Tuesday, December 01, 2009

World AIDS Day Service Christ Church Cathedral, St. Louis, MO

“If God is for us, who is against us?...It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? (Romans 8: 31-34)

The answer to that first question must seem simple to many. The World AIDS Day theme for 2009 is 'Universal Access and Human Rights'. The very idea that there must be a theme to focus an awareness campaign on universal access for life saving drugs and the issue of human rights shows that there are indeed many who are against those who live with HIV/AIDS. God may justify in the end but in the mean time, far too many seem to condemn.

Stigma and discrimination are major factors in HIV/AIDS awareness. Few diseases can cause a person to become a social outcast as quickly as HIV/AIDS. Family, friends, neighbors, church communities, fellow workers – we all know the stories of people diagnosed who have suddenly been alienated from all they knew and love. We all know stories of those who have died alone and forsaken.

And what is the fear? What is the difference between the AIDS pandemic and any other pandemic? Why the particular onus on this one? Would the AIDS pandemic have ever achieved the high level of notoriety it did were it not for the number of gay people affected?

My mom had a friend from high school who had a son that was just a month of so older than me. He and I used to play together when we were little. My mom and she lost touch as we grew up but in the late 80s, they had occasion to meet again. Her friend told my mom that her son had died. She wouldn’t tell my mom how or why but she did say that they burned his belongings, even his mattress. At the time, Mom was shocked that someone would do that. It only occurred to her later as she learned about AIDS that his death might have been AIDS related.

I remember when I was first touched by an AIDS story. As is often the case, the news stories didn’t affect me until it affected someone I knew. The rector at our parish spent his sermon time telling us about his son, Stephen. Actually, I didn’t even know he had a son until that moment. He told us that they had been estranged for some time because Stephen was gay. The problem was not because Stephen was gay, he admitted, but because he, as Stephen’s father, had a problem with Stephen being gay. Having no idea where he was going with the information, we all sat spellbound as he told us how they had only reconnected when he found out that Stephen was dying from AIDS. He then went on to tell us about Stephen’s partner, John and how special he was because John loved Stephen when even his own father could not. There was not a dry eye in the church by the end of the story. I don’t know how many minds our rector changed that day but I do know that he touched every one of us. I do know that out of that story was born an AIDS outreach from that parish to the local AIDS Outreach Center that ran a food pantry and cared for those dealing with end of life issues. The outreach is ongoing today.

Strangely enough, AIDS opened a path from Stephen to his father. Prior to Stephen’s sickness, ignorance clouded his father’s mind. His love for his son could not overcome the disappointment he felt at Stephen being gay. It was in the knowledge of death that the ignorance was lifted and love overcame the fear. Through John’s love and tender care for Stephen, our rector learned true love, that unconditional, steadfast kind.

So many names… So many dead…. So many more dying… What opportunities for learning lie in wait for us as the veil of ignorance and fear is lifted? What unconditional love might be learned as the knowledge of death touches us? What gifts have those who have died left for us? There is still so much to learn…so much to do.

The drugs needed to combat HIV/AIDS are now available for many. As is always the case, the more one can afford, the more one will receive. Those who suffer from poverty and lack of insurance also lack the ability to receive the needed care. Many of the ones dying today are the ones who simply cannot afford to live.

Ignorance that HIV/AIDS is a “gay” disease hinders proper funding to make the anti-retro-viral treatments available to many who live with HIV.

Fear of condoning or even promoting promiscuous sex in our youth and teens prohibits funding for sex education in our schools so that at risk behavior might be lessened.

Major theological battles are in the process within our largest denominations and religions about the right or wrong of being gay.

In the extreme, the government of Uganda is promoting a resolution to not only increase the punishment for being gay but to make it a crime for anyone to help someone who is gay. That means medical workers and pastoral care givers will be at risk of imprisonment when they try to help.

We cannot allow HIV/AIDS to continue being viewed through the eyes of fear and ignorance.

THAT is what this day is all about – raising awareness.. Awareness that the number of people living with HIV has risen from approximately 8 million in 1990 to an estimated 33.4 million people worldwide today and that 2.5 million of those are children;

THAT 25 million people have died of AIDS since 1981,

THAT there were 2 million deaths in 2008 alone;

THAT by the end of 2008, women accounted for 50% of all adults living with HIV worldwide

and In North America alone, there are 1.5 million adults and children living with HIV/AIDS.

In addition to all of that, in developing and transitional countries, 9.5 million people are in immediate need of life-saving AIDS drugs but only 42 % of those are actually receiving the drugs.

This is not a “gay” disease… regardless of how it has devastated so many lives of those who happen to be gay.

It is a disease that threatens all people. It is especially a threat to the “least of these” among us – our children and those who live in poverty. One of the fastest growing groups of people in the US living with AIDS is heterosexual women, in particular, teenage girls.

In its short 28 year history, HIV/AIDS has proven to us that it breeds very well in ignorance. It thrives in systems of fear.

HIV/AIDS has shown us that it will not go away on its own. In fact, if we continue on the course we are on, it will only continue to grow.

It is up to us to break the bonds of ignorance and fear.

Whether we do that by urging our national government and church leaders to speak out against the resolution in Uganda,

…Or work to end discriminatory laws at home,

…Or work for the passage of a national health care bill or

…Or medically and pastorally tend to those who have been cast aside due to the stigma of AIDS; regardless of what we do, we must do something.

To ignore the problem is to be a part of the problem.

We know that “creation waits with eager longing…to be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory for the children of God.” Creation is groaning for us to awaken from our slumber.

This is not about being gay. It is about living in love, not in fear. It is about taking care of one another; not condemning that which we do not understand. It is about standing up against that condemnation.

We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper; we have a great amount of work to do.

Let us get on with it.

( statistics come from http://www.avert.org/)

Barbi Click

Friday, November 20, 2009

Re: Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009

and the lack of response from The Episcopal Church in the voice of our Presiding Bishop...

The Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Kaeton at Telling Secrets says it so well that I won't even waste time repeating it all.

I will quote another "Beloved" -- The Late Great Molly Ivins: "What you need is sustained outrage...there's far too much unthinking respect given to authority."

People, we ought to be outraged.

Silence is not golden...it is death-dealing.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

“the ultimate test of a moral society”

I just can't help but be amazed at the narrowness of people's belief systems. We talk about being a nation that believes in God even to the ridiculous point of having hissy fits about the word "God" being on our money or being able to display the Ten Commandments in government buildings. We talk God but we don't live it. We believe in God as long as we can fit the concept of God into our little shoebox minds. We love to point out how others do not act as though they believe in God but never stop to turn that pointing finger around to the tip of our own noses. We want others to change and do the things that we believe are good and right. Anyone who disagrees with us must be wrong. We talk about listening but all we are doing is thinking about what we will say next when the bozo talking shuts the heck up. Look at the success of the blog world – we can write what we want and not worry about someone interrupting us.

