Friday, June 29, 2018

Grace for the Journey

I’ve been thinking about another story today that is drawn from about twenty-five years ago, when I was a fairly new priest. I was very enthusiastic, but still figuring out what it meant to be a priest, so was still making lots of mistakes. This story is about one of those mistakes, from which I gained a little more insight into the nature of the priestly vocation.

The parish in which I was serving was in California. Although I was born and raised in California, I was returning after an absence of about twenty years. Consequently, I was not prepared for the couple who showed up in my doorway unable to speak a word of English.

The fact that they could not speak English irritated me, just a little bit. I have no doubt that a piece of that irritation was drawn from the embarrassment that I could not speak Spanish. I grew up with Spanish being spoken all around me. I even took Spanish in school. But for some reason, I never picked it up. Perhaps it was all that “I’m not a Mexican!” stuff from my last story. For whatever reason, I only speak English. That in itself is somewhat embarrassing. My wife speaks at least five languages. In Europe, the norm is to be multilingual. The expectation that in some places everyone is at least bilingual seems to be just plain common sense. That’s how communication problems are avoided in other places. On that day in California, we had a serious communication problem. The couple standing in my doorway and I had no common language.

I could see the couple’s old pickup through the window in my office. It was late Spring, so I assumed they were migrant workers, following the crops along the El Camino Real. When I was growing up in California, I’d not paid much attention to the migrant workers, who I would sometimes see working the fields under the hot California sun. I picked strawberries and beans to make some money one Summer, so I knew that working in the fields was hard work. So hard in fact, that most folks quickly find easier employment. Without migrant workers, the crops will not get harvested. This couple in my doorway were most likely among those who have been migrating up and down the West Coast harvesting crops for many generations.

I was wearing my clerical collar. Back then, as a young priest, full of vim and vigor, I think I slept with my collar on. So I was determined to help this couple get back on the road. I walked up to them, shook their hands and rubbed my stomach as I said “Hola. Hambre?” That about exhausted my Spanish vocabulary. They looked at each other, muttered something, and then turned to me, smiled, and nodded their heads. The church food pantry was closed, so I gestured for them to follow me in their truck to the local store. I got a cart, and was picking things off the shelf, to be met with shaking heads. So I backed off, and let them take the cart. They chose a couple of pieces of fruit, some tomatoes, and a pack of tortillas. In the parking lot, they seemed hesitant to get back in their truck and leave, so I gestured again for them to follow, and drove them to the motel that I sometimes used to put folks up who needed help from the church.

I hate to admit it, but the motels that will give the church a discount are often “last resort” kind of places. The room the manager let me show the couple was really bad. They looked around, and without even speaking to each other, both smiled at me and shook their heads. I offered them food, and they chose a light lunch. I offered them shelter, and they declined. What did they need? I gestured for them to follow me, and took them to the gas station.

Their tank only took a few gallons. They weren’t hungry. They didn’t need a room. And they were not out of gas. But here they were, in the parking lot of the gas station, staring at me, still not ready to leave. Feeling like a complete failure for my inability to communicate, and so not meet whatever need still had them rooted in the asphalt of that parking lot, I stretched my Spanish vocabulary and muttered “Adios” as I shook their hands.

I turned and began to slowly walk to my car. I heard a voice say “Padre.” I turned around, and the couple I had failed were both on their knees, right there in the parking lot. So I offered them God’s blessing, laying hands on them both and making a large sign of the cross over them, as I knew they didn’t understand the words I was saying. But it seemed to be enough. They both got up off their knees, and, with glowing grins, shook my hand again, and jumped in their truck and roared away.

They didn’t need food, or shelter, or fuel. They needed God’s blessing; they needed an assurance of God’s grace for their journey. Imagine that.

It is so important that we discern correctly the needs of those who present themselves to us. All Christians, including clergy, are called to be clear conduits of God’s grace. We receive the gift of grace, God’s unmerited love, and it flows through us out into the world. The way we allow grace to flow depends on the situation, of course. And in some situations, offering food, shelter and fuel are a good way to express grace.

But in most cases, those seeking out clergy are looking for a priest, not a social worker. That is the lesson I learned that day. And I also walked away with a new respect for my brothers and sisters who are migrant workers, some of whom will endure a stumbling and bumbling young priest with such grace and patience that they become instruments of God’s grace themselves.

 J.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

On Being Brown

When I was fifteen, I ran away from a foster home and hitchiked from Oregon to California.  I was born and raise in California, so in my mind, I was going home.  I couldn't show up on the front porch of any family member, as they would turn me in to the police for being a runaway.  Consequently, since the year was 1969, I hitched to Haight-Ashbury, of course.

The next few months were a quick learning experience.  I loved the scene, but being under age meant I had to learn how to be invisible.   Then one day I met two young ladies who were tourists, and really wanted to experience "the hippy life."  So, they turned in their car, checked out of the YWCA, and joined me sleeping in the bushes of Golden Gate Park.  They were miserable.  They decided to go to San Diego, where some friends of theirs lived.  By then I was adopted as their "little brother," so I was invited to join them.

It took two days of hitching and a few more adventures to make the short trip to San Diego.  Only once did I have to pull my "crazy kid" act to get the driver, who was hitting on one of my "sisters," to pull over.  When we got to San Diego, it turned out that their friends were all active duty Navy.  They were not pleased to have some kid hanging around.  So once again, I learned to be as invisible as possible.  I knew that soon it would be time to say good bye to my sisters and head back north.

