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

Episcopal

Change …

Courtesy: Flickr

Things are not looking up. People are starting to worry about their lives, their lively hoods, their safety. Fear is beginning to permeate life.

It is hard to watch the news right now. I’ve been following the disaster unfolding in Japan. What the people in Japan are going through, I would not wish on anyone.

On late night radio, we are starting to hear the first tones of concern and fear. A number of people – many people – are wondering what comes next. The name Lindsey Williams in being beckoned once again. People want to hear what he has to say now, and what to expect.

This is what people are beginning to fear. Fallout reaching the shores of the U.S. and further abroad. I listened last night to men talking about what’s coming and it is becoming clear that fear is in the air.

I think the not knowing and the “they don’t need to know the severity of things” discussion has begun. Will we get the truth from the governments involved in this disaster? Many questions and concerns are being raised.

The crazies are out saying all kinds of things. The word “Armageddon” has been raised by some. And from last nights discussion, it is not what if, but when. People are reading the signs, and the question is, who do you believe? What do you believe? And what are you going to do to insure the safety of your family and friends?

*** *** *** ***

The weather is getting warmer. Hopefully the great thaw has begun. Maybe if we are lucky, the last vestiges of Winter are passing away. The snows are melting and soon, we will see grass in open spaces.

The sun shone today and it was a good day all around. I am on reading week so I have the week off. But my two profs have left us enough work to keep us busy all week in preparation for mid terms next week, and I have another oral presentation to present in two weeks time.

I got set up done early tonight and spent the better part of an hour working on my mid term at the hall. The prof gave us a page of questions, terms and theories to look up in the text and from the slides from class. I got a good portion of the questions done today.

We had good numbers at both meetings. We talked about change. That’s about the only constant in life, change…

*** *** *** ***

Things are changing, things beyond our control. People in Japan are facing what seem like insurmountable odds to find the dead and missing, to clean up the mess and try, once again, to rebuild their lives from such utter devastation.

The world weeps with them. And the world is paying attention to every update that passes over the airwaves. We hope for the best, and we hope that there is transparent information exchange.

People are afraid, there are no two ways about it. People are seeking answers to questions that, in my estimation, cannot be answered simply. Some believe that the signs are written on the wall. I don’t subscribe to this line of thinking.

We must have hope. The world is not coming to an end. Some say the rapture is coming soon, May 21st to be exact. But the bible tells us that we won’t know what the appointed day is, and when it is coming. But there are those who are set in a belief that Jesus is gonna come, and soon.

We shall see who is right.

*** *** *** ***

It is going to come down to a choice, wait for it …

Who has the real truth? Who are the true believers? Are the end of days on their way? And if there is a God, do you believe he is warning us of dire things to come? The fundies have their panties in a wad and something is gonna have to give sooner or later.

Pay attention to the signs and omens. Change is afoot. It may not come like we want it, or how we need it. But I believe that if we are steadfast and hopeful we will prevail. I am in the life and living crowd.

All we have is today. We are powerless over tomorrow.

We pray for those souls who have died, we pray for those who are left. We pray for the world in this time of calamity. And we hope that things get better, and not worse. We don’t need another disaster.

We need a miracle. A few of them at that.

I’m not giving up just yet to sit here and wait for Jesus to come get me. I’ve lived this long, and I am sure as hell not ready to die either. And I know that many of you out there don’t want to die either.

So we will see what Jesus has up his sleeve in the coming weeks.


+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.


It Gets Better …

Found on: Inch at a Time – Susan Russell – I can’t post the video but if you click on the hotlink – you can go watch the message.

It’s called the “It Gets Better” project and it’s a YouTube based campaign in support of youth facing homophobic bullying, harassment and thoughts of suicide. Saturday I got this email:

Faith voices – clergy in particular – are strongly encouraged to get involved in this campaign to illustrate the love that is available to the LGBTQ teens from the affirming religious community.

And so on Sunday I recorded this message — which is still finding its way to YouTube: (stay tuned for “film at eleven” — and do consider adding your voice to this important “cloud of witnesses!”))

