Loving the Sacred through Word and Image. The Ferryland – New Foundland Iceberg Easter 2017. A Word Press Production.

Episcopal Bishop

+Gene sets the record straight (so to speak) in the L.A. Times:

Lifted from: An Inch at a time – Via the Los Angeles Times

Gay Episcopal bishop says he isn’t being ‘run off’
V. Gene Robinson says his detractors have not shaken his commitment and he’ll merely scale back when he steps down in January 2013.

By Mitchell Landsberg, Los Angeles Times

It was less than a month ago that V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop of the Episcopal Church, appeared in a YouTube video assuring gay and lesbian teenagers who were “in a dark place” that their lives would get better.

“I am an out and proud gay man who is also the bishop of New Hampshire,” he said, staring into the camera, dressed in the purple shirt of his office. “And I am living proof that it gets better.”

On Saturday, Robinson stood before a shocked diocesan convention and delivered a different message. Citing the strain of constant controversy, including death threats, he said he had decided to step down in January 2013, when he will be 65, seven years younger than the usual retirement age for an Episcopal bishop.

“The fact is,” he said, addressing his parishioners, “the last seven years have taken their toll on me, my family, and you.”

In the aftermath of that announcement, Robinson insisted in an interview Monday that he was not throwing in the towel, and hadn’t been defeated by the detractors who blamed his election for widening a rift in the worldwide Anglican Communion over homosexuality.

“In no way am I being run off by those who opposed me or the positions that I take,” he said. “If death threats were going to scare me off, I would have left in the first year of being bishop when they were coming at me all the time.”

Rather, he said, he is resigning — not retiring — as bishop of New Hampshire at a normal age for someone to scale back, and he intends to be active in some role he has not yet defined. He will still be a bishop, he said, just not the leader of a diocese.

“There’s no question that I will continue to be active in trying to achieve full and equal rights for gay, lesbian, transgendered and bisexual people, and I’m also very interested in how religion intersects with public policy,” he said.

Meanwhile, he said, he would remain “absolutely focused” on his ministry in New Hampshire. “I have never been discouraged by any of this,” he said.

“It’s a terrible thing that some people feel so angry and so hateful,” he added. “But that’s between them and God, and I have been able to keep my faith intact and have never wavered in loving this ministry.”

Those who know him say Robinson may have been feeling the strain of doing, in effect, two jobs: one as the head of a diocese of 15,000 people and one as an international gay rights icon who was a lightning rod for criticism.

“Gene initially simply wanted to be the bishop of New Hampshire — that was his vocation, his call,” said Bishop Mary Glasspool of Los Angeles, who in May became the Episcopal Church’s second openly gay bishop. “And I think he had to wrestle with the fact that the [gay] community worldwide had some expectations of him that he then had to consider … as he became a symbol and an icon for other communities around the world.”

“Certainly,” she said, “the stress of that, in and of itself, can wear you down.”

Robinson “paved the way for me and for others like me,” Glasspool added, noting that unlike him, she did not wear a bulletproof vest to her consecration ceremony and had never received a death threat.

Robinson’s election as bishop in 2003 was a seismic event in the worldwide Anglican Communion, whose U.S. branch is the Episcopal Church. It prompted dozens of U.S. congregations and several dioceses to leave the church and affiliate with more conservative Anglican churches overseas.

Christopher Sugden, a British Anglican who is executive secretary of Anglican Mainstream, a group that promotes orthodox teachings, said the communion remained divided by the decision to consecrate gay bishops.

“His retirement doesn’t change anything,” Sugden said. “The issue is the refusal of the Episcopal Church to adhere to the agreed doctrinal standards of the communion, and their leadership’s determination to promote, and in North America to enforce, ethical and doctrinal standards that are contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture as received by the universal church. They have chosen to walk apart.”

To Robinson’s supporters, that break is a badge of courage. Margaret Porter, moderator of New Hampshire’s Episcopal Diocesan Council, said there had been little regret over Robinson’s selection and much sadness over his early departure.

“I think we knew initially when we took him that we’d be sharing him with the world,” she said. “That’s been a very positive thing.”

mitchell.landsberg@latimes.com

Copyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times


First gay Episcopal bishop to retire in 2013

By Rachel Zoll, The Associated Press

The first openly gay Episcopal bishop said Saturday that he will retire in 2013, due in part to the “constant strain” on him and his family from the worldwide backlash against his election seven years ago.

Bishop V. Gene Robinson, whose consecration convulsed the global Anglican fellowship, said he was announcing his retirement early so the transition would be smooth for the Diocese of New Hampshire. He assured congregants that he is healthy and sober after seeking treatment for alcoholism five years ago. He will be 65 when he steps down.

Robinson revealed his plans at the annual diocesan convention in Concord.

“The fact is, the last seven years have taken their toll on me, my family and you,” the bishop said, in prepared remarks released by the diocese. “Death threats, and the now-worldwide controversy surrounding your election of me as bishop have been a constant strain, not just on me, but on my beloved husband, Mark.”

