Friday, July 31, 2009

Probably the last post on Nigeria for a while

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll know that this week I've been following the stories about violence between an Islamic extremist group and police in Northern Nigeria. The story (at least as this blog covered it) starts here with updates on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

The worst of this particular incident seems to be over, but I don't think this is the last of it.

NY Times doesn't have anything new today. Al Jazeera does. Again, I would like to say how impressed I've been with Al Jazeera's coverage of this story. And how depressingly bad the NY Times' coverage was. Ironically, Al Jazeera's lead is about a New York-based human rights group. BBC also covers the story here.

The story now is that there are conflicting reports on the death of Mohammed Yusuf. The police say he was killed in a shoot-out while trying to escape. But "New York-based Human Rights Watch said on Friday reports that Mohammed Yusuf, the leader of Boko Haram, was shot and killed while in police custody were 'extremely worrying'."

Why do I suspect the police story isn't entirely accurate. Probably because "a Reuters news agency reporter and other local journalists said they had seen Yusuf at a military barracks in Maiduguri standing up and with no visible injuries following his capture. He was then transferred to the city police headquarters where he died." And the BBC interviewed the guy who captured Yusuf, Col Ahanotou, who said, "All I know is that in the attack, I was able to pick him up from his hide out and hand him over to police." So that's not pretty.

In better news, it sounds like things are at least temporarily calmer in that region. But if you could spare a prayer for Nigeria, it sure wouldn't hurt.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

More news from Nigeria

Interesting and revealing to compare the NY Times and Al Jazeera coverage of the latest events in Nigeria.

The NY Times report from Senegal starts by saying, "The leader of a fundamentalist Islamic sect was captured and killed after he fled a climactic gun battle with the Nigerian military, news reports said Thursday."

The Al Jazeera report begins, "Nigerian police have claimed the killing of Mohammed Yusuf, the leader of an Islamic group Boko Haram while in detention." But later in the story,

Al Jazeera's Yvonne Ndege, reporting from Borno state in northern Nigeria, said: "One cannot be a hundred per cent sure of what the police are saying about the capture and death of Mohammed Yusuf for two reason.

"One, the military and police are under sustained political pressure to root out Boko Haram. Two, on Wednesday we were told that Yusuf and at least 300 of his supporters fled Maiduguru as they were being pursued by Nigerian security forces.

"What we have asked the Nigerian police force for is evidence that they have actually captured Mohammed Yusuf but we have not got it."

Props to Al Jazeera for not simply relying upon "news reports." I thought the NY Times WAS the news reports. Grumble, grumble.

BBC news also has a report here.

On numbers

I do not get the argument often made in churches that huge numbers and drawing lots of people and new members is proof positive that you are Doing It Right.

Exhibit A: Reverend Ike who preached "a message that challenged traditional Christian messages about finding salvation through love and the intercession of the divine. The way to prosper and be well, Reverend Ike preached, was to forget about pie in the sky by and by and to look instead within oneself for divine power."

“This is the do-it-yourself church,” he proclaimed. “The only savior in this philosophy is God in you.”

"At the height of his success, in the 1970s, he reached an audience estimated at 2.5 million."

So...are we all agreed that since his theology draws a huge audience his theology is correct? I didn't think so.

God knows (and I hope you know) that I'm not saying numbers aren't worth anything. Like the Count, I love to count things.

The thing is that numbers are no objective measure of intrinsic worth. It is, for example, a foolish argument (at least I would say it's a foolish argument) to say that "More people today listen to Britney Spears than Ella Fitzgerald; therefore, Britney Spears is a better singer than Ella Fitzgerald." Or that Chanticleer is a terrible group because it doesn't bring in as many people as U2.

I wish people in churches would quit using the argument that when churches lose members there is something objectively disordered about them. Numbers are a clue that something is going on, but conclusions as to what that thing is need to analyzed with care.

William Wilberforce

So how long have people been trying to pass health care reform? Since the Truman administration? Earlier? William Wilberforce knows a little something about how long it takes for public policy to change.

From James Kiefer:

[William Wilberforce] introduced his first anti-slavery motion in the House of Commons in 1788, in a three-and-a-half hour oration that concluded: "Sir, when we think of eternity and the future consequence of all human conduct, what is there in this life that shall make any man contradict the dictates of his conscience, the principles of justice and the law of God!"
The motion was defeated. Wilberforce brought it up again every year for eighteen years, until the slave trade was finally abolished on 25 March 1806. He continued the campaign against slavery itself, and the bill for the abolition of all slavery in British territories passed its crucial vote just four days before his death on 29 July 1833. A year later, on 31 July 1834, 800,000 slaves, chiefly in the British West Indies, were set free.

If you haven't seen the movie Amazing Grace, I recommend it. And I see at the website linked above that U.S. pastors, youth ministers, or school leaders can get a free copy of the DVD!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

More from Nigeria

I'm going with Al Jazeera's report today because the NY Times added a couple of paragraphs before rehashing yesterday's story. Here's Al Jazeera's take:

Nigerian troops and police are hunting for the remnants of Boko Haram, an Islamist group that went on a killing spree in the country's north.