We live in this giant I, ME, MINE world. We can hardly blame it on one generation or the next. Best I can tell, every generation has tendency to view the world from an individual-what-does-it-do-for-me type of viewpoint. Everything is about ME NOW and if I have more then I will share later…maybe.

So what it in the world is up with this huge preoccupation about gays and lesbians, what they do, who they want to spend their lives with and whether they want to have children? Why are some heterosexuals so obsessed with trying to push us back into the closet? Or worse, bury us and play like they just saved humanity from some huge eschatological evil.

I am not surprised that the vote in Maine was a Yes vote on 1. Yet I am surprised that people care so much to spend so much money to fight one group of people having the right to legally marry a person that they love. So much money spent on this vote in Maine. Meanwhile children in the US go hungry, go without healthcare, are abused, mistreated, and ignored. While all the money that is being spent making certain that heterosexual marriage is kept clean and sanctimonious for heterosexual people, children died.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German Lutheran pastor theologian during Hitler's reign wrote that "The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children." I won't even go into the crappy world we are leaving to our children…I am just talking about today and the way we treat them in the right here and now. If we are to be judged by Bonhoeffer's statement, we are a very immoral society and it appears we are steadily declining. But I hardly think it has anything at all to do with gay couples being able to wed the person they love. In fact, let's put the blame square where it belongs. If it isn't your kid, very few give a rat's ass.

Best I can tell, the world at large and the U.S. in particular is in a rather sorry state without worrying about gay marriage. I currently work at Episcopal City Mission. Although it is a chaplaincy program that ministers to kids in detention (jail), we get calls every Sunday and Monday from women seeking shelter. One can only guess why they seek it more then.

In a nation where almost half of all marriages end in divorce, perhaps society's focus would be better set on why people marry rather than who people marry.

Jesus talks about divorce yet it makes little difference. Even the church agrees that divorce is sometimes a necessary part of life. Marriage is not quite as sacred as we would like to pretend it is. Marriage is a civil ceremony, a legal status governed by law. According to the 2006 Census Bureau statistics, less than half of the "household" population in the US was married. So who is so concerned about who can and who cannot get married?

Might the world be a better place if we focus our attention on the families that are rather than the families that might be somewhere in the future? There are a whole lot of problems out there that need immediate attention and some of that money being spent on the boogie man in the closet would be well directed to those things.

According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Kids Count Data Center, the US average for children living in single-parent families is 32% (as of 2008). Maine's average is 31%. That's a whole lot of single-parent (most often Moms) raising kids while working.

In the US, 8% of the children live in extreme poverty – remember that extreme poverty means that it leads to death. In Maine, that number is 7% (as of 2008) The kind of killing poverty is something we like to pretend doesn't happen here in our own little country. But it does.

According to the Children's Defense Fund, in the United States as of November 2008, there were 73,901,733 children in the US. Out of those 73+million children, one is born into poverty every 33 seconds; one is abused or neglected every 35 seconds; one child dies before his or her first birthday every 18 minutes; and every 3 hours one child or teen is killed by gunfire…right here in these United States of America. Not only are our children compromised in these ways but 8.9 million of them are without health insurance. Thirty plus million of those 73+ million children are in the School Lunch Program which allows reduced price or free lunch.

Teen suicide rate is also on the increase again. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 15 and 24 and the second leading cause of death among 25-34 year olds. Males are four times as likely to take their own lives as are females.

I wonder what correlation there is between those who are pro-guns, anti-gay, anti-healthcare reform, anti-welfare, pro marriage for heterosexuals only, pro death penalty and believe that corporal punishment would bring peace back into the public school classroom.

The animosity toward gay and lesbian couples wanting to marry might be more understandable if it were truly a conviction based upon faith but it isn't. It is a smear campaign based upon a mass of lies. If I marry my partner, it will not affect one single marriage in this world negatively. Rather, from my partnership, another couple might even find hope in our love for one another.

No one is going to teach "homosexuality" in school. Shoot, they don't even teach heterosexuality in school…maybe if they did, the teen birth rate would not be increasing again. Kids adopted by gay or lesbian couples are no more likely to turn out gay than if raised by the biological parents. No one can teach someone to be gay…and furthermore – WHY THE HELL WOULD THEY WANT TO? Why would anyone "choose" to be gay????? Choose to be discriminated against? Choose to be vilified, demonized, humiliated…beaten to death??? Get real. Please.

Marriage by gays and lesbians will probably not change the statistics for divorce at all. The few studies done so far show that gay or lesbian couples are just as likely to break up for all the same reasons as do straight couples…life happens and people change and it is easier to divorce than it is to try to reconcile differences. It's that I, ME, MINE thing again working overtime. Gays and lesbians are no different than straight people.

Gay couples and lesbian couples will continue to marry when and where they can; they will continue to live together till death do they part; they will continue to raise children – either their own or those children no one else wants – and they will continue to live outside of the closet…regardless of whether or not other people want them to do so. They will continue to live, love, work, play, pray and just be…even if it makes other people uncomfortable.

Best I can tell, what we need to worry about is the children – not just our own selfish concerns for our own but for the children of this nation. They are wounded and we are the ones inflicting the wounds.

We are seriously failing the test of a "moral society."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Out of sync but working on it

Joy and sadness blend to a point that it is difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins. I know I feel joy that the Diocese of Fort Worth is about to ordain its first woman priest. I know I am absolutely elated that she will be the first woman rector of a parish in Fort Worth.

The Rev. Susan Slaughter will be ordained a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth on November 15, 2009. My heart sings out in joy for her and for the people of St. Luke's.

Sadly, I will not be able to be a part of the celebration. I am in St. Louis, Diocese of Missouri.

I am here in Missouri because of the Diocese of Fort Worth. I am now in discernment with a committee at my parish. It is now in the process of writing the report and I in writing my autobiographical sketch and vision statement. God willing, I will soon be recommended to my bishop and to the Commission on Ministry as a candidate for the priesthood.

I remember the first time I went to my rector of the moment to tell him how I felt called into a deeper form of ministry. He reminded me that there were many avenues open to me. I could do all the things that I was currently doing – altar guild, Episcopal Church Women, Food Bank and went on to name a few more. He reminded me that was a lot and that perhaps I should accept it as enough. He did, however, give me one thing which I have carried with me for these past 6 years. He suggested that I prayerfully discern why God would be calling as a woman, as a lesbian at that particular time in that particular place. I don't know that he fully understood the profundity of his statement yet I did.

After the election of Bishop Gene Robinson and Fort Worth's first move to break from the Episcopal Church, we left our beloved little parish of Christ the King. There was just too much division over my having stood up at the specially called diocesan convention and spoke out against all the vitriolic statements being made again Bishop Gene Robinson in particular and gays and lesbians in general. We left our parish because to stay meant to be the reason for a split within the parish.

We decided to attend Trinity on the southwest side of Fort Worth. We thought it was large enough for us to get lost in. Yet we found a new family in the small folk service. Over the next couple of years we began to heal.

