Wednesday, August 26, 2009

End of an Era

Back in late June, when Michael Jackson died, I did not understand the gush of emotion throughout the U.S. and even around the world. Wikipedia estimates that over 31 million people watched his memorial service in Los Angeles. I was saddened by the death of that man who had shown such promise and been such an entertainer in his childhood and youth. But I didn’t “get it” about the huge reaction. I heard one media person attribute it to his death being the loss of the last icon of the Baby Boomers generation. I didn’t believe it for one moment. I didn’t buy it.

But this morning was different. Back pain awoke me about 5 a.m., and I hit the radio by my bedside to listen to NPR, hoping to fall asleep again. And I heard the horrible news. Senator Edward Kennedy died last night. This one did get to me.

To me, this is the end of an era. Whatever their private flaws, the Kennedy brothers behaved as true public servants, not just politicians. They often embodied profiles in courage. They sometimes went against their supporters. They seemed to care about the nation and our common weal. These privileged white boys from Boston championed civil rights. Perhaps it was their “aristocracy” that gave them the freedom to stand for values that I shared then and now.

As it happens, I had a meeting a church this evening that got me home late. PBS was showing the documentary, The Kennedys. It’s been difficult for me to watch. President Kennedy was the first President I remember; he was President when I was in 1st grade, and I remember that school was cancelled the day he was killed until after his burial.

And then Martin and Bobby were murdered in 1968. I developed a visceral reaction to those “Special News Bulletins” that blocked out our black-and-white TV screen back in those days. Julian Bond spoke of the death of hope after Bobby Kennedy’s murder: “And then it was over. The whole thing was just over.”

Routed by Carter for the Democratic nomination in 1980, Senator Edward Kennedy assuaged his supporters: “… the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die” in his 1980 concession speech And work he did for that work, those causes, those hopes, and those dreams.

And now Teddy is dead. Many people are explaining how that barely-30-year-old man grew into his full stature as a Senator who could make legislation, moving things forward for human rights and justice, working across the aisle to protect “the least of these.” He is not the man he was way back in the 1970s when he was first elected to the Senate. I have missed his voice in the health-care discussions. Now his voice is silenced forever. We shall not see his like again.

That line comes from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 2, in which he says to Horatio, about his dead father:
He was a man, take him for all in all,
I shall not look upon his like again.
This one hits home, and it hits hard.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


It’s been a busy week all around. Home, work, church. I have not had the time, energy, or inclination to keep up with blogosphere.

It’s not that I’m in a black funk … though I was in that place when I last posted here. It’s mostly that I haven’t had anything of value to say.

Then I hurt my back (bad!) and have been suffering since last Friday. It's been hard to sit upright with the laptop.

Yesterday – thanks be to God! – my sister came up for a p.m. meeting and a Sister Slumber Party. That was delightful. And she was most kind.

After three days of limping around, today I went to the doc (who is a D.O., not a M.D.), and she cracked and broke most of my spinal system. I'm still in a lot of pain and on muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatories, but I hope I'm on the upswing now. At least I'm not just lying around and whimpering. Well, truth to tell, I am still whimpering more than I should. But I hope things will get better.

I know I owe some of you e-mail responses, and I hope you will forgive my tardiness.

Over the past week, I have not had the heart or will to follow the Anglican blogosphere. I have kept up with some news, and have been sad to read the news (especially from MadPriest) about some bloggers who are “giving it up.” I am not giving it up. I just can’t sit upright, and the meds keep me from thinking clearly.

Occasionally, I have thought I was seeking discernment. But nah! I'm just seeking the ability to sit upright long enough to read the blogs and write on my own. Surely it won't be long before I back to my ranting and fulminating self.

As Arnold said: I will be back.

"I have nothing to say" cartoon courtesy of Dave Walker.
"Nerve" image courtesy of the Still National Osteopathis Museum, A.T. Still University, Kirksville, Missouri, which I can't find on their site but found here in miniature.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Strange Day ... and Hallelujah

Today has been a strange day. It started off well. Lots of productivity. Housecleaning and laundry and playing with and tending to the cats. Assembled another fan. [I’m in an old house with 9-foot ceilings, so I'm not using air-conditioning unless the outdoor temp is above 80 degrees.]

