Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I just love the stories of Anthony De Mello, the late Jesuit whose writings have touched so many people. Here is one from his Awakening: Conversations with the Masters:

There were no clocks in the monastery. When a businessman complained about the lack of punctuality, the Master said, "Ours is a cosmic punctuality, not a business punctuality."

This made no sense to the businessman, so the Master added, "Everything depends upon your point of view. From the viewpoint of the forest, what is the loss of a leaf? From the viewpoint of the cosmos, what is the loss of your business schedule?"

Terrific . . . so long as the liturgy starts on time!

I think my eleven year-old might just be the Master.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

On Temples and Torture

As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
- (Mark 13:1-2; cf. Matt. 24:1-8, Luke 21:5-11)

V. Give peace, O Lord, in all the world;
R. For only in you can we live in safety.

- The Book of Common Prayer, p. 97

Whenever we place our trust in anything other than God to secure our lives, we make an idol of it. The essence of an idol is that it is an illusion: it purports to provide what it can never deliver. “National Security” is a commonplace idol in post-9/11 America, much as it was during the Cold War. In the Cold War period, the chief symbol of this idol was a nuclear warhead. It seems to me that the dominant symbol of idolatry today is the torture chamber.

Much as we were tempted to believe that “The Bomb” would keep us safe by deterring the Communist threat, so now we are tempted to believe that torturing our enemies will protect us from terrorist threats. Those who were unwilling to support the nuclear arms race were branded weak, even traitors. Similarly, those who are unwilling to practice torture are dismissed as na├»ve if not unpatriotic. Already, the Obama administration is backtracking on its commitments to undo the Bush torture regime, for fear that it will be held culpable for any future terrorist attacks on American soil.

As Christians who pray each morning, “Give peace, O Lord, in all the world; for only in you can we live in safety,” we are morally obligated to question the veracity of the national security ideology. Do we really place our trust in torture, of all things, to keep us safe? How can those of us who live under the sign of the cross possibly do so? Isn’t it an inversion of our deepest commitments, turning the meaning of our most important symbol on its head? That those who claim Jesus, who was tortured and executed by a global empire, as their Lord, would now think water boarding is a great idea, is more than ironic. It is a tragic betrayal of Christian faith.

Of course, none of this is new. In his own day, Jesus’ contemporaries claimed the temple in Jerusalem as the symbol and guarantee of their nationalist aspirations. They believed it was impregnable, the last bastion of protection for the righteous. Those who defended it could never be defeated.

In the face of this religious ideology, Jesus’ claim that not one stone of the temple would remain standing was outrageous. His conviction that the temple’s symbolic deployment to justify violence was idolatrous was an affront to both Roman imperial and Jewish nationalist pretensions, because it undermined the systems of domination, exclusion, and scapegoating on which they depended. If God could not be relied upon to legitimate national interests, then what purpose could He possibly serve? Do we really want a God who showers life-giving rain on both the just and the unjust?

Jesus offers an alternative vision of a God who is compassionate, and whose kingdom is signified not by inviolable temples or torture chambers, but rather by indiscriminate healing and table fellowship. Jesus taught us to love our enemies. I think we can safely say that rules out water boarding, attack dogs, and placing electrodes on people’s genitals. National security was not Jesus’ overriding interest. His ultimate loyalty, and ours, was and must be to a more inclusive and peaceable kingdom.

The truth is that nothing, and no one, can guarantee our security. The good news is that we do not need such guarantees in order to be joyous and free. We need only embrace our vulnerability and common humanity as God’s beloved children, and become willing to be compassionate as God is compassionate. Jesus never promised us a risk-free world. What he did promise is that the risks we take for the sake of the kingdom will never be in vain.

Jesus didn’t seem to have much use for the ideology of either Jewish zealots or Roman imperialists, or for the violence justified by each. What is the difference, after all, between a terrorist and a torturer? Those who trust in the idol of national security, eventually become what they hate. Idolatry always leads to death. The politics of fear inevitably leads to the construction of crosses – and enemies to crucify.

