Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hampering the Holy Spirit.

One of the first things I learned about the politics of the institutional church was when a deployment officer said to me about another priest, “I’ll make sure she never again works in this church.” That’s a lot of power for one person to have over another person’s life and vocation. Not a lot of room for the Holy Spirit there, let alone forgiveness for whatever wrongs had been done, or for differences of opinion about someone’s work as a priest. After that incident, I’d heard the same line a number of other times in other situations and, at one point, I was one of the priests who was the target of such an effort.

I’d done a pretty good job forgetting about this kind of tactic until recently when I found that I had been denied a seat on a diocesan committee because of the word of one person. I thought about my own extensive qualifications and experience for sitting on this committee, and how sad it is that one person could hamper a group that is set up for the good of the diocese. It’s even sadder that the leadership would allow this to happen.

I wonder about the role of the Holy Spirit when it comes to making decisions in the context of our religious life together. And I’ve thought about whether I’ve done this kind of arbitrary exclusion of others. has an interesting little forgiveness ‘quiz.’ Turns out I’m a Balanced Forgiver: “You're a basically kind person with a sense of balance and boundaries. However, you're no Mother Theresa.” The question that brought this whole topic up is one I answered with “You say the person would do a good job, but mention that you had a few personal issues with him.” I consider that honest but not getting in the way of the discernment process/greater good/Holy Spirit.

This kind of thing happens too often in the discernment process for ordination, as well. Biases, axes to grind, personal clashes, personality differences, all tend to get in the way of openness to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It happens in rector searches for parishes. Whether it’s a deployment officer with second- or third-hand information or with a grudge, whether it’s someone who knows someone who had a bad experience with a priest, whether it’s someone who didn’t like a priest in seminary, we can all name a similar experience – so much gets in the way of allowing the Holy Spirit to drive a discernment process.

These kinds of personal issues are not uncommon in the corporate world. Who you know and what others know and think about you and who you’ve offended all play into your access to higher levels in your field. But there’s no expectation for trusting the Holy Spirit in the corporate world. Decisions are based in the world, not in the guidance of the divine.

But the church? We tend to forget that discernment is not about us as individuals, it’s not about getting back at someone or demonstrating some level of power. Discernment is about allowing the Holy Spirit to guide us in a way that benefits the people of God, regardless of our own feelings. Our own challenge as leaders is to not allow decisions to be made on personal biases, and as participants, our challenge is to get out of the way with our personal stuff, intentionally listen for the Spirit, and make room for Her to do Her work.

It's not over yet.

There are lots of reflections on GC09 out there in blog land. And many dioceses have received same from their bishops. At times, it's difficult to believe that folks attended the same event, their perceptions are so very different! But since this is my blog, I'll include my own reflections (which will also be available in our August newsletter on-line later this week). Basically I saw it as a sign of hope, of forward movement, of courage, of standing up for the Good News of God in Jesus Christ.

Reflecting back on 12 days at the Episcopal Church’s General Convention 2009 (GC09), I can honestly say it was a great experience and a major success in so many ways. That doesn’t mean there weren’t tough decisions and difficult consequences of some of those decisions. But there seemed to be good will and hopefulness through the thousands of participants, observers, exhibitors, volunteers, and visitors. There was honesty about who we are as a church. There was honesty about our differences. There was a willingness to tackle difficult issues – especially those around a budget that resulted in the elimination of 38 positions at the national church office in New York City. Two resolutions that received a lot of media attention were focused on affirming our desire to remain in the Anglican Communion while affirming our canons and constitution regard full access to our discernment process for ordination to all three orders. The other media-hyped resolution encouraged the development of liturgical resources for same-sex blessings, and provided for a generous pastoral response for those bishops in states where marriage equality is legal.

We were challenged by the need to re-examine the way we do the institutional church in the 21st century. We at St Clement’s will spend some time over the next year reflecting on our won approaches to worship. We were awed by a chanted blessing from cantors of the three Abrahamic traditions: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. In that, I saw such hope for what could be in God’s creation. The introduction of almost 20 visitors from as many faith traditions showed us that we can indeed come together in the same place. The challenge is to learn to hear one another as children of the creator – in our different contexts, different ways of living our faiths, and different ways of being faithful people together.

The legislative meetings were run with clarity and completely by Robert’s Rules of Order. It was an amazing thing to see. We are a church that is governed by two houses – the Deputies and Bishops – and our legislative decision-making process is similar to what we witness in the US Congress. Although some might be frustrated by this process, it is our process and it works very well indeed when we use it with knowledge and integrity and pono. We are called to discuss, iron out, learn about, and discern issues before convention begins, in the context of committees and diocesan discussions. Our time at convention is for making decisions and moving the church as a whole in a forward direction.

General Convention can also be cumbersome and exclusive. Ten days is a lot of time to take away from our lives and, because of this, many who would like to participate cannot. The next General Convention will be cut back to eight days. The national committee charged with structure might even examine the number of representative from each diocese and other ways to decrease even more the time spent on this national event. We can certainly be more efficient and effective if we become leaner and more streamlined. And we certainly can decrease the amount of financial resources spent on this event.