Robinson was surrounded by bodyguards and wore a bulletproof vest under his vestments when he was consecrated in 2003, an event celebrated far beyond the church as a breakthrough for gay acceptance even as it broke open a long-developing rift over what Anglicans should believe.

The Episcopal Church is the U.S. body in the 77 million-member Anglican Communion, a group of churches that trace their roots to the missionary work of the Church of England.

The spiritual head of the Anglicans, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, has been struggling to keep the fellowship together since Robinson was installed.

Episcopal and Anglican traditionalists overseas formed alliances and created the Anglican Church in North America as a conservative rival to the Episcopal Church.

Under pressure from conservatives, Williams did not invite Robinson to the 2008 Lambeth Conference, a once-a-decade meeting of the world’s Anglican bishops. Instead, Robinson flew privately to England and spoke at local churches while the other Anglican bishops convened.

Robinson and his partner of more than two decades, Mark Andrew, held a civil union ceremony in 2008, and the bishop publicly advocated for same-sex marriage in New Hampshire, which the state approved last year. Robinson also gave the opening prayer at a concert ahead of Barack Obama’s inauguration as president.

The bishop’s retirement will not heal tensions among Anglicans, which go beyond Robinson. Episcopalians solidified their support for same-sex relationships last year by authorizing bishops to bless same-sex unions and by consecrating a lesbian, Assistant Bishop Mary Glasspool of Los Angeles.

In his speech Saturday, Robinson thanked congregants for supporting him through the tumult over his election.

“New Hampshire is always the place I remain, simply, ‘the bishop.’ This is the one place on earth where I am not ‘the gay bishop,'” Robinson said. “I believe that you elected me because you believed me to be the right person to lead you at this time. The world has sometimes questioned that, but I hope you never did.”


Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori & Integrity Sign Call to Action, “No More Bullying”

Courtesy: Ihaterenton

Lifted from: Walking with Integrity

For Immediate Release: October 18, 2010

Today, as leaders of Christian communions and national networks, we speak with heavy hearts because of the bullying, suicides and hate crimes that have shocked this country and called all faith communities into accountability for our words or our silence. We speak with hopeful hearts, believing that change and healing are possible, and call on our colleagues in the Church Universal to join us in working to end the violence and hatred against our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters.

In the past seven weeks, six young and promising teenagers took their own lives. Some were just entering high school; one had just enrolled in college. Five were boys; one, a girl becoming a young woman. These are only the deaths for which there has been a public accounting. New reports of other suicides continue to haunt us daily from around the country.

They were of varying faiths and races and came from different regions of the nation.The one thing these young men and women had in common was that they were perceived to be gay or lesbian.

Each in their own way faced bullying and harassment or struggled with messages of religion and culture that made them fear the consequences of being who they were.

In the past two weeks, cities like New York have seen major escalations in anti-gay violence. Two young men attacked patrons of the Stonewall Inn, legendary birth place of the LGBT rights movement in the United States, locking them in the restroom and beating them while hurling anti-gay epithets.

Men on a Chelsea street, saying goodnight after an evening out, were attacked by a group of teens and young adults, again hurling anti-gay slogans and hurting one person badly enough to require emergency treatment. And nine young men in the Bronx went on a two-day rampage beating, burning, torturing and sodomizing two teenage boys and their gay male adult friend for allegedly having a sexual relationship. “It’s nothing personal,” one of the now arrested said. “You just broke the rules.”

What are the “rules” of human engagement and interaction that we, as people of faith, want to teach our congregants, children and adults alike, to live by?

Many have responded from within and beyond the faith community offering comfort and support to the families and friends of Billy Lucas, Seth Walsh, Asher Brown, Tyler Clementi, Raymond Chase and Aiyisha Hasan. Our hearts, too, are broken by the too soon losses of these young and promising lives, and we join our voices to those who have sought to speak words of comfort and healing.

Many others, however, have responded by adding insult to injury, citing social myths and long-held prejudices that only fuel division, hatred and violence – and sometimes even death.

We, as leaders of faith, write today to say we must hold ourselves accountable, and we must hold our colleagues in the ministry, accountable for the times, whether by our silence or our proclamations, our inaction or our action, we have fueled the kinds of beliefs that make it possible for people to justify violence in the name of faith. Condemning and judging people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity can have deadly consequences, both for the victims of hate crimes and those who commit them.

There is no excuse for inspiring or condoning violence against any of our human family. We may not all agree on what the Bible says or doesn’t say about sexuality, including homosexuality, but this we do agree on: The Bible says, “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God and God in them.” Abiding in love – together – is the rule we must all preach, teach, and seek to live by.

People of faith must realize that if teens feel they will be judged by their church, rejected by their families and bullied by their peers, they may have nowhere to turn.

Too many things go unspoken in our communities. It’s time to talk openly and honestly about the diversity of God’s creation and the gift of various sexual orientations and gender identities – and to do that in a way that makes it safe for people to disagree and still abide in love.