The seeds of compassion, by contrast, always bear new life; resurrection beyond the crosses created to provide the illusion of security. As followers of Jesus, let us renounce safety in favor of reality. Let us see beyond the false choice between terrorism and torture to perceive the blessedness of peacemakers, who are children of God. Let us have the courage to take up our cross and follow Jesus for the sake of God’s kingdom, and leave it to the likes of Pilate to justify torture for the sake of empire.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Awakening Compassion

In chapter eleven of her Life, Teresa of Avila describes progress in the spiritual life with the lovely image of watering a garden. The garden is within the soul. Water is the experience of divine love. Prayer is the effort we exert to water the garden.

Teresa employs four images representing four stages of prayer. As we progress through these stages, we experience an increasing sense of love and a decreasing sense of self effort.

In the first stage, we pull water from a well. In the second stage, we employ a waterwheel to draw the water. In the third stage, the water is drawn from a nearby spring or stream. In the final stage, a gentle rain provides the water; the Lord “waters it Himself.”

Commenting on this image, Gerald May remarks, “I would say that increasing purity or experience [of divine love] is associated with decreased ‘processing’ by the mind. In wondering how the soul was occupied during the watering-by-rain, Teresa felt God say to her, ‘It dissolves utterly, my daughter, to rest more and more in Me. It is no longer itself that lives; it is I.’”(1)

Our sense of effort in prayer diminishes as our sense of self diminishes and our sense of God enlarges. In the first stage, we need a very strong sense of self to focus our awareness and let go of attachments, preoccupations, and illusions. It takes a lot of effort to gather this concentration.

In the second stage, while our sense of self diminishes, we may become acutely aware of the method of prayer we are employing (the waterwheel); preoccupied with whether or not we are doing it “right.” We may find ourselves in this stage for a long time, becoming aware that we are distracted and employing the method to refocus – coming back to our breath, reciting the Jesus prayer, using our sacred word as a touchstone, etc. We are conscious of when we are not praying, and of when we are praying.

Zen Master Sheng Yen offers a wonderful analogy here.(2) Normally, when we put on a pair of glasses we are just seeing through them. If we are continually conscious of the glasses, they actually become a barrier to perception. So it is with our methods of prayer and meditation. They are simply glasses, aids to perception.

By the third stage we have let go of thinking about the method and are simply praying; the water flows more freely as from a stream. We not only have relinquished our thoughts, but our thoughts about our thoughts as well! In this stage we are not conscious of anything in particular, though we may be acutely aware of everything.

In a sense, the final stage is the end of prayer because it is the end of the self; at least, it is the end of the self’s effort at discrimination. Perhaps we can say that there is praying, but no “I” who is doing the praying. It is simply raining love. For the duration of this unitive experience the subject-object distinction is transcended without being destroyed. It just is.

There is a similar progression in Zen Buddhist meditation, moving through the experiences of scattered-mind, simple-mind, and one-mind, to no-mind.(3) “Scattered-mind” is the state of being tossed to and fro by our mental preoccupations; first one thing, and then another. We are distracted by our thoughts, feelings, and sensations when we first settle down to meditate. In “simple-mind” we are recollected and our method is “working.” Our awareness is very focused or one-pointed.

“One mind” expands this awareness to encompass everything. “I” become identified with “All,” but there is still a sense of self operative. A Zen practitioner was blissfully in this state of “one mind” when his teacher discovered him hugging a dog on the street. The teacher asked, “What are you doing embracing this dog?” The student replied, “It’s just me!” In response, the teacher struck him suddenly and exclaimed, “What! You mean you still have a ‘me’ there?”

In the state of “no-mind,” by contrast, there is no sense of “me,” however large and encompassing that identity may be. One attains wu or emptiness, understood as the absence of attachment to self. Master Yen describes it in this way: “In Buddhism we often speak of the enlightened state as ‘no-self’ because we have no better words for it. What this phrase says is that, at this stage, existence does not rely on self, others, or anything. It is spontaneous, natural existence. Accordingly, one helps sentient beings. Not for the sake of self, not for the sake of others; one just naturally helps sentient beings.”(4)

The absence of self is not a kind of nihilism, but rather the necessary condition for spontaneous compassion to arise. Here, I am reminded of Jesus’ teaching that we must lose our life in order to gain it, in order to become indiscriminately compassionate as God is compassionate.(5) While the Christian and the Buddhist part ways in how they describe Ultimate Reality – for Christianity is a bhakti yoga, and gladly embraces personal metaphors of divine love – it seems to me that they come close to convergence at the level of lived experience of this Reality.

