Thursday, February 22, 2007

No Better Expression...

This letter has been shared publically by a friend and fellow parishoner of All Saints Episcopal Church in Atlanta, GA. I cannot add anything to the sentiments of this letter.

Twice today a cross has been traced on my forehead with ashes created from burned palms. And twice I have been told that I come from dust and to dust I shall return. In a couple of hours, that will take place again at the final service for Ash Wednesday.

It is a difficult day. Ash Wednesday usually is. Hearing the words "dust you are and to dust you shall return" spoken hundreds of times leaves an imprint on ones mind and soul. The Litany of Penitence has some extremely moving petitions in it, so very appropriate, particularly those that deal with our failure to love God and love our neighbor as we love ourselves. And then there are those that deal with our exclusion and dismissal of those different from ourselves. Yes it is a difficult day.

I have been distracted during the first two services and will likely be for the next. I'm usually somewhat distracted just taking care of my duties during the service, so that's not new. I search for and take personal prayer time whenever I can get it.

The distraction today comes from the fact that the communiqué' from the Primates keeps rattling around in my head. Add to that poignant postings such as those that Ann has shared with us and the potential for distraction increases. And then there are the dozens of emails, private emails, sent to me about the communiqué and my response to it on this list. There is so much pain and anguish.

A frequent question is if this is still a church that welcomes lesbians and gays. Another comes from a parent who sees the pain, the every day pain of her lesbian daughter and wonders about the church to which she professes to belong. Another talks about the tears that were shed in reading the communiqué and wondering where, if anywhere, the writer might belong. Yet another grieves over the fact that a relationship that has endured for decades will still not be honored by the church in which they place their faith life. Still others come from clergy in relationships who wonder what will happen to them. And another states that he has given up and is going to seek a new faith community for spiritual nourishment. There are new messages of like content every time I check my email. And I suspect the same is likely of any of us who are identified in some leadership role within the church and who are lesbian or gay.

What can I tell them? What do I say? Their faith has once again been trashed… This time by some who purport to be the highest ranking religious leaders of our church. So what do I say? (And if anyone writes back and says that the Primates are simply "following Scripture" I swear to God I will jump through the telephone/cable wires and personally strangle them! We have been beaten up by the Bible for long enough and it is time for that to stop…so be warned.)

Some will say that we, both lesbians/gay and the Episcopal Church, brought this on ourselves. Hogwash. We have not told a single other province of the Anglican Communion that they had to do what we do or even support what we do….we have just told them that this is where we felt that the Holy Spirit was leading us. Some will try to insist that we, as "westerners" are trying to impose our beliefs on others. Again, hogwash. We have not done that. What we have done is prayed and discerned and studied and discerned some more and prayed some more to reach conclusions we have reached. And those who did not participate in that process in The Episcopal Church have no excuses and no one to blame but themselves. Everyone had the opportunity and has had it for over three decades now. Taking ones time about change is one thing, but some things become ridiculous.

Those who want to try and make the Episcopal Church and/or the Anglican Communion an exclusive body or club will use any way they can to try and make that happen. They do so without the support of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus had no litmus tests. Jesus did not have any mechanisms for proving orthodoxy. Jesus didn't really seemed to mind who hung on to His little rag tag band at the time. His invitation was never coercive. It was never guilt-causing. It was gentle and always simply issued to the listener. His irritation was clearly reserved not for those who were the outcast of His day, but for those mentioned in the Gospel reading for today, Ash Wednesday, those who found their reward here on earth rather than in a life grounded in serving God.

I still do not know what to tell the folks who write to me. I do know how I feel at the moment and it isn't all that good. A certain part of me really wants to say: "Fine, you have your way. Every blessed lesbian and gay person in the Episcopal Church and the entire Anglican Communion needs to walk out the door, shaking the dust off of our feet as we go." That would make some…and I will name names…Kendall, Jean, Donald, John, Jim S., Dan…and a few others, very happy. Just remember, if we are gone, who will the purity police go after next? Will it be one of you? You never know once such machines get rolling. A certain German got a similar machine in motion in the middle of the last century and millions died because of it. A wrong comparison? Hardly! Those who start sorting the children of God as if they were God are engaged in just as awful a purification process as that was.

