07 March 2009

Ember Saturday in Lent

Today is the Saturday of the Lenten Ember days. Four times each year we set aside three days (Wednesday, Friday, Saturday) to focus our attention on our ordained ministry and those studying for ordination.

Ember Days are also the time requited by the canons for postulants to write to their diocesan.

The church as a whole sets aside these days to pray for the candidates. In the "olden days" ordinations only took place during Ember Tides.
Almighty God, the giver of all good gifts, who of thy divine providence hast appointed various orders in thy Church: Give thy grace, we humbly beseech thee, to all who are [now] called to any office and ministry for thy people; and so fill them with the truth of thy doctrine and clothe them with holiness of life, that they may faithfully serve before thee, to the glory of thy great Name and for the benefit of thy holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
For more about the Ember Days, see this article.

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Congratulations to Mark Harris of Preludium, and the Exec Council on the 41st anniversary of his ordination. He posts on his feelings here.

06 March 2009

Friday, First week in Lent - The Way of Sorrow

This week the Stations of the Cross are found here.
We adore thee, O Christ, and we bless thee because by thy holy cross thou hast redeemed the world

Almighty and eternal Father, accept our prayer of thanksgiving for your Beloved Son, our Saviour and Lord. As we recall his Sacred Passion send the Spirit of Christ into our hearts, we beg You, so that whether we pray or work we might do all in union with Christ our Redeemer. Amen.

05 March 2009

Mildred Loving on same gender marriage

Today the California Supreme Court hears arguments regarding the constitutionality of the Proposition 8 initiative which amended or revised the state constitution to prohibit same gender marriages. For those of you who were unable to watch the proceedings today, it is archived here. Tip of the biretta to Anne for alerting me to video archive.

With that background, I offer this as my post today.

Mildred and Richard Loving were the Plaintiffs in the Loving vs. the State of Virginia case that ended the antiquated marriage prohibition between races. The following quote is the only statement ever issued by Mildred. It was released on 12 June 2007, the fortieth anniversary of the decision:
Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don't think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the "wrong kind of person" for me to marry.

I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people's religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people's civil rights.

I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard's and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That's what Loving, and loving, are all about.
To that I can only add, "Amen."

Sisters and Brothers, we need to pray for the GLBT community regardless of how the Court rules in ninety days. The community is hurting and they are tired of the struggle.

For more on the Loving decision, IT points us here. She also points us to two other posts here and to her post here.

A more legal description of the Loving decision is here but be forewarned, it is all legal language.

04 March 2009

Update from the Grace, Colorado trial

Reader "James in Colorado" sent this update on the trial:
Bishop O'Neill was the witness almost all day yesterday. All but 15 minutes was directed testimony with our lawyer.

CANA's defense (or more appropriately offense), has 2 legs (yes, wobbly) One leg is the possible existence of a new corporation formed in 1973 which actually owns the property. O'Neill had nothing to do with this.

CANA's other leg is their statement that "We have alienated and encumbered our property, at will, with no permission from the diocese, for many years. Therefore it belongs to us and no one else." It is true that Grace bought and sold 2 small houses next to the church, and sold a rectory and bought a new one without permission. How would the diocese know if permission wasn't requested? The bishop pointed out that this was a violation of the canons, and then pointed out that they were part of the charges that the diocese brought against Armstrong. Charges, trial, conviction, and punishment.

Then there was discussion of the $2.5 million loan on the renovated Great Hall. This is the result of several smaller loans combined into one. In court, Don bragged how he arranged this with no permission asked of the Diocese. Therefore, more evidence that Grace has always been an independent church affiliated with the Episcopal Church for convenience but not subject to TEC. The Bishop recalled a meeting with Don where he was told that this was the 3rd part of a 3 part renovation, approved by Jerry Winterrowd, back in...........1989. So Don was saying he had had permission of some 15 years. Our lawyer also produced a letter from Don to the congregation stating that permission had not been requested, because it had already been granted. So here with Don, very noticeably, telling the court one thing and everyone else something else. Fortunately the court has now heard both versions.

My Wife just called from the cross-examination, apparently CANA's lawyer is trying to get the Bishop to say that real estate agents and mortgage brokers should be familiar with church canons. Huh?
Thanks, James for this update.

