Thursday, July 30, 2009


I was having a late breakfast with my friend, EE, who is helping me plan a 'day of refreshment' for people who have done the Making a Difference Workshop, at a diner in Torrington. There weren't many people that since we were past breakfast and not yet to lunch. And while EE was talking I noticed a young woman (20's or so) who was washing down the unused chairs and tables. Whatever was being said to me was lost because this young woman was washing chairs and tables and the legs of the tables with a commitment and a consentration I'm not used to seeing.

She washed almost lovingly and certainly with great consentration and commitment and attention. She was, in my mind, 'totally present' to the task she was doing. A small child--4 maybe--which must have been the woman's daughter, was dipping her hand in the bucket and taking out the soap bubbles and rubbing them on table legs and then making sure her 'mother' finished the job.

I was humbled by seeing how aware and awake that woman was to her job, not minding that she was crawling under tables to wash the underside and the legs, simply doing it because it was her role, her task, her life...perhaps her ministry.

What if we all were that centered and in touch with what was right in f ront of us instead of dwelling on the past or looking to the future? What if each of us--me too--were completely present to the moment of our lives, no matter what that moment required? What if I could live my life in the same intensity and focus as she washed those tables and chairs? What if I could crawl under the table of my life and clean it with such care, such devotion, such love?

What would the world look like if all of us could be that awake and present to the moments of our lives and had a smaller one helping and making sure we didn't short-change each moment of our lives....? What would the world look like?

Something mundane and 'profound' as well to ponder....

Monday, July 27, 2009

His eye is on the sparrow...

I haven't written for a week. I think the pressure of writing from General Convention was a bit too much and getting back to the 'right coast' threw me off a bit in terms of what time it was.

I think I need to reiterate what the name of this blog is about since I've had a few people ask me. Jonah, who traveled to Nineveh in the belly of a fish and was vomited up on that shore, proclaimed God's message to the vile folks and Nineveh and then, when they repented, was, in a word 'pissed off' at God (two words actually....) He sat up on a hill, Jonah did, in the horrible and unrelenting sun, to complain to God about God's sparing the folks of Nineveh. God caused a plant to grow up to shade him and just as soon caused a worm to kill the plant. That plant, many Biblical scholars agree, was a Castor Oil Tree. Jonah is left to ponder under that dead tree and that is where I find myself, more often than not, not a little perturbed with God and trying to ponder out God's ways....

I was just out in the Close of St. John's, watching the sparrows bathe and feed. They bathe in the little spots of dust they can find in such a rainy Summer and feed on the crumbs they find from the Soup Kitchen which serves lunch outside in good weather. There is a stick hierarchy in the Close. If the pair of hawks who live downtown are in the ancient elms, the close is free of any other creatures--all of them knowing 'what's good for them' in some instinctive way. Crows also tend to empty the Close for awhile, but squirrels and pigeons are glad to share the space with those feathered rats after a time. Mid-afternoon is the time for the sparrows and a few starlings, who have seemingly met some kind of avian understanding.

Watching a sparrow bathe in the dust is about as wonderful as anything other than watching some creature give birth. They lay down and roll in a way you wouldn't imagine birds could do, flutter and flap and cover themselves with dirt only to shake most of it off and fly away refreshed. Some are impatient and try to drive away another sparrow from the dust only to result in a wing-flapping, chirping confrontation until one backs off to wait.

One of the great gospel tunes is "His Eye is on the Sparrow" and it brings home to me the reality that if God is concerned with these tiny, fussy, fluttering birds that weigh, I would guess, 3 or 4 ounces, then it isn't inconceivable that God loves a short, pudgy white man as well.

"I know he's watching me...."

A bit terrifying to know God has me always in his/her eye, but also, a great relief. I'm not alone, no, never alone. Me and the sparrow, just like that, the apple of God's eye....

Sunday, July 19, 2009

home again, home again, jiggidy jig

I arrived at John Wayne Airport at 4:45. It is a small airport and doesn't open until 5 a.m.! But I was in line with Bp. Wilfredo Ramos Orench, formerly a suffragan in CT and recently the provisional bishop of Ecuador Centrale. Here's my first question--how can their be a diocese of Central Ecuador when the only other diocese there is the Diocese of Ecuador? To be 'central' shouldn't there be dioceses called East Ecuador and West Ecuador? He tried to explain it to me but it was too early in the morning to understand. Little things like that cause me to ponder.

Bp. Ramos is one of my favorite people. He is so kind and good and engaging. I miss him. The GC approved the consecration of his successor so in two weeks he'll be retiring and moving home to Porto Rica. He brought some bishop vestments to the convention and gave them away! He's serious about retiring....

So I flew from John Wayne (which is a small airport with long runways because huge jets land and take off there) to George H. W. Bush airport in Houston. I've flown through Houston before and, just like always, the connecting flight in invariably in another terminal. I think they do that so you have to walk by this larger than life statue of the first Bush president and a big display. Actually the statue is Kennedyesque--George the first's hair and tie are blowing in the wind. I actually liked him a lot better than his son. Then from there to Cleveland where, once more, the connecting flight to Hartford was a terminal and a half--about a mile--from where we deplaned.

I slept in my bed last night for the first time since July 4. I am so glad to be home and did some initial talking about convention in my sermon today. I want to do more with what happened when I get the stuff I shipped FedEX from the west coast. My internal clock isn't functioning well and I'm not very creative right now. More later....

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The day after tomorrow...

That's when I'll come home. We've been here so long that when people part for the night--like after dinner--we say to each other, "are you going home?"--meaning the hotel!

Day after tomorrow I can answer that--YES!!

I'll check my email tomorrow at the Con Center but won't blog since I have to have a 4 am wakeup call tomorrow night to catch a cab to the airport. I've been packing a bit so it won't all be left to do tomorrow.

Today the HofD got really moving. We covered three days of legislation in two sessions and didn't have to meet tonight. But I did go out to dinner with 4 others from CT and it was a 2 hour dinner....

Well, we got moving to a greater extent than we have been but there were times of absolute madness. Here's the best example: We elected members of the committee for the nomination of the Presiding Bishop. It is a committee no one wants to ever meet. Katherine j-s was elected in 2006 to a nine year term. So the real nomination committee will be elected in 2012 to report to the GC of 2015. But just in case she should die, be incapacitated or decide to join the circus (though what 'circus' could be more circus-like than the Episcopal Church?) the mechanism to replace her would be in place. That's hints of something that it is hard to imagine unless you've been a part of it: the Episcopal GC is so weighed down by inertia that it must be tightly administered or it would spin out into space by it's own centrifugal force. It is one of the reasons that the HofD is so hard to keep moving AND so hard to control. 800+ deputies (about a third of which are new every three years--three of CT's 8 deputies and 2 alternates had never been in that role before and a 4th was an alternate who was a 1st time deputy...and that's CT, the land of consistency...) left to their own devices would either bog down completely or run away to chaos. So the level of control and parliamentary strictness has to be intense. But even with that, things fly apart. Today for instance, we had a vote on a paper ballot (most voting has been electronic and just as we got it right, it's time to go! But a paper ballot to elect the hopefully never meeting committee for the nomination of a Presiding Bishop became a comedy not too far removed from the Keystone Kops (sorry for the ancient allusion for those who are under 50!). Vote for one lay person and one clergy from each of the 9 provinces of the EC and since it makes counting the votes easier, put all the page 1's of the ballot in one pile and all the page 2's in another for them to be collected from each deputation. Sounds like something a group of 800 people whose average IQ is probably well above the national average, right? But there was no picture or biography for Province 9, which is the
Spanish speaking Province of Central America. Lost in translation is not an idle phrase. Bear in mind that the Provincial Caucuses met last night but due to the magic of email and digital photos that can be sent by email, the pictures and biographies were ready for us this morning. (The print shop must work through the night on this stuff to produce 800 copies of that only a few hours after it was emailed!) Province 9 thought they were to elect their representatives rather than have the whole house vote on them so they did and didn't send in their information, so it wasn't printed, just the four names.

