Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pentecost Sermon ... At Last

Many of you have toiled and prayed with me through this month, when I was asked to preach at St. Matthew's. Many of you have offered solid advice about methods and sources, for which I am grateful. And many of you kept me in your prayers when I was paralyzed by fear and perfectionism. And you've been kind to me , especially over the last few days, when I was freakin' out on my FaceBook postings, ignoring too many e-mails and phone calls, and just generally being a PITA. Thank you for your kindness.

I promised to post the sermon, and here it is.

And here's the altar of the very lovely church where I preached today.

Obviously, I didn't provide hyperlinks in my sermon, but I've added them here for your reference.

You may recall that the vicar specifically asked me to "weave in" to the texts some focus on our diocesan relationship with Lui (in Sudan).

But here's the very best thing: For all my angst and drama about the prep work, I had an absolute blast in the pulpit today. I enjoyed preaching. I was animated and relaxed. God help me! I'm almost tempted to volunteer to preach again sometime ... somewhere. But I hope the lessons of the past month will spare me some of the drama.

Thanks, friends, for hanging with me over this crazy month!

Perhaps I'll make another blogpost where I reflect on sermon prep, learning the difference between Bible study/exegesis and preaching, having a printer die at the most unfortunate time, staying up 'til 5 a.m. writing a sermon, and very nearly oversleeping for the hour drive to this parish. But for now, just the sermon.

I'll appreciate your feedback.

Pentecost Sunday (Year B, 2009)
Lisa Fox
St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Mexico MO

Ezekiel 37:1-14
Psalm 104: 25-35,37
Acts 2:1-21
John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

Good morning.

I am a parishioner at Grace/Jefferson City. I spent about 12 days in the Diocese of Lui in 2006, and my life has not been the same since. I am also, now, the chair of the committee that coordinates the covenant relationship between the Dioceses of Missouri and Lui.

It is an honor and a pleasure to be here with you today. I am grateful to Christina for this invitation. And I know that you have some of that “Pentecost zeal” by the way you welcomed the Waters of Hope riders this week and by the in-gathering you will have today.

Today’s readings tell me about how we should and could be living our lives in line with the Holy Spirit. But I know I fall short. Do you ever wonder what it would mean if the Spirit really got a-hold of your life? I sure do!

In all today’s readings, we witness the unexpected. And we have the promise of God’s presence with us.

What shall we make of the prophet Ezekiel? With the Israelites scattered and beaten down, “the hand of God” takes Ezekiel into a valley full of dry bones. God asks him, “Mortal, can these bones live?” And Ezekiel answers. But did Ezekiel answer with vigor: “O Lord GOD, you know!” Or did he answer with skepticism and resignation, “O Lord GOD, you know …”? In either case, God did the unthinkable, the unimaginable: He knit the bones together, put sinew and flesh on them, and breathed life into them.

Some scholars have written that Ezekiel had looked on the valley of dry bones with his own eyes, but came to see with God’s eyes. He came to see that, indeed, these dry bones could live – despite all expectation.

I tell you. I have been to the “valley of dry bones.” When I went to our companion Diocese of Lui in 2006, I looked with my eyes, and I doubted that those dry bones could live. The shallow wells were running dry, the crops were failing, and the people were starving. I wondered whether those dry bones could live. I wondered if the people of Lui could be “resurrected.” But I came to see with God’s eyes -- the eyes of faith and Gospel hope and hard work. The Diocese of Lui is coming alive again. Thanks to parishes like yours, there is clean drinking water in several archdeaconries. More children are now going to school. There is the beginning of hope. Together we are helping those dry bones knit themselves together.

I remember the day I left Lui. Very many people said some version of this: “Please remember us. Do not forget us.” I was struck by how important it is to be remembered. More to the point: to be re-membered – to be bound together in one body, one in Christ. As we are re-membered, we in the Church grow stronger as we knit ourselves together like the dry bones in Ezekiel’s vision.

But, to do that, we have to see with God’s eyes. We have to embrace the marvelous hope that God and Christ and the Holy Spirit give us – the hope, the belief that these dry bones can live again.

Luke brings us back to the Pentecost day. After skulking back to their homes or inns on the night we call Good Friday, the disciples woke early on a Sunday morning to learn Jesus was alive again! They spent the next 40 days with Jesus – eating with him, visiting with him, continuing to learn from him. Imagine the joy those disciples must have felt!

