Saturday, May 30, 2009

Herstory retold


I was born and raised with 60 miles of Fort Worth, Texas. My family lineage shows that at least two different lines of it came to Texas in the early 1800s. I am a sixth generation Texan. While I detest much of the politics of the past few decades of Texas government and what has passed as the Episcopal Church, I am proud to be a Texan and love the wild nature and natural diversity of the State.

I came into the Episcopal Church via the Diocese of Fort Worth in 1986. As I came to realize how I did not fit into that narrow idea of church, I found an opportunity to become a part of Integrity. Because of that, I attended General Convention '06. It was there that I found the real Episcopal Church.

I live now in Saint Louis, Missouri, in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. While Saint Louis has many problems, it is a beautiful place. Although it is a bit cold far too long for this thin Texas blood, it has been exciting to see four seasons and the absolute beauty of flowers in late summer. Who knew that grass could be green in August?

I came to Saint Louis for one reason – in this diocese, there would be no discernment restrictions placed upon me due to the fact that I am a woman and lesbian in a long term relationship. This does not mean that I would be automatically accepted in a discernment process; rather, it meant only that I would not be automatically denied simply because of these two things. One of the few problems that I have with this diocese is that so many of the people in the church have no idea what it means to live in a despotic diocese – even though Springfield borders this diocese. But then, how could know?

I have worked and worshipped at Christ Church Cathedral Saint Louis for a bit over one year. Fully involved in the community, my discernment committee has been called, we have had a first meeting and I now have this help I need to walk with me on this part of the journey as together we attempt to understand how God is calling me.

As a part of my discernment, I made the decision not to attend General Convention in Anaheim this year. I had been scheduled to work with Integrity during the entire two weeks. While I know this was the right decision for me to make, there is the reality that I will miss it more and more as its time nears.

So, over the next few weeks, I hope to dedicate this blog to an awareness of the problems that still exist in far too many places. Gays, lesbians and women are basically "safe" here in the Diocese of Missouri (at least from a church aspect) but that cannot be said in other places. It is time to change. That cannot be done by sitting still and quiet.

Since there is no need whatsoever in re-creating the wheel, I suggest that those interested go to my sister Elizabeth's blog where she is currently reliving "herstory".

I cried. And then I cried more when I next read this part. Most especially when I read this particular quote: "My ordination will not be complete until everyone who is called to stand where I am privileged to stand is allowed to pursue their vocation - no matter their race, ethnicity, gender, age, socio-economic class or sexual orientation."

I know where Elizabeth Kaeton stands. And I am thankful to have her standing beside me.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

I signed the Dallas Principles

From http://www.thedallasprinciples.org/The_Dallas_Principles/Home.html

THE DALLAS PRINCIPLES

PREAMBLE

President Obama and Congress pledged to lead America in a new direction that included civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. We now sit at a great moment in our history that inspires the nation to return to its highest ideals and greatest promise. We face a historic opportunity to obtain our full civil rights; this is the moment for change. No delay. No excuses.


Nearly forty years ago, a diverse group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people stood up to injustice at the Stonewall Inn in New York City. In doing so, they submitted themselves to bodily harm and criminal prosecution. Their demand was simple – equal protection under the law.

Still today, full civil rights has eluded the same community that rioted forty years ago. Instead, untold sums of resources have been spent to divide our nation and turn our lives into a political football.


At several junctures in American history, the stars have aligned to deliver the promise of equal protection under the law to those previously denied. At this unique time in history, our nation must once again exercise the great tradition of making its people equal. Justice has too long been delayed. A clear path toward full civil equality for the LGBT community is overdue and must come now.

Using fear and misunderstanding to justify discrimination is no longer acceptable in this nation. Those content with the way things are will be judged harshly by history. Those who do not actively advance these ideals or offer excuses will be judged just as harshly. Those who attempt to divide our community or to delay and deny action on civil equality, waiting for the right moment to arrive, will be held accountable. We reject the idea that honoring the founding principles of our country is controversial.

We believe in the inherent human dignity of all people. No longer will we submit our children, our family, our friends and ourselves as a political tool for any Party or ideology. A new day has arrived.

PRINCIPLES

The following eight guiding principles underlie our call to action. In order to achieve full civil rights now, we avow:

  1. Full civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals must be enacted now. Delay and excuses are no longer acceptable.
  2. We will not leave any part of our community behind.
  3. Separate is never equal.

