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Anglican Covenant Defeated; Time for Something New

This is what killed the Anglican Covenant: Elton John and David Furnish got married in 2005 and the world didn't come to an end, even for English church ladies and closeted curates.

Several of my Episcopalian friends are celebrating today the defeat in England of a proposed Anglican Covenant, a power arrangement that would have punished Episkies and Canadian Anglicans for not beating up Gay, Lesbian, Trans and Bi people.

To me today’s vote is an anti-climax, so I wonder what all the shouting was about. The Anglican Covenant was dead on arrival, and I said so two days after it was introduced.

I take my friends seriously; they’re some of the leading progressives in the Church, people like Louie Crew, Leonardo Ricardo, Grandmère Mimi, Tobias Haller and others. Mimi has obsessed about this for months, hanging on every vote, diocese by diocese, reporting the numbers as if Romney and Santorum were slugging it out in the Ohio primary for future world domination.

Mimi’s happy now and I’m happy for her. Let the good times roll and all that.

Can we all get back to real life now?

FWiW, I told you so. (H/t JimB, whose handy little acronym I rather like.)

Did anyone think that English people would go for legalized ecclesiastical homophobia, seven years after Elton John married David Furnish in the royal village of Windsor?

How little respect these Americans have shown for basic English decency. For heaven’s sake, even the Tory government’s now proposing that Gay weddings be performed in churches, if the couple want.

To paraphrase Jesus, the bigots are always with you, but they’re not a majority anymore, they haven’t been for years, and it’s time we stopped acting as if they are. England isn’t America, where Rick Santorum can still hope to be president. English fundamentalists are loud, but not numerous; not in the Church of England and not in other churches either.

U.S. Episcopalians have been unduly worried – ridiculously alarmed, in fact – about this foolish Anglican Covenant. It would have created first class and second class status among member Churches, with pro-Gay North Americans stuck in the back of the bus. But the bus didn’t have a transmission, so it never could go anywhere.

I struggle to understand my friends’ paranoia, though now it’s moot. I hope it’s the last gasp of Episcopalian Anglophilia.

The Episcopal Church is not now and never has been the Church of England, even though our roots go back there. Really, all this was decided when Washington defeated Cornwallis in 1781.

We do not swear allegiance to the English crown. No English bishop has jurisdiction in the USA, including that bearded old man in Canterbury.

My friends know all this, but still they’ve run around like Chicken Little.

Let them celebrate today, the right outcome has been achieved. But honestly, people, why did you think English Anglicans would turn their backs on us? How ever much they tease us, they’re deeply affected by the “special relationship” – and they’ll never cut themselves off from Canada.

So okay, the CofE spent a million pounds and half a dozen years debating this corpse of a Covenant – Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, staked his entire episcopacy on it – and now it’s over. Done. Dead as a doornail. If the Church of England doesn’t want this Covenant, there isn’t going to be one.

Williams resigned a couple of weeks ago, knowing this thing was going down. The vote wasn’t a direct referendum on him, but it might as well have been, and so he lost. Bye bye, Rowan, enjoy that new job at Cambridge you’ve got lined up. Feel free to convert to Rome if that’s what you want. It doesn’t matter anymore.

Mind you, I’m glad that Episcopalians care about the Anglican Communion; we’ve made that loud and clear. I’m proud of my friends for taking that stand.

But as long as Rowan was head of the Communion, and doing his best to steer it towards homophobia instead of inclusion, the U.S. Church was better off without the Communion.

That’s what gets people so terrified. “Independence? How could we? Unthinkable!”

Pardon me, I thought of it. But as sometimes happens, I turn out to be more radical – and more conservative – than even my best comrades-in-arms.

They cannot conceive of continuing relationships outside the stifling confines of the Communion. I can. To me, relationships would continue better than ever between the U.S. Church and our friends in other continents.

I don’t think those relationships depend on a seal of approval from Lambeth Palace. But my friends evidently do.

They bitch and complain, some of them, about how much money we pour into the Communion, but they never decide to quit paying.

In 2008 the American Church spent over a million dollars to send bishops from all 110 dioceses to a two-week tea party called the Lambeth Conference – all but one, that is; the Bishop of New Hampshire wasn’t allowed to attend because he’s Gay. Rowan didn’t invite him.

But rather than tell Rowan to go fuck himself, all the other Americans packed up their finery and went a-teaing.

They said “the relationships are too important for us to stay home.”

I was ashamed. But there wasn’t any big outcry over their decision, so the die was cast.

Plenty of Americans complained about Gene Robinson’s exclusion, but nobody told the rest of the bishops to stay home.

Every year since, every U.S. diocese continues to appropriate laypeople’s money to pay for the next Lambeth Conference.

Some church bloggers pointed out, “This is an abusive, dysfunctional relationship,” but we keep going back like battered women.

I still say it’s better for domestic mission – that is, serving Americans, delivering the Gospel to Americans and attracting Americans to our churches – if we don’t haul around England’s baggage, much less the African baggage all this is related to.

African Anglicans are Gay-hating in the extreme. They’re the ones Rowan Williams kept giving blowjobs to.

He understood his job as keeping the Communion together at all costs. He assumed correctly that the North Americans would stay regardless, so he bent over and took African dick doggy-style.

You won’t read it anywhere else but here.

Today Rowan has lost his Church. All that butt-fucking did him no good. A majority of English diocesan synods voted him down. Mimi has now declared victory. (She’s even posted a Cajun Jig video – and claimed she doesn’t feel triumphant, which is either a lie or a joke. It’s a cool video, see it here.)

