Friday, November 7, 2008


So far, this is my favorite image about the election. It's by John Deering and is available here.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's in the Air.

I'm anticipating a great party tonight - a couple of them, actually. First on campus and then with some faculty friends. It's going to be a good day. A life changing, country changing day. But don't take it for granted - VOTE!

My friend Wendy the Priest has said it better than I can:
I wasn’t going to say it here, but I’m up early
watching and
listening and reading,
and it feels like Christmas to me
because there’s a burn burn burn—
Can you feel it?
Can you feel the buzz of change?
It’s in the air. I keep tearing up.
I have goosebumps. And my stomach is in a knot.

I need coffee (to help with the knot, to wake me up). Then
I am voting for Barack Obama.

Because, at the end of the day,
I look at the story. I study the narrative. (It’s what I do.)
The narrative says more to me than any opinion,
The narrative says more to me than any campaign.
The narrative, the story
is the umbrella, the informant, the source.

And I believe his story.
That’s right, you heard me.
I. Believe. Barack. Obama.

(My father is rolling his eyes.
My brother is thinking,
“Oh shit. She really did drink the kool-aid.)

His story resonates with me and my idea of the American Dream.
It’s a story that speaks to the poor, the meek, the hungry, the peacemakers.
It gives the underdog power. (Sounds like The Gospel of Jesus Christ to me.)
It’s a story that ripples with humanity, community, charisma, and care.
Genuine care. And chances, options, respect, and grace.

(As opposed to fear, war, violence, and wealth.)

I can go in circles with you about Issues and Policies,
But I probably won’t. I’m not articulate enough.
Some might point out that I can "get emotional."
And I’m done with the Us/Them.

What I know for sure—
I know that I’m hooked. Hooked on Hope.

(It's pretty dang good kool-aid.)

Oh, and
Thank GOD for those who have gone before us—
Those that fought fought fought for my right to vote.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Proposition 8 supporters commit yet more violations

The campaign to push Proposition 8 in California is using images of a school field trip for their commercials, without asking for the parents' permission, and without including the critical piece of information that the parents do not support prop. 8. Some kind of "family values."

See more at

More Wisdom from Bishop Carol Gallagher

Today Bishop Carol wrote this at her blog MamaBishop:
When our house was full of children, three boisterous and beautiful girls, there was often a lot of noise and squawking about meals. No one child would agree with the other about what they wanted to have for a meal on any given day. Although there were many things they enjoyed in common, they often chose to dislike a dish on a day when one of the other sisters wanted that particular dish. In truth, no matter how much contention there was over a given meal, I would cook what I had planned and any child could make a sandwich for themselves if they weren't able to stomach the menu of the day. Life in families finds us among very closely related people with very different ideas and opinions about what our common meals and lives should be. Life in the church also finds us among people, closely related by baptism, who hold various different ideas and opinions about our common life. Although to some, this might seem like the house divided which Jesus talks about, it is instead the stunningly beautiful and challenging diversity of the kingdom that God created for us to dwell in.

If we serve God together, we dwell in a unified house,and, despite the complexity of our common life and the diversities of expressions among us, we are not divided. Some people, in putting forth their arguments in church will claim that the other side is of the devil, or not a follower of Christ. A difference of opinion, theological or otherwise, does not remove us from the family. God, the Creator of the universe and each and every one of us, loves us in our diversity, not in spite of it. And so, we too might want to love each other in our differences and not reject one other for those same differences. It is the way of Christ, who reached out and touched the untouchables, made relationships with those judged evil and sinful, and took meals with the outcasts. Jesus drew the kingdom, the household, the family to himself, so that we might see the loving hand of God in our midst.

After spending the weekend at the annual convention of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, Bishop Carol's words seem very apropos. The diocese is about a quarter of the size it was a year ago, before a large portion chose to leave the Episcopal Church because they could not tolerate the kind of "stunningly beautiful and challenging diversity" that we strive to embrace. It is not easy to live with differences, and it wasn't even easy this weekend. But it is worth the struggle. I saw folks this weekend embrace a life of celebrating the many different ways in which we are each created in the image of God. Thanks be to God for such diversity.

Monday, October 6, 2008

McCain goes right past smear to racism

In a McCain ad called "Mum," Obama is portrayed as a tax-raising incompetent. But the real point of the ad... may be to incite racial fears.

"In crisis, experience matters," a tough voice warns. "McCain and his congressional allies led. Tough rules on Wall Street. Stop CEO rip-offs. [An image of a grinning black man in a suit appears.] Protect your savings and pensions. [An image of an elderly white woman appears.] Obama and his liberal allies, 'mum on the market crisis.' Because 'no one knows what to do.' More taxes. No leadership. A risk your family can't afford.

This is from, which goes on to explain the racist manipulation that the campaign has stooped to. This goes way beyond a smear campaign or even "Swift boating." This is blatant racism designed to reinforce white fears of black men, and to see Obama as one of those men, preying on (financially) vulnerable white women. These kinds of subtle and insidious innuendos are how racism is perpetuated throughout our society. To intentionally capitalize on and reinforce such racism is despicable. If you agree, tell McCain.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Today is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and also the last day of Ramadan for Muslims, at least in this part of the world. Both holidays are a time celebrate, to enjoy friends and family, and to seek happiness and wholeness. Muslims are ending a month of fasting and prayer and Jews will soon be observing the day of atonement, or Yom Kippur, which is also a time of fasting and prayer.

In old Christian terms, these times might be called periods of recollection. Times to collect our thoughts, to focus on what's most important, and to seek connection to God. As Muslims and Jews celebrate and seek to be more fully who they are called to be, may we all experience some bit of recollection and seek who we are called to be as well.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Interfaith Alliance Critical of Palin

Well, I can't avoid it any longer. I'm about to get political. I think voting is an act of faith, a way to live out what I believe in. That doesn't mean that I want or expect candidates to flaunt their faith, or to espouse faith they don't really have in order to appease me, or to try to be my religious leader. I look for religious leadership at church, not in politics.

It's fair for politicians to explain what informs their decision making process, but they ought not impose their religious beliefs upon others. In fact, the Constitution forbids it. Unfortunately, the Republican vice presidential candidate disagrees with this.

The Interfaith Alliance has posted a press release about Governor Palin's statements on politics and religion.

The Huffington Post obtained a video of Gov. Palin speaking to the Wasilla Assembly of God, her one time church, on June 8, 2008. During the speech Gov. Palin stated that it is God’s will to build a natural gas pipeline across Alaska. She also stated American soldiers have been sent to Iraq “on a task that is from God.” Finally, she said that she is working hard to build new roads and schools for her state, but that her work in government may be irrelevant without religion. “I can do my job…but really all of that stuff doesn’t do any good if the people of Alaska’s heart [sic] isn’t right with God,” she told the church audience.

“This is the same kind of divisive theocratic rhetoric that President Bush has employed for eight years,” said Interfaith Alliance President, Rev. Welton Gaddy. “Governor Palin is suggesting that people of faith must agree with her energy policy or they risk incurring God’s wrath. Good and faithful people hold differing points of view in this the most religiously diverse nation in the world.