I’m the Reverend Susan Russell, a priest and pastor from Pasadena, California and I’m here to tell you that “It gets better.“

There are lots of voices out there right now bringing that same message and if you are a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning teen I hope you are hearing them and I hope you know that no matter how alone you might feel, you are NOT alone and there is a community that wants to support you in the tough times and celebrate with you in the good times.

And as a priest and pastor I want you to know that anybody who tells you that God condemns you is wrong.

And if anybody says to you “But the Bible says …” I want you to remember this: God gave us the Bible as a tool for us to live our lives — not as a weapon to beat up other people – and history is full of people who were wrong about what the Bible says … using it to support slavery, to oppress women and to condemn Galileo for discovering that the earth revolved around the sun instead other way around.

And it turns out that the same people who were wrong about what the Bible said about slavery, about women’s equality and about astronomy are wrong about what the Bible says about homosexuality.

Jesus said love your neighbor – not love you neighbor unless your neighbor is gay.

Homosexuality doesn’t grieve the heart of God – homophobia does. Bullying does. Violence against any beloved child of God does.

And you are a beloved child of God. Created in God’s image exactly as God intended you to be.
God who doesn’t just want your life to get better – God wants your life to get fabulous. And I didn’t always know that.

Growing up trying to figure out who I was supposed to be and what I was supposed to do wasn’t easy and I didn’t always get it right. But it got better. And now I’m married to a wonderful woman who is the love of my life, I am a priest and pastor in an amazing church and my life didn’t just get better — it got fabulous. And so can yours.

If you need help believing that, reach out. To the Trevor Project. To a Believe Out Loud church. To my church — All Saints Church in Pasadena. And remember that God loves you beyond your wildest imaginings and wants you to be exactly who God created you to be.

Believe that promise. Know that God loves you and we are here for you – and grow up to be the best “you” you can be. It DOES get better! God bless!


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!


Haiti, Pat Robertson, and the Devil: Father Matthew Presents

Haiti, Pat Robertson, and the Devil: Father Matthew Presents


Sunday Sundries …

AstronomicalClock

“What we are not make us , what we know not teach us, what we have not give us, in the most precious name of God, Creator,  Redeemer and Giver of life, who is, who was, and is to come.” Amen…

The Reverend Zelda Kennedy, All Saints Church, Pasadena

I really love this prayer. Spoken from the space in the heart that matters to the God that I cannot see, to make, teach, give us …


Fat …

jc

“God doesnt seem to call the qualified, but rather to qualify the called.”

Christians are called to be FAT: Faithful, Available and Teachable…

The Rev. Wilma Jakobsen – All Saints Church Pasadena, Good Friday Service.


We know the arc of history is long …

marriage-is-a-right

Found on: An Inch at a Time…

… and that it bends toward justice

But here’s a great overview of just where we are on that arc … thanks to Elizabeth Kaeton over at “Telling Secrets:”

Vermont. Connecticut. Iowa. Massachusetts. New Hampshire. New York. California (‘yes’ and then ‘no’ and now an even stronger ‘maybe’).

New Jersey, which has had domestic partnership and now civil unions, no doubt, will be next.

Gay Rights Activists are predicting a sweep of the North East (Maine and RI) by 2012.

As of January 1, 2009, NJ, Maine, Hawaii, the District of Columbia, Oregon, Washington, and Maryland have created legal unions for same-sex couples that offer varying subsets of the rights and responsibilities of marriage under the laws of those jurisdictions.

And, this just in: The D.C. Council Tuesday overwhelmingly voted in favor of legislation recognizing same-sex marriages from other states as marriage in the District — a move lauded by lawmakers as a step toward legalizing gay marriage in the city.

President Obama has pledged a full repeal of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which currently guarantees that no state needs to treat a relationship between two people of the same sex as marriage, even if it is considered a marriage in another state, and further directs the Federal Government not to treat same-sex relationships as marriages for any purpose, even if concluded or recognized by one of the states.

One possible effect of the repeal, as one Lambda Legal lawyer once said to me a decade ago, that the issue of gay marriage will, eventually, be settled by the IRS.
The arc of history is surely bending, ever so slowly, toward justice.