I don’t expect to sway anyone’s opinion with this post. Episcopalians are going to continue to suck off the English Church for the foreseeable future. I don’t mind, if that’s what they want to do. I don’t blame the English for hustling American dollars.

But I will assert again and again that our mission starts here, in our own country, with our own people, who need to know that there is one catholic and apostolic Church where Lesbigay and Trans people and our friends are more than welcome – half the time we’re running the place.

This fact gets lost in the din of American fundamentalism.

Episcopalians have a lifegiving message but we don’t broadcast it. We hide it under a bushel. We hope people will come to us – though in fact most Americans today have never heard of us.

We’re the most important church in U.S. history, but those days are gone. Now nobody’s ever heard of us, and if they have they get us confused with someone else.

We used to be rich and powerful. Now we’re not. All the rich and powerful people left us, because we decided that Black folk should be full members, and women can be priests, and Gay people can be good, and Lesbians are smart, and Transgenders are at the very least interesting, and sometimes gifted, and always oppressed, which Jesus doesn’t want us to do to people! So hello, have a seat, nice to see you.

That’s The Episcopal Church today. It’s a great place for Lesbians and Gay men, and for young adults who have friends who are Gay; who want to raise their kids as part of a diverse community.

Growth-wise we are ideally positioned for this very moment in time. But as long as we’re still caught up in all the doings in the Diocese of Bradford – as long as we care about Lambeth tea parties – we’ll miss our chance to heal and reconcile LGBT Americans.

That’s the real tragedy of this, not what Mimi gets obsessed about; God bless her, she did it because she cares.

She can’t hear right now that what happens on these shores, not in England, is what matters. Apparently no one in the Episcopal Church can hear that, not even Louie Crew. He values those overseas relationships too much to hear it.

He said a few years ago, “It will be even worse for LGBTs in Nigeria and the rest of Africa if we walk away from the Anglican Communion. We must maintain our relationships, if only for them.”

But we’ve done so little for them, and we’re so far away, that I don’t buy it anymore. The kill-the-Gays bill is back on the table in Uganda, and taking tea at Lambeth Palace hasn’t changed a thing.

My calling, though I don’t do it well, is to American Gay people. The more we rise, the better off African LGBTs will be. They depend on us, not for direct aid but for role-modeling, for courage, for an example. Their liberation must be indigenous, though outsiders can help.

My concern is for Tyler Clementi and Matt Shepherd, and all those kids who’ve killed themselves in the Hennepin County, Minnesota School District.

It may seem old hat by now, but my concern is for people with AIDS.

What I think ought to happen is something positive; let’s organize a Queer Episkie Roadshow to every major city in the country, starring Louie Crew, Mary Glasspool, Gene Robinson, Barbara Harris, Susan Russell, Sandye Wilson, Mimi and Leonardo, dancing bishops, musicians and artists, young and old, Straight and Gay, multi-lingual and full of passion. Make it fun – make it real. We know how to put on a show! Gather a crowd in whatever church will let us in, and then just preach Jesus Christ for 2012.

Yes, have a special outreach to LGBTs, but that won’t change the message; it’s still what it always was, Jesus loves you.

If we focused on that, instead of the internal workings of Anglican Land, we could change this country, change our Church and change lives.

This is the last generation of American LGBTs we can still reach on a mass scale, where some at least were raised in Christian churches before they walked out in disgust. If we wait much longer, the entire Lesbian/Gay community will be atheist or pagan. No one will remember the old hymns anymore.

Unfortunately my friends find it easier to worry about Lambeth. I think we’ll be judged for it, though I hope we are spared.

“For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” (Matthew 25:42-43)

That passage is a warning to people inside the righteous group, not outside of it. Progressive Episcopalians think we’re “in” when we may be out.

But a Good News Roadshow could light a fire in this Church. I bet Grandmère Mimi would be a smash hit.++

Taiko Project Drummers at the 2010 consecration of Mary D. Glasspool and Diane Jardine Bruce as Suffragan Bishops of Los Angeles. (Elizabeth Kaeton)

Vicar’s Statement on the Resignation of the Archbishop of Canterbury

Reader, in the wake of the resignation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, you’re going to see a lot of comments online discussing theology and other abstractions, but you won’t see many like this: in Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya and other countries, Anglican bishops promote hatred, terror and violence against LGBT people, resulting in many deaths and mass intimidation all over English-speaking Africa.

These are the bishops Rowan Williams was so eager to keep inside his precious Anglican Communion. He knew all about the participation of these bishops in encouraging violence, and he knew the lives lost because of it. Those lives didn’t matter to him; he condemned abstract “homophobia” a few times, but never the bishops and politicians who gained power by preaching homophobia and inciting violence. So Lesbians still get raped and killed, and Gay men still get arrested, beaten and jailed, where they die in prison with no one to claim their bodies.

In terrorism against LGBT people, there’s no difference between Anglican Africa, Muslim Iran and Orthodox Russia.

In putting the needs of the institutional church ahead of those of abused victims, Rowan’s acted just like the pope’s archbishops.

So yes, Rowan is great with theological abstractions. But he avoids all responsibility for those beaten by his friends and left bloody by the side of the road. In Jesus’s parable, Rowan is the priest who crossed to the other side of the road to ignore the victim, not the Good Samaritan. I think he should answer for it, and I rejoice at his resignation.

It won’t do the victims any good, but maybe now my Church can reclaim its basic humanity. He threw morality away to appease thugs in clerical collars.++

Little Rowan and Big Pete Akinola, the former Archbishop of Nigeria. (MadPriest)

Conservative Parish Votes to Stay In TEC

St. Paul's, Hudson, WI. Fairly new building, cost more than $1 million.

