Friday, December 29, 2006

Learning to love the questions


I am appreciating the deep and wide discussion going on over at "On Faith" about atheism. Though I was raised in a fairly religious family I attended a liberal arts college where expressions of faith were rare and most often viewed with concern. I miss the regular late night discussions full of passion, humor and dare I say love (agape).

Fortunately, I have been blessed with friends old and young, religious and not who also "love the questions" as the poet Rainer Rilke says in Letters to a Young Poet. I know that God is present in the midst of those discussions. At best the Episcopal Church is a community where people (those who are sure and those who are doubting) may find a place to discover the gifts of faith and community. Where the big and small questions are respected and truth is pursued with humbleness.

Here's what I had to say about Katharine Jefferts Schori's post at "On Faith".

Thank you Bishop Schori for articulating a strong yet respectful way of bridging the gap between believer and atheist. I am particularly grateful for this sentence,

"People of faith understand compassion to be rooted in God, but that understanding is not necessary to its expression in caring for one’s neighbor."

So often those who reject religious faith do so because of the hypocrisy and arrogance displayed by adherents. Rather than bashing nonbelievers, our focus as people of faith ought to be on being (and bringing) good news to the poor by living lives of compassionate service, justice and mercy. For too many the old hymn, "they will know we are Christians by our love" fails to describe nonbelievers experience of many Christians. As the Hebrew prophet Micah said of what the Lord requires "do justice, love kindness...walk humbly with your God." My close friends who question rigorously the existence of God are passionate about justice, are kind, gentle and humble in their living of the questions. May we Christians learn from all those (religious or not) who embody compassion.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Words & Witness in Bethlehem

While on a pilgrimage to the town where Jesus is believed to have been born, the Archbishop of Canterbury said some important words. For more on the wall the Archbishop is describing click here.

The Archbishop of Canterbury's Remarks at the International Peace Center in Bethlehem
Anglican Communion News Service
December 21, 2006

Your excellencies, dear brothers and sisters we are I think a little overwhelmed by the welcome that we have received here. And although we are used, we have visited here before to be welcomed with this generosity today has been exceptional.

We are indeed here to say to the people of Bethlehem they are not forgotten. We are here to say that what affects you affects us. We are here to say that your suffering is ours also - in prayer and in thought and in hope. We are here to say, in this so troubled, complex land, that justice and security is never something which one person claims at the expense of another or one community at the expense of another. We are here to say that security for one is security for all. For one to live under threat, whether of occupation, or of terror, is a problem for all, and a pain for all.

The wall which we walked through a little while ago is a sign not simply of a sign of a passing problem in the politics of one region; it is sign of some of the things that are most deeply wrong in the human heart itself. That terrible fear of the other and the stranger which keeps all of us in one another kind of prison.

In one of the hymns which we sing in English during the Advent season we sing about Jesus Christ as the One who comes the prison bars to break. And it is our prayer and our hope for all of you that the prison of poverty and disadvantage, and the prison of fear and anxiety will alike be broken. We are here on pilgrimage because we trust that 2000 years ago an event took place here which assured us that these prisons could be broken, broken by the act of a God in whose sight all are equally precious: Palestinian, Israeli, Jewish, Christian and Moslem. A God for whom all lives are so equally precious that the death of any one is an affront to all. That is why we are here.

We are not here to visit an ancient and interesting site. We are not here to visit a museum and we are not here to visit a theme park. We are here to visit a place and people whose very existence speaks of the freedom of God to set human beings free. That is a truth which remains day after day, year after year, millennium after millennium. It is that good news that has driven us here. It is that good news which has teaches us not to despair even in the terrible circumstances in which so many of you now live.

Thank you once again for what you have done to make us feel at home here. We who are now fellow citizens with you here in this place. Pray for us in the western world, for us in England, that our faith may be strengthened by yours. That you are a gift –- remember -- to us. Unlike the wise men who came from the East 2000 years ago, we not very wise men from the West have not come to pour out our gifts. We have come to receive the witness of your faith, your endurance and your hope. To receive the gifts of God from you. So pray for us. Pray that we may be strong. Pray that we may be loyal friends to you and to all the peoples of this land and we shall pray for you also.


For more on the Archbishop's visit click here.

-- Canon James M. Rosenthal is director of communication at the Anglican Communion Office in London, from which the Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS) is published. He wishes all a "Merry Christmas from Bethlehem."

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Sweet Christmas Music



There's been a lot of change in my life recently --- a new job, new city, new coast. So this Christmas, as something familiar, I'm playing an album that brought me joy and comfort at Christmas last year --- The McGarrigle Christmas Hour. My favorite is Rufus Wainwright's "Spotlight on Christmas" and his sister and mother's cover of Jackson Browne's "Rebel Jesus".

Here are the lyrics to Rufus' Christmas song:

People love the working man
Who does the best that he can
But don't forget all the horses and toys
Never could fix the poor little rich boys
People say they love the maid
Who sweats and toils just like a slave
But don't forget all the diamonds and pearls
Never could fix the poor little rich girls

You can measure it in blood
You can measure it in mud
Let us say for these twelve days
Put the measuring away

Cause it's Christmas
And the spotlight's shining on Christmas
And the spotlight's shining on us

People love and people hate
People go and people wait
But, don't forget Jesus, Mary, and Joseph
Once were a family poor but rich in hope, yeah
Don't forget Jesus, Mary, and Joseph
Running from the law, King Herod had imposeth
And they were each one quite odd
And mensch, a virgin, and a God
But don't forget that what kept them aflow
Floating through the desert doesnt take a boat no
Don't forget that what kept them above
Is unconditional love

And, you can measure it in blood
You can measure it in mud
Let us say for these twelve days
Put the measuring away

Cause it's Christmas
And the spotlight's shining on Christmas
And the spotlight's shining on us
And the spotlight's shining on Christmas
And the spotlight's shining on

People love the working man
Who does the best that he can
But, don't forget all the horses and toys
Never could fix the poor little rich boys

You can also watch Rufus singing this on YouTube.

Episcolypse Now

Jon Stewart mentioned the Episcopal Church recently on the Daily Show. Sad but funny. Check it out.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Peace is at the Heart of the Christmas Story


Jesse Jackson's inspiring Christmas message:

"What is Christmas about? It is about an oppressed people praying for a Messiah, a mighty warrior who would conquer their oppressors. He would come, they thought, assemble a great army and conquer the Roman legions. The expectation grew so high that even Herod grew uneasy. But when the Messiah came, he came as the prince of peace, not the marshal of war. He taught love and hope and charity, not violence and vengeance. He was the greatest liberator of them all, but he carried no arms, and provisioned no army. His army would transform the world, but it consisted of the legions of the faithful struggling to follow in his path."

Read the whole thing here.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

provocative voices of faith


Just listened to a wide-ranging discussion on NPR with Katharine Jefferts-Schori, the new presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. She's the first woman to hold that office. She started out as an oceanographer. Listen to her thoughts on science and faith and other contemporary challenges the church is facing.


While you are visiting NPR's website you can also listen to (or read) a wonderful Franciscan theologian and activist Richard Rohr. My Mennonite aunt has been sharing his books and articles with me for years. Rohr's written a lot of books on spirituality and has worked with the progressive Christian organization Sojourners.

If intersection of science and religion is your thing, you might appreciate exploring "A Catechism of Creation: An Episcopal Understanding" which was put together by the Episcopal Committee on Science, Technology and Faith. There are also wonderful programs on this topic at "Speaking of Faith".