Someone rose to say they could not possibly vote for people they knew nothing about and had no picture of and who had Latino names. Another rose to ask if they failed to vote for candidates for Province 9. That was asked three times by three different folks before the Voting Secretary, a wondrous young priest names Winny (who, for those who were part of our adult forum using the LIVING THE QUESTIONS videos, was the Hispanic woman who was always sitting in a room with a fireplace and various Hindu gods/goddesses on the mantle) told them 'yes' their ballots would be invalidated if they didn't cast votes for each province. (A rule of the HofD is 'you have to vote!', there are no abstentions--which the HofB's can do). Then there were several deputies who rose to point out that if page one and page two (where province 9 was) were handed in separately, how would the elections committee know which page ones to invalidate. (Now, imagine, we are supposedly marking out simple paper ballots during all this conversation!) Finally a deputy moved that if people did not vote for Province 9 that only page two should be invalidated. There was some debate and then a vote. the motion carried. Winny said, "I cannot imagine a reason someone would not simply mark two names from Province 9." Vote for somebody, for God's sake, just because you should and the House's rules demand it. Vote for someone because you like their name. or vote 1-2 or 2-1 or 1-1 or 2-2, just mark the ballot and turn it in. This is, after all, a committee that we pray will 'never' meet!!!

Perhaps the average IQ of the HofD is a detriment. People are constantly overthinking things. It took over half-an-hour to have everyone finally mark and hand in their ballots that took 18 pen strokes....

On the same level of insanity--the Hof B DID DEFEAT the constitutional change which took the vote from retired bishops--the change the bishops have wanted for decades!!! Apparently, since the origins of this movement came when the Hof B was what someone called "the most exclusive men's club in America", to remove the retired bishops' vote would disenfranchise a disproportionate # of women and minorities. 30 years ago there were no women and only a scattering of minorities in the HofB. What did Bonhoeffer say about how the church 'moves'? We move so slowly the entire context changes....

The budget passed without amendment (not for lack of trying! there were at least a dozen proposals for changes, all of which failed). The budget was a $23million decrease from the last 3 year budget--about 13% (nearly the figure St. John's cut its budget for 2009 from 2008.) Much drama since everything cut meant a lot to some. The bishops approved it without change as well. I don't know, but $141 million seems enough to run the EC for three years....But pain is real and folks from St. John's Waterbury reading this need to know we will have to cut more from the 2010 budget unless we all suddenly decide to tithe (a minimum expectation for giving approved by several of the last GCs).

Two of the cuts that were not restored were for the Anti-Racism work of the church and the Mission Development Fund, which was poised to raise $250million. Those two I have great sympathy for. Since racism isn't eradicated from the church or our society (though we passed resolutions recommending it should be!) not funding that work seems odd. And, if we want to raise money--the EC is the only mainline church without a development office, per se--then why wouldn't we spend money to do so? You might notice that the $ the Development Fund was set to try to raise was nearly twice the 3 year budget for the whole church, it seems short sighted to cut the budget to eliminate the entire staff. I suspect it was a turf war of sorts, who would control all that money and decide where to spend it? So, rather than just raise it and figure that out later, we decided to NOT raise it! I am prejudiced since two of the staff of that project are dear friends of mine. But my prejudice not withstanding it seems a bit daft to not spend some money to make a lot of money. Call me crazy if you wish. I suspect the executive council--the EC's equivalent of the Vestry--could restore some money to that project. I hope they do.

The HofD also voted to discharge--that means simply, to remove from the agenda--a resolution approved by the Bishops and recommended by the Committee giving 'vote' to some of the Youth Presence at GC. CT has a young person, Rachels Downs 21/2 or something, in our deputation, who, by the way was the top vote getter among the lay deputies at Diocesan Convention. But there are only 20+ deputies under 25 out of 800+. The resolution would have provided vote as well as seat and voice to members of the official youth presence who sit on the floor, not far behind CT, and can speak but have no vote. By discharging the resolution we set the whole process back 3 years. It was a constitutional change which requires 2
GC's passing it in the same form. So, had we approved it, it would not have been constitutional until 2012 and no in force until 2015. Now 2018 is the earliest we can give voice to more young people. It was a sticky constitutional and parliamentary issue but by discharging it I will be 71 before it could possibly be true and all the young people in the Youth Presence will be in their mid-20s and we will have missed a whole generation of youth by not allowing them access to the decision making power of the church. God help us....

So today we pissed off the people of color and the young people. Tomorrow we'll royally piss off the Conservatives with a resolution passed overwhelmingly by the bishops that will start the process toward liturgies for same-sex unions and give wide interpretive laditude to bishops in states where same-sex marriage is legal to exert extraordinary pastoral concern. Some bishops will interpret that as letting priests officiate at same sex marriages rather than merely blessing those civil marriages and some will see as less than that. Vote by orders is certain, but I predict, feeling optimistic that the votes will be there. I predict 69-50 in the lay order and 66-54 in the clerical order. We shall see.
I read an interview on line tonight with Gene Robinson, who is the center of this firestorm over sexuality. When he was asked if he recognized the pain of the folks who are on the losing side of these issues he reflected that he had been on the losing side for decades and never left the church. Now it is the other side on the so called losing side. Gene thought it would be instructive to them.

I've been a priest since 1975. I began, in a remarkable but actually small way, with Gene Robinson's consent by the GC to be on the winning side in 2003. I was a priest for 28 years on the 'losing' side (though I never saw it that way--I saw it as being called to wait on the spirit to move. So I've been on the so called 'losing side' for 28 years vs. being on the so called 'winning side" for 6 years. And I never, in almost 3 decades considered for a moment 'leaving the EC". It is ironic for me that the 'other side' (a distinction I reject since the church moves with the Spirit and the Spirit claims all) is so quick to consider leaving. I actually feel, for the first time, that we as the EC are 'telling the truth' about 'what is'. I like that, feeling like a truth-teller and letting that stance be real and letting others react to it as they may.

The Church of England today said awful things about us. So be it. I'd rather have awful things said about me when I'm telling the truth than when I'm not. We haven't told the truth about the reality of the EC's struggle with human sexuality until now. Let the rest of the AC judge us as they may. God bless them. At least, in my mind, criticism of Who we really are is preferred to criticism of who we pretended to be.

I'll write to you from home. I am so glad to be leaving this place of eternal sunshine and endless blue skys. Bp. curry told me today that his daughter called from CT to say there was an astonishing thunder storm last night. I long for cloudy skies and thunder storms and weather that changes if you simply 'wait a while'. I will not regret flying away from southern cal. back to the unpredictable north east. I hope it rains on sunday--which, by the way for St. John's folks, I'll be preaching and celebrating at 8 a.m. For me it will be--in my body clock--5 a.m.! Does the request, 'don't expect too much" make sense???

See some of you Sunday....I'll see Bern and our creatures Saturday night. Alleluia and Amen!

The 9th day

This morning is the next to last legislative day. (Only two more sleeps until I can start home!) We will probably have a session after dinner tonight so I expect to be in the house from 9:30-11:15, go to Eucharist (Wilfredo Ramos it the celebrant today) grab lunch, be in session from 2-6, grab dinner and be in session from 7:30-10.

It's little wonder that I feel about the other deputies the way you felt about your friends from summer camp. We've been isolated in the midst of a multitude for almost two weeks. We've spent more time together than we ever spend with our families in two weeks! I really like them all a great deal. But I probably won't be too melancholy about leaving them behind!

Time is a remarkable concept. It's been around since human beings could make a mark on a cave wall to record the rhythm of dawn and darkness and since they noticed the shadow of a rock moved from one side to the other during the day. But as helpful a concept as time is, it is an elusive experience. When I arrived here, it seemed like I would be in Anaheim practically indefinitely. Yet now, with only two days to stay, those few hours seem to stretch out indefinitely still...though the days and hours have seemingly sped by.

(the weather forcast was for 'partly cloudy'. It seems that means that the morning haze hangs on a bit longer on the horizon and the blue is perhaps half a shade less blue....Lord, I miss a cloudy day...)

I'm not sure when I'll be able to write here again. But I want you to know I've enjoyed it and even if it's not until I get home, I will try to wrap it up a bit before moving on to other things to ponder under my withered castor oil tree....Be well....

