Friday, June 30, 2006

+Katharine the Great

Like so many in The Episcopal Church and around the world, I am thrilled by the election of the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori as the next Presiding Bishop and Primate of our church. Not just because she is a woman, but because she is a leader. Smart. Confident. Poised. Articulate. I listened to the interview of her on NPR yesterday, and she was totally on point and unflappable. The gifts she brings as a trilingual scientist, educator, and westerner will transform our church. I'm still amazed that our bishops actually elected the most qualified person.

I, like many in our Church, was also disappointed by her support of B033 on the last day of General Convention. I'm mindful, however, of the truth my colleague Kitty Lehman+ rightly points out: women are the thin edge of the wedge of inclusion in Church and society. And +Katharine is now precariously balanced on that knife edge. She has made herself very vulnerable for the sake of God's mission of reconciliation in Christ. This presents many opportunites and many dangers for her and for us. She needs to be held accountable, but she will also need massive support and prayer to carry the difficult burden that we must not let her bear alone.

In her public comments since GC, she has stated unequivocally that B033 was unfortunate and inadequate, that the temporary moratorium on lesbian or gay bishops saddens her, and that she will refuse to allow the door to be shut on the matter. I trust her. I believe her when she says she is committed to the full inclusion of lesbian and gay people in the Church. Our current Presiding Bishop might say "we are committed:" +Katharine is willing to put her personal word and integrity on the line. I have to respect that level of vulnerability and honesty.

Bishop Barbara Harris, the mother of us all, has written a terrific article on +Katharine's election in The Witness. I commend it to you. I was most touched by +Barbara's closing words: "Women bishops of the Episcopal Church have pledged that she [+Katharine] will never be unescorted, unprotected and unsupported wherever she goes in the Anglican Communion and in the ecumenical or interfaith community." May we all pledge that same level of commitment. She is going to need it.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Sermon Talkback

I love it when parishioners are willing to engage me about my preaching. Below is an exchange I had with one such parishioner regarding a recent sermon.

Dear John,

I've been thinking a lot about your sermon on Sunday morning, and I just reread it to make sure I understood your message. I agree that we can't give in to the temptation of responding with violence or of giving up, and I agree that the best way to usher in the new era--a time when LGBT Christians will claim full baptismal rights and responsibilities--is to continue to live holy lives and to let others see the gospel-oriented lives we're living. My quarrel is with your choice of the words, "Holy Indifference." Both Lou and I cringed when you said those words. They immediately conjured in my mind the opposite of what you were trying to express (despite your argument to reposition the word "indifference"). The word seems defeatist and passive, and it fell flat to my activist ears. I know you were trying to encourage us that in time God will reveal that LGBT Christians deserve inclusion as full members of the body of Christ and we that should have confidence in that ultimate result, but your use of the word "indifference" obscured that message and did little to embolden me to persevere.

Talking to Lou about it afterwards, I suggested that you chose the word "indifference" because you were trying to talk yourself into feeling some sense of peace after what happened. Knowing how hurt and angry you have felt, and I wondered if you needed to enter into a space of "indifference" before emerging to begin to pick up the pieces and to articulate a response. I was disappointed in your use of the word because the rest of your sermon--the emotional force, the rhythm of your words and the basic message (be calm, have confidence, don't back down)--was so strong. The words seemed to contrast with your basic message. I wanted more of a rallying cry on Sunday, and I felt like I came away with much less.

You know it's rare for me to offer much criticism of your preaching, but I just wanted to share my reaction to what you said. I hope you'll appreciate hearing my views.

Hang in there, John. We have a good thing going for us at St. John's and in the Diocese of California, and soon enough the love we exhibit for all will overcome the fear of others in the U.S. and around the world.


Dear Neil,

Thank you so much for your feedback. Is does my heart good to know that my sermons illicit such thoughtful responses. It is also a helpful reminder to me of the difference between intention and effect.

My understanding of "holy indifference" is drawn from an essay by James Alison entitled "The Importance of Being Indifferent" in his book, On Being Liked. His argument there is rather long and complex, based on a breathtakingly imaginative interpretation of scripture, and more than I can summarize in an email. I'm not sure if I'm smart enough to summarize it at all. Read it for yourself.

BUT, what I can say is that my intention was to define "holy indifference" as an inner disposition of freedom to act out of our hope in God, and not out of our disappointment or resentment. Let me quote from Alison at some length (I wish I had quoted it on Sunday, but I wrote the sermon on a plane coming home from Columbus - longhand on actual paper - I felt like a caveman):

"Resentment is a pattern of desire such that someone is much more occupied with the obstacle to their project than with the project itself. The sign of grace is when someone finds that their desire has been reformed, so that what had seemed like an obstacle becomes relatively indifferent, and they are ever freer to open up a new and creative project. The difference is that between the pattern of desire which creates suicide bombers and that which creates ministers of the Gospel."

There is another essay in Alison's book I think you should read too, called "the strangeness of this passivity . . ." which provides one of the best explanations of prayer that I've ever read. There is strange paradox in that when we discover that God's graceful and loving action toward us is always massively prior to anything we do by way of response, and that our first step is simply to receive that action with gratitude, then we are free to act in ways which we would never have imagined possible and that powerfully re-present God's love. So, yes, in a sense I wish us to embrace a certain kind of passivity first, so that we can become truly useful in God's projects, rather than simply caught up in our own.

And, yes, the sermon I preached was the sermon I needed to hear. Isn't it always?



Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Oasis California Responds to Newark's Nominees for Bishop

Diocese of Newark refuses to discriminate against LGBT Episcopalians, breaking ‘stained glass window’ anew

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - - - By refusing to discriminate based on sexual orientation, the Diocese of Newark, NJ has broken the ‘stained glass ceiling’ some thought was recently installed to prevent LGBT clergy from becoming bishops in the Episcopal Church, the head of the Bay Area’s LGBT Episcopal ministry said today. “By nominating an openly gay priest from San Francisco as one of four candidates to become their 10th Bishop, the Diocese of Newark has reaffirmed that our church does not discriminate against LGBT people,” Oasis President Rev. John Kirkley said.

Earlier today, Newark’s Standing Committee included the Very Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe, Congregational Development Officer for the Diocese of California, among candidates selected by Newark’s Search/Nominating Committee. A North Carolina native, Canon Barlowe has been partnered for 23 years with the Rev. Paul Burrows.

Cannon Barlowe’s nomination comes on the heels of a bitterly contested resolution passed by the national Episcopal Church’s General Convention urging diocesan committees to exercise “restraint” concerning election of LGBT clergy as bishop. Just yesterday the Archbishop of Canterbury called for creation of a two-tiered Anglican Communion with national churches that welcome LGBT people holding a lesser place in that Communion.

“We commend the Diocese of Newark for refusing to cave in to pressure to discriminate against nominees for bishop based on sexual orientation,” Kirkley added. “Unlike our General Convention, the Diocese of Newark refuses to lie about the Holy Spirit’s presence in the ministries of gay and lesbian clergy. God can not and will not be restrained but continues to raise up leaders whose manner of life challenges the intolerance, bigotry, and fear now poisoning the Anglican Communion,” he added.

Newark’s Nominating Committee has presented a slate of well qualified nominees, and I’m delighted that Michael Barlowe is among them,” he said. “As a priest on our diocesan staff and a nominee in our recent election of a new bishop, Michael is well-known and respected by the people of the Diocese of California. I admire his personal courage in being willing to offer his gifts to the wider church at this time, and want him to know that he is surrounded by our love and prayers.”