The night I made that decision, the sailors were having a beer party.  I slipped away to the pier, where I had fashioned a fishing rig of sorts made of  discarded stuff I'd found on the pier earlier.  I'd been there about half an hour when the police showed up.  I was alone on a long pier.  I had forgotten the first rule of being on the run; stay invisible.  I admitted to being a runaway, so as to not get my sisters and the drunken sailors in trouble, and let them arrest me and haul me off to Juvenile Hall.

The Juvenile Detention Center in San Diego is where the story I want to tell actually begins.  I'd been in such places before, so the guards and the keys and the radios and the locked doors  were not new.   What was new was that the next morning, as they lined us up for calisthenics,  I couldn't even do jumping jacks.  I'd been on the street for about six months by then, often going days without food.  My lack of nutrition caused my muscles to no longer work.  I was starving to death.  That was an eye opening realization.

But its what happened next that I have been recently pondering.   At lunch, I took my tray and sat at one of the round tables near the back.  An officer walked up, looked over the four of us sitting at that table, and said, "You Mexicans can't sit together.  Two of you get up and move."

"You Mexicans..."  From what I've been told, I have Native American ancestry on both sides, and a bunch of German and other stuff as well.   I pass for white, but I'd been living outside for six months.  My skin was very dark.  The staff at that Juvenile Center assumed I was Mexican, because I was so brown.

Even though I was only fifteen, this was a shock for me.  I'd grown up in California, and had people walk up to me speaking Spanish, so I knew some folks thought I was Mexican, but I'd never heard it said to my face.

At that time, I had conflicted feelings about this.  In elementary school, my best friend was Paul Mares.  He and I were readers.  We read all the time.  I was a reader because my mentally ill stepmother would not allow me to go outside during recess, and confined me to my room at home.  Paul was a reader because he loved a good story.   Paul and I would often get sent to sit out in the hall by the teacher because we were reading by hiding our books under our desks during something boring like math.   Paul being Mexican was something that never came up in our long conversations about the books we read.  It never entered my mind.

Until I brought my friend Vic home one day.  Vic was a big, funny kid, who lived in my neighborhood, so sometimes we'd walk home from school together.  When I brought him home, my step-mother took one look at this big Mexican kid with a runny nose, and told him to leave.  Then she lectured me about Mexicans.  They all carry knives.  They steal. They were dirty.  I was to never have anything to do with them.  And I was to NEVER bring a Mexican kid home with me again.

By that time, I knew that my step mother was sick in the head, so I took it all with a grain of salt.  Vic might be a little rough looking, but she had not met my reading  friend Paul.  So I knew she was wrong.  Not all Mexicans are dirty.  Not all steal.  And the idea of Paul Mares carrying a knife was almost funny.  But it wasn't.  In her twisted head, Mexicans were not quite human.

So now I am fifteen, locked up, and a white guard just called me a Mexican.  My first inclination was to punch him in the nose.  My second impulse was to correct him, and so alienate myself among all the Mexican boys in that detention center.  Instead, I picked up my tray, and moved to another table.

That was the moment I realize that I had been benefiting from white privilege all my life.  I might have looked darker than the rest of my relatives, but I still passed for white.  And it had opened many doors for me, doors I had never noticed before, until that white privilege was stripped away.   Being fifteen had already stripped me of most of my rights as a human being.  Back in 1969, you had few if any rights as a juvenile.  And being a homeless teen took away even more rights; with no address and no phone, you might as well not exist.   And now I was being stripped of white privilege.

I got out of that place, and was sent back to the same foster home, which I ran away from again a few months later.  Eventually I ended up being placed in Nicky Cruz's Home for Boys in Fresno, California.  There were about ten boys in this home.  Most were Latino.  A few were Anglo.  This was a couple of years after the San Diego arrest, so I had a more street smarts by then.  Eventually, I was asked by one of the boys, "Are you Chicano?"  This time, I knew the safe, and honest, response was "I don't know."  So the Chicanos left me alone.  

But my friend Ralph, who I had known in Oregon, had blonde hair, blue eyes, and some serious mental health issues.  And these were the kind of Mexicans my crazy step mother had tried to warn me about.  They did carry knives.  Of course, so did I by then, as did every kid I'd ever met living on the street.  And they did steal.  When you almost starve, you make little promises to yourself, like "Never again."  If you must steal to survive, so be it.  But the color of the skin  has nothing to do with that ethical decision.    And they were dirty.  When you sleep in the bushes and wash with sponge baths from the sink of the gas station, yeah, you get dirty.  All of us were dirty.

But, I was able to help Ralph.  Being somewhere in the middle between the Chicanos and the Anglos, I was sometimes able to step in and calm everyone down.  Ralph was not easy to pull back from the edge  sometimes, but while I was there, no one laid a finger on him.


I share those stories because it is my personal experience that has shaped who I am.   I recognize the language of those who want to make all those with brown skin the Untermenschen.  And once we are defined as subhuman, the level of required morality allows those in power to treat us as less than a dog. 
What is going on at our southern border has little to do with "controlling our borders."  It is stark racist crap, and it smells of evil.

