Truly Orthodox Bible-Believing AnglicansTM, I suspect they are decamping to Jerusalem without any worldly goods, carrying only the clothes on their backs.

Yes, I'm guilty of schadenfreude. The Anglican Bishop is Jerusalem and the primate in the Middle East begged Akinola and GAFCON not to bring their hate into that troubled region, but the Really Truly Orthodox Bible-Believing Twig of the Anglican CommunionTM would not be dissuaded.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Other folks (especially Mark Harris) have tracked the news and written intelligently about the GAFCON meeting that's about to begin. While looking for something else, I happened to find this image at Opinionated Catholic. [Link alert, in response to Grandmère Mimi's comment below: Friends of this blog will not enjoy Opinionated Catholic's blog. But it seemed only fair to give credit for the image.]

Works for me.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

An Aging Kitty

When I got home Friday night, I finally, vividly realized something that's been happening every morning when I get up and every evening when I come home from work.

Many of you have been reading here for a long time. So you'll remember the day I came home and found my cat Scotty going into a diabetic coma. (I had no idea he was diabetic.) He survived, to the delight and astonishment of my vet. Since then he's been up and down.

Recently, it seems it's mostly down. I continue to administer insulin every morning and evening, but in the past month my glucose tests suggest the insulin is doing almost nothing to control his glucose levels.

I've moved my laptop now so that I can blog and Web-surf from the sofa, with Scotty nestled up against my side.

Usually, when I get up in the morning or come into the house after work, I will find Scotty standing on the bathroom vanity, waiting for a drink of "living water." He has trained me that my first job every morning and evening is to turn the bathroom faucet onto a trickle, so that he can drink this fresh water. (I think he learned this from Shug, as he never did it before her death.)

I am growing more and more worried about Scotty's glucose levels. If he's staying in the 400s, I expect bad stuff is happening to his organs. But the vet is at the end of her ropes, with no more ideas about the root cause. Of course, being 17 years old may be the root cause for Scotty.

When I came home Friday, Scotty did not meet me at the door. Nor was he on the vanity, waiting for his living water. I put down my things, poured myself a drink, and then began looking for him, room by room. Fearing the worst.

Thanks be to God, I finally found him under the bed. We'd had thunderstorms in the morning, and Scotty is terrified by them. So I guess he "went for cover."

I don't know what it was Friday evening. Something just told me that it might be the day when he died. This brought me face-to-face with the fact that, one of these evenings or mornings, he's probably not going to come to me. I'm probably going to find him somewhere, having slipped quietly away.

To some of you, this will probably sound like a hideous segue. But I'm pretty sure that my concern for Scotty and my heightened sensitivity to mortality is related to Caminante's news that Naomi died Thursday. When I read that news, I was more grief-stricken than I expected. I cried and cried with the sadness of a life ended too soon.

I hate death. I hate it with a never-ending hate.
"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
And so I do.

Bush and Benedict

I Don't Get It!

It was all over the news Friday that Pope Benedict received President George Bush at the Vatican. Bush, in his ever-elegant style, apparently greeted the Pope with a jovial, "You're looking good!" About like one Good Ol' Boy would greet another down at the local watering-hole.

The Pope shared Precious Moments with the President at the grotto where the former says his daily prayers. How special.

By contrast, this Pope will only meet secretly with the Dalai Lama (in 2006) or not at all (in 2007).

Help me understand this. The Pope is very happy to meet with Bush, the mass murderer who has sent thousands of Americans to their death in an unjust war, who has supervised the death of tens of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan civilians, who officially supports torture, who put more people to death in Texas than any other governor.

But the Pope is happy to receive Bush at the Vatican and to visit him at the White House. They're chums, don't ya know.

But for the Pope to meet with the peaceful Dalai Lama would just be too risky or inconvenient.

I can't help but envision how Pope Benedict would receive a request to meet with our Presiding Bishop. I expect he wouldn't even acknowledge the request. You'll remember how Rowan had to knuckle-scrape his way into the presence of the Holy Father.

Who the hell is this man??

Friday, June 13, 2008

Deer Hunting with Jesus

What am I reading now that I've finished Acts of Faith? Joe Bageant's Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War. I'm about one-third of the way through the book.