I got a notice from a deacon today; “please take our church off your prayer list, we voted by 70% to stay in The Episcopal Church.”

So I took them off the list and tried to send some support either way.

I’m glad they stayed in, but 30% voted to leave.

It’s St. Paul’s, Hudson, in the Diocese of Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

Eau Claire is known as conservative and Catholic. It’s also isolated, out of the way and has never been very big. There aren’t any major cities there, and TEC skews urban. I should know, it’s hard to be a smalltown Episcopalian. My home parish is 50 miles away in another time zone.

Hudson’s website is one of the stranger ones I’ve seen. They have a link to a missionary-musician’s website, and “Youth Program” takes you to a Myspace page that hasn’t been updated in years, but cheerfully informs you that Tom has been kicked out for not showing up. “Eat it Tom!”

Evidently the administrator stopped showing up too.

You can also see documents on parish votes, all heavily in favor, on such topics as the Authority of Holy Scripture, the Lordship and Uniqueness of Jesus Christ, the Anglican Communion and Marriage and Blessings. Evidently these were submitted as resolutions to the diocesan convention, where four out of five were voted down.

They were all upset that TEC wasn’t complying with the anti-Gay Windsor Report, which never had any force or authority in this Church.

But in 2010 the parish took another vote and 70% of them want to stay Episcopalians. The other 30% do not.

I ought to keep them on the prayer list, don’t you think. But the deacon wrote to say, stop praying for us, we voted.

I’m glad they didn’t walk out. But I don’t understand anyone who wants to walk out in the first place, much less agitates sufficiently to put it to a vote.

My parish has never voted on queers; has yours?

It’s insulting to assert that we have to vote on the authority of Scripture, or the Lordship and Uniqueness of Jesus Christ. It’s somebody standing up and yelling in the parish hall, “These people in TEC aren’t good enough Christians!”

Or “I’m holier than thou.”

Lord have mercy. Please, God, spare us these people.

(But maybe with that statement I just kicked out Tom.)

It makes me wonder how a particular place, a parish or diocese, takes on a flavor of churchmanship or theology, incorporates that into its identity, develops a self-reinforcing reputation for it, and then fights off all challengers real or imagined.

To most of us St. Paul’s, Hudson looks fairly fundamentalist. How did that happen in the Episcopal Church? But it’s in an Anglo-Catholic diocese, so there’s more to the story; how did the diocese go Anglo-Catholic?

How does it happen that we have liberal dioceses, Broad Church/mainstream dioceses and conservative dioceses?

I live on the border between the dioceses of Indianapolis and Northern Indiana. One place hates Gay people; one place loves Gay people. What the hell is that?

Indy is Broad Church, Northern Indiana is High Church? How did that come about?

Was it some kind of Cult of the Leader? Why would a whole diocese be one way or the other?

How does it happen that parishes develop along ideological/theological lines? Why is Sydney, Australia more Calvinist than Calvin was?

Maybe it’s helpful to look at Smokey Mary’s in New York.

Do you know you can actually Google that, and the first thing that comes up is “Church of St. Mary the Virgin”?

Erwin De Leon documents a visit here, quite a lovely tribute.

It’s the most famous Anglo-Catholic parish in the United States, and its history is unique. It was founded specifically to be the highest of the High Churches, and incorporated to protect itself from anyone’s opposition or intervention, especially that of the Bishop or Convention of New York. Smokey’s going to do what it wants to do, and fuckyew if you don’t like it.

They love incense at Smokey Mary's; I envy them, because we don't get it.

Other parishes and dioceses, it’s less clear how they came to their current character.

The Diocese of Indianapolis ordained the first woman priest on the first day it was legal, the Rev. Jacqueline Means on New Year’s Day 1977. That was obviously a conscious decision made by “my” Bishop John Pares Craine. (Other women were ordained “irregularly” starting in 1974.) DioIndy is a Broad Church, mainstream, liberal diocese. The current bishop is Our Gal Cate™.

I’m fond of saying we wouldn’t give her up for anything. People love her. She’s not a cutting-edge national leader on any issue I can think of, but she fits this place, and when she talks, we listen. Our diocese will host the next General Convention in part to honor her. The whole Church likes her; she’s Our Gal Cate.

But ten miles up the road in the Diocese of Northern Indiana they’re scared to death of queers. How did that happen?

It fancies itself an Anglo-Catholic place, better and wiser than the hicks down south who don’t know anything; they’d never say it that way but it’s the truth.

They are far smaller in miles, dollars and numbers, but they do carry on proudly. More power to ’em.

How did they come to decide, “We shall be High Church, male, Catholic, anti-Gay and in a horrible panic over the ‘future of the Anglican Communion'”?

They’re not schismatic; the current Bishop Ed Little gets credit for that. But oh, he does agitate against homos because the pope told him to or somethin’.

I paint with a broad brush; Ed doesn’t hate people. But he seems not to realize all his agitation has the same effect as hating people.

Northern Indiana’s never had a woman bishop and maybe never will. They got all excited when a previous bishop’s consecration was held at Notre Dame University, which is like the U.S. home of the pope!

Sorry, kiddos, compared to you I’m a Protester.

When the Diocese of Northern Indiana was carved out, the sitting Bishop of Indiana John Hazen White moved from Indianapolis to South Bend. That’s probably what started it. Maybe he was disgusted by the Low Church attitudes of the hicks and farmers he was dealing with. He knew better, so he started over in a new place. The people he attracted coalesced around his preferences, they followed where he led, and Northern Indiana differentiated itself, took on a Catholic identity that way.

It hurts me that they’re anti-Gay; it hurts Lesbian and Gay kids in their hometowns, their parishes and families.

