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We’re Stuck in an English Costume Drama

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I recently lent two of my buddies a copy of one of my favorite movies, Lady Jane (1986, Trevor Nunn). I told them that Cary Elwes, the male lead, is blond and stunningly gorgeous—but I also warned them it’s an English costume drama, knowing that most guys can’t stand that sort of thing; Henry the Eighth and all that.

It turns out Scott rather likes it; I was surprised he didn’t recoil in disgust. Plus he’s Roman Catholic, so he comes at these movies rooting for the wrong crowd.

Nevertheless Elwes is gorgeous and Helena Bonham Carter is too. Lady Jane was her film debut. It’s a women’s picture from start to finish, thus I very much enjoy it: lovely scenery, impossible costumes, high-blown rhetoric as they talk us half to death, lush music, royal intrigues, romantic tragedy; what’s not to like?

Cary and Helena both lose their heads in the end, which is pretty much how Henry VIII movies always come out. Of course the Protestants always win, though they reveal themselves every bit as morally corrupt as the Catholics they replace.

What’s odd—very very odd—is that now in 2008, Anglicans worldwide are once again living through this same costume drama. Apparently we can’t run a schism without it.

Today the issues are different, yet the same: who controls the Church? The pro-Gay people or the anti-Gay people?

The Episcopal Church, which is the Church of England in America, has slowly over 35 years come to be the pro-Gay people, which I am grateful for and proud of. We are the ones who ordained Gene Robinson, the first openly-Gay bishop in the history of Christendom. But of course the opponents of LGBTs have pushed back hard; they want to control the Church, but to do that they have to outmaneuver and outvote us, not just in the United States but in virtually every corner of the world.

Most of the national Anglican churches are somewhat divided, so it’s all quite complicated. My side seems to be winning so far, though narrowly. It appears that our rivals are going to set up their own separate church this summer at a meeting in Jerusalem—though the Bishop of Jerusalem, who’s anti-Gay, doesn’t want them anywhere near him. He’s got his own problems and doesn’t want to be associated with this controversy. He’s got Arabs and Israelis to deal with, as well as a local rival. He wishes the separatists would go somewhere else.

But let’s stick with this on the movie level of flickering images and tragic antagonists; on the storytelling level. One thing you can always depend on in an English costume drama is that the heartbreak always develops from a series of Fatal Mistakes. Henry thought he had to have a male heir—though it turned out his daughter Elizabeth would become the greatest English monarch in history. Henry ran through a gaggle of wives, six in all, gradually destroying the respect of nearly everyone. His constant political maneuvering to get what he wanted made enemies out of his friends. In A Man for All Seasons (1966, Robert Bolt), Sir Thomas More lets Henry talk him into becoming his Chancellor—the crown lawyer—though More is a committed Catholic. He ends up beheaded because neither man will back down, and all along the way you can see that if More had stuck to his guns and simply said no, he’d have lived to a ripe old age and never had a church named after him.

In Lady Jane we see the same series of tragic miscalculations. Jane consents to her father’s manipulations and marries the wastrel Guilford Dudley in an elaborate plot to ensure that Protestants continue to control the throne and the riches they seized from the lazy and corrupt Catholic Church. Jane and Dudley turn out to be idealistic reformers; mistake #2, because their policies would overturn the thieving dukes who backed them. Queen Jane keeps her throne for just nine days.

In the present controversy, it’s not immediately easy to see the Fatal Mistakes; that perhaps takes time and hindsight. If the principal actors knew they were making mistakes they wouldn’t go forward. But we know in any tale of usurpers and thrones, the results will be bloody, someone will win and someone will lose, and the losers will have only their own choices to blame. The most conniving and obsequious will come curtseying back to the winner.

In that sense, it’s not unlike a presidential campaign. Rudy Giuliani, anyone?

In the current schism, who is making the Fatal Mistakes? For that matter, what is the nature of such an error?

If Henry VIII is any guide (and indeed, he’s the archetype), we know that outlandish ego is always a personal motive. We know that property, financial interests, as well as power are in play. We know that circumstances spiral out of control, moving the action forward to an inevitable conclusion. We know that principles are quickly sacrificed and friends are betrayed. We know that the ultimate outcome is that whoever wins and loses, the institutions they represent are reduced to shambles—though out of that, with skillful leadership, rebirth can take place. And we know that along the way, a few key players turn out to be completely ineffectual and must be swept aside.

So now, let’s begin to cast our movie. What shall we call it? “Murder in the Cathedral” is already taken; “Anglican Jamboree” is too light-hearted. (That’s an in-joke, you either get it or don’t.) How about “The Lambeth Road”? It will have to do for now.

