Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Moments of sorrow

Mixed in with the moments of intense joy I've had lately, there have been moments of grief. We're almost to the first anniversary of my brother's death, June 11. I've called him "Toby" in Blog entries. His real name was Nate.

If he were alive, he'd be preparing to celebrate his 49th birthday Saturday.

I know he's safe and well now. I grieve that his life was short and unhappy, particularly in the last year or so, when he was so sick, and so bitter. Nate was in the throes of death by alcoholism that last year.

I have a driver's license he'd had made a few months before his died. He'd somehow obtained one about a year earlier -- he hadn't had one for years -- lost it, and had this duplicate made.

He shouldn't have been driving, period.

He looks so sick in that driver's license picture: jaundiced, his systems failing, and with that glazed, burnt-out look of a junky or skid-row alcoholic. It makes me weep to look at it.

I found a photo Nate sent me about 20 years ago, when he lived in Washington state. It was, I'm guessing, one of the happier periods of his life. Someone shot his picture through an open door onto the small porch of his little apartment, where Nate sat in a rocking chair, grinning into the lens.

Who took the photo? I don't know. I've often wondered if there were someone there he loved, who loved him. My secretive brother never talked about any relationships.

That's the photo I have in the living room now.

Brother, you live in our Father's house
misfit no more.
Healed and healthy,
Enfolded in love.
Your clear, wide eyes see eternity.
You've shed the old labels
with the old skin.
You know you're apple of God's eye
Gay or straight matters no more.
You're the beloved.

--UnSaintly Pat

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Moments of joy

Acchhh. So when did life ever get easy? Mine hasn't. It seems like I have to tread water harder and harder just to get my nose above water.

I was sick last week with a virus making the rounds -- went home from work early a couple of days, but still worked this weekend. I woke up Sunday so exhausted I almost skipped church. Finally, the need for Communion pushed me out of bed, and I got there in time to hear most of the sermon (and was glad I did).

None of the travails loom as toweringly as they might. I've had such bursts of joy in the past month or two. I don't know why. I can't explain it except to say it's a gift from God.

Walking my dog on these spring mornings, I've found myself praising God in voice and song for the beauty of his creation. Praising with exhilaration. Quiet contentment steals over me as I wash dishes, or drive down the highway.

Living in joy all the time isn't possible, except for the extremely medicated, maybe, but it's these moments of joy that make life good, and get me through the hard patches.

Thanks, God.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Eating crow over coyotes

A few weeks ago, a friend said he saw a coyote out in the woods. "There are no coyotes in Florida," I thought, assuming he had mistaken a feral dog or a fox for the rangy little critter. It turns out I was wrong.

I saw this coyote the other day, when I was on an assignment just over the county line. The manager of the property said he's shot several coyotes recently. They're considered a varmit here, as well as out west, but their numbers are growing.

Varmits though they may be, seeing this one was a thrill for me. I haven't seen one since I was a kid, living in Texas. I hope this li'l gal lives a long-coyote life.

Here's what the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has to say:

"The coyote (Canis latrans), once strictly a western species, now occurs throughout the eastern United States. Coyotes began expanding their range into the Southeast in the 1960s, reaching northwestern Florida in the 1970s. In a 1981 survey, coyotes were reported in 18 of Florida's 67 counties. A similar survey in 1988 reported coyotes in 48 counties. They are most numerous in northern Florida, but their numbers appear to be increasing state- wide. The eventual occupation of the entire state is likely.

In addition to their natural range expansion, coyotes have been illegally trucked in from western states and released. Documented releases of coyotes have occurred in Gadsden, Liberty, Columbia and Polk counties. In Polk County, coyotes were released by a local fox hunter who believed he was stocking a depleted fox population with animals sold to him as "black fox." Coyotes are extremely adaptable; just about any type of forest or farmland is suitable habitat. Most of Florida, with the possible exception of the densely populated cities and the expansive saw grass marshes of the Everglades, is suitable coyote habitat."

Wiley coyote, sensing the presence of pesty paparazzi, hightails it.

Development probably poses more of a threat to coyotes and creatures like wild turkeys, a coyote-lunchtime favorite, than shotgun-armed farmers. Wal-Mart is trying to buy potato fields next to these groves to build a mammoth distribution center. The area, next to a nice lake, is now zoned farm and rural residential. Locals oppose the center, which they say would would destroy their quality of life and put 800-1,000 trucks a day on now-quiet two-lane roads, and through little country towns.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

I promised myself a while back I wouldn't spend so much time blogging on church politics, but here we go again, the third entry in a row.