This is what is wrong with these cults of personality. White must have been the finest guy around. But it didn’t mean his shit didn’t stink.

We mistake the founder’s prejudices for the truth.

Or, in the case of Bishop Craine, we go along with the Head Man’s beliefs because we like him. I remember Jackie Means, the first “regular” woman priest. She was a working class gal, not conventionally educated, and her big thing was prison ministry. She was superb at it, and Bishop Craine believed in her. There’s now a John P. Craine House in Indy which provides transitional housing and support services for female nonviolent offenders on release from prison. I support it financially and commend it to all; I’m proud of it, and of the success of its residents. It’s a worthy tribute to the man, and hardly the first thing that comes to mind when considering the mission of the Episcopal Church.

But I seriously doubt Jackie Means would have won a plebiscite on ordination; I might not have voted for her either. Bishop Craine solved that by not putting it up to a vote. Yet here’s this parish in rural Wisconsin voting on whether queers can get married. Big surprise, they voted like Republicans; it’s a small town, how else would they vote?

But they also voted 70-30 to stay with us, and wow, am I impressed.

I read an attack the other day on the Broad Church; the first time I’d ever seen that. A conservative (Catholic? Protestant? I don’t remember) claimed we ruined everything theologically—although they always argue “theology” when it’s really “politics.”

Some of our inclinations simply arise from demographics; no one looks to the Diocese of Quincy for original thought. Ditto San Joaquin and Fort Worth. Pittsburgh, though, is another matter, the epicenter of Anglican schism.

It’s been clear since at least the 1970’s that Pittsburgh was going fundamentalist. “Trinity School for Ministry” (formerly the Church Army Training Center, before they kicked out all the queers) is located in that diocese. It now advertises on schismatic websites. What happened in that place to send all the swine off the cliff?

A bishop gets elected; he doesn’t have much formal power, but he’s certainly influential, so he influences. He favors a certain theology or practice; he surrounds himself with staff members, and makes appointments, favors some people and disfavors others, and gradually gains sway over every major decision. Rectors do it too; it’s expected almost. The laypeople are not by and large paying attention.

Then one day you wake up in a homophobic diocese—or New Hampshire, with a Gay bishop. It could go either way.

Eventually that bishop retires, but the people he’s put in place keep running things, so all the replacement nominees are basically People Who Agree With That Guy, and the tone of the diocese or parish starts to turn to stone.

Fort Worth “always” elects conservatives. Quincy “always” elects Anglo-Catholics. Indianapolis “always” favors women’s ordination. Northern Indiana “never” does. It’s an insidious process that depends on laypeople not paying attention.

It’s aided and abetted by the deference many people still give to the clergy. I’m not saying they don’t deserve it; I know lots of great bishops, priests and deacons.

But never bow down to them in procession; that was not Jesus Christ who just walked by. She may be his representative, but that’s all. (Anglo-Catholics teach you to defer to the priest; Protestants refuse to, and they’re right.)

So here we are, 2010, Anglican Wars are dying down, liberals are in and conservatives are out; I like it that way because it means some Gay kid in Plymouth, Indiana is not getting battered by his or her church. Or Hudson, Wisconsin or Quincy, Illinois. Child-battering is a sin, and this applies to Gay issues!

But I’m very pleased to hear from St. Paul’s, Hudson; they think we’re wrong but they don’t want to leave. Hallelujah!

What they do with the 30% who voted to leave is probably just watch them go.

Eau Claire can’t afford that. The Episcopal Church can’t afford that. Who died and made us prophets, y’know?

But it’s what we’re called to, so it’s what we’re doing, hesitantly and not very well; and it’s not like homophobes in Hudson can’t find another place to go.

It isn’t easy being a prophet, though; it’s a crucifixion.++

Uganda: Citizens Required to Inform on Gay Neighbors

Gay Uganda

What Gay Uganda looks like, when he's being himself.

A bill introduced last month in the Ugandan parliament would require citizens to turn in the names of suspected LGBT people so the government can put them to death. I kid you not.

Having Gay sex in Uganda is already a capital crime. I kid you not—the death penalty.

Ugandan LGBT activists have asked supporters in the international community to protest at Ugandan diplomatic missions around the world a week from today, Nov. 9.

I’ve been contacted about this by an activist-friend in Chicago. There are no definite plans at this time, nor any word on actions at the Ugandan embassy in Washington.

I have suggested to my friend the response I consider most appropriate. It’s in the pulled quote below.

Meanwhile I’m watching in amazed disbelief the reaction of The Episcopal Church to this news. They want Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to ride to the rescue of Ugandan Gay people.

Not a snowball’s chance in hell—no one would believe Rowan if he tried—but he’s not going to try.

Yet here are Episcopalians thinking he’s s’posedta Do Something.

How foolish can you get? How naive?

Uganda is one of the most Christian countries on earth (officially anyway). Some 40% of Ugandans are Catholic, 35% Anglican, 5% Muslim, and most of the rest follow native religions.

Considering that the pope is the world’s leading Gay-basher, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, Maine has bankrolled that state’s referendum tomorrow for a “people’s veto” of the new Gay marriage law—a diocesan staffer is Yes on 1’s campaign manager, and parishes have actually passed the plate at Mass for donations to save Maine from queers—what do you suppose is the position of Ugandan Catholics on the bill to require every citizen of the country to turn informer?

The Anglicans are with them every step of the way to Stamp Out Homos Once and For All. (That’s where the Archbishop of Canterbury’s supposed to come in, to tell them not to—the same Archbishop who convened a thousand Anglican bishops last year for a theological tea party, except for the Gay bishop of New Hampshire, who wasn’t invited.)

