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Orlando Cathedral: They’ll Know We Are Christians by our Vituperation

This seems to be the kind of

This seems to be the kind of “welcome” LGBTs can expect at the Episcopal cathedral in Orlando, Florida.

[UPDATE BELOW]

By now you’ve probably heard about Baby Jack, the child in Orlando whose two fathers hoped to have him baptized in April at their church, St. Luke’s Episcopal Cathedral. They went through the mandatory instruction and preparation, scheduled the service, invited family members in – and three days before it was to happen, the dean of the cathedral, the Very Rev. Anthony P. Clark, called to put it off, saying some people in the parish objected to holding the service because the married dads are Gay.

Anthony P. Clark, dean of the cathedral

Anthony P. Clark, dean of the cathedral

When the dads couldn’t work it out with the dean, one of them posted a statement on Facebook. Their story went viral. A member of a Facebook group called Episcopal Church Chat got up a petition, and in just a few days 20,000 people signed it. I also posted the dean’s photo on The Daily Office site. Soon the story spread further, to The Huffington Post and the Orlando Sentinel, as well as some other church sites. Twitter came alive, Bishop Gene Robinson wrote an article and so did the Rev. Susan Russell, former president of Integrity.

As the pressure grew, someone at the cathedral started firing off angry scripture-quoting tweets, and the Bishop of Central Florida, the Right Rev. Gregory Brewer, was drawn into the controversy; he’s the rector of the cathedral, over the dean. The bishop announced that he would meet with the two dads and try to smooth things over. They would issue a joint statement, he said.

Gregory O. Brewer, the Bishop of Central Florida who's in charge of the cathedral in Orlando

Gregory O. Brewer, the Bishop of Central Florida who’s in charge of the cathedral in Orlando

He met with the dads, apologized and supported the baptism, which he said would take place later this summer. But no joint statement occurred; he issued one and so did the dads, a very thoughtful and gracious acceptance, which nevertheless didn’t back down from acknowledging that a wrong had taken place.

The internet cooled off—until Monday, when the cathedral posted a podcast of the sermon delivered by one of the staff priests, the Rev. J. Gary L’Hommedieu, at the main Sunday service the day before.

Gary L'Hommedieu, an assistant priest at the cathedral, vented his spleen in a sermon after the controversy began to die down.

Gary L’Hommedieu, an assistant priest at the cathedral, vented his spleen in a sermon after the controversy began to die down. His name means “man of God.”

It’s the angriest, most bitter and self-justifying sermon I’ve ever heard – including 40 years’ worth of Christian hate and vitriol from homophobic preachers around the world.

Listen for yourself here.

This is not how Christians should conduct themselves, much less priests. Followers of Jesus are supposed to be known for our love and compassion. When we are wronged, Christ said, we should turn the other cheek.

I guarantee we haven’t heard the last of these guys. They have plunged the Episcopal Church, the diocese and the cathedral – the Gospel of Christ itself – into public scandal.

The bishop will survive this, because he met with the parents, apologized and tried to help.

But Dean Clark and Canon L’Hommedieu are going down in flames.

Their defense all through this has been that they didn’t “deny” the baby baptism – it was merely put off, postponed, pre-empted, suspended, delayed, deferred, adjourned, shelved. They took a rain check, put it on ice, stuck it on the back burner.

What they did not do was reschedule it. And that amounts to denying the sacrament of baptism to an infant who has never sinned one minute of his life.

If you were a judge in a courtroom, and the defendants tried to use semantics to save their necks, would you believe them? Or convict them?

Social media – that is, individual Christians talking to each other – forced the bishop to intervene. Public outrage, however it came to develop, trained a spotlight on injustice at this cathedral. L’Hommedieu can blame “West Coast bloggers” all he likes, but it wasn’t bloggers who committed Conduct Unbecoming a Member of the Clergy.

The baby did nothing wrong. He ought to have been baptized with joy as one of Christ’s own – not used to advance the hateful agenda of anti-Gay priests.++

[UPDATE: I’m taking bets on whether L’Hommedieu was the one who first objected to this baptism.]

‘This Fragile Earth, Our Island Home’ and the Legacy of Howard E. Galley

Earth.space.com

This morning on Twitter I discovered that someone was trying to steal credit for the most distinctive phrase in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.

It was an honest mistake and it’s since been corrected. But it was in an article by the official Episcopal News Service, and I couldn’t let it stand.

Howard E. Galley, Jr. wrote Eucharistic Prayer C late one night in 1974, upon returning to his office at the Episcopal Church Center (“815”) after leading an evening group for Church Army trainees at the General Theological Seminary in New York. I was one of his students in that yearlong training course. After graduation and a lengthy internship, we were commissioned as Evangelists with a national preaching license.

It was a busy year for Howard; a satisfying and productive year. His main job was shepherding an entirely new version of the American Prayer Book. The English version of the BCP, first published in 1549 shortly after the death of King Henry VIII, is a classic of English literature which has guided the worship and nourished the souls of Anglicans worldwide for centuries. The original Book has only two equals: the Authorized King James Version of the Bible and the collected works of William Shakespeare.

God faue the Kyng, indeed.

God faue the Kyng, indeed.

Howard Galley was up to the task.

His job title at Church headquarters was “Assistant to the Coordinator for Prayer Book Revision.” The coordinator was a diplomat, priest-scholar and liturgist named Fr. Leo Malania, whose day job was serving on the faculty of the Mercer School of Theology in the Diocese of Long Island, New York.

What this meant in practical terms was that Leo had a big clean office at “815,” where he showed up occasionally when the Standing Liturgical Commission had a meeting. As his assistant, Howard Galley did all the day-to-day work, in a smaller office piled with papers, charts, journals, magazines, correpondence, books and workbooks and notebooks.