Then – as suddenly as he came back to them after the resurrection – he left them again, in the Feast of the Ascension we marked 10 days ago. The early verses of the book of Acts tells us that in the midst of a conversation, Jesus ordered them to stay in Jerusalem and “wait there for the promise of the Father.” Then he said:
You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. [Acts 1:8-11]
What do you suppose the disciples did for the ten days between the Ascension and the Pentecost? They must have longed for Jesus, whom they had lost not just once – but (now) twice. They must have grieved the loss of their friend, their rabbi, the Messiah. They must have wondered: “If I didn’t “get it” about the crucifixion and resurrection … if I didn’t even recognize Jesus when I met him on the road to Emmaus and he walked with us …. If I could not recognize him then, how will I recognize this “Holy Spirit” he promises us?” [Thanks to blogger friend Fran for sparking this insight.]

More daunting still, Jesus left them with One Very Tall Order: To be his witnesses “in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” This to a bunch of guys who had never traveled more than a few days’ walk from their homes. Surely they wondered: How can we possibly carry this gospel – this good news – to “the ends of the earth??

So they hung out in Jerusalem and assembled on the day of Pentecost. Now, Pentecost was not invented by us Christians. It was a Jewish festival that occurred 50 days after Passover. It was one of three annual pilgrimage feasts when the entire household of Israel gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the goodness of God toward the nation. Every Jew was supposed to get to Jerusalem for the Pentecost festival!

And so the disciples were there. Still hanging around, awaiting further instructions, waiting for this “spirit of power” that Jesus had promised them.

Listen again to Luke’s account of what happened then:

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

There was no mistaking that a mighty power had come amongst them. This isn’t some sweet image of a gentle dove speaking softly. Here we have rushing winds, tongues of fire, and a bunch of guys suddenly able to speak in languages they didn’t even know! God wasn’t going to risk subtlety on them! ;-)

It was such a crazy scene that all the Jews came rushing in, to see what was going on. The Scripture tells us that “devout Jews from every nation under heaven” came to hear and see. And every one of them – regardless of nationality – heard the disciples speaking in their very own language.

Implausible? I think not. For this is very much like my experience among the Moru people in Lui. We spoke different languages. Sometimes, we had translators available; sometimes we did not. But the Christians in Lui greeted the Christians from Missouri with a warmth that I still find amazing. We were able to find community despite the language difference. To me, this felt like the “Kingdom of God among us.” … OK. It wasn’t “cloven tongues of fire.” But it was a bridge built between very different people.

You’ve read the Book of Acts. You know that, indeed, the apostles fanned out across the known world, preaching the Gospel to everyone – male and female, Jew and Gentile, slave and free.

What empowered them to do that? The Pentecost event. They experienced the presence of the risen Christ that day, and it transformed them.

The apostles who had been grieving and hiding … suddenly found a boldness that turned the world upside down.

A few moments ago, we heard the Gospel of John, with a part of the words Jesus spoke at the Last Supper – before he was crucified. You know how it is: When you know you are seeing someone for the last time – if you have the nerve – you try to tell them all the important things. You try to distill all your insights and hopes into a few words. I think that’s what Jesus was doing.

The disciples didn’t know that Jesus was about to be arrested and killed.

But here is Jesus, assuring them that he and the Father are going to send the Paraclete – the Advocate, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit – to be with them after Jesus is gone from the earth. He promises the Holy Spirit will come, and will be as real and present to them as Jesus was.

During my time in Lui, we visited all their convocations to listen to their concerns and hopes for our companion relationship. I vividly recall one man in Lui who said: “Many have come, and they said they would return, but they did not. But you have not forgotten us. You have come and returned again.”

The Evangelist John makes it clear that the Holy Spirit will be every bit as real and active in our world as Jesus was in the three decades of his life on earth.

Do we believe it?

Here are the things I wrestle with:

If we believe Scripture is true – and I do! – then God has given us much more power than most of us dare to claim or exercise in our day-to-day lives.

If we can see with the eyes of God – and not only our own jaded eyes – then (like Ezekiel) we can work alongside God to help bring a people “as good as dead” back to life. We can do it in Lui. We can do it in Mexico. We can do it in Jefferson City.

Can we do as the apostles did on that Pentecost day? Can we give ourselves wholly to God to testify – in whatever avenues we have – to the power and presence of Jesus Christ still present and alive to us? Do we dare give our whole selves to God’s use in proclaiming the Good News?

Can we take Jesus at his word – that he has sent the Holy Spirit to be his presence in our world, in our church, and in our individual lives? And can we dare to let that mighty, transforming rushing wind into our lives, our churches, and our world?

The whole arc of the Scriptures tells me that we have tremendous power, through Jesus Christ, if only we will claim it and live into it.


