Monday, June 22, 2009

The Rev. Claudia Windal of Minneapolis believes everyone, regardless of ability to pay, deserves a dignified burial. So the Episcopal priest became a

Minnesota priest runs nonprofit funeral service that often serves Native Americans
By Pat McCaughan, June 22, 2009

[Episcopal News Service] The Rev. Claudia Windal of Minneapolis believes everyone, regardless of ability to pay, deserves a dignified burial. So the Episcopal priest became a mortician to help make it happen.

Since she opened the nonprofit Oyate Tawicohan Funeral Services about two years ago, Windal estimates that she has provided low-cost burials to about 223 people; about 90 percent were Native American. But the no-frills, shoestring-budget burials are available to anyone who can't afford standard funeral fees.

Now she hopes her efforts will catch on elsewhere. "Oyate Tawicohan means 'the way of the people' in Lakota," said Windal, 59, who is part Lakota. "I'm so excited to have the ability to bring some dignity and respect to poor people to give them some choices in funeral care. What we do, we do in a good way."

For Windal "death care" is as much about "doing death in a good way" for the living as for those she buries.

Doing 'death in a good way'
Windal never had a desire "to do funeral work" but in 2000, a Lakota elder from nearby Red Lake telephoned, asking for help "to return her cousin to a final resting place here on the reservation. The funeral home wanted $2,000 to transport the body and she couldn't pay it," Windal recalled.

The two women rented a van, drove to Chicago and brought the body back to Minnesota themselves. "On the way home, she told me that I 'must do this for our people'," Windal recalled. After that, the phone calls kept coming.

She estimated her basic, no-frills funeral fee at about $2,500, often reduced to county allotments of $1,900-$2,200 provided for the indigent or those on public assistance. Comparable services in a for-profit funeral home typically range from at least $6,000.

She helps make up the difference using "cremation caskets" and has made use of some donated graves but acknowledges that keeping costs low is increasingly a struggle. Her funeral home has space for a small coffin display and an embalming room. Visitations are held at nearby St. James on the Parkway Episcopal Church, where she serves as a priest in residence.

"Cremation caskets" are wood with a pine or oak veneer "but not cardboard at least. It is very nice looking," Windal said. "It's called a cremation casket simply because the sidebars, the handles don't move, don't swing so they're stationary because they don't expect to carry it very far."

She added that cremation, often touted as a low-cost burial alternative, isn't considered an option. "Most of our native people refuse to be cremated. That's tradition."

Tradition figures prominently elsewhere. She invites family participation in body preparation, includes ceremonial drums and smoldering sage at funeral services, and helps next-of-kin fill graves in with dirt.

"Most funeral homes don't let you get too near the body once someone's died and is in the funeral director's care," Windal said. "But there is a real beauty in being able to as closely as possible approximate the way families have been involved with death care in our Native American communities."

In once instance, when several male family members wanted "to do something useful for their loved one" she had them pick up the casket from the warehouse while she and the women ritually bathed and dressed the body.

"They got back just as we finished dressing the deceased," Windal recalled. "Two of the men and I picked the body up and put her in the casket. The women did her makeup and fixed her hair. It was a wonderful, wonderful gift."

There was also the woman whose five-month-old infant suffocated. "In our native community we have a lot of infant deaths and I really encourage the parents, the mothers especially, to be involved in the care of their deceased child," Windal said. "I'll invite whoever wants to come in and do the bathing after the baby's been embalmed."

After bathing him, "we wrapped him in a blanket and she just sat there and held him and talked to him. It's gut-wrenching to watch but it was apparent that it was a very helpful thing that needed to be done."

When Windal's phone rings, it is often "a call to multiple ministries." Sometimes, the request is to give last rites to the dying, or to help a family navigate a mountain of forms, to take charge of a body, or plan a funeral service.

Multiple ministries are nothing new for the former nun and registered nurse. A few months after graduating from a Chicago high school, she entered the novitiate of the Roman Catholic order of Dubuque Franciscan Sisters. She trained to become a registered nurse.

When she graduated from St. Ambrose University in Iowa in 1975 "the Episcopal Church (TEC) was talking very seriously about ordaining women." She left the order after seven years, joined the Episcopal Church and in 1981 earned a master of divinity degree from Seabury Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois. After she was ordained to the priesthood she served in congregations in the Diocese of Minnesota and also ministered to people living with HIV/AIDS.