Leo was the star; Howard wrote the script. Leo would breeze in from Long Island, shoot his scenes, and leave. By all accounts he was a great actor in this lengthy production, from roughly 1968 to 1980. It was the most important work in the Episcopal Church during the 1970s, and no one could have led it but him. He was a former assistant to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and a renowned liturgical expert with international contacts at the highest levels of scholarship in the Vatican, the World Council of Churches, Orthodoxy and other top church bodies. His was the name that ultimately carried the day.

But the actual coordinator was Howard.

So imagine how plucked I was to discover this ENS article today, attributing Howard’s finest writing to some retired bishop named Atkinson at a church in Virginia. I never heard of this guy before, but I was not surprised to see someone else credited for Howard’s seminal work.

I fired off a tweet when I saw the article, and soon was contacted by the ENS reporter, Lynette Wilson. She told me she had based her article, which is about stewardship of the Earth, on something she was told concerning the authorship by someone at that church in Virginia. Apparently this Bishop Atkinson was so taken by Howard’s phrasing of Eucharistic Prayer C and the theology embedded in it, and spoke of it so often, that in time local people started attributing the prayer to him. The bishop must have been a wonderful teacher.

But he did not write that prayer. Howard did, after one particularly good night at the National Institute for Lay Training at General Seminary, which he served as dean.

The Close at night, by the Rev. K. Jeanne Person.

The Close at night, by the Rev. K. Jeanne Person.

As one of his trainees I was present with about 10 other people, the first time Mass was celebrated a few days later using Howard’s revolutionary new prayer. When worship was done, we were in awe of what he had written and asked him lots of questions about it. All we knew beforehand was that the Rev. Bill Coulter, another NILT faculty member and the only priest, would celebrate using a new prayer; then out tumbled this fabulous new thing with so many features – including responses from the congregation – that had never been done before in Christian history.

Howard was kind of shy about it, but he told us when and how it came to be. He even attributed our good group meeting a few nights earlier as his inspiration. He’d sat in his office at “815,” looked out the window and saw a big, beautiful moon over the city. Five years earlier, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had first set foot on that moon – an epochal event in human history.

In 1969, in living rooms across America and around the world, we watched live television coverage from the moon, and everyone saw for themselves that we live on “this fragile Earth, our island home.”

Howard consecrated that moment five years later and claimed it for God.

I could say much more about that year in my life and Howard Galley’s place in it, and someday perhaps I will. Now, however, I just want to get down these basic facts. Because I don’t ever want to see again, in a publication of the Episcopal Church or anywhere else, one more false claim about the authorship of Prayer C.

I know of two other living witnesses to this account: the Rev. Anthony Guillen, Hispanic/Latino Missioner of the Episcopal Church, who like me was a Church Army trainee that night; and Patti O’Kane, the longtime partner of Howard Galley’s best friend and associate, Sr. Brooke Bushong, also of the Church Army, who later became a deacon in the Diocese of New York.

The Rev. Sr. Brooke Bushong, late of the Church Army.

The Rev. Sr. Brooke Bushong, late of the Church Army.

Much of the background here, including the misattribution of authorship, is due to the low status of lay ministers in the Episcopal Church. The Standing Liturgical Commission would never have hired Howard Galley as coordinator of Prayer Book Revision; that important post had to go to a member of the clergy – because no one who was not ordained was considered capable or legitimate. This is the “Bishops’ Church,” after all; that’s what “episcopal” means. Prestige is the sole province of clergy in this church (and in most others), with one result being collateral damage to Howard Galley’s essential contribution in compiling that revolutionary Book.

I’m not interested in sour grapes; this is just a fact of life. But I will not allow Howard’s name to be forgotten or his contributions to be trashed, especially by people who don’t know what they’re talking about.

I am apparently the Last Man Standing among the old Church Army crowd. So I have an obligation to my friend and to other lay ministers to set the record straight and preserve Howard’s legacy.

He was quite a character; by far the best teacher I’ve ever had, and that includes some really good ones, especially Sr. Brooke and Fr. Bill. The fourth member of the NILT quartet was Capt. Tom Tull, a former missionary in Alaska who was “young and dumb” in 1974. Tom came into his own years later as an AIDS activist and minister in San Francisco. We all had that in common, frankly, but that’s another story.

If Leo Malania was a movie star, Howard Galley was a headliner on Broadway. I’ve never seen a human being hold a crowd’s attention like Howard could, night after night, anywhere but a Broadway theater. He was electrifying; loving, gentle, incredibly smart, faithful down to his bones. And he was also, by age 45 or so when I first met him, the very picture of a divo.

Mick Jagger

Mick Jagger

That’s Italian for “a god.” But unlike a rock star or Broadway headliner, Howard wrote all his own material and gave a different performance every night.

That’s just what teachers do. But even the best ones aren’t enthralling every time out like he was.

We all think we know what female divas are about, in opera or the theater; lots of ego, massive self-centeredness, ordering people around. That’s the popular stereotype, but the actual goddesses of the theater – Bernadette Peters, Ethel Merman, Chita Rivera, Angela Lansbury, maybe Irina Menzel – are spellbinding.

They don’t stop the show; the audience stops the show to go nuts over them. They say Merman held the last note of “I Got Rhythm” for 32 bars without a breath; of course the audience rioted!

Merman was an Episcopalian; I wouldn't be surprised if she gave Howard lessons.

Merman was an Episcopalian; I wouldn’t be surprised if she gave Howard lessons.

