"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
That's how I feel right now. It's a new day for the Episcopal Church. A new, exciting, hope-filled day.
Today, we concurred with the House of Bishops on a resolution that basically calls for local option on blessings of same-gender unions. I am proud to say that our bishop and our entire deputation voted yes.
This is a much different feeling from several days ago. I believe we have taken a firm stand for the expansive love of Christ. I believe we have struck a blow for progressive Christianity ... Christianity that is what we are all about at ECM -- not denying our historic roots but interpreting them anew through the fresh revelation of the Holy Spirit. God is doing something wonderful, and I feel strongly that what we have done is have the courage to follow.
I do feel badly for those who are pained by this. I hope they can get to a place where they can accept that what has happened is that we have affirmed that this is a church for EVERYONE to be who God created them to be -- you, me, us, them, everybody.
But this is a new day ... and it is a good day. I have no illusions that we aren't in for some difficult times. But I think we are in for a lot more good times ... great times. We have a HUGE amount of work to do as the body of Christ. I believe the vote today is the beginning of the end of our institutional obsession with internal matters of human sexuality which, important as they are, have prevented us from a whole hearted focus on mission. It is only the beginning of the end, and who knows how long that end will take, but it is clear to me now that the end will come.
I can't wait to get back to Wash. U. We have just had a two-week free commercial on CNN about how cool and true to Christ's Gospel of love the Episcopal Church is. We need to find ways to invite people into ECM to experience in the flesh what they've seen on TV.
Thank you all for your continual prayers ... they have been felt.
Tuesday, August 05, 2003 A vote that happened today that I think will have far-reaching consequences in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion - and it's not what you think.
Today, the House of Deputies passed D006,which raises up the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (see the link to the right for more info) as a mission orientation for the Episcopal Church, challenges every diocese to give 0.7% of its net disposable income to efforts to acheive these goals and sets up a system of accounting so we can celebrate as we move toward fulfillment of this.
I'm really serious when I say that I believe -- if we all take this back to our communities and dioceses -- that this can have the most transformative effect on the church of anything that has happened at this convention. THis is about us adopting a mission orientation that would put us in a position to lead this nation in the work of global reconciliation.
I have LOTS of information about the MDGs, the 0.7% challenge, a new organization called the Cambridge COnsultation (www.cambridgeconsultation.org) that is getting this going, and lots more that you can use to bring this to your community and diocese -- and I'd love to share. Lifting this up in our campus community and through it connecting students to overseas mission experiences is already starting to transform us.
There is a LOT going on at convention that isn't being covered on CNN. WOnderful things. Today a ultra right wing and an ultra left wing priest stood up at the same microphone and cosponsored a compromise resolution about reparative therapy. It was a truly grace-filled moment. An amazing woman named Sarah Lawton has been doing amazing work in advocating for young vocations issues ... including pushing for a requirement for othercultural competency from ordinands. My good friend Vicki Zust spoke eloquently and helped pass a resolution to get the ball rolling on doing something about seminarian debt (hear that, Joe?).
PLEASE lift these things up to your communities and remember them in your hearts. I'm not trying to say what's happening with Gene and the same-sex blessings aren't important -- they are. But there are things that are even more important ... things that have to do with trying to save the lives of millions of people and make the lives of billions better. These are the things that will transform our communities, not tear them apart.
Now, about the Robinson consent. It was an amazing moment -- knowing you are a part of history -- and at the same time knowing we are venturing into uncharted and turbulent waters as a church and as an Anglican Communion. We have done the right thing -- of that I have no doubt. I also have no doubt that in the morning, the sun will come up , God will still be God and the church will still be here and -- I hope -- we will all be standing around the Lord's table together.
We are being called into a difficult place -- Wayne spoke eloquently about this at our deputation meeting this evening -- but sometimes God calls us into difficult places. Our task together is to try to set a course through the best we can in love.
Keep praying. Keep doing the Lord's work of healing, feeding, caring and reconciling. Keep loving. If we do that, all the rest will take care of itself.
Today was a day of many emotions ... sadness, anger, exasparation being chief among them.
You've probably heard by now that accusations were made against Canon Gene Robinson of misconduct. While our bishop is right that we must investigate fully and give credence to the possibility that there is merit to the charges, all fo the evidence we have access to (and that is considerable) points to the charges being baseless and thus nothing more than a smear campaign and a most unChristian political ploy.
This is in sad and direct contrast to the tenor of Sunday, which was respectful and honorable.
I am sad and angry. I am sad that the world is watching us behave so badly as a church. I am sad for my brothers and sisters who would resort to what looks very much like something VERY unChristlike.
