Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Rowan and Marriage

Like most of you, I have read the recent “reflection” from Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, about the actions the Episcopal Church took in Anaheim. Like many of you, I am frustrated by his language, which is so “nuanced” that it’s nearly impossible to know what the heck he means to say.

Like many of you, I marvel that there are more blessings of same-sex unions in London through the Church of England than in the entire U.S. Episcopal Church in the course of a year.

Like many of you, I am struck by the hypocrisy of the Archbishop who would tolerate us if would just be as sneaky and secretive about our approach to the LGBT Christians in our church as Rowan has been in the Church of England.

Like many of you, I suspect there are more gay bishops in the Church of England than there are in the U.S.

Like many of you, I am truly outraged about the Archbishop's language of "choice" and "lifestyle." This once-promising Archbishop seems to have retreated into the 19th century. For the life of me, I don't understand it.

I am tempted to open a can of worms by asking what kind of "lifestyle" the Archbishop of Canterbury models when he lives in a bleepin' palace! Surely that is a "lifestyle choice" of which he might need to repent. My bishop lives in a modest house and drives his own Prius. I know of bishops in the U.S. who drive Rolls-Royce cars. What kind of "lifestyle" does Rowan Williams exhibit?

Like many of you, I am frustrated by Archbishop Rowan Williams' claim that we have not done the theological work to “justify” same-sex marriages/unions.

Yes, I am angry about all that.

But here's my question.

I’m just a simple Episcopalian who lacks seminary education or theological training. So here’s my simple question to the Archbishop of Canterbury and those who oppose the recent actions of the Episcopal Church in the U.S. and the Diocese of Niagara in Canada: Would you kindly point me to the theological justification and explanation of heterosexual marriage? What are our priests doing when they preside at a heterosexual marriage? Please give me citations – not ad hominem claims – and not that pablum of “what has been believed everywhere by all Christians,” because that dog won’t hunt.

Please tell me where the Anglican Communion has set out its theological understanding of heterosexual marriage, what it means for our priests to officiate as agents of the state, and what it means for our clergy to bless a heterosexual marriage.

Surely such explanations have been published. Once we know what they are, we can frame our discussions about same-sex marriage on them.

I have hunch that our Anglican churches have not done the necessary theological work to articulate or justify our priests' work in presiding over the blessing of any marriage -- gay or straight!

Of course I could be wrong.

But my expectation is that no "justification" of heterosexual marriage has ever been promulgated. I have a hunch it was just assumed as a "given" and "normative." Correct me if I am wrong.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Bishop Smith and GC

I've posted the video from Jim DeLa that seeks to provide a "wrap-up" of what happened at General Convention.

There are a couple more things I would add if I were using that video in a parish presentation, here in the Diocese of Missouri, about what happened at GC.

I know that everyone works really hard at GC. All the bishops, deputies, committee members, volunteers, and staff put in long, hard hours that are physically, emotionally, and sometimes spiritually grueling. I was grateful for the reports from the Missouri deputies, and I am grateful for their service. (The photo at right shows some of our Deputies.)

But I want to single out my bishop, the Right Reverend George Wayne Smith, for special honors and thanks. As co-chair of the cognate Prayer Book, Liturgy, & Church Music Committee, he had very heavy duty this year. That committee brought to convention the Holy Women, Holy Men text (a vastly expanded trial replacement for Lesser Feasts and Fasts), adopted a new liturgical resource to assist individuals and families dealing with childbirth and the loss of children (A088, Rachel’s Tears, Hannah’s Hopes), approved the development of liturgical resources to observe the loss of a companion animal (in C078), and dealt with many, many other resolutions. Perhaps most challenging, Bishop Smith's committee dealt with resolution C056, which authorizes the collection and development of theological and liturgical resources for the blessing of same-sex relationships.

As all GC junkies know, C056 was a very high-profile resolution that will move us to explore the blessing of same-sex relationships. It has already garnered much attention throughout the Anglican blogosphere. No doubt, various primates and probably the Archbishop of Canterbury will weigh-in on that one. It is a delicately nuanced statement, for which I give deep thanks. I pray the Anglican Communion will see it as such.

From all the accounts I read during GC and from the reflections that appeared after, it appears that Bishop Smith's committee meetings were thoughtful, respectful, and even holy. That must have been difficult, given some of the "third-rail" issues with which they had to grapple.

But I am not surprised. Bishop Smith is a thoughtful, respectful, and holy man. Around the Episcopal blogosphere, a term that has gained currency and approbation is "being a non-anxious presence." If there ever was a thoughtful, spiritual, non-anxious presence, I believe my Bishop Smith embodies that.

On occasion, and especially in the past month, I have occasionally ranted here intemperately about what "the bishops" have done or might do. In the midst of those rants, I believed my bishop would be attentive to the Spirit, mindful of the people who look to him for pastoral care, and find a way to be the chief pastor to the whole diocese while guarding "the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church" (BCP, pg. 517). I believe he did so in this General Convention. And I repent of the hours in which I "ate the bread of anxiety" rather than trusting Bishop Smith and all the other godly bishops of our church.

Video Wrap-Up of GC

Thanks to Susan Russell for drawing attention to this fine video by Jim DeLa (Director of Communications, Diocese of Southwest Florida). As Susan writes, "You could just cue up this 6-ish minute video in the Parish Hall on Sunday, do a Q&A after and call it a day on the "What did they do at General Convention" Forum!"

This video has now been posted on many of my favorite blogsites, but I'm putting it here, too, for those of you who may not read many other blogs.

Watch it here or at YouTube.

By the bye, the still image that appears above shows Bishop Robinson delivering the blessing at the Integrity Eucharist, with the Revs. Elizabeth Kaeton and Susan Russell on his left (our right). Check out this post by Elizabeth to read about why that particular moment was so very, very powerful for her ... and for me and many other GLBT folks in our church.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Stress Management

H/T to my friend David+ – a blessed voice of sanity in my life – who sent this at the end of a stressful week for me. David writes:

I've heard this really works!

Just in case you are having a rough day, here is a stress management technique recommended in the latest psychological journals. The funny thing is that it really does work and will make you smile.

1. Picture yourself lying on your belly on a warm rock that hangs out over a crystal clear stream. Relaxing.

(Photo credit)

2. Picture yourself with both your hands dangling in the cool running water.

3. Birds are sweetly singing in the cool mountain air.

4. No one knows your secret place.

5. You are in total seclusion from that hectic place called the world.

6. The soothing sound of a gentle waterfall fills the air with a cascade of serenity.

7. The water is so crystal clear that you can easily make out the face of the Republican you are holding underwater.

There … See? It really does work. You're smiling already. Feel free to share this with others who might benefit from this technique.

I hope this gave many of you a good chuckle, even though I know it's a bit wicked. Let me also add this caveat: I have come to know and love a few Republicans. (Jon … Tom … This means you!) This silly bit isn’t aimed at those sensible Republicans. But the wacko right-wing nuts who call themselves Republicans do come to mind as I ponder this little bit from David.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Coping with Budget Deficits

I don’t make a lot of money. In fact, I now make only 75% of what I was making in Atlanta in 1996, thirteen years ago. [That’s direct dollars – not “adjusted for inflation” dollars.]

But I get by. I have simplified my lifestyle. I have learned the difference between “I need” and “I want.”

This spring, the Missouri legislature was grappling with the state budget, and I said a couple of things to several people.
First, I would happily take a pay cut if it would save the jobs of people I work with. There are people in my office who have worked there for 20 years and still make only about $20k/year. Can you imagine?!?! How in the world does a person support a family on that kind of pay??
Second, I heard about some states that were putting staff on “furlough” of 2-3 days a month – unpaid leave. I said I would go for that, if it would mean that people in support/clerical positions could keep their jobs.
In short, I was willing to make real and tangible sacrifices, if it would mean that our most low-paid staff could keep their jobs.