But Howard was a man. I compare him to Jason Robards in Moon for the Misbegotten by Eugene O’Neill, which was playing at the Morosco Theatre that year, with its long stretches of monologue for the two protagonists. (Colleen Dewhurst was every bit as strong as Robards, her ex-husband; if anything she stole the show because her character starts out at a disadvantage to her drunken, eloquent, loudmouth bellower of a man.)

JasonRobardsColleenDewhurst.MoonTVmovie

Every night with Howard was like going to Broadway. There I was, a 22-year-old hick from the sticks, staring open-mouthed at this teacher who was so thrilling and demanding, vulnerable and full of faith.

(If this reminds you of anyone you know, please don’t mention it until after the webcast.)

Now I will end this, by reprinting the three comments I left on the Episcopal News Service website this morning. I’m trying to set the record straight and create a larger internet presence for my great teacher, who died in 1993. I can’t find a single photograph of Howard anywhere online, so this will have to do.

He was a great man. So let me add right now, if anyone from that era deserves a place on our liturgical calendar in future years, it won’t be Leo Malania or any of the thousands of others who contributed to prayer book revision. It will be Howard Galley, a devout Catholic who was a thorough Evangelist.++

Ceremonies

___

Comment #1 on Episcopal News Service’s website:

Howard E. Galley, Jr. of the Church Army wrote those words, not Bishop Atkinson. I was present the first time they were used to consecrate bread and wine at the Eucharist, in a classroom at General Seminary, New York, in the summer of 1974. The Rev. Bill Coulter celebrated for my Church Army training class; Capt. Galley, Sr. Brooke Bushong and Capt. Tom Tull were there along with six lay ministry students, including Anthony Guillen, who was later ordained and became Hispanic/Latino Missioner at 815. Howard told us after Mass how he came to write that prayer, late one night at 815 after one of our evening classes. He wrote it all in one sitting, then refined it with Brooke and a few other friends a few nights later at a bar in Brooklyn Heights.

He was Assistant to the Coordinator for Prayer Book Revision and General Editor of the new BCP, the day-to-day staffer who kept the wheels turning for the Standing Liturgical Commission in the runup to the General Convention of 1976, at which the Draft Prayer Book was provisionally approved for three years before winning final approval in 1979. Howard Galley wrote that prayer and no one else.

On his behalf I respectfully request a correction.

___

Comment #2:

What Bishop Atkinson must have done was to quote Howard Galley’s phrase (and perhaps celebrate Mass using it) so often at Emmanuel, Greenwood, that in time people began to think he must have written it.

Besides Fr. Guillen, I have another witness who was present during the creation of this prayer: Sr. Brooke Bushong’s partner Patti O’Kane, who still lives in Brooklyn Heights and can supply details about Howard, Brooke and others meeting for a drink a few nights after he composed the prayer. He read it to them, and they were the first persons to ever hear it; he asked for feedback and they gave him some. A few days later Fr. Bill Coulter gave it its world premiere in a little room at GTS.

___

Comment #3:

Historical footnote, for the record: Howard knew within a couple of weeks that “this fragile earth, our island home” was a hit; Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had landed on the moon only five years earlier. And Howard knew that the environmental theme also resonated quickly; the first Earth Day happened in 1970. But the thing he was proudest of in that prayer was that it’s the first in Anglican history to invoke the Blessed Virgin Mary as part of the consecration.

By far his proudest moment in the overall, decades-long process of Prayer Book revision was winning final approval for the most important provision of all: the rubric on p. 13 terming the Holy Eucharist “the principal act of Christian worship on the Lord’s Day.” For the first time since the Reformation, Sunday Mass was restored to its rightful place in Anglican worship.

This Church owes Howard Galley and everyone associated with Prayer Book revision the highest honor we can bestow. People think that what the ’79 Book did was get rid of “thees and thous,” but that was the least of it. The Commission, Bishops and Deputies gave us back our Communion with Christ, and we must never forget what they did. This Book made history because it made us Catholic again, in practice as well as thought.

So now you know.

So now you know.

Finding Out What It Is to Be Truly Human

Kind of a hot guy, actually. (Auguste Rodin)

Kind of a hot guy, actually. (Auguste Rodin)

This post will probably be a bit ragged, because I haven’t thought the subject all the way through. But it’s been stirring inside me long enough that it’s time for me to try to get some notes down and hope that they mean something to you. In the past people often called my writing stream-of-consciousness, which I’ve never thought was correct, but maybe this entry will be an example of what they meant.

Here’s a lesson appointed for Morning Prayer tomorrow. I’ll reprint the whole thing so you can see the context. St. Paul, whose writing is always wise and eloquent, claims that he put these gifts aside when evangelizing in Corinth, so that instead he could give “a demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” If he did that, he was surely a master teacher, but in this letter he will now eloquently explain his wisdom! (I’m convinced he knew that every word he wrote was holy scripture.)

1 Corinthians 2:1-13 (NRSV)

When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.

Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the human heart conceived,
what God has prepared for those who love him” –

these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.

Learning what is truly human, seems to me, is our task in life.

And I can’t say I’ve arrived at the point of knowing; it’s more that I feel like I’m getting there, and also that I feel like I’ve always known. I want to ask, Don’t we all really know what it is to be truly human?

We may not live up to it – most people don’t, the world doesn’t – but that’s because we prevent ourselves from knowing.

We do, all of us, know what it means to be human. But we push that knowledge-awareness down deep inside; we seem to find it painful to know what’s human and not, so we keep ourselves from thinking about any of it.

As Leonardo Ricardo would say, we’re all about “pretend.” When I was a kid our adolescent term was having a “false front.” (Teenagers are experts on this subject, with built-in bullshit detectors.)

I never really lost mine and I bet you didn’t either. I’m not sure anybody does, but boy, does this world have massive incentives to give in to the BS.

