Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Almost Human

I posted this last night on my FB page, after F.I.N.A.L.L.Y. returning home from a horrendous, horrific, gawdawful experience in air transportation from the airport in Philadelphia to LAX. 

One of my friends describes such experiences as the "high tech version of the Bataan Death March".

That's it. Exactly.

It wasn't just the results of the snow storm that hit the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, although I'm sure that didn't help.

I was flying United Air. As one of my FB friends said, the unofficial slogan of the United Flight Attendants is,  "We're not happy until we make you unhappy."

They weren't rude. They didn't do anything bad. They just didn't do anything more than whatever they were absolutely required to do.

Apparently, smiling and being pleasant is not required.

The passengers whose flight had been delayed and were bumped again and again were more pleasant and human than the United Air flight attendants and ticket and baggage people. Sheesh!

These United Air flight attendants were NOT on my flight
There was this one moment of levity, however, that almost escaped my memory banks.

I recovered it while sitting in my very own comfortable chair in my very own warm, wonderful home (which weathered the storm well - the yard, however, not so much - but that's another story for another day), preparing to sleep in my very own wonderful bed.

I don't want to lose the story again, so here it is:

So, despite my grumbling about the horrors of my most recent experience with air transportation, there was a moment which, as I reflect on it, was a real bright spot that needs to be lifted up and shared.

I got through the long, winding cattle line through ticket and ID processing and to the process that has become mind-numbingly familiar and yet still mildly annoying.

I took off my shoes, emptied my pockets, stepped into the full body scan, placed my feet on the little yellow outline of feet on the floor, raised my arms over my head the way the picture instructed me to do and stood still for the 30 whole seconds they tell you it's going to take to make sure you don't have any hidden explosives or sharp objects or other weaponry hidden in your body.

As I stepped out of the scan, a young female TSA agent motioned me to please step aside, saying that I needed a body pat down. She was polite but perfunctory, a bit harried and hassled for 8 AM.

She didn't need the extra work any more than I needed a delay.

She asked me if I minded her doing the pat down publicly or if I wanted to go someplace more private. I told her it was fine to do it right there but asked why she needed to do it.

"You have a groin abnormality," she said.

"A groin abnormality?" I asked, alarmed.

"You mean," my voice rising, "there's an abnormality in my groin?" (It was 8 AM. I had been up since 4 AM) "You saw that on the scan?" I almost yelled.

"Do we need to call a doctor or a gynecologist or something?" I asked.

I could feel myself breaking into a cold sweat.

She was squatting in front of me, ready to start the pat down.

She started giggling, then laughing.

She laughed so hard she fell over on her butt.

"No . . . Oh, my Gawd . . . No . . . No . . .I mean, you have a dime sized spot on your scan . . . it's an abnormal scan . . .It's just a term . . . Oh, my Gawd . . . I never realized how that sounded .. . "groin abnormality" . . . I'm so sorry."

She patted the place on my inner thigh where the dime-sized abnormality was and - sonofagun - there it was! A dime! Apparently, it had slipped through a small hole in the seam of my pocket and had lodged itself in the inseam of my pants.

We laughed and laughed and laughed. So hard. Some of her coworkers started giving us the hairy eyeball. I looked at them and said,

"It's okay. I've just found a new gynecologist! And," I said, boldly putting my hand down my pants and pulling out the dime, "it only cost me a dime."

And, we laughed some more.

Then, she had to check my hands with some chemicals - all part of the procedure - and then we shook hands. "You don't want to be late," she called after me as she helped me put on my sweater and shoes.

Nice thought. Turns out my flight was delayed an hour and 45 minutes.

We had already pulled away from the gate and were on the tarmac. Some AC light went on for no apparent reason and they couldn't get it to turn off so they couldn't take off until it was fixed or checked out.

Or, something.

Meanwhile, I sat in that very cramped space, in that most uncomfortable seat, breathing the increasingly stale, re-circulated air of other people, watching the continuous loop of commercials for the "Direct TV" I could purchase for $7.99 on the tiny screen in front of me.

My recent experience with air transportation sucked all the humor out of my body. And seriously lowered my assessment of the human race. Including my own role in it.

I just now remembered incident with the TSA agent.

I'm already feeling better about being human. And, other human beings.

I may even be able to sleep tonight.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Oasis: A Response to the Primates Statement

Rose Hassan, Interim Missioner, Elizabeth Kaeton and Lyn Headly-Deavors, past Missioners of The Oasis
The Oasis was shocked and saddened by the decision of "an overwhelming majority" of Primates to attempt to punish The Episcopal Church for the changes made to our canons to allow full access to the sacramental life of the church for everyone - including marriage equality.

