Thursday, December 17, 2009

Why I Like Christmas Music

There is probably some version of "Why I Hate Christmas Music" back in my blog around this time last year. I have been saying that for a long time. I particularly hate listening to it during Advent, I've been prone to say. We never get to celebrate the Christmas season because they play all the music early and then stop playing it on December 26, which makes no sense.

But this year, something clicked for me differently. Perhaps it was the absolute absurdity of Bob Dylan's Christmas CD. (No, I'm not making that up. Go to Amazon if you don't believe me!) Yes, it's as bad as you could imagine it to be. Some genres--and I think Dylan is actually his own genre--were never meant to cross. Especially the current Dylan, whose voice is now so hoarse that it is almost unbearable even singing his own stuff. Just try to imagine the Little Drummer boy in your head.

Anyway, I digress. I think I finally get why people need Christmas music this early, and not just because the stores want you to buy stuff. I was in the dentist's chair right after Thanksgiving and noticed they were piping Christmas music in. I made a comment to the Hygenist about how awful it must be to know you would have to listen to this for a sold month. Her response? "Oh no, I love it. I could listen to it all year long."

She went on to talk about how excited she gets about Christmas, how much she loves shopping for family and friends, decorating the tree, etc. There are a whole lot of endorphines being cranked out by this season.

That's when it hit me. People need Christmas music early to help them get into the season. All of us bitching about playing Christmas music during Advent need to realize, that this is, in fact, a form of preparation too. Would you expect the choir to go out and sing the Christmas oratorio without rehearsing? This is just another form of rehearsing for the real thing.

That can be applied to all the shopping too, when you think about it. Personally, I want more time in Advent for stillness and calm, reflection and mindfulness. But I'm not everyone. Not everyone prepares the same way I do. We ease into the Christmas season, just as Lent carries us into Easter.

Now, I would happily have the Christmas music interspersed with regular music, increasingly taking over as we get closer to Christmas Day. Fortunately, thanks to the magic of certain unnamed electronics (you know, the fruit people), I can get my wish with just a couple of minutes work each day. And I can happily dispense with the barking dogs, chipmunks, reindeer assaulted grandmas, and I'm-sorry-I-won't-be-with-you songs, by playing what I own instead of turning on a radio, at least as long as I am not out there shopping. Which I almost never do this time of year. The Internet is so much more sane, frankly.

So, this year, I vow not to say the same old tired lines about music being played too early. It's not a case of giving in, but of learning that I can control my environment a lot more if I put my mind to it. Besides, we have war, economic collapse, hatred and other real things to worry about. To put even a small amount of energy into this is rather stupid, don't you think?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tell the Archbishop of Canterbury What You Think!

Well, good luck with that. If you go to his web page, it is not just that you cannot email ++Rowan. No one on his staff has a public email either.

I suppose I understand that. If those email addresses were public, they would need a whole staff to weed through them. Still, I notice that the White House page has a public response page that invites you to offer comments to the President, staff members, or the White House in general. Yes, I know he won't be reading them, but at least they are inviting you to share your thoughts. And you can bet someone is at least taking note of the subject matter.

Canterbury's public site goes out of the way to tell you that ++Rowan won't be reading the comments and that no one will be responding to them. If you want any hope of response, you have to use snail mail. No wonder the Church of England is dying. Obviously, they don't want to actually hear what the public thinks about anything.

But so what. I still bet that if that website starts getting flooded with emails about ++Rowan's failure to condemn Ugandan legislation authorizing the death penalty for gays or to repudiate publicly the Rt. Rev. Joseph Abura for supporting that legislation, eventually he will at least fell pushed to give a response.

So, if you want to register your complaint, I am officially starting a movement, "Say No to Ugandan Death Penalty for Gays". Yes, you can include your feelings about his public comments over Mary Glasspool's election, but the simplest message is to hit him for the moral failure to stand up for people whose lives are being threatened. He's had weeks to say something about Uganda and has failed to do so.

On this website, you will find the box where you can leave a comment:

If you want to write a snail mail letter or phone, here is the information:
Lambeth Palace

Tel: 020 7898 1200 (switchboard)
Fax: 020 7401 9886

Tell your friends. You do not have to be an Anglican to express your displeasure.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Here We Go Again

Well, the Anglicans among you already know what happened on Saturday. Or, if you just read a Newspaper. Or Twitter. Or breathe. The Diocese of Los Angeles has elected The Rev. Mary Douglas Glasspool to be its suffragen bishop. Mary is a partnered lesbian, in case you missed it.

I've only met her once and don't really have a position. Personally, I think they should have elected my friend Zelda Kennedy (she ran a distant third), but what do I know? I can say Mary ran ahead of her opponent, a Latino male, but it was a horse race. From what I can tell, Mary also speaks Spanish, though, as her name suggests, she is not herself a Latina.

I should also add that the diocese actually elected two people to fill two Episcopal positions. The Rev. Diane Jardine Bruce was elected bishop on Friday (She speaks Spanish and Cantonese). So if things go as planned, the diocese will have two female bishops. And just in case the language confuses you, a suffragen bishop is an assistant bishop who does not automatically become the diocesan (head) bishop of the diocese in the event of the death, resignation, or retirement of the current diocesan bishop. Last, you need to know that this election is only part of the process. Mother Glasspool must now be approved by a majority of the sitting diocesan bishops and of the Standing Committees of the 110 dioceses of the Episcopal Church. That will take a few months, and in this case, several will say no on the path to making that happen. She most likely will be approved, but it will take more time than is typical.

Whew! That's just the preliminaries. Officially, the Episcopal Church is under a moratorium from any more gay or lesbian bishop ordinations. However, at last summer's General Convention, we also said that we would not stop the ordination of someone who was duly elected through our exhaustive (my word) process, regardless of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, etc.

Well, ++Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was not pleased, and it did not take long for him to say so. "The election of Mary Glasspool by the Diocese of Los Angeles as suffragan bishop-elect raises very serious questions not just for the Episcopal Church and its place in the Anglican Communion, but for the Communion as a whole.... The bishops of the Communion have collectively acknowledged that a period of gracious restraint in respect of actions which are contrary to the mind of the Communion is necessary if our bonds of mutual affection are to hold."

It would be easy to take him seriously if not for one little thing. As fast as he was able to get this to the press, that's how slow he has been in responding to the Rt. Rev. Joseph Abura of Karamoja Diocese, Province of the Anglican Church of Uganda, who wrote an op ed piece for Spero News to show his support for a new bill in Uganda to allow the death penalty for homosexuality.

Let me say that again, just in case you missed it: ++Rowan Williams has said not a word about a bishop advocating death for gay people, but has the time to comment on an election that he admits is not even finished. Is there something wrong here?

You bet there is. And right now, Anglicans all over the world are starting to say to hell with you ++. Throw us out. See if we care. But that's the only way you're getting rid of us, because you are in serious need of reform and repentance, not us. You've missed the big picture here.

Yes, this is something new. But so was worshiping in English. And abolishing slavery. And allowing remarriage. And ordaining women (Britain was slow to move on that one too). And maybe, just maybe, if you'd get quiet when we talk for a change, you could hear the Holy Spirit blowing through, upsetting a few money tables, and creating something new.

But, in the meantime, don't go looking for our money. Or Canada's. We'll just find local partners who have some sanity in their thinking to work through. We're not going away buddy, but we'll be damned if we're going to sit around and support such hypocrisy through non-action. Are we all of one mind on this? Of course not. But, as an African American, I am glad we did not wait until we were of one mind on that slavery issue.

And those ACNA people? They'll be gone soon too. There really are not that many of them, and one of you bishops who have accepted them will soon find out you do not have the stamina to keep supporting this group of dissidents. After all, if they cannot find a suitable home in the Episcopal Church--about the biggest tent out there--what makes you think they will be happy when you decide to issue an order or two and expect them to obey it?

The bottom line is this ++Rowan: if you have nothing to say to Joseph Abura, then you have nothing to say to us either. Go away and pray for awhile. Then try to come back and actually be a leader instead of a piss poor reactionary. For now, though, we don't trust you.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Fruitcake and Other Deep Thoughts

Been a little busy lately, but I will soon get back to blogging. In the meantime, just a few unrelated thoughts. If you are looking for something vaguely religious here, don't bother:

1) The world's best fruitcake recipe.

I'm actually one of those people who likes good fruitcake. Unfortunately, that is pretty much impossible to buy. You have to make it. I have a chocolate fruitcake recipe that takes a month and a half to fix that starts with "soak the fruit in a bottle of whiskey for a week." How could you go wrong after that?

But for the rest of you, here's a recipe you definitely want to try. Well, at least you definitely want to read it. I am not the origin of this one:

Classic Fruit Cake Recipe

- One cup of water
- One cup of sugar
- four large brown eggs
- Two cups of mixed dried fruit
- One teaspoon salt
- One cup brown sugar
- Juice of one lemon
- One cup of coarsely chopped nuts
- One bottle of whiskey


Sample the whiskey to check for quality.

Take a large bowl. Check whiskey again. To be sure it's the highest
quality, pour one level cup and drink. Repeat.

Turn on the electric mixer, beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add one teaspoon of sugar and beat again.

Make sure the whiskey is still okay. Cry another tup. Turn off the mixer.
Beat two leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit. Mix
on the tuner. If the fired druit gets stuck in the beaterers, pry it loose
with a drewscriver.

Sample the whiskey to check for tonsisticity. Next, sift two cups of salt. Or something. Who cares? Check the whiskey, darn good whiskey. Now sift the lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add one table. Spoon. Of sugar or something. Whatever you can find.