I remember the second time I went to a rector in Fort Worth with my thoughts that God was calling me into an ordained ministry. That one believed me and tried to help. But he knew the odds. I had already made a name for myself by standing up at that convention and by writing publicly what I believed to be the truth about the Diocese of Fort Worth. Plus I was a co-founder of Fort Worth Via Media, a group intent upon remaining within the Episcopal Church in full contradiction of what the diocese of the time was intending. In addition to that, by 2006, I was also on the board of IntegrityUSA. None of these things endeared me to then-bishop Jack Iker.

Nonetheless, my rector said that he would be willing to go to the bishop with me and for me, recommending that I be considered for the diaconate. Since he wasn't sure so sure about gays and lesbians being bishops, this was a fairly big deal on his part.

Yet, it just was not something that I could do…not at that point…not at that time. I just could not sign anything that said I would never seek the priesthood, that I would agree to a permanent diaconate. There was no moral way at that time that I could have answered, "I am ready and willing to do so" to the question "And will you, in accordance with the canons of this Church, obey your bishop and other ministers who may have authority over you and your work?" As far as the infamous "Dallas Plan" was concerned, the fact that I was living within a partnership kept that from ever being a possibility. Shoot, I wasn't even allowed to be a part of the Cursillo team because I was living with Debbie. There was no way people in Dallas would accept me as a candidate for the priesthood.

So, it was through a long period of discernment that my spiritual advisor and I worked and prayed to find another way. And so I am, here in St. Louis with my little family, Debbie, Tucker and our two dogs. Through discernment, we sold our farm, our animals, and left our parents, my grandmother, our children and our precious grandchildren and headed to Missouri.

So, I won't be in Fort Worth for Deacon Susan's ordination. But I will be rejoicing…and crying…joy mixed with sadness. But somehow I believe that by November 15, the joy will outweigh the sadness.

It will be a new day in Fort Worth. It won't be my day but it will be a very good day.

Monday, October 05, 2009

A Reflection given at the Celebration of Creation: the Feast of St. Francis at Christ Church Cathedral, St. Louis October 4, 2009

"As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark." (Genesis 9:9-10)

And here we are, in 2009, and we still marvel at a rainbow after a storm, the "bow" that was placed in the sky as evidence of the promise made by God to the beloved people and to all the animals of the earth.

We are here today with more evidence of God's love – our pets— to bless these faithful companions of ours. I am sure that God smiles in love at each one of our precious friends – at the love we hold for them and even more so for the unconditional love that they hold for us.

The break neck speed at which we live our lives hardly leaves time for a pet yet there they are …always glad to see us …always ready for us to be with them…they make the most of every moment we give them.

They seem to realize that in spite of our daily anxieties, our frustrations, the time spent away… their job is to love us…regardless… faithfully… steadfastedly….

Sort of like the love that God holds for us – unconditional… faithful… steadfast…

There are many things that we can learn from these faithful companions so it seems important to recognize this love today and to turn some of it back their way.

In that most individuals of the world are not able to have the luxury of pets for the sole purpose of loving them, we need to be especially thankful for this point of privilege in our lives. And it is a point of privilege.

"An estimated 16,000 children die from hunger –related causes every day." …Even in our city that has so much poverty, it is difficult to imagine children starving to death. Yet it is real in far too many places.

In many parts of the world, one animal can mean the difference between life and death. A goat, a cow, or flock of chickens – these are more than pets… if we can imagine the idea of "more than a pet."

These animals are capable of making the difference between poverty and self-sufficiency – the literal difference between life and death.

[If you want a chance to learn more about giving an animal to someone across the world…to someone who needs us to make that difference check out the Episcopal Relief and Development web site – www.er-d.org/giftsforlife.]

We live in a time that calls for radical change. It is a time of transformation, of deliberately learning how to give love rather than just be recipients of love…of learning how to love regardless…faithfully…steadfastedly…

God put these animals in our care. With all the animal abuse and puppy mills in the news lately, one can wonder just why God chose to trust us with these precious gifts. But they have lessons for us to learn.

As a part of the process of transformation – from these animals, whether we have them for our own love-and-be-loved-selves or whether we give one in an effort to make a difference, these animals teach us what it is to be selfless…what it is to love without thought of self…what it is to be faithful.

They give us comfort…they recognize our moods…they can even save our lives…they offer themselves to us wholly during our times of happiness or sorrow. They will give us everything they can…

Like God, all they want from us in return is our love…

Our animals are about to receive a blessing. In that moment and forever more, let us realize them for the blessings that they are. Amen.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Today...

I wanted to blog about this morning's lectionary...in particular, Paul's letter to the Philippians...most particularly this part:

"I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ; and most of the brothers and sisters,having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear." (http://bible.oremus.org/?passage=Philippians+1:12-30)

For some reason, when I read this, I immediately thought about the big blather against Health Care Reform and most especially about the psuedo-intellectual crap about President Obama's speech to the school children today. (Which I don't know about yours, but mine did not get to watch the address)

Well, I just haven't had the time today to do it. But I was thinking about the two things: the idea that something that seems bad, even evil, might actually be a good thing, might even be the work of God working in those weird and wacky ways that God has of acting sometimes.

Maybe all these people who are so absolutely nuts, screaming and ranting and raving about "socialistic" ideas and "indoctrination," maybe...just maybe people - ordinary people just going about the daily chore of living - maybe these people will suddenly stop and say What the >>>>>! And maybe they will think that these ranters and ravers are actually as dangerous as they seem to be to me right now. In their realization of the danger, maybe they will start to think that it is time to put a stop to this nonsense.

Because when someone actually stops to think about it, the chances are that they will realize how ridiculous these people appear to be. It, hopefully, will become clear that rather than being one of the Haves, many of the people who haven't had time to think about health care and presidents speeches are more than likely a big part of the Have-nots. And when they do start to think...well, all those ranters and ravers best watch out. Perhaps even a few of the ranter/ravers will sit down and shut up.

Gosh, I wish I had time to write about this...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

“Invest Wisely in a Woman Today”

“The liberation of women could help solve many of the world’s problems, from poverty to child mortality to terrorism.”

This is the lead in to a news story from the New York Times found here. It is a great story and one with which I agree.

However, on my mind for the past few weeks has been the dilemma of public school and education in our own hometowns. This is mainly due to the fact that we have a thirteen year old in 8th grade in the Saint Louis Public Schools.

Living in Texas, rural Texas at that, we were well aware of the problems of public school and the inadequacies to meet both the red tape for the state and the needs of the child. The whole idea is rather oxymoronic, actually. (if that is a word) One cannot meet both the needs of a bureaucracy which is wasteful and self absorbed and the needs of a child who is under nourished both emotionally and physically.

Then there was Dallas. Its public school district had extreme problems. Most problems seemed to be between the growing Hispanic population and the Black population which was feeling very jilted due to the rapid growth of the Hispanic population. Dallas was under threat of losing their accreditation when we left Texas. I have heard similar horror stories of New York City. I can actually speak to the issues here in Saint Louis.