Friday, May 29, 2009

In the News

Now and then (but not often) the work I do in my day job makes the news. It happened when our conservation lab treated the Dred Scott documents about a decade ago. It's happened a few times over the past decade. Yesterday, I attended a news conference covered by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and a few television stations. I hear it aired on TV yesterday in St. Louis. Here's what the Post Dispatch ran today on page 2 of its front section:

St. Louis opens Civil War era court documents

ST. LOUIS — White-gloved archivists digging through brittle pages inside metal file drawers at the St. Louis circuit clerk's office have unlocked never-before told stories of looting, betrayal and slavery in the years following the Civil War.

Now these rare documents, unearthed during a 10-year preservation project, will be available to anyone who wants to read about how Missourians attempted to bring law and order after the chaos of war.

"This is a treasure trove of information, most of which has never been seen by historians," said Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, who oversees the state archives. "These cases are attempting to right the wrongs that people saw in those years."

More than 11,200 court cases, from 1866 to 1868, were preserved and archived with the help of a $330,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Experts with the Missouri State Archives spent the last decade sorting, cleaning and indexing the cases found in the vaults of the city's courts.

Carnahan and St. Louis Circuit Clerk Mariano Favazza showcased several of the cases during a news conference Wednesday. Most of the lawsuits were filed by people who were trying to recover money or property lost during the fighting.

"The second civil war was the one fought in the courts," Favazza said. "It was people looking to get even, to get their money back and get what they had lost."

The suits include a slave owner who sued a steamboat — as if it were a company — that transported his slave from Cape Girardeau to freedom in St. Louis. In another, general store owners sued Confederate officials after their shop in Iron County was looted.

One property owner, whose farm was confiscated by Union troops to use as a camp, also filed a lawsuit, claiming he didn't owe property tax for the four years it was in government hands.

Most of these documents, which were tri-folded and tied with red ribbon (hence the term "red tape"), sat untouched for decades in metal drawers. Many of the fragile papers were washed in a special bath, then dried flat before an archivist could read them, said Lisa Fox, the state's senior conservationist. "Some of these things were filthy," Fox said.

Favazza, who provided space for state archivists and access to the documents, said preserving history from these files is import for future generations. He expects people from around the world to use these documents for research, books and historical studies.

The documents eventually will be scanned and uploaded onto the state's Missouri Digital Heritage Initiative website. They should be available by 2011.

Thousands of historical documents, including the Dred Scott case and Lewis and Clark papers, already are available on the site. The site got 28 million hits last year, officials said.

"It's revolutionizing people's access to our rich history," Carnahan said.

The cases are available for review at the state archives' St. Louis office in the Globe-Democrat building at 710 North Tucker Boulevard, Room 213. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call 314-588-1746 or visit

Now here's the funny part, from my perspective. The people up front at the press conference were the Secretary of State and Mariano Favazza, the St.Louis Circuit Court Clerk. I've been working with Favazza for a decade now, and I'm quite fond of him; he's clearly thrilled with the work we are doing to make St. Louis (and Missouri) history available through microfilm and now online. For a decade, we have been holding news conferences, as we have reached one milestone or another or find one true gem (like the Dred Scott case) or released marvelous groups of archival documents -- such as a huge treasure trove of slave freedom cases, hitherto-unknown documents from the Lewis & Clark expedition, or so on. As the senior conservator, it was always my job to attend these press conferences - primarily to act as "pit bull" to guard the few original documents that were on display.

I never had a speaking role in those press conferences. My job was to guard and protect the original documents on display. The speaking parts went to the Secretary of State, the St. Louis Court Clerk, and the State Archivist. My silent job was to guard the documents -- armed with white gloves and a snarl ready for anyone who might dare to touch them.

Yesterday was different. The Secretary of State and St. Louis Court Clerk made their very fine speeches, then the floor was thrown open for questions. That's when it got weird. People didn't have many questions for these elected officials. Instead, they wanted to know how the conservation work was accomplished. The Secretary of State tossed the first question to me, as I stood in the back of the room as invisibly as I could. I answered the question. But within seconds, there were more, follow-up questions about the conservation processes, and the assembled press told me to move to the podium. YIKES!!! I am not accustomed to being in front of the cameras in these news conferences.

I don't now how long it went on. Maybe 10 or 15 minutes, as people asked me questions about exactly how we do the conservation treatment on these marvelous documents. I am told that I answered with humor, expertise, and grace. Mostly, I was aware that it was just wrong that media asked me question after question, instead of focusing on the people who had made this whole venture possible: the Secretary of State and the St. Louis Circuit Court Clerk. I'm just the person who handles the conservation and preservation of the documents in our care. I'm quite at ease being "front and center" ... but not in that news conference setting that was designed to focus on other people.