Friday, December 15, 2006

speak ye peace, thus saith our God

Advent is a season in the church year that is full of amazing hymns --- the one that is feeding my journey the most this year is "Comfort, comfort ye my people". I'd love to hear a version with drums and flutes (perhaps Sufjan Stevens could do a version) but you can get a sense of it at this link.

Comfort, comfort ye my people,
speak ye peace, thus saith our God;
comfort those who sit in darkness,
mourning 'neath their sorrow's load;
speak ye to Jerusalem

of the peace that waits for them;
tell her that her sins I cover,
and her warfare now is over.

For the herald's voice is crying
in the desert far and near,
bidding all men to repentance,
since the kingdom now is here.
O that warning cry obey!
Now prepare for God a way!
Let the valleys rise to meet him,
and the hills bow down to greet him.

Make ye straight what long was crooked,
make the rougher places plain:
let your hearts be true and humble,
as befits his holy reign,
For the glory of the Lord
now o'er the earth is shed abroad,
and all flesh shall see the token
that his word is never broken.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Tings Dey Happen


Just returned from an amazing one-man play about Nigerian oil politics written and performed by Fulbright scholar Dan Hoyle. Hoyle’s girlfriend Lyra, with whom I am working on a young adult project, invited me to attend a preview at the Marsh Theater in the Mission. “Tings Dey Happen” is an ambitious play that transports the audience to Nigeria, where one meets an array of international characters ---- warlords, oil company workers, ambassadors, and activists. The haunting and delightful stories Hoyle tells “stay with you after you leave the theater.”

The play has gotten me interested in learning more about the situation in Nigeria, especially since a few Episcopal congregations in the United States are attempting to link up with the Diocese of Nigeria. The former Rector of Truro Church, The Reverend Martyn Minns worked for Mobil Oil prior to becoming a priest. Mobil began its work in Nigeria in the late 1950's. Nigeria has a horrible human rights record and Martyn Minns (now a Bishop in the Church of Nigeria) claims to be close friends with Archbishop Peter Akinola who is purported to support a bill that would jail gay people. What exactly is going on? I'm no Fulbright scholar but I've got a lot of questions.

Martyr in Honduras

Brian McLaren recently posted a troubling story about Dionisio Diaz, a "lawyer for the poor" who was murdered last Monday, December 4. Please read the Association for a More Just Society press release and share this information with others.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Our Lady & Revolution Church


I woke up early this morning (4:00 a.m.) to attend a packed service to celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe complete with a mariachi band at a Catholic Church just down the street from my new friend Sara's house. When I got home I turned on my computer to read the news and check out some of my favorite blogs. I think it was at God's Politics that I saw an ad for a new television show called "One Punk Under God" on the Sundance Channel. The show sounds pretty interesting, a documentary series about Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's son and the church he started that meets in a bar. You can watch a story about this from MTV news here.

These two widely different examples of contemporary Christianity remind me how immensely diverse and complex this faith really is --- so often the image of Christianity portrayed in the media is monolithic yet mornings like this one give me such hope, inspiration and excitement.

UPDATE: Also on my morning check through the news, blogs and websites I ran across a story about the wonderful Guadalupe Art Program which seeks to empower young Latinas at St. Paul's Cathedral in the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego, read all about it here.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Also Arrested

On Thursday, Father Louis Vitale, OFM was arrested along side Quakers, Episcopalians (myself included). I first met Father Vitale when I was doing my three months of chaplaincy during seminary at St. Francis Hospital in San Francisco. Father Vitale has embodied the Franciscan way of life through practicing solidarity with the poor and nonviolence for many years. Father Vitale has participated in direct action at the School of the Americas and helped open the doors of his parish in the Tenderloin to the homeless. Please read more about this inspiring man of faith here and here.

Also, if you are looking for more information about Christian nonviolence please read this excellent article by Christian theologian Walter Wink. Also helpful resources can be found here.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Episcopal bishop arrested in protest over war in Iraq


Northern California's Episcopalian leader, the newly elected Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus, was arrested Thursday afternoon for blocking the front door of the San Francisco federal building to protest the Iraq war.

Andrus, carrying a shepherd's staff and singing "Down by the Riverside,'' was among about 200 protesters who had marched from Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill to join the weekly anti-war rally on Golden Gate Avenue near City Hall.

Read the whole from San Francisco Chronicle story here.

More photos available here.

A great interview and story is available from the Episcopal News Service here.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

being peacemakers

Diana Butler Bass has been at it again --- bringing faith, reason, and compassion to the complex issues of our time. Author of Christianity for the Rest of Us, Bass recently posted a profound statement of solidarity with Lisa Jensen, the peace wreath trouble-maker in Colorado on the God's Politics blog. Just today, Bass participated in a live discussion at washingtonpost.com on current challenges within the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion. (Definately, read the transcript here.)

As I prepare for tomorrow's witness for peace and rememberance of all who have died in Iraq, I am grateful to be part of a tradition that seeks to embody reconciliation. The Diocese of California's new Bishop Marc Andrus (a "progressive pilgrim" Diana might say) at the last convention received a standing ovation when he said the following,
"The other area I need to mention regards being peacemakers. The writer, Arundhati Roy, who wrote the beautifully crafted novel, The God of Small Things, is also a political essayist of great incisiveness. She has commented that the non-violent movement today is paralyzed in a crisis of how to move forward when the great political leaders of the world powers have learned that they can ignore and sideline mass non-violent protest effectively.

I believe she is correct in this assessment, and I feel a frustration that I think she shares, bordering on desperation, as I look at the reality of the war in Iraq, which I strongly oppose. I want you to know that I will be looking for ways, as the bishop of this diocese, and as an individual Christian, to oppose this war in more effective non-violent ways. It is only fair that you know this." (read the whole thing here)

For more information on tomorrow's (Thursday's) event please click here. If you are far away from the Bay Area please join us by praying for all those who have died and for peace.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Walking With Others in the Path of Peace

Eucharist in Remembrance of All the Dead in Iraq

December 7th, San Francisco Federal Building, 450 Golden Gate Avenue

Join Bishop Marc and members of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, and other peaceful people of faith as we commemorate all who have died as a result of U.S. led hostilities in Iraq. A procession will leave Grace Cathedral at 12:30 p.m., and the Eucharist will begin at 1:00. The Holy Communion portion of the service will be held in front of the Federal Building's main entrance as an act of civil disobedience. Watch EpiscopalBayArea.org for more information, or contact Sean McConnell at seanm@diocal.org. There are amply opportunities to participate without risking arrest.

Reign of Christ

Here's my homily from Sunday on John 18:33-37 - link to NRSV text

Today we are asked to consider our allegiance. Every Sunday Christians in a sense say a collective "Pledge of Allegiance." On this Sunday, Christ the King or Reign of Christ Sunday, our church calendar compels us to look at the strangeness, the vulnerability, in some ways embarrassing contrast between our leader and the leaders of worldly empires. Like a flashing billboard, our Gospel lesson declares Jesus to be no ordinary ruler, king or politician.

A week before we enter Advent, a season in which Christians consider the triumphal coming of Christ at the great end of all and a month before Christmas when we consider Jesus' birth, we are reminded about the strange, disturbing relationship Jesus has to imperial power.

The author of today's gospel lesson shines a light on a rather disturbing place, the trial of Jesus. The trial is presided over by Pilate, a Roman governor. Pilate has come to Jerusalem to maintain order during Passover --- a Jewish celebration of God's subversion of Imperial Power and of God's leading a group of slaves out of bondage in Egypt right under the nose of Pharaoh. Pilate came there to make clear who was boss, to smack down any thing that smelled of rebellion, anything that threatened the power of Rome.

