08 November 2008

Quincy does the deed, or If wishes were dioceses, all would be well

While we were mourning the actions of the California election, and celebrating the election of Mr. Obama, two events happened in TEC that were buried in the dust.

First, the former Episcopalians living in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh elected Bobby Duncan to be their non-bishop. Of course they claim he is the 9th bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, but he is not. He is the first non-bishop of the diocese of nothing.

Duncan is jubilant to be "back where I belong." The mental image of him strutting around playing an air guitar while singing "I'm back, back in the saddle again" (Aerosmith) is just priceless. Where he belongs is in jail, Alas that won't happen because The Episcopal Church has refused to adequately deal with any of the roundheads.

This is, of course, absolutely no surprise to anyone. This has been the plan for several years as part of the Chapman battle plan (which TEC has chosen to ignore or at most treat as children's sandbox play).

The second bit of news is that on Friday, the majority of hand picked delegates to the Diocese of Quincy voted to leave the Episcopal Church.

Immediately following the vote, delegates were read a letter from Archbishop Gregory Venables, primate, or national bishop, of the Southern Cone, welcoming the Diocese of Quincy into his jurisdiction.

In the letter, Venables announced that he has appointed the Rev. Canon Ed den Blaauwen, a member of Quincy's governing standing committee, as Vicar General of the diocese, in the absence of a sitting bishop.

The Southern Cone includes the countries of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay
The problem with this warm and fuzzy statement is that, as we all know, what Venables did is illegal by the canons and constitution of his own province. Venables has the same disregard for the rules of his own province as he has for the rules of the rest of the Anglican Communion.

The Canons and Constitution of the Southern Cone state that all dioceses must be in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, and all clergy of the province must reside in one of these countries. I just checked the world map, and Quincy (and San Joaquin and Pittsburgh) are still in the country known to the world as The United States of America. No tornado has picked them up and removed them to South America regardless of how much Dorothy Venables says it did.

One must truly wonder why any province would want to receive bishops, priests, or deacons, who are as dishonest and disreputable as these people are. They have clearly demonstrated they lack of integrity and inability to honour even simple promises. They have absolutely no regard for the rules. Oh, a new term for these people -- "Promise Breakers!" I like that. It's the complete opposite of that group of people who are taught to keep promises (can't use their trademarked name).

I have to admit a bit of wonder here. Why is it that those who scream loudest about morality are, themselves, blatantly immoral? Violating the rules one has vowed to honour/uphold is an immoral act. But of course, their immorality is not the problem, other people's immorality is the problem. You just gotta love Donatism, it's so, so convenient for theological criminals.

06 November 2008

Camelot . . .

I am having a Job day. I feel like Job. I feel psychologically and spiritually drained and on the very edge of death. I even have a a boil on my butt. I've never felt this way before -- not even the six minutes I flat lined in the ER; not when my dad died; not when my mom died. I have simply never been in this state before.

I think that God has given me a small taste of how IT and BP and the thousands of other California same-gender married couples felt yesterday. And I don't like it.

IT, I apologize for being smug yesterday. I am thankful that God has given me a little taste of what my friends are experiencing.

At the same time, though, I identify with John the Revelator.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God...

I believe that we have seen the heavens open a bit and a new day really has been seen, if only "dimly though a glass."

In the past couple of years so much has changed. The most political thing I had ever done was to go to all the people in my neighbourhood and ask if any needed a ride to the polling place (I life in the old section of town with its older population). This year, I worked a political booth.

In one of his famous speeches, Dr. King, Jr. said, “I’ve been to the mountain top and I’ve seen the other side.” On Tuesday, we hit the mountain top and we saw the other side and we are now on the down-hill side headed to “the promised land.”

I spent several hours with my honorary niece (who is so much like me it’s as if I donated her complete DNA) and several of her friends. They are all in their very early twenties. Two girls, six boys. The first thing they said to me was, “Uncle Jim, can you believe that “yes” won?” They didn’t say, “Obama won, and what about that prop eight.”

These young people are completely heterosexual and very heterosexually active. Yet, they were outraged by the result. One of the guys said, “Next year when we vote on this again, I’m going to work some of those “no” booths. Who knows, I could even totally pick up some hot chicks there.”

Another of those straight boys had been on a double date Saturday – he and his girlfriend, his best male friend and that best friend’s boyfriend. A straight and a gay couple on a double date and it was absolutely normal to them.

As difficult as the outcome is for us, now, the tide has changed. We have been to the mountain top. We have seen the other side. And for one brief shining moment, we were in Camelot. Well, the gates to Camelot appear to be closed, but it’s not; we are not in Kansas anymore, and we will not be going back to Kansas.