Corporate life requires it – any large organization, for-profit or not. Bureaucracy demands we all worship the bullshit.

the-organization-man

Family life demands it in most families – at least the ones we grow up in. I suppose we think we don’t impose it in the families we ourselves create, but then again we probably do.

Commercial life – politics and television – are all about the bullshit. A TV show may make comedy or drama about rebelling against the BS (“The Daily Show,” “Breaking Bad,” “Downton Abbey”) but every eight minutes it’s “brought to you by the bullshit.”

There’s nowhere you can go (including church) and not be knee-deep in bullshit. That’s all the Church of England puts out anymore, and the rest of them are usually even worse. I don’t really follow the CofE anymore, and even if I did I wouldn’t want to go into this, but the latest thing is some kind of yes-and-no from the House of Bishops about same-sex marriage; “Gay people are welcome, and marriages are legal now, but of course we can’t conduct them, and we don’t let clergy officiate, and they ought not even get one privately themselves, but of course we can’t prevent them, and though it might be possible to offer some prayers after people get the civil rite, prayers aren’t the same things as blessings, you see,” which makes no theological sense at all and therefore is pure bullshit, the Anglican kind, you get the idea, it’s all who-fucking-cares.

June Butler cares, Mark Harris cares, Alan Wilson does, Leonardo perhaps and Louie (Crew) Clay almost certainly. But me, I long since don’t care. Leonardo knows his vocation, to tell the world and church “Let’s quit pretend.” But that’s his vocation and not, thankyouJesus, mine, not where the CofE’s concerned. I don’t fucking care, it’s not human there anymore.

What does it mean to be truly human? One of God’s names is Reality. (h/t Bill Coulter, late great.)

Here in the Episcopal Church we mostly think our places are getting more human all the time; I think that about my own congregation online, and I hope you think it about yours, too – that you’re right to think so. Even the Methodists got human yesterday, though only in New York and we’ll see how long it lasts. The retired dean of Yale Divinity School officiated at his kid’s wedding awhile ago, so two bigotbrains put him up on charges, which were set to kick off Monday till the conference bishop called the whole thing off. Good for him; good for the dean and his wife and his kid and his son-in-law. The dean is quoted in today’s paper thanking God for such a great son-in-law. That was nice; truly human.

But it takes a lot more than being for Gay rights to make us human; have you seen any Gay porn blogs lately? They’re all for Gay rights, at least I presume, but good grief, they’re inhuman.

Or they were until yesterday, when somebody Tumbld this:

catchotd:

We need to quit it with all the “cumdump whore” and “slave faggot” bullshit, you know? We’re willingly throwing ourselves into an identification that’s demeaning and dehumanizing, and that’s so dumb. Like, damn, love yourself; if you wanna scarf down three dicks and swim in a veritable pool of cum, then more power to ya man, you’ve got my respect.

Amen brother

Interesting that the reblogger said Amen.

MEANWHILE, back here at the farm, I try to make sense of my life and keep up with how much I’ve changed these last ten years. It’s really astonishing to me; I can’t make sense of it. I’m 62, my body is starting to wear out and my soul is cleaner than ever. (Should I have written “purer”? That’s what it feels like, even though nothing can be crazier than to proclaim to myself or anyone else “I feel like I’m being purified.”)

That is what I feel, though, and it’s damn weird.

So what was it Paul said again? The Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within?

I sense, more than know, what that means. Has something to do with a spark of life inside. Some bit of honesty is surely part of it; and increasing [crotchety] impatience with everything that isn’t real.

You know when people get old, they get crotchety; men especially. I’m only 62, which I’m sure to some of you is death warmed over. And only 62, to others.

I want to ask all the old people, “Did something like this happen to you? Is this normal? Is this like the reward we get for living this long?”

I do not know; I’m living this by myself, and no one can ever be sure of what’s going on with them. Our human capacity for self-deception is too great. Every discovery has to be tested; we’re too involved with ourselves to observe objectively.

Mind you I don’t claim one bit of better-than-you; I am after all still looking at porn sites. And on some level I don’t mind that at all – or I wouldn’t if could find any humane ones. The internet was made for porn, so there’s more of it than ever, but very very few where people treat each other decently.

I worry about what young Gay men are looking at these days. The internalized homophobia is just thick – except it isn’t all internalized, it’s disseminated, it’s broadcast, it’s enforced.

Here we thought, those of us who are now veteran activists, that we were rooting out societal homophobia and the psychic kind with it, but it seems like kids are killing themselves as much as ever.

I’d show you graphic examples or provide links, but you don’t want to see it. I don’t want to post them.

Instead here’s a nice thing; my Straight friend Tim found it yesterday.

Now I’ll start to wind this up. When I bought this house ten years ago my sexuality was on a certain trajectory. What turned me on at 20 still turned me on at 50, while my interests got much narrower and more focused – like “I want what I want exactly this way.” I felt some concern about that, like the world stopped containing 3 billion men and now had only 300,000, but I felt I was refining my desires too. Then a couple of years ago, I finally finished the 1000th draft of my third/ultimate novel, and quickly, my sexuality changed.

This wasn’t just my aging body, but the satisfaction/destruction of a gestalt. “The Gospel According to Gay Guys” is (or so I hope) the world’s ultimate love story with the world’s hottest sex.

And then I was done, and I’m not into that stuff anymore. Or I am, but not in the same way. I said it already, I got it out of my system, so it’s out with the leather and in with the sweat pants and pajama bottoms. (I suppose I should sell that stuff on Ebay.)

“Refining” sexuality sounds similar to “purifying” one’s soul. Meanwhile there’s this other thing going on.