I think I handled the questions ok, even though the St. Louis Post Dispatch seriously dumbed-down my remarks.

One of the exchanges even amused me. Somebody asked me how we deal with documents that have been taped. I explained the process by which we try to remove the tape and try to reduce the stains-- in our fume hood, using organic solvents - and I added, "It's kinda like sin. We do our best to remove the stain, but usually some part of the stain remains, despite our best efforts." God help me! I just could not resist making a theological analogy. ;-)

It was quite the day. I didn't expect to be up in front of the cameras. It's a good thing I wore my Big Girl Clothes instead of my PJs, eh? :-)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Many of my blogfriends give credit or blame to others for their posts. Not me. I received this from a friend who shall remain nameless. But I thank her for passing this along.

She wrote: "This one really brought a tear to my eye.....very moving. I agree, and now I share it with you."


A father watched his young daughter playing in the garden. He smiled as he reflected on how sweet and pure his little girl was. Tears formed in his eyes as he thought about her seeing the wonders of nature through such innocent eyes.

Suddenly she just stopped and stared at the ground.

He went over to her to see what work of God had captured her attention. He noticed she was looking at two spiders mating.

"Daddy, what are those two spiders doing?" she asked.

"They're mating," her father replied.

"What do you call the spider on top?" she asked.

"That's a Daddy Longlegs," her father answered.

"So, the other one is a Mommy Longlegs?"' the little girl asked.

As his heart soared with the joy of such a cute and innocent question he replied, "No, dear. Both of them are Daddy Longlegs."

The little girl, looking a little puzzled, thought for a moment, then lifted her foot and stomped them flat.

"'Well, we're not having any of that gay shit in our garden, are we, Daddy?" she said.


I leave it to you, dear readers, to come up with the moral of this story -- its anagogic, moral, theological, and other meanings.

Off you go, then.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Ellen DeGeneres Common Cement Speech

H/t to TELP for this one.

I generally don't want to watch a 10-minute video. But Elizabeth was right. This one is well worth watching. (And you'll understand my title a few minutes into the video.)

I wish someone had said this at my college graduation.

Sit down. Put you beverage down, for the sake of your keyboard.

And watch.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Waiting for Water

This is what it means to wait for water in Lui. If it doesn’t break your heart, then your heart is stronger than mine. Read here.

The situation is better now. In 2006, the people of Lui only had shallow boreholes. Now we have drilled deep-water wells, which have a more reliable and much cleaner supply. And we have contracted with a company that has very fine hydrologists, who can drill for water without the risk of striking oil. And we are trying to drill more and more wells, so that the girls and women don't have to walk so far to get clean drinking water.

I know I mostly write about my life here or about Anglican Communion issues. But now we have missioners in the Diocese of Lui, Sudan (blogging at LuiNotes and LuLuLui) and bikers riding for Waters of Hope. So my attention is focused on our sisters and brothers in southern Sudan.

Read more at the website of the Diocese of Missouri, or go straight to our "Donate" page (and be sure to scroll down to the "Diocese of Lui" bullet). If you are moved to make a donation, I encourage you to give in the "unrestricted" category, which gives us latitude to provide support where it is most needed.

Most of all ... pray! Pray for the people of Lui. Pray for the clergy and leaders in Lui. Pray for our missioners who are there now. Pray for the rebuilding and development in southern Sudan.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Waters of Hope for Lui

I don’t believe I have ever used my blog to solicit funds, but I am doing it today … shamelessly. Not for me. And not for a legal defense fund. [*cough* Colorado *cough*] But in appeal for your help in bringing clean drinking water to the people of Lui, in the Episcopal Church of Sudan.

The Diocese of Missouri has a covenant relationship with Lui/Sudan. Foremost in our relationship is the commitment to bring clean drinking water to the people of Lui. Clean drinking water can bring health … which leads to education … which can help people thrive who are ready to take their destiny in their hands. These water projects especially help the women and girls of Lui, which currently spend many hours each day carrying water from far-off wells. If we can drill more wells, we can free up their time so they can go to school.

Most of you know of my trip to the Diocese of Lui (Sudan) in 2006, and you have a sense of how it changed my outlook on life. At the moment, we have yet another mission team on the ground in Lui (Sudan). Our current missioners are blogging at LuiNotes (where my reflections are in the archives) and LuLuLui.

On May 25, the Waters of Hope will kick off here in the Diocese of Missouri. It’s a joint effort by the Dioceses of Missouri and Iowa. It’s a grueling 7-day, 630-mile bike ride designed to raise awareness and funds for water in Lui (Missouri’s companion diocese) and Swaziland (Iowa’s companion diocese). The riders will end their trek by riding into Christ Church Cathedral on Pentecost Sunday (May 31). You can read Joe Chambers’ letter here.