Grease the oven. Turn the cake tin to 350 degrees. Don't forget to beat off the turner. Throw the bowl out of the window. Whew, check that whiskey again and go to bed.

Who the hell likes fruitcake anyway?

2)Whatever happened to quality control?

The SIMS 3: World Adventures is an expansion pack to one of the best selling PC video games of all times. It came out this week. Word has it that the program freezes up on Windows 7 computers.

My question is,"How could anyone make such a big cluster**** as to release a game without testing it on Windows 7? I have to admit to being a SIMS fan (yes, I know that sounds bizaare) but even I have to jump ship on this!

3) H1N1 Redux

What else is there to say? The swine flu is apparently waning--though I would not be surprised if next week they told us it was coming back--and life goes on. Some people died, just as they do with the flue every year. A whole bunch of people were afraid of the vaccine. Congress bitched in August because they did not think the vaccine was getting properly tested, that it was being rushed. Congress bitched when it did not come out as fast as it was supposed to. Congress blamed the president for not being in the lab every day testing the vaccine. The liars bitched because Obama was not vaccinating his kids (A lie. They had already gotten shots before the rumor was even started). And now it's waning before millions could even get the shots.

I hope somebody is studying why this went the way it did. A milder than normal flu that was off season got more attention than the seasonal one that will probably kill more people world wide. At every step we second guessed ourselves. And still virtually nothing went right. There has to be a lesson here.

In the meantime, can we please put clergy on the list with health care professionals for people to get these vaccines in the future (and Mall Santas too). We work with sick people, and, let's face it, between the peace and communion, we are on the front lines.

Not that it matters if you are on the list. My doctors are still waiting for their shots, and I got one by being on a college campus. Hmmm....what's wrong with this picture?

4)Aren't we lucky?

My local newspaper has just informed us that we will be getting the Thanksgiving edition of the paper even if we do not normally get the weekday edition. As they put it, it is one of their largest editions of the year, with some carriers delivering it in two installments on Wednesday and Thursday.

Wrong. This is not a newspaper, but a circular. The paper is crammed with black Friday ads. The actual news is, as you would expect, almost non-existent (the normal state of my local paper lately). If you, like me, have no intention of entering a mall on Friday, this is nothing more than the most colossal waste of paper for the year. And you have to call them to let them know you do not wish to receive it. And we wonder why the newspaper business is dying....

5) The chief theologian in my house, my dog Andy, is lying on the sofa with the sun beaming down on him. At least one of us knows how to take sabbath time....

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Heretics Here, Heretics There, Heretics Everywhere

I just had another conversation with one of my heretical college students. At least he thinks he's a heretic. I'm not so sure. In fact, I would definitely say that what he is is a thinking person who looks at some of the most outrageous claims of Christianity with more than a bit of skepticism. In other words, he's a young man who is realizing that he is allowed to think about religion, not just accept it.

In this particular case, the issue was the divinity of Jesus. Right now, his working ideas are that there was nothing more divine about Jesus than the rest of us, but Jesus lived it more perfectly than we do. If you applied Occam's Razor to the question of Jesus' divinity, this is probably the answer you should get. Or maybe that the story has been written leaving out the parts that show Jesus was just another schmo. After all, how many people do you know who have trouble with the idea that Jesus pooped?

I pointed out to him that the problem with a statement like "fully God and fully human" is that anything that follows it will almost inevitably err by emphasizing one over the other. Before that, though, I asked about his understanding of the Trinity, since, without a divine Christ, that scheme rather falls apart.

It was a great conversation that took detours through the creeds, the Holy Spirit and ended up in the power of story telling (It all made sense. You had to be there.), which included a discussion of sacraments as essentially story telling events. If we had had time, I would have suggested that Christianity is essentially a life story that Christians are called to align their own stories with. There are, in fact, other life stories (e.g., other religious traditions, the American story, etc.) that people do the same thing with. What makes us Christians is that we believe Christ's story is one we should align our lives with. And obviously, other people have some thoughts about this too.

It was one of those wonderful conversations that inspire people to become college chaplains. So why am I pissed off?

Well, largely it has to do with the fact that this bright, clever student who is working with issues I never began to think about when I was his age is having to fight against everything he has been raised with just to say these things. And he was brought up in the Episcopal Church no less, a church that prides itself on offering space to explore what you believe. So instead of learning that it is perfectly okay to wrestle with these questions--that this is a part of developing a mature faith--he has learned that he has to declare himself a heretic to think these things. And instead of spending our time together with me helping him to look at his beliefs, I had to spend half the time giving him permission to believe these things.

I don't know what this student will end up believing about Christ's divinity. If I were forced to bet on it, I'd guess he will be fairly orthodox in his beliefs before it is all over. But that's not really all that important. The Christian faith can only be faith if we are allowed to hold it, mold it, question it, turn it inside out, and even spit on it now and then as we continually try to grasp it (which is, in itself, an impossible task). But we're too afraid to let that happen. So instead, we make the creeds into the door keepers of theology rather than the open doors that take us a whole myriad of places. And we scare our kids against exploration of anything that might mean they occasionally step off the narrow path.

Except the narrow path thus defined is actually reduced to the dividing line on a super highway. And it you step off the line, you will get hit by a speed demon ready to destroy your life. Sorry, but there should be a lot more wiggle room out there than that.

Why am I so angry about this? Because this is not the only student I have who thinks he's a heretic. And I have one who is afraid to read the Bible because of the problems she has with the things other people have told her it says.

What they are all saying is that they want a place where they can explore what they believe without getting beat up for believing the wrong things. Where I come from, that is what a church is supposed to be. But, oops, these folks all come out of churches and are seeing that they have to leave, at least for awhile, if they want the chance to explore.

These should be the leaders of my ministry. But only one of them is even coming. They will talk to me, but they have been too burned to be able to take leadership in a church where they think they are only recognized as believing or unbelieving. And that is just too sad for words.

Sad too is the fact the the above named 'heretic' is simultaneously wrestling with whether or not he is called to ordination. Talk about a straitjacket! How can he even begin to approach that issue when he is still looking to be accepted as is, questions and all? And, yes, for the record, I realize that some of the roadblocks might be self imposed as his unrecognized way of avoiding the call to ordination. Except he's not the only one, just the one I had lunch with today.

So why do so many young people leave the Church during college? We think it has to do with churches not knowing how to provide activities for them. But I think it is much deeper than that. We lose them because, at this time when they are questioning, there is no theological place for them. We can stop worrying about the young singles events; make space for a little heterodoxical thought. You know, it might just challenge the way we think too. But that's what we are really afraid of, isn't it?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Desperate Churchwives

Okay, besides reading it in this morning's paper, I have now seen three Facebook links in reference to the statement by the Roman Catholic Church about their now having a regularized process for accepting Anglicans who wish to transfer their membership. First, a few facts:

1) No one leaving us and going to Rome is converting. Both groups claim to be Christians, so any transfers are just that, not conversions to another religion. Want proof? They will not be re-baptized. You see, the funny thing is, Romans, like Anglicans, believe that God baptizes people, and we both assume he does not occasionally just screw it up. Nor does he have two different bodies to be baptized into. There are a few fundys out there who need to get a coherent theology on this one.

2) Rome has been accepting married male Anglican clergy since shortly after we began ordaining women. Funny thing is that they do re-ordain. That alone would be enough of an insult to my orders that I would have to decline.

3) Laypeople wanting to join the Roman Church have been able to approach a parish and ask to do so for centuries. Basically ever since there was an Anglican Church, we could join. The Roman Catholic Church has never been a closed system, despite the peculiar ways people write about this so-called new event.

4) What is new is that these folks will be able to retain some pieces of liturgical life from Anglicanism. I have not seen exactly what the guidelines are, but this seems an odd capitulation to me. Just how many exceptions is Rome going to offer to Anglicans to (apparently) entice us? Me, I want a better paycheck before we can even begin the negotiations.

5) Most people who leave the Anglican communion would be hard pressed to join a denomination that demands obedience to many more doctrinal statements than Anglicanism ever gave them. After all, they are leaving us because they feel they are being forced to accept things they don't like. We'll see how much they are ready to practice the rhythm method of birth control.

6) If a congregation votes to leave the Episcopal Church and join Rome, they will have to do it without their property, which belongs to the diocese. With the current exception of Virginia (stay tuned) every time the taking of property has been sought in courts, eventually the courts have said the property belongs to us. So do not look for that beautiful Gothic Episcopal Church downtown to be flying a Roman flag too quickly, unless we choose to sell it to them.

7. All of the dioceses (4 at last count) that have voted to leave the Episcopal Church have chosen to go join other parts of the Anglican Communion. On a large scale, people are not interested in leaving Anglicanism, just a couple of things they disagree with in the American Church (which isn't entirely American--even in the broad sense--but we will leave that for another day).

8. The Episcopal Church did not actually say anything different last summer at its General Convention. We said we would follow our previously written rules about ordinations and we said we would study same-sex marriages, unions, etc. Oh, and we would allow for generous pastoral latitude around the marriage issue (including allowing more conservative bishops to do parish visitations if wanted). I have read several times how we are developing liturgies for same sex marriages; it simply is not true. If you want to complain, go read what the Lutherans did!

9. And by the way, the doors swing in both directions. Lots of folk coming our way because of our stances on women and gays, on divorce, and because we took steps two decades ago to stem the tide of child abuse and sexual predators.

