Thursday, August 30, 2007

Whatever were they thinking?

No doubt about it, this has been one of those weeks when our sweet Lord & Savior’s wept over the latest doings of the patriarchy. It’s been a pretty sad one for me too- seeing one of my biggest fears realized.

Monday 365Gay an online news site reported from Lagos Nigeria

A mob attempted to break into a prison in northern Nigeria on Saturday and lynch
18 men awaiting sentencing on morals charges, state controlled NAN news agency
One prison official was injured as guards fended off the angry
Sentences for the 18 [sic] years were to have been handed down last
week by a Sharia court in the Moslem state of Baluchi....
...The 18 were
convicted of sodomy earlier this month but last week the judge reduced [sic]
that to violating Islamic law by dressing in female garb when it could not be
proved any sex had occurred.
Sodomy carries a maximum sentence of death.
When the prosecutor said he would not seek the death penalty the judge said
he would need time to consider an appropriate sentence...
...NAN reports that
the mob was angry that the charge was reduced.
Whether the men are gay or
transsexual has not been fully explained by the authorities.
The government
frequently alleges that men arrested for being gay were dressed as women and
were attending or preparing to attend gay weddings.
More than a dozen men
have been sentenced to death in recent years for alleged homosexuality. In most
cases their fate is unknown. Officially the government denies there had been any
Meanwhile the government is moving ahead with legislation that
would strip gays and lesbians of all rights.
The ban started out as a ban on
same-sex marriage and has been revised to make it a crime for more than two gay
people to be in the same venue at the same time...
...The legislation goes
so far as to make it a criminal offense to impart information of HIV/AIDS to
gays or for non-gays to meet with any group of gays for any purpose.
penalty would be five years in prison with hard labor...
The southern half of
Nigeria is predominately Anglican. The primate of the Nigerian
Church is
Archbishop Peter Akinola who had been at the forefront of opposing gay clergy in
the denomination.

Lynch mobs after the blood of gay brothers was bad enough, but the more I read the more nauseous I felt.

More than a dozen gay brothers living with death sentences, if indeed they are still alive; for simply who they were created by God to be.

Banning the meeting of more than two gay people & the meeting of gays and straights resonates too strongly of the Nazi race laws and the ghettoisation of our Jewish elders.

The denial of resources and information about AIDS prevention is but an insidious, slow variation on the Nazi death camps.

There’s only one word for it, and it’s an ugly four-lettered one at that- HATE. That mob had but one intent- to KILL ( another four-letter word) my fellow human beings for being the embodiment of what God had created them to be.

O.K. I admit we know nothing about the religious beliefs or affiliations of any of the mob attacking that prison, but there are two indisputable facts which undoubtedly played into this obscene act of mob violence:
  • The workings of the Sharia could which tried these men. A court which claims to function in the name of the one true God; the same court system which has routinely sentenced gay men to death by public stoning- all in the name of that same one true God.

  • The unfortunate, sad public performance of a fellow Christian I insist on still calling a brother. I’m referring of course to +Peter Akinola, a fellow baptized, who the church in the past saw fit to also bless with the chrism of the priesthood, and who in time it also elevated to the episcopacy and primacy. A brother who, in my opinion, appears to have become so hypnotized by the sound of his own rage, that he is positively delusional. And if that wasn’t bad enough, having already rent the fabric of the Communion his behaviour continues to grieve & scandalize the faithful, confuse those outside the Church, and put the lives of our gay brothers in very real danger. This same priest of Christ’s holy body the Church has called my LGBT brothers and sisters worse than dogs, wished death upon us and called for our imprisonment. This same bishop and primate of our Communion has called ++Lambeth a heretic, and carried out grievous violence against The Episcopal Church- violence which I would suggest is at least partially misogynist in nature, as I seriously doubt ++Peter and his brothers would have been had so audacious had the Episcopal Church currently been lead by one of his gender.

Was I really surprised by any of this?

Sad to say, once I’ve got over the initial sickening shock I realized that following the course of recent events within the Communion, it was almost inevitable.

The week before, there had been the outrage by one of the patriarchy’s spokesmen over the declared intention of our radiant brother +Gene New Hampshire to claim the act of civil union for himself and his partner of 18 years Marc Andrew, as soon as the act is signed into effect in his state.

