26 June 2010

Celebrating the Journey - 41 years and counting

In much of the Western World, this is Pride Weekend. There will be scores of parades to celebrate "Gay Pride." I must say that I don't really understand "Gay Pride." I don't understand what "pride" there is in being GLBT or Straight, or Asexual. I don't  see sexuality as being something to be  proud of or ashamed of. It's just who "you" are. However, I do understand the real need to celebrate how far along the journey of equality GLBT brothers and sisters, and society itself, has come.

I was just a kid when on 28 June 1969 the patrons of New York City's Stonewall bar beat the hell out of the NYCPD officers who were sent to harass, abuse, and arrest the patrons. I wonder how many of those patrons are still around to be honored in the parades this weekend?

In the same way the Declaration of Independence wasn't the catalyst or the moment the rebellion began, the "gay rights movement" wasn't born that night in the Stonewall. It was simply the moment gay rights became a household word, as it were.

TTLS salutes those patrons and their courage. And TTLS salutes all those who have and who are working for the equal rights for GLBT people throughout the world.

The media will have all the "right" pictures on the news this weekend - the most outrageous picture the journalists can snap. That sells papers. I chose a much more appropriate and significant photo. It shows a NYCPD officer waving a rainbow flag and because those on the float are "veterans" of that night in 1969. 

To quote that old cigarette commercial, "You've come long way, baby!" so celebrate that journey.

Sadly, not all of our friends from the journey are with us today. Three are foremost in my memory - David, Matthew, and Steven.
  • David Ballinger was the first friend who died because of AIDS in the "early days" of the disease. Twenty years later I've not really recovered from his death. 
  • Matthew Tuss was a singing buddy and died just three days before our Christmas Concert. He was just 20-years old. He could find humor in any situation. When he began to get weaker, I would pick him up for rehearsals and we would laugh all way there and back.
  • Steven Housel was also a musician friend - a tenor with a wonderful voice and a wicked sense of humor but unbelievably kind to everyone.
Take a moment in your celebrations this weekend to remember. And to envision the day when "Pride" festivals are something our descendants read about in the history books and wonder why there was a need for such events. That day is coming, brother and sisters.

As this is basically a religious blog, I have to include something religious I've chosen the last line of "I Walk the King's Highway" to celebrate and to remember all those who've worked for equality.

The countless hosts lead on before,
I must not fear nor stray;
with them, the pilgrims of the faith,
I walk the King's highway.
Through light and dark the road leads on
till dawns the endless day,
when I shall know why in this life
I walk the King's highway.

25 June 2010

Diana Butler Bass's mother in need of prayers

Diana Butler Bass's mother was taken to hospital a few hours ago and is in critical but stable condition. Her mum is stable "but not in a good way. [We are] awaiting test results and trying to find out if [mum] can breath on her own." Please keep Diana's mum and family in your prayers.

24 June 2010

One book+One Parish+One Summer 2010

This summer thousands of Christians from ten different Christian denominations are joining together to read Forgiving Ararat by Gita Nazareth.

Based on the popular “One Book One City” and “Big Read” programs, National One Book+One Parish+One Summer 2010 has become the single biggest Christian reading event of 2010.

Visit the web site for more information and join the FaceBook page.

St. John the Baptist

Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist*

The Lectionary:Isaiah 40:1-11; Psalm 85; The Acts 13:14b-26; Luke 1:57-80

Collect: Almighty God, by whose providence your servant John the Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of your Son our Savior by preaching repentance: Make us so to follow his teaching and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and, following his example, constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth's sake; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

If John the Baptist came striding down the aisle today, we might recoil in horror and ask the ushers to remove him. Yet the unkempt man we encounter as an adult was once a child, wrapped like Jesus would be, in baby clothes rather than camel skin. What he became looks like the sort of holy person we might meet in India today. What he was at birth was someone who looked a good deal like you and me.

When a baby is brought to the font to be named and baptized, perhaps we contemplate for a moment what she or he may grow up to be. Perhaps this helpless baby may be a bishop or a priest or deacon, a leader, a teacher, a diplomat, or heaven help us, a politician!