So what did Rome actually do? They wrote a policy manual, apparently. Before, Anglicans who wanted to transfer were treated individually, so what one was required to do in Richmond could be completely different from what they had to do in Baltimore. Now, the bureaucracy has taken over. One small step for a (Ro)man, one giant leap for paperwork.

Do we like it? no, of course not, if for no other reason than the glee with which it sometimes seems a few Roman Catholic officials are doing these things. But will I lose much sleep over it? Not a chance. The reality is that we are both Christian denominations who happen to disagree on a few things, perhaps most importantly on how one offers dissent from official doctrine. And every person who leaves us for Rome makes it easier for us to go forward with the Gospel as we have received it.

But God bless those who stick around. The worst thing that could happen to us would be if we had no dissent. That is the easiest way to get off track. Differing understandings of God's Word demand that everyone become sharper theologically because we have to justify our stances. If we should ever lose that, it will be a sad day.

For Anglicans, worship is theology and vice versa. As long as we can come to the table together, we can co-exist. It is sad that is not to be for some right now, but one day, we will bring the kingdom fully into being through the grace of God, and all this foolishness will be over. And we will really come to understand that God loves all of us.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

On Evangelism, U2 Style

Okay, I went to the U2 concert Saturday night. I was a newbie, and now I am writing the required blog to gush about it. If you don't believe it is required, just go the Sojourners website and catch Jim Wallis' blog about taking his son. Of course, I did not have the lighting manager hear about me being there and seeking me out in the crowd. Ah well.... Oh, and good luck getting off of the Sojourners email list once you sign up.

Anyway, the really frustrating thing about writing about U2 concerts is that everything that all those other people have written about them is true. Yes, it is a fantastic concert. Yes, the sound system is amazing (for $25 million, it should be. And there are 3 of them floating around the country because they take so long to put up and take down.). Yes the visuals were spectacular. Yes, the political message was well handled; as an Episcopalian, I loved seeing Desmond Tutu talking about the One Campaign. Yes, I was moved when Bono brought the young boy up on the stage and ran around the outer circle before giving him his sunglasses (I admit, I would have been happy to be that boy, and even happier to be going to school on Monday wearing the glasses!).

And yes, without calling it this, they created church. Thousands of people all tuned to one wavelength and feeling both transformed and transformational. Not bad, especially since half of them don't even realize that that was what they were doing.

So what do I write, other than I get why people are willing to pay for the tickets and know I will do it again? Heck, I seriously toyed with cutting out of work and driving to Atlanta to see them tonight!

How about this? Can the rest of you so-called evangelists hitting us over the head with Jesus and the Bible take a cue from these guys? No, you don't have to be incredibly talented and the biggest band in the world to spread the gospel. But you also don't have to guilt people, shame them, or bore them to death to make your point. What might help is if you showed some genuine joy and enthusiasm about how your relationship with Jesus is changing your life rather than just telling us about it with stern or angry looks on your face.

I know Bono and friends are Christians. Only an idiot has missed that piece of information by now. I can read their lyrics or hear Bono's speech at the National Prayer Breakfast. I recognize biblical quotes in the lyrics that show they really have read more of the Bible than a few pithy lines lifted from the Gospels. See where their money is going (e.g., carbon offsets for the eco-damage of the set). The thing that oozes out of them though is that there actually is some attempt to live as Christians going on here.

Are they perfect at it? Of course not. Could one argue that the extravagance of the rock star life is goes against the very idea? You could make that case, arguably. But then they have never set themselves up as model Christians. In fact, they do one of the evangelical no nos, which is to admit to their imperfections--without getting caught. (Have you listened to "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"? A great song about being believers but still struggling with what that means.)

More than anything, they present themselves as works in progress. They never claim to be saved; their salvation is being worked out, through the grace of God, every day in their lives; it's not some sort of static event.

Oddly enough a whole lot of people who will never enter our Churches are finding a lot in this that attracts them. If they got this same attitude from the Christians they meet, maybe they would be ready to explore faith with you. Too often, we ask, no, demand vulnerability from people joining the church ("Confess your sins!"), but show none of it in return, wearing the armor of salvation against the seekers as if they are the enemy.

Three years into this campus ministry business, I keep finding myself in a recurring conversation with students. It starts with a sentence like "I think I am called to ordination except I don't think the Church will accept some of my views. I think I am a heretic." What this usually means is that someone in their local parish (that is, some clergy or church school teacher) has manages to create a wonderful box for Jesus, and now the student is starting to see God outside of that box and getting afraid of the implicactions about what they thought they knew.

Now, if that is the message we are spreading to people feeling a spiritual pull towards God, what are the others getting? For the record, I have heard a few challenging statements, but only one that might even remotely qualify as heretical. You would be surprised at the relief these conversations offer to the students. People what are we doing??!!! No excommunications so far, much less burnings at the stake.

So, yes, I paid out my $100 for the show, and got no promises that my wealth would increase, my arthritis would be healed, or my soul mate would come to church next week and we would start a spiritually deep but chaste relationship. And for that money, I got a great musical show. And I also got an invitation to join something wonderful. For a couple of hours, I was able to go into my spiritual self, not pushed but given permission in the form of a very attractive invitation. And I did not have to pass the tests, learn the order of service, juggle the hymnals, or put fake contact information in the visitors book. Can your last visitors say the same thing?

And, yes, I'll do it again. And the left side of my brain will probably try to look at how they do it. But I'll bet the right side will take over and just let me experience the moment, rather than analyze it. Hope to see you there. And you will just have to live with the cheesy U2 quotes as updates on my Facebook page for awhile.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Why Civility Matters

Well, by now a thousand pundits have weighed in on the apparent loss of manners in our nation; their discussions go all the way back to the beginning of August with the shouting matches at town hall meetings on health care. It's good to know just how civil we were being up until that point.

Okay, maybe cynicism is not the chief stance to be taken here. Of course the crudeness in this country started way before the town hall meetings. And while there is clear evidence that some of the behavior was being pushed by people with strong interests in killing any health care reform, it must also be fairly stated that a lot of the anger is genuinely felt by people who are afraid they will lose some of what they have.

Nevertheless, we should stop and consider the consequences of all this rudeness, no matter where it comes from. What really matters is that, in almost every form of public life, we have somehow decided that this is okay. Heck, we almost expect it from our athletes instead of canceling their shoe endorsements and suspending them from play; at least Serena lost the match for her stupidity. How many stupid statements does Kanye West have to make before we stop buying his music, cancel his recording contract and tell him to go away somewhere and grow up? And when a congressman thinks that an interruption of an internationally televised speech by the head of state is only offending the president and not his colleagues (much less the American people), we should not be giving millions of dollars to his campaign; we should be ashamed.

But look, I would not be jumping on the civility bandwagon except for one thing, and sadly, it is something I predicted which has now come to pass in at least one instance. All of this indignation is coming from people who believe, on some level, that they are entitled to some privilege and that it is being disrespected or taken away from them. They are scared, and they are lashing out. I am sorry that you thought you deserved something that many in our nation were not getting in the first place. Maybe you did deserve it, but not as your exclusive right.

But back to the point. What this behavioral response to our national sense of privilege has done is to let everyone know that interruptions and verbal attacks are an okay response to anything we do not like. And the next step from that is, as I predicted, violence. There have already been reports of people being hurt at the town hall meetings (hope they already had health insurance!). But let me tell you what the next step is by mentioning a couple of incidents at Guilford College last week. This is quoted from a text sent out from the college:

On Monday, September 14 a student informed Residence Life and Public Safety that a note was left on his Bryan Hall room door the prior evening containing the following message: "Die you MF fag. Nobody wants your kind on campus.” On Thursday, September 17, at approximately 11:30 pm someone dropped a rock and a note in the same student’s open, residence hall room window. This note contained the following message: “I hope it hit you in the [f---ing] head faggot. You don’t deserve life like the rest of the world. It’s bad enough with out all the gay crap pulling people down. It’s sick, unnatural, and death is almost too good for you. Almost.”

This is what happens when we tell everyone that it is okay to say whatever you want, do whatever you want, and let everyone know how much you disagree with them in whatever fashion you deem appropriate. Needless to say, Guilford, a Quaker tradition school known for an activist student body and much tolerance and acceptance is shocked, especially given that it would have been almost impossible for an outsider to have committed these acts. But that is who we are becoming as a nation.

What is worse to me is that most of the people committing those earlier seemingly harmless verbal sparrings (unlike this particular incident, which is being treated as a criminal offense) would likely tell you they are Christian conservatives. So I have one thing to say to them. Go read the fourth and fifth chapters of the letter of James.

James has a lot to say about unbridled tongues, and it boils down to this: shut them! And then he has a lot to say about God's wisdom versus that of the world. God's wisdom is gentle and promotes unity. The world's wisdom is brutal, violent, divisive. Any of that sound familiar?

I could call the Guilford incident an unfortunate but rare occurrence, but I bet we will see a whole lot more of them around the country in the coming weeks and months. And why shouldn't we? This is exactly what we have been giving the okay to.

Right now, someone is about to go off about the first amendment and freedom of speech. Well besides the fact that there are limits even on that freedom, this is not about what is lawful, but what is right. And it is time we stopped confusing those two. An act being lawful does not equate with it being the right thing to do. There are times when shouting and interrupting is appropriate. But sorry, folks, Kanye West was not fighting Bull Connor for the right to vote; Taylor Swift was hardly denying him anything (By the way, to clear the record, Beyonce was not even nominated in the category that Swift won). And immature minds are learning from you.