I am making a shameless pitch for your prayer support and financial support.

If you are on Facebook, please click on Waters of Hope to support this cause. Help by joining, donating, or inviting your friends! We are having a friendly competition here in the diocese to see who can solicit the most prayer partners and donations. So it will help me if you enter through that Facebook portal.

If you are not on Facebook, please go directly to the Waters of Hope donation page.

Don’t worry if you cannot be a big donor. Every contribution will help – whether you can donate $5.00 or much more. If you have appreciated my blog at all, I ask that you consider making a contribution to this cause that is so very near and dear to my heart.

I know many of you have already donated, and I thank you. This is the final push before the bikers “push off” on May 25.

Please prayerfully consider whether you can make a contribution.

Thank you for tolerating my first-ever financial appeal.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Concerns of Dyslexic Evangelicals

No deep meaning here. No agenda. This is just funny.

song chart memes
see more Funny Graphs

Brought to us from the fine folks who give us ICanHasCheezburger ... God love 'em!

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Sudan & TEC & Lauren Stanley

I was dismayed yesterday to read that Sudan’s Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul has “requested that" the Reverend Lauren Stanley "be withdrawn from that mission field permanently.” This is an atrocity.

It has been my privilege to know Lauren over the last three years or so. Missouri established a covenant relationship with Sudan’s Diocese of Lui a couple of years ago, and I became chair of the Companion Diocese Committee shortly thereafter. Lauren has been a wonderful counselor since then – helping me understand the Sudanese culture, providing links, etc.

When I became chair of our Companion Diocese Committee, I had seen Lauren's writings, and I went to her as one who understands “how things are” in Sudan. She was tremendously helpful to me. She knew the Episcopal Church in Sudan very well, having served a long time there as a missionary. [Pictured above are the Rt. Rev. Francis Gray, the Rev. Lauren Stanley, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, at the consecration of St. Matthew's Cathedral in Renk in February 2006. Photo from here.]

She loved the people with whom she served, and it seemed clear that they loved her. [Photo at right from here.]

She also seemed to know Renk’s Bishop Daniel (before he was elected Archbishop) well, having served for some years in his diocese – working closely with him to provide theological education in his diocese. I was happy to be on her listserv group, so I could learn more about her work in Renk. It was clear to me that she had a passion for her service in Renk, and that the Sudanese people loved her. Renk’s bishop Daniel also seemed to recognize and be grateful for her gifts of ministry.

Lauren was a fierce advocate for Sudan and challenged the world (especially Anglicans) to support peace-making in Sudan. Both a journalist and a missionary, she advocated for our need to work for peace in Sudan. She did this as a journalist for the McClatchy newspapers and through Episcopal news outlets. She was a frequent contributor at Episcopal Café's "The Lead" – where she gave us insights into church and politics in Sudan and called us to advocate for peace in that war-torn nation.

When the Diocese of Missouri was to host Sudan’s newly elected Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul, I turned to Lauren Stanley for advice about how to offer appropriate hospitality. People in our diocese went all out to offer him and his wife meals, parties, opportunities for dialogue and preaching, and hospitality. Many of our people did so even while knowing that he was (at least) dubious about gay/lesbian issues. Many of the people who offered him hospitality were LGBTs or allies. We hoped that his heart might be warmed as he got to know us.

Then, during the Lambeth Conference last summer, Archbishop Daniel pulled his publicity stunt, suggesting gay people may not be completely human and saying Bishop Gene Robinson would resign if he were a real Christian. [You can read all I’ve written by clicking on this link.] I wrote about that here , here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Most movingly, I remember the letter that Anne Kelsey wrote to her aching parish during Lambeth, when Daniel first showed his hate-mongering colors; read it here. Even so long gone, I find solace in her letter while people like Abp Daniel spew hatred and contempt.

After Archbishop Daniel’s media orgy at Lambeth, some parishes in our diocese wanted to back away from our Covenant with the Diocese of Lui. Very many gay men and lesbians showed him extraordinary hospitality when he visited here in the spring of 2008, and many felt he kicked us in the teeth at Lambeth. Yes, I expected him to object to TEC’s acceptance of gay men and lesbians. But he voiced a level of disdain and hate that I never expected.