The story of John’s birth is a bit more dramatic. His father, Zachariah, a priest of the temple in Jerusalem, is told by God’s Messenger, that his aged wife, Elizabeth, is to give birth. How old Elizabeth was we don’t know. Time was measured a good deal less precisely in those days, and a person was counted as aged in their forties. Elizabeth, Saint Mary’s cousin, had reached the age when it was not normal for women to have children. Zachariah the priest is skeptical. Don’t think it is just we moderns who have our doubts.

The Messenger deals with Zachariah’s doubts by making it impossible for him to speak, rather like St. Paul after he met the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus. Perhaps the shock of the encounter gave the old priest a mild stroke. Who knows?

In the gospel today we discover what happens when the child is born. It was common then, as it is now, for children to be named after a parent. Indeed in some families it is necessary to place a number after the child’s name, rather like a monarch, to denote how many have gone before. It was therefore expected that the baby would be given his father’s name, Zachariah. Instead, the old priest defies tradition and writes that the child’s name shall be John, as if to say that this child is special and is chosen by God for a special purpose or mission.

It is a great pity that today the suggestion that a baby may grow up to be a priest is greeted with the sort of horror that might be provoked if it were contemplated that the baby might become a criminal. It is high time we overthrew the tradition that a vocation to ministry is odd. There was a time when a family thought it an enormous honor to have a child called to a vocation as a priest.

And if not a priest, a Christian whose life is dedicated to God and to God’s church, to tell the Good News and point to Jesus, just as John one day would point and exclaim, “Behold the Lamb of God.”

The birth of John the Baptist is all about dedication to the service of God as the overriding narrative of a life. It reminds us that the calling to be a Christian – for being a Christian is a calling or vocation – is not about having a religious hobby among all the other hobbies of life, down the list from work and family, and competing with time spent on sports and television. One of the reasons why our Episcopal Church has dwindled in size is that so many of us have thought of “church” as an option, a choice rather than thinking of our baptism in terms of a calling that defines who we are and every other part of life.

John the Baptist, as a priest’s son, was a priest himself. The office was hereditary. But we too, through our baptisms, are described in the New Testament as “priests for God.” We stand as intercessors between God and the human race in this troubled and divided world. Like John, in the context of home, family, friends, work, and recreation, we must pattern a “turned about” life and way of living, and call those we meet to newness of life.

John, as an adult, thundered “Repent!” – turn around, walk in a new way. He was called to this message. So are we.

-- Fr. Tony Clavier is rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, La Porte, Indiana, in the Diocese of Northern Indiana. He is also dean of the Michigan City deanery.

*I am not an expert when it comes to iconography, but I know a wee bit. In any icon there are usually many events in the same icon. You'll notice that the man on the right is Zacharias (John's father) who is wring "his name is John" as the scriptures tell us he did. Also, you'll see the person with a jar of water in the background - that's to tell us what John's mission was - to baptize.

23 June 2010

On the Lite Side - the BCP

For a change of pace in my usual weightier posts, I'd like to tell you about one of the new forms of evangelism. YouTube is really a wonderful site and its potential for evanelisation is really underrated. One of the few mainline YouTube Evangelists is Fr. Matthew.

Fr. Matt has a variety of clips on YouTube and they are a immensely popular. His presentations are hip, upbeat, informative and fun. His latest is a presentation on the Book of Common Prayer as authorized for use by The Episcopal Church.

If your are looking to spice up your confirmation classes, Fr. Matt's clips are one of the best ways to do it. Both young and old will enjoy watching him and Jehoshaphat explain things Episcopal. (You really have to see his presentation on the schism.)

You will find his web page here, and his Facebook fan site here. And if you aren't "on" Facebook, lose your Ludditeness and create an account - it is the present and future. Even my parish has a Facebook page here.

Here is his Book of Common Prayer in under four minutes. Enjoy!

Virginia Secessionists appeal for new hearing

"It's not about the money or the buildings - it's about The Episcopal Church (TEC) departing from the faith once delivered for all times." How many times in the past six years have we heard that mantra?