At least a year before Senator Obama made his remark about bitter Americans who cling to guns and God, Bageant observed the same thing, and he writes about it sympathetically and persuasively here.

If you're a Starbuck's latte-swilling, bleeding-heart liberal who is mystified that the working class in this country continues to vote against their own self-interest, why they kept Bush in office for four more years of shredding the Constitution, sending more people to die in Iraq and Afghanistan, destroying the "middle class" in this formerly strong nation … then read this book.

Here are a couple of snippets from the reviews on the Amazon page:

Bageant mixes a reporter's keen analysis, a storyteller's color, and a native son's love of his roots in this absorbing dissection of America's working poor. Returning to his hometown of Winchester, Virginia, after 30 years of life among the elite journalistic class, Bageant sought to answer the question of why the working poor vote for Republicans in apparent opposition to their own interests. On a broader level, he examines issues of economic class distinctions as he drills below the middle-class claims of his hometown. The reality is that two of five residents do not have high-school diplomas and virtually everyone over 50 has serious health problems in a town—and nation—with poor and failing schools and health systems. Still clinging to illusions of personal responsibility and the vain hope of someday achieving wealth, Winchester's residents fall deeper into debt, farther behind in ambitions beyond working in the local factory—if they're lucky—and, along with their children, subject to the de facto draft of economic conscription. Through the lives of his friends and family, Bageant explores the importance of hunting, religion, and redneck pride in what he describes as the "American hologram." A wise, tender, and acerbic look at life among America's working poor. [From ALA's Booklist]
This fine book sheds a devastating light on Bush & Co.'s notorious 'base,' i.e. America's white working class, whose members have been ravaged by the very party that purports to take their side. Meanwhile, the left has largely turned them out, or even laughed at their predicament. Of their degraded state—and, therefore, ours—Joe Bageant writes like an avenging angel. [From Mark Crispin Miller, author of Fooled Again: The Real Case for Election Reform]
It's not only biting in its insights, but sometimes funny as all get-out. I'll confess to wicked laughter when I read "the Republicans are the party of the dumb and [the] callous rich" (pg. 27) and "Sometimes I think the GOP emits a special pheromone that attracts fools and money" (pg. 28).

But be forewarned. His biting comments aren't all directed at Bush, Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh, and the "Christian right." He has plenty of anger for the liberal elitists who look down on those who have bad teeth, who never read books, and who love their guns and their NASCAR races. He talks quite directly and critically about our failure to engage the working class in this country.
Go to your local independent bookstore and buy this book.

I'd love to hear from any of you who have read it.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Guidance from the Right

"God Just Wants You to Have a Rotten Life"

As I listen to people from across the aisle urging us to just "give it up to Jesus" and remain celibate for our entire lives, I often get very cross with them. And I recall the fine essay I posted here. I am truly mystified that those folks don't understand that gay/lesbian attraction and covenants are exactly the same as their heterosexual ones.

This week, one of the Deputies on the HoBD posted that gay/lesbian Christians face no more hurdle than he does because of his "orientation" to be a fan of the Chicago Cubs. It's been a long time since I've read anything as stupid and clueless on the HoBD.

So this one's for Dan and the clueless ones like him, in honor of his deep pastoral sensitivity. I can easily imagine him in the role of this priest.

I have to post this silly thing. Otherwise, I'll be flinging invectives or real objects.

[Addendum 6/14/08: Our friend Jeffri asks that I add a "splort alert" to this video. Put down your beverages and protect your keyboard before you click on this link.]

P.S. The Word is not in them. They never knew Him.

Acts of Faith

I've just finished reading Philip Caputo's Acts of Faith. Read this book! No doubt, it was more powerful for me because of the time I spent in southern Sudan just after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed.

On almost every page, I was reminded of what it was like for this American to be in Sudan. Such a different world. Such temptations, such passion.

And the story gripped me, as it reminded me how easy it is to draw a line in the sand, then move that line and draw another line in the sand.

You can read some reviews here.

Read this book!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Obama's VP

I've been thinking about whom Obama should select as his vice-presidential candidate. Go for demographics? Balance the rural/urban divide? North vs. South? Go for a woman? Balance the ideologies? So many options …

But it came to me tonight. There is one candidate with whom he shares two major features.

