Saturday, November 22, 2008

Katie Sherrod from Ft. Worth posted this.

Jack Iker is inhibited

Jack Iker has been inhibited from sacramental acts by the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. He now has 60 days to recant his abandonment of the Episcopal Church. If he does not change his mind, the House of Bishops will most likely depose him at their next meeting, which means he will no longer be a bishop of the Episcopal Church. This is what has happened with Robert Duncan, former bishop of Pittsburgh; and John David Schofield, former bishop of San Joaquin.

Please note that deposition is not a punishment for his theological beliefs. It is an acknowledgement that he has chosen to leave our church and can no longer function as a bishop in the Episcopal Church.

These are consequences for the choices he has made, consequences he is well aware of.

These are sad days for those who have faithfully followed their bishop. Please pray for them and for Jack Iker, that they may find the spiritual home that is best for them. If some of them should decide that is the Episcopal Church, we will welcome them home with open arms.

Please pray for those of us who will reorganize the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.

Comment: Finally! I have been waiting for this day ever since I protested his consecration in 1991. It will take a bulldozer to get him out of the office and the churches in that diocese, but at least he won't be able to micromanage peoples' lives anymore.

Friday, November 21, 2008

"As for me and my house..."

"I am pleased you acknowledge that the debates with which we are engaged may be part of a valid development in Christian doctrine. I believe it to be so, based on principles of moral and dogmatic theology, one of which, at least, challenges the orthodoxy of the whole novel "complementarity" argument advanced against same-sex relationships in recent days. (Even Pope Benedict has noted the novelty of John Paul II's teaching on this subject.)

As to why now, or why us; we cannot fight the movement of culture, time and place -- we ignore these things to our peril. Occasionally the culture is actually ahead of the church, as in the case of slavery, which was ardently defended in the "orthodox" church while nonconformists were busy fighting it. So the time is now. And this appears to be the place." Tobias Haller, BSG

I was taken by Father Tobias’ reply to comments on this blog. While I have often asked God “Why me?” or “Why now”? this is perhaps the kindest answer to this question in the history of the Church or for that matter, me personally.

Over the past 10 years I have been listening and observing the change of the Church like I have never known. In the discussions at a workshop by Diana Butler Bass I found that we are part of a sea change of culture that has not been seen since the Reformation. I am not sure what this is going to mean for the future. What the Church will look like in 50 years is not going to be my privilege to see. The only thing that I can do is to remain faithful to the core sayings of Jesus to love others as I am loved.

History doesn’t really slowly evolve. Sometimes, there is momentous change in the twinkling of an eye. I would suggest that the bombing of Hiroshima was one such twinkling of an eye. We learned in that moment that we humans had the capability and the will to exact an awful vengeance--a vengence upon the whole of creation. Perhaps it was that act that precipitated the current crisis in the Church. It is a stretch, but in the 63 years since that event, life has become both more precious and more throw-away. It is these polls that disturb me.

“As for me and my house” I choose life—a life that is lived within the embrace of a God who values goodness, wholeness, truth, and peace. I have found that I do not live well polarized. I cannot sustain a sense of God’s love when constantly forced for reasons beyond my control to have to fight to be who I am because there are those who cannot open their lives to the goodness that God gives.

Yes, I am trying to change the understanding of Scripture. I am trying to allow the life of Jesus to have some bearing on these polarizations in life. The Chinese curse of “May you live in interesting time” has fallen upon us all in the Church. I know that my job is to try to keep before myself and those I serve, a vision of Christ that is welcoming and hospitable.

I have not always be able to do that. It is difficult when there are those who denigrate and exclude in the name of the One who loves me so much. The important thing about this blog is that it be a place where comments can be left and discussions nourished. Critique is allowed but only if it is respectful.

We are all experiencing this change in the Church. Some welcome it and some do not. Not all of the change do I welcome. I don’t find some of the new forms of worship that worshipful. The sound bite attention spans of many of the younger clerics worries me, but as for us being certain that we are going to set the curve on being welcoming and hospitable, I am proud of my Church.