At least 30 people were killed in fresh clashes between security forces and the group the northern state of Yobe on Wednesday, a police source said.
Wednesday's violence came after the army shelled a mosque and the home of Mohammed Yusuf, the group's alleged leader, in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state.
Before leaving on a trip to Brazil on Tuesday, [President] Yar'Adua said that the situation was "under control".

But fresh fighting broke out in Maiduguri following the assault on the home of Yusuf.

Pray, pray, pray.

Gerald Gardner

Why do I love this obituary for Gerald Gardner? Because he used data for the cause of justice. And not for him, but for women. "He and his wife were among the earliest members of First Pittsburgh NOW, itself an early chapter of the National Organization for Women, which was founded in 1966."

Here's the story:

In 1969, First Pittsburgh, led by Wilma Scott Heide, who would become president of the national organization a few years later, filed a complaint with the Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations against The Pittsburgh Press, then the leading local daily. The complaint contended that the division by sex of the paper’s employment ads — “Male Help Wanted” and “Female Help Wanted” — amounted to discrimination against women.

“What Gerry did was calculate the statistical chance that a woman could get a job in one of the male categories,” said Eleanor Smeal, the president of the Feminist Majority and a former president of NOW. “He calculated pay differentials. The disparities just flabbergasted him. He contributed the hard intellectual theory based on the math, and he made it understandable, powerfully so.”

I love data! And I love it when people use it well.

Mary and Martha

Oh, Mary and Martha! You know I love you both. The following is from a sermon I gave at Christ Church, back in 2007. I probably posted this last year, but I don't care. I'm going to post it again.

First of all, let’s just get it out of our heads that the problem with Martha is that she’s working in the kitchen.

In fact, where does it say that she’s in the kitchen at all? Where does it say that she’s cooking? Where does it even say that Martha is going to offer Jesus a meal? All it says is that she welcomed Jesus into her home.

In fact, I think we need to rethink this scenario entirely. How many people, when we hear this story, picture Martha busy cooking something? How many people picture Martha cleaning? How many picture her in a different room in the house, getting things ready, and coming out to complain to Jesus about her sister? Because that’s what I’ve always imagined, but then I looked at this passage again. I looked and I looked and it doesn’t say she was in another part of the house. And all of a sudden I had to rethink this whole thing.

Here’s the text again: “Martha welcomed Jesus into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha…” What is unwritten but implied is that Martha didn’t listen to what he was saying.

Luke uses a terrific word to talk about how Martha is missing out. He uses it twice. And that is the word “distracted.” She invites Jesus in and then she gets distracted and doesn’t even pay attention to him when he’s sitting right there. And then when she does pay attention to him, it’s to give him an order: “Tell her to help me.” It seems to me that Jesus spoke rather gently to Martha, given those circumstances. He could have said, “How dare you try to guilt-trip me, suggesting I don’t care?” He could have said, “Who are you to tell me what to do?” But he doesn’t. He recognizes what is going on: “You are worried and distracted by many things.”

And isn’t that the truth? This isn’t a story about how certain types of work are good and spiritual and certain types of work are just busy work. It’s a story about how often we invite Jesus in and then don’t want to pay attention when Jesus is there. Right at the very moment when we say, Jesus, come on over, we can get worried and distracted and end up not listening at all.

Of course, Martha has the advantage over us of actually having Jesus there in the flesh. It’s much easier to believe that Jesus would actually talk to us if we could see him in the flesh rather than the “image of the invisible God.” But if we did actually invite Jesus in to our homes, what would Jesus have to say to us? And if we did take the opportunity to invite Jesus into our homes, would we also take the opportunity to actually listen?

O God, heavenly Father, your Son Jesus Christ enjoyed rest and refreshment in the home of Mary and Martha of Bethany: Give us the will to love you, open our hearts to hear you, and strengthen our hands to serve you in others for his sake; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Update: Nigeria

It sounds like things got worse there, though the tide may have turned, if the president, Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, is to be believed. Today, however,
A local reporter, Idris Abdullahi of the News Agency of Nigeria, said the town, Maiduguri, was essentially shut down Tuesday after clashes between the police and Islamists over the past two days. In a telephone interview, he said that the streets were deserted and that he had seen “100 bodies” of militants at the police headquarters; other reports spoke of as many as 260 dead there.

“The economy is paralyzed,” Mr. Abdullahi said. “Everything is closed down. There is no movement — only the military and police.” He said several churches had been burned by “hoodlums.”

That's from the NY Times. I was interested to see how Al Jazeera reported what was going on and prefer their coverage, actually. Their article puts what's happening into a much larger perspective. It ends with this helpful, painful summary:

Nigeria's 140 million people are nearly evenly divided between Christians, who predominate in the south, and primarily northern-based Muslims.