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The rocket's red glare...

It must be 9:30 because it sounds like a war zone outside. All the pyro-technicians must get their training as Disneyland.

About Disneyland, by the way, there have been workers from the Magic Kingdom outside the Conv. Center every day, handing out postcards and information about the labor practices of Disney. The workers--most of whom are paid just above minimum wage--are having their health care reduced if they don't take over the entire payment. Taking health care away at this time in history seems draconian to me. There was even a prayer vigil for the workers after the afternoon session yesterday. It was held among the pristine and beautiful grounds of the Hilton Hotel--a bit ironic that.

Today the budget was presented. Bishop Smith is vice-chair of the PB&F committee (Program, Budget and Funding) and helped present the budget. It is one of the very few times we hold a joint session of both houses and the bishops joined their deputations for the presentation. Not surprizingly, there is a great short fall and programs that mean a lot to some were either slashed or eliminated. Plus there will be layoffs at the Church Center in NYC. It is a painful process and PB&F is the hardest working committee in the GC. They have to deal with resolutions that ask for funding even as they are trying to finalize the budget. Both houses will debate and seek to pass the budget tomorrow and time is running low. Two more sleeps before the convention ends on Friday afternoon.

We also passed a historic resolution creating a church wide health plan. I've always wondered why we didn't have a plan for the whole church and now we do. Insurance issues though, are quite tangled and complicated. Quite a few spoke against it and against a required pension plan for lay employees. Harriet is the only lay employee we have who works enough hours and we, at St. John's, already contribute to her pension. However, there are apparently those around the church that do not. These two issues brought up a divide in the EC that is as significant, if not more so, than the progressive/orthodox divide--small churches vs. larger churches.

A recent report out of 815 that I gave to the vestry reveals some startling facts. Did you know only 10% of Episcopal Churches are in urban areas? When you think of the large number of urban areas in the country, that is a bit surprising to me. But here's what blew me away, nearly 80% of Episcopal Churches have a sunday attendance of less than 150. Just over half of them have a Sunday attendance of 70 or less. St. John's, which I don't think of as a 'large' congregation, is in the top 10% of ECs in total Sunday attendance and we are about 35 people per Sunday from being in the top 3.5% of Episcopal Churches. Those figures are stunning to me and give me much more pause about the health, indeed the existence of the EC through the next 100 years. The median Sunday attendance at an EC (line them all up and find the one dead in the middle with equal # of churches with lower attendance and higher attendance, is 69!!! Because it is an 'average', St. John's is over 300 in the three Sunday services. (We don't get that in August, obviously!) How can a church with such statistics long survive? So deputies from small churches are afraid the new required church-wide health insurance and the mandated pension payments for lay employees over 2000 hours a year (1500 hours from what was passed today!) will tip them over the edge.

Since I'm big on irony, it is ironic that this denomination of small churches holds a 10 day convention in expensiver places and spends millions of $ for it. They negotiate a real deal for housing (the room I'm in is $120 or so a night though it says on the door of my room it is $600 a night for one person. Each deputy from CT--10 of us with the first alternates--was given about $3500 for travel and expenses. $35,000 seems a lot more for small dioceses made up of small churches than it does for CT or LA or Chicago or DC or Mass and other dioceses like that. The greater Irony is that even though nearly 80% of EC have 150 or less on Sunday, more Episcopalians go to church in the other 20% than in the 80%! Even in CT with 180 parishes, there are probably at least as many people in church on Sunday in the churches of Fairfield County and New Haven as there are in the rest of the parishes combined. We are a denomination of 'small churches' that acts like a denomination of 'large churches'. The budget does cut the length of convention by 2 days in 2112, but that seems like pocket change savings to the dioceses. When I come to retire, I'd like to work part time in one of those small, family sized churches and figure out what that's about. The first church I served had about 75 on a Sunday, but at that time they could afford both a priest and a building. St. James, Charleston was over 90 years old and when I stayed 5 years I had the longest tenure of any vicar they ever had. St. John's is 276 years old and I've been there 20 years and, I think I'm still 4th or 5th in terms of longevity. I'm only the 18th Rector. St. James had had more vicars than that in less than 100 years.

Another Irony of the astonishing kind: since 1979 there have been resolutions to have only active bishops be able to vote at GC. In 2006 we passed a constitutional change (which must be passed by two consecutive conventions in the same language to take effect) which accomplished that. The move was instigated and supported by retired bishops who felt they should have seat and voice but no vote since they did not represent a constituency--they were accountable to no one. So, 30 years later, we are poised on the edge of passing what retired bishops requested. (Arthur Walmsley, one of our former bishops, was pit bull about this.) The bishops would approve and the deputies would give back the vote over and again. But last night I was talking to Jeffery Rowthorn, one of CT's retired bishops and discovered he DIDN'T favor it. And Bp Smith said most of the retired bishops were against it. It occurs to me that most of the retired bishops who have supported this over three decades are either dead or not here. So, it may be the hofb that defeats it this time! How wierd is that. 30 years to give the bishops what they wanted was time enough for them to probably not want it anymore....

I talked to a man from Ireland, a former RC priest, who is one of the people with a booth in the Exhibition hall. We were both outside having a cigarette. The conversation started when I asked him, "do you remember when we ruled the earth, when our tribe was much larger?" He laughed and introduced himself. He told me 'Bradley' is a common name in the county of Ireland where he comes from. I found out he lives in southern Cal and I asked him how he could stand the endlessness of the blue sky and the unending sunshine. He told me he played golf--'nuf said. I told him Ireland is the only place outside the US I think I could live--mostly for the fog and clouds and ubiquitous rain. People I talk to who start going on and on about the climate here are shaken and confused when I tell them I can't leave 'paradise' soon enough. I really think being in Anaheim much longer would make me long for snow and ice and the 15 hours of darkness in winter in CT. What my new Irish friend told me resonates with my psyche. I always thought Bradley was a British name, but since noone in my family has ever been able to trace us back across the Atlantic, maybe I'm a lot more Irish than I thought. I know Celtic music is my 'soul music' though
Bern--Italian and Hungarian to the core runs out of the room when I'm watching it on PBS! I kinda like thinking my half-Irish blood on my mother's side may be equaled by half-Irish DNA on my father's side. And I could live in Ireland.....

The hofd is like driving a Packard on the I-5 in Southern California. We are two days behind in our work with 2 days to go! We keep shortening debate and putting more things on the consent calendar that can be voted all at once. Everyone is a little tired and a lot crabby. And there is much more to do.

last thing: today we approved continuing in the Anglican Communion's conversation about a Covenant for the AC. I'm dead against it. The Covenant is being designed to make us a much more hierarchical church and taking privilege from the 39 churches to consentrate it in a communion wide rule of bishops and archbishops. That is antithetical to our polity and, I would suggest, totally un-Anglican. The 'four instruments of unity' under the covenant in its present form are: the Archbishop of Canterbury, the gathering of the Primates of the 39 churches, the Lambeth Conference (all bishops) and the Anglican Consultative Council made up of a bishop a priest and a lay person from each of the 39 churches. We would begin to look like the RC church with the ABC as Pope and the Primates as the College of Cardinals and the Lambeth Conference as the College of Bishops. As bad an idea as I can imagine or conceive of in my mind. I was one of a dozen or so of 814 who voted 'no', but I was proud of my vote. The key thing is this--any 'covenant' of any form must be approved by a GC and I have come to trust the GC this year. Almost all the other 38 churches could agree to it if their archbishop agreed with it. We are one of the few Anglican churches who doesn't have an Archbishop. We have a 'Presiding
Bishop" and she 'presides' rather than 'rules'.

I miss all of you back in CT. I miss Bern and Bela (our dog) and Luke (the only one of our two still living cats I like) and the staff I love at St. John's and the people there and clouds and thunderstorms and crabby people of the East Coast. I miss a familiar ocean and the cultural agreement we have back east to maintain that what you see is what you get. Lots of people at GC have told me how impressed they are with how polite and friendly all the workers in the hotels and resturants are. I could stand a little rudeness right now. Three sleeps and I'll be in Houston and Cleveland and Hartford and then home...home sweet home....