Who in our cast has the dominant ego? That would clearly be Peter Akinola, the anti-Gay Archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria and would-be usurper. The man loves to see his name in print and loudly proclaims (to, for example, that recalcitrant Bishop of Jerusalem), “I go where I want to go. I say what I want to say. I know the Gospel truth, and I will punish you if you don’t submit to me.” The poor man thinks he’s a king, when in fact he’s a cleric on the take for his share of the oil money.

Who’s not in it for the ego? I’m thinking Katharine Jefferts-Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. She’s soft-spoken, has a sense of humor, doesn’t throw her weight around if she can help it; and though I sometimes criticize her administration, I don’t think her purpose is to enhance her own power and status. Even the American bishops who don’t agree with her praise her gentle presence and collegial behavior.

Who is the ineffectual functionary? That’s obviously Rowan Williams, current Archbishop of Canterbury and titular head of the Anglican Communion. He was for Gay rights before he was against them, like a weathervane atop Lambeth Palace.

And who are the clamoring dukes and earls, intent upon accumulating all the people’s property for themselves? Ah, we have several; Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, the preciously-named John-David Schofield of San Joaquin, Jack Iker of Fort Worth and various viscounts, lords and minor nobles like Peter Jensen of Sydney and Gregory Venables, an Englishman now representing Argentina.

However, the current star of the show is the aforesaid John-David. In the past six weeks he has tried to engineer a coup against Jefferts-Schori, only to find that he doesn’t have all the support he thought he had, just like Lady Jane’s scheming father.

This is the result of a series of Fatal Mistakes.

He has purported to lead his California diocese out of the Episcopal Church and into Venables’ arms in South America. At first he claimed he hadn’t seceded, or at least that he was a bishop of both Churches, but then Venables had to fix that; John-David can only be one and not the other. He received a letter of support from distant prelates, including a closeted Gay bishop in England, who was promptly outed by a former American trick. This is very odd behavior for a man whose issue is Gay clergymen. But then it turns out that he’s got his own sexual problems—and where have you heard of this before? Larry Craig has a wide stance, and Ted Haggard didn’t know that Gay hustler, but then he did, and he never bought drugs from him, but then he did, and…

Gay-bashing from the closet is always a Fatal Mistake.

Jefferts-Schori inhibited Schofield, which is rather ironic considering how inhibited he already is. This is the second step to defrocking him, though of course Venables will promptly frock him back up. (I told you this is a costume drama.)

When a priest in San Joaquin refused to follow Schofield to Argentina, John-David publicly fired him on Christmas Eve, after having strong-armed his way to the parish altar the day before to announce he wasn’t firing him.

On Christmas Eve? Not good press.

When John-David’s standing committee, which is rather like a Privy Council, didn’t instantly follow him to Buenos Aires, he fired them—or perhaps secretly left them in place so that they, as nominal Episcopalians and his allies, could continue to control the Church’s property worth millions. Jefferts-Schori told what was left of the committee that she “cannot recognize them” as a valid authority. They promptly wrote back that of course she has no authority over them and they are the real Episcopalians, in open warfare against their Presiding Bishop.

As Thomas More learned too late, it’s seldom a good idea to undermine the crown.

The fortunate thing in all this is that Jefferts-Schori has so far not made a single Fatal Mistake. She is not governed by her passions. She receives reliable advice from her Chancellor (see, nothing’s changed) and her Privy Council. She has suffered numerous attacks and setbacks with surprising equanimity. She was chosen for this role, if not by God, then at least by the General Convention in parliament.

However, unlike a true costume drama of the gripping, Oscar-winning variety, this one is turning banal. We can already predict the final reel before it’s even mounted on the projector. Akinola and Company will go to Jerusalem, there to set up the Akinola Communion, whereupon John-David and all the lesser nobles will kiss his ring and proclaim him Emperor of Africa and Asia, Europe and America, Australia and the Isles, Defender of the Faith, &c. They’ll all put on their frocks and have a merrie old time.

But they will not and cannot be Anglican, no matter how often they proclaim themselves the rightful heirs; they are mere usurpers, not in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

At last Rowan Williams will be forced to pledge his loyalty to Church and Crown, or Elizabeth II will sweep him aside.

Don’t ever forget who the Queen is here; it’s not John-David Schofield, no matter how much he thunders, schemes, manipulates, lies and flounces in his lace. He is not the Queen, Henry’s daughter Elizabeth is.