The pain of the intent to exclude touches the pain of the long history of the exclusion many of us have felt in our families, church, society and the world.

However, we remember that in 2005 a decision was made by the Primates to isolate The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada which demanded our withdrawal from "all other official entities of the Anglican Communion."

Then, as now, the Primates had no authority to make that decision - they are only one of four Instruments of Communion. The authority for legislative action rests with the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC).

In 2005, the ACC declined to enact that decision of the Primates. Instead, the Episcopal Church was asked to refrain from being seated on key governing committees of the ACC. We were allowed voice but no vote for a period of three years.

We do not know how the ACC will respond to the Primate's most recent actions when they meet in April. We do know that our representative to that body, the Rev'd Gay Jennings, President of the House of Deputies, is planning to attend.

We know that the ACC will be under enormous pressure from the Primates to authorize their stated "consequences" for The Episcopal Church.

We pray that the members of the ACC will come to understand the inefficacy of the "ecclesiastical time out" which was imposed on The Episcopal Church from 2005-2008. Our Presiding Bishop and Primate, Michael Bruce Curry, was very clear with his brothers that our church will not be reversing our decision.

 Indeed, we know that several other provinces - Canada and Brazil among them - are poised to change their canons to include marriage equality.

Will the Primates impose "consequences" on every province that makes this stance? Will they try to dis-empower and silence anyone with whom they disagree?

We pray that our LGBTQ sisters and brothers - here and around the world and in those very provinces of these Primates - will find solace in the words of Mark Beckwith, our Diocesan Bishop, who wrote:
"I take a large measure of comfort in the primates’ unanimous desire to continue to “walk together”. That says to me that there is a widespread recognition that we need to stay in relationship. That across the Anglican Communion we can acknowledge difference and disagreement – and still be in relationship with one another through the living Christ whose reach knows no bounds."
We also pray that we may be inspired by our Presiding Bishop who reminded us that we are Jesus People and we are part of what he calls The Jesus Movement. He said,
"And the truth is, it may be part of our vocation to help the Communion and to help many others to grow in a direction where we can realize and live the love that God has for all of us, and we can one day be a Church and a Communion where all of God’s children are fully welcomed, where this is truly a house of prayer for all people. And maybe it’s a part of our vocation to help that to happen."
In the days and months and years ahead, may we learn to walk together, even when some of us are at a different pace and others of us walk with a limp – and may the prophetic ministry to which we have been called gain in strength and wisdom and grace.

The Board of The Oasis
Newark, NJ

Further reading:

Archives of ENS 2005 Anglican Consultative Council 

The Primates Statement  

The Presiding Bishop's Statement

The Statement from the President of the House of Deputies

The Statement from our Diocesan Bishop

The Statement from the No Anglican Covenant Coalition

Primates' Decision Puzzles Communion Watchers

Primates Ruling Non-Binding Says Canon Lawyer

More information can be found at our Web Page: The Oasis 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Why do we stay? Why do we pay?

It's a good question. Why do we - queer people and women and people of color and our allies and progressives - stay in The Anglican Communion?

And, the second is like unto it: Why don't we take our money with us when we leave? Or, at least, divert it to those places in the Anglican Communion which have nothing to do with supporting the very structure that oppresses queer people and women while turning a blind eye to the genocide in their own provinces?

All over the Internet, both these questions - actually, they sound more like angry statements of retaliation - are being asked by Episcopalians and Anglicans. It's especially painful to hear this coming from some elected leaders in our church.

It's understandable. When people are in pain - especially when this fresh pain touches the old pain of insult and exclusion - there is a tendency to lash out.

"You can't exclude me! I'm leaving!"

"You can't hurt me! I'll take my money and hurt you!"

It's understandable. Not very emotionally or spiritually mature, but very understandably human.

Pain can be pretty debilitating. I know when I'm in pain, I get scared. When I'm scared, I feel cornered and small. I don't want anyone to come near me for fear they may take advantage of being vulnerable.  So, I push them away. I take the offensive as a reflexive, defensive position.

I growl. I hiss. I clench my fist. I bare my teeth.

I do that rather than whine. I can't stand whining. I dislike it most when I hear myself do it, but I don't like it one bit when others do it, either.

While asking these questions is understandable, it has to be noted that nothing better feeds the homophobic, anti-progressive/liberal narrative that queer people are self-centered and narcissistic and immature and their allies are misguided idiots than these two questions. 