The schools here serve a major purpose -- they feed kids twice per day and keep kids off of the street. At the magnet school Tucker attends, the attendance rate is fairly good -- around 92%. That means that a great number of city kids get at least two meal per day. During summer there is a summer session - although they have classes, this session is again a source of food and busy work for many of those attending.

Anyone who has any type of money or religious connections in St. Louis has their child in either a private or parochial school. IF a child must be in public school, then the only option is to be in a magnet school. IF a child has provable test scores showing that the child has an IQ above 120 then that special child can go into the special magnet school for gifted kids. If not, so sorry, too bad. If you are poor white, poor black, or pink or blue...you are stuck with what is available. Tough stuff.

The kids have to go through metal detectors each and every single day. They cannot carry their backpacks from class to class. They can't even take their books home at night UNLESS there is a specific assignment that they must have the book to complete. Otherwise, the books stay in the classroom. So many rules. Still, bullying and fighting go on. It is difficult if there is a child (or dozens) who have one special need or another. It is mob control at its best. It is chaos or hell to those who do not do well with confusion and noise.

Ok, so why did this article trigger this little bit of rhetoric?

Because we have a crisis in the US that is a disaster in the making. We are cultivating an elite group of well heeled educated young people. We are cultivating a large group of undereducated minorities. We are developing a ruling class and a class waiting to be ruled. Yes, this has been going on for a long time but look at where it is happening -- in the largest cities in the US -- NYC, St. Louis, Dallas...I know these for sure. I would imagine that the same is true for Chicago, LA, Houston and oh so many more.

What are we doing to our children? Will women in Burundi or Pakistan save our children in the US? Why can't we work at the liberation of the women in the US – the "mules of society" as Zora Neale Hurston called them -- the Black women of the United States? What woes would be cured if they did not have the difficulties they have? How are their problems any more their own fault than are the problems of the women in Burundi, et al?

And then, let us talk about the Latina women all over the US. What about them? How many educated Hispanics do any of us know? How many even finish high school? The dropout age for a Latina in Texas happens around the 9th grade. College is only a dream for them.

And then, when we are finished talking about the "minorities" which are not really minor at all, how about all those women in impoverished rural areas? What about the women of Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi or Louisiana?

What about these women of all colors in the US? What about them? Or do we expect them, since they live in the great United States of America, to just pull themselves up by their own bootstraps out of the muck and mire?

If women are so vital to the health and well being of our world – and I do agree that they are – how could they help this situation of our undereducated masses? What could they change if they were given the chance? Could they stop the disaster that is building?

I am not against these programs that help women all over the world. It is good and of course, whatever good is done in one place will radiate good from that point.

I’m just saying…instead of shaking our heads and shrugging our shoulders about the women in our own cities and towns, why don’t we “invest wisely” in all of them today? It might solve the whole problem here in our public education systems. Then look how many there would be to help in other parts of the world.

Friday, August 14, 2009

"O God of Justice and Compassion"

“O God of justice and compassion, who put down the proud and the mighty from their place, and lift up the poor and afflicted: We give you thanks for your faithful witness Jonathan Myrick Daniels, who, in the midst of injustice and violence, risked and gave his life for another; and we pray that we, following his example, may make no peace with oppression; through Jesus Christ the just one: who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.”

http://satucket.com/lectionary/Jonathan_Daniels.htm

Psalm 85:7-13, Galatians 3:22-28, Luke 1:46-55

On August 14, 1965, the day Jonathan Daniels was arrested for picketing local businesses, I was twelve days from turning twelve years old. Many things were changing in my young life, but the issue of Civil Rights was not one of them. The death of a white boy in Alabama did not have much chance of resonating in my pre-teen rural Texas life. I lived on a ranch outside of Comanche, Texas. The town was very white oriented, even to the point of the big tree on the square referred to more often than not as the “Hanging Tree.”

The official myth behind the tree was that long ago it stood there during a raid by a group of Comanche Indians on the little settlement. Every person in the town was killed that day, except for one boy. He had the foresight to climb high in the tree and was quiet enough to be invisible to those trying to rid the land of the white interlopers. That is the official story of the tree. Yet, to its shame, it was also the site of numerous hangings of young black men further along in history.

It is not as though I was unaware of injustice. I knew it for what it was. It lived in many instances of everyday life. Yet the news of Jonathan Myrick Daniels’ death in Alabama did not penetrate my reality.

Playing the game of ‘What If?’ is rarely a worthwhile thing to play. Yet, if I did play it, I would like to think that had I known, had I been just a little older, I would have been motivated much as Jon Daniels was.

But that was then and it hardly matters what I might have done had I the chance. The only question worth asking today is, “What am I doing now?”

Often, I think – a lot! But always, at my core, I know it is not THE thing and it is far, far from enough.

I do not know what call lies ahead of me. But I do believe this: “the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.” (Galatians 3:23-26) Therefore I am subject first and foremost to my faith that God will guide me, today, tomorrow and the next.

So, I know the answer.

It has to be the same as Jonathan Daniels’, “I knew then that I must go…”

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cravings and Faith

Exodus 16:2-4,9-15

Psalm 78:23-29

John 6:24-35

When Debbie, Tucker and I set out on our pilgrimage in the summer of 2007, we left with the words of the Gospels deep in our hearts and steady on our minds." take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff."

What we had was enough. Our faith in God alone was enough.

Fully believing that God was calling us to travel across this church and this land as a "face" of a non-traditional family of faith – two moms and their son – we sold most of what we had, gave away a lot more and put that which we thought we would need later into storage. We took off in our old motorhome and set about trying to live into what we perceived to be God's will for us.

Believing so strongly, hearing so clearly this call from God…still…we continually needed signs that yes, indeed, we were on the right path. Still…even though we had more than enough and were so full of passion that we touched people strongly enough with our story that they gave us love offerings to help continue our journey…still…we worried and fretted about how long, Oh Lord, how long would we have enough.

We are all such worrisome creatures. It seems to be against our human nature to be free of worry. It is a wonder that God has not throw up those proverbial hands and cried out in dismay "I want to start all over!" How we must frustrate the will of God every day!

I find some solace in my questioning and doubt when I read these passages from Exodus, Psalms and John. Paul seems to be the only apostle to have ever fully understand the whole of God's plan. Love one another and live as though this is our very last day. That, to me, is Paul's message throughout his letters. Oh, if we could only wrap our human hearts around that idea!

We crave so many things. Emotionally we are so immature in our faith. We are very similar to the Israelites in the wilderness. We resemble so closely those followers of Jesus who seem to work at being ignorant.

The days of the Israelites' liberation from captors are so clearly forgotten that being bound to Egypt seems more appealing than suffering what they think is too little from God. They cannot see the freedom that lies ahead…only what they have left behind…and this they obviously see through rose-colored glasses forgetting all the bad parts.