Yet my church, the most progressive of American mainlines, actually thinks that writing e-mails to England is going to save Lesbos and queerboys in Uganda.

The blog Episcopal Café posted an item today about the proposed law, “The challenge Uganda is presenting to the (Anglican) Communion,” which has prompted 10 comments so far, all from opponents of the bill. A few people, some of the church’s better minds, are teeth-gnashing a bit over this extreme example of unchristian Christianity. But their proposed action, e-mails to Lambeth Palace in London, is like asking a slave-trader to weigh his conscience before proceeding. Slave-traders weighed their boats and totted up the profits.

It’s a pathetic display of gutless liberalism. Propose an action, as I did to my friend Brent in Chicago, that would actually get the attention of the Ugandan government, and the Episcopal conversation ceases.

No wonder we’re still apologizing for our complicity in slavery 150 years later. We didn’t lift a finger for the slaves way back when, and we’re not lifting a finger for black-skinned queers today.

Don’t take my word for it; go to the Gay Uganda blog. See for yourself.

Here’s what I wrote on Episcopal Café. It went over like a lead balloon.

Sexual Minorities Uganda, a GLBT activist group, has issued a call for international protests at Ugandan diplomatic missions a week from today, Nov. 9.

In response, some interest is stirring in Chicago, but Uganda doesn’t have a working consulate there. I don’t know if there is action planned in DC.

I think it’s foolish to expect anything out of Rowan. He lost his moral authority years ago. The last thing he’s going to do is to stir the Gay pot.

Ditto with TEC. A hundred bishops went to Lambeth, but the Gay one had cooties. This is a job for the laypeople.

+++

My suggestion: go to Starbucks or Whole Foods and dump Ugandan coffee for the cameras. THAT will get attention in Kampala like nothing else.

(Pay for what you dump, of course.)

Dumping Ugandan coffee would be, well, impolite. Un-Episcopalian. Civilly disobedient perhaps. Attention-getting. A bit gauche, actually. We like the nice people at Starbucks, you see, and Whole Foods too.

But boycott Ugandan coffee and the president will hear about it; that’s why I suggested that method.

Uganda is so poor economically (rich in other ways, and please bear that in mind) that the Kampala government is trying its damnedest to open the country to development, open up to tourism, and recover from Idi Ah-Mean. Uganda wants to sell product—if only so the profits can line the military’s pockets. Threaten their coffee crop and they’ll be on it like flies on poop.

Amidst a massive national paranoia about the dangers of queerdom (which, of course, diverts attention from what’s actually wrong with Uganda), the only way to hit these people is with dollars.

That’s what they expect wicked Americans to do, yet it’s never occured to them we might go after their coffee crop. It’s one of the few ways they make money.

But Episkies think that’s, like, rude or somethin’. Not the Middle Ground we think we’re famous for. (No one else thinks we’re famous for anything.) We must work through channels, you see; so let’s give Rowan what-for, as if he has any influence whatsoever on Uganda, and as if he would exercise it even if he did.

The esteemed Archbishop is under strict orders from the Crown: “Do not allow the Anglican Communion to break up while we are alive.”

I don’t blame the Queen at all for that. But I do blame Rowan. He is the Neville Chamberlain of church politics, an appeaser constantly outflanked by ruthless men.

Never, ever, ever appoint a theologian as Archbishop of Canterbury. Appoint a church politician who’s ready for the slings and arrows; get a professional. Rowan Williams is an amateur, cowardly, intimidated.

My message to Episcopalians: Never put your hopes in this guy, who’s stabbed you in the back repeatedly.

If the dialogue on Episcopal Café is any indication, “the most progressive mainline church” can’t even dump a cup of Ugandan coffee in protest.

What would it cost, two bucks?++

The Green Church

st-anselmslafcasolar

Solar panel at St. Anselm’s, Lafayette, California is just one of the Episcopal Church’s responses to global warming and the energy crisis. We are quietly refitting our buildings all over the country, from cathedrals and seminaries to high schools and church camps. Now it’s time to be less quiet about it.

The Episcopal Church needs to radically reposition itself to help 21st century people with the death-defying 21st century problems we now face, as well as the vexing quandaries that are perennial to human existence.

We are becoming the Green Church. Environmentally friendly. Cutting our carbon emissions in dramatic and meaningful ways. We are the leaders in this, because our unique history and ethos help us understand a little better than the competition that human beings are just not allowed to mess up God’s Creation.

While other churches are still screaming about evolution and the sanctity of marriage and all the other Falwell leftovers, Barack Obama just swept the White House. I bet he carried Episcopal “precincts” 3-1.

There are no such exit polls, of course; the media are only interested in “evangelicals,” Catholics, Jews, familiar racial and gender groups—not the views of mainstream Protestants. I haven’t heard of any Muslim or Hindu exit polls either.

Episcopalians have been moving the Green way for 30 years now. We didn’t just catch the Obama wave, although most of us probably welcomed it.

Further, although we’ve got much in common with other mainstream Protestants, we’ve been working through human rights and ecological issues for long enough that we’re able to do some real teaching and sharing on them now. I think of Eugene Sutton, the Episcopal Bishop of Maryland, who’s not only Black, he’s Green.

Episcopalians have slowly been working through the racial divide that was sadly in evidence in this presidential campaign, and we’ve come to consensus on it. We still have work to do and we always will have; but there’s no racial controversy anymore. The most overt racists walked out on us in protest 30 years ago.

The same is true of women’s issues, and it’s increasingly clear that we’ve done the same with LGBT issues; we’re not done yet, but we’re ready to move, while other mainstream Protestant denominations have lagged behind watching what Episcopalians do, because they’re even more afraid than we are.