One more brief story, to make my last point.  When I was eighteen months old, my mother left to move to Hollywood.   I was not to see her again until I was forty-five.   That pain, of losing my mother at such an early age, is a wound that will never heal.  It will haunt me every day of my life.   Taking the children from their mothers at the southern border doesn't just smell of evil.  There is no doubt.  You are causing wounds in young lives that may never heal.  You are creating more young people who will indeed grow up to carry a knife and steal.  This is evil.

One final note...we happen to be reading the Book of Leviticus in our weekly bible study at the moment.  A few weeks ago, we came across this passage:

“When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:33-34).


That seems fairly clear to me.  Then a few chapters later, we find that the Israelites were not called to simply "love your neighbor as yourself," as some kind of nice idea, but were called to put that love out there in concrete actions:

And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I YHWH am your God” (Leviticus 24:22).

Children and mothers are weeping at our southern border.  We can do better than this.  In the name of God, we MUST do better than this.
J.












Thursday, March 15, 2018

About Guns

I'm listening carefully about proposals for new gun laws. Perhaps my experience with firearms is too unusual to make a solid argument one way or the other. Maybe the best way is to note a few memories, and comment as I go along.

I have three or four memories of my mother. She left when I was about two years old. One of those memories is of her opening a closet door. There, on the floor of the dark closet, was a toy pistol and holster, in a crumpled pile, as if thrown into that dark place.  My mother looked away, and said very quietly, "Those are from your dad." My first gun.

 A few years later, my grandfather's grocery store was broken into, and my dad started sleeping on a cot in the attic of the store. I climbed up there to see his new sleeping quarters. I found it, along with a shiny new revolver on a table next to the cot.  I learned something about my father that day.

 Then came the five years with my mentally ill step-mother. No guns, thank God. When I was sent away at age eleven, my Uncle Dale and his boys were avid hunters. I was trained how to safely handle a gun. A year later, I was taken in by relatives in Oregon, who were also hunters. Pheasant was our game of choice. Then I was given an air rifle. I spent many weekends in the woods after that, killing things.

 So, my first experience of guns included the memory of my mother's disapproval. Seeing as she ran off, my inclination was to gravitate towards that which she deplored, of course. As a twelve and thirteen year old, I went out into the woods to kill things. Eventually, thanks to my young cousin, whom you  met in the link above, I got over that phase.

But I think it is worth noting that I was not always alone on these hikes of death. Many of my friends who had also grown up with guns around would often go with me. I think there is a fascination with death among some twelve and thirteen year olds. We cannot create life, but we can take it. That kind of power is a strong temptation for some young people. My experience is that eventually, we outgrow it.

 Now comes the part that is difficult to put into words. From the ages of fourteen through nineteen, I spent most of my time either on the street, or locked up. Living on the street meant engaging in a number of criminal acts. Some involved guns. I never shot anyone personally, but I've pulled a gun ready to use it, and I had guns drawn on me many times.  I was only shot once, but that is another story.  One time, I wrestled with the man with a gun, and he won. And now he was pissed. As he pressed the barrel of that revolver against my forehead, I honestly thought it was all over. I add that detail for those who might imagine I don't realize the danger involved.

I'm not going to dwell on those years, for the simple reason that I did many things during that time for which I am still deeply ashamed. But here's the point I want to make; we either stole our guns, or bought them from one another. We rarely had to look far to find one. During those street years, I cannot recall anyone who bought a gun from a store. In other words, the criminals will always have guns. Just so you know.

 Fast forward a few years. After my time in the Navy, my wife and our young children and I moved to Wisconsin. I now had a .22 semi-automatic and two 12 gauge shotguns. The .22 was a camp gun; good for varmints, both four footed and two footed, while camping. And we did a lot of camping. The shotguns were for deer season. Where I was in Wisconsin, only shotguns were allowed to hunt deer.

A friend of mine and his family fell on hard times. So I let Tinker, his wife, two kids and huge dog move in. Tinker was like me, having spent some rough years in his youth. After a month, I made them move out. The next thing I know, he's trying to move into my father-in-laws house, because they were gone and their young son was there alone. I got Tinker on the phone, and after screaming at him for awhile, he hung up. I got the family in bed, loaded my shotgun, and sat on the stairs all night, waiting for Tinker to come crashing in our front door. He never did. 

There's been a few situations in which I've had to load a gun to protect myself and my family. Why didn't I call the police? In my street days, I was beaten, dragged by the cuffs, and basically treated like scum by "peace-keepers." I'm still working on learning to trust someone who forces me to do his will because he has a side arm on his hip and I don't. In my professional life, I do call the police. In my personal life, I deal with it.

Back to Wisconsin. One day, I came home and found that my two boys, who were toddlers, had gotten into my gun cases. They had pulled one shotgun out, and were working on the second one. That scene scared me.  I sold all three guns within a month.

A few years later, I knew I was going to be traveling and camping a lot, so I wanted another camp gun. I went with a single shot break open 20 gauge. A very simple gun, and quite safe. I still have my "little fire stick." It's a good tool.

 So, I listen to the debates about gun control. Most of the voices are on the extreme. One groups shouts, "They are going to take away our guns!" That's just silly. That's politicians trying to scare you into voting for them. The other group screams "All guns are evil." I assume that is the voice of naivety.

 Let's get something straight. Some animals cannot kill their own kind. Humans can. Human history makes that clear. We are all capable of being mass murderers. It is the nature of our species.