The budget was cut drastically – investments are not meeting the expected revenues and there are a large number of dioceses who do not give the asking rate of 21% to the national church budget (the Diocese of Hawaii does meet this figure). There is concern about the programs that were actually cut; decisions that were made continue to be questioned concerning whether they are in the best interests of the future of the church.

On the other hand, we have great resources at the local level and particularly in our parish to reach out and share the Good News with our community, the rest of the dioceses, and the world. This is one of our challenges: to discover new and relevant ways of being church in the 21st century here in Makiki, and to identify and/or develop resources that will keep us alive and growing in both faith and numbers.

I came back with many new resources for the faith formation and development of our parishioners, and am looking forward to sharing those with you as we move into the fall. Attending General Convention as a deputy from Hawaii was a real honor and one way I can live into my ordination vows of participating in the councils of the church. I see some real benefits from General Convention for The Parish of St Clement and for the Diocese of Hawaii as we move forward as Episcopalians in Hawaii who are eager to share a religious tradition with those who are searching and seeking a meaningful spiritual life.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Did I find it?

It's very good to be home and recovering from jet lag. It was good to be on campus Saturday morning watching the food distribution and lunch ministry, and it was a great comfort to walk into the quiet church and just be. It was good on Sunday morning to preach and present a quick overview between services about General Convention.

It was good to be in the midst of parishioners and visitors and hear familiar voices and sounds and enjoy the two birds who joined us at both services. (I think doves might be smarter than bulbuls...)

And it's good to look forward to the possibilities we as a parish have for the coming year.

General Convention was good as well. There were times when it was frustrating; there were challenging times relating to understanding different theologies and different ways of approaching the role we played as deputies. I was challenged and deeply concerned with the bishops who attempted to derail C056 by discharging it and keeping it away from the House of Deputies. (I do think we all need to be aware of how whatever was behind that might play out in future HoB meetings.) But overall, I found good will among those with whom I interacted and observed, good humor, deep faith, and compassion for the least among us.

I had attended expecting this to be my last time as a deputy. But I will run for one more time. I do believe three times is sufficient so others can become part of the councils of the church at that level. But in spite of the hard work of being a deputy, it's important for me to do this one more time. I think perhaps that we in the Diocese of Hawaii need to educate ourselves better as to what is expected of deputies so that those who run are not surprised at the amount of work, time, and energy required or at the difficult decisions that must be made. And I do think that future deputations would fare well to spend more time on group discussions about the issues that will arise.

General Convention is called by some The Great Episcopal Family Reunion. In many ways it is. It's an opportunity to actually be in the same place at the same time with so many we know only through cyber communications. That's pretty exciting. And it's a great time to renew relationships and to make new ones with those in deputations that are in close proximity. If relationship is an important aspect of our faith, then this gathering of thousands of Episcopalians is a significant time to strengthen those ties.

So yes, searching for pono resulted in finding pono in so many places. We did some good work. We were honest in how we presented TEC in its current manifestation. There are some - in the Episcopal Church and in the Anglican Communion -- who are not happy with us. So be it. There are others who are rejoicing that The Episcopal Church took whatever risks necessary to no longer exclude a portion of our brothers and sisters. I hope that other mainline traditions will take courage from our actions and do the same. We are on the road to being more honestly Christ-like in our sharing of the Good News. It will not be easy to live into this; there will always be detractors. But this is who we are called to be and, for that, thanks be to God.

The March of the Jesi.

In formation

Formation 2

The choir

After learning of a split clerical vote on D025

Controlled chaos

Controlled by chaos

Hope for getting out

Regaining strength

Back to normal

Friday, July 17, 2009

And the House of Deputies concurs.

This morning the HoD was asked to concur with C056 regarding same sex blessings. After much testimony at the mikes, the House concurred without amendment. The vote by orders was:

Clergy: Yes, 74; No, 27; Divided, 7
Lay: Yes: 78; No, 23; Divided, 7

The Hawaii clergy deputation voted 3-1 No. I was the only yes. The Hawaii lay deputation voted 3-1 Yes. I'm sorry for such a disappointing clergy vote, but this is the Episcopal Church, after all. With four or five gay clergy couples in the diocese and numerous gay couples and families with children in our congregations, the challenge will be how we can now be more pastoral in our responses to those who ask for their unions to be blessed. And the answer to that will have to come from the bishop.

It's important that we pray for the people and clergy in the Diocese of Hawaii, that decisions are based in the nuances of pono more than in the nuances of the law. How do our relationships in the context of our faith communities help us to bring even more into the sacramental life of the church those whom we have been so intent on excluding?

We will have to wait and see.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Convention stuff.

There have been lots of little things happening during convention that are noteworthy.

Frank Wade's meditations, reflections, and prayers have been outstanding. He is the absolute non-anxious presence in the House of Deputies and is the one whose calming voice and understated humor have kept us spiritually focused. Word is that his meditations will be available after convention. One of my favorites: "We are followers of Jesus because he is going somewhere. ... In the best of times and in the worst of times, Christianity is a verb; it is something we do."