No, I'm not suggesting that we "suck it up and deal with it". Or,  "get over it".

Or - you knew this was coming - "Let it go. Let it go-oh. Let it go!"

So, why do we stay? Why do we pay?

There are lots of reasons Here are a few:

1. It's not yet clear what the GAFCON Primates did, exactly.  Even to themselves.

The best explanation I've read is "No, the Episcopal Church Has Not Been Suspended From The Anglican Communion."   Their action is as complex and nuanced as the Anglican Communion itself, and the vote of an "overwhelming majority" of Primates represents a wide diversity of thought and purpose among themselves.

The truth is that the Primates do not have the authority to either provide "consequences" or "sanctions" to anyone outside their own provinces. They are but one of four "Instruments of Communion" and only represent one of the four orders of ministry.

It is not yet known how the other three "instruments" will respond to this action - well, two, actually, since the ABC is one of them - especially the Anglican Consultative Council. We are represented on the ACC by none other than Gay Jennings, the President of the House of Deputies, and she has absolutely no intention of not showing up and not using her voice and vote in representing the position of The Episcopal Church.

All will be revealed, eventually, but at this point, there's probably a whole lot more drama than any real sanction or suspension or damage to our standing in The Anglican Communion - except what we allow to be imposed upon us.

2. Leaving is exactly what the GAFCON Primates want us to do.

They want to humiliate and intimidate and bully us into submission to their understanding of the Gospel. "Submission" is one of their favorite words. They talk about "submitting" themselves to "Jesus as Lord" all the time. They also like the words "obey" and "obedience".

The thinking goes along the lines of humankind being possessed of "total depravity" (See: Calvinist theology which animates their understanding of religion and spirituality) who have to "control their impulses" (Translation: only being with one woman) and "submit" to the "authority of God" (as they understand God - male, of coures) and "obey Scripture" (as they understand its revelation to them).

We leave, they win. Not only the "argument" but the Anglican Communion, as they get to define (or redefine or reclaim as recompense for colonialism) and dominate.

It's also sets the stage for a very dangerous precedent, centralizing power and authority and turning the Primate princes of the church into popes.  That's far worse than long-considered-dead Anglican Covenant could ever achieve.

3. Staying is what the GAFCON Primates fear the most. 

Perhaps the most disingenuous part of the Primates statement is that they desire to "walk together". That is the very last thing they want. Unless, of course, we walk their way and on their terms. They know that's not going to happen.

When queer people and women and our allies and progressives stay in the Anglican Communion, the GAFCON Primates have to walk with us. They don't want to do that. It's so much easier if they can insult and intimidate us into leaving. That's what bullies do. That's why there are "consequences" and not "sanctions". They know they have no authority to "impose discipline" upon us.

Their hope is that, if we are "humbled" over these next three years of what they hope will be "ecclesiastical time out", then we will come to our senses and change our canons at General Convention in 2018.

We won't of course, but they live in "sure and certain hope" that we will. Their greatest fear is that we won't and we'll stay and then they'll have to eat their own words about wanting to "walk together".

I will never forget the words of John Guernsey, then priest in TEC and deputy to General Convention and now ordained bishop in Uganda and first bishop of the ACNA's Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic. He simply could not believe that Gene Robinson's election as Bishop of NH would be approved by General Convention. I remember him, actually pale and blinking in disbelief, saying, "I never thought you all would stay."

We have. And, they hate that the most. If they didn't, they wouldn't keep trying to get us to leave. 

4.  Our generosity is an embarrassment to the GAFCON Primates. 

Yes, we should continue our pledge to the Anglican Communion. I know. I know. It's counter intuitive. I confess that I have spent years scratching my head over "words of wisdom" in Scripture which encourage extending generosity to one's enemies.

Proverbs 25:21-22 says: "If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For you will heap burning coals on his head, And the LORD will reward you."

And then there's that passage in Matthew, chapter 5, after the Beatitudes, in verses 38-48, where we are admonished not to "resist an evil person" (say, whaaat?) and, when slapped, to offer the other cheek and to "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." 

This is amplified in Luke 6:27-36, and Paul echos the teaching in Proverbs when he writes in his letter to the church in Rome (12:20): "On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."

It takes a great deal of emotional and spiritual maturity to understand that kindness and generosity in the face of cruelty and oppression is its own reward. It takes years of practicing that spiritual discipline to know that generosity in the face of a heart made small and shriveled by a strict adherence to the 'letter' and not the 'spirit' of the law provides its own form of punishment to the oppressor. 