It's the ears.

Obama/Kucinich in 2008.

MadPriest MIA

I expect that most of you who read here also read MadPriest's Of Course I Could Be Wrong, so you surely know he is off on vacation. His blog is closed.

If you are suffering withdrawal and want some laughs about church, the world, the universe, etc., direct your feet to Of Course I Could be On Vacation. That's where the MadOne's friends are hanging out while he's away.

Now … about his absence. Where in the world is he?

MadPriest claims he is attending the GaffeProne conference in Jerusalem. If anybody can knock some sense into Akinola, Jensen, Duncan, Minns, et al, then my money is on MadPriest.

But I'm also a little concerned about the timing. He fled without warning on Sunday. On Saturday, I received a message that I immediately forwarded to him:

In 2009 the government will start locking up all the mentally ill.
I started crying when I thought of you.
Run little buddy, run.
He left within 24 hours. Coincidence?

While we worry about these matters, visit Of Course I Could be On Vacation for lame jokes, news of the weird, lamentable puns, and the occasional sighting of the Blessed Virgin Mary. See you there.

Bon Mot

Last summer I marked this comment in a NY Times Book Review (July 15, pages 8-9) of two biographies:
Sanctimony and rigidity are the desperate weapons of the minority party.
I'll confess I find myself recalling that comment sometimes when I visit the blogs engaged in current issues in the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion.


I'm Back

I had a lovely evening and night yesterday -- great talk, marvelous visit. We stayed up 'til 2:30 this morning talking and talking, but I still managed to get to work on time today. So now I've opened the comments here again. Thanks for your patience.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Law and Order

I was among those who cheered when the California Supreme Court opened marriage for gay and lesbian citizens. In fact, I was jubilant. But, immediately, I also wondered what the Episcopal clergy and bishops in California would do. For our church is not bound by the actions of the state. We are bound to the actions of General Convention.

Let's face it: The canons and Prayer Book of our church seem to be pretty clear: The Episcopal Church has not yet authorized a liturgy/sacrament for marriage between two men or two women. I don't see how we can ignore those canons and rubrics, while holding the schismatics accountable for their violations of our polity.

This ol' lesbian had serious misgivings when All Saints/Pasadena promptly announced they would proceed with gay marriages. How can one parish stand against the canons and rubrics of our church? I don't get it.

I was worried that our California bishops might authorize gay/lesbian marriages before our whole church acts at GC09 ... as I truly believe they should and will. Our BCP currently enshrines the heterosexist definition of marriage. I think that's wrong, and I truly hope we will change it in Anaheim. I heartily welcome the call for our church to engage more deeply the question of what it means to be married and "in covenant." I hope it would lead us all to a deeper understanding of what is meant when we say, "I do." Meanwhile, if folks on "our side" violate our canons and polity without taking some disciplinary consequences, then I don't believe we have an honest leg to stand on when we deal with the schismatics. To state it more boldly: I don't think we can claim any integrity if we allow this double standard.

Mary Gray-Reeves, the
bishop of the diocese of El Camino Real, was the first to issue an official statement
this week. (Also published here.) She's laid out what seems to me a rather convoluted "just barely canonical" procedure whereby Episcopal clergy can bless same-sex marriages. (Isn't it interesting that one of the least "political" bishops was the first to announce this – instead of a higher-profile bishop like Bruno?) Not surprisingly, the folks over at StandFirm and T19 are livid. So are many of those commenting at the progressive blogs.

I'm happy about the California civil decision. But in the ecclesial realm, I think this sucks all around. We have many faithful gay and lesbian Episcopalians yearning to celebrate their marriages in the church they love. I want them to be able to do so. We have many people (including clergy) in California who want to move ahead. I do, too. But we are as bound by our canons and Prayer Book as are the schismatics.

So what's a good, conflicted liberal to do? I'll confess, this instinct appeals to me.

Maybe it's not right. But I sure do understand the impulse.

I'm reminded, too, of the Episcopal priest who has decided simply to omit the Nicene Creed from the liturgy. That is just wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I've never been in a parish that omitted the Creed. If I found one, I would have serious misgivings. Do I have questions about some parts of the Creed? Of course I do! Some of the mysteries articulated there are beyond my ken, so far. But I recognize it as what the Church believes and as the doctrines to which I assent and into which I wish to grow.