And though the viewer might wish for a few cathartic beheadings, everyone will ultimately retire quite comfortably. No wonder they don’t make movies like they used to.++

Shocking Events in San Joaquin; or, The Empress and the Queen

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John-David Schofield, singing “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina”

updated with links

Today is the feast of St. Thomas of Canterbury, the famous Becket of “Murder in the Cathedral.” He was assassinated by henchmen of King Henry II in 1170, and today is the anniversary of that vile act, which shocked all of Christendom.

Maybe you read Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” when you were in school; it deals with pilgrims on their way to visit the cathedral in honor of Thomas Becket’s martyrdom.

The Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin hasn’t quite sunk to that level of violence, but it’s staging its own costume drama of historic dimensions. It features a bishop who thinks he’s a prince, though he’s really a queen.

And now we have the play’s first martyr, a simple priest fired as vicar of St. Nicholas’s Church in Atwater, California for refusing to go along with the bishop’s plan to withdraw the diocese from the Episcopal Church and affiliate with anti-Gay evangelicals in Argentina.

The anti-Gay blogs in the Episcopal Church, Go Limp and Tie One On, obliterate all mentions of this situation because it makes their side look pretty awful. The bishop brought bodyguards with him two days before Christmas, commandeered the Eucharist, denied that he was there to fire the priest and close the church, and proceeded to fire the priest and close the church.

This same bishop, with the precious name John-David Schofield, has publicly acknowledged that he is a celibate homosexual, and his cathedral sponsors an ex-Gay ministry “for those with sexual brokenness,” which would be just about everybody. Got a problem with masturbation? They’re there to help.

This ministry’s explanation for homosexuality is that it’s caused by a lack of nurturance in childhood, and failure to form appropriate male-to-male attachments.

It sounds plausible until you consider that everyone on earth has suffered a lack of nurturance from time to time. But not everyone on earth is Gay.

How they explain Lesbians never becomes clear; because they’re really not too concerned about women in the first place. It’s Gay men who get their knickers in a knot. Only men matter.

The Diocese of San Joaquin, based in beautiful downtown Fresno, is one of three dioceses in the Episcopal Church which does not ordain women. That’s about to change, because John-David’s about to be deposed. (The others are Quincy, Illinois and Fort Worth. They’re all headed outta here and into court.) They think that only men can be priests because Jesus was male.

Well, think about it; He had to be one or the other! Would we believe in all-women priests if He’d been female?

Would anyone have paid the least attention to the Daughter of God? God the Father had to give that some thought, and seems to have decided that for the sake of the message, given the time and the place and the patriarchy, the Son of God would have a slightly easier time spreading and being the Word. (Not that Jesus had an easy time of anything.)

As St. Paul later wrote, “In Christ there is no male or female.” But to John-David, this all matters quite a bunch.

I suspect his problem is a failure to form appropriate male-to-male attachments. The appropriate thing would have been to fall in love with a male and live happily ever after—as Gene Robinson, the bishop of New Hampshire, has done, with his ex-wife’s blessing. Gene and Mark have been together for 20 years. Gene inspires people and spreads Good News wherever he goes; John-David barges in on Christmas Day to close the church and fire the priest for daring to disagree with him.

His behavior is not only shocking, it’s in terribly bad taste.

I can’t help but imagine what would happen if he tried it in my home parish. I can just see Evelyn Cable Ball rising up to inform him that “In this church, sir, you may be a bishop, but you may not be a boor.”

Visualize Mrs. Astor and you’ll pretty much have it down. Sometimes it takes a rich old empress to take down a queen.

I ask your prayers for John-David Schofield, Fr. Fred Risard, the loyal Episcopalians of San Joaquin and the secessionists too. Please God, let there be no bloodshed in this Church. Save the riot act for the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, where they actually come to blows over such trivia.++

Gene: Tell Your Story about Jesus

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Bishop Gene Robinson (Michael Houghton/The New York Times)

Last year during the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, Larry King had Gene Robinson and others (Andrew Sullivan, the Rev. Jo Hudson, the Rev. David Anderson, the Rev. Albert Mohler) on his CNN talk show to discuss LGBTs in the Church. It was about as enlightening as such gabfests usually are; not very. The anti-Gay crowd brought up their usual talking points, while the Gay people gave honest, sometimes surprising answers to King’s attempts to probe. What struck me was a little piece of video going into the first commercial break, in which Gene said this:

It’s time for us to stop talking about being gay and start talking about God and telling the story of how God has acted in your life and in mine. And when we tell that story, people will come to see that the Jesus they know is the Jesus we know.

I’ve never done that. But it sounds like a good way to engage my own people—most of them, in this country anyway, raised as Christians, who have now fled from God and the Church to try and maintain their own sanity.