Gandhi knew that only those who were aware of their deep hatred for the British, so deep that they wanted to kill them, could practice non-violent resistance effectively. In order to rein in our dark side, we have to face it. You can only restrain that which is conscious. The most dangerous people in the world are those who hide from their potential for great evil, which dwells within us all. I speak out against killing because I know I am a killer.

 So, regarding gun control; if you speak of me as a "bad" person for owning a gun, I assume you are just very sheltered from some of the realities of life. If you want to arm your teachers, you don't know many teachers. That notion is just bonkers. Seriously.

I think I'll wait until some of the high pitched drama wears off. Maybe then we'll hear some sanity on this issue. In the meantime,  I'll keep my little fire stick, tyvm,  until, as Moses would say,  "you tear it from my dead, cold hands."  ; )


 J.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Secretary Clinton Did Not Lie

I posted this on Facebook, but then realized there were too many people who would scream bloody murder, so deleted it 2 minutes later.  Damn Facebook.  I don't want all my friends in one place, tyvm.  But this issue has me rather pissed off, so to get it out of my system, I'll post it here...not that anyone reads this old blog anymore...with the strong smell of rust and mold,  I don't blame you.

My issue is that sometimes I watch MSNBC...ya gotta love Rachel.  So, last night, Steve Kornacki, filling in for Rachel, rather rudely shut down a guest who was trying to explain that there is a valid argument for at least entertaining the idea that Secretary Clinton did not "lie" when she stated that she never sent any classified emails through her personal email account.  I had heard bits and pieces of that argument, and was rather frustrated that Kornacki shut down the idea so quickly, without apparently even listening to it.  I guess the news was "Hillary lied," according to him.

Then, this morning I caught a few minutes of Morning Joe.  Of course, Scarborough could not go 2 minutes without stating "She lied."  Eventually, he had brow beaten everyone on his show into agreeing with him.  Oh well, Joe can be an ass sometimes.  I shrugged it off, and went to work.

Then tonight, Kornacki did it again...dismissing a guest who tried to make the argument that there is a perspective from which we can hold the view that in fact Secretary Clinton honestly felt she was telling the truth when she stated that she sent no classified emails.

Enough already.  Let's get real, folks. Here is the best article I've found so far that makes the points, and provides the links, to the discussions I had heard, which had informed me just enough to make me wince when Kornacki and Scarborough just plain got it wrong. A few points from the article:
According to Comey, the year-long investigation of 55,000 Hillary emails did not reveal a single email clearly marked classified. Only three — just three — of Hillary’s emails “bore markings indicating the presence of classified information.” “Bore markings” is not the same thing as “marked classified.” In his July 7 testimony before Congress, Comey said that those markings were simply a (c) somewhere in the body of the email and nothing in the header or subject line. He further stated that they were improperly marked and that it was reasonable for Hillary to assume they were not classified...
...Hillary’s opponents are left with this, from Comey’s statement: “110 e-mails in 52 e-mail chains have been determined by the owning agency to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received.” Let’s break that down. 110 out of 55,000 emails are said to have contained classified information. That’s just 0.2 percent of her emails. Crucially, these emails were not marked classified. And there is absolutely no indication or accusation that classified markings were concealed or removed.
Kornacki kept saying tonight that Hillary sent 110 classified emails. No no, no! They were not marked classified. The FBI and the "owning agency" (apparently the State Department), many years after the fact, decided they were classified. There were only three that had the rather obscure (c) on them, and the State Department has already suggested two of those three were marked (c) in error. So, there is ONE possible email unaccounted for.

So what about the other 107 emails the FBI is saying were classified? If they were not marked as such, how was the Secretary to know?
Put differently, why would classification markings even exist if the Secretary of State was required to divine the contents of all her emails? If everyone who has access to classified information “should know that the subject matter is classified,” then why do we even have a system that marks classified information? The U.S. Secretary of State is one of the busiest people on the planet. It is unreasonable to expect that part of her job is to magically divine what is and is not classified — when it is unmarked. Especially considering she is working within an infrastructure where there exists a standard for marking classified information, and thus she is entitled to a reasonable expectation of not receiving classified information unmarked.
And finally, I think we can agree that Hillary Clinton is an intelligent woman, regardless of what you think about her otherwise. Why in the world would she hand over the emails, and then insist over and over again that she sent nothing classified unless she honestly felt that was a truthful statement? She knew there would be an investigation.
Even if you set all these points aside, the fact that Hillary has been honest about her emails is really just common sense. If she knew she had sent or received classified information and also knew that there was an ongoing investigation that could result in a public finding, she wouldn’t make a knowingly false assertion. If she really is a scheming liar who tries to cover up misdeeds, why on earth would she say something that could be publicly proven false?
Do go read the whole article, and follow the links. And please, MSNBC, stop trying to push the "Hillary is a liar" story. We've got Faux News for that kind of garbage. This stupid issue is over. Let it go and move on.

And Rachel...enjoy your vacation...but COME BACK SOON! We need you.

J.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

More Anglican Shenanigans?

I've been reading the many reactions to the latest Primates Meeting.  Since I've "retired" from being a blogger, and am enjoying the life of a simple parish priest, I was hesitant to say anything about this matter.  But, perhaps the perspective of a simple parish priest might be helpful?