When history is written we will be remembered as the era that ushered in justice. We must remember that this struggle isn't just for us. Just as those in the 1950s and 1960s were not fighting just for themselves -- they were fighting for succeeding generations. We, too, are fighting for those who follow us -- so that they will never know the injustice GLBT people have experienced heretofore.

Fr. Geoff posts this from one of his readers:

"There's still MORE good news to note at this point amid the loss - the California Attorney General has stated that the passage of Prop 8 does NOT invalidate the same-sex marriages that already have taken place in California, and he's said he is ready to defend that stance in court if pressed. So, supposedly we have the State of California on our side.

The lawsuit that you mention has been filed by Lambda Legal, along with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the ACLU on behalf of Equality California and six same-sex couples.

If any of your readers aren't familiar with these non-profit groups, they should look them up - they are tirelessly and relentlessly fighting for our rights within the legal system, not only marriage rights, but adoption, child custody, school discrimination, job security and more. Let's talk family values, shall we?

The men and women within their ranks who are working on cases like these are the unsung heroes who still need our continued support.

So, not only do we have time and momentum on our side, we've got folks like this fighting for us on the inside, too.

It ain't over yet."

I made a decision Tuesday about a personal practice. Until civl rights are realized for all citizens, I will no longer say the phrase "with liberty and Justice for all" in the "pledge." It's a little thing, but I won't give lipservice to a lie.

And with those words, I return this blog to things Anglican and Episcopalian.

PS I really, really hate HTML

I lied yesterday --

I have received an email link that I feel a moral obligation to tell you about.

A petition is being circulated to request the IRS to investigate the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter0-day Saints for moving far beyond the scope of what is allowed and asking the IRS to revoke the Mormon Church's tax exempt status.

I have a moral obli
gation to ask you to visit the site, to sign the petition (this isn't an email scam) and tell your friends and loved ones about the petition

If the Mormon Brethren wish to engage in politics and call it "morality" to mask it, they need to be dealt with by the same rules of the game they established, then we have a moral obligation to deal with it.

The Bible tells us to "Fear God and honour the King." As we have no king, that means the government which both Old and New Testament tells us is ordained by God. Paul tells us we must be subject to the rulers. Those rulers have established a distance between theocratic rule and secular rule. I believe the Mormons have violated that rule.

Though the civil courts, the government spoke and said same-gender issues are a state matter and a fundamental right. The LDS have chos
en to disobey the same bible that they use to condemn others with, to enshrine their theological position into the civil law. That is immoral. So, this post, and this endeavour is a matter or morality. We must to call the LDS leaders and the majority of its members to account for their immoral activities.

Not this is not a political matter. We are simply addressing a moral matter.

The Mormons, Roman Catholic hierarchy, and the fundamentalists want the full protection of the law for their activities, and they want to remove that f full protection from anyone who disagrees with them. That is immoral.

Here is the link.

Also, go read Mike's post. It is here.

05 November 2008

The more things change, the more they stay the same

This has been an interesting twenty-four hours. As I posted earlier, I never thought I would live to see the day when a black man moved in "upstairs" at the White House. Even though I went to bed and slept for a couple of hours, I am still in partial shock and total exhilaration over the win of Mr. Obama. Truly, race is no longer and issue for fifty-two percent of the American voters -- particularly those who are young, white and college educated.

I also learnt that self-righteous pseudo Christians believe that chickens are entitled to more civil rights than gay, lesbian and bisexual citizens. I have to admit that I am absolutely stunned by this realisation. The same people who voted to remove civil rights to citizens voted to give chickens a more "humane" existence than some humans deserve.

These religionists say that their votes were not an attack on gay people, but just restoring thousands of years of tradition. I agree: it is no more an attack on GLBT people than the Jim Crow Laws were an attack on black people. Those laws were not enacted against black people -- they were just restoring thousands of years of tradition.

These people and their sinful logic make God vomit. Or, to use a phrase popular in the fundamentalist world "they are a stench in God's nostrils."

This election taught me something else. In California it is absolutely possible to buy an election. All a group needs to do is raise enough money and they can enshrine anything in the California constitution. I should not be shocked by that, though; Mr. Schwartzenegger came to power because one man decided to guy the governorship -- he failed and the Austrian won.