I don’t blame them one bit. I’ve gone for long stretches having nothing to do with God, Jesus, the Church and organized religion. The most serious rupture came when my lover Jack got sick, desperately ill, close to death. I prayed and prayed and prayed that he would get better (“if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can move a mountain”), but after his 10th or 12th amputation, I quit praying in disgust.

Or maybe it was the second heart attack; I don’t even remember.

When I reconstruct that timeline of misery, I know that as of December 6, 1990 I was still sufficiently faithful that we married each other in front of an Episcopal priest. I’d wanted to get married for the previous four years, though my stance then was that we should wait (in protest, really) until we could walk down the aisle at a public ceremony in our parish church. It’s now 17 years later and we still can’t do that officially in the Episcopal Church without all hell breaking loose—schism, headlines, secession.

But Jack got so sick that I was scared of losing him, and my little protest made less and less sense; I wanted him to know that I was committed to him in love no matter what. So I asked him, and he consented, and the priest came to our apartment and officiated before 40 of our friends. I was happy, and Jack was glad.

But the sickness went on, and I finally gave up on God. I was royally pissed off; my prayers had no effect.

(Except they did; Jack’s still alive. Wasn’t that what I asked for?)

Years went by; we separated. It was amicable, but an enormous shock to me. He loves me, but he wanted to be on his own. So I did the loving thing, and helped him to get free.

I have some sense that he betrayed me, that he’s been less than honest this entire time; but what’s done is done. It was all a long time ago; we’ve both moved on. I’m not sorry for what my life became, but I meant every word of those vows, in front of God and everybody.

My life kind of fell apart, but I wrote a couple of novels in my new “freedom.” I made new friends. I moved back home to take care of my mother while she died (hey, I had lots of experience with the sick). After the second book I moved to the nearest city to try to meet someone new, then realized I hadn’t the least bit of interest. I still think I belong in a relationship, but I’ve given up praying for that too.

I wrote freelance for awhile, living off my inheritance, then I finally took a great job, perfectly suiting my talents. I was a crisis intervention specialist at a rather good mental health center in Merrillville; my charge was to save people’s lives, to prevent suicide and homicide in a very violent, drug-infested city. It was there that I encountered God again.

My job was to conduct psychiatric evaluations of people to see if they needed to be hospitalized, either because of suicidal/homicidal thoughts or because they were addicts. The process was rigorous and thorough, with a standard set of questions, but also the opportunity to intervene—to make a difference, to teach, to touch. I used every bit of my personality, everything I ever learned; and people responded. I loved my clients and most of them loved me.

When we were done, I would report the client’s data to a psychiatrist, who made the decision about admitting the person to the hospital. Then I’d go back to see the next client waiting for me, or if I had time, I’d take a little break and talk to God about what I’d just heard. It is, after all, an honor to be let into someone’s intimate, personal interior life—to hear their horror stories, their pain, their shame, their coping mechanisms, their loneliness; and it’s a grave responsibility to help bear them up and get them back on track. Sometimes that meant saying no; often it meant disappointing people with yes. I had a lot to talk to someone about, and no one but God to listen.

It was during one of those talks, out on the dock by the kitchen as I smoked a cigarette, that God shocked the poop out of me by answering back.

Here is what I remember of it. I’d been working for many months, having these chats with God that brought us close again, praying for that part of a client’s life that I could not influence, that’s external, not internal, like unemployment and discrimination and family problems, all of which do become internal; praying for their hospital care after my little piece of treatment was done, when all of a sudden God interrupted me, and monologue became for one brief second dialogue.

I don’t quite remember what I was saying, but it did involve acknowledging God and thanking him for all his help—I suppose I was awfully proud of myself, because those clients made me more than I’d ever been, having to reach deep inside my guts to say and do something helpful, and we really can’t reach that deep of our own accord without divine help—so I guess I forgave God and said, “If you want me in the church, I’ll…”

Boom! “I do want you in the church.”

I didn’t hear a voice; this was a thought planted inside my brain from outside of me. In no uncertain terms, God interrupted my entire train of thought.

Monologue turned into dialogue, and the unspoken question—Jesus?—was unambiguously answered. Yes, Jesus.

It may be that God commanded this because it was easier for me; I was brought up in the Christian Church and that’s my cultural heritage. Maybe God brings Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Zoroastrians to himself differently; I can’t say and don’t need to. It’s not up to me to judge Gandhi.

But I have no trouble whatsoever now affirming John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except by me.”

The exclusivity attributed to Jesus—that there is no other way—got answered definitively for me, not for anyone else, in those silent words planted inside my head. “I do want you in the Church.” I am and must be a Christian. That is my calling; I am marked with the blood of Christ on my forehead, repeated long ago in the water of baptism. This is the shape of that mark: +

I didn’t choose this; it was chosen for me by God, with help from my parents and the Church.