Some days, I do understand why the schismatics view us with alarm.

I expect to take some flak for these opinions. But I believe that we must have order, consistent order in this church of ours. If we discipline the schismatics who flout our canons and polity, then we ought also to discipline our friends who take a principled stand for what they understand as justice. Otherwise, we have mere anarchy.

Postscript: The day after I wrote this, StandFirm picked it up with a harangue, focusing on my use of the word "schismatic" in the penultimate paragraph. The comments went off on that direction.

Mencken on Democracy

Related to my somewhat cynical comments at this post, I was reminded of this quotation attributed to H.L. Mencken (with a hat-tip to my friend Martha Baker):

As democracy is perfected, the office of the president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.
Mind you, I hope that will not by the case in the fall of 2008. But the experience of 2000 and 2004 does not exactly make me optimistic.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Discernment Committee

Like many of you, I read (as a kibitzer) the HoBD listserv. I envy those folks their easy venue to "pick the brains" of their colleagues. I'm going to use my wee blog for a similar venture.

I am chairing the discernment committee for a man in our parish, whom I do believe has a vocation to the priesthood. Our diocese has a weeny little handbook for discernment committees. It is of paltry value, as far as I can tell. And the diocese recommends we all read Listening Hearts, which I have done. We had our first meeting two weeks ago, and our second meeting is tomorrow. The first went ok. Tomorrow's probably will, too. Both of these have been rather prefatory, laying the groundwork.

I find myself wanting really useful, practical guidance on how to structure the process and conduct the meetings of a discernment committee. I'm finding guidance on the meaning of it all, the goals of it all, but dang little about the mechanics of structuring meetings that well serve the seeker and the committee.

If any of you have experience in leading discernment committees, resources you could point me to, or general Wise Words about the organization of a committee and its meetings, I would appreciate receiving them.

And – just so you know – this isn't a difficult discernment. I suspect we're going to vote "yes." But I want to take full advantage of the process so that we can listen deeply to the candidate, and so that he has full advantage of hearing our voices and perspectives. I just don't think the diocesan handbook affords us all the richness that it might.

Yeah, I probably should have asked for this advice more than two weeks ago. But you know how I am.

More on Uganda

I was truly honored to receive this comment on my "Uganda News" post. It warrants more exposure up here on the "front page." The comment is from an Episcopal priest currently serving as a Kiva fellow in Kampala, Uganda.

Just listen.

She writes:

I've been in Uganda now for almost three months.

I saw this story as well, which was front page news in the daily paper. There was another difficult story about a week ago about a traditional healer named Lady Suzanna who avoided being admitted to hospital for meningitis because she knew the staff would discover she was transgendered (called transvestite in the article). Crowds of gawkers came to look at her. (I'm sorry I can't find a reference to this article online so I hope I have the details correct.)

And of course there was an article today reporting that Archbishop Orombi had stated that "pro-gay" bishops should apologize.

It seems that there is a story in the paper almost every day that belies the suggestion that homosexuality is a pernicious foreign curse while trying to make it so. I could go on and on but will try to be brief.

I bought a book here as part of my own listening process entitled "Same Gender Unions: A Critical Analysis" which is car-crash fascinating. The distance in perspective between myself and the authors of this book is so vast, I don't even know where to start. I did take some grain of hope in the sometimes suggested recognition that there actually ARE people who have same-sex orientation, that it's not just something people are making up, but that understanding comes and goes. Mostly it is viewed as a learned behavior (from Arab traders, boarding schools, parental abuse, etc. The old story), an addiction, and a plot.

One of the unspoken stories of the Uganda Martyrs, whose feast was Tuesday, was that the Kabaka reportedly often used his pages for sex and part of their martyrdom was based on their refusal to have sex with him. It seems to me this gets all mangled and mixed in with their faith and with a local understanding that homosexual relationships are not based on love, trust and mutual respect. Certainly, the newspaper articles on the topic didn't seem to identify these differences.