I would expect that like mine, Gov. Palin's political views are shaped by her faith. That's fine. It's not fine, however, for an elected official to seek to impose those views on others. And aside from my disagreement with her political use of faith, as a Christian I disagree with her condemning language of others who disagree with her. I don't think that's what Jesus would do. And I'm certain that it's not the Constitutional role of government. I'm concerned that Palin's theocratic views would make it very difficult for her to "support and defend" the Constitution of the United States which guarantees the right of all people to practice their own religion and to hold their own views.

Monday, September 8, 2008


Have you seen this photo of the newest Panda in Chengdu China? The photo is at I think it's pretty amazing! Thanks be to God for Pandas!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Class of 2012

Beloit College has issued their annual "Mindset List" telling us about the world that entering college students grew up in.

Students entering college for the first time this fall were generally born in 1990.

For these students, Sammy Davis Jr., Jim Henson, Ryan White, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Freddy Krueger have always been dead.

1. Harry Potter could be a classmate, playing on their Quidditch team.
2. Since they were in diapers, karaoke machines have been annoying people at parties.
3. They have always been looking for Carmen Sandiego.
4. GPS satellite navigation systems have always been available.
5. Coke and Pepsi have always used recycled plastic bottles.
6. Shampoo and conditioner have always been available in the same bottle.
7. Gas stations have never fixed flats, but most serve cappuccino.
8. Their parents may have dropped them in shock when they heard George Bush announce “tax revenue increases.”
9. Electronic filing of tax returns has always been an option.
10. Girls in head scarves have always been part of the school fashion scene.
11. All have had a relative--or known about a friend's relative--who died comfortably at home with Hospice.
12. As a precursor to “whatever,” they have recognized that some people “just don’t get it.”
13. Universal Studios has always offered an alternative to Mickey in Orlando.
14. Grandma has always had wheels on her walker.
15. Martha Stewart Living has always been setting the style.
16. Haagen-Dazs ice cream has always come in quarts.
17. Club Med resorts have always been places to take the whole family.
18. WWW has never stood for World Wide Wrestling.
19. Films have never been X rated, only NC-17.
20. The Warsaw Pact is as hazy for them as the League of Nations was for their parents.
21. Students have always been "Rocking the Vote.”
22. Clarence Thomas has always sat on the Supreme Court.
23. Schools have always been concerned about multiculturalism.
24. We have always known that “All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”
25. There have always been gay rabbis.
26. Wayne Newton has never had a mustache.
27. College grads have always been able to Teach for America.
28. IBM has never made typewriters.
29. Roseanne Barr has never been invited to sing the National Anthem again.
30. McDonald’s and Burger King have always used vegetable oil for cooking french fries.
31. They have never been able to color a tree using a raw umber Crayola.
32. There has always been Pearl Jam.
33. The Tonight Show has always been hosted by Jay Leno and started at 11:35 EST.
34. Pee-Wee has never been in his playhouse during the day.
35. They never tasted Benefit Cereal with psyllium.
36. They may have been given a Nintendo Game Boy to play with in the crib.
37. Authorities have always been building a wall across the Mexican border.
38. Lenin’s name has never been on a major city in Russia.
39. Employers have always been able to do credit checks on employees.
40. Balsamic vinegar has always been available in the U.S.
41. Macaulay Culkin has always been Home Alone.
42. Their parents may have watched The American Gladiators on TV the day they were born.
43. Personal privacy has always been threatened.
44. Caller ID has always been available on phones.
45. Living wills have always been asked for at hospital check-ins.
46. The Green Bay Packers (almost) always had the same starting quarterback.
47. They never heard an attendant ask “Want me to check under the hood?”
48. Iced tea has always come in cans and bottles.
49. Soft drink refills have always been free.
50. They have never known life without Seinfeld references from a show about “nothing.”
51. Windows 3.0 operating system made IBM PCs user-friendly the year they were born.
52. Muscovites have always been able to buy Big Macs.
53. The Royal New Zealand Navy has never been permitted a daily ration of rum.
54. The Hubble Space Telescope has always been eavesdropping on the heavens.
55. 98.6 F or otherwise has always been confirmed in the ear.
56. Michael Milken has always been a philanthropist promoting prostate cancer research.
57. Off-shore oil drilling in the United States has always been prohibited.
58. Radio stations have never been required to present both sides of public issues.
59. There have always been charter schools.
60. Students always had Goosebumps.

Monday, August 4, 2008

When Pigs Fly

I have mixed reactions to the end of the Lambeth conference. On the one hand, there seems to have been genuine relationships forged between bishops of disparate regions, viewpoints, and experiences, including some surprising apologies. On the other hand, the Archbishop of Canterbury and others have called for a continuing moratorium on the consecration of gay and lesbian bishops and the blessing of same-sex unions. Not only does this usurp the authority of the people and clergy of the church to elect their own bishops, but it feels patently unjust to me.

However, Bishop Carol Gallagher, who was not at Lambeth because she is currently between paying gigs (sort of), offers this reflection on impossibilities.

And Bishop Gene Robinson, preaching at St. Mary's Cathedral in Glasgow, Scotland on Sunday, said that he knows the time will come when all are welcome in the Church, including gay and lesbian people, because God invites all people into the fellowship. It will happen in God's time and we don't have to be anxious about it, but work to help it happen.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Miss Manners on Sharing Sustenance

This comes from the The Lambeth Witness, the daily newspaper of the inclusive church crowd at the decennial meeting of the worldwide Anglican Communion. I agree with Katie Sherrod that Miss Manners' column from Wednesday applies to the situation we find ourselves in, but also to all people of faith and goodwill when confronted with those who might be inclined to draw lines between those who are "in" and those who are "out."

Miss Manners’ unintentional analysis of the WCG proposal
by Katie Sherrod (Integrity USA)

The Windsor Continuation Group is floating a proposal whereby a Pastoral Forum would have the authority to impose a diminished status or “diluted representation” on a naughty province. The following column by etiquette columnist Miss Manners seemed an amazingly apt analysis of this proposal. “Party Hosts Who Pick Favorites” ran in the Wednesday, July 30, 2008 issue of the Washington Post.

Question: Dear Miss Manners - Unfortunately, I think I may have discovered a phenomenon that is even tackier than cash bars at wedding receptions. Apparently, some restaurants have begun offering a service called a "half-open bar" to customers who wish to hold private parties. This means that the hosts are allowed to select a set number of "VIP" guests, designated with visible wristbands, who are allowed unlimited free drinks. The rest of the guests must pay for their beverages. I'm not necessarily faulting the businesses that have made this service an option; they are hardly forcing anybody to participate. I am, however, trying hard to quash my uncharitable feelings about the hosts who would employ such a service. As for how this sort of thing reflects on the culture as a whole, I am completely at a loss for words. You, however, rarely are. Thoughts? Can civilization put the kibosh on this nonsense? Are we too far gone?