And no matter how screwed up I get, no matter how royally pissed off, no matter how despairing and self-destructive (because that’s what all sin is, kids), I have been marked.

In another post, someday maybe, I’ll tell you how wonderful my life with God has been ever since. This is not a tribute to my piety, far from it; I give God all kinds of grief, and being Christian in this life is no cakewalk. We’re still subject to the same disease process, the same neurosis, the same ugly politics and unjust treatment as every other human being. Being Christian is no shield that way; we are mortals, made of dust, to which we shall return.

But still, life with God is fabulous; he is a Lover beyond all imagining.

Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.”

Amen. Come thou long expected Jesus
born to set thy people free.++

Our Own Spiritual Retreat

I am forever getting useless ideas. Yesterday I spent a couple of hours working on a business plan for a chain of coffee- and teahouses which would locate Episcopal oratories in your local strip mall. Starbucks, watch out!

I fantasized about renting a storefront here in my town and starting up a little food-and-Jesus operation. It was pure lunacy, but great fun, figuring out how to franchise Jesus Coffee. (Hey, it could work!)

A good bit of this impulse comes from not having an Episcopal church in my hometown. My parish is 45 miles away, in a different time zone, and I never get there unless we have services at night—meaning twice a year, Easter Eve and Christmas Eve.

I love where I live, but it’s hard not having a safe church closer to home.

There are a couple of tiny Episcopal churches closer, but the last time I ventured to one of them, I got hit with a sermon alluding to the current schism, contrasting the numbers-challenged Episcopal Church with the allegedly growing Africans and advising us—all 7 of us there—to “go with the one that’s growing.” I wrote letters of protest to the Bishops of Chicago and Northern Indiana; the supply priest was from Illinois. They both wrote back and said “Eek!” and promised to give him a talking-to.

I wonder how many other hungry souls are out there—not just Gay or Episcopalian, but people of any denomination or simply those who yearn for God, without much “faith” at all—people who have been turned off or rejected by the institutional church but need a spiritual home. Might they find it easier to worship in a coffeehouse, or even a bar? How about a place that sells Bishops’ Blend fair-trade, shade-grown coffee, Monks’ Blend tea and Joshua’s Banana-Nut Muffins?

(I’ve always wanted to take over a Gay bar for midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. I think Gay guys would absolutely love it; as Julie Andrews said in The Americanization of Emily, “I’m grotesquely sentimental. I fall in love at the drop of a hat.”)

So here for your perusal and derision is another wacky idea: How about a spiritual retreat just for us?

I’ve lately become the Integrity “network coordinator” for both dioceses in Indiana. This means we don’t have a chapter here, just an e-mail network, but I’m expected to put on an annual event. At the Integrity/Midwest meeting last month in Cleveland, where I was appointed to this job, I made a little speech about how the Church’s LGBT caucus gets so caught up in church politics and schism that it may fail to nurture our souls.

An LGBT retreat might help cure that, so earlier this week I put together a plan for such a thing. I offer that plan below.

It may be as pie-in-the-sky as my Jesus Coffee Inc. franchise, but see what you think. I’d very much like feedback on it; is this something that would interest you?

It interests me, so here goes.

——

Integrity Indiana Retreat 2008:

Finding & Deepening the Charisms
of LGBT Christian Spirituality

May 9-11, 2008
Waycross Camp and Conference Center
Morgantown, Indiana

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In the 39 years since Stonewall, many people have begun to discover unique gifts among LGBT Christians. Is there something about being “two-spirited” in one body, one identity and one self, that helps us discern and reveal the nature of God?

Is God doing a new thing by liberating us? If so, liberation for what? What gifts do we have to offer our LGBT communities and the Church?

Many of us have come to an inkling of God’s unique blessings available to LGBT persons individually; but seldom have we met together to share our spiritual journeys, learn to grow in faith together and discuss ways to minister to others.

For three years Josh Thomas, an Integrity member in the Diocese of Indianapolis, has run websites offering simple monastic-style prayers four times a day. Dailyoffice.org has surprised him in its wide influence, spiritual power and popularity, with over 100,000 site-visits and very little publicity. As Integrity’s Indiana Network Coordinator, Thomas will convene a small-group retreat for LGBT Christians at Waycross Camp and Conference Center in world-famous Brown County, Indiana to help us all advance in our relationship with God in Jesus Christ.

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All persons of faith and goodwill—Episcopal, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox and Inquiring, Gay, Trans, Lesbian and Straight—are invited.