Monday, November 17, 2008

"Sodomite" and "Nigger" Diocesan Convention Pt. 3

I have always enjoyed Diocesan Convention no matter which diocese I was serving. It was a time in which I gathered with colleagues, heard a speaker or two that helped me renew my commitment as a priest and pastor. It was where I could have my voice heard through the legislative and elective processes so dear to my denomination. I met friends who shared the ministry both lay and ordained. I stood in the traditions of our Church sustained with a liturgy that lifted me out of my local congregation and into the realm of the whole national and international Church. Episcopal clergy are not members of their parishes; they are members of the convention of their diocese. Convention was where I understood myself to be a pastor, priest and Christian of something greater than my local parish.

Yes, it was a place where we could argue with one another about various manifestations of Christ’s love in resolutions, constitution and canons and the use of diocesan funds. But never did we deny that the faith we shared was in Jesus Christ. Never did we intimate that we were not faithful Christians because we held one position or another.

The debris left from the schismatic efforts of a few renegade bishops in the Episcopal Church is still with us. We have lost a couple of parishes because of these schismatic efforts but most of the Episcopalians have remained in other parishes in Binghamton. I had hoped that in past conventions we had made it clear what the mind of convention about LGBT persons was. I know I flinched when the Dean brought forth his resolution. Once again LGBT persons became the target for the neo-conservatives to beat up, diminish healthy relationships to sexual acts and deny LGBT persons the same kind of respect as heterosexual Christians. The discussion, though short, allowed some to continue to denigrate the faith of LGBT persons. Granted, the resolution passed unequivocally, but the damage was done. The Chair of Convention did not intervene with the speakers who insisted on calling the manifestations of love of LGBT persons sodomy.

We would not allow the word “Nigger” because the word has been used to denigrate African-Americans. We don’t use “Bitch” or “whore” or other terms used to denigrate the lives of women. “Sodomite” should not be used for the same reason. It is a dirty, ugly word that does not in anyway describe the love between LGBT persons. For the Bishop to remain silent when such language is used on Convention floor says that he either supports the use of such language or he is not aware of the hurtfulness such language to LGBT persons. It means that he is not being advised by people who are sensitive to the needs of LGBT Christians in his diocese. It means his support of LGBT persons is facile and wishy-washy. He does not stand in solidarity with those who have been excluded. It means he cannot practice what he preaches. I call upon him to exclude the word from use at all diocesan meetings because of its continued injury to the faith of LGBT persons.

Quo Vades? Diocesan Convention (part II)

Once again the Diocesan Convention provided no substance to the ministry of Jesus Christ in Central NY. Previously, the prevailing negative attitude of the Diocesan office had not permeated the fabric of convention. Not this year. The first speakers on Friday afternoon began a harangue of the People of God that continued throughout the weekend. It was clear that the frustration of the Diocesan office has ‘trickled down’ to the tenor of the convention.

We had jazz, we had power point, we had utube, we had liturgy that was cutesy, but like most of the work of convention, the liturgy once again did not provide a focus and a theme for the whole convention. A good chorus of Christ is Made the Sure Foundation might have reminded us of the kind of togetherness that many remember in this diocese. For a liturgical church the liturgy of our conventions for the past several years have been real disappointments. It is as if the leadership is grasping at straws in trying to keep us entertained at convention rather than engage the people of God to celebrate Christ among us.

When I conferred with the Secretary of Convention she told me that 53 parishes were represented out of 93---hmmm I say. But when I spoke with the Bishop he gave me a total of 88. The actual number by Saturday afternoon was 83. Who is to say how many congregations were represented at Diocesan Convention this year and for what portions of the convention were they represented? There were clearly fewer people this year. We ate in a smaller room.

All the doom and gloom missives about budget cuts served to cut less than 1% of the budget. There were mouthings about dynamic programs and strategic planning, but it is impossible to see it. What I see is a stagnant and moribund organization, not a vibrant, faith-filled Church that is willing to cut the budget enough to bring about real change in the diocese. This does not mean that good things are not going on in parishes all over the diocese. The People of God have been doing Christ’s work for a couple of centuries in Central NY, but it seems that it cannot be celebrated by the leadership of our diocese. It is easier to shake fingers and tell us of our failings rather than give thanks for the work that is happening in our parishes despite the lack of leadership.