The Abrahmic blessing sung by Hebrew, Muslim, and Christian cantors was awesome. It was the only time I've seen the HoD totally quiet and totally still. I wish we had a recording of that. The Hebrew cantor's voice was like a beautifully played instrument, the Muslim's voice brought back memories of the call to worship in the Holy Land, and the Christian's voice was soft and shepherd-like. The clarity of their voices transcended language. It was an incredible experience.

I've learned a new term: curative rape. This is a method used in Southern Africa to cure lesbians of their lesbianism. With the aid of their families, lesbians are kidnapped and held in a room for a weekend with a man who continually rapes them. This is supposed to cure them of their same-sex orientation. If it doesn't kill them or result in suicide, I guess. Talk about barbaric.

Which brings to mind a quote that was made from a microphone: "Original sin is the only empirically verifiable doctrine of organized religion." E.K. Chesterton

I've noticed that there are still Episcopalians who don't know how to use the words 'Episcopal' and 'Episcopalian.' Someone at a microphone referred to Episcopalian members. Ouch! An Episcopalian is a person or a thing. It's not an adjective. For some of our ears, hearing this kind of misuse is like fingernails against a chalkboard.

I had a wonderful conversation with a parishioner who is in an upstate New York parish I served about 15 years ago. How time has mellowed us both...

I was surprised during the presentation from the national president of the Episcopal Church Women. They have taken on the issues of transgender rights and human trafficking.

From revisions to a number of resolutions, I've learned that Episcopalians do not direct anyone to do anything; we strongly encourage them.

And they did it again!

If it were possible to get an audio of a choir of angels singing alleluia, I'd put it right here. The House of Bishops overwhelmingly passed C061:

Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 76th General Convention acknowledge the changing circumstances in the United States and in other nations, as legislation authorizing or forbidding marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships for gay and lesbian persons is passed in various civil jurisdictions that call forth a renewed pastoral response from this Church, and for an open process for the consideration of theological and liturgical resources for the blessing of same gender relationships; and be it further

Resolved, That the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consultation with the House of Bishops, collect and develop theological, and design liturgies and report to the 77th General Convention; and be it further

Resolved, That the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consultation with the House of Bishops, devise an open process for the conduct of its work inviting participation from provinces, dioceses, congregations, and individuals who are engaged in such theological work, and inviting theological reflection from throughout the Anglican Communion; and be it further

Resolved, That bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church; and be it further

Resolved, That this Convention honor the theological diversity of this Church in regard to matters of human sexuality; and be it further

Resolved, That the members of this Church be encouraged to engage in this effort.

This comes to the House of Deputies now for consideration. If it passes without amendment, it passes. If it's amended, then it goes back to the HoB and passage could be iffy because of the timing of the end of the convention and the original finessing by the bishops in order to get the HoB to pass it. Should be most interesting. But for the second time, the HoB has found strength to stand up for all of the members of the Episcopal Church. Amazing. I truly hope we're seeing the beginning of a pattern!

Monday, July 13, 2009

They actually did it. Holy smokin' thurible!

The House of Bishops today passed D025 with only slight amendment and by a margin of almost two to one. They affirmed full access to the discernment and ordination process to gays and lesbians. Surely the Holy Spirit was moving through and around their discussion tables. Thank God and thank those bishops who had the courage to stand up for pono. The Archbishop of Canterbury is going to be most unhappy!

Here's the resolution. Read very carefully the fourth, fifth, and sixth Resolveds.

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 76th General Convention reaffirm the continued participation of The Episcopal Church as a constituent member of the Anglican Communion; give thanks for the work of the bishops at the Lambeth Conference of 2008; reaffirm the abiding commitment of The Episcopal Church to the fellowship of churches that constitute the Anglican Communion and seek to live into the highest degree of communion possible; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention encourage dioceses, congregations, and members of The Episcopal Church to participate to the fullest extent possible in the many instruments, networks and relationships of the Anglican Communion; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention reaffirm its financial commitment to the Anglican Communion and pledge to participate fully in the Inter-Anglican Budget; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention affirm the value of "listening to the experience of homosexual persons," as called for by the Lambeth Conferences of 1978, 1988, and 1998, and acknowledge that through our own listening the General Convention has come to recognize that the baptized membership of The Episcopal Church includes same-sex couples living in lifelong committed relationships "characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God" (2000-D039); and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention recognize that gay and lesbian persons who are part of such relationships have responded to God's call and have exercised various ministries in and on behalf of God's One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and are currently doing so in our midst; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention affirm that God has called and may call such individuals, to any ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church; and that God's call to the ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church is a mystery which the Church attempts to discern for all people through our discernment processes acting in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention acknowledge that members of The Episcopal Church as of the Anglican Communion, based on careful study of the Holy Scriptures, and in light of tradition and reason, are not of one mind, and Christians of good conscience disagree about some of these matters.

The amended resolution returns to the House of Deputies for its concurrence.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

My new hero.

You'll find the remarks of Dr Jenny Te Paa, Principal of the College of St John the Evangelist in Auckland, New Zealand, to the House of Deputies yesterday. Strong, full of hope, exciting, uplifting, and Christian! Definitely worth a read.