Answer: Although she is not quite ready to give up on civilization, Miss Manners admits that what has happened to hospitality is an evil portent. In secular society, as in many religions, the willingness to share sustenance freely, even if one has little, is a test. Those who turn others away are in trouble, even if the visitor does not turn out to be a deity in disguise. However, Miss Manners does admire the modern efficiency. What you bring to her attention is a method of insulting guests by making them pay to be entertained, while at the same time making it clear that the insult is personal rather than general.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bishops' Camp

Today's Episcopal Life update is particularly interesting. I especially like this paragraph:

Fire alarm routs bishops in middle of the night
Monday evening's thunderstorm touched off a false alarm about 1:00 a.m. at Beckett Hall on the University of Kent campus, a guest reported. Bishops, spouses and all other guests temporarily residing at the hall had no choice but to wake up, respond, and stand outside in their nighties until the all-clear was called about 15 minutes later.

Can't you just imagine all those bishop's and spouses lumbering out of bed and down the stairs and elevators to stand outside, bleary eyed, and slowly beginning to comment on each other's pajamas and laughing about the absurdity of the event?! It's summer camp for bishops!!!

Now if they could just have a big pillow fight to work out their frustrations! Maybe some camp wide pranks like removing all the furniture from another bishop's room, or changing all the signs on the meeting rooms, would break through the tension and help them take themselves and one another a little less seriously!

Monday, July 28, 2008

More about the March

Bishop Marc Andrus of California has a great video on his blog of bishops and ecumenical participants explaining why they were participating in, or why they thought is was important to participate in the march last week supporting the Millennium Development Goals.

The video includes my former bishop, Wayne Wright of Delaware, and the bishop of Delaware's companion diocese Argyll and the Isles, Martin Smith. I got to meet Martin at my former congregation when at the end of a very long day he celebrated Eucharist for our campus ministry group. At the time of the sermon, he sat on the floor in front of the altar where we were all gathered and invited us into a conversation about the day's reading. I don't remember the conversation, but I do remember how down to earth - literally - the bishop was and how open to dialogue! In this video he says that the march is going to help him re-examine his own lifestyle. It is a humble answer and a good place for us all to start.

080727_MDG_March_final from

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Join the Bishops' March to End Poverty

Today the Anglican bishops who have gathered for the Lambeth Conference, marched in London to Parliament to raise awareness and seek commitment to the effort to end extreme poverty in the world. The Millennium Development Goals have been a rallying point for this work, but as Anglican Observer to the United Nations, Hellen Wangusa said, the Church has been present all along working for this goal.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown spoke compellingly of the need for political will to make this happen. Read the whole story here. And then join the bishops in a virtual march by contacting your congressional representatives here.

Someone said that the United States is generous in its foreign aid. That simply isn't true. We give a fraction of a percent of our national budget to foreign aid. Increasing that aid by the tiniest amount, maybe to a whole one percent of the national budget, could have a significant impact on people's lives. It could also make for a safer and more stable world.

Perhaps we could also address the issues of poverty in our own country. As Gordon Brown said, we have the science, medicine and technology to do it - to address poverty both in the U.S. and in the world, I would contend - all we lack is the will to do so.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


My friend Nathan raises an interesting question on his blog about people of faith both fostering and frustrating forgiveness. He's looking for insight, so tell him what you think.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

All are Welcome?

Lambeth has started in earnest. After spending 2+ days in retreat, the opening worship was held today in Canterbury Cathedral. There are lots of great stories about how important the retreat time was to setting the tone for the conference, and about a willingness to be open to one another and the leading of the Holy Spirit.

There were also a few (very few) comments in ENS reports of bishops commenting on the absence of Bishop Gene Robinson. "Bishop Mark Beckwith, of Newark, noted the singing of the hymn 'All are Welcome' after communion, but referred to the exclusion of New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson, who is in a same-gender partnership. Beckwith said, 'my heart was broken because, in fact, we are all not welcome here.'"

+Gene asked for prayers in his own blog, Canterbury Tales from the Fringe, noting the he has been surprised at the difficulty of being cut off from his colleagues. I trust he'll share his observations of the Inclusive Eucharist that was held this afternoon.

As we pray for all the bishops gathered in Canterbury, let's add a particular prayer for +Gene. It seems to me that he is in the unique position of bearing the burden of exclusion which so many people on the margins experience regularly. It is an imminently priestly act, though I cannot imagine an easy one, even for such a deeply committed priest and bishop as +Gene is.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Girl Effect

Thanks to Wendy Porter for posting this video on her blog!

Girls grow up to be women who manage their households. It makes sense that the better prepared and equipped they are to do that, the stronger their households will be. Vast numbers of single, widowed, divorced women have no one to depend on other than themselves. And all the other women who do have a partner, can help share the burden of providing for themselves and their families if they have some tools to do so.

Educating girls clearly hasn't ended poverty in this country... oh, wait, maybe we've given up educating girls - and boys - in this country! We have neglected our educational system, with huge impacts on the socio-economic realities of students who graduate without the abilities to think, and write, and read, and critique, and understand, and analyze, and problem solve in the world. We are condemning them to increasing poverty. So let's educate girls all over the world! And boys, too!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Grace in Action

Bishop Gene Robinson preached at St. Mary's in Putney yesterday evening. His sermon is so good that you should leave this blog and go watch and listen to it here. Be sure to watch the whole thing, not just the protest. The congregation, and +Gene's response to the protest is gracious and moving, but the bishop's sermon is even better.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Too cute for words!

Nathan is two months old. He's eating like a horse, and is smiling and laughing and getting cuter all the time! I think he looks a lot like his dad, who was also known as a healthy eater at this age!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


The Church of England has agreed that the majority of its legislative body wants women bishops, and that it will make plans for how to introduce women bishops to the Church of England. It's a major step forward for women in the Church of England. But it is only one step, and a shaky one at that.

I am a fan of the Book of Revelation thanks to Dr. Sue Garrett at Louisville Seminary. She taught us to see the hope and promise of God's victory through the strange imagery of the book's author. There are many parts that I prefer to ignore - because I think they are about human beings' longing for revenge rather than God's mercy - but then it sings of God's grace and welcome of all, not just the tribes of Israel, but all the nations as they come streaming into the Reign of God in numbers too great to count. It is a message entirely consistent with the witness of all the rest of Scripture.

Revelation is also about judgment, though, and in the message to the seventh church, Laodicea, the author is told by God to write: "I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth." (Rev. 3:15-16, NRSV)

The message continues about being rich and despising the poor. It's worth looking up. But this part about being neither hot nor cold came to me today.

The Church of England has allowed the ordination of women to the priesthood for about 15 years. I was in college when it happened. Jim Wallis, of Sojourners, was the person who told me the news, at breakfast before a lecture he gave at Austin College. At that time the Church of England decided either that the church wasn't ready to also accept women bishops, or that somehow the episcopate was so dramatically different from priesthood that while women were acceptable as priests, they simply could not be bishops. (The outstanding women bishops of the Episcopal Church have proven that that is not the case.)