News reports on LGBT Episcopal issues are available at the Oasis News Blog ( Bay Area Episcopal churches that welcome Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender people are listed online at (

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Unity and Sacrifice, Rowan and Caiphas

The following is an excerpt from a London Times interview with Archbishop Rowan Williams. Unity is necessary for truth, and the sacrifice if LGBT people is the price of unity. Caiphas would be proud. Fr. John

Does that mean then that the convoy, the Communion, is always going to have to move at the pace of the slowest member?
It's never just done that. For the Communion as a whole, where it wants to move on this issue is still formally an open question, I think. You can't assume it will go one way. Let's say the ordination of women. Actions in certain provinces brought others along. For whatever reason, though, that wasn't seen, by many people, as a matter affecting the authority of the Bible in quite the way this is [homosexuality]. Nor did it have quite the same cultural intensity that this seems to have.
It did for some people.
I mean outside Europe. I didn't sense that in Africa, for example, although there were very different policies on women's ordination, it had quite that intensity. I know it's been a hugely difficult cultural question in some contexts, but for some reason it doesn't seem to have the effect on people of compromising the integrity of Christian witness in the same way that this is perceived to have.
And does that mean, then, that you don't think it will end up being feasible to have the same sort of arrangements in terms of oversight that you've had for women priests?
I don't know at the moment. I really don't know. The American Church is trying to find its way on this at the moment. We'll learn something from that.
You're not going to expel it then?
In the middle of the Commission's work, I really don't want to make any prediction.
What about the idea of a sort of Lutheran federation?
It has practical attractions. The question is whether it's cutting the Gordian knot. Trying to be in communion, trying to have a very strong reciprocal relationship, for instance where ministries are received, where there are instruments of working together, and lots and lots of local relationships between parishes and so forth, all of that is a big investment in being together, and it's a high-risk one. Communion is a high-risk enterprise, because it runs into exactly the problems we've been talking about. I think it's worth trying that high-risk enterprise because it seems to me to go a bit closer to the heart of the New Testament than just a slightly shoulder-shrugging coexistence. Although I think it's worth trying our very best to maintain the Communion in those terms, in terms of interchangeability, interrelation between local communities, and all the regular structures that keep it going, it's worth trying and trying very hard and I guess again that's the job on the table.
Is it more important than anything else?
You mean more important than truth?
People sometimes talk a little bit easily about sacrificing unity to truth or truth to unity. I suppose Christians are supposed to believe that unity has something to do with truth, that the work of holding together is itself a converting and transforming thing, a way of recognising a level at which we're necessary to each other in the Christian community, and so it's not just a matter of getting some kind of workable compromise and shrugging your shoulders about truth or integrity. It's trying to find how we can genuinely be involved with one another and learning from one another within dependable long-term structures. So to try and work for the sake of unity is not to say, " Anything for a quiet life " because it isn't in the least quiet. In fact, it's a recipe for what can be quite a tension-ridden and difficult relation. But I do feel that federation, loose parallel processes, are less than we've got, less than we could have and, in the very long run, less than what God wants in the Church.
But it might be better than a complete split?
It might be. We'll see. But what I'm really trying to set out is what I think the priority has to be, the desired priority in terms of unity.
In that case, would you be prepared to sacrifice the effect that this has had on gay believers and gay priests in the interests of unity?
Whatever solution we come to is going to cost somebody and it has been said that the interesting moral decisions are not about whether anyone gets hurt but who gets hurt, which is a very painful thing. Very. And whatever shape the unity takes, there's going to be cost. It's very difficult to compose that cost.
Well, you're going to have to decide who gets hurt.
I'm going to have a very large role in doing it, yes.
How do you feel about that?
Again, it's probably an extreme case of what any pastor has to do at times in the parish or a bishop in the diocese.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Wrong Sacrifice

"On GC 2006"

There has been a great deal of talk around the Episcopal Church concerning the "sacrifice" made at this year's General Convention by the GLBT community and those who seek their full inclusion. There are some deep incongruities in the rhetoric, though, that I want to try to bring to light. From there, I hope to examine why it is that it was possible for so many folks to vote against their own desires to see inclusion.

There is a fundamental, structural difference between the sacrifice of Jesus and the sacrifice described at General Convention. In the sacrifice of Jesus, which is surely commended to us as example in Scripture, Jesus dies because he will not abandon his vision of the kingdom, his preaching of the Good News. In the "sacrifice" at General Convention, the GLBT community is sacrificed for the sake of "unity," ("A place at the table" is a phrase I've read a lot, and one that makes me cringe.) or for the sake of "the Communion." (Which bears greater resemblance to Caiaphas in John 11 than any other biblical example I can think of. "But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all! You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed."" John 11:49-50)

Unfortunately, many of our GLBT sisters and brothers have been convinced that their self-giving can preserve the Communion, and that their refusal to do so can mean its end. A lot of them, with great courage, voted for the new resolution proposed by the retiring Presiding Bishop. I want to honor that courage, but I also want to say that they have been misled. This courage was misspent.

This gift of themselves as sacrificial lamb is akin to the practices of human sacrifice abandoned by the people of God. In those sacrificial systems, there was still a belief that the death of an innocent could bring peace, and the victim often agreed with the basic premise, no matter their regret as being chosen for the task. Such sacrifice does not bring peace. Jesus died to end this sort of sacrifice.

Jesus gave himself, but not as sacrifice in this sense. He allowed himself to be murdered to end the notion of "murder for peace." He did not seek out death, he suffered it so as to end our perception of its efficacy. This is why, in the end, the Church turned away from intentional martyrdom as a means of witness. It is one thing to refuse to yield one's God in order to live, and to suffer death as a result, it is quite another to walk up to someone with the power to kill and say, "Kill me, I want to witness." Doing the latter assumes that such a death heals. It may bring a short term "peace," but in reality it only defers the violence.

We have, as a Church, sacrificed not only our GLBT sisters and brothers on the altar of "unity," but we have sacrificed our souls. This is the cost of saving one's life. You lose it. It would be different if we could honestly say that we don't think inclusion is God's will for us, but most of the people who voted for the new resolution couldn't truthfully say that. They believe that inclusion is God's will for us. I guess they'd say they just believe it isn't God's will for us "now."

As far as I can tell, "now" is the only time in which God works. Yes, there will be a future, and there is certainly a past, but God is. God acts in the now, loves in the now, creates in the now. Jesus is very clear about not worrying about the future. He is equally clear about God's forgiveness of the past. What matters is now. God's reign is very near, among us, now.

But we have decided, as a Communion, to sacrifice some in the now for a future of being included ourselves. We have chosen a present that does not really reflect whom we find God to be.

I'd like to venture a couple of (probably offensive) suggestion about why I think that was possible.

One of the reasons was Justice. We have grounded much too much of our conversations about inclusion in language of justice. Like the "rule of law," justice only brings death. (Romans 7:10) Justice evokes the power to coerce others into doing what we think is "just." It promises shame to those who are "unjust." It goes against the very Gospel we seek to preach.

Justice works in the head, not in the heart. Justice is about balances and compromises, and because most of our conversation about inclusion focused on justice, we could sacrifice a few here for some greater justice in the future. The head will allow us to do such things.

But the heart will not. Love includes. Love has power to change hearts. Justice can only change behavior. And love is what broke the hearts of those who voted for the resolution, even as justice demanded it. Yes, demanded it. Justice can demand a short term sacrifice for a longer term "good." Love does not. Love lives in the now, because God is love. Love suffers in the now because justice demands it, but which side of that equation did God select in Jesus? In the end, we chose the other side.

The other reason, I think, is The Bible. That is, too many of us have accepted uncritically the historical-critical approach to Scripture, and this has attenuated its power to move us. In this, the AAC seems to have it right. Of course, I read the Scriptures quite differently from folks in the AAC, but I read them as though every word were breathed by God. We do not do that much, and so we find ourselves standing (as the "conservative" folks suggest) on some pretty mushy ground. When push came to shove, our feet weren't on rock, and it was easier for us to budge.

