05 June 2010

Twenty-Nine Years

Twenty-nine years ago today the first cases of what would become known as AIDS were diagnosed.

Had the US Government acted, there might have only been a relatively few deaths. But, because the infection was only found among homosexuals, nothing was done.

I have buried many friends and acquaintances because of this disease. The first of my friends to die was David Ballinger. I still miss him and his wicked sense of humour.

03 June 2010

The wisdom and logic of Minns and the schismatics

In an article by the "as-supportive-of-the-schismatic-sect-as-we-can-be-and-still-be-in-TEC" otherwise known as The Living Church, Mr. Martyn Minns, a person of questionable episcopal orders (valid but irregular) having been elevated to the princehood by the Nigerian Church to facilitate border crossing and theft, has given us the benefit of his wisdom not to mention his stupidity:
[The Primates] never agreed that there is a moral equivalence between what they see as an attempt to change the Anglican Communion's teaching and a provision for temporary pastoral care.
And there you have it, folks - supporting equal justice and respecting the dignity of GLBT people is that sin that passes all forgiveness. It is so horrible that it excuses murder, lying, theft, adultery and every other sin in the list.

The facts are this:
  1. The primates never agreed to anything - no punishment of any kind. Yes, the so-called global south primates conspired to punish the rest of the communion, but they are not the majority of primates. At no meeting of the primates was there ever an agreement to punish anyone.
  2. The primates have no authority to make any decision except what they are having for luncheon. They are not and have never been a legislative branch. There is no legislative entity in the Anglican Communion - not even, and particularly Lambeth Conference.
  3. There is no official teaching of the autonomous churches that make up the Anglican Communion.
The Axis of Evil (the schismatics) chooses to ignore 125+ years of fact in an effort to usurp imaginary power over the Anglican Communion. When it suits their purposes they are all for Canterbury and "covenant." But, when that two-edged sword swings in their direction they start sing a different tune. They are like the Jehovah's Witnesses - the only constant thing in their organization is that they are the chosen and the rest of the world is going to hell. Everything else spins upon the need of the moment.

Can we say "hypocrites."

02 June 2010

Presiding Bishop takes on the ABC - in No Trump

Our Primate, The Most Rev'd Katharine Jefferts Shori has issued a pastoral letter to The Episcopal Church. It is a response to the Canterbury Bull of Rowan Williams. In the parlance of bridge, this is a no trump grand slam doubled and redoubled.
    Pentecost continues!

    Pentecost is most fundamentally a continuing gift of the Spirit, rather than a limitation or quenching of that Spirit.

    The recent statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury about the struggles within the Anglican Communion seems to equate Pentecost with a single understanding of gospel realities. Those who received the gift of the Spirit on that day all heard good news. The crowd reported, “in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power” (Acts 2:11).

    The Spirit does seem to be saying to many within The Episcopal Church that gay and lesbian persons are God’s good creation, that an aspect of good creation is the possibility of lifelong, faithful partnership, and that such persons may indeed be good and healthy exemplars of gifted leadership within the Church, as baptized leaders and ordained ones. The Spirit also seems to be saying the same thing in other parts of the Anglican Communion, and among some of our Christian partners, including Lutheran churches in North America and Europe, the Old Catholic churches of Europe, and a number of others.

    The Episcopal Church recognizes that these decisions are problematic to a number of other Anglicans. We have not made these decisions lightly. We recognize that the Spirit has not been widely heard in the same way in other parts of the Communion. In all humility, we recognize that we may be wrong, yet we have proceeded in the belief that the Spirit permeates our decisions.

    We also recognize that the attempts to impose a singular understanding in such matters represent the same kind of cultural excesses practiced by many of our colonial forebears in their missionizing activity. Native Hawaiians were forced to abandon their traditional dress in favor of missionaries’ standards of modesty. Native Americans were forced to abandon many of their cultural practices, even though they were fully congruent with orthodox Christianity, because the missionaries did not understand or consider those practices exemplary of the Spirit. The uniformity imposed at the Synod of Whitby did similar violence to a developing, contextual Christianity in the British Isles. In their search for uniformity, our forebears in the faith have repeatedly done much spiritual violence in the name of Christianity.