The other day the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy, Illinois decided to secede from the rest of us because we’re too liberal for them on Gay people. I doubt anyone outside Quincy said a word about it at church on Sunday.

We know we still have anti-LGBT folks in our churches, but they’re opting out now, leaving the rest of us to keep doing what we’re getting halfway good at, learning to really welcome human diversity and celebrate our commonalities.

Church politics, which has garnered a lot of publicity the past few years, is now just background noise. They’re here, they’re queer, we’re used to it — heck, we’re over it! Meanwhile we have real issues with how we treat this earth and whether God’s Creation can survive humans’ ignorant and greedy self-destruction.

Yesterday in The New York Times there was a blogpost about an open letter sent to Obama by two well-known ecology professors at Stanford, Paul and Anne Ehrlich. (Read it all here.) I don’t necessarily endorse their predictions or prescriptions (one about Afghanistan really got to me as presumptuous, as if they’re experts on war strategy), but I found their questions fascinating.

I also felt like many are the exact same things we wrestle with every day in church. That may surprise you, but see for yourself.

The Ehrlichs’ Prescriptions (edited by me)

1) Put births on a par with deaths. …As been done in many family planning programs, the happy family should be promoted as one that limits its numbers. But the change should be in the motivation. Traditionally the small family was supposed to supply a higher standard of living — including more stuff for each individual. The new approach could be to promote it as a multi-generational unit that in each generation limits its size in order to maximize the chances of each following generations’ retaining a happy, sustainable life style.

To move in that direction, humanity must rapidly expand programs to educate and give job opportunities to women, make effective contraception universally available, and develop public support of population policies.

2) Put conserving on a par with consuming. At any given level of technology, there is a trade-off between how many people can be born into a society and the level of per capita physical affluence that can be sustainably supported. The more people there are, the smaller each one’s share of the pie. One way of dealing with this trade-off would be a cultural shift away from creating ever more gadgets to creating more appreciation and better stewardship for Earth’s aesthetic assets.

3) Transform the consumption of education. (snip)

(snip)

5) Rapidly expand our empathy. We’re a small-group animal, trying to live in large groups…. People are gradually gaining more empathy toward those others distant from us in skin color, gender, religion, class, culture or physical space, but our ability to inflict harm on them has also increased. Cultural evolution is not rapidly enough reducing this discounting by distance (caring less about situations the further away they are). The same can be said about discounting by time — not caring enough about the world we will leave to our children and our descendants in the more distant future.

6) Decide what kind of world we all want. What are the ultimate goals of our lives? Are Americans really happier traveling to work an hour or more each day wrapped in a few tons of steel and breathing smog that threatens their lives?

7) Determine the institutions and arrangements best suited to govern a planetary society with a maximum of freedom within the constraints of sustainability. …In the 200,000-year history of Homo sapiens, states are a recent invention, existing for only a tiny fraction of our existence. In their modern form as nation states, they are only a little more than 200 years old. We need to look closely at possible alternatives that could combine greater awareness of the problems of living at a global scale while regaining family-style psychological comfort. More cooperation at a global level is clearly necessary for civilization’s long-term survival.

In the Episcopal Church we talk a lot about human rights, consumerism, peace and justice issues, and the ultimate goals of our lives. As Christians we believe we’ve got some real clues about them. All of these questions have religious and ethical aspects, and we deeply believe that the Biblical record speaks with remarkable clarity today on timeless issues which people have always faced. No, the Bible never says, “All churches should now switch to compact fluorescent bulbs and decrease their carbon footprints.” But it does say, “The earth is the Lord’s” (and you better not screw it up).

Because we don’t read Scriptures with literalistic or legalistic lenses as other Churches do, the Bible opens up a vast treasure trove of ancient holy wisdom to apply to new discoveries. And we’ve simply been applying it a little better and a little more widely than anyone else, because we’re no longer wasting our time over whether it is moral to distribute condoms for AIDS prevention. We don’t have a foreign dictator to keep happy till he’s 90, and we’re not busy building our megachurch supermall/media empire.

The Episcopal Church is not the Mensa Society, but we do attract highly-educated, involved people actively finding ways to live more simply, more generously, in harmony with each other and the universe, and the Holy Spirit whom we believe hums through every human body, every rock and rill.

It’s time we shared these resources much more widely.

Let us engage our theologians and artists and marine biologists and economists and businesspeople and soldiers and teachers to develop Christian ways of life in this century.

And yes, let’s find a marketing hook the general public can actually understand, and keep repeating it till it becomes familiar: the Green Church.

Tom Friedman has some interesting things to add in an interview with the Huffington Post about the massive international effort going Green will take human society, as opposed to environmentalism as a fad. I don’t want the Episcopal Church to “jump on the Green bandwagon”; I’m saying we are early adopters, and that Christians should be among the earliest leaders precisely because we bring some views that secular economists and engineers and entrepreneurs don’t necessarily share. We help connect the newest technology to the oldest human aspirations.

Take my next-door neighbor Tony, a machine operator who breaks big rocks into little rocks for a living. He’s just as concerned about the air his daughters breathe as a bunch of Starbucks Episkies are. He voted for Obama too. I guarantee Tony worries about what happens when the oil dries up and the price of heat goes through the roof and the Chinese add a new coal plant every week and Antarctica melts and the world economy collapses.

What he doesn’t know is what to do about it besides voting—how to alter the human attitudes, power structures and frank desire for sin that keep us on this destructive course we’re on.