We have not yet developed a Scriptural argument that does more than "permit" the full inclusion of GLBT persons into the Church. We have not discovered in the texts themselves a spirit that yearns for it. Many of us think it's there, but we just can't find our way to it, largely because we study it with the blinders of Bultmann and the rest. We seem terrified that if we read every word as authoritative, we'll have no choice but to join the "right."

This just isn't so! In fact, if we read the Scriptures as Paul says in 2 Corinthians, allowing Jesus Christ to remove the veil from our eyes, we can clearly discern the God of Love at work throughout, restoring and reconciling. What we can also see (and I believe this to be intended by God) is the human turning of God into an instrument of violence. Both are present in the text, both intended, both heuristic, but only one reveals the God of Jesus. The other reveals me.

But we have gotten into a habit of turning away from texts that bother us, writing them off as "mythical" or the result of "redaction." And because we do, the texts no longer inspire in us the courage to trust the God of the Present in the present. We don't encounter a God of power in the texts a lot of the time, and when we do, it's that God of Justice that let us down before.

We have sold our souls for a place at the table, but even this God can, and I believe, will work to our good. I do not despair, but neither do I want to call this "sacrifice" something desired by God.

In His Peace,

Jeff Krantz

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Holy Indifference: A Response to B033

Holy Indifference
A Sermon for LGBT Freedom Day
Sunday, June 25, 2006
The Rev. John Kirkley

Jesus said, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:40) Amen.

On Wednesday evening, shortly after 6 p.m., the Very Rev. George Werner declared the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church adjourned, and banged his gavel. It was finally over. I had served as a deputy during the final session of our Church’s triennial legislative meeting, and in the course of the day I witnessed a blood letting, as the dignity of the ministry of lesbian and gay people was sacrificed on the altar of the Anglican Communion.

My sisters and brothers, the Episcopal Church is like the boat in today’s Gospel story, battered by the stormy sea of the Anglican Communion; and like the disciples then, the Church today is caught in the grip of fear. Slice and dice the words however you will, on Wednesday our Church agreed to an open-ended ban on the consecration of openly partnered gay or lesbian bishops. This was done on the last day of legislation at the eleventh hour under duress, in an unconscionable exercise of coercive ecclesiastical authority on the part of our Presiding Bishop and Primate, the Most Rev. Frank Griswold. It was done with the complicity of the Presiding Bishop-Elect, the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, and of more than 75% of the bishops, lay and ordained deputies of our Church.

Why did this happen? Because fear triumphed over faith: fear that the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson has set off a reaction that will lead to the breaking apart of the Anglican Communion. Presiding Bishop Griswold admonished the House of Bishops that, if this ban were not passed, the Archbishop of Canterbury would not invite them to the next Lambeth Conference of Bishops. This happened because The Great Tea Party held every ten years at Lambeth was thought to be more important than the mission of healing and reconciliation to which Christ has called us.

Yet, even more disturbing to me than the brutal bullying that forced this sacrifice upon us was its basic dishonesty. Beloved, the Episcopal Church really does desire to fully include gay and lesbian people in its life and ministry. Of that, I have no doubt. But in the midst of this great storm on the Anglican sea, in which so many fear that the Church is perishing, we lost our courage and compromised our fundamental baptismal promise to honor the dignity of every human being. We gambled that a lie would ensure our survival as a part of the Anglican Communion.

Trust me: it will not. In fact, the storm is only gaining strength, because this sacrifice of gay and lesbian people only emboldens the forces of misogyny and homophobia poisoning our Church. Indeed, the clamor of schism grows ever louder. Nothing was or could be gained by this cruel and misguided dishonesty.

Now, it is very easy to be scandalized by such a state of affairs, to wonder if we will ever learn what it means that God desires compassion and not sacrifice. I have found myself experiencing a variety of responses over the past several days. My first response was anger. How could Christians do this to each other? After all these years, I’m amazed at my own capacity for naiveté. I was outraged by the spiritual violence I had seen done to some of the leading voices for justice in our Church, many of them gay and lesbian people, who were co-opted and coerced into violating their own conscience, made captive to the fear and anxiety of our leaders.

I was numb with anger. As I walked off the floor of the House of Deputies, my friend Elizabeth Kaeton walked over and hugged me. I whispered in her ear, “Elizabeth, I’m too tired to feel anything.” And then I collapsed in tears. Underneath my anger was a deep well of grief, a grief that I still carry. I mourn the pain visited upon you, my beloved friends, who have borne so many burdens placed upon you by this Church. I mourn the pain visited upon blessed Gene, the Bishop of New Hampshire, who was betrayed and left hung out to dry. I mourn the loss of trust in Bishop Katharine before her primacy has even begun. I mourn the loss of integrity and credibility with which our Church can minister to a suffering world.

I know that I am not alone in this grief. I am consoled by the solidarity of so many of our sisters and brothers, gay and straight, and especially that of our bishop, Marc, who surrounded us with his love and care in Columbus and who already is calling us to prophetic witness for justice. I carry my share of anger and grief, yes. But slowly and with great difficulty, I am coming to believe that Jesus is inviting me and you to move through our anger and grief to respond to this storm in another way: with holy indifference.

Notice how Jesus responded to the storm. He was not fascinated by its power, enmeshed in the drama that was unfolding around him. Neither was he reactive, expending energy being defined over and against the storm, captivated by its power in yet another way. No, for Jesus the storm held no allure, generated no disgust. It had no power to press his buttons one way or the other. His response was one of holy indifference.

By indifference I do not mean to imply uncaring disconnection or withdrawal. Jesus did not ignore the storm or its effects. Nor do I mean by indifference to imply a kind of contempt, as if Jesus was simply above it all, condescending in his response. What I mean by holy indifference is a capacity to remain connected without anxiety: to respond from a place of inner peace, the still center of our being in God.

What this means for us today, in concrete terms, it so be able to respond to the storm raging around us with compassion, resisting the temptation to treat our leaders with contempt or withdrawn from the Church altogether. This may seem a nearly impossible expectation, until we remember that the Church, indeed the whole creation, to the extent that it is in the grip of fear, is part of the old reality that is passing away. It no longer has a grip on those who have been marked by the Holy Spirit as Christ’s own forever in baptism, unless we allow it to. We are part of the new creation that is coming into being, and it is from that place of freedom in Christ that we can become holy indifferent to the storm.

This is the stance of faith that refuses fear. It is from this perspective that St. Paul, himself no stranger to persecution and rejection, could proclaim: “Now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacles in anyone’s way, so that no fault can be found with our ministry” – and so it is with the ministries of those of us who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. “We are treated as imposters, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see – we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” (2 Cor. 6:2b-3a, 8b-10)

To the leaders of our Church I say, “There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours . . . open wide your hearts also.” (2 Cor. 6:12-13) Beloved, like St. Paul, we have the freedom to respond with holy indifference to the storm raging around us because we belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God. We are nobody’s victim. Our identity and security is given to us by a Love that has nothing to do with the fear and violence directed at us.

We need not be defined by the storm, captivated by it in fascination or revulsion. As James Alison has said,

“Just because some of our hierarchs seem unable to dare even to offer us the sort of Eucharistic space which is our baptismal new-birthright doesn’t mean that our consciences need be bowed down by, bound by, all that heaviness of decline management, that defensive bureaucratic inability to negotiate as adults with adults. For that heaviness and inability says something about them, and need say nothing about us.” (On Being Liked, p. 111)

While some of our hierarchs are busy trying to manage the decline of the old creation that is passing away, let us respond with holy indifference, relaxing into the new creation bursting to life within us and around us. While others speak of sacrifice and crucifixion, let us give ourselves over to the Resurrection life that is God’s great gift to us in Christ Jesus. While others sow division, let us be Christ’s ambassadors of reconciliation.