You want outrage- I’m outraged that anyone would ever suggest that the civil rights of a baptised brother or sister would be or should be handicapped by their baptism.

That this same forgettable individual should suggest that +Gene and Mark’s civil union would be an affront to the upcoming Lambeth Conference is worse that preposterous! We’re talking a civil right, determined and endorsed by the legal government of the jurisdiction in which +Gene and Mark live.

On what grounds would the patriarchy suggest these two radiant men be excluded from acting on this right? Their Baptism and Confirmation? Their active membership in the Body of Christ? Their collective and individual ministries? Or perhaps it’s because of something over which this same mouthpiece has no choice or influence- the fact that these same two radiant brothers in faith were created gay men, in the image and likeness of the True Living God, and that these same courageous human beings have been redeemed by Christ Jesus through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, ordination and consecration to the Episcopate.

After having shared this terrible story out of Nigeria with several radiant brothers & sisters in faith, I sat with this story all week, I prayed and wept over it... And in the process a couple of things perhaps became clear.

The first is a question of ownership. As anyone with the slightest experience in clinical or pastoral counselling will know, the second step to any path to recovery is one of ownership- to take responsibility for one’s situation or actions, the consequences and the effects on others.

Not something I’d expecting too soon from the bullies of the patriarchy. But I strongly believe that the path of healing for the larger church doesn’t have to wait on our bullying brothers. There’s always the other side of the paradigm: the healing of those suffering the effects of this violence and the witnessing to God’s grace in the process. Many of our sisters in faith, many of our Afro-Canadian & Afro-American kin have already born powerful witness to the great grace to be found on this path out of fear and victimhood.

By owning the consequences of what is happening and the effects of this violence; by insisting on witnessing to a larger vision of the Church’s vocation in these times; by stepping outside the dualistic straight-jacket of the patriarchy, and by speaking loving truth to power we have by grace all God needs for the future of the Church, for the future of humanity.

In this present fix, my understanding is that our ownership has to do with two things: boundaries and voice.

Boundaries not walls: Turning back & disassociating ourselves (ie. not buying into) the acrimony, noise & violence which is being set up to cover an insidious strategy to break the Communion, first set out in obscene detail in the Chapman Memo of Dec 28th 2003.

This ugliness and disingenuous mis-representation is not ours, and does not belong in the culture of sacramental inclusivity. Turn it back.

Call it what it is, but turn it back.

But to do this, our language must always be non-violent & non-escalatory, and I would suggest should always be cast in the context of the baptism we share. In other words, let our talk always be Christ Jesus and witness to the paths our lives of faith have taken us on. (For anyone interested in the exciting skills of non-violent communication I’d recommend the wonderful work of Marshall Rosenberg

In another forum I have put forward a proposal for an online resource for the community of sacramental inclusivity. But that’s only my best-case scenario! One of the most thrilling and wondrous developments in the last few years on the internet has been the concrete proof of the leavening of our church as so many radiant LGBT sisters and brothers take their place and find their voices within the Church and the larger community. Equally wondrous are all the other radiant brothers and sisters who have made our full sacramental inclusion their cause.
My proposal, is one for linkage, among other things. But in the meantime, there’s so much still to be done- and it’s all about voice and presence. Brothers and sisters we can nourish and encourage, listen to and resource as they find their true place and voices within the Communion, wether it be in coming out, in writing their stories of faith and healing, or in becoming an on-line presence.

As I said, that four-letter ugliness is not ours and I passionately believe our vocation as leaven within the Church is essential at this time, more than ever.

Yes within the Church, because that is not only where we belong, but where we are through the seal of Holy Baptism.

Call me naive, but I think that some of our friends just might be undervaluing what’s really going on in these present struggles. This isn’t a justice issue that’s for the courts. What’s going on speaks directly to the meaning, significance and power of Christian Baptism and no man wearing a skirt is going to deny the efficacy of the chrism which has sealed my radiant brothers and sisters in faith. Thank God!

Those who rain down such venom on ++Katherine, ++Rowan and +Gene, those who rage so vociferously against the Communion forget one very important thing...... and that this is not just a Communion of history and tradition, but part of the Living Body of Christ who Himself has had some part in bringing us out of our fear of Jews, Women, Afro-Americans, and just about the rest of humanity. Out of fear of the other... And now, most gloriously for this individual at least, Christ Jesus is calling the Church of my birth and Baptism out of its fear of its lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender brothers & sisters.... and who knows, in the process is possibly calling us all out of primitive fear of our God-given sexuality and all the intimacy issues associated with it.

