Friday, May 28, 2010

The Ridiculous and yes, The Sublime: Pentecost 2010

Yes, I know, I’ve reversed the usual order ‘sublime and the ridiculous,’ but it’s only to reflect the unfortunate reality of how things too often happen within our Communion; when the cowardly, divisive pontificating of one of our most visible purple shirts receives wider visibility and audience than the prophetic voice of one said purple shirt would most probably be incapable of even hearing- inspite of all his degrees (honary & earned), the numerous books he’s published, the company he keeps and the rather excessive real estate he occupies.

Visitors to this space will know who and what I’m referring to, though thankfully we have keener minds than mine to give ‘Rowan the Irrelevant’s’ Pentecostal pronouncement more attention that it really merits. It particular, I’d draw your attention to where Terry+ comes to his own prophetic conclusions. Thank-you Terry+ where Mark+ Harris, another shining gift of the Episcopal Church to our Communion takes 'R the I' apart, stands him on his head and reminds us of what our calling to be the Body of Christ is really all about. Thank-you Mark+ where Elizabeth+ reminds of some of the reason she's loved and appreciated by so many of us with her dismissal of Rowan's latest for the impotent foolishness that it realy is. Love you Mother Elizabeth+

Poor Rowan, every time I see his name he's either posturing or postificating- from either one of his palaces, as the rest of the world waits for him to activate the listening exercise our Church has been promising/proposing for decades now.

But Praise God! this Pentecost, among other blessings saw another gift to the Church- one which unfortunately will probably not get the distribution it deserves.

Ironicaly, the post got written because its author, unlike most Sundays was unable to attend his parish-and I can't help but wonder if there's not something wonderful in that simple detail, because, at knees in his parish Church, or at home this brother waxed posatively prophetic asking quesitons our Church in all its orders needs to hear.

I'm referring to Counterlight's 'Something to Ponder for Pentecost Sunday' written by a member of the Episcopal Church who is not only an articulate academic, an art historian of some note, but also an accomplished artist whose work I appreciated and wrestled with long before blogging came along.

Yet another time that one of my on-line siblings-in-Christ sent blessing my way via her post on Counterlight's post- merci milles fois Chere Mimi.

Not wanting to deprive anyone of the experience of the original I'd only quote:

Is homosexuality the issue that we really want to define the Christian faith? Already, when people are asked what the Christian faith is all about, opposition to abortion and homosexuality immediately comes to their minds, not the Incarnation or the Resurrection, or salvation, still less anything that could be called "Love." Are those who are breaking up the Anglican Communion solely over this issue prepared to shoe-horn opposition to homosexuality into the Nicene and Apostle's Creeds? Do they really see it up there with belief in the Resurrection and the Trinity

I would argue that what's really in peril are not gays and lesbians. We'll always be around no matter how many of us get killed.What's really in danger is the Christian religion. If it wants to be taken seriously by the rest of the world as anything other than institutionalized bigotry and superstition, then it must take the lead on a major human rights issue. As I've argued repeatedly before, what the institutionalized homophobia of the churches offends is not people's sense of permission (as the right argues), but their moral sense, their deepest sense of what is right and fair. That's why there are so many heteros out there willing to go to bat over this issue on behalf of gays and lesbians

Did the Savior who forgave His murderers from the Cross without their asking limit His Love and Mercy to those who meet membership requirements, or to those who could pass a catechism exam? Did God put another asterisk beside His pronouncement that His creation is good? Did God make anything that was not good?

Long after reading, and re-reading Counterlight's prophetic call one question kept haunting me:

Is homosexuality the issue that we really want to define the Christian faith?

As if Rowan's Pentecostal posturing weren't enough there was also a story online about a plan to organize international pulpit swapping between those formerly known as the Anglican purity police. Does this appear to anyone else to smack of Christian imperialism? Next thing we know they'll be organizing their own 'theologically pure' travel agency.

In the meantime, I'm waiting for an honest answer to Counterlight's question- from someone other than any of my 'usual, beloved suspects.' Most any bishop will do.

I'm waiting.

Monday, May 17, 2010

“Because God is bigger than the church.”

What a Saturday!

Even at this remove- here in Montreal, I was so very aware of just what wonder was taking place in Long Beach CA that day. A mixed weather day here, with several visitations of rain which were perfect for the garden and keeping me centered on the practice as I sat in prayer and solidarity with the siblings in Christ assembling in the Long Beach convention centre.

I’ve written elsewhere and often of what an enormous blessing and privilege it is- this new collegial solidarity- being able to uphold each other in prayer and practice because of the sharing and connection made possible by the internet, and never more so than on Saturday when so many of the individuals I love and admire, and yes regularly uphold in prayer were assembled for the consecration of Diane and Mary to the episcopacy of the Church of God.