This morning, I invite you to gather in the Eucharistic space around this table, this space of joyful thanksgiving for who we are as God has created us and redeemed us to be, loved by God beyond our wildest imagining. This is our baptismal new-birthright and WE MUST CLAIM IT. Come and lay all your anger and grief and heavy burdens on this altar. That is the only sacrifice that God wishes us to make. In the fire of God’s consuming love, let all that violence and shame melt away, refining us to become icons of holy indifference so that we may respond with compassion to the groaning of our suffering world.

In the midst of the storm, Jesus gently says to us, “Peace. Be still.” ( Mark 4:49) Amen.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

An Open Letter from Bishop Gene Robinson

June 24, 2006

An Open Letter to my Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Brothers and Sisters in Christ, From V. Gene Robinson, Bishop in the Church of God in a blessed place called New Hampshire:

Many of you have been writing to me, in the aftermath of General Convention, to ask what I am thinking, now that the Convention has called upon the Church to deny consent to the consecration of partnered people as bishops. Frankly, like all of you, my thinking is all over the map. But here is where I am, only a few days later.

First, let’s give ourselves some time to recover. In the first few moments of having the breath knocked out of us, we struggle just to breathe, unable to think about much of anything other than getting some oxygen back into our lungs. We have been dealt a blow that has knocked the wind out of us. Let’s be kind to ourselves, breathe a little, before we try to move on. Nothing has to be decided or done in the next few hours or days. Let’s catch our breath, remembering that breath is a powerful image of the Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments. Let’s allow ourselves to be re-infused with that Holy Spirit which has never abandoned us, no matter what the Church does or doesn’t do.

Let’s remember what DID happen at the General Convention. Faithful gay and lesbian Episcopalians showed up and witnessed to the power of Almighty God working in and through their lives. You would have been SO PROUD of Integrity, Claiming the Blessing, the Episcopal Women’s Caucus, The Witness, and countless other groups speaking on our behalf. Susan Russell, Michael Hopkins, Carol Cole Flanagan, Elizabeth Kaeton, Bonnie Perry and others too numerous to mention put their hearts, souls and every waking moment into representing ALL of us so very well and so faithfully. We owe them such a great debt. Faithful gay and lesbian Episcopalians were EVERYWHERE, witnessing to God’s saving grace in their lives – being so joyful and filled with God’s Spirit, there was no denying God’s love in their lives.

We gathered at Trinity Church to celebrate the eucharist as the people of God. Not only were the nave and balconies filled, but the basement and sacristy as well, with gay and straight alike proclaiming God’s love for ALL of God’s children. It was a glimpse of heaven, and of the Church as it ought to be. Let’s not forget that we have been given a foretaste of the heavenly banquet where the marginalized are given an honored seat at the table.

The Episcopal Church declared its opposition to any constitutional amendment – federal or state – which would short circuit gay and lesbian couples seeking the civil right of having their relationships legally acknowledged.

On Sunday, we elected a Presiding Bishop who is committed to the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people into the life and work and leadership of this Church. The Spirit was palpable, once again in Trinity Church, as the election balloting unfolded before our very eyes, pushing forward to the election of the first woman as Primate and Presiding Bishop. If indeed, as I have often said, this fight is really about the end of patriarchy, then that patriarchy was dealt an awesome blow in +Katharine’s election. When the primates next meet, it will be a new day, and at the table will be a representative of the world’s majority – women – incarnate in our primate. Thanks be to God for that! You go, girl!

To our joy, the House of Deputies refused to give in to threats from within and without our Church, and decisively rejected the call to withhold consent from partnered people elected to the Episcopate. We thought that was the end of it. But alas, it was not.

+Frank Griswold – who, let us remember, has been a sometimes reluctant, but ever faithful champion for us, and who has paid a great price for presiding at my consecration – brought back the “moratorium” resolution in a heavy-handed and inappropriate way (in my humble opinion). He seemed absolutely intent on getting this resolution through as a way of getting us all to the Lambeth table.

I don’t know whether or not our Presiding Bishop-elect was coerced or merely persuaded to join in this appeal, but it is clear to me that her support for such an action provided the push needed to convince the Deputies to adopt a resolution more prohibitive than the one they had rejected the day before. Gay and lesbian deputies, many in tears, not to mention our straight allies, rose to the microphones to pledge their support of our new primate as she goes off to represent us in unfriendly places, to “give her what she needs” to continue the conversation. The scene of gay and lesbian deputies, willing to fall on their own swords for the presumed good of the Church, voting for this resolution against their own self-interest was an act of self-sacrifice that I won’t soon forget.

Keeping us in conversation with the Anglican Communion was the goal – for which the price was declaring gay and lesbian people unfit material for the episcopate. Only time will tell whether or not even that was accomplished. Within minutes – yes, MINUTES – the conservatives both within our Church and in Africa declared our sacrificial action woefully inadequate. It felt like a kick in the teeth to the ones who had gotten down on their knees to submit to the will of the whole, even though the price of doing so was excruciating. Such a quick, obviously premeditated and patently cruel reaction from the Right can be seen only as the violent and unchristian act it was.

So what now?

It is too soon to strategize, too soon to know what it all means. But here are a few things I DO know:

The Spirit IS working in the Church. We cannot claim that the Spirit is working in the Church only when we get our way. We must continue to believe that that Spirit is working even when the Church takes an action which hurts us, when it seems to take us in the wrong direction. We are in this struggle for the long haul, and so is the Spirit. We cannot fathom at the moment how this turn of events serves justice. But God will not be mocked, and God will be our salvation. Let’s not forget that.

We are STILL loved beyond our wildest imagining. That was true the day before Convention; it is still true. This vote does not change that. Just because the Church lost its courage, just because the Church was willing to sacrifice US for access to a conversation with Anglicans around the world (which they hardly seem ready to engage in themselves), it does NOT mean that God has changed. If you listen carefully, God is STILL saying to God’s lgbt children, “You are my beloved. In you I am well pleased.” This vote may say a lot about the Episcopal Church, but it says NOTHING about you and me as gay and lesbian children of God. Blessed Martin Luther King once said, “Pontius Pilate’s sin was not that he didn’t KNOW what was right, but that he lacked the courage to STAND UP for right.” Pray for the Church.

We are in this for the long haul. OF COURSE there are going to be bumps along the road, perhaps a few places where the road has washed out completely. The journey toward justice is neither a straight line nor easy. Just ask our brothers and sisters who are people of color, and still experiencing the pain of racism. Just ask our sisters who still pay the price of sexism and misogyny, both inside and outside the Church. We follow a savior who dealt with plenty of setbacks and disappointments – not to mention being “done in” by his friends. We are in good company here. But we won’t last for the long haul without Jesus! Let’s keep saying our prayers and listening to the One who knows and shares our burden.

We’ll be watching. Now that the Anglican Communion and the majority of Convention have gotten what they asked for, let’s see if anything changes. Will the rest of the Communion finally be willing to engage in the listening process promised for the last 30 years? Will anything be done in the domestic dioceses of this Church to move us along, or will this only be seen as a “blessed” respite from this debate? Will the Network dioceses and parishes give up their blatant drive to split this church apart and join us in our efforts to be reconciled, or will they only cry “not enough” and demand more? We’ll be watching – and we’ll want the “middle” to give us an accounting of what this Convention vote got them. And we’ll be asking, “Was it worth declaring us less than children of God, marked as Christ’s own forever?”

We are not defeated, for God is still with us. Let’s remember that at its best, the Church has pushed the “pause” button, not the “stop” or “reverse” buttons. If we continue to make our witness, and if those for whom this sacrifice was made continue to threaten and make one-sided demands, the Episcopal Church will see its mistake and find its prophetic voice again. Maybe it will even repent of the harm done to us in this faithless and fearful act. Time will tell. In the meantime, we are not defeated, nor will we be paralyzed by this sad and woeful action. Dwelling on what happened and why will not serve us or the Church well. We need to turn away from yesterday and focus on tomorrow.