It’s time to talk openly and honestly about the use and misuse of power and authority by those we entrust with our spiritual well-being.  It’s time to make it safe for our clergy colleagues who are struggling to live what they preach, to get the help and support we all sometimes need.

The young people who took their lives a few weeks ago died because the voices of people who believe in the love of God for all the people of God were faint and few in the face of those who did the bullying, harassing and condemning. Today we write to say we will never again be silent about the value of each and every life.

To that end, we pledge to urge our churches, our individual parishes or offices, our schools and religious establishments to create safe space for each and every child of God, without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity. And we ask you to join us in that pledge.

Today, we personally pledge to be LGBT and straight people of faith standing together for the shared values of decency and civility, compassion and care in all interactions. We ask you, our colleagues, to join us in this pledge.


How Religion Is Killing Our Most Vulnerable Youth – Bishop Gene Robinson

Via: Walking with Integrity – from The Huffington Post

An increasingly popular bumper sticker reads, “Guns Don’t Kill People — RELIGION Kills People!” In light of recent events I would add religion kills young people: gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender young people.

Perhaps not directly, though. And religion is certainly not the only source of anti-gay sentiment in the culture. But it’s hard to deny that religious voices denouncing LGBT people contribute to the atmosphere in which violence against LGBT people and bullying of LGBT youth can flourish.

The news is filled with the tragedies of teenaged boys who were gay and decided to end their living hell by committing suicide. Maybe they weren’t even gay, but merely perceived to be by their peers, who harassed, taunted, and threatened them unmercifully.

These were real kids with real names. Asher Brown, an eighth grader in Texas, shot himself in the head after endless bullying by classmates and despite attempts by his parents to get school authorities to take his harassment seriously. Seth Walsh hung himself from a tree in his California backyard after relentless bullying by classmates. Asher and Seth were 13-years-old.

Billy Lucas, a 15-year-old high school freshman from Indiana, was only perceived to be gay. But the unrelenting bullying ended with him taking his own life. Seven students in one Minnesota school district have taken their own lives, including three teens.

With the exception of Brown in Texas these suicides are not happening in Bible Belt regions of the country, where we might predict a greater-than-usual regard for religious thought. Instead, they are occurring in states perceived to be more liberal on LGBT issues: California, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.

The case of Tyler Clementi is especially instructive about how far we have to go in accepting our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender children. Clementi was an 18-year-old freshman at Rutgers University whose roommate secretly filmed a sexual encounter he had with another male student and then posted it on the internet.

Think about it. If Tyler had been heterosexual and instead filmed having sex with his girlfriend, it would still be an inappropriate invasion of his privacy and tasteless to post the video online. And it certainly would have been embarrassing for Tyler and the girl. But chances are he would have been the recipient of some congratulatory remarks from friends about what a stud he was. And if he was straight he likely wouldn’t have contemplated — not to mention successfully accomplished — his own suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge.

No, Tyler was a victim — not of an inner disturbance of depression or mental illness–but of an external and in part religiously inspired disdain and hatred of gay people.

Despite the progress we’re making on achieving equality under the law and acceptance in society for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, why this rash of bullying, paired with self-loathing, ending in suicide? With humility and heartfelt repentance I assert that religion — and its general rejection of homosexuality — plays a crucial role in this crisis.

On the one hand, Religious Right hatemongers and crazies are spewing all sorts of venom and condemnation, all in the name of a loving God. The second-highest-ranking Mormon leader, Boyd K. Packer, recently called same-sex attraction “impure and unnatural” in an act of unspeakable insensitivity at the height of this rash of teen suicides. He declared that it can be cured, and that same-sex unions are morally repugnant and “against God’s law and nature.”

Just as many gay kids grow up in these conservative denominations as any other. They are told day in and day out that they are an abomination before God. Just consider the sheer numbers of LGBT kids growing up right now in Roman Catholic, Mormon, and other conservative religious households. The pain and self-loathing caused by such a distortion of God’s will is undeniable and tragic, causing scars and indescribable self-alienation in these young victims.

You don’t have to grow up in a religious household, though, to absorb these religious messages. Not long ago I had a conversation with six gay teens, not one of whom had ever had any formal religious training or influence. Every one of them knew the word “abomination,” and every one of them thought that was what God thought of them. They couldn’t have located the Book of Leviticus in the Bible if their lives depended on it yet they had absorbed this message from the antigay air they breathe every day.

Add to that the Minnesota Family Council’s Tom Prichard recently saying that the real cause of the suicides is “homosexual indoctrination,” not antigay bullying, and that the students died because they adopted an “unhealthy lifestyle.”

Susan Russell from All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California, points out how ludicrous these statements are in her “An Inch at a Time” blog:

Thirteen and fifteen year olds are not ‘adopting a lifestyle,’ they’re trying to have a life! They’re trying to figure out who they are, who God created them to be and what on earth to do with this confusing bunch of sexual feelings that they’re trying to get a handle on. They need role models for healthy relationships — not judgment and the message that they’re condemned to a life of loneliness, isolation and despair.