Pray for our nation. Pray that we learn to bridle our tongues. And pray for the students, faculty, and staff of Guilford College, especially Wednesday night at 7:00pm, as they hold a vigil. And it you happen to live in Greensboro,....

Most especially, pray for whoever did this that they can get past their fear and learn a new way to deal with difference in their midst. Because, while I wish they would get past the homophobia, I'll settle right now for civility because those with whom we disagree still deserve to be treated like human beings.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Who Cares About Health Care?

Yeah, I know. Like you really need to read something else about health care right now. What more is there to say?

Well, how about this. There is no right to health care. That's it. Now, let me add a few things to that statement, so that you can see what I really mean.

One of the things the good Alasdair McIntyre's book After Virtue managed to instill in me while I was in graduate school was the reality that rights are arbitrary concepts, not intrinsic or even God given. We may wish they were, but the reality of our world is that most things that we call rights today were not only not rights that people had in past centuries but were in fact, explicitly not something people believed they could expect. Life belonged to the master or the Lord or the king. Liberty was something that slaves dreamed of, serfs could not imagine, and free men struggled with unless they had a trade or money. And the pursuit of happiness: forget about it. You were happy to survive.

No, most of the things we call rights only exist for us because we as a society declare them to be rights. And if we look beyond our won country, we can see that we often do not agree about what should be a right. The right to a multi-party system of voting? Ha! The right to keep property you own unless a legal process takes it for public necessity and even then pays fair market value for it? Even the citizens of Connecticut can tell you about that one. The right to an education? Ask girls in small Pakistan villages about that one (This is where I make a cheap plug for Greg Mortensen's book, Three Cups of Tea) .

So, no we do not have a right to health care. People in Canada or France or Switzerland might be able to claim they have a right to it, but we in the States do not. In fact, it is fair to say that we do not yet even believe it should be a right (though there is a growing consensus slowly starting to emerge). If we did, the only discussion we would be having is how to make it happen, not whether we should change what we have or not.

What we have now is a health care system based on capitalism, in which care is a commodity to be purchased. If you have money, you get better care than if you do not. We believe in the freedom to pursue health care, but we do believe in the right to actually have it.

So while we debate whether the Obama plan is a good one, we are missing the point. Until and unless we reach a national consensus that it is a good thing to make sure that we all have health care, we will tinker with a corrupt and over bloated system, in which your doctor has three people working to cover the insurance payment system (three people you are paying for in copayments and premiums), and enormous profits are being made by a very small group of people based on the idea that they deserve to get rich off of you being sick.

Sadly the biggest thing blocking us from doing something about all this is our own fears and selfishness. Let's face it: very few of us are holding up the torch for the insurance companies. Most of us detest these death dealers with as much passion as we love our partners or our favorite sports team. Just look at the faces of people as they go to make a co-payment and you will realize I am telling the truth. We do not go through this system willingly.

But evoke the notion of socialism and you can create hysteria on the level of McCarthyism. Why that works with Christians I do not know. Doesn't Acts describe the early Chrisitans as pooling their resources and giving to each as had need. Now that's socialism! All we want is one standard of care for everyone. Is that too much to ask?

But between the socialist bogeyman and the oft-repeated fear that somehow my personal insurance is going to get worse under health care reform, and we reject it out of hand. Throw in a few non-existent death panels, a near hysterical Sarah Palin (I can see her hospital from my back window), and a slow summer characterized mostly by Wacko Jacko's death, and you have a bit of insanity where we can't even agree in principle that some kind of health care reform is a good thing a right even.

Now, of course we need to continue crafting and refining the appropriate laws. For example, it should be clear that individuals who want to keep their current insurance should be able to. And there are certainly a hundred other things that must be tweaked in the bill. But really, folks, it is time to get this done. We blew it in 1993, and look how long it has taken to get it back on the table. We can't wait that long again.

And yes, McIntyre is right. Thank you Stanley Hauerwas for pointing that out to me. Rights, are, in fact arbitrary and can be changed at any time.

So I am declaring that I believe health care should be a right in this country and be treated as such, not as if it is a luxury, which is what we are doing now. Only when we are willing to make that bold claim will we stop being guided by the bottom line. Only then will the question be "How will we pay for it?", not "Will we pay for it?"

And it some insurance company stops making billions of profit and some other low level workers have go get new jobs (assuming we will, in fact, pull out of this recession), so be it. What we have now provides the worst care in the First World and costs twice as much. Think of how much good work for the environment that money could buy.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I'm Back - I Hope My Ministry Will Be Back Next Year

It has been awhile, I know. After General Convention, I had a week to catch up before going on vacation. Since then, it has been preparing for the school year. Now, the students are back and it is time to start writing again.

The phrase for today is 'budget cuts'. Yep, the have hit the Church big time. Last month, we took a knife to the national budget of the Episcopal Church and slashed away whole pieces of program. The women's desk of the national church -- gone. Thirty staff people are axed as of the end of the year. Almost every program has been hit by some funding lost. In the meantime, of course, whole dioceses have been giving way less than their asking; it is amazing how many of these are the same dioceses that cry when the national church is not quick to respond to whatever crises comes along.

On the more local level, my diocese is making cuts too. Next year, our budget for campus ministry in the diocese will be 10% less than it was supposed to be this year, until we sustained a 5% cut in May. Unfortunately, once you take out the salaries of the chaplains, most of which are minimum or just above it, that actually translated into a 20% cut. Worse yet, my programs only diocesan money is for salaries, my assistant and my cleaning service. So despite our salaries being frozen two years in a row, my program will either have to find the money (as we did this year) or cut my assistant's hours.

You know, I could probably face that if this were a real crisis in the diocese. Reality is, however, that our budgets could all be made if certain parishes (you know who you are) would cough up the asking of the diocese. Now, before you starting thinking about small parishes scraping by, I need to say that I am not talking about them. Small parishes rarely fail to pay their asking unless they really do get into a jam, in which case they need the diocese to back them for a time.

No, it is larger parishes, notably those in the two largest cities in the diocese, who seem to have trouble coughing up. Yes, it is a lot of money in dollar terms. But they have it. What happens is that they develop big ideas for programs they want to do and fund them instead, forgetting that some of the work of the church is done corporately. So while they develop an outreach program to the local jail (the good scenario) or hire an assistant youth director or redecorate the parish hall (the more likely scenario) with their asking, real programs of the diocese get cut.

Do I sound frustrated? You bet. Is it because I work in one of those diocesan ministries? Not really. I've felt this way for a long time. It's arrogance, pure in simple, to assume that whatever you come up with is more important than our collective life.

The usual arguments are that the diocese has a bloated budget and spends money on all the wrong things. Perhaps, but before you say you want to keep your money local, try looking at what gets cut. It's never the things you are griping about because, funny thing, they are required. No matter how angry you are at him, you still gotta pay the bishop's salary and give him an administrative assistant. And in a diocese this large, that means more than one bishop, folks. Besides, if I asked five people what should get cut from the diocesan budget, they would not come to agreement. And that decision belongs to all of the diocese working together, not you.

So pony up to the bar and get back in. If you had made your fair asking, two things would have resulted. First, we would not be in this situation financially. Second, the diocese would not have had to make giving mandatory starting in 2011.

So here's an idea. Since you don't want to give it to the diocese, give it locally. Write a check to the Hispanic ministry, or the campus ministry, or to a small congregation, or to send a bunch of local kids to campy. All the stuff you apparently don't like your diocese doing for you.

And don't forget your local campus ministry. We're the ones teaching young adults not to behave like you are. But they don't have a lot of spare money to support our work. That's why we are called a mission of the diocese. And we crank out most of the young clergy of the church (Remember them? They are the people everyone keeps saying we need more of.). You could pitch in some funds for their seminary education because we can't help them out all that much, especially when our budgets are cut (See? The circle closes.).

Ok. Bitching session is over. Next time I will talk about something that doesn't cut quite so close to home. Like the death penalty. Or Teddy Kennedy (RIP). In the meantime, I have a dozen new students to contact before Sunday to make sure they know how to reach us. And several pounds of hamburgers to purchase. Ah, the joys of first week.

Friday, July 17, 2009

It's Over. Now the Work Begins

Well, we did it. Over 300 resolutions acted upon in 10 days.

First, the big one. Yes we pass C056 on same sex blessings by more than two thirds in the laity and clergy. Yes it allows for local options, but no it does not direct the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to prepare liturgies, only to gather theological and liturgical resources. In other words, we have space to work with this, but no official action on preparing an official liturgy. And no one is forced to perform a same sex marriage, just as no one is forced to perform a heterosexual marriage.

Pauli Murray and Manteo & Virgina Dare (the first persons baptized in North America) and Thurgood Marshall and the first women priests in the EC were all referred to the Standing Commission on Liturgy & Music (SCLM) for preparation of feast day materials. They will look at them over during the next three years and make recommendations to the next GC. Sadly, the alternative baptismal covenant did not get through the bishops, although now it is out there and will likely gather some steam and acceptance over the triennial.

Holy Women, Holy Men (the new Lesser Feasts and Fasts) was given trial use for the 3 years coming, with the SCLM being charged to gather feedback for a more final version next time. The early buzz is that John Muir's name will be struck, but who knows?The reason: Muir was not particularly a Christian and quite critical of the church; the reaon he was included in the first place is that his work inspired so many Christians to take on the environment. To include him definitely requires a shift in thinking about who should be on the calendar; you be the judge. Literally. There will opportunity to have your say on him and over 100 other new people.