Islamic law was implemented in 12 northern states after Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999 following years of military rule.

More than 10,000 Nigerians have died in sectarian violence since then.

I'll keep you posted.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Meanwhile, in Nigeria...

Reported today from the AP: "Islamist militants seeking to impose a Taliban-style regime in northern Nigeria launched attacks Monday on police in three towns, expanding a two-day campaign of violence that has killed at least 55 people, police and witnesses said."

And the first thing I thought was, "We'll probably invade there next, this being another oil-rich, Islamist country." Then I went, wait! Different administration! Maybe, maybe not.

Whether or not there are U.S. forces or U.N. Peacekeepers there, I suspect things are going to be dicey in Nigeria. God only knows what will be helpful. Pray, pray, pray.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Congratulations, Rickey Henderson!

I remember seeing Rickey Henderson playing for the A's when I was a kid. I left baseball for a while, but when I came back I was amazed to find Rickey Henderson still playing (for the Red Sox at the time, I believe). Rickey's Hall of Fame induction means more to me than I expected; it suddenly ties me to the pantheon of baseball. I'm now one of those people who will say, "I remember seeing Rickey Henderson playing for the A's when I was a kid." It was a beautiful thing.

David and Uriah

The Old Testament lesson from this morning is always called "David and Bathsheba," but the story to me is more about the different responses of the two male characters. Here's an abridged version of the sermon I gave this morning at St. Michael's, Fort Bragg.

If you wanted, you could label Uriah an innocent or a fool, killed by a scheming monarch for a faithless wife. But when I look at Uriah’s story, I see something else. I see someone who is secure within himself that he is being honorable. I see someone who can live with himself, and because he can live with himself, he can die at peace.

Now, maybe this is foolish and na├»ve of me. In fact, I’m fairly certain of it. It is a rare and lucky person who can live and go to their death secure in their honor. Some of those people are so secure in their own honor that they are intolerable. A clear conscience is not necessarily a sign of innocence.

The thing is, and the point I want to make is that the only behavior under our control is our own. Uriah could not control David or Bathsheba. He could not read minds. He could not suss out other people’s motivations. All he could do was do what he thought was right by his own lights: obeying his commanding officer who told him to come report; disobeying when he was told to go home and take his ease. David’s folly in this story is that he kept trying to arrange other people’s behavior and it never quite turns out as he plans. His one-night stand turns into a long, entangled affair. His attempt to keep Uriah from knowing ultimately leads into everyone knowing.

One of the lessons we might take from this story if we look only at David is, We should realize that our actions have consequences. So don't do the wrong thing and you won't get mixed up in the consequences. But there’s another lesson to this story which is that sometimes we have no idea what the consequences of our actions will be. We can behave well and honorably as Uriah did and still get killed for our pains.

I think the point is that our guiding principle should not be, “What will the result be? Will it be good or bad?” Our guiding principle needs to be, “Is this action that I am about to take right and good and honorable? Is this pleasing to God?”

That’s all each of us can do: do what we think is right, based on our best efforts. In the Anglican tradition, we call upon Scripture, tradition and reason to help us make those ethical decisions. We pray, we talk with others, we read and study Scriptures and read and study other people who have read and studied Scriptures. We learn from science and scholarship and skills. And ultimately give it our best shot, trusting in God to see us through.

Our collect for today asks God that “with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal.” That is indeed our hope and our prayer, that within our limited perspective of time and circumstance we may do what is pleasing to God who holds all things in his hands.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

St. James and me

This morning, reading about St. James, I thought, "Boy, he was a bit of a jerk, wasn't he? Both those Boanerges boys. And mama's boys to boot."

The mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. And he said to her, "What do you want?" She said to him, "Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom." But Jesus answered, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?" They said to him, "We are able."

I wonder what Jesus thought about this request, as he replied, "You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father."

Next scene: grumble, grumble, grumble from the others: "When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers."

And what did Jesus think of this? "Oh, knock it off," seems a good summation.

But Jesus called them to him and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."

So almost immediately after this, I was looking at various blogs and things and found that someone I had known Back When was writing as a guest blogger for another blog. And I was absolutely stricken with jealousy: Why is she writing for that blog and not me? Which is crazy for a number of reasons.

a) I write my own blog, so it's not like I can't say whatever I want when I want in just as public a forum as she does;
b) This other blog, though certainly with a far wider readership than my own blog, isn't what you'd call a household name. So I am upset about not writing for a medium-large blog within the small world of Anglican blogging;
c) I get nervous when a lot of people read and comment on my blog, being rather thin-skinned, so I'm not even sure I would WANT to write in a larger forum;
d) have I ever asked to write for any other blogs? Why no!

And yet there it is. So who exactly is a jerk, here? And what is it that gets us (James and me, that is) so wound up about Being Recognized rather than simply doing what needs doing and letting "recognition" take care of itself.