Well, guess what folks, the schismatics lie. To prove it's a lie and that the schism is about property and money, John Chilton in the The Lead reports that the schismatics in Virginia have filed a motion for a rehearing. The schismatics are unhappy that the Court took their argument at face value and ruled against their claim. So, the schismatic thieves are crying "redo, redo" like children on the playground.

For a group that has told the same lie for six years, they've spent a lot of money trying to keep the stolen goods they claim are not important to them.

22 June 2010

Telling it like it is - a report on the EC meting by Katie Sherrod

Much cyber ink has been spilled about the recent meeting of the Executive Committee (EC) and the Very Rev'd Kenneth Kearon. Canon Kearon was present at the request of the EC to talk about the recent actions of Lambeth Palace.

Blog sister, and member of the EC Katie Sherrod has provided us the most thorough report to date at Desert's Child. Here is the $64,000 dollar question and answer:
Bishop Wendell Gibbs, Bishop of Michigan, asked the stumper, “The Church of England remains in full communion and ecumenical dialogue with the Old Catholic Church, which blesses same-sex unions, and the Church of Sweden, which has a partnered lesbian bishop and blesses same-sex marriages. Given this fact, how are we to reconcile the removal of Episcopal Church members from ecumenical bodies?

LONG silence ensued. He looked at Wendell like a calf looks at a new gate. He clearly didn't know where to go.

Canon Kearon hemmed and hawed and finally said that there are different types of full communion and that the sticking point is being able to represent the Communion vis a vis faith & order. Wendell stressed the point of who the Church of England is in communion with, but Canon Kearon had nothing more of substance to say.
I checked the ODE and I can only find one meaning for "full" - it never means partial or conditional. Perhaps the Canon needs to consult his dictionary.

It is very interesting that certain blogs are vilifying the EC for it's "grilling" of the Rev'd Mr. Kearon. They are presenting the Q&A session as just short of the Spanish Inquisition. It gives one pause to wonder just what reality they are operating under. 

Make sure to read Katie's post; it is enlightening.

Tanganyika, Gloucester and El Camino Real at the Altar together

This was the photo I intended to use with the previous post, but the HTML was giving me fits and I included the wrong picture. So, here is the photo of the three bishops, mitred, in Gloucester Cathedral.  The photo must have been taken at the end of the Creed as two of the bishops are making the sign of the cross (and there are no Eucharistic vessels on the Altar).

21 June 2010

Comments from ECR and Gloucester on recent events

The Rt. Rev'd Mary Gray-Reeves is in the Diocese of Gloucester. She reports that at the partnership event with Bishop Michael and Bishop Gerard of the Diocese of Western Tanganyika, there is a feeling of hospitality everywhere she goes. She forwarded to me a note to ECR from +Michael of Gloucester.

She has given me permission to post it providing I include her introduction and did not post until her message appeared here. My thanks to +Mary for allowing me to post her thoughts and +Michael's thoughts as well..
Dear Friends,

Some of you may have heard that on a recent visit to England, +Katharine Jefferts-Schori was asked to verify her orders of ordination and asked not to wear her miter. As you know, I am here on a partnership visit in the Diocese of Gloucester. Attached is a greeting and explanation from Bishop Michael regarding our own correspondence with Lambeth Palace, hopefully clarifying a policy that has been in place but not enforced. The incident with +Katharine was of course exacerbated by +Rowan’s Pentecost letter and +Katharine’s response. I must say that I have not met anyone here that is happy with +Rowan’s letter and the actions that it announced; but are rather many are embarrassed and upset.

As you will see from an update that Celeste Ventura and Channing Smith will send shortly, we are having a wonderful time in Gloucester being treated very well and shown great hospitality. There are no major issues regarding the wearing of my miter or being a woman bishop, although of course there are those who do not approve of women’s ordination. It is a very live issue here and there are lots of feelings and emotions as the Church of England approaches another vote, hopefully towards women in the episcopate, in just a few weeks.

In the meanwhile, I send greetings from everyone participating on this triangular partnership and ask your continued prayers. I will send another update at the end of the week after my return late on Wednesday night.