Biggest surprise is C023 which would have added sexual identity and expression to the list of reasons that people could not be automatically disqualified from the ordination process. We voted to add them; the bishops voted to delete the entire laundry list and just say all persons. We with signals from the trans community voted to not concur with them, which reverts the canon back to the old language. The biggest issue was that we thought we needed to reflect a reality that not everyone actually does have equal access and to mention by name those who do don't always. The fact that some people we wished to add to the list did not get through should not be used as reason to removed all the other groups who were already identified.

Right at the end, we got word that the bishops prayed for +Gene (Robinson) who is sick. No word on what this is yet.

As of this post, no more for awhile, though I may respond if you make a comment. I am not reporting what happens in Oakland for the weekend. And if you are clergy and in the diocese of NC come see your deputation in Burlington on Wednesday.

General Convention, mid last day report

Well, the deed is done. C056 has been voted on. The debate was interesting. No one even attempted an amendment. I think the opposition to it knew that would fail, so they decided instead to use as much microphone time as possible to state their concerns. Most of them were pretty calm about it. Thank you for that kind gift. It was noticed. We may not agree about this, but I will still pray for you and your ministries and call you brothers and sisters.

And even though we can pretty much guess the outcome, the vote is not in. We had a vote by orders, which means the lay deputies and the clergy deputies vote separately and must tally their diocesan groups. 3 or 4 votes means yes, 0 or 1 vote means no, and a 2-2 split means divided, which gets counted as a no. Since the earlier version was more definitive, this one may get more yes votes than it did.

The change is that instead of calling for the developing of liturgical forms, this one now talks of gathering liturgical resources. That means that when you read about us authorizing any texts, it will be inaccurate. And bishops are given authority to offer strong pastoral response, especially in those places where civil marriages or blessings are in place. Note that the pastoral response can just as easily be applied to those not in favor, as that term is not defined.

So watch integrity's site. They will be the first to have a report on the vote up.

More later...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

General Convention, day heaven-knows-what

Okay. I'm tired. What did we do today. Well, we passed the budget, a great exercise in frustration. An hour of people trying to make amendments only to be shot down because they never identified where the money would come from for their pet projects.

Oh wait. I forgot the L.A. night last night. What a wonderful example of what happens with too many cooks. We had folk musicians. We had rock musicians. We had drums. We had 3 screens of constant images. And people doing yoga. And a cross that changed color as it blocked our view of the stage. And glow sticks. And poetry. And Brian McLaren preaching using a Eucharistic image--but no Eucharist. That's like describing a banquet to a starving man and then not actually bringing him food. And a reaffirmation of baptism. And an artist working on a screen constantly changing his images.

This is what happens when you have too many cooks. In this case, it was two different emergent/emerging (somebody please make a decision on this one) pastors trying to merge two obviously very different ministries. Sensory overload. I appreciated the way it broke down out rational defenses to put us in the moment, but it was just too much--especially the moronic glowsticks. Guys, did you notice the lights were still on?

I don't think I will be able to talk about emergent for about six months now. Which is really sad because the image Brian used was actually really good. And the poetry was really good. And the band was solid. And the Bruce Cockburn song had me online getting a copy of it later. But c'mon.... Do some editing next time. We did not need every emergent idea for people who were mostly asking me "What is emergent?" all day.

Anyway, after the budget this morning, Brian got the chance to redeem himself in our daily Eucharist, where he was the preacher (To be fair, the sermon was fine the night before, but it really was incomplete without actually having Eucharist. That was not his to control.). Really good sermon about evangelism and Episcopalians. I did not know that he actually was once an aspirant for ordination in the Episcopal Church but felt we did not make space even in the ordination process for folk like him. Trust me, Brian, if you come to North Carolina, Michael Curry would make space! Anyway, check out Brian's sermon on the Episcopal Church's web page General Convention media hub. And he kept it short too! Gonna be a lot of people stealing from that one for sermons on Sunday.

Now we are in the flurry of resolutions. We had two disappointments. The first was the deputies shooting down a resolution to give vote to the youth deputies; the worst part of this was one of two youth who are regular deputies getting up to speak against it. Obviously she has not been shut out of anything before; I wish I could meet her ten years from now.

The second was the bishops rejecting our call to change the baptismal covenant to a more active response. Right now, the priest describes the expectations and the candidate assents to them, rather than having the candidate declare what s/he will do in the active voice. They decided that this would amount to two covenants, and that could not be. So it is on to the next convention.

Tonight, we had a U2charist. A few of us went out to dinner first at an impossibly slow restaurant. We were an hour late and they were only up to the sermon. Listening to Mike Kinman try to pick our pockets in the sermon so turned me off that I left. The band was a pretty good U2 lookalike band, but even that seemed a little weird to me. I left. Now that i have done this a couple of times, I have decided it does not speak to me. I like their music--I am going to see them in Raleigh in October--but dragging out a Eucharist by looking for every place you can add a U2 song seems tedious, making both the Eucharist and the music less than they are separately.

So now I am in my room trying to pack to send my suitcase back to Greensboro via UPS in the morning. Tomorrow (today, actually) is the last day, so it will be crazy getting things done on the legislative floor. Tripp, I hope we can hook up and grab a brew. Otherwise it is another round of downtown Disney! Save me!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

General Convention, day 10

Okay, first there is a correction to be made. The full communion with the Moravians was on today's consent calender, not yesterdays. We get the calendar a day in advance so that we can read it over, and that is what I mixed up. So, we have now passed it; we are in full communion with the Moravians.

And that error pretty much sums up what is happening right now. When we started this, the house rules were that we would debate an issue for up to 30 minutes, and each speaker got three minutes to talk. That was taking forever. It went to 20 minutes per issue and only 2 minutes per speaker. Today it went to 1 minute per speaker, and then to 15 minutes per issue. What is happening is that we have many more resolutions than we have time. The consent calendar is also getting rather thick.

Our North Carolina resolutions on adding Pauli Murray (the first African American female priest) and Manteo and Virginia Dare (the first baptism in North America) to the calendar got reported out favorably; they go to the bishops first, so I do not know what happened with them. The plan is to refer them to the Standing Committee on Liturgy for study. The bishops on the Liturgy Committee did not like the resolution about an alternative baptismal covenant (see somewhere below), but hopefully they presented it to the rest of their colleagues today.

We will have a national health plan! And the laity will have pensions if they work over 20 hours per week. To be fair, most of them already do, but this will require it. We had the usual arguments about it hurting small congregations. Sorry folks; if we require pensions for the clergy who make more money, this is a simple matter of justice. Just my conscience along would force me to vote in favor.

This afternoon, we got the budget. It looks bad. Lots of cuts in National staff and program. But the MDGs got put back. And the youth staff position is in there--they tried to take it out because the position is not currently filled. But the youth presence mounted a good offense. Most of the money for starting new chaplaincies stayed in. Our young adult and college staff still have jobs, but their budgets shrunk.

And the budget will drop to 19% asking from dioceses by 2012 instead of the 21% it is now. It will be interesting to watch the debate tomorrow. In order to add something to the budget, you have to indicate where you will take money from. There ain't a lot of wiggle room, and you will piss someone off if you try to take their money.

The L.A. night was interesting. Only about 500 people showed up for Genesis, an emergent church experience. Brian McLaren spoke. As I learned later, this was put together byt wo different emergent congregations and leaders. Since no two emergent people do things the same, it seemed like a bit of a hodgepodge. A great piece of poetry in the middle, a wonderful confession of the business of life. And an artist was making images on a paint screen all through. And lots of video images. And music. And yoga. And drumming. And glow sticks. You get the picture. A bit too much. McLaren talked about how the broken body of Christ is made whole within us. But there was no Eucharist. Anyone who knows what CD of Bruce Cockburn has the song "Mystery" on it will be welcome to respond.

Well, that is it for today. I barely scratch the surface with all the issues we are handling, so if you want to know about a particular subject, write a note. Time for me to go to bed. Too bad those folks doing the U2charist on Thursday will be playing to an empty hall. I am certain the bishops and deputies will be having evening sessions tomorrow night.

General Convention, addendum

Okay. Here is what happened in the House of Bishops. The General Convention Daily had a headline yesterday that said some thing like "Church approves the ordination of gays." That is not what we did, but the headline went around the world before it could be corrected. The Presiding Bishop was pissed. The Archbishop of Canterbury was inflamed. And you can pretty much imagine how this played elsewhere.

Given that, the Bishops were apparently a bit reluctant to take up same sex unions in any form until some of this could be dealt with. And a committee has worked to create something that will do a more nuanced version of what the various positions in the American Church are.

That is why they delayed discussion. But this afternoon, they passed an amended resolution that essentially formalizes local option, calls for the gathering of theological and liturgical materials, but also calls for theological study throughout the church before the developing of rites. I predict it will pass the Deputies without amendment, but not for lack of trying.

And for the record, what we actually did was say in the ordination resolution is that we would abide by our canons which say no one is denied access to the process because of sexual orientation. It is, in my opinion, deliberately fuzzy around the edges of whether this repeals B033. It definitely is a statement of where we are now. And it includes statements about our intention to remain in dialogue with and support of (including monetarily) the rest of the Anglican Communion.

Later. Gotta go do emergent church with a couple of thousand Episcopalians. That should be interesting.

General Convention, day 9

Well, one victory has been accomplished. D025 came back from the Bishops with a change, so we had to look at it again and see if we would concur. And the usual speeches were made. And once again we got to vote by orders, which is apparently a way that some delegations use to show that they voted the right way when they go back home. And once again, we passed it.