Now, the majority of the bishops, other clergy, and lay people of the Church of England's governing body think that women bishops are okay on principal. But there is so much anger and resistance that they can't just make women bishops, they have to first form a committee that will write a report for another committee that will make recommendations that will be given back to the legislative bodies who will amend and approve or deny the recommendations which will or will not be implemented by whoever it is that appoints bishops in the Church of England. Reports say it will be 2014 before the first woman bishop is consecrated.

Does this sound ridiculous to anyone else?!

The fear, malevolence, and vitriol about women coming out of the Church of England is disturbing, to say the least. If anyone has any doubt about the strength of patriarchy, this should make clear that it is alive and well. Clergy are threatening to leave the church in droves, bishops are having secret meetings to figure out how to get recognized by the Roman Catholic church (which does not consider ANY Anglican ordination valid), and men with wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts, nieces, friends, are acting as if women are some kind of plague, as if Jesus condemned women, and as if Paul were a 21st century Messiah. IT IS CRAZY.

Jesus was never unkind to a woman. Never. He always took the woman's side, he always brought her deeper into his circle, including the circle of apostles (Mary Madgalene was the first to announce his Resurrection!) Paul was a radical progressive in his day. He said wives were as worthy of respect as their husbands, women were leaders in the churches he established. In the first century that was remarkable; a more significant step than deciding to make a plan for how to make women bishops.

It is time for the Church to do its job. To speak for justice. To speak radical community. To stop being neither hot nor cold. Making compromises which allow women-hating people (men and women) to continue to lead the church is wrong. To act as if denying the full humanity of women is appropriate theological discourse is wrong.

Reading the rhetoric of those opposed to women bishops in the Church of England affirms and clarifies the fact that the issues of human sexuality that we've been talking about are deeply rooted in patriarchy and rejection of women's leadership, as well as that of anyone else who doesn't fit the social construct of masculinity.

I'm glad that the Church of England has at least taken this shaky step forward. I hope, though, that they and all of us, will find the courage to make it a definitive step in the direction of God's radical love revealed in Scripture and the work of the Holy Spirit in the world.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


I just got back from a two and a half week cross-country tour that culminated with the annual General Chapter of the Rivendell Community. The final weekend was certainly the highlight of my trip, which mostly consisted of long meetings and worse. (Though at the beginning I did get to see old friends and spend a day in the ocean at Cape May!)

Rivendell is a Christian Community in the Episcopal Church which began in 1997 when two friends and I decided that we wanted a rule of life to hold one another accountable to the intentions of our lives to be prayerful people of God. Truth be told, the other two friends, Virginia+ and Cathy+, had a better idea of what we were up to than I did. I was knew to the whole idea of disciplined daily prayer and was just discovering the liturgy of the Episcopal Church, and was mostly along for the ride. I'm proud to be a founding member of Rivendell, though.

In the Episcopal Church we have Religious Orders and Christian Communities. Orders are like other communities of monks and nuns. They typically live together and hold all their possessions in common, are required to be celibate, and live according to a rule of life and the order's constitution. There are about a dozen orders in the Episcopal Church.

Christian Communities consist of individuals who do not necessarily live together and are not necessarily required to hold their possessions in common. In Rivendell, our members include people who are married and single, lay and ordained, gay and straight, men and women. Some live in community at our two houses in Memphis, Tennessee and in West Missouri, but most of us live in our own homes with families and jobs and all the other trappings - uh, blessings - of this life. We also live according to a rule and constitution which shape our lives of prayer, worship, and community.

The name Rivendell, of course, is from J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy in which Rivendell is the "last homely house east of the sea." It's where the elves live and offer hospitality to those who are on the journey. It's where travelers and pilgrims stop for rest and restoration, story telling and good food, wise counsel and strength for the journey. Our goal, then, is to offer prayer and hospitality to those who stop by and for the life of the world.

General Chapter is the annual meeting of the community. Most members live in or around Memphis and West Missouri, but a few of us are further away. General Chapter is when everyone gets together to renew our life together, strengthen our relationships, and reaffirm our central, shared intentions. We spent most of four days catching up with one another, telling stories, laughing A LOT, praying, singing, eating, and enjoying community life. I had to leave before the business meeting on Monday - but I was there for the important stuff.

Religious Communities are counter-cultural. Men and women first headed out into the desert over 500 years ago in response to a Church that had become too top heavy, too involved in itself, too complicit with the power and wealth of the empire. And today, we descendants of those first monks still seek to focus on the heart of Jesus' Gospel and the true vocation of the Body of Christ. We Rivendellians don't eschew church politics - many of us are on vestries, or general convention deputations, and many of us are priests - but we do try to direct the church's attention to those things which are most important - prayer and faithfulness to God, concern for the poor and marginalized, hospitality offered to all. We seek to follow Jesus.

I am so grateful for these companions who call me to faithfulness and continually remind me, in the midst of my failed efforts and misguided attempts, what it is that God requires.

Monday, June 9, 2008


Saturday was a big day! I attended the wedding of our office assistant, Robin Heath. I celebrated the fifth anniversary of my ordination to the diaconate. And The Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, celebrated a civil union to his partner of 20 years, Mark, two days after the fifth anniversary of his election as bishop of New Hampshire.

This coming together of vocations seems very fitting. Bishop Robinson writes about his pleasure in being bishop on the diocesan website. And the video below is a glimpse into the celebration surrounding the commitment that he and Mark have made to one another. Both events are vocational, that is, they are both about individuals becoming who God intends for them to be. Both commitments are life long containers in which one lives all the ups and downs of the journey of faith. Both are signs of self-offering, to God and to another person, which God blesses, and promises to give God's self to as well in order to sustain, nuture, and deepen the commitments.

That we deny the grace and commitment of marriage to those who would choose to embrace it is a scandal to the modern Church. That Mark and Gene have given themselves to one another and to God in the ways made possible by the state of New Hampshire and the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire is radical and prophetic and I am grateful for their faith, leadership, and love. Congratulations!

On 7 June 2008, the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, the openly gay bishop of New Hampshire, and his partner of 20 years, Mark Andrew, had a civil union and church blessing. The service took place at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Concord, NH. The Rev. Susan Russell, President of Integrity, preached. Afterward, a reception and dinner took place at Canterbury Shaker Village. During the reception, Susan gave a 5-minute video interview about the blessed event...

Posted at Walking with Integrity

Monday, June 2, 2008

Clanging Cymbals?

I grew up in the Church (capital "C" meaning all of us Christians, whatever our stripes.) First we were Southern Baptist and I learned many, many Bible stories and was firmly rooted in Scripture. My family then joined the Presbyterian Church (USA) and I came to understand connected church, where each congregation is a part of a whole, not an island to itself. I studied theology and Bible and loved it. I then became an Episcopalian so that I could be a priest, celebrating the sacraments and worshiping with my whole self, body, mind, and spirit. So, I have been connected to the Church my entire life, with all its strengths and weaknesses. I stay because it matters to me to participate in the life of the Body of Christ, and because I've made vows.

Having said all that, this morning I found myself wondering if the Church had become clanging cymbals. I am often frustrated with the institutions of the Church, which are not divine, but human. I don't mean the Bible, or the Sacraments, or the gathering of people of faith, or even the orders of ministry. But there are so many dumb, inconsequential things that we get tied up about! We put up plaques all over our buildings, and we set up cliques inside the church, and we argue about where the platters go in the kitchen, and where are we?!