Something changed in early afternoon when the Web sucked me in. Started trying to find old friends and co-workers on Facebook, the Web, etc. One thing led to another. And melancholy set in. Eventually, I went over to Facebook, where I have not been keeping up with “status updates” for a couple of weeks.

H/t to Catherine for pointing me to this video of K.D. Lang singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” I don’t know why this song gets to me so deeply. But it does. I don’t think it’s the lyrics. I think it’s the strange mix of melancholy and praise in the music. I’ve been there so very often. I'm there today.

Nobody does it better. It takes a torch-song diva to do it justice. And K.D. Lang does it just right. Enjoy. Or cry in your beer. Whichever seems more appropriate.

Or go directly to YouTube.

Addendum: Playing around on YouTube, I found this earlier version with K.D. Lang. Not such a big production, but all the passion. I could watch and listen to her for hours. Oops! What am I saying? I already have been watching and listening for hours. So here's the earlier version.

Here are the lyrics, courtesy of this site:

I've heard there was a secret chord
that David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, Do you?
It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
The minor Fall, The major lift,
The baffled king composing, hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair, she broke your throne
she cut your hair and from your lips she drew the halleujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Maybe I've been here before
I know this room, I've walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you
I've seen your flag on the marble arch
love is not a victory march
it's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

There was a time you let me know
What's real and going on below
but now you never show it to me, do you?
And remember when I moved in you
the holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Maybe there's a God above
And all I ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
It's not a cry you can hear at night
It's not somebody who's seen the light
it's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah…

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Evangelism and Colonialism

Like many of you, I subscribe to the Bishops/Deputies listserv. I’ve seen a couple of particularly ugly discussions recently where the “orthodites” are using all possible language to insult LGBTs for our “sinful” or even perverse “choices” that lead some of us to make faithful covenants with one another.

The discussion has now taken a different turn, with a priest from Central Florida charging that we [i.e., the majority of Episcopalians] don’t understand Real Evangelism. He says Mother Teresa's work was “not evangelism.” The kindest words he could muster in his judgment of Mother Teresa was that hers was a sort of “pre-evangelism, while have a dignity and value of its own apart from whether any evangelism occurred.” [sic] [I’m not misquoting; I am quoting directly from his post. His sentence made no grammatical sense, but that’s not my fault.] He continued: “Evangelism is present Jesus to people." [sic] He says we should emulate those in the Acts of the Apostles: "They preached Jesus." Apparently, in his worldview, the only evangelism that counts is the sort that grabs people and “preaches Jesus” first, foremost, and overtly. I wonder if that means we need to grab people by the throat and warn them they must either accept Jesus as their PersonalLordAndSaviour or face eternal hellfire and damnation. [You know how the evangelical Protestants say it breathlessly – as if “PersonalLordAndSaviour” were a single word.] That certainly is how his comments sound to me.

I don’t have posting privileges on the HoBD listserv. If I did, here is the story I would tell.

Many of you know that I am deeply involved in the covenant relationship between the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri (TEC) and the Diocese of Lui (Episcopal Church of Sudan).

The history of Anglicanism among the Moru people in Sudan is well told in The Doctor Comes to Lui. I don’t have the book at hand, for I’ve loaned it out. But here’s the short version.

In the early 20th century, Fraser was a Scotsman who served in the military in World War I for the British Empire in southern Sudan. He was so moved by their situation that – when he ended his military service – he returned to Scotland, went back to school, and earned his M.D. degree, so that he and his wife Eileen could return to Moruland in southern Sudan to serve as a doctor. From all accounts, he was an evangelical Anglican. But he didn’t go to Lui to found a church first. No, first he established a hospital in Lui.

He healed the sick. He healed people who had been mauled by lions. He helped women give birth to healthy babies. He gave vaccinations. And [way before we had “invented” the concept of parish nursing], he trained the Moru people in primary care and established Primary Care Units throughout Moruland. [The photo above is one I took in 2006, of a Primary Care Unit which is now empty and abandoned. There is no primary care now.]