First of all, it seems important to me that we remember our history.  To begin, we might recall where GAFCON came from:
As one example of how this "secret funding" works, remember GAFCON? You might recall that most Ugandan bishops chose to attend GAFCON over Lambeth. All kinds of reasons were given for this choice; refusal to sit with the Western apostates, solidarity with their brother bishops not invited to Lambeth, etc. Well, as it turns out, their expenses to travel to GAFCON were paid by "unnamed friends" of Abp. Orombi. Imagine that.
That was back in 2009, when Abp. Orombi was the Primate of Uganda. The new Abp. of Uganda, Stanley Ntagali, seems to be following in Orombi's footsteps, as he dramatically abandoned the Primates' Meeting after two days.  In Uganda, the Kill the Gays Bill is still alive and well, yet we are still waiting to hear one word from the Ugandan Anglicans about this bill.  Oh wait...we did hear from an Ugandan Anglican Bishop about this matter, didn't we?
...Ugandan Parliament, the watch dog of our laws, please go ahead and put the anti- Gay laws in place. It is then that we become truly accountable to our young and to this country, not to Canada or England. We are in charge!
Yet, Abp. Ntagali, in whose Province such hateful laws are being considered, and supported by Anglican bishops, imagines he has the high moral road, and abandons the Primates' Meeting because he cannot sit with Americans who audaciously suggest God allows one to choose their own life partner.  Amazing stuff.

If you want to understand the GAFCON Primates response, in the infamous words of Jim Naughton, all you have to do is follow the money.

There is another part of our history we might want to remember.  We have been here before.    My response to these most recent "punishments" is not so different from my view back in 2010:
 There will be those who will have some anxiety about TEC being removed from membership in all the Instruments. That would have the appearance of TEC no longer being able to consider herself to be Anglican. And that would leave a void, which ACNA would love to step into. I no longer see that as a serious possibility. ACNA has been sufficiently revealed as part of the problem, not part of the solution. TEC is seen by some to be part of the problem as well, but the nature of our problems are quite different. By recognizing ACNA, the leaders of the Anglican Communion would be sanctioning Primates pillaging parishes in their own backyards. That notion will give them great pause. If they must choose between two problems, I think it is safe to surmise that TEC will be their choice for some time in the forseeable future.
There is an important difference this time, however.  In 2010, some of the Provinces involved in the border crossings to plunder wealthy parishes were also asked to step down from leadership positions.  This time, it was only TEC asked to take the lower seat.  What do we do with that?

We seek to understand, even if we disagree.  Abp. Welby had a decision to make.  If he backed TEC, GAFCON (and their wealthy Western donors) would walk.  If he let TEC be the scapegoat, we could take the hit.  Which we will.  And schism was avoided.  Not much of a gamble, really.

So, we take the lower seat, for a season.  We still show up at every meeting of the Communion, maybe silenced, maybe without vote, but still present.  We practice the ministry of presence.  We act as witnesses for all those suffering from unjust oppression.

J.

 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Fundraiser for Missy's Daughter

Received this in my inbox today.  Passing it on:

I'm sort of reaching out to the old Fr. Jake's / Episco-blogging crowd here…

Many of you may have seen Missy Francis posting on Facebook about a fundraiser to help send her daughter Marigrace on a college trip to Europe. And I know you're all aware that Missy is pretty low on funds, what with being a single Mom and all.

So in case you haven't thought about it yet, I'd encourage y'all to go to her GoFundMe site and chip in a few dollars:


And if you know the email address for other folks that may be from our old crowd, please feel free to forward this. I think it would be neat if the old "Fr. Jake's" crowd could help out a little here…

Thanks, and have a good one,

David
Thanks, David.

J.

Another Way to Re-Imagine the Church

From here:
Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and on those in the tombs bestowing life! Alleluia!

This website is the result of conversations over the last few months among a group of Episcopalians who are passionate about our church’s health and witness to the world. We believe that we have reached a critical juncture in the life of our church, and respectfully submit A Memorial to the Church calling for our beloved Episcopal Church to recommit itself to the spiritual disciplines at the core of our common life, to go into our neighborhoods boldly with church planters and church revitalizers, and to restructure our church for the mission God is laying before us today. We hope for the renewal of our beloved church. We offer A Memorial to the Church along with many signatories from across the church. These signatories support the vision of the Memorial and its call to action...
Do go read the whole thing.  Note the names of the group who put this together.  I'm sure you will recognize some of them.  Then go read the Memorial, and add your name to it.   After that, take a look at the proposed resolutions.  There's some good ideas there, although some need to be talked about a little more, it seems to me.

J.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Bruce Shipman Resigns from Yale After Claims of Ant-Semitism