Text of my truncated 2-minute "speech" to the HoD during its Committee of the Whole session. One of 30 presentations.

B033 was passed in the last minutes of the 2006 convention for a very specific reason: Pressure. We were told that if we wanted our new PB to have a chance to be at the table of primates, we needed to pass this resolution. We were becoming, after all, a Communion of Exclusion and we feared that this might be another reason for blocking our access to the table. Throughout that convention three years ago, emissaries of the ABC were pressuring bishops and deputies to not do anything that would further rend the communion – meaning no more positive stuff about including gays in the full sacramental life of the church. In fact, we heard something similar yesterday from the Archbishop of Canterbury when he said he hoped and prayed that there won’t be decisions in the coming days that could push us further apart. We all knew what he meant. So this fear based in pressure that resulted in B033 was a very real thing.

But our actions and further restraints —for a season, if you will —have done little to return us to a Communion of inclusion, diversity, and breadth of theology. And they caused further harm to a category of Episcopalians – harm for which we who voted for B033 are responsible. So we’re now in a place where we must again make intentional decisions. Will we continue to sacrifice a portion of God’s people for a false sense of unity with those who have no interest in being one with us? Or will we move on the path that truly identifies us as Christians?

Contrary to popular rhetoric, this movement for inclusion in the sacramental life of the church is not a new prophetic movement. It is a return to the path on which Jesus had set us. Let’s remember that Jesus did not make a lot of folks happy. He caused a schism among the Jewish community. He preached the Hebrew prophets – and we know what happened to them. His ministry and teachings caused his death -- his death to this world but his life to a new creation. That’s what we’re being asked to do: to die to the law and to live into the cloak of Christ. Do we continue to exclude those of a particular sexual orientation? What group will be our next target? Or do we have the courage to live the difficult teachings of Jesus Christ on our journey to the realm of God? That is the question we’re faced with today.

In his most recent book, Peter Gomes says, “Rarely has the Christian church risked its temporal position to proclaim the glad tidings of Jesus’ preaching and teaching, for the risk of the status quo is always too great. The danger of the Gospel is that if we take it seriously, then like Jesus we will risk all, and might even lose all. Could it be that we spend so much time trying to make sense of the Bible that we have failed to take to heart the essential content of the preaching and teaching of Jesus? …If we are sincere in wanting to know what Jesus would do, we must risk the courage to ask what he says, what he asks, and what he demands. Only if we do so will we be able to move…from the Bible to the Gospel.”

B033 was approved out of fear, hoping to maintain some sort of status quo. It’s time to reject that statement and to move beyond that fear. If we really are Christians and really do take seriously the very difficult teachings of Jesus Christ, then we must risk actually living into his teachings. It’s time to move from parsing the Bible to living the Good News.

This 'n that.

In 2006, we had voting machines that were called do-hickeys. That should give you an idea of the level of expertise of our trainer. This year, we have voting pads. And the voting has been amazingly smooth. Clear instructions each time, and plenty of techies running around to make sure everything is working. What a relief. And how much easier it is to vote when there a close numbers or the need for a 2/3 vote. No counting of hands or heads, but a simple pressing of 1 or 2, and a minute or two later, we have a result. Wow.

It was good to have lunch with Mark Juchter yesterday. Mark was associate with St Clement's before Michael, and left us to go active duty Air Force at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. He's a captain and chaplain in the USAF. Mark will be deployed to Qatar in September for a four-month tour. One thing he has asked for is prayer beads to take with him, so on my return home, we will begin to pull together that ministry.

Jesus pencil toppers have also made their second General Convention appearance among the Hawaii deputation. They're in the process of perfecting their 6-Jesus pyramid before attempting the 10-Jesus pyramid.

Those present during the day in the convention center are greeted by these sweet boys as we walk out for lunch. The guy on the right does all the talking. Really, really loud. And really judgemental (as if you couldn't already guess). They're lots of fun to watch and listen to. I've been told that they picket even the most conservative churches in the area. Haven't seen Fred Phelps and his God-Hates-Fags legion. For that I'm most thankful.

One of the afternoon's speakers from Kenya -- dean of a theological college there.

Back problems and Lambeth Kool-Aid - A reflection on bishops and their houses.

Some have heard me characterize the ordination of a bishop thusly: Once all of the episcopal hands laid on the head of the new bishop are raised and withdrawn, the spine of the new bishop is also drawn out as if being removed with the upward action of the episcopal hands. The result? A spineless Episcopal bishop.

This doesn’t happen to all bishops. But it seems to happen to the great majority. And it seems to be contextual. In their own little dioceses, they are the rulers, the deciders, the ultimate interpreters of the canons and constitutions, and the judges of obedience of all clergy vows. Outside of their realms, though, they seem to bow to the will of the bullies, they decide out of a foundation of fear, and they maintain a fantasy of church unity and the brotherhood of all bishops in the Anglican Communion (cf Lambeth 2008 and Indaba).

