Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Religious Left Blog

Quick note that I've got some posts at my Religious Left Blog that are related to General Convention, such as the beginning of a transcript of Claiming the Blessing's new video Voices of Witness.

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

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 here. 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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Open letter from Bishop Gene Robinson

This morning I discovered, thanks to a comment from the moderator at An Inch at a Time, that there is a new post from Bishop Gene Robinson...
First, let’s give ourselves some time to recover. In the first few moments of having the breath knocked out of us, we struggle just to breathe, unable to think about much of anything other than getting some oxygen back into our lungs. We have been dealt a blow that has knocked the wind out of us. Let’s be kind to ourselves, breathe a little, before we try to move on. Nothing has to be decided or done in the next few hours or days. Let’s catch our breath, remembering that breath is a powerful image of the Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments. Let’s allow ourselves to be re-infused with that Holy Spirit which has never abandoned us, no matter what the Church does or doesn’t do.
Click here to read the whole letter.

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Saturday, June 24, 2006

June 24

On my children's birthdays I am, of course, reminded of the circumstances surrounding each of their births. Thirteen years ago at this time, I was in the process of checking into the hospital to have my first child.

The sequence went like this. My due date was still 3 weeks away, but I was having major contractions that kept me awake almost all night. I finally fell asleep at about 6 in the morning. At 8 in the morning, the phone rang. It was my mother-in-law, letting us know that she was about to ship the car seat, which was the "new baby" gift she'd told us she would be sending. At 8:30 my water broke.

In the narrative of Son in Ohio's birth, we would often note with humor how considerate he was to wait until his ride was ready, and to be born during "banker's hours", allowing his Daddy-to-be a full night's sleep before the Big Day. Even though he was early, he was officially "full term", and his time of arrival turned out to be quite convenient.

Thinking back on that story recently, I wryly observed to myself that there hasn't been much reason to use the word "considerate" or "convenient" when talking about my firstborn. Of course that is true of most children, but even greater degree when the child has Asperger's Syndrome. The effect our son's uniqueness has had on our lives and my spiritual development is a multi-faceted topic that I won't explore with you just now. One day, there may be a book. ;)

For now, I'll just say that it is one of several life experiences with which Godde has seen fit to bless me that has leads me to feel moved to compassion toward those who are marginalized. People who are in any way "on the outside looking in". People who others feel free to judge without any real knowledge of what "makes them tick", or any real interest in hearing them tell their stories. The ones people are always talking about, but rarely talking with.

Anyway, last night I was remarking to my husband that when I started out blogging about the General Convention, my motivation was to present a broader, richer picture, without the overemphasis on "controversial issues" that the mainstream press is known for. Yet here I am, very much focused on that very same thing, what I've heard people refer to as "issues of human sexuality". And what I realized something--actually it's something I realized a long time ago, but just hadn't articulated yet. I don't consider the question of who may be consecrated as a bishop or who may have their union blessed and celebrated in their local community of resurrection (church) to be "issues of human sexuality". For me, it's more about marginalization versus inclusion. And marginalization just plain sucks.

And as such, the Body of Christ should not be in the business of marginalizing anyone. Even when "everyone else is doing it", we need to be the voice of radical welcome. Because that's what Jesus was.

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Friday, June 23, 2006

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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Thursday, June 22, 2006

God's heart was the first to break

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 (at another blog) 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.

And I know it can be done with the best of intentions. A person might be distressed by seeing another person in pain, and hope to alleviate that by offering another way to look at the situation (It's a blessing in disguise!) or by engaging in some problem solving. I understand that. But sometimes I just need to be able to speak my pain, or my frustration, and have it acknowledged. Words of commisseration/support can be nice too, but I understand how hard it can be to think of something to say. I've been struggling with that since I heard the news about the resolution.

This is the excerpt I read in the Dispatch, to which I referred in my post last night.

For Mike Wernick, president of the Episcopal gay advocacy group Integrity-Central Ohio, yesterday’s developments offer hope.

"And not just for gays or lesbians," he said. "It’s anyone who’s marginalized.

"In my opinion, when Jesus came, Jesus came to expand God’s circle. He came to make it so that there would be no one left on the outside."
That article, if you recall, was entitled Limits on gay bishops rejected.

Imagine having those feelings of hope, and then having them crushed again so quickly. I know Mike. He goes to my church. He and his partner have been members of the church longer than I have, and they are certainly more active members than I am. In their relationship with the church, I think it's safe to say that they both "give" more than they "take". So, in the face of that, to have your church pass a resolution that seems to treat you as something less than a fully included member of the Body of Christ, well--ouch! You know?

And again, 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.

And even though there was no physical death, this is still a time of mourning for many people. So I am moved to post this link to the sermon William Sloane Coffin preached after his son died in a car accident. In it, he noted that the one thing *not* to say to a person who is grieving is, "It was God's will."

My own consolation lies in knowing that it was not the will of God that Alex die; that when the waves closed over the sinking car, God's heart was the first of all our hearts to break.

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Jefferts Schori's homily at the convention's closing Eucharist

Excerpted below, click this link for the rest.

If you and I are going to grow in all things into Christ, if we're going to grow up into the full stature of Christ, if we are going to become the blessed ones God called us to be while we were still in our mothers' wombs, our growing will need to be rooted in a soil of internal peace. We'll have to claim the confidence of souls planted in the overwhelming love of God, a love so abundant, so profligate, given with such unwillingness to count the cost, that we, too, are caught up into a similar abandonment.

That full measure of love, pressed down and overflowing, drives out our idolatrous self-interest. Because that is what fear really is -- it is a reaction, an often unconscious response to something we think is so essential that it takes the place of God. "Oh, that's mine and you can't take it, because I can't live without it" -- whether it's my bank account or theological framework or my sense of being in control. If you threaten my self-definition, I respond with fear. Unless, like Jesus, we can set aside those lesser goods, unless we can make "peace through the blood of the cross."

That bloody cross brings new life into this world. Colossians calls Jesus the firstborn of all creation, the firstborn from the dead. That sweaty, bloody, tear-stained labor of the cross bears new life. Our mother Jesus gives birth to a new creation -- and you and I are His children. If we're going to keep on growing into Christ-images for the world around us, we're going to have to give up fear.

What do the godly messengers say when they turn up in the Bible? "Fear not." "Don't be afraid." "God is with you." "You are God's beloved, and God is well-pleased with you."

When we know ourselves beloved of God, we can begin to respond in less fearful ways. When we know ourselves beloved, we can begin to recognize the beloved in a homeless man, or rhetorical opponent, or a child with AIDS. When we know ourselves beloved, we can even begin to see and reach beyond the defense of others.

Our invitation, both in the last work of this Convention, and as we go out into the world, is to lay down our fear and love the world. Lay down our sword and shield, and seek out the image of God's beloved in the people we find it hardest to love. Lay down our narrow self-interest, and heal the hurting and fill the hungry and set the prisoners free. Lay down our need for power and control, and bow to the image of God's beloved in the weakest, the poorest, and the most excluded.

We children can continue to squabble over the inheritance. Or we can claim our name and heritage as God's beloveds and share that name, beloved, with the whole world.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Today's turn of events

Today's Columbus Dispatch had an article entitled Limits on gay bishops rejected, but by this afternoon I found out, er, not so much.

The 75th General Convention June 21 approved a resolution that calls on bishops and Standing Committees 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."

Click here to read the Statement of Conscience from bishops who "prayerfully dissent".