The Episcopal Voices of Central listserv moderator found this lovely, spiritual post at Virtue. How awful that a canon in the Episcopal Church writes this kind of stuff.

Maybe it's a good thing the Cathedral lists itself only as a member of the Network, and not the Episcopal Church.

Here it is, with my **[comments]**


By Canon Gary L'Hommedieu
Special To Virtueonline

Ever wonder why the mainline denominations have gone to war over sodomy? Does anyone really believe this issue is the moral equivalent to slavery in the 19th century, or segregated lunch counters in the 20th? Or, for that matter, to slavery and genocide in the 21st century, both of which get a "pass" from the more refined activism of today's church leaders?

**[What is he talking about? It's the ACN/AAC who's buddying up to provinces whose leaders go along with slavery, genocide, female mutilation and other atrocities. An it's very strange homosexuality looms as the great evil, while the "orthodox and traditional" ignore these violations against humanity. I imagine 60 years ago, the canon would have put the Civil Rights movement into the same context -- that it was all about miscenegation and "colored" men lusting after white women -- and white men's positions. I won't even get into the Virtue-like obsession with anal sex.] **

How has the leadership of the Episcopal Church (along with others) decided that now is the time and this is the issue; that it is worth dividing congregations and communions?

These same leaders would insist that gay liberation is the natural successor to the movements that preceded it. They would point to the handful of minority representatives in their front offices who can be counted on to sing in chorus that all liberations are created equal. They would say, in effect, that the New Spirit of Christ came not to bring peace but a sword; let us throw caution to the wind and let the chips fall where they may. **[Yes, let us follow the example of Jesus Christ, who was ever so cautious not to offend the religious leadership, or the Romans]**

[Am I picking up a thread of racism here?]

But why is the present argument more intense and more shrill than the fashionable protests of preceding decades? Is this really the pinnacle of moral discourse in the churches and in democratic societies, or is time running out on moral discourse, whether fashionable or not?
**[So we live in a perfect world, where no further moral discourse is necessary? Lovely!]**

Put another way: why has the liberal machine, in church and society, put its eggs in this basket? Whose approval do they seek **[God's]**, and what do they hope to accomplish? **[justice]** And why the note of desperation as they approach still another ideological victory on another hot button issue? **[Actually, it's the AAC/Network people who sound shrill, and desperate to hang onto the "traditional" status quo]**

For many religious groups in America protest has become a religion. **[Protest against injustice is a response to faith and the teachings of Jesus Christ}** A few months ago as I drove past the local Unitarian Church **[uh-oh, those dang liberals}** in my hometown, I read on the marquis: "Freedom to Marry." At the time a number of states were considering legislation regarding same-sex unions. Here, then, was a cause du jour. Gay marriage was inserted into the blank where peace had been a few weeks earlier and some reference to the environment a few weeks before that. People's
responses would be the same in each case. I realized that the cause fulfilled a need. People needed to feel outraged over the manifest aggression of some unseen Oppressor and empowered by their rage. **[Yeah, like the poor oppressed Network, raging against the "liberal' Episcopal Church]**

In America people often protest not because they believe in causes, but because they believe in protest. They "believe" in the ritual sense that the familiar form of protest mediates to them feelings of assurance and righteousness. Such ritualized mediation is the basis of religious practice. The cause doesn't matter, whether it be genocide or vegetarianism. The essence is: They are trying to oppress Us (again) and so we must assert ourselves and protest.
**[The cause does matter. Comparing the "cause" of opposing genocide to the "cause" of vegetarianism is a slap in the face to all those people who put their lives on the line to seek justice -- just as the Bible tells us to do.]**

I whine, therefore I am. **[Yes, you do seem to be doing a lot of whining]**

It is noteworthy that there is no risk in today's protests. The new protesters are not accustomed to fighting for their lives but (at most) for their lifestyles. **[Go tell that to the family and friends of Matthew Shepard, you ignorant twit. Sorry, I'm getting more sarcastic as I read. Just refer back to this comment for the next few sentences]** They are not the successors of the Civil Rights marchers in the '50's and early '60's, when protesters met with
dogs, fire hoses, police clubs, and lynchings. Today's protesters are met with cameras and politicians. Furthermore, they're not fighting an upward battle against great odds like the marchers of old but, more likely, riding the crest of a popular wave. Most causes have been pre-approved by media outlets long before they make it to the streets.