On the other hand, what’s the role of more mainline, more progressive denominations such as mainstream Christianity, Judaism, and Islam in these recent tragedies? Mostly silence. And just like in the days of the AIDS organization Act Up, “silence equals death.”

It is not enough for good people — religious or otherwise — to simply be feeling more positive toward gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Tolerance and a live-and-let-live attitude beats discrimination and abuse by a mile. But it’s not enough. Tolerant people, especially tolerant religious people, need to get over their squeamishness about being vocal advocates and unapologetic supporters of LGBT people. It really is a matter of life and death, as we’ve seen.

I learned this in my dealing with racism. It’s not enough to be tolerant of other races. I benefit from a racist society just by being white. I don’t ever have to use the “n” word, treat any person of color with discourtesy, or even think ill of anyone. But as long as I am not working to dismantle the systemic racism that benefits me, a white man, at the expense of people of color, I am a racist. And my faith calls me to become an anti-racist — pro-active, vocal, and committed.

Some progressive religious groups — the United Church of Christ, Unitarians, Metropolitan Community Church — have long been advocates for LGBT people. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America has recently made great strides in welcoming gay clergy. And my own Episcopal Church has put itself at great risk on behalf of full inclusion of LGBT people in electing two openly gay priests to be bishops.

Still, even in these progressive churches, there is much to be done.

Cody J. Sanders, a Baptist minister and Ph.D. student in pastoral theology and counseling at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas, recently wrote on the Religion Dispatches website about how important it is for churches to act:

Ministers who remain in comfortable silence on sexuality must speak out. Churches that have silently embraced gay and lesbian members for years must publicly hang the welcome banner. How long will we continue to limit and qualify our messages of acceptance, inclusion and embrace for the most vulnerable in order to maintain the comfort of those in our communities of faith who are well served by the status quo? In the current climate, equivocating messages of affirmation are overpowered by the religious rhetoric of hatred. Silence only serves to support the toleration of bullying, violence and exclusion. In the face of what has already become the common occurrence of LGBT teen suicide, how long can we wait to respond?

As good Christians and Jews we must work to change the religious thinking, rhetoric, and practice that communicates to our LGBT children that they are despised by their Creator. We must learn to object to anti-gay jokes the way we learned to tell our friends that we would not tolerate racist jokes. We must demand that our schools not only have antibullying policies, but that they follow through on stopping the practice of bullying. We need to lobby our congressional representatives for the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA, H.R. 4530, S. 3390). And we must proclaim openly, loudly, and often that we love our children unconditionally in the way that God does — always wanting the best and most healthy lives for them.

These bullying behaviors would not exist without the undergirding and the patina of respect provided by religious fervor against LGBT people. It’s time for “tolerant” religious people to acknowledge the straight line between the official anti-gay theologies of their denominations and the deaths of these young people. Nothing short of changing our theology of human sexuality will save these young and precious lives.


That'll Preach …

Found on: An Inch at a time blog, Susan Russell

“Our communities are still pretty well divided up between the haves and the have nots, the white and those of darker hue, the straight and those who aren’t. Yet we’re all meant to cross over those boundaries that keep some enslaved to others’ definitions,” she said. “We are all invited to bathe in the river of freedom, to be washed clean of the shame of thinking that some are different enough to be pushed out of the community, away from the feast God has set from the beginning of creation.

“Healing and reconciling need our active labor and participation,” she added. “Disciples are supposed to build bridges wherever possible.”

It’s a crazy-busy day and I have no business starting it off by posting a blog — but here I am: moved by the witness of our Presiding Bishop’s July 4th sermon and wanting to make sure if you missed it, you get a chance to read it, too!

4 July 2010
Christ Church, St. Lucia, Brisbane, Australia

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

Greetings from around The Episcopal Church. Today is the day Americans celebrate the beginning of their struggle for independence from England – 234 years of it, to be exact. This annual Independence Day celebration is our reminder of civic freedom. It’s also a prayer book feast, a holy day, born out of the awareness that the gospel is most fundamentally about the liberation that God works in Jesus – liberation from slavery to all sorts of sin and bondage.

I gather that Australia doesn’t really have anything comparable. The release of transported convicts after their sentences were served, however, must have been met with a measure of rejoicing and a sense that life now held more promise. A ticket of leave was an invitation to cross into freedom. Other kinds of liberation must surely have attended the end of wars in which Australians fought, and the return of soldiers and sailors released from service.

In Elisha’s day, the Jordan River would have had a resonance with all those sorts of liberation or release from imperial control, occupation, slavery, prison, or wartime service. The Jordan River marked the border of the promised land, where Egypt’s former slaves crossed over into safety and the promise of plenty. The Red Sea crossing began their liberation, but it wasn’t finished until they crossed the Jordan into their new home. Naaman’s search for healing from leprosy is also a search for freedom from what his skin disease means. In his leprous state, he is unfit for office or leadership – his social freedom is severely restricted.