Opening ourselves up to God’s Greatest Blessing for God’s Greatest Glory that’s our vocation in these times- and nothing less. It’s how we’re supposed to think, how we’re supposed to speak, how we’re supposed to act. It’s also, I believe what’s really at stake here.

Which I suppose brings me to the two consecrations in Kenya today.

And then of course brother +Peter is threatening to carry out his own little act two this week-end with another irregular consecration of an American priest.

Believe it or not, I actually laughed at the news- but only after I’d shaken my head, with real sadness. There might have been tears also, had I forgotten what I believe to be the real big picture of what’s going on here.

From that perspective these acts of impotent defiance are little more than annoying nuisances.

It may look real or threatening but only for the moment; in the long run they’re little more than footnotes....

Less than a year away, Lambeth.... The biggest gathering within the Anglican Communion of baptised, ordained &, consecrated women and men of faith- who inspite of their varying opinions, toil to be the embodiment of Christ’s Church here on earth... Christ’s Church, so of course they won’t be the only one’s there. And that’s what my faith is riding on.
The Living, Breathing Body of Christ- nothing less!

One last time, I’ll let you call me naive, but I believe that it just might be in this larger picture +Katherine most particularly, many of our primates and bishops, and hopefully +Rowan are operating. Let the bullies rant, let them carry on their circuses of impotent defiance, but against the Body of Christ nothing shall prevail thank God.

And in the meantime- we’re called to act upon that promise & nothing less.

God’s Greatest Blessing to God’s Greatest Glory- always & nothing less!


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Just a thought.... make that two

Still early morning here, though the sun has been flooding our blessed small back garden for several hours now and filtering through the boughs of our 'great tree' into the house.

A fresh pot of coffee, my sweet daschund Willie curled up at my feet- what more could I ask, except to once more be suprised by grace.

I'm referring specificaly to an article by the Rev. Candice Chellew-Hodge in Whosoever magazine and I'd refer you to one paragrah in particular- a quote from Bart Ehrman

"Paul transformed the teachings of Jesus to the teachings about Jesus' death and resurrection. That what mattered for Paul was that Jesus died on the cross and had been raised from the dead and that this brought salvation. It's interesting that when you read through Paul's letters, Paul rarely talks about Jesus' own ministry. Paul rarely quotes any words of Jesus. Paul almost never mentions anything that Jesus did during his ministry. The only thing that really matters to Paul is that Jesus was crucified and then raised from the dead. […] So, in the opinion of some scholars, Paul transformed the simple religion of Jesus into the religion about Jesus, thereby creating Christianity."

And that's only a taste...

And before any of you slam me for referencing an article which ends with a prayer written by Marianne Williamson just open yourself to what Candice is offering.

Personally, though Ms. Williamson and I might have our differences, too often in my years of front -line service in the fight to beat AIDS, I saw friends and brothers able to die well; for among other reasons the peace and grace they'd found in Ms. Williamson's writing, which was one of the few voices of faith 'out there' in the first firestorm decades of the AIDS Holocaust.

So I will always wish Ms. Williamson well.

And then there's the Rev. Micah Royal and his wife Kat (who's into rescuing seriously abused dogs). Michah will make your spirit soar and he serves to remind us all of the many courageous people of faith we have outside our blessed tribe who are alies in this greater vision of Christ's call to His Church

God's Greatest Blessing- to God's Greater Glory- Always!


Saturday, August 4, 2007

WOW- now that's preaching!

As one of the unofficially marginalized and casually tolerated within the Communion, I have yet to hear the first hint of an apology and areal appreciation for the radiant grace and long-suffering witness of our sisters within the Communion- and never was there more cause for this than for the lives and example of our Lesbian sisters- priests and laity, at this trying time of renewal within the Church.