The one thing I am looking for is something I have not seen or read yet: Affirmation from bishops that lesbians and gays remain welcome in their own dioceses, regardless of what else may take place. Bishops Andrus and Sisk have done so, but there are an awful lot of quiet bishops out there at the moment. Nor am I talking about quiet postings to diocesan websites. I am indeed talking about clearly supportive statements on this very list serve. Where are they? Why are we not hearing them?

Two concepts come to mind: One is from the earlier days of the AIDS epidemic and it is "silence equals death." Not too strong a concept here. Silence may well mean death in a variety of forms, including the physical. Those who killed Matthew Shepherd weren't hearing anything that gave them an indication that what they were doing was wrong. Fred Phelps later actually praised their murderous activities.

The other concept comes from, of all sources, Robert's Rules of Order…part of the governance of our meetings. It's a very clear concept used in discussions and votes. Silence implies consent. If the chair hears nothing to the contrary, whatever is before the body is affirmed or approved. Are we to take the silence of so many as implying consent to the exclusionary aspects of the communiqué? Remember, Lambeth 98 - whether you voted for it or not - is clear in its contention that lesbians and gays are not compatible with Holy Scripture.

Off to church now and once more to be told that I come from dust and will return to dust. I will pray for those who hate me. I will even pray for those who just dislike me! And I will ask for forgiveness because I have been forgiven and because it is the right thing to do. Maybe at this service I will not be as distracted. Maybe God will provide some reassurance that I am indeed still beloved by God regardless of what some of God's followers might have been saying. And maybe when I check email again there will not be another tearful and sad question. And if I am very blessed, maybe I will see and end to the silence of the bishops of my beloved Episcopal Church.

Bruce Garner, Executive Council

Bruce Garner "Since when do you have to agree with people just to defend them from injustice?" Lillian Hellman, Writer(1905-1984)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Primates' Ultimatum

This week is when we begin Lent, the period of reflection before the celebration of Christ's sacrifice for our collective salvation. This is also the week that the Primate Communique from the Anglican Communion Primate Meeting inTanzania has been released like a kick to the teeth and a sucker punch to the kidneys to not only myself, but to LGBT Anglicans everywhere, and especially to LGBT Episcopalians in particular.

It seems to me that the conservative bigots, led by +Peter Akinola, have demanded surrender by the ECUSA or else. The conservatives are supposed to get just about everything they wanted short of the expulsion of the ECUSA from the Anglican Communion. Of course, the not-so-veiled threat of the Primates is that unless the ECUSA does what is demanded and bitch slaps LGBT Episcopalians and tells us we "are not (after all) worthy of full inclusion in the life of the church, because it turns out, Jesus really doesn't particularly care for your sort. We thought He did, but whoops...our bad."

The Key Recommendations of the Primates (or, as I like to call them, Key Ultimata) are even more noxious to my heart, mind, and soul. These two documents articulate the pain and suffering that some Episcopalians are suffering because the Episcopal Church has not fully accepted the Windsor Report. The primates fail to comment upon the pain and suffering of GLBT people across the world, which tells me they simply do not care. This is especially true for Nigeria where legislators are considering it a crime to even APPEAR to be gay. Nigerians convicted of being openly gay, having gay sex, or even hanging out with someone of the same gender suspected to be gay would be sentenced to a five-year conviction in the Christian South and potentially beheaded in the Muslim North.