She has a doctorate of ministry and in November 2008 professed perpetual vows in the Ecumenical Order of Servant Franciscans. Her business is also known as the Franciscan Funeral Services because "helping the poor is very Franciscan." She enrolled in a one-year licensing program for morticians at the University of Minnesota after "it became obvious that funeral directors wouldn't talk to anyone but other funeral directors," she said.

The Rev. Theo Park, rector of St. James, calls Windal "a saint. She saw a need and responded. She took action into an arena that a lot of folks wouldn't even have seen as calling for action."

It keeps her "very busy," Park added. "That's one of the reasons we try to support her as much as we can. We're a small church and we can't offer a whole lot of financial assistance but we can offer hospitality as a way of participating."

Maureen Davidson said Windal stepped in "from start to finish" when Davidson's 58-year-old brother died suddenly with few funds in early January. "We hadn't had much time to think about anything. He was diagnosed with cancer on Monday and he died on Saturday. There hadn't even been time for hospice to get involved," recalled Davidson, director of senior services at the West 7th Community Center in St. Paul.

"When you're in that situation, you need a compassionate person, a good listener. Claudia was phenomenal. She has such a passion for what she does and such a belief in it. She did a beautiful job of putting together a funeral at a very low cost, that was respectful and dignified, and she did the service for my brother."
-- The Rev. Pat McCaughan is Episcopal Life Media correspondent for Provinces VII and VIII and the House of Bishops. She is based in Los Angeles.

I like to post writngs that speak to me directly

Homily: Third Sunday after Pentecost [June 21, 2009, Church of the
Holy Spirit, Lake Forest, IL] by Gary Hall

In 1978, my wife Kathy and I got married and moved from Massachusetts
to Michigan. She is from Ohio and I am from California and we met, of
course, in Boston. We lived in Bloomfield Hills the first three years
of our married life, and the only thing I wasn’t prepared for there
was the tornado warning. In California they don’t have tornados, but
in Michigan they do—in fact, a big one had touched done major damage
in West Bloomfield right before we got there—and I wasn’t ready for
how frightened I would get when the sky would turn that weird color
and the sirens would go off and they would tell you to head for a
basement. Kathy, of course, looked at me in those panic moments as if
to say, “What’s your problem? These are tornado warnings. They happen
all the time. No big deal.”

The situation was reversed in 1981 when we moved to Los Angeles and, a
month or so after we got there, we had a fairly large earthquake. I
had grown up with earthquakes—in fact I’d slept through the big Sylmar
earthquake of 1971—and so when this one happened, I got up, looked to
see if there had been any damage, and went back to bed. When I got
there, I saw two enormous blue eyes looking at me. “What was that?”
Kathy asked. I replied. “It’s just an earthquake. No big deal. Go back
to bed.”

Even though today is Father’s Day, I don’t think my empathetic
response qualified me for “Husband of the Year.” But that’s the way it
is. You learn to live with what life gives you, I guess. Midwesterners
are blasé about tornadoes; Californians take earthquakes in their
stride. But, at some deep level, all of us know the massive extent of
destructive force that nature can exert in any geography.

In his great poem, “Tree at My Window,” Robert Frost talks about outer
and inner weather. Being human, we must make things more than they
are, and it has always been that way with storms. States of weather
have always been primary human metaphors for states of the soul. Just
think of all those song titles: “Stormy Weather,” “April Showers,”
“Good Day Sunshine.” Weather always means more to us than the roaring
of the sky or the shaking of the earth. It stands also for the state
of our souls. Or as Frost says as he looks out at and addresses a tree
being blown about in the heaves of a storm,

But tree, I have seen you taken and tossed,
And if you have seen me when I slept,
You have seen me when I was taken and swept
And all but lost. That day she put our heads together,
Fate had her imagination about her,
Your head so much concerned with outer,
Mine with inner, weather.

[Robert Frost, “Tree at My Window”]

When we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll all admit, if even only to
ourselves, that life can sometimes be an extended series of storms, a
mixed bag of earthquakes and tornadoes, floods, fires, and hurricanes.
Life comes at us and we find ourselves “taken and swept/And all but
lost” as Frost says. It isn’t always sunny weather.