Wait a minute. We passed it! D025 got through the process! Now, everyone has access to the ordination process, even to become bishops. Well, actually, that is not true. Now, everyone is allowed in the process regardless of sexual orientation. You can still be determined to be a total nut job. In that case, you only get to be a bishop in Florida or Fon du Lac.

We are now in full communion with the Moravians. Somehow, that slipped through on the consent calendar. The consent calendar is where less controversial resolutions go. Unless three deputations object, they get voted on without debate. And lately, we have been voting on those resolutions as a group. It gets a lot done quickly.

Something's up in the House of Bishops. They should have finished with D056 yesterday morning. That's the one which would authorize the development of blessings for same gender couples. Well, then it got put off until the afternoon. Then there was a lengthy closed door session. Now, it is put off until the afternoon session today. We think it is because the Archbishop of Canterbury is not pleased, and he may have called +Katherine.

Too bad. Let's not back down now people. We cannot make them angrier than they already are over D025. So let's carry through.

There are definitely some people who like to talk in the Deputies. And President Anderson does not seem to know how to shut them up. She needs to stop letting people speak on points of personal privilege. We will never get through the list of resolutions if we do not stop chattering about nothing and changing the rules.

We shut down the legislative session one hour early today so that the provinces could meet. For province four where I am, this was not a big deal since we had been together a month ago. But we had to choose our members of the presiding bishop nominating committee. (Don't worry folks. This is a pro forma issue for next convention. +Katherine is not going anywhere.). So we showed up and it was basically a walk through since we had already chosen our candidates. We filled out a ballot and left.

Then, it was off to dinner at a local Italian restaurant with the North Carolina crowd. Anyone from the diocese who was there was invited. We had about 25 folk, all treated by the bishop. Great dinner and conversation. The picture is of the spun sugar and hard caramel tower that was the centerpiece of dessert. Sadly, it was a cell phone picture. That's the bishop to the right in the rear. Thanks +Michael.

By the time we got back, it was after 10:00, so that's about it for the day. Tomorrow is a repeat, except the evening is L.A. night with a sensory emerging church event called Genesis. Brian McLaren is scheduled to appear. Should be wild to see Episcopalians trying to grasp emergent. Pray for me....

Monday, July 13, 2009

General Convention, day 8

Okay, it is beginning to catch up to me. I am staying in my room tonight, even ordered room service. There are no great events to get to, and I am just tired of being social.

Today was a good day overall. In the morning, I listened to the draft of the resolution on same sex blessings that is going to the bishops for consideration. The Liturgy Committee has crafted a carefully worded resolution to suggest that we are not of one mind doing this but that we needed to go ahead and gather resources including liturgies and to present something for next GC to consider. It also gives broad pastoral powers to bishops, especially those in states where there are civil marriage, unions or domestic partnership laws. To be clear, the call for a report to go to next GC was always in the cards because no new liturgy gets authorized outside of that venue. So anyone who thought it was coming from this Convention was mistaken.

The best part of this was that the two committees voted and the bishops were 6-0 in favor and the deputies were 24-1 (I think. I know the 1 is correct). That type of support from the bishops was critical. There is some disputed language in one resolve that will have a minority report from Bp. Parsley of Alabama, but even he is overall in favor of what the committee crafted.

In the morning legislative session, we again took up the cause of Bishop Elect Ruiz of Central Ecuador. Believe it or not, this may actually have been more controversial. I made a refere3nce to it in an earlier post. Complicating things here is that the bishop elect is from Columbia, which is supporting his episcopacy heavily; the Ecuador deputation however is 3-1 against his becoming bishop. Even that is a smokescreen however. The people of the two nations are the same people; it was the Spanish who divided them into two nations, pretty much arbitrarily.

What happened in the diocese is this. The former bishop was totally corrupt, taking the money and running some illegal activities out of the diocese. The Standing Committee had not met in years. When this was discovered, he was deposed and a provisional bishop was sent in 3 years ago to help them put things together. When it came time to try to have an election, a search committee was formed, several candidates were considered, and in the end, none of the final slate were from Ecuador, although there was a process to nominate candidates beyond those of the search committee; no one did.

Then, several candidates dropped out after seeing the mess they would have to work with. It was down to ne, although a second was persuaded to put his name back in. Then, an attempt was made in the search committee to reconsider the election; it failed, but three members (out of 6) dropped off the committee. Provisional Bishop Ramos=-Orench called for the election to be postponed. The convention voted to send it to the House of Bishops to choose someone--any diocese can do that.

The Bishops interviewed the candidates and chose Fr. Ruiz. However, it happened in March, which meant it had to be ratified by General Convention, as any election close to GC does. This is how the Gene Robinson election came to GC 6 years ago. Anyway, there was a lot of emotion, accusations, and mis-information. The deputies were also caught with feeling a bit like colonialism was alive and well in our choosing the bishop of a Latin American diocese; that is not what was happening, of course, but it felt like it.

So we had a voice vote that sounded too close to call. And then the stupid voting machines decided to fail, so we could not vote electronically. So we had to wait until the afternoon.

Then it was off to worship. This is what makes the Anglican Communion great: The preacher was a lay woman, Courtney Cowart, the director of disaster response in the diocese of Louisiana. The celebrant was Prince Singh, the bishop of Rochester (who apparently had a lot to do with the House of Bishops afternoon voting--see below). Singh is from India; he was the first celebrant we have had who sung the Sursum Corda, and he used on in Wonder, Love and Praise that is written out of melodies from Appalachia (the Sanctus is #850 for anyone with WLP handy). And the gospel has been read in a different language of TEC every day. This time it was Chinese (The diocese of Taiwan is part of our province). And we had a children's gospel choir, just to make things interesting.

Lunch with the deputation and then we were back in legislative session for four hours. The machines were working, and we voted bishop elect Ruiz in and gave him a standing ovation when he was brought in. Did I mention I met him Saturday night and had about half and hour with him? He is one of the kindest pastoral souls you will ever meet. I'd take him for a bishop any day.

The afternoon session seemed to get a lot more done than some other sessions. The big item was the Title IV Canon Revision. Title Iv is the disciplinary canon; the last revision was based on the military code of justice! We decided that maybe the church had a different way of doing things, so the new code is fashioned on a model of repentance and reconciliation while still recognizing the need to care for victims.

Someone needs to tell the Canons Committee to get off their high horses. Three or four of them got up and told us not to make changes because they had already perfected it. Um, note to committee, our job is to scrutinize the legislation and decide what we will do with it, including changing things. And, in fact, we found several errors in their words on the various canonical changes that needed to be made to get it write.

We got bogged down right at the end of the afternoon on a different canon change to include gender identity or expression in the list of reasons people cannot automatically be excluded from the ordination (along with race, gender, sexual orientation, age, etc.) It took to the end of the day, and someone called for a vote by orders. I have no doubt it will pass, but we have to wait until tomorrow to find out.

We left and I went over to the young adult closing celebration in the Marriott. As it turned out, word had just come down that the bishops had passed D025, the B033 response. They made a fairly minor change in it, but that means we will get it back again. But it is gonna be passed. So we are saying that we do not exclude any of the baptized from any of the sacraments, but that we also are active in our relationship with the Anglican Communion. I know Integrity already has the new resolve on their website. Their reporter is a member of my congregation going off to seminary in the fall, and he is way on top of things. Good job James.

So now I am in my room. The Black Deputies are meeting about something in a few minutes, but I may not go. Oh look, it is actually after the time they are meeting. Oh well.

General Convention, day 7

It was Sunday, so we had a relatively light day in terms of activity. The United Thank Offering ingathering was in the morning. Always nice to see 150 bishop vested out. In the afternoon, three hours of legislative time. That's it.

But there was one little resolution taken care of, D025. You have probably heard of it already. It is the response to B033 that the World Mission Committee put forth out of the many resolutions it received on the subject. If you look at it--you can find it in several places, including the Episcopal Church's General Convention pages and Integrity's pages--you will see that it has a lot of language specifically designed to say where we are with respect to the Anglican Communion.

We passed a special order to limit debate, so we had 30 minutes to comment upon it, followed by 10 minutes for amendments and ten minutes for substitutions. And then we voted. There were two attempts to divide the motion, which to say some wanted to separate out parts of the motion they did not like and voted separately on them. Both failed.

There were also two attempts to remove language from the resolution, but they also failed. Then time was up. However, someone called for a vote by orders. When this device is used, the deputations are split into clergy and laity. A yes vote means more than 50% of your deputation voted in favor, usually 3 or 4 members (Some deputations have fewer than four members in each order). A no vote means 1 or none of your members voted. A divided vote means just that, a 2-2 split. To pass the resolution, you must have a majority in each order.

The process also requires written forms filled out ans signed by each member of the deputation. So it takes time. We also dragged it out by having to vote by orders on one of the motions to divide. Fortunately, Joe Ferrrill, member of the North Carolina delegation, offered a motion to suspend the rules and allow a voice vote. It passed overwhelmingly, so we did not have to vote by orders on the second division.

Anyway, the results were overwhelmingly in favor of the resolution (77-31 in the lay order, 74-35 in the clergy. I did not write down the divided numbers.

Now, it is on to the bishops, who are likely to be a closer vote. Film at 11....

The Liturgy committee is planning to draft their final version of the same sex litrugies resolution today, in which case it is likely to show up tomorrow in the bishops. This will be the tougher sell, though the committee member bishop think they are getting a version that will work. I am off to watch them now. See ya.

Short Note

Okay, a blog is coming about D025, the "statement of where we are now" resolution about the ordination process. Not tonight, though. I am tired.