Scholars tell us that Jesus was likely one of many, many others who were brought before the authorities and accused of rebellion. The author of the gospel of John focuses our attention on the tremendous contrast between the supposedly mighty Pontius Pilate with his weapons and armies and the truly mighty Jesus standing alone in shackles. As we read this text, we are in on a secret. We know that Jesus is the Savior, we know that Jesus is the true King, ruler, governor and that Pilate is a fraud. Throughout this scene, I find myself wanting Jesus to breakout of his chains and to put Pilate in his place --- to violently stand up for himself, I want the disciples to come flying in like Batman or Superman, or Terminator, or like a special forces unit of the military --- taking Pilate hostage and making Jesus King. This would be the Kingdom of God by coup d'etat. Perhaps I have been too saturated by violent video games and movies to appreciate the powerful witness of Jesus. Jesus is no typical action hero --- Jesus is our nonviolent savior.

Today's gospel reveals that Jesus is no ordinary ruler, king or politician --- Jesus instead of confronting violence with violence --- Jesus says "'My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.' The Kingdom, the reign, the realm that Jesus proclaims is not dependent on armies, weapons, despots and shackles. Jesus' followers are not taking up arms (although they certainly , thought about it and Peter tried to fight back but Jesus insisted that he stop). No, Jesus has taught his disciples nonviolence, and he stands before Pilate --- with nothing but words --- he comes to testify to the truth.

One stares restlessly at this lesson, we read and wonder what might this passage say to us, how might this text in form us about our own relationship to imperial power or to violence? How are we called upon to testify to the truth? How are we to follow Jesus our King, how are we to proclaim our allegiance to the reign of God, to the kingdom that is not of this world?

A few months ago, I attended an interfaith religious gathering in Washington, DC, a demonstration calling for an end to the war in Iraq. I agonized over whether to risk arrest. Though I chose to stand witness as others were carried away in shackles including a woman in her 70's who I knew had a sick relative at home --- I left that religious gathering against the war more appreciative of the alternative realm, reign that we Christians seek, that we pledge our allegiance to ---

As Father John Dear, a Jesuit priest and peace activist writes,
I pledge allegiance to God's reign of perfect peace, nonviolent love and equal justice for everyone, including the children of Iraq.

Or as two Mennonites June Alliman Yoder and J. Nelson Kraybill pledge:

I pledge allegiance to Jesus Christ,
And to God's kingdom for which he died—
One Spirit-led people the world over, indivisible,
With love and justice for all.

As the Episcopal Diocese of California stands, with our courageous Bishop and others of faith in a few weeks in front the Federal Building, may we proclaim, even as we may be led away in shackles --- our allegiance to the nonviolent reign of Christ.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Left Coast Faith


Somehow growing up on the east coast I was taught that folks on the left coast (especially in the Bay area) were all anti-religious secularists. I'm finding that this is far from the truth. Yes, there are many people who have been deeply wounded by some religious institutions and are still nursing those wounds by staying as far from churches as possible (who can blame them) yet there are also folks who are finding hope, healing and transformation in faith communities some for the first time, some after some time away from organized religion. Since moving to San Francisco a month ago, I've met numerous people of faith both inside and outside the church living profoundly beautiful lives of compassionate service, community building, and rooted witnessing for a more just and peaceful world. As this blog continues on the other side of the country from where it was started I'll try to highlight people and places that give me hope for the journey and that seek to in some way embody the way of Jesus in our time.

In just a minute I'm leaving for Eucharist at San Damiano Friary - a tiny community offering a whole lot of love to this city in numerous ways such as the S.F. Night Ministry. This morning, I shared a meal with a whole bunch of religious folks (Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and many others) at the annual Interfaith Prayer Breakfast. St. Francis of Assisi I'm sure was pleased to see the religious people of his city coming together to celebrate organizations that are seeking to offer at-risk youth and children alternatives to violence.

Shalom!

Thoughtful Sermon


My new friend The Reverend John Kirkley, President of Oasis, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of California has written a thoughtful sermon in which he comments on the recent sex and drugs scandal involving prominent evangelical mega-church pastor, Ted Haggard.

One of the things that bothers me the most about this scandal are the silent victims. Those numerous people, who have been influenced by the evangelical movements anti-gay culture, some who may have attempted the tragic and deeply problematic therapies to alter their sexual orientation, such as those advocated by Exodus International. Hopefully good may come out of this tragedy --- as people like Tony Campolo and Brian McLaren have suggested.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Yippee!!!

I am so thrilled about the Episcopal Church's new leader, the Right Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori. Check out the www.episcopalchurch.org for more on this profound spiritual leader, the media is also covering this story in a variety of ways. If you have a minute check out Desmond Tutu's response to Bishop Schori's election at the Trinity Wall Street website.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

God is still weaving

Below is my final sermon at St. John's Episcopal Church in McLean, Virginia. I have just started a new job at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, California. I have not had a chance to edit this sermon yet --- so please forgive any spelling mistakes or poor grammar. After a fantastic drive across the country with a dear friend from Seattle and a week of searching for affordable housing in a new city, I have begun my first days at Grace, a large, dynamic and beautiful Episcopal Chrstian community. Later this week I'll move into an apartment in the Mission District but have been staying at an inspiring Episcopal/Anglican Franciscan Friary called San Damiano's since I arrived October 15.



Sermon on Mark 10:2-16
Sunday, October 8, 2006

"What God has joined together let no one separate."

Whatever relationships we are part of --- whether are we are married, divorced, widowed, partnered or single Christians are called to be a people joined together, forgivers of one another --- people who know that our true identity is in God. We Christians are called to recognize that nothing separates us from the love of God. We may be parted from one another by continents and oceans, we may be parted by political differences, we may be kept apart by different emphasis, beliefs and practices, we may be parted by death, or we may even be divorced --- however ultimately nothing can separate us because we are all drawn, knitted, woven together by the same God. Last week’s moving forgiving witness of the Amish families whose daughters were horrifically slaughtered --- remind us all that our Christian call is one of radical forgiveness. The Amish embrace and forgiveness of the killers family --- remind us of the radical forgiveness we have received through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. God joins us together --- sometimes most often in suffering and pain --- and we must not allow our selves to be separated --- we are all being drawn, knit, woven together.

Before I begin to focus on today’s Gospel lesson --- it is important I think for you to know that I am a child of divorced parents and I believe and have believed since that time that somehow God’s hand was in this. When my parents were going through their separation and divorce --- I remember people at our church coming up to me and expressing well-meaning sympathy but at times it felt rather condescending “you poor thing” because for me the divorce offered us all an invitation to something new and hopeful provided room perhaps someday for forgiveness and healing. Even though the marriage was formally over --- ultimately God was still knitting, weaving us all together despite and perhaps as part of the divorce. Each member of our family through the divorce was not just being tied, reconciled to each other but we were being drawn, woven together into God’s wider family.

A gay couple for a number of reasons are leaving the state of Virginia, one of the factors in their decision to leave is that their commitment to one another is given little or no protection or recognition by Virginia law or by their faith community. One of the reasons they have chosen to move is so that they may live in a state and a community where they will be able to find recognition, support, and affirmation for their commitment to one another. I heard recently how difficult this move is for their parents --- especially their mothers, yet despite her own pain and sorrow over her sons move, without the prompting of her son, one of the mothers recently sent an email to the other --- expressing her support for the couple’s commitment --- saying to the other mother “please consider yourself part of our family now.” God is still weaving.