It appears that Proposition Eight may pass, but it is still to close to call. What I am going to say is of no comfort to the same-gender couples who have married legally, or to the GLBT community as a whole, but it is how I see things. The issue is not over, and justice will prevail within five years.
A same-gender couple will sue (could be a class action suit)

California's attorney general has already said he will defend the couples

The case will be heard by a court that has already proven to be justice minded

The case will be appealed to the US Supreme Court who will either refuse to hear it, and the amendment will be overturned, or the court will hear it. By that time, the Court will have a different makeup, thanks to president-elect Obama, and they will rule in favour of civil rights for all citizens.
In the United States, it has consistently been the courts that have defended civil rights against the "will of the people." It was the courts that ended biracial marriage; segregation; separate but equal; and it will be the courts that end this injustice. If we had to rely on the electorate to do the right thing, we'd still have legal slavery. Wayward, what do you think?

My friends, and beloved brothers and sisters, almost fifty percent of the voters of California say that marriage is a fundamental right and should not be denied to anyone. Think what that means -- how far we have come in a few years. Think of it! One of every two people are on "our side." We shall overcome; deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome.

Back to the initiative process in California, I think I'll start a petition to make it illegal to be a Mormon in the State of California? Want to sign it? I bet the Romans and the fundamentalists, who have been sleeping with the Mormons for the past few months, will line up to sign.

04 November 2008

God save the President-Elect

I must admit that I did not believe I would live to see the day when the United States of America would elect a non white man as president; but I have.

I cannot express the emotion I feel, being a child of the 1960s and the Civil Rights era. My next door neighbour came over and, in the best of British tradition, we each took a pot and a spoon and went out into the street to pound the pan and yell in jubilation.

I would like to thank God for allowing me to live to see this day. Let us pray for the president-elect; he is going to need those prayers.

I wish John, Martin and Robert were here to share our joy.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.

03 November 2008

A unique wedding

Saturday started out a normal day for me. Then at 10.00 AM the telephone rang and I was reminded that I was to play for a wedding. That reminder ruined my day. It had been overcast and I was looking forward to doing nothing but reading a new book and glancing out the window periodically to watch the drizzle.

I pulled myself together and went to play for the wedding. As the wedding progressed, I thought, "how ironic that I'm participating in this wedding when the state is on the verge of voting on who can have the basic right to marry." When the wedding was over, I remarked to the minister that I found the experience very odd, and very ironic. When he asked, why, I told him. His reply startled me. He said, "particularly this wedding." Well folks, this is why the wedding was so odd.
The groom's father is married to a man. The bride's mother married her female lover last last Saturday. The groom's brother is gay and will marry his partner on Tuesday. The bride's sister is a lesbian. The maid of honour is a lesbian. The bride and groom are heterosexual.
As it turns out, everyone in the wedding party except the bride and groom are either gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

This young couple had searched several months for a church where they felt welcomed and knew they could bring their family for important events and the holy days.

They found that although the Episcopal Church said it was welcoming, the actions of Lambeth and our local bishop belied that statement. So, they settled on the United Church of Christ. This congregation has three same-gender couples. I didn't know that until today.

How sad that our beloved church cannot get its act together and walk the talk. People can spot hypocrites a mile away, as this young couple did.

The latest polls show that "no" is winning by about five points. Let's pray that that gap widens.

But let justice roll down as waters,
and righteousness as a mighty stream.
Amos 5.24

02 November 2008

Evensong for Pentecost XXV

Tonight's Evensong from the BBC was recorded at The Queen's College in Oxford.

The Queen's College has one of the finest mixed-voice (males and females) choirs in England. As a musician, I can say the sopranos are well reigned in! The Anglican Chant of the psalms for this Evensong are particularly well rendered.

Introit: Beati omnes (Purcell)

Responses: Reading

Psalms: 66, 67 (Ley, Knyvett, Elgar)

First Lesson: Hosea 11 vv1-11

Office Hymn: For all thy Saints, O Lord (Sandys)

Canticles: Purcell in G minor

Second Lesson: Luke 6 vv17-31

Anthems: Selig sind die Toten (Schutz); Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied (Schutz); Let my prayer come up (Blow)

Final Hymn: Who are these, like stars appearing (All Saints)

Organ Voluntary: Voluntary in D minor for double organ (Purcell)

Organ scholar: Benedict Lewis-Smith
Director of music: Owen Rees.

Pentecost XXV

Proper 26 – Year A [RCL]

By the Rev. Mary K. Morrison

Joshua 3:7-17, Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37; or

Micah 3:5-12, Psalm 43;

1 Thessalonians 2:9-13;

Matthew 23:1-12

One way to approach scripture is by asking ourselves two questions.

“What’s going on here?” is the first. It forces us to delve a little deeper, to see if we can get a handle on the passage in question and really understand it.

The second question is “What does that mean for us?” This question is often the more difficult because, of course, it forces us to consider our own ways of thinking and acting in light of the gospel values.