Father Jake has an excellent analysis of why the the ECUSA should tell the Primates, especially those from the Global South, to buzz off. He points out five strikes against this communique that should doom it to failure:
  1. The "Recommendations" together make up a large ultimatum to the ECUSA, not a recommendation.
  2. The Pastoral Council will empower foreign bishops to make authorizations and take actions that affect the ECUSA which is clear violation of our provincial integrity as a church.
  3. The "Recommendations" make demands of our House of Bishops that not only undermines the General Convention (our highest legal authority in the Church) but also ignores the House of Deputies which is made up of clergy AND lay people.
  4. There is a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth for the poor, abused Conservatives who cannot stand homos in their midst or women in leadership roles, but not a word about the suffering of LGBT Christians or Via Media parishes trapped in reactionary dioceses.
  5. The Archbishops who have actively engaged in plundering assets of the ECUSA by setting up dioceses of their own and consecrating bishops is actively APPROVED unless the ECUSA caves into Global South demands. This kind of interference has never been tolerated in the past, nor should it start now.

Father Richard, of California, has a brilliant analysis, and the key observation for me was this:

Were the situation reversed, would we mirror the demand by requesting that, say, a diocese in Nigeria begin authorizing same-sex blessings, and promising consequences if they didn't? We have not, for better or for worse, done so in other matters, such as in the ordination of women.

He is absolutely correct. Until now, even ordination of women, and the consecration of women bishops did not cause this kind of reaction where boundaries and are violated and the polity of the ECUSA is proposed to be destroyed.

Integrity USA had this to say in a press release entitled, "Primates Choose Bigotry Over Baptism":

“The primates of the Anglican Communion have utterly failed to recognize the faith, relationships, and vocations of the gay and lesbian baptized,” said Integrity President Susan Russell, responding to the communiqué released today from Dar Es Salaam.

“Let us pray it doesn't take another hundred years for yet-unborn primates to gather for a service of repentance for what the church has done to its gay and lesbian members today, as they repented in Zanzibar yesterday for what it did to those the church failed to embrace as full members of the Body of Christ.”

The Rev. Michael Hopkins, immediate past President of Integrity had this
reaction: “Jesus weeps, and so do I. If the House of Bishops (or any other body with actual authority in this church) capitulates to these demands and sacrifices gay and lesbian people to the idol of the Instruments of Unity, it will have become the purveyor of an “anti-Gospel” that will (and should) repel many.”

Integrity encourages its membership and allies to directly contact their bishops—urging them to reject the demands of the primates. Our leadership will seek an immediate meeting with the Presiding Bishop to express our deep concerns and encourage the Executive Council to insist on the inclusion of all orders of ministry in the ongoing process of discernment on Anglican Communion issues.

I am a bit emotional as I have just read this communique and am trying to digest it, but I read English just fine, and it seems clear to me that gauntlet has been thrown down: the ECUSA can either throw LGBT Christians under the bus or there can be schism. The price of "unity" is clearly capitulation to the demands of the conservatives and the subjugation of LGBT Episcopalians. If that is the price of unity, I do not think UNITY is worth it. I was driven from the church of my youth once because I was gay and couldn't stomach the hate and the lies that God did not love because I was gay. I feel like someone is trying to get my new spiritual home to do the same say that I do not matter, that I am not worthy of Christ's love or mercy, that I am no longer WELCOME in my own church.

As the early reactions clearly show, this fight is not over. We will NOT go quitely into this night.

My spiritual life in the Episcopal Church is extremely important to me, and I will join in the struggle to stop this madness now. If that means we are kicked out of the Anglican Communion, so be it. I won't stand silently by as I did at age 19 when my pastor said from the pulpit, "I could never have love in my heart for a homosexual. If I knew of any in the church right now, I would come down off this pulpit, escort them out the door, and tell them never to return." It was 7 years before I entered a church again for the purposes of worship. I won't be expelled or banished so easily this time.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Eurovision Helsinki 2007 - Semi-Final - Denmark - DQ

This is the drag queen's winning performance in Denmark's Star-Search meets American Idol competition. She will represent Denmark in the European competition. Can you imagine this happening in the United States? Sadly, I cannot right now.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Drama Continues in Africa...