The Rev. Bruce Shipman has resigned:
Rev. Bruce Shipman resigned from his post as priest-in-charge of the Episcopal Church at Yale on Thursday — two weeks after his remarks in a New York Times letter garnered national media attention for their alleged anti-Semitism. In an Aug. 21 letter responding to Emory professor Deborah Lipstadt’s Aug. 20 New York Times essay titled “Why Jews Are Worried,” Shipman put forth his idea that Israel’s actions in Gaza contributed to growing anti-Semitism in Europe. He added that stalled peace negotiations and Israel’s occupation of the West Bank were also factors. As a result of the piece, Shipman faced a wave of criticism from those who accused him of making anti-Semitic statements. In an email to the News, Shipman said he resigned because he could not garner sufficient support from his board to survive the adverse publicity.
Here is the letter. It's short enough to post:
To the Editor: Deborah E. Lipstadt makes far too little of the relationship between Israel’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza and growing anti-Semitism in Europe and beyond. The trend to which she alludes parallels the carnage in Gaza over the last five years, not to mention the perpetually stalled peace talks and the continuing occupation of the West Bank. As hope for a two-state solution fades and Palestinian casualties continue to mount, the best antidote to anti-Semitism would be for Israel’s patrons abroad to press the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for final-status resolution to the Palestinian question. (Rev.) BRUCE M. SHIPMAN Groton, Conn., Aug. 21, 2014
Those three sentences resulted to angry responses like this one from Joshua Isackson:
...Though he likely desires a peaceful end to the conflict, Rev. Shipman insinuates that the Israelis are conducting genocide against Palestinians by using these terms. Such a statement is indefensible. Israel is protecting its borders and its citizens from rocket attacks and tunnel penetrations. No nation would permit such a threat to its citizens and national security from a radical terrorist group... ...I,like many other Jews and students on campus, am astonished and appalled that Rev. Shipman would say such untrue, hateful words about Jews and Israel. I am deeply ashamed, however, that the “Yale” name appears next to his at the bottom of that letter. Yale must be a place for honest intellectual debate. Yale University and the Yale community stand to lose when leaders on its campus — whether or not they are directly employed by the University — spew hateful, anti-Semitic speech.
I am not anti-Semitic...but I am growing more and more anti-Israel. No, I have no defense for Hamas shooting rockets into Israel. But, look at the stats; 132 Israeli children have been killed by Palestinians and 2,045 Palestinian children have been killed by Israelis since September 29, 2000...1,184 Israelis and at least 9,075 Palestinians have been killed since September 29, 2000...10,849 Israelis and 69,602 Palestinians have been injured since September 29, 2000. Doesn't it seem that Israel is being quite heavy handed? Doesn't that cause you to ask yourself some questions about what Israel is doing?

 If you don't see where I'm headed, I'll let musician Brian Eno say it more bluntly:
What is going on in America? I know from my own experience how slanted your news is, and how little you get to hear about the other side of this story. But – for Christ’s sake! – it’s not that hard to find out. Why does America continue its blind support of this one-sided exercise in ethnic cleansing? WHY? I just don’t get it. I really hate to think it’s just the power of Aipac [the American Israel Public Affairs Committee]… for if that’s the case, then your government really is fundamentally corrupt. No, I don’t think that’s the reason… but I have no idea what it could be.
The America I know and like is compassionate, broad-minded, creative, eclectic, tolerant and generous. You, my close American friends, symbolise those things for me. But which America is backing this horrible one-sided colonialist war? I can’t work it out: I know you’re not the only people like you, so how come all those voices aren’t heard or registered? How come it isn’t your spirit that most of the world now thinks of when it hears the word “America”? How bad does it look when the one country which more than any other grounds its identity in notions of Liberty and Democracy then goes and puts its money exactly where its mouth isn’t and supports a ragingly racist theocracy?
Here is just one example of what is going on in Gaza. Here is one more. Do keep in mind that stat page I offered above. Note that during Fiscal Year 2014, the U.S. is providing Israel with at least $8.5 million per day in military aid and $0 in military aid to the Palestinians. That explains why Amnesty International is calling on the US to stop supplying arms to Israel:
...“The US government is adding fuel to the fire by continuing its supply of the type of arms being used by Israel’s armed forces to violate human rights. The US government must accept that by repeatedly shipping and paying for such arms on this scale they are exacerbating and further enabling grave abuses to be committed against civilians during the conflict in Gaza,” said Brian Wood, Head of Arms Control and Human Rights at Amnesty International...
I find it very unfortunate that the Rev. Bruce Shipman felt compelled to resign. Yes, Hamas must be held accountable for their violence, and I clearly renounce it. But, as a US citizen, the state-sponsored terrorism of Israel has certainly caused me to decide it is time the US stopped providing the arms used in this slaughter. J.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Need to Shout About Schismatic South Carolina

Mark Lawrence and his crew really bug me.  They bug me so much I just had to say something here finally.

I call him Mark Lawrence because in my mind, the man is no longer a Bishop.  I know, I know..."once a Bishop always a Bishop, etc.  I'm not buying it.  The guy has lost all integrity.  He no longer deserves that title.

Why does Lawrence bug me so much?  Because we all saw this coming.  He was the rector of a large parish in San Joaquin.   He voted for that diocesan schism.  He ran off the faithful Episcopalians in his parish.  Then he gets elected as Bishop of South Carolina.  As a known schismatic, who thought it was just too cute to dance around questions of his loyalty to TEC, he did not get the required consents.  The extremists in South Carolina had a fit, of course, and elected him again.  This time Lawrence makes a clear statement that he will not abandon the Episcopal Church.  He got the consents.  He was consecrated.  Then, a short time later, what did he do?  He abandoned TEC.  Surprise, surprise.