4. Religious beliefs are not a basis upon which to affirm or deny civil rights.

5. The establishment and guardianship of full civil rights is a non-partisan issue.

6. Individual involvement and grassroots action are paramount to success and must be encouraged.

7. Success is measured by the civil rights we all achieve, not by words, access or money raised.

8. Those who seek our support are expected to commit to these principles.


FULL CIVIL RIGHTS GOALS


Being united by common principles and engaging in united action, we will achieve the following goals:

1. DIGNITY AND EQUALITY. Every lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender person has inherent dignity and worth, and has the right to live free of discrimination and harassment.

2. FAMILY. Every LGBT person has the right to a family without legal barriers to immigration, civil marriage or raising children.

3. ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY. Every LGBT person has the right to economic opportunity free from discrimination in employment, public housing, accommodation, public facilities, credit, and federally funded programs and activities.

4. EDUCATION. Every LGBT child and youth has the right to an education that is affirming, inclusive and free from bullying.

5. NATIONAL SECURITY. Every LGBT person should have the opportunity to serve our country openly and equally in our military and foreign service.

6. CRIME. Every LGBT person should enjoy life protected against bias crimes.

7. HEALTH CARE. Every person should have access to affordable, high quality, and culturally competent health care without discrimination.


CALL TO ACTION


1. We demand that government officials act now to achieve full civil rights without delay.

2. Our organizations and individuals need to develop a collaborative and revolutionary new organizing model that mobilizes millions of supporters through emerging web and phone technologies.

3. All LGBT individuals must accept personal responsibility to do everything within their power for equality and should get involved in the movement by volunteering, giving and being out.

4. We will hold elected officials and our organizations accountable for being transparent and achieving full civil rights by active participation when possible and active opposition when necessary.

5. Our allies need to be proactive in public support for full civil rights.

6. Every government measure that quantifies the US citizenry must permit LGBT individuals to self-identify and be counted in every way citizens are counted.

7. We demand that the media present LGBT lives in fair, accurate and objective ways that neither include nor give credence to unsubstantiated, discriminatory claims and opinions.

Friday, May 08, 2009

An Appearance of Wisdom

Tucker is one of those types of kids that drive some adults crazy…me, being one of them. He has to touch everything, turn every knob, open every drawer, push every button, open anything that is closed (funny how he never closes anything that is opened though…). He has been that way all of his life. We thought that he would grow out of it as he got older. Here he is at 13 and nothing is sacred to him, most of all, those things that irritate me.

He has no need of personal space so he has absolutely no understanding of those who do. In fact, he is often wounded by those who demand that he back off just a little bit. Reminders do little but quell the momentary action. As soon as a parental back is turned, fingers go to fiddling with whatever is there. We have to hide the pens that we really like because if he has one of them for more than a couple of minutes, the clip is broken off or it is taken apart with all the insides disappearing.

It really is a chore trying to curtail these actions. When he was little, we tried for a little while the hands in pockets trick while we were in a store. Well, the only thing that happened with that was us saying every few minutes, "hands in your pockets!" We became the irritants rather than him. Within moments of any entry we made into any store, the shoppers and workers alike knew Tucker's name.

One of the biggest problems that he has in school is that his teachers are constantly saying, "Tucker…", "Tucker…" for one thing or a dozen. Soon the other students in the class pick up on it and it becomes a "Tucker did it…" type of blame game whether he actually did anything or not.

So, Thursday morning, while reading the Daily Office, this popped out at me. In fact, it screamed.

"If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch? All these regulations refer to things that perish with use, they are simply human commands and teachings. These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-imposed piety, humility, and severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in checking self-indulgence." Colossians 2:20 - 22

When I read it, I immediately thought of this child of ours to whom rules and regulations mean very little.

Tucker is by no means the only child I know who is like this. I think it is safe to say by looking at the statistics on Attention Deficit Disorder and Hyperactivity that we, as a nation, are in the process of bringing up a really large number of these children. But I wonder how many of these kids are truly "disordered"?

Maybe, as the author of Colossians points out, we should question our own actions. Just what we are doing by labeling our children as disordered. Perhaps it is not something that is wrong with them…perhaps it is merely "an appearance of wisdom" on our part.