I have said the Daily Office twice a day now for almost ten years, and posted it online. I was in love with God at 20 and I’m certainly in love with God even more now.

I think the repetition, as well as aging, is what does it.

I’ve told people on my sites, “Daily Office, twice a day for 30 days, and you’re bound to get closer to God.” Pray twice a day in an organized, disciplined way, and you won’t be able to stay away from God – even if getting closer is the very thing that scares you. (We want to get close, but typically not too close. Getting noticeably close causes most people to panic and back away; sure did me for awhile.)

I think probably nuns and monks, and Wesley with his Method, got this right a long time ago, even though I’m not sure they fully grasped it or anyone can.

Never my idea of a Gay role model…

Never my idea of a Gay role model…

But here is what I’ve learned: the soul’s desire is union with God; reunion, from before all time, and communion, here and always.

The soul’s desire is that all of life is worship, no matter what we’re doing at the time.

We can’t just will this attitude in ourselves as if it’s a decision we can make. Try that and you’ll forget it completely in 15 minutes.

Instead it works like this. “7 a.m., time to get up for the webcast. 12 noon, time to post the next services. 12 midnight, time to post again.” And the same tomorrow and tomorrow, day after day, month and year until it’s a habit that becomes a way of life.

I can tell you for sure that if I am getting closer to God these days, and I am getting refined and purified, it isn’t any doing of mine. None, zero, at most I just cooperate. At most I’ve just let go of my fear. God is no one to be afraid of; you won’t lose your personality (what makes you human), you’ll gain it more than ever before.

So you won’t be able to stand some things you used to be into. You’ll click off “House of Cards” because it simply got too dark. (The British original was both more humorous and more disturbing; I don’t like disturbing anymore. I don’t want those people in my house.)

Maybe you’ll end up selling all your sexgear, I dunno. (I do know it is better to have started getting it when you were 20-30-40 than to have waited until you were 50-60 to finally let yourself be who you are.) Whatever happens as you age, you really can welcome it, assuming you got on the right path in the beginning.

What’s the right path? The one that commits to being human, to expecting that out of yourself. The one that doesn’t mind wandering away without feeling guilty. The one that’s authentic for you, so you can be authentic with others. This “right path” doesn’t prevent you from hurting, making mistakes, loving and losing; going through dreadful things sometimes. Jesus could have done without some of those wilderness times – but he wouldn’t have been himself if he hadn’t had them.

My life still isn’t all put together, and I doubt it ever will be. Still, I’m almost shockingly happy.

That “human spirit within” is the only way to go. And I pity the fool who doesn’t go there.++

Peak Spiritual Experience Isn’t Easy

dawn-28mfdrt

Yesterday’s Daily Office webcast was so enthralling I had to shut down for today; we may never reach those heights again.

It wasn’t my doing, but the music of Merbecke, Byrd & Tallis, the 3 Great Musicians. People even stayed 20 more minutes for the Vaughan Williams recital, they didn’t want to leave.

Yeah, I picked out the clips, so two bits for Josh… but having entered into that holy space, and knowing that I can’t reproduce it every day (wasn’t me, it was Mr. Big), I had to retire so we could get back to earth. I can’t further explain, but I had no spirit left.

Better to take the weekend off, and come back strong on Monday.

Terrible way to run a railroad, maybe, but I’m sure it’s right. We are not a bunch of cars on a fixed track, going here-there, here-there.

We hit the sun yesterday, and the only thing I know to do is to sit quietly this morning. The few who witnessed it I think will know why. They couldn’t stand it if we hit the sun again; they need some time to absorb it and just get back to normal. Have a piece of pie, pat the dog, get their bearings again.

We thought we saw God, and man, that isn’t easy. Don’t know what Moses went through after the Burning Bush, but in my world it’s major freakout time. Gather with friends, hold the puppy, allow it to happen – and go to work on Monday.++

Internal Dialogue: Little Tommy & Big Josh

This morning Marcia, my spiritual director, sent me this quote from Hannah Whitall Smith’s A Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life.

 
“A Christian who was in a great deal of trouble was recounting to another the various efforts he had made to find deliverance, and concluded by saying, ‘But it has all been in vain, and there is 
literally nothing left for me to do now but to trust the Lord.’
  
 
‘Alas!’ exclaimed his friend in a tone of the deepest commiseration, as though no greater risk were possible, – ‘Alas! has it come to that!’ “

 

Marcia is hoping this bit of humor helps me, based on a phone conversation we had last night.

We have established by now that I have a great deal of trouble with St. Julian’s ideal of our soul’s being “one’d” to God.

Intellectually I’m all for it. But emotionally I invariably get anxious when the Holy Spirit invites me to get closer. I have a recurrent dream in which Christ stands inside a beautiful blue cave, with his hand outstretched, inviting me in.

The first time I dreamed this, I came close to the edge of the cave, saw that there was a little ledge to step over, and took one step inside before I ran away/woke up.

The second time, I took three steps inside, but no farther.

Then last week, when I was working on a new idea for webcasting Morning Prayer five days a week, which might really grow my website dailyoffice.org even more than its current 2.5 million hits, I got both excited and scared. So I called Marcia, and we talked last night.

She suggested that I try having a conversation with my childhood self; I’ll call us Big Josh and Little Tommy.

I have a photograph of him on my desk, taken by my grandfather when I was about 4. My parents had just driven from our home in north central Ohio to my grandparents’ house in Northwest Indiana. I was so glad to be out of the car that I ran around the outside of the house 3 times, then crouched down in the front yard, watching these people, waiting for what would happen next.

This was apparently remarkable enough that Granddad went to the house, got his camera, fiddled with the gear, came outside and took a snapshot. In the time it took to do all that I hadn’t moved.