And yet . . . . according to several sources, as of January 1, 2009, thirty states have constitutional amendments explicitly barring the recognition of same-sex marriage, confining civil marriage to a legal union between a man and a woman.

More than 40 states explicitly restrict marriage to two persons of the opposite sex, including some of those that have created legal recognition for same-sex unions under a name other than “marriage.” A small number of states ban any legal recognition of same-sex unions that would be equivalent to civil marriage.

Opponents of same-sex marriage swept the last Election Day, with voters in 11 states approving constitutional amendments codifying marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution.

The amendments won in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Ohio, Utah and Oregon.

We’ve come a long way, but we ain’t there yet.


Faith forms a bond for a lesbian priest and a Mormon father of three

44926929
A documentary film about same-sex marriage and theology leads to friendship, admiration and new understanding.
By Duke Helfand
February 7, 2009

Who could have foreseen what would happen between the Mormon filmmaker and the lesbian priest?

Not Douglas Hunter, even after he took a leap of faith and trained his camera on the Rev. Susan Russell.

And maybe not even Russell, who had undergone a remarkable transformation from onetime suburban soccer mom to priest and outspoken champion of gay rights.

But the friendship that took root when Hunter asked Russell to play the central role in his documentary about same-sex marriage and theology would lead two people from different worlds to a new understanding of themselves and their faiths.

“We’re all telling the same stories about God’s work in our lives,” said Hunter, 40, a father of three from Pasadena who discovered Russell on the Internet.

Technology may have provided the bridge, but it was an ancient religious calling that drew Hunter to Russell, a senior associate priest at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena.

Hunter felt a religious obligation to cross the same boundary Jesus is said to have traversed 2,000 years ago when he spoke of embracing the outsider.

No group was further outside Mormon circles, Hunter thought, than gays and lesbians. Mormonism, he knew, viewed homosexual acts as sins, and Mormons would become among the most generous supporters of California’s Proposition 8, the ban on same-sex marriage that was approved by voters last fall.

It was in early 2007, after the death of a close family friend, that Hunter decided it was time to put his religious ideals to the test.

Filmmaking provided the vehicle.

A freelance post-production supervisor for television shows, he had already made two films: a documentary about rock climbing and another short movie about a couple overcoming a marital infidelity.

His new film, he reasoned, would allow him to explore a subject considered taboo by many other Mormons but which he could no longer ignore.

“The engagement of the ‘other’ was so important in the teaching of Jesus that it had to have a place of centrality in my own faith,” he said. “What’s your reward if you only love people who already love you?”

Hunter didn’t know where to start, so he turned to his computer. He typed in random search terms — “Christian gay,” “gay theology.” The search led to a clip of Russell on YouTube and then to her personal blog, called An Inch at a Time.

“I was like, ‘Wow, she’s fabulous. She’s here in Pasadena. She’s practically a neighbor,’ ” he said.

Hunter sent an e-mail to Russell in June 2007, explaining that he wanted to make a short documentary about the personal and spiritual challenges of same-sex marriage. The finished product, he said, would be submitted to an international documentary project that would broadly address the meaning of citizenship.

Russell, 54, was accustomed to interview requests in her role as president of Integrity USA, an advocacy group for gay and transgender Episcopalians. She had few qualms about sharing the details of her personal story to further her cause.

With a command of Christian theology and a fearless streak, she had become a national emblem in the struggle for gay equality in the Episcopal Church, a spiky-haired priest in a clerical collar who turned up on CNN and such news programs as ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

A few weeks after Hunter’s e-mail arrived, Russell agreed to meet him in her office at All Saints.

“That first meeting was about getting my foot in the door and letting her know I was for real,” Hunter recalled.

By August 2007, Russell was sitting through several hours of interviews and camera shots at the church. That material — indeed, the priest herself — would become the heart of Hunter’s 19-minute film, “The Constant Process,” which also features family pictures, including a snapshot of a smiling Russell and her ex-husband on their wedding day, cutting their cake.

In the film, Russell tells how, after college, she settled into a privileged life in Ventura with her banker husband and two young sons. There was tennis and sailing and a golden retriever at home.