As for the possibility that a 1973 corporation owns the property, I would think that would be negated by the papers signed by Armstrong and the vestry stating the property belongs to the Diocese and National Church. Also, as in New York and California, not objecting to the Denis Canon for 20 years would seem a selling point for TEC ownership of the property.

03 March 2009

CA Legislature passes anti-Prop 8 resolutions

The California Legislature has passed two resolutions stating opposition to Proposition 8 which was passed in November 2008.

Remember that resolutions are not laws - they are simply a statement. These resolutions tell the Supreme Court that the legislature agrees with the court's ruling on equal rights and disagrees with the legality of Proposition 8 which rewrites the California constitution.

From the AP:

SACRAMENTO—Both houses of the state Legislature passed resolutions Monday endorsing the legal effort to overturn California's same-sex marriage ban, just days before the issue goes to the state Supreme Court.

The resolutions passed along party lines, 18-14 in the Senate and

45-27 in the Assembly, with several members absent in both chambers.

Supporters of the resolutions said Proposition 8 should not have been placed on the November ballot through the initiative process. They said it represented a revision to the state Constitution because it stripped away existing rights and argue that only the Legislature can place such revisions before voters.

"We're talking about a radical revision to our Constitution," said Sen. Mark Leno, the San Francisco Democrat who sponsored the Senate resolution. "Do we have a constitutional democracy in California or do we have mob rule, where a majority of Californians can change the Constitution at any time?"

He equated it to the fight for racial equality decades ago. He noted that in 1964, voters overwhelmingly approved a measure that would have allowed landlords to discriminate against renters based on race.

Of course, the Republicans voted no to civil rights. Are we surprised? Read the entire article here.

Tip of the biretta to Ann for the news.

Brother Haller wins one for TEC

Never underestimate the power of one Religious!* Our Brother, Tobias Haller of In a Godward Direction decided to "take on" the American Bible Society for not having The Episcopal Church listed as a denomination in their "find a church" section.

TEC is now listed. Good work Brother Haller!

I love the picture of Tobias - it reminds me of my favourite photo of Bishop James Pike who was a true leader for full inclusion and equal civil rights.

And, like Brother Tobias, Pike was a brilliant mind not to mention a lot of fun.

* A member of an Order. See the sixth definition here.

02 March 2009

Armstrong admits property belogns to TEC

The trial to determine ownership of Grace Church, Colorado Springs is underway. For those unfamiliar with this case, the background information is in this post.

The chief architect in the attempted theft is Donald Armstrong who was found guilty by both an ecclesial court and Colorado court's chief detective of embezzling nearly one million dollars from the coffers of Grace Church (see this article).

According to the 27 February edition of the Colorado Springs Gazette, under oath, Armstrong admitted signing the title to the diocese. However, he answered in his usual supercilious manner.

Testimony centered on Grace's contention that it holds legal title to the Tejon Street property. The highlight of the week was testimony from the [Mr.] Donald Armstrong, rector of Grace Church.

Armstrong, who was on the stand Tuesday and Wednesday, testified that the diocese was aware that Grace Church, acting as an independent corporation, was buying and selling property without diocesan approval, yet never objected. He also pointed out the millions of dollars of renovations Grace has done since he became rector in 1987, and how the church did not seek renovation approval from the diocese.

On cross examination, however, diocese attorney Martin Nussbaum produced documents showing that Grace sought approval for some church renovation projects. Nussbaum also produced a 1989 document signed by Armstrong stating that the Grace property title is held by the "bishop and diocese."

Armstrong said signing the document "was a mistake."

"We filled this out quickly and didn't spend time with it because it was meaningless to us," he testified.

They signed a legal document acknowledging that the diocese was the legal owner of the property and all assets, yet they did so without deliberation and they thought the document was meaningless.

Armstrong is either incredibly stupid, thinks the court is moronic, or is establishing a defense of non compos mentis for an upcoming embezzlement proceeding.

There is only one reason the document was signed: The schism was already planned and this was part of an elaborate scheme to defraud TEC of its property and assets by lying to the bishop and other diocesan authorities. A secondary reason is that Armstrong's theft of funds would never be discovered if he had total control of all assets.