As it turned out, our state didn’t do layoffs or salary cuts. They just eliminated raises. But I was ready to do my part to protect the people who work hard, bringing little education to their positions, but do their jobs well.

I was thinking about all this when I learned that The Episcopal Church is firing about 37 of the 180 people working for our church.

Thanks to Elizabeth Kaeton for sending me this article from the Christian Century:

Methodist bishops agree to cut their pay
Christian Century, June 16, 2009

Bishops in the United Methodist Church have voted themselves a pay cut after "recognizing the financial challenges facing the church."
The UMC's 50 active U.S. bishops voted to give up their planned pay raises for next year and instead reduce their salaries to the 2008 level, dropping their annual pay from $125,650 to $121,0130. according to United Methodist News Service.
"The current global crisis has uncovered our hesitancy to act, but it has also gifted us with a sense of urgency and an opportunity to lead courageously," the bishops said in a May 8 statement at the conclusion of their annual spring meeting. The bishops also said they will cut their semiannual council meetings from five days to four to save money.
Several bishops said that some regional and local church leaders had already taken similar salary cuts to help keep ministries going.

The full story is here.

Tempted as I am to editorialize about TEC’s budget decision last week, I’m going to leave it lay where Jesus flung it. Let the reader understand.

Feel free to discuss this among yourselves.

Monday, July 20, 2009

My Parish Home

As a result of an earlier discussion here, Grandmère Mimi and I have agreed to post photos of the parish churches in which we worship and which we love.

My parish was established in 1836 and built its first structure in 1842. It served as a hospital during the great cholera epidemic (1849-51) and to the Civil War wounded. The parish moved a few blocks east, remaining in the downtown area; the current structure was completed in 1901. [History is available in the "About Grace" page here.]


Here are my photos.

The view from outside. We are in the downtown area. And we have real bells.

A shot of the nave.

And another shot of the nave, with Dr. Thomas Pawley reading.

The chancel space, in a simple summer service with the "summer altar."

View up the aisle.

The altar, with a full retinue during the installation of our current priest:

That's all I have. I don't have many photos of the church building. I bet Mimi will blow me away with her photos.

Now ... a challenge to you all as we talk about our worship spaces and our worship experiences. How 'bout you post photos, too? Put a link in the comments.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Cut Loose for Mission

or, Doing Church in a New Key

You all know that I am long-winded. I blame it on my southern, story-telling roots. You can either sit back and listen to a long story, or just skip this blogpost.

You are forewarned.

Our rector is on vacation, and I knew that today was going to be Morning Prayer with no Eucharist. I’ve been planning for a long time not to be in my home parish today. Instead, I decided to go 35 miles north, where our diocese is planting a new congregation. I have been hearing good things, and I wanted to worship with them today and seeing how they are “doing church.”

Let me cut to the chase and say it was a delightful experience. They are worshipping in a strip-mall storefront that has been converted to worship space. Many of these people are new Christians. Many are coming from other traditions. Some of them (adults!) haven't been baptized, but are "seekers," drawn by what they find in this fledgling congregation. They are living out of the church, into the community, and there seems to be much energy there. As I worshipped with them this morning, a phrase came into my mind: "Cut Loose for Mission." God knows, I loves me my old venerable church with its old pews and old traditions. But I saw a vitality today which I seldom see in my own parish.

That’s the short version. Here comes the blow-by-blow.

Web Presence

Yesterday, when I decided to attend this new church, I went to their website. It is clean and easy to navigate. It was easy for me to find out what time they met and easy to get directions. That's not true of all our parishes.

The Facility

The church is meeting in the storefront of a strip mall. I thought it would feel sterile. Not so! The diocese and parish have done a fine job of converting a retail store into worship space.

Yes, it’s different than our fine old buildings. But it still feels like “church.” Because of the conversion, there’s no such thing as a “narthex.” As soon as I opened the door, I was “in the church.” The worship space was clearly delineated. But – this was delightful! – the spaces nearest the entrance were full of very comfy chairs, sofas, coffee tables … In short, these were places where conversation was expected and encouraged. Very different from most of the narthexes and parlors I have seen when I have entered our churches.


I went there kinda like a “secret shopper.” The people in the parish did not know me. But the priest recognized my face. She immediately connected me with somebody who wants to connect with my parish (because we use Godly Play and they want to adopt it). While I was talking with this parishioner, several others came to me, offering welcome. One member greeted me and brought me a name tag.

I’ve reflected today: Did I feel welcome just because I’m an Episcopalian? No, I think this is a congregation that practices intentional hospitality. As a start-up congregation, they expect to meet and welcome strangers. Their welcome wasn’t desperate or fake. It was warm and open. Let me underscore that: They expect to welcome strangers and newcomers every Sunday! Their welcome is warm, but not desperate. They are ready to engage in conversation. And the arrangement of their space makes the pre-worship time like a coffee hour. Everyone coming through the doors is greeted and welcomed. I can’t help contrasting that with the perfunctory “greeting” that people receive as they move through our narthex and are given a service leaflet.

Service Opening

I knew the service was about to begin, when the pianist began to play. People began moving into their folding chairs.

I found a seat. I had intentionally gone in without my own BCP/hymnal combo. In this space without kneelers, there were also no worship materials (like the BCP and hymnal). Suddenly I realized I didn’t have a service leaflet. I asked a woman nearby, and she directed me to the ushers at the main door. I went there, and they gave me a LEVAS hymnal and sheet. When I returned to my seat, I realized it was a leaflet of announcements, not a service leaflet.

Old fuddie-duddie that I am, I was vaguely uncomfortable.

To open the service, Heather+ came to the front of the assembled congregation and made the announcements from in front of altar. She called others to speak about particular projects. I liked that! In my parish, announcements are made just after the “exchange of the peace.” I am often struck that it seems out of place – seems to get in the way of the liturgical flow. I liked this approach: Make the announments, then get out of the way.

Then Heather+ announced opening the hymn, discretely moved to the back of the congregation, and a regular procession commenced.

Oh No! Not PowerPoint!!

I suppose that’s when I realized that I was in a totally different setting.

For that’s when I realized that – instead of service leaflets or BCPs – we had PowerPoint slides projecting on the walls behind the altar. There were two images projecting behind the altar (one at left, and one at right). Eventually, I realized there was also one projected on the rear wall, behind the congregation, for priest and others to read.

Old fuddy-duddy that I am, I have said that I would never and could never worship in a church that used PowerPoint projections. But they did it very well.

And I quickly realized that this is a great “leveler.” It makes it impossible to know who’s a “veteran” and who’s a newcomer, for we’re all facing forward. Nobody is reading from the BCP while others recite it all from memory. And there is no awkward juggling of books or flipping to pages that marks a “newbie.” The words are projected up front, and it is a great equalizer. I would not have realized that if I had not experienced it.

By the bye, every slide included the BCP page reference. Later in the service, I realized that some people had picked up a BCP on their way in. Some people want to learn to navigate the BCP. But the PowerPoint does them a service, I think.

So I bite another “given.” I now see how PowerPoint may be a tool for evangelism. I get that.

The Liturgy

I sense this is a very eclectic congregation.

But the liturgy was straight Rite II, right out of the BCP.