What I sense in my admittedly brief stay is a society trying desperately to keep the lid on. Things are happening fast because too much is available from the West in the form of popular culture to pretend homosexuality doesn't exist. It is not going to work, but I'm afraid--let's be honest, I KNOW a lot of people are going to get hurt while the fearful try to nail that box shut.

There's much I would like to write in response. I'll settle for this one. I believe that the best thing we can do to preserve the Anglican Communion is to keep meeting and keep nurturing partnerships. Several of you know that I spent a couple of weeks with the Episcopalians in southern Sudan in 2006. I saw and heard similar attitudes there -- always offered gently. The Sudanese I met think we are dead wrong about our tolerance of homosexuality. But they love us, and they embraced me. I truly believe more face-to-face mission and ministry is what we must do if we are to keep this Anglican Communion together.

Friday, June 06, 2008

... and that's the truth

If you know me in real life, you know that this really should be my avatar.


It's true. It's so sadly, regrettably true.

H/T to Eileen the Episcopalifem for catching this one I had missed.

I just loves me some ICanHasCheezburger!

Vignettes of Violence

For some reason, I've been thinking about this lately.

On those rare occasions when I'm watching television, and the broadcast is interrupted by that deadly screen and voiceover announcing a "Special Report," I find my breath stops and my heart skips a beat.

For I'm of that generation that heard too many of these special reports, especially in the late 1960s. The assassination of President Kennedy. "We interrupt this broadcast to bring you a special report." The assassination of Dr. King. "We interrupt this broadcast to bring you a special report." The assassination of Robert Kennedy. "We interrupt this broadcast to bring you a special report." American citizens bludgeoned in the streets of Chicago during the Democratic National Convention. "We interrupt this broadcast to bring you a special report." The massacre of students at Kent State University. "We interrupt this broadcast to bring you a special report."

This morning, NPR carried an interview with Bill Eppridge, the Life photographer assigned to Senator Kennedy, who captured this iconic photograph.

It all came back to me. The horror, the grief, the shock we felt during those days.

Nowadays, those "big TV moments" seem to be reserved for the latest celebrity report or something. There is no "special report" for the thousands dead in Iraq. No special report for the assault on our freedoms. No … all that happens in a slow trickle, not an assault.

And so almost nobody airs their grief or outrage in public. Almost nobody stages a demonstration ... aside from my esteemed colleague Mark Harris and a few others.

The nightly news carried stories and images of the war in Vietnam, and a nation was mobilized. But we don't get much footage or stories about Iraq, do we? For the most part, we don't see the torture committed in our name. Have all our journalists been spayed, neutered, and declawed? Or have we all taken to our blogs instead of taking to the streets?

I dunno. Maybe we've lost our ability to be shocked. Maybe we've all become impotent in the face of today's horrors and atrocities.

Hope is on the Way

I have offered a few notes from the political realm in the past week. I have not been enthusiastic about any of the candidates . . . until now. MadPriest has scooped all the other news media in the world, with the news that Grandmère Mimi will be Obama's running mate. At last – after spending this whole primary season in "ho-hum" mode – I am finally excited. I don't believe Obama or Clinton stand for anything in particular ... but I trust Grandmère Mimi.

On to November!

Uganda News

This story certainly won't find its way onto the Cat's Got Their Tongue site, since (a) it's news and (b) it wasn't written by the Episcopal Church.

I note it here. I am especially moved by the story I just now posted. While we're at it, I am reminded of those African primates who say there are no gay/lesbian people in Africa, that it's a Western depravity. And, of course, we remember the Gambian leader's warning that he will behead any gay/lesbian people found within his country.

With the strides we have made in the U.S., it is all too easy to forget that people are being jailed and even killed in other countries.

Reading this story, I am reminded that in most of the world, HIV/AIDS is spreading primarily from "heterosexual" men. In Africa and America, women are dying because they get AIDS from their "straight" partner. Um-hmmmm ...

But in Uganda, gay/lesbian people are arrested simply for urging attention to HIV/AIDS.

Read this story. Then ask yourself, your deputies, and your bishop: Exactly what kind of "listening process" is Uganda engaging???

Lord, have mercy.

