Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ding, Dong DOMA is Dead!

What am I to think of the Supreme Court this week? The failure of DOMA is so wonderful for all of the country.  Personally I think that the Church should get out of the marrying business because so much of marriage has to do with 'rights' that come with being married rather than the love and commitment that I believe that faithful marriage means.  The government involvement in the whole structure of marriage make the pastoral act of witnessing the vows of two people to each other a sham anyway.

But with that said, what the dashing of DOMA does is say that LGBTQ folk have a place in todays society just as surly as other minorities in our nation.  Our world is so coupled.  There is a reason that the Noah story talks about the ark being filled two by two.  It is the way that human beings seem to relate.  Being
single I have lived with this 'coupled' mentality my whole adult life.  It gets irritating that many people cannot stand alone.  It is hard to deal with people who always have to consult their spouse on even the most trivial issues.  But that is blog post.

For almost 40 years J and I have lived together.  We are not espoused and unless the benefits to our Social Security could change (our pension would not), we will not be.  We are not a couple in that sense.  We love each other so very much, but we are not an espoused couple.  We stay together because we know that we don't do well apart.
I really understood why Pope Francis has chosen to take his meals with a group of colleagues rather than alone.  He said it was for his mental health.  I understand that.  Human beings don't really do well alone.  We are herd creatures.  And for an extrovert to be without others is suicide.

But I wish with DOMA's being struck down that the world would re-evaluate the meaning of marriage altogether.  I know that the Episcopal Church, when we passed the Blessing of Same-Sex Unions, chose to ask for a full study of the meaning of marriage by the Standing Commission of Liturgy and Music.  We assume that marriage as it stands today is the way that it has always been.  But that is not true.  Marriage has
not always been a sacrament of the Church.  And marriage in many cultures was merely a ways of securing the family fortune or power, not an image "of Christ and the Church."   (If a marriage looked like the relationship between Christ and the Church, I would send them off to a counselor pretty quick!)

I do think that the relationship between people who are married is often something of the mystical.  And I can understand why the Church has been willing to be a part of
this mysterious union between two person.  I must admit I seldom see this mystical union in the newly married, but I do see it in those couples who have been together for a long time.  It is a grace that comes with the burnishing of joy, sadness, hard work, and a degree of holiness.  It is a relationship that is filled with integrity and unvarnished truth.

Throughout the month of June one of the announcers on WRR, the local classical music station, has been playing various selections that could be used for weddings.  As one who has done too many weddings to count and am tired of Purcell, Mendelssohn, or the current sloppy tune too, she went through a good bit of the literature to show what kind of music could be used for weddings.  It was quite informative.  But the emphasis on the romantic was a bit over the top.  It was mit Schlag (with whipped cream).  And this type of  understanding of marriage sets up the wrong expectation of marriage.  And added to the "magic" often expected of sacraments, some young people really believe that the sacrament will make their rather ragged relationship into something of storybooks.  More than half of the weddings  have officiated at have ended up in divorce.  Did I do a bad job?  I don't think so because I don't marry a couple in the first place.  They make the marriage themselves.  All I do is give the Church's Good Housekeeping seal of approval.

The striking down of DOMA will not affect my life except that I may be doing a bit more Same-sex blessings than I have.  I will need to use 'spouse' more often than I have.  But that is a good thing.  But what this does is allow LGBTQ people who are called to coupled lives to live with the same benefits that others receive by virtue of them being coupled.  I am thankful more than I can say for this decision because it was an exclusionary law.  It was a way to marginalize about 10% of the population which is contrary to the Constitution.  But what the defeat of DOMA does say is that LGBTQ people have a voice and it is being heard in DC.  And perhaps it will be heard in other parts of the world such as in Africa or even TX.

Those of us who are different have a right to be different.  We don't have to go through life with the Ark
mentality that everyone has to be alike.  Now I have to figure out what I can call J.  I have always called her my 'roommate' but at almost 70 that sounds a bit frivolous for what has grown between us.  I may have to make up a new phrase--'significant other' is a bit obtuse.  But there is no legal term and when I go to the hospital and I have to answer the 'next of kin' question it has significance.  Guess it is time to get a lawyer.

Now we are still waiting to find out if the Episcopal Church will considered an hierarchical church in the state of Texas.  Go figure...