I was impressed that H+ preached the Word and without notes– connecting the readings to (a) need for time of rest/renewal and stressing there needs to be a spiritual dimension and (b) Israelites “on the move,” not yet having reached a permanent home (connecting this congregations to its future hope)

You know I am a Liturgy Nazi and that I will notice variances. I observed a couple of variances, but I appreciated both of them.

After the peace, Heather+ did a brief “teaching session” about the sacrament of baptism. It was brief – maybe 5 minutes. I think that’s because they have many new Christians and some who haven’t been baptized. I gather she’s doing these “teaching sessions” regularly. I saw several people go to communion with arms crossed, to receive a blessing; others remained in their seats. This is amazing to me. Heather+ is ministering in a congregation where she needs to do basic Christian education with the adults, not just with the children.

I don’t know how you all let the kids into “big church.” In my parish, they just drift in during the peace. But in this congregation, they make it a special moment. After the “exchange of the peace,” the whole congregation sings “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” And the kids come processing in, singing along with the rest of us. I like this welcoming of the children, after we have both have had our Liturgy of the Word. And I like the warm welcome it speaks to the children.

I am ambivalent about the music I experienced.
There was a marvelous Taize chant for the Gloria.
But, aside from that, the hymns were a bit too “Protestant” for my taste – What a Friend We Have in Jesus, Down by the Riverside, etc. There wasn’t a 1982 hymnal in sight. It was all LEVAS. Mind you, there are some wonderful hymns in there. But I missed the majesty of some of our great Anglican hymnody.

The closing hymn was “Gonna lay down my burdens …” with it’s refrain of “Ain’t gonna study war no more …” Nothing in this service made reverence to GC09. But it sure was on my mind. I took it as a release. Our church has suffered long and hard. GC09 for me was a blessed relief. I don't know that Heather chose this recessional for that reason, but I was grateful for it. We can move on now.

My Take-Away
I am impressed that this congregation seems to see its mission as beyond the church. Maybe that’s because they don’t have a lovely building to maintain? What might we learn from that?

Perhaps the church really is changing. And maybe some of us fuddy-duddies [like me!] have much to learn from these upstarts.

[Photos courtesy of the Diocese of Missouri, copied from the Diocese's Flickr site, taken at the "launch" of Columbia Hope in February 2009.]

Saturday, July 18, 2009

What's Going On?

As I try to bring closure to the actions of GC09, I have tried repeatedly to click on the GC Legislation site. Everytime I do, it gives me a big error message. When will the GC legislation site be up again and current??

Friday, July 17, 2009

Thoughts After GC09

It will surprise no one that I was closely following C056 and D025. I am glad that our General Convention affirmed that all the baptized may pursue the Church’s discernment of their gifts, and I am pleased that our church will gather liturgies and allow pastoral care for Episcopalians in same-sex relationships.

I did not expect either of those resolutions to make it through both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops in this General Convention. I was downright pessimistic. But both houses surprised and delighted me.

Now that they have, I find myself in a place of peace and gratitude and quiet.

It is over, at last. The chips will fall where they may, as the Primates and other loud voices of the Anglican Communion react. But I give thanks that we did not let our church be held hostage to those reactive voices.

I give deep thanks to the deputies and bishops who voted for those resolutions in such overwhelming numbers.

Of course, I find myself thinking back to 2006 and the resolutions that broke my heart. I spoke and ranted and grieved here quite publicly. And certain conservative sites linked here and derided me. They guffawed at my pain and disappointment, and used my blog for target practice. They jeered at my grief. I am not going to do the same ... for I understand the pain.

You know what? There is not a bit of triumphalism in my heart as General Convention adjourns this evening. Given what I experienced in 2006, I feel great sympathy for those who came down on the losing side in 2009. I can imagine some of the pain they feel. And I bet I know the kind of frustration and anger that some of those sites are projecting. I’m now going over there now. Tomorrow, I will visit and see what they are saying.

In 2006, I believed that the majority had spoken against my understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I was heartbroken. I do not believe I called the majority “heretics” or “apostates” or any of those names. If memory serves, I simply spoke of my grief that they had rejected a portion of God’s people. I took a brief “sabbatical” from the Episcopal Church, then I came home to my parish and continued to pray and work for change and progress in our church.

In these last few days of GC2009, the votes have gone in the ways that I hoped they might. The Bishops have astonished me! I am happy that the Bishops and Deputies have spoken where we are, in hopes that we can now move forward.

But still … I remember how desperately grieved I felt after 2006. And I know some people are feeling a similar grief after 2009. I have read some of the blogs from the conservative side of our church, and I know they are hurting. I have been tempted to comment on some of those blogs, but then I read that they think that any word from someone like me will feel patronizing or condescending.

I pray that we can move forward together ... eventually. I hope we can together “march in the light of God” one of these days.

I thought I would post a big "ALLELUIA" if our Bishops and Deputies moved forward on the resolutions that mattered to me. To my surprise, I find myself grateful but subdued ... because I understand some of the pain that those on "the other side" must be feeling.

Kudos to President Obama

Taking Gay Rights to the NAACP

This evening I had the opportunity to read President Obama’s speech at the 100th anniversary of the NAACP from the transcript at the official White House site. What a wonderful speech! He recalls the history of the past hundred years – a disgraceful history for our nation, and a brave and glorious history of those who fought for freedom and an end to discrimination. As he named those heroes, he said:
Because of them I stand here tonight, on the shoulders of giants. And I'm here to say thank you to those pioneers and thank you to the NAACP.
What a powerful moment! I hearkened back to my 14 years in Atlanta, when my Congressman was the brave John Lewis.

He then acknowledges that “too many barriers still remain,” and he names them. Read that sad litany of injustices which still persist in our country.

Then he turns to the present, saying:
But what's required today -- what's required to overcome today's barriers is the same as what was needed then. The same commitment. The same sense of urgency. The same sense of sacrifice. The same sense of community. The same willingness to do our part for ourselves and one another that has always defined America at its best and the African American experience at its best. (Applause.)
And so the question is, where do we direct our efforts? What steps do we take to overcome these barriers? How do we move forward in the next 100 years?
The first thing we need to do is make real the words of the NAACP charter and eradicate prejudice, bigotry, and discrimination among citizens of the United States. (Applause.) I understand there may be a temptation among some to think that discrimination is no longer a problem in 2009. And I believe that overall, there probably has never been less discrimination in America than there is today. I think we can say that.
But make no mistake: The pain of discrimination is still felt in America. (Applause.) By African American women paid less for doing the same work as colleagues of a different color and a different gender. (Laughter.) By Latinos made to feel unwelcome in their own country. (Applause.) By Muslim Americans viewed with suspicion simply because they kneel down to pray to their God. (Applause.) By our gay brothers and sisters, still taunted, still attacked, still denied their rights. (Applause.)
On the 45th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, discrimination cannot stand -- not on account of color or gender; how you worship or who you love. Prejudice has no place in the United States of America. That's what the NAACP stands for. That's what the NAACP will continue to fight for as long as it takes. (Applause.)
He then moves on to a clarion call – especially for better education, better parenting, better community involvement in the lives of all our children. It is a rousing speech, which you can read here or watch here. [Warning: it’s a 36-minute video, so you’ll need high bandwidth.]

As a supporter of justice, I applaud his entire speech. If I were African American, I suspect I would react even more powerfully and emotionally to his marvelous speech. I don’t want to take anything away from him or the members of the NAACP who were in that hall last night.

I speak as a white woman, recognizing that I enjoy some White Privilege that is still denied to many African Americans.