Then he began establishing schools. He taught some people who could become teachers. He established schools, and he sent trained teachers out to teach in the villages. More and more children began to learn to read and write. [The photo at left is from 2006 of the Lunjini School, adjacent to the cathedral, supported by the Diocese of Lui.]

While Dr. Fraser and his wife Eileen were doing all that, they prayed the prayed the daily office, morning and evening, each day. They had a small brick-and-mud home, which was very hot indoors. So they prayed the daily office outdoors, on their verandah. As the local people grew to know and trust the Frasers, more and more Moru people began to join them on the porch and began to inquire about this Jesus who had sent them from the comfort of Scotland into the difficult life of southern Sudan.

Eventually, and because of so many questions and much trust from the people of Lui, Dr. Fraser and his wife began holding Sunday services under a spreading shade tree in the village of Lui.

Where did they hold those services? There is a huge spreading tree in Lui. [I think it's a banyan.] In the days of slavery, Arab slavetraders from northern Susan would round up Africans in southern Sudan and sell them to westerners under this big spreading tree. The tree was named “Laru” or “Loru.” The Frasers decided to hold their first Episcopal services under the spreading arms of that tree. They preached Christ and salvation under that tree that had once been a place of despair and bondage. [The photo at right is at the base of the Laru tree in 2006, with children who now go to school in Lui.]

Because I don’t have the Fraser book in front of me, I don’t remember the chronology. But my recollection is that this move – from arrival as doctor to emergence as preacher and evangelist – took at least 10 years. Fraser knew that trust had to be established first. First, the people of Lui had to see Jesus in the Frasers! The Frasers had the sense that they had to live the Gospel before they dared to preach the Gospel.

Fast-forward from the 1920s to today. There is a strong Christian presence among the Moru people. The area is heavily Christian. When the Moru people built a cathedral, they named it Fraser Cathedral, in honor of the man who brought healthcare, education, and Christianity to the area. [The entrance to the Lui Cathedral compound bears a sign including the name of the Fraser Cathedral (seen in the background).]

The Moru people in Lui don’t seem to perceive Christianity as something that was forced upon them. They remember Dr. Fraser as a man who served, was sensitive to their culture, and did more listening than talking.

My experience in Lui is that they welcome ideas and support from Episcopalians/Anglicans. I believe that’s because Dr. Fraser came to Lui in humility. He did not come in first preaching Christ and threatening them with hellfire and damnation. From all I have read, he came with Christian passion and in Christian humility. I think he did what Jesus did. First, he took care of their physical/medical needs. Then he addressed their educational needs, and finally he began explicitly to preach the Christian Gospel and worked to make disciples. As I read the Gospels, that sounds pretty much like what Jesus did.

So I wonder about people like the priest from Central Florida, who seems to think Mother Teresa – and, by extension, Dr. Fraser – are merely “second-class evangelists.”

The best thing I learned from Dr. Fraser’s story is that he was a quiet, slow evangelist but not at all a colonialist. He lived among the people and lived as they lived. He survived the same deprivations they endured. He listened deeply before he began to speak. Like Jesus, he addressed their physical needs before he began to address spiritual issues. I would like to see our whole church follow that model. That would protect us from the terrible mistakes of colonialism.

And I utterly reject the approach by the Deputy from Central Florida, who seems to think we need to slam people's heads with the Gospel. I believe he is wrong, wrong, wrong! Profoundly wrong. I believe his ChezusChristMyPersonalLordAndSavior is the colonialist problem – not the solution! I believe he is wrong in Africa, and I believe he is wrong about how evangelism can work in the U.S.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Children's Art Project for Lui, Sudan

Most of you know that, in addition to other duties, I chair the Companion Diocese Committee between our diocese and the Diocese of Lui, Sudan. Go over there. Anne Kelsey has offered a powerful essay. Read it!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Voices of Witness Africa

I received a gracious note with more information from Cynthia Black and Katie Sherrod, the producers of Voices of Witness Africa.

Here is their addendum:
Thank you for you kind words about Voices of Witness Africa. When we were making it we were often overwhelmed by the courage shown by our LGBT brothers and sisters in Africa. What Desmond Tutu says about the film on the cover of the DVD is the absolute truth -- "a brave tribute to a God of love"-- we cried many times (and still do) when we encountered their bravery and hope.