There is much rumbling among the blogs and the laity about the tenor in the House of Bishops during this General Convention. The coconut wireless says that they take seriously the Archbishop of Canterbury’s not-so-subtle directive that the Episcopal Church not do anything to further rend the Communion. This is the old (read three to six years) tactic of blaming the break-up of the Communion on the consecration of Gene Robinson and subsequent efforts at including honest, open, and/or partnered lgbt Episcopalians in all of the sacraments of the church (read matrimony and ordination). I’m not going to cover yet once more the issues of the Windsor report and subsequent reports, covenants, statements, and actions around the Communion since 2006. But the Episcopal Church as an institution has studied, listened, delayed for a season, locked the doors, and done everything it possibly could concerning lgbt Christians and marriage and ordination. Nothing has been good enough or sufficient for our detractors. Nothing has changed and, in fact, we are seen no more positively by our detractors than we were in 2006 and 2007.

So what do we do as a General Convention? The House of Deputies heard from 30 deputies this past week, 24 of whom urged us to end the deliberate marginalization and exclusion of lgbt Episcopalians. Six used the same arguments that have been used for centuries to keep gay folks on the margins or forced to lie about their humanity in order to participate in the sacraments of the church. They say we should stop focusing on sex and getting on with mission. Well, contrary to that kind of comment, we are not focusing on sex but rather on justice. And mission without justice is not possible. Mission without justice is hypocritical. And mission without justice is not Christian mission at all. The HoD is ready to move beyond B033 and to do justice – both for all Episcopalians and for all who are on the receiving end of our mission efforts.

But where is the House of Bishops? Still trying to figure out how they can keep the rest of the Communion, and especially the Archbishop of Canterbury, happy. They still haven’t figured out that they need to move out of sheep mode, watching for the nasty old wolves, and that they really are (or at least can be) lions who protect their cubs first and teach them how to be strong in their own faith and lives. And our bishops fail to see that the ABC and some of the Global South primates do not represent the Global South. As we heard from five highly respected individuals (along with a communication from Desmond Tutu) in the HoD yesterday, they represent the Global South as much, if not more, than those few bishops who are intent on bullying the Communion into submission. (Those individuals are named in other reports on the internet.) Paraphrasing Jenny Te Paa, “We are the true Global South, and we look to the Episcopal Church for leadership toward justice for all of God’s people.”

So to the House of Bishops, I offer some strong encouragement to:
• Stop denying the sacraments of marriage and ordination to those who have been excluded because of their sexual orientation. (No, it really isn’t a chosen lifestyle as we heard yet once again from one of the six detracting deputies.)
• Stop waiting until the time is “right.” (It never will be, as women finally figured out in the 1974 “irregular” ordinations in Philadelphia.)
• Stop “studying” same-sex relationships before deciding – what? (What else is there to learn about same-sex relationships and their theology that hasn’t already been studied and “discovered”?)
• Stop claiming that maintaining this exclusionary effort is Christ-like and in the best interests of all God’s people in our dioceses. (Are your warm, fuzzy, Indaba relationships with your brother anti-gay bishops more important than the people of God under your care?)

More positively, I strongly encourage them to start acting like leaders. To wit:
• Stand up for what is right for the all the people of your dioceses. (You’ll discover that you’re standing up for what is right for all of the people of God’s creation.)
• Truly live out our baptismal covenant and the full baptisms and chrisms that you have conferred on so many. (Unless those were conditional baptisms until sexual orientation was determined.)
• Stand up to the bullies of the Communion who intimidate you into believing the Communion will collapse unless you continue to marginalize lgbt Christians. (TEC really doesn’t have that much power.)
• Take the risk to act Christ-like and share the Good News, welcoming all into the full sacramental life of the church. (Really – what are you afraid of?)
• Insist on transparency and openness in your deliberations, without making excuses for secrecy and so-called executive sessions. (Again – what are you afraid of? Do you understand the perception this creates? Even more – do you care?)
• Show courage in troubling the waters of the status quo. That’s what Christ was about – turning the world on its ear. (Isn’t that what it is to be a Christian? Or maybe I’m thinking of some other religious tradition…)

I pray that there are at least a small handful of bishops in the HoB – those who seem to be unafraid to be radically Christ-like – who will help the others to see that all manner of thing really will be well in the long run if they have the courage to open the sacraments to all Episcopalians in the short run. Act out of conviction, not fear. Do not give in to the schoolyard bullies, whether they live in Lambeth or Nigeria. Stand up for justice and the full humanity of all, as did Jonathan Edwards, Desmond Tutu, Barbara Harris, and so many others. Please re-appropriate your spines and be strong and compassionate and Gospel-living Christian leaders.

And don’t be afraid, dear bishops. God really is with us and it will be okay.

[Postscript: As I write this, an announcement has been made that the House of Bishops will go into executive session (secret session) to discuss matters around same-sex relationships. Is there no courage to speak openly? Fear seems to trump so much.]

Saturday, July 11, 2009

And so it goes.