Where we also may differ is in our response to this experience. Master Yen says that “Bodhisattvas have no particular point of view. Like a mirror, they are only a reflection of sentient beings. They do not say, ‘I will behave this way or that way to help people.’”(6) The Bodhisattva, the enlightened one, gives expression to compassion by helping people to perceive the reality of their own condition. There is, however, no impetus to “help.”

The Christian is moved to “help.”(7) The question, however, remains as to what action is truly helpful. This is a matter of discernment. But it is not a question the Christian can avoid. Is it one that the Buddhist can avoid either? Not if contemplation-and-action is, finally, one movement in response to Reality. Compassion is not only reflecting Reality, but also working to ameliorate conditions that inhibit others from realizing their true nature.

(1) Gerald May, Will and Spirit, p. 202.
(2) Chan Master Sheng Yen, Getting the Buddha Mind, pp. 57-58.
(3) Yen, pp. 128-130.
(4) Yen, pp. 71-72.
(5) See, for example, Luke 6:27-36, 9:21-27, 15:11-32.
(6) Yen, p. 72.
(7) The parable of the Good Samaritan and The Letter of James come to mind.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Light's Dawning

The prophet Isaiah tells us that “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness-- on them light has shined.” I wonder if you have ever lived in a land of deep darkness, feeling quite lost and abandoned. I wonder if you have ever had the experience, in the depths of this darkness, of a love so powerful that it illuminated your path and warmed your heart. Where did you discover the signs of this light, the first slender rays of its dawning?

Rosa and Drago Sorak, a Bosnia Serb couple living in the Muslim enclave of Gorazde during the height of the ethnic conflict there between Serbs and Muslims, discovered the light in a most unexpected place: Fedil Fejzic’s cow.(1)

It was a time of deep darkness for Rosa and Drago. Though they were Bosnian Serbs, they rejected Serbian nationalist propaganda and refused to align themselves with the Serbian forces seeking to occupy Bosnia. Even when the Serbian forces laid siege to Gorazde in 1992, they refused to leave their home. Their fellow Serbs considered them traitors. Their Muslim neighbors considered them enemies.

Life in Gorazde became a living hell as Serbian forces shelled the city daily, cutting off electricity, gas, and water. The death toll mounted and food became scarce, but the Sorak’s persevered. When their son, Zoran, was taken by the local Muslim police for interrogation, they remained with their pregnant daughter-in-law. Zoran was never seen again. Shortly thereafter, their second son, who fought with the Serbians, was killed.

Muslim gangs began to loot the city, harassing and killing their Serbian neighbors, forcing the Sorak’s into hiding on many nights. Then, five months after Zoran’s disappearance, his wife gave birth to a baby girl, but she was unable to nurse her. As the siege continued, food became increasingly scarce. The very young, the very old, and the very sick began to die in droves. For five days, Rosa and Drago had nothing but tea to nourish their new granddaughter. The infant began to die.

Meanwhile, Fedil Fejzic, one of their Muslim neighbors, was keeping his cow in a field and milking it at night to avoid being hit by Serbian sniper fire. Rosa Sorak reports that “On the fifth day, just before dawn, we heard someone at the door. It was Fadil Fejzic in his black rubber boots. He handed up half a liter of milk. He came the next morning, and the morning after that, and after that. Other families on the street began to insult him. They told him to give his milk to Muslims, to let the Chetnik children die. He never said a word. He refused our money. He came for 442 days, until my daughter-in-law and granddaughter left Gorazde for Serbia.”

Eventually, Drago and Rosa also left Gorazde. They mourned their dead sons and never forgot the terrors visited upon them by their Muslim neighbors. But as they told war correspondent Chris Hedges, who recorded their story, “they could not listen to other Serbs talking about Muslims or even recite their own sufferings, without telling of Fejzic and his cow. Here was the power of love. What this illiterate farmer did would color the life of another human being, who might never meet him, long after he was gone. In his act lay an ocean of hope.”

“It is our duty to always tell this story,” Drago Sorak said. “Salt, in those days cost $80 a kilo. The milk he had was precious, all the more so because it was hard to keep animals. He gave us 221 liters. And every year at this time, when it is cold and dark, when we close our eyes, we can hear the boom of the heavy guns and the sound of Fadil Fejzic’s footsteps on the stairs.”