With love and blessings,
From The Rt. Rev'd Michael Purham:
Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Diocese of El Camino Real

I greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, rejoicing as always in our partnership, drawing together your diocese, the Diocese of Western Tanganyika and my own.

It has been a great joy to have Bishop Mary with us these last few days, sharing in our partnership meeting, speaking to our Diocesan Synod, preaching in the Cathedral and visiting parishes. It will be a particular joy when, on the last day of the partnership gathering, she presides at the Eucharist in the Lady Chapel of our Cathedral.

People here in the Diocese of Gloucester share my respect and affection for Bishop Mary. Once again having her here has been a delight and an encouragement to us all. Her graciousness is a wonderful gift to our partnership and companion relationship and I believe the partnership is a gift to our troubled Anglican Communion.

I am attaching a note I have written to try to explain some of the difficulties we have run into in England these last few days in relation to the ministry of visiting bishops. The difficulties have felt to be a long way away from the happy acceptance of one another here.
Begin attached note:
Background explaining the need for permission to her diocese

Under the Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordination) Measure of 1967, which in my view needs urgent revision, but which is still in force and which must therefore be respected, clergy from abroad (Anglican or otherwise) need the permission of the Archbishop to officiate here. My understanding is that over the years, this rule has not been tightly followed in the case of those visiting partner dioceses for short periods of time, but only for those seeking to take up a ministerial post here. However, with all the present tensions in the Communion and with some people prepared to use legal processes to challenge bishops and others who do not follow the letter of the law, the Archbishop’s office has thought it best to ensure that the rule is strictly adhered to. Thus I have sought and obtained permission for Bishop Mary for preside at the Eucharist in Gloucester Cathedral. (Bishop Gerard is also presiding at the Eucharist while here, but in his case in a private chapel where no such permission is required.) [Emphasis mine]

The Measure makes no reference to what the bishop wears. As it happens, the simple weekday Eucharist at which Bishop Mary will preside is not one when either she or I would expect her to wear a mitre. However in the Cathedral on Sunday, when she stood at my side when I presided at the Eucharist and again when she preached at a Partnership Service later in the day, she did, like me and Bishop Gerard, wear her mitre.

The triangular partnership that draws the dioceses of Western Tanganyika, El Camino Real and Gloucester into a companion relationship emerged from the Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops. There has never been any doubt within our dioceses that the three bishops are equally bishops of the Anglican Communion and not for a moment would we have treated one bishop differently from the others. We recognise and honour the ministry of all.

So, I'm prepared to cut +Rowan a sliver of slack on the issue, knowing now that some were prepared to bring legal action against him. He was wrong as rain, though, to give into the right wing.