So blessed to be gay, allow me- for once- and one time only- speak for the hetrosexually-challenged brothers of the patriarchy..... dearly beloved, radiant sisters, though they have yet to find the words, they are, in their truest selves and in their greatest moments of grace sorry; they are so sorry..... but they're also still terrified of the radiant, unconditional love of the true and living God, and of the gift of the radiant life that is our vocation in & through Christ Jesus... Frightened of the straight-jacket of their dualistic needniess; terrified of their own procilvity for violence and bluster; and rendered almost senseless by the radiant grace and monumental courage embodied by so many of our sisters in faith... But believe me, they are sorry- though it may take a gay man to let you know.

Which brings me to the living example of another radiant being I claim as a sister in faith: Elizabeth+ Kaeton, Priest of the Episcopal Church of St. Paul, Chatham N.J. Along with the great ++Katherine and Susan Russell+ , Elizabeth+ has regularly blessed me with her writing, and born witness to the great leavening and renewal being carried out in the Communion as our radiant brothers and sisters claim and act upon their Baptismal vows. In particular, I would draw your attention to a sermon Elizabeth+ first preached on October 9, 1995- and can that sister preach!!!

'Wade in the Water' is an awesome testament, not only to LGBT grace but to the promises Christ Jesus has made to his church. And yes- need you ask- Elizabeth moved me to grateful tears.
So very much of what Elizabeth+ preached then speaks to current days in our Communion

They knew that before the creation of the new order of freedom, God was gonna have to trouble the waters.... It seems that before there is creation, even the creation of freedom from the chaos of slavery and bondage, God's gonna trouble the water...
we are here as midwives to a new order of creation with which the Body of Christ has been laboring long and hard...
Within the placental waters of our Baptism, the voice of Jesus calls us from the womb of creation into deepen the commitment of our partnership with God in Christ. ..
If we are not about this high calling., If we are not about living into the chaos of the mystey of our faith, then we have no claim to the priesthood of all believers. We are imposters and frauds, no better than the Levite and priest who passed by the man going down from Jerusalem to Jerico who fell into the hands of robbers, leaving him half dead. In the history of this church 'that man going down from Jerusalem to Jerico' have been and are African-Americans. They have been and are, still, women. And they have been and are gay and lesbian people of all colors...
The good news of tonight;s scripture is that Jesus gives us a choice of the role w are to play in our community of faith. We can be helpless victims, half-dead on the road. We can be the priest who was obedient to temple laws. We can be the Levite who was obedient to cultural imperatives. Or we can be the Samaritan who considered all these things and acted on faith. ..
Our very identity as Christians is on trial here. This is not about following laws. This is about following the imperatives of Christ...
The only way to accomplish the imperatives of Christ is jump into the waters of our faith. .. It is our feet, these feet, wading in the water, which troubles the water.
And that's only a sample!
Elizabeth Kaeton+ Priest and radiant sister and while you're on her site please read the incredible story of Sybille- another radiant sister.
As always- God's Greatest Blessing to God's Greatest Glory- Always!

On a Personal Note

Who would have thought it- three days in Toronto (the city some Canadians love to bash) and I'm feeling so... much more alive- more human- make that restored!
Of course, the whole thing was only possible through the great generosity of my 'daughter' Terez who not only bought the plane ticket, but hosted me in her wonderful house in the Beaches, showered me with her love and attention and just generally put up with me.
As you might gather, it's done me a world of good!
Our time together not only included spending time together- and with her two magnificent Coon Hounds, Chloe & Miles- but a memorable early morning stroll along the beach which gives that particular and very unique neighborhood its name- a powerful Restorative Yoga class wih a wonderful teacher Hali Schwartz, several wonderful BBQ's and wise conversations; a chance to check out the amazing, new Hindu Temple; strolling along Queen Street; and spending time with Glen a sweet friend of Terez and I.
Terez and I have been friends for more than two decades now- and it was dear Louis, my late partner, who foresaw that she would essentially become the daughter of my heart in the years following Louis death of AIDS. In the hard weeks and months following Louis' death Terez was one of the very few who were there- stepping forward, but never on my toes, to be there when I found myself in the rawness of the greatest loss of my life. A loss made ever larger, by the fact that David- the caregiver in so many relationships was now in need himself- a new and uncomfortable experience for many who withdrew or disappeared from my life during that time.
But the 'Great T' was always there- available- and once again she's reminded me of just what a great and wondrously diverse gift this Life is! So thank-you 'T' you living blessing!