This is how the light of God, the power of love, breaks into our deepest darkness: in great humility, in obscurity, in barely discernible signs of humanity revealed in the actions of the most unlikely people. Fadil comes in the early morning, with the first rays of light after a long and painful dark night of the soul, to bring gifts to a vulnerable child. It is only this simple peasant, keeping his cow by night, who recognizes the sign and hope of humanity in this newborn infant. Drago and Rosa, like Mary in the story of Jesus’ nativity, are still treasuring this experience and pondering its meaning in their hearts.

Where do we locate the signs of light in this story? Surely, in Fadil, who like the shepherds in Luke’s Gospel, recognizes the glory of God in the sign of a child wrapped in bands of cloth and comes to pay homage to the new life she brings. It isn’t simply Fadil’s compassionate self-giving that is striking; we might expect as much among family and friends. It is the fact that he is a stranger, even an enemy, willing to risk reputation and the censure of his own people, which gives such brilliance to the light he brings. There is something miraculous about the light shining through the cracks in the walls that are meant to divide us.

Yet, it seems to me that the light shines in Rosa and Drago as well; from their side of the crack in the wall, if you will. Something in them allows them to be open to receive Fadil’s gift; in spite of the fact that he is the “wrong” nationality and religion; in spite of the fact that they have endured more than their share of pain and loss and despair. There is something of great power and beauty in their refusal to harden their hearts and cling to a sense of being victims. They have been hurt, yes; but they have not taken their identity from their pain, but rather from their continuing capacity for relationship with the other.

I think here of Joseph and Mary, stigmatized for being pregnant out of wedlock, poor and unable to secure a safe place to stay after a long and arduous journey. It would have been all too easy for them to be defended against these strange shepherds who disturb their uneasy sleep with unbelievable good news. There is something miraculous about the light shining through our refusal to be defined by the worst thing that has happened to us. Sometimes, the bare willingness to receive the support of another is enough to kindle a flame in the darkness.

What is most strange, and most like God, are the two helpless infants in these stories. What is the source of their light? What is it in them that draws Fadil and the shepherds, bringing together strangers and reconciling enemies? What is it about them that brings peace on earth, an end to the boots of the tramping warriors and the garments rolled in blood? It is, I think, the capacity of their sheer vulnerability to evoke compassion.

This is the astonishing thing about the Incarnation, God becoming flesh in Jesus: that God should love us so much, desiring us to be reconciled with Him and with one another, that He would become utterly vulnerable so as to arouse our compassion and awaken us to our common humanity. It is the vulnerability of God, revealed first in the manger and ultimately on the Cross, that makes the light of the Resurrection shine all the more brightly.

Here is a great mystery: we bear God’s image mostly brilliantly in our being vulnerable as God is vulnerable. Were it otherwise, we could not be compassionate as God is compassionate. It is through our capacity to embrace our vulnerability – recognizing in it our common humanity – that the light of God shines most brightly in our lives.

This is the good news that Joseph and Mary and the shepherds welcomed when God came among them in such great humility. This is the source of the light that Drago and Rosa and Fadil were able to perceive in the midst of deep darkness. The Christmas story is our story, the story of how love comes among us with such power to light our darkness. Like Drago Sorak, we have an obligation to tell this story, so that every year at this time, when it is cold and dark, when we close our eyes, we can hear the boom of the heavy guns and – and – the sound of the footsteps of all the world’s Fadils on the stairs, coming to bear witness to the power of love.

(1) This story is reported in Chris Hedges, War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, pp. 50-53.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Enter At Your Own Risk

If we are true to the way of Jesus, who invites us to take up our cross and follow him, perhaps we should hang a sign outside our churches that reads: "Enter at your own risk" rather than "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You." So often, I hear people talk about how important it is for our congregations to be "safe spaces" for people. Nothing could be further from the truth. If we want to grow spiritually, what we really need are spaces in which we can take risks.

In his book, The Active Life: A Spirituality of Work, Creativity, and Caring, Parker Palmer expresses this truth beautifully:

There is an intimate link between our capacity for risk-taking and our commitment to learning and growing. A risk is an effort that may not succeed, and the bigger the risk, the less the chance of success. So why would anyone take such risks? There are many reasons, but one of the most creative is that by risking we may learn more about ourselves and our world, and the bigger the risk, the greater the learning. If we do not value learning, we will not risk, and our actions will be limited to small and predictable arenas in which we know we can succeed. (p. 23)

I'm reminded of the definition of a dying congregation: a group of people who keep doing the same thing well, over and over again, with an ever-diminishing return.