In the first attempt to get consents, when Lawrence was asked how he would work to keep the Diocese in TEC, here is his too cute response:
I shall commit myself to work at least as hard at keeping the Diocese of South Carolina in The Episcopal Church, as my sister and brother bishops work at keeping The Episcopal Church in covenanted relationship with the worldwide Anglican Communion.
Needless to say, for this and other forms of doubletalk, he did not get the needed consents. So, when elected a second time, and realizing he needed to stop being too cute, here is his new and improved statement:
I will make the vows of conformity as written in the Book of Common Prayer and the Constitution & Canons, (III.11.8). I will heartily make the vows conforming ‘…to the doctrine, discipline, and worship’ of the Episcopal Church, as well as the trustworthiness of the Holy Scriptures. So to put it as clearly as I can, my intention is to remain in The Episcopal Church.
Did you get that? MY INTENTION IS TO REMAIN IN THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH. That's what the man said. And it worked. He got the consents. Even I got hoodwinked by that one. So, Lawrence states he's going to stay in TEC in March, 2007. Then, he makes this statement in his parish newsletter in August 2007 (after he's gotten the necessary consents, of course):
I also hold strong convictions on remaining in covenanted fellowship with the worldwide Anglican Communion, rather than following, as some have suggested, the pathway of an overly autonomous provincial or national church
He's an Anglican, you see...he doesn't need no stinkin' "national church." So much for his good intentions a few months before.

I won't bore you with all the details of what happened next. Most of you know the story. It took a few Diocesan Conventions, and a dramatic walking out of the House of Bishops, but it became clear that South Carolina was headed out the door. Of course Lawrence claimed "I did nothing." Exactly...when resolutions were presented at Diocesan Convention which further distanced South Carolina from TEC, he did nothing, when it was within his authority to declare those resolutions out of order.

When TEC took measures to stop the apparent plan to run off with the Diocese, Lawrence started complaining of the oppression of those evil liberals from the North. Then he and his Standing Committee secretly met and passed a couple of failsafe resolutions, which called for immediate removal from TEC if any attempts were made to discipline the Diocese. But Lawrence didn't do it...of course not. The Standing Committee did it. What was the poor Bishop to do?

My point is, I now believe that this was the plan all along, from the time Lawrence was first nominated. It looks to me that South Carolina has been following a carefully written script...with the first draft probably written back in 2004. And we all bought it as reality, instead of the staged drama it was.

And for now, it seems to have worked. Lawrence snatched up most of the parishes, properties and assets of South Carolina, without having to bow to the authority of any other provincial or national entity. In other words, no assessment, no tithe. The Diocese can assess the parishes, and keep it all. And Lawrence is answerable to no one except God. Sweet deal. Unfortunately, it is not an Anglican deal.

So, Lawrence now gets listed with Schofield, Duncan and Iker...scoundrels everyone. This is the fifth time we've seen these scripted dramas play out. Are we ever going to learn?

This still bugs me. And it even further bugs me that for the most part everyone is being so nice about it. Come on. We're talking about out and out theft here, from my view. This type of unchristian behavior needs to be confronted.

 J.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

The Clergy Letter Project

Someone pointed me to this last night (thanks evo!), and thought others might want to sign this open letter as well:  

The Clergy Letter - from American Christian Clergy 
An Open Letter Concerning Religion and Science 

Within the community of Christian believers there are areas of dispute and disagreement, including the proper way to interpret Holy Scripture. While virtually all Christians take the Bible seriously and hold it to be authoritative in matters of faith and practice, the overwhelming majority do not read the Bible literally, as they would a science textbook. Many of the beloved stories found in the Bible – the Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark – convey timeless truths about God, human beings, and the proper relationship between Creator and creation expressed in the only form capable of transmitting these truths from generation to generation. Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts. 

We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris. We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.

You can see this letter here.   You can add your name by sending an email to 
mz@theclergyletterproject.orgInclude your name, church affiliation, city and state.

J.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tueday; the Last Shopping Day of Convention

Some great things have happened at General Convention, which I'm sure you have already read about elsewhere. Both transgender resolutions passed. The rites for blessings passed the HoB and will most likely pass the HoD later today. Gay Jennings was elected President of the HoD with a large majority. Also on the agenda is a resolution on the Covenent. Mark Harris, whom we all know is no fan of the Covenant, spoke on behalf of his committee who drafted this resolution. To sum it up, it sounds like it is neither a "yes" or a "no," but instead a "maybe." As you can imagine, some folks are not pleased. Personally, I trust Mark's judgment. He had the conversations with a diverse group crafting this piece of legislation. Even though I disagree personally, a "maybe" might not be such a bad thing. No word on the restructuring resolution yet, although I've heard some good things about the work of that committee.

They're doing the joint session budget thing now, which is something I just can't make myself endure again, so I'm taking some time to talk with the dozen of you who haven't given up on Jake's place.

The exhibit section of Convention closed down promptly at 2:00 today, so I quickly made some last minute art purchases. I'm moving into a new home, and need art for the walls.

First, there is this Celtic Cross, hand painted by artist Carol McRay:
You can't see the design very well in this photo, but one arm of the cross depicts scenes from the Hebrew scriptures, and the other scenes from the New Testament. The four achangels are also depicted. I also chose from the same artist individual depictions of the archangels. Here are Gabriel and Ariel:
...and here are Raphael and Michael:
My final choice was an icon, Pantocrater:
Ok, maybe more later...they should be done with the money talk by now. Time to get back to Convention.

J.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Sunday's Thoughts

I must tell you, being on vacation is the way to do General Conention!  You can skip what you aren't interested in, and sleep in if you want every day!

I have listened to a few legislative sessions.  A couple of interesting thing have happened, which were probably minor events and not mentioned much elsewhere, so I'll just say a few words about them here.