We know how all this is going to end. It is not arrogant to say that we believe we know how all this is going to turn out. It will end with the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people in the life and ministry and leadership of the Church. It will take a long time. Some or all of us may not live to see it. But happen it will! In a strange way, I think the conservatives know it too. All we’re arguing about now is timing. It will be enough for each of us to play her/his own part. Each of us can provide a pair of shoulders for someone else to stand on, just as surely as we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. This is a never-ending march toward justice for ALL, and NO ONE is going to be left behind. In the end, the reign of God will come. And oh what a privilege it is for each of us to play a small part.

We are worthy of God’s love – NOT because of anything we have done, but because God has MADE us worthy to stand before God through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As I said at Convention, the Gay Agenda is JESUS! If we keep that ever before us, in the end all will be well.

I love, respect, appreciate and honor each of you more than you could ever know. Please keep me in your prayers, as you will be in mine. And to God be the glory!


Thursday, June 22, 2006

General Convention Endgame: An Exercise in Spiritual Violence

The following is the text of an email I wrote to my vestry today.

Dear Friends,

I write to you from the airport in Columbus, weary to my bones. I am still absorbing the incredible level of spiritual violence I experienced yesterday at our General Convention. As you may well know, yesterday both the Bishops and Deputies passed B033 without amendment. It reads as follows:

Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 75th General Convention receive and embrace The Windsor Report’s invitation to engage in a process of healing and reconciliation; and be it further

Resolved, that this Convention therefore call upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.

This resolution was proposed by the Presiding Bishop to a joint session of the bishops and deputies on the morning of the last day of legislation. This was done after the House of Deputies had defeated a similar resolution the day before, as well as a motion to reconsider it. In other words, having rejected it twice, the Presiding Bishop was determined to force it through Convention. My sense of his unprecedented address to this joint session was of a father berating his naughty children. It was infantalizing and insulting.

Having just given the bishops a copy of the resolution, and with a limit of 30 minutes for debate, ++Griswold provided very little time for organized opposition. He ruled a substitute resolution offered by Bishop Andrus out of order on a technicality, and then threatened the bishops with the admonition that if they failed to pass the resolution, the Archbishop of Canturbury would not invite them to the Lambeth Conference of Bishops in 2008. I guess attendance at The Great Tea Party trumps bearing witness to the dignity of every human being. Bishop Chane then attempted to amend the resolution, but it failed after Presiding Bishop-elect Jefferts Schori urged the House to accept the resolution without amendment, imperfect as it is. That sealed the fate of the resolution. It passed by a huge majority, with only about 30 bishops dissenting (including our own Bishop Andrus, who was in tears along with many of us).

The rules of the House of Deputies were then suspended in order to debate the resolution (it is out of order to debate a motion already defeated). In another first, Presiding Bishop-elect Jefferts Schori addressed the House of Deputies in the middle of their debate, speaking out of both sides of her mouth to say that while she supports the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the life of the church, this resolution was the best we could do now. It was a sad and manipulative ploy, but it worked.

I have witnessed good and faithful Christians, gay and straight, coerced by ecclesiastical authorities to violate their own conscience. Some of the leading voices of justice in our church were coopted by fear that they would be to blame for the demise of the Anglican Communion. They sold their soul to the devil and will receive nothing in return.

The resolution is disengenuous and will please nobody. Already, the Archbishop of Canterbury is questioning whether we have responded adequately to the Windsor Report, and the conservative wing of our church flatly declared it inadequate (at least they are honest and consistent). When will our leaders learn that no matter how often they sacrifice gay and lesbian people, it will never be enough to satisfy the right-wing of our church?

I am shocked by the way this debate was framed in terms of the need for the church (read gay and lesbian Christians) to accept sacrifice and crucifixion for the sake of the Communion. This is bad theology on two points:

1. It fails to understand that redemptive sacrifice must be a self-offering; not the crucifixion of someone else: that is scapegoating, and it is sin.

2. If fails to speak at all of Resurrection and the new, transformed life we are given in Christ. This was a Convention so enmeshed in fear that it was unable to speak truthfully to our sisters and brothers in the wider Anglican Communion, or to articulate the specific charism of the church in our context.

There is some good news in the midst of this duplicity and abuse of power. The truth is that our Church, including our new Presiding Bishop, really does desire our full inclusion in its life and ministry. The lie in B033 was to say that we do not. The lie was told to curry favor and "keep the conversation going" in the Anglican Communion. Unity based on lies, however, is bound to fracture. It can not stand for long. The Spirit will continue to lead us into all truth.

The other good news is that our entire deputation, including our bishop, +Marc Andrus, stood in solidarity with us. I'm proud of our new bishop, who joined some 30 bishops in dissenting from this action, and surrounded us with his love and care. I know that under his leadership, the Diocese of California will be a strong prophetic voice for justice in the Church and world.

And I want you to know of my love and concern for all of you, and of my resolute commitment to the mission of St. John the Evangelist. We will continue to welcome all people as God's beloved children and lift up their gifts, so that together we may all grow into the fullness of Christ.

God is not done with us yet.

More love,


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

General Convention: No on Moratoria, Yes to Beisner

This afternoon, in a vote by Orders, the House of Deputies defeated A161, which urged the Church to refrain from consecrating bishops whose "manner of life" might be suspect by someone, somewhere else in the Anglican Communion, as well as enjoining the General Convention from authorizing rites to bless same-sex unions. While the resolution would have failed to pass even without their help, many conservative deputies oppossed the resolution as well, because it was not draconian enough for them.

Conservatives tried to propose a substitute resolution that would have explicitly prevented the Church from consecrating gay bishops and blessing gay unions, but the chair, the Very Rev. George Werner, ruled it out of order when it was challenged on constitutional grounds. Dean Werner noted that the proposal's adoption would require an amendment to the Constitution or Canons, or both. This ruling was based on canons that define eligibility for Holy Orders and give diocesan bishops the right to provide for pastoral rites not found in the Prayer Book.

By the time the substitute failed, the time for debate had expired. When a motion to extend debate failed, the question was called and defeated. Later, when a motion was made to revisit the question, it failed to gain the necessary two-thirds majority required. I am now an expert in parliamentary procedure!

Two more resolutions dealing with the Windsor Report: A159 and A166, which respond to the issues of an Anglican Covenant and Listening process, respectively, will be considered during a special session tonight. I expect deputies will try to amend them to include some revised language from A161 about bishops and blessings. The debate isn't over yet, but tomorrow is the last day of business, so resolutions must pass tonight to get to the House of Bishops for their action before we adjourn.

In other action, the Deputies consented to the election of the Rev. Canon Barry Beisner as bishop co-adjutor of the diocese of Northern California. The consent vote was somewhat contentious, as Canon Beisner is twice divorced and thrice married. In fact, liberals in the house secured a motion to consider A161 prior to considering Beisner's consent, to make clear the Pandora's box that "manner of life" language would raise in considering consents. It was helpful to frame A161 in this way, so that it wasn't just about gay and lesbian nominees for bishop, but ANY nominees who fail to satisfy the moralism of the Puritan wing of our Church.

Tonight is "California Night," so I'm off to a party to roast +Bill Swing before the special legislative session this evening.

Monday, June 19, 2006

General Convention: Monday, Monday

The joy of Bishop Jefferts Schori election as Presiding Bishop-elect seems short-lived after a grueling day of legistlative debate today in the House of Deputies. The General Convention is something of an alternative universe all its own, so I haven't been able to follow much of the reaction in the wider world. The Archbishop of Canterbury did make the following tepid comments:

"I send my greetings to Bishop Katharine and she has my prayers and good wishes as she takes up a deeply demanding position at a critical time. She will bring many intellectual and pastoral gifts to her new work, and I am pleased to see the strength of her commitment to mission and to the Millennium Development Goals.

Her election will undoubtedly have an impact on the collegial life of the Anglican Primates; and it also brings into focus some continuing issues in several of our ecumenical dialogues.