Starting perhaps with the obvious: ‘The Great ++Katherine’, the Giant of New Hampshire, ‘+Barbara the bleloved Harris’, +Jon Bruno, Ed+ Bacon, Susan+, Elizabeth+ and all those other wonderful brothers and sisters willing to leave themselves open to the sheer wonder of the Holy Spirit doing something truly awesome & breathtakingly wonderful in our time- the priests, the laity- all that praise and celebration. But in the three hours of my practice of solidarity there was so much more- a certain young man Tommy Braveheart fighting for his life with the love, support, presence and prayers of his two wonderful parents- which I’d never have known about but for our dear Margaret- another young man Declan in the same situation for another reason placed on my heart by another treasured brother, Paul,

Which brings me to where I am this morning, as the early morning sun streams in through the doorway after having blessed my emerging garden- Thanks.

Not too often of late we’ve heard thanks within the councils and halls of our Church, so this morning I get to strike my own list:

To our brothers and sisters in the Episcopal Church for their prophetic courage, faithfulness and openness to the working of the Holy Spirit in the raw and confusing reality of our times; for your embodied love not only of our tradition but your passionate conviction that the Good News of the Gospel and the working of the Holy Spirit Herself are more relevant than ever, and for the audacious ways in which you embody this certainty. Thank-you.

To many of the articulate, passionate and visionary voices you have given to the current..... ‘discussions.’ Thank-you. This morning, among others Mark+ Harris, Terry+ Martin, Barbara+ the beloved Harris, Elizabeth+, Susan+, +Jon Bruno, Ed+ Bacon, Katie Sherrod, our own Barbi Click, Thank-you.

To the Giant of New Hampshire- living blessing, beloved brother and prophetic witness that he is- God alone knows how heartfelt and real my personal thanks- Thank-you +Gene.

To ‘The Great ++Katherine’ (that’s how we pray for her in our home) - for your visionary calm, your articulate intelligence, for your courage and passionate love of our Church, for your long-suffering grace and fortitude in the face of much of what you’ve suffered at the hands of smaller, frightened minds- Thank-you.

To get very personal for a moment- to two radiant priests (P.S. & M.W.), each of them very real & blessed leaven in my life, and along with dear Grandmère, the source of much of the privilege of intercessory connection I mentioned earlier- a heartfelt Thank-you.

To the whole wonderful mix of the American Church, and most particularly those I have not mentioned by name- Thank-you. In your process and praise you continue to serve as a reminder that our Church is part of the living Body of Christ and not a liturgical museum, participants in the sacred dance of Life with the Holy Spirit Herself and not an accidental collection of quirky misfits.

Which brings me to one of the two most recent gifts from the American Church to the world- our +Mary Glasspool. Through the good offices of IT- another gift of the American Church- at I learned that Mary’s favourite passage of Scripture are the same two verses which have kept me going through the thick and thin of the last couple of decades Romans 8:38 – 39:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I learned this, and much else thanks to the link IT had posted to The Advocate profile on our newest bishop at Thank-you IT.

Rumbling and rattling of Episcopal staffs, threats and dire predictions, waffling and wiggling that there might be within ‘certain,’ too predictable quarters of the Communion this Monday morning; I think it is only right and proper to give the first & last word of this post to our newest bishop- a word which resonates with those of a passage of Scripture we both treasure:

“Because God is bigger than the church.”

Bishop Mary Glasspool,

Thursday, May 6, 2010

For almost a week now I have been living and practicing with some pretty serious physical pain- the result of a reoccurrence of a double Charlie-horse which first occurred the summer following the death of my dear Louis. The third reoccurrence since then, this has been the worst pain ever from this, which could be a reflection of my age as much as anything.
Almost a week now, there is still some pain, but the primary issue is now getting some strength back into the muscles of my left calf muscles. All to say, though the post I refer to here appeared a week ago now, I have been in no shape until now to complete this entry. In the meantime, practicing with pain has been incredibly insightful and the opportunity for all sorts of intercessory/metta practice.

Amazing how the Holy Spirit is continually reaching out to engage us, especially when we leave ourselves open to wrestling with the great questions and ambiguities of living a life of faith in such complex times. Recently, it was a post by a wonderful priest who is not only a cherished sister but also a powerfully prophetic voice in our process of becoming the Church we are called to be.

In one post 'It’s Margaret' managed to not only blast me wide open, leaving me aching and in tears with the tragedy of Julie & John; she also echoed my own continual struggles with the violence in Scripture; she waxed positively prophetic, calling the American House of Bishops/House of Deputies on their indiscriminate use of such problematic scriptures in our liturgies- a call I would suggest which is long overdue.