A lot of people must be feeling socked in the gut right about now. An Inch at a Time is the blog of Susan Russell, the President of Integrity. For anyone not familiar with that organization, it is "A witness of God's inclusive love to the Episcopal Church and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community." Anyway, Susan's blog might be a good place to post words of support/commisseration, if you feel so inclined.

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Convention Update

From the daily e-mail from the Diocese of Southern Ohio...

Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold called for a special joint session meeting on Wednesday of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies. The topic for the joint session is to determine the Episcopal Church’s response to the Windsor Report.

The call for a joint session followed after the House of Deputies on Tuesday voted down a resolution that would have put a moratorium on the election of gay bishops and the development of rites for same-sex blessings. Also on Tuesday, the House of Bishops extended debate for nearly two hours beyond its planned adjournment time. They discussed how to be open and honest with the feelings of members of the House while at the same time wanting to be responsive to the requests from the Anglican Communion.

Several bishops said they felt it was important to bring to their dioceses a statement on General Convention’s response to the Windsor Report and on how to relate with the Anglican Communion. The Joint Session is scheduled to follow the 9:30 a.m. Eucharist.

Wednesday is the last day of General Convention and the last meeting of the two houses until 2009. Both houses still have several pieces of legislation to consider, in addition to the Windsor Report responses.

Bishop Price asks your prayers for discernment and wisdom for the bishops and the deputies as the largest bicameral body in the world struggles to speak with one voice.

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Monday, June 19, 2006

Archbishop of Canterbury welcomes 26th Presiding Bishop

From the Episcopal News Service:

Archbishop of Canterbury welcomes 26th Presiding Bishop

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams issued a statement June 19 on the election of Katharine Jefferts Schori, Bishop of Nevada, as the next Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Jefferts Schori was elected June 18 to succeed current Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold.

Click here to read the rest, and for the picture of the *real* Rowan Williams. The picture you see above is the Rowan Bear, as featured in Gadgets for God on the Ship of Fools web site.

You know how you can get a song in your head, and there's nothing else for it but to play it a few times, and sing along? Well, I wasn't going to be able to get that Rowan Bear image out of my head--I kept thinking of it every time I saw a picture of the real Rowan Williams--until I finally posted the picture.

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Regrets and Bishops

Father Jake has a post up about the major resolutions people have been watching

This afternoon two Windsor resolutions were considered by the deputies; A160 (expression of regret) and A161 (election of bishops).

Click for the details.

UPDATE: Susan Russell's thoughts on the resolutions can be found here
Resolution Interruptus

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Gene Robinson's 6/16 Sermon, full text

To make it easier to print, I've combined the transcript of Gene Robinson's sermon at the Integrity Eucharist into one file here.

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From Susan Russell, President of Integrity

Ever since I heard the news that the Episcopal Church had elected its first female Presiding Bishop, I have been checking Susan Russell's blog, An Inch at a Time, to see if she had posted about it yet. This morning, checking blogs one last time before leaving for work, I found this:

What a wild, amazing, Spirit-filled, historic day behind us -- may God give us grace for the wild, amazing, Spirit-filled journey ahead of us!

I am still fairly stunned by the rapidly accelerating sequence of events that left us at the end of the day with the historic choice of the first woman primate in the Anglican Communion as the Rt. Reverend Katherine Jefferts Schori (Bishop of Nevada) was elected (on the fifth ballot) the 26th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.
And I can't think of a better Father's Day gift to the Anglican Communion than its first woman primate.

Read the rest here.

Also, I loved this comment by Lisa at Father Jake Stops the World, and just had to include it here.

[What's the HTML code for bowing lowly & reverently?] OH WOW, Joe! That must have been awesome! I can't recall which of the Ten Commandments I'm breaking, but I'm certainly envious of you, being there on the floor when this happened.

And now ... I'm just (not-so-patiently) waiting for Padre Jake to get some shut-eye and for him to give us his own first-person account of the events of this Most Amazing Day. ;) [Sounds of "Hail Thee Festival Day" rise in background.]

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Message from Bishop Price

Bishop Price was at the evensong service at First Congregational Church last night, and he made the announcement that Katharine Jefferts Schori had been elected the next Presiding Bishop. We applauded. Here's the message that came in my e-mail this morning...

Brothers and Sisters

Today I want to share my thoughts on the historical actions taken by our church this Sunday. After celebrating Eucharist together in the Convention Center, the bishops were bussed to Trinity Church for the election of the 26th Presiding Bishop. As Secretary, it was my job to dispense and certify the ballots. Also, as a member of the nominating committee, I had a vested interest in many of the nominees. As we gathered in the beautifully redecorated Trinity Church, we were surrounded on three sides by a time line recounting the thirty years since women were first ordained. Rector Dick Burnett presented every bishop with a history book of Trinity titled "Be it Remembered." Most bishops put that aside and we got about the process of voting for our next Presiding Bishop. The first three ballots were all across the board, reflecting the high quality of all three nominees. We then broke for lunch. Afterwards, two more ballots were taken and on the fifth Katharine Jefferts Schori attained the needed majority.

Katharine is a suburb choice. She is a brilliant individual who is articulate, faithful with an obvious spiritual dimension. She will make a excellent Presiding Bishop. A few bishops were unhappy with her choice, but the atmosphere among the bishops after her election was overwhelimingly positive. It may be a hard road ahead for our new Presiding Bishop in some corners of our Anglican Commuion, but I believe she is up for that and will represent our church admirably. ENS reports initial reactions and guardedly positive.

All of our women bishops were present, and given the historic nature of this action, the book given us about Trinity Church titled "Be it Remembered" suddenly took on new dimensions. For all the things Trinity is remembered for, here was one more milestone in the rich history of the Episcopal Church. Many of us had all the women present sign that book as a memento of that occasion. In closing, I wish to congratulate our new Presiding Bishop. I believe we elected her not because just she is a woman, but because she is highly qualified woman. Yes, it is true that her election communicates the inclusive nature of the Episcopal Church, but the main reason we elected her is that we bishops truly believe that this bishop will lead us well and represent us on the world scene well. I am proud to have been the certifier of her election, and am looking forward to serving with her as I have with Bishop Griswold. But most of all, today, I am very proud to be an Episcopalian. I believe our church has made a wise and significant choice. Please keep our Presiding Bishop-elect in your prayers.


Bishop Ken Price
Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio

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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Katharine Jefferts Schori elected first female presiding bishop

Here's the Yahoo News article: Episcopalians elect first female leader

This page of the Episcopal News Service has videos with interview excerpts of the seven nominees who were considered. Below you can find the transcript of Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's remarks.

"My journey as a person of faith, trained as a scientist, began in some struggle over how to understand the two of them together. One of the pieces that has been most important for me, or that was important in beginning to reconcile the two came in reading some of the scientists who talked about mystery--Heisenberg and Einstein and Bohr. Suddenly I began to recognize that people who'd been trained as I had, also *delighted* almost, in the rich, mysteriousness of all of creation. We don't know all of the answers as people of faith or as scientists. We *don't* know all the answers. They are both ways of looking at the wonder of creation. One of my favorite prayers comes after baptism, when we pray that the newly baptized will have "the gift of joy and wonder in all God's works". They're wondering in wondrous ways of looking at the environment in which we are set as human beings.
The most important priorities for the next Presiding Bishop have to do with calling us back to the center point of our mission. God calls us to build a community that looks more like the city of Shalom--the city built on a hill. The reign of God. I look around--I don't see that in very many places. I see signs of hope, I see glimpses of it, but clearly we've got work to do.