I’m not certain that God’s good news for us today is really about divorce or marriage --- I think that this passage of scripture is about God. About God as knitter, and weaver --- God who draws, ties, knits people together in relationships of trust, fidelity, wholeness and integrity.

If we consider the context of what Jesus is saying – and look closely at what Jesus says and does not say --- we may find that we are all drawn more deeply into the holiness of God and together in reconciliation with each other.

Now, this section of Mark's gospel is part of a longer section --- where Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. Along the way Jesus is being asked a lot of questions --- he is being tested --- particularly by the Pharisees --- who seem to always be in search of a way to trap Jesus --- to control Jesus and are bound and determined to use lines from the Bible to divide and conquer. Yet as seems to be typical of Jesus --- Jesus says a strong NO when the Bible is used by people to divide or separate. Note that when the Pharisees ask Jesus about divorce they do not ask if it is lawful for a woman to divorce her husband--- because according to the law it is not lawful. According to the Hebrew Bible all a husband has to do to divorce his wife is hand her a note, a slip of paper --- a receipt of sorts. Unfortunately, a woman was not given an equal escape route from an unhappy marriage. Some Biblical scholars suggest that Jesus knew this was the case --- and is one of the reasons he does not seem to support the Pharisees defense of divorce -- it is an unfair, imbalanced, unjust system. Since Jesus had women disciples and seems to have broken a number of gender taboos --- Jesus may have been attempting to protect women from exploitation and abandonment. In fact, Jesus says in our passage today that rather than men being above and superior to women --- Jesus says in this passage men and women leave their families to become one flesh. Some Christian Biblical scholars suggest that Jesus is making an argument for gender equality in a time when this was very difficult to imagine or hear. God is still weaving.

So Jesus ignores the specific question about the lawfulness of divorce --- Jesus instead pushes the Pharisees and us back further into the history of God's actions. Jesus pushes us back to the beginning --- he reminds us that God is the creator of all --- and that God is the one who joins people together. Jesus clearly does not favor divorce that leaves women vulnerable to exploitation. In today’s gospel Jesus seems to be frustrated by the desire of the Pharisees to get into a technical argument using the Bible to divide people rather Jesus instead wants to lift up the value of God’s actions in human relationships – so Jesus says strongly therefore what God has joined together let no one separate.

Now --- how were God's actions experienced in Biblical times --- well it would be very different than what we experience. In Jesus' time it was common for families to choose a persons spouse --- individuals had little say on who they married and who they would not marry. Marriage was a significant event in which not just two people are joined together but two families are joined together. As I was preparing for this sermon I was encouraged to pick up a book at the library --- it is called "marriage, a history" in this book you learn of the long history --- really the evolution of marriage throughout human history --- and Christian marriage is certainly not immune from change --- one only needs to look at the political marriages of Europe or the polygamous marriages of some Mormon sects and even Anglicans in parts of Africa today to know that what Christians claim to be true marriage has changed over time. The author of “Marriage, a history” reveals just how little over the years romantic love has had to do with marriage until our contemporary context. Yet God was still weaving.

In Jesus’ day God acted through family members to join people together -- at least that is how it was experienced. Here’s what theologian William Countryman says about marriage in Jesus’ time --- “In the ancient Mediterranean world, women were the property of their fathers. The father was the embodiment of the family; he was not functioning like a modern individual in this role. And his daughters belonged to him, as head of the family. He could given them away in marriage in exchange for desirable family connections, specific commitments, or other goods. At that point, the woman became the property of her husband as a sort of quasi-member of his family. She didn’t truly become a part of that family until her husband died and her son succeeded as head of the household. She was then part of her son’s family. But if she were divorced before that, she was sent back to her family of origin, while her children stayed with their father. They were his offspring, who existed for the benefit of his family.”

So a wedding, a marriage in Jesus’ time was not just for the couple but really more for everyone else --- the family members of the couple and perhaps in many ways today this is still the case. With the gay couple I mentioned earlier --- God is active --- drawing the two together --- and the mother’s support for their commitment and the extension of family ties “please consider yourself part of our family now” reminds us that despite our living thousands of years later, and continents apart in very different contexts--- God continues to draw people together.
In many ways --- as the statement goes God is still speaking --- I’d say that today we are reminded that God is still weaving, God is still knitting people together.

Interestingly the root of the word religion --- is related to the latin word for tie or fasten together. In our prayer book we read that the mission of the church is to reconcile, to draw people together with God and each other. So the words of Jesus “therefore what God has joined together let know one separate” focuses us on God and God’s involvement, God’s drawing together, weaving, fastening human relationships.

Which is one reason why the agony and pain that our culture is going through over gay marriage is so difficult because it is about something very deep and real --- who God joins together. Yet perhaps our focus on the individuals is misplaced --- perhaps our focus when it comes to marriage for anyone should really be on community and extended family -- on mothers who send emails, on fathers who embrace and forgive strangers. Perhaps our culture has become far too obsessed with couples and not concerned enough with community --- with life beyond the marriage of two individuals. There have been times in Christian history when theologians and ministers have warned couples not to love one another too much --- out of fear that they might make an idol out of one another. The poet Rainer Rilke says that lovers must be guardians of the solitude of their partner --- somehow there must be space between them --- space for God, space for growth --- space for change. Perhaps --- our culture may at times love marriage too much --- and in so doing --- make marriage an idol rather than a source of life, hope and community. So God knits us together --- God joins people to one another -- but leaves space --- space for our growth, space for change.

If this were any other sermon --- I might stop right there but God is still knitting and weaving. As many of you know today is my last Sunday at St. John’s Church --- I have been called to serve as Associate Pastor for Outreach, Youth and Young Adults at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. While I am sad that I will be leaving you --- leaving a profound community that knows that God is still weaving and is part of that experience --- a community that is welcoming, connecting, offering hope, community, and healing --- I know that we are drawn together, woven together and that God has joined us together tightly for these two years and is now connecting us with the wider body of Christ through this call to the other side of the continent. I carry with me joy, excitement, and inspiration from my time in this dynamic, creative and gifted sanctuary. I will never forget you --- and the lessons you have taught me. Nor is our journey together over. I know we still have much we can learn from each other, and I hope many of you will visit me in San Francisco. The doors of Grace Cathedral will always be open to you.

My prayer for you is that you will continue to be who you are --- an embassy of God’s Kingdom -- where the abundant gifts God has given you are freely and generously shared for the manifesting of true hope, community, love and peace--- the Good News that God is still weaving us all together in one great tapestry of love.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

quests to live in faith-filled grace

The scandal involving a Republican congressman and underage pages is deeply troubling. Both Diana Butler Bass and Jim Wallis over at the God's Politics Blog challenge us to respond faithfully and to think deeply about what is at the heart of this tragedy. The Religious Right has blamed these sad events on Congressman Foley's homosexuality (although he did not acknowledge this openly until recently). Gay activists blame this mess on the fact that Foley was closeted, others blame this on the fact that he was a gay Republican. Bass in her reflection strives to draw us all into a thoughtful and compassionate place.