But Russell felt strangely agitated.

“I had this sense that I had everything I ever wanted, you know, this really blessed life, and then I had this imploding thought in my head. . . . Is that enough?” she says in the film. “I look back on that moment as the beginning of my spiritual U-turn.”

Russell felt a call to the ministry. As she grew more spiritual, however, her marriage deteriorated.

The turning point came during a religious conference on the East Coast, where Russell met a woman who also was struggling with a troubled relationship, in her case with a female partner.

Russell and her new friend talked at length about their lives. When the woman asked if Russell might be gay, Russell answered, “I’m quite sure I’m not gay.”

But the question weighed on her. Why hadn’t she ever entertained the possibility? Was there something inherently wrong with being gay?

The next day, during a service at the National Cathedral in Washington, Russell heard a voice in her head.

“This is how I made you,” it said. “Now I need you to go back and be the priest I made you to be.”

The words seemed so loud that Russell looked around to see if anyone else heard them.

“I walked out of that service . . . changed,” she says in the film. “It was just really clear to me that my life didn’t look like what I thought it did.

“So for me, the coming-out experience really had nothing to do with a sexual act or even a relationship or a person,” she adds. “It was about really, finally understanding my fullest, deepest self and getting all the pieces in place.”

As Russell told her story to Hunter, he realized that he wasn’t just filming, he was learning from her. He was especially moved by the priest’s concept of romantic love, with its emphasis on spiritual and emotional intimacy as a precursor to physical expression.

“That resonated with me and gave me a renewed appreciation of my relationship with my wife,” he said.

Hunter also felt his empathy growing for gays and lesbians, especially friends who felt compelled to hide their sexual orientation. Perhaps that was because he, too, held a secret: Hunter had been sexually abused as a child by two neighbors in his native Philadelphia.

He knew what it was like to hide a part of himself and pretend his life was in order. “I kept that locked away,” he said.

Something else was occurring: Hunter and Russell were becoming friends. As election day neared last November, Hunter began showing up at “No on 8” rallies alongside his documentary subject.

Russell’s initial curiosity about Hunter gave way to admiration, particularly over his decision to vote against the same-sex marriage ban and to speak out against it. She realized that she was sharing in his transformation. And that filled her with a sense of wonder.

“It isn’t a risk for a priest from All Saints to go to a Prop. 8 demonstration, but it is for a devout, straight Mormon father of three,” Russell said. “It just speaks volumes about how deeply Douglas walks the talk in terms of really putting his faith into action.”

Hunter had to balance his new friendship against his obligation to his church, whose members, at the urging of church leaders, were contributing millions of dollars to help pass the ban.

Knowing he was walking the finest of lines, he told only a few close Mormon friends about his opposition to Proposition 8 and about his documentary, even as it debuted last fall at a gay and lesbian film festival in Chicago. The project also will be shown at a film festival in Pomona in April.

“As a Mormon, I have a responsibility and commitment to listen to my church leaders,” he said. “At the same time, listening to my church leaders does not absolve me of the ethical responsibility to listen to the voice of the other.”

Hunter said he hoped the film would spark a thoughtful conversation about acceptance. “There are some things that Mormons are going to find challenging in the film, such as a lesbian priest saying that God is working through her,” he said. “I think that is a good point of discussion.”

And so he stayed his course, but not without turmoil, as tensions grew over Mormon support for the same-sex marriage ban.

Just days before the Nov. 4 election, Hunter joined Russell for an interfaith service in the ornate sanctuary of St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral near USC. One by one, speakers took the stage to reflect on the proposed ban.

Finally, Hunter stepped forward. He spoke about compassion and about the universality of love.

“If as a straight man I find the tools for strengthening my marriage in the relationships of same-sex couples and of a dear friend, can I deny them a fundamental right that I benefit from and cherish?” he asked. “The answer is no.”


+ Gene Robinson’s Invocation

Gene Robinson’s Prayer Kicks off Inaugural Events


+ Gene Robinson's Invocation

Gene Robinson’s Prayer Kicks off Inaugural Events