Ironically, if protesters were to achieve their goals, they would be at a loss. The end of protest for them would mean the end of life as they knew it. Not so the protesters of the '50's, for whom victory meant the peaceful assimilation into society in order to get on with living.

**[Peaceful, quiet assimilation and getting on with life is just what most of the gay people I know want, and why so many have been fearful of coming out. I wrote a newspaper article about our changing local community a while back, and the growth of the gay community. I interviewed a number of gays and lesbians who were willing to speak. After the article was published, I received anonymous letters from other gays and lesbians, expressing the hurts, rejections, intolerance and hatred they've experienced, and why they would be afraid to be publicly identified as gay/lesbian. They just wanted to be able to go about their jobs and lives without being harassed. As one person said, (I'm paraphrasing, from memory) you could live next door to me, and never know I'm gay. I'm a respectable member of the community; I pay my taxes; I go to work every day. I don't try to turn anyone gay. I just want to live my life without being harassed.}**

Minority members from the early days have their own reasons for jumping on the bandwagon of contemporary protest. Jesse Jackson would be nobody if the dreams of Dr. King became reality, as would be his counterparts in bureaucratic offices throughout the country. **[Here's that tinge of racism again.]**

But what about keepers of the old majority who have bought into the religion of protest? What about silver-haired patricians, limousine liberals from the old school, like Episcopal bishops, who have recently shifted from the country club Right to the country club Left? At what point did they sense it was in their interests to equate the Faith with a cause - any cause - even if it meant throwing overboard the Faith once delivered?
**[Oh, would that I were one of those "limousine liberals" -- my aching bank account would thank me so much. Sorry, Canon. This can't be denigrated to a project for the idle rich. Again, it goes back to a matter of faith, for me and for others, who have risked a lot more than I have.}**

It is a simple historic fallacy that the present ideology of "inclusion" is the natural development of the Christian gospel
contained in the historic creeds and confessions of the churches. **[Why, yes. If you read the Gospels, you find Jesus is an inclusionary sort.]** What's more, everyone knows it. Protest is, among other things, the
moral equivalent to pitching a fit to confuse anyone who would press for a real explanation. **[Unless it's your protest.]**

Keep in mind who is leading the charge in the present debate over sexuality. It is not the "wretched of the earth", but well heeled, over-indulged, upper-middle class advocates of the sexual revolution. Such a "revolution" makes a mockery of earlier revolutions, which its advocates would realize if they did not have so much at stake in their own histrionics. **[Again, oh, would that I were well-heeled. And pushing for civil and human rights in no way makes a mockery of earlier movements]**

What is at stake is maintaining their elitist position in church and society. This is why elitists take up the causes of "little people" everywhere: not to make the causes their own - they couldn't if they wanted to, as any hardened revolutionary would tell them, and as their own front-office activists tell each other in guarded tones around the
water cooler. **[ah, so bitter and jealous. Why does he feel so threatened he has to view gays and lesbians as an angry mob at his gates?]**

The powerful sense the political ground shifting around them. Many fool themselves into thinking that they can maintain their present position in the social pecking order by appeasing the right angry mob. **[??}** But when the ground shifts a little more, and the mob achieves critical mass, the elites will be among the first to be thrown overboard.

Soon Episcopal elites will have served the Revolution in the only real way they can: they have sold their Mother down the river. They have contributed admirably to the destabilizing of Western culture. There's not much more they can contribute, except their money. And even that is running out.

We must forgive the good bishops if their protests become shrill, even on such an unceremonious moral subject. The spirituality of protest is pretty down-to-earth after all. It's about survival. **[I agree, but I'm sure my interpretation is a bit different than he intends his words!]**

--The Rev. Gary L'Hommedieu is Canon in charge of Pastoral Care at St.
Luke's Cathedral in Orlando, Florida.

**[The reverend seems so angry and threatened; pray for him. Also pray for any gays at the cathedral who need pastoral care, if any are left. This is so sad.]**

Friday, May 05, 2006

Letter from the Bishop of Montana

While I'm on the topic of church politics, I'll add this, with thanks to the local Episcopal Voices group. The letter was originally posted on the Diocese of Montana Web site.