They ask for bread and and voila! A fine flaky substance appears on the ground for them from which they can make the bread. Yet they look at it and ask, "What is it?" Unable to recognize the very thing they asked for, they have to be told, "It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat." Because it is not in the form that they recognize and perhaps not the exact thing for which they asked, they can't see it for what it is…not only a gift from God but one which will sustain them.

Psalm 78 tells of all that God did for the people: they ask for bread and it is given to them. The bread was not enough so they ask for meat and it is sent to them. They eat and are filled after receiving everything for which they ask – those things for which they crave. Yet we know, if we read past verse 29, they continue their cravings nonetheless.

When we read the Gospel of John, is it any wonder that Jesus sounds a bit cross or irritated at those continually chasing after him? Here they are, following him everywhere, hanging on every word, yet still unable to understand. The followers of Jesus have everything before them that would heal their craving yet they constantly seem confused, unaware, blind to that gift from God, that water of life, the bread of heaven.

Jacob did not give the Israelites the well that provided them with water; Moses did not give them the bread from heaven. All these things came from God alone. Jacob and Moses were merely the instruments of God's will. Jesus tries to get it across to his followers that the signs are nothing – we cannot base our belief in the signs.

The people have to SEE or touch to believe. Without these tangible signs, all they are is just full for the moment. Jesus is all about eternity, not the moment.

Going through the discernment process right now, I am constantly faced with the desire to see a sign that all is well; that the call that I feel is truly from God.

During the pilgrimage that we were on, we continually asked ourselves if we were doing the right thing.

Why do we have to KNOW? What is this DOUBT? Is it so illogical to believe in this thing we call Holy Scripture?

Why are we so afraid to live beyond the margins of human logic to follow that profound understanding deep in our hearts – that place I believe that God resides within us? Our minds long to believe the words of Jesus, "Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believe in me will never be thirsty." But our ability to reason tells us that this is impossible. Of course, we will get hungry and thirsty, regardless of how much we want to believe. Logic tells us that it is ridiculous to leave everything, give up all ties to the certain and walk into that faith that God will provide; God will lead. We want to believe the story about the lilies and the birds. We need to believe that all we have to do is ask and we will receive.

This was proven to us at every stop along our pilgrimage – people want to believe. They listened to us from Ohio to California. They wanted to do what they believed we were doing. They felt our passion and yet they recognized our fear. It was the recognition of that fear and their belief that we continued in spite of it that grabbed their attention.

Walking in faith is not about walking without fear. It is about walking in faith in spite of the fear – the logic that tells us we are about to fall off the end of the earth, that we are walking into the unknown, into a definite uncertainty. Walking in faith is about following even when others question our good sense; it is about taking one more step with the only certainty being the belief in our hearts that God is with us.

No wonder the Israelites complained about the weird stuff on the ground. Logic told them is was nothing usable. I completely understand the questions from the people following Jesus – how did you get across the sea; where did the bread and fish come from; what else are you going to do that will help us believe? I doubt there is one among us who would not have felt the same way as all of these people.

We will continue at times to allow logic to overrule our hearts. It is just our way. God knows that. But it is also God that calls us into the unknown, to continue on even though we may be afraid. It is Jesus who tells us, "Do not be afraid." We cannot let our fear hold us hostage. Fear is natural…even logical. But God is bigger.

That is when that prayer comes into play; "Feed on him in our hearts with thanksgiving."

Logic is human and so is fear. To live in Jesus and to feed on him in our hearts is so much bigger.

We have the signs. These are plentiful. We just need to remember to remember.

Jesus is that water by which we will never again thirst. Jesus is that bread for which we will never again hunger.

And all we can do is to continue to pray just as the people following Jesus did, "give us this bread…always."

Monday, July 27, 2009

“Warning”

Long ago (at least, it seems a long time ago), prior to entering into this strange process of discerning God's will for me in particular, I felt the call to step outside of myself to engage in activities that tested the boundaries that I had drawn so carefully around me. Of course, most of this experimentation went on in my mind rather than in any actual doing or being.

One poem struck me, stayed with me and remains on my desk today: Jenny Joseph's poem which begins with the line "When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple." The actual name of the poem is "Warning."

When I first read it, I did not consider myself any way close to an "old woman". I suppose many would say (me included on some days) that I am much closer to that label now than I was then. The poem seemed to me to be courageous, something that I never felt I could do…ever.

I was a timid child, almost to the point of being socially paralyzed. I know that not many believe it now but it was true then. Seriously!

I overcame that so far as being able to speak out, yet inside, stepping outside of what I knew, it was just not something that I could do. It affected many parts of my life, stalling me in many ways.

I grew up wanting to be a missionary preacher but by the time I was old enough to do that, the church as I knew it and I had already parted ways...not that I could have even had I stayed. I thought about the Peace Corp but when it got right down to thinking seriously about going into a foreign country with total strangers, I was struck numb.

I suppose that falling in love with Debbie gave me more courage than I could ever have imagined. Having something to stand up for gave me a sense of being that I had never before felt. Living into what I am became a bigger reality than living within the boundaries that I had drawn around myself. Leaping over the fences created by me, I realized another barrier: I had built my fences within a perimeter defined by society. Yet with my newfound courage built by love, I was able to see that the barriers were human made, not ones created by God.

Isn't it strange how difficult it is to break out of our own self-imposed limitations yet how much easier it is to strain against the confines of a ruling body? When we set our own limitations, we justify these with all sorts of excuses – I am too young/old, short/tall, skinny/fat, poor/rich, tired/busy – any excuse will do and is set in the concrete of our individual minds. Yet restrictions set by somebody else's moral code, even if that someone else is society at large, can easily be deemed judgmental, harsh and in great need of change.

The major difference, I suppose, is that the first fence is the one we set and deep inside of us, we know we can break it down when and if we need to do so. It is as much of a protection fence as it is a limiting one. But when others set restrictions upon us, we feel that bile begin to back up in our throats, burning, causing great discomfort. We can try to adjust our lives to that point at which we can live within the limits but the problem is always there. The only way to rid ourselves of the discomfort is to address the thing causing the problem. That means changing something in our lives.

The problem is this: unless we are highly motivated to change, we are afraid to live into our imagination. Because we are afraid of change, we are not able to eliminate our own boundaries much less recognize the limitations set by a society living in fear of that which could be. If we are not able to embrace change as a good thing, we cannot grow. And of course, we all know that if we do not grow, we become stagnant and begin to wither and die.

While I have much growing to do, I am no longer stunted. I do not want to wait until I am an old woman to realize that I can live into my imaginings – more honest than that – I can not wait to live into God's imaginings FOR me. I may not wear a "red" hat or spend my pennies on brandy or summer gloves and such, but I can live my life in a manner which defies "normal" common logic. For I believe God's will for me is nowhere near what can be perceived as common, logical or "normal".