I must admit, I find it so hard to hang on to my temper when I listen our bishop berates us and remind us that we need to be a welcoming church when I am not included in anything in the diocese. I don’t even get the basic mailings, am not allowed to attend regional meetings in preparation for convention. I am not the only priest of the diocese who is kept from such meetings. Many senior and retired clergy have given up on the diocese. They no longer provide their well-worn wisdom to a diocese that is run by consistently younger men and women who have less and less formation. Yet we were chastised at numerous places in videos, sermons and reports for not being inclusive. The diocesan staff and leaders of programs need to be indicted by their own words and repent of their own exclusionary actions.

Play Dough? Give me a break! This kind of trivializing of the convention process is not what we need. Diocesan Convention is not a visioning time. The Diocesan Convention is not even a time to celebrate what we have done in the past year and chart how we are to be about mission for the coming year. It is a time to take seriously the democratic process that is the center of how the Spirit of God works in the Episcopal Church. It requires knowledgeable persons who understand the finances of their parishes, who understand the legislative process and who are willing to serve both the parish and the diocese by staying for the whole of the convention. That we cannot even field people to serve on the various committees should tell our leadership something. It should tell the bishop, the dean and their staffs that all in not right in the diocese. It should say that perhaps their leadership is found wanting.

Why do we come to convention? --To play or to take on the serious issues facing the Church today? The legislative process is one of the most sacred duties that we as Episcopalians have. At center is a democratic process that has set the Episcopal Church apart from both the Roman and Anglican manifestation of the Church Catholic. It also holds together the faithful by providing a system of checks and balances that has allowed the Episcopal Church to deal fairly and respectfully with all Orders—laity, bishops, priests and deacons. To trivialize that process with reports that report nothing or give no clarity as to purpose or mission erodes the confidence of the People of God.

I was thankful for the resolution on the acceptance of SLGBT persons either partnered or not for the ordination process—we have been ordaining LGBT persons partnered and not, for years. The resolution allows the delegates to General Convention to be able to speak the mind of the diocesan convention. I was not thankful for those who continue to beat a dead horse on the issue, but I do believe that they should have a chance to voice their concerns. That is the nature of our democratic Church. I am always amazed at the fear that the neo-conservatives admit. I often wonder why they cannot turn the Church over to the love of God and let go of their fear. But that is one of the temptations of the neo-conservative evangelical arm of the Church. It seems they do not recognize that salvation is God’s gift, not something that we earn by works righteousness.

There was no report from Lambeth. As a diocese we spent a considerable amount to send +Skip and Bonnie to Canterbury. Why was there no discussion of the issues and how he found the World Wide Anglican Communion? Why do we hear nothing about the House of Bishops? Why continue to keep the Diocese of Central NY in the dark about issues that affect us and the larger Church? What is the bishop afraid of? Instead we hear about icons, and play dough! Is there no one in the leadership of the Diocese of CNY who can develop an agenda for Convention that will lead the Church into a considered discussion of the issues facing us? The blogosphere is rife with bishops who do keep their dioceses current and if it wasn’t for them I would not know what is happening to my beloved Church. We are not a communion that is moribund or life-less. Throughout the Episcopal Church we have come through a schismatic event stronger and more committed to the ministry of Jesus Christ than I have known in my thirty years of membership. Yet the Convention is not informed of this vitality. Perhaps +Skip doesn’t feel that vitality and commitment.

There is one thing about this convention that is positive: I did see many old friends and they are becoming less frightened to acknowledge our friendships. I made some more friends in this diocese this weekend. I will continue to be a noisy voice in the diocese. I will continue to discuss on this website the issues that are too scary to discuss within our Church family.

Diocesan Convention I--No, Doug, it isn't all about Sodomy!