The conversation around the Communion is so focused now, at least at the highest levels on issues of human sexuality that we are ignoring our brothers and sisters around the world who are dying of hunger, who are dying because there are no vaccines for their children, who are dying because there are inadequate stocks of AIDS drugs. Those ought to be our priorities, not bickering about matters of doctrine.

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.

The last General Convention was for me, and for many of my brothers and sisters in the House of Bishops, I think the culmination of years of thought and prayer and study. I've been wrestling with the issue of homosexuality and what it means for twenty years...twenty-five years. As a scientist, I look at creation, I see the diversity of God's creation, and, not just in the human order, but in the rest of creation, begin to see a variety. God created in Genesis and God spoke goodness.

When the people of New Hampshire elected Gene Robinson to be their bishop, they discerned gifts in that man, in that priest, in that person they had known for better than twenty years--they discerned gifts that fit what they believed the Diocese of New Hampshire needed.

When we came to General Convention last summer, clearly we were going to be faced with a challenging decision. My recollection of that afternoon when we sat in the House of Bishops to vote to consent to Gene Robinson's election was of a--I have two vivid memories. One of recalling the place in the Gospels where Jesus encounters the woman taken in adultury, and he leans down and writes in the sand, and then he says, "Go, and sin no more." What did he write in the sand? All of us would like to know!

The other memory I have is of feeling absolutely crucified in having to come to a place of making a decision like this, because I can see good on both sides. I see good gifts in Gene Robinson, I see good gifts in the calling of him to be the Bishop of New Hampshire, and I see a wonderfully blessed ministry there.

On the other hand, I see the pain that this has caused around this church and around the Communion, because people don't understand how this piece could come to be. I think we made the right decision, I think we have lots more work to do, I think we have lots more consultation and bridge-building to do with our brothers and sisters around the globe."
I find my spiritual center in this time, as in all times, in two places. One, from the Psalms, where it talks about "in rest and refreshment we shall be saved". Taking Sabbath, knowing time of stillness, is absolutely essential to my health. The other piece comes from Isaiah, and several places in Isaiah, where he sets out a vision of what the ideal of creation is. One that's often heard at funerals, where he talks about the banquet, the festal banquet set on the side of a mountain. Of rich foods, of well-aged wines, strained clear, that are meant for everyone. And the other piece where he sets out a vision of what the city of Shalom looks like, where the hungry are fed, the blind have their sight restored, the prisoners are released, good news is preached to the poor. Our call is to participate in those realities, and to make them realities for the whole world."

Here's what Father Jake had to say on his blog:

A couple of initial thoughts: Bishop Jefferts Schori was trained as a scientist. She is the only one that I can recall that emphasized the Millennium Development Goals in the interviews. She was also the only bishop who testified at the hearings regarding the MDG. As these goals appear to be emerging as the future vision of the Episcopal Church, she is the right person at the right time.

Absolutely no one I talked to before the election had predicted this. What a wonderful surprise. The Deputies are absolutely elated. Eveything happening here is begininng to stream together.

The Spirit is moving among us. God is doing a new thing in Columbus.

I need to go offer a prayer of thanksgiving.

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Sen. Danforth at the Presiding Bishop's Forum

I've seen mention of former Senator (and ordained Episcopal Priest) John Danforth's speech at the Presiding Bishops Forum here and there on the internet, but hadn't gotten the chance to listen to it until today. It is available in Windows Media or Real Player format at Convention Nightly--it's the video for Saturday, June 17.

I believe that we have a higher calling. I believe that we have a more simple message and I believe that that simple message is the context in which we should see all of the issues and it's exactly the same message Bishop Griswold mentioned in his introduction. It's what St. Paul said. I believe that the central message of the Episcopal Church and of all Christians is and should be that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself and that he has entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation.

I found the speech very worthwhile and am glad I watched the video. The transcript is posted here at Talitha Koum!

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Giving issues a full hearing

Today's Columbus Dispatch has the following article about General Convention. Gives a good sense of what's actually going on down there at the Convention Center. (I say "down there" as it's south of where we live.)

Church puts premium on giving issues a full hearing
Episcopalians advocate careful, methodical route for finding a consensus

"This convention will handle as many pieces of legislation in 10 days as Congress does in a year," said the Rev. Canon Vicki D. Zust, canon to the ordinary for the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio.

"That’s kind of why you see people walking along with glazed expressions on their faces."

The church operates the world's largest bicameral legislative body, with roughly 850 members in the House of Deputies and 280 in the House of Bishops.

Complicating the sheer volume of business is the manner in which resolutions are written, discussed, amended and amended again.

"There are many grammarians in the Episcopal Church," Zust said.

She has never figured out the percentage of English teachers and professors among the denomination of 2.2 million. But she’s pretty sure it's high.

Click here for the rest.

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Electing a New Presiding Bishop

This is from the e-mail update I receive from the Diocese of Southern Ohio:

The Nominating Committee for the 26th Presiding Bishop presented its slate of nominees during a Joint Session of the two houses on Saturday. Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold also opened the floor for nominations of candidates by petition -- those who had met the petition guidelines and successfully undergone the background checks. The House of Bishops are slated to elect the presiding bishop during its meeting today, starting at 10 a.m. at Trinity, Capitol Square. That election is a closed meeting. Once an election is reached -- with a nominee receiving 51 percent of the vote, the House of Bishops will bring the name of the person elected to the House of Deputies for consent. When both houses agree, the person becomes the Presiding Bishop-elect.

Please keep the bishops and the deputies in your prayers as they elect the next chief pastor of the Episcopal Church. Watch your e- mail for a breaking news announcement of the selection of the next Presiding Bishop.
Trinity is where we heard Bishop Gene Robinson speak, and where a number of the events (such as the "meet the author" ones) that did not take place in the Columbus Convention Center have been held.

Because that closed meeting will be taking place at Trinity, tonight's convention worship service will take place at First Congregational Church, a UCC church down the street from Trinity.

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Saturday, June 17, 2006

Bishop Robinson's sermon, Part II

(Missed the first few words of part II as I was fiddling with the voice recorder)

...compassion for our enemies. And the few times I've used that word, people have quarrelled with my use of it, and that characterization, as though we didn't have enemies.

It's a word that Jesus used. The hard part, and the important part is that, following Jesus' own command, we have to learn to *love* our enemies. Not to like them, not to be paralyzed by their opposition, not to give in to their outrageous demands, but to love them nevertheless. To treat them with infinite respect. To listen to what drives them. To try our very best to understand the fear that causes them to reject us. To believe them when they say they only want the best for us. That is *very* hard work, and we can't do it without God's own Spirit blowing through us like wind. Breaking down *our* walls, breaking down *our* assumptions. Causing things to come loose in our own minds, and reminding us that they, too, are children of God for whom Christ died, and through whom they will be saved.

So, what are we here to do, here, at this General Convention and beyond? Once again, let us return to the stories of the first century church and its witness, which ultimately bring us here, as the church of the 21st century. Look at what they did--they didn't denegrate their enemies, they didn't doubt that their enemies were children of God. Rather, they spoke of God's love for them, and what Jesus Christ had done in their own lives. Breaking loose the bonds of sin and death which keeps us *all* from the abundant life promised by the Savior. By word and example, they proclaimed what God had done in their lives, and then let the Spirit do the rest.