We are continuing to pray for the General Convention of the Episcopal Church as it confronts a series of exceptionally difficult choices."

In other words: "You haven't made my job an easier!" Well, too bad. Bishop Katharine is smart, multilingual (French & Spanish), and committed to the Church's mission. Given that ECUSA includes dioceses in places like Haiti, Columbia, and Puerto Rico, her linguisitic and cultural skills will come in handy. In fact, the Latino, along with the women, bishops were crucial to her election. I believe she will help us to become a "browner" church that looks more like the culture around us. These very same gifts may prove critical to her ability to face the "collegial challenges" with the other Primates.

The main Windsor "response" resolutions came to the floor: one dealing with expressing regret for the pain caused by the election, consent to, and consecration of the Bishop of New Hampshire, and another calling upon dioceses and the General Convention to refrain from consecrating openly gay or lesbian parterned clergy as bishops as well as refraining from having the General Convention authorize rites for blessing same-sex unions.

The first resolution, A160, passed with an amendment that progressives proposed. It now reads as follows:

"Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, that the 75th General Convention of The Episcopal Church, mindful of “the repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation enjoined on us by Christ” (Windsor Report, paragraph 134), express its regret for breaching the proper constraints of straining the bonds of affection in the events surrounding the General Convention of 2003 and the consequences which followed; offer its sincerest apology to those within our Anglican Communion who are offended by our failure to accord sufficient importance to the impact of our actions on our church and other parts of the Communion; and ask forgiveness as we seek to live into deeper levels of communion one with another."

Even though I voted for the amendment, I voted against the final resolution. I could not in good conscience ask forgiveness for something I don't believe was wrong. Still, the amendment was an improvement. It makes clear that relationships in the Communion are strained, but not broken. It expresses regret for the pain others experienced, not for the actions of GC 2003 themselves. And it gets rid of the language of "constraints" that implies the Windsor Report has an authority that it does not have. True, true, and true: and it is still disengenuous. Let's see how the bishops tinker with it.

The other resolution, A161, which was still being debated when the House recessed tonight, will be voted on tomorrow and currently reads as follows:

"Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, that the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church regrets the extent to which we have, by action and inaction, contributed to strains on communion and caused deep offense to many faithful Anglican Christians as we consented to the consecration of a bishop living openly in a same-gender union. Accordingly, we are obliged to urge nominating committees, electing conventions, Standing Committees, and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise very considerable caution refrain from the nomination, election, consent to, and consecration of bishops whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.; and be it further

Resolved that this General Convention not proceed to develop or authorize Rites for the Blessing of same-sex unions at this time, thereby concurring with the Windsor Report in its exhortation to bishops of the Anglican Communion to honor the Primates’ Pastoral Letter of May 2003; and be it further

Resolved that this General Convention affirm the need to maintain a breadth of responses to situations of pastoral care for gay and lesbian Christians in this Church.

Resolved that this General Convention apologize to those gay and lesbian Episcopalians and their supporters hurt by these decisions."

Now, this resolution is truly a disaster. It completely capitulates to the Windsor Report as a binding document and casts a deep chill on the future election and consecration of bishops living openly in same-gender unions (I guess its OK if you're closeted). The language about authorizing rites for blessing is actually an improvement over previous proposals, as it speaks only to the General Convention's authorization of such rites and NOT to that of diocesan bishops. Thus, it enshrines C051, passed at GC 2003, as the status quo: acknowledging that local communities that experiment with blessing rites are operating within the bounds of our common life. It also drops the language of "private" responses to the pastoral care needs of lesbian and gay folks, so redolent of the closet.

The debate on this resolution so far has been painful to hear. So-called liberals like the Rev. Dr. Ian Douglas would have us believe that LGBT people must fall on their swords for the sake of the Communion, so that we can continue to serve the poor in the Third World. As if our oppression helps to liberate others. As if a number of those poor are not themselves gay men and lesbians (as I testified this morning on a resolution calling for support of LGBT asylum seekers). Rebecca Snow, a long-time, openly lesbian deputy and, like Douglas, a member of the Special Committee that proposed this legislation, spoke of the pain she felt in calling upon gay men and lesbians to bear this burden for the Church - to bear the marks of Christ crucified for the sake of the Body. I could feel her soul shriveling up as she spoke words that must have seared her conscience. Jesus said, "Go and learn what this means: I desire compassion, not sacrifice." I guess we still haven't learned what this means. At least, we are certainly quite ready to sacrifice gay and lesbian people for the sake of a unity that couldn't possibly be called Christian, rooted as it is in the dynamics of scapegoating.

One 18 year-old deputy saw right through the duplicity of it all. He noted that the last resolve apologizes to gay men and lesbians for the actions of this resolution, and pointed out that if we need to apologize for it, why are we doing it in the first place? Indeed. Why, if we believe that the election and consecration of the Bishop of New Hampshire was of the Holy Spirit, are we apologizing for that? Bishop Doug Theuner was right in 2003. The issue here isn't homosexuality; its honesty.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Day Five: Miracles Never Cease

The Episcopal Church made history today with the election of the Rt. Rev. Katherine Jefferts Schori as Presiding Bishop and Primate, a first for the Church catholic. She was elected by the House of Bishops on the fifth ballot, leading throughout the balloting in a neck-and-neck race with Bishop Henry Parsley of Alabama. Consent was given by the House of Deputies by an overwhelming vote, even with conservatives calling for a vote by Orders. The Church has been changed forever. Alleluia!!!

There was a feeling of exhilaration, excitement, and hope throughout the House of Deputies. In another jolt to conservatives, both Houses have now passed the first of the Special Committee resolutions - one dealing with Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO). The resolution was strenghtened by the Bishops, who added language enshrining traditional Anglican Provincial autonomy. In another vote by Orders, the House of Deputies overwhelming defeated conservative attempts to weaken the resolution.

Tomorrow, a Special Order of business will be observed in the afternoon to consider four more of the Special Committee's resolutions on: 1. Expressing regret for the actions of GC2003, 2. moratoria on electing partnered gay bishops, 3. moratoria on authorizing rites of blessing same-sex unions, 4. participating in the developoment of an Anglican Covenant Process.

My guess is that 1 will be weakened by amendment, 2 & 3 will be combined into one resolution by the Special Committee and defeated outright in a vote by orders, and 4 will be amended or defeated. Even some liberals on the Special Committee have been calling for lesbian and gay folks to fall on their swords "for the sake of the Anglican Communion." They don't seem to understand that Jesus did away with the scapegoating mechanism upon which human religion and culture has been created, nor do they see the hypocrisy of their attempt to speak of "full inclusion" on one hand, and "moratoria," on the other. These "institutional liberals" put human traditions before the needs of human beings. Didn't Jesus condemn such behavior on the part of religious authorities?

Funny how politics, even in the Church, makes strange bedfellows.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Day Four: Integrity Daily Briefing and Other News

The Global South; Too much Hearsay, too much Assumption

Speaking in the House of Bishops debate on A159, the resolution on interdependence with the Anglican Communion, The Archbishop of York, Sentamu expressed his appreciation of the hospitality offered to him by the Episcopal Church, and commented that his participation in this Convention has changed his perspective. He supported the motion to explore involving our Communion partners in Standing Commissions. This would help other Provinces to better understand the Episcopal Church. ‘The trouble with the Global South, Sentamu said, ‘is that there’s too much hearsay, too much assumption.’

Another visitor from England, Canon Kenneth Kearon, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion Office, addressed the House of Bishops this morning. He told the Bishops that a lot of his time is spent on the ‘Windsor Process’ as his office coordinates four distinct strands of the process. The Panel of Reference is up and running, and progress is being made, he said, even though their work is of necessity painstaking and careful. Canon Paul Groves has been appointed as the full-time officer of the Listening Process, whose remit is not to create a global process but to monitor what is happening locally. The Anglican Covenant proposed in the Windsor Report did not win much support so a new group has been appointed to start a drafting and consultation process which could take six to nine years.