There are three main ways human beings draw nearer to the Holy One: frequent participation in the Eucharist; “centering” or “listening” prayer; and the Daily Office. Combine these three and we inevitably draw closer to God, like iron to magnet, like sinner to Savior, like loved one to Lover.

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For some, only the Eucharist is familiar; it truly is the First Best Thing, but we may not be fully attuned to the power of non-sacramental forms of prayer. We may not know the riches meditation and the Daily Office can open up for us, so we only use one-third of God’s gifts. In retreat we will study and practice all three paths.

To refresh our understanding of familiar services, we will experiment with little-used alternatives provided in the Book of Common Prayer. What is it like to make Eucharist according to its structure and necessary elements, but not its printed words?

To pray the Hours, we will utilize the tried-and-true method in the morning and the fire-lighting ceremony at night. Plus we will receive special instruction in the art of meditation, discovering the amazing gift of quiet listening to God.

No TV, no cell phone, no e-mail; just listening.

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

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(There follows a section on Retreat Leaders, which I won’t reproduce since none of them have agreed to be there. But my hoped-fors include a Lesbian priest in Chicago, a Gay-deacon-in-training in Ohio, an M2F Transgender with a gift for healing, and myself; 3 out of 4 of us laypeople.)

Retreat Schedule

Friday night, May 9: Registration, Order of Worship for the Evening, dinner, welcoming address; social hour, Compline, the Great Silence.

Saturday, May 10: Morning Prayer, retreat leader’s address, small group discussions; quiet time with brief optional conferences with spiritual directors; Noonday Eucharist, followed by lunch; Daily Office workshop; community work period or optional quiet time; Centering/Listening Prayer workshop; brief optional conferences with spiritual directors; Order for Evening, dinner and address, party and Great Silence.

Sunday, May 11: Order for Eucharist, small group meetings, lunch, Noonday prayer and Healing, final meditation.

Cost

$250 all-inclusive. Scholarships may be available, please inquire.

Registration: $125

Deposit Deadline: April 1, 2008.

Limited to 30 retreatants—don’t delay.

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—–

Waycross is happy to have us; what do you think, would you be interested in something like this? Or is it just another pipe dream, like Jesus in a strip mall?

I really love to bake muffins; I’ve got pumpkin-raisin, chunky apple-cinnamon, cherry cranberry, orange oatmeal, whole wheat, and a little side room where four times a day we say the Daily Office; on Sunday mornings we huddle together and Do This in Remembrance of Him.++

It’s About Love

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Well, I see the true-believers at “Stand Firm” have got themselves in trouble again, this time over an awful post accusing a bishop of the Episcopal Church of supporting terrorists in Israeli-occupied Palestine. Greg Griffith, SF’s paragon of male virtue who’s forever urging every guy he can find to “man up,” came across a picture of a woman at a peace march in San Francisco. He identified her as the retired Suffragan Bishop of Massachusetts and proceeded to rant about how her presence proves that every Episcopalian in the land is a wicked, apostate, Muslim-loving, New-Agey heretic queer.

Problem is, the lady in the picture wasn’t her. She hasn’t been to San Francisco in years, but he didn’t bother to check before unleashing yet another feeding frenzy among the site’s rabid followers. Hundreds of vitriolic comments followed, before the libeled bishop objected, the post was pulled and L’il Griffyboy apologized.

Par for the course, another day in Anglican-land. But it set me to thinking: Do these StandFirmers realize that when they disparage homosexuals—which is what the entire site is based on—they are attacking millions of people in loving, sacrificial, Christ-like relationships?

These two San Franciscans certainly look like devil-may-care hedonists:

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As some of you know, I recently went on a pilgrimmage around the Episcopal Church with Davis Mac-Iyalla, the Nigerian Gay Anglican activist. It was an amazing experience. We went coast to coast, north and south, meeting Episcopalians of all kinds, young, old, rich, poor, Black, White, Asian, Latino, Native Indian; cradle Episcopalians, recent converts, all sorts and conditions of women and men, including of course Straight and Gay. Everywhere we went we found people of faith in Jesus Christ who came to support us. Included were heterosexual and homosexual couples.

We met families struggling to stay together; a widower who had just buried his wife; a young male seminarian in Chicago engaged to a dynamic and active laywoman; clergy couples, lay couples, all sorts and conditions. Memories of them, images, fill my head: Athens, Ohio; Cleveland; Cincinnati; Columbus; Chicago; Rochester; Raleigh; East Orange, New Jersey; Sacramento; Phoenix; New York; San Francisco.

(Griffith didn’t bother to mention that the mis-identified woman was marching in a demonstration against the war in Iraq, held at the end of October in San Francisco. He assumed, as many wingnuts do, that the mere mention of San Francisco is sufficient to dismiss the entire city. After all, San Francisco mostly lets LGBTs live in peace, so what do they know?)