For if we do claim to be "with Christ" how do we continue to live a life of human regulations that possibly inhibit the Spirit from working with us? Our rules of do not, do not, do not, are human commands and teachings. Do these rules matter to God or in living our lives to the glory of God?

There are several layers to this concern: If we want to go with the idea that these children are "disordered" then why so many? What have we done to create this "disorder"? What is in our environment, our food, our clothes, our water that could cause such vast numbers of attention deficit children? Supposedly, approximately 2 million children in the US have been diagnosed with ADHD.

And if there are that many, what does that mean in terms of how we deal with them? Do we medicate them or not? What if they are not really ADHD; rather, what if they are kinesthetic learners who have need of gross motor movement in order to learn best? There is a fine line in distinguishing the difference between ADHD and a learning style. It is estimated that 15% of the population are kinesthetic learners.

What are we willing to do to our children to make them mind? Are we prepared to subject them to "severe treatment of the body"…for what is a mind altering drug but a severe treatment? Yes, these drugs do help in many cases of ADHD but at what cost? Further, the drugs are just band aids, dealing with the symptoms rather than the cause. What is the cause? Or even more importantly, what is the real problem?

We want life to be simple. I can't see that it ever has been so, not even in the nostalgic era of the 50's – James Dean and Tennessee Williams are just two examples of the angst that existed in some. Life is not simple. It is fast and harried and in the midst of all the rush rush, lonely. We want answers and quick fixes. We want solutions that cause the least amount of worry and pain.

What are we willing to accept for our children for the sake of expediency?

For whose quality of life are we most concerned?

Might we be called into an analysis of our own way of dealing with certain things? Might it be a time when we are called into changing our own ways?

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

I Am The Good Shepherd

Yesterday was Good Shepherd Sunday. "I am the good shepherd" the Gospel of John tells us. "The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." John 10:11.

Long ago, or at least what seems like long ago, I wrote about a different type of shepherd. Actually it was more of a "Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter my sheep" type of thing. (Jeremiah 23) I remember so many Good Shepherd Sundays in the past where I sat in the congregation feeling as though I did not belong, wondering why I continued to subject myself to the misery of sermons that seemed hell-bent on casting me aside if not totally out.

Life is so different today. On this Good Shepherd Sunday, surrounded by the Glory of God and clergy who I do believe love all of us, basking in the success of a fun-filled parish event, it was easy to hear the words of the Gospel.

I actually attended two services yesterday. I often do simply because there is a commitment to work in one and the other is a choice I make. The first sermon was preached by our new provost, the Very Rev. Mike Kinman. As I sat listening to this man that I had watched from so far away when I was in Fort Worth, I was filled with a sense of righteousness – an understanding of how unjust was the condition of my life in church before I came here. The difference shows between those hired to do a job and those who do it because they love it. I am not afraid of being cast aside, tossed out or left alone to fend for myself. I know that there are people to whom I can turn.

The second service sermon had two bishops in it – the Rt. Rev. George Wayne Smith, the tenth bishop of Missouri and a major reason why we even came to St. Louis in the first place and the Rt. Rev Greg Rickel, the eighth bishop of Olympia. Bishop Rickel was here as the guest preacher for the 117th Flower Sunday of the Diocese of Missouri. He is also a presenter for Climate Project. Debbie, Tucker and I met him two years ago when he was the rector of St. James in Austin TX. We were there near the time of our anniversary and he was the very first clergy to give us a blessing. It surprised me how emotional that moment was and he holds a special place in my heart for that.

One of the points that Bishop Rickel made that stuck with me was the idea that shepherds do not lead – most often they follow behind. My first thought was that shepherds herd; that is, they direct. Yet thinking on it some, rather than "herding" my thoughts turned to the idea that they follow behind the sheep so that they can tend to any straggler. I know that this is the actuality of "herding" however, it is more than that. From behind, they can more easily see those who are struggling to keep up, those who wander off a bit or those who just head in a totally different direction. It is a sense of watching and protecting rather than just directing. Many can direct; fewer care to watch and protect.

I have found a "safe" place here in the Diocese of Missouri. For me, this is a place that I know there are certain people who care about the direction my life is heading. Not only do they care but they nurture me. And to what good? Why do they do this? Simply because they believe that it is the Holy Spirit working in me, in them, in this place. And they seek to follow the Good Shepherd by imitation.