Jesus knew that it isn’t always sunny weather. He knew that there were
disruptions that can overwhelm us. And that is why when, in today’s
Gospel, Jesus calms the storm, he comes toward us in love not just as
master of our outer weather. It’s good news that Jesus can calm a
raging outer storm. It’s even better news that he can calm the rages
of our inner weather.


A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the
boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the
cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, "Teacher, do you not
care that we are perishing?" He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said
to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" Then the wind ceased, and there was a
dead calm. He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Have you still no
faith?" [Mark 4.37-40]

This is a familiar story, similar in many ways to the Gospel account
of Jesus walking across the water. In both stories, two things are
true. The first is that this is not just a symbolic story: Jesus
really does calm the storm. But it’s clear that he calms the storm out
of compassion for his friends who are beside themselves with fear.

Beyond that, two more things are going on. The storm outside is
raging. The storm inside is raging.

The storm outside is raging. Jesus lived and taught among people who
were out there in the storm. To be a Palestinian Jew in Jesus’s day
was to be a poor, hungry, person living in a country occupied by a
powerful foreign empire. Jesus’s compatriots were depressed and
anxious about life, and at least one central aspect of his teaching
and ministry was holding out the promise that you can live an abundant
life in the midst of real deprivation. When things get tough, we tend
to want to pull apart from each other and hunker down separately in
survival mode. But Jesus taught and lived a different truth: the way
through hard social times is to come together, to live generously and
compassionately with each other. When we do that, there is always, as
in the feeding of the 5,000, more than enough to go around.

But of course the storm outside is raging in another sense. It’s a
real storm threatening to swamp a real boat. Jesus’s friends
experienced his calming of the storm as an expression of his divine
nature, his deep connectedness to God as the source of his being. In
its outward expression, then, the storm is both real weather and
challenging economic and social conditions. “Why are you afraid?”
Jesus asks.

Many of us in this church today confront the outer weather of this
moment in our economic and social lives. Whether it’s your job, your
investments, your work, each of us in some way confronts stresses and
challenges on behalf of ourselves and others. Life is hard right now,
and in the midst of a hard storm like this one, we can all lose heart
and wonder whether it’s worth going on. “Why are you afraid?” Jesus
asks The first truth we need to hear this morning is this: Jesus rises
among us, even now, to calm that storm which rages all around us. He
does that precisely by pointing to a way of living—in mutuality, in
generosity, in compassion—which is the real strategy for enduring
tough times. We will make it through all of this with Jesus and each
other as we do it together. That is the real Christian hope he offers
us to calm the raging outer storm.

But there’s that inner weather, too. The storm inside is raging. Not
only do we suffer the blasts of outer events beyond our control. We
all of us suffer those inner blasts of anxiety, depression, fear,
loneliness, and loss. It’s part of the sick illusion of our culture
that you can always be on top of things outwardly and inwardly.
Sometimes the pain we feel for ourselves and on behalf of others is
just too much. We all have those nights (or weeks, or months, or
years) when, as Frost says, “I was taken and sweptAnd all but lost.”
Jesus’s companions thought they were going to go down with the boat.
There are times, for each of us, when we fear getting swamped by the
inner forces which can feel beyond our control.

It is to calm this inner storm that Jesus invites you in the Gospel
this morning. If Jesus had another central point in his ministry
beyond a call into compassionate living, it was a call into
self-acceptance. You may think that there are parts of you so dark and
secret that nobody could love them. You may think that there are
aspects of your being that are unlovable. You may think that there are
things you have done (or thought about doing) that are unforgivable.
It’s normal to think that way. All of us do it, and not just

Part of the ministry of hard times is that they carry with them what
Frederick Buechner calls a “fierce blessing.” These hard times shine a
bright light on our outer and our inner storms, and they often expose
to our notice those parts of our selves that we would rather not
acknowledge. And it is in bringing all those dark places to light that
Jesus also reaches out to us and calms our inner storm. You are made
in the image of God. In the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus,
God has taken on your life and experience. There is no part of you
that God does not know. There is no part of you that God does not
bless. There is nothing you have been or done that God does not accept
and forgive.