According to former member of Grace, and TTLS blog reader, Bonnie:
Never once were we told [the renovations] were for "the corporation." As far as I know we all thought they were on behalf of our beloved Episcopal Church.
The 1989 date is of monumental importance. According to the Calvinist-Puritan propaganda, their actions are the direct result of the consecration of Gene Robinson in November 2003.

The court documents expose that lie. The usurpation of TEC was planned by 1989 and had nothing to do with the ordination or consecration of gay/lesbian Episcopalians.

Armstrong, rector of one of the schismatics' wealthiest flagships, planned his theft in or before 1989. That was fifteen years before the Anglican Communion had ever heard about Gene Robinson.

The more answers neo Calvinist Puritans are forced to give, the more deceit, trickery, and lies come to light. Included in the litany of immoral actions is Armstrong's offer to house the ultra right-wing John Jay Institute at Grace's facilities.

However, it boils down to this: Under oath Armstrong was forced to admit he signed a legal document acknowledging that the property and all assets belong to TEC.

I am rereading Death in Holy Orders by P.D. James. There is a paragraph that speaks directly to the schismatic movement.
We don't look to the fourth century for our understanding of medicine or science or the nature of the universe. I don't look to the fourth century when I run my companies. Why look to 325 for our understanding of God?

[Nicaea] was a council of men .. Powerful men. They brought their private agendas, their prejudices, their rivalries. Essentially it was about power, who gets it, who yields it. You've sat on enough committees, you know how they work ... p 22
That is it in a nutshell except the schismatics look to 2,000 BC for their understanding of the world. And they wish, through the accumulation of power, to force the rest of us to live in that ancient world whether we like it or not.


In a not related matter, make sure to check out the new design of Openly Episcopal In Albany. The new design is really cool.

01 March 2009

Invocabit - Lent I

Lent I
St. David of Wales

Genesis 9.8-17; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1.9-15
Introit: He shall cry to me, and I will hear him: I will deliver him, and I will glorify him: I will fill him with length of days. -- (Ps. 90. 1). He that dwelleth in the aid of the Most High: shall abide under the protection of the God of Heaven.

“Discernment” is a word we throw around a lot in the church, most often in regard to ordained ministry. As in “She is in the discernment process” or “I have agreed to be on his discernment committee.” But it is also an essential part of each of our spiritual journeys and our lives as human beings.

In calling ourselves Christians, Children of God, we acknowledge that God has called us, we acknowledge the pulling at our cores: to be more, to be God’s, to live into our calling. And discernment is how we figure out what that looks like. It is the way we ask ourselves, “How do I live as a child of God?”

In today’s gospel we hear a three-part story of Jesus’ call and his response. For Mark, this is the beginning of the story of Jesus.

Part One: he came from Nazareth. We are told that this is where most of Jesus’ life has been lived to this point. His family is there; he has grown up there, been educated in the scriptures there, and has learned his trade there. He probably has gotten sick there, been cared for, been loved, and learned the cruelty of children there. Given our current understanding of developmental psychology and our faith in his full humanity, we can assume that it is there where Jesus gained a sense of self, both as independent and in community.

Jesus is, in this moment, leaving all that behind and coming to John, the baptizer, at the river Jordan. There are a lot of questions left unanswered in Mark’s brevity: What is he seeking there? Why does Jesus need John’s baptism? What drives him so powerfully that he would be willing to leave behind all he had ever known?

We don’t know. Did Jesus know? Or did he just feel the faintest of stirrings, deep within himself and head out to see what God might be doing?

A lot of young people make their way to cities after college. Many don’t know what exactly they will do, or how they will make a living, but they strike out, in hopes that, once there, they will figure it out. On arrival they these cities bustling places, and they scurry about frantically piecing together lives from jobs, relationships, chance encounters, art, food, and folly. Many can’t say exactly why they come except that it has something to do with a search for purpose, for calling. The city is somehow a place for discernment.

For those who have at one time or another taken this leap of faith, the idea of “figuring it out” is an amusing one. As though it were something one did once, and then having “figured it out,” one could spend the rest of life living happily into that.