Look at these faces. Tell me the joy you see ought to be trashed and burned.

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The difference between Viagraville and the Episcopal Church is that Episcopalians actually have looked into these faces.

These faces are about love. And love comes from God.

There is no love without God; wherever love is, God is there too.

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The Lesbian couples Davis and I met didn’t set out to be exemplars, they just were. Relationships are hard, without the added burden of trying to be Wonder Woman. The women we met, from Ohio to Illinois to Arizona, weren’t striving to be Textbook Examples, but they all figured out somewhere along the way that during and after the sparks start flying, commitment deepens love and forms identity. It’s commitment that makes a family.

Davis and I got to stay in several Lesbian couples’ homes; some grand, some not so, each one different in personality and how they worked out the issues of daily life (which often involved dogs, cats, schedules and meals); but each couple the same, a pair of old beloved shoes, even in their early 30’s.

How could we not look at them in awe?

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I suppose because of my male bias, my “preference,” I may have been even more charmed by the committed guys we met. I wrote earlier about two guys in their 20’s in Athens, A.J. and Justin. I shake my head in envy at their relationship, because I no longer have my guy. If I’d had my act together at their age like those two do, would I be alone now? Maybe not. But beyond my jealousy was sheer admiration; Justin is so proud of how A.J.’s gotten involved in the church.

They were the loveliest humans I could imagine; and then we met them again and again in every city and town and village.

Steve’s got prostate cancer; Doug’s right there with him. Bart (and Tony!) is the Western Regional VP of Integrity. Man, how all these guys took care of Davis and me, with incredible gentleness and wisdom, care and competence.

So I say to Griffyboy and all his Pavlov’s dogs: look into these faces. Then do your theology.

The photo below’s from a recent Pride Parade; the palm trees suggest Southern California. These two macho types are obviously sexual with each other, and celebrating that in the streets—but their grip and their smiles say something else important is going on: they’ve made a commitment. They march proudly together, defiant of all your vitriol.

They’ve long since manned up without the least exhortation from you.

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It’s about love. Oppose God if you dare.++

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StandFirm Deserves Its Dickless Epithet

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This is prompted by an avalanche of site visits yesterday [900+] from anti-Gay schismatic secessionists trying to steal Episcopal Church property, who clicked here from a site called StandFirm, which responded to my previous post, NYT: Evangelical Crackup, Terry Fox in a Best Western. Someone calling herself “Bigmama” observed that “to the (religious) left, it’s all about dick.” I guess she thought this was criticism.

Honey, you got it right; the difference is that real men, Gay and Straight, know they’ve got dick. In Viagraville, they’re scared they don’t got it. So they bully each other.

Greg Griffith and Matt Kennedy are frequent posters and perhaps co-owners of StandFirm, LLC. I don’t know these guys, so OCICBW.

——

“StandFirm,” which purports to be a Christian website, deserves its dickless epithet, since over half its posts (and even more of its comments) are rants about Gay people. Let’s review:

“Man up, Greg Griffith. Real men don’t spend a minute’s thought on homosexuals. Real men have self-confidence. They’re secure in who they are and what they do. They don’t worry or compare themselves to other guys. Real men don’t spend all day and night blogging about Gays. Real men live and let live.”

Real men don’t tell each other to man up; real men respect each other. Real men who hear some guy try to insult their masculinity know that they’re not the ones with the problem; he is.

Most victims of homophobia are Straight men who allow bullies like Griffith to dictate their behavior. As every woman knows, a lot of men get very insecure. Griffith loves to take advantage of that. He thinks it gives him power. Obviously he needs a little boost. A pill maybe?

Someone please notify Matt Kennedy that the Roundheads are dead. So is his message about “God’s wrath at man’s depravity.” Read the polls.

Interestingly, the study discovered a new image that has steadily grown in prominence over the last decade. Today, the most common perception is that present-day Christianity is “anti-homosexual.” Overall, 91% of young non-Christians and 80% of young churchgoers say this phrase describes Christianity. As the research probed this perception, non-Christians and Christians explained that beyond their recognition that Christians oppose homosexuality, they believe that Christians show excessive contempt and unloving attitudes towards gays and lesbians. One of the most frequent criticisms of young Christians was that they believe the church has made homosexuality a “bigger sin” than anything else. Moreover, they claim that the church has not helped them apply the biblical teaching on homosexuality to their friendships with gays and lesbians.

And here’s an interesting observation:

The new study shows that only 3 percent of 16- to 29-year-old non-Christians express favorable views of evangelicals. This means that today’s young non-Christians are eight times less likely to experience positive associations toward evangelicals than were non-Christians of the Boomer generation (25 percent).