So your job and mine, here at this General Convention, and in the days ahead, is what it has *always* been. To proclaim with boldness and clarity, not what *we* have done, but what God has done in us. Our lives must be lived with such joy, such vibrancy and trust in God, that all will come to see that we are indeed, along with all of humanity, children of the Most High. That will be the only thing that will change hearts. It's the only thing that ever has.

That's where the sermon should end.

However... (laughter)...I've worked really hard for you this convention, and I'm asking something in favor. I'm asking you to sit here just a few more minutes, so that I can share something with you that I really want you to hear. Something that I believe will serve us *all* well in the days ahead.

It's an answer to a question I've been asked countless times, and I must say, an awful lot in the last 24 hours since my big showing on Larry King Live (laughter). More than one person has come up to me today and said, "How do you do what you do? How do you seem calm and loving even when insults are coming your way, even when Holy Scripture is being flung in your face like mud?"

So tonight, I want to share with you my secret.

This is about as close, outside of Scripture, this is about as close as you'll ever get to what makes Gene Robinson tick. I want to read from the *other* book that changed my life. I can pinpoint the moment my life and my ministry changed. The moment I became willing to risk everything for the Gospel, and for Jesus, who *is* the Word.

The book is old, it's probably out of print. It's called Embracing the Exile by John Fortunato, published, believe it or not, by our old Seabury Press. (Oooh!) Don't you just *love* that?

John helped shape Integrity in its earliest days, and he went through a bruising, nasty, and very public ordeal when he and his partner tried to have their relationship blessed in their local Episcopal church. He endured all the hatred and vitriol you might expect such an event would incur in the world and Church of 25 years ago. In the opening and closing chapters of the book, he describes getting up in the middle of the night, unable to sleep, in pain over the abuse heaped upon him by Christians and nonChristians alike for loving another man, and having the audacity to want the Church's blessing on their relationship.

Sitting there alone in his living room in the dark, he had a vision. Or was it in his imagination?

John describes it this way, and I quote:

I was sitting there, and God was sitting there too, on the couch, right in front of me. It was very peaceful and dark, but I could see him. He was bright, and we were talking.

I was saying, "You know, sometimes I think they're right, that being gay and loving a man is wrong." God smiled and said quietly, "How can love be wrong? It all comes from me."

But I was a wreck, you'll remember. It was going to take more than that! "Sometimes I just want to bury that part of me," I said, "just pretend it isn't real!"

"But I made you whole, " God replied, "You are one as I am one. I made you, in my image".

I knew he was trying to soothe me but I had just been through four months of good Christian folk trying to cram down my throat that I was an abomination, so all this acceptance was getting me just little frustrated. (Laughter) So I tried again...

"Your church, out there, says that you don't love me! They say that I'm lost--damned to hell!"

"You're my son," God said in a way that was both gentle and yet so firm that there could be no doubt of his genuineness. "Nothing can separate you from my love. I redeemed you before the beginning of time. In my Father's house there is a mansion waiting just for you."

I started to fill up. ""What do I *do* with all this?" I asked, weeping now, and clenching my teeth, at my wit's end trying to have it all make sense. "What do I do with *them*?"

And in the same calm voice, God said, "I've given you gifts--share them. I've given you light--brighten the world. I empower you with my love--love them. "

That did it! After all I had been through, I had had it with sweet words. Who was he trying to kid? I pounded my fist in exasperation and cried, "LOVE them?! What are you trying to do to me--can't you see? They call *my* light darkness! They call *my* love perverted! They call my gifts corruptions! What the hell are you asking me to do?!"

There was silence. God didn't move a muscle, though his gaze was much more intense. And with a voice filled with compassion, a voice that enveloped me with its love, God spoke:

"Love them anyway," God said. "Love them anyway."

"Love them anyway?!" I moaned. "But how?"

"You begin just by being who you are," God said, "a loving, caring, whole person, created in my image, whose special light of love happens to shine on men, as I intended for you."

"Is that all?" I asked fearfully.

God shook his head. "No. You must also speak your pain, and affirm the wholeness I have made you to be when they assail it. You must protest when you are treated as less than a child of mine. "

"Is there more?" I asked. "Yes," God said gently, "And this is the hardest part of all. You must go out and teach them. Help them to know of their dependence on me for all that they really are. And of their helplessness without me. Teach them that their ways are not my ways, and that the world of their imagining is not the world I have made. Help them to see that all creation is one as I am one, and that all I create, I redeem. And assure them, by word, and example, and work, that my love is boundless, and that I am with them always."

"You know they won't listen to me," I said with resignation. "They'll despise me! They'll call me a heretic and laugh me to scorn! They'll persecute and torment me--they'll try to destroy me! You know they will, don't you?"

God's radiant face saddened, and then God said softly, "Oh yes. I know. How well I know."

I heard his words, and something irrevocable changed in me. I went numb. Now I knew. Now I understood. And it was as though large chunks of who I had been began falling away, tumbling through time and space into eternity. I just let them all fall.

No fear now. No resistance. No sense of loss. All that was dropping away was unnecessary now. Extraneous. I began to feel light and warm. Energy began to surge through my whole being, enlivening me as though I were a rusty old turbine that had been charged up and was starting to hum.

Then two strong, motherly arms reached out and drew me close to the bosom of All That Is, and I was just...there. Just being. Enveloped in Being. And we wept...for joy."

As Gene concluded, he was choking up again, and in an automatic, almost Pavlovian way, tears welled up in my own eyes. They are doing it again as I transcribe this...

My dear beloved brothers and sisters in Christ.....all we are asked to do, by the God of all creation, is to love them anyway. No matter what gets said this week or next, no matter what resolutions get passed or not, no matter how soon or how long it takes for us to find justice, we already have God's love, and all we are asked to do in return is to love them anyway. All of them. And then trust God to do the rest. Amen.

Amen! and applause

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Gene Robinson's sermon (Part 1)

I want to begin by saying hello to the people downstairs. (Loud cheering from us people downstairs).

I need to say thank you to, perhaps some less obvious people. Of course to Integrity and Claiming the Blessing, and all of the people who have just worked so hard during these days. But, I need to thank some people very, very close to my heart, and have you thank them with me.

It's hard, sometimes, to have to share your bishop with the world. And, while most of my ministry is in New Hampshire that I know and love, and let me tell you--all the other bishops can close their ears--I have the best diocese! (Laughter.) And I want you to join me in thanking them for sharing me with you. (Applause).

And I've just started, and I'm getting teary--and the person who makes this all possible, my partner Mark (applause).

(Dabbing his eyes) Okay, I can't look at him anymore!

This event tonight is many things...it's a pep rally, it's a celebration of what's happened and what is happening, and what will happen. But mostly it's what every Eucharist is--a giving thanks to God for God's great goodness in creation, for Jesus' sacrifice on the cross for our redemption, and for the Holy Spirit's continued work and inspiration and guidance and advocacy in our midst. How could we not be thankful for the miracles we see unfolding about us every day?

I hope you will permit me to address this sermon to my brothers and sisters who happen to be gay or lesbian, bisexual or transgendered Episcopalians. But I do invite those of you who are, shall we say, "homosexually challenged" (laughter) to listen in, and see if there isn't something here for you too.

This is not the time to talk about legislation or strategy or advocacy. This is the time to listen to our hearts. To come to this table praying that we've been delivered from "coming for solace only and not for strength, for pardon only, and not for renewal." It's a time to remember with humility and resolve that no matter how much is being asked of us by this convention, God always asks for even more.