I can just hear Jesus saying, "Oh, knock it off." And so I am posting my own foolishness here in hopes that it will help me laugh at myself and get back to what needs to be done. Which today includes writing up a sermon on David and Bathsheba, which should be fun!

Friday, July 24, 2009

General Convention: one last general post

in a video nutshell. Did it really end only a week ago?

What a catch!

One of the things I love about baseball is you never know where the hero is going to come from. And in yesterday's perfect game, it was DeWayne Wise. What a catch! I'd post video here, but MLB won't allow it, so you'll just have to go to their website and see it for yourself. Awesome.

World in Prayer prayers

I was on this week for the World in Prayer prayers. Here they are.

God of grace and God of glory, we face each hour knowing only what we can see and feel in this present moment. But you hold eternity in your hands. Help us, O God, to pass through things temporal with hope in things eternal. Grant us wisdom - grant us courage for the living of these days.

God of grace and God of glory, Hear our prayer.

Cure thy children's warring madness; bend our pride to thy control. We pray for the nations of this world. We remember especially Iran and Honduras as each seeks to resolve crises of leadership. We thank you for the peaceful resolution to a border dispute in Sudan to which both North and South agreed.

God of grace and God of glory, Hear our prayer.

O God, free our hearts from fears that long have bound us. We pray for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo in its ongoing struggle with violence and rebellion. We thank you for the work of church leadership there as they work to persuade rebel leaders to lay down their arms. We pray for the United States in its long debate about health care reform that the decisions of its leaders may be made based on truthful information and not on fear.

God of grace and God of glory, Hear our prayer.

God, save us from weak resignation to the evils we deplore. We pray for
South Africa where rioters are protesting the continued lack of basic services such as water or housing in poor townships. We pray for prisoners and guards at Guantanamo Bay, and that U.S. detention policy may reflect the best values of the nation. We pray for victims of torture and for an end to its use anywhere in the world.

God of grace and God of glory, Hear our prayer.

Free our hearts, O God, to faith and praise. We pray for the upcoming Ecumenical Work Week in Gulfport, Mississippi and New Orleans as people of faith continue to work to rebuild the Gulf Coast four years after Hurricane Katrina. We pray for the Living Letters program of the World Council of Churches whose small ecumenical teams visit countries to listen, learn, share approaches and challenges in overcoming violence and in peacemaking, and pray together for peace in the community and in the world. We thank you for the gift of music - that our songs of praise may glorify you and inspire us with your Spirit.

God of grace and God of glory, Hear our prayer.

Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
Serving Thee Whom we adore,
Serving Thee Whom we adore.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Guantanamo update

from an email sent by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.

Dear Friends:

Senator Inhofe has offered an amendment, S.A. 1559, to the FY 2010 National Defense Authorization bill (S. 1390) that would PERMANENTLY prevent the President from transferring any detainee in the Guantanamo Bay detention facility to a prison in the United States - whether for the purpose of trying that detainee in a court of law, or for the purpose of closing Guantanamo.

As you all know, Guantanamo is widely recognized as a symbol of our government's use of torture. Senator Inhofe's amendment would make it much more difficult for our country to close Guantanamo - preserving the symbol of torture and needlessly tarnishing our country's reputation.

Please call your Senators and tell them to vote against S.A. 1559. Remind them that the abuses that occurred in the prison in Guantanamo shamed our nation and you hope that they will not stand in the way of closing that prison. Voting against this amendment will make it possible to close Guantanamo.

You can reach your Senators by calling the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 and asking to speak with one of your Senators. Then call back and ask to speak to your other Senator.

Thank you for all you have done to end U.S.-sponsored torture.


Linda Gustitus, President
Richard Killmer, Executive Director

Brenda Joyce

The headline in the obit section was Brenda Joyce, Jane to 2 Tarzans, Dies at 92.

She spent five years (1945-49) as Jane and "later spent a decade working with recent immigrants to help them find housing and jobs." Jane got her the obit, but I'm much more impressed with her decade of work with immigrants. It makes me wonder what else she did in her long life.

Reflections on General Convention: Clerical Garb

From my vantage point in the exhibit hall at General Convention, I saw huge varieties in clerical garb. There were tab collars and full collars and linen collars and synthetic collars. There were people in various shades of purple and priests in black, white, blue, blue stripes, and unique patterned fabric clearly custom-made for the wearer.

Down the row from us were the ominous liturgy twins:

Their arms were not so much in the orans position as the "Come closer so I can strangle you" position.

And next door was WomenSpirit, a firm that specializes in making clerical garb for women. In a wonderful twist, they were back to back with the American Anglican Council of the "Me, Too" confirmation program and high dudgeon over women being ordained at all.

I got to talk with a lot of women clergy friends and colleagues and it was amazing how often the issue of clerical garb came up: when to wear it, what form it should take, formal, informal, on and on.

But the thing that got me most was how often I would hear from women who couldn't find shirts that fit. Not because people couldn't make them, but because people couldn't believe them when they said what fit them. "I have a size 15 collar and a size 8 shirt," for example, would be met with, "That's impossible." The neck size was "too big" for a shirt that small. So strange, given that you'd think people who make custom-sized clothes would know that people come in all sorts of different sizes.

Clerical garb is a strange mixture of tailored clothing and one-size-fits-all. Very much like being a clergy person.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The feast of Mary Magdalene

In the midst of this discussion of newfangled saints, I am brought back to the very beginning on this, the feast day of Mary Magdalene, the very first person to see the risen Lord.

So many wonderful things in her story of finding Jesus. That angels ask her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" and that doesn't seem to strike her as odd. That she recognizes Jesus when he calls her by name.

And the weeping, of course, pejoratively named as "maudlin" in spite of her eminently appropriate behavior by the tomb. What is it about weeping when we are sad that embarrasses people so? Too much feeling, I suspect. Weeping lets other people in in a way that other strong feelings do not. Weeping makes a person vulnerable.

I don't know, honestly, what it is. I do know that I'm mad we have linguistically put Mary Magdalene down for crying in her grief. As we have all memorized, Jesus wept, too. Nobody called him maudlin.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Reflections on General Convention: Saints and such-like

Today is the feast day of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Amelia Bloomer, Sojourner Truth,and Harriet Ross Tubman, "Liberators and Prophets", which is not untrue, but sounds mighty political to me. It annoys me that they are all lumped together, given that they did such different things. It also annoys me that in the collect for today, they are referred to by first name only, which is not the standard for the collects for the saints. I went so far as to write the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music a few years back to point out this discrepancy. I find it a galling oversight, far beyond the slightness of the offense. There's something about the omission of that nicety of courtesy that underscores the need for the work that these women did. It riles me up, it do.

While I was at Convention, while waiting in the House of Deputies for the results of D025 to come back, we got to hear a snippet of the debate over the inclusion of WEB DuBois in the church calendar. In particular over the use of the term "Black Folk" in the collect of the day rather than "African Americans." To be clear, it was two black women (one from the Virgin Islands) who stood up to change the term from African American to Black Folk, and this rather nervous looking white fellow who stood up to say that "Some of the southern bishops thought using the term 'black folk' would cause needless pain." A delegate from, I believe, South Dakota and far more native to it than most stood up to say, "If we want to be a culturally sensitive church, it would be a good idea for us to listen to the people from the cultures to which we wish to be sensitive." The amendment passed.

But there is a larger issue, for me anyway: are we tossing all sorts of people into our calendar--claiming them--in a way that is inappropriate? A friend of mine made a snarky comment about the four women being remembered today when I posted it was their feast day on Facebook, then apologized, saying, "as a Catholic, I just don't get what being put on the calendar means in the Episcopal Church."

He's not alone. And there was a huge revision to that this year at General Convention. I appreciated Dan Martins' thorough examination of the issues here. He says, "I fear we are making utter fools of ourselves, turning the sanctoral calendar into a flatbed truck to carry the freight of our collective neurotic guilt, trying desperately to demonstrate our inclusivity to an ecumenical community that will just chuckle softly as they shake their heads in bemused bewilderment."

I doubt many will pay that much attention. But I will. And I am uncomfortable with what seems to me to be claiming people for our calendar to make us feel better about ourselves.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Reflections on General Convention: This is Your Episcopal Life

I don't mean the newspaper Episcopal Life but my own personal life as an Episcopalian which seemed to pass literally before me as I stood in my 10 x 10 foot booth.

Thank God everyone wore name tags, is all I have to say. It often took me some time to piece together names and where I knew people from.

I saw people from Christ Church and Bexley Hall from when I lived in Rochester (1990-1998); lots of people from CDSP (1998-2001); folks from the Diocese of Ohio, including the bishop who confirmed me(1986-1990), and from my brief time as a clergy person in the diocese (2001-2); I saw people from Alameda and the Diocese of California (2002-date); I saw people from CREDO (whenever that was) and job searches (all over the place) and Facebook (all the time) and met people I'd followed via blogs and Twitter (obsessively). That's well over half of my life spent in the Episcopal Church with a whole lot of twists and turns in it.

It was wonderful and unnerving as I stood there, talking about this program that I think is wonderful, doing something I think is good but that is not the thing I expected to be doing. I felt guilty at times as I wondered if I should have done things differently. I was amazed at how strong the feeling was that I Should Be Achieving More. But I also believe I'm where I'm supposed to be at the moment, doing what I'm supposed to be doing. It feels like God is always lurking, always leading in strange and labyrinthine ways. I can't explain. But it was an amazing thing to revisit my life of faith in the Episcopal through many of the people who shaped it. And to understand, or at least catch a glimmer of, how far we are from finished.

Reflections on General Convention: Women and Girls

At one point during the week, my co-worker lured me away from the Confirm not Conform booth to go sit in the House of Deputies when they were reporting on the final vote on D025, the resolution that affirmed that the conferring of holy orders is a mystery and that God calls all sorts of people. There was a bit of a glitch in the reporting and so we sat there for some time watching Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies, at work. We could barely see her on the big screens waaaay at the front of the room, but her calm steadiness was impressive and frankly somewhat intimidating. "For what reason does the delegate approach microphone 2?" she would say. And at another time, "If those of you at the microphones wish to continue this discussion, I will not be happy."

Here's what it looked like from where we were sitting in the very last row of the visitor's gallery:

We also snuck into the House of Bishops VERY briefly, just to see, but didn't stay for more than a minute or two. And I didn't take a picture.

The thing that only hit me much later is that the presidents of both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops are women. And when it hit, it hit on a visceral level.

And so it was with that in mind that I heard this story from another co-worker who worked the CnC booth later in the week.

He was the only man who worked in the booth during our tenure at GC. On our last day, he was approached by a representative from the American Anglican Council who had a booth kitty corner and behind our own.

The AAC is a conservative organization in high opposition to the Episcopal Church's current positions on all sorts of things. Towards the beginning of my time in Anaheim, a man from AAC had approached me and growled, "What's the mission of this here outfit?" I'd answered, "The mission of this here outfit is for young people to get confirmed and mean it," which is quite true. He muttered, "I can get behind that," and walked off.

He'd had something different to say to my male co-worker. He had explained that the AAC had a confirmation program "for the development of young Christian men" called Kairos. And that they also had one for girls called (and I am not making this up) Me Too.

Good luck to 'em.

I don't have any deep thoughts about the significance of these events. I'm still mulling them over. But the difference was so vast and so striking, I had to write it down. I hope we're moving past being "Me Too" church to the point where we don't even think about inclusion any more. Not because we're oblivious to people but because everybody's already included. Here's hoping.

Friday, July 17, 2009

William White and General Convention

I'm home at last. As you may have guessed from the paucity of entries, the last couple of days were brutal. The exhibit hall opened at 8:00 am Wednesday and Thursday. On Thursday when the hall closed, a ragged cheer went up from the exhausted exhibitors, followed almost instantaneously by the sound of forklifts rambling through the hall as we all packed up our stalls.

We were out of there in 45 minutes, tops, walking out the back of the exhibit hall into a large square of light while behind us the sound of packing tape unrolling echoed throughout the room.

Today was the final day of convention and appropriately it is the feast day of William White who was the first Presiding Bishop (and the fourth, actually) of The Episcopal Church. I don't have all the facts at my fingertips right now, so forgive me if this is inaccurate, but he helped establish the system we have in our church whereby laity and clergy other than bishops have a voice and a vote at our General Conventions. This is still a novelty in the Anglican Communion as was clear in Bonnie Anderson's meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury that I mentioned in an earlier post.

High marks to William White who didn't allow a pursuit of personal power to control him. Our church is better for it.

More in days to come.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

In yesterday's episode of General Convention...

As I explained at great length here, in a previous episode, the House of Deputies had passed D025 by a wide margin and sent it to the House of Bishops. The Archbishop of Canterbury was disappointed. What would happen? Thoughts of gloom pervaded the Anglican blogosphere. The bishops might not even consider the resolution. They might revise it into something completely different.

But then, all of an instant, the vote was taken and D025, with only minor revisions, was passed by the House of Bishops by a vote of 99-45. Jubilation in many quarters! Dismay in others.

For my money, this is a beautiful resolution. And I don't normally say that about resolution language. But I think this one is beautiful because it's honest. It seems a very heartfelt statement about who we are as a church and where we currently stand. And as Bishop Mary Gray Reeves said in the discussion (live blogged at The Lead) and reiterated later by Dr. Ian Douglas from the Executive Council, "In order to be in full communion we need to be honest. Honesty leads into communon and not a facile understanding of church relationships." (NB: this isn't a direct quote, but a paraphrase from The Lead.)

I also very much like the amendment proposed by Bishop Hollingsworth which says:

Resolved that this 76th General Convention affirm that God has called and may call such individuals to any ordained ministry within TEC and that God's call to the ministry is a mystery which the Church attempts to discern for all people through our discernment processes acting in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church.

As the late, great Harlow Russell would say, "Is it a puzzle to be solved or a mystery to be adored?" I am very happy to say that today the church has decided this thorny problem is a mystery to be adored.

Here's the whole resolution, which now needs to go back to the House of Deputies for final approval:

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 76th General Convention reaffirm the continued participation of The Episcopal Church as a constituent member of the Anglican Communion; give thanks for the work of the bishops at the Lambeth Conference of 2008; reaffirm the abiding commitment of The Episcopal Church to the fellowship of churches that constitute the Anglican Communion and seek to live into the highest degree of communion possible; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention encourage dioceses, congregations, and members of The Episcopal Church to participate to the fullest extent possible in the many instruments, networks and relationships of the Anglican Communion; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention reaffirm its financial commitment to the Anglican Communion and pledge to participate fully in the Inter-Anglican Budget; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention affirm the value of "listening to the experience of homosexual persons," as called for by the Lambeth Conferences of 1978, 1988, and 1998, and acknowledge that through our own listening the General Convention has come to recognize that the baptized membership of The Episcopal Church includes same-sex couples living in lifelong committed relationships "characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God" (2000-D039); and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention recognize that gay and lesbian persons who are part of such relationships have responded to God's call and have exercised various ministries in and on behalf of God's One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and are currently doing so in our midst; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention affirm that God has called and may call such individuals, to any ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church,; and that God's call to the ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church is a mystery which the Church attempts to discern for all people through our discernment processes acting in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention acknowledge that members of The Episcopal Church as of the Anglican Communion, based on careful study of the Holy Scriptures, and in light of tradition and reason, are not of one mind, and Christians of good conscience disagree about some of these matters.

Monday, July 13, 2009

I didn't see Walt Disney, but I did see Vincente Minelli

Yesterday was my day off and so I did what anyone would do when in Anaheim: I went to Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens in Glendale to visit Walt Disney's grave.

When I pulled up to the gate, I asked for directions to where he's buried and was told that, to respect the families' privacy, no personal information is given out. Which makes sense to me, but was so different from Pere Lachaise where the maps point out where the notables live. I mean reside.

But I had a lovely time wandering around this absolutely beautiful cemetery, so tasteful, so serene. Again, unlike Pere Lachaise, the markers were almost all exactly alike. My favorite was perhaps the man who "received each recognition and honor with modesty," and then the plaque went on to list each and every one of those modest honors.

Then there's this one:

Mostly I was struck by the image of death as a great leveler. And how in almost every case, each plaque was inscribed, "Loving wife and mother," or something of that nature. The man with his modestly-accepted awards notwithstanding, it was the relationships that mattered most in the end. It was a very restorative day in the land of the dead.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The soap opera prelude to the quote of the day

For those of you not following the soap opera that is General Convention, in our last episode: a cliff hanger! On the very last day, delegates were asked to pass a resolution (B033) that "Resolved, That this Convention therefore call upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion." (For "manner of life" substitute "openly gay.")

Many people voted for it though it was against their own consciences for reasons not worth repeating in this blog. But the passing of it didn't exactly ease relations within the Anglican Communion as various bishops left for other climes, lawsuits continued, gays and lesbians stood as candidates for bishop in several dioceses, etc., etc. In short, B033 doesn't appear to have changed anyone or anything.

Enter: General Convention 2009 and a whole lot of delegates riled up to repeal or generally undo B033.

Suddenly...the Archbishop of Canterbury appears! For the first time ever at a General Convention of the Episcopal Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury comes to speak. And he says, among other things, "Along with many in the Communion, I hope and pray that there won't be decisions in the coming days that could push us further apart." And my personal favorite, in a meeting with the president of the House of Deputies (i.e. non-Bishops who have an equal voice in setting the agenda for the Episcopal Church), "Williams told the group that Episcopalians had to be aware that in some parts of the Communion, 'bishops only want to hear from other bishops,' Johnson said."

In this context, the House of Deputies resoundingly passed D025, which sounds reasonable to me. Given how riled up the House of Deputies probably was at the Archbishop's statements, I think it's fairly moderate in tone. It says, in part,

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention recognize that gay and lesbian persons who are part of such relationships have responded to God's call and have exercised various ministries in and on behalf of God's One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and are currently doing so in our midst;and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention affirm that God has called and may call such individuals, to any ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church, which call is tested through our discernment processes acting in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church ; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention acknowledge that members of The Episcopal Church as of the Anglican Communion, based on careful study of the Holy Scriptures, and in light of tradition and reason, are not of one mind and Christians of good conscience disagree about some of these matters.

Now this is going to the House of Bishops and there's a great deal of anxiety that the Bishops will balk. Tune in for our next episode.

This morning's installment: As reported in the London Times, "The Archbishop of Canterbury told General Synod today that he 'regrets' the decision by The Episcopal Church house of deputies to overturn the moratorium on the ordination of gay bishops." Cue suspenseful organ music. What will the House of Bishops do? Tune in next time.

Quote of the Day

Your joy will be to follow him who came, not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.

This is from the Examination in the service for the Ordination of a Bishop. I'm drawn to it today as resolution D025 makes its way to the House of Bishops. (See this entry for a long and tedious explanation of D025)

Why does it seem like we always focus on the "unity of the church" part of the Examination and not the joy of following the servant Jesus? I was thinking today that it's bad church to lead the church based on fear of rejection or of getting people upset. God is our judge. I hope that all who vote do so on the basis and with the knowledge that the one person they should hope to please is Jesus. That's not going to mean that everyone will vote the same way, but I do believe that if we can show up before God and say, "I offered the best love that I had in everything I did" that God's love and mercy will cover the rest. That's just me.

Saturday, July 11, 2009



These guys were out in front of the Convention Center today (and a couple of days ago), yelling at people as they went by. A group of youth passed in front of them and they said, "You've been deceived! Your church is dead!" Women clergy were singled out for abuse. You'll see one of them is carrying a sign saying, "Gene Robinson Minister of Satan." Overall, they were a pain in the ass. But they didn't stay long.
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Friday, July 10, 2009

Very quickly before I head out the door

I wanted to give you a few images from General Convention.

Here's Kellor, my super-sales co-worker, sitting in front of the Convention Center in one of our rare moments when we experienced light and air yesterday:

And here is one of the visitors to our booth, sporting the latest in tote bag accessories:

We're sorry he didn't have it on logo-side out.

The work is exhausting, but it's been great seeing old friends and meeting new people. I'm sorry I haven't been able to fill you in more on the ins and outs, but my scope is extremely limited. More when I can, but I've got to get over there. Wish me luck!

The Happiest Ballpark on Earth

I went to the game...Tuesday? I don't know, I lose track. And it struck me how very theme-park-like Angels Stadium is. Check out those cap porticoes and the baseball bat girders:

Even the staff were Disney-like in their welcoming friendliness. I got a high five from the guy who checked by purse for weapons, and at the empty turnstile when I asked if I could go in there, the ticket guy said, "Only the best people get in this way."

All I can say is, this ain't Oakland.

The booth in all its final glory

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

News from Booth 725

which is my home away from home. It's finally all set up and looks good! (I'll get a picture up later.)

I'm heading out in a couple of minutes (after I finish this entry) to go to an Angels-Rangers game. I got the tickets from Dan Webster, formerly of Christ Church Alameda, who couldn't go.

Perhaps because he is listening to the Archbishop of Canterbury addressing the convention. I actually saw the ABC today as he passed through the exhibit hall, surrounded by a clot of men in black shirts. I would have either taken a picture or given him a flyer about Confirm not Conform except I was talking to another customer.

We had a busy day in the booth. Kellor, who is working the booth with me, has taught me a lot about sales. Do not wait for them to come to you is the main message. She stands on the edge of the carpet of our booth with flyers in hand saying, "Here's a flyer about this great youth confirmation program!" I say that too, now, though from time to time I say, "May I thrust a flyer about our program into your hands?" Episcopalians appreciate the politeness of this request and rarely say no.

I have no idea what's going on outside of the exhibit hall. At 5:00, as we were leaving for the day, we left the building and I said to Kellor, "Air! Sunlight!"

I did catch a glimpse of the protesters outside the front of the convention center, holding signs saying (among other things) "Why do you hate God?" It's not a big group, only 4 or 5 men with large signs. I'm not sure if they were from a group or if there were more at the other exits. There weren't any when we slipped out the back.

The best thing about General Convention so far is seeing all sorts of people I haven't seen in a long time. People from Rochester, Ohio, seminary, CREDO...I'm getting lots of hugs. Now with some kettle corn and sunlight, I'm sure I'll make a complete recovery and be ready for tomorrow. More when I can.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Very briefly from Anaheim

Whew! I drove down yesterday and got in just at the stroke of 11 pm. Today I've been setting up the booth and I'm not nearly done. I spent most of the rest of today running around Anaheim, stopping first at Office Max, then CostCo, then Michael's.

I saw It's Margaret who is volunteering here and blogging about her adventures here.

So many impressions! Being here makes the Episcopal Church seem so small, I have to say. We (vendors) don't fill one half of the exhibit hall. And this is in conjunction with the Episcopal Church Women's convention and the Church Periodical Society(?) meeting. I've met folks from both of those groups today, all of them Quite Clear about the fact that they are NOT here for the church's General Convention. I'm kind of embarrassed for us.

Here is my booth. It's not done yet, as I said. I'm across one aisle from WomenSpirit liturgical garb (I'll be spending money there, I suspect) and next to a couple that does travel to various religious sites throughout the world. Directly across from me are the Episcopal Seminaries who were only beginning to set up as I left to get other things done.

I was just wondering what that noise was, but obviously it's the fireworks at Disneyland, just a block away. Otherwise, my room here is very peaceful. I'm going to be grateful for it, I can already tell.

Quote of the Day

It took me three days to figure out that there was another side to the tape.

13-year-old Scott Campbell describing his experience swapping his iPod for a Walkman.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Quote of the day

On Sarah Palin's resignation, hilzoy at Obsidian Wings writes:

I have no more idea than anyone else, but hey: what's the point of blogging if not to amass a record of your unfounded speculations so that you can go back and see how wrong you were?

My unfounded speculation: somethin's coming out soon.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Karl Malden

I would just like to point out that, in this Times obituary about Karl Malden, that he recently celebrated his 70th anniversary. "In addition to his wife, Mr. Malden is survived by his daughters as well as three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren." Blessings.

Back to work for me.