    We do not seek to impose our understanding on others. We do earnestly hope for continued dialogue with those who disagree, for we believe that the Spirit is always calling us to greater understanding.

    We live in great concern that colonial attitudes continue, particularly in attempts to impose a single understanding across widely varying contexts and cultures. We note that the cultural contexts in which The Episcopal Church’s decisions have generated the greatest objection and reaction are also often the same contexts where women are barred from full ordained leadership, including the Church of England.

    As Episcopalians, we note the troubling push toward centralized authority exemplified in many of the statements of the recent Pentecost letter. Anglicanism as a body began in the repudiation of the control of the Bishop of Rome within an otherwise sovereign nation. Similar concerns over self-determination in the face of colonial control led the [Scottish Episcopal Church*] to consecrate Samuel Seabury for The Episcopal Church in the nascent United States – and so began the Anglican Communion.

    We have been repeatedly assured that the Anglican Covenant is not an instrument of control, yet we note that the fourth section seems to be just that to Anglicans in many parts of the Communion. So much so, that there are voices calling for stronger sanctions in that fourth section, as well as voices repudiating it as un-Anglican in nature. Unitary control does not characterize Anglicanism; rather, diversity in fellowship and communion does.

    We are distressed at the apparent imposition of sanctions on some parts of the Communion. We note that these seem to be limited to those which “have formally, through their Synod or House of Bishops, adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion.” We are further distressed that such sanctions do not, apparently, apply to those parts of the Communion that continue to hold one view in public and exhibit other behaviors in private. Why is there no sanction on those who continue with a double standard? In our context bowing to anxiety by ignoring that sort of double-mindedness is usually termed a “failure of nerve.” Through many decades of wrestling with our own discomfort about recognizing the full humanity of persons who seem to differ from us, we continue to work at open and transparent communication as well as congruence between word and behavior. We openly admit our failure to achieve perfection!

    The baptismal covenant prayed in this Church for more than 30 years calls us to respect the dignity of all other persons and charges us with ongoing labor toward a holy society of justice and peace. That fundamental understanding of Christian vocation underlies our hearing of the Spirit in this context and around these issues of human sexuality. That same understanding of Christian vocation encourages us to hold our convictions with sufficient humility that we can affirm the image of God in the person who disagrees with us. We believe that the Body of Christ is only found when such diversity is welcomed with abundant and radical hospitality.

    As a Church of many nations, languages, and peoples, we will continue to seek every opportunity to increase our partnership in God’s mission for a healed creation and holy community. We look forward to the ongoing growth in partnership possible in the Listening Process, Continuing Indaba, Bible in the Life of the Church, Theological Education in the Anglican Communion, and the myriad of less formal and more local partnerships across the Communion – efforts in mission and ministry that inform and transform individuals and communities toward the vision of the Gospel – a healed world, loving God and neighbor, in the love and friendship shown us in God Incarnate.

    May God’s peace dwell in your hearts,

    The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
    Presiding Bishop and Primate
    The Episcopal Church
Well said! Well said indeed. She has dotted all the "i's" and crossed all the "t's". It's nearly a perfect response - except for that "we may be wrong." Justice is never wrong, ++Katharine - never wrong.

I'm thankful that we have KJS as our Primate at this place in history.

I can't wait to see Viagraville explode. JCF, do you have the popcorn ready?

* The Presiding Bishop wrote "Church of Scotland" but the Church of Scotland is Presbyterian.

The "Canterbury Bull" explained by +California

Recently the Most Rev'd and Rt. Honourable Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of All England, sent "The Pentecost Letter" wherein he officiously submits what he is going to do to punish errant provinces (as if he had power to do anything outside of the Church of England* - can we say hubris?) The blogs are aflame with reaction to the Canterbury Bull.