The problem I find myself in is that I really do believe in the Church, as the Body of Christ, gathered together to further the missio Dei. And that means putting up with all my - and others' - human frailties. I think in many ways the Church has become clanging cymbals - noise makers that serve little purpose and certainly don't glorify God. How do we escape such a sentence?

Paul talks about Clanging Cymbals in the 1st Corinthians passage about love. It's the favorite passage for weddings, but actually, Paul wasn't talking about romantic love (though romantic love includes what Paul was talking about.) He was talking about the Church and how we are supposed to behave. It seems those Corinthians were a lot like us and fought over who had the better spiritual gifts and probably over where the platters went in the kitchen, too. But we can do everything right, we can have beautifully maintained buildings, and all the right linens and vestments, and the right set of canons, and the right committees, and the right everything, and without love we've missed the point. We're supposed to be patient and kind and understanding of one another.

So, we can have all the wrong committees, all the wrong vestments and linens and platters in the kitchen, but if we have love, we have God. I have a hard time being patient and kind and understanding, and I know lots of other people who do, too, so it's not surprising that when we all get together at church it doesn't get easier, but harder, to love. I wish we could spend more of our time together learning to love and less of it fighting over who's allowed in and who's out, and over what set of linens to use today.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

3 weeks old

I spent the long weekend in Houston meeting my new nephew for the first time!

There were many jokes about me not breaking my little brother's kid, nor taking him away, as was the fate of so many childhood toys. Awfully hard to resist keeping him!

He's beginning to focus on faces and toys and other things in his line of sight, and so he's making fabulous faces!

He's also discovered his hands, but can't quite control them yet!
He managed to suck his thumb for the first time over the weekend while I was holding him (just one of many bad habits I hope to share with him!)

Who can resist a baby yawn?

Unfortunately, Jewel the Beagle, has been relegated to second place. She is fascinated with Nathan, though, and stays close. She comes running when he cries and likes to stick her nose over the edge of the crib to check things out. They're destined to be best friends.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Gay Marriage Legal in California

The California Supreme Court has said it is unconstitutional to ban same-sex marriage.

Gay marriage legal in California, court declares
By Crystal Carreon and Bill Lindelof -
Last Updated 10:10 am PDT Thursday, May 15, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO - A deeply divided California Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in an opinion issued Thursday morning.

Wild cheers echoed throughout City Hall and other spots where proponents had gathered Thursday morning awaiting the opinion, which came on a 4-3 vote.

The case stems from challenges to state law by gay couples who were married in ceremonies at San Francisco City Hall in 2004, when Mayor Gavin Newsom began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Legal challenges to those marriages eventually led to the high court invalidating them six months later. California voters already had approved by a wide margin a measure in 2000 that declared marriage to be only between a man and a woman.

But San Francisco officials and about 20 of the couples granted licenses four years ago

challenged the court decisions that invalidated their marriages, and in March the seven justices heard three hours of arguments over whether the state's ban on gay marriage denies gays and lesbians their constitutional rights.

Thursday's opinion has been eagerly anticipated by both sides in the argument, with many saying a decision in California would be felt nationwide. Only Massachusetts allows gay marriage.

Opponents of same-sex marriage already have readied a new ballot measure that would amend the state constitution to ban such unions.

By midmorning Thursday, same-sex couples hoping for a favorable ruling began to line up outside the San Francisco city clerk's office.

Standing at the head of the line, San Francisco couple Bruce Ivie and David Bowers said they were waiting for history.

"I just feel it," said Ivie, 51 wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a pink triangle and "Proud Forever" on it. "California has always been a trendsetter. It's now about time."

Ivie and Bowers, together for 28 years, were among the thousands of gay couples who rushed to City Hall to be married in 2004.

They said they were horrified and heartbroken when their marriage was later voided, and spent the next four years following the gay marriage case as it made its way through the courts.

"We'll have each other forever, but we deserve the same rights as everybody else," Bowers said. "How can it hurt anyone else?"

A line slowly began to snake around the vinyl ropes outside the clerk's office.

Outside the court building Thursday, gay and lesbian proponents gathered, with many saying they were extremely anxious as they awaited the opinion.

Among the group were two Davis women, Shelly Bailes and Ellen Pontac, who said they have been together for 34 years and were the 45th couple married at City Hall in 2004.

Pontac carried a sign that said "Life feels different when you are married."

"We are full of hope," Bailes said. "This is extremely important. We have been fighting this fight for a really long time."

The women, who will speak tonight at a Sacramento gathering in midtown, drove to San Francisco to be at the courthouse for the decision.

"Shelly said this morning that she wouldn't be this nervous when we get married," Pontac said. "We've been together for 34 years. It has been a long-enough engagement."

This is a huge step in the direction of justice and love. There is so much rhetoric about family values and supporting the family, and yet we have laws forbidding some to form healthy, happy, supportive families. Gay Marriage is a family value, and I'm glad the California Supreme Court thinks so, too.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Nathan Roger McNiel

This is my nephew. He was born Thursday evening and is 7 lbs. 2 oz. and 21 inches long. He and his mother are doing great. And his dad, my brother seems to be fine, too! I haven't gotten to meet him in person yet. My dad, Roger, sent the pictures this morning. He is the first grandchild on both sides of his family, so he is certain to be loved within an inch of his life. My mother says he's perfect and my dad says he's a keeper. I have to wait three weeks to see him, but I'm already hooked!

Thursday, May 1, 2008


Last night I watched the movie Garbage with the Social Justice Community on campus. The film explores the environmental impact of all our various kinds of trash, while a family of five saves and weighs all its garbage for three months! You can learn more about the movie and the movement here.

There are a lot of memorable stories told in the movie. I didn't know that trash from Ontario was trucked to Michigan to landfills that are destroying what was once a beautiful, quiet community. I didn't know how devastating the run off from our roads and highways is - the equivalent of two Exxon-Valdez disasters. But more than anything, the stories about coal have stuck with me.

I've driven through West Virginia and I've seen the hilltops that have been eliminated from coal mining. I've voted against the building of new coal plants (the measure passed anyway.) And I've tried to reduce my own energy consumption with compact flourescent lightbulbs and by unplugging stuff when I'm not using it. What I didn't know was that coal dust covers entire towns near mines. And that children go to schools yards away from coal refineries and go home with headaches every single day. And what I still don't know is how to stop being complicit in this devastation. We have a lot of wind farms in California, but we also have a lot of coal plants. I use as much coal energy as anyone. My Dad's family is from Sweetwater, Tx where wind is becoming a more important industry than ranching. I never thought I'd want to live in Sweetwater, but now I kind of do, so that I could have a wind farm in my backyard. I can't really move to Sweetwater, though, and so I'm looking for other alternatives. We have to get off coal. It's destroying people's lives just so I can turn on the lights.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Interview with Bishop Robinson

Last week I was driving to work and listening to NPR, as usual, and heard the beginning of Terry Gross's interview with Bishop Gene Robinson on Fresh Air. I didn't get around to listening to the whole thing online until today.