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

there's a new world a'comin'....

OK, I have to repent my last blog's lack of faith in the house of bishops. I got Jerry Caroon, our alternate, to sit in for me this afternoon so I could go to the Hof B and Listen to their conversation about D025 which I gave you in the last post and lamented how the bishops wouldn't pass it.

They did!!! 99-44 with two minor and insignificant amendments. The amendments means the resolution has to come back to the hofd, but, in my mind they don't matter and we should approve the amended version in a heartbeat.

The 'debate' they had for over an hour was remarkable for how cordial and moving it was. The highlight for me was after several bishops had spoken in opposition to the resolution, pointing out how it would so, so offend the Anglican Communion, Bishop Prince Singe of Rochester (I swear that's his name) got up and said something like this: I AM the Anglican Communion. I grew up in India and the Anglican Church in India was the only church who ministered to the 'untouchable' caste. They did so, starting churches and schools in the 'untouchable' castes villages knowing they would lose the upper castes who would not come to those churches and to those schools. 80% of the Anglicans in India are 'untouchables'. It is time the EC realized our ministry is to the 'untouchables' in our culture.

He had me from the first mention of 'untouchables'. Right now I have never felt so committed and connected and involved in our church as I am right now. All three of our bishops voted 'yes' and so did Bp. Ramos, formally one of our bishops who is now in Ecuador. I haven't yet fully appreciated what has happened and I am moved to tears when I try to imagine it. D025 has made true what is so.

One of the bishops in opposition to the resolution read a quote from the Archbishop of Canterbury, who told us in his sermon last week to 'tell the truth'. He lamented the action of the HofD and said the HofB had the opportunity to 'block' that action. Some bishops I talked with were, to put it mildly, pissed off that the ABCanterbury would 'dis our church in such a remarkably inappropriate way.

We may 'walk separately' for a season with some of our brothers and sisters in the AC. There will be a cost to what the AC does in reaction to D025. But, for the first time in my life as an Episcopalian, we have told the TRUTH about who we are. Such truth telling allows us to enter into dialog with the rest of the AC with nothing hidden.

I also realize that there are some in the EC that will be offended and pained by this resolution. I would direct them to the last 'resolve':

"Resolved, that the 76th GC acknowlege that members of the EC as of the AC, bases on careful study of the Holy Scriptures and in light of tradition and reason, are not of one mind, and Christians of good conscience disagree about some of these matters."

That is my understanding of Anglicanism. We need not agree on matters of the interpretation of Scripture or Doctrine so long as we are willing--in our disagreements--to worship as on Body.

After today I have to reassess and ponder my opinions of the House of
Bishops. A learning and transforming exercise to undertake. And, under the castor oil tree with Jonah, 'pondering is what I do...."

Talk with you tomorrow--day 7....Unlike the Creation story, the work is not done and we cannot say "it is good"....Love you all. JIM

Sunday, July 12, 2009

D025 passes house of deputies

Perhaps more important than the passage of D025 to St. John's was the passage of a resolution on Hispanic/Latino ministry. The work that went into preparing a report on H/L ministry was superb. Pending what Program and Budget Committee has to do, $3.5 million was approved for work in the H/L community. I've talked to several people who work on the national level and they have heard of what we're doing at St. John's!!! Kudos to Armando Gonzalez and Mike Carroll. People know about your minisry at GC. Two people even said, "That's where Fr. Armando is," when I told them I was St. John's. Amazing--what a gift that ministry is to St. John's and the larger church.

I wrote earlier today about D025. It passed overwhelmingly. The vote--by orders--(after several attempts to change or weaken the resolution failed)was 77 yes, 22 no and 9 divided in the Lay Order and 74 yes, 20 no and 13 divided in the clerical order.

I probably explained 'voting by orders' in an earlier post, but a quick review is in order. In a vote by orders each diocese has 2 votes--one for the clergy and one for the laity. Since there are normally 4 lay and 4 clergy deputies in each diocese, the vote must be 4-0 or 3-1 to be either a yes or no. If the deputies in the lay or clergy order vote 2-2 it is recorded as 'divided' but counts as a 'no' vote...or 'not a yes' vote. CT, for example, had a 4-0 vote of the lay members and a 3-1 vote of the clergy members for yes. So Ct's 2 votes were both 'yes'. Confused yet?

At any rate it was over 70% 'yes'. That, it seems to me, can be considered a mandate. B033 was not explicitly overturned, but the obvious implication is that the 'urging' not to consecrate gay/lesbian nominees is made moot.

Now it goes to the bishops. The fear among progressives in the HofD is that the bishops might remove the 5th resolve and cause a standoff between the bishops and the deputies. Nobody I've talked to will dare 'give odds' on what might happen with the bishops. So the GC is holding it's breath until they act.

If I might express my opinion (something I obviously don't do much!!!) I would say the Bishops, as they deal with D025, hold not only the future of the Episcopal Church in their hands but the future of the Anglican Communion as well. But NOT in the way they might imagine. D025--go read it in the last blog--expresses a genuine desire to remain fully a part of the Anglican Communion AND to be true to the reality of the life of this particular and peculiar church. We are the only member of the AC who governs itself in a completely and transparently 'democratic' way. Most of the Primates of the AC, unlike our Presiding Bishop, have almost papal like power within their church. Whatever the Archbishop says, the church does. Someone today, in debate, said 22 of the other 38 churches in the AC are now, even with B033, in 'damaged communion' with the EC. I turned to Ellen Tillotson and said, "only 16 to go!" In a humorous and ironic way, I mean that. We have been duplicitous with the AC for years now--claiming we want to agree with them when absolutely everyone in the EC and the AC knows to what great extent we are already including gay/lesbian folks in our life and leadership. It is simply time to stop posing and tell the truth. This church is ready for the 'local option' about same sex blessings and election of bishops. We had 'local option' on women priests and bishops for two decades--no diocese HAD to accept it, but most would gladly. I pray the Hof B will relent their attempts at appeasement and coercion and 'speak the truth in love' to the rest of the AC. This is how we make decisions and this is who we are. We will not leave you but if you cannot walk with us, given our realities, then perhaps we must walk separately for a while.

The EC cannot be a strong and mission-driven church until we are honest about who we are. Our bishops were elected to LEAD. Instead, to much of the time, they hold back and give disinformation to the rest of the communion. Either we are a church where there are no outcasts, as PB Browning said at the last GC in Anaheim OR we are a church that betrays it's own members to the prejudices and often outright hatred of those far away. The best witness we can give to the AC is to be unashamedly and boldly "who we are" and call the AC to deal with us on that level.

Shame on the bishops if they emasculate or defeat D025. They have no reason to worry about my judgment. I only pray they fret and ponder the judgement of God--a God who includes all, with nobody left out.

The bishops are under the castor oil tree with Jonah. God chose to save Nineveh, to include those outcasts in the Kingdom. Our bishops can ponder where we are and who we are and claim our identity as followers of a God who includes all....Or they can hide behind demands on us from those who do not live under our constitution and canons and pretend to be a church willing to 'exclude' in order to be part of the flock.

(Last week was the 30th anniversary of the debute of Spike Lee's remarkable film "Do the Right Thing". How fast time flies...about the same time as Bp Browning's declaration of 'no outcasts' in this church.)

(a young lion was separated from his mother and raised by mountain goats. he became, as best he could, a mountain goat. he ate grass--though it tasted vile--and learned to say 'baa' and to run from any danger. one day, the goats were feeding on a mountain side and heard a dangerous and raucous noise from the valley below. The young lion bleeted and started to run, but something in that sound spoke to his heart. So, in fear and trembling, he crept to the edge of the hill and over it. There, by the side of a stream was a full grown lion, feeding on a his kill. He looked up and saw the young mountain-goat-lion. The mountain-goat-lion said "BAA" and ate a mouthful of grass.

"What are you doing?" the full grown lion asked him. "what was that strange noise and why are you eating grass? doesn't it taste vile?"

"Come over here," the lion said, "look in the stream with me." The cub who was a mountain lion went, though it took all his courage. In the mirror of the water he saw himself for the first time and saw the lion as well.

"I'm just like you!" the cub said. Then he took a bite of the lion's kill and roared his first roar.