I will not presume to either parse or extract Margaret’s powerful post found here however I would urge you to not only read it, but to seriously consider enrolling Margaret’s blog in your favorties or whatever it is more technically savvy people do. Not only is Margaret’s online ministry one of the most gloriously human and prophetic out there, she also contextualizes her posts with extracts from our daily lectionary.

And of course, as if the prophetic challenge of Margaret’s post weren’t enough there were personal resonances to my reading Margaret’s post.

Essentially, Margaret’s challenge to the HoB/D was:
A reminder that while we believe that Scripture contains all things necessary for salvation, not everything in Scripture is either necessary or conducive to salvation.

A witness to the perils and human consequences of idolatry- and never more so than when it is practiced towards a document with multiple authors, a staggering diversity of cultural contexts and written over a span of more than a thousand years.

A call to those responsible for the design and organization of our liturgical calendar to resort to that third medium of Anglican practice- intelligence- in their use & selection of Scripture for our liturgies.

All of which, of course mirrors some of my own issues with certain practices within our Church at this time.

Sitting with ‘the Margaret effect’ also brought to mind a recent conversation with another cherished online contact ‘P’ who, like myself, was a recipient of Bart Ehrman’s ‘’Jesus Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and why we don’t know about them)” from a mutual contact with her wishes for a challenging Lent.

Ehrman, a Biblical scholar of some repute and a successful popularizer of contemporary Biblical scholarship, teaches at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and I have read and appreciated several of his earlier books. I would be the last person on earth to feel qualified to either critique or review Ehrman’s work; I would however suggest that it deserves serious consideration and reflection on the part of people of faith.

‘P,’ a recovering Roman-Catholic and ‘joyous newbie Episcopalian’ (to use his term) had never read Ehrman before, and was seriously shaken but much of what he read for its implications for our current Church practice. During his reading we ended up speaking several times on the phone, and not surprisingly the questions ‘P’ raised went right to the heart of the matter.

Having discovered that Ehrman now identifies as an atheist, P wanted to know if Ehrman’s interpretation of contemporary scholarship was either erroneous or skewed, where was the response of the academic community within our Church, challenging or dialoguing with this very successful author? Where was the rethinking of our current use of the Scriptural canon in our liturgies? And where were the teaching opportunities being developed to explore the implications of the historical/critical method of Scriptural study?

Basically, if Ehrman’s work is indeed ‘correct’ why is our Church not reflecting the contradictions and ambiguities of Scripture in its teaching and liturgical practices?

Which brings to mind another conversation of more than two years ago with an Anglican academic who has contacted me about getting together during her visit to Montreal.

This was our second meeting, our first alone and we were having coffee at a café across from the university building where I worked. I no longer even remember the Scriptural passage we were discussing, but my visitor had heard it the previous Sunday in the St. James Cathedral in Toronto which she had been visiting for a conference. Whatever it was, as a feminist scholar my visitor was taking well-deserved issue with it.

When I reminded her that the bad theology expressed in that particular passage was a reflection of the cultural context at the time of the book’s creation, my friend frothed more richly than her cappuccino. ‘Exactly! So why was this misogynist embarrassment even included in liturgy... And to make matters worse, it wasn’t even referenced in the sermon. What sort of subliminal message does this send to the person in the pew.’

Who knows, perhaps we even coined a term that afternoon- ‘lazy liturgy’ but there was also ‘sleepwalking through the Scriptural canon.’

‘You know what really pisses me off is that once again it’s being left to the laity to rock this particular boat.’ That’s a money quote, and I’ve recalled it verbatim.

My friend went on at great length about her experiences of too many clergy just ‘going through the motions’ and what an insult it is to both their congregation and the liturgy.

Trying to put a positive spin on things I commented on what a challenging and necessary gift she was to the Church and reminded her of many of the incredible engaged Anglicans we both know from their online ministries (you know who you are Beloved Giants).

‘That’s just it,’ she reminded me. ‘I have my own fulltime job, a house to run, two children and a husband, to say nothing of the new program I’m putting together... Besides which, I’m not even a theologian!’

We eventually went on to my work on ‘A Church Unafraid,’ creating transformational models and how the Church must to come clean on several fronts in order to free itself from its self-made straightjacket of patriarchal dualism in order to meet the Holy Spirit and embrace Her vision of the Church we are called to be. But sitting here tonight, thinking of and my cherished friend and her prophetic priesthood, another ‘money quote’ came to mind. It’s Matthew Fox, quoting M.D. Chenu, the French theologian who not only participated in Vatican II, but also played a key role in the worker priest movement:
M.D. Chenu used to insist that the New Testament priesthood was not about cult but about prophecy. Priests were to be prophetic.

And in the same essay:
Worship ought to be the energy source from which a people heals itself and lets go and starts over.

and of course, being dear Father Fox there’s more to this quote:

The postmodern worship makes all this possible and even fun.