But tonight, I am responding especially as a lesbian. For I am amazed that in the midst of this powerful speech, President Obama made a point of saying this:
But make no mistake: The pain of discrimination is still felt in America. (Applause.) By African American women paid less for doing the same work as colleagues of a different color and a different gender. (Laughter.) By Latinos made to feel unwelcome in their own country. (Applause.) By Muslim Americans viewed with suspicion simply because they kneel down to pray to their God. (Applause.) By our gay brothers and sisters, still taunted, still attacked, still denied their rights. (Applause.)
[That segment comes at about 9:25 of the CNN video.]

There have been voices trying to drive a wedge between the African American and gay/lesbian communities. We saw a sad example of that in the aftermath of the Prop 8 vote in California.

As my friend Michael reminds me, there are also African American gay men and lesbians. I fear they are too often doubly marginalized –by their race and by their sexual orientation.

Hearing President Obama’s speech made me proud. It reminded me that we are all in this together. And I am proud that he reminded the NAACP that their struggle is related to all our struggles. Let us LGBTs remember the inverse: that our struggle is deeply entangled with those of all other marginalized people in this country.

Can I get an “Amen”?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Prayers for the Life and Loss of a Companion Animal

Here we are, less than 24 hours from the adjournment of General Convention, and I just now realized that there are a couple of resolutions about which I care deeply, but about which I did not know ‘til now. I speak of resolutions C076 and C078, both of which ask our Prayer Book, Liturgy, & Music committee to develop liturgies associated with the seasons of our lives with our animal friends – their adoption, illness, or death.

I expect my comments here will be much too little and too late. I have looked at the schedule for the PBL&M committee, and I’m sure they are not going to have enough time to act on the many resolutions that are still on their plate.

But I add my voice to Sue Grisham’s and others, in encouraging action. If not now, then at GC12. Sooner or later, GC needs to act on these. But I recognize I am raising my voice too late.

The Book of Occasional Services has all sorts of prayers and liturgies. We have a liturgy for the Blessing of the Animals … and all sorts of others.

What is missing are prayers and liturgies for our animal companions in critical times – their adoptions, their times of sickness, times when we must face decisions about euthanasia, prayers at their deaths and burials.

Many of you were with me when I suddenly realized my cat Shug was in extremis, took her to the vet, and realized I had to make that awful decision. All that happened within the space of eight hours. Some of you were with me after her death, and some of you offered beautiful prayers for me and for her.

Here’s the thing: On that day when I got the vet’s diagnosis and knew that I should give Shug over to God’s hands, I searched frantically for appropriate prayers. A few are available in the blogosphere. I printed some of them, cobbled them together, and took them with me to the vet’s office. I held Shug in my arms, while I prayed those hastily-assembled prayers, with the vet and some of her staff around me. Even now, tears come to my eyes as I remember that evening. It was a holy time. But I was frustrated that I had to cobble-together readings from our Prayer Book with animal liturgies to try to come up with something that would be “meet and right” for sending Shug back into the arms of God.

It got worse after that … as I had to deal with her ashes. I have a wonderful priest. She was willing to officiate at a burial of Shug’s ashes. She said, “Just develop a liturgy, and we’ll do it.” That was 17 months ago. Shug’s ashes are still sitting on my credenza. And why? Because I lack the skill to come up with a liturgy on my own. I see many resources on the Web … but most of them do not come from a Christian understanding. Those that do are all over the map. I am neither a theologian nor a liturgist. I want somebody in our church to craft a liturgy that I can use.

Try to imagine that one of your relatives has died, and the priest says, “Sure, we’ll hold a service. Just develop the liturgy.” We don't do that. We have liturgies for burial and memorial services for our human friends.

And we should not have to "make it up on our own" for our animal companions. That is not the way we do our theology or liturgy. When we are at our best, the whole church together – with its theologians, liturgical scholars, and poets – develops the rites that we can share.

I do not want to be left on my own to craft a fitting liturgy for Shug’s burial. I want our church to craft a liturgy that reflects our theology about the created order … and about the meet and right way to commit a beloved animal companion back to the earth when her life is over. I want my church to do that for me.

I am writing this too late to have any effect on GC09. But I hope that I can connect with some of you in hopes of getting this onto the agenda in 2012.

By 2012, I expect that I will also have to go through this with my other cat, my 18-year-old Scotty. I will lack liturgical resources for those horrible hours in the vet’s office, and I will lack liturgical resources for commending his body back to the earth.

By 2012, let us all get together to ask our Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music to craft fitting liturgies for these moments. Take a look at this article from Episcopal Life Online.

Judge Sotomayor

and White Male Privilege

Have you noticed that the Senate Judiciary Committee seems fixated on Judge Sotomayor’s gender and ethnicity? I have a theory about that.

This week I have been following the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings with Judge Sotomayor regarding her nomination to the Supreme Court. [Hi. My name is Lisa, and I’m a news junkie. My evening typically starts with leaving work about 5:00, turning on my local NPR affiliate radio station in the car and when I get home, then flipping over to the PBS Newshour at 6:00.]

It seems to me that the one item about which Senators (especially the Republican Senators) have hammered again and again is the statement she made in 2001, that “a wise Latina woman, with the richness of her experiences, would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who has not lived that life.” That statement seems to have sent many of the Senators around the bend.

In its July 14 coverage, the Newshour reported this exchange:
[PBS correspondent] KWAME HOLMAN: … Committee Chair Patrick Leahy moved to pre-empt Republican criticism in his opening questions.
He asked Sotomayor about her much-debated 2001 remark that "I would hope that a wise Latina woman, with the richness of her experiences, would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who has not lived that life."
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), Vermont: So tell us. You've heard all these charges and countercharges, the "wise Latina," and on and on. Here's your chance. You tell us -- you tell us what's going on here, Judge.
JUDGE SONIA SOTOMAYOR, Supreme Court Justice Nominee: Thank you for giving me an opportunity to explain my remarks. No words I have ever spoken or written have received so much attention.
As my speech made clear, in one of the quotes that you referenced, I was trying to inspire them to believe that their life experiences would enrich the legal system, because different life experiences and backgrounds always do. I don't think that there is a quarrel with that in our society.
I was also trying to inspire them to believe that they could become anything they wanted to become, just as I had.
The context of the words that I spoke have created a misunderstanding. And I want -- and misunderstanding -- and to give everyone assurances, I want to state upfront, unequivocally and without doubt, I do not believe that any ethnic, racial, or gender group has an advantage in sound judging. I do believe that every person has an equal opportunity to be a good and wise judge, regardless of their background or life experiences.
KWAME HOLMAN: But the explanation did not satisfy Alabama's Jeff Sessions, the committee's ranking Republican. When he pressed the point, Sotomayor said she had tried a rhetorical flourish that fell flat.
JUDGE SONIA SOTOMAYOR: It was bad, because it left an impression that I believed that life experiences commanded a result in a case, but that's clearly not what I do as a judge. It's clearly not what I intended.
In the context of my broader speech, which was attempting to inspire young Hispanic, Latino students and lawyers to believe that their life experiences added value to the process.
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), Alabama: Well, I can see that, perhaps, as a layperson's approach to it, but as a judge who's taken this oath, I'm very troubled that you would repeatedly, over a decade or more, make statements that consistently -- any fair reading of these speeches consistently argues that this ideal and commitment -- I believe every judge is committed -- must be -- to put aside their personal experiences and biases and make sure that that person before them gets a fair day in court.
Then Senator Sessions turned to her 2005 statement at Duke University that the court of appeals is where policy is made.
[PBS correspondent] KWAME HOLMAN: That led to an exchange over the nominee's broader view of how a judge's background could influence decisions.
JUDGE SONIA SOTOMAYOR: Never their prejudices. I was talking about the very important goal of the justice system is to ensure that the personal biases and prejudices of a judge do not influence the outcome of a case.
What I was talking about was the obligation of judges to examine what they're feeling as they're adjudicating a case and to ensure that that's not influencing the outcome.
Life experiences have to influence you. We're not robots who listen to evidence and don't have feelings. We have to recognize those feelings and put them aside. That's what my speech was saying...
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS: Well, Judge...
JUDGE SONIA SOTOMAYOR: ... that's our job.
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS: But the statement was, "I willingly accept that we who judge must not deny the differences resulting from experience and heritage, but continuously to judge when those opinions, sympathies and prejudices are appropriate." That's exactly opposite of what you're saying, is it not?
JUDGE SONIA SOTOMAYOR: I don't believe so, Senator, because all I was saying is, because we have feelings and different experiences, we can be led to believe that our experiences are appropriate. We have to be open-minded to accept that they may not be and that we have to judge always that we're not letting those things determine the outcome.
But there are situations in which some experiences are important in the process of judging, because the law asks us to use those experiences.
I am struck by the fact that the Republican Senators seem to be fixated on the notion that Judge Sotomayor’s gender and ethnicity might come into play in her judgments on the Supreme Court.