It's a great interview, as all of Terry's are. Bishop Robinson talks about Lambeth and the current debates in the Episcopal, and about his upcoming civil union with his partner Mark, his struggle with alcoholism, his personal prayer life, and basically all the means of grace in his life. We are so fortunate that the people of New Hampshire chose him as their bishop.

Listen here.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Today is the first full day of Passover and also Palm Sunday for Orthodox Christians. While our brothers and sisters of faith (Jewish and Christian) are celebrating these spring feasts of liberation and redemption, we Western Christians are more than halfway through the Easter Season.

Like Christians for many centuries, I hate this division. I have Jewish friends and Eastern Orthodox friends and it seems like together we could offer a better witness to the world of God's goodness if we celebrated these great feasts in better harmony.

I think it is silly that in spite of repeated attempts, Christians cannot agree on a common date for Easter. I think it is silliest of Western Christians not to adopt the Eastern practice which brings Easter into proximity with Passover, thereby highlighting the historic setting of Jesus' death and Resurrection and also offering opportunities for shared reflection on God's saving grace among Jews and Christians.

But, I trust that in our silliness, God is in fact continuing to work for our liberation. So, may these feasts be opportunities for us all to seek greater unity with one another. May we remember one another in our celebrations and wish each other peace.

If God had given us each only one chance at redemption, and not continued to invite us into greater wholeness, it would have been enough, Dayenu.

Dayenu, Deyenu,

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


It is one year since the horrific shooting at Virginia Tech. I remember that day well. I was working at the University of Delaware then, just a few hours from Blacksburg, and my boss's son was a senior at Tech. He didn't have classes that day, and was supposed to leave Blacksburg to come to Delaware for the weekend. There were anxious phone calls from parish members calling to make sure he was okay. I'm sure my boss was concerned, but he assumed that no news was good news. He did get a call from his son in the afternoon who had been on the road when the shooting happened and stopped when he heard the news, knowing his dad would be worried. It's a scene that I'm sure was repeated tens of thousands of times as everyone connected with Virginia Tech was stunned and frightened.

Since then I've written here about other school shootings. None as tragic as Tech's, except to those who were actually involved. Every act of violence is tragic. And every act of love and every choice for forgiveness over revenge is a small unraveling of violence in the world. On this sad anniversary, perhaps we should each look for a way to be loving or forgiving in order to unravel some of the tragedy, and to help redeem the deaths of the Virginia Tech students and faculty.

The Rev. Scott Russell, the Episcopal Campus Minister at Tech wrote this moving essay about today. We were a part of the same province when I was at Delaware and I know Scott to be a caring, funny, and gifted priest.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Moving Forward

Just over a week ago the Church of Wales voted NOT to allow women to be ordained to the episcopate.

You'd think I'd be used to this by now, but sometimes it still catches me by surprise. I think I continue to be stunned the we human beings can be so slow to catch on and so persistent in our prejudices and ignorance. That's what I think happened in Wales. But the reality of it took me by surprise. Even after the fabulous celebration in Lodi and getting to sit at the feet of our amazing Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, and after feeling my own sense of vocation affirmed and confirmed. When I read the news from Wales I cried, and felt terribly discouraged. It was like the one step back, after two steps forward.

But today comes the news that Australia has appointed a woman as assistant bishop in Perth, and so the Anglican Church of Australia becomes the fourth province in the Anglican Communion to welcome women into the episcopate. And we're moving forward again.

I'm very grateful. It doesn't make rational sense to me, but as long as there are some who say I shouldn't be a priest because I am a woman, these moves are about my own vocation, not only the Church's vocation in the world. I assume it is the same for people of color or gay and lesbian people who are told they can't do or be something because of unalterable characteristics of who they are. And so as long as their are people willing to be more inclusive of others, it is progress for all of us.

May God bless Kay Goldsworthy, and the whole Church through her ministry.

Friday, April 4, 2008

A Time to Break Silence

On the 40th anniversary of Dr. King's death, and in light of the situation we find ourselves in today with the war in Iraq and Afghanistan continuing and poverty rising in the U.S. and around the world, I want to recall a speech that Dr. King gave 41 years ago today. It was delivered at a gathering of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City. It comes from that era of King's life in which he was most controversial, and most courageously following Christ. You can read the whole speech here. May his words again spur us on to greater compassion, greater activism, and greater faith.

"...There is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter the struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing. The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy- and laymen-concerned committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. Such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.

In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has justified the presence of U.S. military "advisors" in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counter-revolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia and why American napalm and green beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken -- the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment.

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. n the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life's roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: "This is not just." It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: "This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.

This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against communism. War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and through their misguided passions urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not call everyone a Communist or an appeaser who advocates the seating of Red China in the United Nations and who recognizes that hate and hysteria are not the final answers to the problem of these turbulent days. We must not engage in a negative anti-communism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove thosse conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops."

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

New Blog

As I mentioned below, I am currently working on a Doctor of Ministry project that I will finish in another few weeks. This project has become a new blog called Joining the God Movement where I will post much of the model I've designed for local communities as well as other thoughts and articles on issues of justice, peace, and the missio dei.

I hope you'll share your thoughts and ideas about how we can more fully participate in God's Reign!

Monday, March 31, 2008

The Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin

There is so much that could be said about the special convention of the Diocese of San Joaquin in which we confirmed a provisional bishop, seated new clergy including three other women and myself, and restored the structure of the diocese so that we can get on with participating in God's mission in the world.

You can read more at Episcopal Life or at Fr. Jake's or numerous other places. Here, I offer you the Presiding Bishop's words from Saturday morning. It says it all, I think.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
San Joaquin convention
March 29, 2008

I bring you Easter greetings, good news of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. As he says repeatedly to his disciples, "peace be with you," and "fear not." These may have been trying and traumatic months, but you are already clearly experiencing resurrection.

There is new hope here for a church that can tolerate and even welcome diversity. There is new hope for a reconciled community. There is above all new hope that this part of the body of Christ can focus on the needs of neighbors who need to hear the good news of God in Christ.

The varied band of people Jesus gathered around himself, whether those he healed, fed, or taught, was a surprisingly motley crew: tax collectors, political zealots -- even some calling for violent revolution, women, Jews and Samaritans, fishermen, shepherds, even more than a few Gentiles. They were certainly as diverse as those of different parties in this part of God's vineyard. Jesus was the common reason for their community, as he is for ours. And if that body could come together, then there is hope for us.

Those disciples brought others with them, and they did have their struggles over who was acceptable and who was not. As Mark's account puts it (9:38-40), "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us." But Jesus said, "Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us." Whoever is doing God's work is not beyond the possibility of relationship. Be generous in your welcome and in your reconciling work.

Those early disciples struggled in other ways, too. Not long after the resurrection, the great controversy was about whether Gentiles could be part of this gathering or not. It led to the first great council in Jerusalem, which didn't easily or fully resolve the issue. The struggles have not stopped since -- either in Jerusalem or in the wider church. Yet, when we are bound in the fellowship of the body of Christ, miracles of community and reconciliation are indeed possible.