I thought that we were going to get through Diocesan Convention without stirring up the old wounds. But the Dean felt a need to enliven a very boring convention by sticking a habenero into the stew. Resolution: May unmarried or partnered persons be considered for ordination? And the neo-conservatives were on.

To equate the love of partnered persons with sodomy, which one rector did, says that the priest does not understand the lives of partnered people and the depths of their love. Most of us have to overcome the blocks to our relationship that many would place in our way. It is a false message that says that people cannot have love for one another and their families unless they are married. This is not only unscriptural, it is pure bunk.

I have friends who have been married for almost 30 years. They have 2 grown children, live in the town where they grew up, own a business and one of the couple is the mayor of the village. The husband had tried to reconcile his feelings that he was really a woman all of his life. Years of therapy finally revealed that he was really a woman. Needless to say, this put much pressure upon his spouse. But the love that they had for each other was more important to them than gender. He was counseled to leave his spouse and live his town because he would not be accepted if he changed. Bravely he said no. He gradually entered into the life of the transsexual. They live happily together now as two women in the same town,—their love for each other, their family and God stands as a witness to us all of what it means to be faithful. The issue is NOT sex. The issue is love and how we live out God’s love for us.

All kinds of people live together. Seniors live together without the bonds of matrimony. Gay and straight folk live together. Sisters and brothers live together. Children live with their parents and parents live with their children. The issue is not sex. The issue is about the kind of love that bonds people together. This new age is going to see more and more non-married people living together—not because of sex but because of finances, because of the need for companionship, because of the need to have nurturing environments for children etc. Marriage is not the only manifestation of God’s love and to say that it is, is manifestly untrue.

My neo-conservative brothers (and I might add they are all male) are falling for the oldest of Pelagian traps. Their reasoning is that salvation has to do with following the law. The law does not save. We are not saved by being sinless. We are saved by God’s love for us in the life of Jesus Christ.

One thing that I have been reminded of by working with the Lutherans is that Luther understood the Word to be the Incarnate Jesus rather than the jots and tittles of the written word. Sola Scriptura has to do with the manifestation of Christ rather than the do’s and don’ts of the written page.

The world is changing. We are able to see the love of God in two people who live together in love rather than by any rules of institutions. We are beginning to see that Christ’s love can and is manifested in different configurations than heretofore. And the Church is beginning to acknowledge this. The resolution passed with considerable majority. Thanks be to God!

It was interesting that several Lesbians came up to me and thanked me for speaking on their behalf and contradicting the neo-conservatives’ hurting denouncement of their lives and faith. For those of the clergy who are Lesbian or Gay it is important for us to speak up not only for ourselves but for the LGBT people in diocese. This doesn't mean that straight folk cannot speak to the issue. It just means that Christ is seen the lives of LGBT people and LGBT need to be able to see Christ in themselves just as surly as the heterosexual manifestations of priesthood.

Even the teenagers at our convention wanted to talk to me following my response at the microphone. They invited me into their group wondering what all that rejection was about from some members of the clergy. The couldn't beleive that such things were being said by priests in their Church. Young people today are much more accepting than their elders. They also understand what Christ's love is about. However, they are not going to accept a church that are demeening of those who are different. It was gratifying that they do understand the message of Jesus so clearly.

It was interesting that some of the diocesan leadership was quite uncomfortable with me talking to the youth and interrupted our discussion on several occasions with very worried looks upon their faces. It tells me loudly that even though the diocesan leadership preaches inclusion, they are in reality just as closed and afraid as the neo-conservatives. I am gratified by the vote of Convention, but we have miles to go before CNY is the welcoming and affirming diocese that it once was.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Two Firsts: Robinson and Obama

From Times Online
November 6, 2008
Barack Obama asked gay bishop Gene Robinson what it was like to be 'first'
Bishop Gene Robinson

Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent

Barack Obama sought out controversial gay bishop Gene Robinson not just once but three times during his campaign to become President of the United States, The Times can reveal.

Bishop Robinson, the 80-million strong Anglican Communion’s only openly gay bishop whose consecration in 2003 has left the Anglican Communion on the brink of schism, was sought out by Mr Obama to discuss what it feels like to be “first”.