In the ancient world illness was often understood to be a curse. Healthy people avoided those who were sick, out of fear that they too might be infected or contaminated. Lepers became outcasts, unfit for human society. Throughout the existence of the disease, lepers have almost always been isolated and forced to keep apart from the rest of the community. In Europe in the Middle Ages lepers were so feared that they had to ring a bell and shout, “unclean, unclean” so that others could know and stay away. It’s very much like the way in which people with HIV or AIDS are still treated in many parts of the world.

When the bishops of the Anglican Communion and their spouses gathered at Lambeth two years ago, we spent one morning divided by gender – men on one side of the tent and women on the other. The organizers recognized that many of the women present would be unable to speak freely in the presence of their husbands or other men. Indeed, in the small group I was part of, bishops’ wives from Africa spoke about women in their own churches whose husbands had died of AIDS.

Those widows, even if uninfected themselves, would be pressured by their cultures to return to their husband’s village and marry one of his brothers, even if he already had a wife. It was an almost certain sentence of death by HIV. If the widow refused, the husband’s family would come and take her children and any land, house, and possessions she might have. If she resisted, they would simply put her out on the street. She had no legal recourse, and the church would not support her in either case – either in becoming a second or third wife or in resisting the cultural pressure to keep her children as a newly single woman. That position of being damned if you do and damned if you don’t is a pretty good definition of slavery, and AIDS makes many sorts of slaves.

Naaman goes looking for healing and escape from his sort of slavery when he hears that a prophet in Israel might be able to fix his isolation. He makes a big withdrawal from his bank account, and goes off to find Elisha, expecting that the prophet will be able to heal the great general of Aram, for a price. But Elisha won’t even come out to talk to him. The prophet sends a servant to tell the soldier to go wash in the Jordan. Naaman is sorely insulted and turns for home, but his servants gently challenge him – “if he’d asked you to do something difficult, wouldn’t you have done your best to take the cure?” So Naaman goes down to the riverside and takes a bath. That river of freedom becomes his release from social slavery.

Would that curing AIDS were so easy. Yet curing the isolation of the leper or the one with HIV is that easy – but it’s the supposedly healthy ones who have to wash away their uncleanness. It may take seven repetitions or more, but we’re the only ones who can fix the isolation of the leper or the different one – the other. That sort of social isolation or cultural imprisonment is a disease that comes from the supposedly healthy, from those who don’t want to be contaminated.

Our communities are still pretty well divided up between the haves and the have nots, the white and those of darker hue, the straight and those who aren’t. Yet we’re all meant to cross over those boundaries that keep some enslaved to others’ definitions. We are all invited to bathe in the river of freedom, to be washed clean of the shame of thinking that some are different enough to be pushed out of the community, away from the feast God has set from the beginning of creation.

That’s at least partly what Jesus is telling his followers when he sends them out. Travel light – don’t bother with all that other baggage. Let go of all the impedimenta that want to tie you down to pre-conceptions, cultural taboos and expectations. Go and proclaim peace. Eat with anybody who offers to share a meal, offer healing to anyone who’s hurting, and tell them that God is near. And if you aren’t accepted, don’t fuss, just move on and try the next person. Healing and reconciling need our active labor and participation. Disciples are supposed to build bridges wherever possible.

Who or what needs healing around here? Who’s still enslaved, who needs cleansing, release, and restoration to community? Immigrants? Aboriginal peoples? Those with AIDS or the mentally ill? Who isn’t welcome at our tables – atheists? People who come from the other end of the theological spectrum?

There is at least one sort of division that your context and mine share – between the inside and the outside of the church. There are growing numbers of people who think that Christians are bigots, hypocrites, and uninterested in those who differ from them. The only real way to cross over that boundary is to leave these communities of safety and go on out there to find those who think we’re unclean. We’re going to have to wade into the river, even if, like the Brisbane, it does have a few bull sharks in it. There are far more dangerous creatures walking around on both banks. It’s past time to go swimming.

Will you let go of the extra sandals, bags, and preconceptions we so love to haul around? That river of life is filled with healing and freedom – thanks be to God!


That’ll Preach …

Found on: An Inch at a time blog, Susan Russell

“Our communities are still pretty well divided up between the haves and the have nots, the white and those of darker hue, the straight and those who aren’t. Yet we’re all meant to cross over those boundaries that keep some enslaved to others’ definitions,” she said. “We are all invited to bathe in the river of freedom, to be washed clean of the shame of thinking that some are different enough to be pushed out of the community, away from the feast God has set from the beginning of creation.

“Healing and reconciling need our active labor and participation,” she added. “Disciples are supposed to build bridges wherever possible.”

It’s a crazy-busy day and I have no business starting it off by posting a blog — but here I am: moved by the witness of our Presiding Bishop’s July 4th sermon and wanting to make sure if you missed it, you get a chance to read it, too!