The work ahead of this diocese in the coming months is going to be about identity, reconciliation, and mission. As you seek a renewed life together in Christ, you are going to be invited to remember who and whose you are, why you're here, and what you're going to do about it. A useful shorthand might be: identity, vocation, and mission as members of the body of Christ. I have just a few reminders as you seek answers to those questions:

1) Jesus is Lord. In the same sense that Jesus is Lord, and not Caesar, remember that no one else -- not any hierarch, not any ecclesiastical official, not any one of you, is Lord. We belong to God, whom we know in Jesus, and there is no other place we find the ground of our identity

2) We are all made in the image of God. Even when we can't see that image of God immediately, we are challenged to keep searching for it, especially in those who may call us enemy. There is pain and hurt here to be reconciled, and searching for the image of God in those we have offended and who have offended us is a central part of our reconciling vocation.

3) In baptism we discover that we are meant to be for others, in the same way that God is for us. Jesus the best evidence of that. And that means that God's mission must be the primary focus, not our own hurt or indeed anything that focuses on our own selves to the exclusion of neighbor. For when we miss the neighbor, we miss God. I believe you are already discovering that God is healing old wounds as you work together. The work is just beginning, and it may not be easy, but it is essential. Focusing on the other, the ones outside this body, is going to be a vital part of discovering resurrection. Archbishop William Temple famously said that this church is the only human institution that exists primarily for the good of those outside of it. There is plenty of need here in this part of California -- among migrant workers, single parents, young people with little sense of future or direction, returning veterans… Put your eyes upon Jesus in the form of those strangers, and you will find resurrection.

And, finally, remember that you are not alone. This part of the Body of Christ is only one limb. The rest of the Episcopal Church is with you, and will continue to be with you. A few people have joined you here today as incarnate evidence of the love of Christ, known in community. We stand with you in the firm and constant hope that this body will grow and flourish and bless the central valley of California in ways you have not yet dreamed of. And we will celebrate with you as that becomes reality.

Alleluia, Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Looking for Suggestions

I'm working on a curriculum on mission for groups of youth and adults involved in outreach. It begins with a Bible Study on Genesis 1, affirming that mission begins with God in creation. God reaches out beyond God's self and creates everything, and it is good.

I need an activity or two to accompany the discussion. What would you do to help express this idea?


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Millennium Development Goals

Are you familiar with the MDGs?
I hope that they have become so familiar that everyone knows about them, and about the goal to achieve these eight goals by 2015 - just seven years from now.

It's possible. It only requires each country to increase foreign giving by 0.7% - that's "point seven percent." Less than one percent. Non-profit organizations, communities of faith, and individuals can participate by committing 0.7% of their income to achieving these goals. My support is going to the Dominican Republic right now, to a community that I got to know several years ago through a church mission trip.

There are lots of places to learn more about the MDGs, like the UN MDG website, or at at the ONE Campaign site. And here's a video I just saw on youTube which I think is excellent.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Urban Spirit

A week from today five Pacific students and I will be in Louisville, KY at Urban Spirit, a non-profit organization that teaches people about poverty through a week-long poverty immersion experience. We won't really be living on the streets, but in a church basement, earning "Urban Spirit" dollars at minimum wage and using those dollars to pay for food, shelter, utilities and many of the other necessities of life like transportation and insurance, or not! What we can't afford, we don't get.

In truth, I'll be sleeping in the comparatively luxurious dormitory with an actual mattress while the students are in the basement. I completed the program three years ago, but I trust that I will learn and re-learn as much as I did the first time. The program was started by Dr. Deb Conrad who sees her mission as "changing the world by changing the way we see the world." It's different from many other service trips in that we won't build a house or do much that we can see with our eyes and touch with our hands. We will spend time each day working with local agencies in Urban Spirit's neighborhood, like Neighborhood House and the Boys & Girls Club. That's important work and will certainly make us feel good about ourselves. The other stuff probably won't make us feel so good, but it will make us more aware of the reality of systemic poverty in our country, and it will motivate us to work harder to end it.

People aren't poor because they are lazy or stupid or morally lax. People are poor because we not only allow them to be, but because we insist that people stay poor. One year ago this week I fell down a flight of stairs and badly dislocated my right elbow. (I am right handed.) It was painful and frightening and recovery was slow. But I had good medical insurance and a job that allowed me to take time off when I was on pain meds, and to work from home when I couldn't get dressed alone. And my insurance covered the cost of my physical therapy, which is what gave me the use of my arm back. It was an expensive fall, but because I have had easy access to education and reliable employment, I could afford it.

It could have been very different. If I hadn't had insurance, I would be in deep debt, having to choose between paying hospital bills and paying rent. I might have lost a great deal of mobility in my right arm from a lack of enough physical therapy. And I might have lost my job when I didn't show up for a week and tried to work every other day for another two weeks. One fall can be the difference between stability and destitution. In a country with such great wealth, life should not be that precarious.

There are numerous other reasons why people fall through the economic cracks in our society: mental health issues, lack of education, natural disaster (such as in New Orleans), domestic abuse, and on and on. We are smart enough and compassionate enough to make things better for everyone, if we are willing to change the world by changing the way we see the world. Urban Spirit is going to help me do that - again.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Northern Illinois University Tribute

Words seem so inadequate as yet another campus grieves the violence and death of another rampage. They're in my prayers.

We need better mental health care in this country. We need to increase our skills in communication and anger management. Steven, the shooter, is not unique, he's only the latest person who's fallen between the cracks of our society. May he and those whom he killed rest in peace and rise in glory.

This video tribute is by NIU alum Nick Tadin.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

for the Bible tells me so

I saw this movie last week as part of the "It takes a Rainbow" conference on campus. The movie is SO good and features some of my favorite people like Bishop Gene Robinson and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The film features several families and how they came to terms with their gay children, especially in light of all that the Bible reportedly says about homosexuality.

In reality, the Bible doesn't say anything, ever about homosexuality. The concept, much less the language, of sexual orientation didn't exist when the biblical writers were writing. Leviticus says it is an abomination for a man to have sex with another man, but so is eating shrimp. I can't take that command very seriously in the age or refrigeration and food thermometers which ensure I'm not going get food poisoning. Paul talks about men having sex with other men, but not as part of a loving, egalitarian, committed relationships. He's talking about what happens in Greek temples and perhaps, imperial orgies. I'm against it in that context, too. Or when it's a one night hook-up or an abusive use of force over another person (which Paul also would have been familiar with.) Watch the movie to hear more about these kinds of understandings of the Bible.