What’s going on here? Jesus is having another one of his run-ins with the Pharisees. Many Christians see the Pharisees as the “bad guys,” always wearing the black hats.

This is not true. The Pharisees were a group of pious Jews who put great emphasis on beliefs and practices of the prophets and adapted these to their own times. They sought to make the love of God and love of neighbor the chief commandments, the essence of the Torah from which all else flowed. That sounds quite a bit like Jesus himself, doesn’t it? The Pharisees were very concerned about preserving Jewish religious and cultural life in the midst of Hellenistic Roman society, and so they emphasized the laws concerning food, purity, and group practices. These practices served to keep Jews united to one another and distinct from the dominant gentile society.

Many Pharisees of Jesus’ time went one step further to make their way of life even more distinctive. They drew on an old tradition of using the priestly laws concerning purity, food, and marriage for all Jews, not just for the priests.

These purity regulations, which may seem mysterious and strange to us today, regularized life and separated that which was normal and life-giving from that which was abnormal or ambiguous. The Pharisees with whom Jesus contends attempted to keep themselves in a state of purity at all times as would a priest in the Temple. They were scrupulous in their behavior and took great care not to come in contact with any source of defilement.

The gentiles presented a danger to those who would keep themselves pure, but another danger to purity was the presence of the “people of the land.” These were the ordinary folk who had neither the time, money, nor inclination to keep the priestly laws of purity. They were unable to tithe properly and their food – what little they had – was not properly sanctified and could not be eaten by the Pharisees. “The people of the land” were poor and lived a subsistence existence; they were probably too busy trying to keep food on the table to worry about what kind of food it was and if it had been properly prepared.

A word about the dietary laws today: Jews who keep these laws do so as a spiritual practice. They may be inconvenient at times, but they are not burdensome to them. Like spiritual disciplines we might practice – daily prayer, fasting or abstaining from certain foods – they serve to integrate our beliefs with daily life, to give shape to our everyday lives by living according to our principles.

In today’s gospel lesson, Jesus is not criticizing those who try faithfully to keep the Law. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus speaks of the Torah as good and God-given. Here he is speaking about those who forget what really mattered in it: loving God and loving your neighbor. He is speaking about the big things: justice and mercy and faithfulness. He is speaking to the experts, the ones who were so good at telling other people what they should be doing. And he is speaking to those who work really hard at keeping the letter of the law while forgetting about the spirit of the law.

Tom Wright, a Biblical commentator, wrote that “Generations of preachers have used this passage to criticize church leaders who like dressing up and being seen in public. That’s fair enough.”

But this is about more than fancy clothes and good seats. Jesus criticized the Pharisees because they didn’t practice what they preached; their lives did not reflect the law that they continually debated; they didn’t live out what they taught. While Jesus’ rebuke seems general, as though all scribes and Pharisees were guilty of love of place and honor, we know the rabbis themselves condemned such behavior. We know that leaders of every generation – second temple Judaism, the early church, the church through the ages, and the church today – have not lived out their vocations in congruence with the values of the gospel. So the real audience is not the Pharisees, but the disciples and, by extension, us; Jesus is talking to his church and especially to its leaders.

Remember who it is that is speaking in our gospel lesson. It is Christ Jesus, who, as we read in Philippians, “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.” Remember also, that Jesus is in Jerusalem. It is

Tuesday, the Tuesday following the triumphal entry. He has returned to the Temple after casting out the animal buyers and sellers and overturning the tables of the money changers. He must have known that his time was short, that confrontation was ahead. He has just a little time left to teach his disciples, to help them to practice what they will preach.

Kathleen Norris, in her book, The Cloister Walk, writes of the congruence between monastic practice and the discipline of writing. After giving a poetry reading to a community of Trappists, she writes:

“I told the monks that I had come to see both writing and monasticism as vocations that require periods of apprenticeship and formation. Prodigies are common in mathematics, but extremely rare in literature, and, I add, ‘As far as I know, there are no prodigies in monastic life.’”

We know, from our life in the Christian community, that this is true, not just for monastics or writers, but for all of us. There are no prodigies in the Christian life; all of us are apprentices; all of us are in need of conversion; all of us require formation. That’s why we come together, week by week, to be nourished by word and sacrament. That’s why we have preaching and teaching. That’s why we gather together as a community of faith. We are not prodigies, we are fellow travelers on the journey of faith. We are here to help each other, for we all journey together.

-- The Rev. Mary K. Morrison is pastoral associate at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Los Gatos, California. E-mail: mkmorrison@stlukeslg.org. – UPDATE: That information is no longer correct; since August, she has been Rector of St. James’ Episcopal Church in Paso Robles, California -- that's my parish.