A Letter from Bishop Brookhart (Montana) to the Senior Wardens and Priests of the Diocese:

By now, most of the Senior Wardens of the diocese have received a letter from the Anglican Communion Network. It is an invitation to order a DVD from the ACN.

Allow me a few comments, please. The ACN is the child of the American Anglican Congress [sic] (AAC), a group formed ten or fifteen years ago as a needed counterbalance to the apparent hegemony of the "liberal" wing of our Church. But after several years, it moved well beyond that stance.

Today, the AAC and the ACN are actively calling for division and schism in the church. They believe that the church has gone wrong in regard to sexual ethics, so that they need to separate from the Episcopal Church. This stands in clear contradiction to the teaching of the New Testament, where unity is a cardinal virtue for Christians, even in the face of doctrinal and ethical disagreements. Also, the ordained people who joined this chorus of division are in clear contradiction of their ordination vows.

The tone of these organizations has become increasingly angry and judgmental. Again, this is in clear contradiction to the teaching of the New Testament. Anger and judgment are never considered gifts of the Spirit.

Further, these groups have spread misinformation. In the letter you received, you were told that there is good reason to believe that the General Convention will not deal adequately with the Windsor Report. In fact, there is good reason to think just the opposite, based on the Resolutions that the Convention will be asked to pass. Also, the person signing the letter is not a priest of this Church and never has been.

You probably sense that the letter is an attempted end-run around the bishop and clergy of the diocese. The DVD was, in fact, informally shown at the last House of Bishops meeting, and it is a call to schism.

I would recommend that you ignore the letter. But if you do choose to view the DVD, I ask that you do so with an analytical mind, and do not buy its assumptions at face value. Also, I recommend if you or your congregation are a part of these organizations that you give careful consideration to revoking your membership in these groups.

They are not advancing the cause of the Gospel.

Yours in Christ,

+C. Franklin Brookhart

Thank you, Bishop Brookhart.

AAC President David Anderson wrote a reply, posted on the AAC Web site. He whined that Brookhart didn't get the name right -- it's "Council," not "Congress."

Well, who can keep up with all their name changes.

Anderson rather disingenuously said the AAC didn't have anything to do with the manufacture or mailing of the DVDs (and he don't know no nothin' 'bout birthing no schismatic messages).

However, the AAC and ACN are the real defenders of the faith and truth, he told you.

Then he went on to tell a fat one.

"All of us as Episcopalians have already been excommunicated from the largest portion of the Global Communion, and probably no one told you," Anderson said, implying TEC is hiding information from the faithful. He added, "I can tell you that the dire state of affairs in the Episcopal Church is known throughout most of the communion, but is often kept from the people in the pews by bishops and other information gatekeepers for fear of the response."

Nobody's been "excommunicated." (And doesn't Anderson toss around emotionally charged words.) That would be up to the Archbishop of Canterbury. He's the only one who could declare us out of communion, and he has not done so, and doesn't plan to do so.

There are some primates, like Nigeria's Peter Akinola, who won't come to the table with other members of the Communion, but that's a failure of his faith, and a product of his hate and prejudice.

It's hard to pray for them, but I pray for all these bishops and clergy, while I speak out about how they mislead, in all senses of the word, their flocks.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

I told you so

This little "I told you so" has been coming on for a little while. I now give into it. This is for all you people who ignored the AAC. This is for all you who thought I was being a little paranoid about the IRD and its intentions. This is for all of you who never heard of Howard Ahmanson back in November 2003, when I wrote this. I was in my old parish. They DID want to go that way.

I hear the rector there is coming back to the light a bit, now.

I hope that intelligence is correct.

Here's the entry:

All it takes...

The idea of any political action group setting up shop within my church is anathema to me. It doesn't matter which side they're on--conservative, liberal, pro- this or anti-that. I don't like them. They're divisive by their very nature. They want you to think your choice is limited to either them or their opposite number, which is, of course, they tell you, evil incarnate. They don't want you to recognize that you can choose neither them nor what they decry; you can choose a third, fourth, fifth, sixth alternative.

There's a group like this in my diocese that I don't like one little bit. They've been sniffing around my parish, in fact, they've got a foot in the door and their fingers clenched around the door frame. I'm resisting them with all my might, along with some other people, but this is a battle I will probably lose because of their clout in the diocese.