In particular I'd like to draw attention to these two paragraphs from Diana's reflection,

Making sexuality a political issue, as much of the Religious Right has done, distracts from a host of other issues, such as poverty, war, and environmental concerns. But it also obscures the fact that Christians agree (as my friend and I do) on many things regarding this intimate part of our lives. We agree that sexuality is a gift from God,that love and commitment are foundational to sexual expression, that marriage is the best vessel for human sexuality, and that authenticity, honesty, fidelity, and mutual regard form the basis of Christian sexual relationships. Sex is, theologically, an ultimate expression of self-giving and surrender, qualities that resemble those in Christian spirituality. As the medieval mystics taught, humanity sexuality is a metaphor for our relationship with God.

We also know, as the Christian tradition teaches, that all of this is hard. Sexuality is difficult because it is potentially holy and potentially sinful at the same time. In the midst of this powerful mystery, we are merely human. And none of these things honesty, holiness, fidelity, or mutual regard—come easily to us. Thus, to politicize sexuality divides us at the very point at which we are united—our shared human nature and our shared quests to live in faith-filled grace.

Read more from Diana Butler Bass here.

One new book that I have been meaning to read is "Religion Gone Bad" by Mel White, the founder of Soulforce on the abuse of religion by the Religious Right. The Reverend Mel White used to be a speech writer for Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, he is now a gay rights activist.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Tutu on gay priests

According to the Associated Press, Desmond Tutu has some strong words for the Anglican Church:

"In a 1998 letter to Williams predecessor, Archbishop George Carey, Tutu wrote that he was "ashamed to be Anglican." It came after the Lambeth Conference of Bishops rejected the ordination of practicing homosexuals saying their sexual relations were "incompatible with scripture."

Tutu also said he was deeply saddened at the furor caused by the appointment of openly gay V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003. "He found it little short of outrageous that church leaders should be obsessed with issues of sexuality in the face of the challenges of AIDS and global poverty," wrote Allen. "


You can read the whole story here.
I am so grateful for Desmond Tutu's courageous voice on behalf of all.

Christianity for the Rest of Us


I have just started a new book, Christianity for the Rest of Us by author and scholar Diana Butler Bass. Diana's book offers hope to neighborhood churches everywhere and points the way toward healthy, vibrant, faithful Christian community. As a young adult, I yearn for a Christianity that is rooted in tradition, yet filled with the Spirit of the living God --- a Christianity that is aware and responsive to the needs, concerns and hopes of this aching planet. Diana shares real stories from real churches all around the country seeking to live the gospel way of life --- feeding, forgiving, healing, reconciling and transforming.

For three years Diana studied centrist and progressive churches and discovered many that are "flourishing, and they are doing so without resorting to mimicking the mega-church, evangelical style." Paraphrasing one commentator, it may just be that the church so many are yearning for is just around the corner. God grants us wisdom and courage through the words of this fellow pilgrim. Here's a glimpse inside Diana's book,

"On my journey, I traveled with those who are more comfortable in the wilderness, people who were willing to explore the new terrain around them. Yet they did not travel alone. I found that in the breakdown of old villages, Christians are forming a different sort of village in congregations cross the country. Not spiritual gated communities or protected rural villages. Rather, their new kind of village is a pilgrim community embarked on a journey of rediscovering Christianity, where people can forge new faith ties in a frightening and fragmented world. For those I met, change was not always easy, and their churches were not perfect. But they embodied courage, creativity, and imagination. And risk. In reaching toward a new kind of Christianity (which is, as I hope will become obvious, actually an old kind of Christianity), they serve as a living guidebook for spiritual nomads who are seeking to find wisdom's way." Christianity for the Rest of Us, pg. 25

Monday, September 25, 2006

Methodists Against the War

In case one needed yet another reason to stand against the war in Iraq, yesterday's story about the Iraq War increasing global terrorism ought to help.

Here's an inspiring story about our Methodist brothers and sisters. I will be joining other Christians and people of faith tomorrow in a peace procession, come along.

Published on Monday, September 25, 2006 by Ekklesia / UK
Bush's Church Urges Pull-out of US Troops from Iraq
by Peter Spiegel
http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/0925-07.htm

Methodists protest Iraq war
ReligionAndSpirituality.com
http://declarationofpeace.org/published/methodists-protest-iraq-war

WASHINGTON, September 22 (UPI) United Methodist Church leaders have helped launch a week of protest and civil disobedience against the war in Iraq.

The Declaration of Peace, signed Thursday, is described as a call for nonviolent action to end the war in Iraq, United Methodist News Service reported Friday. The Washington event was one of 350 that will be staged nationwide to promote the peace initiative. The declaration calls for people to “engage in peaceful protests” if there is not a plan for troop withdrawal established and begun by Sept. 21, days before Congress adjourns for the fall elections.

More than 500 groups, almost half of them faith organizations, are involved in the declaration of peace effort, which recently retired Bishop Susan Morrison said includes “acts of moral witness to seek a new course for our country.”

By signing the peace document in front of the White House, the United Methodists and other protesters hoped not only to make a statement but also to influence congressional races in November by forcing candidates to outline where they stand on the war.

Speakers at the Washington rally, which drew about 100 people to Lafayette Square, castigated Bush, accusing him of lying about Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction and launching what they called an illegal offensive.

“Our demand as a movement is to end the war now,” said Morrison, recently retired episcopal leader of the Troy Annual (regional) Conference.

The declaration calls the situation in Iraq “the U.S. war in Iraq” and describes it as “an endless fire consuming lives, resources and the fragile possibilities of peace.”

Thirty-four protesters, attempting to deliver the peace statement to Bush in an act of civil disobedience, were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. None of the United Methodist protesters participated in that portion of the day’s activity.

The Declaration of Peace initiative provides a way for the faithful to vent their anger about Iraq, Morrison said. “There are a lot of frustrated United Methodists out there who don’t know where to channel it,” she said.

United Methodist clergywomen attending the recent 2006 International Clergywomen’s Consultation in Chicago signed the declaration to “call to end this war” and made a commitment to take action to translate the call into a concrete plan for peace.

Jim Winkler, top executive of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, said that protesting the war is similar to the church’s work to promote other social movements. The church took prophetic positions on civil rights, women’s rights and nuclear disarmament before Congress acted, he noted.

“It has taken time for Congress to catch up,” Winkler said. “We may be seeing another example of that.”

Staff members of the denomination’s social advocacy agency have been meeting with congressional staff members on a weekly basis regarding policy toward Iraq. Political leaders on Capitol Hill have been divided on the Bush administration’s policy, with some calling for a timetable for withdrawal and others urging a staying of the course.

“You see more and more Republicans who are uncomfortable with the position of ‘stay the course,’” said Mark Harrison, director of the board’s Peace with Justice program.
But the White House asserts that Iraq would collapse if U.S. troops leave prematurely, potentially leading to a full-blown civil war.

United Methodist leaders argue that the long insurgency in Iraq, which has resulted in the deaths of thousands Americans and Iraqis, is proof that U.S. involvement is misguided.
“Iraq is in a civil war right now because we’re there,” Winkler said.

Morrison agreed. “We just exacerbate what’s going on.” She disputed critics who say that war protesters undermine U.S. troops and sap their morale.

“We care deeply about the troops,” she said. “We’re proud of their commitment. We want them safe. We want them home.”

Within individual United Methodist congregations, however, members may not agree with the way the anti-war movement is articulating its opposition.

Differences of opinion must be respected, said the Rev. Dean Snyder, senior minister of Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington. Such divisions have come up throughout Christian history.

“It’s part of our discernment process of truth,” he said. “But that does not change the fact that church leaders are put in positions of prophetic responsibility.”