For me the movie is a great celebration of the power and liberation which comes when friends and parents and spouses and people themselves are free to be honest about who they are. Each story is about someone moving from a life of shadows, condemnation, and brokenness into a life of joy, wholeness, and love. I think that's what the Gospel is all about. It's what I see Jesus inviting his followers into when he heals them, or when he invites a woman to sit with him like any other disciple, or when he "proclaims release to the captive." Even in Rebecca's story in the movie, there is hope and redemption. It all comes from being honest and embracing God's full acceptance of all of us. We are all beloved of God and there is great power and freedom in knowing that. That's what the Bible tells me.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


This past weekend I spent Saturday and Sunday with 21 other people working on our skills for multicultural dialogue and community. The training was led by Terry and Jim from Visions, Inc., an organization I became familiar with through my studies at Episcopal Divinity School. We talked a lot about race and gender and the many differences which too often divide us. You can imagine that some of us were apprehensive before the weekend began, and there were times when the conversations were difficult and challenging. AND we laughed a lot and got to know one another better. We were all tired at the end of Sunday afternoon (as we headed home to watch the Superbowl, or not!) We were also glad to have been a part of the training.

Multiculturalism is more than diversity. It's not merely tolerating others, or making sure everyone gets represented in the headcount. Rather, it's about appreciating the differences between us, valuing them and being enriched by them. Multiculturalism is about real relationship that challenges us to become more than who we are alone. And real relationship always involves conflict. It's inevitable that we're going to hurt and offend one another. Being committed to multiculturalism means becoming more aware of the ways in which I hurt others - knowingly and unknowingly - and of the ways in which I make assumptions about others based on stereotypes and preconceived notions. It also means learning to talk to one another about those conflicts.

It's not easy and it's not quick. It's an ongoing process that never ends. On Sunday evening I wasn't sure that I was up for an ongoing process! Do I really want to examine every interaction I have with someone else?! Not really. But I do want deeper relationships with the people around me who have so much to offer. I don't want to hurt others because I'm insensitive and unaware of the ways in which being white, straight, educated and employed gives me power and privilege in this society. I want to practice the self-giving love of Christ and step into the reign of God that is standing open before us. So, I'm committed to genuine multiculturalism that challenges me and makes it possible for me to better understand and appreciate those around me.

Saturday, January 26, 2008


I've just returned home from a wonderful celebration in Hanford, Ca with the people of th Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. This was a momentous occasion because the bishop of the diocese recently encouraged and coerced the diocese to vote to join the Anglican province of the Southern Cone, because he believes the Episcopal church has gone astray in ordaining women and gays and lesbians. It's been an ugly situation but light is being shone on it and a new, healthier church is being built in San Joaquin. I am so privileged to be a part of it.

Since I'm new here, I haven't had to struggle under the bishop's leadership as so many have. He did tell me, when I met with him and requested a license to serve here as the canons require, that he would not allow me to serve as a priest in this diocese because I am a woman. But today I got to! It's odd that this is an exciting thing, that in 2008 my gender would still matter so much that it's significant that I was allowed to serve publicly as a priest today.

But patriarchy is alive and well. This is just my story about it. There are so many more people - women AND men, straight and gay, black and white, of every economic class - that are not allowed to be who they feel called to be because they are a threat to those with power OVER others. That's what patriarchy is about. Throughout history its often been men exerting power over others, but certainly women participate in patriarchy, too. It's not about the gender of the person holding power, but about how a person uses authority and power. Is it a weapon used to manipulate others? Is it used to make someone feel better than others, or to make up for a feeling of inadequacy? Is it internalized so that someone loses sense of even one's own value?

Patriarchy exists in all of our societies and in all of our religions. Many are working to undermine it, and today's celebration was a move in that direction. But let us not think that somehow we've overcome patriarchy. We have all learned its lessons too well. May we struggle to embrace the commands to love one another, to practice compassion for all living things, to spread shalom and salaam. May we all be willing to relinquish power over others so that we can all enjoy the true freedom of equality and dignity.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Unchanging Faith?

Unity in diversity is a wonderful thing, and we can often find it in suprising places, as I did while traveling before Christmas, in the interfaith chapel at D/FW airport. I had time to kill before my connecting flight and happened upon the chapel during my wanderings. It was about evening prayer time, so I stepped in, and found two men kneeling and praying facing Mecca. I sat in a back row seat and prayed, and then wished them a happy Eid as they left. They wished me a happy Christmas. It was really lovely.

Unfortunately, unity in diversity is often more difficult. I'm an Episcopalian, a priest in the American Christian denomination that finds its roots in the Church of England and is a part of the world wide Anglican Communion. (See links at right for more information.) This communion is in disarray right now. We've having trouble maintaining our unity in diversity, as you may have heard. Here in the Diocese of San Joaquin, the bishop has left this church to become a part of the Anglican Church that is located in the Southern Cone of Latin America. The bishop isn't actually moving to the Southern Cone, he just wants to head an outpost of that body here in California. He's trying to force the priests in his former diocese to do the same. And he's not alone. There are others, like him, who are upset that the Episcopal Church ordains women, like me, to the priesthood (and has been since 1977) and that we now are honestly acknowledging the holy and priestly ministry of gay and lesbian people in our body who serve as bishops, priests, deacons, and lay people. Notice that I didn't say we've "begun to ordain" gay and lesbian people. We've been ordaining them all along. We're just finally being honest about that and allowing them to be honest about who they are. Sounds like a move toward authenticity to me.

But not to everyone. And that's okay. We don't all have to agree on this issue. I think the church has to be honest and that we are called to be radically and wildly inclusive of all people. But not everyone is ready for that, yet. Not everyone was when Jesus said it about Samaritans, either, or women or tax collectors. That didn't stop him from saying it, and it didn't stop him from sharing meals with those who disagreed with him. That's unity in diversity.

But then, as now, those who disagree often separate themselves from the community. Few Pharisees chose to follow Jesus. And now those who are angry with the Episcopal Church are separating themselves. They're even planning a conference in Jerusalem to show their opposition to those who will be gathering in London for the Archbishop of Canterbury's Lambeth conference, held every ten years for all bishops in the Anglican Communion. Episcopal Life Online has a good story about it here.

In this article Presiding Bishop Gregory Venables, of the Southern Cone, is quoted as saying, "Our pastoral responsibility to the people that we lead is now to provide the opportunity to come together around the central and unchanging tenets of the central and unchanging historic Anglican faith."

This is odd to me, because our faith is anything but 'unchanging.' GOD is unchanging! Our faith hardly is. And I don't just mean the wanderings of faith and doubt that most of us experience; I mean what the church has taught throughout time, and more specifically, what the Anglican Church has taught. At one time, battles were fought over whether or not candles should be used in worship! There were battles over more significant things, too, like the Divine Right of Kings, and the faithfulness of the Roman Catholic Church. John and Charles Wesley began an evangelical movement in the Church of England which became the Methodist Church after their deaths. We disagree about the role and responsibility of bishops, the nature of ordination, the understanding of our central sacrament of Eucharist, or Holy Communion.

Faith isn't static. Our understanding of God is incomplete and so we're always growing, always re-assessing, always discovering new life in Christ. To suggest that our faith is "unchanging" is Pharisaical. It's holding on to some past definition of who we are and who God is and it shutters ourselves against any new movement of the Holy Spirit. I'm a part of a dynamic, ever-changing church which, at its best, is continually seeking greater understanding of Scripture, God, ourselves, God's mission in the world, and our role in that mission. May we be always more - not less - open to the change of God's transforming reign!