Friday, June 21, 2013

Friday Five: Prayer of Silence (or not)

Jan posted a very interesting  Friday Five:

At the beginning of this past week, I attended a conference on contemplative prayer entitled "Turning to the Mystics" at the 2013 Summer Institute at the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, TX. The speakers were James Finley, author and former novice of Thomas Merton; Mirabai Starr, author, translator, and speaker; and Father Ronald Rolheiser, author and president of OST. We were encouraged to regularly sit in quiet to come to realize our union with the Divine, who continually loves us into being.
So for this Friday Five, let us share about our prayer practices, whether silent or not:

1. How do you pray?   Praying is loving. It is that being in the presence of the Holy One. We have spent way too much time and effort on prayer techniques.  When you read the mystics--everyone from Teresa of Avila to Hildegard to the Desert Mothers they all come down to centering on loving--loving God, loving Creation, loving the people who are in that Creation.

2. How has your idea of prayer changed over time?  Of course when I first started to pray in my 20's I spent a lot of time with words.  I read my prayers, the Office, reading Scripture, talking to God.  But after my 30 day retreat when I was a novice, I realized that prayer is just being present to God.

3. Do you ever sit in silent prayer? How does it go?  All the time.  I love my quiet time.  While a novice we were guaranteed an hours of mental prayer a day.  I loved that time.  And I still look forward to having time to just be quiet with the Holy One. But making myself available to God is not always easy.  It often has to do with how well I am able to love, how well I am willing to allow God to be present to me.  Having God present ALWAYS means that I am being called to change and sometimes I don't want to face that.  When I find myself running away from prayer, I have to sit myself down and ask myself what  is it that I don't want to admit is a failing, or sinful, or whatever.  But over the years I have gotten so accustomed to finding God at the center of my silence that it sometimes is difficult to stay present to God when I want comfort and God wants change.

4. Do you have any difficulties and/or pleasures in prayer?  The pleasure of prayer is just being there--I am seldom aware of time or any effort at those moments. I can't think of anything I would rather do. Difficulties see # 3.

5. What is the best advice that helped you with prayer?  PRACTICE!  PERSEVERANCE!  Recently I have been reading Richard Rohr's The Naked Now, a splendid description of the mystical life.   

Bonus: Share something about prayer or an example of a prayer you like.  I still love the Divine Office, the
prayers of the Church.  I like them especially when they can be sung.  I especially love the musical settings of the ELCA.  There is nothing that tells me that I have been at prayer than when I have used my whole body to pray--singing does that and singing in community does that.

One of the problems I have with Church is that it has NOT taught this transformative form of prayer to the rank and file of the membership.  I do not understand religion that is not transformative.  But with so much of the past 20 years having been devoted to 'church growth' or doctrinal dispute, it is has been hard to find those even in my own denomination, especially in the hierarchy who understand mental prayer or the mystical life.  And now that I am back in the Bible Belt, I have even been told by some conservatives that this mental prayer is 'demonic'.   The problem is that they have put so much emphasis on belief that they do not understand the unitive experience.  

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Living Fearlessly

I watched PBS’s POV last night and saw “Live Free or Die” the award-winning documentary on the life and work of +Gene Robinson’s ministry as the first partnered, out, LGBT bishop of the Anglican Communion.  It was powerful and wonderful and freeing all in the same moment.  Aired just before it was another POV documentary on a Navajo boy who had been murdered for being “Two Spirited”, the age-old tradition of people within Indian cultured to accept people who presented as both male and female, or presented opposite from their physical genitalia. 

The combination put before me a great conundrum as a churchperson and as a lesbian of how I had been conformed as a child to think of myself as ‘different’, ‘not right’, somehow not up to par with those girls who I thought were ‘boy crazy’ in elementary school and stupid in jr. high and high school.  It has been fun to get to know those ‘girls’ now as senior women and talk about those views.  We can knowingly look at our stupidity on either side of the sexual continuum and laugh.  But knowing that the fear of gay folk still is still rampant here and much of that fear is still being promoted by those who call themselves ‘Christian’, ‘Jewish’ or ‘Muslim’ makes me more than a bit ill. I have not thought of myself as a 'gay activist'.  I kept it quiet for years so that I could minister to the larger community.  If I had been out all that time, I would have been forced to be a single-issue pastor.  It is what we do when we want to lump people into the same pigeon-hole. 

In “Live Free or Die” +Gene has the temerity to say “the Church has been wrong”.  Certainly as a church historian I know that the Church has promoted ‘wrong doctrine’ at various times.  And ever since my bout with Roman Catholicism I know that the Church is not infallible.  No pope, no Scripture, nothing in this created world is infallible.  To be flawed is to recognized that we are created.  It is the uniqueness of the flaws that makes the world interesting and blessed.