Now all of you who are professional statisticians and pollsters, feel free to attack the moderate Christian Barna Group for “flawed methodology” and “being in league with apostate priestesses like Mrs. Schori.”

(The Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, a marine biologist with a Ph.D., is Presiding Bishop of the mainstream Episcopal Church. Many of the LimpDicks refuse to acknowledge that she’s even ordained because she doesn’t have a, well, you know…)

You are so predictable and so delusional; you remind me of the scene in “Gone with the Wind” where Southern women turn over the last of their jewelry, when it’s already clear that the South is a lost cause.

I don’t endorse everything +Katharine says or does; but I do know that when you pick a smart, tough, soft-spoken woman as your general, you don’t get taunted into unnecessary wars—much less a little boy’s pissing contest.++

NYT: Evangelical Crackup, Terry Fox in a Best Western

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Doktor Dobson

Did you see this in The New York Times?

Even in Kansas, the right-wing so-called Christians are falling into disarray. The old religious right leaders like Falwell and Kennedy are dead. Terry Fox, one of the most powerful preachers in the Southern Baptist Convention, finally got asked to leave his church after people hung their heads and muttered, “Oh no, there he goes again, 52 straight weeks about abortion.”

The guy’s now preaching in a lonesome Best Western.

Fox is not the only conservative Christian to feel the heat of those battles, even in — of all places — Wichita. Within three months of his departure, the two other most influential conservative Christian pastors in the city had left their pulpits as well. And in the silence left by their voices, a new generation of pastors distinctly suspicious of the Republican Party — some as likely to lean left as right — is beginning to speak up.

People are sick of the war in Iraq, sick of George W. Bush, sick of the right-wing claim that God is a Republican. They are sick of 45 million Americans without health care (the only developed country in the world without universal health insurance!) and they’re sick at heart about global warming. But the only thing that matters to James Dobson & The Dinosaurs is Giuliani, feminists and queers, oh my!

Rudolph Giuliani, the apparent Republican front-runner for president in an extremely weak field, has been known to wear dresses and camp it up; after his then-wife threw him out of Gracie Mansion, the New York mayor’s official residence, he took up with a Gay couple and lived with them for a few months. If he wins the GOP nomination, the religious right will never have been less relevant.

“When you mix politics and religion,” (the Rev. Gene) Carlson said, “you get politics.”

The Times article notes that evangelicals split with mainline Protestants a hundred years ago over that awful evolution.

A leopard never changes its spots. The hillbilly fundamentalists of old live in suburbia now, with significant wealth and TVs in every room, but they try not to call their swimming pool a “cement pond.”

I mean, what is it like to live your life opposed to science? What do you tell your kids when they bring home their report cards? “A D in biology, that’s great! Knowledge and logic come straight from the devil. Besides, girls don’t need to know such things, they need to submit to their husbands.”

Meanwhile the Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion go through incredible contortions trying to figure out how to appease homophobic bigots and Gay people—first one group, then the other. It’s pointless.

The current generation has already made up its mind about Gay people. Youth are in favor of equality and opposed to discrimination. Gay marriage is here, we’re queer, get used to it; meanwhile what’s your carbon footprint?

When will the Episcopal Church realize that StandFirm, David Virtue and Kendall Harmon run blogs that are nothing but online bigot conventions?

Does anyone outside Colorado Springs believe that church growth depends on homo-hatred? Read the polls!

Young Americans have already made up their minds about homophobia. (They’ve also done the same about evolution.) The issue for youth is how to be faithful to Christ while also accepting logic, knowledge and science.

The Episcopal Church, currently intimidated by fundamentalists, happens to be great on Christ, knowledge and science. You’re actually allowed to have a mind ‘n’ everything!

We don’t take that gorgeous Hebrew meditation (Genesis 1) on God as Creator and the supremacy of the weekly Sabbath—the finest PowerPoint ever written—as if it were somehow a scientific statement. It was never intended that way—and the writer would laugh at people who think God can be confined to ink-smudges on paper.

Episcopalians know God as the pulsing, breathing, intimate and personal life-force epitomized in the self-sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Episcopalians really do have something unique to offer about Jesus: find and serve Him in your fellow human beings.

Inasmuch as ye have done this unto the least of these my brethren…

Meanwhile, this is very sad to say if you’re Iraqi, but the Worst President in U.S. History, the instigator of a needless, stupid war, turns out to be the best thing that ever happened to Gay people. He has single-handedly destroyed the religious right that claimed to elect him.

Falwell’s dead; let’s go dancing.++