But most of all, I am convinced that we must not hit back. THis is a situation where nonviolence must be the rule. IF this is indeed a ploy, we must respond to it in love and prayer.
One thing this has shown is the high quality of our bishop and deputation. We have gone through this with class and integrity. We have been honest about our frustration, exhaustion and pain and also about our great hope.
Monday, August 04, 2003 Jesus is my savior, but Becca Stevens is my hero.
Many of you have heard me talk about Becca before. She's the priest at Vanderbilt University in Nashville who started Magdalene House , a residential housing and recovery program for Nashville women with a criminal history of prostitution and drug abuse. Her chapel (St. Augstine's) is the yardstick by which I measure our own ministry and others.
Today, as you've probably heard, we in the House of Deputies consented to Gene Robinson's consecration as bishop of New Hampshire. He will, if consented to by the House of Bishops tomorrow, become the first openly gay bishop in the church.
In the midst of the long debate, which alternated between pro and con for 45 minutes and pretty much rehashed the arguments I've long heard, Becca stepped to the microphone. In her soft, Southern voice she started to speak.
She talked about how she grew up with a priest father who was a Southern conservative and dead opposed to the ordination of women. He was killed by a drunk driver when he was 40, leaving Becca's mom with her and her 4 siblings.
Years later, and 8 1/2 months pregnant, she said she "waddled up the aisle" and was ordained with hands laid on her head by men who,with her father, had opposed the ordination of women.
Years later from that, when she and her husband were playing with their oldest son -- that son who was about to be born after that ordination, and asking him what he wanted to be when he grew up, he was talking about being a fireman and other things. And Becca asked him, "what about a priest?" And he scrunched up his face, looked at her and said, "A priest??? That's a GIRL'S job!"
She talked about how the Holy Spirit works to change hearts for the sake of love. How it happens in places we can never believe it can happen. How so much of what she had been hearing in opposition was about fear and how we need to have the courage not to fear and to step out in faith, trusting that God will be with us. For fear has no power when next to the love of God.
And finally, she said, we need to step out in faith and just get this work of the Spirit over with so we can get on to the real business of Christ which is feeding the hungry and healing the sick and bringing God's love to a broken world.
My plain, typed words do not do Becca's words justice. You really had to be there, but no memory of today will stay with me longer and whatever you hear on CNN, there was nothing else I could write about tonight.
Becca's words prompted a short burst of applause -- the only time in the whole proceding from beginning to end that anyone in the house broke the rule of decorum about not public demonstrations. I reached for a tissue and wiped the tears that were spilling out of my eyes and down my cheeks, glanced next to me and noticed that Steph was doing the same thing.
I don't think our church is going to split over this vote ... but it might. I believe that what binds us together is stronger than the power of a vote to separate us ... but I could be wrong.
But I KNOW that love is greater than fear. I KNOW that the Holy Spirit can do amazing things in the hearts of people ...things that seem impossible. I KNOW we have a lot of work to do, and whatever state the church is in, those of us who are left are going to do it ... we're going to feed the hungry, heal the sick and bring God's love to a broken world.
I know these things because Jesus has promised us they're true. In the past days, I've forgotten them at times and succumbed to the fear that is thick in the air. But I was reminded today of them in a way I will never forget. That love is greater than fear.
Sunday, August 03, 2003 Sunday is the first of the "big" days at this convention -- the vote in the House of Deputies to consent (or not) to the election of Gene Robinson as bishop of Connecticut -- and thus the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church.
There is a lot of anxiety and fear in the air here. Thirteen bishops have threatened to withhold their assessments if Robinson is consented to. Even more than that, there are the repercussions throughout the Anglican Communion. That the media is here in force and ONLY reporting on this isn't helping things at all.
As the hour draws near, the vote weighs heavier on me -- and that more than anything troubles me. It troubles me that I am tempted to fear doing what I believe is right -- voting to consent to Gene's consecration. It troubles me that in addition to people who prayerfully have come to opposing decisions and are behaving as lovingly as they possibly can, there are people on both sides who are showing no regard and no love for their opponents.
What it comes down to though is that over the next two or three days, our church is going to change -- and what we have to decide is what that change is going to be. The media attention and the yes/no reality of a consent vote have guaranteed that we will be making a statement. It will either be a statement of Christ's radically inclusive love -- a risky statement to make in any age -- or a much sadder statement that we are not yet ready to love as CHrist would have us love.
And the more I think of it, the more I think it IS that simple. There's no way around people getting hurt. There's no way around making a statement. This is different than the same-sex blessing initiative,which can be tabled and postponed. WIth an election, you have to go either thumbs up or thumbs down.
The only question is what statement we will make. Tomorrow, at least in the house of deputies, we will know.