Yesterday morning was the Committee of the Whole session that opened the microphone to 30 randomly chosen deputies to speak on B033 from GC006. There was no motion on the floor; each speaker had two minutes for remarks related to the topic. Most spoke in favor of getting rid of it; 8 spoke to maintain it. And then we were finished, and on to the next order of business. There are still many hearings happening over the sexuality issues. I must say, though, that I've attended only two of them because we hear basically the same statements at each one. Most speakers are in favor of the full inclusion of all people in the sacraments of the church. The question really comes down to how the Houses will vote when the resolutions come before them. There's speculation that the bishops are going to wimp out (see Gene Robinson's blog and Lisa Fox's blog) and choose some non-existent Anglican unity and a few loud conservative primates over the people of God's church. That's not an unrealistic concern; we've seen it happen before. How does one change the minds of bishops who are either scared (sometimes camouflaged by words like 'carefully discerning' or 'responsible for the unity of the church' or 'not ready yet' ...) or think they know better than the people of God (sometimes described by words like 'princes (or princesses) of the church' or 'spiritual fathers and mothers' or 'we're in charge, not you').

I suspect some individual or small group 'lobbying,' either by bishops who have the courage to stand up for the Gospel or by small groups of deputations who have the courage to stand up to their bishops will be the only way to change their minds. So we pray and live in hope that the Holy Spirit can work through these Christians to reach the souls of those bishops who lack courage or who are full of themselves.

There were a couple of interesting exchanges on the floor of the HoD yesterday between the President of the HoD and a deputy from Dallas. He didn't follow the exact protocol of talking to the Chair and was chastised, "Deputy, let me remind you that decorum is expected in this house." Later, in an attempt to discuss something with the chair, he made the mistake of speaking before the Chair had finished. "Deputy, you will not speak until I have finished." SLAP(metaphorically, of course)!

There have been times of laughter, as well, but generally the HoD sessions move along in order and on time, closely controlled by the Chair. There was one point, in one of the sessions, where a deputy came to the mike to question something and the Chair called the chairperson of Dispatch of Business to the podium. When asked about the question, all he could say was, 'Ooooops.' Coming from someone who had, until that point, attended to every jot and tittle, it really was hilarious and the House roared. I hope the Chair found it as funny; it was hard to tell.

We did pass a resolution on supporting missionaries yesterday -- over $1.5M in each of the next three years. The Episcopal Church has around 70 missionaries around the world and this is supposed to provide them with health insurance and some other financial resources. I hope this becomes an increasingly important budget item in the future. The world continues to shrink and we -- as the United States and the Episcopal Church -- need to increase our reaching out to share what we can with those who are in such need of food and medical support and housing and safety.

I'm a little pre-occupied because I just received an email from my hanai nephew in Romania that he was diagnosed on Thursday with swine flu. He was running a fever and his parents took him to the hospital. Since he was not in contact -- as far as I know -- with anyone who had it while he was here, this is both surprising and disturbing. For some reason he's unable to write for the next week; I'm trying to get in touch with his parents. Actually I'm a lot pre-occupied about this...

Legislative sessions this morning and afternoon, and then seminary receptions this evening, as well as a dinner where Ed and Patti Browning will be given a peace and justice award.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Here we go again.

I sat in the second row at yesterday's Eucharist. Rowan Williams was giving the sermon, which was actually a reflection on the readings for the day. I never really heard what he had to say -- pretty much I heard blahblahblahblah as I watched this furry face move. The problem was that he said something just before he started his reflection that totally blocked out everything thereafter. He said: "Along with many in the Communion, I hope and pray that there won’t be decisions in the coming days that could push us further apart." (You can find his whole statement over at Episcopal Cafe.) There was no question what his statement was aimed at. And frankly, that tells me we need to work harder than ever to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly. (Is it possible to walk humbly when one fights so strongly for justice?) He is just wrong; an incredibly weak leader who bows so easily to the bullying of the extreme traditionalists -- justice and the inclusive teachings of Jesus Christ be damned.

About an hour after that service, I listened to Jenny Te Paa from New Zealand and Jane Shaw from England talk about the many Anglicans in the world who are waiting for the Episcopal Church to actually do the justice that has been blocked for the past many decades. Once we are able to ensure that the sacraments are fully available to all Episcopalians, that will give folks in other provinces the strength and courage to move ahead and do the same. It's time we stopped bowing to the threats and the fear perpetrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury. And perhaps it's time for this colonial behemoth of an Anglican Communion -- this institution that was born during the time of Victoria and the Great British Empire and is breaking apart -- perhaps it's time that it does indeed die and that a new phoenix rises out of the ashes.

There is life after death -- this we know -- and we need to stop fearing the death of one entity as we look forward to the new life of a future entity ... whatever that might look like.

We have been told that we need to move on from the sexuality issue and do the mission work that we're called to do. I totally agree about the latter; but how can we do mission without justice? For that's what the sexuality issue is about -- justice. If we can marginalize those who don't fit the straight [white] male norm, who will be next?

We really just need to be voting on these resolutions -- if you read any of the blogs covering the legislation, you know that all of the comments -- all of them -- are repeats of 2006 with some updating. Nothing has changed. That's one of the main reasons I've attended so few hearings. It's all the same stuff over and over again. So it's time for the House of Deputies to rescind B033 and wait for the bishops to open up the rest of the resolutions so they can be addressed.

There's a chance that the bishops will block all the glbt resolutions in the HoB. If they do, then the people of their dioceses need to call them to accountability for justice delayed even more in the false hope of a non-existent Anglican unity.