From allAfrica.com

LGBT Arrested at International HIV/AIDS Meeting
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (New York)
5 June 2008
Posted to the web 5 June 2008

Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) today condemned the arrests of three Ugandan LGBT activists and called for their immediate and unconditional release. The three -- Onziema Patience, (an FTM transgender, 28), Valentine Kalende (female, age 27) and Auf (male, age 26) -- were arrested yesterday morning by the Uganda Police Force at the 2008 HIV/AIDS Implementers' Meeting currently taking place in Kampala, Uganda.

Along with other LGBT and HIV and AIDS activists, they were peacefully protesting statements made by a Ugandan government official that no funds would be directed toward HIV programs targeting men who have sex with men. SMUG and IGLHRC have fears for the safety of the three activists.

On 2 May, 2008, Kihumuro Apuuli, Director General of the Uganda AIDS Commission, stated that, "gays are one of the drivers of HIV in Uganda, but because of meagre resources we cannot direct our programmes at them at this time." The SMUG activists staged a peaceful protest at the HIV Implementers meeting to protest the Minister's statements and gross neglect on the part of the Ugandan government in responding to a growing HIV epidemic among the country's LGBT community. They were arrested and detained at the Jinja Road Police Station immediately after taking the stage at the meeting, distributing leaflets and holding up small placards demanding attention to HIV vulnerability among LGBT.

"Today I realized how dangerous it is for us LGBTI people to express our constitutional rights," said Frank Mugisha, Co-Chairperson of SMUG. "I am worried about my comrades who are in police custody."

According to a recent report by the University of Nairobi and the Population Council, gay men in neighboring Kenya have a sero prevalence rate of 26%. Twenty-six years since the beginning of the epidemic, Uganda hasn't implemented a single program to prevent transmission of HIV among men who have sex with men in the East African nation.

"The remarks made by the head of the AIDS Commission were very disturbing to members of the LGBT community," said Kasha Jacqueline, Chairperson of Freedom and Roam Uganda, a lesbian organization in Uganda. "If they want us to die, let them ask themselves if they wish themselves the same. Excluding us is just going to make the situation worse."

The HIV Implementer's Meeting is an annual event described as an opportunity for HIV program implementers to share lessons learned and best practices in the scale-up of HIV/AIDS programs. It is co-sponsored by the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), UNAIDS, the World Bank, the Global Fund, UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (GNP+). IGLHRC is also requesting that the co-sponsors of the Implementers' Meeting contact the Ugandan Government to demand the release of these activists.

"Gay men and lesbians are not 'drivers of disease'," said Paula Ettelbrick, Executive Director of IGLHRC. "Homophobia drives HIV. Silence drives HIV."

In November 2004, the Ugandan government fined a local broadcaster, Radio Simba for airing a program that discussed anti-gay discrimination and the need for HIV/AIDS services for lesbians and gay men. The government claimed that Radio Simba had violated federal law promoting broadcasting that is contrary to "public morality."

Copyright © 2008 International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Listening and Dying

I wasn't quite sure whether to laugh or cry when I saw this brilliant item by MadPriest.

But then, reading the blog of a long-lost friend who would probably hate me for returning to the church … there was no doubt. Tears are the appropriate response. I have her to thank for highlighting this news story.

Two lesbians in India commit suicide together.

Here is the text of the story:

A lesbian couple who committed suicide by setting themselves on fire have been put to rest in a joint cremation this week.
Christy Jayanthi Malar (38) and Rukmani (40) set themselves ablaze after their families took objection to their "unnatural relationship."
It has been reported that the two women had suffered years of torment from their families who objected to the closeness of the couple.
Although being in a relationship since their school days the women both had husbands.
This is common in India where there huge social and legal pressures to live a heterosexual lifestyle.
The alarm was raised when smoke was seen coming from Mrs Malar's home. When neighbours went in they found the bodies of the two women held in an embrace.
It is thought that the women committed suicide after an argument that Rukmani had with her relatives.
Police told reporters that the two doused themselves in kerosene before setting themselves alight.
In an ironic twist, the families who tried to separate them agreed for the bodies to be laid to rest in a joint cremation.
A senior police told The Times of India newspaper:
"We can't say the relatives pushed the women into suicide.
"They might have verbally abused them, but that was to bring them back to normal life."
Homosexual relations are legally still a crime in India under an old British era statute dating from 1860 called Section 377, though the government no longer seeks to prosecute adults engaging in private consensual homosexual acts.
In recent years, the campaign to decriminalise homosexuality has strengthened.
My long-last friend adds this: "According to a letter drafted by several Delhi-based activist groups, which would be circulated among progressive and like-minded people across Tamil Nadu, eight lesbian suicides have taken place in the state from the beginning of 2008 alone. In Kerala, in the past ten years, more then 35 lesbian couples are said to have killed themselves."