When 8 LGBT folks met with the Archbishop of Canterbury in Anaheim, Louie Crew chose to use his private time with Rowan (I believe each person had 90 seconds) to personally hand him a copy of the film. Louie said later that he felt that Rowan would watch it.

We're just finishing up the new website ( and will be able to take orders for copies of the DVD (they will be sold/shipped at cost-- $10 in the US) in a few weeks. If your readers can't wait, they can email, and we'll do our best to get them the DVD.

Yours in Christ,
Cynthia Black
Katie Sherrod
Producers, Voices of Witness Africa

Dear friends, when I went onto the VOWA site last night and made a contribution, I received a note back, that Integrity and Claiming the Blessing still have a shortfall of about $8,000 to cover their costs for making this video.

I beseech you: If you can afford to buy the $10 video, please give them a little something extra if you can afford it. Kick in an extra $10 or $15 for it, if you can. It will be a gracious donation.

If you can afford more, please send more. View the video. I believe you will agree with me that it is worth your support. Let's wipe out that $8k deficit as soon as possible.

Go here to make a secure donation.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Voices of Witness Africa

A dear friend brought me a gift from General Convention: a copy of the DVD Voices of Witness: Africa. It’s not quite a documentary. It is a simple, unvarnished compilation of testimonies, words, and stories from LGBT people living in Africa and a couple of retired African bishops. No narrator seeks to interpret or contextualize the stories. There is no narration. There are simply the faces and words of these people living in Africa – some of whom would face death or imprisonment if their stories were known.

The video is divided into five sections. The sections show LGBT Africans answering these questions:
  1. When did you become aware of your sexuality?
  2. Who did you talk to about your discovery of your sexuality?
  3. What is your relationship with God?
  4. What are your dreams?
  5. What do you want to say to the Church?
I watched this video with my friends this weekend. I thought it would be interesting to see the video that Katie Sherrod, Cynthia Black, and others had produced under the auspices of Integrity and Claiming the Blessing.

The video is much more powerful than I anticipated. I thank the producers and all who contributed to the creation of the video.

Here is one thing that I found chilling: Most of the people speak in their own voices, bravely and on camera. We see them and hear them. But there are also a large number of people whose faces are “blacked out,” the way we see secret informants in the U.S. These are Anglican Christians who dare not show their faces, for fear of the repercussions. The sheer number of them was chilling.

I quickly recalled that Anglican “clerics” like Akinola and Kolini are colluding with their governments to kill or imprison LGBT people. How anyone can consider these men “holy” or even “Christian” befuddles me now more than ever.

I did not expect to be moved so powerfully and feel such resonance with the stories these people told. As they answered the questions, “What is your relationship with God?” and “What do you want to say to the Church?,” I did not expect to find tears quietly flowing down my face. Their stories mirrored my own: I love God. I have been changed by God and by my life in the Church. And yet I find myself frustrated at the Church’s half-baked support of me and other LGBTs. I do not face the trials these Africans face; some of them live in countries where being – or being thought to be – gay can result in imprisonment or death. I don’t have that burden. But I related to their joys, their love of Jesus, their dreams for the church and society.

Here is a comment of one of the lesbians from Uganda:
    My relationship with God, I would say is fine. My relationship with Christians – that’s where I have a problem with because they are using the Bible, they are using God’s name to discriminate us.
    This is an important video and a marvelous gift to the Church. At a time when some churchmen like Abp Akinola say there are no gay men or lesbians in his church, at a time when people like Akinola and Kolini are working with their governments to make homosexuality a criminal act punishable by death or imprisonment, Claiming the Blessing gives voice to several LGBTs who love God, love Jesus, and yearn for a place in the Church.

    Do you hear this, Rowan Williams, Chief Pastor of the Anglican Communion?? Can you hear the voices of sheep within the Anglican fold who are desperate for a word of hope, of leadership, of tenderness?? Beaten down by the hate-filled Anglican clerics in Africa, these people still profess their love of Jesus, and they dream of a church that will welcome them, support them, and help them to grow. Of course, that’s not just an African dream. It’s the same dream I dream in the U.S. I suspect it’s the dream that LGBT Christians all over the world are dreaming. TEC took a couple of tiny steps last month in Anaheim. But it needs to spread over the whole world. LGBTs the world over are yearning to hear the welcome words from the Church: “Come home.”