The fourth strand is the group appointed in March to ‘assess the response of this Convention’ to the Windsor Report. This group will report to a joint meeting of the Primates and the ACC Standing Committee to be held next year. That’s what our sisters and brothers in the Anglican Communion Network are waiting for, according to South Carolina’s Canon Theologian, Kendall Harmon. Will they give the Episcopal Church their stamp of approval or not? If they do, the Network will deem the Church’s response adequate and so (perhaps) they’ll stay.

Suddenly they are very concerned about the name of the Church. In honor of our non-USA dioceses, the Episcopal Church has for some time been self-identifying as the Episcopal Church (TEC). Some people want to see conspiracy in every corner, and the conservative rumor mill has been working overtime about ‘the name change’. In a ‘press conference’ today brilliantly fielded by Dean Tracey Lind, the other contributor (from the AAC) spat ECUSA out almost like an accusation.

Meanwhile, the Special Committee is feeling the heat and trying to expedite its process. So far, after five days of meetings, the committee has discharged (killed) four resolutions, recommended one to be thrown out and sent just three on to the Houses. Of these three, A159 about interdependence in the Anglican Communion has been amended in both Houses so now needs to reach agreement on its final wording. A165 on the Anglican Covenant has been amended in the House of Bishops but is expected to hit problems in the House of Deputies, while A166 on the Listening Process has been passed by the Bishops but has not yet reached the Deputies for their concurrence.

Yet Bishop Henderson, one of the co-chairs, told the House of Bishops today that the Committee hoped to conclude their business within 24 hours and have at least two more resolutions to the Houses tomorrow. We are glad that at least Bishop Henderson still believes in miracles!

The Integrity Eucharist this evening was a wonderful celebration and affirmation of the rightful place of LGBT people in this church. Integrity President Susan Russell celebrated, the Trinity Church choir sang, the organ boomed and Bishop Gene Robinson preached a moving sermon to a packed church. Building on the theme of ‘Jesus is the homosexual agenda’, Robinson shared his personal experience of God’s movement in his life and the sacrificial call of Christ to love even the most unlovable, anyway.

Audio of Bishop Robinson's sermon can be heard here.

Other News . . .

A major commitment to church planting and evangelism that passed the House of Deputies was amended in the House of Bishops, essentially gutting the financial support it needed. Once again, one wonders when our Church is going to put its money where its mouth is. The amended bill will come back to the Deputies for concurrence. Let's hope the funding can be restored.

A number of important rites of passage recommended by the Prayer Book and Liturgy Committee have begun to come to the floor of both Houses. So far they are being passed easily.

The House of Deputies has elected Ms. Bonnie Anderson (Michigan) as its next President, and the Rev. Brian Prior (Spokane) as its next Vice-President. There terms begin at the end of this Convention. On Sunday, the bishops will meet in conclave to elect the next Presiding Bishop and Primate. Rumors are flying, but Jefferts-Schori, Alexander, Sauls, and Parsley are the names I keep hearing.

All of the bishops-elect have received consent in both Houses, except the Rev. Cn. Barry Beisner, bishop-elect of Northern California. The Committee on the Consecration of Bishops has recommended for consent, but is issuing a dissenting minority report as well. Conservatives are making an issue of the fact that Fr. Beisner has been divorced twice and is remarried for a third time. Are the conservatives setting the framework for debate on other sexuality-related resolutions, using Beisner to see how strong their support is?

Friday, June 16, 2006

Day Three: Images of Convention

I've been covering action in the House of Deputies, pictured above, where more than 800 clergy and laity from the 111 dioceses of the Episcopal Church meet in two sessions each of the nine days of Convention. It is a high tech affair with electronic voting (although it took the better part of two days for the deputies to figure out how to use the keypads!).

Tuesday night, Bishop Gene Robinson (the guy in the purple shirt) and Joe Salmonese, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, were the guests of honor at the premiere of Voices of Witness, a video produced by Claiming the Blessing. Wednesday morning, +Gene and Joe held a press conference supporting marriage equality, which General Convention will be considering in a resolution from the Diocese of Newark. Last night, +Gene was on Larry King Live, along with Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold.

Human sexuality continues to be a major focus of Convention, with more than 1500 people crowding a hearing room Wednesday evening to hear testimony on resolutions calling for Convention to repent for the actions of the last General Convention, and impose moratoria on electing partnered gay bishops and on authorizing rites for the blessing of same-sex unions. The Archbishop of York spoke in favor of these resolutions, but many spoke against them. The resolutions are still being "perfected" by the Special Committee dealing with responses to the Windsor Report.

Deputies, bishops and visitors relax in the Exhibit Hall in between sessions, where Claiming the Blessing has a comfortable booth with free popcorn. Folks can also watch the "Voices of Witness" video there. You can see the video online here.

One of the major issues before Convention is the development of the budget for the national church in the next triennium, which will total nearly $152 million. The Convention has identified the following funding priorities in order of importance: 1. Justice and Peace programs, including supporting the U.N. Millenium Development Goals; 2. Young Adults, Youth and Children's ministries; 3. Reconciliation and Evangelism, engaging those who do not know Christ in God's mission of reconciling all things; 4. Congregational Transformation: revitalizing congregtations and leadership development; 5. Partnerships with other churches of the Anglican Communion, as well as ecumenical and interfaith partners.

Other important legislative matters include an interim Eucharistic sharing agreement with the United Methodist Church (passed by the bishops already) and hearings on repentance and restitution for the church's complicity in slavery. These matters have yet to come to the floor of the House of Deputies. Every day begins with committee hearings at 7:30 am and ends with a 10 pm Integrity debriefing. No wonder I'm so tired.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Convention Day Two: +Andrus One Step Closer to Consent

Pictured here are yours truly, sitting in between two of California's deputies, Nigel Renton (left) and the Rev. Cn. Michael Barlowe (right). I'm the relative novice next to these two Convention pros. Our deputation, along with other Californians, meets nightly in Bishop Swing's room to debrief and caucus.

Today, the Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus received a recommendation for consent to his election as bishop of California from the Committee on the Consecration of Bishops. His consent is now pending in the House of Deputies. It will probably be acted on tomorrow, and then sent to the House of Bishops for concurrence.

Bishop Marc was eloquent in his remarks before the Committee and in answering questions. Folks from the Dioceses of California and Alabama, including both diocesan bishops (+Bill Swing and +Henry Parsley), spoke in favor of consent. The proceedings were disrupted by the irrepressible and irresponsible right-wing "journalist," David Virtue, who raised scurrilous accusations of impropriety on the part of Bishop Marc for having signed a confidentiality agreement when a rector left the parish +Marc served as an associate in Pennsylvania.

Invoking a point of personal privilege, Bishop Marc responsed to this attempt at character assassination with genuine grace and transparency, remarking that "Christians operating with a hermenuetic of generosity might consider that my signing the agreement was an act of compassion." I understand him to mean that the agreement was a means of protecting people who might otherwise be harmed. I was so proud that we elected him our next bishop.

Virtue's report on the consent hearing is one-sided, and inaccurate in its account of the order of the proceedings (+Marc led the folks at the hearing in singing at the end of his opening remarks, and not after the question period during which Virtue verbally attached him as Virtue implies). The man can't take a joke, and puts the most innocuous comments in the worst possible light. I would recommend banning him from Convention, were it not for the fact that he doesn't deserve the halo of martyrdom.

Oh well, at least I can't complain that Convention is boring!

Other good news included the passage of resolutions making a million dollar plus commitment to renewing the Church's commitment to foriegn missions and missionaries during the next triennium, an important sign of our desire to build personal as well as institutional relationships with our partner Provinces of the Anglican Communion.

The major public hearings on the Windsor Report's call for a moratorium on the consecration of gay bishops and on the blessing of same-sex unions will be tonight. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Convention Day One: The Boring Convention?