We in America are excited about the California Supreme Court decision. We have the freedom to seek greater civil rights.

Reading stories like this, I grow ill.

Meanwhile, certain "Global South" primates say they have no gay or lesbian people. And the Lambeth "listening process" goes on and on and on and on. While people die.

My heart breaks.

The Obligatory Fishing Photo

I think it is written somewhere that all people who keep both cats and aquariums are required to post a picture of the two together. So here's my first one with the "new" cat. She's quite intrigued by both aquariums, but this is the first decent photo I've been able to get.

Of course, you can't see any fish in the aquarium, as they had all gone into hiding as she snuffled and pawed around the tank.

She seems to be settling in fairly well.

Tomorrow will mark four weeks since she came. I was warned she would probably need a month to settle in.

As I've said, she came into our household named Mocha. But that name didn't really seem to suit her. One evening this week, it just slipped out as I called her Jamocha. I think it's a better match. "Mocha" sounds too "precious." Jamocha has a little more attitude to it. We'll see whether this one sticks. ... Just FYI, I think cats reveal their names rather than being named.

She now lets me pick her up (sometimes). At least she doesn't seem to confuse me with an axe murderer. She has lots of "cattitude." Everything in the house is, apparently, a cat toy. Pens. Cords. And she still loves snuggling with Scotty. Sometimes he likes it; sometimes not. I think I'm coming to like her. I have told the vet that I will keep her, so another homeless waif is now off the streets.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Homily Frustration

Many Sundays, I want to share with you all some reflections from our rector's homily. But she refuses to share copies of the homily, because – as she puts it – the homily is a prayer prayed by preacher and congregation together. It's about the speaking and the listening. And, she explains, the text from which she preaches isn't "polished" enough for distribution.

I think I can understand that. Though it frustrates me, too.

Her sermons are so dense and poetic that I wish I had a printed copy to ponder through the week. But that is not to be, it seems.

So today I took pen and notepad into church with me. I thought surely I could capture some of the highlights. And I thought I did, at the time. But now I look at my notes, and I realize they just don't hang together. They don't begin to convey the message I heard this morning.

Dangitall! We have a really fine preacher and priest. You'll just have to take my word for it that she knocked my socks off yet again today. More to the point, she touched my soul … as she so often does.

But I wish I had something more than my scribbled notes to refer back to.

Foray into Politics

I'm going to take one more bite of this apple. In his Open Letter to Barack Obama, RMJ has hit on just the concerns I have about Senator Obama.

I assume you all know that, under extreme pressure from Faux News and all the right wing, Senator Obama has today renounced his membership in Trinity UCC. How very sad.

RMJ gives us this quote from one commentator:

Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Trinity are community building blocks that the right wing has turned into bricks to be thrown at presidential candidate Obama from now until the general election ends in November—and perhaps beyond.

So in an attempt to turn manufactured right-wing ammo into blanks, Obama has completely separated himself from his minister and his church. What worries me is this: Can we expect a President Obama to cave in to the whims and will of the right on policies and issues he knows are important, if this nation is to move forward in a progressive and compassionate manner? Can we expect him to genuflect to negative reports by an uninformed, misinformed or ill-willed media? Is the candidate of change willing to go-along in a willy-nilly get-along fashion?
Exactly. The man was taking heat about his church membership. And he caved. He couldn't even defend his church membership.

So how will he respond, if he is elected President, when all the right-wing pundits attack him for even more serious positions and about issues that matter to all of us?

Cave on me once, shame on you. . . .

And that's why this young, untested man worries me.

It's all well and good to be attractive and articulate and inspiring. But what will he do when the heat is on? I hope this weekend's "fold" isn't a harbinger of his future.