4 July 2010
Christ Church, St. Lucia, Brisbane, Australia

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

Greetings from around The Episcopal Church. Today is the day Americans celebrate the beginning of their struggle for independence from England – 234 years of it, to be exact. This annual Independence Day celebration is our reminder of civic freedom. It’s also a prayer book feast, a holy day, born out of the awareness that the gospel is most fundamentally about the liberation that God works in Jesus – liberation from slavery to all sorts of sin and bondage.

I gather that Australia doesn’t really have anything comparable. The release of transported convicts after their sentences were served, however, must have been met with a measure of rejoicing and a sense that life now held more promise. A ticket of leave was an invitation to cross into freedom. Other kinds of liberation must surely have attended the end of wars in which Australians fought, and the return of soldiers and sailors released from service.

In Elisha’s day, the Jordan River would have had a resonance with all those sorts of liberation or release from imperial control, occupation, slavery, prison, or wartime service. The Jordan River marked the border of the promised land, where Egypt’s former slaves crossed over into safety and the promise of plenty. The Red Sea crossing began their liberation, but it wasn’t finished until they crossed the Jordan into their new home. Naaman’s search for healing from leprosy is also a search for freedom from what his skin disease means. In his leprous state, he is unfit for office or leadership – his social freedom is severely restricted.

In the ancient world illness was often understood to be a curse. Healthy people avoided those who were sick, out of fear that they too might be infected or contaminated. Lepers became outcasts, unfit for human society. Throughout the existence of the disease, lepers have almost always been isolated and forced to keep apart from the rest of the community. In Europe in the Middle Ages lepers were so feared that they had to ring a bell and shout, “unclean, unclean” so that others could know and stay away. It’s very much like the way in which people with HIV or AIDS are still treated in many parts of the world.

When the bishops of the Anglican Communion and their spouses gathered at Lambeth two years ago, we spent one morning divided by gender – men on one side of the tent and women on the other. The organizers recognized that many of the women present would be unable to speak freely in the presence of their husbands or other men. Indeed, in the small group I was part of, bishops’ wives from Africa spoke about women in their own churches whose husbands had died of AIDS.

Those widows, even if uninfected themselves, would be pressured by their cultures to return to their husband’s village and marry one of his brothers, even if he already had a wife. It was an almost certain sentence of death by HIV. If the widow refused, the husband’s family would come and take her children and any land, house, and possessions she might have. If she resisted, they would simply put her out on the street. She had no legal recourse, and the church would not support her in either case – either in becoming a second or third wife or in resisting the cultural pressure to keep her children as a newly single woman. That position of being damned if you do and damned if you don’t is a pretty good definition of slavery, and AIDS makes many sorts of slaves.

Naaman goes looking for healing and escape from his sort of slavery when he hears that a prophet in Israel might be able to fix his isolation. He makes a big withdrawal from his bank account, and goes off to find Elisha, expecting that the prophet will be able to heal the great general of Aram, for a price. But Elisha won’t even come out to talk to him. The prophet sends a servant to tell the soldier to go wash in the Jordan. Naaman is sorely insulted and turns for home, but his servants gently challenge him – “if he’d asked you to do something difficult, wouldn’t you have done your best to take the cure?” So Naaman goes down to the riverside and takes a bath. That river of freedom becomes his release from social slavery.

Would that curing AIDS were so easy. Yet curing the isolation of the leper or the one with HIV is that easy – but it’s the supposedly healthy ones who have to wash away their uncleanness. It may take seven repetitions or more, but we’re the only ones who can fix the isolation of the leper or the different one – the other. That sort of social isolation or cultural imprisonment is a disease that comes from the supposedly healthy, from those who don’t want to be contaminated.

Our communities are still pretty well divided up between the haves and the have nots, the white and those of darker hue, the straight and those who aren’t. Yet we’re all meant to cross over those boundaries that keep some enslaved to others’ definitions. We are all invited to bathe in the river of freedom, to be washed clean of the shame of thinking that some are different enough to be pushed out of the community, away from the feast God has set from the beginning of creation.

That’s at least partly what Jesus is telling his followers when he sends them out. Travel light – don’t bother with all that other baggage. Let go of all the impedimenta that want to tie you down to pre-conceptions, cultural taboos and expectations. Go and proclaim peace. Eat with anybody who offers to share a meal, offer healing to anyone who’s hurting, and tell them that God is near. And if you aren’t accepted, don’t fuss, just move on and try the next person. Healing and reconciling need our active labor and participation. Disciples are supposed to build bridges wherever possible.

Who or what needs healing around here? Who’s still enslaved, who needs cleansing, release, and restoration to community? Immigrants? Aboriginal peoples? Those with AIDS or the mentally ill? Who isn’t welcome at our tables – atheists? People who come from the other end of the theological spectrum?

There is at least one sort of division that your context and mine share – between the inside and the outside of the church. There are growing numbers of people who think that Christians are bigots, hypocrites, and uninterested in those who differ from them. The only real way to cross over that boundary is to leave these communities of safety and go on out there to find those who think we’re unclean. We’re going to have to wade into the river, even if, like the Brisbane, it does have a few bull sharks in it. There are far more dangerous creatures walking around on both banks. It’s past time to go swimming.