The past two days I was in Indianapolis for RObin's grandmother's (Gran's) funeral. And even there the conversation turned to the vote on Gene. And all of Robin's relatives who dove into the conversation ... many of them not liberal by any means ... believed that it was the right thing to consent to Gene. What was wonderful and inspirational about it is the conversation we had about how they have struggled with their views on homosexuality but have come to a place -- mostly through personal relationship with gay and lesbian people in wonderful relationships -- that this is how God made them and that we need to accept that and them. They gave me strength and hope.
Gran's funeral was today. There is no other way to describe it but as a deeply holy time. Robin's family, which I have been grafted into for the past 11 years, is amazing in their love for and commitment to each other.
I think that's what ties this all together. We're talking about love and commitment. Love and commitment in that love is life out of and over death. It is for our family right now. I believe it will be for our church.
Friday, August 01, 2003 I've felt for a while that we are a church and a nation of amazing potential waiting to be inspired.
Tonight, I got a glimpse of what that inspiration looks like.
It was the Presiding Bishop's Forum on Global Reconciliation. I know ... it sounds like something that you'd find on at 2 am on C-Span. Forget the title, it was mind-enlarging, spirit-lifting, soul-moving and so much more.
There were five speakers. After each one, you thought the next couldn't be as good and yet for more than two hours they came after each other each at least as compelling as the last.
*Njongonkulu Ndungane, Archbishop of Cape Town, who spoke about the crippling effects of international debt in simple, understandable, human terms.
*Jeffrey Sachs, economist and development expert (he taught Bono everything he knows about global debt), who painted a graphic, human picture of the face of poverty and disease in Africa, challenged us with what we have already promised in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals and then inspired us with the truth that, for the first time in human history, we have the power to end poverty on earth. In fact, the money that the 400 richest people in the US will save on their Bush tax cut is enough to wipe out malaria and put 3 million people in Africa with HIV/AIDS on antiretroviral drugs.
*Abigail Nelson, a young woman in her 20s who is the DIrector of Latin American Programs at Episcopal Relief and Development, who preached an eloquent sermon about our connectedness as global citizens and members of Christ's body.
*Ranjit Matthews, a 24-year old who has done the same YOung Adult Service Corps program that Steve is, who gave a firey speech about how our materialism and consumerism is the fuel behind the global crisis.
*Finally, Sabina Alkire, an amazing woman I've had the honor of working with a little bit before, an Anglican priest, research writer for the Commission on Human Security at the UN and much more, spoke eloquently and passionately about a new economics that is about not how much money we have to put in our pockets but about how much our efforts give us return in terms of giving us valuable lives. It's an amazing new way of thinking about economics that has the seeds of overthrowing the religion of materialism.
I look back at this and it seems like a dry list, but I cannot tell you how riveting it was. Every speaker got a standing ovation from the crowd of 800+. Steph and Emily and Steve were there with me ... I wish our whole deputation would have been there. But I know they were as moved by it as I was.
THe most amazing thing is that despite the dire figures and graphic stories about poverty and death we heard, we all left with a feeling of amazing power and hope. The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (see www.developmentgoals.com) and the challenge to give 0.7% of our GNP as a nation and of our net disposable income as diocese and church towards meeting those goals are the structure, the road map for how we can lead the way doing God's work of global reconciliation.
It's not just about economists and theories and billions of dollars. It's about Jen Coil putting off getting a paying job as a nurse and going to Tanzania for 6 months to work helping reduce the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS and Steve spending his summer there,too. It's about our diocesan convention and vestries voting to give 0.7% of our NDI to international development. IT's about writing letters and voting. It's about prayer. It's about looking at where we are investing, what we spend our money on and recognizing that we are being challenged by Christ to spend the resources God gave us not on possessions with no spiritual value but on the priceless work of lifting up those who have nothing.
I hope this sets a tone for the whole COnvention. I hope we can put aside what divides us and get to this business that we have at hand. I'm convinced it will be our greatest joy. I'm convinced it will, in the language of this new economics, give our lives value beyond imagination.
On a sadder note ... Robin's grandmother died last night. Tomorrow morning (this morning?) I'll fly to Indianapolis and I'll do a graveside service for her on Saturday morning and fly back here Saturday evening. Please keep Maxine and her four daughters -- Suzanne (robin's mom), Peggy, Hogan and Sally in your prayers.
EGR resources and connects the church to embrace what one person, one congregation, one diocese and one church can do to make this mission of global reconciliation happen.
Want to find out more ... check our our website at www.e4gr.org.
"Christ's example is being
demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy,
which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here.
If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest
of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't,
it will be irrelevant."