"Never forget," the older lion said, "who you are and whose your are..."

For too long our bishops have been mountain goats when, in fact, they are lions. I pray that as they deliberate on D025, they will remember 'who they are and whose they are" and 'do the right thing'....

All is well and all is well and all manner of things will be well....

Sunday lull (before the storm?)

After the glorious eucharist this morning with all the bishops of the church processing and the two past presiding bishops (Edmund Browning and Frank Griswold) flanking Katharine Jefferts Schori at the altar and all the ECW's, each diocese called by name, personally handing their United Thank Offering to the Presiding Bishop--plus music and dance to die for--there was a blessed break in the convention.

Today is too warm for me so I've spent some time in my room reading and resting.

The House of Deputies meets again from 3-6 pm and there is a chance we may get to the first significant piece of legislation entitled D025 (D means the original resolution came from a diocese--in this case several--which were cobbled together by the Committee on World Missions. Each resolution is assigned to one of the 20+ committees and might be drastically rewritten in committee before coming to the floor of the houses. D025 is coming to the HD first and when we have fiddled with it and if we approve it, it will go to the HBishops. If they change it members from both houses will meet to try to reach a compromise. Whatever fails in one house or the other fails. Both houses must pass the identical resolution for it to be inacted. (Sound familiar? Just like the House and Senate work.)

D025, in its present form, both affirms the EC's commitment to the Anglican Communion and, by implication, voids B033-2006.

Committees have both Bishops and Deputies on them (more Deputies since there are 835 or so of us and not nearly that many Bishops. The Committee approved D025 26-5 (dep. 24-2, Bish. 2-3!) Here it is in its wonderful parliamentary language.

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, that the 76th GC reaffirm the continued participation of the EP in the Anglican Communion, give thanks for the work of the bishops at the Lambeth Conference of 2008; reaffirm the abiding commitment of the EC to the fellowship of churches that constitute the Anglican Communion and seek to live into the highest degree of communion possible, and be it future
Resolved, that the 76th GC encourage dioceses, congregations and members of the EC to participate to the fullest extent possible in the many instruments, net works and relationships of the AC, and be it further
Resolved, that the 76th GC reaffirm its financial commitment to the AC and pledge to participate fully in the Inter-Anglican Budget, and be it further
Resolved, that the 76th GC affirm the value of 'listening to the experience of homosexual persons' as called for by the Lambeth Conferences of 1978, 1988 and 1998, and acknowledge that through our own listening the GC has come to recognize that the baptized membership of the EC includes same sex couples living in lifelong committed relationships 'characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, care, honest communication and the holy love which enable those in such relationships to see each other in the image of God' (D039-2000) and be it further
Resolved that the 76th GC recognize that gay and lesbian persons who are part of such relationships have responded to
God's call and have exercise various ministries in and on behalf of God's One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and are currently doing so in our midst; and be it further

Resolved that the 76th GC affirm that God has called and may call such individuals to any ordained ministry in the EC, which call is tested through our discernment processes acting in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of the EC; and be it further
Resolved, that the 76th GC acknowledge that members of the EC as of the AC, based on careful study of the Holy Scriptures, and in light of tradition and reason, are not of one mind, and Christians of good conscience disagree about some of these matters.

It is, in my mind, a consummately "Anglican" statement, allowing for disagreement, pledging unity without uniformity, speaking boldly to the situation of our time and place. We shall see...perhaps today, surely Monday.

Got to go to the House now. (Well, it's not really a 'house', it's a huge room in an enormous Convention Center...but you know what I mean....)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

more catching up

OK, I've gone almost two days without writing--mostly because I don't have time.

So you'll know, let me tell you about my last two days.

After I wrote stuff friday morning I was in the HofD from 9:30 to 11:45. Eucharist for about 1 1/4 hours, quick lunch, back to house from 2-6. no dinner, went to reception and eucharist of Integrity...1500 people or so in a huge ballroom in the Hilton. Barbara Curry did the set up and the sound and lights for what can only be described as a kick ass eucharist! talked to people for an hour and back to my room to eat a half-of-Ruben sandwich left over from lunch.

today: up at 7 to go to fitness center (I've done it every day and am getting prideful about finding the time) 9-12:30 House of D, 12:45 Eucharist, 1 CT caucus in the convention center, 2-3:45-Public Narrative conversation, 4-6 House of D, ran to room to change clothes for Virginia Seminary Dinner in the California Hotel in Disneyland and got back to the hotel at 10. The only time I left the con center was to come put on a jacket for the VTS dinner!

tomorrow--the day of rest--the eucharist and ingathering of the ECW will be at 10 but I'm a minister of communion (I actually volunteered!) and have to be there by 9 for orientation. There will be between 6 and 7,000 people at the service and about 90 folks to give out bread and wine. It is such a trip to be a part of that kind of liturgy. There is a 45 minuted prelude of music and visuals on the two 30'x20' screens. We will have a 3 hour session in the house of deputies from 3-6. Some day of rest....

Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the storm that ravaged much of New Haven County and did enormous damage to st john's. Judy McManis sent me a long email about it. If I knew how to do computer stuff I'd put the email in this blog...but I don't.

Random things:

*Bonnie Anderson, the President of the House of Deputies, a lay person from Michigan, invited 7 international people she has met in the last three years to speak to the House. There was the head of the House of Deputies in Canada, the Dean of the Cathedral in CapeTown, a seminary dean from somewhere else in Africa, an indiginous theologian from New Zealand (I heard her preach at a Gen Con and she is astonishing!), the archbishop of Brazil and a couple of others I can't give a title to right now. They were from three different continents and New Zealand and all assured us that whatever we do at this Convention, the Anglican Communion will still see the EC as a gift to the communion. Bonnie will catch hell for stacking the deck with people who support the progressive nature of the EC, but it was fun to hear. The Dean of Cape Town wore a tee shirt that I could read on the big screens. It showed two african men in profile and said "OUT IN AFRICA". The new zealand theologian who kept referring to herself as 'you indiginous sister' spent 15 minutes condeming the Anglican Communion for their treatment of the American Church. It was stunning. But even I must admit it was 'one sided' in the raging debate that is the Anglican Communion.

The Dean of Cape Town reminded us that there is a concept in African called 'curative rape'. Fathers whose daughters are lesbian will have them kidnapped and repeatedly raped to make them heterosexual. I think there are few people in the US--no matter what their thoughts about homosexuality--that would find that to be a sane solution. Is there any reason to wonder why the debate between "the Southern Hemisphere" of the church is at odds with the EC's somewhat open policy toward GLBT folks.

The House spent some 20 minutes today debating a resolution having to do with health care. A motion to 'divide' the resolution (vote on two parts separately) failed, two different amendments failed, a dozen or so people spoke before the question was mercifully called and in the end, the voice vote was practically unanimous! Tom Fuhr, who sits next to me at the Ct tables--a first time deputy--shook his head and wondered to me, 'why did we spend so much time on something we all agreed on?' A valid question. We really need to move quickly because we are almost a day behind on the calendar of resolutions already. It always happens in a legislative body of 800 people. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in his parody of a hymn: "Like a mighty tortoise moves the Church of God, Brothers we are treading where we have always trod...."

The Integrity Eucharist--as usual--was one of the most exciting and moving moments of GC. Gene Robinson, bishop of New Hampshire and the center of the firestorm that has been burning the Anglican communion since 2003 because he was the first 'openly' gay bishop in a committed same sex relationship, was the celebrant. The preacher was Bishop Barbara Harris, retired Suffragan of Mass. and the first woman ever elected bishop in our church. Barbara is also black, so she was the first 'black woman' to be a bishop besides. She took no prisoners! She said that, according to the current stance of the EC, because of B033-2006, GLBT folks had, at best, a 'half-assed' baptism and suggested if gay/lesbian folks couldn't be elected bishops we should be honest and deny them baptism as well. She also said (and this is so clever I wish I'd thought of it!) that marriage, for most of human history, has already been same-sex--a contract between the bride's father and the groom!!! I saw bishop curry, who was there, afterwards and asked, "Why can Barbara Harris say those truths and sitting bishop's can't?' He smiled and shook his head--"she's FREE," he told me, "she can say whatever she wants...."