This group is the American Anglican Council, or AAC. If you're a member of the United Methodist Church or the Presbyterian Church, read on, though. The same people backing the AAC in the Episcopal Church are backing political groups in these churches, too.

The AAC grew out of a small group of Episcopal bishops who were just plain mad over the ordination of women and all these other newfangled social changes of the last 40 or 50 years. They want to go back to an "orthodox and traditional church" without any of these innovations. They especially don't want any homosexual priests or bishops. That really makes them grind their teeth. And they want to run the show.

By "orthodox and traditional," they mean the (heterosexual) men in charge. Some will allow that women can be deaconesses but not priests, while others feel that all these Godly women deserve to be put out to pasture in ... say the kitchen, or some such other place befitting the fairer sex.

They say they believe in biblical law. I'm not sure which law that is.

Is it the Ten Commandments? Hmmm. That didn't say anything to the effect, "There shall be no female priests among you, nor homosexual ones either."

Okay. Check out the Great Commandment. Whups. That doesn't address these thorny issues either, in fact it tells you to love these people as you love yourselves. Fine, then, let's look at the part in red in the New Testament, what Jesus said. Uh-oh. Why, could it be that Jesus was a gay-lover? He didn't say one thing against them! And he was always talking with women, even some o' them furrin ones. Dang.

Okay, let's do it this way. Let's go all through the Bible, especially chapters like Leviticus and Deuteronomy and Numbers and such, and pick and choose some biblical laws we want to uphold. We can't deal with them all, cause there's like over 600 of 'em, and some we don't care about, like wearing clothes woven of two different fabrics or eating dairy products and meat at the same meal. But we're gonna enforce the laws we like!

Now, anybody who disagrees with us is the Anti-Christ, pure and simple, against families and marriage and the American Way and the War mean, the current peacekeeping stabilization mission in Iraq. Heretics and apostates, all of you. You know what the law says to do with you! We can have a BIG bonfire in the church parking lot.

I know, I know. I've taken poetic license. They don't all talk like this. Many are very well-spoken and subtle.

I oppose any political action group trying to flex its muscles in the church, whether it's the AAC or its opposite numbers. Groups with an axe to grind serve the forces of divisiveness. There's just no middle ground, they say.

The truth is, of course, that there is middle ground. There are acres of ground in between. And guess what. You can oppose the ordination of actively or otherwise gay clergy and NOT EVEN BE A MEMBER OF THE AAC!!!! But this is the nature of extreme political groups. You're either a card-carrying member of their camp or you're supporting the enemy. There's no toleration of dialogue, no desire to even attempt any kind of reconciliation or to come to the table together. The AAC position is, "The opposition isn't fit to sit at the table with us. They've already kicked themselves out of the union," and the ever-popular, "The bishops who voted to ratify Gene Robinson should be punished."

The AAC has ties to ultra-right-wing political action groups. In fact, it shares an address and office space with one called the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD). This little group of chummy people has strong connections to right-wing military/governmental/industrial interests (and has had, at least since the Reagan era when it was involved in activities in South America), with people like Diane Knippers in charge. Yes, that's the same Diane Knippers who wrote a position paper on just religious causes for war in preparation of our recent excursions into the Middle East.

Then there's Howard F. Ahmanson, Jr., who just a very short time ago espoused the kind of biblical law I was talking about above, including the death penalty for apostasy and disobedient children and all sorts of other things. Of course,
now that he's a big contributor to the AAC and his wife (ever so coincidentally) sits on the board of the IRD, he says he doesn't really believe this any more; after all, they don't want to scare off the more moderate people! Howard F. Ahmanson also has interests in companies that make the majority of computerized voting machines in the country, ES&S and Diebold. Guess who they plan to keep in office next presidential election? Guess which voting machines seem to get funny results and these results can't be validated?

Why would we want all this mess in our churches? Most of don't, I believe.

Why do they want in our churches? These are the mainline protestant churches, the churches from which a large number of our national leaders come. The voice from the pulpits in these churches is respected in this country, even by the majority non-churchgoers. What a political coup to control this voice. Find a divisive wedge like the sexuality issue, then divide and conquer. They plan to do it parish-by-parish in the Episcopal Church, since they've found out they can't break away from the national church and take the real estate with them--it really does belong to the national church. They have similar plans for the Presbyterian and United Methodist Churches.

Do we want to let them do it?