We suffer internally because we think that we and others cannot take
the truth about us. The fierce blessing of social and personal storms
is that they open us up to the truly important things in life. In the
love and companionship of your neighbors and family and friends, you
have been given the means to make it through the hardest of economic
and social stress. And in Jesus’s call for you to know and love and
accept all of yourself—even that part of you that seems unknowable,
unlovable, unacceptable—you have been given the way to live with peace
and joy and power even in the stormy times which can threaten to swamp
us all. When Jesus asks his terrified disciples, “Why are you afraid?”
what he is really saying is this: Have no fear. The outward things you
worry about have no real power over you. The inward secrets you seek
to hide are not as bad as you think they are.

And so Jesus stood in the boat, rebuked the storm, and calmed the
waves. Whether it’s tornadoes or earthquakes you fear, whether it’s
unemployment, shrunken resources, or the suffering of your friends and
neighbors that threatens to overwhelm you; whether it’s your own guilt
or sorrow or remorse which keeps you from the joyful acceptance of
God’s love for you: take heart. Even now, Jesus stands in the boat and
offers to calm the outer and inner storms which seem so powerful. He
calls you to step out of your alienation and into compassion with
every other human child of God, who feels just as you do. He calls you
to let go of your stern judgment of yourself and others and accept
God’s love and forgiveness.
We come now to his table, the place where we share this meal which
stands as a sign both of our connection to each other and of our
acceptance by Jesus and the One he calls his Father. Come forward, be
fed, and go forth on a calmer sea, ready to love and be loved by the
God who is always at work calming our outer and inner storms. Amen.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Doing Church by Kayla McClurg

Doing Church
Written by kayla June 13th, 2009 in Saturdays By Kayla McClurg
Last week I wrote about the inward/outward journey that some of us choose to embark on together, particularly as it gets expressed through churches or faith communities. I think we “do church” partly because it’s one place during the week that can be counted on, one place where there’s some consistency and calm in the midst of the world’s ruckus. And this isn’t a bad thing; in fact, it’s a pretty amazing thing, that hearing ancient religious words together, singing sometimes ancient songs together, passing a plate and a cup together can remind us of who we are. Whose we are. When we’re “at church” we can more or less predict who’s going to be there (if not in the particular, at least in the general) and what’s going to happen and what the reactions, and lack of reactions, will be. Most of us like to be in a church that feels like home, assuming home is a place we don’t mind being, where we can breathe comfortably, where we can sit loose and not be jarred too much. We prefer not having too many strangers drop by and not having our routines interrupted. We like familiar faces, familiar activities, familiar conversations, familiar problems. For most of us, church that feels like home tries to accommodate one of our deepest human needs … for a comfort zone. We all need places of refuge and safety. No argument there. And yet I wonder, was the church ever intended to guarantee our comfort? Did God “call us out” to be the ekklesia in our towns and rural communities and city neighborhoods in order to make us more at ease and “cushioned”? Or is the church the one place and the one people we should be able to count on to disrupt and disturb us? I returned to some of Annie Dillard’s writings this week, in particular some of her descriptions of church. I think I should just stop talking now and give you some of her words instead of more of my own: First, from her book Holy the Firm . . .
Nothing could more surely convince me of God’s unending mercy than the continued existence on earth of the church. The higher Christian churches—where, if anywhere, I belong—come at God with an unwarranted air of professionalism, with authority and pomp, as though people in themselves were an appropriate set of creatures to have dealings with God. I often think of the set pieces of liturgy as certain words which people have successfully addressed to God without their getting killed. In the high churches they saunter through the liturgy…. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it any minute. This is the beginning of wisdom. And now from her book, Teaching a Stone to Talk . . . Why do we people in churches seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute? The tourists are having coffee and doughnuts on Deck C. Presumably someone is minding the ship, correcting the course, avoiding icebergs and shoals, fueling the engines, watching the radar screen, noting weather reports radioed in from shore. No one would dream of asking the tourists to do these tings. Alas, among the tourists on Deck C, drinking coffee and eating doughnuts, we find the captain, and all the ship’s officers, and all the ship’s crew…. The wind seems to be picking up. On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return…. Well, I’ll see you around somewhere, out at the edges of the “church proper.” I’ll be looking for the ones with the crash helmets on.
Kayla McClurg is point of contact for the scattered churches of
The Church of the Saviour and facilitates inward/outward. see it on the web

Thursday, June 11, 2009

An essay by Dr. Louie Crew

Do justice.