The Primates of the Anglican Communion are meeting in Tanzania this weekend. This is the first meeting of the global leaders of Anglican provinces around the world since the General Convention of the Episcopal Church last year and the election of Katherine Jefforts-Schori as our Presiding Bishop. The questions swirled over whether +Katherine would be seated at the meeting, or would be excluded. Not because she's a woman, mind you, but because she supported the election of the homosexual as Bishop of New Hampshire. Being a woman just adds insult to injury, right fellas?

The Archbishop of Canterbury would have none of it. +Katherine is the legally elected primate of the US Church, and will be allowed at all meetings. If the Africans and others in the Global South don't like it, they can leave.

The other part of the drama surrounded what would happen to the Episcopal Church now that it has responded to the Windsor Report. The report from a Primate sub-committee said that we had largely complied with the Windsor Report, except where it comes to same sex blessings. That position is unclear, according to the report.

A good source for a lot of the chatter surrounding this meeting at the Thinking Anglicans site.

The conservatives are not happy thus far. The report did not condemn the Episcopal Church as an apostate organization that treats its homos as people of God, clearly going against the intent of the Bible and Jesus, who repeatedly stated and showed his hatred for all things homosexual.

Sarcasm aside, the conservatives are ready for war. They want Schism NOW. Many are actively praying for it, namely the head of the American Anglican Council. Others say the report on Windsor compliance makes schism inevitable. They are foaming at the mouth about the Episcopal Church and how gays are welcome and it is led by a woman, how we don't take every word of (fill in the version) Bible seriously as the spoken Word of God, etc, etc.

I do not know what will happen. It is sad to me that there are so many people filled with such venom in their hearts. They want to use Christ and the bible to conquer and destroy. They do not care about love and redemption. To get this result, they will destroy the very thing they claim to love...the church.

Others think that creating a new province will work. You would have the Episcopal Church and then (I guess) the American No-Fags-No-Women-Outside-the-Pews Anglican Church. People could just pick the province they like best. Of course, the problems with this are: a) the Episcopal Church would never consent to such an action and b) you would have to allow this in every church. That means a new province for African countries too where there is disagreement. The hope is that you could have a two American provinces for a few years until the new Anglican Convenant (which would obviously ban women and homos) is adopted, which would expel the Episcopal Church for refusal to agree to the terms of said Covenant.

I do not know what will happen. I have written in this blog before about my feelings on this issue within the Episcopal Church. I was effectively evicted once from my church home, and I will be DAMNED if I will let it happen again.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Young Democrats of America Meeting - Washington, DC

The last general meeting was this past weekend in Washington, DC with a theme of "Join the Revolution!"

Attending from Georgia were:

Jason Cecil (National Committeeman)
Flora Brooke Hesse (National Committeewoman)
Kirk Miller (YDA Rules Chair)
Billy Joyner (YDG President)
Benson Manica (YDG Secretary)
Kyle Bailey (Atlanta Stonewall Democrats)
Skyler Atkins (University of West Georgia)
Page Gleason (Executive Director)
Rebecca Miller (DeKalb)
Erin O'Neil (Atlanta)
Bernita Smith (DeKalb)
Melissa Thompson (Women's Caucus chair)
Juliana Illari (Cobb)
Brian Peterson (VP-Membership)
Robin Reynolds (LGBT Caucus chair & CDG President)
Nikema Williams (Atlanta)
Rahsheim Wright (Chatham)

As you can see, our delegation was nearly 20 strong! It was an excellent turnout by our state and one of the best in the nation.

Thursday was the start of DNC meetings, and every participant in YDA got a guest pass to the DNC. The College Democrats got a private tour of the US Capitol, complete with a visit to Speaker Pelosi's office and her private balcony at the Capitol. The DNC Rules meeting on youth participation did not go as well as we had hoped. The chairman, committee counsel, and staff were all against us, and convinced the group to turn their backs on a long standing violation of the DNC charter. At one point, the committee counsel made the Nixon/Bush-like argument that since the Convention is the highest authority of the Democratic Party, any action taken by a convention is de facto in line with the charter (Remind anyone of Nixon's famous saying, "If the President does it, then it is not illegal"? How about Bush's stance that since he's Commander in Chief, he can ignore the Constitution?) It was the 1980 Convention that purposefully, but inexplicably, removed youth from representation in future delegations. What they did not do was remove youth from the chater, meaning that the DNC has been involation of the charter since 1980. Instead, a letter will be sent to the state parties urging them to "pretty please" remember to include youth in their delegations. YDG will work with the state party to ensure that youth delegates are seated as part of the 2008 Georgia contingent.