No, we’ll never substitute “politics” for Jesus Christ, much less Barack Obama. We need sacraments and Creeds, community and prayer to keep us from jumping off the nearest bridge, much less opening a door to real spirituality. But consider this equation:

S=W²DW³G (∞)

“Stewardship is what we do with what we’ve got, all the time.”

I can understand it, so can Tony, and it came right from an Episcopal Church.

We are sitting on a 2000-year inheritance earning compound interest every day. Our magnificent storehouse of resources makes Wall Street in its heyday look dingy and drab. Conservative rejections and defections have made us keep our doors shut for a long time, wondering why no one comes to our fabulous feast.

Now Episcopalians are learning to share, to speak out, to invite, to organize from the grassroots up, and it’s time we opened the big green doors of God’s mansion and invited everyone in.++

Why Anti-Gay Bigots Hate to Be Called Bigots

Let’s start with this quote from Michael Scott-Joynt, the Anglican Bishop of Winchester, reporting to his diocese on the recently-ended Lambeth Conference:

In the UK, too, today the “orthodox” often face mockery, and charges of “bigotry”, for their convictions (as I know well)!

See, it’s not that he’s a bigot, it’s that he has “convictions.”

Uh-huh. Okay, dude, whatever.

His report is actually kind of funny; he spends a whole paragraph detailing, ain’t-it-awful style, the LGBT presence at this international convention, where Gay people were much talked about but seldom spoken with. You’ll find that we were “well-organized and well-funded,” that we “colored the environment,” that we published a daily newspaper and put it in “strategic” spots and even made it look like it was real! Egads, the sky is falling:

For many of us, and perhaps especially for many Bishops from the developing world, these impressions were exacerbated by the extent to which the physical environment of the Conference was strongly coloured by the well-organised and well–funded activities of groups and individuals lobbying against the Communion’s [anti-Gay] teaching expressed in Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, and for that publicly advocated by The Episcopal Church and those who think like it. Around a third of the stalls in the “Market-place” were taken by those lobbying for change in the Communion’s teaching; Bishop Gene Robinson was quite often around the campus and extensively “hyped” by the British media; and news-stands at strategic points around the site offered copies of a near-daily news-sheet, The Lambeth Witness, sponsored by InclusiveChurch and providing its “take” on events and people, while looking as if it might be an official organ of the Conference!

Take a nerve pill, Michael. If we’d been disorganized and underfunded, you’d have made fun of us for that. Enough with the paranoia already, we’ve been organizing since 1969 and we’ve learned a little about how to do it.

The fact that this was a religious conference meant it was heavy on the Scripture-parsing; that was inevitable, it was even a good thing. If it had been a mere Bigot Convention, the same thing would have happened; bigots have always loved pointing to holy writings to justify their prejudices.

They also hate to be called homophobic. A few now reply, “I’m not afraid of Gay people, some of my best friends, etc.” Then they proceed to tell us the usual litany of why being Gay is lonely and unfulfilling, Gay sex is dangerous and Gay marriage will ruin civilization.

To us it sounds absurd—but it’s not the words they say that matter, it’s their unspoken but very real agenda: They have put in place a Total Superiority System of legal, cultural, political and economic advantages for themselves, then overlaid it with morality to hide what they’ve done.

They are bigots because they believe in Heterosexual Superiority, though there’s only one thing they’re better at than we are. (Want to end global warming? Control the birth rate. Out-of-control Straight people are killing the planet. By 2050, population experts say, Earth will be home to an extra two billion people—which is like adding another India and another China. They’ll all want electricity, they’ll all want cars, they’ll all want central heat and air conditioning.

(No wonder God loves Gay people and keeps making more of us.)

This Heterosexual Superiority System is designed to make Gay people subsidize Straight folks, just as under apartheid, Black and “Colored” people were made to pay for Whites.

Apartheid is the most instructive example we have of a Total Superiority System, because under apartheid, all the rules were written down and we still have most of the records. Two examples:

• Under apartheid, Black people were taxed on incomes starting at $65 a month, while Whites weren’t taxed until they made twice that much.

• Under apartheid, White schools were given $900 a year per pupil, while Black schools received $100.

Apartheid controlled every aspect of human life: where you could live, where you could travel, how much education you could get, what kind of job you could do, whom you could hire, whom you could marry, what language you could speak, and how you got treated if you got sick or broke the law.

And they called this a “policy of good neighbourliness”!

It was all about the money; God put Black people in Africa to make money for White people.

These policies were generally supported by Ronald Reagan in the United States and Margaret Thatcher in Britain.

So what parallels do we draw?

• A heterosexually married American whose spouse does not work gets a tax break over a homosexually married American whose spouse does not work.

• The heterosexual spouse is entitled to Social Security. The homosexual spouse is not.

• The heterosexual spouse receives over 1000 automatic rights in all 50 states. The homosexual spouse isn’t entitled to a one of them in 48 states, and what rights the homosexual spouse does receive stop at the state line. It’s just a fact.

No one discriminates against heterosexuals in employment, housing or public accomodations; LGBs and especially Ts get discriminated against every damn day. This is considered right and just in the USA, the self-proclaimed “greatest nation in the world.”

No one kills a Straight guy for “making a pass at me,” but Gay guys get killed for the same thing every day.

No one bombs a Straight bar because there are Straight people in it, but Gay and Lesbian bars do get targeted and attacked. Remember Atlanta and Eric Rudolph?

The Bishop of Winchester, the campaigner for Heterosexual Superiority, moves about with the greatest of ease, while Gene Robinson, the lawfully elected Bishop of New Hampshire, has to hire bodyguards and wear a bulletproof vest under his cassock—to attend the Lambeth Conference!