A series of essays in the Episcopal Church

Dear Members of the House of Bishops Theology Committee,

I was heartened to learn of your decision to appoint a panel to study same-sex relationships. Further theological inquiry is always to be encouraged, as the latest work by the Chicago Consultation published in Anglican Theological Review so clearly shows. As I have long said, the problem is not that so-called conservatives are conservative, but that they are not conservative enough. A deeper appreciation of Patristics, Scriptures, nature, and our own Anglican humility prevents easy condemnatory attitudes toward lgbt Christians. I was appalled, however, to learn that the membership of this panel would not be made public, indeed, would operate as if by secret commission. This sort of secrecy represents a real retreat from engagement with real life such as it is, and it further stands out in stark contrast to the openness displayed on the part of similar study groups in the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Secrecy coupled with shame has been a terrible force in the lives of many lgbt Christians at one point or another in our lives. Together these two have been combined all too often, resulting in various forms of bullying to which we may have had little recourse but to endure and survive—or not. I would venture to say that far too many lgbt Christians, including those in this Church (and especially those in Holy Orders), have experienced bullying from fellow Christians within this nexus of secrecy and shame. This bullying can include threats, put downs, silencing, cooption, blackmail, behind-the-doors-deal-making, tokenization, and many other related forms. All of this shows very clearly patterns of mendaciousness at work in the life of the Churches, patterns that heretofore have largely gone unexamined in discussions about lgbt persons and our relationships, as if repentance and conversion were not meant for the whole Church. We who have survived through it and come out on the other side are obligated to speak up for those who cannot yet do so. We who have survived through it and come out on the other side are obligated to insist upon honest, integrity, and transparency as Christ-like virtues by which the habits, behaviors, ideas, and attitudes of this Church are to be shaped at every level of its decision-making processes and life together.

Secrecy, we know well, is deadly—soul-destroying, and all too often conflated with confidentiality in such a way as to blur boundaries and prevent public airing of harmful behaviors on the part of those in authority. Clearly, that history has not been overcome as this latest action demonstrates. That history will not be overcome by nice words. By now, the Churches, both Anglican and non-Anglican, should have learned quite clearly how dangerous secrecy such as this can be. I think of the clergy abuse scandals of this Church and of Anglican Churches throughout this Communion, especially in relation to First Nations peoples. And yet, clearly we have not learned. This latest action demonstrates that we are willing to repeat the pattern, which is an affront to the “Christ-touched dignity” of every lgbt Christian. The Mind of Christ is not found in secrecy or the lack of transparency and the sense of objectification secrecy engenders. Playing politics with our persons is not Christ-like, something secrecy implies. As practical theologian, Adrian Thatcher has commented:

Second, the churches are in danger of using people of homosexual orientation as a ‘site of conflict’ for oppositional politics which have a wider agenda. ‘Liberal’ and ‘conservative’ have little intention of listening to each other; more intention of clobbering each other. So the presence of lesbian and gay Christians in Christian congregations, itself surely a cause of rejoicing (given what Christianity has often had to say about them), and their obedience to the call of God to positions of ministry, has become an ‘issue’, around which there is to be much ‘debate’. Now the danger is that the attitudes of Christians to this ‘issue’ are taken as evidence of their ‘positioning’ over all other matters about which Christians find themselves in disagreement. This is itself to treat homosexual people as means to some other end, like lining up with apparently ‘progressive’ or ‘reactionary’ forces within the church, or the defence of a particular interpretation of the bible. Why should lesbian and gay people be used like this? We who behave this way are in danger of breaking the ninth commandment forbidding false witness against our neighbour (Exodus 20/16), and failing to see the plank in our own eyes before we take the speck from our brother’s.(Matthew 7/4-5)

I would add that this same danger arises in using lgbt Christians in responding to current Anglican tensions. To turn Archbishop Williams’ words back on himself, the rest of this Church, and the Anglican Communion, I would suggest that this recent action on the part of the House of Bishops Theology Committee demonstrates once again that our Churches’ cultures are in need of conversion. Conversion means rejecting “habits, behaviors, ideas, and attitudes” that demonstrate undignified treatment of and hostility toward lgbt members of Christ’s own Body.