We find ourselves beginning the long season of Pentecost. That season when the spirit of the living God comes to us as wind, and fire, and breath. "Come Holy Spirit our souls inspire!"

Mike McCloud tells the story of a priest in a large church in Florida, who decided to dramatize the Holy Spirit coming like a mighty wind in a particularly spectacular manner. He got the engine out of one of those boats that they use in the Everglades, and, you know, an airplane propellor attached to a big gasoline engine, and mounted it in the choir loft.

The wind from the propellor would blow out across the congregation when the story of the coming of the Holy Spirit was read. Now the priest and the head usher gave it a dry run on Saturday afternoon, and although it was incredibly noisy, it worked well and promised a spectacular effect for Sunday morning.

Now, on Pentecost morning, the lector read, "...and suddenly, from Heaven, there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind and it filled the entire house."

At that exact moment, the head usher gave one pull. Gave a second pull (laughter) and then gave a third pull, and that engine *howled* into life! But on Sunday morning, things were different than they had been on Saturday afternoon. First of all, now the choir members were in place. (Laughter). And they had not been there for the practice run.

And the sudden screaming gust of wind sent sheet music flying all over the congregation. Hairdos of the congregation became unglued. The preacher's sermon, literally, was gone with the wind. And a hairpiece flew toward the altar. And it was like in the play Green Pastures, when the Angel Gabriel says to the Lord, "Everything that was nailed down is comin' loose!" (Laughter) And that's just the way it is with the Spirit.

It's that part of God which refuses to be contained and confined to the little boxes we create for God to live in--safely confined to the careful boundaries *we* set for the Holy Spirit.

The problem is, and the miracle is, and the gift is, God just won't stay put! And God won't let you or me stay put, content to believe what we've always believed, what we've always been taught, what we've always assumed. But change is not just something to be wished upon our enemies, but it is something God requires of us as well.

Think of the things you and I believe and think today that we could not have imagined years ago. We used not to be outraged at Black folk being made to drink from separate water fountains. At women not being deputies to this General Convention, nor priests standing at God's altar. Nor differently abled folk being able to get into our churches.

Our change in thinking didn't come as a result of our own work, but the work of God's Spirit blowing through us like wind. Calling us away from our narrow thinking, and more nearly into the mind and heart of Christ.

More importantly, remember how we used to think of ourselves? We *believed* the church when we were told we were an abomination before God. That *our* relationships, even our lives, were intrinsically disordered. That we were second class hangers-on in the church of God. Loved, perhaps, but, only if...

And then the Spirit of God blew through us like a mighty wind. We heard God's calm and loving voice above the noisy din of the church's condemnation, and we were saved. Made worthy to stand before God through God's Son's sacrifice on the cross. Quite literally born again, and our lives changed forever.

Think of the joy we have come to know because of the Spirit's work within us. Psalm 27 says, "What if we had not believed the goodness of the Lord?"

Well, St. Peter didn't like change much either, and he was horrified in his dream to hear God saying, "Don't be so picky about what people eat!" (Laughter) "Care more about what's in their hearts. My word is broader and deeper than that, and I'm going to be calling people unto me whom you have thought to be unacceptable in my eyes. You've been wrong, and I'm going to show you a different way."

Is there any doubt in our minds that the Holy Spirit is alive and well and calling God's church to open itself to *all* those whom Jesus loves? We don't worship a God who is all locked up in scripture 2000 years ago, but rather a God whose love knows no human bounds, and blows through us like wind.

Now lest you think I'm talking only about *them* loving *us*, let me remind you that the Spirit of God wants *us* to love *them* too. Indeed, the Spirit of God longs for, *yearns* for, and demands that there cease to be "them" and "us".


Gene takes a drink of water and says, "You might just want to take a little mental break here--it's a long sermon!"

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Bishop Curry trancript (complete)

I put the transcript of Bishop Michael Curry's sermon at the U2Charist together as one page, in case anyone finds that helpful. I have just started transcribing Bishop Gene Robinson's sermon from last night.

Once again, I need to put out an appeal for anyone who has attended convention and would like to share some of what you experienced to e-mail me at ohiorenee at gmail.com. I haven't been able to attend the convention--which is maddenning given that it's right here in Columbus. So I'd really appreciate anything--stories, pictures, reflections--you who attended have to share.

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Eucharist with Bishop Gene Robinson

Last night, Demetrius and I attended the Integrity Eucharist at which Bishop Gene Robinson was preaching. I recorded Gene's sermon--which was quite moving--and am getting ready to transcribe it so that those were were not in attendance can read it. I've done a lot of transcripts of interviews and sermons of various people over the past year or so, and people always thank me, expressing amazement that I would go to that kind of effort. The truth is, transcripts are easy when compared to the challenge of getting my own reflections down on paper (or disk, or computer screen...).

So, I have begun to transcribe Gene's sermon, and I promise that I *will* get it online soon.  But it seemed appropriate to at least *attempt* to say something about *why* this is so meaningful to me.

As I mentioned when I first started writing about convention, I officially joined the Episcopal church shortly after the last convention. I was already a member of a local progressive Episcopal church, and no further action was required on my part. But as I learned more about the elevation of Bishop Gene Robinson and the fallout from that action, I became convinced that I needed to say "Yes!" to the Episcopal Church in some tangible, measurable way. Or, simply put, if the church was going to *lose* some people over doing the right thing, then they bloody well should be gaining some members too.

I think much of the reason I have found it hard to put something into words about Bishop Gene Robinson is that, in the really important things, my sense of "knowing" doesn't come in words, but in feelings. But those feelings, when I have them, are unmistakable, and I've learned not to discount them. (If you're familiar with the Myers-Briggs, I probably don't even need to tell you this, but I'm an INFP.)

The first thing that caused me to feel a connection to Gene Robinson was reading this web page with his answers to questions such as "Describe three contemporary saints who have influenced your ministry." I couldn't help but feel moved when I read this:

Third, Mister Rogers. I know. He's not real. (Neither are several of the traditional saints we love and celebrate!) But he is very like the real life, ordained Presbyterian minister Fred Rogers, who created and for many years played him on the famous TV show for children. This TV saint, in his cardigan sweater and blue tennis shoes, was not afraid of looking like a nerd or playing in a sandbox ("unless you become like a child, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven"). Everything he said and did was an expression of the baptismal promise to "respect the dignity of every human person." For those not yet "too cool" to watch, Mister Rogers went about his neighborhood, rejoicing in its diverse races, ages, cultures and personalities, affirming each person and their unique gifts (including the four- and five year olds who were watching), asking the ultimate Good Samaritan question: "Won't you be my neighbor?" Not a bad role model for a bishop!
In the post below this one, you can see why Gene's mention of Fred Rogers in his response would resonate with me.

From the transcript of his interview on Larry King the other night.

KING: Why did you want to be a bishop, Bishop Robinson?

ROBINSON: Actually, at first, I didn't want to be a bishop. God had to chase me for quite a long time before I would say yes. I knew this would be controversial and yet sometimes God asks us to do things that are hard. And in my prayer life, what I discovered was that God was promising to be faithful to me as God had always been faithful to me in my life and would stand by me during this very difficult time if I would just struggle and strive to listen to and for his voice.
My gosh, does that ever resonate for me! Except he's so much better at putting it into pretty words than I am. The best I've been able to come up with is God's Clues.