Warning

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Jenny Joseph (1961)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Repeat

This is a sermon that I gave on March 1, 2008 in Fort Worth, Texas at a local nondenominational church on the occasion of Dr. Louie Crew visiting Integrity Fort Worth. We met in the nondenom church because then-bishop Jack Iker would not allow the word "Integrity" to be used if we met at Trinity Episcopal parish. Still, to this day, Integrity Fort Worth is not allowed to meet in an Episcopal parish in Fort Worth even though many good things are happening there.

In one of the hearings today at General Convention, one of the deputies took great pause at the idea that the Church is to blame for those crimes committed against LGBT people. I was reminded of this sermon that I delivered at that time. I think that it is still far too appropriate.

BGC


 


 

For Once You Were Darkness

God told Jeremiah to tell the people, "For surely I know the plans I have for you,… plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, … and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, … and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

I open with this message in Jeremiah 29: 11-14 even though it is not one of the readings for today. I use it as my email signature because it means so much to me. It gives me hope that one day this church, this Episcopal diocese in particular will be well and all those who have been driven out and sent away into exile will return. Meanwhile, it helps me to remember to trust God that the plans for my future, my welfare are clearly known, even if it is to God alone.

I have searched for God…I have sought God with all of my heart and I will one day be ready to be brought back into the place from which I have been driven away and sent into exile. So… I speak today from that place – in exile…a goodly place because I have been welcomed there but definitely not home – at least not yet.

Many of you know that Debbie, Tucker and I have been on a pilgrimage for the past eight months. We sold our home, our land and a whole lot of stuff and set out in an old motor home to hear what the Spirit is saying to the People of God. While we are still traveling, we have left behind the old motor home and are in the process of relocating to the Diocese of Missouri… to St. Louis, in particular so that I can enter into the process of ordination. Ordination is a little bit out of the question in Fort Worth in that first, I am female, second – a lesbian and third – in a monogamous committed, long term relationship.

Even though we are sort of settling down for a while, we still travel, speaking by invitation to those who invite us come visit their parishes, groups or workshops. Two weeks ago, we were in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, at the invitation of the University of the Pacific in Stockton. We were asked to lead a workshop about our Journey in Faith. The University was sponsoring a conference for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex folk and their allies.

There were quite a few workshops dealing with issues that relate to LGBTQIA people – health, legalities of partnerships, marriage, civil unions, tax laws, spirituality, and faith. Does it surprise anyone that the workshops regarding faith were less attended that the ones on legal and health issues?

What does the church have to say to a bunch of lgbtqia people between the ages of 17 and 30? The "traditional" interpretation of the Word of God is a bit harsh to this group. And they, being the age that they are, are of a mind that if the Church doesn't need them, they certainly don't need the church.

I can't help but sometimes think that theirs is the far healthier attitude. I often wonder what is wrong with those of us who do subject ourselves week after week to the possibility…no the probability of being mortally "wounded in the house of a friend" yet one more time… yet, like a phoenix we keep rising and coming back for more. …OR… it is more like we are caught up in the too familiar cycle of abuse – spiritual abuse, in this case.

I would guess that statistics would show that most young people who have been raised in the church do a bit of backsliding when suddenly they are without the rules and regulations of family life and experiencing life on their own for the first time. If the church can't even hold on to these young strait people, how can it possibly reach out to the young people who are coming into a fuller understanding of what it means to be classified as an "abomination" in the eyes of the public?

I want to say to the Church at large, "Sleeper Awake…Live as children of light for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true."

I want to find ways to reach out to these young people who think that the church has no need of them. I want to help them understand that they are the fruit of the light and they are good and right and true.

At the workshop that we led, there were a couple of very important questions that were asked by those attending. "What do I tell my gay friend when he says to me that he doesn't believe in God"? and "How do I respond biblically when those people toss scripture at me to tell me how horrible I am?"

These are certainly two questions that we have failed to answer well enough. Maybe it is because we are unsure in our own minds as to the answers.

WHY does hellfire and damnation preach easier than "and God said, It is good"? Why is it easier to swallow certain passages from Leviticus and Romans than it is to talk about the love between David and Jonathan or Ruth and Naomi or even of Jesus and the Beloved Disciple? These are love stories…affirming stories…stories that make us see the world in a different way. Why are we so afraid of these? Why are we even thinking about sex? It is supposed to be about Love…For strange puritanical reasons, we think it is easier to scare our children into believing in God than it is to love them into it.

I am sure that most people here know the high rate of suicide amongst teenagers who are growing into the sense of just how different they seem to be in relation to the rest of their world. It is in these younger years that the risk of suicide is so much higher. How culpable is the church in these preventable deaths? Ask Mary Lou Wallner, now with SoulForce and recently in the documentary "For the Bible tells me so" -- Ask her what part the Church played in the suicide of Anna, her lesbian Christian daughter.

We all know the name Matthew Shepard. And now, too recently, Lawrence King, a just turned 15 year old middle school youth shot in the head by another mother's son because Lawrence sometimes dressed too femininely…two families torn to shreds…two lives lost.

What part did our silence or the limited acceptance of the Church play in these murders?

I say it played a lot. And I will say more.

Where is our RAGE? Where is our Righteous Indignation?

As long as we allow ourselves to think that we are not Good, as long as we allow gay people, young or older, to think that the Church has no need of them, as long as the Church remains silent or even less than adamant about all the children being children of God, until this Church stands up and loudly proclaims THIS FEAR IS WRONG, preventable suicides and murders will continue. Until we teach our children how to love rather than how to hate, these deaths will happen.

So, what role do we, as gay and lesbian Christians, play in all of this? We have a big role. Are we to just play the victim, hiding in the dark, trying not to rock the strait boat in case we suddenly find ourselves tossed out? Are we to allow others to decide for us the proper course of action – talking about us rather than to us or rather than letting us talk?

How can we defend ourselves if we don't even know if we are defendable? We cannot allow others to set the stage for our acceptance. We have to find our own way. We must find our way through love stories that affirm our right to life. And these stories are there…and these begin with that story of creation – And God said, It is Good.

The Rev. Steven Kindle, a Disciples of Christ minister who is also a part of the documentary "For the Bible Tells Me so", is really a fairly awesome guy. We met him in California. He is straight, married, with no gay children. His only "gay agenda" being that he is working hard to help the Church understand that gays and lesbians wanting to be a part of the church is a good thing…not a bad one. He openly admitted that he was initially homophobic. His mind was changed by knowing gays and lesbians within the congregation that he was in. His life changed by realizing their gifts to the church and as he realized these gifts he realized he was being called to help. As he was speaking, I couldn't help but hear in my mind, The Gifts of God for the People of God.