Will you let go of the extra sandals, bags, and preconceptions we so love to haul around? That river of life is filled with healing and freedom – thanks be to God!


+ Gene Robinson's Invocation

Gene Robinson’s Prayer Kicks off Inaugural Events


+ Gene Robinson’s Invocation

Gene Robinson’s Prayer Kicks off Inaugural Events


Developing: HBO says they aren't to blame for not including Gene Robinson in concert special

USA-OBAMA/

Afterelton.com

Sunday afternoon, HBO televised the Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial — a concert planned by the Presidential Inauguration Committee — to kick off the festivities surrounding Obama’s inauguration on Tuesday.

Openly gay bishop Gene Robinson delivered the opening prayer before the start of the concert, but the prayer was not included as part of HBO’s broadcast.

Contacted Sunday night by AfterElton.com concerning the exclusion of Robinson’s prayer, HBO said via email, “The producer of the concert has said that the Presidential Inaugural Committee made the decision to keep the invocation as part of the pre-show.”

Uncertain as to whether or not that meant that HBO was contractually prevented from airing the pre-show, we followed up, but none of the spokespeople available Sunday night could answer that question with absolute certainty.

However, it does seem that the network’s position is that they had nothing to do with the decision.

We have also contacted a spokesperson from the Presidential Inauguration Committee (PIC) for their  explanation and will post what we learn either from PIC or HBO .

Wherever the fault lies, this is yet another unfortunate turn involving GLBT concerns over Obama’s selection of Rick Warren to deliver the prayer at Obama’s inauguration. Many in the gay community saw Robinson’s selection to deliver Sunday’s prayer as an olive branch.

But given that most Americans could not attend the concert, instead having to watch it on television, the decision to not broadcast the prayer is being seen by many in the GLBT community as a slight.

The exclusion of Robinson, even if unintentional, does not reflect well on the Obama administration’s ability thus far to think through these sorts of nuances.


Developing: HBO says they aren’t to blame for not including Gene Robinson in concert special

USA-OBAMA/

Afterelton.com

Sunday afternoon, HBO televised the Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial — a concert planned by the Presidential Inauguration Committee — to kick off the festivities surrounding Obama’s inauguration on Tuesday.

Openly gay bishop Gene Robinson delivered the opening prayer before the start of the concert, but the prayer was not included as part of HBO’s broadcast.

Contacted Sunday night by AfterElton.com concerning the exclusion of Robinson’s prayer, HBO said via email, “The producer of the concert has said that the Presidential Inaugural Committee made the decision to keep the invocation as part of the pre-show.”

Uncertain as to whether or not that meant that HBO was contractually prevented from airing the pre-show, we followed up, but none of the spokespeople available Sunday night could answer that question with absolute certainty.

However, it does seem that the network’s position is that they had nothing to do with the decision.

We have also contacted a spokesperson from the Presidential Inauguration Committee (PIC) for their  explanation and will post what we learn either from PIC or HBO .

Wherever the fault lies, this is yet another unfortunate turn involving GLBT concerns over Obama’s selection of Rick Warren to deliver the prayer at Obama’s inauguration. Many in the gay community saw Robinson’s selection to deliver Sunday’s prayer as an olive branch.

But given that most Americans could not attend the concert, instead having to watch it on television, the decision to not broadcast the prayer is being seen by many in the GLBT community as a slight.

The exclusion of Robinson, even if unintentional, does not reflect well on the Obama administration’s ability thus far to think through these sorts of nuances.


No Bishop Gene Robinson On HBO Inaugural Concert Broadcast

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Found on JOE MY GOD

After days of controversy and outrage from the religious right, openly gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson opened Barack Obama’s inauguration concert on the National Mall today with a request that the nation pray for “understanding that our president is a human being and not a messiah.” But only the people AT the concert heard that, because HBO did not televise Robinson’s message.

Who engineered this blackout of Robinson? I suspect we’ll hear lots about this in days to come.

UPDATE: The 7PM rebroadcast of the show was identical, no Gene Robinson.


A Prayer for the Nation and Our Next President, Barack Obama

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A Prayer for the Nation and Our Next President, Barack Obama

By The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire

Opening Inaugural Event

Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC

January 18, 2009

Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God’s blessing upon our nation and our next president.

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…

Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic “answers” we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.

AMEN.

© Copyright 2004-2006 by The Diocese of New Hampshire, The Episcopal Church


Washington Tales from Closer to the Center

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Canterbury Tales from the Fringe  +Gene’s blog

It’s very early on Sunday morning. The quiet outside belies the exuberance that promises to explode today here in Washington.

This new “chapter” in my “Canterbury Tales from the Fringe” blog needs to be renamed, of course. It could be “Mr. Robinson goes to Washington,” or “Oh my God! How did I ever get to this moment?” Instead, I’m calling it “Washington Tales from Closer to the Center.” After the experience of being on the fringe in Canterbury this summer, I am struck that the new President of the United States is including me in a way the Anglican Communion was not able to this summer. Funny, isn’t it, and sad, that the culture is modeling for the Church the inclusion meant for all of God’s children.