Anyway, I'm really glad I was able to make it to the Integrity Eucharist to hear Gene Robinson preach yesterday. I am thankful to my husband, who, as I have mentioned, is not especially religious, for agreeing to spend date night (it's been ages since we've had a respite provider lined up) going to church with me. The event was so crowded that we ended up in the overflow room downstairs from the church. At first, the sound wasn't working, but thankfully that was fixed before it came time for Gene's sermon.

It was a delightful surprise when Bishop Gene Robinson came down to the basement to distribute Communion to the overflow crowd. There was something just, well, cool about receiving Holy Communion from the man who is a big part of the reason I am an Episcopalian today.

I wasn't sure if I was going to have another opportunity to speak with him. So, when I was accepting the host, right after I said "Amen", I squeezed his hand and said "Thank you." He said, "You're welcome", but I'm sure he had no idea why I was thanking him.

This post was my attempt to explain why.

Sacred Space

A while back, I had a blog called Sacred Space. The only reason I *don't* have that blog any more is because something aggravating happened with the code, and I never seem to have the spare time to ask a tech person, *again* to fix that for me. The reason that becomes relevant now is that I have been trying to write about Bishop Gene Robinson and why I immediately felt a connection to him once I started reading about him three years ago. And to to that, it would really help to be able to link to my introductory post on Sacred Space, which was written in June of 2005. And since I can no longer link to that online, I am reproducing it here...

I was raised Catholic, but was received into the Episcopal church a couple years ago. It's a long story, and there were a number of stops along the way. My husband describes himself as a Humanist--occasionally he says he belongs to the Church of the Restful Sabbath, and that he honors God by not pestering Him on His day off. Our son is a "Radical Secular Humanist" at least some of the time. Strangely, science buff that he is, he says he doesn't believe in God, but still claims to believe in Santa Claus. (Gotta think that's a strategic decision rather than one based on science and reason!) So it's just my daughter and myself who count ourselves as Christians.

When I was growing up, I'm sure this is not how I pictured my family's religious life, but it has provided me a great deal of insight. And while I was traveling my path from the Catholic church to the Episcopal church, (with stops along the way at Unitarian Universalist, Unity, and United Church of Christ churches) I also read a lot and talked to many different people. I ended up with a much clearer vision of What Really Matters, and how at their core, the major faith traditions agreed on this.

I have long admired the gentle wisdom of Fred Rogers. A couple years ago it occurred to me that I wanted to make sure I told him that while he was still with us in this physical world. I wrote him a letter, telling him that even when I was in high school, on the days I stayed home sick I liked to watch his program as "comfort television". I also told him (knowing that he was a minister) about my own spiritual journey, and how I felt I was being "called" to some sort of ministry (but as I hadn't settled on a denomination yet, the details were still a bit hazy to me.)

To my amazement and delight, I received a personal letter from Fred Rogers about a month later. He wrote that he was touched by the expression "comfort television", and also told me that there were many different kinds of ministry.

He included a copy of a sermon he had once given to that effect, and his letter also included the following words:

"The older I get, the more convinced I am that the space between communicating human beings can be hallowed ground."

This same theme can be seen in the words of Henry Schuster, CNN Senior Producer and longtime friend, in an article of appreciation following Fred Roger's death:

"Immediate and unconditional love. That was Fred's gift, especially to children: total attention, complete respect, immediate and unconditional love. The same Fred Roger's you met was who you saw on the screen. He told us how those few feet between the screen and where children were sitting, watching, was "sacred space", and he was passionate about the responsibility he had as a broadcaster."

And finally, I found this quote in The World According to Mr. Rogers: Important Things to Remember , a book that was compiled by Joanne Rogers after her husband's death:

"The more I think about it, the more I wonder if God and neighbor are somehow One. ‘Loving God, Loving neighbor' -- the same thing? For me, coming to recognize that God loves every neighbor is the ultimate appreciation!"

Many of the people in leadership positions in our country are anticipating the "rapture" . This goes a long way toward explaining their priorities. Why take care of this planet, or work to reduce the deficit, if you're expecting to be "beamed up" to a better place very soon?

To focus most of our energy and attention on the really great party we're hoping to go to after we finally leave this dump, in my mind, would be showing a profound lack of appreciation for the gifts we have been given. That's why I think we need to better care for the world and the global family we have right here. And we would probably be more inclined to do that if we got better at recognizing the sacred in each other and in the world around us.

I must admit I'm not always good at doing that. In fact, sometimes I am notoriously bad at that. I'm going to need some help staying on track, you know?

"We cannot be human alone. We can only be human together."

--Archbishop Desmond Tutu in Seattle address May 2002

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Friday, June 16, 2006

General Convention News

Leaving for work, but wanted to point to this excellent page on the Episcopal Church web site:
2006 General Convention News

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Part II of Michael Curry's sermon at the U2Charist

Part I can be found here.

I am convinced that these Millenium Development Goals, and our embrace of them passionately as an act of Gospel-based discipleship, is a way for us to discover live again as a church. (Yeah! and applause)

And I'm convinced, because Brother Bono has shown us the way. God will always have a witness, and if the church doesn't give it, U2 will! (Laughter and applause). And I'm convinced, because, I'm getting into the music, you all gotta help me--I'm an old man without rhythm. You can tell people you saw a Black man without rhythm! (Laughter) But I am convinced that brother Bono has shown us the way by lifting up a compelling vision of the world transformed from the nightmare it often is to the dream that God has intended from the very beginning. That he has dared to claim the high ground, and as he has claimed the high ground, folks have gathered around him.

I can't think of any other context, or any other person, who has brought Jesse Helms to the table, and Jesse Jackson to the table. (Laughter and applause). When you claim the high ground, all will stand--all will rise. Can I get a witness this night? (Yeah!)

And as we engage in this work, as we go forth, passionately convinced that poverty *must* become history, that suffering *must* end, that war must become obsolete (Yeahs and Amens) then the world will not only find its light, but we will find ours.

Well, let me conclude it now--I really am gonna stop. (Laughter) Y'all know the definition of an optimist? An optimist is somebody who believes the preacher when he says "And in conclusion..." But I do mean it, honestly.

I was probably about 13 if I remember correctly. And I don't remember what I said or did, but my father responded to whatever I said--now think about being 13--responded to whatever I said, with, "You know, the Lord didn't put you here just to consume the oxygen!" Now, like I said, I don't know what I said to precipitate that, and I don't know if it was a considered philosophical or theological statement, or just responding to 13 year old hormones, but the more I live and the older I get, the more I am convinced that there is profound wisdom in that.

"The Lord didn't put you here just to consume the oxygen." Now, let me exegete that briefly for a moment. (Laughter) Why are you all laughing--I did go to seminary, now!
"The Lord didn't put you here just to consume the oxygen." The operative word in the sentence here is just. Which is sort of like the one where Moses and then later Jesus said "One does not live by bread alone". You don't live by bread alone. So that the operative word is alone--'cause you do need bread! But bread by itself ain't enough. "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow." Huh? Life is more than food...

But in this statement, "The Lord didn't put you here just to consume the oxygen", just is the operative word, 'cause you do need oxygen! In fact, the truth of the matter is, we are here in part to consume the oxygen.

Think about it now, when you inhale, what do you inhale? Oxygen! And when you exhale, what do you exhale? Carbon dioxide! Oh, this is an educated crowd, see? You exhale carbon dioxide. The entire animal world, if you will, inhales oxygen and exhales carbon dioxide. The plant world, on the other hand, does what? It takes *in* the carbon dioxide, and it *releases* oxygen.