Think about it…not taking anything away from straight people, but good grief…Can you imagine the silence in the national Episcopal Church alone, in THIS diocese if all the gays and lesbians in the church decided to skip one Sunday? The silence would be deafening! Seriously, the liturgy, the homilies, the music – written and played, the vestments...so quiet, so bare if these gifts of God were denied. Yet what harm is done on a daily basis by asking these gifts to hide in that closet or to be good little boys and girls and don't make any trouble? We make the music, we write the songs and sew the linens, we even preach in some places…but don't get too uppity…don't be thinking about a long term monogamous relationship being blessed in the church and heaven forbid that we might have the sacrament of Holy Matrimony performed…and then of course, don't forget the celibacy vow we must take if we are called to serve God in God's church.

We are children of God…but definitely children of a lesser god…according to many.

Truly, this is spiritual abuse.

So, no…we are not to hide in a closet – not for any reason, ever. We are not to play the victim for sure! We cannot stifle our gifts from God simply because some people are not comfortable with us. We cannot wait any longer. Bishop Iker of this Episcopal Diocese told someone that I liked to create furor. I can think of few higher compliments for someone trying to follow Jesus. I think that creating furor is exactly what we are called to do in this Church. Jesus did. Jesus questioned the rules that excluded some over others. Can we do less? Will it cost us? Yes, it costs a lot. Yet it is the cloak that we have been given to wear. We cannot set it aside or cast it off. It is part of the gift.

Our role is that of protector…prophet…as a Child of the Light so that others might know us by that very Light – so that others may see their own way by that Light.

The church needs us. It needs our gifts.

We need the church. We need to share our gifts.

We need the gifts that the Church has to offer.

We need our youth – gay and straight alike. They are the gifts of the present and of the future.

The Church needs this future.

It is time to "Sing to the Lord a new song"…because the one that has been sung for too long is hate-filled. And as the Gifts of God, it is up to us to teach the church how to sing this new song!

Amen

What She Said!

I have to share just a couple of my thoughts about this General Convention. Just a couple.

I, like others who are getting a bit worried about this church we claim, am feeding a bit on the anxiety caused by the bishops who seem to be pontificating and posturing. I am fearful that they will not be guided by the Holy Spirit; rather, I fear that they will put far too much into what the Archbishop said.

The Archbishop has an agenda.

The bishops seems to have an agenda.

So do I.

While I know that Christianity is a religion that began with martyrdom and continues throughout that same idea, I know many people, myself included, who are kind of tired of BEING sacrificed for the sake of unity.

If I choose to die for my belief in my God, MY belief in Jesus, well then, that is my choice. But when YOU decide to sacrifice me on that unholy altar of unity, that could be called a crime in the secular world if literally carried out.

So, bishops, how about this? How about you work at something different since this sacrificing humans thing was sort of given up a long time ago -- how about if you actually work at including me and so many thousands more? You worry about the numbers in the church. It does not take a rocket scientist to realize that if we open up our doors ALL THE WAY to the LGBT people seeking spiritual homes, our numbers might increase hugely!!

Why not try it?

While you are thinking about it which I know the millions who read this blog have to be doing simply because I said so, go to http://www.episcopalchurch.org/79901_112351_ENG_HTM.htm and watch http://walkingwithintegrity.blogspot.com/ because I am sure that another article about What She Said will appear soon.

Meanwhile, imagine a House of Bishops full of people like Barbara Harris!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

“Time to Face the Change”

I am changing.

Every day there is something different. I don't think this is a new thing. I just believe it is something that I am beginning to more clearly recognize.

I haven't been very faithful to this blog as of late. I haven't been very faithful to any writing actually. That is one thing that is changing.

There was a reason why I backed out of going to General Convention. I had all sorts of excuses, each and every one of them valid. Regardless of those excuses, there was a more important one.

I believe that this Church cannot be the primary focus of my life right now. I will definitely follow what is going on at General Convention and on a few blogs. I may even say something now and again. But it cannot be my focus. There are plenty of talented writers who are out there blogging their hearts out…my rant does not need to be added.

I don't think I clearly understood why I should not be at GC 09 although there were lots of little reasons why not. I just knew that I could not do it. Our friend David, inadvertently or Spirit-led helped me find that clarity. I think the thing that bothered me most was being a part of something and not being able to finish it. That is what happened to me with Fort Worth and the changes there. Now here it is again with my final months with Integrity – just not being able to be at GC to be a part of the major work that will be done there by people of Integrity. Although I was a bit anxious about not being there, I am ok now.

So, faithful friends and occasional readers, I will not be posting very often for a while. During the time of General Convention, I am going to do two things very deliberately: 1) Pray without ceasing for all the deputies, all the bishops and all those whose well being depend upon the decisions coming out of Anaheim. I will pray that these decision makers will open their hearts to the Holy Spirit and let her guide, push, prod them into understanding and enlightenment, whatever that may be. I will pray that each and every deputy and bishop fully realizes the impact that this diminishing church has on the rest of the world. And I will pray for them to understand that LGBT people are watching and waiting anxiously for a chance to be full members of this so called body of Christ. It will continue to be a so called body of Christ until all persons are welcomed. 2) I will work on the manuscript that has been sitting idle in my computer. Taking the wonderful suggestions of my friend Liz, over the next three weeks, I will whittle this unwieldy tome into something that is worthy of being published.

I think that I have my work cut out for me. While I will not be busy at GC, I will be busy here doing the work that has been given me to do. It may not be the magnitude of the work being done at GC but it is my work and I know that it is important.

Be safe. Be well. Love one another. Pray.

I'll be around…just gotta get some things done. Catch you later, alligator!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Oh My Goodness…The Audacity…

Judge Sonia Sotomayor had the unmitigated gall ( in 2001) to suggest that a "wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life". The nerve…the chutzpah…the cajones (which actually means "drawers" in Spanish).

Oh, my, how dare she offer the idea that a Latina woman – wise or otherwise – might have a better take on a situation simply because of everything she is – a Latina and wise because of her experience – than a male who is privileged simply by the fact that not only is he male but he is white.

If I had a vote, which I don't because who I am not, after all…simply a common person who would never have the money to run for any type of office…IF I had a vote, Judge Sonia Sotomayor would have it simply because she had the unmitigated nerve to speak the truth out loud and proud.

Shame on President Barack Obama who should, by the simple fact that he is a man of color and supposedly understands oppression, for trying to "defuse some of the tension" by stating that her statement was a poor choice of words.

Not to piss off every white male I know and love, but, come on…oppression makes people look at life from a different perspective. It just does. Ask any woman…any woman of color…any Latina…

Can we really claim racism here? Or just honesty?

Let's be honest. For a change.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/15/us/15judge.html

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/44/2009/05/29/white_house_calls_sotomayor_co.html

Thursday, June 04, 2009

No More Seasons of Waiting

I would like to ask all those who suggest that some of us wait “for a season” to do the same. How convenient it is for “distinguished theologians” to ask us plain old gays, lesbians, families and friends to wait for a season as they determine our worth, our dignity, our love. They are labeled “distinguished” as we are labeled queer and sinners. They wax philosophically from their throne on high while our children suffer the taunts and abuse of those who justify the hate by the Church’s stance on “homosexuality”. People are hunted down and beaten simply because they are gay – and the “distinguished theologians” want two more years to talk about their ideas on same sex marriage and blessings. Is this what is meant by the sins of the fathers being visited upon the children???