    I would wish everyone would see this video. Unfortunately, if you go to the VOWA website, you can only view a trailer, download the study guide, and make a donation. [I have made my donation.] The site doesn’t yet afford a way to obtain the video. I know it is showing here and there around the Episcopal Church, but I hope Integrity and Claiming the Blessing will soon make the video available for sale via mail or download.

    Well done, Claiming the Blessing and Integrity!

    Sunday, August 09, 2009

    A Delightful Weekend Away

    I didn’t want to tell the world that I was taking a weekend away … lest the trolls zwoop in to the blog.

    But I did take a delightful weekend away. I have a beloved couple of friends who have a home on the Lake south of here where good conversation, delightful companionship, luscious food, and luxurious relaxation reign. I can’t believe I was only gone for 48 hours. I feel so renewed – in body, soul, and spirit – that it’s easy to think I must have been gone for a week. In addition to the aforementioned good conversation, companionship, and food, I had much relaxing time sitting out on the deck reading a no-count mystery, watching the boats go by (including this delightful sailboat), watching the birds, walking the dog, and just generally hanging out.

    I didn’t turn on the laptop but once … just to make sure all was well on the blog. You all kept the conversation going, and the trolls stayed away. Bless you! After about 20 minutes online, I realized I didn’t have energy for my online life, but wanted to spend time with my friends.

    Tomorrow, it’s back to my workday routine.

    Friday, August 07, 2009

    Elizabeth Kaeton on TEC Communications

    Elizabeth Kaeton has been as troubled as Herb Gunn, I, and others about recent decisions within TEC about the communications of our church.

    It seems clear that TEC has decided to focus its communications on “marketing and branding” instead of honest journalism and communications with Episcopalians. That was the point of Herb Gunn’s fine essay.

    Many of us are concerned about this new and unfortunate direction within TEC. So was Elizabeth Kaeton. With Elizabeth’s permission, I am publishing the comment she posted on the HoBD listserv in response to Herb Gunn’s essay. Hers is a cautionary tale. I hope the remaining communicators at TEC will heed her words.

    Elizabeth Kaeton on TEC Communications

    Hmmm . . .

    About four years ago, some of the marketing folks in my congregation launched a series of "focus groups" in the parish and community, with an eye toward "branding, marketing, messaging and public relations."

    Some of the folks who had experience in the corporate world with "marketing strategists" pulled me over and whispered in my ear, "Careful, Skywalker. One misstep and you'll be on the Dark Side."

    I laughed and tried to be a good "non anxious presence."

    I made the translations from secular to religious language:

    Branding = the uniqueness of our character as a Body of Christ.

    Marketing, etc. = Evangelism.

    No big deal. No problem.

    Besides, people were talking about what really mattered to them about church in general and St. Paul's in particular. This is not a Bad Thing, thought their rector and pastor. Indeed, this is a Very Good thing, she thought. And, so it was.

    After months of discussion and conversation, consuming more tea and "Lemon Delights" and "Death by Chocolate Cupcakes" than absolutely necessary, and lots of analysis and strategic marketing sessions, we got our 'logo' ("Logos" - get it?).

    Ta Da!: A cruciform tree, in movement (some say it looks like a 'dancing tree'), with "The Episcopal Church of St. Paul, Chatham" over the top and a leaf strategically placed in the midst of the word 'Chatham', breaking beyond the word Chatham. (Evangelism - Get it?)

    Colors: Red, White and Blue (Get it? - I mean, this town is not known as 'Republicanville' for nothin')

    Building on the National Church's slogan: "Come. Grow." We took those two words and added: "Celebrate!" (We're Eucharistic and a Very Fun Place to Be - Get it?)

    Applause! Applause! Huzzah! Huzzah! You listened to us, you really listened to us!

    We got the stationery and business cards. We got the new sign. We buffed up our web page. We got a parish blog. We'll soon be on FaceBook. We moved from a monthly to a quarterly print newsletter.