Yesterday, the Rt. Rev'd Marc Andrus, Bishop Diocesan of the Diocese of California added his thoughts. I believe he is the only bishop of this church to have publicly spoken/written his opinion of "the Pentecost Letter."

The letter is not a scathing denunciation of Williams. It is rather 'brotherly' and +Andrus states his admiration for the office and the man himself.

+Marc's thoughts are worthy of a read and you can find his response here. I want to post just a snippet of his thoughts:
[T]he Lambeth Conference was explicitly advertised as a non-legislative meeting; indeed we voted on nothing. However, lo and behold, through a non-transparent “consensus building” process, the bishops present (and so, in Archbishop Rowan’s thinking, the Communion) have affirmed the three moratoria put forward by the Windsor Report.

Here it is also important to note that the Windsor Report itself has been reified and given the status of a central Anglican document of faith and order, not by the test of time and use, but by the Archbishop and those who agree with him saying so.

Archbishop Rowan is intent on a covenant with punitive measures built in. The bishops of the Communion expressed their distaste for a punitive covenant, and so the archbishop has stepped up to be himself the judging authority he has been unable to build into a covenant.
Please take time to read +Marc's thoughts. We know +Marc has hit the nail on the head because Viagraville is going ballistic. "Good on yer, Marc!"

* As spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, the archbishop, although without legal authority outside England, is recognised by convention as primus inter pares (first among equals) of all Anglican primates worldwide. Since 1867 he has convened more or less decennial meetings of worldwide Anglican bishops, the Lambeth Conferences. Convening and inviting to the Lambeth Conference is his only prerogative in the Anglican Communion.

31 May 2010

Prayers for Ann Fontaine and family

Our sister, Ann reports that her brother, Steve, died this morning. Please remember Steve, Ann and their family in your prayers.

    Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord,
    And Light perpetual shine upon him.

    May his Soul and the souls of all the departed
    through the mercies of Christ rest in peace.

We will remember them ...

When I was much younger, Memorial Day was celebrated on 30 May each year. The observance began in in 1868 when Commander in Chief John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic issued what was called General Order Number 11, designating 30 May as a memorial day. He declared it to be
for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.
Southern women had been decorating the graves of soldiers before the end of the Civil War. After the war, the Women's Memorial Association in Columbus, Mississippi, put flowers on the graves of both Confederate and Union soldiers in 1866, an act of generosity that inspired the poem by Francis Miles Finch, "The Blue and the Grey," published in the Atlantic Monthly.

I usually post In Flander's Fields on Memorial Day, but it is really appropriate for Armistice Day, 11 November when Europe remembers its soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice. This year I'm posting Mr. Finch's poem which was written for our Memorial Day.
    By the flow of the inland river,
    Whence the fleets of iron have fled,
    Where the blades of the grave-grass quiver,
    Asleep are the ranks of the dead:
    Under the sod and the dew,
    Waiting the judgment-day;
    Under the one, the Blue,
    Under the other, the Gray

    These in the robings of glory,
    Those in the gloom of defeat,
    All with the battle-blood gory,
    In the dusk of eternity meet:
    Under the sod and the dew,
    Waiting the judgement-day
    Under the laurel, the Blue,
    Under the willow, the Gray.

    From the silence of sorrowful hours
    The desolate mourners go,
    Lovingly laden with flowers
    Alike for the friend and the foe;
    Under the sod and the dew,
    Waiting the judgement-day;
    Under the roses, the Blue,
    Under the lilies, the Gray.

    So with an equal splendor,
    The morning sun-rays fall,
    With a touch impartially tender,
    On the blossoms blooming for all:
    Under the sod and the dew,
    Waiting the judgment-day;
    Broidered with gold, the Blue,
    Mellowed with gold, the Gray.

    So, when the summer calleth,
    On forest and field of grain,
    With an equal murmur falleth
    The cooling drip of the rain:
    Under the sod and the dew,
    Waiting the judgment-day,
    Wet with the rain, the Blue
    Wet with the rain, the Gray.