Many people in my diocese wanted to cut off our ties from Sudan. I argued fiercely that we should not cut off our covenant relationship with the Sudanese Diocese of Lui simply because of the Archbishop's statements. Fortunately, our diocesan convention agreed. In the fall of 2008, our convention passed this resolution:

Be it resolved that this 169th Convention of the Diocese of Missouri affirms its commitment to work toward the inclusion of all the baptized, including gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, in the whole sacramental life of the Episcopal Church. We also affirm our commitment to strengthening relationships among the Churches of the Anglican Communion, and therefore, despite the sometimes painful differences with Archbishop Daniel of Sudan in our understandings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, resolve to renew and strengthen our relationship with the Diocese of Lui so that each may come to a better understanding of the other.

We have held onto our relationship with Diocese of Lui (in the Episcopal Church of the Sudan), because we know and love those people.

In fact, some of us drew hope from the conversations Abp Daniel had with our missioners last year, when they reported it here, here, and here. I actually drew hope from those conversations. I thought he was speaking honestly. I disagreed with him, but I thought he had integrity.

But now the Archbishop of Sudan has thrown Lauren Stanley out of Sudan because she had the gall to suggest that gay men and lesbians are fully human and faithful Christians. How outrageous, eh? It's pretty clear to many of us that Mary Ailes [sister of the notorious conservative commentator Roger Ailes] alerted Archbishop Daniel that Lauren doesn't hate queers enough to satisfy the Sudanese hatred. Ailes waited several months before dropping that bomb ... God knows why. Of course, Mary Ailes is a member of the breakaway "Anglican" church in northern Virginia. Martyn Minns is her bishop. She shall have her reward. One wonders why Mary Ailes waited these many months before dropping the bomb to Sudan's Archbishop.

Lauren Stanley is not a lesbian herself. She didn’t advocate that the Sudanese open themselves to the ordination of gay/lesbian people. As far as I can tell, her only offense was to argue – several months ago, in the Diocese of Virginia synod – that we treat gay men and lesbians like full human beings.

Apparently, that was enough for the Archbishop of Sudan to insist that she be kicked out of Sudan.

I am livid.

By the bye, the covenant between the Diocese of Missouri and the Diocese of Lui was mutually agreed upon. We developed it after several trips back and forth, and we sent it back and forth between the Diocese of Missouri and the Diocese of Lui. We developed it together after we got to know and respect each other. Neither diocese “inflicted” it upon the other. Our covenant stands in sharp distinction from the so-called “covenant” that is being debated by the Anglican Communion. In fact, I would argue that our covenant – and the process that led to its adoption – should be a model to the dysfunctional Anglican Communion.

In the Anglican Consultative Council that just adjourned, they again called for Anglicans to listen to the experience and witness of gay/lesbian Christians. But the high holy Sudanese Archbishop makes it clear that he will not even listen to straight people who suggest that gay men and lesbians are full human beings. He has made that clear in ejecting Lauren Stanley – a faithful, respectful missioner – from Sudan.

I am disgusted by Archbishop Daniel. I regret the time and energy I spent in making sure he and his wife had a good visit here in 2008. When I look to an image of Christ-like behavior, I see Lauren Stanley – not the Archbishop of Sudan.

Here in the Diocese of Missouri, we have busted our butts to raise money, make visits, and honor our friends in Lui. We have honored their culture. We have maintained that relationship despite the Chief Pharisee of Sudan, Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul.

Right now, I wonder why we bother.

Friday, May 15, 2009

More Forrester

Consents and "no" votes are still coming in regarding the election of Kevin Thew Forrester to be bishop of Northern Michigan. I assume my earlier posts have fallen off the radar screens for most of you.

I don't know what is the right decision about consent to Forrester's election. I said my piece here and here. Of course, the "conservatives" are still whipping this up as a rallying issue. For all that I don't appreciate them, I am glad StandFirm is keeping a tally, the latest of which is here.
What the faux orthodox fail to realize is that the Episcopal Church bishops and standing committees are not monolithic. It's not a simple matter of "reasserters" vs. "revisionists." Actual Episcopalians weigh and wrestle with the issues. Most of us are profoundly orthodox. Some of us are coming down on one side, and some are coming down on the other side of this question. Unlike the faux-orthodox who march in a single phalanx, the rest of us are wrestling with the issues and voting our conscience. I respect all the votes.
Unlike the bloggers at StandFirm, I don't assume I have a Direct HotLine to God. I believe many voices should be heard. And I pray that our bishops and standing committees will come to a right discernment. Most of the bottom-feeders at StandFirm heard the words "Buddhist meditation, and immediately rejected Father Forrester as a heretic. How very silly. [Of course, those are the same people who call our Presiding Bishop names like "Mother Squiddy." So I am forewarned.] Unlike the faux orthodox, I am listening for the voice of God and trusting that what should happen will happen.

Just yesterday, another member of the diocese has posted a comment on an old posting on my blog. I'm pulling her comments up here, lest they be lost.