Rowan goes down in flames in Round 1: TKO expected in Round 2

According to Ruth Gledhill in the Times, apparently the Church of England doesn't respect the ABC or ABY very much.
    A desperate joint effort by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to prevent schism over women bishops was dismissed today by both opponents and supporters of female ordination in the Church of England. Dr Rowan Williams and Dr John Sentamu intervened with an unprecedented joint amendment to legislation on women bishops to be debated at the General Synod in York next month. 
    Their plan envisages the creation of “co-ordinate” bishops who would stand in for a woman diocesan in parishes unable to accept women’s ordination. But their scheme drew criticism from both sides of a debate that is regarded as more likely to lead to schism than those over the ordination of gays or women priests. 
    Even senior officials at the centre of the Church establishment struggled to understand what the Archbishops had in mind and what a “co-ordinate bishop” would be. Initial details of the Archbishops’ plan were published as the Synod prepares for a marathon 24-hour debate over women bishops, spread over three days in July. Their full proposal will not be made public until next month. 
    Under the legislation, women will be consecrated bishops in England by 2014 at the earliest. But hundreds of male priests in England oppose women priests and bishops. Because of this they will not accept the authority of a male bishop either, where it has been “delegated” by a woman. In their text the Archbishops say: “Once women become bishops, it will be possible to maintain something like the present mixed economy in the Church of England only if there is provision for someone other than the diocesan bishop to provide episcopal oversight for those who are unable to accept the new situation.” 
    The need for this provision was widely accepted, but the problem was how the structure should be set up legally. “The amendments we intend to propose involve neither delegation nor depriving a diocesan of any part of his or her jurisdiction,” the Archbishops say. “Instead we seek to give effect to the idea of a co-ordinate jurisdiction.” 
    After the synod voted in 1992 to ordain women priests, a new form of traditionalist bishop, dubbed “flying bishop”, was created to care for Anglo-Catholics. The problem is more difficult this time because of the nature of authority in a Church modelled on a Catholic hierarchy. Traditionalists refuse to accept that women can be bishops, while women refuse to cede any ground that would render them less important than their male episcopal counterparts. 
    Other Anglican provinces around the world have created women bishops without making special provision. There are 28 Anglican women bishops in New Zealand, Australia, Cuba, Canada and the United States. But the Church of England is in a more delicate position because of its position as the “mother Church” of the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion. 
    The contradictions of the Church’s stance were illustrated last week when the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the US, Katharine Jefferts Schori, was told she could carry her episcopal mitre but not wear it on a visit to Southwark Cathedral. An attempt to find a compromise two years by the creation of “super” flying bishops had the backing of the Archbishops but was voted down by the Synod. 
    The auguries for the new effort to prevent a split are not much better. At the precise moment that the Archbishops’ motion will hit the floor of the Synod on Saturday July 10,traditionalist Church of England clergy will be meeting the Roman Catholic bishop of Nottingham, Malcolm McMahon, in Leicester to discuss converting to Catholicism. The meeting is organised by the Federation of Catholic Priests, an Anglican organisation with more than 400 members that is affiliated with the traditionalist Church Union. Bishop McMahon is a member of the committee set up by the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales to set up the Ordinariate, a new body that will allow Anglicans to convert while retaining their cultural and liturgical heritage. 
    John Broadhurst, the Bishop of Fulham who is chairman of Forward in Faith, said: “The Archbishops’ amendment is a brave effort to answer some very serious questions about the dispossession of orthodox Anglicans. “But I do not quite understand how a traditionalist bishop can work in partnership with a woman bishop while he actually rejects the concept of her ordination.” 
    Campaigners for women bishops also said the proposals from the archbishops raised several questions. Hilary Cotton, vice-chairwoman of Women and the Church, said the group had already made significant compromise on women bishops. “We cannot give an immediate response to whether we can support this amendment. But I would want to say that supporting the legislation as it is drafted is a significant compromise from us.”
Well, at least his own Church stood up to him and told him to "get stuffed." Too bad the Anglican Communion can't find the brass to do so, too.

20 June 2010

Pentecost IV - Trinity III

The Fourth Sunday After Pentecost
The Third Sunday after Trinity
Proper 7

The Lectionary: 1 Kings 19:1-4, (5-7), 8-15a; Psalm 42 and 43; Galatians 3:23-29; Luke 8:26-39