Help me somebody--that's not an accident! This world has been created in a symbiotic relationship so that we and the creation are in relationship--it gives, we receive, we receive and then give. We were *made* to give *and* receive, and life is lived when we give and receive, when we love and are loved--(loud long applause) and we will find our life in that giving and receiving.

Now let me bring this to a conclusion. (Laughter) The Hebrew word for spirit--one of them--is ruach. Over there is Dr. Jeffrey R--(?) He's responsible for all of this--he was one of my teachers! But ruach and be translated, it can be translated spirit, right? It also can be translated "wind", and it can be translated "breath". Like "Breathe on me, breath of God, fill me with life anew..." But, it occurs to me that breath has something to do with oxygen. (Laughter) And breath has something to do with life! And if that is the case, then the spirit of God is not only the life of God, but the spirit of God is the source of all life, and my Jesus in the New Testament, quoting Isaiah, said this, and I quote, "The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has annointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, restore liberty to all those who are oppressed and to proclaim the year of the Lord. That spirit is upon us, and that spirit is the spirit that Jesus said follow me into. Follow me--and I will make you more than you ever thought you could be! Follow me--(applause drowning out some words) Follow me, and I will show you a life of love, that hate cannot defeat. Follow me, and I will show you a life of justice that injustice can *never* tear down. (Amen) Follow me, and I will show you life that not even the power of death can take away.

You shall receive power. We have already received power, for the Holy Spirit has already come among us, and we are His gifts. So go forth. Witness to a love that will not let you go. Witness to a compassion that knows no bounds. Witness to a kingdom and a dream of God, where all of us can find life, and hope, and happiness.

Don't be ashamed of that Gospel. And don't be afraid to stand up for that kingdom. So, you go on out and be an Episcopal witness. You go on out and take your little Episcopal Life in your hand (laughter) and then go forth in this world and end poverty, end hunger, end injustice, and war. So walk into this world and help God help establish God's reign and God's kingdom in this world.

My soul is a witness for my Lord! (Amen!)
God bless you!

Click here to visit the web site of Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation.

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Windsor hearings

When I posted part 1 of Bishop Michael Curry's sermon at the U2Charist, I wrote that I would post the second part--I had only about a third of it left--later in the evening. That was before I did something really stupid and clumsy and my keyboard drank about half a glass of milk.

I am typing this quick update on my husband's computer, because my own still isn't working properly, and won't be until it gets a new keyboard. Demetrius was out shopping when all this happened, and I greeted him at the door with the words, "I think some of the least helpful words in the English language are 'You need to be more careful'. Because invariably you *were* trying to be careful, and *thought* you were being careful enough, right up until the point where something goes wrong." He laughed sympathetically when I told him what had happened, (having experienced similar "D'oh!" moments himself) and set about trying to help fix it.

The real bummer is that I had something I was going to write last night about "speaking of what we know and testifying to what we have seen". It was about half-way written in my head as I was leaving the gym last night, and I was looking forward to coming home and writing it up, and actually making a thoughtful contribution of my own, drawing from my personal experiences, to the discussions about General Convention. But I never got to write it. So that sucks. Another time, I guess. In the meantime, I'll post this update from the Diocese of Southern Ohio and links to blogs that are offering commentary about what's going on right now at convention.
More than 1,500 people filled the Regency ballroom of the Hyatt Hotel in Columbus Wednesday evening to discuss the relationship of the Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion. The Special Committee on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion heard testimony for more than two hours about proposed resolutions in response to the Windsor Report. These resolutions explore the Episcopal Church's position on electing homosexual bishops and conducting same-sex blessings as well as the church's relationship with the Anglican Communion.

The Rev. Pete Strimer, a former priest of the Diocese of Southern Ohio and now part of the Diocese of Olympia, called for support and care for gay and lesbian couples. "These blessings should not private, hidden or veiled. They are a public ministry of the church . . . We do not apologize for what is a beautiful, pastoral act of compassion and neither should the Episcopal Church."

The Rev. Kendall Harmon of the Diocese of South Carolina called the resolutions "a fudge." "It likes look a dance away from what we�re really called to do. This is a marriage that is in separation, and it is in danger of having to divorce." Harmon said the Episcopal Church should either heed the warnings of some in the Anglican Communion calling for repentance or "let's be honest and say God is doing a new thing � and pay the price for that."

In an ironic twist, the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan, bishop of Pittsburgh and a leader in the call for schism in the Episcopal Church, and the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, bishop of New Hampshire and an openly gay man in a relationship, testified right after the other. Duncan said he believed the Episcopal Church has reached "an impossible moment" and he expects a split, while Robinson asked whether "we as a church recognize the light of Christ and the mark of the creator in the faces and lives of gay and lesbian people?"

Whether other leaders in the Anglican Communion disagree with the Episcopal Church and want to split is "their decision," Robinson said. " Our job as a church is to discern the will of god as humbly as we can."

See also
Father Jake Stops the World

An Inch at a Time

I know there are others, but I'm running late at this point and need to leave for work. Feel free to leave links in the comments of other blogs that have commentary on the Windsor Hearings.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Susan Russell and Gene Robinson on Larry King tomorrow

Hat tip to All Saints Pasadena's Voices of Columbus blog:

Susan Russell and Gene Robinson will appear on CNN's Larry King Live tomorrow, June 15, live at 6 p.m., then again (pre-recorded) at 9 p.m. and 12 midnight, Pacific time. They will discuss general convention and view portions of Susan's video "Voices of Witness."
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Transcript of Bishop Michael Curry's sermon

This is part 1 of the trancription, probably about two thirds of it. According to what it says on wav file I'm transcribing from, there must be over 6 minutes left. So, when Bishop Curry said, "I'm going to keep this brief", I'm not sure what he was using as a point of reference. But for transcribing purposes, it didn't seem all that brief. It was quite good though, and after I come back from the gym tonight, I'll be sure to finish up the rest of it.

By the way, I did bring a camera with me, but the lighting was funky, the place was packed, and I'm pretty inexperienced with that particular camera. So even though I snapped three pictures while Michael Curry was speaking, not *one* of them turned out. So here's the picture of him that is posted on the web site of St. Alban's Church in North Carolina.

Here's a picture I took of the congregation, that kinda sorta did turn out.

And here's part 1 of the sermon...

...It is good to be in God's house with God's people.

Let me offer some words from a Negro spritual, sung by slaves in the antebellum south. It's a very simple spiritual that basically says, "My soul is a witness for the Lord."


As the successive stanzas and verses of the song, beginning with "My soul is a witness for the Lord" recount different people from the Biblical stories. It begins, for example, with Methuselah (for y'all Episcopalians, Methuselah was old!) It begins with Methuselah and says "Methuselah was a witness for my Lord" and then it goes on and tells the story of other folks, Deborah the Prophet was a witness for my Lord, Queen Esther was a witness for my Lord, Daniel was a witness for my Lord, Mother Mary was a witness for my Lord, Martha was a witness for my Lord... And then, after going through the Biblical story, the singer comes to the last verse and says "Now *who* will be a witness for my Lord?" Moving from the Biblical past to a new Biblical present--who will be a witness for my Lord?