Enough seriousness. Time to get some fresh air.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

We're glad you're here, but...

That was one of the statements from Bp Bill Love of the Diocese of Albany. He rose to speak against a resolution in the Ministry Commission. The resolution would make it so that glbt persons in relationships could not be denied access to the discernment process for ordination.

As I said in a previous post, the strongest voices against full access to the sacramental life of the church are gone. But we still have very conservative bishops who have not left. Bill Love is one of them. Are we happy they're still with us? Are we happy that they have the courage to speak? As he said, "I'm welcome as long as I keep my mouth shut." He spoke many of the statements that we have heard so long -- it's the lifestyle, not the individuals; this is in direct violation of Windsor; following my conscience; this is in direct violation of what the Lord has said in Holy Scripture; TEC is not inclusive to those in opposition to this lifestyle; I have gay clergy but they are celibate... He spoke of his difficult work keeping the Diocese of Albany together and in the Episcopal Church because of this issue.

He was asked if he could continue to live with the local theological option regarding this issue, which is the current status in TEC. He didn't directly answer the question but did say that he would hate to see TEC officially endorse something that he couldn't support as one who has an orthodox understanding of scripture.

It was fascinating to me to listen to him. I heard similar statements in the late 1980s when I was in the Diocese of Albany -- but then it had to do with why the sitting bishop would not allow me into the discernment process for ordination. Then, it wasn't my lifestyle; it was my plumbing -- the shape of my body. (Can being a woman be considered a lifestyle, I wonder?) Here was another bishop of Albany holding the line on excluding another portion of God's people. And he was speaking from his heart. On one level it was difficult to listen to him; it was the same ol' same ol'. On another level, he was very quietly passionate about his desire to follow his understanding of scripture, morals, and ethics.

He spoke immediately following the testimony of a woman from Ohio -- a vocational deacon -- who has been in a 38-year same-sex relationship.

He was asked if his mind would change if/when New York State legalizes marriage for all persons. He said no.

But he alluded to the possibility that passage of this kind of resolution could be the straw that sends him and other conservatives like him over the edge and out of TEC. But it also sounds like staying in TEC is possible as long as nothing is official and local option prevails.

He wouldn't ordain heterosexuals in extra-marital relationships either. But, then, heterosexuals have the option for marriage that gays don't. Another old but valid argument. But I don't think he gets that line of thinking...

Something positive for me was that he didn't use words like heretic and sodomite and unnatural and a variety of even nastier words to make his point. I almost felt like it would be good to sit and talk with him and listen even more. And I had a feeling that he might even listen to me and that we might come to some kind of compromise for continuing to live together in TEC. But I suspect that's either my own naivete speaking or my own wishful thinking.

We do need folks like Bill Love in the church. He feels deeply about his faith and his understanding of scripture. But we also need to find a way that he can function as a bishop and not block the gay person who is trying to answer, with all her heart and soul and depth of faith, a call from the Spirit to the ordained life. For some reason, I think that is still possible.

Day 2.

It was an interesting experience sitting in a legislative committee hearing yesterday where no one spoke against a resolution. On the floor was a resolution to give the bishops of the five states where there is marriage equality the option of allowing their clergy to respond pastorally to those in same-gender relationships. In other words, to receive the church's blessing on their state-sanctioned marriages. I left near the end but understand that a committee member did stand up after all the speakers were finished and said that he felt he should "represent" those who didn't agree, and proceeded to make four or five points on the con side. I'm a little surprised this was allowed since the occasion was a hearing. As another delegate pointed out, the members were supposed to be listening to the statements offered and then discussing them in the following committee session. And I'm not sure by what authority this particular member 'represented' others -- whomever they might be.

That doesn't mean, however, that I'm opposed to the opposition, as it were. But I do believe folks should speak up for themselves and not present testimony on behalf of some anonymous "others." One of the differences at this convention is that the rigid opposition to the same-sex issues is not present -- the former bishops and their followers in Ft Worth, San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, and Quincy have left for the ACNA. But pros and cons are important. I hope there will be real debate and discussion today at the meetings where other topics under the same-sex umbrella are discussed. We'll see.

Later this afternoon is also the first of two open discussions by the House of Deputies on B033, the 2006 resolution passed in the last minutes of that convention under the guise of keeping our Presiding Bishop "at the table" of the primates of the Anglican Communion. It was passed under great pressure and with great regret by many who voted in favor of it. It spawned the phrase, "manner of life," as a description of honestly and openly gay folks in or not in relationships whose "manner of life" might offend others. It was basically a moratorium on ordaining honestly and openly gay bishops. There are two feelings at this triennium about B033 -- that we need to repeal it or that we ignore it and move on. I'm of the former opinion. I voted in favor of it for the reason previously mentioned, deeply regretted my vote, and would like to vote to repeal it so there is no question that this is no longer the mind of the Episcopal Church. So it should be a lively and good discussion this afternoon.