Well, just one: Yeaaa! If you have not found it, go to Integrity's web page.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

General Convention, day 6 addendum

Okay, so the protesters have gotten a little more specific in their signs. But you should also know that Integrity pulled out the rainbow flags and flew them in front of them. Don't get into verbal exchanges with folks like this. That is what they want. Provide an alternative response like the flags.

This was removed from the last report because apparently it was too large.

One last thing. We had visits in the House of Deputies from official representatives of The Anglican Churches in South Africa, Brazil, Kenya, New Zealand and Canada. They urged us to do what we need to do and know that we are still welcome. (The New Zealand one also gave us a great caution about appropriating the word Ubunto too easily without necessarily knowing what it means!) Hopefully, this made the official web posts. I know that Barbara Harris' Integrity Eucharist did.

General Convention, day 6, edited

Today I played hookey from the public narrative discussions. So did most of our deputation. Before that,though, we heard some inklings about what will come out of the sexuality reports. I listened in on the ones on same sex unions at the morning meeting of the Liturgy Committee. They are looking at allowing diocese to prepare right along with significant conversation with other parts of the Anglican Communions. Note that the word conversation is not the same as consultation, which, in some places, implies agreement.

At this point, it appears that the resolution about B033 are going to center on the reality that we are not of one mind. It is not clear to what extent they free us from the shackles. And, of course, the two houses can make all sorts of changes to the resolution when it reaches the floor. Keep watch on Monday and Tuesday.

By the way, I testified for the resolution out of our diocese about making the baptismal covenant moreof an active statement. Instead of the priest asking quesion about how we will live it out as the person assenting, the candidate (and the congregation) would actually say what they will do. And there is a additinal response about our stewardship of creation.

You may hear some rumblings about the choice of bishop for Central Ecuador. Be aware that the process followed was absolutely canonical and proper. The folks who do not like it represent one of the candidates who lost.

Ray Suarez (a deacon and yes, the name is familiar because he is on the News Hour with Jim Lehrer on PBS) preached a great sermon; go to the official web site for the footage. The gist was that we have something to offer to people who cannot find a home in other places in the church, and we have an obligation to carry that to those people.

So now on to the evening. I skipped the seminary dinner at $50 and went instead to the Latino/a party. Good food, but even better conversation with the current and future bishops of Central Ecuador. Both are wonderful folk and need our support. The previous bishop apparently ran the diocese without benefit of a standing committee and used the money for his own lifestyle. We are getting it back together, but it will take time. Pray for Bishop elect Ruis.

While I am at it, pray for Matt & Rebbecca Hanson, married yesterday. Matt is my assistant; they were married yesterday. To make matters worse, Matt had teaching job offer on Friday!

Now keep reading; this is a great story. I decided to go to the House of Blues in Downtown Disney, an area that is technically not in the park (you do not have to pay to get into it). Keep reading if you want a good story. My friend Dan Brown (no, not that guy. Dan is chaplain at U. of Georgia in Athens. We brought along Juan Diego, one of the young adults Dan knows from working with Vocare. We get there about 10:30pm.

The first thing that happens is we are given a wristband (right hand please!). Next we were asked if we were guests. Of course, we are not, but we are allowed to move to the head of the line. They sell us entry tickets for $20. Then we were practically stripped searched by their security. So we climb a dozen stairs and have our passports scrutinized--no, actually they just take the tickets from us that they just sold us at the bottom of the stairs.

If you read all this, you may have noticed some strange words at the bottom. I have no idea where they came from except it was 3:00am and I babbled on paper. Here is the rest of the story.

When we walk into the House of Blues, we hear techno pop. But what we see is nothing but Asian kids; they could not have been older than 23. And, of course it is obvious that they are there for each other and know this is the place to be. So all you non-Asian people with fantasies should just know that you would have been out of luck. And, as was pointed out to me by one person I told this story (believe, we have told this story!), not a whole luck of luck would have been had for gay folk either.

Except, to be honest, no one in the place is making a move. It's like 8th grade in here. The boys are in their clumps and so are the girls. No one is dancing in thei increasingly crowded place. The video monitors around the place are showing images of the empty dance floor. I tried a couple of times to take a picture with my cell phone, but of course the light is too low.

Not that there weren't pictures being taken. And a lot of giggling. At one point, I turn to Dan (who is White and looks like a good old boy from Georgia) "This may be one of those rare times where you and I are equally uncomfortable." Nothing like feeling like the dirty old man standing in the corner. Except Diego is 23 and he feels the same way. He went off to talk to the bartender (the staff by the way is all White and Latino/a), who suggests he come back on Sunday for the Gospel brunch. He politely declines. But when he comes back, he asks if we have read the wristband. Printed on it are the words "Unity in Diversity." We decide to not be the diversity any more and leave, looking out over another 50 kids ready to get in.

Today is Sunday, and I am finishing this blog. It is a short day. We have the United Thank Offering ingathering service at 10:00 and a 3:00pm legislative session. A lost of people, bishops especially have been booked to be in congregations, and besides it is both Sunday and we have been at it for a week. almost. I am missing the Episcopal Women's Caucus $35 breakfast with Barbara Harris, but hey, I just heard her preach at the Integrity Eucharist and anyway, I am eating breakfast in my room.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

General Convention, day 5

No picture today. The protestors have not returned.

Well, I missed day 4 on line. My parishioner Greg who is in seminary at CDSP came into town and I had a 'meeting' (read drinks) with some younger Black clergy about our frustrations with the identity politics being played out by our elders. (Yes, at 52 I can still talk about my elders in the situation. Sad, isn't it? Run to your next diocesan convention and run for GC deputy younger people! Your chances of getting elected are better than you think.)

In the morning, ++Rowan preached at the Eucharist and made a snide comment about things being okay unless we take some action that further strains the bonds of affection. Check out the video on the Episcopal Church General Convention web site at . It was hard not to hear his words as a subtle warning not to kill B033. At this point, though, I think he's gonna have to deal with the fact that we complied with the Windsor report 3 years ago and still had to deal with other dioceses intruding in our province.

Oh, and be sure to check out the Episcopal Church web page for reports about GC. I read all about the Young Adult Festival on line; I sure did not see them present at the actual event! Plus there are video links of the sermons and other things. Go to and click on the media links at the bottom of the page.

Anyway, the afternoon session in the Liturgy Committee on same sex unions went well, with the vast majority speaking in favor of creating some rite. And the evening session in the World Missions committee on B033 was similar. In the House legislative committee, we got to talk to our neighbor about how B033 affected our ministry. I talked with a woman from a small town in Oklahoma whose priest did nothing to prepare the congregation about sexuality. And, of course, Gene Robinson's consecration split the small congregation apart. Avoidance is not ministry people!

Oh, the electronic voting machines failed, so we had to put off the pension Fund Board vote. The next day, when we voted again, we had to spend 45 minutes voting, rather than giving ballots to some tellers to count. And there is no paper record of our individual votes! But I am ahead of myself.

Today we had out first really marathon session for four hours with one break. Whew!The highlight of it was our affirmation of the need to continue the antiracism work of the church. According to James, my parishioner who is working with the Integrity team, the House of Bishops kept going into executive session. They are taking up same sex blessings before we are, so that is probably the subject they wrestled with. If so, we will probably see it tomorrow.

Oh, and there was some asshole from Texas who kept trying to bully his way through Bonnie Anderson. As far as I can tell, someone needs to tell him to stop trying to control this strong and capable woman and start acknowledging her as president of the House of Deputies.

The highlight of the two days was the Integrity Eucharist. Creative, good music, Barbara Harris preaching and Gene Robinson celebrating. Well done folks. Even the biggest homophobe would have to admit they got this liturgy right. The whole thing was taped, so I assume there will be video on the site if not the GC media site. Look for it. Still trying to get my alternative coalition going. We met tonight and are still considering what we are talking about. I think we are in the same struggle as people trying to define emergent. Something has to change but we are not quite sure what it is just yet.

More coming soon.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

General Convention, day 3

This picture says we are actually threatening to somebody. I don't think it is Fred Phelps' wackos from Kansas, but I did not ask. They saw me taking a picture of them and one guy said something about how someone was supporting them. I just said, "Dream on, buddy. You really are delusional," and then I walked away. Thought you'd love to see it.

Well, let's see. The PB told us we were in crisis again, this time in the opening Eucharist. The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke for twenty minutes, followed by some video that malfunctioned and then the three young people that the video was about answered two questions that the president of the House of Deputies posed to them rather than asking the Archbishop anything. What a wasted opportunity. He gave us some wonderful things to think about in relation to lies and truths in the global economic crisis, and we just threw his aside to toot our own horn.

To be fair the third of the younger speakers was an African doctor working with Malaria. Unfortunately, it came across as part program plug, part pat ourselves on the back for the ERD (Episcopal Relief and Development) Nets for Life program. People started walked out steadily when they saw that the program had stepped away from Rowan Williams.

Okay, let's back up. Today I spent time in the Social Concerns Committee. In the morning, I spoke to the Economic Justice resolution which was asking for $100,000 in the budget over the next three years for program and administration. Boy, the sponsors did not have their act together. It took half an hour for them to explain where the money would be used. Choose your speakers better, folks. You had a sympathetic audience, and I would not be surprised if you don't get the money.

New Deputies luncheon on the budget: A waste. I already knew everything they had to say, and I could have answered the questions that other new deputies were asking. Didn't any of these folks do some homework before showing up?