One of the great bishops of the Episcopal Church, Stephen Bayne, once said, “MISSION is looking around and seeing where God is already at work, and joining God there.” God, and God’s mission, will go on, with or without the Church. My prayer is that all of us in the Church will “see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up,” (from the opening collect for ordinations, which I prayed at an ordination yesterday morning). In his invitation to me to offer the invocation for the opening inaugural event, I hope that gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgender people everywhere will feel “raised up” by the events here in Washington. I know I carry all of you in my heart.

Arriving at National Airport yesterday was like coming into a recently-stirred-up anthill. But there were no angry, impatient voices (okay, I did hear one!), no one in a bad humor. Faces filled with anticipation and sheer joy at being here. Was it my imagination, or were all the African-Americans walking just a little bit taller? I think so. I hope so. And so was everyone else.

I am, to say the least, overwhelmed by the possibilities of this day. Not just offering a prayer for the nation and the new president, but helping to kick off the beginning of a new era of hope in this nation. The hope that then-candidate Barack Obama talked about — and which was often decried by others as hopelessly (literally) labeled as unrealistic and maudlin — is about to become reality. The future won’t be perfect, of course, and the new president won’t be either. But what a new beginning!

I am also overwhelmed and humbled by the task ahead of me. This prayer has weighed on my heart for several weeks now. My words will be the first heard by the crowds who will have been standing, waiting, for six hours to witness this event. I figure they’ll be ready to listen, and grateful that the event has finally begun, or maybe they’ll start chanting “Springsteen” or “Bono” and wishing the clergy guy would just get out of the way. Either way, I will attempt to get the crowd to pause for a moment before the fun begins, and join me in a prayer that we can all pray together.

I have received a lot of critical email since announcing that my prayer would not be overtly or aggressively Christian, as most of the inaugural prayers of the last 30 years have been. My plan is to address this prayer to the “God of our many understandings,” acknowledging that no one Christian denomination nor no one faith tradition knows all there is to know about God. Each of us is privy to a piece of God, as experienced in our faith tradition. My hope is to pray a prayer that ALL people of faith can join me in.

In the end, in addition to doing all this for God, I will be thinking of three kids in the teeming crowd of people today. One of the priests in my diocese, Teresa Gocha, and her husband Jim, adopted three children, Martin and Malcolm, African-American boys, and their mixed-race sister, Margaret. They’ll be here in Washington to witness the inauguration of someone who looks like them! They will never forget it, of course. But what they’ll REALLY remember is that someone just like them can be president, can be acknowledged for who he is and not just the color of his skin. Everything changes this week for Martin, Malcom and Margaret. It changes for all of us. This is not something that the American people alone have done. This is God’s doing.

Pray for me today. Pray that I can point to a God who loves us all, who yearns for the best we can be and do, and who is constantly raising up those of us who have been cast down. Thanks be to God!

+Gene


News from the Inaugural Front

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Found on: At an Inch at a Time

Dear Friends,

Well, in a few hours we’ll be off to Washington for the inauguration. Here are a few items that might be of interest. Please feel free to share them with whomever you deem appropriate:

1. I will be blogging from Washington, using my summer’s blogspot: “Tales From the Fringe” (Perhaps this should be renamed “Tales from Closer to the Center” but I didn’t have time!)

2. Sunday’s opening inaugural event at the Lincoln Memorial will be taped by HBO. What I DO know is that HBO will be airing it on Sunday evening — and the signal will be available to EVERYONE, WHETHER OR NOT you are a subscriber to HBO!

3. The text of my inaugural event prayer will be available on our diocesan website on Sunday afternoon.

4. On Tuesday night, after attending the LGBT ball, sponsored by HRC and others, I will be Jon Stewart’s guest on The Daily Show, a special live-from-Washington edition. At least here in the East, it is broadcast at 11:00pm on the Comedy Channel, and then rebroadcast the next night. Check local listings.

This promises to be an awesomely wonderful time. I am so honored and humbled to be so included. The President Elect has invited me to attend a small, private worship service on the morning of the inauguration, to attend the swearing in/inauguration itself, to view the parade from the Presidential viewing stand, and to attend the National Prayer Service at National Cathedral on Wednesday.

I hope that through these invitations, in some small way, ALL of you will feel included in these events by our next president.

Please pray for me as I undertake this awesome honor. I hope to do us and the Episcopal Church proud!

+Gene


+Gene Robinson on Rachel Maddow

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Rachel Maddow – “How did you they approach you and what are all the events that you are going to take part in?

+Gene Robinson – “Well they approached me by telephone, its a wonderful and long standing custom, we even have telephones in New Hampshire it’s quite amazing…”

Bishop Robinson was on the Rachel Maddow show tonight. It was a good interview and +Gene was well spoken.

Listen to the interview below…

Bishop Gene Robinson on Rachel Maddow Show