Their faces burn with the hot coals of embarrassment because we are living the faith we profess.

5. We are either the "one, holy catholic and apostolic church" we profess in our Creed or we are not.  

If we withhold our pledge to the Anglican Communion, we are no different than the dioceses we criticize for withholding their pledges to The Episcopal Church, or parishes that withhold their pledges from the diocese, or individuals who withhold their pledges from the congregation - all because of theological differences. Or, more trivial disagreements about personality or pastoral style.

A pledge is more a reflection of our relationship with God than it is to the institution. "God causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Matthew 5:45). If we rejoice to say that, and to proclaim God's unconditional love for us as an expectation others demonstrate for us, then we have to be willing to do the same. 

It's either "unconditional" love for unconditionally everyone - or it is not. 

We can not demand for ourselves what we are not willing to give to others.

We've been here before. We may end up coming here again. Perhaps in three years time. Perhaps sooner. That ought not set limits on our generosity. We ought not allow it to compromise the fullness of the cost of our membership in the Anglican Communion. 

Generosity in the face of oppression is one of the costs of discipleship. 

It is also one of its greatest rewards. 

6.  There is great power in martyrdom.

There is a part of me, in my more generous moments, when I want to thank the GAFCON Primates for what they have done.  

They have made us martyrs. In making us martyrs, they have aroused both sympathy and empathy for us around the world - even among those who are neither Anglican nor Christian. 

Just the other day, the Episcopal Bookstore got a call from across the Pond for all 175 lapel pins with shield of The Episcopal Church. Seems that a group of Church of England clergy want to wear them and hand them out to others at their next gathering, to show solidarity with us. 

The leadership of the United Church of Christ just issued a statement, standing in support of and solidarity with The Episcopal Church. I have no doubt other denominations will follow suit. 

Indeed, I have no doubt more provinces around the Anglican Communion will issue statements of solidarity - along with their intention to change the canons of their churches to allow full sacramental ministry to all of God's children - including marriage equality.

Ruth Gledhill, former religion correspondent for The Times who now writes for Christian Today, was deeply moved by the grace and generosity of spirit of our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry. She's a lovely but tough woman who has had a front row seat to the Anglican culture wars since the early days. She wrote, in part: 
The saint emerging from this sad hour is not the Archbishop of Canterbury, nor any leader of the Global South churches.

It is the Primate of The Episcopal Church, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.

The holiness in him and in his words is tangible. It is a genuine turning of the other cheek. He is not threatening to walk away, he is pledging his Church to walk together with all the Primates of the Anglican Communion.

It is his grace in the face of terrible rejection that shines out from this whole sorry episode.
I mean, seriously, people.  There's no denying the power of that.

We marvel at the stories of Gandhi's non-violent resistance against the cruel and oppressive forces in India. Our hearts are stirred by the images of young black students being taunted as they attempt to desegregate a lunch counter or, with arms linked, march on Washington or Selma in Martin Luther King's applications of Gandhi's non violent protests. 

This is how it works, folks. This is the power of civil disobedience to the oppressive structures and forces in the Anglican Communion.

7. This is part of our vocation as Christians who are Episcopalians in the Anglican Communion. 

Just listen to what Michael Curry, the Presiding Bishop who, himself, is a product of the Civil Rights Movement, had to say. You can catch the video and full statement here, but it's these words that stir my heart: 
We are the Episcopal Church, and we are part of the Jesus Movement, and that Movement goes on, and our work goes on. And the truth is, it may be part of our vocation to help the Communion and to help many others to grow in a direction where we can realize and live the love that God has for all of us, and we can one day be a Church and a Communion where all of God’s children are fully welcomed, where this is truly a house of prayer for all people. And maybe it’s a part of our vocation to help that to happen. And so we must claim that high calling; claim the high calling of love and faith; love even for those with whom we disagree, and then continue, and that we will do, and we will do it together.
I'm going to be so bold as to claim that, I believe that if we've been paying any attention at all to the last 40 years of the work of the Spirit in our midst, it IS in fact, part of our vocation to make the Anglican Communion a place where all of God's children are fully welcomed, where this is truly a house of prayer for all people.

We are blessed to be a blessing.

We are baptized into the priesthood of all believers. 

We are very members incorporate in the body of Christ.

We believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. 

No one can take any of that from us.

This is why we stay. This is why we pay.

Because all has not yet been revealed.

Because if we leave, they win.

Because generosity is its own reward which is pleasing in God's sight.