Kelly wrote this comment:

. . . as a member of the diocese of Northern Michigan I find it comforting to
know that others are wrestling seriously with the issues surrounding KTF
election as Bishop, as I have seen very little evidence that the diocese, as a
whole, has seriously thought through this election. There is, sadly, an
overwhelming sense of "we have to accept Kevin as there is no one else, we can
afford no one else and we have been without a bishop for too long." Most of us
assumed that KTF would be the bishop elect when Bishop Kelsey died, it seemed a
foregone conclusion as an unfortunate side effect of Mutual Ministry (which does
have many good qualities) in this particular diocese has been the belief that
"we have everything we need right here among ourselves."

Translation: we don't need any outsiders coming in and messing up our little clique." Personally I had hoped the diocese would accept an interm bishop from elsewhere to help us through the grieving process etc...but that did not happen.

I, too, have serious concerns regarding KTF Christology...but who in their right mind is going to take seriously someone with my background?- unchurched as a youth, Methodist via baptism and by choice at 17, earned a bachelor's degree in religion from the Nazarenes and a MTS from Jesuits at Spring Hill...I don't even take myself
seriously with that hodge podge of a pedigree!

on a serious note..thank you, all of you, for sharing your divergent positions and for caring, in your unique ways, about this little tiny diocese. your prayers and support are surely needed at this time. (oh, don't bother checking out my blog.haven't updated it in ages and anyway it is about adoption and foster care. I'd be happy to talk via email with anyone tho!)

The conservative bloggers are making much of the fact that the Standing Committee of Missouri voted to withhold consent. I didn't break that news, though I knew about it the day after the Standing Committee meeting. The self-interested conservatives' comments are tiresome to me. They have no idea of the dialogue in the Standing Committee, but they characterize them and assume they know how our bishop will vote. Shame on them.

I would like to see an end to the "politicizing" of episcopal elections. I objected strongly to Mark Lawrence's election ... as I read his statements and did not believe he would guard the faith, unity, and discipline of The Episcopal Church. For analogous reasons, I cannot support Father Forrester's consecration. I would like to see all us us apply consistent measures in evaluating candidates to the episcopacy. "Neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female" ... and neither liberal or conservative. So far, it appears I was wrong about Mark Lawrence and TEC make a wiser decision than mine. I pray the whole church will come to a wise decision about Bishop-Elect Forrester.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Weary of the ACC

Since the Anglican Consultative Council convened in Jamaica this weekend, I have been following the various news reports -- not slavishly, but with some interest. I'm not providing hyperlinks here. You all know where to get the news.

I find I am already growing weary of the political jousting, posturing, and intrigue.

First, there was Uganda's Archbishop Orombi throwing a hissy-fit that the ACC wouldn't seat his designated stand-in, Philip Ashey (Chief Operating Officer of the Atlanta-based American Anglican Council), charging the ACC with racism and colonialism in refusing to seat his lily-white, American stand-in. Never mind that Abp Orombi himself can't be bothered to attend the ACC and hasn't attended any of the Joint Standing Committee primates' meetings. Ya can't make this stuff up.

Now there's all the pushing to and fro about the stupid Anglican Covenant, the wacky hysteria from the Windsor Continuation Group, Abp. Gomez's dire warnings that the Anglican Communion will collapse if the Covenant isn't adopted right now, Rowan Williams' typical (and largely incomprehensible) handwringing, debates about what the definition of "church" is and how long any "church" will have to sign on to the covenant or be cast (or maybe not) into outer Communion darkness.

As I was trying to make sense of these developments this evening, another course occurred to me. I have this fantasy that the Episcopal Church members of the ACC would bring a very simple motion to the floor:

Resolved, we want The Episcopal Church (U.S.) kicked out of the Anglican Communion.

Just that. Short and sweet. Let's quit the politicking, parliamentary maneuvering, suspense, parsing, and intrigue that could stretch out 'til 2014. Let's just ask them. Do our Anglican brothers and sisters want us in or do they want us out? I'd much rather see that happen rather than all this political posturing and wrangling which has become so very, terribly tiresome. The Canadians might want to do something similar.

Surely this has been the longest ecclesiastical foreplay in the history of the church.

Enough already! Let the ACC get on with the business that should occupy the minds of Anglicans serving a desperately hurting world -- with or without TEC as a "constituent member of the worldwide Anglican Communion." I really don't care anymore.

Let's get it done with. Let the rest of the Anglican Communion either say "yes" or "no" to the particular and perhaps peculiar charism that the Episcopal Church brings into the Communion and say they do or do not want us in the club any more.