Every Presidential candidate who has declared for the Democratic nomination was invited to speak on Friday and Saturday morning. The general consensus from our group was that Edwards, Clinton, Obama, and Richardson impressed the most. There was even an opportunity for us to meet the candidates individually, an opportunity of which several of us were able to take advantage.

On Friday night, many of us attended the YDA Founder's Day event, which was a casual buffet showing the various decades that YDA has been in existence. This year is the 75th anniversary of the organization. It was an interesting party, although I went into it thinking it would be fancier than it was. And all of us from GA and other southern states were horrified by how rudely people treated Mrs. Vilseck, the keynote speaker. She is not the most exciting speaker, but to have people talking over her in separate conversations was rude. We were delighted to have DPG Chair Jane Kidd join us for the evening. We were able to see her at many events throughout the weekend, along with other DPG delegates to the DNC such as Labor Commissioner Mike Thurmond and Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin.

The final amendments to the YDA charter were considered and partially rejected. The amendments to the charter failed, but the corresponding bylaw changes passed. This means that for now, YDA's bylaws and charter conflict. This happened due to politics, and the desire of some to poke a stick in the eye of the outgoing YDA President. It also happened because the Rules committee got tired of looking at each line that was changed in the charter and hastily moved to adjourn without allowing the dissenters a full hearing on their concerns.

Speaking of the YDA Presidency, David Hardt formally launched his ticket's campaign for office. The reception that David, Chris, and Crystal hosted was fantastic. Having the chair of the Texas Democratic Party introduce David was a nice touch too. Texas doesn't have the best reputation in the world for being nice to gay people (see Lawrence v Texas), but David has managed to marshall the full support of his state party in a genuine way. There was a lot of behind-the-scenes discussion about who should be the DNC Man on the ticket, and a huge meeting was held where just about anyone interested in sharing an opinion was invited to do so. It is this kind of collaboration that is good for YDA, and I look forward to David's administration.

The next YDA meeting will be in May at a time and place yet to be determined. The only thing I do know is that the meeting will be west of the Mississippi River. Once details are released, we will share those with you.


Mark your calendars for July 18-21, 2007!!! The YDA National Convention will be held in Dallas, TX at the Adams Mark Hotel. For those who have attended previous conventions in San Francisco (2005), Buffalo (2003), and Tuscon (2001), you know these conventions are a lot of fun and great way to get together with YDs from across the nation, settle on a national YD platform, and elect national officers.

Confirmed speakers include Hillary Clinton and John Edwards so far. The convention website will not be up until late February or early March, but some financial details are available for you to start saving your pennies. The Adams Mark Hotel is the largest hotel in Texas, and for rooms with two queen size beds, the cost is $125/night (or $31.25/person with 4 people in a room). For those who want your own room, a king size bed is available in the Royal Tower for $145/night. Reservations can be made by calling 877-319-2326 or visiting Registration will cost $60/person, and there will be a way for financial hardship to be argued on an individual basis. American Airlines is offering a 5% discount off airfare for conference attendees (use code A8577AM at and if 10 or more people fly Southwest, an unspecified discount will apply. If you make reservations on your own, please be sure to email Jason at an d let him know the details for our records.

With the convention being in Dallas, we will likely have a driving option for those interested in that. The downside of Dallas is that in order to maximize Georgia's votes at the Convention, we must have 34 people in our delegation. Fundraising will obviously be key, and YDG will work with local chapters to offset the costs. The experience of the national convention is worth it, though. Dallas has world class shopping and entertainment, and it promises to be a good time for everyone. I hope you will make plans to attend.