If our congregations are "safe spaces" that never challenge us, never invite us out of our comfort zones, then we condemn ourselves to an ever-diminishing circle of experience that remains within our control. We become enclosed in a world that will never grow large enough to exceed our fears. We will keep trying to make God "safe," refusing to accept that a god subject to our control is no god at all.

Not many people really want to grow spiritually. It is much easier to remain comfortably ensconced within our illusions. But those who do hunger for reality, for the experience of God, aren't looking for someone to make them feel safe; they are looking for people who will accompany them in the risky venture of discovering the truth about themselves, willing to embrace their deepest desire to love God and all things in God. And there is nothing "safe" about that. Its scary as hell.

Its scary because spiritual growth isn't about achieving security or success. Its about embracing our failures and fears, riding them all the way down until we touch bottom and discover what Thomas Merton called our "hidden wholeness." We have to be willing to lose our life so that we can receive it. We must be willing to die so that we can live. Only when we are ready to embrace loss as well as achievement, vulnerability as well as boundaries, can we find the freedom to act without regard for outcomes. Only then will we have the courage to take off the masks. Only then will we live and love in truth.

Recently, a deeply faithful member of my community came to me and said, "I'm tired of being such a fake. I go through the motions of 'good works' but inside I just feel so empty. I'm so hungry and thirsty for God." I almost shouted, "Hallelujah!" Here was someone willing to confront reality, in touch with his deepest desire, willing to lay down his life (taking his identity from the regard of others) so that he could live (realizing his identity as God's beloved). To encounter just one such person is a miracle, providing a lifetimes' worth of encouragement.

That is what our churches are for - to bring us into the community of those who hunger and thirst for the One who can satiate us. It is isn't always pretty, and it certainly isn't safe. But it is real. And in the reality, in the roundness of our brilliant, shadowed lives, we will discover the fulfillment that comes to us, not as our achievement, but as the gift of an Other.

That is a risk worth taking.

Friday, December 18, 2009


Have you ever had the experience of a book falling into your hands at just the right time, conveying the message you need to hear? That is how I have felt reading Parker Palmer's The Active Life: A Spirituality of Work, Creativity, and Caring. There are many aspects of the book upon which I would like to comment (and will in future blog posts), but I want to begin by highlighting the way in which Palmer understands the relationship between "contemplation-and-action."

Let's look first at the way Palmer defines these two terms separately. He says,

I understand action to be any way that we can co-create reality with other beings and with the Spirit . . . I understand contemplation to be any way that we can unveil the illusions that masquerade as reality and reveal the reality behind the masks. (p. 17)

While we can separate the two terms for purposes of analysis, in reality "contemplation-and-action" are experienced as one movement; a movement toward awareness that allows us to act with freedom and creativity. As Palmer notes, action without contemplation is mere frenzy. I would add that it also could be understood as addiction - compulsive behavior generating the illusion of control, completely out of touch with reality. Conversely, contemplation without action is escapism. It can be an expression of moral cowardice; a refusal to take responsibility for our lives.

Palmer rightly points out that life provides us with many opportunities to practice "contemplation-and-action." It is given to all of us, not just to ascetic virtuosos. I think of a friend who was crushed to discover his spouses infidelity. He came to see how narcissistic his partner had been throughout their marriage, and how co-dependent he had been. This stripping away of illusion was a contemplative experience born of becoming willing to see reality at is it, rather than as we wish it to be.

After an extended period of marriage counseling, the relationship ended in divorce. My friend continued therapy and worked on developing a stronger sense of self and appropriate boundaries, and is now happily engaged in a new and much healthier relationship. The new relationship is creative of reality, of the person my friend is created to become and the life God desires for him.

A willingness to be led by the Spirit into an awareness of reality is all we need to become experienced practitioners of "contemplation-in-action." Life lived with a bare minimum of such awareness is all the school we need. Palmer rightly rejects a preoccupation with contemplative techniques, as they can get in the way of the actual lived experience of awareness.

While I would agree with him about the dangers of preoccupation with technique, it has been my experience that a commitment to contemplative practice - a regular pattern of prayer and meditation - strengthens my willingness to have my illusions stripped away so that I can live in awareness of reality, and act responsibly and creatively. It isn't how we practice, but the actual willingness to practice that can make a difference.