When I was a kid, I grew up Episcopalian. My swaddling clothes were an Episcopal flag! (laughter) So there were a few Episcopalians in my family, but the rest were Baptists. When you went to church with them, there was *action* on Sunday morning. And every once in a while, when the preacher would preach, there would be these moments in the homiletical experience (anticipatory laughter) when sometimes, when the preacher may have felt that the congregation wasn't as responsive as they could be--trying to get an "Amen!" out of them, and they wouldn't respond, sometimes he'd say Amen like, "Amen, wall"...and if he really got desperate, he might say, "Now can I get a witness?" (Yeah!)

And, "Can I get a witness?" was a rhetorical device to be sure, that was to suggest a critical moment in the service. But more than that, it was a *spritual* devide intended to project the hearer from where they were in church out into the world, where their discipleship was to be exercised. (Yeah!) When they said "Can I get a witness?" they weren't talking about in church, they were talking about *out there*. And that's what I'm going to talk about for a few moments tonight.

And for a text--you see all of that was just introduction! (Laughter) Let me offer these words from the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. Moments before our Lord ascended into heaven, returning to the fullness and the mystery of God. Jesus, when his disciples wanted to know specifics about how the Kingdom was gonna come, said "Y'all can do your own strategic plans". He said "It's not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority, in other words, "There are some things that ain't y'all's business!" (Laughter).

And he goes on and says, "But you will receive power--you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. And you will be my witnesses--in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. You will receive power! (Amen!) Power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. You are *sealed* by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ's own forever. You will receive *power* when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, "Defend, O Lord, this thy Child, with thy heavenly grace, that she may continue yours forever and daily increase in your Holy Spirit." You will receive *power*!" (Cheers and applause)

You will receive power, not for your own sake, but you will receive power, and you will be *my* witnesses, in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Columbus, in Cincinnati, in Cleveland--and unto the uttermost parts of the earth. (Laughter and applause)

Not I'm not going to keep you long--I'm going to keep this brief so that we can get back to the music!

But I know there are probably some here thinking at this moment--you hear me talking about "Can I get a witness?" and there's some of you, hearing that word "witness", in a church environment, y'all must think, Saturday morning, somebody walking two by two down the street, selling Watchtower magazine. (Laughter).

And I believe in evangelism, because I believe we've got some *good news* to share. It's a bad news world, and we've got some *good news* in this bad news world!

I'm talking about a different kind of witness. I don't have any expectation that we're going to get Episcopalians going out on Saturday morning, two by two--giving out Episcopal Life. (Much laughter) I'm talking about a witness that is born of our discipleship. I'm talking about a witness that is born of our timid sometimes, halting sometimes, but our willingess to follow Jesus of Nazareth. To follow in the way of his teaching, to live in the way of his Spirit, to *dare* to emulate his light, until his light becomes our light, and the world begins to he his light through our lives.

And to help us, I think the text for Trinity Sunday is helpful. (Laughter). Because I am convinced, when you read the third chapter of John--go home and read John Chapter 3 again. Get those Bibles, get those Gideons out of the--(laughter). And when you read John Chapter 3 and listen to the story of Nicodemus, I am *convinced* that Nicodemus was the first Episcopalian! (Laughter)

Now think about it--*only* Episcopalians would try to come to Jesus, quietly, at night, when nobody was looking!" (Laughter and applause)

Now obviously Nicodemus came to Jesus quietly at night for good reason. You have to remember that though Jesus and Nicodemus were both Palestinian Jews of the first century, they came from very different worlds. Nicodemus, so far as we can tell, was a preacher of the city--Jesus of Nazareth was a preacher of the country. Nicodemus was well-learned and schooled in the great schools of the rabbis. Jesus was a country preacher! An itinerant rabbi. Nicodemus was part of the ruling power structure of first century Palestinian Judaism, a member of the Sanhedrin. Jesus came from the peasant class. Nicodemus was one of the privileged--help me somebody! (Amen!) Jesus came from folk who were poor--from folk who *struggled* to find a daily possibility of living. These two, though both first century Palestinian Jews, came from entirely different worlds. And yet, to Nicodemus' credit, Nicodemus, the great rabbi himself from Jerusalem, went to this itinerant rabbi.

That's--I'm gonna say it--that's like Archbishop Rowan Williams going to Oprah Winfrey for philosophy! (Extended laughter and applause).

Nicodemus had good reason for going at night, because he was crossing into a different world. And yet, thank God he did do it--he went anyway, as a disciple going to his rabbi. One rabbi went to another. He went, and something happened. *Something* happened, because, by the seventh chapter of John, we shift to the Sanhedrin, and when some of the folk who are out to get Jesus, are out to get him, it is Nicodemus who stands up for justice, and stands up for decency, and stands up for Jesus!

John doesn't give us the details, but *something* happened, because, by the end of the Gospel, after Jesus has been crucified, John's Gospel says that it was Joseph of Arimethea and good old Episcopalian Nicodemus who went and *begged* the body of Jesus from Pilate, and gave it a proper burial. And you know only an Episcopalian's gonna want to do things right! (Laughter).

I am convinced that in John's unfolding of the story of the Gospel and of Nicodemus, what you have here is someone who engages on some level of discipleship with this Jesus, and as he engages with this Jesus, he goes out, somehow different, and goes out and begins to make a difference in this world. Can I get a witness this night? (Yeah!)

I am *convinced* that we are Nicodemus. (Tell it!) And we have come by night to Jesus. To Christ. To the Christ in those who have not. The Christ in those who struggle, for a crust of bread. The Christ in children, hungry and bereft. The Christ in a creation crying out to be cared for. The Christ in women seeking human equality and dignity. The Christ in children who must never again go to bed hungry. (Amen!) I daresay we have come to the Christ that these Millenium Development Goals represent a moment and a possibility of transfiguring discipleship, in which we can make a witness in this world.

My friend and brother and colleague Bishop Steve Charleston, in a recent essay, said this--and let me just read it to you for a second.

He said, "as the Episcopal church, the most important question before us is not about schism or sexuality. It is about witness. What witness will we make? In my life I have known many seasons in the Episcopal Church. This is the season for our witness. This is the time for us to do something totally unexpected and wonderful, to confound those who say we have lost our vision. This is our moment to show the world that we can practice what we preach-- " (Amens and applause)

To be continued...

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Back from the U2Charist

I just came back from the U2Charist which was held at the Renaissance Hotel downtown. It was *packed*--standing room only--and as an introvert I'm not that wild about events involving large crowds. But I did stay long enough to hear an inspiring, lively, and humorous sermon by Bishop Michael Curry. I recorded the sermon, and hopefully will be able to transcribe some of it and post it here, if not tonight, then tomorrow.

In the meantime, I invite you to check out the web site of Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation, which was a sponsor of the event.

Update: This mention of the U2Charist came in my morning update/message from the bishop from Bishop Ken Price:

As I mentioned yesterday, often times the most moving events come at times that are not part of the official convention. Such was the case Tuesday night. A U2charist sponsored by the Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation moved many to tears. U2's lead singer, Bono, is known for his outstanding commitment to ending poverty and encouraging others to get involved in making a difference in the world. With U2 music, a stirring sermon by Southern Ohio's own, Michael Curry, now bishop of North Carolina, and the Eucharist liturgy, the more than 700 people worshipped together, spilling into the halls and the next ballroom. This is an example of the Episcopal Church at its diverse best.
As I've said earlier, if anyone would like to share a first hand experience of convention or one of the events like the U2Charist, please shoot me an e-mail at ohiorenee at gmail.com. I'd love to have some "guest blogs" this week.

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