Bishop Robinson, who received death threats after his election as Bishop of New Hampshire and was advised by police to wear a bullet-proof vest at his consecration, also discussed with Mr Obama the risks incumbent upon being a high-profile leader in a country such as the US.

Bishop Robinson said: “At the end of the day you have to decide whether or not you are going to be paralysed by threats and by violent possibilities or whether you just move on and do what you feel called to do despite the risks.

Bishop Robinson, in London as a guest of the gay rights group Stonewall for its annual “Hero of the Year” awards dinner at the Victoria and Albert Museum tonight, said that Mr Obama’s campaign team had sought him last year and he had the “honour” of three private conversations with the future president of the United States last May and June.

“The first words out of his mouth were: ‘Well you’re certainly causing a lot of trouble’, My response to him was: ‘Well that makes two of us'.”

He said that Mr Obama had indicated his support for equal civil rights for gay and lesbian people and described the election as a “religious experience”.

Bishop Robinson described his conversations with him as part of Mr Obama’s “extraordinary” outreach to all religious communities, not just Christian groups. Mr Obama, although not a member of The Episcopal Church to which Bishop Robinson belongs, is a committed Christian with the United Church of Christ.

He said that the Mr Obama was taller than he had expected and described him as “Lincolnesque”, both literally and metaphorically. They discussed the dangers both of being demonised by opponents and idealised by supporters.

Bishop Robinson said: “And I must say I don’t know if it is an expression here in England or not but he is the genuine article. I think he is exactly who he says he is.”

The bishop, who services on The Episcopal Church pension fund board at national level, said that another member of the board, who had been friends with Mr Obama since college days, shared this view.

The bishop said: “He is impressive, he’s smart, he is an amazing listener. For someone who’s called on to speak all the time when he asks you a question it is not for show, he is actually wanting to know what you think and listens.”

He said that this made a refreshing change from the Bush regime. "We’ve had eight years of someone who has listened to almost no one.”

He added: “To see the tears in the eyes of African-Americans, it’s just been a profoundly, I would say religious, experience, very exciting.”

They spent more time discussing international issues than lesbians and gays. “He certainly indicated his broad and deep support for the full civil rights for gay and lesbian ... I pressed him on the Millennium Development Goals. I wanted to know whether he thought more about them than just they were a good idea but whether he had any intention of pushing for their full funding and so on.”

Bishop Robinson said he feared that the economic crisis might affect this agenda. “I hope the United States will not shirk its responsibilities in aid to the developing world. That’s going to be a hard-fought fight, not just with President Obama but all the powers in Washington.”

The Anglican church’s first gay bishop and the United States’ first black President-elect discussed in depth the place of religion in the state.

Bishop Robinson said: “He and I would agree about the rightful place of religion vis-a-vis the secular state. That is to say, we don’t impose our religious values on the secular state because God said so. Our faith informs our own values and then we take those values into the civil market place, the civil discourse, and then you argue for them based on the Constitution. You don’t say to someone, you must believe this because this is what God believes.

“I think God gives us our values and then we argue for those on the basis of the Constitution and care of our neighbour. And I think the Bush administration got very very close to the line if not going over the line in terms of offering support to religious-based groups who were using their social service arms to proselytise and evangelise which I would say is inappropriate.”

Bishop Robinson said that Mr Obama had not hesitated to talk about his faith.

“I find that remarkable, not only in a politician but also in a Democrat. For years it’s only been Republicans who wanted to talk about religion. All the Democratic candidates felt disposed to do so this year.”

COMMENT: +Gene Robinson is one of my heros. He is an incredibly generous person, one who has truely put his life on the line so that people like me can do what they are called by God to do. I post this because I find it incredible that President-elect Obama has sought counsel from my friend, +Gene. For me it is a sign of good things to come for LGBT people--but more than that. It says something about the networking that our new president will bring to his office. We always hope at the beginning of a new regime. I do hope that the President-elect will be able to bring the warring parts of our nation to the table of compromise for the betterment of the whole of the world.