I appreciate Palmer's way of breaching the false dichotomy between contemplation and action. As Gigi Ross notes in her insightful commentary on the story of Jesus' encounter with Mary and Martha ("Martha with the Heart of Mary," Shalem News, Winter-Spring 2006), we don't need to strike a balance between contemplation and action because they are not opposites. Action and rest are opposites, and that is certainly a balance we need to honor for the sake of our well-being. I agree with Ross that a "balance" between contemplation and illusion is not desirable. Being in touch with the deepest desires of our heart, our God-centeredness, is desirable whether we are at work or on vacation, engaged in demanding action or relaxing.

One final observation: in reflecting on "contemplation-and-action" I wonder if we might also speak of "contemplation-in-action." When I ponder Jesus' teaching and practice, so much of what he did and said was in the service of stripping away illusions so that people could experience the kindom of God as present reality. He acted so that we might see, and his vision opened up new ways of being in the world. Jesus' parables and his parabolic actions (healing on the Sabbath, engaging with women, chasing the bankers out of the Temple) were models of contemplation-in-action. His example bears witness to our heart's desire for integration and wholeness - and to the vulnerability and risk required to become free of our illusions.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way . . .

to the bishop suffragan elections in Los Angeles. I discovered that I am called to the vocation of marriage.

Now, this is a really good thing; especially, considering that I have been married (in the Christian sacramental sense) for more than fifteen years! Yet, after all these years, it somehow took undergoing the process of discernment with the Diocese of Los Angeles regarding the election of their bishops suffragan to internalize this truth in a new and deeper way. This was one of the many gifts of my participation in the process - and undoubtedly the most surprising.

For years, I have teased my husband that were he to get hit by a bus, I would enter the monastery as soon as the funeral was over! I sort of felt as if I was married by accident, surprised by God to find myself married on the way to something else; as if marriage were in addition to my spiritual journey.

Now, I had been told by a spiritual director a decade ago that "God doesn't call us to competing vocations." I knew in my head that my marriage was part and parcel of my spiritual journey and its fulfillment, part of my calling to become more fully human in the way of Jesus. But I didn't really make the heart connection until the past six months.

What I realized anew was the way in which Andrew and I have become more fully human, more fully our selves, through the process of mutual listening and mirroring that is the heart of our conjugal spiritual practice. Something about the public nature of this discernment, and the way in which we both showed-up for it, allowed me to see Andrew as other than an extension of myself. I saw him as a poised, mature, engaging, centered adult with his own gifts and distinct personhood. And I really liked what I saw!

At the same time, I was humbled and gratified by the realization that I was able to show-up for this process with a sense of integrity, in part, because of the conjugal practice that has shaped me - that has made me more fully myself. Our marriage isn't about being complimentary, much less co-dependent, but rather about being more fully self-differentiated, alive, and present. And it is precisely on the basis of this self-differentiation that we are able to be more truly connected to one another - more in love in the best sense of that phrase.

So much of what I know about ordained ministry, I have learned together with Andrew. My "vocations" have been one life, one ministry all along.

Who knew that being a nominee for bishop would strengthen my marriage? Thank you, Diocese of Los Angeles, for this unanticipated gift.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

There Are Worse Things . . .

Archbishop Rowan Williams has invited the bishops and Standing Committees of The Episcopal Church to withhold consent to the election of Canon Mary Glasspool as bishop suffragan in the Diocese of Los Angeles. Why? Because she is an openly partnerned lesbian. ++Rowan's implicit threat if TEC consents is to kick us out of the Anglican Communion.

I'm reminded of these lines from Anthony DeMello's Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations:

A Hindu Sage was having The Life of Jesus read to him. When he learned how Jesus was rejected by his people in Nazareth, he exclaimed, "a rabbi whose congregation does not want to drive him out of town isn't a rabbi." And when he learned how it was the priests who put Jesus to death, he said with a sigh, "It is hard for Satan to mislead the whole world, so he appoints prominent ecclesiastics in different parts of the globe."

The lament of a bishop: "Wherever Jesus went there was a revolution; wherever I go people serve tea!"

When a million people follow you, ask yourself where have you gone wrong. ("Religion," p. 73)

There are worse things than getting kicked out of the Anglican Communion.