    Stop me if any of this is beginning to sound familiar.

    It was smooth sailing for a time. "Ain't we smart?," we thought. "Ain't we clever?"

    The first bump in the road came at the second Christmas Bazaar. I heard some of the organizers talking about some of the proposed vendors, and stopped dead in my tracks when I heard, "Oh, definitely not THAT one - or THAT one. Doesn't fit in with our 'brand.'"

    "Why?" I asked. No one would look me in the eye. Through stammering and shuffling of feet I heard words like, "quality of product," and "not the market for that product."

    "Who are they?" I asked. More stammering. More shuffling of feet. So, I looked at the list. Interesting. These were the vendors from communities with higher "minority populations" whose crafts benefited AIDS projects in Africa and women in domestic shelters.

    "We have the word, 'Celebrate!' in our brand," they said. "AIDS is a real downer. It's not . . . [I swear to God this was said] . . . sexy."

    I'll spare you the details and fast forward to the finish line: Those vendors WERE invited to be part of our Christmas Bazaar and did quite well, in fact. As I recall, they were one of a few who completely sold out.

    That being said, I suddenly understood the earlier warning about "one misstep."

    It's a different verse of the "branding, marketing, messaging and public relations" song, but Herb Gunn's essay raises some important questions.

    He asks: "What is the role of objective reporting within the Episcopal Church, or any organization that strives to reveal itself? How do we report on the institution to which we not only belong, but consider beloved?"

    He also makes an important point:
    "Communication is a trust relationship based on honesty; communication is always, at least, two-way; a sharp distinction is to be made between communication and promotion; and the communicator's ultimate responsibility is to the people served.
    "In fact, it is the very ethos of Anglicanism to eschew a dogmatic approach to almost anything, to trust scholarship and to allow and encourage the freedom to continue asking questions."
    My grandmother used to say, "Wishes don't wash dishes," but I really wish Herb's questions and points had been allowed to surface and be discussed thoroughly - maybe a few focus groups in a few strategically considered dioceses - before top-down decisions were made.

    I'm not saying the final decision is, necessarily, a bad thing. In fact, there are lots of good things about the process of discovering "branding, marketing, messaging and public relations." But, it IS a process that requires being in constant contact with your consumer / market base, which,
    apparently, didn't happen.

    All I'm saying is this: Careful, Skywalkers at 815. Even with the best of processes and the best of intentions and the smartest kids in the class in the driver's seat, all it takes is one misstep over the line between communication and promotion, between branding and exclusion. . . .

    I echo Elizabeth's counsel to our Church Center staff: "Careful, Skywalker. One misstep, and you'll be on the Dark Side." We might lose our souls in TEC's effort to "market and brand" our church. We have truly Good News to share. It would be sad to lose that Good News in the midst of marketing and branding.

    Thursday, August 06, 2009

    TEC Communications

    Many of you know that I have ranted about TEC’s diminishing communications (and the diminishing honesty in those communications) over the past year or so. I’ve done some of it on the blog, and some in e-mail correspondence. I have been angry that Linda Watts, the Chief Operating Officer, has let some of our best and brightest communicators depart from Church Center. I have been angry that the Church Center made unilateral decisions, without consulting with other Episcopal Communicators. I have characterized many of TEC’s recent communications as “Pravda.” I ranted when TEC decided to ditch our monthly newspaper in favor of a slick, glossy quarterly magazine without consulting diocesan communicators. I have grieved our church’s lack of support for actual journalists working from our church headquarters. Several bloggers and “Episcopal Communicators” [most of them diocesan communication coordinators] have shared my concerns – a few on their blogs, and more through the relative privacy of the HoBD listserv.

    Now, Herb Gunn (editor of The Record and a General Convention deputy of the Diocese of Michigan), who has an insider’s perspective, has said it much better, more articulately than I ever did. Read his essay: “We should tell our own story, Good News and Bad.”

    I never bashed TEC’s communications cut-back because of anger at TEC. I bashed them because I love the Episicopal Church and believe we have a powerful message to share. Read Herb Gunn’s essay. Then speak to your bishop and write to our Presiding Bishop.