Friday, September 22, 2006

Progressive Evangelicals

I've been commenting occassionally on the God's Politics Blog, an exciting new blog for Christians to discuss faith and politics led by Jim Wallis and Sojourners. Wallis and Sojourners are doing so much to help end the monologue of the religious right. Here's my latest comment with links to more information. You can watch the segment on YouTube.

I am so grateful that Jim Wallis and Sojourners are getting wider exposure. The segment on the CBS Evening News last night was just that, a segment. I thought Jim sounded strong and inviting. Let's make sure that this kind of coverage of evangelical progressives continues -- and that more progressive Christian voices are amplified in the press such as Diana Butler Bass, Shane Claiborne, Brian McLaren, Alan Jones, Michael Battle, Sister Helen Prejean, Desmond Tutu and Ched Myers.

For the monologue to be over -- we all need to speak up online, in our churches, and in our communities. There are many people especially in rural America (I was born and raised in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia) who don't realize that there are progressive evangelical Christians. So even short segments in the media like the one last night make a difference.

There have been progressive Christians throughout history --- St. Francis of Assisi was hardly a hard-hearted conservative, nor was Dorothy Day in the 20th century. St. Francis was a pacifist who refused to support the crusades and went on a peace mission to meet with the "enemy." Dorothy Day was a strong supporter of worker rights and critic of the military industrial complex. Both were sincere Christians who believed in the Bible, in the creeds, and believed that Jesus wanted followers of his way of life not just worshippers.

Also Democrats have spoken about their faith and how it shapes public policy for a long time. Robert F. Kennedy was very articulate about how faith called us to care for the least of these. FDR's New Deal was organized by people of faith like Episcopalian Frances Perkins, also the first woman on a president's cabinet. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright recently spoke about her faith at Virginia Theological Seminary and has written a book about faith and politics. We progressive Christians need to remember our history and our heros -- the Saints of God who have spoken out in every generation for justice, peace and human dignity.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Church Targeted for Anti-War Sermon


All Saints, a progressive Christian Church in Pasadena, California is continuing to be a target of the IRS for a sermon that challenged the President about the war in Iraq. Throughout the Bible the people of God are called to resist Empire and to endure the consequences for doing so. I am grateful for the witness of All Saint's, lets keep them in our prayers and hope that more faith communities will risk speaking the truth in love.

Here's how one story in the LA Times describes last Sunday's sermon by the Reverend Ed Bacon,

Bacon told the congregation that, although he recognized that the church could not endorse or oppose a political candidate, neither could it remain silent in the face of "dehumanization, injustice and violence." "History is shamefully littered with the moral bankruptcy of people who were Christian in name but not behavior," Bacon said, citing indifference by some Christians to slavery and the Holocaust. "Neutrality and silence in the face of oppression always aids the oppressor," he said. When he was done, Bacon received a minutelong standing ovation.


Saturday, September 16, 2006

future church with ancient faith

My good friend Mary tonight told me a little bit about visiting Church of the Apostles, a faith community in Seattle that is part of the new monastic movement. Here's a bit from the community's website:

CHURCH OF THE APOSTLES is a future church with an ancient faith... in the story of jesus, we have glimpsed god's future and know that "thiscouldchangeeverything." so our purpose is to helpgodchangeeverything, by participating in god's future within today's culture and our local zipcode, in intentional community around jesus christ. the future is not something we manufacture, and community is not something we can coerce you into, but both are works of the spirit to which god calls you. so as god calls you, we welcome you to join us in helpinggodchangeeverything and exploring god's future among friends.

Check out more here & in an article in the Seattle Times here.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

War Crimes & Crimes Against Humanity

The Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration released its final verdict yesterday. Read more about this here.

Read the verdict here.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Desmond Tutu should be on T.V. all the time

I have been wondering for a long time why people like Desmond Tutu aren't given prime-time television shows. There should be a whole television network dedicated to the spiritual pursuit of global peace and justice. In the meantime, please read the following by Desmond Tutu on the global arms trade.

The Modern Successor to the Slave Trade
No longer should the peace business be undermined by the arms business
by Desmond Tutu
Independent/UK

For many years, I've been involved in the peace business, doing what I can to help people overcome their differences. In doing so, I've also learnt a lot about the business of war: the arms trade. In my opinion it is the modern slave trade. It is an industry out of control: every day more than 1,000 people are killed by conventional weapons. The vast majority of those people are innocent men, women and children.
Continue reading this article by clicking here.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Gandhi and 9-11

According to Tobias Winright, an ethics teacher in St. Louis,
"On Sept. 11 Americans will remember the fifth anniversary of the nightmarish terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Probably unbeknownst to many, however, is that Sept. 11 also marks, according to the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, the 100th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi's first public act of civil disobedience." Read more of this article here.

Walter Wink has been writing for a long time about the nonviolence of Jesus.

There's a strong piece on terrorism and nonviolence here.

Click here for more on M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Moving Music


I'm getting really into the music of Sufjan Stevens --- not only does this guy's music weave in spiritual themes, his soft voice and ecclectic instruments give one the feeling of being embraced. Sojourner's Magazine recently did a story about the rising movement of "post-punk, justice-seeking, Jesus-following musicians" of which Sufjan Stevens is considered part. Tikkun has a review of Sufjan's work, here.

For a taste of Sufjan Stevens sound, please check out a tribute piece that he did and that was featured on NPR.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Read Ray McGovern

Ever since yesterday's speech by President Bush on secret prisons and torture I have been waiting eagerly for a response from a teacher and friend of mine, Ray McGovern. Ray is a sincere Christian and a former CIA analyst. Ray's voice is one that America needs to be listening to, please read his strong words below.

The Torturer's Apprentice
By Ray McGovern
TomPaine.com

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer, then a CIA analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.


Addressing the use of torture Wednesday, President George W. Bush played to the baser instincts of Americans as he strained to turn his violation of national and international law into Exhibit A on how “tough” he is on terrorists. His tour de force brought to mind the charge the Athenians leveled at Socrates—making the worse case appear the better. Bush’s remarks made it abundantly clear, though, that he is not about to take the hemlock.

As the fifth anniversary of 9/11 approaches and with the midterm elections just two months away, the president's speechwriters succeeded in making a silk purse out of the sow’s ear of torture. The artful offensive will succeed if—but only if—the mainstream media is as cowed, and the American people as dumb, as the president thinks they are. Arguably a war criminal under international law and a capital-crime felon under U.S. criminal law, Bush’s legal jeopardy is even clearer than when he went AWOL during the Vietnam War. And this time, his father will not be able to fix it.

Bush in jeopardy? Yes. The issue is torture, which George W. Bush authorized in a Feb. 7, 2002, memorandum in contravention both of the Geneva Accords and 18 U.S. Code 2441, the War Crimes Act that incorporates the Geneva provisions into the federal criminal code which was approved by a Republican-led Congress in 1996. Heeding the advice of Vice President Dick Cheney’s counsel, David Addington, then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, the president officially opened the door to torture in that memorandum. His remarks yesterday reflect the determination of Cheney and Bush to keep that door open and accuse those who would close it of being "soft on terrorists."

The administration released that damning memorandum in the spring of 2004 after the photos of torture at Abu Graib were published. It provided the basis for talking points that the president wanted “humane” treatment for captured al-Qaida and Taliban individuals. And—surprise, surprise— mainstream journalists like those of The New York Times swallowed the bait, clinging safely to the talking points and missing altogether Bush’s remarkable claim that “military necessity” trumps humane treatment. That assertion, over the president’s signature, provided the gaping loophole through which Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and then-CIA Director George Tenet drove the Mack truck of officially sanctioned torture.
Using the arguments adduced by the Addington/Gonzales/Bybee team, Bush’s 2002 memo made the point that the bedrock provision of Geneva—common Article 3—does not apply to al-Qaida or Taliban detainees, but that the U.S. would “continue to treat detainees humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity , in a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva.” (Emphasis added.)