Yeah ... I know nobody in the ACC is listening to me. But I really wish this fantasy could come true. And I really don't care how the vote would come in. I just want it over and done with.

I have work to do with the Episcopalians in southern Sudan, and -- frankly -- I don't give a flying fig what the ACC has to say about that.

Will anybody say "Amen"?

Monday, May 04, 2009


It amuses me that the comments here spend a lot of time talking about the length of a sermon and about my need to parse my sermon down to its bare bones and about how difficult that may be for me. You all are right to challenge me on that issue.

I was especially amused by the note one dear friend sent me privately via e-mail. She wrote: "Lisa, my friend, some of us have heard you explain how to boil water ... and know it's a trial for you to do it in less than 15 minutes."

She is so, so right! I know I am a long-winded Southerner. Everything in my bones and genes and tradition holds that truth comes from a story well told.

As I responded to my friend: I know the sermon has to be brief; I didn't claim it would be easy for me to be brief!

Brevity may be the soul of wit, but I confess it's not a gift that comes easily to me.

Photo Credit: Thanks to this site for the graphic above.

Sunday, May 03, 2009


Many of you know that I'm involved with our companion diocese relationship with the Diocese of Lui in southern Sudan. I chair the committee that coordinates that relationship. I urge you to visit the two blogs where folks are talking about that relationship and our work in Lui: LuiNotes and LuLuLui.

Not long ago, one of our priests on the Companion Diocese Relationship Committee sent an e-mail to all our diocesan clergy, letting them know that our committee members and missioners are available to offer programs about the companion relationship. We've had a reasonably good response.

One of the rectors asked us to come do a program about the companion diocese relationship on May 31 (Pentecost). I agreed to do the program. Soon thereafter, the rector followed up by asking whether I'd also be willing to preach on that day.

{sound of screeching brakes}

For the last few months, as my priest has used some lay preachers in our parish, I have been feeling something like a "nudge" – thinking I might like to preach occasionally. But I did not and probably never would have asked for an opportunity to preach here in my parish. It's rather funny (or perhaps providential?) that I've been invited to preach in another parish.

I pondered the invitation from this other parish for a couple of weeks, and consulted with my rector to be sure this is OK. [I thought preachers had to be licensed, but apparently that's not required for a one-time preaching gig.] After much pondering, I have now accepted the invitation to preach. I'm scared and excited and humbled and scared. (Did I mention scared??? ;-)

Oh! And no pressure. It's "only" Pentecost ... only one of our High Holy Days.

Fortunately, I already have a "hook" for the sermon, because of the experience I had back in Lui in 2007, worshipping with the people in Lui , where we all came together in one accord. I had an experience of the way that the Spirit can bring us together despite differences of language and culture.

Thank God [literally!] that I have a full month to prepare my first-ever sermon.

In my professional career, I've done a lot of public speaking. I have spoken at many regional, national, and even international conferences. They don't intimidate me. I'm comfortable with public speaking; in fact, I love it! But doing a sermon ... preaching the Gospel ... especially to a parish I don't know .... That is a whole 'nother thing altogether. It is profoundly humbling. Preaching isn't about conveying information; it's letting the Spirit use me as a vessel for what needs to be said.

I know that.

I thought you all might be interested to know this. I will covet your prayers. And I will welcome your counsel. Seriously!

I hope you will use the comments section to talk with me about how you go about preparing sermons, what preaching means to you, and so on. I will be reading your comments gratefully.

Yes, I also have a couple of people here locally who have good resources, are good preachers, and have promised to walk with me through the process. So it's not as if I'm being left to my own devices. In fact, today I met with my rector to ask her what are the mechanisms she uses to preach. My current plan is to pray the readings for a few days ... then look at the scholarship on these readings ... then begin to write the sermon. That general shape makes sense to me.

Still, I would appreciate your insights and counsel. I know many of you are priests and/or preachers. I would love to hear what you have to say to this newbie preacher.

Saturday, May 02, 2009


I'll confess I'm one of those people who wonder whether or how long my job will continue to exist. Mind you, I don't sense any imminent danger. But I work for the kind of organization and have the kind of job that many people surely view as a luxury, rather than a necessity. In their zeal, they could easily obliterate my job. For this and other reasons, I have significantly altered my spending and saving habits over the last few months.

When I saw this shot recently, it made me laugh. I can so identify with the woman on the left. There are times when I wish I could be blogging full-time instead of doing my day job.

political pictures for your blog
see more Political Pictures from the folks who gave us LOLCats

Yeah ... I know my recent blogging pattern may not support this message. But I do often wish my passion were more in synch with my paycheck.
Are any of you in similar positions?