In the photo Little Tommy doesn’t smile. It’s summer, obviously, because he’s wearing short pants overalls and no shirt; big head, big eyes, big ears, button nose, little mouth, short blond hair. His forearms are on his knees and he holds his hands together. All he does is watch for what happens next.

He looks anxious. That may be because of how he’s wired, but he’s also afraid of his dad.

One would think that the ultimate reassurance for a scared little boy is the protection of Christ himself. But that’s intellect talking.

This boy doesn’t trust.

I do, but he doesn’t. And when I get excited/scared about the most important relationship in my life, he runs the show. I have the dreams, but he’s the one who runs away/wakes up.

So, I told Marcia, this kid’s kinda messing up my life. She said, Talk to him about it. Then listen when he answers back. (Be both sides of yourself, like gestalt therapy’s “empty chair” technique.)

I didn’t do it right away. I’m trying to do it now.

Josh: I love you, little boy.

Tommy: I love you too. Gee, am I gonna look like you when I grow up?

Josh: Well, when you’re 62, yes. Sorry! I was cute when I was younger!

Tommy: That’s okay, I guess.

Josh: Do you know why I keep your picture in my bedroom-office?

Tommy: No.

Josh: To remind myself. You are me and I am you.

Tommy: I don’t understand.

Josh: That’s okay. You will someday. The thing is, child, your fears keep holding me back from getting closer to God.

Tommy: I don’t mean to.

Josh: I know. It’s my fault in a way, not yours. You were right to be scared then.

(No reply.)

Josh: My fear of the blue cave is that once I go inside, I’ll get lost and never come out.

Tommy: I’ve never been in a cave.

Josh: I have; a guide was with us. And there were lights inside, steps, a path. And signs, “This way out.”

Tommy: That would be good.

Josh: In another part of that cave, there were thousands of bats!

Tommy (covering his eyes): Ooh!

Josh: I know. I still don’t like bats much, but these were good bats. We sat and watched them fly around, while a hunky Park Ranger told us all about them.

Tommy: I don’t know that word hunky.

Josh: You will, buddy. I guess the point is that sometimes we get afraid when we don’t have to. When we’re with someone who’s safe and knows about bats, we don’t get so scared.

Tommy: Like a friend?

Josh: Yes, a friend.

Tommy: I don’t have any friends, I don’t think.

Josh: No. Which makes you twice as scared. But it’s all right. I’m your friend now. Will you be mine?

Tommy: I guess so.

Josh: I don’t want you to ever be afraid, baby. I want to hold you and love you and keep you from being afraid.

Tommy: Nobody holds me.

Josh: I know. But someday you’ll meet people who will.

(No reply.)

Josh: When you grow up you’ll get really good at taking a risk. Even when you’re afraid.

Tommy: How will that happen?

Josh: Some very nice people will teach you that being afraid prevents you from getting something you want a lot. And you want that thing so much, you’ll decide to try it in case they’re right. Because you know you won’t get what you want if you don’t try.

Tommy: What is it I want that time?

Josh: You want to help other people, at a place called the Crisis Center. Those adults run the Crisis Center, but they won’t let you work there if you can’t take a risk, and be honest and open. Which isn’t as hard as it seems, but you have to be willing to try it. Since you already know what it’s like to hurt so bad, like the people who need the Crisis Center hurt, you decide to do what your adult friends are telling you to do. It turns out great, baby. You change overnight, and become an open, honest person. The whole world opens up for you, because you took a risk to try and be like what they said.

Tommy: Gee.

Josh: That’s how you started making friends, and helping people. And they helped you too; they liked you, they loved you, they held you.

Tommy: Does it take a long time?

Josh: To a kid, yes. It takes surviving, first of all, which you’ll turn out to be good at. See, I’ve always kept you with me. I am still that child you are. You’re the greatest gift I’ve ever gotten.

Tommy: I like you.

Josh: I’ve always kept you safe, baby. We’ll always be together.

Tommy: That might be nice.

Josh: Now we’ve got to see what’s inside that cave, ’cause Jesus asked us to come in and explore it with him. He won’t let us get lost, baby. He always finds us and brings us back. And it’s this really beautiful cave, I’ve seen the inside of it. A little; but I want you to come with us. If you don’t come, I’ll never get to see all of it.

(Tommy thinks about this.)

Josh: I won’t make you. But Jesus is the one who will hold you forever, and keep you safe and warm.

Tommy: I don’t like being cold.

Josh (smiling): I know, baby. I don’t like it either. But we’ll be safe and warm with him. And we’ll see all these beautiful sights!

Tommy: Will we ever get to come back home?

Josh: Yes. Although Marcia says we won’t be the same as we were before. We’ll be better than we used to be, before we took the chance. Would you like to see a picture of this cave?

Tommy (nodding up and down): Yes!

Josh: Here it is, then. What do you think?

blue-cave

Courtesy of

bluecavejohnsparacio

blue_cave_walls

Tommy: It’s pretty!

Josh: Let’s go, baby. Hold my hand, okay?

Tommy: Okay. What if we get lost?

Josh: Stop trying to control everything. You trust me, I trust Jesus, we’ll be all right.

Lord, we’re ready. Keep the lights on for us; show us some of that pretty stuff you’ve got.

Jesus: Hey, guys! Nice you finally showed up.

Tommy: Don’t blame me, I’m just a little kid!++

 

 

Bill Black, Apostle to LGBTs in Cincinnati, Now Rises to Glory

BishopBlack.7.7.13

William Grant Black, 7th Bishop of Southern Ohio, died July 7 of complications of Parkinson’s disease. He was 93.

You can read a fine obituary about him here. It was apparently written or commissioned by the family and first ran in the Athens, Ohio newspaper before being reprinted online by the Episcopal News Service.