Barbara has a 'get out of jail free' card that active bishops don't have because they, like the EC, is so emmeshed in the tangled and confusing alliance with people who don't want to be in communion with us in the first place. We bend over backwards to appease and satisfy folks who don't want to be in our presence to begin with. B033 got the Presiding Bishop a ticket to attend the meetings of the Primates of the other Anglican Churches, but a significant number of them won't recieve communion with her....The cost for that 'half-assed' acceptance is Justice and True Inclusion. Don't tell me Irony is dead.....

At the end of the Integrity Eucharist, Gene Robinson invited all the gay/lesbian priests in the room to come up on the platform. That platform, about 30' by 20' couldn't hold them all. I know some of them. They are some of the most gifted, committed, devout priests and Christians in our church. And, at this point, they cannot be considered to be elected bishops. I said, is alive and well in Anaheim.

Finally, something you might not know, the EC's clergy are divided into 'tribes'. Where you went to seminary really matters to us. It's about the first question asked when two priests meet. Each of our Seminaries has a distinct 'culture' and ambiance. Tonight was the night for Seminary dinners. I went to Virginia's dinner. Virginia is not only the largest Episcopal Seminary, it is the largest (and richest) seminary in the Anglican Communion. Many of the priests in CT went to Berkley/Yale (or simply Berkley before the merger) or EDS in Cambridge or General in New York. There were some 300 people at VTS' dinner and I brought back the menu just to compare with the other guys dinner.

I thought I'd share it with you.
*open bar and appetizers on tables and from waiters
*Roasted corn and seafood chowder
*Spinach and Belgian Endive/fresh California goat
cheese/apple bacon dressing
*Point reyes crusted filet mignon/melot-fig demi
*seasonal assorted vegtables
*cafe noir mocha mousse/pistachio biscotti
*assorted bread basket and sweet butter
*Redwood Creek Chardonnay and Melot
*Coffee and Tea
All that was missing was the cigars. I'm sure, in a less politically correct time, they would have been available....

Plus they gave everyone a really neat VTS tote bag with zipper.

For that, we paid $40. In the resturants I've been in here, $40 would have gotten you the soup and salad and a glass of wine. I bet some of the seminaries had cash bars....I can't wait to gloat....

I told you this stuff, for whatever reason, matters to us.

At the dinner I saw the bishop of Sudan (one of the most conservative of all african bishops) who was at my table, embrace the bishop of California, arguably the most liberal bishop in our church. Bishop Andres was right across the table from me. He shut his eyes, smiling, joyfully and authentically embracing a bishop as far from him on the spectrum as possible.They genuinely care for each other. Neither could have faked that embrace...Irony isn't dead...but neither is Hope. Praise God!

(There's a mirror above the desk where I am writing. I just looked up and realized I look like a negative of a photo of a raccoon. this california sun has turned my face brown except for where my sun glasses sit. I am white around my eyes....)

More tomorrow....

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The wheels of legislation....

This afternoon the HofD began a committee of the whole conversation regarding numerous resolutions, all of which ended up in the
Committee for World Mission, which seek to, in one way or another, deal with B033 from 2006. B033, to remind you, was the resolutions from the house of bishops that was (my description) forced down the throats of the H of D on the last day of the GC in Columbus. It said that bishops and standing committees--a majority of which are required to approve the election of a bishop--should 'exercise restraint" in approving any bishop-elect whose 'manner of life' would strain the 'bonds of affection' with other churches in the Anglican Communion. Translation: don't approve any gay or lesbian candidate for bishop who is in a committed relationship. The irony and hypocrisy of that is that the House of Bishops has always had gay members. I talked to a priest from Nevada today who told me he has served under 5 bishops and 3 of them were known to be gay.

At any rate, the committee outlined the options facing the 76th GC and B033;
1, do nothing (allowing B033 to remain in place)
2. reaffirm B033
3. overturn B033
4. pass a resolution affirming the Canons as the only
guidelines for approving Bishops (B033 violates the
non-discriminatory canons of the church)
5. pass a resolution affirming inclusion of all the baptized
in every aspect of the life of the church.

You see, a resolution only loses it's authority if a) expiration is built into the resolution (B033 has none) b) it is specifically overturned by another resolution or c)a resolution that obviously negates it is passed.

I'm relatively sure the HofD will pass something like 3, 4 or 5. My bet is #5, so we'll see how prophetic I am in several days. The House of Bishops is another matter. I believe the bishops have a majority that would like to void B033 but I'm not sure the 'will' is there to challenge the rest of the Anglican Communion by doing so.

The AC came into being in the 20th century (I'll look up the date for you) and it was established with worship as our defining characteristic, not doctrine and in face encouraged varieties of doctrinal stances within a worshiping communion. That's why it's the Angilcan COMMUNION rather than the Anglican CONFESSION or Anglican THEOLOGICAL UNION.

Certainly more on that issue. I know lots of people wish we could get beyond this issue. But this is the issue that we must first 'get beyond'. Passing either 3, 4,or 5 above would do that--if we have the courage.

There are lots of other things we need to deal with and I will report on them in the days ahead.

My postings aside: There is lots of stuff to carry around if you choose to carry it around. The 'blue book' of reports weighs about 5 pounds and our note book is about 20 inches by inches and 4 inches thick. Then there is all the stuff you pick up every day--reports, at least 5 daily news reports, position papers, handouts from church groups, etc, etc. I leave the big stuff on the table where I sit overnight. Many people take them with them and carry their laptops everywhere. So a considerable # of people are wheeling around carry on size suitcases to carry their stuff. These are remarkably dangerous. I trip over them several times a day and the collective noise of all those wheels on marble floors and sidewalks is almost deafening. I considered proposing a resolution forbidding them from the GC. But given how many people do that, it would surely have failed.

I was minding my own business today at Eucharist when a deacon came up and shoved a pitcher of wine in my hand. "Carry this and follow me", she said. So I found myself up at the altar where 4 dozen or so pitchers of wine were placed along with a dozen huge baskets of fresh baked bread. (It's a big altar!) I got to stay down off the podium with a good view of the consecration and then went up again to carry the wine to one of the communion stations. I never volunteer for such things but someone didn't show up and when she handed me the pitcher I gladly carried it.

This taught me a lesson I 'know' but don't live into much. When the church 'asks' for volunteers for something in a newsletter or bulletin or even an announcements you may get some. But if you hand it personally to someone, they'll almost always carry the pitcher to the altar. We need to do more 'asking personally' at St. John's. I'm always amazed at the people who bring up the bread and wine and pray the earth prayer--it's not because we asked for volunteers but because the ushers and Lucille Ladden simply ask them personally to do so--or in Lucille's case, she says, ' you'll be doing the earth prayer next week...' And they do. "Ask and you shall receive" sounds familiar. We need to do that more and more.

I saw Bp. Smith right after the Eucharist. He was astounded to see me up at the altar. He told me he said to himself, "Shoot," (or something to that effect) "that's Bradley up there...." He may have been concerned that I was in such close proximity to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was at the altar, knowing I'm not a big fan of the ABC. But I DO believe we are made "one" in breaking bread and not in our opinions, so Rowan Williams was safe.....

catching up....

A day and a half have passed--I have a lot of catching up to do.

The first full day of GC was yesterday. There are all these little parlimentary niceties involved in the opening day. Once all the motions necessary for the House of Deputies to be fully operational are finished, a priest and layperson are sent to the House of Bishops to inform them that we are 'ready to begin business' and the bishops send two folks to tell us they are too. Since this is the first GC for Bonny Anderson, the new president of the HD, we weren't as ready as we thought! Lots of thing went wrong but major parlimentary snafus were avoided. An awkward moment was when Bonny elaborately introduced the President of the Episcopal Church Women who are holding their meeting upstairs in the Convention center and she wasn't there!