Because we must live with our lives the faith we profess with our lips.

Because Jesus said, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth".

And, as our own Blessed Louie Crew Clay has of't reminded us, "The meek are getting ready."

We are Christians who are Episcopalians who are Anglican. 

We can do no other.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

A force to be reckoned with

Sally Mitchell Bucklee
Sally Mitchell Bucklee, called “the dean of women in the Episcopal Church” by former Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, died on January 8, 2016.  Her life was celebrated today at her beloved home parish, St. Philip's Episcopal Church in Laurel, MD.

She designed the service herself. Of course. And, it was wonderful.

There were also five women at the altar - two priests, two chalicists and a crucifer.

The rector said she didn't plan it that way. It just happened. Silly woman! Anyone who knew Sally knew immediately that she was orchestrating that one from heaven. 

We just call it "coincidence". 

Sally was a force to be reckoned with.

I can only imagine her reaction to the statement of the Primates this week, in which they outlined "consequences" for The Episcopal Church because it had made canonical changes to allow for full sacramental inclusion for all of God's people in the life of the church, including marriage equality.

Women serve at the altar at St. Philip's, Laurel, MD
I suspect she would have been first to point out that the Primates have no authority to impose "consequences" - much less "sanctions" - on anyone else except within their own provinces. 

"They're neither popes nor princes, " I can hear her say in that voice of hers, filled with the full authority of her baptism.

She would also have been quick to point out that "consequences" are things parents impose on naughty children.  It's also the hallmark of an abuser to blame the victim. "See, we don't want to do this because we love you, but you made us, so we have to."

"It's the death rattle of patriarchy," she'd say, shaking her head and adding, "Scared little boys, grabbing for power and authority they don't have. Pathetic."

Then, she'd be quick to put her arm around you and assure you of her love and support.  And then, she'd go off to 'work the phones', calling people to organize and coordinate a response.

Sally was a lifetime member and past President of The Episcopal Women's Caucus, which is one of the places our paths crossed. She was also a staunch supporter of IntegrityUSA. She never missed a Caucus Breakfast at General Convention, and she always made it her business to stop off at the booths of all the justice groups of The Consultation, talking with folks and strategizing with the various legislative lobbies on pending resolutions.

Sheila McJilton, rector, preaches the homily
I was fortunate enough to attend an Education for Ministry (EfM) mentor training weekend led by Sally. I learned so much from her, but mostly I learned the real difference between a teacher and a mentor.

"This is about the bonds of baptism," she'd say, "and the priesthood of all believers. Your job is not to pour information into their heads. They are adults. They will learn what they need to learn from what they read."

"You are to be a mentor to the EfM students and enable them to find, claim and celebrate the ministry of their own priesthood from what they learn in their studies."

That made EfM so much more meaningful for me - and, I think, the EfM students in my group. It certainly shaped and formed my own leadership in parochial ministry.

Indeed, when Jane Holmes Dixon was rector of St. Philip's, attendance in and/or graduation from EfM was required of anyone seeking an elected position of leadership in the church. 

Sally had a wonderfully imposing presence but she did her best work deep in the background, quietly enabling men and women to discern and then live into their baptismal vocation.  I think even she lost count of the number of women she supported in their journey toward ordination.

That number includes helping to raise up Jane Holmes Dixon as the second woman to be elected bishop suffragan in The Episcopal Church, in the Diocese of DC.

Sally was, undoubtedly, the "dean of women in The Episcopal Church".

The 85 year old body of Sally Mitchell Bucklee was laid to rest today, but her spirit continues to inspire and guide and mentor. Today, the church was filled with some of the women she mentored.

We wore our collars in honor of Sally. And, women's voice could be heard the loudest as we sang, "God of the Women" and "All Who Hunger Gather Gladly"

After her ashes had been interred next to those of her beloved husband Brian, who died in 2003, several ordained women came forward, picked up a handful of dirt, and tossed it into her grave.

"Goodbye, "we said, softly, as the dirt covered part of the urn.

Past Caucus Presidents: Carol Cole Flanagan and Elizabeth Kaeton
"See you again, Sally," one whispered, "rest well".

"Thank you, Sally," we each said, as we tossed a handful of dirt into the grave.

It's what women have done since the beginning of time.

We were there for her because she was there for us.

And, we wouldn't be where we are today without her.

She was a force to be reckoned with.  I have no doubt she'll continue to be just that in the place some call "eternal rest".

Well, maybe for some. But not women like Sally Bucklee

Her memory - like her life and ministry - will always be a blessing.