I would further suggest that this latest action represents very real and tangible evidence of a failure on the part of at least some bishops in this Church to care for lgbt members of the Body pastorally in the same way any other member of Christ’s Body would be cared for. Would we honestly convene such a secret commission to study persons of other sorts and conditions and not expect offense, even outrage? Yet, it seems acceptable to do so in relation to lgbt Christians?

To not see this latest action as offensive and insulting to lgbt Christians suggests a failure to have truly listened to us and to have learned from us. In some cases, I would suggest it represents a hardness of heart on the part of the leadership of this Church. We have heard many nice words by the House of Bishops at every turn in a seemingly endless drama, even as many actions demonstrated anything but generosity, often implying that our return to secrecy would be better for all—as does this latest action. Indeed, actions such as this latest speak far more clearly than nice words ever will. To be very frank, the bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada, by providing clear guidelines for the very real pastoral and liturgical care of our relationships, have shown far more pastoral sensitivity and courage even if what they have provided for is less than what some would want. To be even more frank, this Committee and those responsible for its actions owe lgbt Christians a sincere apology and acts of repentance for this latest handling.

I would finally suggest that a real and growing breach exists between our House of Bishops and lgbt Christians. Nice words will not overcome this breach. Good faith habits, behaviors, ideas, and attitudes, that is, honesty, integrity, and transparency, on the part of our bishops and the panels and committees overseen by them is a first step to overcoming a breach of trust and increased suspicion that has built up a dividing wall rather than broken down barriers between us. It is the responsibility of our bishops to protect the faith and unity of this Church, and that includes lgbt members of the Body. This latest action represents pastoral failure in this regard, indeed, spoilage and disintegration, to use part of John Calvin's understanding of Sin.

On a personal close, we live in a world devoted to strategies and tactics. Some openly displayed. Others undertaken behind closed doors. As Christians, it is easy for us ourselves to get caught up in such calculations. From a Benedictine perspective, however, strategy and tactic are often times at odds with Christ-like community, means of discernment, and exercise of authority:

  • How we are with one another is what matters.
  • How we do Truth is what matters.
  • How we exercise authority and power (and we all do in some degree) is what matters.

These three are not separable in Benedictine understanding of community, discernment, and authority. The life of God in community is not a game of chess.

Secretiveness and guile are equally to be eschewed. Collusion is to be rejected. Deception is to be deplored. "Be it no so among you," Jesus commands us. To get what we want by any of these means is worldly. Even over-exertion of pressure on others is to be set aside in favor of spacious mutual discovery, prayer, and generosity. Does that mean we remain naive? No. Others indeed may be plotting. "Be as wise as serpents, and as innocent as doves," our Lord advises. And yet, their plotting does not justify our own (doing so).

It means, thus, that in the face of collusion, deception, guile, secretiveness, and worldliness, we respond with openness, honesty, integrity, transparency, and compassion to the best of our ability by God's grace. And it means we insist upon these virtues in those given authority over us, even if our insistence gets us in trouble or affects our own future position. Even if that means we may lose the day in getting what we want. Indeed, it requires us to recall the bishop or abbot or minister general or guardian to his or her charge by Christ and the very sacred trust which he or she has been given (a trust that violated, violates obedience):

Will you accept this call and fulfill this trust in obedience to Christ?

Will you be faithful in prayer, and in the study of Holy Scripture, that you may have the mind of Christ?

Will you boldly proclaim and interpret the Gospel of Christ, enlightening the minds and stirring up the conscience of your people?

As a chief priest and pastor, will you encourage and support all baptized people in their gifts and minisitries, nourish them from the riches of GOd's grace, pray for them without ceasing, and celebrate with them the sacraments of our redemption?

Will you guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church?

Will you share with your fellow bishops in the government of the whole Church; will you sustain yoru fellow presbyters and take counsel with them; will you guide and strengthen the deacons and all others who minister in the Church?