Has any Senate Judiciary Committee ever fixated on the gender and ethnicity of the straight white males who have always dominated the Supreme Court? If not, why not? Why are they terrified of this Latina woman?

What I hear Judge Sotomayor saying is that a Supreme Court justice should recognize the biases that s/he might bring into his/her deliberations, try to set them aside, and then make a just decision. Isn’t that just simple logic?

It strikes me that the (supposedly) straight, white, male members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have probably never had to ask themselves whether their White Male Privilege has ever made them biased in their judgments and decisions.

Apparently, it’s only The Other that frightens them.

All this reminds me of my friends Michael and Dirk – partners for something more than 20 years. Dirk is a white man; Michael is black. Every now and then, they will be ignored or get lousy service in a restaurant or other retail establishment, in ways that suggest it may be because Michael is black. Dirk is hilarious when he gets his back up and barks: “Don’t they know I have White Male Privilege?” There’s always an ironic [even if unspoken] “hrrumph” after his quip.

The enlightened, gay Dirk realizes that he benefits in this culture from White Male Privilege. Our U.S. Senators aren’t as smart as Dirk. They don’t realize their privilege or their unexamined assumptions.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Howls & Screams

I have read the howling screams from the "conservatives" or "orthodox" or whatever they're calling themselves today ... after our General Convention passed D025, stating that we will abide by our constitution and canons in seeking deacons and priests and electing people to the episcopate.

I'm bemused by the voices coming from the Church of England, where there are so very many gay men serving in the priesthood and episcopate.

I am amused that Rowan Williams would chide our church, while saying that William Stringfellow (a gay Episcopalian) was the finest theologican ever to come out of the U.S.

Rowan has spent his career acting in conflict with the beliefs and values he exercised while he was a priest in Wales.

So I adored this photo, which I have shamelessly nicked from MadPriest.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Bishops Approve D025

Words fail me. I am astonished. Tonight the House of Bishops approved D025 with only one amendment, which I consider minor. And they approved it with a huge majority: 99 for, 45 against, and 2 abstaining. That is similar to the House of Deputies 2:1 margin. Astonishing!

The bishops amended the 6th resolve to read:
Resolved that this 76th General Convention affirm that God has called and may call such individuals to any ordained ministry within TEC and that God's call to the ministry is a mystery which the Church attempts to discern for all people through our discernment processes acting in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church.
Compare it to that passed by House of Deputies:
Resolved, the 76th General Convention affirm that God has called and may call such individuals to any ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church, which call is tested through our discernment processes acting in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church;
I believe that is a minor amendment, and I hope the Deputies will accept it. If so, it will be a done deal.

I have been dubious, even depressed and hopeless that the Bishops would concur with D025. I didn't believe D025 had a chance of passing the House of Bishops. They proved me wrong … quickly … and by a 99 to 45 margin. I am astonished and nearly speechless.

As I have said to some of you, I know I have to eat a lot of crow now. I was miserably wrong about the Bishops. It never occurred to me that they would concur with this resolution at all -- much less by such a wide margin. But I am delighted. So … I will try to find some crow, and recipes for well-served crow, suggestions for appropriate side dishes, etc. I will happily do so.

To me, the bishops’ concurrence with D025 feels like a long-awaited “welcome home.” I am touched, astonished, and profoundly grateful that they have said I do have a place in TEC.
Drink this in, my friends. Pending agreement about the 6th resolve, the House of Deputies and the House of Deputies have both concurred to this resolution:

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 76th General Convention reaffirm the continued participation of The Episcopal Church as a constituent member of the Anglican Communion; give thanks for the work of the bishops at the Lambeth Conference of 2008; reaffirm the abiding commitment of The Episcopal Church to the fellowship of churches that constitute the Anglican Communion and seek to live into the highest degree of communion possible; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention encourage dioceses, congregations, and members of The Episcopal Church to participate to the fullest extent possible in the many instruments, networks and relationships of the Anglican Communion; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention reaffirm its financial commitment to the Anglican Communion and pledge to participate fully in the Inter-Anglican Budget; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention affirm the value of "listening to the experience of homosexual persons," as called for by the Lambeth Conferences of 1978, 1988, and 1998, and acknowledge that through our own listening the General Convention has come to recognize that the baptized membership of The Episcopal Church includes same-sex couples living in lifelong committed relationships "characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God" (2000-D039); and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention recognize that gay and lesbian persons who are part of such relationships have responded to God's call and have exercised various ministries in and on behalf of God's One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and are currently doing so in our midst; and be it further

[Note:This is the part that the House of Bishops amended, so the language here is not what the Bishops passed.] Resolved, That the 76th General Convention affirm that God has called and may call such individuals, to any ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church,; and that God's call to the ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church is a mystery which the Church attempts to discern for all people through our discernment processes acting in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention acknowledge that members of The Episcopal Church as of the Anglican Communion, based on careful study of the Holy Scriptures, and in light of tradition and reason, are not of one mind, and Christians of good conscience disagree about some of these matters.

Something very close to this will be the official statement of The Episcopal Church. Thanks be to God.

Mainline Protestants and Same-Sex Marriage

The July 10 episode of PBS’s Religion & Ethics Newsweekly includes a long segment, “Mainline Protestants and Same-Sex Marriage.” The focus is on UCC and Presbyterians in Boston, but also includes discussion of Massachusetts Episcopal clergy, who have not been allowed by Bishop Shaw to perform marriages. It includes a segment with Boston’s Emmanuel Episcopal Church.

Watch it here.

A Dope-Slap against Secrecy in TEC

Resolution D045 (Committee Member Transparency) passed the House of Deputies, and was concurred by the House of Bishops today. So it is enacted. Hooray!

The text reads:
Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 76th General Convention direct that the membership of all committees, subcommittees, task forces, panels or other bodies elected or appointed by any body or leader throughout The Episcopal Church including, but not limited to, the House of Deputies, the House of Bishops, the Executive Council, Standing Commissions, Committees, Agencies and Boards of The Episcopal Church and their respective Presiding Officers and Chairs be publicly available within 30 days after election or appointment.
Kudos to Fort Worth Deputy Katie Sherrod, who crafted this resolution, and to Deputies Nancy Key of San Joaquin and Joan Gundersen of Pittsburgh who endorsed it, allowing it to be filed with the General Convention Secretariat. And kudos to all the bishops and deputies who saw the imminent good sense of this resolution.