Highlight of the day: The afternoon hearing, again in Social Concerns, that focused on marriage rites in the states that have authorized civil marriage. Those bishops are putting forth a resolution asking for a pastoral allowance to, in effect, allow their clergy to act. There were no speakers against the resolution! It still has to go through both houses, but that was a strong start.

Tomorrow is one of the big days. Same sex marriage goes before the Liturgy committee in the afternoon, and B033 (see my earlier columns if the numbers make no sense) comes before World Missions in the evening.

And we had our first two legislative sessions as a full house. The first was basically organizing (Don't click your notebook after the house has come to order people. And don't clap unless allowed to by the chair). The second mostly cleared away some non-controversial resolutions.

There is a mysterious group of 8 who are meeting with the Archbishop to talk about the American Church in relation to homosexuality, supposedly to represent all sides. No one knows who they are. I bet James Joiner knows. I will ask him. Maybe I'll even be able to tell you!

After all that, the Archbishop's talk came. Oh, and I may be fomenting a coup among Black (and other) clergy who don't buy into the identity politics of our elders. We'll see. Probably should not be printing that just yet, but nobody reads this anyway.

It is 9:30 now. How do I know? Because the nightly fireworks display from Disney has started; I can hear it from the window in my hotel room. Still have a deputies of color meeting at 10:00. That will end the day. Bourbon helps.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Anaheim, Day 2

Got here yesterday at 9:30 in the morning, in time to beat the rush of folks flying in to go to the Michael Jackson memorial. Actually, most of them flew into LAX. We are in Anaheim, using the John Wayne International Airport, but if you think television has been inundated with MJ stuff where you are, I promise you that no one is turning on tvs in their room here; just passing them in the lobbies is more than enough.

For some reason, the Hilton did not want me to have a refrigerator. Mind you, I ordered it a few weeks ago and have to pay $30 for the privilege. At least the wifi is down to $5 a day; originally it as $12, but I figure they got an offer they couldn't refuse and suddenly we have a 'promotional price.' Anyway, I reminded the Hilton about the refrigerator when I checked in. No go. I came down to the desk again at 4:00; at that point they tried to say they might be out of them but would check on it.

At 7:00, a member of our deputation arrived and got a refrigerator in her room right away, while I was still waiting. We go to dinner, and then I come back and ask about it one more time. This time, the woman calls housekeeping and they send one up in ten minutes. So what was so hard people? For what we are paying, service should be a little better. And for the record, I was not threatening, loud, or rude.

Dinner at Morton's steakhouse. Overpriced, but very tasty. A $45 small steak should not come a la carte people.

This morning, several hundred new deputies woke up to go to an 8:00 meeting only to learn it was canceled. Later today we were told it was a mistake on the schedule. How did you miss this one?!!! Mind you, most of us from the east coast had no problem getting up for the event, but I certainly hope this is not the standard for scheduling. In the meantime, we had not bothered to look at what committee hearings we might want to go to during that time because we all know we were busy.

Started taking shots with my cell phone camera, but will carry my real one with me tomorrow. I love the gluten free communion station. Is this separate but equal? Is it really so hard to keep a few gluten free wafers at each station?

So nothing shocking or amazing yet, although the Presiding Bishop made it sound like we were all in crisis, and the President of the House of Deputies was almost as grim. Sorry folks, not all of us live in crisis world.

Pray especially for us Thursday. Two open hearings that afternoon and evening. The first is on same sex marriage and the second is on moving past B033 (look it up in the2006 General Convention archives.). Hopefully, that means the votes will come up by this weekend and we can get some other work done too.

Public narrative (sigh!). The next gimmick. Pick one part your story (personal experience), two parts our story (isn't that also called the Gospel?), add a dash of current situation demanding attention and there you have it. We called that a sermon in seminary, so I guess this is homiletics for the rest of the church. And I still don't know why we are doing it except the last GC said we need to do something. I'm not impressed.

Now off to the Black Deputies meeting at 10:00pm. Then we get to go back to it tomorrow at 7:00. And guess what. General Convention doesn't officially start until the Opening Eucharist tomorrow! You can anticipate some more pictures and probably some serious posts soon.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Seniority and the Church

As I prepare to leave for General Convention, I read some posts from a few younger members of the church. That means under 40, in case the word younger implies children to you. These are the thoughts that came from this reading:

40% of the deputies to GC this year are new. We were explicitly told we were not being assigned to legislative committees if we are new unless we had some 'specialized knowledge', whatever that is. So, basically, if you are under 25 (and there are several, including at least two high school students) you are locked out of the power structure before you even begin. The reasoning given for this decision is that GC is so overwhelming that they are trying to make it easier on us newbies so that we won't find it so difficult to maneuver. The goal is for more of us to run again. You see, something like 2/3 of us newbies won't if past history has anything to do with it.

Sorry. I just don't buy it. The reason people don't run is precisely the fact that their input as new deputies is not valued. Now we have institutionalized it in a new way. We've basically been told to let the old folks decide for us.

The reality is that this system perpetuates itself mercilessly. Returning deputies basically are those who were patient enough to ride out their powerless conventions and return after the people ahead of them died off (metaphorically and actually). You can't blame them really. If you don't have the ability to get the authority until you wait a few rounds, why would you give up your seat before you reach your goal? We tend to look at the more seasoned deputies as hanging on when, in many cases, they have only just arrived at the goal of the seats of power.

But they have also been trained and brought up by a system that perpetuates itself. Change comes from new elements (people?) being introduced into the system. In other words, the seniority system has to be scrapped. Yes, of course we need the expertise of people who have been around for awhile. But there are plenty of them around. It is not enough to open the door to letting younger people run; they had that privilege all along. Once they get there, you have to give them an equal seat and a microphone that works.

And, by the way, that goes twice for deputies of color, who think I am new in the system even though I have been ordained 25 years and have attended four other GCs. Just cause I am a new deputy does not mean I haven't been around! And I no longer quality as young; I'm 52, for heaven's sake. However, I work with young people all the time, so I know I do not think like them. But I sure want to hear what they have to say, and I am not afraid to give them power in the decisions that affect them--and us.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Episcopalians are Coming! Hide the Women and Children.

Well, there are now less than three weeks before thousands of Episcopalians will be descending on the Happiest Place on Earth, Anaheim, California. No, we're not actually staying at Disneyland Hotels, but the mouse house is just up the street. And, from what I can see, there is already lot's of Mickey Mouse behavior going on.

First, my pet peeves: The Hilton Hotel (along with the Marriott) attached to the Convention Center, is charging $12/day for wireless. Mind you, we could stay at a Motel 6, a Super 8, a Holiday Inn Express, or virtually any other hotel in the area and get it for free. But we're special, so paying for the more expensive Hilton, which basically means not walking 5-10 minutes each morning, grants us this outrageous fee.

I might have gotten over it until I was told about the refrigerator fee: it's another $30. So much for saving money by having breakfast in my room. It's embarrassing to the hotel chain. I hope every Episcopalian who learns about it tell their friends.

Anyway, that's the rant. Right now, I'm just trying to work my way through the emails, Facebook messages and snail mail that are showing up on a daily basis. I usually ignore my spam file except once a week, but now all sorts of people I have never heard of want to share information with me. And every one of them wants to invite me to lunch/dinner/cocktails/church.

Except they really want to take me to the cleaners. These 'invitations' are running anywhere from $25-$50 per meal, and I am sure I could go to one or two each day. At least my seminary apparently actually wants to treat me; no one else does.

Even the invitations to Eucharist have to be treated with suspicion. The printed programs will no doubt tell us the worthy cause that our offering will be funding, and a second pitch will be made right before the offering is taken up. We're not being nickeled and dimed to death - this is serious money.

And, let's face it, Anaheim isn't exactly cheap to begin with. $24 for breakfast at Denny's? IHOP is a bargain at $17? Now you know why the refrigerator (yes, I already have one reserved) is so important.

And the reports. It is ironic that we will pass so many resolutions about the church going green this time around. The Blue Book (actually a shade of maroon), filled with Convention Resolutions, is over 800 pages long. Most people will probably ship it out west rather than be forced to carry it on the plane and pay excess weight fees. And it doesn't even include the proposed budget, which was a separate document. The Church Pension Fund sent me their own report, another fifty pages I probably won't be reading. And the paper keeps arriving. Yes, a rain forest was hurt in the making of this convention.

It would be nice if the rest of the world cared one whit about what we do out there. What will happen instead is that there will be one report on the day we deal with the resolutions about same sex marriage, a relatively small part of the convention agenda. But it is the, ahem, sexy part, so you can be sure it will hit the major news media unlike everything else. Condemn a war: who cares? Raise millions for fighting malaria: so what? National health insurance for church workers? Hell, the Presiding Bishop could probably swear up a storm, declare herself to be a Sarah Palin Republican, and smoke a cigar naked without gathering attention unless she was talking about same sex marriage.

Now, this is not to take anything away from the importance of that issue. BUT IT'S NOT THE ONLY THING WE TALK ABOUT!!

Personally, I am looking forward to what Brian McLaren has to say to 10,000 Episcopalians. That should be funny. I wonder if they will even understand what he has to say?

Anyway, be sure to bookmark the Episcopal Church home page for an opportunity to see daily updates about what is actually going on ( You will have to go through the silly "I Am Episcopalian" cover site, in which various church members prove they know nothing about Christianity except the word 'welcome', but then you'll get some actual reporting.

Or you can go to this blog. Or my Facebook page. I am going to try to write some things from my experience.

Now, let's get out there and starting talking about sex, shall we? We do it so well. Or at least so loudly. Or, well, anyway, frequently. It took the Episcopal Church to make sex boring. Go figure.