    Sadly, but not with upbraiding,
    The generous deed was done,
    In the storm of the years that are fading
    No braver battle was won:
    Under the sod and the dew,
    Waiting the judgment-day;
    Under the blossoms, the Blue,
    Under the garlands, the Gray

    No more shall the war cry sever,
    Or the winding rivers be red;
    They banish our anger forever
    When they laurel the graves of our dead!
    Under the sod and the dew,
    Waiting the judgment-day,
    Love and tears for the Blue,
    Tears and love for the Gray.
Although I am a peacenick, I have a great respect for our military, and am a strong supporter of those serving in our military. I close with the Ode of Remembrance.
    Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
    At the going down of the sun and in the morning
    We will remember them.

30 May 2010

Trinity Sunday - Pentecost 1

Trinity Sunday - Pentecost 1

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31; Psalm 8; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15
    Introit: Blessed be the Holy Trinity and undivided Unity: we will give glory to Him, because He hath shown His mercy to us. -- (Ps. 8. 2). O Lord, our Lord, how wonderful is Thy name in all the earth!

    Collect: Almighty and everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of thy Divine Majesty to worship the Unity: We beseech thee that thou wouldst keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see thee in thy one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Does not wisdom call,
and does not understanding raise her voice?
On the heights, beside the way,
at the crossroads she takes her stand;
beside the gates in front of the town,
at the entrance of the portals she cries out

That passage from today's reading in Proverbs invites us to consider wisdom, understanding, and mystery.

In 1968, the crew of the Apollo 8 circled the moon time and again, scanning its surface for possible future landing sites. Needing to gather their bearings and recalibrate, they lifted their view (and their camera) to catch what has become an iconic image: Earthrise. A crystal blue drop, hovering in the blackness of space, it peaks over the horizon of a desolate and grey lunar landscape, its leading edge flooded in light, glinting off the surface of the water, the lower half disappearing, seemingly melting away into the blackness that surrounds it. With the snap of a shutter, our image of the world would never be the same.

Groundbreaking images of our world: like this one they come from time to time, seeming to shake the very earth on which we stand, to move it significantly. The soil and streets beneath our feet, the societies, habits and bodies in which we live become foreign and unfamiliar. The world no longer is what it once was. Or at least what we believed it to be.

Bill McKibben recently released a book called Eaarth, with an extra "a." McKibben is the same author who wrote The End of Nature, the first book for a general audience on climate change. In that early work, published in 1989, he warned us that in order to save the world we inhabited we must act, and act swiftly, to curb our consumption of fossil fuels.

In his latest book, McKibben relays a different message: It is too late.

It is too late to save the planet. Scientists have agreed that 350 parts per million carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the maximum level that will sustain the conditions that created the world we now inhabit. For the 10,000 years of human history, the atmosphere has maintained nearly constant levels around 275. We have been raising that number by just around 2 points every year since the industrial revolution began, putting us now at right about 390. At current levels, the coral reefs become unsustainable due to the rising acidity of the oceans. At current levels, oysters have trouble forming their shells. At current levels, the arid subtropics push outward, spreading wildfire and drought while the expanded tropics bring more insect-borne illness. Two years ago the northwest and northeast passages opened for the first time in human history, and in a decade or two, a summertime spacecraft will see only open water at the north pole.

It is too late to save the world we knew or thought we knew.

McKibben continues to say that having glimpsed the world as it truly is, it is not only foolish but damning to pretend we live on the world we once knew, no matter how safe and comfortable that fiction may be. He writes:

"We need now to understand the world we've created, and consider - urgently - how to live in it. ... Which doesn't mean that the change we must make - or the world on the other side - will be without its comforts or beauties. Reality always comes with beauty, sometimes more than fantasy. ... But hope has to be real. It can't be hope that scientists will turn out to be wrong, or that President Barack Obama can somehow fix everything. Obama can help - but precisely to the degree he's willing to embrace reality, to understand that we live on the world we live on, not the one we might wish for. Maturity is not the opposite of hope; it's what makes hope possible."