Two immediate impressions of the first day of legislative business at Convention:

1. There appear to be fewer people here than in 2003 and

2. The energy level is way low: so much for the much touted stress and tension.

Everyone seemed to think that the focus of attention would be on the Special Committee on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion and, while the Committee hearings are drawing larger crowds than most, only 15 people signed up to testify regarding the first resolution under consideration: A159: Commitment to Interdependence in the Anglican Communion. This is a "no-brainer" resolution that essentially says, "Yes, we really, really want to continue to be Anglicans." Everyone agrees, yet the Committee still took two hours to tinker with deleting a modifier here, working out just which interim body should be charged with deciding a process for inviting international represtentatives to attend meetings there.

I wonder if the "reasserters" are loosing heart, having determined that the Episcopal Church will not turn back the clock on LGBT issues. One rumor today has it that once the conservatives in the House of Bishops realize that they don't have the votes to elect one of their own Presiding Bishop, they will cast their votes for the Rt. Rev. Katherine Jefferts-Schori in a cynical ploy to then declare that they now have a legitimate reason for schism. While I doubt that even Bishop Robert Duncan is that cynical (or smart), the misogny of it all does ring true. Prick a homophobe and they bleed sexism.

Meanwhile, the Convention continues with the less glamorous Gospel work of opposing torture, calling for universal health care, and supporting implementation of the U.N. Millenium Development Goals. One interesting event in the House of Deputies was the address given by the Most Rev. John Sentamu, Archbishop of York. In addition to his own gracious remarks, he read a message from the Archbishop of Canterbury. Clearly, the eyes of the Anglican Communion are upon us, but I suspect those eyes aren't as uniformly critical as we've been made to believe. Our Church will be the first Province of the Anglican Communion to respond to the Windsor Report, and I believe that many Provinces would be happy to see us dissent from certain of the Report's recommendations, or receive them with caution. Does anyone really want an Anglican curia? As the Integrity sticker many of us are wearing says: "Communion: Yes, Uniformity: No."

The highlight of the day was the premiere of Claiming the Blessing's new video: "Voices of Witness." About 75 people, including the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson and the president of the Human Rights Campaign, were in attendance at Trinity Church. The audience laughed, cried, and rejoiced over this powerful witness to the lives and ministries of lesbian and gay people in the Episcopal Church. Free DVDs will be available at Convention at the CTB booth beginning Friday, and will be made available throughout the Church.

One event to look forward to tomorrow morning: The Committee on Consents will hold its hearing regarding the election of the Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus as bishop-elect of California. This is one more step along the road to joyfully installing the 8th. bishop of California on July 22.

Monday, June 12, 2006

General Convention Eve: A Humbling Experience

Sunday night, Susan Russell and Michael Hopkins briefed the volunteers in the Integrity "nerve center" as we prepared to lobby for or against legislation on evangelism, marriage equality, HIV/AIDS, and the raft of resolutions in response to the Windsor Report.

The bottom line: our job is to be a non-anxious presence working for a church where everyone is welcome at the Table: even the people who drive us crazy!

Afterwards, the "queer cabal" plotted to establish a parallel Episcopal province . . . oh no, wait, that is what the American Anglican Network is planning. We were just sharing table fellowship and gearing up for the next 12 days.

And, of course, we dished about Church Gossip and caught up on the doings of our spouses, children and grandchildren. Funny how when gay people live pretty much the same kind of lives as straight people, it suddenly seems radical.

Today, committee meetings and hearings on resolutions began. I sat in on the Special Committee on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, which got off to a somewhat tentative start, as the committee members are still feeling each other out. Wednesday night will be the big public hearing on the main resolutions dealing with the response to the Windsor Report, including the proposed moratoria on authorizing rites for the blessing of same-sex unions.

A prediction: the Committee will not be able to report out resolutions any more conservative than those they have received from the Special Commission, whose report and resolutions they received. The House of Bishops will gnash their teeth, wring their hands, and essentially adopt what the Committee sends them. The House of Deputies will amend the resolutions in a slightly more mainstream direction, consistent with the postive steps the Church has taken in the past 30 years toward living into the affirmation that LGBT people have a full and equal claim on the ministry of the Church.

On another matter, I testified in support of the resolution my diocese sent to Convention condemning the use of torture. The hearing with the National and International Concerns Committee went well, and the resolution will probably be strengthened to commit members of the Episcopal Church, including chaplains, to support U.S. military and civilian personnel who refuse to obey illegal orders to participate in torture. As it stands, the resolution calls on the U.S. Government to renounce the use of torture in compliance with the U.N. Convention Against Torture, to which our government is a signatory, and calls for reparations for victims of torture. At least we all seem able to agree that torture is a bad thing! Who says we are a polarized church?

Two rumors to watch for:

1. Archbishop Akinola will come to the U.S. as a rallying point for unhappy conservatives who bolt the Convention. Whether or not ++Akinola arrives, will our refusal to repent for consenting to Bishop Robinson's election be the tipping point for the planned walkout, or will it be the election of an "unacceptable" Presiding Bishop?

2. The battle over whether or not the conservatives can walk away with church property will heat up, with the focus on the Diocese of San Juaquin. That diocese has amended their canons to give priority to diocesan canons over the national canons, and have voted to refuse to submit their next bishop-elect to the consent process, according to well placed sources. Sounds like abandonment of the Communion to me. Presentments, anyone?

On a personal note, I participated in a discussion among a diverse group of deputies and alternates today, in which one conservative priest described the church as divided between "orthodox" Christians, the "misguided middle," and apostate pagans. Presumably, gay clergy like me fall in the later category. This struck me as ironic, given that the parish I serve (which is predominantly LGBT), had a major conflict with the previous rector, in part, because he wasn't ORTHODOX ENOUGH for them. The point: our simple catgegorization of one another often fails to describe the complexity of our church adequately. And that failing applies to me, too.

Being at General Convention is a humbling experience.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Calm Before the Storm

Today is pretty quiet in Columbus as bishops, deputies, and various hangers-on are just arriving. The exhibition hall opened this afternoon, with everything from Native American jewelry, spiritual books, and vestments, to advocacy groups and free popcorn aSalty Vicart the Claiming the Blessing booth. More than 200 vendors will hawk their ideas and wares to more than 10,000 visitors who will come through the hall in the next 12 days.

Last night, the Integrity volunteer orientation began with a celebration of the Holy Eucharist, including an inspiring sermon by the Rev. Michael Hopkins. Integrity volunteers will be tracking legislation, tesitifying at committee hearings, and supporting our efforts to advocate for LGBT people in church and society. While Michael+ was inspiring, no doubt the Salty Vicar provides the most succinct and amusing description of General Convention.

I've spent the today connecting with friends and colleagues. Trinity Church, Columbus, was packed as we celebrated Trinity Sunday with Episcopalians from all over the country and beyond, including at least three bishops. Before mass I had breakfast with Louie Crew, founder of Integrity, and the Rev'd Colin Coward, director of Changing Attitude, one the Church of England LGBT advocacy groups. We had a fascinating conversation that ranged over episcopal elections in ECUSA, the Anglican-wide process of listening to the voices of LGBT people, especially those in Africa, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and ways we might work more closely together. One of the gifts of the Windsor Report is that the collective response to it may give birth to a truly global Anglican LGBT movement. Finding ways to connect this burgeoning movement with global human rights and development goals is critical to our justice agenda.

After mass, I was delighted to run into Brother Timothy Solverson, SSJE, a former member of my parish, who is now in Cambridge, MA. It was a wonderful reminder that General Convention is not just a legislative meeting, but also a homecoming and family reunion. The presence of religious like Bro. Timothy is also a much-needed reminder that our prophetic work needs to be grounded in contemplative practice. May all of the work of General Convention be bathed in prayer.