Instead, there is this constant process of figuring it out, of discerning purpose, calling, vocation, of losing sight, changing, shipwreck, gladness, and discerning again. God doesn’t always make it easy on us, but we follow along, listening for the faint stirrings and inching our way closer to God and to God’s perfect vision for us.

And even when the whisper is a shout and the calling is clear, the means are not always quite so clear. As Jesus is being baptized, he sees the heavens open and the spirit descends like a dove upon him while a voice speaks, “Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Now, doesn’t that sound great?

Knowing where this story leads: the healings, the miracles, the teachings and transforming love – as well as eventually the cross and Calvary – it is tempting to assume that suddenly, in this moment, Jesus knows what to do. It is easy to assume that the Spirit has given him “God vision,” and that he can see clearly his Messianic calling.

But was this calling any clearer than the calling for us to be God’s children today? There are countless would-be Episcopalians in this world, let alone would-be Christians. When we hear the message, “You are my beloved. In you I am well pleased,” how often do we sit self-satisfied, doing nothing? Sometimes we need a little push to do anything about it. And sometimes, it’s a push we have to give ourselves and each other.

Then we get to Part Two of today’s reading from Mark: “The Spirit immediately drove him into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.”

As Kermit might say, “Sheesh.”

Unlike other gospel accounts, in which the Spirit leads Jesus into the desert, where Jesus is given agency, Mark picks up the drama. Like a master, this gentle descending dove-like spirit drives Jesus into the wilderness. No time for idle self-satisfaction is allowed. God is at work.

As part of a liturgical church, we too are driven into the wilderness with Jesus this Lent. By association we are brought into a time of reflection and discernment, every year for forty days.

Lent is a powerful season in the church year. Some will mock the New Year’s-like resolutions we make and attempts to make ourselves better – things like abstaining from small and large indulgences, or committing acts of repentance. And yet, there is something powerful about a season that calls people to make the connection between lived lives and the calling of God. There is something that makes us want to bridge the false divide between faith and the “real world.”

Discernment is not a singular thing, or something we do all at once; it is a daily calling, a daily wrestling, in much the same way that cutting back on caffeine is done one cup of coffee at a time, or building a stronger family means taking meals as opportunities for real conversation. Discernment is something we do in the midst of life, messily and with countless challenges.

Unlike other gospel accounts, Mark is short on details of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, but all the vital elements are here: the duration, the temptation, the threat of violence, and the sustaining care God provides. Forty days is Biblical shorthand for “a long time.” But even so, forty days is a long time.

For many of us, this kind of retreat into isolation is at least somewhat appealing. Forty days of alone time? Forty days to work on figuring things out? Discerning God’s call in my life? If only I had that kind of time, money, and discipline.

Our wilderness often has a different terrain. Having felt God’s calling, we have to figure it out amidst our over-booked, over-worked modern lives. Our isolation occurs within communities, families, and workplaces. Our temptations are many; we are surrounded by the gods of self and materialism, of exclusivity and pride, of despair and prejudice. The wild beasts wear different masks, but the ministering and sustaining presence of God is no less with us. How will we make use of this time, where we are, to discern how we are to respond to God’s call?

Part Three of today’s gospel reading: “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’”

For many of us, floundering in the wilderness is a familiar feeling. We are not comfortable with preaching the Kingdom, but this is exactly what we’re called to do as the children of God. We are the bearers of good news, the good news. God’s kingdom is here. No more waiting. The time is fulfilled.

This Lent we are invited to join Jesus in the wilderness for a period of discernment. Take these forty days to listen for God’s calling. Acknowledge your own isolation, name your individual temptations, and challenge the wild beasts. But also, may you see the hand of God sustaining you, and may you recall faithfully that calling of baptism that brought you here in the first place. So when Easter arrives, you may be all the more ready to proclaim with a loud voice the good news of salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ.

So that we may come to Easter having discerned more clearly God’s calling and live more perfectly into his kingdom, consider these words from the Book of Common Prayer: “I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word.”

-- Jason Sierra is the Associate Program Officer for Young Adult and Campus Ministries at the Seattle Regional Office of the Episcopal Church Center. He holds a BA in American Studies from Stanford University and is a Priest’s Kid (PK) and a visual artist. E-mail: jsierra@episcopalchurch.org.