Sounding very much like Mafia lawyers, the president’s legal troika felt it necessary to warn him that playing fast and loose with the U.S. War Crimes Act (Section 2441) could conceivably come back to haunt him. The bizarre passage that follows is the best they could offer in terms of reassurance:

It is difficult to predict the motives of prosecutors and independent counsels who may in the future decide to pursue unwarranted charges based on Section 2441. Your determination would create a reasonable basis in law that Section 2441 does not apply, which would provide a solid defense to any future prosecution.

While the imaginative lawyering of Addington (now Cheney’s chief of staff), Gonzales (now Attorney General), and Bybee (now a federal judge) may have qualified for a presidential “heck-of-a-job” at the time, Bush is learning the hard way that, while sycophants are fun to have around, they can do a president in. Between the lines of Bush’s rhetoric yesterday lies belated acknowledgement that his decision to condone the torture of al-Qaida and Taliban captives is now back to haunt him—big time.

The Supreme Court decision on Hamdam v. Rumsfeld , announced on June 29, 2006, stripped the president of the magic suit of clothes approved by his courtiers when it found the “military tribunals” invented by the Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal to try terrorists illegal. The Court rejected the artifice of “unitary executive power” used by the Bush administration to “justify” practices like torture, indefinite detention without judicial process, and warrantless eavesdropping. In other words, the Supreme Court of the United States reaffirmed that ours should be a government of laws, not of the caprice of the vice president or president. And in condoning torture, they are outlaws.

The Defense Rests Not
The president’s performance yesterday reflects the time-honored adage that the best defense is an aggressive offense—and especially with a mere two months before the midterm elections. Bush devoted fully half of his speech to cops-and-robbers examples, none of them persuasive, of how “tough” interrogation techniques have yielded information that prevented all manner of catastrophe. Someone in the White House apparently forgot to tell the Army, for the head of Army intelligence, Lt. Gen. John Kimmons, sang from a very different script at a Pentagon briefing yesterday, as he explained why the new Army manual for interrogation is in sync with Geneva. Conceding past “transgressions and mistakes,” Kimmons said:
No good intelligence is going to come from abusive practices. I think history tells us that. I think the empirical evidence of the last five years, hard years, tells us that.
Grabbing the headlines today is the fact that Bush has admitted that the CIA has taken high-value captives to prisons abroad for interrogation using “tough” techniques. More telling is the fact that CIA interrogators are not bound by the strictures of the new Army field manual, and that the president is determined to maintain in place detention centers where CIA interrogators can ply their trade at his bequest.

The president brags about how his government “changed its policies,” giving intelligence personnel “the tools they need” to fight terrorists, and makes it clear that the CIA was given permission to use “an alternative set of procedures.” He said he could not describe the specific methods used, “but I can say the procedures were tough.” The alumni of this school of hard knocks are now on their way to Guantanamo, but Bush made it clear that he wanted to keep the schools open for incoming students.

Acknowledging that other terrorists are waiting in line to take the place of captured leaders, the president made it clear that he wants the “CIA program” for interrogating advanced placement terrorists to continue. Bush conceded that, after the Hamdan decision, “some believe” that intelligence personnel “could now be at risk of prosecution under the War Crimes Act—simply for doing their jobs in a thorough and professional way.” So he is asking Congress to pass legislation squaring the circle; that even while using “alternative” procedures, CIA personnel can be said to be in compliance with common Article 3 of Geneva. (The not-so-hidden threat, of course, is the virtual certainty that any member of Congress opposing this kind of legerdemain will be branded soft on terrorism in the weeks leading up to the November election.)
In a bizarre twist, the retroactive nature of this legislation, which the president said “ought to be the top priority” over the next several weeks, would hold Bush himself harmless, at least under the U.S. criminal statute, as well as intelligence practitioners of “alternative” procedures.

And so the stage is set. There is one more Bush speech to go on this general theme. It’s a safe bet that the next one will present an equally impassioned defense of warrantless eavesdropping on Americans, branded unconstitutional and illegal by Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit because it violates the Fourth Amendment and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Sen. Arlen Specter, R- Pa., who initially called that activity extralegal, has now come full circle and drafted legislation that would hold harmless the president and others involved in that program—and, again, retroactively. It is hard to tell what brought Specter 180 degrees around; not to be ruled out is the kind of “alternative procedure” employed so successfully by former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who was the inadvertent catalyst for the FISA law.

Accountability

Is there no one to hold our leaders to account? The Bush Crimes Commission, a grassroots citizens’ initiative determined not to follow the example of the obedient, passive Germans of the 1930s, has taken testimony on torture and other key issues to establish whether President Bush is guilty of war crimes. Testimony was taken in October 2005 and January 2006, indictments have been brought and served on the White House, and the judges will issue their verdict on Sept. 13 in Washington. (Full disclosure: I am proud to have taken part in the proceedings of the Bush Crimes Commission.) Join us next week.

The above article was first published at: http://www.tompaine.com

Please share Ray McGovern's voice with others.

Remembering God's Dream

A profound Christian teacher, speaker, author and leader died on September 1. Verna Dozier inspired and challenged people to not simply worship Jesus but to follow him. Many of my spiritual mentors were influenced by Verna Dozier and while I never personally met her or heard her speak, Dozier's books have nurtured and supported my journey. Please read more about Verna Dozier, be inspired by her theology and seek, as she did, to be committed to the dream of God.

Here's a quote from Verna Dozier that was shared recently through the Church of the Savior's Inward/Outward daily e-mail newsletter:

"We have lost the capacity to dream great dreams. We reduce God to the personal, private, ’spiritual’ sphere of our lives, and ministry to personal, private, ’spiritual’ acts - a good deed here, a good deed there, a cup of cold water here, a loaf of freshly baked bread there, a prison visit here, a hospital call there, a night in a shelter here, a time with a troubled friend there. We see no need to challenge the systems that make these ‘ministries’ necessary.
The call to ministry is the call to be a citizen of the kingdom of God in a new way, the daring, free, accepting, compassionate way Jesus modeled. It means being bound by no yesterday, fearing no tomorrow, drawing no lines between friend and foe, the acceptable ones and the outcasts. Ministry is commitment to the dream of God."
Source: The Dream of God

For more on this inspiring person please visit the Episcopal Diocese of Washington's blog where you will find links to numerous articles about Dozier and quotes from many who have been influenced by her life and faith.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Seeing Poverty

In the current episode of the great radio program Speaking of Faith, Dr. David Hilfiker, co-founder of Christ House and Joseph's House in Washington, DC and teacher at the Servant Leadership School "tells the story of how concentrated poverty and racial isolation came to be in cities across America". If you missed it on the radio you can find out much about the program on the Speaking of Faith website and/or subscribe to their podcast.

The Servant Leadership School has a new website which will list their fall classes soon. I have taken a number of classes there over the years and have found them very inspiring and nourishing, please check them out.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Praying Prisoner


My friend and mentor Richard Busch has been a supporter of Jens Soering, a convict serving two life sentences in a Virginia prison. While behind bars Jens has written a number of interesting books on faith, justice and contemplative prayer. Here's a list of his books:

The Convict Christ: What the Gospel says about Criminal Justice

The Way of the Prisoner: Breaking the Chains of Self through Centering Prayer and Centering Practice

An Expensive Way to Make Bad People Worse: An Essay on Prison Reform from an Insider’s Perspective


There's a review of The Convict Christ, by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat at Spirituality and Practice.