Approximately three years ago , our newly elected Presiding Bishop (who happens to be a woman), asked the gay and lesbian part of the Episcopal Church to hang on for “a season” as we entered into the time of the BO33 stench in hopes that it would lead to a more positive time at Lambeth. What positive affect BO33 had on anything can hardly be determined simply because those who were already in the process of schisming continued on with their schismatic actions. But the negative effect can easily be measured. It can be measured in each and every gay and lesbian Episcopalian couples’ life together…and their children’s…and even in the lives of all those who love them.

Now we are once again being asked to abide for “a season” – this season to last two years. Who cares what the names of the people are on the committee? Who cares if any of them are gay or lesbian? Not me. It matters not a whit to me.

What matters to me is that they still cannot make up their “distinguished” minds. Perhaps the question is so simple that these learned ones, these great thinkers are not able to understand the child-like language – What part of respecting the dignity every human do they not understand? Perhaps it is the word dignity…if dignity means the innate right to respect and ethical treatment, wouldn’t dignity of every human who is baptized be a part of the sharing in the sacraments -- ALL the sacraments, not just one or two?

And in 2011…what then? Are we to be asked one more time to wait “for a season?” Rather than gays and lesbians waiting any longer - or women or people of all other colors than white - how about all of you who claim so "distinguished" role of judging wait until judgment day to let your opinion be known?

Meanwhile, for all the rest of us, I suggest that everyone go find their copy of “Why We Can’t Wait” by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Don’t wait any longer – go…NOW.

[for more information regarding the source of this waiting, please go to http://www.episcopalcafe.com/lead/bishops/secret_theology_committee_stud.html and to http://inchatatime.blogspot.com/2009/06/update-on-closeted-committee-ghosts-of.html]

Enticer or Enticed?

So many important things are going on in the world at this time…world? Heck, I can't keep up with the country, much less the world! But so many things are happening – good and bad and anxiety fed.

It seems that I get a lot of my news from what is currently causing a ruckus on the House of Bishops and Deputies listserv or on Facebook. A couple of sure things that will always get a good boil going are same sex marriage (aka gay rights/justice) and abortion.

Times of stress and anxiety are not new to the world. These things are historical and basically just a part of life. How we deal with our anxiety levels is the issue.

Yesterday's reading from Deuteronomy (13:1-11) gave me great pause. Not only are we cautioned to not pay attention to those who might be prophets or dream interpreters, but for those who "secretly entices" us, regardless of who these enticers might be, we are to kill them, to "stone them to death" for taking us away from God. Big sigh.

Gosh. I cannot count how many times I have turned away from God – or been turned away by the secret enticement of another (although it was so secret as to be unknown to me). It seems to me that "others" are not really to blame when I turn from God…seems like that might be more of a personal responsibility issue rather than a blame someone else. Yet, the author of this passage clearly states that the one who is enticed shall be the one to first raise the hand to start the execution of the one who enticed. Lord have mercy on Tucker the next time he forgets to do something that I have told him 500 times to do and boy oh boy will he be in trouble when I get so irritated that I totally forget God and I turn all red in the face and scream in anger at him. It is nice to know that he is the enticer and I am the enticed; he is guilty and I am not. Not. So not.

This is one of those passages that I just can't believe is the inerrant word of God. What I think is that it is the word of one who felt led to write it to try to save a group of people who seemed hell bent on straying away from what God tried so many times to make the people understand – Love God, love one another.

But typical of us – we get it wrong every day. We think that because we believe in something so strongly and with what we believe to be clarity that it is what God wants. I would bet that the most recent murder of Dr. Tiller, known as the "abortionist" doctor. The guy who murdered Dr. Tiller in the church in which he worshipped, probably thought that he was acting on the word of God – he was executing one he thought was enticing others to do wrong things. To give gay-bashers the benefit of doubt, maybe they attack, beat and even murder those they think are gay because they believe that being gay or lesbian is sinful and therefore punishable…with them as the executers of the punishment.

Not being a believer in the benefits of capital punishment, I think that there are mountains of proof that punishment, be it capital, torture or incarceration, does little to deter crime. As long as human need and greed are the motivators for committing crime, we will have crime. Being a believer in the idea that crime is an issue of public health (and therefore should be dealt with in measures that are preventative) I do not think that execution is ever a good solution. The threat of it does not keep people from committing a sin, nor does it obliterate the sin.

So, what do we do with this passage? Some group of people thought it was important and left it in. We can't just get in the habit of tossing out those passages that we don't like or with those we disagree. (all the "clobber" passages) But neither can we just accept these in the plain text of the writing. We have to know more than the words on the page.

Deuteronomy is the fifth book in the Hebrew Bible – a part of the Torah, the Pentateuch. Basically, it is the politics of Hebrew law, given to the people by Moses because he knew he would not be there to lead Israel across the Jordan – and God knows, the Hebrews needed something. Even with Moses right there all the time, they had a difficult time following.

Once upon a time a very long time ago, when I was learning to write real estate contracts, I was told by a learned mentor of mine that the more I put on paper the easier it would be for someone to get out of the contract. Well, I don't know if that truly relates to the Mosaic law or not, but Moses seems to be intent upon making certain that he covers all the bases for these people after he is gone.

To me, Moses covers so much that he leaves nothing up to free will. Follow God or die. And while that may be true, can we really follow God simply because we think we will die if we don't?

Can we kill someone because we believe that person has done something wrong, even heinous? Can we beat someone because we disagree with their beliefs? Can we stone our neighbor because her bratty kids keep throwing rocks at our door and denting it? How does "love your neighbor" fit into "stone them to death"?

Harper Collins Study Bible NRSV states that Deuteronomy is the "key" to understanding the whole Pentateuch as the "abiding revelation of God's will for the ongoing life of the covenant people." (p. 266)

Are we still a "covenant people"? Yes, we are, but we are children of the "New Covenant". That is, we are children of God who believe that "Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again." We believe that Jesus not only died for us, but rose for us and it is through his resurrection we are born again into new life, new hope eternally and forever.

We cannot "stone them to death" nor can we lift our hands in violence against one of these children of God. We cannot hurt, abuse, maim or kill those we consider gay or lesbian or abortion doctors. Nor can we hurt, abuse, maim or kill those who would do the same to gays, lesbians or abortion doctors.

What part of "Love one another" are we just not understanding? So how do we deal with these things that stress us to the point of wanting to exact revenge?

The only way we can understand these things is to know that the "enticer" is not the source of the problem. To blame that "enticer" is to ignore the fact that there is only one thing over which we have control – ourselves. To think that we have no control over our own thoughts, words and deeds is to walk fully outside the circle of love. God holds the power of forgiveness but first we have to stop blaming other when we react to their actions. To allow ourselves to act in retaliation is to be enticed and that sin does not belong to another…only to us.

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.