But as a priest and teacher in the Church how do I deal with one of her bishops saying: “The Church didn’t initially get it right”?  Personally I can call to mind many things that the Church didn’t get right in history.  I don’t think that the Church got the Trinity right—it was valiant attempt to bring together our Jewish monotheism and the unique presence of a man who made present God who had been sacrificed to the powers of
the day and that ubiquitous sense of the HOLY that touches that we call Spirit.  I don’t have a problem with that yet many were killed in the name of the Trinity in the name of uniformity. And I could go on 'substitutionary atonement theory.' It was the way that governmental powers used such theology to bring ‘order’ or ‘subjection’ to their realms.  (I would recommend the incredible Christianity: The First 3,000 years by Diarmaid MacCullough if one doubts that statement.) 

Yes, we got that whole thing of human sexuality wrong!  Unlike the very dualistic thinking of our Jewish roots, we are as a human species by far more diverse than just male and female.  The First Nations understood this.  The Native American cultures often saw among those who the Western mind calls homosexual or androgynous those who were specifically endowed with spiritual abilities. 
They could bridge the gap between the sexs in ways that helped the life of the whole community.  They were often seen as shamans, holy men and women who were drawn to the spirit world or for healing.  It was only when Indians were subjected to Christianity that they began to become disgusted with those they thought to be ‘queer’ in white society.

Even though Christianity and Judaism stems from the freeing of a people in slavery, Judaism and Christianity got it wrong about slavery too.  Christianity has gotten it wrong about human perfection—a Platonic concept that was embraced by the Greek speaking converts to Judaism who followed Christian teachings.

I have no problem with these historic issues.  They were what they were in a particular time.  What I don’t understand is where my place is in the Church today.  I am an out lesbian priest who understands my gayness to be as part of my spiritual journey toward God as is my brother/sister priests experience in their marriage or their celibacy.  God loves me.  It isn’t because the Bible told me so.  It was Christians loving in the name of Jesus who loved me into being.  I know that as God’s love for me.  Every time I celebrate the Eucharist I know that I am where I am supposed to be for the good of, not just my life, but for the goodness of the whole world.  (Or as I experience it, the small part of creation that I touch.)

Can I support a Church that is still struggling with the LGBTQ issue?  Can I still speak for a Church that is still fearful of losing members because they are gay-friendly?  Because even with all the positive things that have passed General Convention, I still live in a world where LGBTQ folks can still be murdered just for being, can be denied the basic rights of being human (the option to adopt children, marriage, normal benefits that straight folk get because they are married.)  Can I be a part of the LGBTQ community as an ordained person and speak of the love of the Church when we are still dicey on the subject? How do I speak to straight folk who as yet cannot accept that the Church or Scripture got it wrong?  I can speak only of the fearlessness of Christ to be about what is good and wholesome.  The lives that still hunger for a relationship with the Holy One need to know that God makes them good, makes their instincts to love sacred and makes love the center of what they do and live.

I cannot speak for or to a group that hides behind cultural  norms to avoid embracing their own sexuality.  I can only speak for and to a people if I know that we need not fear anything.  But many of our leaders still want to ignore this part of the Church—those who have that unique giftedness that Native cultures recognized as being in touch with the HOLY.  I cannot become a single issue person at this point in my life.  I must continue to present to those who are unafraid the love that God has blessed me with so that this 'wrongness' can be healed.  I will not see it in my lifetime, but it will continue because love continues.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Friday Five: Favorites Old and New

Mary Beth posted another good one:

You know how sometimes you just want to have a hymn sing?

Well, today is that day.

Share with the group five favorite hymns or praise songs or songs that bring you close to the Spirit (that's a pretty wide net!) and why they are special to you.

Bonus if you can share Youtube videos or audio files of one or two or more.

Here's one that I love, to get you started. Take Our Bread, by Joe Wise. It reminds me of growing up in the charismatic renewal movement in the 70's.

1. Praise to the Lord. Love this hymn. It was played at J's ordination on Jan. 6 1977, the fors and the line "see what the Almighty can do" popped out at me. I was RC at the time and it made my day. It also said something about vocation and my way to the Episcopal Church to be the priest that I was supposed to be.

2. Like MB, I come up with a number of the old guitar things when I played at College Church at St. Louis University in the early 70's: Here Am I, Lord, from the St. Louis Jesuits.

3. I heard the voice of Jesus say, the Thomas Tallis tune still draws me to prayer.

4. My Song is Love Unknown is another one that I go to when I want to enter prayer.

5. When I was at Taize back in 1995 Nada Te Turbe was being sung. I fell in love with it.

I don't know how to attach a youtube but here are the addresses. There was another Taize tune that I love that was also in Spanish that was from Santa Teresa of Avila but I can't remember the name of it. It was about Light--Luz that also moved me to tears.

And for some reason the links to pictures are being problematic for me today.