You all may remember some of the back-story on this. In a church that proclaims openness and transparency in its deliberations, Bishop Henry Parsley (Alabama) created a super-duper secret panel to study the issue of same-sex relationships in our church. He refused to name the members of the panel. Many of us decried that action, as I did here. On July 1, I was able to reveal the names of most of the panel members, and Jim Naughton revealed the remaining two on July 10.

Katie did something much more significant in response to Bishop Parsley’s attempted secrecy: She crafted a resolution that should guarantee Parsley and others can never again engage in this kind of secrecy.

With the passage of D045, we should never again have to resort to skullduggery to find out who is serving on our church’s committees, subcommittees, task forces, panels or other bodies – whether elected or appointed.

Go on over to Katie Sherrod’s blog and send her a big “Thank You!” Do it now.

Astonishing Insights from a Lambeth Commission Member

Many of you will remember that Dr. Jenny Te Paa (principal of the College of Saint John the Evangelist, Auckland, New Zealand, within the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia) was a member of the Lambeth Commission that penned the so-called Windsor Report … which some people have now enshrined right up there with the Nicene Creed and the Lambeth Quadrilateral.

She is a guest at our General Convention, and she addressed the Convention on Saturday. I am astonished and grateful for her remarks.

She reveals that the Lambeth Commission had no idea how our Episcopal Church operates. She gives thanks for our generosity in the face of massive assaults from others in the Communion. And she seems almost to apologize for what the Windsor Report and the primates have hurled upon our church.

Please, please do go over to the Episcopal Café and read the full text.
Here I share with you just a few snippets from her address:

We are as a Provincial Church both proudly autonomous and yet not to the extent that we cannot hear the cries of the poor beyond our own national gates. We are as a Provincial Church confidently relational and yet not to the extent that we render our unique identity ambivalent. We have in past times been bold in asserting what we see as necessary ‘innovations’ for our context and times. We have brought these respectfully to the councils of the global Anglican Communion and we have on occasion known the sharp sting of rebuff and rebuke. Many of you may not realize that my Province is the only one to ever have been officially censured by the Anglican Consultative Council. It was recent and was to do with our 1992 decision to revise our Constitution along what our critics claimed were ‘dangerously unprecedented racially prescriptive lines’!

The proposal lacks theological credibility said some. The proposal unjustly privileges one [racial] group over another, said others. We proceeded anyway, and we continue to live with faith and endless hope into the promises and the sometimes still untidy consequences of our rightful, timely and necessary decision.

We were at the time thankful for the opinions of others, we were appalled and saddened by others but at the end of the day we sought to proceed to do what we truly believed God was calling, urging, pleading with us to do, which was in our case to do with redeeming our Churches historic legacy of grave injustice toward minority indigenous peoples including indigenous or Maori Anglicans.

I see clear parallels here. Episcopal Church sisters and brothers, you too must follow your contextual spiritual conscience because in the first instance you have to live justly with yourselves in order that you can in turn and in time, live justly and in good faith with others in the Communion.


It may be worth my repeating here something I said the other day in my contribution to the Chicago Consultation luncheon event at which I spoke. I was sharing in all humility one of my deepest regrets (one that I know is shared by other Commissioners) that as members of the Lambeth Commission we were never fully apprised of the full facts of your polity and in particular of the limits to the power of the office of Presiding Bishop.

As a result of that crucial gap in knowledge and understanding it is my belief that the very unfair, in fact the odious myth of ‘The Episcopal Church acting (in the matter of the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson) with typical unchecked US imperialism’, was more readily enabled and abetted to grow wings and fly unchecked for way too long across the reaches of the Anglican Communion.

It was only in hindsight as a number of us as Commissioners managed to catch our breath, to compare notes and to consult with our trusted Episcopal Church sisters and brothers that I realized, that we realized, to our utterly deserved chagrin that we had perhaps failed albeit inadvertently to prevent something of the unprecedented vilification of the Episcopal Church and especially of its leadership that inevitably resulted….

I share this with you not by way of exploiting the privilege of this public platform as a confessional site but rather by way of affirming with boundless respect and gratitude the truly mutually redemptive moment it is that you now enable us all to live into.

Your generosity of spirit in spite of all you have suffered so unjustly and unnecessarily over the past few years is just so perfectly admirable. That you continue with such magnanimity to gather international friends, to share with us so openly, so willingly all that you do so formidably, so precisely, so efficiently and so compassionately is a gift offering of such magnitude that it seems so utterly insufficient for me to simply say thank you, thank you, thank you.

If I could be so bold I want also to assure you that among ourselves as your international friends we are now all quietly urging you not to dwell unduly with any sense of uncertainty about your place within the global Anglican Communion. Sure the fearmongerers abound – they always have and they always will but surely our gaze must always be fixed beyond the horizon of fear and just as surely that gaze must always apprehend first and foremost the images of those who are the least among us.


My friends the time is now to go forward together into our shared faithfilled future. Let me once again say to you Bonnie, indeed to you here gathered as the House of Deputies, thank you for your abundant generosity, your enabling missional presence in God’s world through your significant contributions to the Christian life and witness of the global Anglican Communion.
[Emphases mine]

Please read her entire address at the Episcopal Café.

Here is my take-away.

These words are being spoken to the Episcopal Church by a member of the Lambeth Commission who has seen that group’s work subverted and ill-used by enemies of the Episcopal Church. She didn’t say it, but many of have lamented the fact that the “Windsor Report” has been turned into an idol within the Anglican Communion. I hear her saying, “Tear down this idol.”

Over the last few days, I have heard many voices suggesting that the loudest voices of the obstreperous Primates are not the voice of the members of the Anglican Communion. I know for a fact that the obstreperous voice of the Primate of Sudan is not the unanimous voice of the bishops within Sudan – many of whom have such blessed relationships with Episcopal dioceses in the U.S.

Thank God for Dr. Jenny Te Paa’s voice. May others hear and heed it. May our bishops especially heed it.

I am coming to believe we have more friends throughout the Anglican Communion than we realized.

[Photo Credit: Anglican Communion News Service]

D025: Good News from the House of Deputies

And a Serious and Pointed (and Funny) Prayer

I am very pleased to learn that tonight our House of Deputies passed resolution D025, which moves beyond B033, while reaffirming our commitment to the Anglican Communion. I think it’s a brilliantly worded, generously nuanced resolution. It
  • affirms our commitment to the Anglican Communion (including financial support)
  • acknowledges our Church includes ”same-sex couples living in lifelong committed relationships ‘characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God’” who are serving in various ministries in our Church
  • affirms that God has called and will continue to call such persons “to any ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church” consistent with our Constitution and Canons
  • acknowledges there is still disagreement in our Church, and that we have come to our conclusions “based on careful study of the Holy Scriptures, and in light of tradition and reason”
You can see the current text of D025 at the GC site here.

It passed by a 2:1 majority in both the lay and clergy orders of the House of Deputies. That is overwhelming support! Thanks be to God.

If you want to get a sense of the HoD’s debate/deliberations, read Jim Naughton’s liveblogs here and here. [And an aside: Where, oh where would we be if it weren’t for the fine work Jim and his Episcopal Café team are doing during this General Convention?]

As usual, Jim has a wise perspective on this vote, writing in part:
It does not so much pave the way for the election of another bishop in a same-sex partnership as it does remove an artificial impediment to our ongoing discernment on this issue which may, just may, resume diocese by diocese and case by case.
Indeed. B033 was in direct contravention of our canons, which specifically state that sexual orientation is not ipso facto a bar to the discernment process for deacons, priests, or bishops.