    I don’t know how long Herb Gunn’s essay will remain on the Episcopal Church website, so I am copying it here in full:

    [Episcopal Life] When General Convention decided to let plans go forward to switch the Episcopal Church's monthly newspaper to a quarterly feature-oriented magazine without further study, the decision was about more than the loss of a newspaper. In fact, it never was strictly a debate between parchment and pixels, per se.
    Undergirding the discussion about dramatically shifting the communication strategy of the Episcopal Church is the question of editorial integrity -- which I quickly grant is neither guaranteed nor necessarily imperiled in any specific vehicle of communication.
    With action taken at General Convention, however, the Episcopal Church is embracing a clear priority for branding, marketing, messaging and public relations over news dissemination, and this raises significant questions about the credibility of our story told in a world in which people are letting authenticity guide their religious choices.
    How and where do we now tell our stories with revelatory honesty? How and where do we proclaim the Good News even when proclaiming the Good News sometimes involves telling the bad news?
    There is much to acclaim in the Good News stories of the Episcopal Church that we must be poised to elaborate. But additionally, from the sad circumstances of ministerial misconduct to the breadth of debate on issues that could sow dissension within and around the Episcopal Church, we need to be in a position to tell our own story with unquestionable credibility. If we are not, others gladly will tell it for us.
    The news of the Episcopal Church cannot be left to others to report and explain. And with deep reductions in secular news agencies' religious coverage, we are ceding too much ground to people who do not know our story and don't really care.
    But that raises the question: What is the role of objective reporting within the Episcopal Church, or any organization that strives to reveal itself? How do we report on the institution to which we not only belong, but consider beloved?
    The Episcopal Communicators, an independent organization of journalists and communication specialists across the church, has wrestled with the dilemma for a generation, and it established some professional goals in its original bylaws (1975): Communication is a trust relationship based on honesty; communication is always, at least, two-way; a sharp distinction is to be made between communication and promotion; and the communicator's ultimate responsibility is to the people served.
    In fact, it is the very ethos of Anglicanism to eschew a dogmatic approach to almost anything, to trust scholarship and to allow and encourage the freedom to continue asking questions.
    In my own diocese, where I am the chief writer/editor of the diocesan newspaper, I like to say the role of the bishop vis-à-vis the diocesan newspaper is to read it, not write it -- for the sake of the community and the leaders' always-evolving understanding of it.
    The commitment to tell the unvarnished truth about our own church invites living and serving faithfully in some degree of tension, without a doubt, and it makes marketing and branding a fixed image more challenging. The commitment to truth-telling also requires refraining from admonishing our communication professionals, "Remember who pays your salary!"
    A decade ago, Barbara Crafton spoke to the annual conference of Episcopal Communicators, saying, "We must write to those who reserve the right to make a judgment about the Episcopal Church."
    This is a risky enterprise and adds considerable anxiety, especially during anxious times with a lot at stake for our church.But as Crafton said in her presentation, sometimes we must risk injury to self and the institution we love, "and write to the important part within each Episcopalian that seeks the truth upon which rests the genuine integrity of the church."

    Wednesday, August 05, 2009

    A New Organ for Trinity/CWE

    Most of you regular readers know this: When business or travel takes me to St. Louis on a Sunday morning, I worship at Trinity Episcopal Church. I will be forever grateful to that parish. It brought me back into the Episcopal Church after the dismal actions of GC06. I found a community and kindred souls there. They nursed me back to health, and their rector (the Rev. Anne Kelsey) was an important part of that healing. She has remained so – a treasured friend.

    I love that parish and treasure its rector. I’m there often enough that some folks kid me about being an “associate member” of that parish.

    Working on a diocesan blogpost this evening, I stumbled upon this newspaper story and this video. Anne had told me about it. The videographer happened to catch her when she first heard the new organ and came into the sanctuary.

    You may recall my post a few days ago when I commended our Anglican hymnody. But it’s more than that. It’s not just our hymnody; it’s also the “voices” of our pipe organs.

    I appreciate the story that the St. Louis newspaper captured in this video. Enjoy. And rejoice.

    I’m sure Anne is going to ding me for bringing wider attention to this video. But I cannot help it. It’s a lovely story. Watch the video.