We approved the election of 2 new bishops (Long Island and South Dakota). the bishop from the dakota is John Tarrent who was in Middlebury when the Greater Waterbury Episcopal Ministry was going on. I've talked with him a couple of times and in spite of his willingness to be a bishop, he seems as sane and humorous as he was back in CT.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is here as a guest of the Presiding Bishop. There was a reception last night (which I missed for an Angels game!) and he was the homilist at the Eucharist today. His sermon was elegant and seemless, as all his writings are. He admitted he was a tad anxious about whether this convention would pass legislation regarding gay issues that would be troubling to parts of the Anglican Communion. Nevertheless, he was thankful for the invitation and gracious in his humorous Welsh way.

Integrity (GLBT Episcopalians and their friends) printed up hundreds of tee shirts that said, "Here am I, Send me. I am witness to God's inclusive love." for that Eucharist. The several thousand folks had those tee shirts sprinkled all through. We all posed infont of the Conv. Center for video and photos singing "Jesus Loves me" and "WE ARE MARCHING IN THE LIGHT OF GOD". St. John's own Barbara Curry is in charge of media for iNTEGRITY--they've already done one short video about the opening of Convention that you could watch on Integrity's website. Barbara is as busy as the deputies, plus she has to lug equipment around....Sort of like Ginger Rogers doing all the steps Fred Astair did, only backwards and in high heels....

The narrative program I mentioned had its second meeting. We sit at tables--ours has bp ahrens, tom fuhr, jerry caroon, rachel downs and john sutton plus one of the ECW folks from CT--ECW and the Gen Con worship and do some things together. It was a good session once the leader, who loves to talk, let us talk to each other. I learned things about those people, all of whom I know (some of them for years and years) that I'd never known. We talked about 'our story' that led to the passion we have in ministry.

It was truly revelatory to me because I'd never thought of some of my personal psychology as leading to what I truly believe in about the ministry I have lived out. In short, it goes like this--I have always felt like an outsider. My parents were in their 40's when I was born and therefore the age of most of my friend's grandparents. Plus I was very sheltered as a child (one because I was an 'only' of older parents and secondly because, hard as it is to believe, I was sickly and not able to play well until I was 10 or 11.) I was always one of the 'smart kids' and that, in childhood, is it's own burden to carry. In high school I wrote a column for the school newspaper called "The Outsider". At Harvard I felt like a hick and in the larger Episcopal Church I've always seen myself on the margins--theologically, politically and even socially. Even as an aging white man, I feel intimidated by wealth and social status of many of the leaders of the EC. I don't think I've ever recognized before how that led me to be committed to the church's marginalised--racially, socially, economically, on issues of gender and spirituality. I am committed to a church 'with nobody left out'. I need to ponder all that some more, but it was an insight I've not been fully conscious of.

Much of these first two days is given over to committee meetings. A failure of past GCs has been we never got finished--even in 11 days--because the committees never had time to finish their work. So we are front loading the committee work in hopes of being about to legislate more completely later on. Perhaps it will work, or perhaps the GC simply tries to do 'too much'.

The committees--there are over 20--have open hearings and any deputy can go to testify about various resolutions. I spoke at the social concerns committee yesterday about a resolution from the bishops in states where same sex marriage is legal. That reality has posed difficulty and a large quandary for bishops. The canons and prayer book define marriage as between a man and a woman, yet more and more states are saying civil marriage between two men or two women is equally legal. The priests are put in the untenable position of having to have two policies regarding marriage. In CT we can do the blessing of a marriage from the BCP for same sex couples but cannot sign the marriage license. So, to have the marriage in the church, a JP or other civil authority must be there to take the vows and pronounce the couple married. "Separate is NOT Equal" and the full sacrament of the church is being denied to some of the baptized.
This is one of those issues the Archbishop is anxious about!

The resolution, which all three of our bishops signed, asks for the GC to grant a great pastoral laditude to bishops in those states where same-sex marriage is legal. No one at the hearing spoke against it--but it has the potential for a floor fight in both the Houses.

The Budget is also a potentially divisive issue. The E C, like everyone, is struggling with less resources to do what mission we would like to do. So various groups in the church--minority ministries, education, seminaries, poverty ministries, etc--are being pitted against each other for their part of the pie. Program and Budget, the committee where the budget is written, meets in a very large room as people come to plead that their 'part' of the budget not be cut.

I've kindof caught up now except for some non-church stuff.

1) the Texas Rangers beat the Angels 8-1 in the game I went to last night. It was a sloppy and not very interesting game and the 'home team' never had a chance so of the 37,000 who were there at the beginning, less than 10,ooo saw the last pitch. The reason we stayed was the chance to see history made. Andrue (that's the way he spells it) Jones, a Texas outfielder hit home runs in his first three at bats. Only 14 people in history have ever hit 4 homeruns in one game and no one has for years. So we stayed and those left--even the Angel fans--were cheering him on. Jones popped up leading off the 7th, but the Rangers got men on base so it was clear he's get one more chance in the 9th. Drum roll--he struck out on 3 pitches....But we met fascinating characters at the bus stop and on the bus back to the hotel! My contention is buses are one of the best place to meet characters--but the quality of the characters in southern Cal is more dramatic and, how shall I say it? wierd than in CT. (one example--a guy got on with huge, mickey mouse gloved hands and a blue hat about a foot and a half tall and a shirt that said, "Rent a man". He proceeded to announce that he could be rented on line and kept repeating the web site address for several stops....)

2. Never ending sunshine isn't all it's cracked up to be. my nose is sunburned and lots of people have farmer's tans already.

3. One of the resturants in the hotel has biscuits and sausage gravy on the breakfast menu. My faithfulness in going to the fitness center is in grave danger of being cancelled out each morning....

More later.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


The Caucus didn't take long. Some information about committee hearings of interest, sharing of cell phone and room #'s and prayers for Sarah, Drew and Kate Smith's granddaughter, born Sunday who is having surgery tonight. A frightening time. Add her and her parents and grandparents to your good thoughts and healing prayers.

I saw dozens of old friends today. I don't think of myself as very social among other clergy, but over the years I have been touched by many and by lay folks from other dioceses as well. It's the Family Reunion part of GC. But I know how forgetful I am because at least three people came up and hugged me and even though we all have on name tags all the time, I had no idea who they were. But wearing name tags covers a multitude of sins. One of my goals in the next year is to force nametags down the throats of the folks at St. Johns--or at least force them around their necks. It is great to never have to search the morass that is my mind for a name!

My friend Susan McCone invited me to a reception for the Mission Funding Initiative which she heads for the national church at 815 (for those who don't know, the Church Center of the Epis. Church is at 815 2nd Ave in New York City) so '815' is short hand for that lumbering institution where the Presiding Bishop's office resides and all the myriad offices of the church live. One thing about Gen Con is that there are enough receptions by various groups each night that if you go and stand shamelessly by the hors devours (sp?) table you can save dinner money one night for a big expensive one the next!

At lunch today, talking with some old friends from WV (none of whom are still in that diocese!) a deputy from central fla. sat down. He knew one of my friends and pulled out a stack of tickets to Tomorrow night's Angels v. Texas Rangers game. I took three so Lyn Meyer from Danbury and john Sutton from Stamford and I are going! The guy's son works for the Angels and gave him tickets to hand out.

Tomorrow the house of deputies goes into session at 8 a.m. I need some sleep. More tomorrow.

so it begins...

Today, the Gen. Con. got in full swing. The display hall opened at noon, lots of committee meetings in morning and evening and 2-5:30 session of House of Deputies. The first part was a presentation on Public Narrative--a process we'll be using for a total of 6 hours over three days to share 'stories' in an effort to come to an understanding of the Mission of the Church. It was developed by Marshall Ganz of Harvard's Kennedy School. Ganz is a long time organizer in the area of civil rights. It sounds interesting. We'll be doing it with people from our own diocese so it can translate, hopefully, back to CT.