First of all, the part of the canons which mandates that the Presiding Bishop cannot continue as a Diocesan Bishop were deleted.   Somewhat tangentially related, in my mind, was that the Registrar, who lately has been the Canon to the PB, will once again be the Secretary of Convention, as it had been some years ago.   Both these changes seem to me to be the beginnings of redefining the role of the Presiding Bishop.  That may be a good thing, but to make such changes piecemeal, before any real conversations related to restructuring the Church have been held, seems, to me, to be a bit short sighted.  After all, Bishop Katharine will be in place until GC 2015, so there was no need to start redefining that office now.

The other somewhat unexpected event was a move to reconsider the inclusion of the English Standard Version as an acceptable translation within the Episcopal Church.  The move to reconsider was based on the claim that the ESV was a scholarly translation, and not a paraphrase.   After this resolution was passed, the call to reconsider was based on such ESV texts as I Corinthians 6:9, in which there is a reference to "practicing homosexuals," suggesting that this translation is in places a paraphrase. They will be reconsidering the ESV this afternoon.

This morning's celebration of the Holy Eucharist was a wonderful experience. The organist and choir were superb. The presentation of the UTO offering, with each Diocese named as their representative came forward, was quite moving, as usual. Bishop Katharine preached an excellent sermon, calling us to stand up and be prepared to be sent out to an "rebelious, impudent and stubborn people" (quoting the text from Ezekial). She also reminded us of the philosopher Pogo's admonition:  "We have met the impudent and stubborn ones, and they are us!"
The Diocese of Indianapolis hosted a grand affair this afternoon entitled Step Up Indianapolis. On the schedule is a "Gi-Normous Musical Chairs Contest", a"record-breaking flash mob Samba event" and the "Verger Olympics."
I'd been looking forward to this event, as since it was outside, my pup Korrie could finally attend a GC gathering. He's not been too pleased about being cooped up in the motel room, as you can see:
So, we arrive at Victory Field, little Korrie bounding with excitement, and after 12 steps inside, a security guard informs me dogs are not allowed. So much for inclusivity, eh?

Well, I was not going to disappoint Korrie. We were going to make this afternoon an EVENT one way or another. So, I found a way to get him down by the White River which runs through Indianapolis. Korrie seemed to appreciate soaking his feet after walking all those blocks on the hot pavement. He seemed to get over the rejection much faster than I did:

As we were leaving, I noticed a homeless camp set up in the riverbed not far from where we were:


This camp was less than a mile from the huge Convention Center:


Keep in mind it was 102 yesterday here, and 93 today, with thunderstorms rolling in.

I just find it ironic that right in the shadow of one of the largest Convention Centers I've ever seen, meticulously clean with easy access to first class hotels, are folks living in the riverbed. Did I approach the camp and offer assistance? I was alone, and I'm not a fool, so no, I did not. Just noting the reality check I experienced after coming from an environment that was so proper and posh. 

Tonight I'll be attending the Episcopal Peace Foundation's presention of its 2012 John Nevin Sayre Awards to Dr. Louie Crew and Mary Miller. Should be fun.  And then tomorrow morning, I got talked into offering testimony at some hearing at...wait for it...7:30 am!  So much for vacation.

More tomorrow.

J.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Another General Convention

After a 14 hour drive, with my pup as my only companion, I have arrived in Indianapolis for my third General Convention of the Episcopal Church.
This time, I'm here just as a visitor; not as a blogger, not as a staff member of the ECC...just a parish priest who happens to care greatly about this Church. Nothing too dramatic to report so far. I found some good artwork for my new home in the exhibit area. I've seen a few old friends. The only newsworthy event was a presentation I heard today by Bishop Robinson.
The good Bishop reported, quoting Bp. Ely of Vermont, that it appears the House of Bishops is trying to restructure the Church by resolution, before any real conversation about restructuring has occurred.

This makes me nervous, as it should every Episcopalian. First of all, I don't want the House of Bishops standing alone in making such a call. Second of all, it is high time we had a serious conversation about restructuiring, without one House trying to sabotage the possibility of such a conversation ever happening.

Will our disussions of restructuring be unpleasant? Perhaps. But, avoiding such conversations because we prefer to avoid conflict, for whatever reason, is the best way to make sure nothing really changes.

If you want a good read to start your reflection on the restructuring idea, and why one should be concerned about the House of Bishops attempting to short circuit such a conversation, I commend to you Shared Governance: A Collection of Essays Prepared by the House of Deputies Special Study Committee on Church Governance and Polity 2012.

And now my pup needs a walk. More later.

J.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Has the GOP Been Taken Over by Extremists?

IT points us to an interesting article by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein. Mann is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, so these gentlemen are not exactly raging liberals. One would hope a good cross section of people will pay attention to what they have to say. Here's a taste:
...The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.

“Both sides do it” or “There is plenty of blame to go around” are the traditional refuges for an American news media intent on proving its lack of bias, while political scientists prefer generality and neutrality when discussing partisan polarization. Many self-styled bipartisan groups, in their search for common ground, propose solutions that move both sides to the center, a strategy that is simply untenable when one side is so far out of reach.

It is clear that the center of gravity in the Republican Party has shifted sharply to the right. Its once-legendary moderate and center-right legislators in the House and the Senate — think Bob Michel, Mickey Edwards, John Danforth, Chuck Hagel — are virtually extinct...


Do go read the whole thing, then come back and let me know if you agree with IT; have the Republicans gone insane?

J.

Monday, February 13, 2012