If you are interested in Jens' case (he is seeking parole) please visit Jens' website: http://www.jenssoering.com/

"Lord Jesus, for our sake you were condemned as a criminal:
Visit our jails and prisons with your pity and judgment.
Remember all prisoners, and bring the guilty to repentance
and amendment of life according to your will, and give them
hope for their future. When any are held unjustly, bring them
release; forgive us, and teach us to improve our justice.
Remember those who work in these institutions; keep them
humane and compassionate; and save them from becoming
brutal or callous. And since what we do for those in prison,
O Lord, we do for you, constrain us to improve their lot. All
this we ask for your mercy’s sake. Amen. "

Book of Common Prayer, page 826

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Church not inclusive?

Below is an excerpt from a recent interview with The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams,

Q: "Unity in the Church - worldwide - is to you a means of coming closer to the truth. As you put it, 'If we don't stay together, 'we are only following our own local denomination or our personal preferences. Where then do you draw the line? How far can unity be stretched within the boundaries of still being based on the Bible? In reply to this question Williams starts off with a rebuke of those who argue it is high time the Church accepted gay relationships.

A: Their ideal is the inclusive church. ,,I don't believe inclusion is a value in itself'', says the Archbishop. ,,Welcome is. We welcome people into the Church, we say: 'You can come in, and that decision will change you.' We don't say: 'Come in and we ask no questions.' I do believe conversion means conversion of habits, behaviours, ideas, emotions. The boundaries are determined by what it means to be loyal to Jesus Christ. That means to display in all things the mind of Christ. Paul is always saying this in his letters: Ethics is not a matter of a set of abstract rules, it is a matter of living the mind of Christ. That applies to sexual ethics; that is why fidelity is important in marriage. You reflect the loyalty of God in Christ. It also concerns the international arena. Christians will always have reconciliation as a priority and refuse to retaliate. By no means everything is negotiable for me. I would not be happy if someone said: Let us discuss the divinity of Christ. That to me seems so constituent of what the Church is.''

---------

I don't disagree with the Archbishops statement however we may be interpreting the word "inclusive" in different ways. According to Merriam-Webster:


in·clu·sive
Pronunciation: in-'kl├╝-siv, -zivFunction: adjective1 : comprehending stated limits or extremes 2 a : broad in orientation or scope b : covering or intended to cover all items, costs, or services - in·clu·sive·ly adverb - in·clu·sive·ness noun

"Comprehending stated limits or extremes" and "broad in orientation or scope as well as covering or intended to cover all items, costs, or services." Could not the word inclusive be one way of describing the humble submission all Christians are called to make before God in Christ Jesus? Gay and lesbian Christians that I know long to live out their Christian lives (inclusively) in community with others, couples seek fidelity and support for their commitment --- the kind of support our marriage liturgies ask the gathered community to give straight couples. When I use the word inclusive I certainly mean it in the sense that all are invited --- but I also use it to mean that all invited are called to be open to having our entire lives (inclusively) turned upside by the Holy Spirit's work. As the Archbishop says, "conversion means conversion of habits, behaviours, ideas, emotions." I believe that gay and lesbian persons are equally called to conversion. Yet what does that conversion look like? Does it mean that gay and lesbians are to be converted from being gay or lesbian to being straight? I don't think so perhaps for some that is possible but for many it is impossible. Gentile Christians were not asked to become Jews. However, conversion means that like straight persons, gay and lesbians persons are called upon to have their habits, behaviors, ideas and emotions transformed (inclusively). Our culture's saturation with sexuality, with promiscuity, infidelity is not limited to homosexuals but sadly includes heterosexuals as well. Are we not all gay and straight Christians alike called to conversion? Called to live out our full lives (inclusively) under the Lordship of Jesus Christ? Might that mean all of us must be open to change?

For more of the interview with Archbishop Rowan Williams please click here.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Sunday School Teacher dumped for being female


While this story might seem outrageous, sadly many large mega-churches across the country have few women in leadership roles. I am a Christian today because of the numerous women in my life growing up who taught Sunday School, ran Vacation Bible School, led committee meetings, sat on the vestry, and served as Priests and Bishops. Thank God the Episcopal Church and other mainline churches welcome and support the ministry of women. Mary Lambert, the Episcopal Church Welcomes You!

http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/08/21/menonly.sundayschool.ap/index.html

The photo above is of Mary Lambert, who after teaching Sunday School for 54 years was dismissed for being female.

umm...what's that you say?


"Young orthodox Anglicans must have lots of orthodox Anglican babies."

umm... this morning I ran across an interesting discussion on the above comment over at Sarah Dylan Breuer's blog. Thank you Dylan for catching this sad comment and getting us to look closely at the Bible. Join the discussion at: http://www.sarahlaughed.net/gracenotes/

Sunday, August 20, 2006

God's eternal street party, feast, celebration

A portion of today's sermon on Proverbs 9:1-6 & John 6:53-59

A friend who I haven’t been in touch with for many years and I were recently reunited --- he asked me when he found out that I had become a priest, quoting a scene from the Tao of Steve --- whether that meant I got to hang out with God all day. I responded and said -- well yes, but our claim as Christians is that all of us, every human being gets to hang out with God all day.

Today’s lessons both from Proverbs and from the Gospel convey an important common dimension of the Christian life that is often forgotten especially when we look upon our broken lives and world --- and that common dimension is the feast, the party, the celebration. Not only do we Christians proclaim that all people are invited to hang out with God all day, but we are part of a roaming street party or moving picnic. Christianity --- and our longing for the Kingdom of God -- our aching for transformation, for eternal life is at the heart of our faith. We pray in the words that Jesus taught his disciples, we pray that God’s kingdom will come on earth as in heaven. One metaphor for this eternal life is a party and a feast. Christians throughout the world proclaim that our celebration of the Eucharist is a foretaste of the banquet that God has for all after death. Within each of us I think is a deep, deep desire for this infinite celebration and no matter how bad things get in our daily lives God's infinite celebration is calling us. We are all invited.

The theme of God's feast, of God's celebration runs throughout the bible. The significance of eating and drinking with God, even dancing is there with Abraham and Sarah in the Book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, is there with Miriam, Moses sister and the other Hebrew slaves freed from bondage in the Book of Exodus. It is there in the Psalms of David --- the Lord has set a table before me in the presence of my enemies, my cup runneth over. The feast, the party, the celebration is there in the Prophets as an expression of God’s desires for humanity not just a select few but all people. (See Micah) And Jesus, Wisdom incarnate, the Logos of God, the reason, the Word -- the Wisdom of God made flesh seemed to like to party. Liked to be with others around a table, not just at the last supper but many other places as well. In fact, Jesus was criticized by the pious, religious people of his day for partying too much and with the wrong kind of people... with traitors and enemies, with prostitutes and sinners. Jesus ate and drank with all sorts of people. After his resurrection Jesus meets over food with his disciples in a number of places and even cooks them breakfast.

Today’s gospel really takes this metaphor of a meal, of a party to a new place. Jesus describes himself as the bread of life. Jesus describes how this bread, is the bread for eternal life... If we eat Jesus’ body, we become bearers of God's feast, we carry this eternal meal of God into the world --- we become part of an endless roaming, portable street party (thanks to Brian McLaren for the street party image).