He served as rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Athens for 11 years in the ’60s and ’70s, prior to his election as bishop.

Athens is a college town, the home of Ohio University, and the parish is right across the street from the campus. I guess the Black children remember Athens fondly, and consider his ministry there a highlight of his career.

But the obituary they published left out half the story; so I’m going to fill you in.

I left this comment (slightly edited) on the ENS site.

This wonderfully detailed biography of the great Bishop and pastor Bill Black somehow fails to mention the thing he was most famous for in Cincinnati: he opened Church of Our Saviour, Mt. Auburn, to Gay people, decades before the rest of the Episcopal Church got its act together.

Starting in the 1970s, Our Saviour hosted a fledgling MCC congregation, which met there every Sunday night despite the opposition of some in the parish and the reluctant acceptance of others. Some people were members of both churches, and both grew as a result. For years, every time the local LGBT community had a crisis (and they often did, thanks to homophobic politicians and police), someone would call a community meeting at Our Saviour and the place would be packed.

Unless you’ve experienced discrimination, you can’t know how important it is to a stigmatized group just to have a place to go. Every other church in town was closed to us – but not Fr. Black’s church; he welcomed us. How many lives did his hospitality save? How many souls were brought to Christ because of him?

That’s what made his election as Bishop so amazing; “My God, they’ve elected the friend of the queers.” No one expected him to win – but he did. And he used his office to further the inclusion of women and LGBTs in the city, the diocese and the national Church.

I should know; I was one of the Gay leaders he embraced. When the city and the Church went through excruciating Gay turmoils – including the Disease of the Century and a billionaire’s successful campaign to write homophobic discrimination into the city charter – he put us front and center. And where were those later meetings held? In Bill Black’s old church – which to this day remains, under the leadership of Mother Paula Jackson, the capital of Gay Cincinnati.

We revered him. You know that word “reverend” that clergy routinely get appended to their names? It means “revered one.” I have to tell you, I’ve met a lot of reverends in my time, but not so many revered ones.

Bill Black was one – and on his death the heavenly choirs burst into song.

“Forasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my family…” – and that’s what we were, the very least, not even human to some people – “you did it to me.” Hallelujah!

I moved to Cincinnati in 1976, having been fired from my church job in Charlotte, North Carolina for being Gay. I wanted to be back in the Midwest, closer to my mother, and a convent in the Cincinnati suburbs hired me for a year. The next spring I founded a chapter of Integrity, the LGBT caucus in the Episcopal Church; a core group of our chapter members belonged to Bill Black’s church, Our Saviour in Mt. Auburn.

The MCC congregation in town had already started meeting there, and they soon hired their own pastor, a dynamic young man named Howard Gaass, who had an M.Div. from New Brunswick Theological Seminary in New Jersey. His was a remarkable hire, because in those days many MCC pastors did not have much theological education, and his call meant that MCC Cincinnati, though small, was moving up in the world.

Within a short time, Howard and I became the first Gay people in town to use our full, real names in the newspaper. The Cincinnati Enquirer was doing a pull-out section on “Gays in Cincinnati,” which they published on Palm Sunday. Naturally the reporting team contacted all the semi-out people they could find, like “the Gay minister” and “the Gay Episcopalian,” as if there were only one.

Howard and I helped lead many events, then he left town shortly afterwards. I believe he’s now an Episcopalian in the Diocese of Los Angeles, while I got appointed to the Diocesan Committee on Sexism and Sexuality by then-Bishop John Krumm, Bill Black’s predecessor.

This committee produced our report, which was viciously attacked at diocesan convention, until… I finally stood up when I couldn’t take it anymore, gave a two-minute speech and turned the tide, followed immediately by a supportive priest who was Gay but closeted, and translated my emotional speech into intellect.

I made the front page of the Enquirer the next day, by speaking out “for my people.” It was a sensation. Shortly afterward, Bill Black got elected bishop in that amazing election.

I didn’t cause it, he did. He fit the times we were in; that’s what wins elections, not five-foot-five-inch flamethrowers.

But the bottom line was clear: my church did right by me, and by all of us. That’s one of many reasons I’m an Episcopalian.

But this didn’t end homophobia and discrimination, of course, in the city or the church. Our enemies mobilized, inside and out. In a couple of years somebody invited a nationally-known lay theologian named Ruth Tiffany Barnhouse, who was going to set us all straight on allowing queers in church.

I was also on the program, held at Church of Our Saviour, the Bishop’s former parish. He’s the one who put me on the program, part of the local “B” team, I guess. Paid me a hundred bucks; I wonder how much she got.

I destroyed her with a single remark. It was easy to do; she turned out to be a polysyllabic windbag, trying to win the debate with a snowjob. I still have photos of that day, and the shock on her face is priceless.

She finally left in a giant huff, Bill gathered all the clergy around and dedicated the mass to me. Greatest honor I ever got.

Concerning his obituary, I don’t know or care why his family had it written the way they did. It honors him greatly, as he deserved.

Now I have tried to do the same. Because when a man or woman touches the untouchables, like Bill Black did to us, angels rejoice. He didn’t get the acclaim Mother Teresa did, but it was the same Christian act for the same Christian reason. And while it’s obvious to all that India’s Dalits do not deserve their outcast status, LGBTs are still “controversial” in this country and around the world.

So the truth must be spoken still. Bill Black was one of the greats.++

The capital of Gay Cincinnati. (panoramio.com)

Church of Our Saviour, the capital of Gay Cincinnati. (panoramio.com)

Liberal Naiveté Never Ceases to Amaze

That Maddow grrl is eloquent, a genius; but she still strikes me as naive half the time. (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

That Maddow grrl is eloquent, a genius; but she still strikes me as naive half the time. (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

I like liberals; I’m one of them. But they do amaze me with their inability to understand good and evil.