Similarly, Mark Harris (who served on the subcommittee to craft D025) writes:
…passage of D025 does not end caution and restraint expressed by any bishop or standing committee convinced by the arguments of the Anglican Covenant or the various pronouncements following the Windsor Report. What it does do is say that The Episcopal Church will not mandate such caution and restraint by legislative action.
I thank God that Mark is serving on the World Mission Committee this triennium, and I give thanks for his good head, heart, and spirit.

Resolution D025 came out of the World Mission Committee, which was charged to handle all the B033-related resolutions. Center Aisle, the GC newsletter of the Diocese of Virginia, included this sad, sobering news in its Sunday edition: “Bishops on World Mission voted 3-2 against the proposal, while deputies on the panel approved it 24-2.” To me, that further portends the train wreck that I fear is coming between the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. Jim Naughton, however, urges us not too read to much into that vote by the bishops on the committee. He writes: “I would also caution against reading too much into the opposition of the bishops on the panel who voted 3-2 against it. The sample size is small, and the vote close. One of the bishops who voted in favor of D025 was Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island, who is very much a centrist.”

Many fellow bloggers and Facebook friends are dancing the happy dance about the Deputies’ passage of D025. I am happy, but I do not yet see any cause for dancing.

For now the rubber hits the road, as the resolution goes to the House of Bishops. As you know, I am none too sanguine about how our bishops may deal with any of the resolutions related to B033, the place of partnered gay men and lesbians in the Episcopal Church, or the blessing of same-sex unions or marriages. In fact, I am downright depressed about their probable actions … though I cling to the hope of being surprised by joy.

So … on a lighter note, I am thankful for this lovely prayer from fellow blogger Paul Strid, which I am reproducing in full (with his gracious permission):
Dear God, you are our Source, our Goal, and our Way. Your Word calls the cosmos into being and sustains it, your Spirit gives it life, blessing us with an endless diversity and that unity which is your gift to creation. Some of us are prone to anxiety and dread when church legislative bodies gather. Lift that cloud from us, we pray, and remind us that when your faithful people gather it is you who have called them together, you who are in their midst, you who work your purposes through the most fragile, flawed, and recalcitrant vessels. Pour out your Spirit in abundance on the Deputies and Bishops gathered in Anaheim and open their hearts to you and to one another. Keep us all ever mindful of the mission of your Church and of your initiative for the salvation and sanctification of the world, that we may align ourselves to your intentions and work rather than presume to harness you for ours. May our representatives in General Convention and all of us never lose sight of those we are called to serve. If it is not too presumptuous of me to ask this, please remind the bishops that they are the junior house in our Church, called to serve and not to rule, and feel free to use a two-by-four if necessary. Help us all to love one another and unite in shared mission and ministry.
--Your wayward brat, Paul
And amen. If need be, may God lay a spiritual two-by-four upon the heads and hearts and souls of our bishops.

[Photo credit: Photo of the D025 text shamelessly nicked from Mark Harris. Thanks, Mark.]

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Two Fewer Secrets

The secret theology committee is no more. So writes Jim Naughton at the Lead.

I posted the initial list here on July 1; Jim now gives us the last two members’ names:

Hooray for the diminution of secrecy.

As I wrote before, let us keep them in our prayers. And let's leave them alone to do their work.

Speaking of Transparency

I stayed off the blogosphere for a whole 14 hours last night and this morning! Hooray for me! (Of course, several of those were spent in sleep ... Oh well.)

One of the first I read today was a piece on James’ The Three Legged Stool, in which he reports that today
the bishops will discuss B033 in executive session, a secret session, a closed to the Public session where they can be the fraternity they enjoy being and swear everyone to silence like the Skull and Bones Society.
James rightly contrasts the House of Bishops' secrecy with the House of Deputies and the committees, which have conducted all their sessions and hearings in public – with visitors and reporters welcome; some of those sessions have even been webcast live.

But the bishops apparently need the cover of secrecy for their conversation. Just like they needed their “panel on same-sex relationships” to be given the shroud of secrecy. [Hmmm … “Shroud.” Perhaps a felicitous choice of nouns.]

Anybody else see a disturbing trend here?

P.S. Since writing this piece this morning, I see that Jim Naughton broke the story last night. Jim is a brick!

Friday, July 10, 2009

To Whom Shall We Go?

I know it’s way too early in the General Convention schedule to begin looking toward the closing gavel and the days beyond. But I cannot help it, for I am distressed by what I am not hearing from our bishops.

Every blog I read – even the extremely conservative ones – believes that the House of Deputies is ready to move beyond B033. At least ready to reject it. Maybe just by restating our canons (that there be no discrimination) and rejecting extra-canonical restraints. Perhaps even to call for development of rites for same-sex blessings or even marriages.

But that’s the clergy and laypeople in the House of Deputies.

I am sensing different and worrisome rumblings from the House of Bishops. Bloggers are observing that very few bishops are attending hearings and speaking on behalf of the various measures that would reject B033 or move our church beyond it.

Gene Robinson has bravely written more on his blog on Thursday:

We also had a disturbing private (no one in the gallery) conversation in the House of Bishops that led me to feel discouraged about what lies ahead. That conversation is private, so I can't detail it, but there seems to be a kind of belligerent attitude toward the House of Deputies by some of our bishops. Their vision of the episcopate is way too "high and mighty" for my taste, or my theology, and I am not happy about it. The last thing we bishops need is a larger measure of arrogance. Didn't Jesus save his most serious criticism for the religious powers-that-be of his day who lorded their power and position over others?
and today:

One alarming thing about last night's hearing was the fact that there were almost NO bishops present. Other than those on the committee (who HAD to be there), there were only five bishops present: Andrus (California), Beckwith (Newark) and myself, arguing for moving forward; Love (Albany) and Lawrence (South Carolina) arguing for continuing B033. Other than these, NO bishop was present to hear the two hours of voices from the Church appealing for progress.

I fear (and I hope I'm not being overly dramatic here) that we are moving toward a train wreck between the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. I sense an unwillingness among the bishops to listen to these voices of the laity and clergy. I hope I'm terribly wrong, but it seems that bishops feel they have some special access to God's will and nothing will persuade them otherwise. I shutter to think of a church where the Bishops are so disconnected from the will of the people they serve. Please God, let me be terribly wrong about this perception, and may the scales fall from my pessimistic eyes and reveal an episcopate who has listened to the Spirit's movement in the people of this Church. Nothing would make me happier than to be wrong about this. Only time will tell.
Coming into this General Convention, the conservative bloggers were saying that “all is lost” – that TEC would move ahead on what they see as a dreadful course.

Now, I am confronting the fact that about 110 diocesan bishops may stonewall the issue and stand against the strong will (perhaps even a super-majority) of the 880 deputies. Remember, I suggested that back here on June 3. The bishops let Parsley establish a super-duper secret committee to study the theology of same-sex relationships … with a due date of 2011 for that report. I now grow more concerned that “the fix was in” long before the bishops and deputies arrived in Anaheim.

Now … I invite you to think with me. What will you do if the Deputies and Bishops come down on opposite sides?

It seems likely the Deputies may come down overwhelmingly in support of faithful LGBT Christians, and the bishops will come firmly down against us. I recognize that’s a short-hand way of putting the issue. It seems to me that the Deputies may … recognize that Scripture does not forbid the faithful relationships we experience … see and perceive the blessedness within same-sex relationships … see the need for the church to participate in our covenants … see that faithful Christians may serve (and, in fact, already are serving) in all orders (as bishops, deacons, and priests) in our church.