Living in the Anaheim Hilton, I've learned quickly that Disneyland has fireworks every night about 9:30. Boom. Boom. Boom boom. Boom. Boomboomboomboomboomboomboomboom. BOOM. 'Nuff said.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has appeared. I got a photo of him in the exhibit hall but accidently deleted it. So I found some others on line. He's been meeting with various small groups of people, ostensibly to listen. That's good since the 1998 Lambeth Conference resolved that there should be a listening process in the Communion with regard to same-sex issues. He refused to attend the last triennial to listen but sent his emissaries to pressure the convention toward what was eventually B033. He's here now and listening to people of The Episcopal Church for the first time in his tenure as ABC -- I think that's about 7 years. I won't make any remarks about slow boats or lack of leadership or any of those things.
He's supposed to present a Bible study of sorts at the community Eucharist later this morning. But other than that, he's pretty much being protected from those who might want to enter into open conversation with him. One of the interesting comments that came out of a meeting was his concerns with Episcopal Church polity -- something about other bishops of the Communion only want to converse with the bishops of TEC and not clergy and laity. So our polity is a problem for him. As another person said, maybe the polity of those bishops-only bishops is a problem for us!

Just another light-filled side of religious institutions, eh?

On the other hand, I made some good connections for a planned giving campaign and picked up some Episcopaliana.

There's a reporter this morning on the local CBS station and her name is Amelia Earhart. She reports from a helicopter. Sure doesn't look like the Amelia Earhart I've read about. Only in California, I guess.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

And it begins.

Rather than trying to make this perfect, I'm going to post it and hope the next few postings are better. I'm struggling with a little back pain right now, so my level of patience with formatting isn't high and it's probably best just to get this up there.

I'm learning that there are many communications out there that are giving updates on the legislative status of various resolutions. I'll list those elsewhere but in the meantime, check out the Episcopal Church site and Episcopal Cafe (google if you don't have the URLs).

Having arrived at the hotel about 1:00 Monday morning and finally getting to sleep around 3, it was a slow day for me yesterday. I did connect with Beverly who came in around 8 or 9, and we spent some time together. As I was mogging through the Hilton lounge area, I ran into some of the other Hawaii folks and spent time with them. That was nice.

I also finally met up with Mary Goshert, who was registering the folks from Hawaii and other dioceses in that part of the alphabet. Mary and I have known each other for about three years -- electronically -- and she took care of the boys for two weeks during my sabbatical. Yesterday, we finally were able to be in the same place at the same time and be in real space together rather than virtual space. What a buzz!

Not much else happened until 2 when the two houses (Bishops and Deputies) convened to listen to the Presiding Bishop (PB) and President of the House of Deputies (PHoD) make their opening addresses. They were introduced by Gregory Straub, Secretary to the General Convention, who made his appearance in a sparkly green jacket and bowtie (he's famous for his bowties). Fortunately he was projected on the video screens so those of us in the back and behind posts could see him. Unfortunately, we were unable to view the PB or PHoD because someone decided that they would be put up on the video screens. I'd like to assume there was a good reason, but I wasn't able to find one when I went looking for someone to project those two on the screens. I was just told that the planning committee decided that they wouldn't be projected for all to see.

After their speeches, we were exposed to Public Narrative by Marshall Ganz, a lecturer from Harvard. He and his presentation were projected on the screens. PN is a model that suggests the vision of an organization can be developed through individuals telling one another their stories. Of course there's a little more to it than that but that's what basically happens. Ganz calls it a leadership art. After yesterday, I call it the new sensitivity training of the 21st century. Frankly, I was pretty bored listening to personal stories (me stories) when I think that we have better and more productive things to do with our time. We're supposed to do this for three more sessions. I don't know....

I did watch some of the Michael Jackson funeral yesterday morning while ironing a bunch of blouses (yes, I do iron for all of you who are laughing). It certainly wasn't a funeral or memorial service, but it was a major tribute with some phenomenal music.

Stopped by the exhibit area and picked up a set of materials for a study called Listen to Her Voice, which is a series on women of the Hebrew Scriptures. It really looks very good and I think will be something that will attract a solid group in the parish. Hoping to find some similar materials that will address deepening our spiritual lives.

Also stopped by the Chicago Consultation reception and picked up Christian Holiness: Human Sexuality: A Study Guide for Episcopalians. I think we'll use this after my return. It was an interesting reception, attended by a variety of folks. The Chicago Consultation was formed about two years ago to address issues of equal access in the Episcopal Church for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered individuals.

Beverly and I, along with Nancy Dinsmore (we were with her in Jerusalem last year), went to the El Camino Real reception. It was good to see friends and catsitters Ernest and Jill Cockrell, and to meet some new folks. While I was there, Mick Russell from San Diego stopped in and let me know he schlepped a portable generator over for me to use during legislative sessions so computer batteries don't die. I'm hoping to share that with other Hawaii deputies during the next 10 days.

And then back to the room. Didn't attend any legislative sessions; I decided to go to bed early so I'm caught up on sleep and ready to start with this morning's 8:00 session.

So I guess yesterday was a relationship day more than anything else. Connecting with the Hawaii group and re-connecting with friends from the past five years -- good people who are the essence of the Episcopal Church and the reason there will always be hope for this overwieldy, hierarchical, institutional behemoth of a religious organization to move forward toward the full realm of God.