Collect: O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Let’s look for a minute at the story of the Gerasene demoniac; it’s about time somebody did. The story doesn’t get a lot of attention in preaching these days, and that’s a shame. There’s some really good stuff here, and it’s pretty funny if you come at it from the right angle. Also, it’s very handy to have it coupled with Paul’s words in Galatians. The two readings help each other.
First of all, let’s look at the issue that seems to get in the way of engaging it the most these last few centuries – those poor doomed demons. The fact is, the New Testament world had a different way of seeing reality than we do, or than the 10th century did, or than the 17th century did. And I’m confident that in just a handful of decades there will be a still different way of seeing the world – different categories, different ways of naming and organizing the stuff we experience. And so on. That changing never changes.
These days, we don’t do demons, at least not much. We don’t have a category for that. But it’s not a big deal; and it’s sure not worth all the effort folks put into trying to force this square peg into the round hole of our current categories. Instead of that, let’s see what’s going on here; and let’s see where the gospel is.
On one really important level, the story is a hoot – it’s somewhere between a political cartoon and a graphic novel. The whole scene is bizarre. You’ve got a naked crazy guy, chatty demons, charging pigs doing swan dives, tombs, chains, shackles, freaked-out locals, and a small riot. All in gentile territory where, as far Luke was concerned, Jesus had no business being in the first place.
The folks who first heard this story must have loved it. In addition to the great action and dialogue, there was ancient regional rivalry.
What could be more fun for the good Jews of Galilee to hear than a story about how un-kosher, unlucky, and generally weird the gentiles on the other side of the lake really were; and about how all those unclean pigs came to a well-deserved and hilarious end.
Then there’s the political subtext. Everybody knew instantly both that it was no accident that the demons called themselves “Legion” after the famous and feared Roman legions, or that pigs were a staple of both the Roman army and the Roman economy. Caesar’s legions, and Caesar’s rations, were mere child’s play for Jesus – a quick flush and they’re gone. What fun. And most Romans who heard the story probably wouldn’t even get this part.
But as delightful as all this is, this is much more than a mildly comic interlude in Jesus’ Galilean ministry. It’s really good news, and it’s good news about power – all sorts of power. The Gerasene demoniac appears just after the more familiar account of Jesus calming the storm on the lake. In fact, the storm was on the very same trip that took Jesus and the disciples to Gerasene. Both of these accounts are part of Luke’s run-up to the big question Jesus asks his disciples in the next chapter: “Who do you say that I am?” In fact, all of these stories are hints about what the right answer is; so they all are not so much stories about what Jesus did, but about who he is.
And who Jesus is has to do with power. It has to do with which, of all the powers in the universe, regardless of what categories we use to talk about them, are the strongest, which powers will have the last word.
You see, there are a lot of powers out there, powers that can, and do, hurt and isolate and torment and destroy – in all sorts of ways. The categories we use to describe them don’t really matter that much. Whether we live in a world full of demons or schizophrenics, of storm-gods or indifferent natural laws, of illness or of possession – regardless of the categories we use, we live in a dangerous world, a frightening world, a world that seems at both first and second glance to be pretty much against us. We live in a world that doesn’t seem to care about us or our pain. We know this all too well.
And the story of the Gerasene demoniac, like the story of the calming of the sea, like so many of the other stories about what Jesus did, and about who Jesus is, these are ways of saying that all of those powers out there, regardless of how we name them or organize them, regardless of how real they are, and regardless of how awful they are – none of them is ultimately powerful, none of them has or will have the last word, none of them will prevail, ultimately. In the end, when all is said and done, we are safe. And the power that Jesus brings, the power of love, the power we see most clearly on the cross, that power will prevail. And this victory is ours by gift.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what is lined up against us. Look, the Gerasene demoniac had more to worry about than his demons. He was also a pariah, cut off from family, friends, community, relationships – from all those connections that together weave the fabric of our humanity. That isolation, that apart-ness, was also the victory of powers, perhaps powers we humans create, powers that can destroy as effectively, and as completely, as madness or storms.
Still, by the time Jesus got through with him, our demoniac was on the other side of those as well. He was not only in his right mind, but he was, as they say, dressed appropriately; and Jesus told him to go to his home, a home he didn’t have when our story began. He was given the fullness of his life back. Remember, there are all sorts of powers out there; and all sorts of victories.
This is part of what Paul is talking about when he insists that, in Christ, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female.” Paul is saying that these distinctions, and others, these powers of the social, economic, ecclesiastical, and political structures – as ancient, hallowed, destructive, and potent as they were, and as they are – these are powers that will fall, and that have fallen, before Jesus. Their voices are not the strongest voices, and they will not have the last word. It is our vocation to oppose them, and by God’s grace they should not, and ultimately they cannot, separate, isolate, define, or destroy us.
Because the love that Jesus is, and the love that Jesus brings, is stronger than anything, even the worst, the very worst, that the world can throw at us. That’s who Jesus is – that’s what these stories are all about, that’s the metanarrative or “big story,” regardless of the categories and the worldviews we use to talk about them.
And that is good news.
-- The Rev. James Liggett is Rector of St. Nicholas’ Episcopal Church in Midland, Texas. He is a native of Kansas and a graduate of the University of Houston and the Episcopal Divinity School. He has served parishes in Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma.