Thursday, June 29, 2006

KJS+ on the role of women in the church

More from Diane Rehm's interview with Presiding Bishop Elect Katharine Jefferts Schori.

It's a girl!

(Click the image above for a new t-shirt design Demetrius made today.)

Katharine Jefferts Schori: There are only 9 provinces of the 38 that don't ordain women at all. Several of the others are in process to ordain women to all orders of ministry. But the reality is that women are leaders as baptized persons everywhere in the communion, and they always have been.

Diane Rehm: I thought it was interesting to hear that Bishop Desmond Tutu shouted "Whoopee!" when he learned of your selection. He went on to say, "When you think we used to say 'What? A woman doctor?!' 'What? A woman engineer?!' 'What? A woman prime minister?!' And now we have, for the first time, a woman Presiding Bishop Elect of the Episcopal Church.

...there are three diocese in the U.S. that still restrict women's access to the priesthood. Do you expect that to change?

Katharine Jefferts Schori: Well, the reality is that it is the bishops of those three dioceses who object to the ordaination of women to the priesthood. There are certainly laypeople and clergy in all of those dioceses who affirm that possibility.

One of the interesting pieces of Christian history is that there's very good evidence that in the early church, women did exercise ordained leadership. And when the church began to be enculturated under Constantine, that possibility was removed. Women were slowly excluded from public leaderhip in the church. So we're returning to our roots, in some sense.

Diane Rehm: Why do you think they were excluded by the bishop of Constantine?

Katharine Jefferts Schori: I think that exclusion happened gradually because it was uncomforable for the culture around the Christian church to see women in public roles. In the Roman tradition it was unusual to see women in public. One might point to similar cultural norms in other parts of the world today, especially in the Islamic world. It's very uncomfortable in some Islamic cultures to see women in public roles.

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KJS+ on the elevation of Bishop Gene Robinson

More from the interview with Diane Rehm

Regarding Gene Robinson

Katharine Jefferts Schori: I think it's vitally important for this church to affirm the goodness of all of God's creation and the place of all God's people in this church. When we consented to Gene Robinson's election in 2003, we were simply confirming what the people of New Hampshire had seen in Gene. His gifts, his long history in that diocese, and his vocation to be their bishop.

Do you see the church moving forward to ordain outspokenly gay persons under your leadership?

Katharine Jefferts Schori: We have been ordaining gay and lesbian persons in this church for years and years and years. In recent years they have been able to be open about their sexual orientation and honest about that, and I don't see any retreat from that among deacons and priests, I think we will experience a pause in the consecration of bishops who are openly gay, and that makes me very sad. Because I believe that God equally calls people of both sexual orientations to leadership in this church.
We would have been more judicious if we had affirmed the ability to bless same-sex unions--monogamous, lifelong unions--before we were faced with the reality of consenting to the election of a person in such a relationship. The church has not formally done that. We have recognized in our convention of 2003 that the blessing of such unions is within the range of appropriate pastoral practice in this church, but we have not authorized a rite for blessing such unions. And we're not in the process of doing that at the moment. It may come to the next General Convention, or the one after that.

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KJS+ on inclusiveness and diversity

Selected excerpts from Katharine Jefferts Schori's interview with Diane Rehm on NPR today.

Diane Rehm: Born a Roman Catholic, Katharine Jefferts Schori was pursuing a degree in oceanography when she found her religious calling. She joins me this morning from KNPR in Las Vegas to discuss her own journey, and the one she sees for the Episcopal church.
This seems an extremely tumultuous time for the Episcopal church. What do you regard as your immediate challenges once you are elevated to the post of Presiding Bishop in November?

Katharine Jefferts Schori: When I am installed in November, my sense is that the church's primary focus needs to be on mission. We have finished this past General Convention with a great advantage of having identified our priorities for the coming years, and the first of those is justice and peace work, to be framed by the Millennium Development Goals, and I look forward to calling the whole church to continue to work on those goals.

Responding to a question about the three diocese rejecting her leadership

Katharine Jefferts Schori: Those dioceses have been unhappy with the decisions of the past General Convention for the last three years. They've been dissatisfied with some of the direction in the church for longer than that. And the current actions, I think, are newsworthy simply because they all come at the same time, and at the close of this General Convention.
The reality is that dioceses cannot leave their member churches. Individuals can leave, but the diocese as an entity is a creature of General Convention. And unless and until General Convention were to consent to permit them to leave, it simply represents the departure of a few individuals.

Rehm comments on Jefferts Schori's "meteoric rise", having been ordained as a priest in 1994, became a bishop in 2001, never served in a parish, formerly an oceanographer and "I must say, you are quite young to have assumed such an extraordinarily elevated position." Asks her to talk about her career path.

Katharine Jefferts Schori: Well, I was an active layperson in the Diocese of Oregon before I was ordained, I served both in the parish in a variety of leadership positions, and in the diocese. And in the year before I went to seminary, I was the Dean of the School of Theology in Ministry for the Diocese of Oregon.

I think often in the church we fail to recognize the baptismal ministry of all our members, and my experience as a layperson is part of what I bring to this position. I did serve in a parish in Oregon. I was not the rector but I acted as the rector during times when he was on sabbatical. And I did serve as priest in charge of a Hispanic congregation there in Corvalis, Oregon.

Diane Rehm asks about KJS's career change from oceanography to the priesthood.

Katharine Jefferts Schori: Well, when people ask about that, I say that I'm still fishing, I'm still working "in the depths". I struggled with that transition for a good while. I think that some of the skills that I learned as an oceanographer, especially having to do with looking carefully at the world around me, and a scientific approach to the wonders of creation have been a blessing in my work in the church.

You know, I come to a situation usually without a preconceived notion of what ought to result, I'm willing to make a hypothesis and test it, and gather data, and make the best informed decision that I can.

Diane Rehm asks KJS+ to explain her previously stated views that unity and inclusiveness are important to this church.

Katharine Jefferts Schori: The Anglican tradition, of which the Episcopal church is the American expression, has always valued comprehensiveness. We come with a variety of strands of belief and emphasis, and we are only a healthy body when we can incorporate the best of all of those strands. If we focus completely on one of those strands, we lose the diversity that makes us healthy. And, one of the perspectives of a biologist is to look at the natural world and see that--you know, if a farmer tries to grow only corn in a field, tries only to grow one crop, one quickly discovers that it takes massive inputs of fertilizer, of nutrients, of insecticides, and then you might get a crop. But the natural world flourishes when there is a diversity of creatures in the environment.

Photo credit Iain Kerr, Ocean Alliance

...the House of Bishops and, certainly, by extension, the General Convention, is not unlike what happens in the Pacific Ocean every year. Humpback whales sing songs--you've probably heard recordings of them. Indeed! When they come together--they come together a couple of times a year, one of the places is off the Hawaiian islands. They come together for a time, and while they are together, they learn a new song. Each of their individual songs changes, and they begin to sing a common tune. When they go home again, they teach that song to their neighbors in their home localities, and over the coming months, that song changes again. And the next time they come back together, they learn a new song together.

And to me that was an image of what the church in its legislative gatherings might imitate. What can we learn from each other? How can we come to sing a common song?

Do you have a song in mind?

Katharine Jefferts Schori: Ahh! "The glory of God is evidenced in human beings fully alive, and that means all human beings, and that means alive in all the facets of their being.

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Katharine Jefferts Shori responds to a caller on NPR

Presiding Bishop Elect Katharine Jefferts Schori was on the Diane Rehm Show on NPR today. I'm going to post some highlights from throughout the interview later this evening, but since I've seen a lot of comments in recent days that interpreted her support of Resolution B033 as a betrayal of GLBT Episcopalians, I thought I'd post this part first.

Dan from Syracuse, NY: I've heard tremendous things about you and your call for full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the church. I joined St. Paul's Cathedral in Syracuse on the strength of Bishop Robinson's election, and because I could no longer stomach the awful things the Roman Catholic hierarchy says about gay and lesbian people. But the wording of the resolution is troubling to me--the moratorium resolution, that is--because it suggests to me a certain church-sanctioned immorality now, that now becomes part of the official doctrine of the church because it was passed by General Convention. What's my incentive now to remain in the Episcopal church in light of the passage of this resolution? I was very, very devastated by the passage of the resolution?

Katharine Jefferts Schori: I think many of us were disappointed that it came to that. My sense was that it was the most that we were going to be able to manage at that late hour in the convention, and the reality is that the Convention makes policy, it doesn't rule on matters of doctrine. And those policies are routinely reversed and revised every three years. I think it is a pause, but, as I said to the convention, I do not see it as slamming the door. It simply is an unfortunate way of inviting us into the next chapter of the conversation.

Dan from Syracuse, NY: What happens if the other provinces of the Anglican Communion don't want to listen?

Katharine Jefferts Schori: Well, I think it's clear that many of them do. We hear from the loudest portions of the Communion and the loudest portions of this church, about their dissatisfaction with the decisions of our convention, but Canada is, obviously, in very much the same place we are, the church in Scotland has expressed similar opinions. Interestingly, the church in Latin America has said that they have a variety of opinion within their diocese, and they're not going to come down on either end of the spectrum. The church in Japan has expressed an opinion that it's far more open than we hear from places like Nigeria and Uganda. It's obvious once you look below the surface that there is an incredible diversity of opinion and approach to such issues around the Communion.

But it seems to me that the shame in all of this is that we're being diverted from feeding people who are starving, and treating people with AIDS, and malaria and tuberculosis, and providing basic healthcare for children who are suffering in other parts of the world, because we can't get get away from bickering about these issues. They are certainly important, but they're not the most important thing in the lives of the whole world.

Diane Rehm: Thanks for calling, Dan. I wonder, Bishop Jefferts Schori, if you would explain to us briefly exactly what that Windsor resolution says?

Katharine Jefferts Schori: The one I think he's referring to was titled B033. It asks that standing committees and the bishops of the Episcopal Church to refrain from granting consent to the election of a person whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and would lead to further strains on the Communion at this time.

Diane Rehm: I would imagine there was a great deal of politicking--that is, going back and forth--before that final resolution came to be.

Katharine Jefferts Schori: I think that's correct. I was sitting in the House of Bishops and not the House of Deputies, so I can only give you one side of the conversation. In the House of Bishops it became quickly clear that--substitutes were offered, and amendments to the language--and it appeared to me that we were not going to get anywhere unless we accepted the basic resolution that was offered by the Presiding Bishop.

Diane Rehm: What do you think might have happened if you had stood up and said "I do not accept this wording."

Katharine Jefferts Schori: I think we would have not passed anything. I think we would have come out of convention with no formal response.

Diane Rehm: And would that not have been preferable, perhaps, to what you got?

Katharine Jefferts Schori: Well, in my personal viewpoint, if we were only dealing with the Episcopal Church, perhaps so. It would certainly make me more comfortable in relationships with gay and lesbian Christians in this church. But the reality is that we're part of a larger body. If we're at the table, if we're able to continue this conversation, we retain the ability to "converse with and convert", as the current Presiding Bishop is fond of saying, those others at the table. We retain the ability to advocate for basic civil rights for gay and lesbian people, where they are threatened across the Communion. I note that Nigeria has recently passed laws that not only criminalize same-sex activity but also criminalize speaking about it. I think that this church has something to say to that.

Diane Rehm: And how do you see that dialog continuing?

Katharine Jefferts Schori: I think it will continue both at formal levels and in informal relationships. The reality is that the Communion most effectively exists at the interpersonal level, when people from Sparks, Nevada go to Machakos, Kenya to help build a medical clinic. Anglicans from across the globe meet each other, they begin to learn something about each other's contexts. When people from Kenya come to Nevada to our Diocesan Convention, they begin to see how we govern this part of the church. It is cross-fertilization, it is an enrichment of the Body in all places.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Gay Agenda

In honor of the many visitors that seem to be finding their way here from conservative blogs, I'd like to share this still from a two-year-old Mark Fiore animation called The Gay Agenda.

It's seems eerily similar to the interracial agenda. The real one, I mean, not the one I joked about here.

Uh, you do know I was joking in that post, right? Just checking...

Oh, and you probably already know that the Diocese of Newark has announced its nominees for bishop, and that one of the nominees is a gay man who has been with his partner for 24 years.

I bet they even eat breakfast together like the guys in the picture. Oh, the humanity!

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Katharine Jefferts Schori on the radio

Thank you to a blogger who responded to a diary of mine at Daily Kos, who shared this:

I happened to notice tomorrow's schedule for the Diane Rehm Show on NPR:

10:00 Presiding Episcopal Bishop-Elect Katharine Jefferts Schori
The first woman to lead the Episcopal Church talks about divisions in the church and her vision for the future.

Presiding Bishop-Elect Katharine Jefferts Schori, incoming leader of the Episcopal Church

I don't know is you're familiar with the show- the second half is answering live call-in questions and listener e-mails. All the info is at the site, here.

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Anglicanism for Dummies

As I typed that title, I realized that there is probably already a book with that title, or a title very similar. Or maybe an Idiot's Guide to the Anglican Communion. For anyone not familiar with the "Idiot's Guide to--" and the "for Dummies" series of books, they both capitalize on the peoples' desire for an unintimidating introduction to a topic they admittedly know *nothing* about. If you pick up a book with a title like that, you can trust that you will be introduced to the topic, whatever it is, without any assumption on the writer's part that you know *anything* about the subject at hand.

I would need an Idiot's Guide to Understanding How Football Games Work, for example. That is, if I was interested in learning, that is, which I'm not. But then, I don't *pretend* to know how football games work, or how poker is played, or whatever--while insisting on debating those topics with people and expecting my views to be seen as just as valid as the so-called "experts".

That's just me, though. But as far as I can tell, there are plenty of people out there who don't think knowledge of a subject is a prerequisite for pontificating about it. Some of them have talk shows. And many of those who don't have talk shows can be heard repeating the talking points of those who do. Anyway, if you pick up the sort of book I mentioned above, one is displaying two laudable characteristics: willingness to admit you don't know something, and the willingness to learn.

I knew very little about the Episcopal Church (or the Anglican Communion of which it is a part) before I started attending one a few years ago. I knew that it *appeared* very similar to the Catholic church in which I was raised, so I was a little surprised when I started asking "What are the rules about--?" or "What does the Church teach about--?" and found that the answers weren't as definative as in the church of my youth.

A lot of people have never had reason to explore the history and teachings of the Anglican tradition, but when the church is in the news, as it has been recently, the issues can be better understood if you understand a few basics. This April 17 article from the New Yorker covers a lot of ground, and is worth a read, but for now I'll just highlight this part:

Anglicanism’s founding event was a sixteenth-century political fix, engineered by Elizabeth I as a means of avoiding the Reformation-era wars tearing at Europe. Elizabeth’s father, Henry VIII, for reasons of dynastic and connubial ambition, had broken with the Medici Pope Clement VII and declared himself the “Supreme Head in Earth of the Church of England.” Elizabeth’s half sister and predecessor, Bloody Mary, imposed a Roman Catholic restoration upon the kingdom, in the process dispatching some three hundred Protestants to the stake. When Elizabeth ascended to the throne as a Protestant, the realm faced a third religious about-face in a dozen years, and the prospect of civil war was real. Elizabeth’s elegant solution allowed her subjects to believe whatever they wished but insisted upon a uniform worship service.

The vehicle for this "middle way," as Anglicanism came to be known, was the Book of Common Prayer, which gracefully blended Roman Catholic liturgy with Protestant principles. The prayer book allowed for the coexistence within one institution of distinctly different interpretations of Christianity, with the unofficial designations of High Church (those parishes inclined toward a more Roman Catholic orientation), Low Church (evangelicals), and Broad Church (those Anglicans tolerant of wide doctrinal interpretations). The Anglican way proved remarkably resilient, absorbing the shocks of the English civil war and the Enlightenment, and ultimately planting itself worldwide in the footsteps of the British Empire. In the United States, the Church of England became the Episcopal Church.
Later in the article, there is a line that sums up Elizabeth's notion as "Believe what you want, just use this book."

That is probably a bit of an oversimplification, but not as much of one as that bumper sticker I've seen that reads "God said it, I believe it, that settles it!" And, of course, when people say "God said it", they are talking about what they've read in a book that's undergone more revisions and translations than the Book of Common Prayer.

Once I started learning more about the Episcopal Church, the phrase "3-legged stool" would come up from time to time, referring to scripture, tradition, and reason.

Anglicans are held together by the characteristic way in which they use Scripture, tradition and reason in discerning afresh the mind of Christ for the Church in each generation. This was well described in the Report of the Pastoral and Dogmatic Concerns section of Lambeth 1988.
Click here to read the rest.

I have only covered a few basics about the Anglican Communion, but I feel they are helpful things to know about when reading about the Archbishop of Canterbury's "reflections" about a plan that would make some of us "second class" members of the Communion.

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Just HAD to do a couple of these...

It's a girl!

It's a girl!

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Voices of Witness (part 3)

Part 1
Part 2

Kelly : You know, I usually get up at 6, 6:30, and get ready, and one of my favorite parts of the day is to give everybody a kiss before I head out for work. I tend to get up earlier so that I can try to get home at a decent time, but I go to Lissa's bed and give her a kiss, I go to James' crib and give him a kiss, and I go to Bill, still asleep and I give him a kiss on the check. You know, it's such a simple act, but just a very important part of my day, to love my family.

Bill: I'm really thrilled that my children will grow up in a place where they see their family has always been welcome. Not just welcome--embraced, loved--that it's just not an issue. It's never been an issue. It's not anything that's special about us, we're just another family, and that's amazing.

Jane and Lori: I love going to worship. I love the magic and the mystery of the Eucharist and the Body and Blood, and I know that I would just be missing that. I love the singing, I love the liturgical year, I love the Book of Common Prayer. Everything about the Episcopal Church just completes my life.

Malcolm: Well, I came out in 1965 in Are You Running with Me, Jesus? I think I was unaware I'd come out.

Jane: CFLAG started a couple years ago when I began to realize as the mother of a gay son, that the Church was acting just like families do when someone comes out. And I just thought, well, Gene's consecration is just like a child coming out in a family--now there's no denying that gay people are members of our beloved family. We can't pretend they're not there, and so now everybody has to deal with it. Whether we thought about it or wanted to deal with it before, now it's the reality.

And as the church started having its discussion about that, and there was so much angst, really, I wondered, as a family member and as the mom of a gay son, where were the voices of families in this debate? I heard a lot of theology, I heard a lot of church politics and the Anglican Communion structure, but wasn't hearing about real people. Wasn't hearing about families who'd gone through this process of having someone come out and understanding what that meant. And so, as the wife of a clergyman, I wondered especially where the clergy were in the church. If you realize how many family members there are of gay and lesbian people in the church, there are many many clergy members in the Episcopal church who have gay family members. We were not hearing from them. So we started a network of clergy families who were ready to talk to each other about their own family members, and begin to explore how we could exert some kind of leadership on this issue.

Rachel: I went through a period of time where both my mother and my sister died, my father came out. My father and I worked very hard, and now with his partner, to restructure our family. To put our family back together again. And it was hard and it was difficult just as it is working through any grief and life changes. But that is a family that supports me, that lifts me up, that encourages me, and that tells me I can do what it is that I've been called to do.

And so when I hear the religious right say that my family, my family who would go to the ends of the earth for me, and I would for them, doesn't count because my father and his partner are gay, and doesn't count because we have some immorality in our house, and doesn't count because of these reasons they've put on there--they've clearly never had a dinner at our dinner table. So quit telling me that I've been damaged by the family that's raised me!

It's like I almost want to run around and wave a flag and say, "I'm not damaged! I'm okay!" Because that wasn't the case.

Jan: I remember at one point I was standing in the kitchen, and I just had this--out of the blue this thought came to me, "Oh my God--maybe he is gay!" You know, it was this little thing, out of nowhere, and I thought, oh my God, and uh...hmm! At that moment I felt really sad, I thought, "Oh my God, this is going to be really hard!"

I think my husband's attitude is, "Well, we'll just wait and see." I don't think he's quite ready to totally 100% accept the fact that Alex is a gay young man. My daughter has--it was hard for her because she got teased at school. My daughter is 11.

I have five siblings. One brother just kind of doesn't want to talk about it, another sister doesn't want to talk about it. One brother is a Southern Baptist down in Dallas, Texas, and he's very unaccepting of this kind of thing. Their son is studying for the ministry, and his reaction to Alex in an e-mail was, "How can you be gay and call yourself a Christian?"

Jane: No child should ever have to go through wondering, at age 8, 9, 10, 12, when they discover they're attracted to the same sex--no child should have to wonder if they're an abomination in the sight of God. That's what we're teaching them when we don't speak about this in a positive way.

Jan: Alex is a child of God, and if he is a child of God and he is also gay, then that should be just the way it is. At Alex's baptism, the priest put her finger on Alex's forehead--she pressed it against his forehead and said, "..and you are marked as Christ's own forever", and was, that was, (in tears) I thought, "God has you Alex, and he's never going to let you go!"

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Voices of Witness (continued)

(Here's a link to the Google video)

Susan: What matters to God is not our sexual orientation, but our theological orientation.

Randy: I think the baptismal covenant is the basis for that whole theology. Nowhere in that covenant is there a question asked of the adult or the child or the baby, "Are you gay or are you straight?" When you're baptized, you're baptized into the fullness of the church, all of its rites and its ceremonies, privileges, and its obligations.

Celebrant: Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

Congregation: I will, with God's help.

Randy: I remember at General Convention, when women were being voted on for ordaination, there was a button that people were wearing that said, "Ordain women or stop baptizing them." And I think that's a great model for all of this.

Wilma: One of the many issues in South Africa around the ordaination of women was, people would say to me, "But the Bible says--". "The Bible says that women can't be priests. So I had to do a lot of work about the Scripture in general--does the Bible *really* say that? And if it looks like it's saying that, is that what it really says, or is it saying something else?

So I'd kind of done that journey, and I was really really helped in my journey around women priests. And over the years I've come to see that it's quite an important comparison to make that when we later, after the whole women priests thing went through in South Africa, it's like the next issue that came our way, was in fact the issue of gay and lesbian people within the church. And people would cite the very same arguements that they had said to me, the reasons why they said "You can't be a priest because" --they went from issues of culture to practicality, to "the Bible says", "church hasn't", "it will divide the church". I mean, the very same issues! And I just couldn't ignore the fact that then they're saying, for the very same reasons, gay or lesbian can't be joined in union, can't be ordained and so on, I'm saying, hang on, let's take a look at this. If you or I have moved to a point that we agree with women priests, and say yes, women are fully equal and able to be ordained, and so on, well then you've done something with the scriptures, you've done something with your arguments. You've traveled a journey that, if you're going to be consistent, you have to end up supporting gay and lesbian people, and full equality and inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the church.

Louise: It's important for gay and lesbian people to tell our stories, to come out of the closet, to be open about who we are, because then people get to know us. And once they get to know, and put a face to the issue, it's not an issue any more. It becomes a person, and they can become supportive of a person. And if a person wants to have their relationship supported, then it's much easier for people to say, "Okay, I can support Mary and Jane in their relationship" or "I can support Joe and Jim" as opposed to say "I don't know how I feel about gay marriage". So it's important always to put a face on the issue.
On a related note, there was an article in The Other Paper this week about the factors that have allowed a midwestern city like Columbus, in the middle of a so-called "red state" to become so "gay friendly". It's worth a read--just make sure you read it before Thursday because that's when the alternative newsweekly releases its next edition, and that article will be replaced with a different cover story.

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Voices of Witness transcript (in progress)

What follows is a transcript (in progress) of the Voices of Witness video that was produced by Claiming the Blessing.

Many years ago--I can't recall exactly when, but I know it was before my son was born--I was teaching and introductory psychology class as a graduate assistant. We were allowed to bring in guest speakers if we wanted, and a fellow GA recommended an openly gay psychologist from the school counseling department. I remember the person telling me that he was great for challenging students' assumptions because he didn't look or sound like the common stereotype of a gay man.

So I took her advice and had the man speak to my class. I thought he did a great job. He certainly witnessed from his own experience, and that's what I felt was needed. I wanted students to have the opporunity to hear a real person speak his story, to challenge them to move beyond ignorant stereotypes and uninformed bigotry against "those people".

Well, although I knew people had their prejudices, I was completely unprepared for the extent of the anger that was expressed after he spoke. He left some forms so that student could make comments about the presentation. Again, this was a very long time ago, so I don't remember the details, but the general sentiment was that it was a rotten thing for me to have a speaker like that without warning them in advance so that they could stay out of class that day.

Sadly, I must admit that I did not have the courage to invite him again as a speaker. I didn't have all that much confidence in my teaching skills, or my ability to develop a good rapport with my students, to do something that risky a second time.

But I remain convinced that it is vitally important for people to tell their stories in their own words, and for other to listen. In the Voices of Witness video, GLBT Episcopalians tell their stories. By transcribing the video, I hope to make it just a little easier for others to listen, if they so choose.

Thirty years ago...a call to listen
Lambeth Conference 1978
recognizes the need for pastoral concern for those who are homosexual and encourages dialog with them.

Twenty years ago...a call to listen

Lambeth Conference 1988
reaffirms the continuing need for "deep and dispassionate study" of the question of homosexuality

Eight years ago...a call to listen
Lambeth Conference 1998
We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons
we wish to assure them that they are loved by God, and that all baptized, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ

Two years ago...a call to listen

The Windsor Report 2004
reminds the Communion of the call for listening
asking to engage honestly and frankly with each other on issues relating to human sexuality

Voices of Witness

Susan: It is a deeply humbling thing to be called to speak to you today, to witness to our larger Anglican family what we in the American Episcopal Church understand to be the Holy Spirit working in our midst.

I carry many of their stories with me today, and my deepest hope is that our conversations at this meeting of the Consultative Council will be but the beginning of a genuine listening process, which will make the witness of the powerful work being done on behalf of the Gospel in the lives of the gay and lesbian faithful more widely available to the Church, and to the world.

Gene: It's time for us to stop talking about being gay, and start talking about God, and telling the story of how God has acted in your life and in mine. And when we tell that story, people will come to see that the Jesus they know is the Jesus we know.

Bruno and Jerry: We try to talk about how amazing the message of Jesus is--

Jane and Lori: I'm a deep, deep believer and follower of Jesus and I have this tremendous love deep inside me, so deep that it's hard to articulate sometimes, so I just try to live it as best I can.

Kelly and James: I knew I had a relationship with God, as early as I knew I was gay.

Catherine: Going back to the Episcopal church has made me a much more openly gay person, because what I had to grapple with in going back to the church was that not only did God love me as I was, but He had made me a gay person for a purpose, and who was I to deny His purpose?

Alex: I can go out there and I can say "I am marked as Christ's own forever. I am a child of God."

Jim: God was very much in the midst of my relationship of my relationship with Donald...

Sheila and Chris: I was just happy that we'd found a church that believed in Eucharist, because that was my main concern. Because the whole sense of sacrament was very important to me.

Lucie: Coming here has made me more of an evangelist because people will talk to me and say "How can you be gay and Christian at the same time?" And I say "If you came to the church I go to, you would find out how easy it is, and how comfortable it is."

Sheila and Chris: We weren't pointed out as being the lesbian family with two boys. And that's exactly what I wanted for the boys. I wanted them to have a place to go to church where our lifestyle would be supported, we wouldn't be treated as different, we would be treated as just a member of the parish family. And that's the way it was.

Chris: I think he should be Father of the Year, I really do.

Rick: Okay, cut--that's enough!

Rick: Yes, I'm the proud parent, and Terrence--look at him, walking with the flag. I mean, doing that figure 8 thing and coming into the church in procession.

It's always sort of a moment that catches you, and he's always trying to act like he doesn't see you, walking straight ahead. But he sees all his friends, and he nods at them. But it's really a moment of pride.

Susan: We expect a high standard of a relationship that includes fidelity, monogomy, mutual respect and lifelong commitment. We are challenging all couples--gay and straight--to live their lives in relationship within the context of Christian community, both supported by and accountable to their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Sheila and Chris: Having a blessing by the church has meant everything in our relationship. I can't imagine not having it, because religion and our church is very much a part of our lives, and being able to be married and/or blessed in your church is one of the most important things.

Ed: Whenever two people fall in love with one another--discover that rare instance of being in love with the love of their life, then the church should be in the business of blessing that.

Because the church should bless every thing that the Holy Spirit touches. We have a great, great way of understanding what the fruit of the Spirit is. It's in the 5th chapter of Galatians, verse 22. It says that wherever joy and peace and patience and long-suffering and maturity and generosity of spirit are, there is the Holy Spirit. Jesus said you don't judge anything except by the fruit that it bears, and we judge the fruit of relationships here, and if they're lifelong, if they're mutual, if they're mutually respectful, if they're loving, and if they bear all the fruits of the Spirit, the church should definitely be blessing them.

Wendy: I think that gay relationships can certainly meet the same standards of monogamy and lifelong commitment as heterosexual relationships, and I think that in fact people who take that step of making a formal commitment before God and others should hold themselves to that standard. I don't think that there's any difference.

Jim: Absolutely, I agree that these relationships have both the same aspirations as they begin, and in some cases maybe even a greater level of success than heterosexual relationships--the statistics of heterosexual relationships are nothing to use as a model, frankly. If we can encourage any relationship to be better in that regard, we should.

Abel: I just got married two weeks ago, and I was standing just in front of the altar, with my best woman--I decided to have a woman instead of a best man in my wedding, number one, because it reminds me of the struggles women had in the church to be ordained--that's one. But the second thing that happened to me and my wife, and we had a chance to talk about that after the wedding. When she was coming to the altar, and I was just there waiting for her, what came to me was this deep sadness. Sadness because there are many people, in the church or outside the church, gays and lesbians, who don't have this privilege.

Catherine: I stood up at one point and said, "I don't want to be part of a parish that will bless my dog, but won't bless my relationship.

Howard: In the premarital preparation of couples of the same gender, such great earnestness, such tenderness, and seriousness about wanting to live as a Christian couple but talking about the menage a trois--you and me and the Holy Spirit. You and me and God. There's this wonderful sense that because you've been excluded from this, you've been kept away from allowing your love to be blessed in a public arena, in a community of loving other fellow Christians, you've really thought this through.

To see a whole congregation of people who've come to see a blessing of a relationship of two people deeply in love, wanting Christ's love to be a part of that love--it's so powerful!

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Further thoughts on General Convention

From An Inch at a Time, Katie Sherrod writes, in part,

In his address to the joint session of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, Frank Griswold tried to anger "the center" by telling them that "the fringes" had manipulated them. He made it clear that the "fringes" included LGBT people who are participating fully in the life and ministry of the church and want to continue to do so.

We-have-to-do-this-or-we-won't-be-invited-to-Lambeth became his ultimatum. Then he brought out his biggest gun of all, Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori. Give Katharine what she needs to be at the table. The bishops caved.

Read the rest here.

Luiz Coelho noted the following in a comment at Father Jake Stops the World:
Dear Jake+

I follow your website for a long time, since I was in Spain, and, back in Brazil, with all those events that happened to our church last year, I would like to say that even looking like a defeat, I tend to look at B033 as a concession that The Episcopal Church is making in order to help other provinces (which do not share ++Akinola's fundamentalist views) to evolve.

The Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil is one of the few churches here that has opened its mind to discuss some issues on human sexuality, but even having a moderate to liberal clergy body, we still face a tremendous pressure from many members and from at least one diocese (that is still very conservative).

The presence of a strong US Episcopal Church with an active voice inside the Anglican Communion will surely help many smaller provinces that are struggling to affirm inclusive policies. Without the ECUSA, or the Anglican Church of Canada, we will be obliged to accept everything that our african counterparts determine. ++Akinola has already excluded us from the "Global South". We were described as a "spiritual desert". And currently, the ECUSA is the only hope we can look at.

We are sorry that the Episcopal Church had to walk slowler, but I think that, looking from this point of view, it was a way to help other Churches walk with you.

And congrats on your website.

May God bless you.

That same post at FJSTW links to an article in The Guardian that's worth checking out.

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

General Convention embraces evolution

In other General Convention news, it's worth noting that Resolution A129 passed.

Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 75th General Convention affirm that God is Creator, in accordance with the witness of Scripture and the ancient Creeds of the Church; and be it further,

Resolved, That the theory of evolution provides a fruitful and unifying scientific explanation for the emergence of life on earth, that many theological interpretations of origins can readily embrace an evolutionary outlook, and that an acceptance of evolution is entirely compatible with an authentic and living Christian faith; and be it further

Resolved, That Episcopalians strongly encourage state legislatures and state and local boards of education to establish standards for science education based on the best available scientific knowledge as accepted by a consensus of the scientific community; and be it further

Resolved, That Episcopal dioceses and congregations seek the assistance of scientists and science educators in understanding what constitutes reliable scientific knowledge.

Read the explanation here. And another thank you to jc for creating an appropriate bumper sticker in such a timely manner!

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The UN Millennium Campaign

One of the outcomes of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church this past week was that the convention affirmed the UN Millennium Development Goals. These goals have been championed by Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation, the group that hosted the U2Charist I attended last week . You can read Bishop Curry's sermon at that event here. Presiding Bishop Elect Katharine Jefferts Schori was on record as supporting these goals in her candidate interview...

The Presiding Bishop has an ability to call this whole church to claim the wonderful richnesses of God's creations, the gifts of all human beings, whatever color they are, whatever language they speak, whatever country they live in, to build that reign of God. The next Presiding Bishop has an ability to hold out the vision of the Millennium Development Goals as a concrete image of what Isaiah's dream looks like. What it means to feed people--to feed the one third of the world's population who don't have enough to eat every day, to insure that girls and boys around the world have access to education, that mothers have adequate prenatal health care so that healthy children are born, that there's clean water, that there is adequate sanitation, that there are structures put in place to promote ongoing productive development around the globe.

To be that kind of energy and engine in making those Millennium Development Goals come to reality. I think that's the centerpiece of what the next Presiding Bishop has to call us to.
These are the Millennium Development Goals

1. Eradicate extreme hunger and poverty.
2. Achieve universal primary education.
3. Promote gender equality and empower women.
4. Reduce child mortality.
5. Improve maternal health.
6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases.
7. Ensure environmental sustainability.
8. Develop a global partnership for development.

I've added a Millenium Developement Campaign banner to the sidebar at Faithful Ohio. They come with different celebrities on them--the one I chose has Jane Goodall. Click here to get a banner for your own web site or blog.

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New bumper stickers

I have been asking Demetrius to put the little "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You" sticker on our car, but he never quite got around to it. Now that convention is over, the timing feels a bit odd, since in the end the convention agreed to the continued moratorium on 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."

So I asked him to make these...

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Friday, June 23, 2006

How General Convention ended: acknowledging the hurt

This is a part of one of my posts at Faithful Ohio. Click here to read the whole post, and to share words of compassion, empathy, and support for those who have been hurt by this resolution.

By the time I left for work this morning, most of the comments about the turn of events at the end of the General Convention had been "head" comments rather than "heart" comments. This morning I saw a comment in response to last night's post and it conveyed mixed feelings, but had a "maybe this is for the best" approach. Throughout the day today, I noticed that there was a fair amount of argument at Father Jake Stops the World and An Inch at a Time about whether or not the resolution calling 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.

...was a good thing or a bad thing, and if it was reason to feel demoralized.

Okay, that pushes one of my major buttons. Of course there can be rational, logical arguments made both in favor of and against the resolution. But it raises my hackles when anyone tries to tell anyone else how they "should" feel about something. 'Cause I've had people do that to me, and a really don't like it.

I really don't want to get into the "rightness" or "wrongness" of the resolution, or what kind of sense it made strategically, or the importance of maintaining ties with the Anglican Communion. The truth is that real people have been hurt by the decision. I believe that they must be permitted to speak their pain, and we need to hear them.

To my gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered brothers and sisters in Christ, I still don't know what to say, except to tell you that I am grieving with you.

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A woman's place

Thank you, jc, for creating this bumper sticker I suggested earlier today.

Click here for a photo gallery of Katharine Jefferts Schori at General Convention.

And click here for all the recent news stories from the Episcopal News Service.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

ECUSA Presiding Bishop: It's a girl!

Idea for title shamelessly stolen from this blog.

Apparently there are some who have their panties (er, briefs? boxers?) in a wad about the Episcopal Church electing a woman to lead the church in the U.S.
Bishop Election Upsets Episcopal Diocese (really, this is just *sad*)

Bishop Jack Iker of the Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, read a short statement from the floor of the Episcopal General Convention, asking Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to put the diocese under the oversight of another Anglican leader.

Here's an article from the Episcopal News Service about the new Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Prior to ordination, she was a visiting assistant professor in the Oregon State University Department of Religious Studies; a visiting scientist at the Oregon State University Department of Oceanography; and an oceanographer with the National Marine Fisheries Service in Seattle. She is also an active, instrument-rated pilot, who has logged more than 500 flight-hours.

More about the new Presiding Bishop, and other news about the General Convention here.

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Monday, June 05, 2006

How to really protect marriage

At least this move to throw a bone to the Republican base is being recognized for what it is, as can be seen in this headline from Yahoo News, as well as the overall tone of the article: US Republican majority uses symbols to woo its base

"This fundamental institution is under threat," Senate Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist said of traditional marriage. "Activist courts are usurping the power to define this social institution. And if marriage is redefined for anyone, it is redefined for everyone. The threat is real."
Yes, Bill. Be afraid! Be very afraid! After all, as I've already noted, "activist judges were instrumental in changing the definition of marriage back in 1967, and now people of different "races" can freely intermarry.

Our numbers are growing--admittedly somewhat slowly--but I think we're making real progress on our ultimate goal of world domination. We've started innocuously enough...quietly challenging people's preconceptions that normal couples must be color-matched. Oh, and of course having the cutest dang kids you've ever seen. But, slowly, gradually, we are changing the face of America to a gorgeous deep, golden tan!


Perhaps I've said too much...

On a more serious note, the sad thing about the current Republican party's idea of "marriage protection" is that it obscures the real threats to marriage and family in this country. As Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President of The Interfaith Alliance and member of Clergy for Fairness wrote in a recent op-ed on this issue:
We cannot tolerate discrimination being written into the Constitution. So, for those people who want to protect marriage, let me offer a few suggestions: start by raising the public's consciousness of the dignity and importance of women in our still deeply patriarchal society; increase the minimum wage and offer tax breaks to the working poor so that spouses can see each other for quality lengths of time, rather than briefly passing on their way to two jobs; encourage family planning; start a plan to deal with domestic violence; and work to cover mental health care in medical insurance policies so serious emotional difficulties can be prevented from tearing marriages apart.

These are real world actions to deal with the real world problem of protecting marriage. All Americans who value the institution of marriage should unite on the above-listed goals to truly strengthen our communities and our country.

Freedom and equality are prerequisites for religious liberty to flourish in our nation. Yet, too often they are cast aside to advance one group's view of the world. The Constitution is not a party platform, but rather a liberating document that provides all Americans guaranteed rights and freedoms.

Those of us who value religious pluralism must send a unified message that freedom and equality go hand in hand with religious liberty. Congress has no business legislating one religiously-based view of marriage. In the interest of religious liberty, faith communities and houses of worship must be allowed to wrestle with the issue of marriage themselves.

Of course, I think most of us know that the Federal Marriage Protection Amendment is not about protecting marriage in any real sense. It is so obviously "red meat for the base" that headlines like the one I included above seem to be the norm.

The most honest response I've seen on this issue to date comes from the woman who answers the phone for Senator Martinez (R-FL)--as reported in a post at Americablog:

"The Senator is not interested in protecting marriage but in protecting the definition of marriage."