They don’t see political issues in those terms – which might be a helpful way to prevent yourself from falling into the intellectual trap of thinking “My side’s good and their side’s evil,” just because you’re on one side.

– But not if you’re actually confronting evil.

Let me define some terms here: preventing the poor from getting health care from Medicaid – as scores of un-United States are doing, thanks to Republican governors and legislative supermajorities – is evil. The Federal government’s paying 100% of the costs for three years, which will save the states big money, but no dice.

Throwing the poor off Food Stamps, as John Boehner’s House Republicans have tried to do – that’s evil. Their Farm Bill tried to cut $20 billion from Food Stamps, while the Senate’s comprehensive immigration bill adds $40 billion for border security.

We’re going to secure our borders by starving people? That’s fiscal responsibility?

Meanwhile legislatures in North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and elsewhere are taking advantage of a holiday weekend by passing draconian anti-abortion bills, knowing full well that the public favors the status quo on abortion and Democrats are unprepared to defeat them.

It’s the unprepared part that bothers me.

A Texas state senator, Wendy Davis, has become a political star by waging an 11-hour filibuster against a close-the-clinics bill. She was prepared; the rest of the Democrats largely were not, which made her instantly amazing.

Texas State Senator Wendy Davis, at a rally at the state Capitol July 1. I'm glad she's being acclaimed, but she wasn't that coherent on the Maddow Show.

Texas State Senator Wendy Davis, at a rally at the state Capitol July 1. I’m glad she’s being acclaimed, but she wasn’t that coherent on the Maddow Show. If you think she’s ready to be governor, you might find yourself muttering “Oops.”

In North Carolina they’re bellyaching about a bill that purported to ban Sharia law but was suddenly turned into an anti-abortion measure and passed as lawmakers headed out of town.

But what did those Dems expect? This is what Republican majorities do.

No one’s really surprised; Republicans understand the human vagina about as well as they do a foreign religion – it’s all the same to them, they don’t need to read the bill – but now Democrats are running around saying they done us wrong, when all they did was act on the power voters gave them – since Democrats can’t be bothered to vote for a mere governor or legislator, while Republicans do turn out. All these folks were lawfully elected, because progressives really don’t give a damn. If there isn’t a Barack or a Hillary at the top of the ballot, they don’t show up. They just complain mightily afterward, while Republicans couldn’t care less.

The Democrats’ naiveté troubles me, because it’s not like you can’t learn all there is to know about good and evil if you’d just pick up your Bible.

It’s all there, because human motivations haven’t changed in 10,000 years.

There are seven deadly sins, uhkay? Let us start with Greed and Pride. They’re all over the pages of that book.

It’s about greed and pride – but these liberals are babes in the woods. They heard the Bible was about God, and they don’t believe in God because the Pope and Pat Robertson are batshit crazy, so they don’t bother to read the instruction manual, which leaves them squawking that Republicans done us wrong and they can’t understand it.

Of course many liberals are fervent believers in God And All That; I’m one of them. Chris Matthews, E.J. Dionne, Jr. and Chris Hayes are all semi-public Catholics. I don’t know Joy Reid’s affiliation, but that lady’s grounded in the Black church.

Secular progressives do not see a use for God, and while they’re entitled to their faith or lack of one, they drive me to distraction. They have no grounding in classical justice, which is another thing That Book is about.

See, they think they’re inventing justice here and now, brand-new – which makes them dumb as rocks.

What the Bible does is make you see into the ugly heart of Greed. Do that, and you won’t be surprised by Mitt Romney’s “47%” comment.

Capitalists have to attack the poor. Otherwise voters might decide that Greed is not good and vote it out.

The good news in what we’re seeing now, as the Republicans fall inexorably into their death spiral, is that Romney and Rubio, Ryan and all their lesser lights are out of the closet with their hatred of the poor.

They don’t hate them individually – they don’t think they hate women or Gay people either – but they are forced to hate the poor as a class, because people without money threaten the notion that “the United States is the greatest country on earth” and capitalism is the best economic system ever invented.

It isn”t. Anything-goes Capitalism is one giant Monopoly board. Sponsored by Citibank!

Remember how much you hated your cousin, the ruthless Monopoly player?

In my case it was my brother Steve, and it took me decades to find out he wasn’t a horrible human being. I came to love him dearly; he was only half-horrible.

I believe in regulated capitalism as the best system for creating jobs and a middle class, promoting the work ethic, generating innovation through competition, and keeping the rich from robbing us blind – which they’ll inevitably do if there aren’t cops patrollng your Monopoly board.

MonopolyMan

It’s no accident that the Republican death spiral coincides with the most blatant promotion of “Makers, Not Takers” in today’s political rhetoric.

Even the racism, sexism and homophobia of today’s GOP makes a certain logical sense if you dig deep enough: they think Straight White Males are the ones who got us here, and if we’re to keep prosperity going we have to keep pale men in power.

(Please do not notice they are robbing you blind.)

Jesus knew about greed. His father YHWH wrote the book on it. I am sorry the secular Democrats never read the book.

I do not trouble any woman or man about their religion; freedom of conscience on religious and other matters is what makes us Americans.

The Vatican’s now the House of Crazy and Pat Robertson flies around like an Alzeheimer’d bat. We all know that.

But if you’d like to know about the sins of Pride and Greed, you could try reading the Book just once in your life. It’s a story of heroes and villains, and God comes out even more spectacular than Superman.++

(comicvine.com)

If he’s so Straight, why’s he always showing off his junk? (comicvine.com)