He may have been much discussed in the British press (jealous, Michael?), but considering he’s the alleged cause of Scott-Joynt’s overhyped schism, who can be surprised?

At the present time, one man on earth should be looked at and listened to for moral guidance on the issue of Gay rights—and he’s not Gay, but a faithfully married man and father. Here’s what he says on all this:

May I wholly inadequately apologize to my sisters and brothers who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered for the cruelty and injustice that you have suffered and continue to suffer at the hands of us, your fellow Anglicans; I am sorry. Forgive us for all the pain we have caused you and which we continue to inflict on you.

(From the Foreword to In the Eye of the Storm.)

That one man on earth, who knows more about this than anyone, is the Anglican Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace, former chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Desmond Tutu.

He knows all there is to know about Total Superiority Systems. They can’t be reformed, they must be destroyed. And no, the entire edifice of Western Civilization does not rest on that pillar, but upon many pillars, including all the accumulated wealth of White people enriched by generations of Black and Brown laborers. The Anglican Communion can keep blessing this system if it wants to, but the Episcopal Church is now post-Anglican. Thank God for that.++

We’re Now Post-Anglican

+Cate of Indianapolis, Lambeth survivor, whose very existence challenges the traditionalists.

So what did the Lambeth Conference mean, anyway?

The Anglican Communion didn’t split apart, it held together.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is going to be promoting an “Anglican Covenant,” some kind of belief statement, beyond the Nicene Creed, that may be required in the future for full participation in the Communion. This anti-Gay doctrinal statement will probably spell trouble; we’re moving to a two-tier system of “distant friends” and “good friends” depending on who agrees to subscribe to the new decree, and Americans may be kicked into the outer ring.

The ties between the North American churches (USA, Canada, Mexico) may strengthen, while our ties with other churches in Africa, Asia and England will likely be weakened over time. This could present a real opportunity for Episcopalians to move away from historic Anglophilia to embrace our native traditions and immigrant populations, as well as to deepen existing ties with other churches in the Western hemisphere, including Haiti, the Dominican, Puerto Rico, Panama, Ecuador, Guatemala and Brasil.

Canterbury will expect the U.S. Church to pay more but get less than ever. Attempts to cut this spending will be met by accusations of bad faith. But it is unclear why Americans should pay for someone else’s extravagant party, other than “we’ve always done it before.”

The Archbishop has publicly scapegoated LGBT Christians in general and Bishop Gene Robinson in particular. We will lose a small percentage of Gay parishioners because of this, and LGBT evangelism will become yet more difficult.

Yet we will persist. The U.S. Church will reaffirm its position on the full inclusion of LGBTs in every aspect of the Church’s life and ministry. Since Lambeth has no power to enforce its “moratoria” on Gay bishops and same-sex blessings except by invoking the “distant friends” clause, our Churches will continue to drift apart.

Episcopalians will elect a Lesbian bishop, then a third Gay one. Same-sex blessing rites will continue to be written, circulated and performed, but without official adoption. It may be easier for us to hew to the “no weddings” moratorium than to deny a person’s valid call by the Holy Spirit and a diocese to episcopal ministry. No one can see fully into the hearts of lovers, but an episcopal election is an objective fact. New Hampshire wanted Gene Robinson, so they got him.

I hope U.S. bishops will work to unify our dioceses and the national church, re-focusing on mission. The sexuality issue can now recede in the U.S. The crisis mentality forced upon the Communion by schismatics may start to fade away, and we may see a new burst of energy in the U.S. as we go about “being the church.”

However, the crisis in the Church of England is likely to get far worse, while Americans pay less attention to England altogether.

If another Lambeth Conference is held in the future, fewer Americans will attend. We won’t be motivated to send bishops to a monthlong, multi-million-dollar Bible study and tea party. Why should we pay our bishops to pollute the air on a 757?

Now that Lambeth is over:

Bishops, come home! Rest up for a few days. Go to the beach, see the grandkids, hike in the hills, celebrate mass with the birds and woodchucks. Go to a comedy club, catch a ballgame, read a novel. Let the e-mail pile up, then delete it all. Don’t let anyone but your spouse even mention the word Lambeth, and only for less than three minutes. Let all these experiences percolate in your soul.

Then come Labor Day, get back to work, refreshed, recharged, refocused. Tell people what you think happened at Lambeth, but only if they ask about it. Let them tell you what they think happened, but don’t ask about it, they may have other things on their mind.

Meet with your evangelism committee. Look over the bookkeeping. Procrastinate about writing anything. Visit a prison. Send your computer out for a tuneup, then forget to pick it up. Accidentally cancel the cable. Tune out the culture wars and the political campaigns. Snuggle a child. Comfort the dying. Empower some teenagers. Keep your mouth shut and your heart open. Pop in at choir practice unannounced. Put on your work clothes and show up for the altar guild workday at some parish where you’re least expected. Walk the dog, just her and you for an hour. Read the Psalms in Spanish. Send a friend a hand-written note. Laugh every day and pray every night. Make some love. Eat all the peaches and tomatoes you want.

And when you’re called upon to preach, rise up and talk about your relationship with God—not doctrine, not Lambeth, not Gay stuff, not the last movie you saw, but about having a relationship with the One.

That’s really what we want to hear about, the Living God who relates to us in our bodies and personalities, our ups and downs, our daily life, our struggle to unite with the Immortal One, our times of distance and times of closeness. Sharing your story may be the biggest help you can give us. It’s all a listening process, after all. To hear God’s voice we have to listen for it.

We are now post-Anglican, but we are only beginning to discover the Beauty of God. If you have found a path, then raise your shepherd’s crook high so we can see it. Then use that brass crozier as a walking stick and let’s get going.++