The second piece of time was the orientation for the House of Deputies. It was an amusing and light-hearted way of presenting the rules of order of the House. Quite creative. Also, the theme of the Convention--"ubuntu"--an African word that is difficult to translate. It means, roughly--"I in You and You in me". It is used to express the communal connection of self-idenity that is quite problematic to westerners. We see 'identity' as ' individuality' while 'ubuntu' defines our personal identities in relationship to others and to the environment. A longer way of defining it is something like "I am who I am because you are who you are..." The Convention theme seeks to guide us toward understanding that we do not exist as individuals in isolation, but as individuals in community and relationship and interdependence. The priest who described 'ubuntu' was Michael Battle, the Canon Theologian of the Diocese of LA. Michael, some of you might remember, was a seminarian at St, John's back in the 1990's. He went on to get a Ph.D. from Duke and is well known within the church. He was passionate and profound in his presentation. It is a remarkable and transforming concept if we can incorporate it into our oh-so-individualistic thinking and being.

I have to go to the Caucus of the Ct deputation now. if it doesn't run too late I'll post again tonight.

Monday, July 6, 2009

the view from my balcony

I'm on the 11th floor and from my balcony I can see a dozen huge hotels and more resturants than that. The same would be true in any direction.We are in the midst of what is called the Anaheim Resorts--less than a mile from Disneyland. Having walked around a bit, I realize this is a place for sleeping and eating and either going to Conventions or to the Magic Kingdom.

Anaheim calls itself "the Happiest Place on Earth". Perhaps that is a good harbinger for the General Convention.

People arrived in force today--we all nod and smile at other people with badges from the Convention. It is a happy place right now--hopefully it will stay so.

One thing you can do at Gen. Convention is go to two or three receptions every night. Every group in the church has a reception and if you eat enough--most or them start at six and have lots of food--you can skip dinner! Tonight was the Integrity Reception at one of the dozens of hotels in walking distance. A good spread and lots of wine. They actually should have had a larger venue since many more people than expected showed up. About 2 dozen bishops--including Jim and Laura from CT--and lots and lots of deputies. This is a key Convention for Integrity (GLBT Episcopalians and their friends). There are resolutions to overturn the resolution B033 from last convention (which urges against gay/lesbian bishops). The resolution was forced through by the bishops to appease the Anglican Communion and anti-gay folks in the Episcopal Church--neither worked! Also, the convention could pass a resolution in support of same sex marriage which is now only legal in 6 states (including CT). It was a lively and upbeat gathering--lots of optimism and hope. Maybe the Magic Kingdom is the right place for this convention.

I just went out on the balcony to watch the nightly fireworks from Disneyland. It really lit up the night! So maybe this 76th General Convention will be the Magic Kingdom or Fireworks. Whichever, I'll let you know.

You should pray for this work and ministry, you know. It does matter....

'cross the usa...

Getting to Hartford was great! My daughter Mimi and her boyfriend Tim drove me up. I love being with them so that part of the trip was the best.\

Then I got hung up for 25 minutes at Security. No lines or anything--just that my CPath--a machine I use to sleep with because of sleep apnea (sp?)--set off an alarm. They then swabbed my two carryon bags and the cotton from the swab set off more alarms!!! They kept putting the computer through the x-ray machine and took apart the cpath and patted me down and were considering a strip/cavity search when a 'higher up' arrived, having been summoned by the security people. She tested everything and it set off alarms. Finally, she asked me if I had used any hand cream or body lotion before packing the stuff. I probably had but didn't really remember. (I'm a fool for body lotion!) She decided that was what it was--which causes me to ponder what exactly I'm smearing on myself each morning!!

Then, at Newark, I had to go from Terminal A to Terminal C and went on a shuttle bus. When we got to Terminal C we were inside the security zone without being checked again. Someone clever enough could surely figure out how to pick up a bomb they'd hidden outside and get it into Terminal C! Go figure....

Flying across the US never ceases to amaze me. I love to look down and it was a crystal clear day until Kansas City so you could easily see what you were flying over. It's a pretty empty country considering how cramped and crowded the I95 corridor seems. Growing up in West Virginia, town lines started where the town started, so most places 'weren't anywhere'--just places 'between' somewhere and somewhere else. The usa seems like that from 38,000 feet.

I met three people in the Newark Airport who were on my plane to Orange County (John Wayne Airport). All of them work for the Church Pension Fund and were coming for some part of Convention. Then I saw a long ago friend named Frank Wade and his wife Mary. I knew Frank in the Diocese of West Virginia. He moved to DC and I moved to CT. So I wasn't even on the plane and the 'family reunion' had begun!

That's the most benign and fun part of General Convention--seeing people you haven't seen for years. And the Episcopal Church is small enough that even total strangers know someone you know....

My room is on the 11th floor of the Marriott in Anaheim, right next to the convention center where the Episcopal Church is meeting. I get dizzy out on my balcony but luckily the railing comes up to my arm pits and there are flower pots between the railing and the dropoff so I should be safe....

I woke up on East Coast time and went to the fitness center. I decided i should try to do something good for my body while I'm here.

I'm about to wander over the the Convention Center to see who and what i can see and get my Deputy's credentials. They give you a badge--just like a deputy....

Thursday, July 2, 2009

praying in terror

The most frightening prayer I can imagine is called the prayer of humble access that is at the very beginnin of the Episcopal Eucharist. It begins like this:
"Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known and from whom no secrets are hid....."

Imagine that. Really! It's the theological equivilant of "...he knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you're awake...he knows if you've been bad or good so be good for goodness sake.

God is like Santa Claus! You can run but you can't hide....

Recently, I was part of a Methodist liturgy called a "love feast" when everyone gave everyone else a piece of nice french bread and said, "God loves you and there is nothing you can do about it...."

How scarey is that? You have no control over what God knows about you and can't make God stop loving you, no matter how hard you try.

I find it a little spooky that I can't hide from God. What's the Psalm say? Something like God knows where we are if we go to the inner most depths of the sea and the outer reaches of the earth. Lordy, lordy...there's no relief or escape.

It transforms me in the moment to know God is watching. I'm not sure I like it. I have, after all, a secret life...I expect we all do. And I "like" my secrets, thank you much. I feel a bit intruded upon by this 'all desires known and no secrets hid' stuff.

But there is this: in spite of the deep and often dark secrets of my life---God loves me and there is nothing I can do about it....

So I get my secrets and get loved too.

I guess that's not so bad if my secrets weren't so hideous.....

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


I looked back briefly over the blogs I've been writing for several months. Though lots of people tell me they read them--and I believe them--I don't think I've ever gotten a comment, which would be recorded at the bottom of the blog when I look back at it.

I'd like to think that's because what I write is so brilliant that no one would dare comment on it. And I'm sure that's not so.

So, I'm pondering, if people are reading this (which is incomprehensible to me!!) I hope they feel free to comment. That's all. Shalom, JIM

California Dreamin'

I don't like traveling.

Well, honestly, that isn't true. I love to travel, what I don't like is getting ready to travel and thinking about it before it happens. Once I'm on an airplane or a train or even a bus or driving my car, I get all excited and love the experience. But I am, on the other hand, a 'homebody' who misses his own bed and his wife and his dog and familiar routines. Those are the things I fret about getting ready for a trip.

I've been carrying around this 'to do' list for over a week, doing what I need to do and marking off the 'done' stuff. Most of it is done except climbing up in our attic and finding a large suitcase and shipping some stuff FedEx to Anaheim and buying some clothes--something I truly do hate!

So Sunday I'm off to California for the General Convention. I messed up since I really could have waited until Monday to go--but trying to change my reservation would cost more than the reservation! Plus the airline keeps changing my itinerary because they want full planes. Getting there isn't 'half the fun'--though I do love airports and wandering around and watching the people who are willing to get on vehicles that weigh as much as a four story building with hundreds of other people and trusting that they will fly! How crazy is that?

I've decided, after my last few adventures going to NYC airports, to only fly our of Hartford. On the way out I go from Hartford to Newark and then non stop to Orange County. On the way back, which when I made the reservations was about that simple, I fly from Orange County to Houston and then to Cleveland and then to Hartford--God help us! I leave at 6:30 a.m. and don't get to Hartford until 8:30 p.m. Even with the time loss, that seems like a long trip.

I'll love it once I get on that plane on Sunday--but right now I'm whiny and thinking this is not a good idea at all.

If I can figure out how to use the lap-top I'm taking to General Convention, you'll be hearing from me more than you want from there. And, while I'm gone, you are part of what I'll miss, no kidding. Really. Shalom, JIM

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About Me

some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.