Will you be merciful to all, show compassion to the poor and strangers, and defend those who have no helper? ("Ordination: Bishop," BCP, 518)

And he must know that he who has received the ruling of souls, must prepare himself to render an account of them: and whatever the number of brothers under his care, he should know for certain that on the Day of Judgment he must render an account of all these souls to the Lord--and without his own soul as well. (II.37-38, Rule)

This recent business is at heart a matter of how we are with one another, how we discern together, and how we exercise authority. The action may seem small or merely symbolic to others, but within the matrix of a history toward lgbt Christians, such represents a pattern at odds with the Pattern, namely Jesus Christ the Crucified Risen One in Whom only do we have life. In few words, we do not treat one another this way (period). "Be it not so among you." From a Benedictine perspective, this is the Crux of the matter, not strategies or tactics devised on "any side".

pax Christi vobiscum,
Christopher Evans, ObSB

All these rely on their hands,
and all are skillful in their work.
They keep stable the fabric of the world,
and their prayer is in the practice of their trade.
-Sirach 38:31,34 (RSV)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

President Obama's June Proclamation

President Obama issued the following Pride Month proclamation 
on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Stonewall:


Forty years ago, patrons and supporters of the Stonewall Inn in New York City resisted police harassment that had become all too common for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Out of this resistance, the LGBT rights movement in America was born. During LGBT Pride Month, we commemorate the events of June 1969 and commit to achieving equal justice under law for LGBT Americans.

LGBT Americans have made, and continue to make, great and lasting contributions that continue to strengthen the fabric of American society. There are many well-respected LGBT leaders in all professional fields, including the arts and business communities. LGBT Americans also mobilized the Nation to respond to the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic and have played a vital role in broadening this country's response to the HIV pandemic.

Due in no small part to the determination and dedication of the LGBT rights movement, more LGBT Americans are living their lives openly today than ever before. I am proud to be the first President to appoint openly LGBT candidates to Senate-confirmed positions in the first 100 days of an Administration. These individuals embody the best qualities we seek in public servants, and across my Administration -- in both the White House and the Federal agencies -- openly LGBT employees are doing their jobs with distinction and professionalism.

The LGBT rights movement has achieved great progress, but there is more work to be done. LGBT youth should feel safe to learn without the fear of harassment, and LGBT families and seniors should be allowed to live their lives with dignity and respect.

My Administration has partnered with the LGBT community to advance a wide range of initiatives. At the international level, I have joined efforts at the United Nations to decriminalize homosexuality around the world. Here at home, I continue to support measures to bring the full spectrum of equal rights to LGBT Americans. These measures include enhancing hate crimes laws, supporting civil unions and Federal rights for LGBT couples, outlawing discrimination in the workplace, ensuring adoption rights, and ending the existing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in a way that strengthens our Armed Forces and our national security. We must also commit ourselves to fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic by both reducing the number of HIV infections and providing care and support services to people living with HIV/AIDS across the United States.

These issues affect not only the LGBT community, but also our entire Nation. As long as the promise of equality for all remains unfulfilled, all Americans are affected. If we can work together to advance the principles upon which our Nation was founded, every American will benefit. During LGBT Pride Month, I call upon the LGBT community, the Congress, and the American people to work together to promote equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2009 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of June, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Integrity Responds to the House of Bishops "Secret Committee"

The Theology Committee of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church has been asked by the House of Bishops to undertake a theological study of same-sex relationships in the life of the church. According to a report in the General Convention Blue Book, the Theology Committee has appointed "a diverse and balanced panel of theologians" but the names of these committee members are being withheld.

“If this isn’t the height of absurdity and insult I don’t know what is,” said the Reverend Susan Russell, President of Integrity USA, the LGBT advocacy group within the Episcopal Church. “It sends a horrific message to gay and lesbian people – both inside and outside the church. The very concept of “secret studies” elicits painful memories of secret studies done on other minority groups in the past and is utterly contrary to our baptismal promise to respect the dignity of every human being. There is absolutely nothing dignified about a secret study of a group already being discriminated against. It is suspect, disingenuous and dishonest. ”

Russell added, “If this important work is to have any credibility whatsoever, it is critical that the work be done in a context of honesty and transparency. A "closeted" sub-committee studying same sex unions seems too bizarre a thing to even make it into a Monty Python episode, much less be a course intentionally taken by a church that committed to full and equal claim for its gay and lesbian baptized 33 years ago.