And the bishops – some of whom personally see the same thing –notwithstanding all that – may decide to block any action for the sake of the Anglican Unity Tea they drank at Lambeth.

Make no mistake: If the House of Bishops block the action of the House of Deputies, they will be telling me personally that they care more for the Archbishops of Nigeria, Uganda, etc. than they are about me. Yes, I will take it personally.

The effect would be the blockade of any action of the Deputies by the House of Bishops. In our bicameral structure, the Bishops have that power. They can block any action of the House of Deputies.

What will you do if that happens?

I will find myself profoundly conflicted.

Because I love my parish, find great communion in my diocese, and love my bishop, I will be tempted to “suck it in” and continue to remain in place within my place in my Episcopal parish. Chastened, distanced, and profoundly sad. Hoping for the next General Convention, when perhaps things might change. I don’t know that I will have the heart to do that.

And I will be tempted to quit the Episcopal Church once and for all … as I did during my “sabbatical from TEC” in July 2006, after B033. If the bishops of TEC choose schismatic bullies like Akinola over me, then I will have to look elsewhere. I do not want to be “tolerated” or “accepted on sufferance.” I recognize what I experienced back in 2006: that no other church has the theology and liturgy that drew me to TEC. I tried them all: Romans, UCC, Disciples, ELCA. In this part of the world, they are all spooky-conservative and/or liturgically impoverished. Having made those explorations in 2006, I know I won’t find another church home in this place. I’ll just join the increasing number of Americans who worship at St. Arbucks on Sundays.

I love this church. The Episcopal Church has challenged me again and again to wrestle with my baptismal covenant and forces me – Sunday after Sunday – to consider whether I am living the holiness of life personally and in community. If I have to leave this church, it will be as painful as the most painful divorce.

But I don’t see how I can remain in a church that officially declares me and my faith dispensable. And I fear the bishops are about to do exactly that.

What about you? What are you all thinking you will do if the bishops choose to maintain the status quo?

TEC Transparency

Thank you, Katie Sherrod!

The staff at our church headquarters likes to claim that “openness” and “transparency” are core values. But you will recall that’s not always the case.

You will remember how I have railed at the super-duper-secret panel that Bishop Henry Nutt Parsley appointed to study same-sex relationships until 2011. I was ticked that yet-another committee had been created for what I think will be the tenth or eleventh study of this matter in TEC. But what I found most outrageous was that +Parsley tried to keep their identities secret, claiming they need to operate in secret in order to exercise “academic freedom.” Pretty much everyone recognized that was a crock. To my knowledge, this was the first time a TEC group had been created with a secret membership. I did my best to reveal those names.

Now Katie Sherrod – God bless her! – has filed a resolution before GC that would outlaw this kind of sneakiness once and for all.

Here is the text of D045.

Resolution: D045
Title: Committee Member Transparency
Topic: Committees and Commissions
Committee: 06 - Structure
House of Initial Action: Deputies
Proposer: Ms. Katie Sherrod
Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 76th General Convention direct that the membership of all committees, subcommittees, task forces and panels elected or appointed by any body or leader of throughout The Episcopal Church (including, but not limited to, the House of Deputies, the House of Bishops, the Executive Council, Standing Commissions, Committees, Agencies and Boards of The Episcopal Church and their respective Presiding Officers and Chairs) be publicly available within 30 days after election or appointment.


The Episcopal Church should model in its governance and life the transparency and openness all Christians are called to demonstrate. Our Baptismal Covenant calls us to seek Christ in all people and to respect the dignity of every human being. Transparency in our dealings with one another is one way human dignity is respected. Conversely, secrecy is destructive of human dignity and of our common life. Making public the names of persons elected or appointed to any body charged to work in Christ's name for the good of the Church serves the Church's health and promotes trust in one another.

Do what you can to advocate for the passage of D045. No more secret committees/panels in TEC, which claims to be open and transparent!

Duped by TEC Communicators

Out here away from Disneyland, many of us had been waiting for the HoD's "special order" session this evening, in which "conversation about B033" had been promised. We were told the House of Deputies would have a session in which there would be conversation about resolution B033, which was passed in the 2006 General Convention.

I organized my evening so I could watch that session.

Supposedly, it would be webcast on the highly touted GC Media Hub. I went there, but that site continues to be virtually useless for live webcasts. I've never even been able to get the page to load properly ... even on a T1 connection. Finally, I resorted to Baby Blue's site to catch amateur video of it. Pity when we have to go to our Worthy Opponents to get timely news about our own church.

I have pretty good connectivity – with a T1 line at work and high-speed DSL at home – and I’m a fairly savvy user of websites. From my attempted use, the MediaHub thing looks like a raving failure so far.

I hit “refresh” time after time, but the whole page would never load properly.

And these are the "communicators" who promise to lead us into a brave new world??? I think not.

Remember, these are the people who have proposed to kill our print publications because the Web is going to be oh-so-glorious and we can trust them to make it so.

If I, a highly motivated “consumer” of their Web product this week, can’t even get their website to work for me, then what does that say for the future of the site? I was so highly motivated that I was willing to hit “refresh” time after time after time, hoping the darn page would load correctly. Do you believe a mere “inquirer” would have that much patience. I don’t.

On this experience alone, I would urge our Bishops and Deputies to say a resounding “NO!” to their proposal. If the folks currently in charge of TEC communications can’t even make a tricycle work, I am not ready to give them a whole new platform for TEC communications.

TELP in the Pressroom

I will confess to some schadenfreude when I learned that Matt Kennedy (of StandFirm infamy) was refused press credentials to cover our General Convention. I don’t know why his request was denied. It can't be simply because he wants to blow up the Episcopal Church, for David Virtue continues to get press credentials.

I was delighted, though, to see and hear our Elizabeth Kaeton in this morning’s media briefing. She asked a cogent question about whether the bishops might want to be observers in the House of Deputies conversation about B033. It’s a question I have asked here in my blog.

Watch it here:

or click on this link.

Elizabeth appears about 2 minutes in.

I am just sorry we only got to see and listen from behind her.

I am working on another rant – totally separate from this matter. The Episcopal Church ballyhooed its “Media Hub.” But I have not been able to get that MediaHub to load properly and give me clear streaming video, whether I’m at home on my high-speed DSL connection or at work with my blazingly high-speed T1 connection. It seems to me that the “communicators” at The Episcopal Church have totally bungled their effort … while they are asking us to trust them to give up print publication and move into the bold new world of Internet communications.

In my book, the TEC staff has scored one big goose-egg in their communications. I wanted to watch this press conference on the TEC site, but I could not. I had to watch it at the site of our worthy opponent, Baby Blue. That is SO WRONG! My experience of the TEC communications during the GC so far tells me we can't trust them any further than we can throw them.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Lift High the Cards

In the recent days leading up to General Convention, there was a conversation on the HoBD listserv about today’s electronic voting do-hickeys vs. yesterday’s tradition of lifting up red or green sheets to vote “no” or “yes.” Someone recalled that a couple of deputies had taken up the microphone at a past General Convention to sing a hymn to the red and green voting cards.

I have searched the wide world over, and found Lowell Grisham, who is willing to admit his joint authorship of that hymn. He said it was written and "performed" by him and David Elliott of Mississippi. It was sung to the tune of "Lift High the Cross" at the 1991 Arizona Convention.


Lift high the cards
The green and red, those two
Till our Convention says,
"Debate is through."

Fort Worth and Newark
Vote a different game,
But blessed are the color-blind
Who see them both the same.


It's true men's voices,
When voting, rage and foam
Are louder in this House
But, not our house at home.


March we to Heaven
After we are dead,
But will good St. Peter
Raise the green or red?