We call today Trinity Sunday. It is a day that strikes fear into the heart of many a preacher, their pulpits becoming platforms for their particular Trinitarian theology. Endowed with weight they have not asked for, they approach the mystery of the Trinity with fear, trembling, and perhaps a bit of frustration.

We often are encouraged to see mystery as antithetical to knowledge, or wisdom. In fact, the very roots of the words "wisdom" and "mystery" are opposed; the one "to see," the other, "to close" or "to shut," as in the lips or the eyes.

And yet, today we are invited to enter the mystery within wisdom, to the possibility that like maturity and hope, there is something cyclical to their relationship, wisdom begetting mystery begetting wisdom.

In today's reading from Proverbs, Wisdom cries to us, her "cry to all who live." She claims to underlie the foundation of the earth, bearing witness to the limits of the sea, rejoicing before the Lord, delighting in humankind from their creation and yet unknown to them. Wisdom in herself represents a mystery whose revelation is slow, cyclical, process-driven. Wisdom is not birthed of easy answers, it is uncovered little by little through sight, through searching, through peering into the eternally unfolding world of creation.

A young woman in the Pacific Northwest left the church for several years after having endured the judgment and self-righteousness of a particular congregation. As her children entered pre-school, her husband said to her, "Well, I know very well what it is you don't want in a church, but tell me, what do you want from a community of faith?"

She responded, "I want help finding the mystery in all things, embracing that mystery, not trying to explain the mystery out of it."

Our human tendency is toward categorization, toward hyperbole and absolutism, not out of narrowness of thought, but often out of distraction and exhaustion. The ability to embrace mystery is not the rejection of wisdom, but the opening of a space for a slow, unraveling, ever-incomplete revelation, the willingness to sit with the reality of a world more complex in each revelation, more detailed and ever new.

Paul explains that the life of faith is also a slow and laborious process and that hope is born of character, character is born of endurance, and endurance is born of suffering. At each moment the world must be understood in its momentary revelation in order for the greater truth to emerge. Unless we allow ourselves to experience suffering, not shying away, we will not know endurance. Only by giving ourselves over to a self that values endurance will we be of character, and only for those of character does hope endure, allowing us to live with and through suffering. The cycle begins again.

Jesus, likewise, invites us to a life of faith built on slow growth, on timely revelation, saying, "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot hear them now." Wisdom in God also is revealed according to the concreteness of our experience, its place in time, inviting us to see clearly the age and the faith we inhabit, to witness its limits, knowing that only in that full knowledge does continued and renewed revelation emerge.

The disciples look on in bewilderment. "We cannot hear?" they wonder, examining themselves for their own unreadiness. What is it in us that cannot hear, what in us prevents us from looking at our faith with open eyes, stepping into its mystery, its slow unfolding, patiently examining its details so that when God reveals himself anew we might know the difference?

Mystery presents us with the opportunity to glimpse the world recreated in every moment, the possibility that, like Bill McKibben's new "Eaarth," with two "a"s, we live more fully when we give ourselves over to the experience of embracing the world as it reveals itself to us, not as we "know" it to be. In mystery we give ourselves over to the possibility that a world, fragile and interconnected as we now understand our own to be, held in the mystery of climate change and global warming, can be life-giving. It calls us to look, truly look upon that incarnational reality, that sacramental life: this world, this table, invites us into unending wisdom.

This day we are invited to stand in faith, to stand precisely where we are, in the mystery of the Trinity, in the mystery of a God revealed to us in this moment, this age, this life and this faith, a mystery that we explore, unravel and receive together, knowing that in seeing more truly, with each new revelation, we step into greater hope, greater joy, greater love, greater knowledge and communion with the three, the one.

-- - Jason Sierra is a member of the Office for Young Adult and Campus Ministries at the Episcopal Church Center. He resides in Seattle, WA, and holds a BA in American Studies from Stanford University.