“Integrity calls on the entire House of Bishops to not only ask for the publication of the names of those participating in this study, but to clarify the process itself. We want to know why it will take until 2011 for this committee to come up with a theological response to a reality we have been living out in the Episcopal Church for a generation now.

And we want to know how a church that can pass a resolution in 2006 “reiterating its apology “on behalf of the Episcopal Church to its members who are gay or lesbian, and to lesbians and gay men outside the Church, for years of rejection and maltreatment by the Church,” can then conscience secret committees “studying” our lives and relationships as if we were laboratory animals. What part of maltreatment by the Church doesn’t the House of Bishops get?

Blessings, Susan  ============================== (The Reverend) Susan Russell President, Integrity USA 132 North Euclid Avenue Pasadena CA 91101 626.583.2741  "Nothing we do changes the past. Everything we do changes the future." - Joan Chittister 

Monday, June 1, 2009

Posting Terry Garay's "My Two Cents" for June 1, 2009................

Summer’s almost here, and for some of us that spells outdoor parties by the pool.  Do you know what I like to do with friends that stand by the edge of the water and just stick their toe in?  I like to come from behind and push ‘em in!

 If I could, I would do the same with people who are stuck in the closet – especially the ones who occasionally stick their heads out but then don’t come out all the way.  They drive me bonkers!

 Now, I understand that coming out is a personal process, and that it can be more difficult for some than for others.  As a responsible member of the media, I also don’t believe in outing people, no matter how great the temptation. 

 And, believe me, some individuals make it very tempting with their hypocrisy.  Florida Governor Charlie Crist, for example, as much as I might want to, you will never find me making allegations that he’s gay.  For that you want to see the documentary Outrage. 

But getting back to this gay peek-a-boo game, I have found that some of the worst offenders are celebrities or public figures who make their orientation very obvious for all to see, but who never formally come out.  They, as the Italians say, give me “Agita!”

 A case in point is the outgoing Chairman of the California Democratic Party, Art Torres. Gay rumors have surrounded this man for years, going all the way back to his days in elective office.  Recently, at an event in his honor, Mr. Torres apparently took a moment to thank his longtime partner.  He, however,  never said partner.  What he did was thank Gonzalo Escudero, a man purported to be his longtime partner.  

 Even so, some people have been calling it his coming out moment. 

 I don’t see it that way.  I also can’t help but wonder what the impact on Latinos and others, gay and straight, might be, if a major political player like Art Torres were to announce his homosexuality openly and proudly. 

 Instead, I’m still wondering, is he or isn’t he?

 Jodie Foster did something similar at a high profile event a while back.  During her acceptance speech, she thanked Sydney.  Yes, just Sydney, no last name. 

 Again, some saw it as Jodie Foster’s coming out at long last.  Far from a hero, what I saw was a classic example of somebody putting their toe in the water. 

 She never said I am a lesbian, as Kelly McGillis has been doing a lot lately. She also didn’t hold a press conference to announce that she’s a Gay American, as was done, years ago, by Jim McGreevey, the former governor of New Jersey.  She simply thanked Sydney, a woman purported to be her longtime partner at that point in time.

 While it may be titillating to think that someone famous is gay or lesbian like us, as far I’m concerned, until they come out, the rumors are little more than fodder for Harvey Levin and the gang at TMZgossip! 

 Today happens to be the first day of gay pride month and many of us in the LGBT community are still reeling from last week’s California Supreme Court decision on Prop 8.  Because I’m feeling that people are starting to reach their saturation point, I’m going to leave it to the experts we’ve assembled for tonight’s show to layout the roadmap for the future of the campaign.

 Here’s all I’m going to say on the subject:  If you’re looking for LGBT heroes, you need look no further than the people who’ve been championing our fight for marriage equality here in the state.

 From the attorneys to the plaintiffs to the ordinary folk who marched in West Hollywood, Long Beach, and to the middle in Fresno this weekend, to me, these people eclipse any super hero from the movies because of their courage and dedication.

 Perhaps one of these heroes is you.

 To all of you, I simply want to say thanks.

 I’m Terry Garay and for what it’s worth, that’s my two cents.